Wednesday, September 19, 2018

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chobosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower has made it on the banned books list a few times for a long list of reasons. Most notably sex, drugs and homosexuality have been cited as why the book is not appropriate for teens. Find more information here.

I’ve wanted to read this book for a few years but finally got around to it a few weeks ago and I’m so happy that I did. Even though my teen years were a very long time ago I was still able to relate to Charlie’s story, it felt genuine to me, like something that would actually come from a teenager.

Charlie is the main character in the book and he tells his story via letter to an unknown person. The story takes place from the beginning of his freshman year of High school to his sophomore year. He encounters a lot during his first year of high school and goes through a lot of changes. There isn’t really any easing into his story it hits hard pretty early on but I think this was done intentionally as a way to show the reader what type of person he is. He doesn’t hold back when it comes to the things that are happening around him. As an example the first issue that he discusses is the loss of his friend, Michael who committed suicide.

He is an unusual kid who happens to also be brilliant. This is something that he doesn’t seem to realize. Having experience with an autistic teenager I would say that he is likely on the spectrum which is why there is so much back and forth with his thoughts and emotions. This could be frustrating for some readers but it was familiar to me because it’s something that I deal with every day.

He starts out as a loner but is accepted into a somewhat quirky group of free spirits who are also older than him. He has an older brother and sister so this isn’t really that strange plus he was held back a year so he is older than his classmates. Through his new friends, especially Sam and Patrick he comes out of his shell and begins to truly participate in life for the first time. He falls in love, learns what it means to be a friend, parties and has fun. Of course with the ups come the downs, he becomes the keeper of secrets for his sister and Patrick, messes things up with his friends and falls into a depression. In the end his friends move away to college and he is left alone, at this point he becomes catatonic and his admitted to a hospital where a past childhood trauma comes to light. This past trauma explains a lot about how he reacts to certain situations throughout the book.

Charlie’s story had it all sex, drugs, suicide, depression, alcohol, homosexuality, abortion and more. I think it’s hard for some people to swallow that this is the reality that many teenagers face but for me the reason this book is great, is because it brings up those issues in a safe place and allows for reflection. Nobody benefits from silencing stories like this one! – Cassie

Banning books gives us silence when we need speech. It closes our ears when we need to listen. It makes us blind when we need sight. ― Stephen Chbosky

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell

I’m always on the lookout for great children’s books to read to my niece, and it has cute penguins on the front cover, so “And Tango Makes Three” was an obvious choice for me.

And Tango Makes Three tells the tale of Silo and Roy, two male chinstrap penguins living at the Central Park Zoo in New York. Silo and Roy do everything together—the swim, they bow to each other, they sing together. When the other penguin couples at the zoo begin to make nests out of stone and sit on eggs, Roy and Silo try as well. But no matter how meticulous they build their nest, or how long they sit on a rock, Silo and Roy’s “egg” (rock) never hatches. When the zookeeper finds himself with an extra penguin egg and no parents to take care of it, he gets an idea. Roy and Silo faithfully sit on their adopted egg, which hatches into a daughter, named “Tango.” Tango grows up to be happy, healthy penguin, and is visited by many families coming to the zoo.

Since its publication in 2005, And Tango Makes Three has been on the American Library Association’s “Top 10 Challenged Books” list several times, including the most recent year (2017). It’s challenged on the grounds of featuring a same-sex couple as characters and for presenting topics not age-appropriate for its intended audience.

I thought this was a sweet story, with beautiful illustrations. It is based on a true story, and the real Roy and Silo remained paired for several years before drifting apart and finding other partners (internet research informed me this is normal for penguins). Overall, I thought it was an enjoyable story with themes of love overcoming hardship, which is something we can all relate to. -Carla

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Greatest Showman (2017, PG)

Ladies and gents, this is the moment you’ve waited for…

I would honestly be surprised if you didn’t recognize this opening line of what has become one of the most iconic films of all time (for me, anyway). If you haven’t the foggiest, I am talking about The Greatest Showman. This film is the inspiring rags-to-riches story (with numerous artistic liberties taken, I’m sure) about PT Barnum (played by Hugh Jackman *SWOON*), the man who founded the very first circus. As the film portrays it, Barnum was raised a tailor’s son and when his father died, he roughed it on the streets for a while before he joined the railroad. He did this until he had just enough money to marry his childhood sweetheart, Charity (played by the stunning Michelle Williams), which was much to the disapproval of her wealthy parents, who thought his lowly means and pedigree were beneath her.

Several years pass; the Barnums have since had two daughters and are barely scraping by, but they are a happy family nonetheless. After being let go from his current job, Barnum decides it’s time to try to give Charity the life of grandeur he had promised her from the day they met. He opens a wax museum of curiosities, thinking the thrill of the unknown and macabre will draw people in. This venture is unsuccessful and his daughters tell him, “You have too many dead things, Daddy…You need something alive.” This inspires him to scour the city for LIVING oddities and curiosities. He puts together a diverse cast including the bearded lady, the world’s tallest man, the world’s heaviest man, dog boy, trapeze artists, and various other interesting characters. Barnum advertises his new show all over town and ticket sales sky rocket. They’re in business. The show is a huge hit and Barnum decides to bring in a junior partner (“overpaid apprentice” is his exact term), theater producer Phillip Carlisle (played by Zac Efron *MORE SWOONING*). Phillip leaves behind his life of privilege and luxury and joins the growing circus show biz.

As Barnum’s business booms (try saying that three times fast), he gets everything he wants: wealth, fame, and prestige. However, he is also met with criticism, bigotry, and marital trouble. He becomes obsessed with his work and forgets what is really important. By the end of the film, though, he finally starts to “remember what all this was for.” He had to be thrown to rock bottom in order to soar high again.

This beautiful film inspired me in so many ways. For starters, how many clean, family-friendly musicals do you see hitting the box office these days? Not enough, that’s for sure. I have seen it numerous times, listen to the music on a weekly basis, and am unashamed to admit that I can sing almost the entire soundtrack word for word. I was with family the last time I watched this movie and when I told my brother I could sing the whole thing, he replied with, “Please don’t.” Haters gonna hate, I guess, so I managed miraculously to keep my mouth shut most of the time…but with great difficulty.

Be prepared to laugh, cry, and sing at the top of your lungs. Happy viewing!

It’s everything you ever want, it’s everything you ever need, and it’s here right in front of you…This is the greatest show!  -Lena

Friday, September 7, 2018

Banned Books Week is September 23rd - 29th!

Visit our displays throughout the Library in September, and visit the Reader's Corner to hear about some of our staff's favorite frequently challenged books!  

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik

A dragon book? No! I don’t read fantasy, not interested! Normally, that would be my reaction, too, but this is different. Really.

I’ve been making my way through this series for the second time, and loving them just as much as the first time. I’ve always enjoyed historical fiction, and particularly in this first volume, this is stellar historical fiction. Set in the early nineteenth century, when Britain is struggling with Napoleon as he subjugates one European country after another, the sea and land battles get one more dimension.

Captain William Laurence of HMS Reliant has just won a battle against a French frigate, and is looking over his prize before bringing it back to port, and discovers that its most precious cargo is a dragon egg. One that looks like it might be about to hatch. This is bad news. He has no aviators on board. The members of that disreputable and secretive service who captain a dragon are tied to it for life, for good or ill. But dragons are vitally important to protecting Britain and battling the French, and the valuable dragon cannot be permitted to go unharnessed. Unwilling to inflict the duty on any of his crew, Laurence turns over the ship to his first officer and takes on the dragon, which he names Temeraire. The rapidly-growing dragon does not resemble any Laurence has ever seen, British or French. He is curious and smart and constantly hungry. And both Temeraire and Laurence have a lot to learn about the ways of aviators and the tactics for air warfare.

Readers will feel the connection to other great sagas set in the era. C.S. Forester’s Hornblower series, Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey-Maturin series and Bernard Cornwell’s Richard Sharpe series have all explored this territory, and Novik can stand up with any of them. And here there be dragons. -Dee Ann

Reserve this book.  And this is just the beginning of Novik's Temeraire series!

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Meetings with Remarkable Manuscripts: Twelve Journeys Into the Medieval World by Christopher de Hamel

Summary (condensed from Goodreads):  An extraordinary and beautifully illustrated exploration of the medieval world through twelve manuscripts, from one of the world's leading experts, this book is a remarkable examination of twelve illuminated manuscripts from the medieval period. Noted authority Christopher de Hamel invites the reader into intimate conversations with these texts to explore what they tell us about nearly a thousand years of medieval history - and sometimes about the modern world too. From the earliest book in medieval England to the incomparable Book of Kells to the oldest manuscript of the Canterbury Tales, these encounters tell a narrative of intellectual culture and art over the course of a millennium.

Illuminated Page from the Book of Kells
My review:
This fascinating book is an excellent introduction to the history of book-making, paleography, miniature painting, and a whole host of the other arts involved in producing an entire book by hand.  The 12 manuscripts described in loving detail by the author are all interesting in themselves, and Mr. de Hamel analyses each one in such fashion as to bring it alive to the reader.

Mr. de Hamel has a lovely tendency to address his readers as though they were sitting across the table from him, pointing out bits of each manuscript and telling you why it's really cool.  While he does use some technical language, he is very careful to translate it all into lay language, as he also does for the bits of Latin, French, and other languages he quotes from the manuscripts.  He explains the whys and hows of inks, pens, and parchment (or vellum). 

I would recommend this altogether charming book to anyone interested in medieval books, and how so many have survived into modern times. -Lynne

Reserve this book.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sparrow Hill Road by Seanan McGuire

There are some stories, urban legends really, from my childhood that stick with me, and pop into my head at odd moments. For example, when I'm driving by myself along a quiet highway at night, every now and then I remember the story of the young man who comes across a girl in a party dress walking along a country road.  He offers her a ride home.  She accepts, and gives him an address, only to vanish from the car as he pulls up to the house.  The memory of this story always sends a shiver down my spine, so when I discovered this book, which uses a phantom hitcher as its main character, I had to give it a try.

She goes by many names and is the subject of many stories:  the Girl in the Green Silk Gown, the Phantom Prom Date, and the Girl in the Diner, though she prefers her given name, Rose Marshall.  She is a hitchhiking ghost, and a psychopomp who guides the newly dead to the end of their road while never leaving it herself. In this introduction to McGuire's "Ghostroads" series, she tells us her own version of the story and about the afterlife she inhabits, a richly imagined world  that dips from mundane daylight roads to the twilight that is her home--and then into the even darker midnight realm.

Sparrow Hill Road began as a series of short stories, which the author has altered and linked together to form a full narrative, though the occasional repetition of information and the episodic nature of the chapters do still hint at its origins.  McGuire taps into America's folklore of the road, incorporating famous ghost stories like the disappearing hitcher, the Irish banshee, and la llorona, along with other legends such as midnight meetings at the crossroads.  Rose herself narrates as she navigates through this world, doing her sometimes reluctant best to help the souls charged to her care while heading for a showdown with her nemesis, Bobby Cross, a man who trades other souls for his own continued existence, and for whom she is the one who got away. She is often a tough cookie, cynical and self-contained, but underlying this is compassion for her charges and a wistful longing for the boy who never got to take her to the prom. 

While the book is beautifully written, McGuire's greatest strength here is the expansive world she describes, which is rooted in the idea of a shadow America crisscrossed by roads that have a wild power all their own, attracting spirits and human "ambulomancers" alike.   She is also interested in storytelling, and the ways stories change through the years and the tellers, which adds another layer to the narrative.  And she has created a surprisingly relatable central character; the book has a lot of affection for its rambling Rose.  I'm eager to see where she travels next, and hope you might decide to come along for the ride, too!  -Barb

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McGuire has just published the second in the series!  It's called The Girl in the Green Silk Gown

She is also the author of several other well-received urban fantasy series.