Friday, May 31, 2013

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. We've already celebrated by highlighting award winners from the Asian Pacific American Librarians Association and highlighting some of our favorite Asian American and Pacific Islander authors. We're wrapping up our celebration today by looking at some more of our favorite Asian American and Pacific Islander authors!


Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger. Sam's (full name, Samar) mother has kept her from her large, traditional Indian family and Sam doesn't really know much about her heritage. After 9/11, her uncle shows up on their doorstep, the recent tragedy making him want to reach out to his sister. Through him, Sam discovers where she comes from, and through that, who she is.

Silver Phoenix by Cindy Pon. Ai Ling's father went to see the Emperor and hasn't been seen since. In order to escape a disastrous marriage, Ai Ling must journey to the capital to find (and save) him. Fans will want to continue Ai Ling's adventures in the sequel, Fury of the Phoenix.

Adaptation by Malinda Lo. When birds start going crazy and flying into planes, causing them to crash, the country goes on lock-down. Reese and David are stranded in Arizona, and when trying to make their way home to San Francisco, get into a car crash. Their treatment is military and experimental and changes them. But even freakier is the truth behind what's happening, and what the government is covering up.


Skunk Girl by Sheba Karim. These are Nina's problems-- her sister set the academic bar WAY too high. She's the only Pakistani girl in school. Her parents are super strict. She has some severe body hair issues (all the women in her family do) including some on her back that she can't reach to deal with. And even if the boy she liked did like her, she still couldn't date him. What's a girl to do?

Legend by Marie Lu. In the Republic (former Western US), the government has secrets, and is always at war. June is one of society's elites, Day one of it's scapegoated outcasts. The two were never supposed to meet, but they do after Day is blamed for the murder of June's brother. June wants justice, Day just wants to survive, but together they'll uncover something much bigger. The first in a trilogy, follow it with Prodigy.

Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. Skim's school is in grief overdrive after the ex-boyfriend of a popular girl commits suicide right after dumping her. But she finds love with a teacher, who then also abruptly leaves, leaving Skim lost. Amazingly though, in this graphic novel, the plot doesn't really matter, because the punch comes from the characters and dialogue.


American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang. Told in three parts, this graphic novel's stories eventually merge into a single tale about accepting who you are. Jin Wong just wants to be an all-American kid instead of an immigrant one. Danny (a truly all-American kid) is horribly embarrassed by the antics of his cousin Chin-Kee. And Monkey wants to be the most revered of all the gods.

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa. Most days, the only thing that gets Allie out of bed in the morning is her hatred of the vampires. Then, she's turned into one, forced to be the thing she hates most in the world, one of he creatures that killed her family. The first in the Blood Eden series, follow it with The Eternity Cure.

Mismatch by Lensey Namioka. Sue has a hard time moving from Seattle to a town with very few other Asian Americans. Then she meets Andy. Their friends think they're perfect for each other, because they're both Asian. Sue and Andy do like each other, but Sue is Chinese American and Andy is Japanese American, which spells big problems for their families.

Who are your favorite Asian American or Pacific Islander authors?

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Loomis Day: Wireless Technology

Mahlon Loomis is the one who proved that wireless communication was a thing that could happen. But he was WAY ahead of his time-- he proved it in 1868! Because his idea was so crazy, he couldn't get the funding to develop the technology. Luckily for us, it *eventually* happened.

To celebrate, here are some books that wouldn't have been possible without Loomis's discovery.


Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different by Karen Blumenthal. As the founder of Apple, there's no doubt that Steve Jobs has changed the face of home/personal technology and the way that many interact with it. But, Jobs is a complicated figure--not an easy guy with work with, or to be related to, and along with his massive success came massive failure.

Tweet Heart by Elizabeth Rudnick. Claire is excited when her crush follows her on twitter-- not realizing it's really her best friend who also has a major crush on her. Told entirely in tweets, email, and IM, this novel explores love online and off.

Gimme a Call by Sarah Mlynowski. After Devi drops her cell phone in a fountain, it only calls herself-- 3 years ago. Suddenly, she can tell her past self what to do to make her future life better.


Cool Stuff and How It Works by Chris Woodford, Ben Morgan, Clint Witchalls, Luke Collins, and Kevin Jones. In large, full-color spreads, this book looks technology such as iPhones and nanobots and explains how they work. For an even more in-depth look, check out the sequel, Cool Stuff Exploded.

iDrakula by Bekka Black. The original was written in journals, letters, and newspapers, so it makes sense to tell his modern version in blog, email, IM, and tweets.

Ttyl by Lauren Myracle. Angela, Zoe, and Maddigan have been friends forever, but sophomore year brings new challenges-- a skeevy teacher, partying with beer, and, of course, boys. Told entirely in IM and the first of the Internet Girls series, follow it with TTFN.


SnApp Shots: How to Take Great Pictures with Smartphones and Apps by Adam Bronkhorst. This handy little guide is full of tips and tricks for getting the most out of your camera phone and taking advantage of the different lenses, films, and finishes that photography apps offer.

24 Girls in 7 Days by Alex Bradley. When Jack can't find a date to the prom, his best friends place a personal ad for him. The results are so overwhelming that Jack has to speed date 24 girls in 7 days to pick his date, but these girls are much more competitive and determined to win than Jack and his friends ever imagined. Told in IM.

Top 8 by Katie Finn. When Madison returns from a 2-week internet-free vacation, she discovers someone's hacked her Friendverse page, blabbed all her friends' secrets, and broken up with her boyfriend. Now Madison not only has to try to fix the damage, she has to figure out who would do such a thing in the first page.

What are your favorite wireless books?

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Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Wisconsin Becomes a State: Books by Cheeseheads

One this day in 1848 Wisconsin became the 30th (and so far, the best) state. California can run all the happy cow commercials it wants, everyone knows Wisconsin is the Dairy State. So grab some cheesecurds (they squeak when they're fresh!) and curl up with one of these books written by a Cheesehead author.


Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J Bick. Jenna's been sent to a special school because she's been cutting. But school doesn't help, because that's where she meets Mr. Anderson, her science teacher, and they have an intense relationship. But nothing is clear and Bick challenges what's right and what's wrong. She lives in rural Wisconsin.

What We Saw At Night by Jacquelyn Mitchard. Allie and her friends are fatally allergic to sunlight. Parkour lets them explore the world by night, but then they see a dead body, and maybe the murderer. Parkour let them feel alive, but it might not keep them so. Mitchard lives in Madison.

The Dollhouse Murders by Betty Ren Wright. Amy is spending time with her Aunt Claire to help her clean out her grandparent's house. In the attic, Amy finds Claire's old dollhouse, a perfect replica of the house. The dolls never stay where Amy leaves them, and when she goes up at night, there is light and noise coming from the house. Do the dolls hold the clues to solve the grisly murders of Claire's parents? I read this one in 6th grade and it still freaks me out. Wright lives in Racine.


The Princesses of Iowa by M. Molly Backes. After the accident, Paige was shipped off to France so her mother could do damage control. Paige is expected to step back into her picture-perfect life when she returns, but she finds it has shifted and moved on without her. From her new prospective, she's not entirely sure she wants to step back into it, anyway. Backes grew up in Oregon.

Olive's Ocean by Kevin Henkes. After Olive dies in a car crash, her neighbor, Martha, discovers the girls had more in common than Martha ever knew. Martha also discovers that Olive really wanted to be her friend, and now it's too late. Henkes was born in Racine and currently lives in Madison.

Who Will Run the Frog Hospital by Lorrie Moore. The frame story is about a woman in Paris whose marriage is falling apart. But, while in Paris, Berie remembers high school, when she was a cashier at Storyland amusement park, and her best friend, Sils, who played Cinderella. Published for adults, teens will enjoy the Berie/Sils storyline which makes up most of the book. Moore lives in Madison.


Hunger: A Novella and Stories by Lan Samantha Chang. All of these short stories focus on immigrant families (mostly Chinese) and lost love. Published for adults, many feature teenagers and they will enjoy the book. Chang grew up in Appleton. Other famous Appletonians include Joseph McCarthy, Harry Houdini, Edna Ferber, and me.

Our Town: A Play in Three Acts by Thorton Wilder. This play is a perennial favorite of high school stages. It examines the life of one woman, and therefore all people, set in a small New Hampshire town. Wilder was born in Madison.

Notes to Self by Avery Sawyer. Best friends Emily and Robin sneak into a theme park after closing and end up in the hospital. Robin wakes up and has to remember everything that happened in the hopes that her memories will help Emily wake up and recover. Sawyer is the pen name of Laura Schaefer, who publishes middle grade novels with traditional publishers. She lives in Madison.

Who are your favorite authors from Wisconsin?

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Ian Fleming's Birthday: Spy Novels

It's Ian Fleming's birthday! If he were still alive, he'd be turning 105.

The creator of James Bond, and an intelligence officer himself, there are a few ways to celebrate. If you're over 21, just this one, you have an excuse to shake your martini instead of stirring, if you're under 21, check out these great spy novels instead.


SilverFin by Charlie Higson. Ok, obviously I had to include the Young James Bond series! James is a student at Eton, and very grateful to escape to his aunt's cottage in Scotland. Once there, though, he gets involved in the investigation for a missing boy and discovers that one of his classmates's father is well, a Bond villan. The first in a series, follow it with Blood Fever.

I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have to Kill You by Ally Carter. Cammie and her friends at Gallagher Academy-- a boarding school to train future spies. They speak many languages and are experts in covert ops. When Cammie develops a crush on a local boy, they'll need all these skills, and then some, to see if he feels the same. The first in a series that quickly gets a more involved and darker plot, follow it with Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy.

Tamar: A Novel of Espionage, Passion, and Betrayal by Mal Peet. After her grandfather commits suicide, Tamar is left with his box of parachute silks, with code written on them, plus some other objects from his time in WWII. The story bounces between her and her grandfather in WWII, when he was with the Dutch resistance, him, his best friend, and the girl they were both in love with. Trapped in Nazi-occupied Netherlands, they get information out, and receive information. But the tension and fear soon take its devasting toll. Seriously guys, one of my favorite books of all time.


The Squad: Perfect Cover by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Toby thinks the invitation to join the cheerleading squad is a joke. She's convinced it's a joke when she notices secret codes in the letters. But it's not joke, and this is no ordinary cheer team. No one expects the cheerleaders, so armed with accessories that hide high capacity USB drives and bullet-proof bras, they're actually a branch of the CIA. Toby's ok with that. She's not ok with the fact that they're still cheerleaders and she needs to learn how to do a herky. Be sure to check out the sequel Killer Spirit.

Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz. After his uncle, his only living relative, is killed under suspicious circumstances, Alex Rider discovers that he was really a spy for M-16, and killed shortly before stopping something big. M-16 decides to press Alex into service to finish the job. The first in the wonderful Alex Rider series, the second is Point Blank.

The Recruit by Robert Muchamore. James can't catch a break. His mother is awful and his sister's father isn't any better. Then he gets suspended for fighting in school and his mom dies. Enter CHERUB. Founded over 50 years ago, CHERUB is a division of MI5--British Intelligence. No one ever suspects a kid, so that's who they send--kids. James will be a spy and receive a top-notch education, but only if he can survive the training period. The first of the CHERUB series, the second is The Dealer.


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein. After crash landing in Nazi-control France, a British spy is arrested and interrogated by the Gestapo. She is weak, and tells them what she knows, hoping it will buy her time, her life, or at least a quick execution instead of being shipped to Ravensbrück. But in her story, she tells a heartbreaking story of her best friend Maddie, the pilot she left in the burning plane.

Spy High Mission One by AJ Butcher. In 2060, 6 students at Spy High are part of Bond Team, but they do not get along. They risk getting kicked out, with wiped memories. No one wants that, but no one's willing to put their differences and egos aside to start working as team, which is the only way they'll pass. Then, the head of their school has another idea that sends them straight into the face of danger, but might be the only way to get them to work together. Also, there are mutants. The first in a fun series, follow it with Chaos Rising.

I, Q: Independence Hall by Roland Smith. Q's rocker mother has married a rocker widow, forming a new band and new family. Q and his new step-sister Angela are along for the ride on the band's cross-country tour, but things get weird, fast. Turns out that Angela's mother was CIA and killed in action, but the bad guys are still after them, unless Q, Angela, and an odd assortment of roadies and spies can stop them. The first in a series, follow it with I, Q: The White House.

What are your favorite spy novels?

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Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day, when we remember and thank those who have given their lives in service to our country.


Jimmy's Stars by Mary Ann Rodman. Ellie is devastated when her older brother is drafted in WWII. At first she and her friends fight over whose brother or father is the biggest hero. But then they start returning with severe injuries, or not returning at all.

After Eli by Rebecca Rupp. Three year's after Danny's brother is killed in Iraq, he keeps a notebook of how people have died, and why.

Personal Effects by E. M. Kokie. TJ was killed in Iraq and his younger brother Matt hasn't been able function since. When TJ's trunks arrive, Matt thinks going through the letters and effects will help bring closure, but they end up showing Matt a side of his brother he never knew, or imagined.


In Honor by Jessi Kirby. Honor receives her brother Finn's last letter three days after he died in Iraq. The letter contains concert tickets and a mission. The mission was a joke, but in her grief, Honor accepts it, and finds herself driving across country with Finn's ex-best friend.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells. This adult novel examines many mother-daughter relationships and was a favorite when I was a teen. It's on the list because one of the stories involves a brother shot down in France.

Park's Quest by Katherine Patterson. Park's father died in Vietnam and her mother refuses to speak of him, but when he spends the summer with his paternal grandparents, his illusions are beyond shattered. Park is not the only one feeling the loss of his father, and he's not the only one unable to move on.

After the Dancing Days by Margaret Rostkowski. Annie's horrified by the wounded veterans returning from WWI, but starts volunteering at her father's veteran's hospital. There she befriends Andrew and finds some closure after the death of her uncle, who died in the War.

Memorial Day is a pretty American holiday (other countries have similar days, notably many Commonwealth countries celebrate Remembrance Day on November 11) so this list is about American servicemen and women who have given their lives. What titles am I missing?

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

Hurricane Preparedness Week: Books About Hurricanes

It's Hurricane Preparedness Week-- time to make sure you know what to do in case of an impending storm. It starts today and runs through June 1st (next Saturday). June 1st is the start of the Atlantic hurricane season, and NOAA is expecting an active one this year. Are you ready? These hurricane books might help convince you that you need to be!


Hurricane Song: A Novel of New Orleans by Paul Volponi. After his mother's remarriage, Miles moves in with his father. His father concentrates on jazz, while Miles focuses on football, making the team and dreaming of playing pro. When Miles gets to the Superdome though, it's not for football, but rather taking shelter after Katrina hits.

Hurricane by Terry Trueman. Jose survives the horrible devastation of Hurricane Mitch when it hits his Honduran village, but he is one of the few. Even worse than the hurricane is the recovery.

Abandon by Meg Cabot. When Pierce and her mother move to her mother's hometown on Isla Huesos in the Florida Keys, she discovers that ever since she technically died and came back, she's been living in the Persephone story. It started with a hurricane, and it looks like it will end withe one, too. The first in a trilogy, the third, Awaken comes out in July.

The Jumbee by Pamela Keyes. In this retelling of Phantom of the Opera, Esti is attending high school in Cariba, trying to make a name for herself outside of her famous father. A hurricane plays a crucial role in the gripping climax.

Hurricane Dancers: The First Caribbean Pirate Shipwreck by Margarita Engle. This verse novel combines the historical tale of a disgraced landowner turned pirate, who shipwrecked on Cuba's shores during a hurricane, and the Cuban love story of Caucubu, the chieftain's daughter, and Narido, a fisherman.

Dark Water Rising by Marian Hale. In 1900, Seth's family has just moved to Galveston so Seth can go to a good school. Life in the new town is going well, until one day the sea comes in from all sides and it's total destruction.


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. Janie has had many men in her life, but one story comes to head in the middle of a devastating hurricane. Published for adults, this is one of my favorite books that I was assigned in high school lit class.

The Perfect Storm: A True Story of Men Against the Sea by Sebastian Junger. The 1991 Halloween Gale that hit the North Atlantic featured a rare combination of factors that, scientifically, made it the "perfect storm." But for those caught in the middle of it, especially on the open water, it was anything but. Published for adults, teens do enjoy this title.

Ruby's Imagine by Kim Antieau. Even at 18, Ruby lives in a rich imaginary world, where she remembers her parents and can talk to the trees and animals. When the trees and butterflies tell her a 'big spin' is coming, Mammaloose and others dismiss it. But after Katrina hits, Ruby starts to wonder, and learn, how much is her imagination, and how much is real.

What are your favorite hurricane reads? Are you ready for hurricane season?

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