04 March, 2015

Sing in the morning, cry at night by Barbara J. Taylor [Monica, Orewa Library]

Sing in the morning, cry at night is set in an anthracite mining community in America in 1913. The harsh realities of mining in freezing temperatures with no legal protection of minors at work or any other sort of health and safety regulations are brought home by the thorough research that the author has done. The overall tone of the book is tragic, and the relief offered by several of the characters is all the more hilarious for its contrast. This story is a well-spun web of despair, tragedy, hardship and hope, in a harsh setting where immigrants from Wales, Poland and Lithuania (amongst others) have arrived to what they believed would be a better life.

With their various languages and culture come different religions, and a large part of the story is given over to Christianity in all its forms. The true meaning of the word “Christian” is debated in a study of certain characters’ words and deeds leading up to the arrival of a famous evangelist who is to hold a revival in the town.

Title: Sing in the morning, cry at night 
Author: Barbara J. Taylor
Published: 2015
Publisher: Akashic Books
ISBN: 9781617752278

A sudden light by Garth Stein [Kathy, Collections Development]

When 14-year-old Trevor’s parents agree to a trial separation, his mother returns to her British birthplace and his father takes Trevor to his family estate near Seattle. Trevor is fascinated by the house and its secrets and spends his summer exploring the estate and bonding with his grandfather, while his father and aunt try to persuade the old man to sell the land to developers. Visits from a supernatural being and the discovery of an old diary make Trevor keen to find out the hidden stories of his family.

Narrated by Trevor looking back as an adult, this is a haunting tale of relationships between fathers and sons spanning several generations of a Seattle family. Stein's writing is beautifully descriptive and atmospheric and he introduces quite unusual characters. I liked the way the view was from that of a young boy who was not afraid to question the past and was curious about everything around him, and the subtle comments on progress and how we treat the environment.
A passage that resonated with me observed the way we make our surroundings overly safe for children and elders ‘they didn’t realise they were raising a generation of children who could only walk on level ground. The pathfinders of the world, henceforth, would be confined to the pre-paved paths’

This title is available in print, and as an Overdrive e-book.

Title: A sudden light: a novel
Author: Garth Stein
ISBN: 9781439187036
Published: 2014
Publisher: Simon and Schuster

03 March, 2015

Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O'Brien [Leonie L, Whangaparaoa Library]

It is a real joy to revisit books you loved when you were a child, and an even greater joy to discover that they are not just as good as you remember, but even better. That's how I felt on rereading this classic story and the 1972 winner of the Newbery Medal for children's literature.

The rats of the title live under a rosebush on a farm and to all the surrounding woodland creatures they are mysterious and dangerous. You didn't mess with the rats. So imagine Mrs Frisby's surprise when she seeks advice for a potentially life-threatening problem and the two wisest people she knows advise her to speak to the rats.

The writing in this book is the clear winner as it immediately draws you in and the characters become your closest friends from the very first page. There is adventure, action and cunning throughout the book to keep even the most fidgety of youngsters thoroughly entertained, and the story of how the rats of Nimh came to be living on the farm and the connection between them and the Frisby family is a great tale within the tale.

This book will appeal to both girls and boys, is extremely well-written, and the Newbery Medal was very well-deserved.

Title: Mrs Frisby and the Rats of Nimh
Author: Robert C. O'Brien
Published: 1971
Publisher: Aladdin Books
ISBN: 9780689710681
Target age group: 8 - 13 yrs

The Public Library - A photographic essay by Robert Dawson [Ana, Central Library]

I saw this book with photos of libraries and decided to take it home to peruse it in my own time. I was glad I did. The book is interesting not only for its photographs but for the stories.

The book includes great photographs of libraries from all over America - some small, some quirky, and some grandiose. We see the classical grandness of Carnegie West Branch Library in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Central Library in Milwaukee with its dome and columns.  At the other extreme, we are introduced to Rudy’s Library in Monowi,  Nebraska, with a staff of one.  It is run by a woman called Elsie Eiler, who, when her husband Rudy died, decided to open Rudy’s Library - it is just a shed but holds 5,000 volumes.  Another community based library is the Richard F. Boi Memorial Library, the First Little Free Library in Hudson, Wisconsin. The photographs  illustrate the library as a wooden container on a post on Todd Boi’s lawn. It looks like a mailbox but is glass through which you can see the books. A key hangs beside it with the  sign “Little Free Library”.

The book has chapters on Art and Architecture, Evolving Libraries, Literature and Learning, Economics, The American Public Library and ‘Civic Memory and Identity’, with letters by famous authors with comment on what libraries mean to them. It includes  a great chapter titled “How Mr Dewey Decimal Saved My Life” by Barbara Kingsolver. She describes herself as a skinny, grumpy and not very popular girl who made up shocking stories about her home life in order to gain attention. She recalls how the school  librarian, Miss Richey, saved her from herself, when she put her on a project of cataloging and shelving the books in the library! She complained that she didn’t see any point in organizing books that nobody ever looked at, but Miss Richey just smiled. Barbara recalls the process  helped her  to make book loving discoveries of titles such as Gone with the Wind, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe.

Between the images and the stories, there really is something for everyone in this book.

Title: The Public Library - a photographic essay
Author: Robert Dawson
ISBN: 9781616892173
Publisher: Princeton Architectural Press, New York
Date: 2014

02 March, 2015

Poisoned Apples by Christine Heppermann [Sue W Central City ]

We all know our favourite fairy tales are steeped in myth and symbolism. Some say the plots of most narratives can be unravelled to trace their threads to the primordial tales of old. So Christine Hepperman picks up this idea and runs with it, bringing those tales of old into contemporary times.

These modern-day Cinderellas and red-hooded girls face their arch nemeses and engage in battle. Evil incarnate might be a particular cultural cliche that shoots poisoned arrows at those trying to infiltrate its ranks, or it might be a battle against their own psyche.

This is the sort of book to gift to females of any age, an allegorical instruction manual for adolescence on how navigate the treacheries of modern life. Consider it a contemporary handbook for surviving modern warfare.

Title: Poisoned Apples
Author: Christine Heppermann
ISBN: 9780062289575
Publisher: Harper Collins, New York
Date: 2014