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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog Girls on the Verge
by Sharon Biggs Waller

Book list Gr. 5-8. Igus' prose poems and Wood's evocative paintings combine to give a succinct overview of African American music. A useful time line sets the social context, and brief paragraphs describe the various types of music, from African origins and slave songs through ragtime; the blues; big band, bebop, and cool jazz; gospel; rhythm and blues; and the contemporary sounds of rock, hip-hop, and rap. Igus effectively uses snippets from song lyrics to communicate both a feel for the music itself and a sense of how the various styles played to the emotions of the musicians and their fans ("From the basements to the rooftops, / I see the cool tones of modern jazz / escape the city heat"). Wood's paintings are equally suggestive. Mixing modernist and primitive styles and using color nicely to communicate musical style and tone, her art not only complements the text but vivifies it. Audience may be a problem: the supportive text is too sophisticated for younger readers to grasp themselves, and the format may alienate some older readers. Perhaps best used in a junior-high classroom with audio accompaniment, this striking book, in the hands of a creative teacher or librarian, could give kids a feeling for the majesty, creativity, and continuity of African American music. (Reviewed February 15, 1998)0892391510Bill Ott

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

Kirkus The collaborators on Going Back Home (1997) return with a stunning history of African-American music. They begin 500 years ago, on the African continent, chronicle the slave trade, and document the work songs and spirituals of American slaves. The blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, R&B, rock, funk, rap, and hip hop all come under scrutiny in free-verse poems that incorporate lyrics about and the rhythms of every style. In addition, Igus has added a brief description of each musical movement and a terrific timeline noting highlights of African-American history--both musical and more general information--which roots the whole book in a broader context. Wood's vibrant paintings are based in historical detail, and resonate with emotion. The color choices, postures of the figures, as well as the expressions on their faces, reflect various aspects of African-American music; the pictures broadcast joy, innovation, and exuberance in the face of systematic oppression. A child hidden in each scene adds a nice piece of personality for readers to interpret. Stylish and lively design pulls it all together into an absorbing, attractive package. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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

Caldecott Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick

School Library Journal : Gr 3–6—Brian Selznick's atmospheric story (Scholastic, 2007) is set in Paris in 1931. Hugo Cabret is an orphan; his father, a clockmaker, has recently died in a fire and the boy lives with his alcoholic Uncle Claude, working as his apprentice clock keeper in a bustling train station. When Hugo's uncle fails to return after a three-day absence, the boy decides it's his chance to escape the man's harsh treatment. But Hugo has nowhere to go and, after wandering the city, returns to his uncle's rooms determined to fix a mechanical figure—an automaton—that his father was restoring when he died. Hugo is convinced it will "save his life"—the figure holds a pen, and the boy believes that if he can get it working again, it will deliver a message from his father. This is just the bare outline of this multilayered story, inspired by and with references to early (French) cinema and filmmaker George Méliès, magic and magicians, and mechanical objects. Jeff Woodman's reading of the descriptive passages effectively sets the story's suspenseful tone. The book's many pages of pictorial narrative translate in the audio version into sound sequences that successfully employ the techniques of old radio plays (train whistles, footsteps reverberating through station passages, etc.). The accompanying DVD, hosted by Selznick and packed with information and images from the book, will enrich the listening experience.—Daryl Grabarek, School Library Journal

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog Crossroads
by Jonathan Franzen

Kirkus This first novel in an ambitious trilogy tracks a suburban Chicago family in a time of personal and societal turmoil. It says a lot that, at almost 600 pages, Franzen’s latest novel, set amid the waning years of the Vietnam War, leaves you wanting more. That it does so is also very good news: It’s the first in what promises to be a sprawling trilogy, continuing to the present day, which the author has titled A Key to All Mythologies in what is presumably a wink at its far-from-modest ambitions—yes, ŕ la Middlemarch. That reference is classic Franzen, who imbues his books with big ideas, in this case about responsibility to family, self, God, country, and one’s fellow man, among other matters, all the while digging deep into his characters’ emotions, experiences, desires, and doubts in a way that will please readers seeking to connect to books heart-first. Here, the story follows two generations of the Hildebrandt family, headed by Russ, the associate pastor of a church in the fictional town of New Prospect, Illinois, who, when we first meet him in the lead-up to Christmas 1971, is nursing a crush on a recently widowed parishioner and a grudge against the groovily charismatic leader of the church’s popular youth group, Crossroads, in which three of Russ’ four children are variously involved. Russ’ wife, Marion, who has gained weight over the years and lost her pre-maternal intensity and with it her husband’s sexual interest, is nursing a few secret preoccupations of her own, as are the couple’s three oldest children, Clem, Becky, and Perry. Each of the five characters, among whose perspectives Franzen adroitly toggles, is struggling with matters of morality and integrity, privilege and purpose, driven in part by the dueling desires for independence and connection. Their internal battles—to fight in an unjust war or unjustly let others fight in your stead, to fight their way out of a marriage or fight to stay in it, to fight for sanity or surrender to madness, to fight to define themselves and determine their paths or to cede that control to others, to name a few—are set against the backdrop of an era in which “love” is everywhere but empathy is in short supply, where hugs are liberally dispensed but real connection’s harder to come by. Franzen’s intensely absorbing novel is amusing, excruciating, and at times unexpectedly uplifting—in a word, exquisite. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list A small Midwestern town during the height of the Vietnam era is the setting for Franzen’s masterful, Tolstoyan saga of an unhappy family. Members of the dysfunctional Hildebrandt clan are deeply flawed, insecure, cringe-inducingly self-destructive, and, in Franzen’s psychologically astute rendering, entirely authentic and human. Russ, the patriarch, is a woefully uncool associate pastor at a small-town church, embarrassed by his dowdy wife, Marion, as he lusts after a newly arrived, sexy young widow. Marion, meanwhile, still holds onto the inspiration for a youthful indiscretion that led to an emotional breakdown. Neither pays much attention to their children. Idealistic eldest son Clem dropped out of college to fight in Vietnam and follow his conscience. Daughter Becky draws everyone into her orbit but feels insubstantial compared to brilliant younger brother Perry, who turns to pharmaceuticals to stem his raging inner storm. Franzen adroitly portrays eternal generational conflicts as early idealism gives way to resigned reality and dreams fade into dull acceptance. This masterpiece of social realism vividly captures each character’s internal conflicts as a response to and a reflection of societal expectations, while Franzen expertly explores the fissions of domestic life, mining the rich mineral beneath the sediments of familial discord. In this first volume of a promised trilogy, Franzen is in rarified peak form. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Big news: not only has Franzen, master of substantial fiction, delivered his first new novel since Purity (2015), he is also launching a major literary trilogy.

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

Library Journal Written between 1960 and 1990, John Updike's "Rabbit" series reflected on the fluidity of U.S. culture and the puncturing of American exceptionalism. Similarly, Franzen introduces the Hildebrandts, a Chicago family struggling to navigate cultural revolution and the Vietnam War, in the first volume of a trilogy that will trace generations of this family up to the 21st century. Though the story centers on Russ, a depressed assistant pastor dwelling on his perceived humiliation by a colleague, the narrative constellates among his wife Marion, burdened by traumatic past, and their three children: college-age Clem, popular high schooler Becky, and brilliant but troubled Perry. Each member of the family struggles with a nagging sense of emptiness and searches for an authentic sense of self through adultery, drugs, religion, or war. As in The Corrections, Franzen pens complex, densely layered characters with backstories that require the narrative to jump backward and forward in time, with America's heartland functioning as a stage upon which the tension between enduring values and societal change is enacted. VERDICT Much like Updike, Franzen is keenly aware that human struggle is defined by understanding and acceptance and that it is generational, ideas he admirably captures here.—Joshua Finnell, Colgate Univ., Hamilton, NY

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

Publishers Weekly Franzen (Purity) returns with a sweeping and masterly examination of the shifting culture of early 1970s America, the first in a trilogy. The action is centered on the small Illinois town of New Prospect, where the each of the Hildebrandts is experiencing a sea change. The father, Russ, is an associate minister at First Reformed Church and has developed an illicit attraction to a new parishioner, the widow Frances Cottrell, whose zest for life makes Russ feel a renewed sense of his “edge.” Russ is also embroiled in a yearslong feud with Rick Ambrose, who runs the church’s youth organization, Crossroads. Clem, Russ’s oldest son, is at college and having a sexual awakening with his girlfriend, Sharon, who pleads with him not to drop out and lose his deferment (“I’m going to do whatever they want me to do, which probably means Vietnam,” he says, referencing his low lottery number). Becky, Clem’s younger sister, inherits a large sum of money from an aunt and isn’t sure if she should share it with her brothers, especially Perry, the youngest, who is brilliant but cold and self-medicates with weed and ’ludes. All of the characters’ sections are convincingly rendered, and perhaps best of all are those narrated by Russ’s wife, Marion, who had a psychotic breakdown 30 years earlier that she is just starting to come to terms with. As complications stack up for the Hildebrandts, they each confront temptation and epiphany, failure and love. Throughout, Franzen exhibits his remarkable ability to build suspense through fraught interpersonal dynamics. It’s irresistible. Agent: Susan Golomb, Writers House. (Oct.)

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Kirkus This first novel in an ambitious trilogy tracks a suburban Chicago family in a time of personal and societal turmoil.It says a lot that, at almost 600 pages, Franzens latest novel, set amid the waning years of the Vietnam War, leaves you wanting more. That it does so is also very good news: Its the first in what promises to be a sprawling trilogy, continuing to the present day, which the author has titled A Key to All Mythologies in what is presumably a wink at its far-from-modest ambitionsyes, la Middlemarch. That reference is classic Franzen, who imbues his books with big ideas, in this case about responsibility to family, self, God, country, and ones fellow man, among other matters, all the while digging deep into his characters emotions, experiences, desires, and doubts in a way that will please readers seeking to connect to books heart-first. Here, the story follows two generations of the Hildebrandt family, headed by Russ, the associate pastor of a church in the fictional town of New Prospect, Illinois, who, when we first meet him in the lead-up to Christmas 1971, is nursing a crush on a recently widowed parishioner and a grudge against the groovily charismatic leader of the churchs popular youth group, Crossroads, in which three of Russ four children are variously involved. Russ wife, Marion, who has gained weight over the years and lost her pre-maternal intensity and with it her husbands sexual interest, is nursing a few secret preoccupations of her own, as are the couples three oldest children, Clem, Becky, and Perry. Each of the five characters, among whose perspectives Franzen adroitly toggles, is struggling with matters of morality and integrity, privilege and purpose, driven in part by the dueling desires for independence and connection. Their internal battlesto fight in an unjust war or unjustly let others fight in your stead, to fight their way out of a marriage or fight to stay in it, to fight for sanity or surrender to madness, to fight to define themselves and determine their paths or to cede that control to others, to name a feware set against the backdrop of an era in which love is everywhere but empathy is in short supply, where hugs are liberally dispensed but real connections harder to come by. Franzens intensely absorbing novel is amusing, excruciating, and at times unexpectedly upliftingin a word, exquisite. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list A small Midwestern town during the height of the Vietnam era is the setting for Franzen’s masterful, Tolstoyan saga of an unhappy family. Members of the dysfunctional Hildebrandt clan are deeply flawed, insecure, cringe-inducingly self-destructive, and, in Franzen’s psychologically astute rendering, entirely authentic and human. Russ, the patriarch, is a woefully uncool associate pastor at a small-town church, embarrassed by his dowdy wife, Marion, as he lusts after a newly arrived, sexy young widow. Marion, meanwhile, still holds onto the inspiration for a youthful indiscretion that led to an emotional breakdown. Neither pays much attention to their children. Idealistic eldest son Clem dropped out of college to fight in Vietnam and follow his conscience. Daughter Becky draws everyone into her orbit but feels insubstantial compared to brilliant younger brother Perry, who turns to pharmaceuticals to stem his raging inner storm. Franzen adroitly portrays eternal generational conflicts as early idealism gives way to resigned reality and dreams fade into dull acceptance. This masterpiece of social realism vividly captures each character’s internal conflicts as a response to and a reflection of societal expectations, while Franzen expertly explores the fissions of domestic life, mining the rich mineral beneath the sediments of familial discord. In this first volume of a promised trilogy, Franzen is in rarified peak form. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Big news: not only has Franzen, master of substantial fiction, delivered his first new novel since Purity (2015), he is also launching a major literary trilogy.

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

Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Moon Over Manifest
by Clare Vanderpool

Book list Gr. 5-8. Igus' prose poems and Wood's evocative paintings combine to give a succinct overview of African American music. A useful time line sets the social context, and brief paragraphs describe the various types of music, from African origins and slave songs through ragtime; the blues; big band, bebop, and cool jazz; gospel; rhythm and blues; and the contemporary sounds of rock, hip-hop, and rap. Igus effectively uses snippets from song lyrics to communicate both a feel for the music itself and a sense of how the various styles played to the emotions of the musicians and their fans ("From the basements to the rooftops, / I see the cool tones of modern jazz / escape the city heat"). Wood's paintings are equally suggestive. Mixing modernist and primitive styles and using color nicely to communicate musical style and tone, her art not only complements the text but vivifies it. Audience may be a problem: the supportive text is too sophisticated for younger readers to grasp themselves, and the format may alienate some older readers. Perhaps best used in a junior-high classroom with audio accompaniment, this striking book, in the hands of a creative teacher or librarian, could give kids a feeling for the majesty, creativity, and continuity of African American music. (Reviewed February 15, 1998)0892391510Bill Ott

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

Kirkus The collaborators on Going Back Home (1997) return with a stunning history of African-American music. They begin 500 years ago, on the African continent, chronicle the slave trade, and document the work songs and spirituals of American slaves. The blues, ragtime, jazz, gospel, R&B, rock, funk, rap, and hip hop all come under scrutiny in free-verse poems that incorporate lyrics about and the rhythms of every style. In addition, Igus has added a brief description of each musical movement and a terrific timeline noting highlights of African-American history--both musical and more general information--which roots the whole book in a broader context. Wood's vibrant paintings are based in historical detail, and resonate with emotion. The color choices, postures of the figures, as well as the expressions on their faces, reflect various aspects of African-American music; the pictures broadcast joy, innovation, and exuberance in the face of systematic oppression. A child hidden in each scene adds a nice piece of personality for readers to interpret. Stylish and lively design pulls it all together into an absorbing, attractive package. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog While I Was Gone
by Sue Miller

Library Journal: Thirty years ago, Joey Becker's carefree bohemian life was shattered by the brutal, unsolved murder of her best friend, Dana. Joey coped with her loss while building a career, marrying, and raising a family. She thinks she is happy, but ever since her children have left home Joey has felt a vague sense of disappointment. She cannot share the depth of her feelings for Dana with anyone, even her husband. Then Eli, Joey and Dana's former housemate, arrives in town. Joey and Eli are first drawn to each other because they both loved Dana and still mourn her, but their mutual attraction grows until it threatens Joey's marriage and her relationship with her daughter. Miller (The Good Mother, LJ 5/15/86) presents a suspenseful, penetrating look at the tenuous bonds of love, the ease with which even a good marriage can be destroyed, and the need to forgive ourselves for the mistakes of the past. Highly recommended for all public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/1/98.]--Karen Anderson, Superior Court Law Lib., Phoenix

Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

Publishers Weekly: The shadowy and inexorable nemesis of past secrets to a reclaimed life, and the inability even of those who are intimates to really know one another, are poignant themes in Miller's resonant fifth novel. Narrator Jo Becker, now a veterinarian married to a minister in a small Massachusetts town, was once a runaway bride who assumed a false name and lived with other dissaffected '60s bohemians in a group house in Cambridge. Her special friend in the house was sweet-spirited and generous Dana Jablonski, whose shocking--and unsolved--murder broke up the group and left Jo with unresolved questions about her own identity. She manages to ignore the memories of that time until, almost three decades later, one of the former housemates, Eli Mayhew, moves to her town. Eli, now a distinguished research scientist, provides a revelation that acts as the catalyst provoking Jo to face her guilt about her past behavior--and to act impulsively once again. Her moral conundrum occasions a heartrending change in her heretofore strong marriage and undermines her relationship with her three grown daughters. As usual, Miller (The Good Mother; Family Pictures) renders the details of quotidian domesticity with bedrock veracity and a sensitivity to minute calibrations of family dynamics, especially the nuances of sibling rivalry. But while the pacing, tone and measured exposition are handled with masterly skill, the way in which Jo's decision to make amends for her past rebounds on her present life seems staged and convoluted, since her husband and children seem to think that retribution for a murder should take second place to their own emotional needs. That cavil aside, Miller's narrative is a beautifully textured picture of the psychological tug of war between finding integrity as an individual and satisfying the demands of spouse, children and community. 150,000 first printing; Random House audio; BOMC selection; author tour.

Copyright 1998 Cahners Business Information, Inc. Distributed by Syndetic Solutions Inc. Terms

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