Patron and Staff Recommendations: Winter 2013

The one and only Ivan by Katherine Applegate; illustrations by Patricia Castelao.

“I read this in one big gulp. It’s very simply told making it accessible to challenged or reluctant readers; but make no mistake, it is deep and compelling. Slightly reminiscent of “Not Everyone Can Be a Rattle Snake”, it questions the human assumption of superiority over other animals. This is based on a true story, linking it to other recent amazing stories of animal intelligence and friendships,where it seems the lessons are more about ourselves than the other creatures in the book. Ivan is an imprisoned gorilla who lives in captivity (in a cage at a shopping mall) for twenty seven years before being moved to a zoo. It’s incredible that we humans get away with such outrages; but perhaps even more so that this book manages to be hopeful,and it does. It’s wonderful and empowering that the pivotal character is a child, Julia, who understands the gorilla, who is trying to save a baby elephant. It makes me want to chant “go kids”, read it, believe it and make a difference!”~Susan Plimpton


Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz.

“What a terrific book! The best I’ve read for a while. A completely engaging fantasy with almost Dickensian characters and setting. Richly detailed but with plenty of action; deliciously dark and mysterious but full of hope. It’s the story of orphaned children working for a sinister puppeteer in foggy Victorian London. A witches curse and diabolical spells keep the suspense going strong while the children make narrow escapes and heroic rescues. I could barely put it down to make more tea!”~Susan Plimpton


The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh.

“This was a lively story with plenty of action right from the beginning. I couldn’t help thinking it would be good for an impatient reader who doesn’t like to invest much to “get into a book”. The setting and mood are spooky; an ancient destitute Abby with the main character, an orphan being brought up by the monks. The spiritual worlds of the church and the Fey mingle oddly because of an ancient mystery that haunts them both. It’s a bleak place with plenty of dark elements, but the fantasy is rich with human and imaginary characters who are engaging and heroic. It’s got atmosphere, suspense, and a good ending.” ~Susan Plimpton


Stitches by David Small

“This adult graphic novel by children’s illustrator Small is haunting. A biography of his early life, which was perhaps easier to show in pictures rather than write about…and the reader/viewer understands a bit of Small’s psche and how his art may have saved him from a disturbing childhood.” ~Amanda Crafts



The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman

“The 20th year anniversary of the publication of  The Golden Compass seemed a very good time to finally read this, as Children’s Librarian Susan Plimpton has been urging me to do for all those years! (I am a reluctant fantasy reader, I admit!) She was right, I should have done so sooner. One group of the older home-schoolers chose this book to read as a group and we are all entranced by the fast paced adventure story of a young girl who believes that she is an orphan growing up among the distant scholars of an Oxford-like college as well as the servants and the children of the canal-boat people who all live by a different sets of customs. Those people are only the first of many cultures and locations that Lyria comes to know as she attempts to rescue a friend who she suspects has been abducted by “The Gobblers”, a group whose purpose is….Oh! It’s too complicated to describe briefly, when one wants to jump back in and finish it! Luckily for this group of eight readers, there are two more books in the “His Dark Materials” trilogy!” ~Amanda Crafts


“Son” by Lois Lowry

“I loved Son,the final book the Giver quartetIt was exciting to connect with characters from The Giver again and find them as deep and rich as I have remembered them for so many years. Nothing is predictable though and I was in suspense till the very end. I say hurrah for Lois Lowrey who writes of a dystopic world where dark forces rule but never quite win. Thankfully, we are not manipulated through every horror of the imagination; nor is the evil down played. It is powerful and imposes cruel trades on it’s victims. With love, hope and little else , a mother and son take long  arduous journeys full of pain and sacrifice, but ultimately find that power lies in trusting who they are. I appreciate the encouraging message for young readers facing the world today.” ~Amanda Crafts


“Life Everlasting: The Animal Way of Death” by Bernd Heinrich

“Thought provoking and great writing about the nature of death AND the author is from Maine!” ~Lisa Murray

From Goodreads:

“From one of the finest naturalist/writers of our time, a fascinating investigation of Nature’s inspiring death-to-life cycle. When a good friend with a severe illness wrote, asking if he might have his “green burial” at Bernd Heinrich’s hunting camp in Maine, it inspired the acclaimed biologist to investigate a subject that had long fascinated him. How exactly does the animal world deal with the flip side of the life cycle? And what are the lessons, ecological to spiritual, raised by a close look at how the animal world renews itself? Heinrich focuses his wholly original gaze on the fascinating doings of creatures most of us would otherwise turn away from—field mouse burials conducted by carrion beetles; the communication strategies of ravens, “the premier northern undertakers”; and the “inadvertent teamwork” among wolves and large cats, foxes and weasels, bald eagles and nuthatches in cold-weather dispersal of prey. Heinrich reveals, too, how and where humans still play our ancient and important role as scavengers, thereby turning—not dust to dust—but life to life.”


“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed


“An engaging and nostalgic memoir of a young woman searching for inner peace and meaning in the world.” ~Lisa Murray

From Goodreads:

“A powerful, blazingly honest memoir: the story of an eleven-hundred-mile solo hike that broke down a young woman reeling from catastrophe—-and built her back up again.

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life: to hike the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—-and to do it alone. She had no experience as a long-distance hiker, and the trail was little more than “an idea, vague and outlandish and full of promise.” But it was a promise of piecing back together a life that had come undone.

Strayed faces down rattlesnakes and black bears, intense heat and record snowfalls, and both the beauty and loneliness of the trail. Told with great suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild vividly captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her”


“Playing With Matches” by Carolyn Wall

“I have just read the most amazing book available through the SWH Library! It takes place in Mississippi and deals with poverty, hurricane storm damage, isolation, racial tension and redemption. The characters are flawed, as we all are, but in most cases reparable. This book will haunt me for days and weeks!”