Wednesday, February 29, 2012

If You Loved the Help, Try . . .

The Healing by Jonathon Odell

Mississippi plantation mistress Amanda Satterfield loses her daughter to cholera after her husband refuses to treat her for what he considers to be a “slave disease.” Insane with grief, Amanda takes a newborn slave child as her own and names her Granada, much to the outrage of her husband and the amusement of their white neighbors. Troubled by his wife’s disturbing mental state and concerned about a mysterious plague sweeping through his slave population, Master Satterfield purchases Polly Shine, a slave reputed to be a healer. But Polly’s sharp tongue and troubling predictions cause unrest across the plantation. Complicating matters further, Polly recognizes “the gift” in Granada, the mistress’s pet, and a domestic battle of wills ensues.

Seventy-five years later, Granada, now known as Gran Gran, is still living on the plantation and must revive the buried memories of her past in order to heal a young girl abandoned to her care. Together they learn the power of story to heal the body, the spirit and the soul.

Why should you should read this: Like The Help, the novel's characters are richly drawn and unique, yet familiar human beings. Odell's language and rythym catapult the story to a new level.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Oscars: Book Edition Part 2

Today we continue our celebration of the books that made it to Oscar

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathon Saffran Foer

Oskar Schell, an inventor, Francophile, tambourine player, Shakespearean actor, jeweler, pacifist, correspondent with Stephen Hawking and Ringo Starr. He is nine years old. And he is on an urgent, secret search through the five boroughs of New York. His mission is to find the lock that fits a mysterious key belonging to his father, who died in the World Trade Center on 9/11. An inspired innocent, Oskar is alternately endearing, exasperating, and hilarious as he careens from Central Park to Coney Island to Harlem on his search. Along the way he is always dreaming up inventions to keep those he loves safe from harm. What about a birdseed shirt to let you fly away? What if you could actually hear everyone's heartbeat? His goal is hopeful, but the past speaks a loud warning in stories of those who've lost loved ones before. As Oskar roams New York, he encounters a motley assortment of humanity who are all survivors in their own way.

War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

In 1914, Joey, a beautiful bay-red foal with a distinctive cross on his nose, is sold to the army and thrust into the midst of the war on the Western Front. With his officer, he charges toward the enemy, witnessing the horror of the battles in France. But even in the desolation of the trenches, Joey's courage touches the soldiers around him and he is able to find warmth and hope. But his heart aches for Albert, the farmer's son he left behind. Will he ever see his true master again?

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

sensation across Europe--millions of copies sold A spellbinding amalgam of murder mystery, family saga, love story, and financial intrigue. It's about the disappearance forty years ago of Harriet Vanger, a young scion of one of the wealthiest families in Sweden . . . and about her octogenarian uncle, determined to know the truth about what he believes was her murder. It's about Mikael Blomkvist, a crusading journalist recently at the wrong end of a libel case, hired to get to the bottom of Harriet's disappearance . . . and about Lisbeth Salander, a twenty-four-year-old pierced and tattooed genius hacker possessed of the hard-earned wisdom of someone twice her age--and a terrifying capacity for ruthlessness to go with it--who assists Blomkvist with the investigation. This unlikely team discovers a vein of nearly unfathomable iniquity running through the Vanger family, astonishing corruption in the highest echelons of Swedish industrialism--and an unexpected connection between themselves. It's a contagiously exciting, stunningly intelligent novel about society at its most hidden, and about the intimate lives of a brilliantly realized cast of characters, all of them forced to face the darker aspects of their world and of their own lives.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John LeCarre

The man he knew as "Control" is dead, and the young Turks who forced him out now run the Circus. But George Smiley isn't quite ready for retirement-especially when a pretty, would-be defector surfaces with a shocking accusation: a Soviet mole has penetrated the highest level of British Intelligence. Relying only on his wits and a small, loyal cadre, Smiley recognizes the hand of Karla-his Moscow Centre nemesis-and sets a trap to catch the traitor.

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Oscars: Book Edition Part I

Did you know that many of the films that received Oscar nods were based on books? Yes, it's true: when Hollywood wants the very best writing, they turn to a book. Check out these titles:

The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Matthew King was once considered one of the most fortunate men in Hawaii. His missionary ancestors who came to the islands were financially and culturally progressive--one even married a Hawaiian princess, making Matt a royal descendant and one of the state's largest landowners. But now his luck has changed. His two daughters are out of control--10-year-old Scottie has a smart-ass attitude and a desperate need for attention and 17-year-old Alex, a former model, is a recovering drug addict. His thrill-seeking and high-maintenance wife, Joanie, lies in a coma after a boat racing accident, and will soon be taken off life support. The King family can hardly picture life without their charismatic mother, but as they come to terms with this tragedy, their sadness is mixed with a sense of freedom that shames them--and spurs them into surprising actions.

Moneyball by Michael Lewis

Moneyball is a roller coaster ride: before the 2002 season opens, Oakland must relinquish its three most prominent (and expensive) players, is written off by just about everyone, and then comes roaring back to challenge the American League record for consecutive wins. Following the low-budget Oakland Athletics, their larger-than-life general manger, Billy Beane, and the strange brotherhood of amateur baseball enthusiasts, creating the most funny, smart, and most contrary of books. In a narrative full of fabulous characters and brilliant excursions into the unexpected, Michael Lewis shows us how and why the new baseball knowledge works. He also sets up a sly and hilarious morality tale.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Be prepared to meet three unforgettable women: Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken. Minny, Aibileen's best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody's business, but she can't mind her tongue, so she's lost yet another job. Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who runs a toy booth in the station, Hugo's undercover life, and his most precious secret, are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo's dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Top Five Quotes

You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.

― Mae West

In three words I can sum up everything I've learned about life: it goes on.
― Robert Frost

The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
- Steve Jobs

Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.
- Marilyn Monroe

It is our choices, Harry, that show us what we truly are, far more than our abilities.
― J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Jeffrey Eugenides

On Friday night, I get the pleasure of hearing the novelist Jeffrey Eugenides speak as part of the Dallas Museum of Art's Art & Letters Distinguished Writers Live series. I'm a huge fan of Mr. Eugenides' work. Each of his three books are magical and lovely in very different ways. Rather than attempt to sum up the beauty of his novels, I'm going to let the DMA do it for me.

Mr. Eugenides' first novel, The Virgin Suicides, catapulted him into the literary spotlight. The book became an instant bestseller and was adapted into a feature film by director Sofia Coppola, starring Kathleen Turner and Kirsten Dunst.

A decade later, Eugenides garnered a Pulitzer Prize for his next novel, Middlesex. The novel tells the story of Calliope Stephanides, three generations of her Greek-American family, and the guilty family secret they have been hiding. People magazine praised the book as “daring and inventive . . . an epic. . . . This feast of a novel is thrilling in the scope of its imagination and surprising in its tenderness.”

Jeffrey Eugenides will discuss the body of his work as well as his long-awaited new novel, The Marriage Plot. Set in the early 80s, it tells the story of Madeleine Hanna, a senior at Brown University and devotee of classic literature. Only when curiosity gets the best of her does she enroll in a Semiotics class, a bastion of postmodern liberalism, and meet handsome and mysterious Leonard Bankhead. Completing a love triangle is Madeleine’s friend Mitchell, a clear-eyed religious-studies student who believes himself her true intended. Playing off the traditional Victorian marriage plot, the novel brilliantly and humorously explicates the joy and heartache of young love.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time Turns 50!

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of Madeleine Le'Engle's science fiction classic A Wrinkle in Time. I vividly recall reading this magical and engrossing tale. And I wasn't the only one who found it so enthralling: A Wrinkle in Time won a Newbery Medal, Sequoyah Book Award, and Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, and was runner-up for the Hans Christian Andersen Award.

A Wrinkle in Time is the story of Meg Murry, a high-school-aged girl who is transported on an adventure through time and space with her younger brother Charles Wallace and her friend Calvin O'Keefe to rescue her father, a gifted scientist, from the evil forces that hold him prisoner on another planet.

Yet, even with all it's gifts, A Wrinkle in Time almost didn't get published. The publishers felt it would be too difficult for children to read and they didn't like how Le'Engle dealt overtly with the problem of evil. L'Engle felt that they also didn't like a female protagonist as that just wasn't done in science fiction at the time of writing.

After trying over twenty-five publishers, L'Engle's agent returned the manuscript to her. Then at Christmas, L'Engle threw a tea party for her mother. One of the guests happened to know John C. Farrar of Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and insisted that L'Engle should meet with him. Although the publisher did not at the time publish a line of children's books, Farrar met L'Engle, liked the novel and ultimately published it.

And we're so glad that he did! Did you remember reading this book as a child? What did you think? Would you recommend it your child to read?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks

As a librarian, I read a lot of books, some excellent, some pure entertainment, and some entirely forgettable. But every once in a while, I stumble upon a book that makes me look at the world a little differently, a book I know I'll never forget. And so it was with The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart.

Big ideas are an essential part of the fun in this sparkling and quick read. During a summer vacation, Frankie has blossomed from duckling to swan. Now back at her elite boarding school, she starts dating cool, gorgeous senior Matthew and instantly becomes a part of his charmed social circle. Hanging with Matthew and his crowd is a thrill, but Frankie begins to chafe as she realizes that the boys are all members of the secret society to which her own father belonged, the Loyal Order of the Basset Hound. Frankie soon realizes that no matter how smart or funny she may be, she will never truly be a part of the group, simply because she is a girl. This frustrates her to no end. In a remarkable turn of events, Frankie takes control and begins to direct the Bassets, through email, in a series of elaborate school pranks, revitalizing the Order and the student body as well. These ingenious pranks embody the vigor of Frankie's personality, making social commentary on everything from the school's lack of female leadership to its disgusting cafeteria salad bar. Frankie is the ultimate feminist role model and not just for teens -- a girl with guts and imagination who's brave enough to take on the "old boy's club."

Monday, February 13, 2012

25th Anniversary of Dirty Dancing

Dirty Dancing came out in 1987, making 2012 the 25th anniversary of this classic hit. In the 1980s, you couldn't get much cooler than Patrick Swayze, especially with his smoking dance moves. And every teenager identified with Jennifer Grey's rebellion against her family in her classic coming of age story.

This mega-hit was the first film to sell more than a million copies on home video, and the Dirty Dancing soundtrack generated two multi-platinum albums and multiple singles, including "(I've Had) The Time of My Life", which won both the Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Original Song, and a Grammy Award for best duet.

On August 8, 2011 a "Dirty Dancing" remake was announced with Kenny Ortega, who choreographed the original film, directing. We want to know what you think -- will you go see the remake or do you wish they'd leave the beloved classic alone?

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Happy Birthday, Mo Willems!

Mo Willems’ work in children’s books, animation, television, theater, and bubble gum card painting has garnered him 3 Caldecott Honors, 2 Geisel Medals, 2 Carnegie Medals, 6 Emmys, 2 Geisel Honors and multiple bubble gum cards. He is best know for his characters Knuffle Bunny, The Pigeon, and Elephant and Piggie. He is worst know for his characters in Sheep in the Big City and The Off-Beats. More information about Mo’s past, present, and future can be gleaned at

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Mr. Popper's Penguins

Join us for Family Movie Night Thursday at 6:30pm. We will be watching the movie adaptation of the beloved children's classic, Mr. Popper's Penguins.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Men in Kilts

In honor of the rapidly approaching Valentine's Day, I offer this list reads so that you may enjoy a (vicarious) romp with Highland rogues in these romantic tales of Scots.

Shadow Dance by Julie Garwood

At the reception of Jordan Buchanan's brother and best friend, Kate MacKenna they have a wedding crasher. He claims that there's bad blood between the Buchanan and MacKenna clans that goes back to ancient Scotland, involving the Buchanan theft of a coveted MacKenna treasure.

Kiss of the Highlander by Karen Marie Moning

Seeking an escape from her humdrum and boring life, Gwen Cassidy heads for Scotland in search of adventure, but a plunge into a Highland ravine lands her in the arms of Drustan MacKeltar, a powerful sixteenth-century warrior enchanted by a powerful spell.

Simply Magic by Mary Balough

Haunted by tragedy, fiery Susanna Osbourne is determined to keep her distance from all men, including handsome Peter Edgeworth, an aristocrat who is determined to overcome the secrets of the past to build a new future with her.