Staff Picks: Waiting for Winter

Reviewed by Aubrey D. 

What is wet, white, cold, and soft? Snow of course! For squirrel and his friends snow is a new adventure that they can't wait to experience. Meschenmoser's sketchy illustrations are charming and his characters are endearing, a great book for sharing one on one!

Find it in the Children's Picture Book Collection!

Staff Picks: The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

Reviewed by Dana D.

Brangwain Spurge, the historian of the elves, is sent into rival goblin territory to deliver a peace offering in hopes of easing tensions between the two worlds. Werfel, the goblin historian is thrilled to meet Brangwain and has been put in charge of planning the perfect visit. But, things go wrong before Brangwain even steps foot on goblin territory, and get worse after that.

Fans of the Hobbit and The Invention of Hugo Cabret will love this tale told half in pictures and half in words.

Staff Picks: Serafina and the Black Cloak

Reviewed by Ginny H. 

Serafina and her Pa live in the basement of the Biltmore Estate. Serafina loves her Pa and the quiet nights when she can skulk around the estate kitchens and catch rats. She loves everything about her life except for the fact that no one but her Pa knows she exists.

One night, while out catching rats, she witnesses a kidnapping of sorts. And then, more children begin to go missing from the estate. Serafina has no choice but to team up with the young master, Braeden, to figure out what is happening to all the children before she or Braeden fall victim next.

This is a fantastic adventurous mystery story with paranormal elements. 

VITAL Conversations

Dennis Davoren and learner Adam Garmon

For the first of an ongoing series of conversations with our volunteers and learners, we asked VITAL volunteer LuAnne to chat with tutor Dennis Davoren and learner Adam Garmon about what makes their partnership successful. 

Adam has worked in construction and other hands-on trades, although these days he is on medical leave awaiting open-heart surgery. "I can make just about anything," he says. "I could build you a house." Dennis is retired, and while he has spent only a year as a VITAL tutor in literacy, prior to moving to Bloomington from Louisiana, he was a math tutor for more than a decade. Adam and Dennis have been meeting for weekly sessions since July 2018.

Adam, what motivated you to join VITAL, and what keeps you in the program?

I had to read a lot of paperwork at my job delivering kitchen cabinets for installation. That paperwork makes me nervous, and I could have been a supervisor by now if I'd been able to do it. I've had trouble reading and writing for a long time, and tried getting help at other places. Nothing really stuck until I came to VITAL, and I have my sister to thank for that. She knew about the program and told me that I had to try it.

What learning tools have you found useful?

Lexia [an interactive online literacy program that learners can access through VITAL] has been great. Just this week, I spent 256 minutes on Lexia. I look at that number and I can say, "I did it. I did this today." It's helping me get better at reading and sending text messages on my smart phone, too.

Dennis, in your opinion, what is the most important work that VITAL does?

The adult literacy work can alter the course of someone's life, and VITAL has the resources, and provides the support, to make this work possible. 

The Lexia Core 5 program defines a pathway for learning in a structured and logical way. It's cleverly done; it's work, but with the aspect of a game. English is very idiosyncratic, and Lexia provides a way to navigate idiosyncrasies.

Adam is able to do things now that he couldn't do six months ago. Initially, he was texting solely by dictating. Now, he'll dictate and then check the language, and he'll try to read incoming texts before turning to the translator app to help him out.

Adam's appetite for learning is matched by Dennis's patience and commitment: that match-up is essential for a successful VITAL tutoring partnership. What's ahead for Adam? "Continuing to work on reading and writing. I'm hands on. That's how I learn."

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. 

CATS Live-streaming of Ellettsville Town Council and Plan Commision Now Available


CATS is pleased to announce a dedicated live-streaming weblink for the presentation of the Ellettsville Town Council and Ellettsville Plan Commission.  From the CATS homepage,, viewers can click on the WATCH CATS LIVE tab on the upper right side of the page and find a direct connection to these important community meetings.  All Ellettsville meetings are also archived and can be found on the CATS main page the day after they first appear LIVE.  CATS is made possible by the collective support of the City of Bloomington, Monroe County, the Town of Ellettsville and the Monroe County Public Library.  For questions or comments, please contact CATS at (812)349-3111 or at cats [at]

Home At Last

Reviewed by Lisa C.

November is Picture Book Month and National Adoption Awareness Month, with a special focus on the adoption of children currently in foster care.

Home At Last, a collaborative effort of notable authors and illustrators Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka, portrays the nervousness of Lester, a young boy adjusting to his new home with Daddy Albert and Daddy Rich.

In scenes familiar to many parents, the fathers patiently explain to Lester the necessity of sleeping in his own bed, until one night frustration and sleep deprivation combust and the family dog is the one to climb into bed with Lester and provide soothing comfort. But on Sunday mornings the daddies share their bed with boy and dog and pancakes, toast crumbs and newspapers, and sunlight slanting in through the window blinds.These Sunday mornings, and weekend romps with new cousins, are what Lester likes best, what help him feel home at last. 

Recommended for ages 4 and up.

November also is National Family Literacy Month. What better way to celebrate than by snuggling in bed and reading a book together!  For other books about adoption and all kinds of families, see:

  • Just Right Family: An Adoption Story by Silvia Lopez
  • A Family is a Family is a Family by Sara O'Leary
  •  Stella Brings the Family by Miriam Baker Schiffer
  • One Family by George Shannon

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.

Community partners and individuals offered their support of VITAL stating:

“VITAL has not only created a learning place for adults -tutors and learners - but a community of trust and acceptance. Because of this community, learners feel able to ask for help with day to day problems.” – Antonia Matthews, VITAL tutor

“I have found VITAL to be a valuable community partner. Since our adult education program conducts instruction in groups, I refer our students who need individual tutoring to VITAL in addition to, or in place of, our classes. Likewise, VITAL refers its customers to us when they are ready for whole-class instruction that would lead to passing the high school equivalency tests, enhancing their English language skills with a larger peer group, etc.” – Rob Moore, Director of Adult Education at Monroe County Community Schools

“VITAL and MCPL have opened their doors to our community making us feel a part of the public library's community. For many Spanish speakers it is difficult not only to learn English but to be able to help their children to do well in school. Our work in conjunction with VITAL addresses this issue.” – Daniel Soto, La Escuelita Para Todos Principal

“I have found the VITAL Office to be a very safe and respectful environment to visit with adult Spanish-speaking English language learners interested in identifying English as a New Language conversation groups and tutoring resources in the community.  …the VITAL program is an essential library and community resource for literacy and English language acquisition that consistently goes the extra mile in advocating for and serving the residents of Monroe County, including recent migrants from Spanish-speaking countries” – Jane Walter, Health Projects Coordinator/Executive Director El Centro Comunal Latino

Learners are always welcome, and tutors are always needed.

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.

This book is full of fun and hilarious adventures, especially after the china dolls meet the new plastic family next door. It’s written by Ann M. Martin who wrote the Babysitter’s Club and illustrated by Brian Selznick of Hugo Cabret fame.