say goodbye to the cuckooThe return of migrant birds from their wintering grounds in the tropics is one of the delights of America’s spring, as anyone will testify whose heart has leapt in April or May at the first liquid song of the woodthrush, or the first black-and-orange flash of the Baltimore oriole. But in recent years concern has grown that migrant birds may be declining, perhaps because of deforestation at their winter quarters in the Caribbean and in Central and South America.

In Say Goodbye to the Cuckoo, Michael McCarthy highlights for the first time the disappearance of these birds which, he points out, are a part of Europe’s distinctive cultural furniture, “as much as cathedrals, Latin, olive oil, or wine.” He shows how their loss would do devastating damage to the cultural inheritance of us all. (description from publisher)

online colorHello! How is your May Online Reading Challenge going? I have to admit, I’m dragging my feet a bit on this one. However, I’m nearly finished with my first title (I plan to read two this month) and I’m finding it……interesting. I found that, after my initial resistance, I kind of got on a roll. It won’t be difficult to finish!

If you’re still looking for some recommendations, here are a few more from Allison, one of our Graphic Novel Experts!

In Real Life” by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang – A teenage gamer discovers the other side of MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing games) after making contact with Chinese gold miner (people paid to earn “gold” within the game) in the game. Questions of ethics in gaming, being a girl gamer and fantasy self vs. real self. Doctorow is a popular YA author.

Wandering Son by Shimura Takako – “Unflipped” manga, meaning it’s to be read back to front, and from top right to bottom left. The story of two pre-teens, a girl who wants to be a boy, and a boy who wants to be a girl, both within the strict cultural norms of Japanese society. I haven’t read the whole run, but once you get used to the reading style, it’s excellent.

ApocalyptiGirl: An Aria for the End Times by Andrew MacLean – It’s sooooooo goooooood!!! At the end of the world, Aria searches for an ancient lost relic. The twist is so great. Soooooo great!

Seconds by Ryan Lee O’Malley – Young chef Katie opens her second restaurant, only to have her restaurant and life turned upside down. But, she then finds a magical “do over” but it too, has its price. O’Malley is also the author of the “Scott Pilgrim” series, which is one that the hipsters love.

The Sculptor by Scott McCloud – A failing artists makes a deal with death, giving him the ability to sculpt anything he can imagine. But he only has 200 days to live and whoops! He falls in love. I wrote a review here: http://blogs.davenportlibrary.com/reference/the-sculptor-by-scott-mccloud/

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Kinsley – The daughter of a chef and gourmet tells her life story by way of the meals she’s made and eaten. V funny, esp if you are not a good cook!

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh. You’ve read this, right?! DO IT NOW! You will literally laugh you pants off! The stories about her dogs are the best – start with those!

There are also a few that I haven’t read, but my friends who know about comics have enjoyed.

Blankets by Craig Thompson

The Nao of Brown” by Glyn Dillon

Underwater Welder by Jeff Lemire

OK, I’m done now, I promise! 😉

Who has read something that they’d like to recommend? Or warn the rest of us off from? Are you struggling a bit with the illustrations – I am! Or have you found new authors or series that intrigue and engage you? Let us know in the comments!

online colorWelcome to the May edition of our Online Reading Challenge! This month we’re going to explore Graphic Novels!

Now, I have to admit. I hate Graphic Novels. There, I said it. I just don’t “get” them. I find the illustrations annoying – in my experience, they get in the way of the story and are often unattractive, chaotic and full of unnecessary clutter. I have also found many of the stories to be uninteresting to me – juvenile and cartoonish and deliberately offensive, plus the predominance of superheroes has not been a draw for me. Obviously, this month is really going to push me out of my comfort zone!

[Note: Is this a generational issue? I’m willing to admit that I’m no spring chicken and I didn’t grow up reading graphic novels. Do other middle aged adults feel the same way? Or is it just me?! What do you think?]

Obviously, I’m not the right person to recommend Graphic Novel titles. Fortunately, we have Graphic Novel experts (and fans) on staff. First up is Allison, who has some great advice getting started as well as a list of titles to try.

My advice for people just starting is to start with a character they like. So, if they’ve liked the Avengers movies, start with that (where to start is another answer). You don’t have to start at the start – comic books are infamous for reboots, ret-cons and general timeline goofiness. And it’s a very novel time for superhero shows with “Arrow,” “The Flash,” “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow,” “Agents of SHIELD,” etc.

And It’s not just about following the character, it’s also about following a particular author/artist. I personally follow Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Saga) Matt Fraction (“Hawkeye” Marvel Now!) G. Willow Wilson (“Ms. Marvel” Marvel Now!)

The same goes for non-superhero comics. Like “The Walking Dead?” It’s a comic! “Doctor Who”? Heck yes! It’s not always *the* best, but it can be a start. One caveat is that if you like the show “Lucifer”, the comic book it very lightly based on is waaaaayyyyy different. It’s also good, just waaaayyy different.

Here’s an off-the-top-of-my-head list of my recommendations. The juvenile & YA titles can be enjoyed by all ages. Some of the adult titles are TV-MA. I’ll note them in the lists. I would recommend all of those that I listed.

Juvenile/YA

  • Drama” & “Smile” by Raina Telgemeier. Growing up is hard to do.
  • Nimona” & “Lumberjanes” by Noelle Stevenson (seriously, you should try “Nimona,” it’s the BEST) . “Lumberjanes” is ongoing. “Nimona” is a fantasy-esque story, and “Lumberjanes” begins as a best friends at camp story.
  •  “Amulet” by Kazu Kibuishi. Action adventure, finding-your-destiny story. Beautifully drawn. Ongoing
  •  “The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” by Ryan North (also an author to follow). Ongoing Marvel characters, lighthearted.

 Adult

  • Ms. Marvel” by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona, Marvel Now!. A great title for teens, diverse cast, coming of age, etc. Series has ended
  • Strong Female Protagonist” by Brennan Lee Mulligan & Molly Ostertag. What happens when the masks come off? 
  • Rat Queens” by Kurtis Wiebe. Untraditional Dungeons and Dragons adventuring & sisterhood. Violence, sex, nudity. Series is on-going. I wrote a review of it: http://blogs.davenportlibrary.com/reference/rat-queens-vols-1-2/
  • Saga” by Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples. This comic had been widely acclaimed – a young family from opposing sides of an intergalactic war try to find safety and raise their daughter. There is violence, sex and nudity. Excellent title for adults. Series ongoing.
  • Sandman” by Neil Gaiman & Craig P. Russell. A member of the “comics cannon”. Excellent fantasy series.
  • Y: The Last Man” by Brian K. Vaughan & Pia Guerra. Another cannon comic, excellent end of the world story. Violence, sex and nudity.
  • Unwritten” by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. Really excellent story. Very literary / Harry Potter-esque. 
  • The Wicked + The Divine” by Kieron Gillen & Jaime McKelvie. “Every ninety years, twelve gods return as young people. They are loved. They are hated. In two years, they are all dead. It’s happening now. It’s happening again.” Really great concept, steeped in mythology. Also violent with sex & nudity.
  • Letter 44” by Charles Soule. Obama vs. aliens, basically. Very cool first-contact story, and political satire that can be a little too spot-on. Three volumes so far.
  • The Fuse” by Antony Johnston & Justin Greenwood. Scandinavian noir mysteries, in space! Two volumes so far.

Biographical/Literary

  • Here” by Richard McGuire. Very cool concept, was written up in the NYT Book Review. My review here: http://blogs.davenportlibrary.com/reference/here-by-richard-mcguire/
  • Persepolis” by Marjane Satrapi. Autobiography of a girl growing up in and out of Iran. Farmer’s Market, definitely.
  • Fun Home” & “Are You My Mother?” by Alison Bechdel. Coming of age as a gay woman, plus family dysfuction. “Fun Home” was made into a musical and won several Tonys. Sex & nudity.
  • Boxers & Saints” by Gene Luen Yang. A two-book series, one following a rural Chinese boy in the midst of the Boxer rebellion and the other following an unwanted daughter who finds acceptance with Christian missionaries as the rebellion unfolds.

Next up is Stephanie who not only willingly reads Graphic Novels, she also orders them for the library. Here’s her list.

Here’s a list of non-superhero graphic novels. Think of it as a list of graphic novels for people who think they won’t like graphic novels or for those who think all graphic novels are superheroes and spandex.

 Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley (anything by Lucy Knisley is fantastic)

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

The Fade Out by Ed Brubaker

March: Book One by John Lewis

The Arrival by Shaun Tan (this one is wordless and the art is amazing!)

Laika by Nick Abadzis

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki (this one is young adult, but it’s still good)

Blankets by Craig Thompson (this one gets a lot of love by reviewers, but it’s almost 600 pages long)

Habibi by Craig Thompson

The Sculptor by Scorr McCloud

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (young adult)

Boxers & Saints by Gene Yuen Lang (also young adult)

Whew! Lots to choose from! And there’s lots more to come – in a couple weeks I’ll list more of the titles that Allison and Stephanie gave me. In the meantime I’m going to read Nimona by Noelle Stevenson and Relish by Lucy Knisley, both of which have been enthusiastically recommended to me. Wish me luck!

What about you – what will you be reading this month?

Hello Fellow Readers! It’s hard to believe but it’s the end of April already – how did you do with this month’s Reading Challenge? For me, the hard part was picking which book to read – there are so many excellent books set during World War II. Did you find any gems that you’d like to share with us? Please let us know.

bookthief2I was planning on reading two books, but ended up having time for only one – The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. This is a pretty amazing book. It did take me awhile to learn the rhythm and pace of the book and to accept the narrator, but once I did, it was nearly impossible to stop reading.

Narrated by Death, The Book Thief follows the fortunes of a poor street in a suburb of Munich during the war, especially the story of Liesel Meminger. After her little brother dies and her mother abandons her to foster care, Liesel goes to live with the Hubermann’s. In their own wildly different ways, Hans and Rosa love Liesel and raise her as their own. As the war arrives and hardships mount, they hang on grimly, finding happiness in simple things such as music, a stolen apple and books.

One day Hans fulfills a promise and agrees to hide a young Jewish man in their basement. Max and Liesel become fast friends, sharing stories and bound by their shared pain and nightmares. When it becomes too dangerous and Max must leave, Liesel and the Hubermanns are devastated. The hardships mount – rationing, the growing presence of the Nazi’s and the carpet bombing of Munich and its neighboring towns. Huddled with neighbors in a basement during a bombing, Liesel reads aloud from one of her stolen books, bringing comfort and some calm to the frightened people.

Through it all, Death watches. His voice is wry and even humorous at times, and he is surprisingly compassionate, puzzled by the cruelty and moved by the agony he witnesses. His arrival often means the end of suffering and is welcomed. He narrates Liesel’s story lovingly, even gently – he is impressed by the young girl, not only her will to live, but to find happiness.

The choice of Death as narrator is especially interesting as is the fact that he’s presented as a sympathetic character. His ability to see across history and vast distances brings a unique perspective. His descriptions of gathering the soul’s of the dead and taking them to their eternal rest is often gentle and tender; he always carries the souls of children in his arms. The view of the war from the German home front is also interesting. There is no such thing as simple “good” or “evil” (with the exception of the Nazis) – they are like any human with complex, often conflicting emotions and actions, capable of great cruelty but also great kindness.

This is not a light and happy book, yet it is also not altogether a dark book. The sadness and suffering are very real, but hope for humanity remains. That there is some kindness and that there is an end to the suffering combine to create a book of lasting power. Highly recommended.

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May is nearly here – on Monday we’ll start on the next step on our year long Reading Challenge – graphic novels. Who’s with me?!

ReadingChallengeBWHello Fellow Readers!

How are you getting along with this month’s Reading Challenge? I haven’t gotten very far in my book (The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak) – spring happened (finally) and a lot of my time has been taken up by garden chores. However, I have some great opportunities coming up soon for time to read and look forward to getting caught up.

Have you found a great World War II book to read yet? Or are you still searching? There are so many good ones, maybe you’re having trouble picking just one! If you’re struggling – or just looking to read more World War II fiction, here are a few more suggestions.

The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. A long-lost letter arriving at its destination fifty years after it was sent lures Edie Burchill to crumbling Milderhurst Castle, home of the three elderly Blythe sisters, where Edie’s mother was sent to stay as a teenager during World War II.

The Race for Paris by Meg Clayton. A moving and powerfully dynamic World War II novel about two American journalists and an Englishman, who together race the Allies to OccupiedParis for the scoop of their lives.

China Dolls by Lisa See. A rich portrait of female friendship, as three young women navigate the “Chop Suey Circuit” – America’s extravagant all-Asian revues of the 1930s and ’40s – and endure the attack on Pearl Harbor and the shadow of World War II.

The Postmistress by Sarah Blake. In London covering the Blitz with Edward R. Murrow, Frankie Bard meets a Cape Cod doctor in a shelter and promises that she’ll deliver a letter for him when she finally returns to the United States.

Louise’s War by Sarah Shaber. Louise Pearlie has come to Washington DC to work as a clerk for the legendary OSS, the precursor to the CIA. When she discovers a document concerning a college friend, Louise realizes she may be able to help get her out of Vichy France. But then a colleague whose help Louise has enlisted is murdered, and she realizes she is on her own.

The Rising Tide by Jeff Shaara. As Hitler conquers Poland, Norway, France, and most of Western Europe, England struggles to hold the line. When Germany’s ally Japan launches a stunning attack on Pearl Harbor, America is drawn into the war, fighting to hold back the Japanese conquest of the Pacific, while standing side-by-side with their British ally, the last hope for turning the tide of the war. First of a trilogy.

Language of the Dead by Stephen Kelly. As the shadow of World War II descends over Europe, Detective Inspector Thomas Lamb hunts for an elusive killer behind the veil of a seemingly charming English village.

Pacific Glory by Peter Deutermann. A thrilling, multilayered World War II adventure following two men and an unforgettable woman, from Pearl Harbor through the most dramatic air and sea battles of the war.

Let us know what you’re reading! And good luck with the rest of your April Reading Challenge!

army

217th General Hospital posting in Swindon, England, 1944

Hello and welcome to the April Online Reading Challenge! This month’s theme is The Good War – World War II in Fiction. There are lots of amazing titles this month – it’s going to be hard to pick just one!

First off, no war is “good” – terrible things happen during every war. But World War II is sometimes called the “good” war because we (the Allies) were fighting true evil (the Nazis) and the only way to stop them was through force. On the surface, at least, it was a war fought for noble reasons. It’s also a war when ordinary people took on an extraordinary task, fought by a generation (the “greatest generation”) that faced this challenge with the same grim determination that got them through the Great Depression. It is a time period that has been romanticized, but we should always remember that there was great pain and suffering as well.

soldiers

Orderlies from the 217th General Hospital unit, Paris France 1945

World War II has long been one of the most popular subjects in the library, both in fiction and non-fiction. While many of the people who actually lived during that time period (1939-1945) are now gone, many of us have heard stories from our parents and grandparents, so it is still vivid in our memories.

There is no shortage of excellent books set during World War II; the problem is narrowing the list to manageable proportions! Here are a few of my favorites to get you started.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Set primarily in France and Germany, it moves between two main characters, one a blind French girl living in a small town along the Normandy coast, the other a young German soldier who is recruited into Hitler’s army as the lesser of two evils. These two very different lives are, with the imminent invasion of the Allies, about to intersect in unforeseen ways. I love this book – the beautiful, evocative writing, the examination and contrast of opposite sides, the almost unbearable suspense – come together to create a truly memorable experience.

City of Thieves by David Benioff. Most of the World War II fiction that we see is set in England, France or Germany (I don’t have scientific proof of this, just observation as a librarian) This novel brings focus to the home front in Russia, specifically the siege of Leningrad. A young man jailed for theft and an army officer convicted of deserting are given a choice – find a dozen eggs within the next week, or be executed. In a city where many have been reduced to cannibalism and many more have died of starvation, it is a nearly impossible choice. That these reluctant partners find kindness, friendship and even some joy, elevates this book above the usual war novel. Another excellent book set during this time is The Madonnas of Leningrad by Debra Dean, focusing on the docents and art historians of the Hermitage and their efforts to protect its priceless art.

Other books that shed light on forgotten or little known incidents of World War II include Sarah’s Key by Tiatiana de Rosnay which focuses on the deportment of Jews from Paris, Corelli’s Mandolin about the occupation of the Greek islands, first by the Italians and then by the Germans, and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer about Guernsey Island, the only part of England that was invaded by the Germans during the war. For a look at the war in the Pacific, try A Town Like Alice by Nevil Shute or Tales of the South Pacific by James Michner. For a look at a dark period of American history, try Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford, set during and after the internment of Japanese-Americans during the war.

arc

The Arc ‘d Triumph, Paris, France, May 8, 1945 (VE Day)

My choice for this month is The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. This has long been on my “to read someday” list. Narrated by Death, it is set in Germany at the start of the war and focuses on ordinary citizens trying to survive day by day. It sounds grim, but also hopeful (which I need!) as one of the main characters finds and shares books as a way of coping. If I have time I may try to read Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein which is about a young woman that has been shot down behind enemy lines. It comes highly recommended.

What about you – what book or books are you planning to read this month? Do you have any favorites set during World War II that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments! And if you haven’t already, don’t forget to stop by the library and pick up a Reading Challenge bookmark!

ReadingChallengeBW

The Davenport Public Library is pleased to announce that we have been chosen to participate in the testing for a new delivery system designed to get your books to you as quickly as possible! This system combines the best attributes of technology with good old-fashioned customer service and we believe it will revolutionize the library world – and yours as well!

In association with Drones R Us®, the library will now deliver your requested items via drone! After you have read and signed the Drones R Us® contract and personal liability waiver, your library account will be synced with their exclusive Drone Book Delivery System Interface. Then, when a book you have reserved becomes available for you, a Drones R Us® drone will be dispatched to your home with your book. Books will be packaged in pink hat boxes tied with a white satin ribbon and will be limited to no more than 4 items per delivery.

pinkhatboxIt’s easy to activate this free service! Simply access your library account (or stop at the Customer Service Desk at any Davenport Library location) and go to the “Contact Information and Preferences” section. Carefully read the Drones R Us® contract and personal liability waiver, confirm that the address listed is current and check the box labeled “Yes! Drone Delivery”. Then sit back and wait for the distinctive humming buzz of your next book arriving at your doorstep via the Drones R Us® drones!

The library does not accept any responsibility for misdirected items, broken windows, dented cars or head gashes that may result from a Drones R Us® drone delivery. Activate service at your own risk. 

 

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P.S. April Fools.

 

ReadingChallengeBWHere it is, the end of March and the finish of another month in our Online Reading Challenge. So, how’d you do? Did you read anything amazing? Or was this month just kind of “meh”?

My March book was The Night Circus by Erin Morganstern. This is a lovely, magical story with many layers and, at its heart, a love story.

A circus, consisting of multiple black and white striped tents, mysteriously appears in the night. It stays for a few days, performing only at night, delighting the locals with various fantastic and magical acts, then disappears again as if it never existed. There is no schedule for when or where it will appear again, but it draws a loyal following wherever it opens.

What most people don’t realize is that the circus is actually a stage for a duel being played out by two fierce competitors, each pitting one of their students against the other. The students, Celia and Marco, have been trained since childhood. The purpose of the duel is never explained to them nor is the fact that the duel is to the death until long after they have fallen in love with each other. What would you do to save the one you love? Would you sacrifice yourself? Or allow them to sacrifice themselves to save you? What would you do to spare the innocent people caught in this mad game, one you never asked to be a part of?

Beautifully written with a large supporting cast of unique and interesting characters, The Night Circus is by turns charming and fun, serious and suspenseful. I especially loved the stories of Poppet and Widget and their performing kittens, but there are many characters to love. The story jumps back and forth through time, and changes viewpoint multiple times which can make it difficult to keep track of what is happening, but also adds to the secretive and not-knowing-all-the-answers of the action. I recommend it highly, but be prepared for a sometimes wild ride!

So, what is your opinion of Magical Realism?  What is the appeal of magical realism in fiction? I think it has something to do with the fact that, no matter how sophisticated we become, or how much we tie ourselves to technology, there is a basic need for joy and delight and the unexpected. I think we also wish for the impossible sometimes, for an outcome that can only happen with the aid of something inexpiable.

Let me know in the comments what you thought of this month’s reading choices and any recommendations that you might have!

closedThe Davenport Public Library will be closed on Tuesday, March 29th so that staff may attend an all-day in-service. All of our buildings will reopen on Wednesday March 30th with their usual business hours – Main and Fairmount be open 9am to 5:30pm and Eastern Avenue will open noon to 8pm.

spring flowersThe Davenport Public Library will be closed on Friday, March 25 for the Good Friday holiday. All of our buildings will reopen on Saturday March 26 with their regular business hours, 9am to 5:30pm.

Have a safe and happy holiday!