Learning Express

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Click to search this book in our catalog Unsheltered
by Barbara Kingsolver

Publishers Weekly Kingsolver's meticulously observed, elegantly structured novel unites social commentary with gripping storytelling. Its two intertwined narratives are set in Vineland, a real New Jersey town built as a utopian community in the 1860s. In the first storyline, set in the present, the magazine Willa Knox edited and the college at which her husband, Iano Tavoularis, taught both fold at the same time. They find themselves responsible for Iano's ailing father and their single son's new baby. They hope the house they have inherited in Vineland will help rebuild their finances, but-riddled with structural problems too costly to repair-it slowly collapses around them. Destitute after decades of striving and stunned by the racist presidential candidate upending America's ideals, the couple feels bewildered by the future facing them. Researching the home's past in the hopes of finding grant-worthy historical significance, Willa becomes fascinated by science teacher Thatcher Greenwood and his neighbor, naturalist Mary Treat, one of whom may have lived on the property in the 1870s. In the second story line, which alternates with Willa's, Thatcher's home is unsound and irreparable, too. His deepening bond with Mary inspires him, but his support for radical ideas like those of Mary's correspondent Charles Darwin infuriates Vineland's repressive leadership, threatening Thatcher's job and marriage. Kingsolver (Flight Behavior) artfully interweaves fictional and historical figures (notably the remarkable Mary Treat) and gives each narrative its own mood and voice without compromising their underlying unity. Containing both a rich story and a provocative depiction of times that shake the shelter of familiar beliefs, this novel shows Kingsolver at the top of her game. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

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Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Last Stop on Market Street
by Matt De La Pena

Publishers Weekly Like still waters, de la Peña (A Nation's Hope) and Robinson's (Gaston) story runs deep. It finds beauty in unexpected places, explores the difference between what's fleeting and what lasts, acknowledges inequality, and testifies to the love shared by an African-American boy and his grandmother. On Sunday, CJ and Nana don't go home after church like everybody else. Instead, they wait for the Market Street bus. "How come we don't got a car?" CJ complains. Like many children his age, CJ is caught up in noticing what other people have and don't have; de la Peña handles these conversations with grace. "Boy, what do we need a car for?" she responds. "We got a bus that breathes fire, and old Mr. Dennis, who always has a trick for you." (The driver obliges by pulling a coin out of CJ's ear.) When CJ wishes for a fancy mobile music device like the one that two boys at the back of the bus share, Nana points out a passenger with a guitar. "You got the real live thing sitting across from you." The man begins to play, and CJ closes his eyes. "He was lost in the sound and the sound gave him the feeling of magic." When the song's over, the whole bus applauds, "even the boys in the back." Nana, readers begin to sense, brings people together wherever she goes. Robinson's paintings contribute to the story's embrace of simplicity. His folk-style figures come in a rainbow of shapes and sizes, his urban landscape accented with flying pigeons and the tracery of security gates and fire escapes. At last, CJ and Nana reach their destination-the neighborhood soup kitchen. Nana's ability to find "beautiful where he never even thought to look" begins to work on CJ as the two spot people they've come to know. "I'm glad we came," he tells her. Earlier, Nana says that life in the deteriorated neighborhood makes people "a better witness for what's beautiful." This story has the same effect. Ages 3-5. Agent: Steven Malk, Writers House. (Jan.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list CJ and his nana depart church and make it to the bus stop just in time to avoid an oncoming rain shower. They board the bus, and while CJ is full of questions and complaints (why don't they have a car? why must they make this trip every week? and so forth), Nana's resolute responses articulate the glories of their rich, vibrant life in the city, as presented by the bus' passengers and passages. A tattooed man checks his cell phone. An older woman keeps butterflies in a jar. A musician tunes and plays his guitar. At last the pair arrive at the titular destination and proceed to the soup kitchen where, upon recognizing friendly faces, CJ is glad they came to help. Robinson's bright, simple, multicultural figures, with their rounded heads, boxy bodies, and friendly expressions, contrast nicely with de la Peña's lyrical language, establishing a unique tone that reflects both CJ's wonder and his nana's wisdom. The celebratory warmth is irresistible, offering a picture of community that resonates with harmony and diversity.--Barthelmess, Thom Copyright 2015 Booklist

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

School Library Journal K-Gr 2-After church on Sundays, CJ and his nana wait for the bus. It's a familiar routine, but this week CJ is feeling dissatisfied. As they travel to their destination, the boy asks a series of questions: "How come we gotta wait for the bus in all this wet?" "Nana, how come we don't got a car?" "How come we always gotta go here after church?" CJ is envious of kids with cars, iPods, and more freedom than he has. With each question, Nana points out something for CJ to appreciate about his life: "Boy, what do we need a car for? We got a bus that breathes fire." These gentle admonishments are phrased as questions or observations rather than direct answers so that CJ is able to take ownership of his feelings. After they exit the bus, CJ wonders why this part of town is so run-down, prompting Nana to reply, "Sometimes when you're surrounded by dirt, CJ, you're a better witness for what's beautiful." The urban setting is truly reflective, showing people with different skin colors, body types, abilities, ages, and classes in a natural and authentic manner. Robinson's flat, blocky illustrations are simple and well composed, seemingly spare but peppered with tiny, interesting details. Ultimately, their destination is a soup kitchen, and CJ is glad to be there. This is an excellent book that highlights less popular topics such as urban life, volunteerism, and thankfulness, with people of color as the main characters. A lovely title.-Anna Haase Krueger, Ramsey County Library, MN (c) Copyright 2014. 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.

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