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Visit with Twenty Local Organizations During GEPL’s Volunteer Fair


VolunteerFair-3The Glen Ellyn Public Library will host a Volunteer Fair on Saturday, April 26 from 1pm to 4pm intended to connect Glen Ellyn residents with organizations that inspire them.

The Volunteer Fair will be held on the library’s second floor and will include representatives from twenty organizations including: American Cancer Society, Animal Rescue Foundation, Bridge Communities, DuPage Forest Preserve, DuPage Habitat for Humanity, ESSE Adult Day Services, Family Shelter Service, Friends of the Glen Ellyn Public Library, the Glen Ellyn 4th of July Committee, Glen Ellyn Children’s Resource Center, Glen Ellyn Food Pantry, Glen Ellyn Historical Society, Goodwill Workforce Connection Center, Northern Illinois Food Bank, People’s Resource Center, Ronald McDonald House Charities of Chicagoland and Northwest Indiana, Ten Thousand Villages, Willowbrook Wildlife Center, World Relief DuPage and YWCA.

Communications and Theater Professor Emerita Dr. Maria Bakalis of the Glen Ellyn Historical Society will deliver a keynote presentation at 1:30pm. Dr. Bakalis’s inspirational presentation will reinforce the ideals and rewards of volunteerism.

The Glen Ellyn Public Library’s Volunteer Fair is open to the public and suitable for all ages.

Posted in GEPL News, GEPL Teens, GEPL Tweens

GEPL Teens: Great Character Alert – Sophie Winters

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 49 - ImageThere are a lot of reasons to love a good book – gripping plot, incredible setting, swoon-worthy romance or heart-pounding action, etc. etc.  But one of the biggest reasons I end up falling for a book is because it features a really great character or characters.  “Really great” doesn’t always mean someone I’d want to be friends with, or even someone particularly good or kind or admirable.  It’s a character that feels real, that I care about, and that I can’t wait to keep reading about.  Every now and then, I come across a character who just jumps off the page at me – and I think it’s only fair to share that with you in a “Great Character Alert!”

For the first edition of the Alert, I want to talk about Sophie Winters from Far From You by Tess Sharpe.  Sophie is one of those characters who I’m really not sure I would want to be friends with, and while she is admirable in many ways, she also has plenty of problematic qualities.  But those are just part of what make her such an interesting character.  To give you an idea of the context for her character and the plot of Far From You, this is the description of the book from Amazon:

“Sophie Winters nearly died. Twice.

The first time, she’s fourteen, and escapes a near-fatal car accident with scars, a bum leg, and an addiction to Oxy that’ll take years to kick. 

The second time, she’s seventeen, and it’s no accident. Sophie and her best friend Mina are confronted by a masked man in the woods. Sophie survives, but Mina is not so lucky. When the cops deem Mina’s murder a drug deal gone wrong, casting partial blame on Sophie, no one will believe the truth: Sophie has been clean for months, and it was Mina who led her into the woods that night for a meeting shrouded in mystery.

After a forced stint in rehab, Sophie returns home to a chilly new reality. Mina’s brother won’t speak to her, her parents fear she’ll relapse, old friends have become enemies, and Sophie has to learn how to live without her other half. To make matters worse, no one is looking in the right places and Sophie must search for Mina’s murderer on her own. But with every step, Sophie comes closer to revealing all: about herself, about Mina and about the secret they shared.”

I’ve never read a book from the perspective of a recovering addict, so that alone makes Sophie a fascinating character to me.  Through flashbacks, readers can see her addiction as it develops in the wake of her accident, and in the parts of the book set in the present, how she still struggles despite months of being clean.

Sophie is angry and bitter about so many things – about Mina, about everybody assuming she relapsed, about her accident.  She is also angry at a lot of people – her parents, Mina’s boyfriend, and even Mina herself.  I love that the reader isn’t sheltered from the nastier emotions that can go with grief and loss.  Sophie’s mourning isn’t pretty, it isn’t a smooth road, and it doesn’t always move forward without hurting those around her.

But there’s a lot to admire about Sophie too.  She is determined and tenacious – first about beating her addiction, then about hunting down the truth about Mina’s murder.  She cares for other people, and struggles to do what’s best not just for herself, but for those around her.  Despite her anger at many people in her life, she also feels compassion.  She never blames the driver from her car accident, despite her permanent injuries, she remembers that her parents love her even when she’s angry at them, she understands why Mina’s family would hate her.

No discussion of Sophie would be complete without talking about her relationship to Mina.  In the flashbacks, we get to know Mina almost as well as Sophie, and I could have written just as much about how great a character Mina is as I did about Sophie.  And their relationship with each other is fascinating – they are really attached and really love each other, but at the same time, they are each holding something back from their friendship.  They can bring out the best or the worst in each other, depending on the circumstances, because they know each other so well and care about each other so much.  Being hurt by Mina drives Sophie deeper into her addiction, but in the end it is Mina who convinces Sophie to get clean too.  Without Mina, Sophie wouldn’t be the person readers see.

Sophie is a complicated, fascinating character, and it was her as much as the mystery in Far From You that kept me glued to the page.  So if, like me, you’re drawn in by great characters, I highly recommend checking out Far From You.

Posted in GEPL Teens

Tweens Blog: Learn How to Help Your Community during Saturday’s Volunteer Fair


The Glen Ellyn Public Library has had a League of Middle School Volunteers for quite some time, but it has evolved over the years. Middle schoolers now enjoy weekly snacks, as well as a party at the end of each session. They learn about the little jobs behind the scenes that most members take for granted, and most importantly – they have fun.

While we are always looking for more middle school volunteers, there are many more ways to volunteer within the community. This Saturday from 1:00 – 4:00, the library is hosting its first ever Volunteer Fair, featuring volunteer opportunities for all ages. Now you can get involved with one (or more) of dozens nearby nonprofit organizations that need help from people like you. While attending the Volunteer Fair, you can meet representatives from various groups and hear from keynote speaker Maria Bakalis. If you wanted to do something great this summer, this is not an event to miss!

Posted in GEPL News, GEPL Tweens

GEPL Teens: Austen Adaptations

Teens Blog BannerAround this time every year, my brain starts going into hardcore Jane Austen mode.  Maybe the warmer weather makes Austen sound extra appealing, or maybe when I read all her novels for the first time one spring, the timing imprinted itself on my brain.  Now, I could go on and on about Austen novels and why I love them, but that’s not what I’m going to do today.  Instead, I’m going to talk about some of my favorite Austen adaptations.  I find all these adaptations great in their own right, and nobody makes this many versions of something without great source material.  So without further ado, here are some great retellings of fantastic classics.

Blog Entry 48 - Image 1Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen (adaptation of Pride & Prejudice) – If you’ve ever been reading or watching something and thought “this would be better with zombies,” P&P&Z is for you.  And if you’ve ever thought “it would be good to read some classics” but found yourself too busy with action and excitement, this is still the book for you.  A lot of the book is Jane Austen’s original prose, but then Grahame-Smith adds, edits, and remixes, so that you are literally reading the words of Pride & Prejudice…just with some slight, zombie-ish additions.  Despite the additions, it is clear that Grahame-Smith likes and respects Austen’s original novel, and that makes his zombie-fied version truly fantastic.  P&P&Z is perfect for fans of classic literature, zombies, action, and drama.  It is the monster/manners mash-up the world didn’t even realize it was waiting for.

Blog Entry 48 - Image 2Clueless (adaptation of Emma) – Whenever adaptations of any book come up in any conversation, it’s only a matter of time until I start talking about Clueless.  In addition to being a brilliant and hilarious teen comedy that inspired a whole generation (yes, mine) to start saying “as if” twenty times a day, it’s also my favorite adaptation of any Jane Austen book.  Cher is the perfect modern(ish) day Emma – charming, beautiful, caring, arrogant, self-centered, and entirely wonderful.  The key to any adaptation of Emma is showing how flawed she is – while making viewers and readers love her anyways.  Clueless nails this in a way no other adaptation that I’ve seen has.  And the supporting characters are every bit as colorful, entertaining, and well-developed as Austen’s originals.  Cher’s father is just as lovable but goofy as Mr. Woodhouse, and it’s possible I actually prefer Josh to Mr. Knightley (though it’s a tough choice.)  The key to a great retelling is being true to the spirit of the original, and no version of Austen does this better than Clueless.

Blog Entry 48 - Image 3For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund (adaptation of Persuasion) – I’m super in to Diana Peterfreund right now, and I have For Darkness Shows the Stars to thank for it.  Persuasion is the most serious and poignant of Austen’s novels, and Peterfreund expertly captures that.  She delves into disappointed love, the influence of class, personal responsibility, and some really lovely letter-writing, just like Austen does in Persuasion.  But Peterfreund does it in a sci-fi/dystopian setting, adding in some excellent world-building and some high-stakes action for the characters.  Elliott and Kai are a swoon-worthy couple, and you won’t be able to resist cheering for them right from the start.  Because this book is a dystopia, some of the unlikeable characters have been elevated to villain, and some action speeds the plot along.  But never at the expense of the characters and story, and never at the expense of Austen’s work.

Blog Entry 48 - Image 4The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (adaptation of Pride & Prejudice)The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are an absolutely charming adaptation of Pride & Prejudice (a popular candidate for retelling, as this list shows) done in vlog style.  We hear from and see a modern day Lizzie, as well as her sisters, friends, and even the famous Mr. Darcy.  But The Lizzie Bennet Diaries doesn’t stop at just a funny and faithful (enough) adaptation of Pride & Prejudice.  It also features Twitter conversations, pictures, and more from Lizzie and the other characters, even bringing in the audience in on some of it.  Jane curates a fashion Tumblr.  Lydia shows off her double-jointedness in response to fan questions.  Lizzie’s best friend Charlotte pushes her own little sister into vlogging.  Although the series is over and it’s too late to be part of the story yourself, it’s never too late to enjoy an immersive and entertaining new media version of a classic.

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: What I Just Read – She Is Not Invisible

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 47 - ImageCombining a couple of my favorite ways to find new reads, this “what I just read” edition of “what I’m reading now” is an advanced reader copy (ARC) of a book by an award winner!  Marcus Sedgwick won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, and his new book comes out April 22 (and is already on order at the library!)

What I’m Reading Now: She Is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

What’s It About (Jacket Description): Laureth Peak’s father is a writer. For years he’s been trying, and failing, to write a novel about coincidence. His wife thinks he’s obsessed, Laureth thinks he’s on the verge of a breakdown. He’s supposed to be doing research in Austria, so when his notebook shows up in New York, Laureth knows something is wrong. On impulse she steals her mother’s credit card and heads for the States, taking her strange little brother Benjamin with her. Reunited with the notebook, they begin to follow clues inside, trying to find their wayward father. Ahead lie challenges and threats, all of which are that much tougher for Laureth than they would be for any other 16-year old. Because Laureth Peak is blind.

Do I Like It: Absolutely! It’s a gripping read.

Thoughts: She Is Not Invisible is a fast, easy read – which is why I’ve finished it before having a chance to write a review! – but that hasn’t stopped it from being great.  When a character spends the opening line of a book trying to convince herself that she’s not abducting her little brother, the book will inevitably suck a reader in.  And as Laureth and Benjamin try and navigate airports and New York, and follow clues that will bring them to their father, the pace doesn’t really slow down.  There is mystery and excitement aplenty as Laureth and Benjamin gradually get closer to their father.

Deciphering hints in the notebook through the haze of her father’s obsession, Laureth and Benjamin slowly begin to piece together what happened to their father.  Although I found the ending to be a bit of a letdown, the journey Laureth takes to get there is wonderful.  Even the side characters – particularly the strange-spoken but endearing Mr. Walker – were fantastic characters in their own right that I wanted to see more of.  And Laureth was a great narrator to take a journey with.  Getting to experience her way of navigating the world without sight was new to me, but more importantly, getting inside her head was fascinating.  Laureth has some of her father’s knack for spotting patterns and coincidences, along with a strong impulsive streak and a bravery and confidence that are only partly faked.

Easily my favorite part of the book though, more than the excitement or mystery or even Laureth’s point of view and character, is the relationship between Laureth and Benjamin.  They are both unusual kids, and it’s clear they find solace in each other.  The only thing that makes Laureth slow down on her quest for her father is her care and concern for Benjamin.  And despite his age, Benjamin takes care of Laureth in more ways than just guiding her.  The way they love each other is so clear in everything they do, from Benjamin snuggling against Laureth while he sleeps to Laureth talking to Benjamin’s stuffed raven just as if he really were alive.  They trust each other as well, which in the end is extremely important to the plot of the book and the growth of Laureth’s character.  I’m a sucker for a good friend or sibling relationship, and despite their age difference, Laureth and Benjamin are both.

Posted in GEPL Teens

Tween Week in Review


Last week the tweens really got involved at the library. Wednesday was the first meeting of the current volunteer session. Volunteers who came in enjoyed fruit snacks and batman impressions while mending (and playing with) bean bags and cleaning toys.

Last Saturday, a large group of tweens stopped by to make magnetic slime. It worked really well, but was very sloppy – there was goo everywhere! Everyone learned about a chemical reaction that caused the slime, and most importantly, everyone had fun.

This weekend the library is hosting a chemistry program directed for grades K-8 that promises to be an EXPLOSIVELY good time. I highly recommend signing up while there are still openings by clicking here.

Posted in GEPL Tweens

GEPL Teens: Old Favorites

Teens Blog BannerIt’s no secret that I like to re-read my favorite books.  Less than a month after I finished it, I just launched a re-read of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell because I couldn’t resist.  I’m also a big fan of re-watching – movies, TV series, whatever.  It’s hard to find a balance between re-reading and re-watching the beloved and familiar, and discovering new things.  But there are some solid reasons to give your favorites another go-around!

Blog Entry 46 - Image 11.) Finding new things – This may seem counter-intuitive, since I just talked about discovering new things as totally separate from re-visiting the familiar.  But the thing is, in any given book, TV show, or movie, there is so much to take in that it’s almost impossible to get it all.  There’s always some detail missed, or some character interpretation that we just don’t seen until we read a book again.  Take the Harry Potter series, for instance – I’ve read these books several times (easily double digits for the earlier books.)  And every time I read them again, I notice something I didn’t before – like how when Hagrid drops of baby Harry at the beginning of the books, he’s on Sirius Black’s motorcycle, or how Ginny slowly relaxes around Harry and becomes a great character in her own right.  Being able to go back to something and get immersed in these details and character changes is a wonderful experience.

2.) Comfortable is fun! – Finding new things in old favorites is fun, sure. Blog Entry 46 - Image 2 But you know what else is?  Knowing what’s going to happen and enjoying the ride anyways.  Knowing a movie so well you can practically quote every line.  The feeling of being with friends when you watch an episode of your favorite sitcom for the fifth time.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with finding joy in the familiar!  If we couldn’t do that, everybody in the world would be a nomad and be forced to make new friends all the time.  Re-reading a favorite book or re-watching a favorite movie or TV show is like coming home, putting on your comfiest pants and sweater, and settling in to the couch with your favorite food.  It’s enjoyable, it’s comfortable, it’s peaceful.  And if you can combine another reading or viewing favorite with actual comfiest pants and favorite foods, I’d say you’re in for a pretty great day!

Blog Entry 46 - Image 33.) It’s a good quality test – It’s happened to me a lot.  I finish a book or movie, or watch an episode of TV, and think “That was good! I enjoyed that!”  And I did, indeed, enjoy it.  But maybe I wasn’t thinking with a critical eye.  Maybe I’ll think because I liked that particular book or movie, I’ll like others like it, or a sequel.  And sometimes, I’m wrong.  But a sure fire way to figure out if I really like something, if it really is top quality, is to return to it.  If it’s something good, I’ll enjoy it almost as much the second time around.  Even when I’m removed from the initial feelings and looking at it with a critical eye, I’ll find it fantastic again.  But if it’s something bad, that critical eye and sense of removal will help me realize really quickly that maybe I was wrong.  Maybe that monkey episode of How I Met Your Mother wasn’t really as good as I thought it was.  Maybe The DaVinci Code is a one-time read and I don’t need to wait in line for the next Dan Brown novel.  This is helpful when I’m trying to find new things – having a better sense of what I REALLY like in my media helps me find better media in the first place.  It’s a win-win!

So while it’s important to try new things, it’s also fun and totally okay to go back to old favorites for a re-read or re-watch.  What are your favorite books, movies, and TV shows that you return to over and over?

Blog Entry 46 - Image 4

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Delicious Reads

Teens Blog BannerBlog Entry 45 - ImageIt’s time for me to be honest and tell the truth.  And the truth is this: I spend a significant portion of my life thinking about food.  I love eating, I love cooking, I even love just looking at and smelling delicious food.  My mind often wanders to meal plans, fantasy menus, and great restaurants.  But I’m sure I can’t be the only person who does this.  After all, food is a basic human need.

The downside to this is of course that I have neither the stomach capacity nor the budget to eat all the food I want.  And once again, I think I’m not alone in this.  Very few people are lucky enough to have regular access to exotic fruits, great chefs, or a steady supply of crème brûlée, as much as we might want it.

Fortunately, as always, we have books to help.  Books allow us to vicariously taste things we can’t get ourselves (though in many cases this can lead to increased cravings instead of helping, but I still think it’s worth it!)  They can teach us about new foods or recipes that we can try on our own.  They can showcase the culture and industries around food.  And reading books featuring great food can make us – or at least me – feel slightly more productive than I do when I’m daydreaming about bacon-wrapped dates all day long.

So read some mouth-watering descriptions of meals in The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Hunger Games.  Learn some great new recipes from The Teen’s Vegetarian Cookbook (delicious for vegetarians and omnivores alike!)  Get a teen’s eye view of cooking competitions in Taste Test.  Join teens who find comfort in cooking in A La Carte and Bittersweet.  Experience the world of restaurants, coffee shops, and other parts of the food industry in Coffeehouse Angel and Keeping the Moon.  You’ll find all these windows into the food world and more with this month’s “Delicious Reads” display.  Come to the library, grab a book, and chow down!

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Spring Reads

Teens Blog BannerSpring break is almost over, and alas, it’s back to the boring school grind.  Not only that, but it’s still not feeling like spring.  But as always, books can help!  These reads, set in spring (and in one case, starting with a spring break trip) will help you to extend your spring break in your mind and be ready for spring weather whenever it does decide to show up!

Blog Entry 44 - Image 1The Raven Boys, by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven Boys kicks off early in a Virginia spring, when there’s still a chill in the air.  But as the book progresses, so does the season, bringing in exquisitely described warmer weather.  In The Raven Boys, Blue Sargent is the only non-psychic woman in her odd family.  So when she sees the spirit of a soon-to-be-dead boy, it is unusual to say the least.  Worse, the only reason she would have seen his spirit is if he was her true love, or if she was going to kill him.  Even worse, the soon-to-be-dead boy turns out to be Gansey, a privileged student at a local prep school – one of the “raven boys” that Blue has sworn to avoid.  But before she knows it, Blue finds herself caught up with Gansey and his friends, and their quest for a magical king.

Blog Entry 44 - Image 2Terrier, by Tamora Pierce – Beka Cooper’s diary begins on April 1, at the beginning of spring and the beginning of her new life as a “Provost’s Dog” – a police officer in the fantasy world of Tortall.  Beka is an officer in the slums of Tortall’s capital city, Corus.  A Lower City native herself, Beka is determined to be the best at her job, and do the best for her neighborhood.  But despite Beka’s hard work, and the help of the best Dogs in her district, there are dark doings in the Lower City.  Children are being kidnapped and men are dying for an unknown reason in unmarked graves.  Over the course of the spring, Beka must face her fears and use her combination of strength, skills, and strange magic to try and solve these crimes before even more Lower City families are torn apart.

Blog Entry 44 - Image 3Feed, by M.T. Anderson – Titus and his friends “went to the moon to have fun” for spring break, only to find out that “the moon turned out to completely suck.”  Titus lives in a future world where no-one really ventures into a toxic outdoors, and everyone has the Feed implanted into their brain.  The Feed is a tool for communication, study, shopping, and more.  It supplies the word you are groping for in your brain, instant telepathic communication, and of course, items for purchase tailored to your particular needs and desires.  Titus has never questioned the Feed – until he meets Violet on his trip to the moon.  Violet lived years of her life without a Feed, and dreams of resisting its consumerism and encroachments into her life and her mind.  But will Titus be strong enough to follow her lead?

Posted in GEPL Teens

GEPL Teens: Fictional BFFs

Teens Blog BannerI have great friends.  I have best friends who are wonderful, brothers who are best friends, and a fantastic group of awesome people in my life.  That said, sometimes I just can’t help myself.  I read a book, and I think to myself “oh man, I want to be this person’s friend so badly!  I wish he/she were real!”  I find myself thinking this quite a lot, to be honest, but I’ll restrict myself today to just telling you about three of my Fictional BFFs.

Blog Entry 43 - Image 1D.J. Schwenk, from Dairy Queen by Catherine Gilbert Murdock – I’ve listened to the first two books in this series, so maybe I’m being a little influenced by the fantastic narration, but D.J. seems like such a great person to be friends with.  She’s a nice person, which is obviously something I want in my friends.  She loves sports, so we could totally watch the games together – I know I could get her hooked on hockey, and I’m sure she would help me develop a love of football.  But most of all, D.J. is hilarious.  The way she phrases things and tells stories, the way she sees the world around her – I know being friends with D.J. would involve a lot of laughter and no pretension, and that’s awesome.

Blog Entry 43 - Image 2Jennifer Strange, from The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde – Jennifer is practical, friendly, and extra importantly, she drinks a lot of tea.  Plus she has a great dry sense of humor.  If you’re sensing a trend already, it’s true: I like friends I can laugh with!  And better yet, Jennifer comes with an awesome pet.  While I’ll bet Jennifer can dole out the great, sensible advice, I also think we would have fun together.  I can just see Jennifer and me sitting around a table with hot cups of tea and cookies, laughing at the ridiculous things the wizards at Kazam Employment Agency for Wizards have been up to, and feeding the quarkbeast a couple old tin cans.  That sounds to me like a completely delightful way to spend an afternoon!

Blog Entry 43 - Image 3Persis Blake, from Across a Star-Swept Sea by Diana Peterfreund – Where to start with Persis?  I mean, besides the fact that she has a secret identity as a rescuer of the oppressed, is outstanding at what she does, and hides it all beneath a flaky (but still fun!) exterior.  Girl knows how to dress, has an awesome pet (another theme!), lives on a tropical island with a sweet guest bedroom I could stay in all the time, and, oh yeah, has an impressive moral compass and serious smarts and determination.  Unlike many masked avenger types, Persis knows how to have fun.  She puts on a silly mask for others, but that mask is rooted in a real enjoyment of life.  We could have a blast together, but talk about the serious things and be on the same page morally.  What more could you ask for in a friend?

So what fictional characters do you wish you could hang out with?  Do you have a fictional BFF (or several?)

Posted in GEPL Teens