If you’re looking for a modern Young Adult mystery that reminds you of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle or Agatha Christie’s work, I highly recommend the “Truly Devious” series by Maureen Johnson. Stevie Bell has been accepted to a prestigious high school in the mountains of Vermont, but the high school has a dark past: the famous and wealthy tycoon who created the school had his wife and daughter kidnapped and nobody ever found them. The only clue was a ransom note signed by “Truly Devious.” Stevie is a huge fan of detective stories and true crime and has been studying the case for years. She thinks she may be able to solve it once she gets to school.
The book skips between the 1930s and present day, back to when the kidnapping happened and then returning to Stevie’s investigation. Besides trying to solve the cold case, Stevie is also making friends and adjusting to the eclectic campus and classes at Ellingham Academy. I don’t want to spoil anything, but more crimes and mysteries happen and Stevie has to solve them.
I flew through “Truly Devious” and the second book, “The Vanishing Stair,” but BE WARNED! The third book in the series won’t be out until January of 2020, so some of the mysteries will remain unsolved until then!
August has been celebrated as Women in Translation month since 2014, when book blogger Meytal Radzinksi brought attention to the underrepresentation of women’s work in translated literature. One of the great powers of the written word is its ability to articulate the human mind across boundaries and to envelop us in other worlds. With so many phenomenal women writers across the globe, our shelves are expanded to include an exciting and diverse array of books when translators bring us women’s words from many languages.
One of our Adult Summer Reading Categories this month involves reading a translated book, so if you’re in the midst of the challenge or just looking for an interesting new read, check out this list of works by women translated into English. From short stories and little novels that tug on the heart strings, to surrealist fiction and thrillers, these books transcend genres and show how many exciting literary talents are at our fingertips through the acts of imagination and translation.
The Travelling Cat Chronicles, Hiro Arikawa (translated from the Japanese by Philip Gabriel)
Arikawa’s The Travelling Cat Chronicles creeps in on little cat feet, starting as a whimsical novel narrated by a feline companion and gradually becoming both sad and heartwarming. Satoru brings his cat Nana on a road trip across Japan, visiting old friends and trying to find his beloved pet a new owner. What memories lurk in Satoru’s past and why must he give away Nana? Answers unfold throughout this little book that has become a bestseller around the world.
The Dry Heart, Natalia Ginzburg (translated from the Italian by Frances Frenaye)
In a review of the recent republication of Ginzburg’s novella The Dry Heart, the New York Times declared, “Natalia Ginzburg can only sound like herself,” one of the highest compliments to bestow upon any writer. “The Dry Heart begins and ends with the matter-of-fact pronouncement: ‘I shot him between the eyes.’ As the tale―a plunge into the chilly waters of loneliness, desperation, and bitterness―proceeds, the narrator’s murder of her flighty husband takes on a certain logical inevitability. Natalia Ginzberg transforms an unhappy tale of an ordinary dull marriage into a rich psychological thriller” (Bookmarks). The original English translation was published in 1952, but the 2019 edition is already garnering much attention.
The Vegetarian, Han Kang (translated from the Korean by Deborah Smith)
The Vegetarian is Kang’s English language debut and the first Korean translation to win the Man Booker International Prize. The novel is told in three parts, conveying the story of two sisters, one of whom (Yeong-hye) decides to break with tradition and become a vegetarian. The slim novel probes family relationships and veers toward the Kafka-esque. Kirkus Reviews describes it as a book that “insists on a reader’s attention, with an almost hypnotically serene atmosphere interrupted by surreal images and frighteningly recognizable moments of ordinary despair. … An unusual and mesmerizing novel, gracefully written and deeply disturbing.”
Convenience Store Woman, Sayaka Murata (translated from the Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori)
Sayaka Murata has written ten novels, but Convenience Store Woman is the first of her works to be translated into English. It is “an offbeat exploration of what we must each leave behind to participate in the world” (TheNew York Times). Protagonist Keiko has always been on the margins but feels more at ease in the structures of the convenience store job she has held for eighteen years. The story now finds her involved with a cynical male coworker and follows the repercussions. In her Akutagawa-prize winning novel, Murata deals with the question of conformity: What is the right choice to make for oneself when the pressures to have one’s life follow a socially acceptable narrative arc feel terribly constricting?
Mirror, Shoulder, Signal, Dorthe Nors (translated from the Danish by Misha Hoekstra)
In this Man Booker International Prize finalist, middle-aged Sonja lives in Copenhagen, where she is learning to drive for the first time and translating Swedish crime novels for a living. Isolated from her family, potential friends, and the rural area of her childhood, Sonja finds herself living a dejected life of indirect action: nonconfrontationally avoiding her abrasive driving instructor and writing postcards to the sister who seems to want nothing to do with her. Sonja seeks a kind of solace in the memory of the rye fields she traversed as a girl while fighting against episodes of vertigo and her own despondency. In unembellished prose, Nors conveys both sadness and humor. Kirkus Reviews describes her as “an exquisitely precise writer, and in rendering her heroine’s small disruptions and, yes, victories, she is writing for, and of, every one of us.”
Fever Dream, Samanta Schweblin (translated from the Spanish by Megan McDowell)
Argentinian writer Samanta Schweblin’s debut novel Fever Dream has been described as “terrifying but brilliant” (The Guardian), evoking precisely the nightmarish quality its title implies. The novel begins with a woman named Amanda lying in a hospital with a boy—not her son—by her side. What ensues is “a haunting story of broken souls, toxins, looming environmental and spiritual catastrophes, and the ties that bind a parent to a child” (from the publisher).
The Murmur of Bees, Sofía Segovia (translated from the Spanish by Simon Bruni)
Segovia’s The Murmur of Bees, her first work to be translated into English, melds historical fiction and magical realism and has been likened to the work of Isabel Allende. Booklist describes it as “a gorgeous novel of family, friendship, land, and murderous envy.” The story takes place during the Mexican Revolution of 1918, following the enveloping story of the young child Simonopio, who can both divine the future and is protectively followed by a swarm of bees. Segovia follows Simonopio’s extraordinary journey in its relationship to his family and town.
Flights, Olga Tokarczuk (translated from the Polish by Jennifer Croft)
Tokarczuk’s critically acclaimed Flights won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize and has been described by The New Yorker as “a cabinet of curiosities that must include itself in the cabinet” as it grapples with themes of “mobility and curiosity.” According to World Literature Today, “Tokarczuk describes the book as a constellation novel, in reference to its complex, nonlinear structure. It is a fiendishly difficult book to describe. Flights combines essayistic reflections, fictional stories, and fictionalized histories, varying in length from thirty-odd pages to a paragraph or two, interwoven around two main themes: travel and the preservation of the human body.” The result is a book that oscillates between fiction and thought experiment, beckoning the reader through to see what thread holds these flights together.
Aetherial Worlds: Stories, Tatyana Tolstaya (translated from the Russian by Anya Migdal)
Tatyana Tolstaya’s Aetherial Worlds was longlisted for both the National Book Award for Translated Literature and the PEN Translation Prize. The Moscow-based writer’s book includes eighteen stories that are grounded in reality but take flight into the titular aetherial worlds, covering both the personal and the political. From the publisher: “A woman’s deceased father appears in her dreams with clues about the afterlife. A man falls in love with a marble statue as his marriage falls apart. A child glimpses heaven through a stained-glass window.” These are just some of the glimpses into realms both sorrowful and strangely hopeful.
“They reach, grown people, for something beyond, way beyond and way, way down underneath tissue. They are remembering while they whisper the carnival dolls they won and the Baltimore boats they never sailed on. The pears they let hang on the limb because if they plucked them, they would be gone from there and who else would see that ripeness if they took it away for themselves? How could anybody passing by see them and imagine for themselves what the flavour would be like?”
– Jazz, Toni Morrison
From the publication of The Bluest Eye in 1970 to her death at age 88 this week, author Toni Morrison has let her words dangle in front of us, there to be appreciated, to help us imagine their flavour and meaning. If it’s possible to be a self-less writer, perhaps this was Morrison’s greatest feat, beyond her Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, and countless other accolades. There is a sense of compassionate education throughout her work, a powerful examination of both the beauty and horror of the human experience that forces readers to confront truth and to revel in the resonance of her language. Morrison’s work has always dealt heavily with reality, particularly concerning racism, misogyny, and poverty, yet there is a quality of magical realism that permeates many of her novels that makes her handling of these issues markedly unique. Morrison’s novels can be—and have been—the subject of endless critical examination. At the same time, they can be immediately absorbed into the veins.
Morrison’s books have won the highest honors, found their way into countless high school classrooms, and made it into the realm of popular literature as Oprah’s Book Club picks and bestsellers. She has written for adults, she has written for children. She has written to express pain, she has written to raise awareness. She has written about the Black experience for both those who can identify and those who can learn from it. She has written to give voice to herself, she has written to give voice to others. As an editor and educator, Morrison has also worked to enliven the thoughts and words of others.
Whether you are looking to re-engage with an old favorite or discover a work you’ve never read, here are a number of fiction, nonfiction, and children’s books by one of the world’s most accomplished writers.
Morrison encapsulates the horror of slavery and the consuming passion of motherhood in a single act of defiance by a runaway slave. The pivotal event occurs when Sethe, the slave, murders her infant daughter rather than permit her recapture. The story of Sethe’s violation, her determined escape, and its horrific consequences is slowly played out in memory and gossip, as Morrison hints at the terrible secret in the woman’s past — a legacy so dreadful that she has alienated the black community, driven off her two sons, and sent her remaining daughter into her own form of exile. – Booklist
Eleven-year-old Pecola Breedlove, an African-American girl in an America whose love for blonde, blue-eyed children can devastate all others, prays for her eyes to turn blue, so that she will be beautiful, people will notice her, and her world will be different. – NoveList Plus
In Morrison’s short, emotionally-wrenching novel, her first since 2012’s Home, a mother learns about the damage adults do to children and the choices children make as they grow to suppress, express, or overcome their shame… Nobel laureate Morrison explores characteristic themes of people held captive by inner struggles; the delusion of racism; violence and redemption. – Publishers Weekly
Frank Money was damaged emotionally as well as physically while fighting in Korea, then returns home to an America as racist as ever. What saves him from utter despair is the need to rescue his equally damaged sister and bring her back to their small Georgia town, a place he has always despised. But thinking over the past both near (the war) and far (his childhood) allows him to rediscover his sense of purpose. – Library Journal
In Harlem, 1926, Joe Trace, a door-to-door salesman in his fifties, kills his teenage lover. A profound love story which depicts the sights and sounds of Black urban life during the Jazz Age. – NoveList Plus
Morrison… unravels the mysterious chain of being in a black American family in this book of genealogical revelations. Powerful confrontations dominate the action, as a young son leaves his northern home on a quest for personal freedom that unexpectedly divulges the emotional riches of his roots. – Booklist
At the heart of Sula is a bond between two women, a friendship whose intensity first sustains, then injures. Sula and Nel are both black, both smart, and both poor. Through their girlhood years, they share everything. All this changes when Sula gets out of the Bottom, the hilltop neighborhood where there hides a fierce resentment at the invisible line that cannot be overstepped. – NoveList Plus
On a tropical island paradise, six people interact with each other in all the tender or hateful ways that human beings are capable of. Rich and poor, black and white, young and old, male and female, each has something to teach the others — and each has something to learn. – NoveList Plus
What is race and why does it matter? Why does the presence of Others make us so afraid? America’s foremost novelist reflects on themes that preoccupy her work and dominate politics: race, fear, borders, mass movement of peoples, desire for belonging. – NoveList Plus
Nobel Prize-winning novelist Morrison presents a rich collection of essays from 1976 to 2013, primarily speeches given at college convocations, lectures series, conferences, commencement addresses, and symposiums, among other occasions. Topics vary, reflecting the intellectual curiosity and pursuits of the author. – Library Journal
In this first story for children by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison, parents, teachers, and other adults determine the boundaries of personal freedom for Patty and Mickey and Liza Sue, three feisty kids “who just can’t handle their freedom….” The Big Box will leave readers cheering for Patty and Mickey and Liza Sue—and for all children who let their innocence and ingenuity shine. – From the inside cover
Little Cloud likes her own place in the sky, away from the other clouds. There, the sky is all hers. She is free to make her own way and go where she wishes. Can Lady Wind show Little Cloud the power of being with others? Will Little Cloud agree there is strength in unity and change her ways? – From the publisher
The starling is an easy way to see how many words your baby is hearing each day and to set goals for tracking and increasing that amount if you’d like to.
We’re lending it out for 3 weeks, the same as books, along with stacking cups, a few books, and information about the device and tips for working with your child.
Even if you’re just curious about how many words your baby is hearing per day, it’s a neat tool to use. It’s very light and shouldn’t bother your baby. However, if it does, you could also wear it on yourself. Check it out or reserve it today!
“Without her girls, all she had was this breathlessness. Terrible as it was—and it was, it was—it was all she had left to mother.”
This is the loss upon which Julia Phillips’ breathtaking debut novel Disappearing Earth pivots: two young sisters on Russia’s Kamchatka peninsula go missing, and while rumors of a kidnapping swirl, their mother Marina faces a desolate horizon without her beloved daughters. The story that follows could become a thrilling rush through the investigation, but instead, Phillips takes the ensuing year month by month, each chapter a glimpse into the life of a different woman in the orbit of the tragedy. Marina herself does not appear until ten months in, though her daughters are a thread throughout each story as a news headline, a haunting in the back of the women’s minds, a cautionary tale, the fixation of someone convinced she witnessed their abduction.
The women’s stories focus on the personal, but both the physical terrain of the peninsula and some of the stories’ underlying concerns have strong social and political implications. Phillips is attentive to the tensions between the white Russians and darker-skinned natives and the intergenerational conflict born of the older residents’ memory of a time when the peninsula was a closed military zone and protected from perceived external threats. The structural racism is made manifest in the experience of Alla Innokentevna, an indigenous woman whose own daughter’s disappearance received nothing of the media frenzy brought about by the that of the white Russian girls at the book’s open. There is an additional layer of misogyny throughout—men’s impulses and decisions falling like a shadow across the women’s paths.
Phillips herself is from Brooklyn, NY and traveled to Kamchatka to live for two years. To write a novel so beautifully and profoundly connected to its landscape—to the people, to the culture, to the earth—is a testament not only to the power of a writer’s craft but also to the power of the human mind and body to be fully present and aware of the world. During her time in Kamchatka, the author conversed with the people, engaging with them in order to understand their perspectives. In the resultant work, she does not try to lay claim to a people or a culture, but rather mines their experiences for elements of the universal. With these larger frameworks in place, Phillips fills them with particularities—the minutiae, sometimes odd, that comprise a life as lived.
By the end of the book, so many lives have passed through that it’s almost possible to forget a character who appears early on, like the composed Valentina Nikolaevna, a mother whose brief doctor’s visit suddenly finds her vulnerable on the operating table. But this is the magic of Phillips’ prose: just the mention of Valentina’s name toward the end of the novel brings back a flood of details, small moments—a surge that surrounds the shores Kamchatka and defines the land.
In one chapter, a nurse becomes widowed for the second time in an almost rhythmic disorientation that seeps into the narrative. She returns home to a space populated by evidence of her husband’s life: “On the bedside table, there was his book. His glass of water—she picked that up and drank it. She put the empty glass on his side of the blanket, and the book there, too. They made little dents in the wool.” Disappearing Earth has a sweeping feel, but it these little dents in the wool, the impact of small details, that hold the novel together and define its topography.
Have you ever finished a book, put it down, and immediately thought to yourself, what now? Or have you waited a whole year for the next book in a series to come out, and before you start reading it, you wish you could have a reminder of what happened in the last one? Well, have I got some suggestions for you!
Recaptains is a website that has summaries of book series. You can search for particular books or look through their alphabetical list by author. Do they have every series? No. But they do have a lot. And if they have what you’re looking for, it’s incredibly useful. They don’t just include summaries and major plot points. They include everything you’re going to want to remember before you jump into the next book in the series. You can also request a recap on the site.
NoveList is a database that you can access through the library website. Scroll down to the blue Research tab. If you’re only searching for kids books, you can select NoveList K-8. If you want all books at your disposal, choose NoveList Plus. There are several different ways to use this awesome database. On the left hand side, you can choose age ranges and genres to get recommendation lists. If you choose “browse by” on the top orange banner and choose “appeal” you can search by pace, storyline, writing style, and more. And my favorite way to use NoveList for recommendations is to put one of my favorite books in the search bar. Click on the book listing, and on the right hand side you’ll find a list of readalikes. You can click on each book to read about it, and each book will have its own list of readalikes. NoveList is a great resource for finding more books to read. Check out both of these resources the next time you’re looking to start a new book!
“Gecko,” written by Raymond Huber and illustrated by Brian Lovelock is a beautiful picture book that not only gives you the story of a day in the life of a gecko, but it’s also full of interesting facts about them! Geckos are incredibly cute big-eyed reptiles. When I was in middle school, I carried around a plastic gecko that I had named “Ferguson,” (amazingly enough, this did not make me less cool than I already was) and experienced the joy of having a gecko with none of the responsibilities. Though I never got a pet gecko, they remain one of my favorite reptiles.
“Gecko” is full of excitement (a hawk and a rat both try to eat the gecko) and gross-ish stuff that many kids love (the gecko sheds his skin and then eats it), without being gory. The watercolor, ink, and colored pencil illustrations are bright and beautiful.
I enjoyed that you can just read the story if you want to, or you can just learn gecko facts, or do both! Two thumbs up from Ferguson and me!
“New Shoes” by Sara Varon is a graphic novel set in South America. The main character, Francis the Donkey, is a local shoemaker who uses products from the area to make his amazing shoes. One day he gets an order from the famous calypso singer, Miss Manatee. He is so excited to make her shoes, but he has run out of tiger grass from the jungle. Nigel, a monkey, brings him a new batch of tiger grass every week, but he has gone missing! Now Francis, who has never left his village before, must travel into the jungle to collect the grass. Along the way he meets a lot of awesome friends and learns about the plants and animals there.
I enjoyed that Francis brings his own guidebook to learn about the forest, so he learns about different animals that live there. His new friends also teach him about different plants and fruits that he can eat. Did you know that there is a fruit called the “Stinking Toe Fruit?” Sara Varon also labels the animals that he passes by along the way, just in case you want to look up info about them later.
At the end of the book, the author and illustrator includes several reference photos that she took while visiting Guyana and then tells you what each one inspired in the story. The book seems heavy and long, but it is a fun and quick read with lots of funny and bright illustrations. Check out Sara Varon’s “New Shoes” from us today!
This June marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City, a turning point for the LGBTQ movement in the United States that has led to June’s designation as Pride month in an evolving form of celebration and reflection. On June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a New York bar populated by gay patrons. The raid spurred opposition to the discrimination, resulting in three days of riots that brought momentum to the fight for gay rights. After Stonewall, the last Sunday in June was designated as “Gay Pride Day,” and the gradual expansion of Pride focused primarily on political demonstrations for LGBTQ rights, and, later, consciousness-raising during the AIDS epidemic. Beginning in the 1990s, Pride took on a more celebratory tone, continued to this day in a series of events, including parades and concerts, spread across the month.
While Pride is generally marked by events that affirm and build community, its origins in a critical moment of struggle have not been forgotten. June also sees memorials held internationally to honor those members of the LGBTQ community who have died of AIDS or due to discriminatory violence. Amidst lively events, there is often reflection on how the experience of the LGBTQ community has evolved and might continue to do so. Pride is not about stasis but rather recognizes that there is still room and opportunity for change.
At the core of Pride in its current manifestation, and inherent in its very name, is a spirit of emphatic contentment with one’s own identity and a celebration of diversity and solidarity. Pride encompasses unapologetic pride in self and community that is not limited to any one population but can be an expansive and fluid celebration of identity. Though June brings parades and other festivities throughout the world, the path it opens for self-expression also harmonizes with the harnessing of the written word. These novels, memoirs, graphic novels, poems, and historical/social works of nonfiction offer a variety of perspectives on the LGBTQ experience, detailing both struggles and self-affirmation.
Call Me By Your Name, André Aciman
Another Country, James Baldwin
The House of Impossible Beauties, Joseph Cassara
Here Comes the Sun, Nicole Dennis-Benn
Middlesex, Jeffrey Eugenides
Less, Andrew Sean Greer
Speak No Evil, Uzodinma Iweala
The End of Eddy, Édouard Louis
Sugar Run, Mesha Maren
Under the Udala Trees, Chinelo Okparanta
The Unreal Life of Sergey Nabokov, Paul Russell
An Unkindness of Ghosts, Rivers Solomon
Annabel, Kathleen Winter
Orlando, Virginia Woolf
A Little Life, Hanya Yanagihara
Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation, ed. Kate Bornstein & S. Bear Bergman
Stonewall: The Riots That Sparked the Gay Revolution, David Carter
The Gay Revolution: The Story of the Struggle, Lillian Faderman
Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, ed. Mattilda
Transgender History, Susan Stryker
As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as A Girl, John Colapinto
Boy Erased, Garrard Conley
My Queer War, James Lord
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, Janet Mock
Not So Good a Gay Man, Frank M. Robinson
Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal?, Jeanette Winterson
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, Alison Bechdel
My Lesbian Experience with Loneliness, Nagata Kabi
Luisa Now and Then, Carole Maurel
Love Is Love: A Comic Book Anthology to Benefit the Survivors of the Orlando Pulse Shooting, ed. Marc Andreyko, Sarah Gaydos & Jamie S. Rich
First Year Out, Sabrina Symington
Collected Poems, 1947-1997, Allen Ginsberg
The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde, Audre Lorde
I Must Be Living Twice: New and Selected Poems 1975-2014, Eileen Myles
Today’s selection: “Magic Ramen” by Andrea Wang – JUV 641.82 Wang
At the end of World War II, Japan was severely damaged and had a food shortage that continued on for years. Poor people were eating grass and bark and orphans were digging through garbage for scraps. It was during this time that Momofuku Ando found himself walking home from work and encountering a long line of people shivering in the cold waiting for food. These people were lucky to have money to pay for food and were waiting to buy a hot bowl of ramen noodle soup. Ando decided on that day that he would help feed people somehow.
He started food-based businesses. Some were making salt and catching and drying fish. Eventually he started trying to make a cheaper and faster ramen that families could have at home whenever they wanted. First, he had to make noodles. We get to see all the ways that Ando experimented with making those. Most importantly, we get to see that he perseveres until he finds the right mixture that works. His next step was to make the soup to accompany the noodles. His ramen needed to be both tasty and easy to cook. How could he get flavor into the noodles so that it would be released with just hot water? We get to see how Ando tried and tried again after he failed. Ando finally figures out the right approach with a little inspiration from his wife.
Ando went on to found Nissin foods, create the Cup of Noodle that doesn’t require a separate bowl, and just a few years before his death created a vacuum sealed instant noodle meal for astronauts to take on the shuttle. The book includes an author’s note, pronunciation guide and an afterword with more details about Ando.