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Staff Picks

Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund []

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This book is part of Hedlund’s Beacon of Hope Series and is the Sequel to Love Unexpected.  Set in 1865 Michigan, Caroline Taylor has helped her father tend to a lighthouse and care for her younger siblings.  When her father dies unexpectedly, she is forced to give up the job and their home. Ryan Chambers, a wounded Civil War veteran with alcohol and drug addictions and no experience arrives as the new lighthouse keeper.  This is a story of faith, hope, healing and romance.

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Marisol McDonald Doesn’t Match by Monica Brown []

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A wonderful book about self confidence and being an individual! The story centers around a young Scottish-Peruvian girl who is extremely creative, confident, and embraces her mixed heritage. Everyone in Marisol’s life tells her that she doesn’t match- her clothes, her name, even her red hair. Marisol tries to change her appearance and the way she acts but ends up very unhappy. Her teacher asks her why she changed and Marisol could not find a reasons. In the end she realizes that other people’s opinions don’t matter and she is happy to be herself.

 

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When I Was the Greatest by Jason Reynolds []

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Award winning author Jason Reynolds is a masterful storyteller. Through his book, When I Was the Greatest, Reynolds shows us something of the nuances of family life in an urban African American community and exposes the spaces where love, family, and community are strong. Ali’s family is not typical, but there is no typical family. Ali lives in Bed Stuy, New York with his mother, Doris and his sister, Jazz. Jazz is famous for giving nicknames and she gave Ali his name after Muhommad Ali. Jazz also named Ali’s best friends and neighbors Needles and Noodles. Ali grapples with the complexities of life in Bed Stuy and knows he needs to keep on track and stay out of trouble because his mother Doris makes that very clear. This book is so engaging and authentic it will hook even the most reluctant teen reader.

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Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale []

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This book was amazing! The twists on the original Rapunzel and the strong female lead make for an amazing read! It still has some of the original aspects, but a lot has been changed.

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Deaf Sentence by David Lodge []

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British novel about a hearing impaired retired professor of linguistics. Well written, interestingly plotted, with a sort BBC/Masterpiece Theater feel to it. It is very much a character driven story that explores the former professor’s challenges with retirement, his increasing deafness, and his family concerns. The professor explores various literature about and by the deaf and attends lip reading classes where he learns all sorts of interesting trivia. The story is spiced up by his involvement with a possibly psychotic American grad student writing her doctoral thesis on the linguistics of suicide notes.

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Texts from Jane Eyre: and other conversations with your favorite literary characters by Mallory Ortberg []

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Do you ever send or receive text messages? Did you take English in high school or college? If you answered “Yes” and “Yes”, you will LOL at Mallory Ortberg’s witty, imaginary e-conversations between famous literary figures.

Besides Jane herself the classics are all here, from Homer and Shakespeare to Harry Potter and the Hunger Games. My favorite was Moby Dick:

do you ever worry
that the whale is like
a metaphor

a metaphor?

yeah

sometimes

me too
me too
do you wanna nail stuff to the mast?

yeah

Some of the poets are great too (Lord Byron is down in the dumps because he realizes that he can never have sex with the rain).

YMMV depending on what books you’ve read and enjoyed, but feel free to skip around and cherry-pick your favorites. This a perfect “bathroom book” to dip into at random and experience in a non-linear 21st century modality.

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss []

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This is a fun book, the kind that pulls you in and keeps you turning the pages. If you read it in a public place, however, you are likely to be interrupted by fans of the book who cannot help themselves and are eager to share their enthusiasm. Once I was even told, “I’m so jealous that you are reading it for the first time! I will never get to do that again!”

The Name of the Wind is a fantasy novel, and, to tell the truth, much of its plot sticks close to the cliches of the genre. A young boy discovers an aptitude for magic, learns all he can those around him, overcomes many obstacles, is accepted into a university where he excels beyond expectation, and goes on to do great things. And the hero, Kvothe, must, of course, confront a great evil, one that he takes seriously while those around him consider it only a fairy tale. Unlike most such stories, however, Kvothe, is a musician, and his changing relationship to his music is important throughout the book.

The world is richly built, full of detail, and the mechanics of its magic feel far more convincing than those in many other fantasies. The story is told from the perspective of an older Kvothe, now an innkeeper, who has done much since the events of the story he tells, but who has much more to do and learn as well. (This is the first book in a trilogy, after all.) Upon finishing the book you are left hungering for two stories—what happened to the young Kvothe in the stories, and what will happen to the innkeeper Kvothe, who you sense has much, much more in store for him.

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A Splash of Red: The Life and Art of Horace Pippin by Jen Bryant; illustrated by Melissa Sweet []

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Horace couldn’t stop drawing. He drew all the time and said, “Pictures just come to my mind…and I tell my heart to go ahead”. Horace never stopped making pictures. Not while working hard every day to provide for his family and not even when he was in the trenches in France during WWI. Of the war, Horace said, it “brought out all the art in me”. He painted war scenes, bible scenes, and what he saw of everyday life. This is an engaging picture book that will introduce children to a great American artist.

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If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan []

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Negin Farsad is playful and intentional in her reading of this beautifully tragic love story by Sara Farizan. Sahar and her best friend Nasrin have grown up together in a world where homosexuality is a crime. They know they are in love, but they must hide their romance from everyone in their lives. Their romantic feelings for one another become even more dangerous when Nasrin is engaged to marry a man. Sahar must deal with Nasrin’s engagement and the loss of their own romantic relationship, but this is not easy for her. The feelings she has are so strong and there is no safe way for her to talk about them or express them. Sahar makes a drastic decision that she hopes will save her relationship with Nasrin, but how far will she go to be with the woman she loves? Will she ever get over her first love? What’s more, how will she continue to pursue her career goals and take care of her father while being true to herself?

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky []

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Johnny Heller narrates exactly the way you imaged Charlie’s voice while reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Charlie’s matter-of-fact tone and use of direct language juxtaposes with the intensity of his experiences and the sometimes stunning depth of his observations. Anyone who has been 15 knows that navigating friends, family, and high school can run the gambit from terrifying to exhilarating. Charlie is figuring out how to be a person in the world. He is called a freak, he experiences pain and love and every emotion in between. I highly recommend both the print book and the audio book to adult and teen readers. And while I’m at it, the movie is pretty great too!

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When the Beat Was Born: DJ Kool Herc and the Creation of Hip Hop by Laban Carrick Hill; pictures by Theodore Taylor III []

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In his introduction to Jeff Chang’s book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, DJ Kool Herc says, “Hip-hop is the voice of this generation.” This picture book tells the story of the beginning of hip hop in the Bronx. Clive wanted to be a DJ since he was young. He grew up in Kingston, Jamaica and looked up to a DJ named King George. Clive moved to New York to live with his mama when he was 13 years old. He started going by the name Kool Herc and became DJ Kool Herc when he was able to rewire his father’s sound system to get a really big sound! He was the first person to use two turntables to extend the break so people could really dance to the music. DJ Kool Herc was in high demand for house parties and street parties. He would plug his sound system into the lampposts to get power. The music was just one part of the budding hip hop culture in the Bronx. Hip hop has its own music (rap and beats), its own dance (break dancing) and its own visual art (graffiti). DJ Kool Herc loved music and his contribution to hip hop is something kids should be reading about!

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