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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog Eleanor and Park
by Rainbow Rowell

School Library Journal Gr 9 Up-In this novel set in the 1980s, teenagers Eleanor and Park are outsiders; Eleanor, because she's new to the neighborhood, and Park, because he's half Asian. Although initially wary of each other, they quickly bond over their love of comics and 1980s alternative music. Eleanor's home life is difficult; her stepfather physically abuses her mother and emotionally abuses Eleanor and her siblings. At school, she is the victim of bullying, which escalates into defacement of her textbooks, her clothes, and crude displays on her locker. Although Park's mother, a Korean immigrant, is initially resistant to the strange girl due to her odd fashion choices, his father invites Eleanor to seek temporary refuge with them from her unstable home life. When Eleanor's stepfather's behavior grows even more menacing, Park assists in her escape, even though it means that they might not see each other again. The friendship between the teens is movingly believable, but the love relationship seems a bit rushed and underdeveloped. The revelation about the person behind the defacement of Eleanor's textbooks is stunning. Although the narrative points of view alternate between Eleanor and Park, the transitions are smooth. Crude language is realistic. Purchase for readers who are drawn to quirky love stories or 1980s pop culture.-Jennifer Schultz, Fauquier County Public Library, Warrenton, VA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Half-Korean sophomore Park Sheridan is getting through high school by lying low, listening to the Smiths (it's 1986), reading Alan Moore's Watchmen comics, never raising his hand in class, and avoiding the kids he grew up with. Then new girl Eleanor gets on the bus. Tall, with bright red hair and a dress code all her own, she's an instant target. Too nice not to let her sit next to him, Park is alternately resentful and guilty for not being kinder to her. When he realizes she's reading his comics over his shoulder, a silent friendship is born. And slowly, tantalizingly, something more. Adult author Rowell (Attachments), making her YA debut, has a gift for showing what Eleanor and Park, who tell the story in alternating segments, like and admire about each other. Their love is believable and thrilling, but it isn't simple: Eleanor's family is broke, and her stepfather abuses her mother. When the situation turns dangerous, Rowell keeps things surprising, and the solution-imperfect but believable-maintains the novel's delicate balance of light and dark. Ages 13-up. Agent: Christopher Schelling, Selectric Artists. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list *Starred Review* Right from the start of this tender debut, readers can almost hear the clock winding down on Eleanor and Park. After a less than auspicious start, the pair quietly builds a relationship while riding the bus to school every day, wordlessly sharing comics and eventually music on the commute. Their worlds couldn't be more different. Park's family is idyllic: his Vietnam vet father and Korean immigrant mother are genuinely loving. Meanwhile, Eleanor and her younger siblings live in poverty under the constant threat of Richie, their abusive and controlling stepfather, while their mother inexplicably caters to his whims. The couple's personal battles are also dark mirror images. Park struggles with the realities of falling for the school outcast; in one of the more subtle explorations of race and the other in recent YA fiction, he clashes with his father over the definition of manhood. Eleanor's fight is much more external, learning to trust her feelings about Park and navigating the sexual threat in Richie's watchful gaze. In rapidly alternating narrative voices, Eleanor and Park try to express their all-consuming love. You make me feel like a cannibal, Eleanor says. The pure, fear-laced, yet steadily maturing relationship they develop is urgent, moving, and, of course, heartbreaking, too.--Jones, Courtney Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

ALA Notable Books for Children
Click to search this book in our catalog Islandborn
by Junot Diaz

School Library Journal K-Gr 3-When Ms. Obi asks her students to draw a picture of the country they are originally from, the children are excited. All except for Lola, "What if you left before you could start remembering?" As Lola talks to some of her neighbors from the Island to draw from their memories, she learns of bats as big as blankets; a love of music and dancing; coconut water and sweet mangoes. And an island where "Even the people are like a rainbow-every shade ever made." With a place so beautiful, Lola wonders, why did people leave? Reluctantly, Mr. Mir, the building superintendent, tells her of a Monster that fell upon their Island and did as he pleased for 30 years. Though never mentioned by name, the country in question is the Dominican Republic. The Monster refers to the dictator Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. Lola learns from her assignment that "Just because you don't remember a place doesn't mean it's not in you." Espinosa's gloriously vibrant mixed-media illustrations portray a thriving community living under the shadow of the George Washington Bridge in Manhattan. As Lola learns more about her Island, the illustrations cleverly incorporate a plethora of tropical plants and color, bringing to life both Lola's neighborhood and La Isla. Lola, a Spanish language edition, is ably translated by Mlawer and publishes simultaneously. VERDICT A sensitive and beautiful story of culture, identity, and belonging-a superb picture book outing for Díaz and one to be shared broadly in a variety of settings.-Lucia Acosta, Children's Literature Specialist, Princeton, NJ © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly From its very first sentence, this first picture book from Díaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao) is both beautifully nuanced and instantly comprehensible: "Every kid in Lola's school was from somewhere else." Lola is from a place that she calls the Island, which adult readers will recognize as the author's native Dominican Republic, but she left as a baby. When her teacher asks everyone to draw a picture of "the country you were originally from, your first country," Lola, who doesn't remember the Island herself, embarks on a quest through her tight-knit city neighborhood to collect memories. Many recall the Island with fondness: nonstop music, mangoes so sweet "they make you want to cry," colors of every kind. "Even the people are like a rainbow," says one. But Lola also hears stories of fear, hardship, and sadness; the super in her building recalls a reign of terror by what he calls "the Monster" (dictator Rafael Trujillo) and the courage it took to resist. As the story moves between past and present, the Island and "the North," and the microworlds of classroom, streets, and home, the sweep of experience and emotion becomes unmistakably novelistic. Reminiscence, reality, and Lola's imagination similarly merge in Espinosa's effervescent, mural-like drawings (which eventually become the work Lola presents to her class): bats soar through the air on blanket wings, and a barbershop customer tears up while clutching a translucent mango. With his tenacious, curious heroine and a voice that's chatty, passionate, wise, and loving, Díaz entices readers to think about a fundamental human question: what does it mean to belong? Lola realizes it means both being cherished by those around her and taking ownership of their collective memory. "Even if I'd never set foot on the Island," she tells the class, "it doesn't matter: The Island is me." Ages 5-8. Agent: Nicole Aragi, Aragi Inc. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list *Starred Review* Lola attends a school in which the majority of students, whose skin tones range from tan to deep brown, are from somewhere else. When the teacher instructs her class to draw a picture of what each child's original country looks like, the young girl is stymied. She was an infant when her family immigrated to the U.S. and has no memories of her birthplace. As Lola and her cousin walk home through their neighborhood, they discover that almost everyone is happy to share their memories of the Island. The beaches, the music, the fruits, and the colors come alive for the youngster and create a feeling of pride in her heritage. Along with all the happy memories are remembrances of struggles after a hurricane and a defeated monster, which adults may recognize as a former dictator. The exuberant, brightly colored illustrations are filled with a child's interpretation of the memories and fill the double-page spreads with details to pore over. This important title will be enjoyed by young children and may spark many significant discussions.--Owen, Maryann Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Caldecott Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Freedom in Congo Square
by Carole Boston

Book list *Starred Review* Coretta Scott King Honorees Weatherford and Christie have created a gorgeously artistic and poetic homage to the birthplace of jazz and a people whose legacy is too often ignored. For one day a week, the slaves of New Orleans were allowed by law to gather on one public space: Congo Square. Through sparse, deliberate language, Weatherford tangibly captures the anticipation of those Sundays, listing the physical and emotional work that slaves endured without respite. They tend to animals and crops, cater to their masters, endure losses and lashings, all the while counting the hours until they can revel in the freedom of Congo Square. Holding on to that joyful experience feels like a form of silent resistance as the slaves bear the harshness of the week. The blunt words are richly supplemented by illustrations reminiscent of Jacob Lawrence's work. Christie elegantly renders people's gestures in chalk, capturing their energy or lack of, depending on the context. Blocks of color stamped with texture bring to life the landscape and movement in a place where they rejoiced as if they had no cares; / half day, half free in Congo Square. Subtle and layered, this is an important story, beautifully told.--Chaudhri, Amina Copyright 2015 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 1-3-This vibrant picture book examines Congo Square in New Orleans. A foreword and author's note explain how, historically, slaves in Louisiana were allowed Sunday afternoons off. This custom continued after the territory joined the United States, although in time, New Orleans established one location for all slaves to gather: an area that became known as Congo Square. This unique practice helped enslaved and free Africans maintain cultural traditions. The impact was felt far beyond New Orleans as musicians, dancers, and singers developed, explored, and shared rhythms that eventually grew into jazz music. The text is realistic but child appropriate. Couplets count down the days to Sunday in a conversational tone ("Slavery was no ways fair./Six more days to Congo Square."). The writing is accompanied by folk art-style illustrations, with paint applied in thick layers. Some images, such as faces, are more detailed, while others are presented as silhouettes. Collage with painted elements is incorporated on occasion. The architecture portrayed evokes the New Orleans setting. Bright colors suggest the exuberance displayed at Congo Square. Spreads where the slaves are finally able to sing, dance, and express emotion contrast effectively with the forced restraint of those depicting the work week. VERDICT Unique in its subject and artistic expression, this beautiful book belongs in most collections.-Lucinda Snyder Whitehurst, St. Christopher's School, Richmond, VA © Copyright 2015. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 1-3-Couplets count down the days of the week and detail the daily labor duties of those who were enslaved in New Orleans-all leading up to Sunday, the day of rest and an afternoon in Congo Square. Acknowledging and contrasting the brutal toll of slavery with the exuberance and collective power of their one half-afternoon of free expression, Weatherford has created a masterly and multifaceted work. Christie's illustrations, so loaded with color and movement, are the perfect accompaniment to this must-have book. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Located in what is now the Treme neighborhood, Congo Square was the one place where the slaves and free blacks of New Orleans were allowed to gather on Sundays, a legally mandated day of rest. There they could reconnect with the dance and music of their West and Central African heritages and feel, at least for a few hours, that they were in "a world apart," where "freedom's heart" prevailed. Weatherford hits a few flat notes with her rhyming ("Slaves had off one afternoon,/ when the law allowed them to commune"), but she succeeds in evoking a world where prospect of Sunday becomes a way to withstand relentless toil and oppression: "Wednesday, there were beds to make/ silver to shine, and bread to bake./ The dreaded lash, too much to bear./ Four more days to Congo Square." Christie, who worked with Weatherford to illuminate another historic neighborhood in Sugar Hill (2014), takes readers on a visual journey, moving from searing naïf scenes of plantation life to exuberantly expressionistic and abstract images filled with joyous, soaring curvilinear figures. An introduction and afterword provide further historic detail. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog Where The Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens

Book list Owens' (Secrets of the Savanna, 2006) first novel is a leisurely, lyrical tale of a young woman growing up in isolation in the 1950s and 60s, in a marsh on the North Carolina coast. Kya is abandoned by her troubled mother when she is only six. Soon after, her four, much-older siblings leave, as does her alcoholic father a couple of years later. As Kya matures and teaches herself to be a naturalist, she is torn between two slightly older boys: kind, observant Tate and rascally, attractive Chase. Chase dies falling from a fire tower in his twenties, and the investigation of his possible murder, which alternates with the story of Kya's coming-of-age, provides much of the novel's suspense. Because the characters are painted in broad, unambiguous strokes, this is not so much a naturalistic novel as a mythic one, with its appeal rising from Kya's deep connection to the place where she makes her home, and to all of its creatures.--Margaret Quamme Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly In Owens's evocative debut, Kya Clark is a young woman growing up practically on her own in the wild marshes outside Barkley Cove, a small coastal community in North Carolina. In 1969, local lothario Chase Andrews is found dead, and Kya, now 23 and known as the "Marsh Girl," is suspected of his murder. As the local sheriff and his deputy gather evidence against her, the narrative flashes back to 1952 to tell Kya's story. Abandoned at a young age by her mother, she is left in the care of her hard-drinking father. Unable to fit in at school, Kya grows up ignorant until a shrimper's son, Tate Walker, befriends her and teaches her how to read. After Tate goes off to college, Kya meets Chase, with whom she begins a tempestuous relationship. The novel culminates in a long trial, with Kya's fate hanging in the balance. Kya makes for an unforgettable heroine. Owens memorably depicts the small-town drama and courtroom theatrics, but perhaps best of all is her vivid portrayal of the singular North Carolina setting. (Aug.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Merci Suarez Changes Gears
by Meg Medina

Book list *Starred Review* Merci Suárez loves painting with her Papi, playing on his soccer team, telling her Abuelo Lolo about her days at school, and taking pictures of her family when they are together. But lately Lolo has been acting different he wanders off, forgets things easily, and has even gotten angry. To add to Merci's worries, sixth grade at Seaward Pines Academy has gotten off to a rocky start. To make up her school tuition, Merci has been assigned community service as a Sunshine Buddy to new student Michael Clark, and, as the weeks go by, popular Edna Santos only gets meaner as Merci and Michael become friends. Merci isn't sure what to make of this new world where maybe like is not the same as like like, and where popular is not the same as having friends. As she navigates her way through the year, she discovers that, even though change is scary and even though it may mean things will never be the same, sometimes it is unavoidable. Medina's breathtaking coming-of-age story features a strong, deeply honest protagonist whose insights will make readers laugh, as well as dynamic secondary characters who reveal glimmers of profound depth. Medina capably gets to the heart of middle-school experiences in this engrossing story of a kid growing into herself. A must-read.--Paz, Selenia Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 4-7-Eleven-year-old Merci Suárez is starting sixth grade and everything is changing. Not only do upper graders have to switch teachers throughout the day, but playing sports, like Merci loves to do, is seen as babyish and befriending boys is taboo. So when Merci is assigned to show new kid Michael Clark around as part of her scholarship package at Seaward Pines Academy, it's a problem. Especially when the richest, smartest, most popular girl in school, Edna, who gets to write the sixth grade's social rules and break them, too, seems to like Michael. Meanwhile, at home, Merci has to watch over her little twin cousins who live close by at Las Casitas, a row of houses belonging to Mami and Papi; Abuela and Lolo; and Tia, for free, so trying out for the school's soccer team and earning money to buy her dream bike is almost impossible. What's worse, Merci can't even talk to her beloved Lolo about all her problems like she used to as he starts acting less and less like himself. The realistic portrayal of a complex young Latina's life is one many readers will relate to as she discovers that change can be hard, but it's the ride that matters. VERDICT Pura Belpré-winning author Medina cruises into readers' hearts with this luminous middle grade novel. A winning addition to any library's shelves.-Brittany Drehobl, Morton Grove Public Library, IL © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.