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GEPL Teens: What I’m Reading Now – Midwinterblood

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 30 - ImageSo now that the American Library Association has announced their youth media award winners, I’m back on lots of award reading!  Currently the book of choice is the winner of the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature.

What I’m Reading Now: Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

What’s It About (Jacket Description): In 2073 on the remote and secretive island of Blessed, where rumor has it that no one ages and no children are born, a visitor arrives. He is greeted warmly, but something is wrong. Something is hidden on the far side of the island. Something that, as if in a dream, he cannot reach.

And so it is that under the light of the waxing and waning moon, seven stories unfold: the story of an archaeologist who unearths a mysterious artifact; of an airman who finds himself far from home; of a painter, a ghost, a vampire, and a Viking. And the story of a love so primal and passionate it slips the bonds of time.

This is the story of Midwinterblood.

Do I Like It: Let’s just say it is abundantly clear why this book won an award!

Thoughts: I don’t even know where to start with Midwinterblood.  In a way it’s like a short story collection, except that the same two characters appear in some form in all the stories.  And each story is part of a larger story, so it has a much more connected narrative thread.  That I’m reading backwards.  I kind of want to go back to re-read all the chapters in reverse order when I’m done.  And I guess that says something, that I’m not even done yet and I already want to re-read it!

So, this kind of confused excitement is most of what I feel about Midwinterblood, but I’ll try to give a little more of a review.  The characters of Eric and Merle, two connected souls finding each other through different lives, are what hold the novel together and bring each shorter episode into the larger story.  Each story in Midwinterblood so far has been really unique, despite the fact that they all have Eric and Merle in them.  But the stories are so different tonally, and the characters come at different ages and with different relationships to each other, so each story feels fresh.  Some of them – like the opening story – get my “doom sense” tingling.  Other ones, like “The Painter”, have more of a sad sweetness about them.  Nothing is completely free of the overwhelming creepiness of the island and the mystery of who Eric and Merle are and why their lives keep connecting.

Sedgwick’s writing is wonderful.  He does a great job creating the eerie but still beautiful and seductive island of Blessed.  At this point, I’m half in love with the island and half terrified of it.  He makes even the littlest things – an apple, a hare – important and appealing and delightful.  It’s easy to see why this book won a prize known for honoring “literary” books.

Midwinterblood isn’t quite like anything I’ve ever read before, but I’m really enjoying it for its own sake – and for the experience of reading something so fresh.  Midwinterblood is a great read for anyone who likes more “gothic” kind of creepy, as well as anyone who likes intergenerational stories or just really great writing.  I’m definitely enjoying it, eeriness and all!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Someplace Warm

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 29 ImageAs opposed to my last couple displays, the newest book display in the Teen Scene makes perfect sense for me.  I find right about February every year is when I start getting sick of winter.  Really, really sick of it.  Now, generally speaking, I’m a cold weather kind of girl.  Most of the time, I think any temperature about 80 degrees is way too hot.  I like boots and scarves and jeans.  But after three months of winter – especially this winter – I start to think fondly of shorts.  Of walking outside without having to put on extra layers.  I even start to think fondly of sweating (which, let’s be clear, is terrible.)

Unfortunately, I can’t take the month of February off to go to Florida every year, which would obviously be the ideal solution.  But I’ve found just escaping mentally for a few hours someplace warmer can make all the difference.  When I read The Blue Sword I can practically feel the desert sun pounding down on me.  When I immerse myself in Persis Blake’s world in Across a Star-Swept Sea, I fall asleep thinking of tropical drinks, turquoise seas, and whatever the heck frangipani smells like (can anyone help with that?)  When I listen to Legend in my car, I feel like I could be fighting my way through a dystopian (but still toasty!) Los Angeles.

And ultimately, this is one of the best things about books in any situation – they can transport us somewhere else.  They can allow us to see and experience things that we never will, or at least that we can’t right now.  Or they can guide us through something so relatable that the book feels like an alternate version of our own life, and we almost believe we are living it.  Either way, novels allow us to be in the book.  And so for this month, when winter feels like it will never end and summer seems way too far away, I hope you’ll agree with me that the best possible place for a book to take anyone right now is someplace warm.

Posted in GEPL Teens

Celebrate the 2014 Winter Olympics with the GEPL!

news-blog-bannerThe Glen Ellyn Public Library is excited to announce a series of programming inspired by the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

The library will throw several Winter Olympic Viewing Parties where community members can come together and cheer on Team USA during various events including figure skating, men’s hockey, freestyle skiing, ski jumping, bobsledding any more! Winter Olympic Viewing Parties will be held on Saturdays, February 8 through February 22 from 9am to 1pm.

On Sunday, February 9th GEPL members can view the award winning PBS documentary Age of Champions and watch as five elderly competitors triumph over age during the National Senior Games. After the film, guests can meet 2013 Senior Games competitor and Personal Best Award winner Bob O’Connor, who will discuss his experience after the film. The Age of Champions program runs from 2 to 4pm.

Families who enjoy friendly competition can attend GEPL’s Uno Olympics event at 2pm on Saturday, February 22nd. During Uno Olympics,thirty-six Uno players will compete for an Olympic-size prize. Due to limited space, advanced registration is strongly encouraged by calling the Information Desk at 630-790-6630.

Finally, adults ages 18 and older, can join Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Winter Reading Club. Participants will receive one iPod raffle entry for every book read between February 6th and February 24th. The first 100 people to register at gepl.org/winter will receive a stainless steel water bottle. Individuals can register at gepl.org/winter.

For more information on Winter Olympics programming, please visit gepl.org.

Posted in GEPL News

GEPL Teens: Holden Caulfield

teens-blog-bannerCatcherSo I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Holden Caulfield.  And as weird as that sounds, this isn’t actually abnormal for me.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about Holden Caulfield.  In fact, I had a pretty big crush on Holden when I was a teenager (crushes on fictional characters are totally real and totally legit guys!  Despite the fact that your crush will clearly go nowhere.)

But what brought on this most recent round of Holden-centric thought was a conversation I had with a family friend last week.  This family friend – about my parents’ age – recently re-read Catcher in the Rye, and found that she didn’t like it.  At all.  This was a surprise because she remembered reading it as a teenager and loving it.

There tends to be a sharp divide about Holden.  Most people either LOVE Catcher in the Rye, which usually means they love Holden despite his faults, or HATE Catcher in the Rye because they can’t stand Holden.  The complaints usually include some or all of these issues: that he’s whiny, he’s over-privileged and unappreciative, that he’s as phony as the phonies he complains about thus making him a hypocrite, that he’s just plain annoying, and more.  Interestingly enough though, I agree with most of this – but it doesn’t make Holden any less interesting or likable to me.  I love him because when I’m reading about him, he’s real.  I love him because he’s deeply damaged but still tries to reach out to other people and form connections.  I love him because for all his whininess and privilege, he’s also funny and compassionate and smart.

But I also think the reason some people like him and some people don’t simply has to do with when they read the book (like my friend who loved the book as a teenager and couldn’t stand it as an adult,) as well as – ultimately – how much the individual in question likes teenagers.  I’m not in any way saying that all teenagers are like Holden, or that all teenagers will like Holden.  But so much of him is directly related to his adolescence, to the conflicting forces of change and nostalgia in him, and to the fact that he is trying to figure out who he is and what he wants his relationship with the world to be.  Plenty of teenagers can’t stand Holden either, but I still think that whether or not a reader can understand and sympathize with Holden’s difficult adolescence makes a huge difference in whether or not a reader will like Catcher in the Rye.

So I suggest giving Holden another chance, and giving Catcher in the Rye another chance.  Even if you still don’t like Holden, the book is a masterpiece, and absolutely worth your time.  And if I can’t convince you, maybe John Green can:

John Green discusses Catcher in the Rye (Part 1)

John Green discusses Catcher in the Rye (Part 2)

John Green discusses Catcher in the Rye (Part 3)

What do you think?  Have you always loved Holden?  Have John Green and I convinced you to give him the benefit of the doubt?  Or are you still on the “whiny and obnoxious” side of things?

Posted in GEPL Teens

Glen Ellyn Public Library Offers Members a Frugal February Challenge

news-blog-bannerThe Glen Ellyn Public Library challenges the community to participate in Frugal February, a month-long program designed to recover from the costs of holiday bills by eliminating all non-essential spending during the twenty-eight days of February.

The GEPL has developed a series of programming designed to maximize an individual’s financial resources:

The community can learn how to cut down food waste with simple meal planning tricks during Nutrition Bang For Your Buck: How to Eat Well and Spend Less on February 6th at 7pm.

Anyone with questions about health insurance in 2014 can learn about their options from Lori Martin, President of Envision Benefit Specialists, during an informative discussion about healthcare reform, the Affordable Care Act and Medicare updates. This program, Your Health and the Affordable Care Act is scheduled for February 19th at 7pm.

Individuals can learn valuable money saving tips from Certified Financial Planner Joe Orsolini as he teaches how to develop a budget and savings plan designed to reduce worry during the Understanding Money and Wealth program on February 20th at 7pm.

Additionally, the Glen Ellyn Public Library offers numerous ways to trim expenses from monthly budgets by substituting the average costs of common non-essential purchases with free library alternatives.

 Average Cost: Going to a movie: $10 per person

Library Alternative: Renting a movie: Free!

 

Average Cost: Reserving a New Release on Red Box: $1.20

Library Alternative: Reserving the same New Release on the GEPL catalog: Free!

 

Average Cost: Downloading an album on iTunes: $9.99

Library Alternative: Downloading tracks on our Freegal database: Free!

 

Average Cost: Purchasing a CD: $9.99

Library Alternative: Checking out the same CD: Free!

 

Average Cost: Purchasing a Book: $16.99

Library Alternative: Checking out the same book: Free!

The Glen Ellyn Public Library encourages members to visit gepl.org to discover additional February programming including the Winter Olympic series and the Winter Reading program.

Posted in GEPL News

Teens Blog: Valentine’s Day

teens-blog-bannerBlah blah blah Valentine’s Day blah blah blah.

Actually, I’ve always kind of liked Valentine’s Day.  Mostly because I like chocolate and paper hearts (really – my eighteenth birthday party involved making valentines with construction paper, crayons, and stickers.)  But it can get a little overwhelming with all the romance stuff for a whole month.  Unfortunately, I’m going to add to that!  Don’t worry, this will probably be my only V-Day related post this month.  But I thought I could at least acknowledge the holiday with a list of some of my favorite bookish couples!

Image 11.) Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy!   Yes, yes, everybody talks about them.  Plus, I would be the first to argue that Jane Austen novels are not romances at heart, despite the fact that they contain romance.  And honestly, Pride & Prejudice isn’t even my favorite Jane Austen novel (that honor goes to Emma.)  But Lizzie and Mr. Darcy have such an amazing relationship.  There’s so much more going on than just a “they meet, they hate, they love” kind of arc.  They challenge each other constantly, they better each other, they can be their best selves around each other.  Even when they initially dislike each other, they engage on an intellectual level that neither of them gets a chance to with most of their friends and family.  They force each other to look past their prejudice and pride (and they each have plenty of both!) and become better versions of themselves.  They fall in love only after they have each undergone personal growth, and learned to truly respect each other.  They are a wonderful couple, and I love them SO much.

Honorable mention for another Jane Austen couple goes to Anne Elliott and Captain Wentworth from Persuasion.  That letter at the end!  I swoon every time.

Blog Entry 27 Image 2 2.) Katsa and Po from Graceling.  I actually like Fire and Bitterblue both better than Graceling, but there’s no denying that Graceling is a better introduction to the world, and Katsa and Po are definitely Cashore’s most exciting couple.  They are such a perfect match for each other in every way.  Po is physically the only person in the world able to match Katsa (even if ultimately she’ll win all their spars.)  Po’s calmness and Katsa’s fire complement each other.  Their willingness to fight for each other is beautiful, but so is their mutual understanding that as much as they love each other, some things are more important than their romance.  I love that Po understands and supports Katsa’s non-traditional decisions about children and settling down.  I love that Katsa uses her stubbornness and strength to bring Po out of darkness.  Katsa and Po were made for each other, without a doubt.

Blog Entry 27 Image 3-1 3.) Eleanor and Park.  I realize that this is the super trendy thing to say right now, but there’s a reason – because this book is incredible, and the relationship between Eleanor and Park is delightful, heartwarming, heartwrenching and so, so real.  Each character shines on their own, but together, they make something spectacular.  Watching them learn to like each other, then love each other, was one of the best journeys I’ve been on.  Seeing how their love saved Eleanor in an almost literal sense made me feel like anything is possible.  And the intensity of their affection, despite the questions about the future of their relationship, was something I’ve felt before.  Feeling it again was a powerful experience.

Blog Entry 27 Image 4 4.) Maddie and Julie from Code Name Verity. No, they are not a romantic couple.  But Maddie and Julie, the two narrators of Code Name Verity, are certainly a couple.  And their friendship is every bit as exciting and wonderful to read about as any of the romantic couples on this list.  As Julie says, “It’s like being in love, discovering your best friend.”  And what best friends they are!  In almost every word written by either girl, their love for each other shines through.  They prop each other up when necessary, they have fun together, and they make incredibly difficult decisions and sacrifices for each other.  And that’s love – whether romantic or platonic.

You may have noticed that Hazel and Gus are conspicuously absent.  That is because thinking too much about Hazel and Gus makes me weepy, and I try to avoid crying at work.  But I never promised a comprehensive list – just a list of some of my favorite literary couples!  Who are your favorite book couples?  What do you love about them?

Posted in GEPL Teens

Folk Singer Dean Milano to Headline GEPL’s Open Mic Night

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Back by popular demand, folk singer Dean Milano is set to headline the February 5th installment of the Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Open Mic Night at Shannon’s Irish Pub (428 Main Street).

Milano, whose incredible musical style ranges from folk, country, rock, Latin, bluegrass and pop, has been performing since 1966 and has opened for Bo Diddley, The Kingston Trio and Cab Calloway.

Milano is a student of rock an roll, recently publishing a book called The Chicago Music Scene: 1960s and 1970s and has appeared as a guest on Rick Kogan and Nick Digilio’s WGN radio shows and on the WGN TV news.  His music has been featured on WXRT, the WDCB Folk Festival and the WFMT Midnight Special.

Open Mic Night is a great venue for performers looking to test new material and for art admirers to discover local creative artists. Acoustic musicians, singer-songwriters, poets and wordsmiths are invited to sign up or a performance slot. Signup begins at 6:30 pm with the first act starting at 7pm.

Posted in GEPL News, GEPL Teens

GEPL Seeks a Consultant to Develop a Comprehensive Strategic Plan

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The Glen Ellyn Public Library seeks a consultant to develop a comprehensive strategic plan for the library. Interested candidates can find details and instructions in the Request for Proposal: Strategic Plan.

Posted in GEPL News

What I’m Reading Now: The Tyrant’s Daughter

teens-blog-bannerBlog Entry 26 ImageIn a fun twist on “What I’m Reading Now,” I’m reading a book that hasn’t been published yet!  I scored an advanced reader’s copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  The book won’t actually be published until February 11, but don’t worry, it’s already on order and will be on the shelves at GEPL soon!

What I’m Reading Now: The Tyrant’s Daughter by J.C. Carleson

What’s It About (Jacket Description): From a former CIA officer comes the riveting account of a royal Middle Eastern family exiled to the American suburbs. 

When her father is killed in a coup, 15-year-old Laila flees from the war-torn middle east to a life of exile and anonymity in the U.S. Gradually she adjusts to a new school, new friends, and a new culture, but while Laila sees opportunity in her new life, her mother is focused on the past. She’s conspiring with CIA operatives and rebel factions to regain the throne their family lost. Laila can’t bear to stand still as an international crisis takes shape around her, but how can one girl stop a conflict that spans generations?

J.C. Carleson delivers a fascinating account of a girl—and a country—on the brink, and a rare glimpse at the personal side of international politics.

Do I Like It: I definitely like it, though it’s one of those books giving me “doom” stomach knots right now.

Thoughts: I read a lot of good reviews of this book before I lucked into a chance to read it early, so I was excited to get started.  What I found is a book that’s both exactly what the reviews promised me, and not at all what I expected.

What I was expecting, and got, is a portrait of a girl struggling to define herself after her life changes completely.  What I was not expecting was the tenseness of wondering what is going on with Laila’s mother and the CIA.  I was also not expecting that the focus on Laila adjusting to the United States would be less about culture shock and clothes and independence, and more about making friends and learning to connect with people in a real way rather than through the layers of privilege, power and half-truths that surrounded her in her old life.

But despite all this – the CIA, the friends, the family – it is Laila who drives the book.  She is a fantastic character, likable but believably naïve and flawed.  Despite circumstances that I certainly will never experience, she struggled with issues I think anyone can recognize – having to re-think her view of her parents and her world, being thrust into completely new life circumstances, how to make and keep friends.  What makes Laila so wonderful to me is that she is unafraid to change, unafraid to adjust her own ideas and identity.  Although it is difficult for her to learn the truth about her father, she doesn’t hide from it or deny it, and she acts similarly about other conflicts.  Though she worries about and fears many things, she faces the changes in her life and herself with courage.

I can’t wait to see how Laila’s story ends, and I have a feeling that The Tyrant’s Daughter is one of those books I’ll be thinking about for a long time after I’m done reading.

Posted in GEPL Teens

Heat Up Your Winter Nights at Contra Dance!

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Do you have cabin fever? Wishing the frigid temperatures would go away? Stop by the Glen Ellyn Public Library and heat up your night with Contra Dance!

Contra Dance (sometimes called New England Folk Dance) is a family-friendly event featuring live music, dance instruction and group dancing led by a caller.

No experience is necessary and it’s open to dancers of all ages.

Contra Dance for Everyone is scheduled for 7pm on Thursday, January 30.

Click here to register!

Posted in GEPL News