Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Faculty Book Club

At the beginning of this challenging school year I knew I needed to cultivate relationships with my new library position and what better approach than to start a faculty book club. I learned so much about the outstanding staff at my private school where I took the position as the first Upper School librarian. In our final discussion we talked about Strange Pilgrims by Gabriel Garcia Marquez over lunch. This collection of twelve stories was published in 1992 but several of the tales were originally written in the seventies and eighties. Marquez who spent many years in exile from his native land of Columbia, wrote about dislocation and life in a foreign land. I thank all of those who read the books and attended the discussion meetings. I couldn’t have asked for a better conclusion to this school year.
Book cover from Follett

Monday, May 17, 2010

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

When Clary witnesses a murder and the body quickly disappears before her eyes she realizes things are very bizarre. Her world is turned up-side-down as she is drawn into a strange new world of Shadowhunters, demons, warriors and mundanes. Clary’s mother is no where to be found and Clary is almost killed by a monster. Why would demons be so interested in Clary and her mother? As Jace, a Shadowhunter, pulls Clary into this new dimension the world of good and evil is not so clear. I’m not a huge fantasy fan but this incredibly fast paced gripping story held my attention from beginning to end. It would be a great read-a-loud in middle school or an excellent recommendation for reluctant readers.

City of Ashes: The Mortal Instruments: Book Two, Cassandra Clare
City of Glass: The Mortal Instruments: Book Three, Cassandra Clare
Tithe, Valiant, and Ironside, Holly Black
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, and Breaking Dawn, Stephenie Meyer
Darkhenge, Catherine Fisher
The Harry Potter books, J.K. Rowling

Book cover from Follett

Friday, May 14, 2010

In the Name of God by Paula Jolin

Our faculty book club met and discussed the YA novel In the Name of God by Paula Jolin. The group agreed the novel helped some understand issues of modern Middle Eastern cultures. Jolin became intrigued with the Middle East after spending time living in Cairo, Syria and Tunisia. Many important topics of life in the Middle East and Islamic fundamentalism are brought to light with the story of Nadia and her family. Although life in the Middle East might seem different, the underlying tone of the book disclosed emotions and feelings are common across cultures.
Tasting the Sky: A Palestinian Childhood by Ibtisam Barakat
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
A Stone in My Hand by Cathryn Clinton
19 Varieties of Gazelle by Naomi Shihab Nye
Does My Head Look Big in This? by Randa Abdel-Fattah
Book cover from Follett

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cleopatra's Daughter by Michelle Moran

I found myself involved with a research project as I read this novel. Did Cleopatra really have a daughter? Not only did she have a daughter but she had three sons. I found the novel a refreshing history lesson on the turbulent times when the Romans conquered Egypt. Caesar, Cleopatra, and Marc Antony are all dead and the surviving children are on their way to live in Rome. The author’s descriptions brought you into the heart of what life was like in ancient Roman times. This would make a great curriculum connection read with students in middle school or high school ancient history classes. Also those interested in historical fiction will thoroughly enjoy this novel.
Bookcover from Follett

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Lady Macbeth's Daughter by Lisa Klein

Albia has grown up thinking she was the daughter of Geillis living a rather peaceful life living in the Wychelm Wood and the moors. It’s when Macbeth seeks out Albia’s sisters to foresee his further that she begins to piece together her past and true identity. As the only child and daughter of Macbeth, Albia was sent off to be killed when she was an infant. She is saved by the kind act of Rhuven, Lady Macbeth’s servant.

The story intertwines the tales from the play Macbeth with the crimes of her real parents, rivals for the throne, bloodshed, and more. When Albia realizes she too was blessed with the second sight she must make difficult decisions whether to ignore the terrible future or change it.

One does not have to be a Shakespeare fan in order to enjoy this book, but who knows it might inspire some to read more of the Shakespeare’s tales.

Book cover from Follett

Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder

Pulitzer Prize winner and bestseller author Tracy Kidder spoke in Dallas recently inspiring me to read his latest novel Strength in What Remains. Kidder takes us on a heroic journey of retelling the remarkable story of how Deo survived civil war and genocide. Deo arrived in America from Burundi in search of a new life and begins to meet strangers who are willing to take a chance and change his life. The story follows Deo’s difficult journey from homelessness to medical school. As Deo devotes his life to healing he also searches for meaning and forgiveness of his turbulent life in Burundi. This is a wonderful uplifting and inspiring story of how one person can overcome tremendous obstacles in life and also how ordinary people can help in the process. This is a good read for anyone looking for a heartening true story.

Book cover from Follet

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer & Annie Barrows

Writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject in the aftermath of World War II. Juliet is a famous columnist in London and is well known for her wartime humor. She receives a letter from a resident of Guernsey that begins a wonderful correspondence into a world of reflections of a town under German occupation during the war. The islanders were very eager to share their stories with Juliet. When a group of locals were caught by the Germans meeting after curfew they invented a book club as an alibi for feasting on a forbidden pig. The eccentric group of members named the club the “The Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society” and thus began meetings of an ecliptic group. Juliet is enthralled with the stories and visits the island to meet the members in person. As Juliet learns more about the lives of its members the adventure becomes a life changing experience for her. This is a creatively written book that I highly recommend.

Book cover from Follett

Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder

Author Tracy Kidder takes us on an inspiring journey of the renowned doctor Paul Farmer. Dr. Farmer is devoted to the many causes including working with the poor in Haiti. He is enthralled with working to improve humanity through his knowledge of the modern medical profession. He had an eccentric upbringing only to find his calling in medical school. He has devoted his life to save lives and has engaged others to follow his path. Many of his personal relationships are disclosed including his short marriage to a Haitian anthropologist where a daughter is born. The book tells the full story of how one person can make a difference. I found the book very inspiring and would highly recommend it for those wanting to read an uplifting true story.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Calligrapher's Daughter by Eugenia Kim

This wonderfully written novel on this year’s Texas Library Association Lariat list was an enjoyable read. The story follows Najin Han, the privileged daughter of a calligrapher in early 20th century Korea. She is smart and headstrong at an early age and encouraged by her loving mother in a time where women had little rights. Her father was set in traditional ways and seemed very harsh at times. When Najin finds herself in an arranged married her mother sends her to Soul as a companion to a young princess. When the king is assassinated the centuries-old culture comes to an end. As she continues her education she unexpectedly finds love. She is immediately separated from her husband when he moves to American and her passport is denied. A decade passes and the distance between them takes a toll on their marriage. The story spans 30 years of Najin’s life and tells the tale of how oppression changed her forever.

Book cover from Follett

Thursday, May 6, 2010

All We Know of Heaven by Jacquelyn Mitchard

This compelling novel about two best friends, Bridget and Maureen, tells an unimaginable story of tragedy. In a brief moment on an icy road in December their lives were changed forever. After a collision with a truck one girl is dead and the other is battered beyond recognition. The family, friends and town morn and bury a beautiful young lady and pray for the recovery of another who is still in a coma. But, a terrible mistake has been made and the doctors discover the girl in the coma is really the girl they thought they had buried.

The novel is based on a true story and is filled with hope, love, healing, guilt and an incredible tale by Jacquelyn Mitchard. I could see this used in a student book discussion group with many topics to explore. This is one touching book that I highly recommend you read.
Mistaken Identity by Don Van Ryn
Wrecked by E. R. Frank
Bringing up the Bones by Lara M. Zeises
After the Wreck, I Picked Myself up, Spread My Wings, and Flew Away by Joyce Carol Oates
Book cover from Follett

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Charles and Emma : The Darwins' Leap of Faith by Deborah Heiligman

As the story begins Charles, who is afraid that marriage would take him away from his scientific work, after much thought decides to marry his first cousin Emma Wedgwood. Through letters and quotes the tale of the wonderful life and marriage of the Darwin’s in Victorian England emerges. In Emma, Charles found true happiness with a friend, a lover, caretaker, editor, and nurturing mother to his children.

Emma and Charles were blessed with the birth of ten children throughout their marriage but they were also plagued with tragedies and problems. Emma, who was a devout religious person, worried about Charles’s doubts about God. Seven of their ten children survived but Charles was torn with the death of three of his children. Charles was a dedicated scientist with doubts but not an atheist. Emma worried about her dear Charles in the afterlife.

This captivating biography tells us how dedicated Charles was to his family as well as his love of science. Reference to the letters gives the reader a glimpse into the private life of a very famous scientist. This is an excllent cross curriclar read for History, English or Science classes. The novel is filled with life in the Victoria era, Science through the eyes of Charles Darwin, love and family life among many other topics. Those readers interested in narrative nonfiction will enjoy this book immensely.

Photo and video editing at

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

The novel begins with Enzo, the beloved family dog, discussing his impending death. The entire story is narrated by Enzo with the reader seeing the family in the eyes of this philosophical family dog. His master is Denny Swift, a mechanic who dreams of becoming a famous racer. Enzo and Denny navigate through life’s tribulations including a marriage, a birth, a death, and false accusations. Enzo faithfully comforts the family through these difficulties while intertwining stories of Denny’s love of racing into the novel. Dog fans and racing fans will love this compelling story.

I read this novel while on a trip to Orlando this weekend. The minute I finished the story, I insisted my sister read the book before we parted our ways. We both enjoyed and loved the story.

Book cover from Follett
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