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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda
by Becky Albertalli

Book list *Starred Review* Publishers say that historical fiction is a hard sell, and books with religion at their core are few and far between. Kudos, then, to Berry (All the Truth That's in Me, 2013) for creating a sweeping saga that not only deeply entwines both but also dissects its characters' humanity as it looks at the often troubling beliefs that underlay their actions. The story-within-a-story begins in 1290. A friar is gathering papers and testimonies that will show how the inquisitions here on the border of France and Spain were God's holy work. But one tale troubles him, so much so that he begins to stitch the strands together, and that is where the main story begins. Botille is a sassy teenager who makes money in her seaside village of Bajas by matchmaking. A disruptive childhood and a drunken father has bound Botille and her sisters closely together, but their lives are good: Plazensa runs the tavern, Botille makes her matches, and Sazia tells fortunes with uncanny accuracy. To the north, in Tolosos, there is another girl, Dolssa. Aristocratic by birth and a mystic by the grace of God, she spends her days with her beloved, Jesus, who wraps her in his murmurs and consumes her with his love. That much love cannot be contained, and Dolssa begins telling others how much her beloved cherishes all people. The simplicity of her message is seen by the inquisitors as a threat to the church, a devil's deception, and there is only one place it can end: in a public burning. Miraculously, Dolssa escapes the pyre. She wanders until she meets Botille, who saves and shelters her. This beautifully crafted plot would be enough on its own, but Berry does so much more. First, she establishes a convincing setting, in part by peppering the dialogue with Old Provençal language. Using many voices, some of which, including Botille and Dolssa, relate their own stories, she picks beneath words and actions to expose the motives of the heart, revealing how lofty ideas can turn into terrorizing actions, and how fear and self-preservation can make friends and neighbors turn on one another. Yet despite the book's gravity, Berry also manages to infuse her story with laughter and light welcome surprises. The final surprise awaiting readers at the book's conclusion adds yet another layer to the storytelling. Also at the book's end, Berry has included a wealth of back matter, a glossary, a list of characters (possibly of more help if placed at the book's beginning), and an author's note explaining the roots of the religious discord, inquisitions, and wars, and touching on such female mystics as Hildegard of Bingen, who is referenced in the novel. The beauty of historical fiction is that it brings to life long-ago times and places even as it shows how hopes, fears, and dreams remain constant across the ages. The strength of religious-centric novels is their revelation of the myriad ways people grapple with their faith and spirituality. The Passion of Dolssa's rich brew will leave readers thinking about all of these things, even as it profoundly influences their own struggles and questions.--Cooper, Ilene Copyright 2016 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Horn Book A (fictional) Catholic mystic, Dolssa de Stigata, escapes being burned as a heretic in 1241 France; mostly, this is the story of Botille, an enterprising young matchmaker from a tiny fishing village who rescues Dolssa. Botille's spirited character, the heart-rending suspense of events, and the terrifying context of the Inquisition in medieval Europe all render the novel irresistibly compelling. Historical note appended. Bib., glos. (c) Copyright 2016. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-This magnificent tale is set in post-Crusades 13th-century France. A pious young noblewoman blessed with the gift of healing, Dolssa de Stigata is judged a heretic by the Roman Catholic Church and sentenced to burn at the stake. Forced to watch her beloved mother burn first, Dolssa is surprised when someone cuts the ropes binding her hands and feet and implores her to run. Driven into hiding from the churchmen dispatched to track her down, Dolssa is found nearly dead from starvation and exhaustion by a young tavern keeper and matchmaker, Botille, who vows to protect the young heretic despite the danger posed to herself and her family. Unlikely allies, the girls unwittingly put an entire village at risk in their effort to stand up for their beliefs. The account is told in alternating voices by Dolssa, Botille, and Arnaut d'Avinhonet, a Dominican friar. This lush and compelling book is enhanced by brilliant narration by Jayne Entwistle, Allen Corduner, and Fiona Hardingham. Lucky listeners will be haunted by their voices long after the book concludes. VERDICT Highly recommended for all junior high and high school audio collections. ["An expertly crafted piece of historical fiction, Berry's latest is a must for middle and high school libraries": SLJ 3/16 starred review of the Viking book.]-Lisa E. Hubler, Charles F. Brush High School, Lyndhurst, OH © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-Botille is a matchmaker in the small seaside town of Bajas in medieval France. She struggles to run the family's tavern and keep her sisters and herself afloat. Dolssa is a young woman with a secret that she can't help but share-her lover is God, and she speaks to him regularly. When the two young women cross paths, both deep friendship and mortal peril await them. A beautifully rendered portrait of a little-known portion of history, this work is a meticulously researched piece of fiction. Yet it is not just in the accurate details that the novel shines. The strength and humanity of the almost entirely female set of characters are inspiring and well drawn. The panic and suspicion of post-Inquisition France is omnipresent, giving the story of a supposed heretic a constant edge of danger. As the novel slips in and out of magical realism, readers will be transported into Dolssa and Botille's world. VERDICT An expertly crafted piece of historical fiction, Berry's latest is a must for middle and high school libraries.-Erinn Black Salge, Saint Peter's Prep, Jersey City, NJ © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus A girl matchmaker in 13th-century southern France meets a mystic on the run from the Inquisition. A generation after the horrors of the Albigensian Crusade, the elders are still broken by memories of entire towns put to the sword, but the younger folk, such as Botille and her sisters, focus on the present. After a childhood on the run, the sisters seek stability in poverty-stricken Bajas: brewing ale, telling fortunes, and helping their neighbors. Bajas is depicted through a scattering of third- and first-person viewpoints (but primarily Botille's) as a town where all look out for one other as a matter of course, where goodness is found in prostitutes, fishermen, hustlers, and drunks. Bajas' generosity is challenged when Botille discovers Dolssa, an injured, spirit-shattered girl on the run. Dolssa's a convicted heretic for speaking publicly of her intimate relationship with "her beloved...Senhor Jhesus." She trails miracles like bread crumbs, from a never-emptying ale jug to repeated uncanny cures. The villagers venerate her, but the arrival of the Inquisitionin a world where branding and burnings are mild punishments compared to recent historyputs their goodness to the test. The slow build reveals Botille as a compelling, admirable young woman in a gorgeously built world that accepts miracles without question. The medieval Languedoc countryside is so believably drawn there's no need for the too-frequent italicized interjections in Old Provenal that pepper the narrative. Immersive and mesmerizing. (character list, historical note, glossary, bibliography) (Historical fantasy. 14-17) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 7 Up-Two young women-Botille, a tavern wench, and Dolssa, a noblewoman possibly in communion with God-form a deep bond in a world that seeks to destroy them. Berry has reimagined 13th-century France with vigor, from the small intricacies of daily village life to the brutal ruthlessness of the Inquisition. Readers looking for a work steeped in female friendship, mysticism, and blood, with extensive back matter to boot, will be well rewarded. © Copyright 2016. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly When Botille Flasucra finds Dolssa de Stigata lying on a riverside close to death, she takes the stranger to her family's tavern. Botille, a young matchmaker, and her sisters nurse Dolssa back to health in secret-a Dominican friar obsessively hunts Dolssa, whom he condemned as a heretic to be burned at the stake. The year is 1241 in Provensa (now Provence), where the aftereffects of the Albigensian Crusade have led to an inquisition meant to rid the Christian world of heretics. Dolssa, however, feels called to heal the sick in the name of her beloved Jhesus, and her miracles eventually bring danger to the small town of Bajas. Berry (All the Truth That's in Me) again delivers an utterly original and instantly engrossing story. Drawing from meticulous historical research (highlighted in extensive back matter), she weaves a tense, moving portrait of these two teenage girls and their struggle to survive against insurmountable odds. Love, faith, violence, and power intertwine in Berry's lyrical writing, but Botille's and Dolssa's indomitable spirits are the heart of her story. Ages 12-up. Agent: Alyssa Eisner Henkin, Trident Media Group. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

ALA Notable Books for Children
Click to search this book in our catalog The Bell Rang
by James E. Ransome

Kirkus A girl's family life and plantation routines are interrupted when three enslaved boys run away. Most days start the same way: The bell rings, Daddy collects wood, Mama prepares breakfast, they eat together. The narrator's brother, Ben, her parents, and the other slaves go to the fields while the girl stays with the young ones to play. On Wednesday, Ben surprises her with a handmade doll. On Thursday, Ben and his two friends are gone. There are tears; the narrator's parents are beaten, and other slaves look mad or sad. On Friday, the girl cannot eat or talk. On Saturday, there are horses and dogs; Ben's friends have been caught, but there is no sign of Ben. "Out comes the whip. / All night we cry and pray for Ben." On Sunday, Big Sam preaches near the creek, "of being free. / We sing. / We hope. / We pray / Ben made it. / Free like the birds. / Free like Moses. / No more bells." The final spread shows the girl looking out, with the single word "Monday" and a bird flying away on the endpaper. The richly textured paintings make masterful use of light and space to create the narrator's world and interior life, from the glimmer of dawn as her father chops wood to her mother's fatigue and her own knowing eyes. Ransome's free-verse text is as accomplished as his glowing acrylics.With spare text and gorgeous illustrations, this work represents a unique and engaging perspective on enslaved families. (author's note) (Picture book. 4-8) Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list *Starred Review* Every dawn begins the same for the enslaved family of four featured in this book: The bell rings, / and no sun in the sky. / Daddy gathers wood. / Mama cooks. / We eat. The father, mother, and son go to work in the fields, while the daughter spends her days with the younger children. One morning, her brother presents his sister with a handmade doll, a kiss, and a good-bye. The next day, the family discovers that Ben has run away. Tears, fear, and sorrow overtake the family as they wonder about the fate of their beloved son and brother. Beautifully rendered acrylic paintings reveal the closeness of the family, whose pleasure at being together is evident. The richly colored vignettes in Coretta Scott King Award-winning Ransome's single- and double-page-spread paintings clearly picture the emotions felt by the family and the day-to-day monotony of their lives. Swallows are seen flying on the endpapers and over the Sunday prayer gathering, signaling the freedom the family hopes Ben has achieved. The last illustration shows the girl looking at the detested bell, leaving readers to wonder if she is thinking of the day she might choose to run away also. A powerful tale of slavery and its two terrible options: stay or run.--Maryann Owen Copyright 2018 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Horn Book Using deceptively simple, repetitive verse, an enslaved girl narrates her family's daily plantation activities over a week, every morning beginning with the bell ringing--until Thursday when her brother runs away. The author communicates the complex emotions of individuals fleeing enslavement and the aftermath for those left behind. Through lush watercolors that expertly frame and highlight the characters, the reader is drawn into scenes of tenderness, joy, terror, and despair. (c) Copyright 2019. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Bold, painterly spreads by Ransome (Before She Was Harriet) give shape to the lives of a slave family whose days are ruled by the overseer's bell. On Monday, "The bell rings,/ and no sun in the sky./ Daddy gathers wood./ Mama cooks." Daddy; Mama; their son, Ben; and the narrator, Ben's little sister, sit close and share a meal. On Wednesday, Ben gives his sister a kiss and a handmade doll, whispering "Good-bye" before walking away with two companions. Thursday, the family realizes that Ben is really gone. "Overseer comes/ to our cabin./ Then dogs come./ Overseer hits Mama,/ then Daddy." The other boys are found, but not Ben: "We pray/ Ben made it./ Free like the birds." In an image of startling force, a flying swallow is seen darting off the last, blank page. Stories about escaping slaves often follow the journeys of those leaving; this one imagines what life was like for a family left behind. The recurring image of the bell throughout each day underscores the way slaves' lives were continually regimented and surveilled. Ransome's gracefully sculpted figures give Ben's family heroic stature; his story makes their hunger for freedom palpable. Ages 4-8. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog The Revolutionary
by Stacy Schiff

Book list A Harvard graduate, a failure at private business ventures, and an inept public tax collector, Samuel Adams immersed himself in politics. A cousin of future president John Adams, he was a fiery patriot whose early espousal of colonial rights in Massachusetts blossomed into intense advocacy for full independence from Great Britain. He had a hand in whipping up sentiment among fellow colonials to forcefully resist British attempts to enforce its tax levies. So radical were Samuel Adams’ ideas that he was surreptitious in attending meetings and took care to destroy correspondence so that there would be no hard evidence for the British to accuse him of treasonable words or deeds. In Adams’ view, two things were critical to the success of the Revolution and to the sustaining of a republic: virtue and education. To that end, Adams worked as Massachusetts’ governor to promote morality among his fellow citizens and to ensure sound public schooling, particularly encouraging women’s education. Schiff (The Witches, 2015) keeps Samuel Adams’ story lively even through what might be the otherwise tedious minutiae of the Stamp Act.HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: A new book from Pulitzer Prize–winning, powerhouse historian Schiff is always an event.

From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Publishers Weekly Pulitzer winner Schiff (The Witches) delivers a revelatory and frequently riveting account of the life of founding father Samuel Adams (1722–1803). Portraying Adams as both a pious Puritan and a man of action, who “muscled words into deeds” in the cause of American independence, and whose destruction of most of his personal papers opened the door for adversaries to characterize him as a propagandist who provoked mob violence, Schiff begins the narrative with a dramatic description of the opening stages of the Revolutionary War, revealing that the main objective of Paul Revere’s ride was to warn Adams that the British were coming. From there, Schiff retraces Adams’s early years in Boston, his entry into Harvard at age 14, and the “financial catastrophe” that rocked the family when the British parliament dissolved a Massachusetts land bank cofounded by his father. “Vigilance in civic life,” writes Schiff, “had been inculcated in at an early age.” By the late 1740s, he was writing political pieces for local newspapers and soon became a leading opponent of new tariffs and regulations on the colonies. Throughout, Schiff vividly recounts major events in the lead-up to the Revolutionary War, including the Stamp Act Crisis, the Boston Massacre, and the Boston Tea Party, and draws incisive sketches of Loyalist governor Thomas Hutchinson, Patriot lawyer James Otis, and others. Fast-paced and enlightening, this is a must-read for colonial history buffs. Agent: Eric Simonoff, WME. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Pulitzer Prize—winning biographer Schiff follows up The Witches: Salem, 1692 with a biography of Samuel Adams, a somewhat overlooked Founding Father known especially for his eloquence in rallying others to the cause of rebellion against the Crown. Relevant to our times, he was also a master of fake news.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus The Pulitzer Prize–winning author recounts Samuel Adams’ instrumental role in triggering the events that would lead to the American Revolution. Though he is typically overshadowed by such towering contemporaries as Washington, Jefferson, and Adams’ second cousin, John Adams, Samuel’s behind-the-scenes machinations were a crucial factor in setting in motion the wheels of revolution. In her latest, Schiff enthusiastically digs through much of the limited material available on her subject. In a calculated move, Samuel destroyed countless documents and most of his personal correspondence, leaving little for future biographers to unearth. “He operated by stealth, melting into committees and crowd actions, pseudonyms and smoky back rooms,” writes Schiff. “ ‘There ought to be a memorial to Samuel Adams in the CIA,’ quips a modern historian, dubbing him America’s first covert agent. We are left to read him in the twisted arm, the borrowed set of talking points, the indignation of America’s enemies. We know more about him from his apoplectic adversaries than from his friends, sworn to secrecy.” Schiff exhaustively dissects whatever was written about him by his contemporaries, and she also explores the numerous politically charged essays that he submitted under pseudonyms to newspapers such as the Boston Gazette, many of which openly criticized British colonial policy. Schiff provides a penetrating analysis of Samuel’s tactics and motivations, and in tracing his story from his unassuming and somewhat aimless roots as a failed businessman to his role as a highly influential American statesman, she reveals how his grounded idealism was present from the outset and remained consistent throughout his life. This is a meticulously researched and often eloquent work of historical biography, but it’s an occasionally dry cerebral exercise, lacking some of the author’s typical storytelling verve. Still, Schiff offers a welcome, fresh study featuring notions of liberty and democracy that feel particularly relevant in today’s consistently tumultuous political landscape. A sturdy portrait of Samuel Adams for our times. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog We Were the Mulvaneys
by Joyce Carol Oates

Library Journal: Everyone knows the Mulvaneys: Dad the successful businessman, Mike the football star, Marianne the cheerleader, Patrick the brain, Judd the runt, and Mom dedicated to running the family. But after what sometime narrator Judd calls the events of Valentine's Day 1976, this ideal family falls apart and is not reunited until 1993. Oates's (Will You Always Love Me, LJ 2/1/96) 26th novel explores this disintegration with an eye to the nature of changing relationships and recovering from the fractures that occur. Through vivid imagery of a calm upstate New York landscape that any moment can be transformed by a blinding blizzard into a near-death experience, Oates demonstrates how faith and hope can help us endure. At another level, the process of becoming the Mulvaneys again investigates the philosophical and spiritual aspects of a family's survival and restoration. Highly recommended.

Joshua Cohen, Mid-Hudson Lib. System, Poughkeepsie, NY Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Publisher's Weekly: Elegiac and urgent in tone, Oates's wrenching 26th novel (after Zombie) is a profound and darkly realistic chronicle of one family's hubristic heyday and its fall from grace. The wealthy, socially elite Mulvaneys live on historic High Point Farm, near the small upstate town of Mt. Ephraim, N.Y. Before the act of violence that forever destroys it, an idyllic incandescence bathes life on the farm. Hard-working and proud, Michael Mulvaney owns a successful roofing company. His wife, Corinne, who makes a halfhearted attempt at running an antique business, adores her husband and four children, feeling "privileged by God." Narrator Judd looks up to his older brothers, athletic Mike Jr. ("Mule") and intellectual Patrick ("Pinch"), and his sister, radiant Marianne, a popular cheerleader who is 17 in 1976 when she is raped by a classmate after a prom. Though the incident is hushed up, everyone in the family becomes a casualty. Guilty and shamed by his reaction to his daughter's defilement, Mike Sr. can't bear to look at Marianne, and she is banished from her home, sent to live with a distant relative. The family begins to disintegrate. Mike loses his business and, later, the homestead. The boys and Corinne register their frustration and sadness in different, destructive ways. Valiant, tainted Marianne runs from love and commitment. More than a decade later, there is a surprising denouement, in which Oates accommodates a guardedly optimistic vision of the future. Each family member is complexly rendered and seen against the background of social and cultural conditioning. As with much of Oates's work, the prose is sometimes prolix, but the very rush of narrative, in which flashbacks capture the same urgency of tone as the present, gives this moving tale its emotional power. 75,000 first printing; author tour.

Copyright 1996 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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