Quick Picks from CMCL

August 1, 2014

Checking In: “The school, the street, the bridge, the road, the forest, the witch, home.”

The labradoodle, the pomato, the Sphinx.

We love hybrids here at the library. Consider the Fuji apple, the ever-popular labradoodle, or the pomato plant, a single growth that yields two kinds of “ato”-suffixed gardeny goodness. Words in English like bioluminescence and automobile come from mushing Greek and Latin together in a kind of etymological blender. The Sphinx at Giza keeps a limestone eye on the Nile. And so it goes with books.

Place a hold

The artist, the silkscreens, the stencils.

What do a queen, a mysterious stranger in yellow, an upside-down city and eternal nightfall all have to do with each other? They’re key elements in Ballad, a gorgeous 2014 picture book/graphic novel hybrid from French graphic artist Blexbolex. Slightly larger than a paperback and spanning 280 pages, Ballad’s Polaroid-shaped silkscreens of escalating mystery and magic are simultaneously formal and inviting, with crisp fluorescent stencils blended with subtle texture detail.

The page, the typeface, the journey.

Pages in Ballad are pages of few words, literally. Widening from “The school, the road, home,” to labyrinths and sandstorms, Ballad’s cursive stencil fires the imagination in staccato. The dance. The triumph. The decision. The typography is often slippery, flipping upside down or disappearing in the darkness, leaving it up to the reader to find their way back.

The rhythms, the mystery, the questions.

Ballad begs to be read out loud–sometimes thrilling, sometimes tongue-in-cheek, always surprising, each turn of the page brings a few more words and a few more questions. Can the stranger in yellow find his way in the darkness? What happened to the queen? And what’s up with the elf in the birdcage? In the end, everyone should be able to find their way


July 31, 2014

Kid’s Corner: Building a Young Adult Library Collection

Filed under: Info — Tags: , , , — jennytf @ 9:43 am

Young Couple Sitting with a Pile of Books

Young adult literature has exploded in popularity over the past few years. With some of these books becoming pop culture movie events like “Twilight” and “The Hunger Games“, the hunt is on for the “next big thing”. This has led to trends overtaking young adult fiction as we swing from paranormal vampire romance to dystopian adventure to teens with challenging illnesses. Because of this new popularity, more YA books are being published than ever before. So how do I decide which ones to buy for the library, knowing that we can’t purchase everything?

The first step is to listen to our teens. We have a teen library council that meets once a month and one of their tasks is to let us know what they are reading and enjoying. Some of these teens record a book discussion about new books they have read. I will frequently buy books that they recommend.

Next, I read review magazines like VOYA and School Library Journal. VOYA is full of great book suggestions and program ideas for libraries. They have a unique rating system that considers quality and teen interest. If a book gets a 5 in both categories, it’s a guaranteed purchase.

One of my favorite websites for info on teen books is Teen Reads. This site covers most of the new books published each month in a concise way that gets input from teens as well. Other book blogs that are worth following are Bookshelves of Doom and The Hub. Diversity in YA is another great website, and although it’s infrequently updated, it’s still a great place to find books featuring teens of diverse backgrounds.

Amazon, Good Reads, Indie Bound and YA Lit are also useful websites. I’m also on the lookout for special interest titles that fit our community well. Interesting and unique nonfiction especially those dealing with science experiments, lego mindstorms, or any college prep books are welcome additions in our teen nonfiction section. Graphic novels are also a very popular genre and I rely on No Flying No Tights and Previews for information on the latest comics.

We also buy multiple copies of the OBOB titles every year and we’ve even started carrying Kindles with YA titles on them, with one dedicated to titles that aren’t in print (also known as e-originals).

Do you have a favorite YA book that’s not in our current collection? We encourage purchase requests. Just check the WCCLS catalog to see if we have the books first. Want some reading suggestions for your teen? Check out our teen booklist page.


July 30, 2014

Inside Scoop: Book to Film to Audio Book

Filed under: Info — klsseong @ 11:15 am



I love Jeffrey Eugenides’ works from the Pulitzer winning Middlesex to the most recent The Marriage Plot.  His characters are complex and their angst heart-felt, I find myself so easily immersed in the story.  His 1993 mega hit The Virgin Suicides was made into a film by Sofia Coppola.  Because I watched the film before listening to it as an audio book, I cannot help remembering certain memorable scenes from the film even though many years have passed.  Though I usually find it difficult to stay focused when listening to a fiction on audio, the reader’s voice really captures the overtone of the story.  I recommend all three manifestations of The Virgin Suicides.


July 29, 2014

Blurbs From the Branch: Books Based on the Odyssey

Filed under: Blurbs from the Branch, Books — Tags: , , , , — Becca B @ 8:00 am

odysseyHomer’s epic poem, The Odyssey, is one of the most important pieces of literature in the world. The tale of Odysseus’ 10-year journey home from the Trojan War has an incredibly strong presence in our culture. It’s referred to in thousands of books, poems, movies, songs, paintings, etc., and, obviously, the word “odyssey” is part of our everyday language. Way to go, Homer! Here’s a list of some books—and one movie—that are based on The Odyssey.

Love in the Time of Global Warming, by Francesca Lia Block – This book for teens retells the story of The Odyssey, only this time it’s set in post-apocalyptic L.A., and it’s Penelope who has all the adventures. As she tries to find her family, she blinds a Cyclops, encounters sirens, temporarily becomes a lotus eater of sorts, and falls in love. This book is beautifully written and hard to put down.

O Brother, Where Art Thou? – Ok. I seriously love this movie. This is the movie that made me realize that George Clooney is actually a pretty good actor. Plus, I love just about everything the Coen brothers have done. Loosely based on The Odyssey, this movie is about Ulysses Everett McGill who escapes from a chain gang with two other prisoners in order to find a great treasure buried in a valley that’s due to be flooded for hydroelectric power. This movie comes complete with sirens, a Cyclops (John Goodman), a blind oracle, and men being turned into animals (maybe). Very funny stuff.

The Penelopiad, by Margaret Atwood – This version of Homer’s tale is told from the point of view of Penelope, Odysseus’ wife, along with chorus chapters sung by her 12 maids; the very maids that Odysseus ordered to be hanged when he finally returned home. Penelope recounts her life from the underworld, a few thousand years after her death. We get to hear her version of what is actually happening with her treacherous maids, all her suitors, her son, and the shroud she weaves by day, and unravels by night. We also learn how she truly feels about her cousin, Helen of Troy, and that Odysseus’ heroic adventures might not be all they are cracked up to be.

Tales From the Odyssey, by Mary Pope Osborne – These books retell the Odyssey for a younger audience. Osborne, the author of the Magic Tree House books, does a great job including all the important details of Homer’s poem, while making it accessible for elementary school kids. This is a great way to introduce all the fun of Greek mythology to younger kids, without all the sex and gore.

Others excellent choices include Cold Mountain, by Charles Frazier – which was made into a movie in 2003 – and Ulysses, by James Joyce.



July 28, 2014

Books to Film – Summer Edition!

Filed under: Books to Film — Tags: , — lauradebacle @ 8:00 am

Check out these books that inspired popular summer movies:

If I StayIn theaters now:

A Most Wanted Man by John le Carré – A half-starved young Russian man claiming to be a devout Muslim, an idealistic young German civil rights lawyer, and a sixty-year-old scion of a failing British bank based in Hamburg form an unlikely alliance as the rival spies of Germany, England and America scent a sure kill in the “War on Terror,” and converge upon the innocents.

Edge of Tomorrow, based on All You Need is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka – Keiji Kiriya is killed in battle, only to wake up the day before the fight.  This loop repeats again and again as Keiji tries to change his fate. This Japanese science fiction novel also has a manga adaptation.

Coming to theaters soon:

The Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard Morais – The story of Hassan Haji, a boy from Mumbai, who ends up opening a restaurant in a quiet French village thus triggering a culinary war with the fancy haute cuisine place opposite.

The Giver by Lois Lowry – Given his lifetime assignment at the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas becomes the receiver of memories shared by only one other in his community and discovers the terrible truth about the society in which he lives.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman – While in a coma following an automobile accident that killed her parents and younger brother, seventeen-year-old Mia, a gifted cellist, weighs whether to live with her grief or join her family in death.

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn – Libby Day was seven when her mother and two sisters were murdered. She escaped and survived to later testify that her 15-year-old brother Ben was the killer. Twenty-five years later she is contacted by “The Kill Club” and pumped for information they hope to use to free Ben. Libby hatches a plan to profit from her tragic past but ends up being chased by a killer.

This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper – Siblings who spend more time quarreling than together reluctantly agree to their dying father’s request: to spend the seven days following the funeral together in the same house. Like a family.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner – Sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up with no memory in the middle of a maze and realizes he must work with the community in which he finds himself if he is to escape.

July 25, 2014

Checking In: The 50 Year Old Chocolate Factory (Win a Roald Dahl Prize Pack!)

Place a hold!When I was a kid, I devoured Roald Dahl’s books. I started small, with Danny, the Champion of the World and Esio Trot, graduating to his chapter books for children as I grew older, and today I still love reading his short stories for adults. There is a quality to his writing – an ability to blend ordinary circumstances with extraordinary ones, and a willingness to skirt the fine line between absurd and horrifying – that I’ve not quite found in any other author before or since. His words are always a pleasure to read, whether it is a genuine pleasure or a bit of a twisted one.

And this year is a special one for Roald Dahl lovers… it is the 50th anniversary of the release of perhaps his most famous novel:

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory! Beloved by kids and adults everywhere, and the basis for not one, but TWO Hollywood feature films, it’s a delight to see his work still so popular after five whole decades.

Many of you have probably read this book- maybe you even know some of the songs from the older film, starring Gene Wilder. Some of you may like the earlier film better, and some of you may love the later version, with Johnny Depp. Some of you (like Roald Dahl himself) may wish that a film had never been made – you folks are free to ignore any of the movie links in this post!

In celebration of this terrific novel’s anniversary, I thought I would bring your attention to some of Roald Dahl’s work beyond Charlie. Therefore, I have here a selection of some of Dahl’s other works of varying age and audience- some of it, you will certainly know. Some of it, you may not! Read on!

Place a hold!Matilda (1988)

When a young girl named Matilda learns that she has mysterious, magical powers, she finds a whole world of possibilities opening up in front of her. Finding an ally in her kind and generous teacher, Miss Honey, Matilda takes on her parents as well as her school’s awful headmaster, Mrs. Trunchbull, and manages to improve a good few lives- including her own!

Place a hold!Kiss, Kiss (1960)

It’s well known that Roald Dahl was an author for children, but as good as his novels for the younger folk are, his fiction for adults may be even better. Drawing on the same sharp wit and turns of phrase that make James and the Giant Peach (also a film, by the way) and The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar so delightfully addictive, Dahl applies his talent to these more mature stories and subjects to the most tantalizing effect. In “The Landlady,” you are asked to wonder what makes it so hard for an old woman’s guests to leave. In “William and Mary,” a scientist helps William carry on with life after death in a strange and interesting way, and Mary decides she rather likes the idea. “Royal Jelly” is about the poorly-devised experimentations of a beekeeper, and the far-reaching consequences. You’ll come away from the collection feeling like you’ve just read a weird and wonderful cross between Ray Carver and Vincent Price, and in the very best of ways.

Place a hold!The BFG (1982)

A classic, and a prime example of how Dahl can take a normally barbaric subject and turn it into a completely delightful kids’ novel. This time, a girl named Sophie is kidnapped by a Giant- but not just any old giant, but the Big Friendly Giant! Unfortunately, the dream-catching BFG is the only nice one of the bunch, and the rest of them are named things like “Bone Cruncher” and “Child Chewer.” However, with enough snozzcumbers, and some help from the Queen of England, the partnership between Sophie and the BFG proves to be too much for the other nasty giants, and by the end the world is a much safer place for children everywhere.

Place a hold!Boy: Tales of Childhood (1984)

This, the first part of Dahl’s autobiography, chronicles his life through age twenty, with a particular focus on his schooling. You’ll learn about his love of sweets and candy, the most horrible prank he ever pulled on anyone (The Great Mouse Plot of 1924) and the inevitable consequences, a later, equally ill-advised prank with equally inevitable consequences, the car accident which could have ended his life, but in the end only threatened the livelihood of his nose, and other various adventures at school and at home. As he reaches age twenty, he gets his first real job (for Shell oil company) and the book ends, to be continued in…

Place a hold!Going Solo (1986)

Dahl’s employment with Shell Oil took him to Africa, where a large portion of this book takes place. He writes at length about the strange people he encounters in this foreign land, remaining there until he found himself enlisting in the RAF as a pilot. From then on, he writes of his adventures as a pilot in Greece and Vichy France – some spectacular, some harrowing, and all worth reading.

Place a hold!Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970)

Now a well-received Wes Anderson film, Fantastic Mr. Fox follows its eponymous hero as he steals chickens, outwits farmers, and uses every bit of his wily, foxy brain to give woodland creatures a better life. It is one of Dahl’s earlier works, but already his themes of clumsy, nasty adults, karmic punishment of the greedy, as well as virtuosity, generosity and cleverness winning the day are already visible in full force, carried along from their major debuts in Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


Chocolate Factory Contest

In honor of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory‘s 50th anniversary, we invite you to go to our library’s Facebook page, and comment on our Roald Dahl post with your personal favorite Roald Dahl book. On July 31st, we will randomly select two commenters to win a Roald Dahl prize pack. If you’ve got a clear favorite, get to that page and leave a comment! And, if you haven’t read anything by Roald Dahl just yet, pick one of my suggestions from above and get reading!


July 24, 2014

Kid’s Corner: Existential Picture Books

Filed under: Info — Tags: , , — jennytf @ 10:46 am






For kids who love to wonder who and how and why they are here, there are plenty of picture books that wonder the same thing. Existentialism is not just for academics at cocktail parties- kids can appreciate it, too. Lately, many of my favorite picture book authors have been dropping fascinating self-referential elements into their works. Some of them feature characters that address the reader directly (and expect a response), while others challenge the limits of the traditional picture book in creative, thought-provoking ways. Here’s a breakdown of some of my favorite books that are very much aware they are books and that they have readers!  -Jeanie


We Are In a Book! by Mo Willems: Perhaps the most successful example of existentialism for children can be found in this installment of the ever-popular Elephant & Piggie empire. Just think of how many times the word “banana” has been read out loud!

Open Very Carefully: A Book with Bite by Nicola O’Byrne: This one features a crocodile who starts eating all the letters!

I Love Going Through This Book by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Dan Yaccarino: A little boy and his animal friends lead the reader on a rhyming adventure full of existential wonder.

The Pencil by Allan Ahlberg and Bruce Ingman: Once the sad, lonely pencil begins to draw, it unleashed the power to create! Things get colorful when the pencil draws a paintbrush (named Kitty), but what happens when the pencil draws an eraser and it starts rubbing everything out?

Can You Make a Scary Face? by Jan Thomas: Any book that begins with a giant ladybug saying “Hey, you! Yes I’m talking to you! Stand up!” is very much aware of its audience. Featuring tickly bugs, chicken dancing, and a giant frog, this book (and others by Jan Thomas) is a sure crowd pleaser we librarians share frequently at storytime!

Do Not Open This Book! by Michaela Muntean: Those who disobey the title are in for a journey into the creative process of a frazzled pig, who is suffering from mild writer’s block and will try anything to get the reader to stop turning the pages. Don’t do it–this book is a silly self-referential goldmine!

The Little Mouse, the Red Ripe Strawberry, and the Big Hungry Bear by Don and Audrey Wood: In this timeless classic, the reader plays an important role in a narrative that involves repeating ominous bear-related warnings and pretending to eat half a strawberry to save the day!

A Book! by Mordicai Gerstein: Loaded with fun literary references and genre explorations, this book follows a little girl on a quest to find her story. Inspiring for all the young writers out there!

No Laughing, No Smiling, No Giggling by James Stevenson: When Mr. Frimdimpny the croc asks “What happens if you laugh or smile or giggle?” Freddy Fafnaffer the pig replies “You have to go back to the front of the book!” Don’t do it- you may never get there, and you’ll miss out on a chance to tickle the croc’s tail and make him laugh, smile and giggle!

Wolves by Emily Gravett: British author Gravett is an existential champ. This cautionary tale featuring a brave rabbit who takes its chances opening up a book (within the book) about wolves. The rabbit’s (implied) demise is immediately appeased by an alternate ending “for sensitive readers” featuring a vegetarian wolf.

Tickle the Duck by Ethan Long: Perfect for younger existentialists who just want to disobey the duck’s “DON”T YOU DARE!” warning and tickle him.

The Three Pigs by David Wiesner: This Caldecott winner turns the tale of The Three Pigs on its tail!

Cat Secrets by Jeff Czekaj: Humans may be tempted to open a book that proclaims it’s for “cats only”! But if they do, they must be prepared to prove they are cats by meowing, purring, stretching, and taking cat naps!





July 23, 2014

Inside Scoop: To Light A Fire

A few days ago I was searching for some book quotes for a little project that I was doing. It prompted me to consider how writers contribute to our sense of the world and our place in it. Good books inspire, engage, educate and change lives. Here are some writers’ quotes and the great books they have written – which are now available in many formats and languages. — Nancy

“A book, too, can be a star, a living fire to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe.”Madeleine L’Engle

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.” — Victor Hugo

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”Henry David Thoreau

“When I look back, I am so impressed again with the life-giving power of literature. If I were a young person today, trying to gain a sense of myself in the world, I would do that again by reading, just as I did when I was young.”Maya Angelou

“Picking five favorite books is like picking the five body parts you’d most like not to lose.” Neil Gaiman

“Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.” Lemony Snicket

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July 22, 2014

Blurbs From the Branch: For Fans of Downton Abbey

downton abbeyI am a huge fan of period dramas and I was pleasantly surprised when Downton Abbey became the most successful PBS drama of all time. Not all period dramas are equally as good, however. Here are a few that have been my favorites over the years, as good, or even better than, Downton Abbey:

The Forsyte Saga:  This six part miniseries is based on the first two books of a trilogy by English author John Galsworthy. I think this is the best period drama that I’ve seen. The series follows the Forsyte family over thirty years, mainly two cousins, Soames Forstye and Jolyon Forstye. Soames Forsyte is tragically obsessed with Irene Herron. He is uptight and rigid, while his artist cousin, Jolyon, is easygoing and free-spirited. Damian Lewis, the ginger haired actor who also appeared in Band of Brothers and Homeland, is extremely excellent in this series. His portrayal of Soames Forsyte is not to be missed.

Little Dorrit: This series is based on a series of writings by Charles Dickens. The protagonist is Amy Dorrit, who lives and has grown up in a debtors’ prison with her father, Arthur Dorrit. The family circumstances change, throwing Amy’s life in upheaval. Amy Dorrit is the kind of character you will find yourself rooting for, a deserving heroine you will end up caring about. The comic villain in this piece is played by Andy Serkis, who voiced Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Wives and Daughters: This series is based on a serial written by Elizabeth Gaskell, who died before it was finished. Andrew Davies, a frequent Masterpiece Theatre writer, finished the story in what he hoped was the ending Elizabeth Gaskell intended. This story is centered on Molly Gibson, the daughter of a country doctor. Her father remarries, and Molly gains a stepmother and a stepsister. Although it’s not quite a Cinderella story, you hope that Molly gets her fairytale ending. There are also excellent performances in this show, including Michael Gambon, the second actor to play Dumbldore in the Harry Potter movies!


- Maura

July 21, 2014

Off the Shelf: Commencements on the printed page

patchettIf you’ve attended a graduation ceremony this year it was probably recent enough you still remember it. Maybe you even remember the commencement speech. Or maybe you’ve blocked it out. Maybe you were thinking about lunch or how dang hot it was during that speech. Personally, I find graduation ceremonies unbearable, tedious, mind-numbingly boring, so much so that I skipped my own college graduation ceremony. So it was a bit of a surprise when I recently read a book based on a commencement speech and then started looking for more.

First I read, “What Now?” by Ann Patchett, based on her address to Sarah Lawrence College in 2006. She says, “Writing a novel and living a life are very much the same thing. The secret is finding the balance between going out to get what you want and being open to the thing that actually winds up coming your way.”

Then I read “This is Water” based on the 2005 speech to Kenyon College by David Foster Wallace. He said, “The really important kind of freedom involves attention, and awareness, and discipline, and effort, and being able truly to care about other people and to sacrifice for them, over and over, in myriad petty little unsexy ways, every day. That is real freedom.”

After that it was “Make Good Art” created from Neil Gaiman’s address at Philadelphia’s University of Arts in 2012. He said, “Sometimes the way to do what you hope to do will be clear cut, and sometimes it will be almost impossible to decide whether or not you are doing the correct thing, because you’ll have to balance your goals and hopes with feeding yourself, paying debts, finding work, settling for what you can get.”

Next I’ll read, “If this isn’t nice, what is? Advice to the Young: The Graduation Speeches” by Kurt Vonnegut. I don’t know what the speaker at my graduation said, but I’m guessing they probably had some good advice. I’m guessing if I had been willing to sit out in the sun, listening to a bunch of names be called out, I may have received a little morsel of knowledge and it probably would have been worth it. Thankfully, apparently, some of the great speeches get made into books, which I can read long after I’ve graduated, in the comfort of my own home.

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