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Middle School Reviews: A Long Walk to Water

Check Out A Long Walk To Water: A Novel by Kinda Sue ParkWhat’s your name?: Shelby

What school do you attend?: Saint Michael

What grade are you in school?: 6th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: A Long Walk to Water

Did you like it?: I LOVED THIS BOOK! It was a very exciting book and I have never read one like it! I really enjoyed how it was two different stories that came together at the end. Before reading this book, I didn’t even know that there was a Civil War of Southern Sudan, which made it even more interesting. Also, it is based on a true story,which is unbelievable!

Who would like this?: Someone who likes “A Single Shard”

How many stars would you rate this?: Five Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

Middle School Reviews: Eragon

Check Out Eragon by Christopher PaoliniWhat’s your name?: Maria

What school do you attend?: Home School

What grade are you in school?: 8th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: Eragon

Did you like it?: The book Eragon was very exiting and captivating, i didn’t want to put it down! It is about a farm boy named Eragon,who finds a dragon egg and becomes a legendary Dragon Rider! He decides to join the Varden, (a secret group of dwarves, elves, and men.) To overthrow the unjust king, King Galbatorix with his dragon Saphira! They go on lots of exiting and daring adventures together!

Who would like this?: Someone who likes adventure and suspense.

How many stars would you rate this?: Five Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

Middle School Reviews: Ella Enchanted

Check Out Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson LevineWhat’s your name?: Meghan

What school do you attend?: Glen Crest 

What grade are you in school?: 8th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: Ella Enchanted

Did you like it?: I really liked this book because it combined well known fairy tales into one fabulous story. Ella Enchanted has a theme of feminism and good and evil. The story is about a girl named Ella with a spell upon her to be completely obedient. When her mother dies and Ella is sent to to boarding school with her evil stepsisters, Ella is pushed to her her limit and decides to try to lift the curse. Join Ella as she struggles for freedom and finds love along the way.

Who would like this?: Girls 2nd through 8th grade.

How many stars would you rate this?: Five Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

Middle School Reviews: Sisters

Check Out Sisters by Raina TelgemeierWhat’s your name?: Aisha

What school do you attend?: Medinah Middle School

What grade are you in school?: 7th grade

What are you reviewing?: A book

What’s the title of what you are reviewing?: Sisters

Did you like it?: It was a good book. People who like the author Raina Telimeiger and her book Smile. Its a graphic novel. The book Sisters is an autobiography of Raina and her sister Amara. They go through twists and turns throughout there lives from Raina wanting a sister to Amara wanting a horrible snake as Raina says.

Who would like this?: Someone who likes graphic novels.

How many stars would you rate this?: Five Stars

Posted in Middle School Reviews

Prep for College Series

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

College Kids Walking Down PathSummer is in full swing, and we know the last thing anyone probably wants to think about right now is college applications. But we also know that many of you probably are! Whether you are going into your junior year and just starting to think about the college search process, about to start your senior year and facing the terror of applications, or newly graduated to heading to college in the fall, we’re betting it’s on a lot of minds.

We also know that there can be a lot of stress surrounding each part of the process, from deciding which colleges to consider to making a final decision to getting to know your freshman year roommate. So we hope that this summer, our Prep for College series won’t bring you down by reminding you of what’s ahead, but instead make the whole process just a little less stressful.

We’ll be kicking off the series with the aptly named “Where Do I Start and How Do I Choose?” sponsored by the library’s Teen Leadership Council. This panel discussion will feature college application and selection experts, as well as current college students. They will delve into how to start building a list of colleges to look at and apply to, what the application process is like, how to decide which school is right for you, and what the transition into college life is like.

Once you get your bearings in this panel, we’ll be offering a Practice ACT and Practice SAT over the next two weeks, as well as a presentation on how to “Think Like a College Admissions Officer” and one on Essay Writing and Using the Common Application. All of these, we think, will help you prepare for college searches, applications, and decisions. So take some time over the next two weeks to come to any or all of these that you think might help you (keep in mind that if you actually make it to all five, you’ll be eligible for a prize from us or our sponsors, C2 Education.) College is stressful, we know, but a little knowledge can go a long way to make the process easier!

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Read, Just For The Fun Of It!

By: Amy Waters, School Liaison

A visit to the second floor of the library to see the Smithsonian display Patios, Pools & the Invention of the American Backyard, was a trip down memory lane. As children of the 60s and 70s, my siblings and I spent much of our time out in the yard, playing games with our friends, digging in the sandbox, celebrating birthdays and running through sprinklers. But my favorite thing to do, indoors or out, was to read.

Lolling in a hammock with my favorite novel, or spread out on a big blanket with my brother and sister and our comic book collections, summer was the time to explore reading for fun. No worries about the level, the challenge, the “just right” book; I could, and did, read anything and everything just for the pleasure of reading.

If you want more encouragement to let your child pick the books that they want to read this summer, there is this statement from the NCTE (National Council of Teachers of English):

“Research shows that leisure reading enhances students’ reading comprehension, vocabulary development, general knowledge, and empathy for others, as well as their self-confidence as readers, motivation to read throughout their lives, and positive attitudes toward reading.”

Check Out B Is For Betsy by Carolyn HaywoodDepending on my age at the time, the reading I chose, and the source of the material varied. As a younger child, a trip to the library would often find me in the “Hs” looking for the next book by Carolyn Haywood so I could continue reading about Betsy and her friends, family and community. “B is for Betsy” and its companion books was the perfect book for then 1st grade me.

Next came the fantasy of a miniature talking dog in “No Flying in the House” by Betty Brock.  When I got older it was “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” and “Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and me, Elizabeth” by E.L. Konigsberg.

Check Out The Secret of the Old Clock by Carolyn KeeneWhen I could ride around town on my own, I would save my money and take a ride on my bike to the local bookstore to purchase the latest Nancy Drew novel by Carolyn Keene. I started with “The Secret of the Old Clock” and read every book I could get my hands on after that. Owning my own collection of Nancy Drew books was a joy of my young life and I indulged by reading them over and over. I also read and re-read “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett until the cover fell off.

Does your child have a collection of best loved books that they can return to time and again?

Archie Giant Comics SpotlightFinally, there were the trips to the news stand at the local “el” stop. With its racks of comics and gruff but kind proprietor I spent many a quarter (yes, they were that inexpensive!) buying up all the newest Archie comics. Back home, my brother would share Spider-Man, my sister her Richie Rich comics and I would toss my Archies into the mix as we relaxed in our yard and read the day away.

What will you read just for fun this summer? Share your favorites in the comments.

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Finding Dory Review

By: James M., Teen Blogger

Finding Dory Movie Poster with DorySomething that I probably should clear up in advance is that I’m a fairly caustic critic, particularly when it comes to movies and other storytelling mediums. As such, while I may dislike certain aspects of a feature, others likely won’t share my sentiments.

Now, onto the review. Be aware that it does contain some vague spoilers.

In case you’re strapped for time or can’t be bothered to read the rest of my critique, here’s the short version: Finding Dory is a good film. If you already plan to see it, odds are you’ll forgive its few mistakes or fail to notice them entirely.

However, if you have a bit more time to spare, I’ve obviously prepared a longer, more detailed review. Be warned that I will be potentially painfully honest.

First, the good:

Finding Dory builds on its predecessor without simply milking the success of Finding Nemo, something which I highly respect; at times, it almost seems as though the film actively tries to avoid mentioning its little brother, with the movie only occasionally making nods to the prior movie (usually in the form of self-referential jokes). The events of Finding Nemo are all but skipped in a brief cut at the beginning of the movie. In this way, it could be said that this sequel doesn’t lean on Finding Nemo’s popularity.

The movie’s plot is engaging and constantly interesting to watch, especially surrounding the titular character. Dory’s development as a character is outstanding; we learn about where she came from, what she was like before the events of Finding Nemo, and why she is the way she is. Even with all of her flaws, one can’t help but care about her by the film’s close.

The movie’s message is made abundantly clear by the credits and comes from the heart; however, unlike Inside Out, which made a point to “show, not tell,” Finding Dory doesn’t follow that guideline quite as well, although that by no means ruins the narrative.

The animation quality is top notch, and I’ve come to expect no less from Pixar. The water and lighting effects are stunning and unbelievably realistic, making the sea appear even more beautiful than in Finding Nemo. The film makes excellent use of its stellar animation in a variety of energetic action sequences which liven up the movie significantly.

I should also mention that the pre-film short, Piper, was surprisingly good; it’s no Paperman, but it still manages to convey a touching and engaging story with absolutely no dialogue. While the ending felt a bit abrupt, in retrospect, the film’s length was ideal; had it been any longer, it would have overstayed its welcome and would have likely ran out of material.

Now, for the bad. Mild spoilers lie ahead. If you don’t want to see me critique the weaker aspects of this movie, turn back now.

The plot, at times, feels like a bit of a rehash of the past movie, but superimposed on itself; whereas the previous movie involved a dad trying to find his son, Finding Dory is about a dad and his son trying to find a family friend… while that family friend tries to find her parents. Same varied cast of helpful fish and vicious antagonists. Same stealth, action, and adventure alongside a character’s “jailbreak.” Same themes of trust and the importance of family. While the film still throws enough new content to appease any ordinary viewer, I could trace a number of scenes in the movie to equivalent scenes in Finding Nemo.

Perhaps my greatest complaint regarding Finding Dory is the lack of development its characters receive. In Finding Nemo, it was excusable for characters (like the turtles or the occupants of Nemo’s aquarium) to appear one-dimensional, as they only had center stage briefly and were painted as caricatures from the start. Additionally, the aforementioned characters had a lot of personable charm to them, unlike some of the characters from this second installment. Bar two characters (who were only shown in two scenes), it seems that every character in Finding Dory is either a dedicated parent or has a disability, and in both scenarios, that unfortunately seems to be one of their only character traits. The characters this movie introduces lack a lot of depth and, oftentimes, seem to lack any desires outside of helping Dory; only one new character appears to have an ulterior motive for assisting her, and even he abandons his separate goal on a dime at the end of the movie in order to help her. (I don’t think we’re ever told why he cares so much about his goal either, which disappoints me all the more.) Of course, it isn’t a problem for the characters to care about our forgetful blue friend, but these characters have no motives beyond this relatively weak one.

(Sorry if I seem a little too harsh, but, given the studio’s outstanding track record, I expect nothing but perfection from Pixar. Many of the problems I discuss here are relatively minor and, all in all, don’t dramatically detract from the experience; as I said at the beginning of this review, this movie is good enough to please all but the pickiest of moviegoers [which I happen to be]. If you’re considering seeing this movie, by all means, do so.)

A number of characters in the movie seem to exist solely to propel the plot and are developed even less.  Nemo, in particular, fits this bill; he repeatedly eggs on Marlin to the next part of the plot, often so absorbed in his encouragement that he fails to express any worry, irritation with Dory, or panic when things go awry, as one might be expected to do when in his shoes. Fish ”extras” also appear at the end of the movie and, once again, they all seem to care solely about supporting Dory.

The middle of the plot also falls into an unfortunately repetitive pattern; something goes terribly wrong, and our protagonists must work around it- but, before you can catch your breath, something goes wrong with their work-around and the cycle continues. Rather than present the characters with a few large problems (giving the characters enough time to interact with one another and show how they attempt to solve them,) Finding Dory flies from hurdle to hurdle with such speed and regularity that new conflicts begin to feel trivial, and characters seem to find solutions absurdly quickly.

Don’t let my criticisms deter you from watching this film. It deserves to be watched, and it’s certainly far better than most films I’ve seen; I just happen to be an incredibly meticulous moviegoer, and I exaggerate to get my points across. However, regardless of who you are, bear in mind that this movie is not without its flaws. It’s not quite on the level of the Toy Stories or even Inside Out, but it’s a good find nonetheless.

Overall: 8/10.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Geek Out

By: Hannah Rapp, Young Adult Librarian

Caution May Geek Out Without WarningWhen I was a teenager, I was obsessed with a series of novels featuring what I still think are the greatest dragons in the fiction (The Dragonriders of Pern series by Anne McCaffrey, if anyone cares.) I read and re-read, wrote fanfiction, interacted with other fans online, and basically geeked out to an extreme degree.

As an adult, I’ve found the novels more problematic, and obsessing over them less of a priority in my life. Instead, I read young adult literature voraciously, cook, watch hockey, and nerd out about these and other things, although to a lesser degree. I think everyone can relate to this to some extent – we all have some things we geek out about or are a complete nerd about. And that’s awesome, because our passions and interests are part of what make us such interesting, rounded human beings.

So this July, we have a display entirely centered on characters who are geeking out, nerding about, or fangirling/fanboying about something – maybe even one of your interests. You might be into baking or scrapbooking like Lara Jean from To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han. Or maybe you’re obsessive about a MMORPG like Anda in In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang. Perhaps like me and Cath from Fangirl, your tendencies run to the book nerd, fanfiction side of things.

Maybe you’ve considered making your own mermaid tails like Jazz Jennings, real life author and subject of her memoir, Being Jazz. You could be into superheroes like Kamala in Ms. Marvel (though unlike her, you probably won’t be turning superhero yourself and meeting your idols.) Whether you’re into music, musical theater, math, photography, computers, renaissance fairs, a TV show, dragons, or anything else, take a look at our Geeking Out display this month. Even if you can’t find a character who shares your specific interests, you’ll probably relate to the passionate, dedicated, geeky, and occasionally obsessed characters in the books.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School

Helen Keller

By: Deanna Siegel, Youth Programming Associate
Hello Everyone!

Can you believe June is ending already? And what better way to welcome July than to celebrate one of the most resilient people in history. Helen Keller was born deaf and blind. Because of this, she had trouble communicating her thoughts and feelings to others. Through her courage, determination and life-long teacher, Annie Sullivan, Helen Keller was able to overcome several challenges. Throughout her lifetime, she learned how to read and to write, attended university and became a dedicated political activist.

Make sure you check out these titles the next time you’re in the library so you can read more about this extraordinary woman. Celebrate this day by encouraging your friends and family in all that they do!

Posted in Where The Child Things Are: GEPL Youth

Daughters Unto Devils Review

By: Elsa F-T., Teen Blogger

Check Out Daughters Unto Devils by Amy LukavicsLet me start out by saying that this book was incredibly well done. It terrified me and gave me chills even when I was reading in broad daylight or in class surrounded by people. I questioned my sanity at times, and I was kind of scared of other people as well.

The main character, Amanda, was relatable and had a strong development throughout the book. I loved her siblings and most of her family. There was a very noticeable contrast between all of the moods, between happiness when they find a cabin and terror closer to the end, and often there was no warning before it turned dark, which was a wonderful surprise. Amanda’s separation from the other characters and her own thoughts made it more eerie, as though you were trapped inside her mind next to her.

The author, Amy Lukavics, really knows how to write a horror book-it seems she cut nothing out for fear of it being too dark. It also was a fairly quick read-I remember my brother remarking that he thought I was less than halfway in a couple hours ago. I replied that I was, and I had finished the second half in the past half hour.

That said, I think the climax could have been brought to a much higher point of conflict and lasted for longer than it did. I also would have appreciated it if the parts with the post boy were shorter and had less focus. Finally, it was confusing to not know what happened “last winter” until later in the book. Neither of these things took too much away from my enjoyment of the book, however, so I would rate Daughters Unto Devils at eight and a half out of ten stars.

Posted in The Teen Scene: GEPL High School