Welcome to the Baltimore County Public Library.

Baltimore County Public Library logo Taste of the Town. Get your tickets now. A delicious time for a great cause. Saturday, May 9, 2015 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m.
   
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
Paula Gallagher

A former middle school English teacher, hotel concierge, and freelance food writer, Paula Gallagher reads widely across many genres. Whether you favor intriguing memoirs, literary fiction, or books about pop culture, you can count on her to hand you a compelling read at the Pikesville branch. Paula depends on her daughter to help her critique graphic novels, children's books and teen reads. In addition to Between the Covers, Paula reviews for the Adult Books 4 Teens blog for School Library Journal.

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

 

This Little Piggy Cried Ki-ya!

The Three Ninja PigsThe porcine heroes of The Three Ninja Pigs by Corey Rosen Schwartz have finally had enough of the wolf bully terrorizing their Japanese mountain village, so off to the dojo they go. Told in snappy limerick verse, this modern retelling follows the sibling pigs as each trains in a different martial art. But one brother is quickly bored with aikido, while the second defies his sensei by cockily refusing to study past his yellow belt in jujitsu. Their sister, however, is a testament to the power of dedication and determination. She studies karate for months (perfecting a perfect pork-chop!) in preparation for her showdown with the big bad wolf.

 

The Three Ninja Pigs is an action-packed story that begs to be read aloud, preferably not at bedtime. Half the fun of reading this thrilling picture book is taking in its cinematic illustrations, courtesy of the talented Dan Santat, a dad himself to two spirited boys. To add an authentic Japanese feel, he rendered the background art (plenty of cherry blossoms, bamboo and pagodas in the shadow of Mount Fuji) using traditional sumi ink brushwork on rice paper. The characters themselves show off their moves in Santat’s signature comically expressive Photoshop illustrations. Panels mimic the best action scenes from Bruce Lee martial arts movies; a Japanese glossary at the end rounds out the experience.  Be prepared to watch your young readers reenact the pigs’ moves all around the living room.

Paula G.

 
 

Myth No More

Myth No More

posted by:
November 7, 2012 - 9:01am

LarfDon't Squish the Sasquatch!Who would have thought that Bigfoot would make such an engaging picture book protagonist? Two recent tales put this elusive hairy man-beast at the forefront of literature for young readers. In Ashley Spires’ charming Larf, the title character leads a solitary but fulfilling life in a cabin in the woods, save for his pet bunny Eric. He worries that if people found out he was real, he would attract the wrong kind of prying attention. But one morning’s newspaper article proves life changing when he finds out he may not be the only sasquatch in the world. Larf knows he must travel to town to find out. But what if the other sasquatch doesn’t like him? What if he eats meat instead of vegetables? And worst of all, what if he is a she? Spires’ watercolor and ink illustrations lend a gentle, quirky and humorous tone to a story that ultimately explores what it means to open yourself to the possibilities of friendship.

 

Kent Redeker’s Don’t Squish the Sasquatch! is a raucous ride on a city bus where the first passenger to be picked up is Señor Sasquatch. Boldly colored digital art with a retro feel by illustrator/graphic designer Bob Staake completes a picture book chock full of absurd creatures and sly humor. Each new rider to enter the bus (including Mr. Octo-Rhino) receives the same direction from the driver, Mr. Blobule. “Don’t Squish the Sasquatch!” Of course, the bow-tied bright green Sasquatch, all gangly spiky arms and long legs, can’t avoid being crowded out, which leads to a horrible crash and a surprise ending. Expect this winning read aloud to become a family and storytime favorite.

Paula G.

 
 

Departures and Arrivals

Departures and Arrivals

posted by:
November 6, 2012 - 9:11am

Ask the PassengersAsk the Passengers, by A.S. King, is a unique, yet highly relatable coming-of-age story set in a small Pennsylvania town. Astrid Jones’ life is complicated, to say the least. She may very well be the most responsible member of a household that includes a dad with substance abuse issues, an overbearing mom who only sees things her way, and a popular younger sister who teeters on the edge of perfect. Astrid’s holding down a job at the local Mexican restaurant, while navigating the demands of high school academia and the social scene as defined by her particular group of friends. She’s trying to come to terms with her own secret--she is increasingly attracted to a girl at work. She keeps her clandestine encounters with Dee hidden from everyone.

 

Who can Astrid open up to? As strange as it may seem, she sends her thoughts and love to the people on the airplanes that pass over. Surely they won’t share the same small-minded attitudes of everyone around her. Astrid lies on the picnic table in her yard in an almost meditative state, telepathically communicating with the passengers. King intersperses their stories throughout the narrative, making this novel an especially intriguing read. Teens will be instantly drawn to the acerbic Astrid, an immensely likable character surrounded by more than her share of drama. Known for her Printz- honor book Please Ignore Vera Dietz, and the critically-acclaimed Everybody Sees the Ants, King has become a favorite go-to author for well written, insightful realistic teen fiction.

Paula G.

 
 

Vampires at the Barn Raising

Vampires at the Barn Raising

posted by:
October 23, 2012 - 7:44am

The Hallowed OnesJust when you think you’ve read every possible permutation of the teen vampire trope, along comes an author to prove you wrong. Laura Bickle’s entrancing coming of age novel The Hallowed Ones follows Amish teen Katie as she contemplates marriage to Elijah. As one of the Plain folk, Katie knows she must follow the tenets of the Ordnung with unquestioning devotion. But Katie wants more from life than chores and family. She looks forward to her Rumspringa, a time when Amish youth are allowed a taste of the outside world before being baptized and fully committing to the church.

 

Bickle has created a believable, likable heroine. Abundant details of cloistered Amish life are smoothly woven into the narrative, making for a fascinating read. The author slowly builds suspense, as limited knowledge of something terribly wrong in the outside world filters into the sect. Soon, no one is allowed in or out of the fenced community. Some type of biological weapon has infected men, turning them into insatiable, flesh-tearing vampires. Only sanctified ground is safe.

 

When Katie offers asylum in her family’s dog barn to a badly injured young man, she knows it is the ultimate act of rebellion. Their relationship grows as she nurtures him back to health. Alex admires her for her intelligence and resourcefulness, rather than gentleness of word and deed. A rift grows between Katie and Elijah, as she resists committing to both him and the church. As the novel draws to a close, it becomes apparent that there are vampires within the gates. Katie’s resolve is put to the test. She has an ally in elderly Mr. Stoltz, the community’s Hexenmeister. He alone understands the true nature of the invasive evil. Vampires blanch at the sight of his protective hex signs and missives to heaven. How can they eradicate the evil within? Readers will be riveted by this uniquely told novel that skillfully blends bucolic realism with unspeakable horror.

Paula G.

 
 

Some Say the World Will End in Fire

AfterEven after the smoke clears, technology fails, science runs amuck, society as we know it collapses and the power-drunk take over, there is still a glimmer of hope for mankind. After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia presents tales that take place after of the end of the world as we knew it. Editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling commissioned work from some of the most popular and critically acclaimed authors for young adults. The resulting stories are both disturbing and thought-provoking, leaving readers pondering the what-ifs.

 

Carrie Ryan explores the zombie territory that made her name as a writer in “After the Cure,” where the teen protagonist has been “rehabilitated” from her former life as a member of a pack of the bloodthirsty undead. The zombie plague began as a diet drug gone wrong; the girl’s secret--her taste for flesh has merely been sublimated. Science again spins out of control in “Fake Plastic Trees” by fantasy author Caitín R. Kiernan, where a replicating “goo” intended to provide food for an ever-expanding population goes rogue. The nano-assemblers creating the substance begin rapidly transforming “just about anything” into plastic. Narrator Cody tells her story after The Event, but the threat of mutating strains of nanos persists.

 

Echoes of Nazi and Khmer Rouge soldiers brutalizing families under a dictator’s orders make Susan Beth Pfeffer’s “Reunion” one of the most chilling stories of the lot. Set entirely in an office where the walls and even the lone window have been painted a dull brown, the leader of a totalitarian government in a nameless location has fallen. Isabella’s mother seeks her oldest daughter, who had been taken away years ago by soldiers and given to a childless colonel and his wife. How will they know for certain which of the brainwashed young women is really Maria?

 

An afterword by the editors chronicles a brief history of teen interest in the dystopian genre, which has its roots in often-assigned adult classics written by authors such as H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury and William Golding. The stories of After make worthy thematic companions.

Paula G.

 
 

Another Opening, Another Show

DramaFans of graphic novelist extraordinaire Raina Telgemeier will be thrilled to get their hands on a copy of her latest work, Drama. Seventh grader Callie’s life revolves around the annual school theater production, and this year it’s the musical Moon over Mississippi. Callie’s not an actress; she’s all about the set design. Told in a traditional comic panel style and rendered in vivid full color, Drama follows Callie and her production crewmates as they navigate relationships both onstage and off. Intended for a slightly older audience than the autobiographical Smile, this graphic novel addresses not only the complexities of boy-girl relationships, but also those of boy-boy.

 

A former high school drama performer herself, Telgemeier stays in touch with her inner theater geek, perfectly capturing the immersive nature of working on a school production. Can inexperienced Callie pull off an incredible set design (including a real working cannon and a leaf-shedding tree) on a bare-bones budget? What will the new guys at school, twins Jesse and Justin, lend to the show? And will Callie ever find her very own leading man?

 

Drama is rife with in-the-know backstage details, from the somewhat creepy costume vault to the lighting cues and the set change challenges. Callie is a likeable, fully-realized girl who readers can’t help but root for. Telgemeier populates Eucalyptus Middle with a diverse group of passionate, relatable friends. Her drawing style portrays both expression and depth, realism layered with comic conventions. Drama stands out as an appealing, addictive graphic novel, a book that will no doubt be read, re-read, and passed from friend to friend.

Paula G.

 
 

Antarctica or Bust

Antarctica or Bust

posted by:
September 21, 2012 - 8:01am

Where'd You Go BenadetteBernadette Fox—mother, wife, one-time architectural prodigy—has disappeared, and it’s up to her thirteen year-old daughter Bee Branch to put together the clues as to her whereabouts. Where’d You Go Bernadette is a brash satirical novel, told in a series of emails and other correspondence from various characters that relay the circumstances leading up to Bernadette’s flight.

 

Bee’s reward for a perfect report card throughout middle school was her own idea: a family trip to Antarctica. (She’d much rather have an expedition than a pony.) But her parents don’t quite share her enthusiasm. Bernadette, the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant at the beginning of her career, suffered a crippling setback when her Twenty Mile House (built from materials sourced within 20 miles of its location) met a vengeful demise. She retreated from the world of architecture, setting up house with her husband Elgin Branch, a techie wunderkind project manager for Microsoft whose TEDTalk is the fourth most viewed video on YouTube. Increasingly antisocial and generally testy, she abhors dealing with her fellow Galer Street School moms, a petty group she refers to as “gnats.” No one in Seattle knows that Bernadette is a genius in self-imposed exile who has hired a virtual assistant in India to deal with the overwhelming details of her life. How can she handle Antarctica? How can Elgin take a vacation when his team is working overtime on Samantha 2, a brain-computer interface?

 

Author Maria Semple, a former sitcom writer for shows including Arrested Development and Mad About You, has written a wickedly entertaining sendup of over-doting parents, the politics of private schools, the importance of keeping up appearances, the zeitgeist of Microsoft, and all things held sacred by the upper middle class Seattle intelligentsia. But at the heart of this novel are the relationships between a mother and daughter, and a husband and wife who appreciate each other in spite of it all.

Paula G.

 
 

Hit the Sand with Traction Man

Traction Man and the Beach OdysseyBritish author/illustrator Mini Grey’s beloved superhero action figure and his pet, Scrubbing Brush, are back in the all new summer adventure Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey. A trip to the shore brings new exploration possibilities, new friends, and a new nemesis, Grandma’s overly friendly dog, Truffles.

 

Traction Man’s landscape is populated by an assortment of googly-eyed sea creatures like anemones and whelks, as well as similarly anthropomorphized picnic foods like sandwich halves and a slice of quiche. Reminiscent of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear, Traction Man’s heroic feats take place in the world of his owner, an unnamed young boy. Grey’s humorous illustrations are full of witty details, making this a book that demands multiple reads. The accompanying words tell only part of the larger story.

 

When Traction Man and Scrubbing Brush are swept down the beach by an errant wave, they find themselves at the sandcastle of Beach Time Brenda and her fashion doll friends. How will Traction Man ever escape the embarrassment of being subjected to a seaweed beard, shell hat, and worst of all, a floral sarong? Help arrives in an unlikely manner, and new alliances are formed. Like the previous titles, Traction Man is Here! and Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog, this new picture book is a paean to the power of old-fashioned imaginative play.

Paula G.

 
 

Santat-apalooza

Santat-apalooza

posted by:
July 5, 2012 - 8:47am

Dog in ChargeBawk & RollFire! Fuego! Brave BomberosThe most prolific and talented illustrator in children’s books this year has to be Dan Santat. Known for his comically expressive animals and humans, Santat uses Photoshop to produce illustrations with a graphic designer’s sensibility.

 

Dog in Charge by K. L. Going features an English bulldog charged with keeping the cats out of trouble while the family is at the store. Five mischievous felines prove too much for our poor hero, who immediately exhausts himself trying to keep up. Retro wallpaper, furnishings, and a muted color palette lend a gentle tone to this madcap tale, full of onomatopoeia like splash, swish and fwomp. How can this canine ever retain his status as Good, Smart, and Very Best Dog? Santat’s illustrations elevate a good story to an excellent picture book.

 

Rockin’ heartthrob rooster Elvis Poultry is back in Tammi Sauer’s inspired Bawk & Roll. Marge and Lola, the tailfeather-shakin’ hens from Chicken Dance, have been recruited as Elvis’ backup dancers. But the poor hens haven’t performed anywhere but their home barnyard. Overcome by nerves, they faint! How will they ever overcome their stage fright? Bawk & Roll shows off Santat’s talent when it comes to perspective. On one page it’s as if the reader is part of the packed audience, on another you’re onstage behind Elvis and the girls. And if there were ever an award for best use of light and shadow in a picture book, Bawk & Roll would be a shoo-in.

 

Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos gives the illustrator a chance to play with fire, literally. To illustrate Susan Middleton Elya's rhyming, bilingual story of dedicated firefighters, Santat turned to some traditional ink and watercolor to enhance his usual Photoshop illustrations. He actually set some pages on fire, scanning the images in order to incorporate them into his work. You can visit Santat's blog for photos and a description of the process. Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos is a must-read for young fans of firehouse tales.

Paula G.

 
 

Naturalist, Hunter, Inventor, Millionaire

BirdseyeAlthough the name Clarence Birdseye immediately conjures up images of frozen vegetables, the subject of historian Mark Kurlansky’s Birdseye:The Adventures of a Curious Man accomplished so much more. This fascinating biography shows the man as a curious problem solver and opportunist, always quick to devise inventive solutions while making money along the way. Birdseye was a naturalist from an early age, as well as an avid hunter. At the age of ten, young Clarence earned his first shotgun with the profits he made by shipping live muskrat to an English aristocrat who was stocking an estate. He promptly taught himself the art of taxidermy, even attempting to teach others for money.

 

As a student at Amherst studying the sciences, Birdseye spent his free time “wandering the fields with a shotgun on his shoulder.” He was forced to drop out due to lack of money.  His job as an assistant naturalist with the U.S. Biological Survey stoked his interest in cooking such exotic meats as chipmunk, mice, and rattlesnake. A later job with the Department of Agriculture sent him packing to the Bitterroot Valley of Montana as part of a group looking to study Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Birdseye put his hunting skills and enthusiasm to good use, killing a variety of mammals that host the carrier of the disease, the wood tick. His contribution to the study was notable.

 

Luckily his wife, Eleanor, was a patient woman who didn’t seem to mind her husband’s frequent absences. A later adventure saw him in the frozen land of Labrador where his interests turned to fox farming. His journal and letters to his family (which eventually included six children) were full of descriptions of food, especially recipes featuring unusual provisions like seal meat and porcupine.A deep interest in food preservation led him to begin experimenting with various freezing techniques, beginning with snow pack. Birdseye realized that freezing food is far from a straightforward process if one desires a palatable thawed product. Eventually his determination and sharp sense of observation paid off, leading to innovations that revolutionized the way people eat.

 

Birdseye:The Adventures of a Curious Man, holds wide appeal for anyone who enjoys intriguing nonfiction. The self-made man comes alive through Kurlansky’s evocative descriptions and choice details. Readers who enjoyed his previous classic titles (which included mentions of Birdseye) Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, and Salt: A World History, will find much to like here.

 

 

Paula G.