Olympic Reads


Since Friday's opening ceremony, everyone has been totally fascinated by this year’s Olympic Games. Television sets everywhere are set to the Games. It is very exciting! I love the Olympics. Athletes from around the world coming together to reach for their dreams is very inspiring. I can’t even imagine the thrill of being a member of the Olympic team. There is so much history involved with the Olympics--competitors and viewers are part of something greater than themselves. In anticipation of this year's games, several athletes came out with biographies and there are tons of new travel books about London. Even authors like James Patterson included Olympics-related plots in their fiction books. I've compiled a list of some new and some older materials that will get you feeling the Olympic spirit. Here are some books and two DVDs available at the library to get you in the mood for this summer’s Olympics.

Complete Book of the Olympics
By: David Wallechinsky

By: Chris Cleave
Everyone has a favorite sport. Me, I'm rooting for the swimmers, divers and gymnasts. Write in an tell us your favorite sport or your favorite Olympic book!


Book Bomb! Books That Are Great Eye-Candy

When it comes to novel-to-film adaptations, of course the book will usually be leagues better than the film (I’m sure we can all agree with that) but in the case of these titles, their silver screen versions turned out to be  surprisingly enjoyable on their own (if not exactly faithful to their origins, but what film ever is). Having a preference for certain books and films is of course subjective and a matter of personal taste but these are titles that I think most people would enjoy in both formats. 

StardustStardust, by Neil Gaiman, (and make sure it is the original Stardust novel and not the film novelization) is a lovely, whimsical fantasy that is distinctly Gaiman in that it is derivative (in the best way) of familiar classics (in this case fairytales) and yet is original in its visualization of these things.  Tristran Thorn, a half-Faerie foundling living in the human village of Wall, promises a girl that he will retrieve a fallen star to prove his love for her, sending him into the realm of Faerie where stars are human, witches are queens, and kingdoms can be won or lost in the definitely-not-normal Faerie market.  Click here for the film.

SidewaysSideways, by Rex Pickett, is a hilarious novel and is just as funny and thoughtful as a film.  Jack and Miles are longtime friends who decide to go on one last outing, young-single-guy style, on a tour through Santa Ynez filled with wine, women (well, for one of them anyway… maybe) and a seven-day countdown to Jack’s last day of freedom – his wedding day.  Click here for the film

[Cover]Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, by Winifred Watson, is both delightful in novel form as well as in cinematic form.  First published in 1938, it certainly has the feel of that era, starring sultry singers with simple pasts, dapper gentleman with diabolical agendas, and smoky nightclubs filled with crooning brass instruments and shadowy corners.  Somewhat of a Cinderella-story, it follows the exploits of an unfortunately plain governess and her escapades (all in one day) filled with mistaken-identity, transformation, glamor and, eventually, love.  Click here for the film.


The Hours The Hours, by Michael Cunningham, is one of my favorite contemporary novels not only because it is a homage to Virginia Woolf (who is one of my absolute favorite writers) but because it’s just so well-written.  Sad, beautiful, touching, thoughtful, I don’t know, pile on the adjectives and sprinkle it with emotion and there would still be more to say.  It weaves the story of three different women, one of them Woolf, tied together by Woolf’s novel Mrs. Dalloway (my favorite of hers). The film was also a lovely adaptation that captured the important, subtle nuances of the novel.  Click here for the film.  

The Minority Report The Minority Report, by the amazing Philip K. Dick, is actually a short story, not a book (okay, I cheated, how about we just pretend it’s a really, really, really short book).  Although the film took many liberties, the basics that made the film so good are the same.   Precrime, a new form of crime prevention/law enforcement, utilizes precognitives (people who can see the future) to stop crime before it happens (with the people who would have committed the crimes being charged anyway).  Chief of Police, John Anderton, receives a predictive report that he is going to commit murder and so he must somehow prevent this from happening while avoiding capture by his own police force.  Dealing with issues of predestination and free will, it’s definitely thought-provoking and suspenseful.  Click here for the film.

 And if you didn’t know, several other novels and stories by Philip K. Dick adapted (sometimes very loosely) into films include: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep ("Blade Runner"), We Can Remember It For You Wholesale ("Total Recall"), The Adjustment Team ("The Adjustment Bureau"), Paycheck, A Scanner Darkly, and The Golden Man ("Next").

Click on any of the titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website and reserve a copy of the book today (and search our catalog for the corresponding DVD title).

Other notable books that made successful film adaptations:
Harry Potter, by J.K. Rowling (you were expecting this one)

Lord of the Rings trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien (and this one)
Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris (but not this one)
The Witches, by Roald Dahl (Anjelica Huston is fantastically evil)
The Devil Wears Prada, by Lauren Weisberger (Meryl Streep is evilly fabulous).


Good Books- Bad Covers!

I’ll be honest; I judge books by their covers. I can’t help it! But sometimes a book comes out and gets such rave reviews that I have to read it in spite of a sad cover. And of course, there are some really great books I would have totally missed had I not heard how wonderful they were. I feel so bad for these poor guys. Of course, it’s just my opinion, but these are a few teen books that deserved so much more from their covers:

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor- Okay, I admit this cover isn’t terrible. But it has kind of a cheesy, poorly “photoshopped” quality to it. However the story is amazing. Karou is a seventeen-year-old art student living in Prague until her inhuman parents send her to fetch teeth for devilish reasons even she does not understand. This book combines elements of mystery, fantasy, and romance together in a beautifully written novel that should have been given an equally beautiful cover. Older Teens.

The Wednesday Wars by Gary D. Schmidt- I didn’t even understand what this picture on this cover was until I read the book and realized that it’s supposed to be a profile of a kid and Shakespeare looking at each other! Don’t worry; the story is much easier to understand. It’s the 1960s and Holling Hoodhood gets stuck spending Wednesday afternoons at school with his teacher, Mrs. Baker, who loves talking about Shakespeare. It’s torture at first, but that soon changes as Holling sees how cool Mrs. Baker is. This is a surprisingly funny book that is immensely enjoyable. So don’t pass it up!  Younger Teens.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green- Is this the most boring cover ever?? Possibly. I can’t stand it because there is absolutely nothing boring about this book. In fact, it’s like being on a roller coaster of emotion in this story about a terminally ill cancer patient and the boy she meets at her support group. Because of her diagnosis, Hazel has to face life’s biggest questions at a very young age. But she’s still a teenager in love with all of the wit and attitude that any young person would bring to the story. This is an incredible book and will touch even the most stoic of readers.  Older Teens.

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexi- And the award for the biggest Epic Fail for a cover goes to…this book! I can’t even put into words how much I loathe this cover. (The title doesn’t really help either). But I promise you that this is a great book. I truly loved it. Arnold Spirit is a teenager who only knows life on his exceedingly poor Indian Reservation. But when he switches to a school off of the Reservation, he learns a lot about what his life could be. In spite of a lot of heavy subjects, this is a very entertaining and humorous book. Plus, it has quirky little drawings throughout. You will enjoy it. Just a heads up: in spite of how it was marketed, this is not a book for children. Younger/Older Teens.


Computer Programming Book Reviews

Title: JavaScript A Beginner’s Guide 3rd Edition
Author: John Pollock
Publisher: McGraw Hill
Year: 2010
Call Number: 005.2762 JavaScript

Here’s a book for web developers that will help with client-side programming in JavaScript. JavaScript: A Beginner's Guide by John Pollock (2010) walks the reader through the universe of JavaScript in sixteen chapters. The book covers aspects of JavaScript like how does JavaScript fit into a basic HTML page, variables, functions, operators, conditional statements, loops, event handlers, objects, the document object model (DOM), arrays, and more. The text is well written, with lots of short examples that demonstrate the fundamental concepts being covered, and no prior programming experience is assumed by the author except some basic HTML coding. At the end of each chapter is a short self-test that allows the reader to review the materials just covered before moving on to the next section. The author does a good job of selecting coding examples that are interesting and relevant to the reader. JavaScript is a programming language that is usually used in conjunction with server-side scripting languages like Microsoft’s .NET technologies (Visual Basic .NET and C#) or the PHP scripting language. So, this book is a good place to start for client-side web scripting before moving on to the next level which is programming on the server side. Publisher: McGraw-Hill, 489 pages.



Mansions, Ghosts, and Séances

Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator
Gilda Joyce is fun!  But don’t get me wrong, she is not frivolous (well, maybe just a little), and who doesn’t need a spoonful of frivolous served up with their tragedy every now and then?  Jennifer Allison's Gilda is a zany character trying to negotiate her way through a maze of real-life hardships; and it is this youthful, positive attitude that helps the reader identify with trauma without getting depressed. Underscoring Gilda’s trials, Allison tips her hat to her Christian beliefs which ground Gilda in her adventures as a psychic investigator.
In Allison’s first book, Gilda Joyce: Psychic Investigator, Gilda’s best friend Wendy Choy has “deserted” her for music camp. The prospect of spending her summer cooped up in the house with her older brother, and having a mother who seems always to be at work is not appealing.  So, intrepid Gilda finagles an invite to San Francisco to stay with her estranged Uncle Lester and Cousin Juliet. Once ensconced in the old mansion on the hill, Gilda and Juliet, seemingly an unlikely pair, develop a bond of friendship as they deal with traumatic events. Believe it or not, this spooky mystery is fun and, at the same time, addresses life’s difficult issues. Gilda Joyce is an upper reading level selection suitable for 6th to 9th grade.
Gilda Joyce: The Ladies of the Lake

Gilda Joyce: The Ghost Sonata

Gilda Joyce: The Drop Dead

Gilda Joyce: The Bones of the Holy


More Books for Reluctant Readers: Teens

When young readers are ready to graduate from the children's area, it is so great for them to have the sophistication of their own area in the Younger and Older Teens area.

Here are some suggestions from these areas:

Younger Teens

I have shown many, many teens or pre-teens who are not enthusiastic about finding a book The Janie series by Caroline Cooney.  A high school girl is drinking a carton of milk in the school cafeteria.  She has a milk allergy but she is thirsty; it's the perfect choice to go with her cookies.  She sees a picture of a missing girl on a milk carton, and it triggers a sense of herself as a child.  She has always thought it odd that her parents have no pictures of her before she was five years old.  Could she be a stolen child?  Thus begins a four-part series also including  The Face on the Milk Carton, Whatever Happened to Janie,  The Voice on the Radio, and What Janie Found.   Readers almost never turn this one down. The very prolific Caroline Cooney can always be counted on to thrill.

Another perfect book for teens not eager to read is Killing Mr. Griffin by Lois Duncan.  A group of high school students really hate their high school teacher whom they believe to be mean and unfair. They hatch a plot to kidnap him and frighten him with a death threat.  The plot backfires when their plans go way too far.  It was fun to slip this to an unhappy student who had been dragged into the library by his grandmother who wanted him to select one of the great classics.  I don't know if he enjoyed the classic, but this one put a smile on his face.  One wonders how this most realistic portrayal of teacher revenge has survived attempts to ban it.  But if adult lovers of murder mysteries can have their vicarious thrills, why not teens?  Duncan has written a number of books that are dark and scary good.

Alex Rider by Anthony Horowitz is a thrilling spy series for the young adult group.  Alex is a fourteen year-old recruited by the British secret service after learning of the assassination of his uncle.  I learned of the excitement about this character from a boy whose eyes were practically bulging as he proclaimed that is so-o-o exciting. These books are frequently missing from the shelves and need re-ordering.  We also take that as a sign that they are popular.  There are nine books in this series, four graphic novels, a movie based on the first book in the series, Stormbreaker, and a video game.

As one mom said, "You just can't get enough princess books".  So try the the Princess Diaries books by Meg Cabot:  Princess in Pink, Princess in WaitingPrincess in Love.  It's fortunate that there are so many, because certain girls swallow them whole.  The same group may also love The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares.  Four girls all want the same perfect pair of jeans from a thrift shop.  Magically, the jeans adapt to each girl's very different figure. They decide to share them and the jeans follow them on many a journey, both in the geographical sense and in life experience.  

Older Teens

The librarian at the Orangewood Children's Home has told us that her kids can't get enough of the Chicken Soup for the Teen Soul series, and all the Chicken Soup books. They are a safe choice for approaching a big book as each inspirational story is only a few pages long.

She also recommended the page-turning Gone series by Michael Grant.  Every person over the age of fifteen disappears from the California town of Perdido Beach (does that suggest the word perdition?).  These books -- with short, catchy tiles such as Gone, Hunger, Lies, Plague, Fear, and Light -- feature disappearing adults, and what could be more inviting in the science fiction genre?

Two more intriguing books in the genre of futuristic thinking are Life as we Knew It by Susan Pfeffer and Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin.  Life As We Knew It begins with a giant meteor descending toward the moon.  Folks sit out in their lawn chairs ready to observe the predicted fun from a little bump.  But when the moon is knocked out of the sky, things are never to be the same. The drama continues in this Last Survivors series with The Dead and The Gone.  Elsewhere is an imaginative tale of an afterlife for Lizzie Marie Hall who died after a bicycle accident and finds herself on long journey by boat to Elsewhere, a land where the dead live in limbo while waiting for rebirth after growing one year younger each year. The old are thrilled to be reclaiming their youth, and Liz is just angry at never having experienced her first prom or first kiss. Elsewhere is spiritual contemplation and philosophy for teens at its best.

When it's time for a teen who is put off by long, wordy books to read a classic, start them with One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch by the venerable Alekandr Solzhenitsyn.  This book tells the story of one prisoner's day in a prison camp in Siberia.  Simple and profound, this book will give them a glimpse into a history of the oppressed and a reason never to complain again about unreasonable parents, embarrassing cars, or too much homework. Manly young men or gutsy girls might like the sad, clean writing of Steinbeck's Red Pony, Of Mice and Men, or The Pearl.


Introducing Anne Korkeakivi

In An Unexpected Guest, Anne Korkeakivi’s first full-length novel, the main narrative takes place in under twenty-four hours.  However, it reaches depths of nuanced character and tells a story of life-changing actions and their consequences.  Clare, the American wife of a British diplomat in Paris, has been asked to put on a last-minute dinner party that could make or break her husband’s next posting.  Over the course of the evening, she will have to impress the guests, while hiding her own secrets, which include a son who has gone AWOL from his privileged English boarding school, a chance meeting with a Turk accused of terrorism, and her own possible connections to the IRA in her youth.  The latter is even more problematic, since the post her husband wants is in Dublin. 

The book is reminiscent of both Ian McEwan’s Saturday and Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, in that it dives into the minute details of a single day in the life of the main character.  However, Korkeakivi’s clean and elegant prose gives the piece a distinct voice.  And without missing a beat, she moves between an American or a French accent to an Irish lilt to a Scots Celtic brogue, depending upon which character is speaking. 

Over the course of the day, Clare thinks about what her life was and what it has become.  Her flashbacks and memories take on a dream-like feeling that leave her and the reader wondering what her life might have been like, had she made some different choices.  She shows us how the past and the present intertwine to make us who we are right now. 

If this is only Korkeakivi’s first novel, I can’t wait to see what’s next.


Stickman Rocks!

Stickman Odyssey by Christopher Ford -- it has stickmen, and it has the Odyssey!  What could possibly be more entertaining? Well actually, the Odyssey part is only loosely based on the original. But the drawings are hilarious in this wonderful new graphic novel series for older kids.
Stickman Odyssey, Book 1: An Epic Doodle introduces us to Zozimos who is banished from the Kingdom of Stickitha by his evil stepmother. Uncle Nestor sets him on a course for revenge, but he gets sidetracked along the way with many other epic quests. He makes friends and meets girls and, in general, has a pretty wild journey. Yet, Zozimos doesn’t really get any closer to taking back the throne of Stickitha then when he started!

Stickman Odyssey, Book 2: The Wrath of Zozimos continues the story of his quest for vengeance. Some surprises along the way keep the story fresh and exciting. All of the characters you love from the first book reappear in this sequel. Plus, Zozimos finally makes it back to Stickitha. But just when you think the story couldn’t possibly go on, a cliffhanger at the end suggests that another book will follow.   

These books are both fantastically entertaining. The simplicity of the drawings actually adds to the humor. If your kids (or you) like watching Adventure Time, these graphic novels will definitely appeal to you. Stickman Odyssey is perfect for ages seven and up and both are a great way to encourage reluctant readers to pick up a book or two this summer.


Lisa Kleypas' Contemporary Romances

People tend to think of Lisa Kleypas as a writer of historical romances. I did. So, not being a huge fan of historical romances, I had never read Kleypas. But I recently made a great discovery when I stumbled across her Travis series. This is a contemporary romance series set in Texas. The first book in the series is Sugar Daddy. This book revolves around Liberty Jones, a heroine so instantly charming you fall in love with her right away and cheer her on throughout the book. As she struggles and succeeds to build a life for herself, Liberty must choose between two great loves. This story is definitely a love story, but some may categorize it as women’s fiction or chick lit because the romance, while intense, is secondary to the story of Liberty finding herself and building her life.

After finishing this book I was captivated by the characters and by the author, Lisa Kleypas. I very much enjoyed her writing; I especially liked how she weaved social issues into her stories. I immediately wanted more. Luckily, since I belatedly discovered this series, Sugar Daddy was published in 2007, the next book was readily available for me. The next book is Blue-Eyed Devil, this book tells Haven Travis’ story.  The youngest of the wealthy and respected Travis family, Haven is independent and free thinking. In this book Haven proves wealth and a loving family aren’t enough to protect you from sorrow and hardship. This is definitely a love story but it is also a story of recovery and a story about overcoming adversity.

Smooth TalkingStranger, the final book in the series, tells middle Travis brother, Jack’s story. The leading lady is not your typical romance heroine and that is what makes Jack and the reader love her right away. The only negative about this series is it only consists of three books and once Smooth Talking Stranger is over there aren’t anymore.  Evidentially, I’m not the only one left wanting more. A frequent question on the internet is when Lisa Kleypas will write another in the series, possibly focusing on the youngest Travis brother, Joe. According to the author’s website this series was only meant to be a trilogy, but based on popular demand she may write another. Well, let me know when she does because I want to be first in line to read it! So if you are a fan of contemporary romances but consider Lisa Kleypas only a writer of historical romances try out her Travis series because it is remarkably good. And if you are not typically a romance fan, maybe pick up Sugar Daddy or Blue-Eyed Devil because they are so good they may just turn you into a romance fan!


Absorbing Murder Mystery

The girl in the title of The Girl in the Park by Mariah Fredericks is Wendy Geller who is found strangled in Central Park after the night of a party. Newspaper headlines cry "Life of a Party Girl Ends in Violence." But her once best friend, Rain, knows Wendy was more than just a party girl. Rain, because of her speech impediment, is the target of bullying at her exclusive New York high school. Since Wendy does not come from old money she is a target as well. Unlike the quiet Rain, Wendy fights back the bullying by seducing her tormentors’ boyfriends. The story is told in first person from Rain’s point of view as she recalls the thoughtful and the not so thoughtful side of Wendy. In flashbacks Rain remembers how she and Wendy became friends. Rain still finds herself using Wendy’s words of encouragement as inspiration to overcome her insecurities related to speech. “Cleft palate. Big deal….But you need to forget about that and speak up, girl!” Hanging out with Wendy boosts Rain’s social life in a sense; she begins going to parties and because she is quiet she becomes the sounding board for the very kids who bullied her at one point. Rain was at the same party as Wendy the night before she is murdered so she has a hunch about who may have last been with Wendy. As she digs through gossip about Wendy, speaking to her few friends and to those who openly hated her, Rain is determined to salvage what’s left of Wendy’s reputation by finding out the truth behind her friend’s death and the identity of the murderer.
The book is fast paced and a good traditional whodunit with twists, but some expert mystery fans may be able to solve the identity of the murderer. Despite this flaw in the climax, Rain is a convincing sleuth, the relationship between her and Wendy is realistic as is her resolve to prove Wendy was the victim of a crime and did not deserve to die such a heinous death. Due to the nature of the theme, this book is in our Older Teen section.


Summer Quests

School is still several weeks away, but if there’s no summer trip on the horizon, there’s still time to take a virtual journey to answer those pesky “what did you do this summer vacation?” questions. Here are three adventures, quests if you will, to offer the teen boys in your life, with varying degrees of reality to suit different tastes!

[Cover]In John Green’s Paper Towns, Quentin’s tale is a familiar one; his childhood best friend, the impossibly cool girl next door Margo Roth Spiegelman, has long since abandoned him for a much cooler crowd (Q is not even a band geek – he just hangs out with the band geeks), but one night, just before graduation, Margo shows up at his window and lures him out for an all-night prank spree before disappearing for good. Quentin and his friends Ben and Radar set out to follow Margo’s clues on a quest to find the girl, and maybe even get to know her, and themselves. It’s a smart read, with characters that really walk off the page.

[Cover]If Quentin’s road trip took a more psychedelic turn, it might look a little like Libba Bray’s Going Bovine. Cameron, another regular guy, has his fair share of family and school drama, but all that pales in comparison with his new problem: he’s been diagnosed with mad cow disease, and, oh yeah, he’s going to die. A visit from a gorgeous punk angel sets Cameron and his new friends Gonzo (a neurotic, video game obsessed teen dwarf) and Balder (a Norse god trapped in the body of a garden gnome) on a quest for a cure, crisscrossing the country on a wild trip that brings up all the issues of life, love, religion, the purpose of life, and the fight between good and evil that a teenager could ever wish for. For bonus points from your English teacher in the fall, check out Don Quixote and see if you can find the parallels.

Another classic reboot, this time of the King Arthur Legend, is The ExtraordinaryAdventures of Alfred Kropp by Rick Yancey. Alfred doesn’t seem like the kind of kid who would save the world, but when he agrees to help his uncle steal a sword, it turns out to be Excalibur, yes, that Excalibur, and the 15-year-old is plunged into a world right out of a video game: fast cars, suspense, lots of action and fighting, and a quest to return the sword to its rightful owner. A perfect summer read, the story doesn’t bear overthinking, but it’s a wild ride. Alfred’s further adventures can be found in Alfred Kropp: The Seal of Solomon and Alfred Kropp: The Thirteenth Skull.


The Beginner's Guide to Anne Tyler

Anne Tyler is one of my favorite authors.  She’s a master at capturing the poignancy of everyday life.  Her books usually concern ordinary characters living their ordinary lives. Her writing probes human nature by way of the typical milestones: a birth, a marriage, a funeral.  With her astute insight, Anne Tyler transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary.

If you haven’t read anything by Anne Tyler then her newest novel The Beginner’s Goodbye is a good place to start.  The main character, Aaron, is an editor at a vanity press that also publishes a how-to series entitled The Beginner’s Book of…, a derivative knock-off of those black and yellow Dummies books. Crippled in one arm and leg, he has always resisted attempts from others who offer help.  His life changes when he finds himself falling in love with Dr. Dorothy Rosales, whom he had approached to help write The Beginners Book of Cancer.  Not long after they wed, a freak accident results in Dorothy’s death.  Aaron is overcome with a paralyzing grief, until one day Dorothy appears to him in the street.  Through chance meetings with this spectral entity, Aaron comes to terms with his loss, and gains insight into his marriage and his life.

Anne Tyler has written 19 books, so you’ll have plenty of choices after The Beginner’s Goodbye.  Two of my favorites are Digging to America in which the lives of two couples become intertwined when they both adopt Korean girls, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning Breathing Lessons about an eccentric couple who have been married for 28 years.


Reluctant Readers Start Here

One of the most fun groups to connect with is the reluctant readers.  Eager readers find their own way, and sometimes even lead the way into what is current and popular, but for the student who is required to read a book and is not enthusiastic, it is a challenge and a joy to find a book that they look forward to reading.  So here are some suggestions of books that students will enjoy if shown.

Younger Children  (Beginning Chapter Book Readers)

Most children beginning to read chapter books are familiar with the well done Magic Tree House books by Mary Pope Osborne and the very funny Junie B. Jones by Barbara Park.  Most of our libraries try to fill their paperback shelves with these popular books in the "O's" and "P's" as well as hardback editions.   Other good series to try at a level just above are The Secrets of Droon, a fantasy series by Tony Abbot and Underworlds,  The Haunting of Derek Stone,  and the humorous mystery series Goofballs also by the same author.  For girly girls the Rainbow Magic books about fairies of every color and type are never on the shelf.  The author is Daisy Meadows.

And ever popular and reliable . . .

The Boxcar Children series

The series begins with The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner and it's best to start with the first book, The Boxcar Children.  Four orphaned children are afraid to go to live with their grandfather who they have never met and who they imagine to be mean, so they hide out as long as possible in an abandoned boxcar and try to make do by doing odd chores and taking care of one another.  Although over a hundred and twenty pages, this book reads at a second grade level with simple sentences but a lively plot.  Orphans and children who take care of themselves are always fun reading for the young world so ruled by adults.  A series of dozens of mysteries follow as the children go on to be detectives.  This series has been popular for over sixty years.

Little House on the Prairie

The long beloved series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, based on her own childhood of a family pioneering first in the woods of Wisconsin, and later moving on to Nebraska and Missouri is both fun to read because of the hardships and adventures, told from the young girl Laura's point of view.  The series begins with Little House in the Big Woods and continues with eight more as the moves and new developments continue.  There is a good sense of American pioneering life to be enjoyed while reading these books.  Sometimes over three hundred pages, they are still simple, at just about the third grade level, so a struggling reader can be proud to be carrying a big, fat book.  For the most enthusiastic fans, this series continues with the Martha and Charlotte books by Melissa Wiley, the Caroline books by Maria D. Wilkes and Celia Wilkins and the Rose books by Roger Lea MacBride and one, Young Pioneers by Laura's daughter, Rose Wilder.

Older Children (Intermediate and Upper Grade Readers)

Hatchet by Gary Paulsen is a page turner.  A boy traveling by small aircraft to see his divorced father is left to survive on his own when the pilot has a heart attack. Survival stories engage and there are three sequel or parallel books to this one that follow.  Gary Paulsen is a great survival story and adventure author.  Will Hobbs is another quality author to try for hair-raising outdoor adventure often connected with history.  Take Me To the River is his latest. 

Another engaging read is The Fear Place by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor. Two boys have made a backpacking camp with their parents, but then the parents need to go back.  The boys argue. One walks off on a side trail with a steep drop-off, does not return by dark, and the brother who is afraid of height must find him.  Add a cougar following for a dash of extra excitement.

Also by Naylor are the Alice books. Alice is young girl whose mother has died, leaving her being brought up by her father and older brother.  The series begins when she is in third grade and continues up until her teens.  Alice is a remarkably normal young lady who keeps her two best friends close, but being raised with only male insights can be comical.  Girls will relate to the episodes along the many stages of growing up.

Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer begins an intermediate series by John Grisham.  So far there are two sequels to the first, Theodore Boone: The Abduction and also The Accused.  These books are full of legal excitement as young Theodore cannot help staying out of local legal drams, even a murder case.  Each book leads to even more suspense.

From the Files of Madison Finn is another engaging series for the girls.  Madison is twelve when her parents divorce and she journals into her computer files to deal with her feelings.  The books mirror a typical girl growing up, with every day concerns with school, friendship, and even first crushes.

Two other books that kids always are Freak the Mighty and Max the Mighty by W.R. Philbrick.  Freak is a gentle giant of a boy who is learning disabled but great of heart.  Max is a brainy little crippled boy who rides about on Freak's shoulders.  Together they make a great team and in the second book they attempt a daring rescue of an abused girl.

And you can't go go wrong with Margaret Haddix's Among the Hidden.  In this futuristic story the population police forbid an extra child and third child Luke has had to live all his twelve years hidden in his home.  Six exciting books follow in this series.

Next list for reluctant readers:  Younger and Older Teens


eBooks @ the Library: Magical & Manageable

It's true that when it comes to book format, there's something indescribably nostalgic and sentimental about being able to feel (in a way) the actual weight of words in your hands, turning each neatly printed page, feeling that textured but mostly smooth paper sliding under your fingertips.

But digital books (ebooks and e-audio) are convenient.  You don't have to carry around a back-up book or two in case the one you're reading runs out of pages (guilty).  And if it's through the library, they're absolutely free, with no overdue charges ever (access to digital books expire on the due date, so no need to worry about returning them on time). 

Nothing beats that, at least until they figure out how to download information directly to our brain-pans.  So if you're on the go, try supplementing your regular book checkouts with titles from our growing digital book collections. (Click here for a list of supported ebook and e-audio devices).

Click here to search our digital collection now (or peruse the sections below).

For the rabid hunter of new reading experiences, peruse the New eBook Additions page, for recently added and recently released ebooks, like:

Cover image for A Long, Long Sleep  A Long Long Sleep  

Cover image for Ruby Redfort Look Into My Eyes Ruby Redfort

To find out if the book really is better than the movie, browse the e-audiobook Movie Tie-In page (downloadable audiobooks for iPods, MP3 players, etc), for titles like:

Cover image for Julie and Julia  Julie & Julia 

 Cover image for The Lightning Thief  The Lightning Thief

For digital titles that are always available (mainly classics), search the Always Available list, and catch up on old favorites like:

Cover image for The Wizard of Oz  The Wizard of Oz 

 Cover image for A Princess of Mars  A Princess of Mars

Vacationing somewhere exotic this summer?  Brush up on your foreign language skills with one of many e-audio titles in the Foreign Language Study collection, like:

 Cover image for Dr. Blair's Japanese In No Time  Japanese In No Time 

Cover image for Arabic on the Move  Arabic On The Move

Click here to visit our digital books website, and browse our growing e-book and e-audio collection today!

Note: checking out digital book titles requires an OC Public Library library card number, and a PIN.  Contact your local library for more information (visit our Library Locator page for a list of library branches).


Book Bomb! Genre Is Only Skin Deep

The problem with book “genre” is that sometimes readership can be constrained by what people think a book may or may not be about.  Yes, a book labeled as science fiction will more than likely contain fantastical elements that are beyond current technological capability (I like to keep an open mind), but what about books like The Time Traveler’s Wife which is about so much more than time travel or romance, or The Book Thief which, although narrated by the personification of death, explores themes that extend beyond just contemporary fantasy.
Here is a list of books that you might not otherwise read but should because they have more to offer than the genre they are relegated to (including the two titles mentioned previously as a sneaky bonus).

Click here to check out the great blog review for The Book Thief posted previously here on Book Talk.

The Time Traveler's WifeThe Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, is more accurately described as five percent science fiction, forty percent love story, and a lovely piece of speculative, character-driven literature the remaining fifty-five percent.   It follows the story of Henry, a librarian afflicted with a genetic disorder that forces him to time travel involuntarily, and Clare, an artist who seems to be an anchor for many of Henry’s temporal jaunts, gently weaving their threads together into something thought-provoking, suspenseful, and original.

My Most Excellent YearMy Most Excellent Year: A Novel of Love, Mary Poppins, & Fenway Park, by Steven Kluger, is a wicked-funny, thoughtful, and heart-fuzzy novel that explores the last two years of high school (and adjacent personal lives) of three students, told creatively and expertly through a collection of letters, essays, and personal electronic correspondences.  Sometimes categorized with the LGBT genre (lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender) for teens, My Most Excellent Year is really about friendship, family (the ones we choose as much as the ones we are born with), and life, with a healthy dash of baseball and musical theatre thrown in for kicks. 

The Last Days of Summer Also check out Kluger’s Last Days of Summer, just as hilarious and touching and brilliant as My Most Excellent Year, and which some might assign to historical sports fiction, but presents similar themes of family beyond the typical definition of the word, reluctant life-long friendship, and the diabolical ingenuity of youth.

The Book of Lost Things The Book of Lost Things, by John Connolly, is often listed as fantasy, and it mostly is, with books that whisper their stories out loud, doorways into other worlds, and a sinister antagonist who reigns over a dark and twisted kingdom, but these things are also somehow reflections of the young David’s internal and emotional struggles to cope with the loss of his mother, the ongoing war (WWII), and his new stepmother.  Definitely not for children, The Book of Lost Things is like a dark fairy tale for adults, but rooted in reality with well-written suspense and excellent prose. 

Every Dead Thing (Charlie Parker, #1) Connolly has also written a series of novels grouped under the crime fiction label, featuring an ex-cop, Charlie Parker, as the protagonist, with supernatural and horror-esque elements that would appeal to fans of Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and Thomas Harris (Silence of the Lambs).  The first book in this on-going series is titled Every Dead Thing, with an eleventh installment to be released late summer, 2012.

Ella Minnow Pea Ella Minnow Pea: a progressively lipogrammatic epistolary fable, by Mark Dunn, is a bit of a mind-bending literary puzzle.  Set on a fictitious island off the coast of South Carolina where the panagram “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” is described to have originally been coined by a native, Nevin Nollop, preserved in reverent memorial on a plaque which is slowly disintegrating with age.  As each letter of the panagram falls from the plaque, the town’s government bans the use of that letter so it cannot be used in speech or writing.  The novel is written in an epistolary form that creatively and hilariously makes use of an ever shortening alphabet as the inhabitants try to find a solution before things get really insane.  Or just really, really quiet.

The Lock Artist  The Lock Artist, by Steve Hamilton, upon first perusal might be mistaken for a crime novel but it’s another one of those gems that is what they say it is and yet is so much more.  The story follows Michael, a young man who holds the unique occupation known in the shadow-world of thieves and lawbreakers of “boxman,” that is, a safe cracker, someone who can open a safe without the combination.  Michael also happens to be mute, silent for over ten years since a horrific childhood tragedy stole his voice and the normal life he might have lived, now ghosting along the outskirts of society as an uncommonly skilled lock artist.  Through Michael’s silent, eloquent narrative his story dives into a thrilling world of crime, yes, but also into an engrossing journey to find home, identity, love, and maybe the voice he lost as a child.
Click any one of the titles to visit the OC Public Libraries website and reserve a copy today!