Huck: The Remarkable True Story of How One Lost Puppy Taught a Family--And a Whole Town--About Hope and Happy Endings
by Janet Elder
Published 2010 by Broadway Books
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9780767931342
Why is it that animals can have such a hold on our hearts? And why is it that no matter how many similar stories we read, a good "boy wants dog, parents don't, boy persists, parents try fish, boy persists, parents give in" story resonates with us so? SPOILER! This book has a happy ending.
Review by Pat, Downtown Library
by Harlan Coben
Published 2011 by Putnam Publishing Group
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9780399256509
Mickey's world has been turned upside down. He and his father were in a tragic car accident that took his father's life. His mother turned to drugs because she couldn't cope with anything anymore, which put her in rehab. Then Mickey's uncle Myron steps in. Myron agrees to let Mickey live with him and not ask any questions.
As the school year begins, Mickey finds it difficult to fit in. This is actually the first time he has ever attended an American school. His childhood was filled with moving from place to place in other countries and learning in a completely different way. This may sound fun and exotic, but Mickey's parents decided that they would give up the jobs they loved in order to let Mickey have a normal teenage experience. Nothing could be farther from what actually happens to him. He manages to make enemies of fellow classmates and faculty. A girl he was interested in goes missing. The so-called "Bat Lady" tells him his father is still alive. He quickly gets in over his head and must find the answers to more questions than he knew he had.
At the end of Shelter I literally gasped and had chills. It was one of those endings where you don't know what exactly just happened.
Review by Carmel, Northwest Branch
Tell the Wolves I'm Home
by Carol Rifka Brunt
Published 2012 by Dial Press
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9780679644194
Placed in the early 80's when AIDS was just becoming to be understood, a young girl is struggles with the loss of her best friend and uncle. While everyone else seems to have had his life figured out, she realizes that nothing is as it seemed. Trying to cope, she finds solace in the one person she least expected, which turns out to be a game changer for everyone. The novel explores the many different versions of love and coming to peace with the hard things in life.
Review by Brittany P., East Branch
by Stuart Gibbs
Published 2014 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9781442467774
Stuart Gibbs used his own family experience of raising his kids to create this rich and enchanting twelve-year-old character (Teddy Fitzroy), who has an adventure that is amazing, funny, and completely believable.
Youth books aren't my normal preference, but there was something that's difficult to define that made me pick up Poached. The title seems to pose an unanswered question, and I wanted to know who or what or is being poached.
Teddy Fitzroy's reality is rock solid in this tale of a stolen koala bear. Teddy is accused of this crime--all evidence points to him. All the unexpected twists, turns, and reversals that his parents, friends, and classmates go through seem to create an open-and-shut case against him.
How the mystery of the stolen koala bear is solved will keep adult and youth readers from putting down this charming book until the very end. Entertaining, funny, and delightful is how I would describe Poached.
Review by Don, Downtown Library
Pillars of the Earth
by Ken Follett
Published 2007 by New American Library
Paperback, English. ISBN: 9780451225245
This book was recommended to me by a friend--to whom I am incredibly grateful--as The Pillars of the Earth is a wonderful book full of history, suspense, politics, beauty, and adventure. Actually, my little story of how I discovered this book mirrors the novel’s history. Ken Follett’s novel of cathedral building in 12th century England was only moderately successful when it was published in 1989. In fact, the author writes that most of his publishers just hoped he’d gotten the crazy project out of his system and would go back to writing the thrillers that had made him successful. Over time however, The Pillars of the Earth became Ken Follett’s best-selling and most popular book in the simplest and most important way: the recommendation of one reader to another. In that spirit, I pass it along to you: This is a great book. Read it. You will love it.
Review by Stacy, Downtown Library
Cajun Cornbread Boy
by Dianne de Las Casas
Published 2008 by Pelican Publishing Company
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9781589802247
Yum, YUM, y’all! This mouth-watering tale of Cajun culinary magic will have you drawling and drooling before you can say "Bogalusa Bayou." Both young and old will enjoy the Cornbread Boy’s adventures in this easy-reader delight. A Cajun accent may enhance your experience in reciting phrases such as, "Run, chère, run, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me--I’m full of cayenne!"
Since I grew up in Texas and not in Louisiana, I remember hearing a similar tale about a gingerbread boy. Sadly, it ended much differently. It didn’t require a nine-word Cajun glossary either. Fortunately, you’ll find one at the back of the book right behind the author’s "Southern Cornbread" recipe. Bake it up hot and gather around the table for a delightful, spicy family read. Believe me, you will appreciate the lovely, soothing watercolor illustrations...
Review by Robin, Downtown Library
The Lace Makers of Glenmara
by Heather Barbieri
Published 2009 by Harper
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9780061721557
Meet the lace makers of Glenmara: Bernie, middle-aged and dealing with the recent death of her much-loved husband; Aileen, helpless in the face of her teen daughter’s defiance and increasing withdrawal; Moira, caught up in denial of the domestic abuse in her marriage; Oona, in remission from breast cancer, and secretly worried about her marriage; Colleen, frantic that something bad will befall her fisherman husband, who has come out of retirement after suffering financial reversals. Into their world comes Kate Robinson, an Irish-American fashion designer, seeking her ancestral roots after being overwhelmed by heartbreaks of her own. Taken in by Bernie, Kate develops a link to the other lace makers, and comes up with a way to use their craft to create something more marketable than their traditional altar cloths and doilies--lingerie. As they work together something wonderful begins to happen--they begin to develop the strength to face their fears and desires. But not everyone in Glenmara approves of what they’re doing...
Review by Cynthia, Downtown Library
Hawkeye, Volume 1: My Life as a Weapon
by Matt Fraction
Published 2013 by Marvel Comics
Paperback, English. ISBN: 9780785165620
Hawkeye/Clint Barton has always been a hero without superpowers. He fights alongside the world’s most powerful superheroes as one of the weaker members of the Avengers. At times he seems to be just a guy with a bow and some trick arrows. In My Life as a Weapon, Matt Fraction shows what Hawkeye does when he is off the clock. Fraction portrays a character that is just trying to do what’s right with what he has. This is where My Life as a Weapon stands apart as a unique graphic novel. Fraction succeeds in not only making a superhero relatable, which has been accomplished by many other writers, but also takes this one step farther by portraying Hawkeye as a regular person. Hawkeye is the perfect character to do this with because, unlike other heroes, like Peter Parker or Clark Kent who have secret powers and lives, Clint Barton has no secret powers and his life as a hero is just his day job. By taking such a down-to-earth character and establishing him as such, Fraction is able to then construct a story that feels real. Because of this I genuinely laughed, cringed, cheered, and felt sorry for Hawkeye throughout the story.
The art style that David Aja uses is a perfect complement to the world Fraction creates. The designs for the characters, even the heroes, could be modeled after actual people--something rarely seen in the comic world of muscle-bound men and buxom women. The use of color subtly accentuates the emotional tone. Even the scale of the environments depicted helps to ground the story in the real world. Instead of giving us bird’s eye cityscapes from above, Aja presents the world one street at a time, just like Hawkeye sees it. All of this is done with a simplistic and modern illustration style. The only thing that seems to standout in a negative way is the depiction of the other superheroes. In their colorful and flamboyant costumes, those characters seem to stick out like a sore thumb. They constantly seemed to be out of place until it hit me that Hawkeye has nothing in common with any of the other heroes. Clint Barton is a regular guy in a regular world, and the other superheroes are anything but regular. This graphic novel was an instant favorite for me, and I feel like it is a book anyone can pick up and enjoy.
Review by Ben, Downtown Library
by Chris Raschka
Published 2014 by ABRAMS
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9781419710575
If you remember how hilarious it was when you were three years old and a grownup told you, "Don’t eat those vegetables! Stop it! Take that broccoli out of your mouth!" then you will love Lamby Lamb. Chris Raschka’s new series for the very young includes Whaley Whale, Cowy Cow, and more, each with a different character and individual plot. I won’t buy these for me, but I love reading them to young kids!
Review by Carla, Northwest Branch
Binky the Space Cat
by Ashley Spires
Published 2009 by Kids Can Press
Paperback, English. ISBN: 9781554534197
3...2...1...BLAST OFF! Binky's dream is to blast off into space for the future of all cat- and mankind, BUT he cannot let his humans know about it. They just wouldn't understand; I mean, they can hardly defend themselves from the "aliens" (also known as bugs) that invade their home every day. It is up to Binky the Space Cat to protect his family at all costs. I loved this little graphic novel for children about a house cat who thinks that "outside" is actually "outer space" and how he trains hard every day for his chance to set foot out of the house. I'm sure kids will love watching Binky go through actions that their cats at home may do--with some very funny explanations as to why. Be sure to check out the sequels with other Binky adventures!
Review by Summer, Downtown Library
The Bohemians: Mark Twain and the San Francisco Writers Who Reinvented American Literature
by Ben Tarnoff
Published 2014 by Penguin Press
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9781594204739
I’ll read just about anything by or about Mark Twain, so this one was a no-brainer for me. Twain was a roving journalist in the wild San Francisco of the 1860’s and developed there much of the writing style and subject matter that he would later transform into classic American literature. Twain the legendary stage performer began here as well. We also learn of other figures of note such as the then-popular Bret Harte (whom Twain would come to detest), poet Charles Warren Stoddard, and novelist Ina Coolbrith, all of whom contributed to the Bay Area literary scene. For me, though, it’s the always fascinating and eternally entertaining Mark Twain who’s the star of the show.
Review by Kevin, Downtown Library
The Ladies' Paradise
by Émile Zola
Published 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA
Paperback, English. ISBN: 9780192836021
At once a coming of age story, a melodrama, and cultural analysis, The Ladies’ Paradise offers a fascinating study of the rise of huge department stores (the mega malls and Wal-Marts of their day) in the latter half of 19th-century Paris. Denise, a young woman from the country, comes to Paris with her younger brothers to find work in her uncle’s shop, only to find that his small business is being threatened by an ever-expanding department store across the street, the titular Ladies’ Paradise. Denise finds a job in the store but she is beset by difficulties: jealous coworkers, poor wages, and pressures to find a lover when she is uninterested in romance. Alongside her story is that of the Ladies’ Paradise’s owner, Octave Mouret, who only sees his female customers as commodities and is always thinking of ways to expand his colossal store.
Those who have already read some Zola will find some familiar themes: thoughts on the crushing human cost of progress and new economic paradigms; tensions between the bourgeoisie and working classes; the effect of the social and physical environment upon human nature. Filled with lush descriptions, engaging characters, and an ending that isn’t utterly depressing (unlike those of Germinal and L’Assommoir), The Ladies’ Paradise is a good introduction to the Zola corpus.
Review by Catherine, Downtown Library
Heir to the Empire
by Timothy Zahn
Published 1991 by Spectra Books
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9780553073270
Being a hardcore Star Wars fan, I am anxious to hear all of the developments of the new trilogy of films (while secretly scolding George Lucas for making the third trilogy...) so when J.J. Abrams made his big announcement the other day on basic plot I was ready! I was anxious, I was excited, and then my bubble burst. When I found out that none of the wonderful novels by Timothy Zahn were going to be adapted for any of the new trilogy, I was devastated. Zahn writes with such magic that I just knew it had to be what they were using for the new trilogy... Anyways, onto the book, I say!
Heir to the Empire is the first of three in the "Hand of Thrawn" trilogy. The book picks up five years after Episode VI left off. The Death Star has been destroyed, and the Rebellion seems to be gaining steam in their fight against the Empire. However, a Grand Moff (head honcho for the Empire) who was hidden during the perils of the films has reemerged, and is possibly winning more battles for the Empire. How will Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Leia Organa-Solo survive? What new trials and enemies await them? What will Luke do when he finds out he has an equal in his Force and Lightsaber skills? I won’t give away the answers, but Zahn does a wonderful job of keeping you entertained for 361 pages, and you’ll be anxious to read the other two books in this set!
Review by Brittany, Southwest Branch
If I Could Keep You Little...
by Marianne Richmond
Published 2010 by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9781402255595
It’s the typical parent’s dilemma. You want to see your child grow and blossom into their own person, but you still want them to be the little boy or girl who likes to have bedtime stories read to them and have you tuck them in at night.
Marianne Richmond shares her wishes to keep her little one "little," but also expresses how much she loves seeing the new things that her child discovers each day. This sweet little children’s book would be perfect for a new parent or for a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day read.
Review by Amanda Hope, Downtown Library
The Giving Tree
by Shel Silverstein
Published 1964 by HarperCollins Publishers
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9780060256654
This book is about the relationship between a female tree and a boy. Every day the boy visited the tree and he climbed up her trunk, swung from her branches, ate apples, and played in her shade. She was happy. But when the boy grew older, he wanted some money; the tree gave him apples and suggested he sell them.
The boy stayed away for a long time and when he came back, he needed a house. The tree offered her branches and he used them to make his house.
When he came back again, he wanted a boat that would take him away, "Cut down my trunk and make a boat," said the tree.
And after a long time the boy came back again "I am sorry, boy," said the tree, "but I have nothing to give you." "I don’t need very much now," said the boy, "just a quiet place to sit and rest." And the tree offered her old stump. It was the only thing left to offer him. And, the tree was happy.
I recommend this book to young readers because of its valuable lesson. The tree was always giving of herself to make the boy happy, and the boy grew up to be an old man and had nothing because he never gave her anything in return.
Review by Silvia, East Branch
It Can't Be True!
by DK Publishing
Published 2013 by DK Publishing
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9781465414229
This book is filled with stunning scientific facts & mind-blowing illustrations. It is guaranteed to amaze anyone at any age!!!
Review by Bonnie, Downtown Library
by Kate Banks
Published 2013 by Farrar Straus Giroux
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9780374313210
Take a quick tour of the world with stops in Rome, Italy, London, England, Munich, Germany, and more with a stray cat that stows away with a family taking a European vacation. Beautifully illustrated and told with a vocabulary as expansive as the city scenes, all ages will enjoy this tale of a traveling cat.
Review by Cindi, Downtown Library
Rules of Murder
by Julianna Deering
Published 2013 by Bethany House
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9780764210952
It’s the 1920’s. The setting is a large estate in England and murder is afoot! Meet Drew Farthering, heir to his father’s part of an oil empire, and every bit as suave as Lord Peter Wimsey. This is the Golden Age of Detective Fiction, and Drew likes a good mystery as well as the other readers of this decade. So does his best friend, Nick Dennison. What neither likes is that two murders occur on Drew’s estate at a party given by Drew’s mother. But what are two young, intrepid, amateur detectives to do except investigate? Of course they will follow the ironclad rule of NOT interfering with the official police investigation...just like Miss Marple or Hercule Poirot never interfered in their mysteries. The rules they will follow, however, are the "Ten Rules of Detective Fiction," written by a Father Ronald A. Knox. Let the sleuthing begin!
Rules of Murder is the first book in the "Drew Farthering" series. While it is an inspirational read, it is a good choice if one wants a clean cozy mystery. It has the charm of the time, as well as charming characters. And, by the way, there really were those "Ten Rules of Detective Fiction" that were found at the beginning of the 1928-29 anthology of detective stories edited by a Father Ronald A. Knox, himself an author of mysteries. These "Ten Rules" can still be found via a Google search. Father Knox titled them as the Decalogue.
Review by Kay J., Northwest Branch
The Million Dollar Kick
by Dan Gutman
Published 2006 by Hyperion Paperbacks for Children
Paperback, English. ISBN: 9780786807642
Seventh grader Whisper Nelson hates sports because of the mental video clip that replays in her head of the score she made for the other team in soccer four years ago. She vowed to never play any sport ever again. When Briana, Whisper’s sporty younger sister, tries to enter the Million Dollar Kick contest, the girls discover that Briana is too young. Briana talks Whisper into putting her name on the entry form. Whisper never imagines that her slogan would be the winning entry. Will Briana accept the Million Dollar Kick? Dan Gutman scores with this story about kids surviving the pressures they face in middle school.
by Nicola Davies
Published 2014 by Candlewick Press
Hardcover, English. ISBN: 9780763666330
In this beautiful picture book, we come to know a young girl who lives in a city that is "mean and hard and ugly" where "nothing grew." "Everything was broken" and "no one ever smiled." This environment shapes its inhabitants to be like their city, and the girl grows up feeling as if her heart is shriveled. One night she tries stealing from an old woman who is holding a bag with what the girl thinks is food. The old woman keeps a firm grip until she says, "If you promise to plant them, I’ll let go." Having no idea what the woman means, the girl promises. Thus, her journey of transformation begins.
The text of this story is so lovely and the illustrations by Laura Carlin are a perfect match for the mood set by Nicola Davies. A wonderful book for all ages, and a keen reminder that it is up to us to care for the people and places we are so privileged to know.
Review by Shannon H., North Branch