“The Graveyard of Memories” by Barry Eisler – “What makes a legendary assassin? For John Rain, it was the lessons of love, war, and betrayal he learned in Tokyo in 1972.
Fresh from the killing fields of Southeast Asia, Rain works as a bagman under the watchful eye of his CIA handler, delivering cash to corrupt elements of the Japanese government. But when a delivery goes violently wrong, Rain finds himself in the crosshairs of Japan’s most powerful yakuza clan. To survive, Rain strikes a desperate deal with his handler: take out a high-profile target in the Japanese government in exchange for the intel he needs to eliminate his would-be executioners.
As Rain plays cat and mouse with the yakuza and struggles to learn his new role as contract killer, he also becomes entangled with Sayaka, a tough, beautiful ethnic Korean woman confined to a wheelchair. But the demands of his dark work are at odds with the longings of his heart—and with Sayaka’s life in the balance, Rain will have to make a terrible choice.” — back cover
“An Officer and a Spy” by Robert Harris – “Harris’ instantly absorbing thriller reanimates the Dreyfus Affair of 1895 through Colonel Georges Picquart, who exposed the conspiracy to frame Dreyfus for supplying the Germans with French Army secrets. After serving as the minister of war’s observer at Dreyfus’ military trial, Picquart is promoted to lead the army’s espionage unit. Picquart immerses himself in the dark work and quickly discovers evidence of another soldier leaking information to the German attache. When he’s denied permission to launch a sting operation, Picquart joins forces with a Surete (police) detective to gather evidence through an unofficial surveillance scheme. Convinced that the secret evidence that convicted Dreyfus implicates his current target instead, Picquart investigates further and finds a conspiracy originating in the army’s top ranks. In the anti-Semitic climate of this pivotal period in French society, Picquart’s insistence that Dreyfus “the Jew” may be innocent creates dangerous, powerful enemies. Harris combats the predictability that can haunt fictional accounts of well-known events by teasing out the tale through Picquart’s training in espionage and investigation, his unsanctioned detecting, and the complex intrigues he navigates to secure a reexamination of Dreyfus’ case. Great for fans of Ken Follett, John le Carre, Louis Bayard, Caleb Carr, and Martin Cruz Smith, all of whom also portray historical intrigues and investigations with intricate detail and literary skill… Tran, Christine. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2013.
“The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty – “Australian author Moriarty… puts three women in an impossible situation and doesn’t cut them any slack. Cecilia Fitzpatrick lives to be perfect: a perfect marriage, three perfect daughters, and a perfectly organized life. Then she finds a letter from her husband, John-Paul, to be opened only in the event of his death. She opens it anyway, and everything she believed is thrown into doubt. Meanwhile, Tess O’Leary’s husband, Will, and her cousin and best friend, Felicity, confess they’ve fallen in love, so Tess takes her young son, Liam, and goes to Sydney to live with her mother. There she meets up with an old boyfriend, Connor Whitby, while enrolling Liam in St. Angela’s Primary School, where Cecilia is the star mother. Rachel Crowley, the school secretary, believes that Connor, St. Angela’s PE teacher, is the man who, nearly three decades before, got away with murdering her daughter–a daughter for whom she is still grieving. Simultaneously a page-turner and a book one has to put down occasionally to think about and absorb, Moriarty’s novel challenges the reader as well as her characters, but in the best possible way.” — Agent: Faye Bender, Faye Bender Literary Agency. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2013.
The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd – “Inspired by the true story of early-nineteenth-century abolitionist and suffragist Sarah Grimke, Kidd paints a moving portrait of two women inextricably linked by the horrors of slavery. Sarah, daughter of a wealthy South Carolina plantation owner, exhibits an independent spirit and strong belief in the equality of all. Thwarted from her dreams of becoming a lawyer, she struggles throughout life to find an outlet for her convictions. Handful, a slave in the Grimke household, displays a sharp intellect and brave, rebellious disposition. She maintains a compliant exterior, while planning for a brighter future. Told in first person, the chapters alternate between the two main characters’ perspectives, as we follow their unlikely friendship (characterized by both respect and resentment) from childhood to middle age. While their pain and struggle cannot be equated, both women strive to be set free–Sarah from the bonds of patriarchy and Southern bigotry, and Handful from the inhuman bonds of slavery. Kidd is a master storyteller, and, with smooth and graceful prose, she immerses the reader in the lives of these fascinating women as they navigate religion, family drama, slave revolts, and the abolitionist movement. ” –Price, Kerri. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2013.
“Thirty Girls” by Susan Minot – “Rebels in the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda burst into a convent dormitory, seize 139 schoolgirls, and march them off into the night. Sister Giulia follows and bravely argues for their release. She returns with 109. The outlaws keep 30, including smart, courageous Esther. Jane, an American writer and youngish widow, visits a friend in Kenya, sexy, generous Lana, and takes up with Harry, who is passionate about paragliding–a poetic and apt embodiment of the illusion of freedom: though you feel exhilarated in flight, you are at the mercy of forces beyond your control. Jane is on her way to Uganda to speak with young women at a camp for traumatized children who escaped their enslavement to the psychotic rebels. Lana, Harry, a wealthy American businessman, and a French documentarian decide, cavalierly, to accompany her. In her first novel in more than a decade, spellbinding Minot (Rapture, 2002; Evening, 1998), a writer of exquisite perception and nuance, contrasts Esther’s and Jane’s radically different, yet profoundly transforming journeys in a perfectly choreographed, slow-motion, devastatingly revealing collision of realities. So sure yet light is Minot’s touch in this master work, so piercing yet respectful her insights into suffering and strength, that she dramatizes horrific truths, obdurate mysteries, and painful recognition with both bone-deep understanding and breathtaking beauty.” — Seaman, Donna. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2014.
“Cell” by Robin Cook – “By combining plausible developments in artificial intelligence with current concerns about the number of available general practitioners, Cook (Nano) has produced one of his better recent thrillers. L.A. radiology resident George Wilson is racked with guilt after his fiancee, Kasey Lynch, dies of hypoglycemia as he was sleeping next to her. As he prepares to begin his final year of residency, a former med school colleague and occasional lover, Paula Stonebrenner, invites George to attend a rollout of iDoc, a smartphone app that functions as an individualized primary-care physician, which uses sensors to continually monitor vital signs and provide instantaneous diagnosis and treatment. The concept seems too good to be true, and that apprehension proves warranted when several test subjects of the app die unexpectedly, leading George to become obsessed with ascertaining the cause. The truth behind the deaths is both logical and surprising, and enables Cook to engage with serious medical ethics issues.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2013.
“Concealed In Death” by J. D. Robb – “The rundown building has good bones. That is exactly why Roarke bought it. The problem is the building has some real bones in it as well. While breaking through an interior wall to kick off the renovation, Roarke discovers bones wrapped in plastic. A quick call to his wife, Lieutenant Eve Dallas of the New York Police and Security Department, brings Eve and her team to the site. Eventually, 12 bodies are found in the building. With the help of the department’s new forensic anthropologist, Eve is able to pinpoint the time of the murders to 15 years earlier when the building served as the Sanctuary, a shelter for troubled and/or homeless teens. When Eve begins tracing the lives of each of the young girls who died there, she not only finds herself tracking a killer, but she also discovers a startling connection between the crimes and someone in her own life. The latest nail-biting installment in Robb’s long-running Eve Dallas series features the same skillfully drawn characters and masterful way with suspense that have ensnared readers since Naked in Death (1995).” — Charles, John. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2014.
“The Humans” by Matt Haig – “The alien comes to Earth from Vonnadoria, an almost incomprehensibly advanced world; he comes with a sinister purpose, both to destroy and to collect information, hoping to rob human beings of their future. Assuming the person of Professor Andrew Martin, a celebrated mathematician who has made a dangerous discovery, he sets coldly and calculatedly to work. But there is a problem: though disgusted at first by humans, whom he regards as motivated only by violence and greed, he gradually comes to understand that humans are more complex than that, and, most dangerous to his mission, he discovers music, poetry, and . . . love. Becoming increasingly sympathetic to humans, he will ultimately do the unthinkable. The ever-imaginative Haig…has created an extraordinary alien sensibility and, though writing with a serious purpose (the future is at stake), has great good fun with the being’s various eyebrow-raising blunders as he struggles to emulate human behavior. Haig strikes exactly the right tone of bemusement, discovery, and wonder in creating what is ultimately a sweet-spirited celebration of humanity and the trials and triumphs of being human. The result is a thought-provoking, compulsively readable delight.” — Cart, Michael. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2013.
“Killer: An Alex Delaware Novel” by Jonathan Kellerman – “Psychologist Alex Delaware’s custody consultations can get ugly, but Alex enters uncharted territory when his best friend, LAPD Lieutenant Milo Sturgis, warns him that there’s a contract out on Alex’s life. Successful (and apparently unhinged) scientist Connie Sykes has just been denied custody of her sister Cherie’s daughter, and she’s exacting revenge for Alex’s recommendation in Cherie’s favor. Hours after the LAPD’s hit-man sting operation fails to snag her, Sykes is murdered. In quick succession, two men she named in court as the baby’s possible fathers are also killed, and Cherie and the baby go missing. Is Cherie eliminating custody threats, or is someone else involved? With Milo focusing on Cherie, Alex follows his gut instinct that she’s no killer and hunts for other leads. As usual, the rapport between Alex and Milo is a show-stealer, and longtime fans–… will love the well-executed flashbacks to Alex’s professional past. This twenty-ninth entry reads like a straightforward thriller until the appropriately insane ending twist.” — Tran, Christine. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2014.
“The MInor Adjustment Beauty Salon” by Alexander McCall Smith – “The titles of many of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency novels … often have a wonderfully cheery tone. The latest title is brilliant in its hopefulness, implying, as it does, that a person may only be a mere tweak away from beauty. This hopeful attitude is exemplified by Mma Ramotswe, the owner and operator of Botswana’s only detective agency, who resolutely tackles the problems people bring to her in her small, out-of-the-way office under an acacia tree. The clients’ problems showcase the usual suspects of greed, envy, sloth–all the vices that cause trouble for others. This time, the owner of the nearest town’s new beauty salon receives a tiny thing, a feather from a ground hornbill bird. But this artifact is a traditional way of conveying hate. This is followed by a highly effective smear campaign. The other case Mma Ramotswe works on here concerns an heir to a great cattle farm who may actually be an imposter. Mma Ramotswe must track the truth alone because her assistant Mma Makutsi is absent (no plot spoiler here). As usual, these novels are only a bit about actual mysteries. They’re leisurely, wonderfully crafted descriptions of life in the agency and at home, the beauties of Botswana, and the joys, big and small, of life. This latest is, especially, a tribute to enduring friendship.” — Fletcher, Connie. 256p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2013.
“Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary of War” by Robert M. Gates – “Forthright, impassioned…highly revealing about decision making in both the Obama and Bush White Houses…[Gates’] writing is informed not only by a keen sense of historical context, but also by a longtime Washington veteran’s understanding of how the levers of government work or fail to work. Unlike many careful Washington memoirists, Gates speaks his mind on a host of issues…[he] gives us his shrewd take on a range of foreign policy matters, an understanding of his mission to reform the incoherent spending and procurement policies of the Pentagon, and a tactile sense of what it was like to be defense secretary during two wars.”
—Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
“The End of Your Life Book Club” by WIll Schwalbe – “Schwalbe and his mother accidentally formed a book club in a cancer-treatment waiting room. As they discuss what they will read while Mary Anne is treated for pancreatic cancer, they deepen their already strong relationship. Schwalbe didn’t plan to write this memoir as he was living it, so it’s mostly nuggets of emotionally important remarks in the context of the development of his mother’s illness. Will’s love and respect for his mother shine through in the story of a remarkable woman’s life, from how she helped refugees to her seeking to build libraries in Afghanistan. With 21 years of book-publishing experience, Schwalbe quickly introduces the books themselves in one or two paragraphs. The works they read offer a way to approach topics they otherwise wouldn’t discuss, and the focus is more on what the books reveal than what happens in them. This touching and insightful memoir about the slow process of dying will appeal to readers of Tuesdays with Morrie (1997) and The Last Lecture (2008) but also to people who love delving into books and book discussions. Like Mary Anne, who reads the ending first, you know how this book is going to end, but although it is a story about death, it is mostly a celebration of life and of the way books can enrich it.” — Thoreson, Bridget. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2012.
“The Glass Castle” by Jeanette Walls – “Walls, who spent years trying to hide her childhood experiences, allows the story to spill out in this remarkable recollection of growing up. From her current perspective as a contributor to MSNBC online, she remembers the poverty, hunger, jokes, and bullying she and her siblings endured, and she looks back at her parents: her flighty, self-indulgent mother, a Pollyanna unwilling to assume the responsibilities of parenting, and her father, troubled, brilliant Rex, whose ability to turn his family’s downward-spiraling circumstances into adventures allowed his children to excuse his imperfections until they grew old enough to understand what he had done to them–and to himself. His grand plans to build a home for the family never evolved: the hole for the foundation of the ‘The Glass Castle,’ as the dream house was called, became the family garbage dump, and, of course, a metaphor for Rex Walls’ life. Shocking, sad, and occasionally bitter, this gracefully written account speaks candidly, yet with surprising affection, about parents and about the strength of family ties–for both good and ill.” — Stephanie Zvirin. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2005.
“This is the Story of a Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett – “This is the story of how best-selling novelist Patchett (State of Wonder, 2011) became a writer. … (she) assembles a retrospective set of 22 sterling personal essays to form an episodic, piquant, instructive, and entertaining self-portrait. She reflects on her family, life on a Tennessee farm, literary discipline and inspiration, and her failed first marriage. Her second marriage is central to her hilarious account of an RV road trip, and the full measure of Patchett’s toughness and daring surfaces in “The Wall,” a riveting account of her father, a captain when he retired after 30 years on the Los Angeles police force, coaching her as she takes the grueling admission test for the Los Angeles Police Academy. A self-described “workhorse” who has even opened an independent bookstore, Patchett is a commanding and incisive storyteller, whether her tales are true or imagined.” — Seaman, Donna. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2013.
“Fodor’s Montreal & Quebec City 2014” – Montreal and Quebec City are treasured destinations for American travelers: a corner of France in North America. This guide, with rich color photographs throughout, capture the French-speaking cities’ universal appeal, from sidewalk cafes to winter sports and traditional French cuisine.” — Amazon
“Guinness World Records 2014” by Guinness World Records – “Guinness World Records 2014 brings together thousands of the planet’s most awe-inspiring people, pets and products, including new record-holders such as a skateboarding goat, a 15-meter-long robot dragon, the world’s furriest cat and a king-size drumkit that needs five people to play it!” — Amazon
“National Geographic Guide to the National Parks of the United States, 7th Edition” by National Geographic – “The National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States will prove indispensable on a summer drive through this great country. Packed with more color photographs (380) and detailed color maps (80) than any other parks guidebook on the market, this handy, practical guide …. offers comprehensive information on the crown jewels of the national park system-the 58 scenic national parks that conserve and protect the flora and fauna in some of our nation’s last wilderness areas. This guide helps travelers design custom trips depending on the time and interests they have. The parks are grouped region by region so that vacationers can plan trips to one or more central location. Each chapter is introduced by a map and a geographical profile, followed by the parks in alphabetical order. Individual parks start with a portrait of the natural wonders available, their history, and the ecological setting and stresses they face.Full of useful and practical information.” — National Geographic Editors
“Overheated: The Human Cost of Climate Change” by Andrew T. Guzman – “Overheated provides a lucid vision of the catastrophic consequences we will face if we fail to transition away from a fossil fuel-based economy. What give the book power is the perspective it provides, of a legal scholar who initially viewed climate change as an interesting topic for academic research, to a passionate advocate for tackling the greatest threat human civilization has yet faced. If you care about the future of our planet, read this book.” — Michael E. Mann, Director of Penn State Earth System Science Center
“The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History” By Elizabeth Kolbert – “The sixth mass extinction is the biggest story on Earth, period, and Elizabeth Kolbert tells it with imagination, rigor, deep reporting, and a capacious curiosity about all the wondrous creatures and ecosystems that exist, or have existed, on our planet. The result is an important book full of love and loss.” — David Quammen, author of The Song of Dodo and Spillover
ADULT AUDIO BOOK
“Babayaga” by Toby Barlow – “Paris 1959. Will, an American advertising exec working for a French agency, accidentally wanders into Cold War intrigue because some people mistakenly think he works for a different sort of agency, the CIA. He also accidentally wanders into an affair with a beautiful Russian woman, Zoya, who just happens to have killed her last lover because he was beginning to realize that, unlike most people, she doesn’t appear to age (because she’s a babayaga, a witch, dontcha know). As if all this weren’t complicated enough, Elga, who until very recently was Zoya’s friend and mentor, has solved the problem of police interest in her friend’s death by turning the investigating officer into, literally, a flea. Barlow’s second book, … delivers a helluva good time, a delicious mash-up of Cold War spy thriller, horror novel, and love story. It’s not laugh-out-loud funny, like, say, something by Christopher Moore, but it’s witty and charming and exceedingly light on its feet. …The novel is really something out of the ordinary. Pitt, David. 400p. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2013.
“Dexter Season 4”
“Dexter Season 5”
“Downton Abbey Season 4”
“Foyles War: Sets 1-6 “
“Foyles War: Set 7”
“Freedom & Unity: The Vermont Movie”
“Game of Thrones: The Complete Season 3”
“Homeland Season 3”
“Midnight Memories” by One Direction
“Kitten’s Winter” by Eugenie Fernandes
“Mr. Brown Can Moo. Can You?” by Dr. Seuss
“Again!” by Emily Gravett
“Berenstain Bears Visit the Dentist” by Stan Berenstain
“Children Make Terrible Pets” by Peter Brown
“A Color of His Own” by Leo Lionni
“Eat Like a Bear” by April Sayre
“A Farmers Alphabet” by Mary Azarian
“Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild” by Mem Fox”
“Henny” by Elizabeth Rose Stanton
“How Rocket Learned to Read” by Tad Hills
“Jack the Builder” by Stuart J. Murphy
“Journey” by Aaron Becker
“Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives” by Lola M. Schaefer
“Miss Brooks Love Books and I Don’t” by Barbara Bottner
“Mr. Putter and Tabby Pour the Tea” by Cynthia Rylant
“One Gorilla: A Counting Book” by Anthony Browne
“One Tiny Turtle” by Nicola Davies
“One Was Johnny: A Counting Book” by Maurice Sendak
“Rosie Revere: Engineer” by Andrea Beatty
“Rufus Goes to School” by Kim Griswell
“Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin” by Jen Bryant
“Among the Free” by Margaret Peter Haddix – “Gr. 5-8. Ordered to kill an old woman, Luke–an illegal third child hiding out as a member of the organization he seeks to overthrow– flees, sparking a revolt that carries him back to Population Police headquarters, where he discovers a plot that forces him to make a life- altering choice. … Haddix focuses on philosophical issues, creating a bleak futuristic world populated with sketchy characters trotted out largely to demonstrate various opinions or behaviors. Still, there’s enough action to keep things from stalling amid Luke’s internal struggles…” John Peters. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2006.
“The Cavendish Home for Boys and Girls” by Claire Legrand – “The too-serene-to-be-true town of Belleville harbors some creepy secrets in Legrand’s debut, a sinister and occasionally playful tale of suspense. Twelve-year-old perfectionist Victoria Wright has bouncy curls, a fixation on achieving straight As, and just one friend–unkempt, artistic Lawrence, who she considers her “personal project.” But when Lawrence disappears, and Victoria launches an investigation to find him, she discovers more frightening trouble than she imagined. Victoria unravels the mystery behind the titular home for children, which is run by the ageless Mrs. Cavendish and a fiendish gardener/assistant. Hair-raising adventures involving slimy hidden passageways, pinching swarms of cockroaches, mystery meat, and the wrath of cruel Mrs. Cavendish fill the pages. Legrand gives Victoria’s mission a prickly energy, and her descriptions of the sighing, heaving home–a character in itself–are the stuff of bad dreams. Watts’s b&w illustrations of spindly characters, cryptic shadows, and cramped corridors amplify the unsettling ambiance, and her roach motif may have readers checking their arms.” — Agent: Diana Fox, Fox Literary. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2012.
“Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library” by Chris Grabenstein – “…Twelve seventh-graders win a chance to spend an overnight lock-in previewing their town’s new public library–it’s a marvel of technological delights conceived by Luigi Lemoncello, the Willy Wonkalike founder of Mr. Lemoncello’s Imagination Factory, which is a source for every kind of game imaginable. During the lock-in the winners, who include game-lover Kyle Keeley and a group of multicultural classmates with a mix of aptitudes and interests, are offered a further challenge: “Find your way out of the library using only what’s in the library.” The winner will become spokesperson for the Imag-ination Factory. Book lovers will relish the lavish sprinkling of book titles and references while puzzle fans will enjoy figuring out the clues. A lighthearted parody of reality survival shows, the book reinvigorates the debate over the Dewey Decimal system and traditional library skills while celebrating teamwork, perseverance, and clever wits.” — Agent: Eric Myers, the Spieler Agency. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2013.
“The Last Olympian” by Rick Riordan – “The week before his sixteenth birthday, a driver’s license is the last thing on Percy’s mind. After all, an impossibly huge and powerful giant is wreaking destruction across the Midwest as he strides toward New York City, which will soon be attacked by an army of Titans and assorted monsters bent on destroying Mount Olympus (secret access point: the Empire State Building). Percy and his demigod friends soon engage their enemies in an epic battle that will determine the fate of humanity as well as the gods. The novel’s winning combination of high- voltage adventure and crackling wit is balanced with scenes in which human needs, fears, and ethical choices take center stage. …Riordan’s imagination soars in the climactic battle scenes, which feature many Manhattan landmarks, yet he manages to bring the whole series to a satisfying close in the down-to-earth conclusion. …” — Carolyn Phelan. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2009.
“I Am Abraham Lincoln” by Brad Meltzer – “Our 16th president is presented as an activist for human and civil rights. Lincoln resembles a doll with an oversized head as he strides through a first-person narrative that stretches the limits of credulity and usefulness. From childhood, Abe, bearded and sporting a stovepipe hat, loves to read, write and look out for animals. He stands up to bullies, noting that “the hardest fights don’t reveal a winner–but they do reveal character.” He sees slaves, and the sight haunts him. When the Civil War begins, he calls it a struggle to end slavery. Not accurate. The text further calls the Gettysburg ceremonies a “big event” designed to “reenergize” Union supporters and states that the Emancipation Proclamation “freed all those people.” Not accurate. The account concludes with a homily to “speak louder then you’ve ever spoken before,” as Lincoln holds the Proclamation in his hands.” — KIRKUS MEDIA LLC, c2013.
“Who Says Women Can’t Be Doctors? The Story of Elizabeth Blackwell” by Tanya Lee Stone – “You might find this hard to believe, but there once was a time when girls weren’t allowed to become doctors,” opens this smart and lively biography of Elizabeth Blackwell, the first female doctor in America. Stone develops Blackwell’s personality through childhood anecdotes–as a child Blackwell once slept on a hard floor just “to toughen herself up”–before detailing her career path. Priceman’s typically graceful lines and bright gouache paintings make no bones about who’s on the wrong side of history: those who object to Blackwell’s achievements are portrayed as hawkish ladies and comically perturbed twerps in tailcoats.” — Author’s agent: Rosemary Stimola, Stimola Literary Studio. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2013.
“Jane, the Fox and Me” by Jane Yolen – “The pain that cruel schoolmates inflict on solitary, book-loving girls is familiar territory, but Britt and Arsenault’s take on it is worth a second look. Tormented by her classmate Genevieve–“I stuck a fork in your butt, but you’re so fat you didn’t feel a thing!!”–Helene retreats into the pages of Jane Eyre. “Everyone needs a strategy,” she observes, “even Jane Eyre.” Arsenault (Virginia Wolf) uses velvety reds and blacks for Helene’s ruminations on Bronte’s novel; elsewhere, she renders landscapes, interiors, and portraits of Helene and her classmates in delicate grays. A small miracle presages change as Helene is approached by a wild fox on a school camping trip: “Its eyes are so kind I just about burst.” Then a classmate named Geraldine absconds (not entirely believably) from the mean girls and befriends Helene. Arsenault signals the change by introducing the fragile green of new leaves into her monochromatic landscapes. Subordinate characters are lovingly drawn, and time and place references (the McGarrigle Sisters, the Bay department store) add piquancy. More than a few readers will recognize themselves in Helene and find comfort.” — PUBLISHERS WEEKLY, c2013.
“Locomotive” by Brian Floca – “Floca follows up the acclaimed Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11 (2009) with this ebullient, breathtaking look at a family’s 1869 journey from Omaha to Sacramento via the newly completed Transcontinental Railroad. The unnamed family is a launching point for Floca’s irrepressible exploration into, well, everything about early rail travel, from crew responsibilities and machinery specifics to the sensory thrills of a bridge rumbling beneath and the wind blasting into your face. The substantial text is delivered in nonrhyming stanzas as enlightening as they are poetic: the “smoke and cinders, / ash and sweat” of the coal engine and the Great Plains stretching out “empty as an ocean.” Blasting through these artful compositions are the bellows of the conductor (“FULL STEAM AHEAD”) and the scream of the train whistle, so loud that it bleeds off the page: “WHOOOOOOO!” Font styles swap restlessly to best embody each noise (see the blunt, bold “SPIT” versus the ornate, ballooning “HUFF HUFF HUFF”). Just as heart pounding are Floca’s bold, detailed watercolors, which swap massive close-ups of barreling locomotives with sweeping bird’s-eye views that show how even these metal giants were dwarfed by nature. It’s impossible to turn a page without learning something, but it’s these multiple wow moments that will knock readers from their chairs. Fantastic opening and closing notes make this the book for young train enthusiasts.” — Kraus, Daniel. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2013.
“Lifetime: The Amazing Numbers in Animal Lives” by Lola M. Schaefer – “Schaefer combines her interest in animals and her fascination with numbers, using sparse text to introduce both animals and a numerical fact about a specific characteristic of each animal. An introduction provides the caveat that approximations differ depending on many factors in the life of the animal. The text is matter-of-fact, and the colors of the mixed-media illustrations subdued, but they complement each other in tone. It takes a bit to realize that Neal’s illustration for each animal matches the number Schaefer uses in the text. For instance, the illustration for sea horses has 1,000 “teeny-weeny, squiggly-wiggly baby sea horses.” (Feel up to counting all of them?) Thankfully, as part of the back matter, Schaefer adds detailed information about each animal and its life span, how she calculated the estimations she uses throughout the book, two animal math problems to solve, and more. Fills a clever niche for both animal science and mathematics.” — Petty, J. B. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2013.
“Odd Duck” by Cecil Castellucci – “Chad is an odd duck, whereas Theodora is a normal duck; she just likes to do some things a little differently. But when the other ducks laugh at the “odd duck,” is it really Chad they’re making fun of? The creators’ separate works have long championed the individual, so it is no surprise that Varon’s gentle art and Castellucci’s nuanced writing combine in a sweet, quiet tale that celebrates the joys of being unique. Both have done graphic novels in the past; here, though, they use more of a hybrid style, alternating a more traditional picture-book layout with pages divided into panels and featuring speech bubbles. Fans of Varon’s work will love her trademark anthropomorphic characters, bright colors, and detailed but never cluttered pictures, which invite lingering over each page. Teen writer Castellucci’s name on the cover may convince some older readers to give this one a shot, but it is aimed squarely at elementary readers, who, hopefully, will soak up the message to embrace their own odd-duckness.” — Wildsmith, Snow. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2013.
“Owly: The Way Home & the Bittersweet Summer” by Andy Runton – “In this nearly wordless bit of graphic fun, Runton tells two stories about Owly the little owl. In ‘The Way Home,’ lonely Owly rescues Wormy from a thunderstorm, and, after nursing him back to health, helps him find his way home. ‘The Bittersweet Summer’ tells a slightly more complicated story about friendship, as Owly and Wormy befriend two hummingbirds during the course of the spring and summer, and say goodbye to them when they migrate south for the winter. Owly is a delightfully sweet book. The whimsical black-and-white art is done with great facility for expressing emotion, and Runton’s reliance on icons and pictures in lieu of the usual dialogue makes the story perfect for give-and- take between children and their parents;” — Tina Coleman. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2005.
“The Fault in our Stars” by John Green – “At 16, Hazel Grace Lancaster, a three-year stage IV–cancer survivor, is clinically depressed. To help her deal with this, her doctor sends her to a weekly support group where she meets Augustus Waters, a fellow cancer survivor, and the two fall in love. Both kids are preternaturally intelligent, and Hazel is fascinated with a novel about cancer called An Imperial Affliction. Most particularly, she longs to know what happened to its characters after an ambiguous ending. To find out, the enterprising Augustus makes it possible for them to travel to Amsterdam, where Imperial’s author, an expatriate American, lives. What happens when they meet him must be left to readers to discover. Suffice it to say, it is significant. …Beautifully conceived and executed, this story artfully examines the largest possible considerations—life, love, and death—with sensitivity, intelligence, honesty, and integrity. In the process, Green shows his readers what it is like to live with cancer, sometimes no more than a breath or a heartbeat away from death. But it is life that Green spiritedly celebrates here, even while acknowledging its pain. In its every aspect, this novel is a triumph….” — Cart, Michael. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2012.
“A Monster Calls” by Patrick Ness – “…As Conor watches his mother succumb to cancer, he is pummeled by grief, anger, isolation, helplessness, and something even darker. At night, when he isn’t trapped in a recurring nightmare too terrible to think about, he is visited by a very real monster in the form of a giant yew tree. The monster tells Conor three ambiguous, confusing stories, then demands a final one from the boy, one that ‘will tell me your truth.’ Meanwhile, Conor’s mom tears through ineffective treatments, and Conor simmers with rage: ‘Everybody always wants to have a talk lately.’ But all that really happens is a lot of pussyfooting around the central, horrible fact that his mother is dying, and what does the monster mean about ‘the truth’ anyway? A story with such moribund inevitability could easily become a one-note affair–or, worse, forgettable–but small, surgically precise cuts of humor and eeriness provide a crucial magnifying effect. Moreover, Ness twists out a resolution that is revelatory in its obviousness, beautiful in its execution, and fearless in its honesty. Kay’s artwork keeps the pace, gnawing at the edges of the pages with thundercloud shadows and keeping the monster just barely, terribly seeable. Sidestepping any trace of emotional blackmail, Ness shines Dowd’s glimmer into the deepest, most hidden darkness of doubt, and finds a path through.” — Ian Chipman. AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION, c2011.