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    by Becky C | Sep 25, 2017

    Frequently Challenged Books

    Banned Books Week 2017

    Another Banned Books Week is upon us. While it sounds like we're celebrating something illegal, we're not. Banned Books Week was created to celebrate our freedom to read what we want to read.  Every year, the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom compiles a list of the top ten most frequently challenged books -- books that people have attempted to have removed from a bookstore or library.  Many books are challenged in the interests of protecting children.

    Anyone who works in a library has had a conversation about why it's important to maintain a well-rounded selection of books in the collection, even if some of those titles are controversial (for whatever reasons).  We're all in agreement that we want what's best for kids -- but what's best for my kids may not be best for your kids, and vice versa.  And that is why most libraries prefer to leave the book on the shelf and the parenting to the parent. 

    As a parent of three young children myself, I appreciate the variety of books available in the children's and teen departments. It is possible that my kids will encounter something that exposes them to a different set of beliefs/values than we have at home.  I'm okay with that.  Every day, my kids remind me that they are full of questions about the world around them.  It can be exhausting at times, sure, but I am thankful for their curiosity.  When they read something that differs from their background, they ask questions, and this opens the door to some amazing conversations.  (The same thing happens when they overhear something on the playground or on the school bus.)   

    That said, there are times that I have told my children that they need to wait a bit for a certain title.  While I want them to explore their curiosity, I am also aware of their individual comprehension/readiness levels.  Each kid is different -- at least in our house, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the age when someone is ready for the same book.

    Among my deepest hopes for my children are that they are open to self-examination, that they feel and demonstrate compassion for others, and that they grow into adults who are able to consider a variety of perspectives and determine for themselves what feels right.  And finally, I hope that having determined what feels right for them, when their children ask "why", I want them to feel comfortable having that conversation.

    Becky CBecky likes to read … A LOT. When she’s not reading, she likes to pretend that she can garden. Her favorite books are The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz and The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman..
    by Kayla W. | Sep 22, 2017

    A few years ago, Disney made a gamble on a show that, by all accounts, seems as though it more bears the hallmarks of a Cartoon Network show than a Disney product.  Coming from a spirit of curiosity and with a little bit of love for the scary, Gravity Falls is a little show with a big imagination and an even bigger heart that deserves to be seen by children and adults alike.  Oh, and it happens to be absolutely hilarious.
    cover image for gravity falls tv show dvd

    You may have already heard of this strange little hit show by now; it is practically an institution that plays to a cult crowd of grown-ups who collect the memorabilia from the show like it’s gold.   It is still very much loved, in spite of it being off the air for over a year, and from what I have seen it has only grown larger in popularity and continues to expand its audience with time.   Don’t let all of the grown-ups who have a real love for the charm and humor of the show discourage you, however.  This is, in my opinion, one of the best shows made for children to come out in the last decade.

    The first reason why you will see that it has earned the love of both children and grown-up children alike is that it does not talk down to its audience, but also does not reach for shock value that would destroy the surprisingly gentle underlying theme of family, friendship, and community in it.  The second reason would be that the show is built around this sense of wonder and community which thrives, in spite of the scary themes and creepy things included in it.   

    To name a few of the creatures that show up, the show features kidnapping gnomes, a miniature golf course which is home to nations of little golf ball people who are at a cold war with one another, and an evil one-eyed pyramid named Bill.  Those things, however, are far from the only creatures that make an appearance in the show!

    The wonderfully memorable and endlessly quotable cast of the show is made up twins Dipper and Mabel Pines, their cheapskate “Grunkle” Stan (he is their Great Uncle), the low-key Wendy Corduroy, the loyal Soos Ramirez, and the rest of the cast is made up of not only the whole town of people who have either grown used to the strangeness of Gravity Falls or who are blissfully ignorant to it, but a whole world of strange and eccentric weirdness.

    Admittedly, a part of the cult appeal can be attributed to how close the show is related to cult darling Rick and Morty, even sharing talent that appeared in that show after Gravity Falls aired (such as Patton Oswald and Adventure Time veteran Justin Roiland).  I would ask that people who are put off by the antics of Rick and Morty should keep in mind that Gravity Falls is, first of all, a children’s show.  It’s one that is perfect for an endlessly curious child who is interested in the weird and is starting to perhaps dip their toes into the scary.  It relies much more on near-perfectly timed comedy and weirdness than on anything relying on shock or something disturbing that would be inappropriate for children.

    The obvious comparison might be Goosebumps, however, the closest real comparison would be to one of my own childhood favorites, Courage the Cowardly Dog, and it is a more fitting comparison with some of the stranger episodes.  One big difference between the two is that where Courage is a pick-up-and-watch type of show, where it does not matter what episode you watch because there IS no real order, Gravity Falls does have an underlying story.  Well, as the episodes go on closer to the end of the first season, the great story behind Gravity Falls starts to make itself known, at least.   It reminds me in many ways of the miniseries, the spookier Over the Garden Wall, which feels almost like they were meant to be viewed together due to the fact that they originally aired in the same year.

    I would also not be giving the show the attention it deserves if I did not mention also that the show is really, truly funny at times, in spite of the instances where I personally rolled my eyes with certain characters’ antics (Soos, Grenda, and Candy could get to be a bit too much for me at times), and it is a beautiful show, taking full advantage of its pacific northwest setting.

    What I personally love about the show is how well it (mostly) perfectly executes its story. The show revolves around Dipper and Mable Pines, who have come to spend their summer with their strange “Grunkle” Stan, who owns an eccentric road attraction known as the Mystery Shack in the forest heart of the Pacific Northwest.  It is located somewhere near the town of Gravity Falls, where the people are as strange and often lovable as their homeland is.  Even the insidious little Gideon Gleeful.

    The idea of spending the summer working in Stan’s roadside attraction is interrupted when Dipper and Mabel discover a mysterious journal that had been kept by an unknown writer who detailed strange creatures and going-ons in the town and the surrounding, breath-taking land and forest.    

    Dipper is instantly attached to the journal, becoming obsessive with discovering the overriding secret behind the strange journal, coming face to face on numerous occasions with odd, hilarious, and oftentimes dangerous things as he searches for what is going on with the town.  He is far from alone in his journey, however, as the story often involves or actively follows the antics his twin sister Mabel causes, and he is oftentimes distracted by his growing adoration of the seemingly clueless and unattainable sole cashier of the Mystery Shack, Wendy.

    In my opinion, the best time to watch the show would be in the height of summer and through mid fall, when the summer in the show itself takes place.

    If you’re wanting to check (most) of the first season out, you can find the show collected in two DVDs, called Gravity Falls: Six Strange Tales and Gravity Falls: Even Stranger. The ACPL owns both of these, so there’s no reason why you can’t check the show out.   At the moment, these two abridged collections of the episodes is the only way that Disney has given the show a physical release, so even though they contain only certain episodes of the first season, it is the best way to see if the show is something for you, short of streaming it through Hulu.

    by Kay S | Sep 22, 2017
    Sometimes when you go digging through the dust and cobwebs of the past, all that happens is a sneeze. But other times you find a forgotten treasure and you say to yourself -- now I know why this author is still around.

    Book Review:  The Famous Heroine by Mary Balogh.

    Another lighthearted story by Mary Balogh -- that's two now.

    I have to say that I didn't find The Famous Heroine as funny as The Black Umbrella -- it has one of my pet peeves in it. The hero just cannot forget that other woman he loved, even when the one in his arms is his perfect match. So, it took me a while to like Francis because he was still mooning over Samantha. By the way, Samantha was the heroine from Lord Carew's Bride. Both books are connected to the Stapleton-Downs stories. Just so you know, Mary Balogh's website has a break-down of all her connected books so you don't get lost. This book was released in 1996 and has been re-released as part of a 2-in-1 book with The Plumed Bonnet.

    Cora Downes is a heroine -- and I mean that in every sense of the way. She saved the young son of a duke from drowning. Now the grandmother of said child is so grateful that she has brought Cora to London as a reward. She thinks that being part of society is a great honor. Here's the thing: Cora is sort of accident prone and the saving of the young boy didn't really happen quite the way everyone thinks. In fact, he didn't really need to be saved, but oh well -- now society has a heroine.

    Cora is not comfortable hanging with the elite people. She doesn't fit in. When she meets our hero, Lord Francis Kneller, she is wearing shoes which are too small because 9349851everyone knows men like women with small feet. But now her feet hurt and she's tripping over everything. Francis saves her from embarrassment and she's ever so grateful. She feels perfectly safe with Francis and she jumps to the conclusion that Francis prefers men. You see Francis wears brightly colored clothes, is sarcastic, and has lots of female friends. She becomes very protective of him, especially when she thinks someone is slighting his character.

    Francis, on the other hand, thinks Cora is amusing. She is just the distraction he needs to get over his boo-hoo heart. He is drawn to her, but that leads to two compromising scenes -- the first one they survive, the second one forces them into wedlock. I liked Cora a lot. She's accident prone and has a habit of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. She is also similar to the heroine from Black Umbrella because she is constantly saving things, or maybe I should say she gets credit for saving things -- poodles, horses, the Prince.

    There is a pretty funny scene when Cora is surprised when Francis actually wants her in bed. They talk circles around each other for a while until it dawns on Francis just what Cora thinks -- pretty amusing. By the way, he doesn't change how he dresses. This is pretty close to being a screw-ball comedy, and I would have liked it so much better if Francis would have stopped the Samantha/Cora comparisons sooner.

    And, once again we have another recommendation for an old Mary Balogh's book.

    kayKay is an avid reader of historical romance books, maybe with a little trip into paranormal land and an occasional journey into mystery world.
    by Cindy H | Sep 20, 2017
    Blossom is a possum. She loves to make Glitter Glam headbands, jam on her flute, and recite poetry by heart. If anyone asks her to do any of those things in public, however, she freezes up and covers her face; she is scared people will make fun of her. She begins to realize, though, that when her other classmates do things like play a solo in music class, or answer a teacher's question, that even if they make a mistake everything seems to be okay. Slowly, she begins opening up more. She raises her hand in class, reads at the library poetry slam, and sings out loud. Although some things are still a little too scary, she is proud of herself for the times she tries.

    Blossom Plays Possum (Because She's Shy)
    , written by Birdy Jones and illustrated by Janet McDonnell, is a very sweet book. As a shy person, I could definitely relate to Blossom. Describing how she "plays possum" whenever she gets embarrassed or scared is a perfect way to describe how shy children (and older people!) sometimes feel. At the end of the book there are tips for parents and caregivers on how to empathize with and help your shy little one break out of their shell. Perhaps after reading this book, you could try some of the techniques, such as practicing for situations that make your child nervous at home first, before attempting it at school. The most important thing is to be patient and understanding about how difficult certain situations can be for them, and to be a good role-model and supporter so they know they always have someone looking out for them.

    This picture book is recommended for children ages 4-8. It is available in print at the library. Click the picture of the book's cover to place on hold!
    by sm | Sep 19, 2017

    The books listed here are some new teen science-fiction novels to enjoy as Summer fades into Fall...



    Scott M
    Scott M, Editor - Scott is known around Shawnee Branch and about town as the “Library Dude” and is kind of squirrelly!  His favorite short story is Leaf by Niggle written by JRR Tolkien and he also works for chocolate brownies and Rice-Crispy treats!


    by Kay S | Sep 15, 2017
    Sometimes when you go digging through the dust and cobwebs of the past, all that happens is a sneeze. But other times you find a forgotten treasure and you say to yourself -- now I know why this author is still around.

    Book Review:  The Plumed Bonnet by Mary Balogh

    The Plumed Bonnet is another 2-in-1 re-releases of Mary. Balogh's traditional regency. 690059First published in 1996, it is connected to the Stapleton-Downs series. This is a story of misconception and misunderstanding. While the story has a strong beginning, it is a tad bit slow in the middle, but comes to a satisfying ending. The hero of the books is Alistair, Duke of Bridgewater, and he has had a strong presence in some of the previous books. He's the guy in the background handing out wise advice, which he does not follow in his own book. As the story begins he is ruminating about the fate of his friends who were all trapped into marriage. He observes that even though they all appear to be perfectly happy, he isn't about to let anything like that happen to him. No sir, he's going to be on his toes and not fall into any kind of trap. Famous last words.

    As his coach travels along, his eyes are drawn to woman standing along the side of the 9349851road. She is dressed in a fuchsia colored cloak and on her head is a plumed pink bonnet. He instantly jumps to the conclusion that she is a "bird of paradise". For all of you who have never read a Regency novel and are not familiar with that particular cant, a "bird of paradise" is a woman of easy virtue. Now, whether that term is real slang from Regency times, or a term invented by the great Georgette Heyer, is something which can be debated at a later date. But for now, Alistair thinks she's a bird of paradise and he's eager to enjoy her "favors." Well, the supposed bird is our heroine Stephanie Gray and she has run into a bit of trouble.

    Stephanie has inherited a fortune -- sort of. She needs to claim that fortune and in order to do that, she quit her governess job (which she hated), packed her valise of all her worldly goods, put most of her money in that valise, climbed on board a public coach, and headed toward her fortune. Well, on the way she ran into some less than honest folk and everything in her valise was stolen. So, she decided to walk -- what else could she do? Along the way, she ran into some "show-folk" who lent her some stage clothes -- hence the outlandish ensemble. She is ever so grateful for the ride from the nice gentleman. Really grateful, for he saved her life. She proceeds to tell him her story.

    I found the carriage ride scene quite fascinating. Stephanie is perfectly honest with Alistair, she tells him almost her entire story, all about her inheritance and how she was robbed, etc. But here's what Alistair hears: blah, blah, blah. All the time she is telling him the truth, he is thinking she's making the entire story up. He is bound and determined to not believe her and that is because he wants her to be something other than what she is. They travel together a couple of nights; he even shows up in the bedroom thinking to have his way with her. She, on the other hand, thinks he just lost his way; for a kind, fine, gentleman like him would never think of seducing her.

    When they arrive at her soon-to-be inherited estate, she warns him that his presence may be taken the wrong way. She suggests to him that he should just drop her off and she will walk the rest of the way. But Alistair is still stubborn and he wants to see her squirm out of the lies he thinks she's still creating. He wants to see just how far she'll go. He pooh poohs her and walks right into the marriage trap he was trying to avoid. Unlike a lot of Romanceland books, Alistair does not hold Stephanie responsible for the mistake. He knows it's his own stubbornness that has landed him at the altar and he takes it very calmly. It is also at this point that Stephanie finds out that he isn't a Mr. but a duke. Appearances can be deceiving; Stephanie isn't a strumpet and Alistair isn't a Mr. That particular misunderstanding is cleared up. Then the story journeys down another path and here is where some heavy-duty angst takes over.

    The next portion revolves around Stephanie being sooooo grateful to Alistair that she does everything she can to change. She attempts to change into the perfect duchess thanks to some heavy-handed lessons from Alistair's mother. Alistair spends a great deal of time saying the wrong thing to Stephanie which only makes her even more determined to be perfect. When she is eventually the perfect duchess, Alistair realizes that maybe that isn't what he really wants.  But how can he change her back to the woman he realizes he fell in love with?  This is a story filled with some pretty complex people and it takes Alistair and Stephanie a while to realize that neither one of them has to change to be perfect for each other.

    I recommend this story.

    kayKay is an avid reader of historical romance books, maybe with a little trip into paranormal land and an occasional journey into mystery world.
    by Miriam R | Sep 15, 2017
    One chair. One woman. When she opens her mouth, 200 students and teachers are mesmerized for 50 minutes. Premiere Hoosier storyteller, Doyne Carson, brings to life the story of Abraham Lincoln’s youth as she portrays Abigail Gollaher, the sister of Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood friend, Austin Gollaher in this exciting dramatic presentation. In a time when technology, media hype and glitz catch our attention, the simple act of a well told story still captures our total attention.

    Meet Abe Lincoln's Friend Doyne Carson

    Tuesday, October 24th @ 9:45 am & 12:45 pm
    Wednesday, October 25th @ 9:45 am & 6:00 pm
    Thursday, October 26th @ 9:45 am

    Important information to know: Main Library Children's Services hosts all programs in the Main Library theater. Daytime programs are designed primarily for 4th and 5th grade public, private, and homeschool students.  Group registration begins on Monday, September 18, after 9 am by calling 421-1220 until spaces are filled.

    Wednesday night’s presentation is for adults and families.  Scout troops, homeschool families, senior care facilities and other groups are encouraged to register for this evening performance by calling 421-1220 on or after Monday, September 18.


    by Becky C | Sep 14, 2017
    FPT Baskerville actors

    Have you been to see Baskerville yet?  If you love a good mystery -- and you love shenanigans -- buy your ticket now. 

    While staying true to the basic storyline of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles, Baskerville offers comic relief to offset the otherwise ominous and spooky tale.  For the most part, Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, played by Michael Coale and Jim Matusik, remain the serious fellows Doyle's fans are acquainted with.  The remaining cast of 40+ characters are played with fast-paced dexterity by 3 actors:  Todd Frymier, Jim Nelson, and Morgan Spencer.  Liberties are taken.  Farce is afoot. 

    Nearly every scene is played for laughs.  Frymier, Nelson, and Spencer make the most of silly accents and mannerisms to differentiate among the various characters each plays.  Quick costume changes are sometimes deliberately incomplete and props occasionally malfunction -- you may even find yourself handing a prop back to one of the actors -- it's all part of the fun. 

    I saw this last weekend and loved it.  No need to take my word for it though -- you still have two weekends left! 
    "Ken Ludwig's Baskerville:  A Sherlock Holmes Mystery" continues at First Presbyterian Theater through September 23, 2017 (260-426-7421 ext 121). 

    Looking for more reinterpretations of this sharp-minded consulting detective?  Look for a booklist next week!

    Becky CBecky likes to read … A LOT. When she’s not reading, she likes to pretend that she can garden. Her favorite books are The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz and The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman..
    by Mary Voors | Sep 13, 2017

    Hey Kids!

    Entries are now being accepted in the Allen County Public Library's annual Poetry Contest for kids and teens.

    This year there is no theme; young poets are encouraged to Just Write It! by choosing a favorite topic and writing a poem to submit. Entries from kids and young adults will be accepted at all ACPL locations through November 6, 2017.

    Hey Teachers!

    Many teachers use this contest as an opportunity to develop a poetry lesson plan and then enter all their students’ successful poetry work in the contest.

    This the 35th year the Allen County Public Library has offered this annual poetry contest. We will make booklets containing all the winning poems available for you to keep in your classroom to inspire future poets.

    Hey, Homeschoolers!

    This poetry contest is for you, too! Students in public, private, parochial, charter, online, and home schools can all participate. Just drop your poem off at any Allen County Library.

    Check out the official rules, get writing, and drop your poem off at your local library. We can't wait to read your poems!
    Complete rules for the 2017 ACPL Poetry Contest

    by Evan | Sep 13, 2017
    Book Review:  Life on the Edge by Johnjoe McFadden and Jim Al-Khalili

    Life on the EdgeCertain core mysteries of life -- such as how it first started, how enzymes work, or how a bunch of molecules can be conscious -- have been very hard for scientists to understand. Classical physics, thermodynamics, and organic chemistry have so far come up short.  Starting in the late  20th century, however, a new approach has begun to show promise: quantum biology.

    The idea is that life is different from non-life because it is tied to the weirdness of the sub-atomic world in ways that rocks and water and other inanimate things are not. Life goes beyond the rules of Newtonian physics deep into quantum realities most of us can barely comprehend. 

    For instance, the earth's magnetic fields may trigger minute quantum effects in the brains of European robins that guide them on migrations across thousands of miles. The magnetic fields are too weak to trigger the kinds of chemical changes that normally affect living things, but quantum effects are much more sensitive. 

    Don't take my unsophisticated word for it; read Life on the Edge by biologist Johnjoe McFadden and physicist Jim Al-Khalili.  It is one of the first books on the subject but is only three years old. The authors will hold your hand quite firmly as they guide you through both evidence and speculation about the strange abilities of protons and electrons. They provide new clues to questions that have confounded lifetimes of  biological study. 

    Life on the Edge is, of course, only one of thousands of science books we own. They exist to help you understand what scientists are constantly discovering about how the universe works. One reason your library exists is to make that knowledge available to you. Let us know what we can help you understand. 

    EvanEvan - Married, three children, two grandchildren, formerly a newspaper journalist, now a public librarian, at all times a board game nut.
    by Becky C | Sep 11, 2017
    A fifth-grader recently asked me for books like Sherlock Holmes.  Together, we found several!  Most of the books in this post feature a teenage Sherlock, but Wild Boy and Ingrid are young protagonists who demonstrate deductive reasoning that would make Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's creation proud.

     The Initiation
    The Initiation by Ridley Pearson.  The rivalry between Sherlock Holmes and James Moriarty gets an update in this contemporary re-imagining which sees the two future archenemies rooming together at the elite Baskerville Academy.  First in a trilogyGrades 5 and up
     The Dark Lady
     The Dark Lady by Alessandro Gatti.  Gatti brings together younger versions of three fictional characters -- Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes and Irene Adler, and Maurice Leblanc's "gentleman thief" Arsene Lupin.  First in a series. Grades 4 and up.
     Wild Boy
     The Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones.  Wild Boy is a sideshow circus freak with Sherlockian powers of deduction.  After being unfairly accused of murder, he and his acrobat/pickpocket friend Clarissa begin their own investigation through the gritty, smoky streets of Victorian London.  First in a seriesGrades 5 and up.
     The Case of the Missing Marquess
     The Case of the Missing Marquess by Nancy Springer.  Enola Holmes sets out to the heart of London to uncover her mother's whereabouts and finds herself mixed up in the kidnapping of the young Marquess of Basilwether.  Enola must escape murderous villains, free the spoiled Marquess, and elude her shrewd older brother -- all while collecting clues to her mother's disappearance!  First in a seriesGrades 4 and up.
     Death Cloud
     Death Cloud by Andy Lane. On break from boarding school, 14 year-old Sherlock Holmes is staying with his aunt and uncle in Hampshire. When local people die from symptoms resembling the plague, Holmes begins to investigate. First in a seriesGrades 6 and up.
     Eye of the Crow
     Eye of the Crow by Shane Peacock.  13-year-old Sherlock Holmes prefers observing street life and reading crime blotters to attending school.  He becomes obsessed with a gruesome murder, an interest that eventually lands him in jail.  There, he's visited by Irene Doyle, a young philanthropist who becomes his crime-solving partner. To prove his innocence, Sherlock makes a daring escape and sets about solving the crime.  First in a series. Grades 5 and up.
     The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas
    The Fall of the Amazing Zalindas by Tracy Mack and Michael Citrin.  The Baker Street Irregulars go everywhere, see everything, and overhear everyone. Wiggins, Ozzie, Simon, and the rest -- with the aid of Pilar, a gypsy girl -- help Sherlock Holmes solve the case of the deaths of the Amazing Walendas.  First in a series. Grades 5 and up.
     Raven League
    The Raven League by Alex Simmons.  Kicked out of The Baker Street Irregulars, Archie forms the Raven League in order to help the presumably kidnapped Holmes. The League attempts to track the villains while trying to convince Dr. Watson that Holmes is indeed missing.  First in a series. Grades 4 and up.
     Down the Rabbit Hole
     Down the Rabbit Hole by Peter Abrahams .  13 year-old Ingrid is a fleet-footed soccer player with a knack for stage acting-skills.  She's also an avid reader of Sherlock Holmes.  When her cleats are found at the scene of a crime, she uses her intellect to solve the case and clear her name. First in a series. Grades 6 and up.

    Love booklists?  So do we!  Click here for some other lists we've created over the years.

    Becky CBecky likes to read … A LOT. When she’s not reading, she likes to pretend that she can garden. Her favorite books are The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz and The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman..
    by SM | Sep 11, 2017

    These books are new teen adventure novels for some great Fall reading...



    Scott M
    Scott M, Editor - Scott is known around Shawnee Branch and about town as the “Library Dude” and is kind of squirrelly!  His favorite short story is Leaf by Niggle written by JRR Tolkien and he also works for chocolate brownies and Rice-Crispy treats!

    by Emily M | Sep 11, 2017

    Looking for a book recommendation?  Look no further!  Here are a few good books I've enjoyed recently.

    Book Review:  In the Land of Armadillos: Stories by Helen Maryles Shankmaninthelandofarmadillos

    With careful attention to detail and a touch of magical realism, Shankman presents a collection of fascinating and heartbreaking interrelated short stories set in a Nazi-occupied town in Poland during World War II. In her stories, we meet Max Haas, the ruthless Nazi personally responsible for the murders of countless Jews.  Haas wants to keep his “pet Jew”, the illustrator of his son's favorite picture book, alive.  We also meet Pavel Walczak, a Polish Jew-hater who risks his life to save a little Jewish girl.  And Zosha Luft, a young Jewish girl trying to keep her head down long enough to survive.  We meet William Reinhart as well, the Reich Regional Commissioner of Agricultural Products and Services, an Oskar Schindler-like figure, who believes he can keep hundreds of Jews alive by employing them on the massive estate he has commandeered.  And many others.

    Shankman creates complex, realistic characters who don’t fall into simple categories of “good” or “bad” but, like all of us, are made of shades of gray.  Though each of these stories can stand on their own, together they create a narrative in which the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts.    

    Note: This book has also been published under the title They Were Like Family to Me: Stories. 

    Book Review:   thepatriotsThe Patriots: A Novel by Sana Krasikov

    Florence Fein is a twenty-something Jew of Russian descent who emigrates to the Soviet Union from the U.S. during the 1930s.  She's searching for a summer love who has returned to his country -- and a chance at the freedom she believes she will find as she helps build the Soviet “worker’s paradise.”  However, Florence is unprepared for the realities of life there, and with the American government turning its back on American citizens stuck in the Soviet Union, she soon finds herself entangled in a web from which she cannot escape.

    Meanwhile, the nonlinear timeline of The Patriots introduces us to the stories of Florence’s son Leon, who, after being denied his PhD due to Jewish quotas set by the Soviet government, decides to immigrate to the U.S. with his wife and two young children during the 1970s, and Florence’s grandson, Lenny, who, like his grandmother before him, moves to Russia in search of a better life.

    The Patriots is many things: a sweeping family epic, a well-researched history of nineteenth century Russia, and an exploration of political ideas. Coming in at over 500 pages, it is not a quick and easy read; nonetheless, The Patriots is worth your time.

    Book Review:  longbournLongbourn by Jo Baker

    Longbourn is one of many spin-offs of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice published in recent years.  While Austen’s classic was concerned with the loves and trials of the Bennett family, Baker’s Longbourn reveals to readers the loves and trials of their servants: Mrs. Hill, the housekeeper/cook; Mr. Hill, the butler; Sarah and Polly, the housemaids; and James, the newly acquired footman. 

    While Sarah’s love story moves the plot along, what I most appreciated was how Baker shined a new light on the events of the original novel.  Elizabeth’s delightful and invigorating walks through the countryside in Pride and Prejudice meant hours of scrubbing mud-encrusted petticoats with painful, chilblained hands for Sarah in Longbourn.  In Pride and Prejudice Mr. Bingley is charming, handsome, and, most importantly, wealthy; in Longbourn Mr. Bingley’s wealth is revealed to have been obtained through slave labor.  Mary Bennet and Mr. Collins are portrayed as ridiculous and somewhat obnoxious in Pride and Prejudice, but Baker reveals both to be surprisingly sympathetic characters in Longbourn.

    Overall, I found Longbourn to be an enjoyable read that I would recommend for fans of Downton Abbey, Upstairs, Downstairs, and of course, Pride and Prejudice. 

    EmilyLong before becoming a librarian, Emily was an avid library patron. She enjoys reading fantasy, science fiction, historical fiction, biographies, and classic children’s literature. Her favorite book is Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.


    by Kay S | Sep 09, 2017
    Sometimes when you go digging through the dust and cobwebs of the past, all that happens is a sneeze. But other times you find a forgotten treasure and you say to yourself -- now I know why this author is still around.

    Book Review:  Lady with a Black Umbrella by Mary Balogh

    Lady with a Black Umbrella by Mary Balogh is one of my all-time favorite Balogh mary baloghbooks. Why? It's funny. Yes, Mary Balogh did write a fun, light-hearted book. This book proves that she can write more than just angst; I just wish she'd do it more often. This is another Signet book, written in 1989 and just recently re-released. It is not connected to any of her other novels.

    Our hero, Giles, Viscount Kincade, is having a bad day. Not only did he lose some money in a card game, but sometime during the night he was robbed. Now, he doesn't have the blunt to pay his gambling debt, the bill from the innkeeper, or the oh-so-charming barmaid he spent the night with. He has promised to pay everything he owes on his return to London and they all have begrudgingly accepted his word. However, he is totally embarrassed. You see, dignity is very important to this man and that is too bad because he is about to meet someone who will make him lose his dignity over and over again -- Daisy Morrison.

    Daisy Morrison is staying at the inn with her younger sister and she is watching the view of the inn's yard from her window. She notices something which the oblivious Giles fails to. There are three men approaching him from different sides and they appear to be up to no good. This thinking proves to be true when the three men start beating Giles up. Well, what’s a girl to do? She rushes to the rescue, along with her curlers, disappearing freckle cream, nightgown, and trusty umbrella. She is incensed and proceeds to whack the crap out of the three attackers. Giles is not necessarily grateful to his savior. In fact, he is just a tad bit afraid of the wild eyed woman -- but he thanks her. He and his black eye get in his carriage and head back to London, hoping to leave all the embarrassing moments behind him. God forbid that any of his London friends should find out.

    umbrellaOne of Giles’ problems is that he left Daisy behind to her own devices. You see, Daisy likes to help others. She must! She must! She must right wrongs! She doesn't care who she must help, she is oblivious to the niceties of society. She is also oblivious to the havoc she creates. Daisy is a delightful heroine. I found her humorous. She is not a TSTL heroine, and just because she is innocent to the things going on around her, doesn't mean she’s written as a farce. Some people may find her irritating, but I believe Ms. Balogh did a wonderful job of writing a refreshing heroine. When Giles, left he didn't know that Daisy was still going to help him. She pays his gambling debt, the innkeeper, and even the lady of the evening for him. Then Daisy and her sister leave the inn and journey on their way to London unaware of how angry Giles will be when he finds out what she's done.

    Indeed, it doesn't take long for stuff to hit any nearby fan. Giles has sent his man to pay his debt, but the man returns and hesitantly tells Giles that everything has been paid -- even the barmaid's inflated fees. In the meantime, Daisy, who is 25, has brought her 19 year-old sister to London. Daisy believes she will make a wonderful chaperon for her beautiful sister. This is another example of Daisy's manner of thinking. She wants only the best for her sister, so she wants to introduce her to society in London. Even though they are wealthy, they really don't know anyone -- so when Giles shows up to confront her, Daisy sees this as a perfect opportunity to introduce her sister. Before Giles knows what is happening, he has promised that his aunt will introduce both Daisy and her sister to society. Of course, Daisy doesn't see the need for herself but she's willing to go through with it -- and, besides that wouldn't Giles make a perfect husband for her sister? Giles never has a chance; Daisy is a whirl-wind. It's a lot of fun watching Daisy right wrongs, save dogs, save prostitutes, and thwart kidnappers.

    All of it was great fun, but along with the fun is Ms. Balogh's trademark slow-building of a love story between our two protagonists. This is a rare light-hearted Mary Balogh book and I highly recommend it.

    kayKay is an avid reader of historical romance books, maybe with a little trip into paranormal land and an occasional journey into mystery world.
    by Becky C | Sep 07, 2017
    With the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey, wildfires raging across the Pacific Northwest, and Hurricane Irma pummeling the Caribbean and heading towards Florida, many of us want to help. 

    The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) offers a checklist of things to keep in mind before giving to a charity.  Scammers are out there, ready to prey upon our good will -- and many of them are good at what they do.  Please take some time to review the FTC's checklist.  At the very least, research any charity far enough to make sure it's legitimate.  Scam charities often go by names so similar to actual charities that they manage to snag money intended for a genuine cause.

    A more specific source worth reading is an article recently published by Forbes "Help Houston: 4 Ways to Avoid Fake Harvey Charities."  Among other things, this article highlights some of the highest-rated local non-profits currently working in the Houston area.  It also includes a cautionary note about crowdfunding.

    That said, my Facebook newsfeed has been full of questions about the percentage of donations that go to relief, rather than administrative costs.  If that's on your mind as well, two online resources immediately come to mind:  Charity Navigator and CharityWatch.  Both are reputable sources which provide information on the percentage of donations spent on charitable programs versus administrative expenses.


    Becky CBecky likes to read … A LOT. When she’s not reading, she likes to pretend that she can garden. Her favorite books are The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz and The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman..
    by Cindy H | Sep 07, 2017
    Catherine's younger brother, David, has autism. She wants to make sure that he'll be able to survive in the world whenever she's not around, so she writes down rules for him so he won't do embarrassing things, like put toys in the fish tank or stand in front of the television when someone else is watching it. Catherine struggles with trying to fit in with a brother that is so different. To make things more difficult, it seems like her parents never have time for her; they are always busy with David. When a new family, with a girl her age, moves in next door she hopes she will have a new best friend. She worries that David will mess things up for her, though. It seems like there aren't enough rules in the world to sort out all of David's problems. When Catherine becomes friends with a special boy at the occupational therapy clinic she begins to see that perhaps she has been looking at things the wrong way, and maybe she needs to learn to stop caring so much what others think in the first place.

    This is an inspiring story about a girl learning to accept the differences of those around her and not care what other people think. That is a hard lesson for adults to learn, so it is very refreshing to see a young girl discovering it for herself. Reading this book, I felt like I learned a lot about people with special challenges, as well. I think this is an excellent book for anyone to read who wants to think more deeply about growing up, discovering themselves, and learning to accept the differences that make all of us wonderfully unique.

    This book is recommended for children ages 9-12. This would be an excellent book to read along with your child, so you can discuss the material and learn together. It is available in print, audiobook, and playaway at the library, and as an ebook on Overdrive. Click the picture of the book's cover to place on hold!
    by Evan | Sep 06, 2017

    John BeattyJohn Beatty is the author of several books and articles about local history. He grew up in Michigan but has ancestral roots in Fort Wayne. He began working on genealogy at age 10 and has been a member of the Allen County Public Library's distinguished Genealogy Center staff since 1984.  

    Q. A person might assume a genealogist reads a lot of history and biography and maybe historical fiction in his spare time. Is that true for you?

    A. I enjoy American and Irish history, as well as biography. I finished Walter Isaacson’s biography of Benjamin Franklin late this spring. I don’t read very much historical fiction, but I am interested in reading classic works of fiction that I had missed in my literature classes. My son is a sophomore at Canterbury High School, and he finished Charles Dickens’s “A Tale of Two Cities.” After he was done, I read it and loved it, so more Dickens will be on my reading list. I also read some theology and poetry.

    Q. Do you have favorite authors, or do you perhaps lean toward favorite subjects?

    A. I’m a big fan of John Meacham and David McCullough. Although they are popular, rather than academic, historians, I consider them muses of mine. They write so extremely well that I wish I could “channel” them in my own writing. In terms of history, I am most interested in the late 18th century, and I tend to be drawn to books about that time period.

    Q. What books have you most enjoyed or have most strongly influenced you?

    A. I’m an Episcopalian and a Christian liberal, and I often find myself drawn to tough theological issues in my reading, including works by the Jesus Seminar. I suppose the “Book of Common Prayer” is my favorite, most influential book (especially the service of Compline). I connect to God through the mysticism of that service. I’ve been greatly influenced by the work of Bishop John Shelby Spong after meeting him in Maine a few years ago. I don’t agree with all of his conclusions or viewpoints, but I appreciate his efforts to bring together science, rationality, history and theology. His latest book on the Gospel of Matthew has literally changed how I read the Bible.

    Q. Were you an early, avid reader as a child? Have there been trends in your reading across your life?

    A. I was not an avid reader as a child. While I read children’s books, I started reading more consistently during and after college. I spent a lot of time reading biographies in my early middle life (everything from presidents to musicians and cultural figures). I have a big personal collection of presidential biographies. Lately, as I said, I’ve been drawn to reading the classic works of fiction that I’ve missed, because I believe they are culturally important, just like seeing a painting or hearing a symphony. I’ve enjoyed Dickens so much that I will probably read a lot more.

    Q. ​What roles have libraries played in your reading outside your professional life?

    A. I have always had a library card from childhood, and I do check out some books that I don’t want to purchase. That is especially true of some biographies and theologies. However, I’m much more likely to purchase an inexpensive paperback of a classic fiction book, rather than check it out, just so I can read it at my own pace and put it down for a week if my schedule gets too busy.

    Q. Do you listen to audio books or stick to the printed word?

    A. Definitely the printed word. I’m a traditionalist in that respect.

    Q. What are some of your favorites among the books and articles you have written? Were your decisions to write them triggered by any particular things you had read?

    A. After the 2-volume Beatty family history that I wrote in 2010 (which I consider my magnum opus), I suppose the Fort Wayne histories are my favorite. My writing interests are often triggered by local history writing that I see being done for other parts of the country. When I see a topic well treated in an article in some journal, it leads me to apply those topics locally. For example, I remember reading an article about prostitution in the West, and it lead me to ask, what happened in Fort Wayne in the 19thcentury? When I viewed pioneer-era portrait paintings in the History Center and read Wilbur Peat’s book about Indiana portrait painters, it lead me to want to find out more about local artists and photographers in the 19th century. There is so much in Fort Wayne that hasn’t been fully explored, especially with regard to social history.

    Q. Please comment on how being an author has affected your reading choices and your reactions to what you read.  

    A. I always want to be a better writer, and the only way to do that is to be an observant reader, looking carefully at the writing techniques of others. Writing history is an art, not a science, and the masters of the craft have beautiful, descriptive ways of telling stories that draw readers into their narratives. Remember, the Greeks had a history muse called Clio. When I read David McCullough, for example, I can hear his distinctive speaking voice telling the story. I try to aim for writing in a way that captures my own voice. With respect to local history, I am always looking for books that treat local history in new, innovative ways. The Genealogy Center has a history of Madison, Wisconsin, by David Mollenhoff titled Madison: A History of the Formative Years. He takes a social-geographical view of his city that should be a model for all local history writing. I draw inspiration from new approaches like this.

    EvanEvan - Married, three children, two grandchildren, formerly a newspaper journalist, now a public librarian, at all times a board game nut.
    by Dori G. | Sep 05, 2017

    Have you ever wanted to make your own Pokémon?

    Join us at the Main Library in the Children’s Services department at 3:30 pm on September 12, 2017, as we use our imaginations to create the strangest, most powerful Fakémon we can come up with. What are Fakémon, you ask? Fakémon are Pokémon-like creatures that you create yourself. They’re fake Pokémon! And we’ve gotta make ‘em all!

    Maybe yours would have furry wings or toady bumps or a dorsal fin! And what powers would you give them? Would they use sonar? Would they eat fire? Would they spin gold? And where would they live? In the desert? The rain forest? The ocean? The tundra? What about their evolution?

    The possibilities are endless and here's your chance! Hope to see you there.



    by Craig B | Sep 04, 2017

    cover for Vic Mensa's album, The AutobiographyI may have found my gateway album to Rap.  I thought maybe it was going to be Deltron 3030 a few years ago, but that didn’t really take.  With Vic Mensa’s The Autobiography, though, I feel like maybe I’ve got an in.  Maybe it’s the confessional nature of many of the tracks -- or maybe I’m just finally ready.  All I know is I had no trouble getting through this album and even started it over soon after I first finished it.

    Suggested Use: Got something to confess?  Let this album get you primed.  Sure, sometimes Mensa postures pretty hard, but he’s kind of earned it and is more than equally vulnerable and transparent throughout the other parts of the album.  Let Vic show you the way.  And to get the confessing started, I have to say in response to that lyric from “Memories on 47th St.”

    “fell over 30 feet / The doctor said I should be dead, still alive and still ain't scared,”

    I’m still alive but I sure am scared.  Maybe Vic can help show me the way.

    by Katie B. | Sep 02, 2017

         Pincushion Sea Urchin

    Our featured fish this month is actually not a fish at all.  The pincushion sea urchin, found in our reef tank, is an echinoderm and belongs to the family of animals that include sea cucumbers and starfish.  This little animal may not look like much but I think it is one of the most fascinating creatures we have here in the Children’s Services aquariums. 

    The spines that cover a sea urchin’s body serve as both protection and allow it to move around the tank. It also has retractable feet that help it move and climb. Sea urchins spend their lives upside down since their mouths are located on the bottom of their bodies. The mouth is a complex system with 5 teeth plates that allow a sea urchin to scrape algae off of rocks and coral. It even has a special name: Aristotle’s Lantern.
           Pincusion Sea Urchin
    There is a lot to find interesting about these strange little animals, but my absolute favorite thing about our little sea urchin is how much it loves to decorate.  A master of camouflage, our sea urchin is constantly picking up shells and rocks from around the tank and carrying them on its back.  It is surprisingly strong and you can often find it carrying much larger objects than you would expect.  Be sure to check out what our sea urchin is wearing the next time you visit Children’s Services!

                         wow ocean
    I don’t know of any picture books that feature sea urchins in particular but Wow! Ocean by Robert Neubecker has vibrant illustrations that provide a fun snapshot of the different creatures found in the ocean. (You can look for several different sea urchins and other echinoderms on the “Wow! Tide pool!” pages.)