Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead

Liar and Spy

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

When Rebecca Stead gave us When You Reach Me a couple of years ago, I thought she’d reached her pinnacle. Who knew she had in her another great middle grade story? Liar & Spy is that story.   Little did Georges (the “s” is silent) know, when he got involved in the Spy Club, what an experience it would be.  He meets self-directedhome-schooled Safer, his sister, Candy, and brother Pigeon (all self-named) and spends serious amounts of his non-school time involved in stalking the notorious (according to Safer) Mr. X.  Before long, though, Safer demands more and more of Georges’ time and bravery, and Georges feels Safer’s losing his grip on reality and taking him down, too.  This is a wonderful book by a talented writer.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC STEAD)

GR Level N, Grades 3 and up

Pete Seeger: The Storm King (Stories, Narratives, Poems)

Pete Seeger Storm King

Reviewed by Terry Zignego (Library Staff)

For a something unique, try this collection of stories, music and autobiographical information narrated by the recently deceased Pete Seeger. I didn’t know much about Pete Seeger and this CD provided a slice of his life including mention of Woody Guthrie, Martin Luther King Jr & other famous persons. The music varied from bluegrass to jazz to folk. I didn’t like all of the music, but enjoyed all of Seeger’s stories. 2.5 hours of listening pleasure.

Located in Adult Audiobooks (CDBOOK 782.426 SEE)

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

One Only Ivan

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

Last year’s Newbery Winner, The One and Only Ivan is the story of Ivan, a gorilla, Bob, a dog, and Stella, an aging elephant who reside at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, in cages (well, except for Bob.)  Life is pretty boring for the three, and Ivan spends much of his time remembering his life before capture, thinking about what he’s watched on TV, and his art.  Ivan’s crayon drawings are sold in the mall’s gift shop, and he spends time thinking about how to produce on paper the smell of a mango, that is, when he’s not eating his crayons.  Then, the mall acquires a young elephant, Ruby, and Stella, Bob, and Ivan decide their mission is now to make sure Ruby’s life isn’t spent at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall.   This story, based partly on a 1993 New York Times article the author read about the elephant housed at the B&I Shopping Mall in Tacoma, Washington.  Applegate, formerly known mostly for her Animorphs series, has penned a winner with this touching tale.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC APPLEGATE)

GR Level M, Grades 3 and up

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce

Unlikely Pilgrimage

Reviewed by Terry Zignego (Library Staff)

I’ve wanted to read this book since it was published in 2012 and I’m so glad I did! An ordinary man, recently retired, Harold Fry receives a letter from Queenie, a woman he hasn’t seen in 20 years. Queenie is in hospice, dying of cancer. Harold composes a “limp” reply , but rather than mailing his note, Harold abruptly decides that if he walks to deliver his note personally, Queenie will continue to live. So starts his quest of over 500 miles. As Harold walks he reflects on his supposed failure as a husband, father & friend. This is a story of transformation & hope. Highly recommended.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC JOYCE)

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Three Times Lucky

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

New sixth-grader, Mo LoBeau has plans for the summer which include hanging out with her best friend, Dale Earnhardt III and his dog, Queen Elizabeth II.  Those plans do not include a murder and its ensuing investigation by Detective Joe Starr, a hurricane, a bank robbery, or the unexpected disappearances by the two people she loves most in the world, the Colonel and Miss Lana.  Mo’s plan was to continue to send messages in bottles to her long-missing Upstream Mother (who somehow misplaced baby Mo near a raging storm-fueled stream 11 years ago.)  When Dale is the number one suspect in the murder of cantankerous Mr. Jesse, Mo decides it’s time to take the investigation into he own hands.  The characters in Tupelo Landing are all wonderful, but Mo stands out as a smart, clever, brave and true heroine of our time.  I listened to this one, beautifully read by the late Michal Friedman whose voice is pure Mo.

Located in Children’s Fiction (J FIC TURNAGE) and in Children’s Audiobooks (J CDBOOK TURNAGE)

GR Level N, Grades 3 – 5

The Straight Story (1999)

Straight Story

Reviewed by Jennifer Rude Klett (Library Staff)

“The Straight Story” easily makes my top ten movie list; I simply have to watch it every fall. Based on a true story about an elderly man on a mission, this touching and beautifully photographed movie with a Wisconsin connection has it all with moving performances by Richard Farnsworth (nominated for an Academy Award) and Sissy Spacek. The music soundtrack is exceptional. It will make you cry and it will make you laugh (I love the scene in the hardware store). This movie may not be well known or new (released in 1999), but it is one of my personal classics and appropriate for the whole family, rated G.

Located in Adult DVDs (DVD STRAIGHT STORY)


Stellar Picture Book Roundup

Reviewed by Jane Oliver-Purton (Library Staff)

Boy BotBoy + Bot by Amy Dyckman, Illustrated by Dan Yaccarino.
When Boy’s robot friend gets switched off, Boy thinks he’s sick, and Bot thinks something’s gone horribly wrong with Boy when he falls asleep. A sweet story of friendship. (E YACCARINO)

InsomniacsThe Insomniacs by Karina Wolf, Illustrated by The Brothers Hilts (Ben and Sean.) When Mrs. Insomniac takes a new job twelve time zones away, the entire family has trouble adjusting to their new time zone.  They decide to turn their days upside down, and find being awake only at night has it’s benefits, not the least of which is  Mika attending night school, remotely. (E WOLF)

Maudie BearMaudie and Bear by (the late) Jan Omerod, Illustrated by Freya Blackwood.
Maudie has a lovely little bear on wheels, but to her he is a very large real bear, who is endlessly patient with her and her demands.  5 small stories comprise this picture book, and each is a delight to read. (E OMEROD)

This MooseThis Moose Belongs to Me, Written and Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers.
Wilfred owned a moose.  Marcel was a great friend even though he often forgot to abide by Wilfred’s 73 or so rules.  When an old lady claims Marcel is actually her moose, Rodrigo, Wilfred is beside himself, but things all work out when Marcel remembers Rule #73: “Rescuing your owner from perilous situations.” (E JEFFERS)

UnspokenUnspoken: A Story from the Underground Railroad, (a wordless book) by Henry Cole.
The risks in this entwined story of a young farm girl and a runaway slave are very apparent, as we see her growing understanding of of the necessity to do what is right. (E COLE)

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Signature of All Things

Reviewed by Terry Zignego (Library Staff)

Last week, I had only one book on my mind…The Signature of All Things. I couldn’t wait to pick it up and return to the life of Alma Whittaker. Her story is told with sumptuous historical detail. Born into the wealthiest family in Philadelphia, she enjoys a classical education of Greek, Latin, math & science. She becomes a botanist & later in life delves into evolutionary theory. A fascinating historical context & magnificent characterizations combine to create a fulfilling reading experience. Highly recommended!

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC GILBERT). Also available as a Playaway!

Written In My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon


Reviewed by Katy Zignego (Library Staff)

Written In My Own Heart’s Blood is the eighth installment in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series, which she began way back in 1991. I fell in love with the series when I found a copy of Outlander at a used book sale about ten years ago, and I have awaited each new book with ever-decreasing excitement since then. The original concept was good, and I enjoyed the main characters (Jamie and Claire, for all you non-Outlanders), but the plot jumped the shark about three books ago. I actually slammed this one shut and yelled, “REALLY??” at the empty living room when Claire started meeting not only historical personages but fictional characters FROM OTHER PEOPLE’S BOOKS. I can suspend my disbelief well enough to buy her hanging out with George Washington, but Natty Bumppo is just too much.

So I should really quit reading this series. But I can’t. The problem is twofold. First, I have invested dozens of hours and thousands of pages (about 5000, by my count) in this saga. If I give up now, I would feel like all that effort was for naught. I’m not a quitter, gosh darn it! But I also feel I owe it to Jamie and Claire to stick with them to the end. They’re like old friends—we don’t have much in common anymore, but we have too much history together to drift apart now. Since Written In My Own Heart’s Blood ends with the door wide open for another installment, I guess I’ll be reading Outlander #9 one of these days.

Located in Adult Fiction (FIC GABALDON)