Prepare for the spelling bee!

The Scripps National Spelling Bee takes place from May 28-30, 2024, near Washington, D.C. Our region’s representative at the competition this year is Partha Katreddy, of Bettendorf, a seventh-grader at Pleasant Valley Junior High School. Details about watching the spelling bee broadcast can be found at https://spellingbee.com/watch.

Brush up on your own spelling skills and the history of spelling bees with these items from Davenport Public Library’s collection.

Beeline : what spelling bees reveal about generation Z’s new path to success by Shalini Shankar (2019) – Generation Z — youth born after 1997 — seems to be made up of anxious overachievers, hounded by Tiger Moms and constantly tracked on social media. One would think that competitors in the National Spelling Bee would be the worst off. Shankar argues that, far from being simply overstressed and overscheduled, Gen Z spelling bee competitors are learning crucial twenty-first-century skills from their high-powered lives, displaying a sophisticated understanding of self-promotion, self-direction, and social mobility. She examines the outsize impact of immigrant parents and explains why Gen Z kids are on a path to success. — adapted from jacket

A Champion’s Guide to Success in Spelling Bees : fundamentals of spelling bee competition and preparation by Ned G. Andrews (2011) – Comprehensive yet concise, A Champion’s Guide to Success in Spelling Bees is essential for any spelling bee contestant, whether serious or casual, as well as for study assistants such as parents, teachers, and tutors. By following this guidebook’s tactics and strategies, you will use every available resource – including but not limited to your time on stage, your existing knowledge, other study materials, and the effort that you will invest throughout your preparation – as effectively and efficiently as possible. — provided by the publisher

Painless Spelling by Mary Elizabeth Podhaizer (2011) – Analyzes sound and letter patterns, diphthongs, silent letters, homophones and homographs, compound and abbreviated words, contractions, prefixes, suffixes, and base words to teach spelling skills. — provided by the publisher

Spellbound (2002) – The documentary Spellbound chronicles the 1999 spelling bee season. Eight teens and pre-teens, along with their teachers and parents, are followed through daily practice, regionals and finally the televised spelling bee. This is the documentary that made me fall in love with documentaries. While it’s an oldie, it’s a goody! It is available for streaming through Kanopy or on DVD in RiverShare.

Cyclopedia Exotica by Aminder Dhaliwal

Aminder Dhaliwal has created a comic detailing the day-to-day of the minority cyclops community within the two-eye majority in Cyclopedia Exotica. This graphic novel is so relatable and heart-breaking. These comics were originally published on the artist’s Instagram page. Her drawing style is cartoonish, yet realistic, reminding me of some of my favorite comics.

The characters in this book come from the cyclops community and are pictured doing daily life. Some are using dating apps, others have families, some have jobs, and others are trying to figure out their identity. The cyclops are an immigrant community with physical differences from the two-eyes majority. Microaggressions occur in doctor’s offices, public transportation, museums, and every other place they visit. Despite the hardships they face, they are all just trying to live normal lives. Coexisting is hard. Being ‘othered’ is hard. Trying to find yourself is hard.

This comic is witty and full of social and cultural critiques. Even though this graphic novel is fiction, it handles real issues faced by marginalized groups today. It’s full of thought-provoking ideas. Characters face xenophia, highlighting disability, sexuality, race, and gender issues that can easily transfer to real life. Dhaliwal outlines cyclops passing as two-eyes, fetishization of cylops, interracial relationships between cyclops and two-eyes, and representation/misrepresentation of cyclops in the media. Cyclops are used as a metaphor for these issues, but this content is relatable to anyone and everyone. They are dealing with their own unique struggles, but are trying to live their daily lives the best they can while dealing with intense hate. Additionally this graphic novel has a large cast of characters, but the artist makes them all individuals and gives them all their own intriguing storylines. Cyclopedia Exotica is thoroughly engaging and full of social commentary.

Social Work Spotlight: Prioritizing Your Mental Well-Being

PRIORITIZING YOUR MENTAL WELL-BEING

May is Mental Health Month, a time to raise awareness and promote the importance of mental health and well-being. Mental health is integral to our overall wellness, deserving as much attention as our physical health. Unfortunately, many misconceptions about mental health prevent people from seeking the help they need.

The reality is that mental health issues are widespread. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately one in five adults in the United States experiences mental illness annually. These issues span from anxiety, panic attacks, and depression to more severe conditions like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. The good news is that many effective treatments and self-care modalities can alleviate symptoms, and with proper support, individuals can and do recover.

Seeking help can feel daunting, often due to fears, shame, or misunderstandings surrounding mental health. However, it is essential to remember that you are not alone. Many resources are available to support your mental health journey, including professional help, therapy, support groups, and trusted loved ones.

Your primary care provider can be a valuable starting point in your mental health journey. They can offer guidance on whether a referral to a mental health specialist is necessary and provide that referral if needed. Additionally, local community mental health centers offer walk-in options that provide direct access to mental health professionals.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) organizes both in-person and virtual sessions to provide support for individuals and families dealing with mental health challenges. There are also local support groups available to help foster a sense of community and connection, providing a safe and supportive space for sharing experiences and emotions. Additionally, mental health hotlines are available for individuals who require immediate assistance and support.

In addition to seeking professional help, taking care of oneself is crucial for promoting mental well-being. Sleeping, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and practicing stress-reducing techniques like meditation or deep breathing can contribute to overall wellness.

Here are some suggestions for activities that individuals and families can engage in to prioritize self-care:

Remember, it’s okay to set boundaries and prioritize your well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, don’t hesitate to seek help. Reach out by calling or texting 988 for support.

Oprah’s Latest Book Club Pick: Long Island by Colm Tóibín

Join Simply Held to have certain celebrity book club picks automatically put on hold for you: Reese Witherspoon, Jenna Bush Hager, and Oprah Winfrey. While Reese and Jenna generally announce a new title each month, Oprah’s selections are more sporadic. She has announced her newest selection: Long Island by Colm Tóibín. Reminder that if you join Simply Held, you can choose to have these titles automatically put on hold for you.

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Oprah Winfrey has selected Long Island by Colm Tóibín.

Curious what Long Island is about? Check out the following description provided by the publisher.

From the beloved, critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling author comes a spectacularly moving and intense novel of secrecy, misunderstanding, and love, the story of Eilis Lacey, the complex and enigmatic heroine of Brooklyn, Tóibín’s most popular work twenty years later.

Eilis Lacey is Irish, married to Tony Fiorello, a plumber and one of four Italian American brothers, all of whom live in neighboring houses on a cul-de-sac in Lindenhurst, Long Island, with their wives and children and Tony’s parents, a huge extended family that lives and works, eats and plays together. It is the spring of 1976 and Eilis, now in her forties with two teenage children, has no one to rely on in this still-new country. Though her ties to Ireland remain stronger than those that hold her to her new land and home, she has not returned in decades.

One day, when Tony is at his job and Eilis is in her home office doing her accounting, an Irishman comes to the door asking for her by name. He tells her that his wife is pregnant with Tony’s child and that when the baby is born, he will not raise it but instead deposit it on Eilis’s doorstep. It is what Eilis does—and what she refuses to do—in response to this stunning news that makes Tóibín’s novel so riveting.

Long Island is about longings unfulfilled, even unrecognized. The silences in Eilis’ life are thunderous and dangerous, and there’s no one more deft than Tóibín at giving them language. This is a gorgeous story of a woman alone in a marriage and the deepest bonds she rekindles on her return to the place and people she left behind, to ways of living and loving she thought she’d lost. – Scribner

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Join Simply Held to have Oprah, Jenna, and Reese’s adult selections automatically put on hold for you!

May is Mystery Month!

One of my favorite months of the year is May, which is Mystery month!  With dozens and dozens of new releases out this spring, below are a few noteworthy releases.  As this is just a sampling, visit Reading Recommendations on the library’s website for many more mysteries.  This is the perfect time to check in with your favorite author and see if a new title is on the horizon.

Close to Death by Anthony HorowitzIn this novel, the fifth installment of the Hawthorne and Horowitz series, Detective Hawthorne is called on to investigate the apparent murder of an unpopular resident who resides on a quiet street inside a gated community.   The residents of the community have paid large amounts of money to feel safe and secure, seemingly protected from the outside world.  The murder victim was a known troublemaker and strayed from the strict community rules which made him very unpopular with his neighbors.  Was someone mad enough with him breaking the rules to resort to murder?

 

Clock Struck Murder by Betty WebbExpat Zoe Barlow is at it again in 1920s Paris in the second book in the Lost in Paris series.  During the weekly poker game hosted at her apartment, a fellow player accidentally breaks Zoe’s beloved vintage clock.  On a quest to find a replacement in the Montparnasse neighborhood flea market, Zoe finds the perfect replacement clock and purchases it immediately from her favorite shopkeeper, Laurette.  Upon arrival at home, Zoe discovers her clock is wrapped in the most beautiful Chagall canvas, which Zoe recognizes immediately.  Almost more impressed with the artwork, Zoe is desperate to find out more about the paintings and tracks down the vendor only to find her murdered!  With police resources scarce, Zoe turns into an amateur detective and finds out the paintings are stolen and may have been played a role in the murder of Laurette.

 

Death in the Details by Katie Tietjen  – A historical mystery based on the life of the “mother of forensic science”, Katie Tietjen has written a unique mystery where a skilled creator of doll houses uses her talent to recreate crime scenes in miniature.  In the years after WWII Maple Bishop is still learning to live without her husband, Bill, who was killed in the war.  She soon learns that he has left her with no income and she risks losing their family home in Vermont.  Maple has no choice but to turn to her natural talent to earn a living – making miniatures for dollhouses.  On her way to make a delivery to her first customer, she discovers his lifeless body in a barn.  She decides to make a miniature of the crime scene in the hopes of putting the pieces together as an amateur sleuth.  She teams up with a new police officer to get to the bottom of the crime before she risks becoming a victim herself.

 

Locked in Pursuit by Ashley Weaver  – Electra McDonnell’s safecracking skills have made her indispensable to the British Government in this fourth installment of Ashley Weaver’s Electra McDonnell series set in WWII London.  Electra gets wind of a series of burglaries carried out by expert thieves and contacts her elusive handler, Major Ramsey, who just happens to be a member of the British government in order to garner more information. The two of them start on a journey that leads to Portugal and includes the delivery of a mysterious package that could break the case wide open.  As the group of thieves grow bolder, Electra and Ramsey hope to outwit the thieves with their own game.

 

Other exciting mystery titles coming out this spring :

Murder in Rose Hill By Victoria Thompson

Patchwork Quilt Murder by Leslie Meier

Nest of Vipers by Harini Nagendra

The Last Hope by Susan Elia MacNeal

The Comfort of Ghosts by Jacqueline Winspear

Dead Tired by Kat Ailes

 

 

Those Who Fight Monsters

The scariest monsters are the ones who hide in plain sight.    Unsuspecting men with a penchant for casual cruelty.   Murder-for-hire, extortion, and lurid sex crimes bought and sold by doughy dweebs, trusted father figures, and secret millionaires operating in the public library stacks.   This book is nonfiction.

Tracers in the Dark: the Global Hunt for the Crime Lords of Cryptocurrency is  a globetrotting technological thriller, from Bangkok to far flung data centers in Scandinavia.

Shortly after cryptocurrency’s birth in 2009, its inability to be traced financially made it a bastion for purchasing unspeakable acts on the darkweb.
Who can find and vanquish these faceless ghouls?  Enter a cast of intrepid heroes seemingly plucked from a technological Homeric tradition.   We have Tigran Gambaryan, the forensic IRS agent born into abject Soviet poverty.  Sarah Meiklejohn is  the computer scientist weaned on cryptographs.  At the age of ten she hunted in Mom’s law office for patterns among cancelled checks.  She beat the NYTimes Crossword daily by 14 and became obsessed with the Rosetta stone and cracking ancient languages.  She’ll do nicely.  And then, of course, Michael Gronager – Cofounder of Chainalysis. The man who turned cryptocurrency from assumed anonymity to a permanent breadcrumb trail back to far-flung dens of villany.  All savant superheroes in their own regard.
Evil was outrageously outmatched.

It’s satisfying to hear how this crew uses their powers…impossible to pity the ones that get caught.

7 books about motherhood from our Literacy and Learning Collection

The Literacy and Learning Collection features a wide range of topics to help you navigate family life with infants through teens and beyond. Here are seven books that focus specifically on the experience of being a mom. (Descriptions from the publishers.)

The 30-minute money plan for moms : how to maximize your family budget in minimal time by Catey Hill – Catey Hill has created smart, simple strategies to help you maximize your money in minimal time. Drawing on extensive research on the actual cost of raising a child at each age, she’ll show you how to save in every area of your life, from lowering your grocery bill (without coupons!), to saving on education and childcare, to dealing with high-interest credit card debt, and more. And she’ll show you how to do all that in less than half an hour.

Being happy, raising happy : the empowered mom’s guide to helping her spirited child bloom by Maureen Lake – Being a mom is a lot of work. Being a mom of a spirited child can be exceptionally challenging. Moms who want to change their stress and anxiety levels and make a difference in the lives of their children and family need to take steps towards wellness. Being happy, raising happy is for loving and caring moms who somehow forgot about their own needs, desires, and the impact they want to make in the world and want to start their journey towards revitalizing the mind, body, and spirit.

The Better Mom : growing in grace between perfection and the mess by Ruth Schwenk – Mothering is messy. Our joy and hope in raising children doesn’t change the reality that being a mom can be frustrating, stressful, and tiring. But just as God is using us to shape our children, God is using our children and motherhood to shape us. In The Better Mom, author Ruth Schwenk, herself a mother of four children, says there is more to being a mom than the extremes of striving for perfection or simply embracing the mess. We don’t need to settle for surviving our kids’ childhood. We can grow through it.

Brave new mom : a survival guide for mindfully navigating postpartum motherhood by Jessie Everts – Brave New Mom brings a mindfulness-based approach to new parenthood that encourages self-exploration, self-compassion, self-care, and connection. It incorporates findings from research on postpartum mental health, practices for feeling your best after having a baby, and a warm and compassionate voice for new mothers everywhere. This book gives new moms permission to see, feel, and celebrate their amazing abilities and to gather the support they need.

Help, I’m failing as a mom : the survival guide to raising a child with a mood disorder by Tanya Trevett – Written for parents who want to learn how to live with their child’s mood disorder in a healthier way, author Tanya Trevett shares what she has learned in her fifteen-year journey. Among lessons learned: The secret to letting go of guilt so they can be a better (and happier) parent; Understanding the complexities of mood disorders and why it takes a village; Methods and activities for hope and healing; Rediscovering the joy, pride, and the unconditional love moms have for their children.

The Little Book of Support for New Moms – Doula Beccy Hands and midwife Alexis Stickland know what a challenge it can be to balance self-care with motherhood. In The Little Book of Support for New Moms, they bring together decades of experience to share invaluable tips and tricks to boost confidence and calm frazzled nerves-plus answers to all those questions new moms may be too embarrassed to ask. Tackle the fourth trimester with easy recipes to nourish your postpartum body and five-minute fixes to restore your sense of humor.

Mom Babble : the messy truth about motherhood by Mary Katherine Backstrom – In Mom Babble, Mary Katherine (MK) Backstrom offers up hope, humor, and spiritual inspiration to families in the trenches of parenthood. With laughter, crying, and eye-rolls MK’s, oh so, real essays about raising littles will delight all the not perfect, not always holy, not completely normal, messy, honest and wonderful moms that read them. MK’s conversational approach connects with readers like dear friends cozied up on a coffee date.

 

Asian American and Pacific Islander Month 2024

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month is celebrated each year from May 1–31. Celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander voices through reading. Log your reading and activities here to earn badges and tickets all month long. Enter your tickets into our drawings for a chance to win prizes!

This reading challenge is live on Beanstack from May 1, 2024 to May 31, 2024. Curious what you need to do? Sign up on Beanstack today either online or on the app!

Needs ideas about what to read? Try any of these Asian American and Pacific Islander books.

Juvenile Nonfiction

Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

Fall down seven times, stand up eight by Jen Bryant

From the Tops of the Trees by Kao Kalia Yang

Sakamoto’s Swim Club by Julie Abery

Seen and Unseen by Elizabeth Partridge

Adult Nonfiction

Asian American histories of the United States by Catherine Ceniza Choy

Breaking the Model: Stories of Asian American History and Presence

Good Talk: A Memoir in Conversations by Mira Jacob

A Living Memory by Nicole Chung

The Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspian King

Minor Feelings by Cathy Park Hong

Speak Okinawa by Elizabeth Miki Brina

Time is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt

“Why read at all? Why does anyone do it in the first place? Why do I? There is the element of escape, which is real enough—that’s a real-enough comfort. But also we read as a way to come to grips with the randomness of our being alive. To read a book by an observant, sympathetic mind is to see the human landscape in all its odd detail, and the reader says to him or herself, Yes, that’s how it is, only I didn’t know it to describe it. There’s a fraternity achieved, then: we are not alone. Sometimes an author’s voice is familiar to us from the first page, first paragraph, even if the author lived in another country, in another century.” Bob held up his stack of Russians. “How can you account for this familiarity? I do believe that, at our best, there is a link connecting us.”
― Patrick deWitt, The Librarianist

In celebration of National Library Week in April, I was on a hunt for a book about librarians that I had not read yet. Enter The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt, a novel that combines my love of senior citizens with my love of librarians. Bob Comet is a retired librarian. He’s spending his retirement surrounded by books in his mint-colored house in Oregon. Bob has his small comforts and his routines. On his daily walk one morning, Bob stumbles upon a confused elderly woman standing lost in a market. She’s staring into the cold sections with a lost look on her face. Lucky for Bob, and the clerk working behind the counter, the lost woman has a note secured around her neck letting people know where she lives. Bob volunteers to escort this lost woman home to the senior center. Once they arrive, Bob is intrigued by the people he meets. He decides to volunteer at the senior center, a decision that changes his whole life. The more Bob interacts with the people at the senior center, the more parts of his past and character are revealed to the reader.

This book felt like a warm hug from a close friend. The characters were charming, full of quirks and colors. Every person Bob met ended up shaping his life in some way. Even though this book was charming and cheerful, it was also full of melancholy and bittersweet with a bit of darkness under the surface. Bob’s past is colorful and complicated. He has a knack for finding bizarre and full-of-life people that he welcomes into his life. The Librarianist by Patrick deWitt reads like a love story to loners, to the outcasts in life who aren’t sure where they fit, to the introverts who want to be left alone amongst the fast-paced world they live in. People’s pasts are a mystery and this book is a prime example to never judge a person by the calm front they present.

This title is also available in large print or CD audiobook.

QCL Book Club April Wrap-Up

In April, Morgan and I read Someone We Know by Shari Lapena to celebrate National Letter Writing Month. Below is a short synopsis of the book and what I thought of it! 

A teenage boy is breaking into neighbors’ homes hacking into their computers and discovering secrets best hidden. When a woman in the neighborhood’s body is discovered in the trunk of her car in the lake, there are many suspicions as to who did it. Was it her husband, a lover, anything could happen.

I have liked every book that I have read by Lapena, she spins a story with so many twists and turns wrapping up each story with a nice little bow. This story, however, left some room for interpretation.  


Morgan and I have a very exciting lineup of book options for May. Below are our 4 options including our winning title! Feel free to check them out from Davenport Public Library! 

Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murders by Jessie Q. Sutanto (In Honor of Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month) 

Vera is a woman of a certain age who enjoys sipping her tea and running her teashop. When she finds a dead man in the middle of her shop, Vera begins to launch an investigation. As she searches for the perpetrator, Vera forms unlikely friendships with her customers. The hardest part, one of her new friends might be the killer. — adapted from back cover   

 

The Woman in the Library by Sulari Gentill (In Honor of Mystery Month) 

The beautifully ornate reading room at the Boston Public Library is completely silent one weekday morning, until a woman’s terrified scream echoes through the room. Security guards immediately appear and instruct everyone inside to stay put until they determine there is no threat. While they wait for the all-clear, four strangers who had been sitting in the reading room get to chatting and quickly become friendly. Harriet, Marigold, Whit, and Caine each have their own reasons for being in the reading room that morning–and it just happens that one of them may turn out to be a murderer. — adapted from back cover 

 

Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine (In Honor of Brother and Sister Day on May 2nd) 

Merging two multi-generational storylines in Colorado, this is a novel of family love, secrets, and survival. With Fajardo-Anstine’s immense capacity to render characters and paint vivid life, set against the Sange de Cristo mountains, Woman of Light is full of the weight, richness, and complexities of mixed blood and mica clay. It delights like an Old Western, and inspires the hope embedded in histories yet-told. — adapted from back cover 

 

***May QCL Book Club Pick!
Watching You by Lisa Jewell (In honor of National Teachers’ Day on May 7th) 

Melville Heights is one of the nicest neighborhoods in Bristol, England; home to doctors and lawyers and old-money academics. It’s not the sort of place where people are brutally murdered in their own kitchens. But it is the sort of place where everyone has a secret. And everyone is watching you. As the headmaster credited with turning around the local school, Tom Fitzwilliam is beloved by one and all–including Joey Mullen, his new neighbor, who quickly develops an intense infatuation with this thoroughly charming yet unavailable man. Joey thinks her crush is a secret, but Tom’s teenaged son Freddie–a prodigy with aspirations of becoming a spy for MI5–excels in observing people and has witnessed Joey behaving strangely around his father. One of Tom’s students, Jenna Tripp, also lives on the same street, and she’s not convinced her teacher is as squeaky clean as he seems. For one thing, he has taken a particular liking to her best friend and fellow classmate, and Jenna’s mother–whose mental health has admittedly been deteriorating in recent years–is convinced that Mr. Fitzwilliam is stalking her. Meanwhile, twenty years earlier, a schoolgirl writes in her diary, charting her doomed obsession with a handsome young English teacher named Mr. Fitzwilliam… — adapted from back cover 


If you are interested in any of these titles, or have read them, I want to talk about them! Please consider leaving a comment! Want to converse with other QCL Book Club followers? Consider joining our Goodreads Group! 

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