Virginia Johnson

Author of the Month: Betsy Byars

No teacher ever told Newbery-winning author Betsy Byars she should be a writer when she was growing up. Young Betsy Cromer, nicknamed “Cro,” was a wide-awake kid and into most everything, but not writing. Part of the time her family lived in the country, which was heaven for Betsy as she was surrounded by nature. When she got older, she was interested in nature of a different kind—boys!

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

Baking Cakes in Kigali by Gaile Parkin

In a country that is trying to piece itself back together after a terrible civil war, baking cakes might not seem to be such an important thing to do. But these are not just any cakes, and Angel Tungaraza is not just any baker. Her cakes are meant for joy and celebration. Angel’s kitchen is a place where secrets are shared and hearts often reconciled in Gaile Parkin’s novel, Baking Cakes in Kigali.

Riptide by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

Riptide by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child

First will ye Lie
Curst shall ye Crye
Worst must ye Die

They should have heeded the warning on the guard stone. But, no, through the years many people couldn’t resist the lure of riches though many died in trying to recover them. For in 1695, English pirate Edward Ockham had commanded his men bury his silver, gold, and jewels on an island off the coast of Maine. He didn’t just bury it deep in a simple hole in the ground. The pirate had his many thousand pounds of loot safely placed in a devious trap called the Water Shaft as is recounted in Riptide, by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

Help for the Haunted by John Searles

Sylvie and her sister live far away from everybody else in an abandoned subdivision. Sylvie kind of likes it that way because of the gossip. There was even gossip before their parents were murdered, especially after the book came out about their ghost-busting ways. The stuff they kept in the basement. The exorcisms. The tell-all Help for the Haunted was full of way-too-personal details.

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Curses and Smoke: A Novel of Pompeii by Vicky Alvear Shecter

Lucia is furious with her father. As paterfamilias, head of his Roman household, gladiator-trainer Lucius has chosen her rich husband for her. Lucia fumes to herself that aged, grumpy Vitulus would do very well as a grandfather--but not as her bridegroom! Their loathsome, formal dinner together is cut short by the sounds of a cracking whip and the rumblings of the Earth. Somewhere nearby a slave is being punished, Mount Vesuvius is gathering strength to explode. Vicky Alvear Shecter’s romantic novel, Curses and Smoke, is set in Pompeii's dangerous last days when anything, even forbidden love, might be possible.

A Guide for Area Commuters

Washington D.C.
capitol of the free world
and of potholes too

From Honku : The Zen Antidote to Road Rage by Aaron Naparstek.

Well before dawn breaks over the I-95, the race begins. A quick shower, a quicker breakfast, warming the engine, and settling into the chilly seat-- our commuters know the routine... the engine turns over, the heat comes on, and the open road awaits, at least until that bottleneck at Potomac Mills.

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool

Jack is plunked down on a rocky Maine beach straight from the wheat fields of Kansas. His father, a Navy captain, thinks that the nautical prep school is a good match to square away his son who seems to be adrift after his mother’s unexpected death. But Jack finds out in Clare Vanderpool’s Navigating Early that it’s going to take a lot more than a tightly-made bed or learning how to row to get him back on course.

Author of the Month: Sharon Creech

“I have a normally strange family.”

Award-winning author Sharon Creech wove a lot of her own life into her books for young adults, including her first one, Absolutely Normal Chaos. Written as a journal as are many of her novels, what strikes a reader immediately are her humor and casual way of storytelling. Everything is told offhand, as if it doesn’t really matter—just a 13-year-old chattering. Until what happens does matter and things get serious. That’s when readers are grateful for the humor, and having a strong if strange family really becomes important.

Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus

Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus

Margi Preus’ Shadow on the Mountain is a gripping adventure story of teenagers risking death to defy the Nazis who have invaded their country. It is also almost entirely true.

Red, White, and Blue Music

On July 4th, burgers sizzle on the grill, and cold drinks are passed around. Happy dogs play with frisbees, and sunburned kids finally climb out of the pool. In the growing darkness, fireworks begin to crackle and zoom overhead. At last a special song starts playing, and everyone gets quiet as they remember the reason for the celebration.