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Staff Picks: Garvey's Choice

Reviewed by Alex G. 

Garvey loves reading and singing, but he's a little awkward and doesn't have too many friends. Even at home, his family doesn't quite get him. To cope with his feelings, Garvey turns to food as a source of comfort.

But when his best friend encourages him to join choir, Garvey may finally have found a place to belong and shine. 

Garvey's Choice is a beautifully written novel in verse. Nikki Grimes does a wonderful job of telling the story of a boy trying to relate to to the people around him and the way she writes Garvey's attempts at a relationship with his father is so real and, at times, heartbreaking. The poetry format of this novel make it a quick read and a great reading suggestion for reluctant readers.

Try Garvey's Choice is you like moving realistic fiction. 

Staff Picks: The Firefly Code

Reviewed by Ginny H. 

In this adventurous, science fiction story, Mori lives a perfect life in Old Harmonie. Their town is a utopian community where kids are genetically altered to super-enhance a powerful trait, like puzzle solving, physical agility, or photographic memory. But when a strangely perfect new girl named Ilana moves in, Mori and her friends begin to question the only world they have ever known. 

Check out The Firefly Code by Megan Frazer Blakemore! 

VITAL: Winner of the 2018 Tom Zupancic Literacy in Libraries Award 

Tom Zupancic Literacy in Libraries Award

The ILF Tom Zupancic Literacy in Libraries Award recognizes community advocacy for literacy by an individual or organization in cooperation with a library. VITAL received this accolade for promoting the importance of literacy and adult education at the library. Since VITAL’s inception in 1977, our program has helped over 6,500 learners achieve their personal learning goals.

Staff Picks: The Doll People

Reviewed by Dana D.

In 1898, a very special dollhouse (complete with a china doll family) arrived from England for a little girl. Annabelle, one of the dolls, has now been an 8-year-old for over 100 years and it’s getting boring. She sees the human girls grow up and new girls come to play with her, but she remains the same.

One night while looking at “books”, which are really just blocks of wood with titles painted on them, she discovers the real diary of her long-lost aunt. No one knows about the diary and she wants to keep it secret. She decides to solve the mystery of how her aunt disappeared by leaving the dollhouse.  When she asks if anyone in her family has ever looked for her aunt outside of the dollhouse, they all answer “NO!” A doll risks Doll State, an inability to move for 24 hours, if it is seen moving about on its own. And if a doll is seen doing something very extraordinary it can end up in Permanent Doll State, which lasts forever.

Staff Picks: The War That Saved My Life

Reviewed by Stephanie H. 

I love Ada! Ada and this character-driven historical fiction won many awards, including the Newbery Honor book. She and her younger brother Jamie are evacuated from London to the English countryside during World War II. Away from the bombings and their abusive mother, they find the rural setting and their new caregiver both frightening and joyful. 

Never have I been so glad for a sequel! Ada grew so much in the first novel, but in the sequel she really demonstrates her strength against the formidable Lady Thorton, runaway horses, and a war that now reaches the countryside and those she has come to love. 

Powerful and uplifting! 

How Gutenberg Changed the World

While some predict the imminent demise of the printed book, some profess that the printed book will continue on in perpetuity. I stand with the second group. As much as I enjoy the convenience of ebooks, there is a majesty to a beautifully illustrated and bound printed book that not even the most colorfully animated ebooks can equal. There is so much ephemeral electronic correspondence today that a printed book, by its sheer mass and substance commands a certain amount of respect. Or, perhaps it's simply the history of the printed book that I revere.

From the Good Mountain: How Gutenberg Changed the World lavishly presents the early history of the printed book as pioneered by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450.  Categorized as a biography, this new picturebook by James Rumford focuses more on Gutenberg's revolutionary invention of the printing press, than on the life of Gutenberg himself. Each richly illustrated double-page spread describes the process of creating a book as a mystery of sorts, asking the reader to guess the elements that formed the finished product: "What was this thing made of rags and bones?" and answering on the next page: "It was paper, and it was ready."

The epilogue to this book notes that Gutenberg's invention remains a bit of a mystery, as no one knows for sure how he was able to produce such beautifully crisp and clear letters in the 1400s. But some of the books he produced more than 500 years ago endure to this day. In fact a copy of one of those books resides in Bloomington at the Lily Library on the campus of Indiana University. The Gutenberg Bible rests in a glass case on display in the Lily Library, open for anyone to visit. 

From the Good Mountain concludes with an illustration of computer circuitry, suggesting that as hand copied books gave way to printed ones, and printed books give way to ebooks, perhaps it doesn't matter at all what books look like -- what form they take -- as long as people keep writing and reading them. What are you reading today?

A Cornucopia of Books

If you look back to those long summer afternoons of reading during your childhood with longing, this book is for you. Three years after losing her beautiful and talented older sister, Anne-Marie, to cancer, Nina Sankovitch decided to do something she had long dreamed of doing, making books central to her life again. Of course as the mother of three teens and one preteen - all boys - she didn't have much free time. But from Oct. 28, 2008 to the same date in 2009 Nina read and read and read some more.

In the intervening years after her sister's death, Nina had kept fiendishly busy, driving, cooking, cleaning, heading committees, and organizing literary projects--all the myriad duties of raising a family and being involved in her Connecticut community. But each day she felt guilty to be alive because her sister had died. This lovely book is both a tribute to a sister, and a memoir of their relationship. It's also a narrative about how concentrating on reading finally healed Nina, so that she was eager to go forward again.   

Nina resurrected (reupholstered) the big purple chair that one of their cats had made its own by spraying on it. Here in this regal chair for two, three, even four hours a day, Nina both lost and found herself through books.

Besides telling Anne-Marie's story, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair also relates the story of her father, Anatole, who lost three aunts and uncles in a shooting during WW II. All were shot in his family's kitchen in Poland while their terrified mother lay upstairs in her sick bed. Anatole also suffered from TB after WW II and spent over two years in a sanatorium in the mountains recovering after the war. Nina compares her year of reading to those years of rest and recuperation that her father experienced there.

There's Monsters and Then There's Monsters

ImageHorror fiction: There're a lot of arguments about what it is and isn't -- it's bloody; it doesn't have to be bloody. It's supernatural, like werewolves and ghosts; it can have just people -- they're scary enough. It's got sparkly vampires who can inexplicably run around all day; vampires don't fall in love, they fall with their fangs into your neck. Whatever version of horror you subscribe to, with Halloween coming up quickly, it's what's for dinner.

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