Welcome to the Baltimore County Public Library.

Baltimore County Public Library logo BCPL Homework Help: Your Key to a Successful School Year.
   
Type of search:   
BCPL on FacebookBCPL on TwitterBCPL on TumblrBCPL on YouTubeBCPL on Flickr

Between the Covers / Shhhh... we're reading.   Photo of reading after bedtime
RSS this blog

Tags

Adult

+ Fiction

   Fantasy

   Graphic Novel

   Historical

   Horror

   Humor

   Legal

   Literary

   Magical Realism

   Media Tie-In

   Mystery

   Mythology

   Paranormal

   Romance

   Science Fiction

   Thriller

+ Nonfiction

Teen

+ Fiction

   Adventure

   Dystopian

   Fantasy

   Graphic Novel

   Historical

   Humor

   Media Tie-In

   Mystery

   Paranormal

   Realistic

   Romance

   Science Fiction

   Steampunk

   Nonfiction

Children

+ Fiction

   Adventure

   Beginning Reader

   Concepts

   Fantasy

   First Chapter Book

   Graphic Novel

   Historical

   Humor

   Media Tie-In

   Mystery

   Picture Book

   Realistic

   Tales

+ Nonfiction

Author Interviews

Awards

In the News

Bloggers

 

A Thousand Words

Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little RockA naked Vietnamese girl crying and running, JFK saluting at his father’s funeral, an anguished scream over a prostrate body at Kent State; these iconic photos capture moments which illustrate the turbulence of the mid-twentieth century. Elizabeth and Hazel: Two Women of Little Rock by David Margolick explores another seminal photograph taken on September 4, 1957 as black Elizabeth Eckford attempts to enter, and integrate, Little Rock, Arkansas’ heretofore all white Central High. In this instantly recognizable image, petite Elizabeth, dressed in crisp white with a binder clutched to her chest, is followed by fellow student, white Hazel Bryan. Hazel is rigid with anger, mouth open, teeth bared.

 

Elizabeth was part of the Little Rock Nine; she was one of nine black teens carefully chosen to integrate the high school as a result of Brown v. Board of Education.  Margolick relates the backstory of the girls in the picture but he also writes of the women those girls became and the ripple effect of the photograph and events surrounding it on the pair.  As adults, Hazel reaches out to Elizabeth to apologize for her actions memorialized on film and the two woman forge a tentative friendship. Each finds her life forever impacted by the photograph, despite Hazel’s assertion that “life is more than a moment.”

 

Margolick’s writing style allows history and the women’s stories to take center stage in this book. Not surprisingly, Elizabeth’s recollections are particularly poignant; in one, she relates thinking the National Guard had been called out to protect her as she walked to school rather than to barr her entrance as they’d been ordered to do.  Elizabeth and Hazel goes beyond the confines of a picture to bring a personal look at two woman, the civil rights struggle and the fragility of forgiveness and reconciliation. For additional reading in a similar vein, try Norma Watkins’ memoir The Last Resort: Taking the Mississippi Cure.

 

Lori

 
 

Fat Kevin Federline and a Creed Song

You're Not Doing it RightBest known for his absurdist comedy sketch shows, "The State", "Stella", and "Michael and Michael Have Issues", Michael Ian Black is probably the last person anyone would expect to have something to say about what it takes to be a husband and father.  However, in his latest book, You’re Not Doing It Right: Tales of Marriage, Sex, Death, and Other Humiliations, the comedian takes a slight turn from his usual stream of sarcasm and delivers a touching and surprisingly personal memoir about these issues and more.

 

Nearing forty years of age, Michael Ian Black finds himself in constant state of ennui. Spending his days scouring the internet for pictures of fat Kevin Federline (Britney Spears’ notorious ex-husband) just isn’t entertaining him like it used to and he begins to question his own existence. Taking the reader with him, he explores his life up to this point.Beginning with his unusual childhood in New Jersey and continuing through his reminiscences as a married father of two, Black provides us with laughter and tears along the way. Readers who are familiar with Black’s comedy will perhaps be astonished by how frank and touching these confessions are. One of the best examples of this is when recounts a time while driving and thinking about his baby-to-be.  A  laughable song by the band Creed comes on the radio, and he proceeds to break down in sobs.

 

While this title will hold special appeal for first-time parents and newlyweds, You’re Not Doing It Right is a frank and humorous book recommended for anyone who’s survived an existential crisis.

 

Erin

 
 

Gypsy Secrets Revealed

Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of Romany GypsiesRomani gypsies are an insular people, and little is known of their culture.  They distrust outsiders and prefer to live among, work with, and marry within their own cultural circle. Enter Mikey Walsh (a pseudonym), one of the first brave souls to write a memoir about growing up in a gypsy camp. Gypsy Boy: My Life in the Secret World of the Romany Gypsies gives the reader an inside look at Romani gypsies, who trace their origins to the Indian peninsula and through Eastern Europe. Gypsy men are masculine, tough and charismatic, living by their wits and usually finding work by convincing unsuspecting marks to part with their money. Gypsy women are expected to care for the home and the children and rarely interact with the men. While male gypsies are encouraged to have sexual encounters in the world with non-gypsy women, female gypsies are supposed to remain chaste until early marriage by age eighteen.

 

Revealing gypsy secrets can be a dangerous undertaking, and the author refuses to be photographed in order to preserve his true identity. Walsh grew up in the shadow of his father, a robust bare-knuckle fighting champion who tried to teach young Mikey to fight by knocking him across the room. As he grows older, Walsh realizes that he is gay, something that is so unacceptable to his father that he can only live his life in terror, hoping for some kind of escape.

 

The author reveals a bleak and dysfunctional childhood, but his determination and perseverance eventually pay off.  Although some of the stories are harrowing, the author intersperses some humorous anecdotes involving some very quirky relatives. Walsh manages to find a way out of the gypsy life, get an education and tell the world his story. A companion biography, Gypsy Boy on the Run was published last year in the U.K. Through it all, he remains proud of his gypsy heritage.  Gypsy Boy is a quick read, with a sympathetic and likeable narrator.  Pick it up for a fascinating look into another culture. This title is recommended for those who enjoy hardscrabble memoirs like Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt or Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs. 

 

Doug

 
 

Dancing in the Street with Introverts

Dancing in the Street with IntrovertsMany introverts will rejoice, exult and maybe even (quietly) dance in the street after reading Susan Cain's thoroughly engaging new book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking. Far from being a self-help guide, Quiet celebrates introverts and the unique qualities they bring to their workplaces, classrooms, marriages and friendships. Combining fascinating anecdotes and extensive research from a variety of scientific fields, Cain makes a convincing argument for re-assessing the “extrovert ideal” in American culture.

 

In a society that increasingly favors “groupthink” or brainstorming sessions, Cain maintains there is also reason to value those people who prefer solitude, avoid social situations and prefer to express themselves in writing. Indeed, many of our greatest thinkers and artists have been introverts and have required absolute solitude to create, think and write. She shares fascinating glimpses into the lives of several famous introverts such as Warren Buffett, Albert Einstein and Dr. Seuss.

 

One of the many strengths of Quiet is Cain's pragmatism. As a former corporate lawyer, she is no stranger to the highly social world of the American workplace. Introverts often prefer to work in a quiet environment, may find social situations draining, and usually prefer to work with few distractions. However, these conditions are simply not practical in today's workplaces and classrooms. Cain offers realistic, pragmatic solutions methods that allow introverts to be successful in the workplace and other social settings while remaining true to their own biological wiring. She also gives excellent advice to parents of young introverts. She advises parents to celebrate a child's true nature but also suggests useful navigation strategies for social situations in the classroom and playground.

 

Susan Cain has written a highly readable book. She manages to bring historical and psychological context to her subject while consistently maintaining the interest of the reader. Quiet is highly recommended not only to those who identify as introverts but also to parents, managers, and educators who want to develop a deeper understanding of the introverts in their lives.

Zeke

 
 

A Shimmering Lady Finds her Way

The Lady in Gold:  The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-BauerWhen Adele Bloch-Bauer, a wealthy Jewish salon hostess, sat for her portrait in 1907 by Austria’s most famous painter, Gustav Klimt, it is doubtful that either imagined the painting’s disturbing journey to come.  Washington Post journalist Anne-Marie O’Connor explores these realities in her well-researched book, The Lady in Gold:  The Extraordinary Tale of Gustav Klimt’s Masterpiece, Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer.

 

This story unfolds in turn of the century Vienna, where affluent Jewish families are lured by the city's sophisticated culture. Artists, led by Klimt, seek more freedom to express their "art of the soul."  They find support for their Secessionist movement from forward thinking patrons, like Adele and her industrialist husband, Ferdinand. When Ferdinand commissions Klimt to paint his wife, the result is a shimmering, gold mosaic of the dazzling, dark haired beauty. 

 

O'Connor frames the story in three sections, spanning more than one hundred years. While it can be challenging to keep track of all the Bloch-Bauer connections, the short chapters keep the narrative moving with poignant vignettes.  Much time is spent on the pillaging of the Viennese Jewish population by Nazi soldiers and theft of their art treasures. Even in post-Nazi Austria, stolen works with questionable provenance remained in Austrian museums. Adele's portrait was renamed The Lady in Gold, losing its Jewish identity. 

 

The author draws upon extensive interviews and correspondence with Adele's niece, Maria Altmann, whose successful legal fight returned the Klimt paintings to private hands, including Klimt's Adele.  While the painting today is at the Neue Galerie in New York, it may be impossible to gaze upon Gustav Klimt's muse without considering the human cost of war, the complexities of art restitution, and each stolen painting's story yet to tell.

Cynthia

 
 

Speechless

Speechless

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 11:39am

ChalkYou Can't Take a Balloon Into the Metropolitan Museum Bow-Wow Bugs a BugA fun way to “read” with your emergent reader is to check out a wordless picture book. Take turns telling the story in your own words. Encourage your young reader to add sound effects and dialogue. Try Chalk by Bill Thomson. Three kids go to the park on a rainy day and find a bag of magic chalk. Everything they draw comes to life! How will they cope when a mischievous boy draws a dinosaur?  Wonderfully expressive artwork drawn in big, bold color will make it easy for you and your young reader to “write” the story.

 

You Can’t Take a Balloon into the Metropolitan Museum by Jacqueline Preiss Weitzman is full of action. The story is drawn in pen and ink style with touches of color. A security guard is entrusted to watch a balloon for a young patron. See what happens when the balloon gets loose and he has to chase it around New York. The story takes many twists and turns as the action outside the museum seems to match the artwork inside. Try this one out with your kindergartener (or older child).

 

In Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug, Mark Newgarden and Megan Montague Cash illustrate a story of a dog that follows a bug around the neighborhood. Using bright, simple illustrations, the authors draw a surprising weird, charming and funny story. The bizarre adventure lends itself to some surreal storytelling which is probably more suited to 1st grade or older. Give it a try with any of your kids and see what develops.

 

If you have a good time with these, be sure to ask your librarian for more titles or search the catalog for keyword “wordless”.

Diane

 
 

What Goes in, Must Come Out

Zig and Wikki in The Cow

What young reader can resist a book that answers the question: can cow poop help two friends patch up their friendship?

 

In Zig and Wikki in The Cow, by Nadja Spiegelman and Trade Loeffler, Zig (an alien) and Wikki (his computer friend) are going about their day when Zig notices his pet fly looks sick. An already jealous Wikki is happy to take the fly back to Earth where they promptly lose their spaceship. Hilarious adventures through a farm’s ecosystem ensue. Will Zig and Wikki find their spaceship? Will their friendship be saved? Will the fly be okay? Interspersed with scientific facts about an ecosystem, the story is a fun read (and just a little bit gross). Zig and Wikki in The Cow is a great book to read with your beginning reader. The pictures are charming, the story is funny and (after a few “ewwws”) your reader will be proud of the science lessons learned. If you enjoy this one, be sure to check out their first adventure Zig and Wikki in Something Ate My Homework.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Diane

 
 

Plenty

Plenty

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 11:32am

Another BrotherThe Unruly QueenMore Three picture books take on one of the first questions that kids have to come to terms with: when is enough enough?

 

For a while, Davy was an only lamb. He enjoyed the focused attention he received from his parents, until one after another brother arrived on the scene. Before he knew it, there were twelve brothers, all of which wanted to follow in Davy’s hoofsteps, everywhere he went. Matthew Cordell, author and illustrator of Another Brother, uses bright, funny line drawings and successful, subtle ovine humor in this satisfying and surprisingly touching sibling story.

 

Minerva is the subject of The Unruly Queen, written and illustrated by E.S. Redmond. This is largely a tale of gluttony, as Minerva seems more interested in using as many resources (and exasperated nannies) as she possibly can. However, when her fifty-third nanny finally beats her at her own game, Minerva receives her much needed comeuppance. The rhyming couplets match the art, which is reminiscent of Edward Gorey and Tim Burton.

 

An unnamed magpie has what we would refer to as hoarding tendencies, in More, written by I.C. Springman and illustrated by Brian Lies. Acrylic and colored pencil drawings of the magpie, mice, and objects star in this timeless fable that mirrors present-day issues of materialism. A field mouse offers the magpie the gift of a marble, but after collecting many more items, its nest becomes overwhelmed by many other found objects. After a catastrophic incident, the field mice help the magpie determine just what matters, and what is enough. 

Todd

 
 

Of Faith, Fate, and Devotion

Of Faith, Fate, and Devotion

posted by:
April 18, 2012 - 11:28am

The Translation of the BonesMiracles and foundering souls aside, Francesca Kay's new novel, The Translation of the Bones, is not a religious story, nor does it answer big questions about faith and God. Rather, it considers why people believe what they do and the inextricable connection between love, sorrow, and solace. The story is centered on the Church of the Sacred Heart in Battersea, in urban South London, where a mentally fragile young volunteer, Mary-Margaret O'Reilly, mistakes a bad blow to the head for a personal message from Christ. When word of a bleeding statue spreads, the spectacle becomes an embarrassment to those connected to the church and its spiritually exhausted parish priest.

 

Kay limits plot development in favor of richly developed characters whose commonality is the church and aching motherhood.  There is Stella, the lovely cabinet official's wife and flower arranger, whose youngest boy is at boarding school; and  Alice, the church housekeeper whose son is in Afghanistan. Both are awaiting the return of their sons. There is also Fidelma, the obese, housebound mother of Mary-Margaret, whose childhood memories still haunt her. Whether or not a miracle has occurred becomes unimportant and unexplored as Kay's characters carry on with distracted lives until tragedy eventually unifies everyone and unhinging loss challenges the nature of belief.

 

The author's first novel, An Equal Stillness, won Britain's Orange Award for New Writers in 2009. Her new slim novel omits chapters and speech marks, but it doesn't matter. The story shifts seamlessly between different points of view with language, so lovely at times that it invites the occasional sigh, and the knowledge that passion, whether prompted by religious mania or devotion to loved ones is a complex emotion that human beings will forever be trying to define.

Cynthia

 
 

A Binocular Vision of History

The Company of the Dead The improbable history of the sinking of the Titanic is legendary. The “unsinkable” ship’s maiden voyage was favored with the advantages of an experienced captain, a capable crew, and peerlessly clear weather. She had every probability of reaching her destination unscathed. Yet despite the clear night and the watchful lookout, a looming, unseen colossus was destined to sink her. Of course, even the smallest twist in the kaleidoscope may produce chaos. It is on this premise, embodied by the mysterious, anachronistic presence of a pair of 21st century night vision binoculars, that author David Kowalski launches his epic exploration of “what if?” What if the Titanic hadn’t struck the iceberg? Or, what if she had, but on a different side? Who lives that night, who dies and how - these subtle changes will reshape history as we know it in breathtakingly plausible ways. That is, unless one man’s profound sacrifice in 2012 can reset the Titanic on its original date with destiny.

 

At just under 750 narrative pages, The Company of the Dead is a tome to be sure, yet not a page in its composition is superfluous to its intricately-woven plot and character development. Throughout the story, Kowalski demonstrates compulsive attention to historical detail and lyrical language. These elements serve to draw the reader ever further into the author’s ambitious yet startlingly realistic vision of a world reshaped and on the edge of the apocalypse.

 

The Company of the Dead is broadly recommended for readers of any genre who are prepared to invest time in an absorbing adventure. Technically a secret rather than an alternate history, The Company of the Dead nevertheless plays on the same “what if?” element characteristic of so many alternate history titles. It will therefore strike a particular chord with devotees of alternate history and historical fiction. Readers beguiled by alternate histories involving familiar historic figures and locations may also enjoy Orson Scott Card’s Alvin Maker series as well as a smorgasbord of series and standalone titles by Harry Turtledove.

Meghan