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Friday, September 25, 2015

Staff Reads: September 25, 2015

Another week, another glorious pile of books to read! First, though, are our book reviews from this past week:

 The Bird's Nest
written by Shirley Jackson  
four stars

This book tells the story of a girl in the middle of dealing with a multiple personality disorder, now better known as dissociative identity disorder. The dialogue and conflict between her personalities is at times both frightening and comical. Shirley Jackson is so good at this kind of dark humor.

The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook
written by Alexe Van Beuren and Dixie Grimes
four stars

Don't you just love a cookbook that's more than a cookbook? Most cookbooks just impart recipes, and recipes only, leaving them as bland as a tomato sandwich without any mayonnaise. This cookbook, though, evokes the heart of small-town America, with the stories, advice, pure heart, and recipes of Water Valley, Mississippi's B.T.C Old-Fashioned Grocery. We recommend the baked grits casserole and the chocolate buttermilk cake--yum--but really, you should just try them all!

 The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend
written and illustrated by Dan Santat
five stars

We're giving 2015 Caldecott winner Beekle five shiny, golden stars, and we'd give even more if we could. Santat's illustrations are sweet and charming; they harmonize perfectly with Beekle's story. And the story! Such simple, strong messages about friendship and imagination and perseverance--lovely from beginning to end. We guarantee that this one will end up in your bedtime reading pile night after night after night after night...

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
written by Ryan North
illustrated by Erica Henderson
five stars

Oh Em Gee! Doreen Green--don't you love that name?--is a college girl with super powers. She's super strong. She's got a tail. She's saving the world. Plus, there are oodles and oodles of snarky footnotes. Amazingly fun!

Staff will be reviewing these books next week:
  • Mean Streak
    written by Sandra Brown
  • Yard War
    written by Taylor Kitchings
  • Descender, Volume 1: Tin Stars
    written by Jeff Lemire
    illustrated by Dustin Nguyen
  • Humans of New York
    written and illustrated by Brandon Stanton
Until next week, happy reading!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Remembering Mary Church Terrell

Mary Eliza Church Terrell was born on this day, September 23, in 1863. When she was only six, her parents sent her from their home in Memphis, Tennessee, to Ohio, so that she might obtain a quality education, which was not available in her home state. She went on to achieve many things that were thought to be impossible for someone of her sex and color at that time:
  • She secured not only a college degree, but also her master's degree (in 1885.)
  • In 1896, with the help of women like Harriet Tubman and Ida Bell Wells-Barnett, Terrell co-founded the National Association of Colored Women by merging two women's groups for African-Americans. She served as president three times.
  • Terrell was an avid suffragette, as well as a proponent of racial equality. She was a founding member of the National Association of the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.
  • She passed away July 24, 1954, in Annapolis, Maryland.

One excellent resource for this remarkable woman comes from the Library of Congress. Click the link to find a plethora of resources about Mary Church Terrell. If you're looking for print sources, try her autobiography, A Colored Woman in a White World, or the juvenile biography, Fight On! Mary Church Terrell's Battle for Integration.

We leave you with these words from a speech she gave to the National American Women's Suffrage Association in 1898:
And so, lifting as we climb, onward and upward we go, struggling and striving, and hoping that the buds and blossoms of our desires will burst into glorious fruition ere long. With courage, born of success achieved in the past, with a keen sense of the responsibility which we shall continue to assume, we look forward to a future large with promise and hope. Seeking no favors because of our color, nor patronage because of our needs, we knock at the bar of justice, asking an equal chance.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Staff Reads: September 18, 2015

Never fear! Your book reviews are here... and just in time for Friday Reads, too.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
written by Sherman Alexie
five stars

Sherman Alexie, we want you to write more books. Want? Need. The stories in this book deftly bring to light America's marginalized native people. We see their love, their humor, and their pain, and it's simply beautiful. A re-read of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian is definitely in order, but TLRATFIH is one to savor and return to again as well.

The Adventures of Superhero Girl
written and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
four stars

Faith Erin Hicks is simply amazing. Her heroine, Superhero Girl, is in her early twenties, has a roommate and a cat, and faces mundane, everyday sorts of problems like doing laundry and dealing with boys. But wait! She can leap buildings in a single bound, too. And heave things into space. And other superhero-esque things. She does all this, plus confronts superhero problems, all while wearing her cape and mask with the nonchalance only a superhero in her twenties could pull off. Witty and sarcastic, this was a hilarious read.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up:
The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing
written by Marie Kondo
translated by Cathy Hirano
three stars

This book has been incredibly popular at our library, so we decided to give it a read, too. Kondo recommends getting rid of everything in your house that doesn't fill you with joy. The anthropomorphizing of objects took a little getting used to--talk to your shoes, people!--but hey, if the house is at one with itself, you can be, too.

written by Kirby Larson
four stars

This Magnolia Award nominee is based on a true story. Mitsi and her family are swept up in the anti-Japanese sentiment of World War II and are forced to move to an internment camp. Mitsi has to leave her beloved dog Dash with a neighbor because animals aren't allowed. Her worry about her dog added to the unbearable conditions at the camp-- filth, drudgery, and inhumanity--make this story an excellent introduction to American history and race relations for middle schoolers.

The Healing
written by Jonathan Odell
four stars

The Healing is a fascinating book about African-Americans before the Civil War and during the 1930s. The characters Granada and Polly will stay with us for quite some time, as well as Odell's take on midwifery, Mississippi, and life.

Staff picks this week include these books:
  • The Bird's Nest
    written by Shirley Jackson
  • The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl
    written by Ryan North
    illustrated by Erica Henderson
  • The Adventures of Beekle
    written and illustrated by Dan Santat
  • The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Cookbook
    written by Alexe van Beuren
Until next week, happy reading!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Wonderful Words

If you follow the Mississippi Library Commission on social media you have probably noticed our word of the day hashtag (#wordoftheday). We usually post unique vocabulary words on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. To find these words we consult the LearningExpress Library as well as the Oxford English Dictionary (OED)* and coincide the word with a significant event that took place on that day. This could be an author's birthday, a Mississippian's birthday or an important event or holiday.

Here are some of our favorite words from the past year: 

To see all of our words check out our Pinterest board, Wonderful Words.  Also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.  

*If you would like to use the OED for you own reference just contact us for the username and password.

Friday, September 11, 2015

15th Annual National Book Festival

We were honored to be able to participate at the Library of Congress National Book Festival again this year. This was the festival's 15th year! The festival took place at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C. There were thousands of readers in attendance and we had quite a busy day. We had a great time representing Mississippi in the Pavilion of the States and got to meet thousands (yes, thousands) of young readers. Here's a photo of us at our booth before the day got started.

We came armed with several boxes full of fun, free literary stuff like books, buttons, bookmarks, and word games to give away.You see that book standing up on the right hand side of our table? That's The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch by Chris Barton (mentioned in a previous blog post here). Each year, every state is asked to pick a children's or young adult title that was written by someone from their state or set in their state. The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch was our featured title this year. We got tons of questions about it and got to be a small part of introducing some young readers to John Roy Lynch's amazing life story. We had a great time and can't wait to go back next year. Want to read more about the festival? Check out the Library of Congress National Book Festival Blog.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Happy Birthday, John Roy Lynch!

John Roy Lynch was born on this day 168 years ago; he came into life a slave on 10 September 1847 near Vidalia, Louisiana. His father ran the plantation and his mother was a slave. From this humble and repressive beginning, he rose to prominence in Reconstruction-era politics in Mississippi, surely the grandfather of the Civil Rights Movement in our great state. He became an outspoken voice of calm, rallying for the civil rights of African-Americans and denouncing violent White Rights groups who were terrorizing the South.
  • Lynch was appointed Justice of the Peace in Natchez in 1869.
  • That same year, he was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives. He was named Speaker of the House in January of 1872 when he was just 24, the first African-American to hold that position.
  • At 26, Lynch was elected as the youngest member of the 43th US Congress (1873-1875.) He went on to serve two more terms (the 44th and 47th Congresses.)
  • Lynch wrote two books in during his lifetime, The Facts of Reconstruction and Reminiscences of an Active Life, his autobiography. Both books are available at the Mississippi Library Commission. 
Poster promoting The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynchwritten by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate
Earlier this year, Eerdmans published a picture book biography of Lynch, The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. It was written by Chris Barton and illustrated by Don Tate. You can read our review here. If you'd like to learn more about John Roy Lynch, check out this short biography here.

Friday, September 4, 2015

MLC Reads: September 4, 2015

Read, read, read, until you can read no more. Then pick up another book, and read!

In the Unlikely Event
written by Judy Blume
four stars

Although a fictional account, this book was inspired by actual events that happened to Judy Blume when she was a young girl. Three planes crashed over an eight week period in her hometown. The happenings that occur around these crashes are told in many voices, bu the main one is thirteen-year-old Miri. The short alternating chapters told from different characters' perspectives is one of our favorite writing gimmicks. People's reactions to the crashes, and the lives that both crumble and progress, kept us turning pages and begging for more. The novel also propels 35 years into the future, so the whole book is wrapped up quite nicely with a bow. This is definitely one of our favorite Blume books; it left us with a smile.

 Dear Hank Williams
written by Kimberly Willis Holt
three stars
Are you a fan of unreliable narrators? Meet the sweetest, toughest, loving-est unreliable narrator we've ever run across: Tate P. Ellerbee. The cute premise has Tate writing her life story to Hank Williams via letters--they're pen pals, don'tcha know. The plotting is a bit slow (not bad, just slow), so this middle-grade novel may not be a good choice for struggling readers. This one will lend itself well to a discussion during/afterward.

The Silence of Our Friends
written by Mark Long and Jim Demonakos
illustrated by Nate Powell
four stars
Graphic novel fan? Of course. Civil rights buff? Yes, indeed. The Silence of Our Friends is a strong offering from First Second Books. It tells an important and interesting story about the struggle for civil rights in Texas, made even more engaging by its obscurity. Pair this with John Lewis's March for a well-rounded look at the civil rights movement portrayed in graphic novel format.

North Toward Home
written by Willie Morris
four stars

This memoir follows its author from Mississippi to Texas to New York. Sometimes we have to leave home in order to understand it better, and that's exactly what Morris did. He's a gorgeous writer, too--enjoy!

 The Miseducation of Cameron Post
written by emily m. danforth
five stars

With lovely, lyrical prose and engaging, fleshed-out characters, emily danforth's The Miseducation of Cameron Post left us nearly reeling. It's a coming-of-age story that will make your chest ache. Reminiscent of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda or Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, it's a must-read.

Check back with us next week to see how we felt about these upcoming staff reads:
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
    written by Sherman Alexie
  • The Adventures of Superhero Girl
    written and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
    written by Marie Kondo
    translated by Cathy Hirano
  • Dash
    written by Kirby Larson
  • The Healing
    written by Jonathan Odell
Until then, happy reading!
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