It is fascinating to trace the domino effect caused by something so seemingly small and insignificant as a bolt of cloth. In Year of Wonders: A Novel of the Plague, by Geraldine Brooks, this bolt spreads misery in the form of the bubonic plague from London to a small, remote English village in 1666. Anna Frith, a young widow who has already seen her share of misfortune, is spared the fatal boils while all around her, family, friends, and neighbors succumb to the terrible disease.
Seventeen-year-old Alex has had a rough time lately in Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick. First her parents tragically pass away in a helicopter accident, and then she is diagnosed with a brain tumor, which she dubs “the monster.” Fed up with managing the monster and all of its side effects like losing her sense of smell, she escapes to a campsite for a few days to think about her options. And then the whole world is turned upside down by an electromagnetic pulse that leaves much of the population dead or changed into flesh-eating zombies.
In Goldilocks and The Three Dinosaurs by Mo Willems, Papa Dinosaur, Mama Dinosaur and another unnamed Dinosaur visiting from Norway just happened to make three big bowls of delicious chocolate pudding and leave them out in the open while they went “someplace else.” Of course these dinosaurs did not know that Goldilocks would be coming around soon, and they certainly weren’t terribly hungry...
Jan Brett's Mossy is a special turtle because she has a gorgeous garden growing right on her shell. The moss that grows on her carapace is a perfect spot for wildflowers and ferns to take root. When Dr. Carolina sees the magnificent turtle strolling around Lilypad Pond, she takes Mossy back to her museum. Dr. Carolina believes that because Mossy doesn't need to worry about finding food, staying warm, or escaping from danger, she will be happy. But Dr. Carolina doesn't know that Mossy just met someone special—another turtle friend named Scoot—and that Mossy dreams of being back at home with her friend.
In Seth Grahame-Smith’s Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, Abraham Lincoln uncovers a terrible truth at a tender age: that vampires infiltrate every corner of society and are “living man’s” mortal enemy. Lincoln’s father, a classic underachiever, idiotically defaults on a loan to one of the bloodsuckers, who warns that he will have to “take it in other ways.” It is no coincidence then that Abraham’s aunt, uncle, and beloved mother die quickly thereafter from a painful illness with “scorching fevers, delusions, and cramps.” Old folks called this the “milk sickness,” believed to be brought on by drinking tainted milk, but that wasn’t the case this time. Eventually Abraham learns of the connection and vows to “kill every vampire in America.”
At a recent library staff-development event we were introduced to local author Belle Boggs and her colorful collection of short stories that comprise Mattaponi Queen. It’s telling that Ms. Boggs started her talk by giving us a slideshow tour of her hometown of Walkerton in King William County, Virginia. When I had the opportunity to read my copy of the stories, I was impressed that the setting was so strongly communicated in each story that it carried the same weight as characterization, plot, and other pillars upon which a story is built. The characters--lively, quirky, and in some cases, doomed--pigeonhole neatly into this clearly envisioned landscape and truly come to life.
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Mister Pip by Lloyd Jones: On a copper-rich tropical island shattered by war, on which survival is a daily struggle, eccentric Mr. Watts, the only white man left after the other teachers flee, spends his day reading to the local children from Charles Dickens's classic "Great Expectations."
If you enjoyed this book's portrayal of teachers in the learning process of reading and its connection to classic literature, here are some other titles you may enjoy:
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel--a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors. (worldcat.org)
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
This book traces the coming-of-age of a young orphan, Pip, from a boy of shallow aspirations into a man of self-possession. Raised by a humble blacksmith, Pip is recruited by the wealthy Miss Havisham to be a companion to her ward, the cold but beautiful Estella. There, Pip learns to despise his rough origins as Estella torments him about his low prospects. When Pip is informed that an unknown benefactor expects to make him his heir, he sets off to London to realize his "great expectations." But true gentleman stature, he will find, is a matter of character, not fortune. (catalog description)
During October, I start finding drawings of jack-o-lanterns, haunted houses, bat attacks and grotesque witches all over the house, which my kids draw in anticipation of Halloween. Some of these spooky scenes are quite elaborate, and we hang them up to do double-duty as Halloween decorations. Therefore, when I saw that we had recently added the new Ralph Masiello’s Halloween Drawing Book to our collection at the library, I put it on hold right away so our family could check it out.
Looking for a spooky story to read in October? Wait ‘Till Helen Comes: A Ghost Story, by Mary Downing Hahn, is a great book for brave readers ages 10 and up. It’s narrated by 12-year-old Molly, who has moved into a new house out in the country with her 10-year-old brother Michael, her mom, her new stepdad, and his 7-year-old daughter, Heather. The home just happens to be a converted church bordering extensive grounds, ruins, and even a graveyard. Sounds like the perfect setting for something sinister to happen, right?
Did you know that dogs are the top pet owned by U.S. households (46.3 million dogs, to be exact), and that beetles have the most species identified of all insects? How about the fact that extreme weather in January 2012 broke U.S. records for cold, snow, and heat? All of these facts, along with colorful pictures, are contained in the 2013 Almanac for Kids from Scholastic. Kids ages 8 and up will love to tote around this compendium of trivia, which puts more than 300 pages of statistics, charts, tables, maps, and more at their fingertips.