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Friday, July 31, 2015

MLC Reads: July 31, 2015

Our staff read some fabulous books this past week. Here are our reviews:

Between the World and Me 
Ta-Nehisi Coates
five stars

Read. This. Book. Now. Right now. Run to your nearest public library or independent bookstore and pick up a copy. Do it! Coates speaks to the heart of the issues regarding people of color in our nation today and he does it powerfully well. We can't think of the words to write in this review that will truly do this book justice, so take our advice and pick up a copy yourself.

The Lion Who Stole My Arm
written by Nicola Davies
illustrated by Annabel Wright
five stars

Pedru's life is similar to those of the other boys in his village: he fishes, he hunts, he rides to school with his friends on their bike, he plays soccer, he worries about being home on time so his mom won't get mad at him. This could be set in Mississippi! Pedru, however, lives in eastern Africa, where lions still roam free. One day his existence is turned upside down, and that's when this remarkable little chapter book by Nicola Davies really takes flight. Learning to cope with the loss of his arm and harboring a deep anger against the lion who took it--this is the story of Pedru growing up. We highly recommend this 2016 Magnolia Award nominee.

Go Set a Watchman 
written by Harper Lee
four stars

We leaped into reading this novel with open minds. Yes, we had heard all the negative reviews and the mysterious circumstances of the "discovery" of this work but we were determined not to let anything cast a shadow on our experience... We might hate or love it, but it was going to be our experience.
The novel opens with Scout as a young woman, going now by her proper name of Jean Louise. She is traveling from New York to her hometown of Maycomb, Georgia. No spoilers here: we follow Jean Louise as she interacts with her aunt, uncle, and father, Atticus, as well as suitor Henry "Hank" Clinton. As we got deeper into the book with each ensuing chapter, we found ourselves liking the book more and more. We kept waiting for the book to insult our senses or to create as feeling of deep remorse for the characters. No such event occurred. What did occur is that we felt we got to know some characters better and we laughed a lot. That's right; there are many funny moments in this novel. It's not too different from the humor in To Kill a Mockingbird. It makes us sad that this novel will always be surrounded by controversy and in all likelihood never receive the praise it deserves.

written by Marie Lu

In the Republic, a country formed from the United States' westernmost states after an almighty flood drowned the southeastern and northeastern coastlines, fifteen-year-old June is made the youngest full Agent in the Republic Army's history after earning a perfect score on her Trial. Contrastingly, fifteen-year-old Day is the most famous criminal in the Republic, and he flat out failed his trial. June is meticulous and logical. Day is impetuous and passionate. After June's older brother Metias is murdered, the government pins the blame on the notorious Day. June is assigned to catch Day as her first mission, but begins to question the allegations against him. Things don't add up in June's overly analytical mind. And if Day didn't kill June's brother, who did? June and Day become unlikely allies in solving the crime: Day striving to prove his innocence and protect his family, June looking to avenge her brother by solving the case. They unravel the truth behind the matter, but in doing so, uncover something much, much bigger than a Metias' killer.
written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang
five stars

This historical graphic novel is set in 1898 China during the Boxer Rebellion. Little Bao is just a boy during this time, but he calls upon the ancient Chinese gods for help and recruits others to form an army of Boxers. Their mission is to free China from the missionaries who are taking away their rights. We loved this one, but be warned! This is definitely a book about war, and war, as we all know, is a terrible thing. Yang's illustrations are amazing and really bring the plot together. We can't wait to read Saints, the second book in the series. 

We'll be back next Friday with reviews of our most recent reads:
  • Copperhead, Volume I
    written by Jay Faerber
    illustrated by Scott Godlewski and Ron Riley
  • Half Bad
    written by Sally Green
  • The Pearl that Broke its Shell
    written by Nadia Hashimi
  • Devil in the Grove: Thurgood Marshall, the Groveland Boys, and the Dawn of a New America
    written by Gilbert King
  • Marlene, Marlene, Queen of Mean
    written by Jane Lynch
    illustrated by Tricia Tusa
Until next week, happy reading!

Friday, July 24, 2015

MLC Reads: July 24, 2015

We just can't get enough books! Can you? Here's what Mississippi Library Commission staff read last week:

written by Ernest Cline
four stars 

Armada is Ernest Cline's sophomore effort after his runaway best seller Ready Player One. This time around, he introduces his readers to the world of MMOs. (That's massively multiplayer online games for you n00bz.) This highly readable novel is a fun science-fiction romp from beginning to end and there are a multitude of pop culture references, which Cline's fans have come to expect. Read it before the movie is released! The film rights have already been picked up by Universal.
 How to Train a Train
written by Jason Carter Eaton
illustrated by John Rocco
four stars

Do you know a budding train lover? How to Train a Train is the perfect book for kids who can't get enough trains in their life. Jason Carter Eaton's lighthearted look at choosing a train for a pet will have even non-train enthusiasts laughing. John Rocco's illustrations are completely wonderful. Kids will want to read this K-2 grade Magnolia Award nominee over and over and over...

ODY-C #1
written by Matt Fraction
illustrated by Christian Ward
four stars

ODY-C #1 is a retelling of Homer's Odyssey set in space. What interested us most about this graphic novel was that most of the characters were genderbent from the original Odyssey. Fraction's story was great and Ward's illustrations were unique. Ward used a lot of vibrant colors and bold drawings to make the plot and text come together. This graphic novel was very different, to say the least, but it was a great read!

Life by Committee
written by Corey Ann Haydu
four stars

Life by Committee takes a look at the world of online communities. Tab's friends have dumped her and she feels like she has nowhere to go. But, LBC is open and accepting--to a point. She has friends cheering her on again, but she doesn't necessarily like what they're encouraging her to do. Author Corey Ann Haydu explores the concepts of bravery, secrecy, and what it means to grow up. Even though Tab's decisions are sometimes pretty poor, her motivations and struggles to find her place are definitely relatable. Older teens will like this one --it's a 9-12 grade Magnolia Award nominee!

A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life
written by Allyson Hobbs
four stars 

The cover and the title grabbed our attention and lured us in. A Chosen Exile is well researched and provides insight into the myriad of reasons pro and con of passing as white in America. Ms. Hobbs explores the history surrounding this choice, what was gained, and what was lost. Most of all, A Chosen Exile explores the psychological and social impact of identity and the personal consequences of denying a part of oneself and the toll that is exacted on the individual, friends, and family. It's a good read!

Join us next week for our take on these books:
  •  Between the World and Mewritten by Ta-Nehisi Coates
  • The Lion Who Stole My Armwritten by Nicola Davies
    illustrations by Annabel Wright
  • Go Set a Watchmanwritten by Harper Lee
  • Legendwritten by Marie Lu
  • Boxers
    written and illustrated by Gene Luen Yang
Until next week, happy reading!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

More on Mississippi Reads and Sycamore Row

We made a post earlier this month about the launch of Mississippi Reads, but I wanted to give you a little update. The discussion of Sycamore Row has started! We've been posting our thoughts on the novel over on the site.

Would your book club like to read along with us? Well, good news! We have 2 kits featuring copies of the novel. Simply call us up and we'll ship it right out to you. Read along with us and join in the conversation!  We'll be posting right up until the Mississippi Book Festival that's happening on August 22!

Finally, be sure to follow MS Center for the Book on Twitter to keep up with all of the cool stuff we're doing. Sycamore Row not your style? We're cool with that! Visit the site for more information about the other kits we have available for your club.

Friday, July 17, 2015

MLC Reads: July 17, 2015

We really enjoy sharing the books that we, the staff at the Mississippi Library Commission have been reading with you, our faithful followers.

Delta Dogs
Photography by Maude Schuyler Clay
Introduction by Brad Watson
Essay by Beth Ann Fennelly
Afterword by Maude Schuyler Clay
five stars

Maude Schuyler Clay delivers a solid punch with Delta Dogs, a book of photographs of, what else... dogs in the Mississippi Delta. Calling them the "indigenous canine presence", she captures the souls of these dogs in fields and parking lots, under and beside houses, and every other imaginable place. Brad Watson provides a lovely introduction wherein he discusses his love of dogs and points out a Clay dog with a strong resemblance to Junot Diaz. Beth Ann Fennelly has also contributed a short essay that brings home the point that, though dogs are featured, it is the Delta in its glory that is reflected in this gorgeous volume.

The Cheese Belongs to You
written by Alexis Deacon
illustrated by Viviane Schwarz
four stars

To whom does the cheese really belong? Alexis Deacon takes picture book readers on fun-filled journey of all the rats who could own a single block of cheese. The artwork is deliciously creepy; the illustrations depict big, quick, strong, scary, hairy, dirt rats just as they should be. The tension builds as each successive rat comes forward to fight for his or her chance at the cheese and the book ends on a highly satisfactory note. Don't miss this Magnolia Award nominee for 2016!

The Red Tent
written by Anita Diamant
five stars

This book gives Dinah, the barely mentioned daughter of Joseph and Leah from the book of Genesis, her very own voice. It also shows how very rich, joyful, difficult, and tragic the lives of women in the third millennium B.C.E. could be. By using factual cultural details from the ancient Near East, Diamante has allowed readers to gain a true impression of how women lived 5,000 years ago.

The Divine
written by Boaz Lavie
illustrated by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka
four stars

The Divine portrays a world of ancient magic in a modern warfare setting. It is based on the photo taken by Apichart Weerawong of two twelve-year-old twins, Johnny and Luther Htoo. The plot explores the legend surrounding the twins' having magical powers. We thought this was a great graphic novel with amazing illustrations. Recommended to anyone with an interest in historical fantasy.

Darkness Brutal
written by Rachel A. Marks
four stars

Darkness Brutal is an imaginative urban fantasy that follows the story of a teenage boy, Aiden, who is trying to save his sister, Ava. Throughout the novel, Aiden tries to protect Ava from his mother's past mistakes. As Ava's twelfth birthday approaches, Aiden must rely on help from his new friends to find his inner powers. Fans of the TV show Supernatural will love this YA book.

We'll have reviews next week of these books that we're reading now:
  • Armada written by Ernest Cline
  • How to Train a Train written by Jason Carter Eaton and illustrated by John Rocco
  • ODY-C #1 written by Matt Fraction and illustrated by Christian Ward
  • Life by Committee written by Corey Ann Haydu
  • A Chosen Exile: A History of Racial Passing in American Life written by Allyson Hobbs
Until then, happy reading!

Friday, July 10, 2015

MLC Reads: July 10, 2015

Check out the books Mississippi Library Commission staff have been reading the past few weeks:

Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky
written by Sandra Dallas
four stars 

Sandra Dallas tackles the relocation of Japanese and Japanese-Americans to internment camps during World War II in this wonderful Magnolia Award nominee for 6th to 8th graders. A tight knit family is torn apart at the beginning of the war: the father is sent to a special prison camp for interrogation; the rest of the family ends up in Colorado. (If you've never been to the eastern half of New Mexico or Colorado, note that it can be incredibly dusty and windy--huge gloom factors until you become accustomed to it.) The family's struggles to adapt and yet remain true to themselves and their heritage is completely engrossing. We loved the examination of what it means to be an American, as important a topic now as it was nearly 75 years ago.

 The Bedlam Detective
written by Stephen Gallagher
four stars

We really enjoyed this mystery! While Sebastian Becker is trying to figure out what monsters are responsible for the deaths of two young girls, the entire community battles the monsters within themselves. It turned out to be a quick read, but only because we had such a hard time putting it down.

Calling the Doves/El canto de las palomas
written by Juan Felipe Herreras
illustrated by Elly Simmons
four stars

Juan Felipe Herrera was named Poet Laureate of the United States June 10, 2015. We decided to check out his bilingual picture book about his childhood to get a feel for the man himself. In Calling the Doves/El canto de las palomas, you experience a slice of the everyday life of the migrant worker. Young Juan loves his family and their life together very much, and the words he uses to describe them are truly beautiful. Accessible to English and Spanish readers, this book has inspired us to seek out Herrera's poetry.

We've got several winners lined up to read and review for you next week:

  • Delta Dogs photography by Maude Schuyler Clay, written by Brad Watson and Beth Ann Fennelly
  •  The Red Tent written by Anita Diamant
  • Cheese Belongs to You written and illustrated by Alexis Deacon
  • The Divine  written by Boaz Lavie and illustrated by Asaf Hanuka and Tomer Hanuka
  • Darkness Visible by Rachel A. Marks
Until next week, happy reading!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

"Art for ALL Seasons" Exhibit

The Mississippi Library Commission's summer exhibit opened Wednesday, July 1, 2015, with the "Art for ALL Seasons" exhibit featuring VSA Mississippi and glass and mixed media artist Jennifer Thomas. An opening reception honoring the artists is scheduled for Thursday, July 23, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Mississippi Library Commission, which is located at 3881 Eastwood Drive off Eastover Drive on the grounds of the Mississippi Education and Research Center in Jackson. The pubic is invited. Artwork can be viewed Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Established in 2001 with eight students, the VSA Mississippi Community Art Group provides opportunities for all adults with disabilities to participate in art experiences and art making according to their needs and abilities. The group offers professional instruction and guidance to participants while utilizing a variety of techniques including individual and group instruction by the teaching artist, visiting artists, use of instructional books, and tours of museums and galleries to observe masterworks.

The program has increased to over 40 registered students. Initially, classes were for two hours once weekly. Currently, they are offered two full days per week. It has provided art opportunities to over 85 different artists during the past fourteen years. Some artists have been with the program for over ten years. Three artists have become successful professional artists with gallery representation. The program meets social as well as educational needs. Students have exhibited works in the Municipal Gallery, the Arts Center of Mississippi, the Mississippi Library Commission, the V.A. Medical Center, and the Methodist Rehabilitation Center.

Born and raised in Texas, Jennifer Thomas graduated from the University of Houston. Thomas' love of the arts led her to have two main studies: interior design and painting, both of which she still loves. She soon realized her specific focus in the arts was the field of decorative arts; stained glass would become her passion.

A God-ordained trip to Mississippi yielded a job for Thomas as a full-time stained glass artists at Pearl River Glass Studio in Jackson, where her knowledge and abilities in the discipline were developed. In time, she was introduced to glass fusing and loved everything about it. Each project was like a quick painting study, except it was executed in glass. In 2007, Thomas left the studio to focus on the strong vision she had for producing beautiful yet functional pieces for daily use. Thomas has since been accepted into the Mississippi Craftsmen's Guild.

The Mississippi Library Commission is a state agency with the mission to ensure that all Mississippians have access to quality library services, consults with and advises local entities on library issues, supports electronic access to information through public libraries, and manages state and federal grant programs for public libraries. Visit the Mississippi Library Commission's website at

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

That's All Right

On this day in history the King of Rock and Roll and Mississippi native, Elvis Presley, made his first radio debut in 1954 with the song "That's All Right."  The song was played by Memphis, Tennessee, radio station WHBQ and became an instant hit.

Here are a few fact about the song that made Elvis famous:

  • "That's All Right" was originally written and recorded by another Mississippi native Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup.
  • The song was not originally part of Elvis' recording session.  While taking a break, Elvis started jamming to an upbeat version of the song that caught producer Sam Phillips' attention. 
  • On July 7, 1954, "That's All Right' was played on Dewey Phillips' radio show "Red, Hot & Blue."
  • The song was such a success that Dewey played the song seven times in a row and and a total of fourteen times during the program. 
  • Elvis was so nervous during his radio debut that he hid in the Suzore No. 2 Theater until retrieved by his parents. 
  • The song also became Elvis' first single and was released July 19, 1954. It sold around 20,000 copies.
  • The song did not reach national charts, but was number four on the local Memphis charts. 
  • Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup became know as the father of Rock and Roll after Elvis' success with three of his songs: “That's All Right,” “My Baby Left Me,” and “So Glad You're Mine.”

If you would like to learn more neat Elvis fact check out MLC's large collection of Elvis materials.

Guralnick, Peter. Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley. Boston: Little, Brown, 1994. Print.
Jorgensen, Ernst. Elvis Presley: A Life in Music : The Complete Recording Sessions. New York: St. Martin's, 1998. Print.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Mississippi Reads Launch

The Mississippi Center for the Book is pleased to announce the launch of Mississippi Reads, an online, statewide book club! We encourage everyone to read along with our quarterly selections, then visit the site and participate in the discussion. Existing book clubs are welcome to use the discussion questions in their meetings and folks without a book club now have a place to join in. All Mississippi Reads featured titles will be available in large print and in the Talking Book Services collection at the Mississippi Library Commission so that all may participate.

The Summer 2015 selection is John Grisham's Sycamore Row -- Grisham is the headliner for the Mississippi Book Festival in Jackson, MS, on August 22, 2015, which is a great way to tie these two projects together. Each Wednesday, we'll load new content on the site so be sure and visit. Happy reading!
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