26 May 2011

A Room on Lorelei Street by Mary E. Pearson

Zoe feels pretty alone in the world.  She has some good friends, but she doesn't get to spend much time with them.  She and school don't seem to get along all that well.  She spends most of her time waitressing at Murray's, taking care of her alcoholic mother, and making sure that the bills get paid.  Everything revolves around Mama. 

One day, Zoe has had enough and chance leads her down Lorelei Street, which is where Opal Keats has an open room for rent.  Knowing that this might be her last chance at surviving her life (emotionally more than physically), Zoe allows Opal to convince her to take the room.  No one - not her friends, not Grandma - think that Zoe will be able to support herself on her own.  With only enough money to pay rent, buy a pack of cigarettes, and keep the gas level in her car just above empty, the odds are against Zoe, and her guilt at leaving Mama threatens to tear down her resolve to build her own life, as the true struggle to survive threatens to destroy her. 

This is a pretty powerful story of hard choices, desperation, and inner strength.  Recommended to all high school readers.
Call number: YA PEARSON; YA CD PEARSON (Teen Room)

Recommended by kate the librarian.

17 May 2011

Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes

From a Booklist starred review: . . . rarely will you read something so lovingly vulgar, so fiercely warmhearted, and so exuberantly expansive that even its long-windedness becomes part of its rogue charm.

Karl Shoemaker is pretty messed up.  He's part of a school-determined therapy group that has nicknamed themselves "Madman Underground" because they're all so messed up.  Each member has his or her own story and therapy usually consists of retelling those stories to a handful of new therapists every couple of years.  Most of them have been in therapy together for too long to remember, so it's all recycled material as far as they're concerned.  No one expects to "get better."  But this book isn't about their problems - of which there are too many.  This book is really about their strength as a friends, about looking out for each other, and about trying to make it one-day-at-a-time in order to survive.

Karl's dad sobered up just in time to die of cancer a few years back, and ever since then his mom has been a raging alcoholic.  Karl works as many odd jobs and side jobs as he can (his therapists and his AA sponsor say that's his method of defense), but has to hide all of his money in stashes around the property so that his mom can't steal it and go on a bender with her loser boyfriends.  All he really wants in life is to be NORMAL.  But it only takes a few moments of "Operation Be F'ing Normal" for Karl to realize that it's going to be practically impossible.  He's the kind of guy who would do anything for a friend, even if that means staying a Madman Underground (definitely NOT normal).

This book has showed up on many librarians' radars and a fair share of recommended reading lists.  Tales of the Madman Underground is raw and true and a fascinating read.  Not for young readers, and not for many adults, this story is for every teen and young adult looking for an escape from life for a while.
Call number: YA BARNES (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

16 May 2011

Volunteer Appreciation Reception 2011

A special “Thank you!” to all of our volunteers at Franklin Lakes Library . . .
We’re truly a better library and a stronger community because of you.

Sixty library volunteers donated a total of 1,015 hours during the past year!

If you are in Grade 6 or older and interested in volunteering at the library, please contact the library at 201.891.2224 or stop in to pick up a volunteer application form.

07 May 2011

Small as an Elephant by Jennifer Richard Jacobson

Eleven-year-old Jack Martel loves elephants.  He can tell you all sorts of facts about them, and he finds comfort in their company (even the ones that are only plastic).  Jack and his mom have traveled up to Maine from Boston for an impromptu vacation, and Jack is dying to see Lydia, Maine's own real live elephant, but Mom says that they can't.  Then Mom leaves.  Jack wakes up the first morning at the Arcadia National Park campsite and his mother is gone, leaving only the tent that Jack was sleeping under.  Over the next few days the story follows Jack as he tries to figure out not only how to survive without any money, shelter, or guidance, but also what happened to his mom -- why she left, where she is now, and if he'll ever see her again.  Jack meets a number of characters along his journey -- some helpful, and some kind of creepy -- but it's the toy elephant in his pocket that remains his most loyal companion.  But an elephant won't necessarily be able to feed him or save him -- or bring Mom back.

Recommended most for middle grade readers, especially boys with a taste for adventure that isn't too frightening... nor too predictable.
Call number: YA JACOBSON (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian.

02 May 2011

Lost & Found by Shaun Tan

Three beautifully illustrated tales tell simple stories of life as it truly is, was, or could be. "The Red Tree" offers hope to a little girl who feels all alone in a big, confusing world. "The Lost Thing," without a home, finally finds a place to belong, and is happier for it. And pain, loss, change, and desire all comes forth though "The Rabbits" (as written by John Marsden). There isn't much joy in this collection of stories, but there are fascinating bits of true feelings and deep-seated emotion, as well as a glimpse of a complicated world cut down into bare-bones letters and paint strokes. No doubt that there is something for everyone between the cover of this collection. Teens will imagine the future, children will find joy in the colors and the details as they exist on the page in the here and now, and adults will see a pure reflection of the past.
Call number: YA GRAPHIC TAN (Teen Room)

Reviewed by kate the librarian

Chasing Lincoln's Killer by James L. Swanson

Almost every who learns through the American school systems knows all about Abraham Lincoln, elected the sixteenth President of the United States of America. President Lincoln led the states though the Civil War and supported the Union's mission to abolish slavery. Everyone (who paid attention in history class) also knows that President Lincoln was fatally shot in 1861 at Ford's Theatre by John Wilkes Booth. But how much do we know about John Wilkes Booth . . . and his almost-successful attempt at escape?

Booth, a well-known theater actor and active Confederate sympathizer, shot Abraham Lincoln while the President sat in the President's Box at Ford's Theatre alongside his wife and friends. He intricately planned the assassination attempt down to the minute, at a time when he knew the lone actor on stage would deliver a line that would set the audience into a fit of loud laughter. Almost no one heard the shot. And while many saw Booth trying to escape the theater, no one caught him. Most were preoccupied with the shock of the lifeless President, who wasn't quite willing to let the bullet lodged in his brain take his body so soon.

Experience the melodrama of one of the most important moments in American history with the images portrayed in this fascinating account of the life and death of two well-known men. Read and read-aloud, this tale is sure to capture your the attention!
Call number: YA 973.7092 SWANSON; Playaway 973.7 SWANSON (with Adult Media on the first floor); also available on CD by request through the BCCLS catalog!

Reviewed by kate the librarian