06. November 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Courtney, Graphic Book, History, NonFiction · Tags:

The Hypo: The Melancholic Young Lincoln by Noah Van Sciver, read by Courtney, on 10/26/2013

This graphic novel tells of a lesser-known chapter of Abraham Lincoln’s life. It begins well before his presidency, before his marriage to Mary Todd. It follows a young Lincoln through his early days as a struggling lawyer. Set-back after set-back drive Lincoln into a deep, dark depression that nearly kills him.
I must confess I did not know a whole lot about Lincoln’s early life as most historical documents focus on his presidency and the years leading up to it. This graphic novel presents a less-than-glamorous tale of a man trying to find his way in the world. The stylized artwork may not be to everyone’s liking, but this is still a very accessible book that adds an extra dimension to the life of one of America’s greatest historical figures.

08. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure, read by Angie, on 10/08/2013

Frances and her parents move in with Elsie’s family in Yorkshire during the Great War. Behind the house, in the beck (creek), Frances starts seeing fairies. One day she tells her family what she sees and Elsie says she sees them too. The adults want proof so the girls create fairy cutouts and take pictures with the fairies. Somehow word gets out and none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle starts corresponding with the girls to learn more about the fairies. Edward Garner starts lecturing around the country on the Cottingly fairies. The girls are forced to keep up their charade in order to avoid getting into trouble. They take another set of photos, but even that doesn’t stop the attention. They kept their secrets about doctoring the photos until almost the end of their lives; finally coming clean as elderly women. Mary Losure does a great job of telling Frances and Elsie’s stories. This was a very interesting and entertaining little book.

07. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Children's Books, History, Joyce, NonFiction

The Fairy Ring: Or Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure, read by Joyce, on 09/12/2013

The enchanting true story of a girl who saw fairies, and another with a gift for art, who concocted a story to stay out of trouble and ended up fooling the world.

Frances was nine when she first saw the fairies. They were tiny men, dressed all in green. Nobody but Frances saw them, so her cousin Elsie painted paper fairies and took photographs of them “dancing” around Frances to make the grown-ups stop teasing. The girls promised each other they would never, ever tell that the photos weren’t real. But how were Frances and Elsie supposed to know that their photographs would fall into the hands of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle? And who would have dreamed that the man who created the famous detective Sherlock Holmes believed ardently in fairies — and wanted very much to see one? Mary Losure presents this enthralling true story as a fanciful narrative featuring the original Cottingley fairy photos and previously unpublished drawings and images from the family’s archives. A delight for everyone with a fondness for fairies, and for anyone who has ever started something that spun out of control.

03. October 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Bad Guys and Gals of the Wild West by Dona Herweck Rice, read by Angie, on 10/01/2013

This book gives us the biographies of some of the Wild West’s most notorious bad guys and gals. People like Billy the Kid, Belle Star, Doc Holliday are featured. We learn their history and how they became outlaws (in most cases). The book also asks what it truly means to be bad. It was an interesting look at the topic and the people in the book are all ones that kids would like to know more about. I do think the word “bad” is overused, but other than that it was a nice offering.

I did receive a copy of this book free from the publisher after attending a Booklist webinar.

31. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Angie, Biographies, Contemporary Fiction, Fiction

The Rent Collector by Camron Wright , read by Angie, on 08/28/2013

The Rent Collector is the story of Sang Ly, a poor Cambodian woman who lives in Stung Meanchey, a municipal dump. She and her husband survive by picking out recyclables from the thousands of tons of trash that are deposited in the dump each day. Their young son lives in the shack with them and is constantly sick. Sang Ly wants a better life (or any life) for her family and her son. She convinces the rent collector to teach her to read in the hopes of improving her circumstances. In the process she learns more about herself and the rent collector.

I got this book at ALA 2013; I don’t usually pick up books for adults, but this one looked intriguing. I am so glad I did. This was a wonderful book about a young mother’s determination to change her life and of an old woman’s desire to make amends. I loved how we learned more and more about the rent collector as Sang Ly learned more and more about literature. I really enjoyed the fact that the author included excerpts from actual literature from around the world in the book. Even though parts of the book were fictionalized it is based on true people which makes it that much more amazing. I would definitely recommend this one to a lot of people.

No Crystal Stair is a mix of fiction and nonfiction. It details the life of Lewis Michaux from birth to death and everything in between. It is written by his great niece. Lewis was born the son of a fish seller in Newport News, Virginia. He was one of 11 children; his mother also had 4 babies die at birth. All the children and the hard work eventually drove her a little crazy. His father was an ambitious and driven man who worked his way up to a successful business. Lewis’s brother Lightfoot became a well-known and successful preacher, who started several churches on the East Coast. Lewis tried many things in his life, some legal some not so legal, before he moved to Harlem and decided to educate the Black community. He believed that if you were ignorant of your history you were just a negro. So he wanted to inform Blacks about who they were and where they came from. He opened his National Memorial African Bookstore in the heart of Harlem. Starting with just five books, he built the store up to a quarter of a million books. All of his books were by Black people and about Black people. The bookstore became the meeting place for people like Malcolm X and others interested in helping the Black Community. Lewis, called the Professor, thought it was his duty to help and educate those around him. His place was a sanctuary, a school, a pulpit and a store. Eventually, the state forced the closure of the store and Lewis died of cancer shortly after. But his legacy lives on in those he helped and the lives he improved.

24. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves, & Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen and Heidi E.Y. Stemple, read by Angie, on 08/23/2013

Who doesn’t love a bad girl? Jane Yolen teams up with her daughter to give us brief glimpses of the lives of several bad girls throughout history. We learn about such bad girls as Salome, Cleopatra, Bloody Mary, Lizzie Borden, and many, many more. The information is presented in two to four page chunks that will whet your appetite for more information about each of these women. Yolen doesn’t gloss over their bad deeds but she does offer explanations for the times and for history’s retelling. Interspersed between the chapters are one page graphic novel format sessions of Jane and Heidi doing “research” and arguing over the latest bad girl. These segments are funny since a lot of their research involves eating, traveling and shoes. I think kids will enjoy these bad girls and their stories. You can read them all or just your favorites and with only a couple of pages for each lady it doesn’t take very long.

21. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Janet, NonFiction

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett, read by Janet, on 08/19/2013

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession     This is “The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession”.  It was well told and one feels you really get to know John Charles Gilkey, who deeply loves books.  (He just doesn’t think he should pay for them.)  The author often discussed his activities with Ken Sanders, who also loved and collected books (legally) and worked as an amateur detective to catch Gilkey.  Although he was put in jail several times for thievery, it didn’t dampen his love of books and need to collect.  He agrees with the saying, “Physical artifacts carry memory and meaning, and this is as true of important historical texts as it is of cherished childhood books.”  He likes them all.  He considered himself to be an existentialist because “they can’t differentiate between right and wrong”.  He read many of the books he took and didn’t think it was wrong to have a book he enjoyed.  He did have a job occasionally (usually working in a bookstore), but made a good bit of his spending money selling stolen books.

Gilkey knew the author was writing a book about him and was both careful about how much he shared, and delighted to be considered an important subject.  At the end of the story he was known to have just stolen a book from a Canadian dealer.  He was not arrested.  “The story never ends.”

19. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, NonFiction

Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron by Mary Losure , read by Angie, on 08/17/2013

Victor, the Wild Boy, of this tale was found roaming the countryside. He was captured and eventually ended up at a home for deaf/mutes. There is no information on whether he could actually hear, but he never learned to talk. He communicated through gestures. This is a fascinating tale. Losure does a great job laying out the details of Victor’s life and speculating on what might have happened. All the information came from the notes of those doctor’s that studied him. The book is short and easy to read. The story is engrossing and really makes you want to learn more about this and other feral children.

07. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Kim, NonFiction · Tags:

Anne Frank: A Hidden Life by Mirjam Pressler, read by Kim, on 08/06/2013

This book was written for teens but is an excellent companion book to the Diary of Anne Frank and you learn more of the personal background of the Frank family and those who helped to hide them. You also learn more of what the Frank sisters, Anne and Margot went through in the seven months of their captivity in Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen.

05. August 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Kim, NonFiction · Tags:

Anne Frank: The Biography by Melissa Muller, read by Kim, on 08/05/2013

I love learning more about Anne Frank and her family that goes beyond the diary. This is book is an updated version that gives us clues as to who may have betrayed the Frank family although we will never know for sure. It also goes into detail about the fate of Anne, her sister, Margot, and their mother after their arrest and deportation to concentration camps.

23. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Adult Books, Biographies, History, Kim · Tags:

Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project by Jack Mayer, read by Kim, on 07/19/2013

Based on the true story of Irena Sendler, a Holocaust hero, and the Kansas teens who ‘rescued the rescuer’.

I loved this book. Couldn’t put it down!

22. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Children's Books, Pamela

Maria von Trapp: Beyond the Sound of Music by Candice F. Ransom, read by Pamela, on 07/22/2013

von trappAnyone who has seen The Sound of Music knows how Maria von Trapp’s life began–but what happened after the final scene? Discover what Maria’s life was like after fleeing Nazi-occupied Austria for America. With intriguing facts about her life in the nunnery, her romance with Captain von Trapp, their ten children, and their singing careers, this inspiring story reaches beyond The Sound of Music–and reveals the courage and determination of a kind, energetic, and very real woman.

I watch the “Sound of Music” every winter, but did not realize how much of a life Maria von Trapp lived after the movie ended.  A wonderful read for young and old.

12. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, NonFiction

Amelia to Zora: Twenty-Six Women Who Changed the World by Cynthia Chin-Lee, read by Angie, on 07/12/2013

This is a wonderful collection of mini-biographies of women who have made history. Cynthia Chin-Lee offers glimpses into the lives of a wide variety of women from different time periods and locations throughout the world. These women made strides in science, literature, politics, society and many other areas. They were pioneers of their times, many risked imprisonment and persecution for their work. All were brave, intelligent and determined. I especially loved the mixed media collages that accompany each bio. They are beautiful!

12. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, NonFiction

Wild Women of the Wild West by Jonah Winter, read by Angie, on 07/12/2013

I was really looking forward to reading this book about the wild women in the Wild West, but was disappointed with the execution of it. The book does profile some truly fascinating women like Carrie Nation and Annie Oakley, but the information given about each is too brief. Winter barely gives each woman a page of text to tell their entire life stories. Some of the information seems very general and random. Winter also seems especially fascinated by the bigger women. There are at least three in this book who were giants…6 feet tall and 180 pounds…yes all three were those dimensions exactly. Really?!?! I think the biggest disappointment was the poor writing. The transitions between sentences were horrible; my English teachers would have covered this book in red ink. Too brief, poorly written and sketchy research. Not a book I would recommend.

06. July 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Madeline, NonFiction

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, a Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan, read by Madeline, on 06/29/2013

The tale of a simple act of faith between two young people – one Israeli, one Palestinian – that symbolizes the hope for peace in the Middle East. In 1967, not long after the Six-Day War, three young Arab men ventured into the town of Ramle, in what is now Jewish Israel. They were cousins, on a pilgrimage to see their childhood homes; their families had been driven out of Palestine nearly twenty years earlier. One cousin had a door slammed in his face, and another found his old house had been converted into a school. But the third, Bashir Al-Khairi, was met at the door by a young woman called Dalia, who invited them in. This act of faith in the face of many years of animosity is the starting point for a true story of a remarkable relationship between two families, one Arab, one Jewish, amid the fraught modern history of the regio. In his childhood home, in the lemon tree his father planted in the backyard, Bashir sees dispossession and occupation; Dalia, who arrived as an infant in 1948 with her family from Bulgaria, sees hope for a people devastated by the Holocaust. As both are swept up in the fates of their people, and Bashir is jailed for his alleged part in a supermarket bombing, the friends do not speak for years. They finally reconcile and convert the house in Ramle into a day-care centre for Arab children of Israel, and a center for dialogue between Arabs and Jews. Now the dialogue they started seems more threatened than ever; the lemon tree died in 1998, and Bashir was jailed again, without charge. The Lemon Tree grew out of a forty-three minute radio documentary that Sandy Tolan produced for Fresh Air. With this book, he pursues the story into the homes and histories of the two families at its center, and up to the present day. Their stories form a personal microcosm of the last seventy years of Israeli-Palestinian history. In a region that seems ever more divided, The Lemon Tree is a reminder of all that is at stake, and of all that is still possible. Sandy Tolanis the author ofMe & Hank:A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-five Years Later. He has written for theNew York Times Magazineand for more than 40 other magazines and newspapers.As cofounder of Homelands Productions, Tolan has produced dozens of radio documentaries for National Public Radio and Public Radio International. His work has won numerous awards, and he was a 1993 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and an I. F. Stone Fellow at the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he directs the school’s Project on International Reporting. A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist   In 1967, not long after the Six-Day War, three young Arab men ventured into the town of Ramla, in what is now Jewish Israel. They were cousins, on a pilgrimage to see their childhood homes; their families had been driven out of Palestine nearly twenty years earlier. One cousin had a door slammed in his face, and another found his old house had been converted into a school. But the third, Bashir, was met at the door by a young woman called Dalia, who invited them in. This poignant encounter is the starting point for a true story of two families, one Arab, one Jewish, amid the fraught modern history of the region. In Bashir’s childhood home, in the lemon tree his father planted in the backyard, he sees dispossession and occupation; Dalia, who arrived as an infant in 1948 with her family from Bulgaria, sees hope for a people devastated by the Holocaust. Both are swept up in the fates of their people, and and their lives form a personal microcosm of more than half a century of Israeli-Palestinian history. “This truly remarkable book presents a powerful account of Palestinians and Israelis who try to break the seemingly endless chain of hatred and violence.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Courtney, Graphic Book

The Carter Family: Don't Forget This Song by Frank M. Young and David Lasky, read by Courtney, on 05/19/2013

If you’ve never heard of the Carter Family, you’re missing a huge part of American music history. Countless acts have professed influence from the timeless melodies crafted by the Carters. This graphic novel seeks to tell their story. It is, by turns, a love story, an all-American rags-to-riches tale, and an homage to traditional music. It’s a great story, but I’m not sure if the graphic novel format is ideal. Granted, it does make for a very accessible introduction to the Carter Family (and even includes a CD, though the CD didn’t have many of the songs most frequently mentioned, which would have been nice), but it feels like it glosses over a lot of details. The artwork is decent, but not outstanding. I suppose the purpose is really to distill what would otherwise be an unwieldy family biography, so in that sense, the graphic format works. Perhaps not for those who already know quite a bit about the Carter Family, but definitely a decent introduction to a new fan.

31. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Biographies, Lisa, NonFiction

The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and the Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan, read by Lisa, on 05/03/2013

The tale of a simple act of faith between two young people – one Israeli, one Palestinian – that symbolizes the hope for peace in the Middle East. In 1967, not long after the Six-Day War, three young Arab men ventured into the town of Ramle, in what is now Jewish Israel. They were cousins, on a pilgrimage to see their childhood homes; their families had been driven out of Palestine nearly twenty years earlier. One cousin had a door slammed in his face, and another found his old house had been converted into a school. But the third, Bashir Al-Khairi, was met at the door by a young woman called Dalia, who invited them in. This act of faith in the face of many years of animosity is the starting point for a true story of a remarkable relationship between two families, one Arab, one Jewish, amid the fraught modern history of the regio. In his childhood home, in the lemon tree his father planted in the backyard, Bashir sees dispossession and occupation; Dalia, who arrived as an infant in 1948 with her family from Bulgaria, sees hope for a people devastated by the Holocaust. As both are swept up in the fates of their people, and Bashir is jailed for his alleged part in a supermarket bombing, the friends do not speak for years. They finally reconcile and convert the house in Ramle into a day-care centre for Arab children of Israel, and a center for dialogue between Arabs and Jews. Now the dialogue they started seems more threatened than ever; the lemon tree died in 1998, and Bashir was jailed again, without charge. The Lemon Tree grew out of a forty-three minute radio documentary that Sandy Tolan produced for Fresh Air. With this book, he pursues the story into the homes and histories of the two families at its center, and up to the present day. Their stories form a personal microcosm of the last seventy years of Israeli-Palestinian history. In a region that seems ever more divided, The Lemon Tree is a reminder of all that is at stake, and of all that is still possible. Sandy Tolanis the author ofMe & Hank:A Boy and His Hero, Twenty-five Years Later. He has written for theNew York Times Magazineand for more than 40 other magazines and newspapers.As cofounder of Homelands Productions, Tolan has produced dozens of radio documentaries for National Public Radio and Public Radio International. His work has won numerous awards, and he was a 1993 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and an I. F. Stone Fellow at the UC-Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, where he directs the school’s Project on International Reporting. A National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist   In 1967, not long after the Six-Day War, three young Arab men ventured into the town of Ramla, in what is now Jewish Israel. They were cousins, on a pilgrimage to see their childhood homes; their families had been driven out of Palestine nearly twenty years earlier. One cousin had a door slammed in his face, and another found his old house had been converted into a school. But the third, Bashir, was met at the door by a young woman called Dalia, who invited them in. This poignant encounter is the starting point for a true story of two families, one Arab, one Jewish, amid the fraught modern history of the region. In Bashir’s childhood home, in the lemon tree his father planted in the backyard, he sees dispossession and occupation; Dalia, who arrived as an infant in 1948 with her family from Bulgaria, sees hope for a people devastated by the Holocaust. Both are swept up in the fates of their people, and and their lives form a personal microcosm of more than half a century of Israeli-Palestinian history. “This truly remarkable book presents a powerful account of Palestinians and Israelis who try to break the seemingly endless chain of hatred and violence.

18. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, History, NonFiction

Irena Sendler and the Children of the Warsaw Ghetto by Susan Goldman Rubin, Bill Farnsworth (Illustrator), read by Angie, on 05/16/2013

There is just something about WWII stories that really pulls at my heart. I find the people who worked for the underground movements and helped the Jewish people fascinating. There is something about their courage and heroism that really makes you look at your own life and wander what you would have done in a similar situation. Not everyone was strong enough to stand up for what was right, but Irena Sendler was definitely one of those heroes. Her story is similar to others who rescued Jews during the Holocaust, but it is definitely worth knowing. I thought this picture book biography did a good job of showing her courage and dedication to doing what is right. She is a hero from a very dark time in our history and her story deserves to be told.

06. May 2013 · Comments Off · Categories: Angie, Biographies, Children's Books, NonFiction · Tags: ,

Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd, read by Angie, on 05/06/2013

It is amazing how much Ben Franklin did in his long life. I am not sure there is any part of life that he did not explore and conquer. He was an inventor, a scientist, a statesman, a diplomat, an educator, an author and so much more. Many of the things we use in every day life can be attributed to Franklin. Many of the institutions and concepts we rely on were first suggested by Franklin. If there is any man who is responsible for our way of life it might be Franklin. He is an amazing historical figure. This biography does a great job of breaking his life down into its most important eras. I loved all the information and the sidebars the author provided not just about Franklin, but life during his time period.

This book was a Sibert Honor Book and an Orbis Pictus Honor Book in 2013.