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Skullbania is Not a City in New Jersey

Fangbone! Third-grade BarbarianFangbone! Third-grade Barbarian: The Egg of MiseryEastwood Elementary has a new third grade student, a young warrior who hails from the faraway land of Skullbania. Clad in raggedy homemade boots, a cape, horned helmet and what the other students interpret as “fur underwear,” Fangbone tumbles though a portal into a garbage dump on the hillside overlooking the school. He’s been entrusted with protecting the big toe of Drool, which will keep evil from his land. But strange new challenges (like the concept of toilets) lie ahead for Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian, the engaging hero of Michael Rex’s silly new graphic novel series for elementary school readers.

 

The first book introduces Fangbone as he attempts to assimilate into class 3G. Soon he’s made a new best friend, Bill, while gathering the whole class as his army of minions. His clueless principal thinks it’s all an exercise in appreciating other cultures. Soon Fangbone leads the losing 3G Extreme Attack Unicorns through a victory in the beanball games, and his classmates come through for him when evil strikes from his homeland. Rendered in simple comic book style line drawings, Fangbone! holds special appeal for young boys who appreciate an abundance of goofy, mildly gross humor and plenty of battle action.  

 

The adventures continue in Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian: The Egg of Misery, as a strange oversized egg appears, sent from Skullbania by the warrior’s clan. The class works hard to hatch this bizarre, spotted egg, believing it contains a baby dragon. Meanwhile, they must all work together to present their assigned animal, the dodo, for the third grade’s Extinction Pageant. Craziness and danger ensue, as Fangbone wields his sword against Skullbanian evil and the trials of a group project.

 

Known for his popular parodies of classic children’s picture books such as Goodnight Goon and Furious George Goes Bananas, Michael Rex has found a new niche in graphic novels. Young fans of Dav Pilkey’s Ricky Ricotta and Captain Underpants series will quickly devour these adventures. Look for a third Fangbone! title, The Birthday Party of Dread, to debut in August.

Paula G.

 
 

The Pigeon is BACK!

The Pigeon is BACK!

posted by:
May 9, 2012 - 1:11am

The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?Mo Willems delivers his first Pigeon book in four years with The Duckling Gets a Cookie!?, and it’s worth the wait.  When the Duckling asks politely for a cookie and gets one, the Pigeon is SHOCKED! True to form, Pigeon falls into a major tantrum and lists all of the things that have been unfairly denied him: driving the bus, hot-dog parties, a walrus, one more story, and even his own iceberg. The Pigeon's rant is quickly terminated when the Duckling generously offers him the treat.  (In a funny twist, by book’s end, the Duckling’s motives will be revealed to be less than pure.)  As Pigeon moves from apoplectic to apologetic, he is almost speechless.   

 

Simple text within balloons and animated illustrations highlight the story and mark Willems’ popular brand of storytelling. This is a fun read-aloud and an excellent way to introduce topics of manners and politeness. While the Pigeon may not get the point, young readers and listeners will. This is a fabulous and funny addition to the Pigeon stories. The legion of Pigeon fans will be delighted and new fans will be looking to catch up on all of the Pigeon’s previous antics. Be sure to have plenty of cookies on hand for this treat!

 

Willems maintains an active online presence, and www.pigeonpresents.com is a treasure trove for kids and grown-ups with games, teacher’s guides, and event planning ideas.  Also available for ipad and iphone is Don’t Let the Pigeon Run This App. It allows children and adults to participate even more in the Pigeon’s stories, and includes an interactive Mad Lib and a Draw with Mo feature. And the Pigeon tweets!  Become a follower on Twitter @The_Pigeon.

Maureen

 
 

The Wild Rumpus Falls Silent

Where the Wild Things AreLittle Bear AudioBumble-ArdyMaurice Sendak, beloved children’s book author and illustrator, died Tuesday as the result of complications from a recent stroke. A prolific creator of picture books that have become part of the American psyche, Sendak is perhaps most widely remembered for his groundbreaking classic, Where the Wild Things Are, which delved into the imagination of young Max, escaping from punishment in his room to a land populated by monsters who welcome chaos. Sendak was awarded the Caldecott medal in 1964 for this groundbreaking book.

 

His career began as an illustrator of others' work, most notably the Little Bear series by Else Holmelund Minarik. Sendak’s carefully detailed, expressive animal characters are an integral part of the success of those titles, beginning with the original Little Bear in 1957. Still popular with children today, Sendak’s illustrations were brought to life as an animated series.

 

Sendak’s most recent picture book, Bumble-Ardy, was the first both written and illustrated by him since 1981. Bumble-Ardy began life as an original "Sesame Street" animated segment, also by Sendak, centering around a nine year-old pig who had never been given a birthday party. According to the storyteller of the book, “Bumble-Ardy had no party when he turned one (his immediate family frowned on fun).” He decides to make up for this grievous neglect by throwing his own raucous event (which quickly gets out of hand) at his aunt’s house while she’s away. Like most of Sendak’s work, this acknowledges a dark side to childhood.

 

Visit a Baltimore County Public Library branch to explore more of this beloved author’s body of work.

Paula G.

 
 

The Next Jason Bourne

The Next Jason Bourne

posted by:
May 8, 2012 - 12:30pm

The ExpatsMove over Jason Bourne--there’s a hot new spy in town!  Praised by Patricia Cornwell and John Grisham among others, The Expats by Chris Pavone is this spring’s hottest debut spy thriller.  As this fast-paced story unravels secret after secret, readers are taken along on an exhilarating ride through Europe.

 

Kate Moore has always kept her CIA career from her husband Dexter.  When Dexter is offered a lucrative new job, Kate quits the CIA and the family moves to Luxembourg.  As Kate settles into her new life as an expat housewife, Dexter begins to change.  He becomes withdrawn and evasive.  When they meet a new couple, Julia and Bill Maclean, Kate begins to think that everything isn’t as it seems.  Is her old life catching up with her?  She begins to look behind the façade of her new life and finds that things are not what they seem to be, especially at home. 

 

Pavone wrote The Expats after his family moved to Luxembourg for his wife’s work.  He gave up his job as a book editor and ghostwriter and spent his time exploring, caring for their two sons, and writing a blog (http://www.chrispavone.blogspot.com/) about his life as a househusband in Luxembourg. That blog eventually evolved into a novel, but he thought it was too boring.  His solution: add a spy or two! The movie rights to The Expats sold soon after Pavone got his book deal, so a film version may be in the works.  Is Kate Moore the next Jason Bourne?  Try this thriller and judge for yourself.

Beth

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Look, Up in the Sky…

Look, Up in the Sky…

posted by:
May 8, 2012 - 1:11am

The Obsidian BladeTucker Feye is not the type of boy to see things that aren’t there.  His mother is not the type of person to see ghosts or act crazy.  His father is definitely not the type of person to lie.  Yet all of these things are happening and Tucker has no idea why.  Perhaps it has something to do with the shimmering, round, glassy thing that keeps appearing in the sky…right near Tucker Feye.

 

In The Obsidian Blade, it seems that Pete Hautman is departing from his usual tale of precocious teens challenging authority and finding their own solutions to the problems of life.  On the surface, this is a straight science fiction/dystopian story, complete with time-travel and futuristic technology.  Tucker is trying to solve the mystery of the shimmering disks, the sudden disappearance of his parents, and a girl and her cat who seem to have appeared from the future.   Once the reader gets past these things, The Obsidian Blade is a story about people: Tucker, his parents, his long-lost uncle, and a girl named Lahlia.  It is a story about religion and belief.  It is a story about truth and lies.  Mostly, it is a story about the decisions we make and the effect those decisions have on both the people and the world around us.

 

Pete Hautman is the author of the National Book Award winner Godless as well as many other books for teens.  The Obsidian Blade is the first book in the Klaatu Diskos trilogy.

Sam

 
 

A Grown-up Ghost Story

A Grown-up Ghost Story

posted by:
May 7, 2012 - 1:00am

The Haunting of Maddy ClareSometimes, nothing beats a good spooky story; the kind of tale that might make you turn the light on in a dark hallway before you go upstairs, or maybe double check that your doors are locked before you head off to bed. Simone St. James’ The Haunting of Maddy Clare is a ghost story with a romantic twist. Struggling to make ends meet, quiet Sarah Piper accepts an unusual assignment through her temp agency in post WWI London. Her job? Assist war-scarred ghost hunters Alistair Gellis and sidekick Matthew Ryder who are investigating the spirit of a servant girl who committed suicide in a countryside barn.  It just so happens that this particular spirit despises men, necessitating Sarah’s involvement in both communicating with Maddy Clare and solving the mystery of her death.

 

St. James’ writing style is lovely in this, her debut novel, and her choice of words and phrasing easily evoke the early twentieth century as narrated by Sarah.  The author is as skilled in describing rural England or some stylish period women’s wear as she is relaying the frightening atmosphere in the haunted barn or the suspicion of the chilly villagers. Unlike last summer’s supernatural-themed hit, A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, this story is often creepy and sinister and has more in common with 2009’s Booker shortlisted The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters.  A page-turner to the end, pick up The Haunting of Maddy Clare knowing this one will be difficult to put down.

Lori

 
 

Dig, Till, Sow

Dig, Till, Sow

posted by:
May 6, 2012 - 7:01am

Grow, Cook, EatSmall-Space Container GardensBuilding Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners

Hope springs eternal this planting season, when a trio of new gardening books suggests that horticultural success is within a trowel's reach for even the palest of green thumbs.  Practical advice, along with enticing photography, perusable tables of content and the indispensable indices (for those in a hurry) hint of an enjoyable journey from inspiration to harvest.  

 

 Tending the garden has never been more fun or delicious in Willi Galloway's book, Grow, Cook, Eat: a Food Lover's Guide to Vegetable Gardening Including 50 Recipes, Plus Harvesting and Storage Tips. As the lengthy title suggests the blogger and former editor at Organic Gardening magazine takes the food lover full circle from seed to table. Waste not is the goal here, and each chapter nicely lays out how to obtain the most from the vegetable's edible parts.   

 

If size matters award winning blogger Fern Richardson guides the space-starved gardener through a potpourri of creative options in Small-Space Container Gardens: Transform Your Balcony, Porch, or Patio with Fruits, Flowers, Foliage & Herbs. From repurposing household items for plant duty to creating a "potager with a twist," Richardson organizes her nine chapters and subheadings according to garden practicalities that all gardeners can appreciate. Budget conserving tips, lovely illustrations and clear directions lead the way.

 

Once the garden is sprouting it's time for garden projects. Veteran DIY author Chris Gleason describes with photographs and detailed directions fun and practical structures to improve your harvest in his latest book Building Projects for Backyard Farmers and Home Gardeners: a Guide to 21 Handmade Structures for Homegrown Harvests.  Gleason readily shares his opinion on what works and how to make the process easier. At 160 pages, this slender book has something for everyone, whether it's a squash ramp, a vermiculture bin, or historical look at backyard farming. 

Cynthia

 
 

J. K. Rowling’s Next Big Project

J. K. Rowling’s Next Big Project

posted by:
May 4, 2012 - 4:01am

The Casual VacancyJ. K. Rowling and her publisher Little, Brown, and Company have announced that they will publish The Casual Vacancy, her first novel for adults, on September 27, 2012.  With Rowling’s legion of fans, this novel is sure to be an instant bestseller.

 

The Casual Vacancy will be a very different novel from Rowling’s successful Harry Potter series.  Barry Fairweather dies unexpectedly, leaving his seat on the Pagford parish council open.  The election to fill his vacancy causes an all-out war that tears apart the quiet English town.   This thought-provoking dark comedy will surprise readers. This is Rowling’s first novel published since her worldwide bestselling Harry Potter series, which have sold 450 million copies and have been translated into 74 languages.  The books became a worldwide phenomenon with children and adults alike.   The series was also adapted into an extremely popular film franchise.  As Harry Potter’s popularity grew, the phenomenon branched out into merchandising and even a Harry Potter theme park in Orlando called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. 

 

Rowling has also announced that she has be working with Sony to launch Pottermore, a website dedicated to giving fans an interactive Harry Potter experience.  Pottermore will include exclusive content about the world of Harry Potter that fans won’t be able to access anywhere else.  To find out more about Pottermore, go to http://www.pottermore.com/.  The Harry Potter series is now available in e-book format through BCPL.   

Beth

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Cozies and Kitties

Cozies and Kitties

posted by:
May 4, 2012 - 3:01am

Copycat KillingThe Cat, the Wife, and the WeaponA Killer ReadCozy mysteries do their best to appeal to cat lovers, and some recent releases will definitely introduce you to some friendly felines.

 

Sofie Kelly is back with Copycat Killing featuring librarian Kathleen Paulson and her two magical cats, Own and Hercules.  In this particular outing, Kathleen is helping some local artists rescue their artwork when a deluge threatens to flood their studio. Unfortunately for one of the artists, they may have created their last piece. This is the second in the series, following Curiosity Thrilled the Cat. Penguin is republishing the first of the series as part of their “Read Humane” campaign, and donating $25,000 to the Humane Society’s Animal Rescue Team, for the prevention of cruelty towards animals.

 

The newest Cats in Trouble mystery is set in Mercy, South Carolina and features quilter Jillian Hart. Jillian is searching for her friend Tom, who has gone missing. Meanwhile, Tom’s half-brother moves into his house and proceeds to lose his diabetic cat.  The Cat, the Wife, and the Weapon, written by Leann Sweeney, also features a trio of cats as well as a rat terrier helping to solve the mystery. This is the fourth in the Cats in Trouble series.

 

A Killer Read is the beginning of a new series by Erika Chase and features Lizzie Turner and the Ashton Corners Mystery Readers and Cheese Straws Society.  When the Society gathers in a Southern mansion for their book club meeting, the members find themselves embroiled in an actual mystery when a stranger is shot with an antique gun.  References to well-known mystery novels abound and readers meet a unique pair of cats named Edam and Brie. 

 

So cuddle up with someone you love, either the two-footed or four-footed variety, and read one of these great new cozies.  You will be glad you did!

Doug

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Pastoral Peccadilloes and Goblin Goings-on – ‘Snuff Said

SnuffFollowers of the sometimes fantastical, always immensely funny Discworld series can breathe a sigh of relief. The remarkable storyteller Terry Pratchett has released another compulsively readable adventure. In Snuff, the reader once again joins Commander Sam Vimes, the streetwise Commander of the Ankh-Morpork City Watch and reluctant member of society’s highest echelons. The powers that be (namely his wife, the Lady Sybil) have decreed that Vimes is in dire need of a proper pastoral vacation. Resigned to his fate, Vimes bids farewell to his beat and arrives at the ancestral home and environs with his wife and young son. He sets his mind to relaxing but a copper is never really off-duty, and when the severed hand of a goblin turns up, it isn’t long before Vimes finds himself called upon to unravel a mysterious death and restore justice to the most unlikely of citizens.

 

Pratchett’s characteristic humor and sense of timing are in fine form in this latest Discworld adventure, and those who are familiar with the characters the author has honed over the years will not be disappointed. For those new to Pratchett though, a caveat: Snuff is a uniquely Vimes-centric story and as such is not an ideal first foray into the Discworld. Recommended prior reading includes Guards! Guards! and Night Watch

 

Whether a seasoned sci-fi/fantasy enthusiast or a hesitant newcomer ready to dip one’s toe into the genre, the works of Terry Pratchett are equally accessible and more than a little addictive. Granted there are certain fantastical elements (The City Watch counts among its employees various trolls, vampires and dwarves; Death is really a loveable fellow once you get to know him - he has a soft spot for kittens - and oh yes, the entire world is one large disc supported by four elephants that are in turn balanced on the back of a great turtle. You get the idea.) Yet at the heart of what Pratchett really writes are wildly humorous, acutely insightful commentaries on the nature of humans and the societies they cobble together.

Meghan