Fourteen-year-old Sophie has returned, reluctantly, to the Democratic Republic of Congo to join her mother at her bonobo sanctuary. Bonobos, sharing almost 98% of human DNA, are great apes that desperately need to be saved from exploitation caused by poverty and revolution. As Sophie is headed toward the sanctuary, a young abused bonobo comes into her life, and Sophie’s previous disinterest in the sanctuary changes completely.
The political conflict has brought extremes of instability and violence to Congo, and the sanctuary is attacked. Sophie’s only chance of saving herself and her bonobo Otto is to escape with him and try to survive. Their vulnerability is extreme, but she has no choice but to try.
A forceful page-turner, this novel brings together and personalizes themes of politics, the environment, and personal growth under duress.
Thanks to our generous donors at our annual book fair, we are now brimming with new reading material just in time for the holidays! Be sure to browse in Becker Library and check out a book or two to take on break!
Here is a sampling of our new and interesting titles:
How Music Works by David Byrne
Let the People In: The Life and Times of Ann Richards by Jan Reid
Fairy Tales From the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version by Philip Pullman
The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
NW by Zadie Smith
Silent House by Orhan Pamuk
Home by Toni Morrison
Liar & Spy by Rebecca Stead
The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann
The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde
Here’s a new YA novel (the first in His Fair Assassin Series) that’s garnering a lot of buzz and making early “best of” rounds. This one is for romantics who like their historical fiction served up with a generous helping of mystery and intrigue!
Grave Mercy is set in Medieval Brittany, and our protagonist, Ismae, is an outcast in her rural village due to the fact that she’s suspected to be the daughter of Death himself. After a wretched childhood, circumstances lead her to the Convent of St. Mortain, where she and her sisters are trained to serve Mortain, their ancestral god of death. Ismae picks up some wicked training along the way, including the art of mixing and administering poisons as well as the ability to dispatch victims neatly by knife and crossbow. Ismae considers it a great honor to be chosen by the Abbess of St. Mortain to be sent out into the kingdom in order to carry out assigned assassinations in the name of her god.
Due to political complications, Ismae is ordered to team with Gavriel Duval, a handsome court regular who ostensibly shares a goal with the convent: to be an ally to the Duchess of Brittany and aid her in her resistance against the French, who are attempting to infiltrate her court with spies and undermine her ability to preserve her country through a favorable marriage.
At court, Ismae discovers that not all is as clear-cut as she might have imagined; her training led her to believe that it would be simple for her to determine her targets for assassination, but she finds it terribly difficult to detect which courtiers are spies and enemies. Even her supposed friend Duval is unreadable. As Ismae gets an education in the conventions of palace society while posing as a courtesan, romance comes unbidden and unwanted to her, forcing her to question the motives of those who sent her and causing her to seek answers by searching herself.
This title is a nice read and probably most appropriate for upper teen readers – not because of any particular content, but because of the intricate political plot line. It’s a really fun fantasy and a great getaway! This book will keep readers guessing until the very end.
Book cover image courtesy of Houghton Mifflin
Librarians looooove summer because we have extra reading time! My plan for these sultry months has been to catch up on lots of those tempting YA titles which have practically jumped off the shelf and into my bookbag. (Do you ever wonder why particular books seem to do that?) Here are some of my new picks:
Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride: This one is a solid choice for about 8th grade and up. It’s an engaging and breezy paranormal story containing all manner of shapeshifting creatures (think werewolves, fairies…), and it’s hilarious in places! The protagonist, Sam (short for “Samhain"), is an unlikely hero with a quirky personality who is in the process of discovering a boatload of secrets about himself. Magic abounds, and there’s a terrifically nasty villain. What could be better? If you like Michael Scott’s The Magician Series, you’re sure to like this one!
Flash Burnout by L.K. Madigan: Here’s a realistic piece of fiction set in the present. Perfect for US readers, it captures a high school student, Blake, who is caught up in his first real “girlfriend” relationship. His interest in and subsequent involvement with…uh oh… another girl at school tests his loyalty, confuses him, and causes big misunderstandings. This story carries a satisfying amount of emotional weight and deals beautifully with those whiplash-fast changes in life that seem to happen to teens in particular. At times, the situations seemed so familiar and realistic that I found myself cringing in empathy! There’s also a nice plot angle about photography in here! It’s a page-turner. A read-alike for this one is 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Chime by Franny Billingsley: This is high fantasy and highly inventive, perfect for MS readers and up! Briony Larkin, a romantic and plucky heroine, is growing up in a backwater village in England in the early 20th Century. She’s got lots to hide, including the fact that she has the ability to commune with invisible spirits and beings who inhabit the countryside, and oh yes, she just may be falling in love. She lives in terror that her odd gifts will be discovered, which would lead to a certain death. This book weaves old English folklore into an eerie and unsettling narrative. It’s a darkly beautiful neo-gothic confection. Enjoy! If you like this one, try The Vespertine by Saundra Mitchell.
Read on! We’d love to get your feedback, too. What are you reading right now?
Book cover image courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Books for Children
Greetings readers! A question: what do Chris Colfer, Stephen King, John Irving, and Dan Rather have in common? Right…they all made appearances at the American Library Association conference in Anaheim along with dozens of other authors! The ALA conference provides time for librarians to hear directly from major book publishers (and their stables of authors) about what’s new and fresh in the world of writing. It’s a pleasure to get updates from some of the most creative people out there. Young Adult authors were out in force at this particular event, so if anyone wants to have a conversation about the best of the new YA Literature, please let me know! Right now, I’m especially enamored of Where Things Come Back, which is this year’s Printz Award winner by John Corey Whaley, and Rotters by Daniel Kraus. I also got a sneak peek at Maggie Stiefvater’s newest, Raven Boys, which looks to be poised for big success.
ALA is not all about books, though! There’s a technological side of this profession which sparks ongoing discussion among library types these days. Several panels I attended addressed the use of Web 2.0 tools in education as well as the importance of continued outreach to students in the areas of media and information literacy. In order for students to be truly prepared for college, it’s essential that they know how to access, evaluate, and cite information that they use for academic work. Librarians are trained to help students develop this critical set of skills, and professional development keeps us in the “best practice” loop! It’s interesting to get to make contact with the providers of our databases and other digital content to find out what’s new in cutting edge information as well as what’s being added to archival records.
Many thanks again to the Friends of Becker Library for making this learning opportunity a reality. We welcome questions and conversations about what the librarians at St. Stephen’s are doing to keep current in this fast-paced world of libraries!
Greetings, Readers! Thanks to the Friends of Becker Library, I am headed off to the National American Library Association conference in Anaheim, CA. It’s a prime chance to catch up on best library practices, learn from some of the best and most innovative minds in the profession, recharge, find new motivation, and meet authors! Expect a full report in a week or so! - Cynthia
By the way, if you are interested in getting updates and other news from us on Facebook, please find the Becker Library page and “like” us!
Thanks to the Friends of Becker Library, I recently had the opportunity to attend the Association of Independent School Librarians conference in Denver. This group of librarians from all over the U.S. and Canada know how to work hard while having a good time! We visited five different independent schools in Denver and Boulder, and participated in presentations given by experts on such topics as 21st Century Library Design, Plagiarism, Evaluation of E-Resources, Magic in the Library (!), and more.
A highlight of the conference was a delightful presentation given by YA author T.A. Barron. Author of the Merlin saga–a movie of The Lost Years of Merlin is now being produced–Barron is also a serious environmentalist seeking ways to enjoy and preserve the natural beauty of his native Colorado and the world. And spearheaded by his book The Hero’s Trail–A Guide for a Heroic Life, Barron profiles and highlights young “heroes” all over the world through his Dream Big project. See more information at http://www.tabarron.com/, and come check out Barron’s books at Becker Library!
The AISL conference provided opportunities for participants to take advantage of the cultural richness of the Denver area. Many of us visited some great bookstores, including The Bookies, and especially Tattered Cover Book Store (one of my personal favorite bookstores anywhere!). A visit to the beautiful lobby of the historic Brown Palace Hotel was in order, as was a visit to the fabulous new Clyfford Still Museum.
The networking and sharing of ideas, coupled with the visits to other independent school libraries, were invaluable, with lasting effects for us here at Becker Library. I’m grateful for this rich professional development opportunity!
Hey, everybody! We are already gearing up for this year’s Austin Teen Book Festival! Here’s a big scoop for you…the keynote speaker at this year’s ATBF will be the awesome NEAL SHUSTERMAN.
Mr. Shusterman is the author of many favorite YA Novels, including The Schwa Was Here and Antsy Does Time, along with slightly edgier fare, such as Unwind (which was named an ALA Best Book for Young Adults) and Everlost, Everfound, and Everwild (The new Skinjacker Trilogy).
Make sure and mark you calendar for Saturday, September 29th, and stay tuned as more authors are added to the ATBF roster!
Follow @AustinTBF on Twitter or visit http://www.austinteenbookfestival.com/
Julian Barnes’s winner of the 2011 Man Booker Prize is short–and deceptively simple. Middle-aged Tony Webster muses on his life and the passage of time, after the receipt of a letter abruptly reminds him of long-repressed incidents from his schooldays and soon after. Back in those days, Tony and his friends Colin and Alex gradually took on a newcomer, Adrian, as part of their “set". It became clear that Adrian was an intellectual stand-out, impressing the school masters (the boys were attending a public school in London) and his peers with his depth of imagination and his dry wit. After shared schooldays, the four go differing ways, Tony to study at Bristol, and Adrian to Cambridge. A young woman appears on the scene, and the relationships get complicated. Before long, the ties are broken. Many years later, old wounds are opened, and previous assumptions are revisited.
Barnes has a way of seamlessly moving from Tony’s current life and more recent past, to those days of old. A mystery gradually presents itself to the reader. To better understand and absorb the story, I followed the suggestion of other reviewers of this short novel: as soon as I finished reading it, I went right back to the first page and began again. The second reading, I will add, was perhaps more satisfying than the first.
Through the generosity of the Friends of Becker Library, I was able to attend the National Conference on Youth Cybersafety in Dallas on March 2nd and 3rd, having to do with young people’s lives online. As Librarians, we are often asked to collaborate with our technology department and offer talks about issues of online safety and digital citizenship with students in both a formal and an informal capacity.
I am very grateful to have heard from some leading experts in the field, including Sameer Hinduja, Ph.D., Marsali Hancock, Richard Guerry, and Charles Leitch, among others. Each of these speakers offered advice from a unique perspective, as they have occupations ranging from University researcher to law enforcement to counseling. I learned more about the current state of social media and its prominent position in the lives of many young people, as well as response tactics in the face of “cyberbullying” incidents. Breakout sessions allowed for discussion of common “digital dilemmas” and repercussions associated with online activity. Not all of the content of the seminar was cautionary and alarming…one session in particular addressed the positive effects of building a school culture of respect and offered some practical ideas for schools and students in their quests to become more aware of the ways in which online activity reflects upon a community.
Here are some of the sessions I attended:
Building Proactive Offline Teams Ready for Anything Online
Public and Permanent: How You Can Prevent Digital Dilemmas
Cyberbullying: The New Frontier
Together, but Alone: Social Media Generation and How Technology is Changing Our Youth
Cyberbullying: Identification, Prevention, and Response
Safe Social Networking
Please feel free to contact me for additional resources on cybersafety!
January 21st was a special Saturday night in Austin for the many, MANY fans of Young Adult author John Green and his brother, Hank. For the uninitiated, John’s devoted group of readers are called “Nerdfighters” by the author, who has an incredibly popular vlog and a wide influence through his thoughtful books and his omnipresence on the Internet. (By the way, “Nerdfighters” is meant as a high compliment and signifies self-identified “nerds” who like to be informed, celebrate intelligence, do charitable deeds…and, of course, READ!) John and Hank connect on a personal level with the readers by celebrating honesty and individualism. There’s a secret-handshake lexicon of terms that their devotees share, which are summed up by the acronym DFTBA (translation: Don’t Forget to be Awesome).
John and Hank Green. Photo by Jennifer Sturley
John and Hank Green are presently on a cross-country tour to promote John’s newly-published The Fault in Our Stars, which is a poignant novel geared toward young adults. The Fault in Our Stars has been topping the New York Times bestseller list in the last couple of weeks. We were treated to a wonderful reading by John, a rapid-fire Q&A session from both brothers (who have impeccable comic timing honed from posting their many videos to YouTube), and of course, a boisterous singalong with Hank, featuring songs about Quarks and Harry Potter. Proof of the Green brothers’ popularity was evidenced by a packed house of approximately 2000 readers willing to wait for hours after the show for a personalized signature in their pre-signed novels! This event is the type of gathering which absolutely warms the hearts of librarians. What a delight to see a whole auditorium full of avid readers who appreciate big-hearted goofiness and bond over earnest, candid literature.
We at Becker Library would like to extend a sincere “thank you” to all our fantastic Book Fair volunteers, who helped the entire school “Rev Up for Reading.” In keeping with our race car theme, students, parents, and faculty were treated to a display of two classic Porsches and plenty of checkered flags and car images! The rainy, drizzly weather proved to be a boon to business, as many customers spent lots of time browsing and visiting. We are also grateful to Topher Bradfield of BookPeople for his enthusiastic classroom book talks. We applaud the great efforts of Chair Chas Studor and Chair-Elect Amanda Schmidt, along with all the great committee members. Take a victory lap!
Some of our best-selling books at the fair were (in no particular order):
Adult Fiction and Nonfiction
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
The Paris Wife by Paula McLain
State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne
Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
Young Adult Fiction
Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi
The Apothecary by Maile Meloy and Ian Schoenherr
This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel
Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly
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