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 This month's BCPL's Reading Challenge is in honor of Black History Month. Here are some of our suggestions, select any title to learn more or to request a copy. Be sure to follow the BCPL's Reading Challenge on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram with #Bwellread to earn prizes at the end of each month!

 

 BCPL Reading Challenge 2017 In Partnership with WBALTV

Cover art for And I Still Rise Cover art for Another Brooklyn Cover art for The Autobiography of Malcolm X Cover art for The Beast Side Cover art for Between the World and Me Cover art for The Bluest Eye  Cover art for Charcoal Joe  Cover art for The Coldest Winter Ever Cover art for The Color Purple Cover art for Dreams from My FatherCover art for The Fire This Time Cover art for  For Colored Girls who have Considered Suicide Cover art for Go Tell it on the Mountain Cover art for Homegoing Cover art for I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings Cover art for Inspiration Cover art for Invisible Man Cover art for The Known World Cover art for Lazaretto Cover art for A Lesson Before Dying Cover art for March Book 1 Cover art for Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Cover art for Native Son Cover art for A Raisin in the Sun Cover art for Rickey & Robinson Cover art for Stamped from the Beginning Cover art for Swing Time Cover art for The Turner House Cover art for Underground Airlines Cover art for The Underground Railroad

 


 
 

The Expanse

posted by: January 31, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for Babylon's AshesThe writing team styled as James S.A. Corey picks up the ever complex interplanetary politics and resulting war without missing a beat in book six of The Expanse series. Longtime fans of the series will enjoy the return of many characters from previous books in the newest installment, Babylon’s Ashes.

 

The spaceship Rocinante’s crew is reunited for a drawn-out debriefing on Luna Base. Captain Holden and company ship out under former Martian Marine Bobbie Draper’s command to help coordinate what remains of the joint fleet from Earth and Mars, as well as the unaligned OPA factions, to put a stop to Marco’s plans.

 

The complex tribal nature of the Belt is given a hefty portion of the storytelling though the voices of Naomi, Dawes, Pa, Prax, Filip and Marco. Corey devotes time into exploring the poisonous father-son relationship between Marco and Filip, as well as Naomi’s guilt for sacrificing her son to Marco’s control. One of the most striking moments of the book occurs when Filip has an important realization about his father.

 

If you are new to the novels that precede the sixth installment, make sure to get started with Leviathan Wakes, or check out season one of The Expanse before the next season starts back up on February 1.


 
 

The Clairvoyants

posted by: January 30, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for The ClairvoyantsKaren Brown won acclaim for her debut The Longings of Wayward Girls, a suspenseful novel about two missing girls. Although her new book, The Clairvoyants, is also billed as psychological suspense, it’s really more accurate to describe it as a coming-of-age story with dark, supernatural overtones.

 

Martha and her sister Del grow up on a farm in Connecticut. When Martha is only 7 years old, she has a vision of her great aunt. Unfortunately, her great aunt has already been dead for many years when they “meet.” As a child, Martha is only mildly disconcerted by the event. It seems to be an isolated, intriguing fluke. But in her late teens, a harrowing incident triggers her strange gift again. She begins experiencing more visions of the dead — most not as pleasant as her great aunt.

 

Hoping to leave the dead behind, Martha flees to college in Ithaca. There she finds romance with a brooding photographer named William. But her idyll is disrupted when the past comes calling in the form of her impulsive sister Del. Just as Martha tries to reconcile herself to being her unstable sister’s caretaker, a fellow student on campus vanishes. Martha’s visions return with a vengeance.

 

Although the missing girl is pivotal to the plot of The Clairvoyants, Brown’s story is too leisurely paced to feel like suspense. Her focus is less on finding the missing girl and more on understanding Martha’s unwillingness to use her “gift.” Indeed, Martha’s reluctance to get involved in the case becomes a symbol for her reluctance to take charge of her own life.

 

Readers who enjoyed Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic and Sarah Addison Allen’s The Peach Keeper should enjoy The Clairvoyants. Like these authors, Brown uses the suspense genre to explore the rivalries that shape women and their relationships with one another.


 
 

The Fifth Petal

posted by: January 25, 2017 - 7:00am

Cover art for The Fifth PetalBrunonia Barry brings us an exciting and enchanting mystery in her new book The Fifth Petal, which takes place in Salem, Massachusetts.

 

On Halloween night in 1989, a group of women gather to bless the grave of their ancestors, who were accused of witchcraft and hanged during the Salem witch trials. That night, three of the women mysteriously die, leaving Rose Whelan and Callie Cahill, the 5-year-old daughter of one of the other women, as the only survivors. Rose is convinced that a banshee murdered the women and is sent to a mental hospital. Callie is questioned and sent away, and the case grows cold.

 

On Halloween night 25 years later, a teenage boy mysteriously dies while harassing Rose, and Rose is once again convinced that the banshee is the killer. While investigating the murder of the boy, old memories and the unsolved case resurface. Tormented by the memory of that night in 1989, Callie returns to Salem to see Rose and uncover some answers for herself.

 

The mysteries of the past are unraveled as Callie begins to remember exactly what happened the night her mother and the other women died. Full of mysteries, myths and strong storytelling, The Fifth Petal is entirely captivating. Check out Brunonia Barry’s other novel, The Lace Reader, also set in Salem.


 
 

ALA Youth Media Awards

posted by: January 23, 2017 - 11:08am

Cover art for Radiant ChildCover art for The Girl Who Drank the MoonCover art for March Book Three

 

The most prestigious awards for teen and children's literature were announced by the American Library Association in Atlanta earlier this morning. Awards were given in a wide range of categories that covered all formats and age levels. A complete list of awards, winners and honorees can be found in this morning's press release from the American Library Association.

 

The Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. This year’s winner is Radiant Child: The Story of Young Artist Jean-Michael Basquiat written and illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. Basquiat was a Brooklyn-based artist in the 1980s and, while the book does not include any of his work, Steptoe brings the art of that era to the page by layering paint, paper scraps, paint tubes and photos on found-wood panels. Caldecott Honor winners include Leave Me Alone!, written and illustrated by Vera Brosgol, Freedom in Congo Square, written by Carole Boston Weatherford and illustrated by R. Gregory Christie, Du Iz Tak?, written and illustrated by Carson Ellis and They All Saw a Cat, written and illustrated by Brendan Wenzel.

 

The oldest of the medals, the John Newbery Medal, is awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. This year’s medal recipient is Kelly Barnhill for The Girl Who Drank the Moon, an epic fantasy that The New York Times Book Review said was “impossible to put down...as exciting and layered as classics like Peter Pan or The Wizard of Oz." The three books selected as Honor winners are Freedom Over Me by Ashley Bryan, The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz and Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk. Baltimore County Public Library’s own Jamie Watson served on this year’s Newbery Committee and she shares her thoughts on the process and some of her favorite past winners in this Between The Covers interview.

 

The Michael L. Printz Award annually honors the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit. This year’s winner is March: Book Three, written by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin and illustrated by Nate Powell. Congressman John Lewis, a living icon of the civil rights movement, brings his honest and unflinching account of the movement’s most tumultuous years in this graphic conclusion to his dynamic trilogy. Printz Honor awards went to Asking for It by Louise O’Neill, The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry, Scythe by Neal Shusterman and The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon.

 

The Coretta Scott King Awards are given to outstanding African American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African American culture and universal human values. It was a big day for Javaka Steptoe, who received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award to add to his Caldecott Medal for Radiant Child. And more honors were heaped upon John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, who won the Coretta Scott King Author Award for March: Book Three, which also won the Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award for most distinguished informational book for children and the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults.

 

BCPL has many of these titles in our collectionplace a hold on one or more today!


 
 

Hellboy in Hell, Vols. 1 & 2

posted by: January 23, 2017 - 7:00am

Hellboy in Hell, Vol. 1Hellboy in Hell, Vol. 2In the more than 20 years that Hellboy has been engaged in supernatural pulp adventures, he’s been everywhere from Mexico to Romania and crossed paths with countless fantastic figures from history and myth. Though Hellboy made himself comfortable all over the globe throughout his life, there was only one logical place for him to end his journey: home. Hellboy in Hell by Mike Mignola is a somber and surreal swan song that finally forces Hellboy to face the infernal heritage he spent his life rejecting.

 

Creator Mignola announced in 2015 that Hellboy in Hell would be his final art duty on a comic before an extended break to focus on traditional watercolor painting, and this series truly reads like a fond farewell to a beloved friend. Minimalist compositions present the majestic architecture and unholy denizens of the underworld in a way that invoke melancholy rather than horror. Fans of Mignola will recognize returning motifs throughout the glorious hellscapes he illustrates here, and new readers can look forward to being introduced to his unique style with a story that showcases him at the top of his game. Longtime collaborator Dave Stewart provides most of the book’s color, bathing each page in dismal limited palettes that perfectly compliment the gloomy tone of the story.

 

This is the sendoff Hellboy deserves. The unmistakable artwork and understated writing that readers have come to expect from Mike Mignola are here, presented in perhaps their most moving use since Hellboy’s origin. Whet your appetite with Hellboy: The First 20 Years and then settle in for a quiet evening navigating the depths with Hell’s lost son himself. Full disclosure: I cried a little.


 
 

A Plague on All Our Houses

posted by: January 19, 2017 - 7:00am

A Plague on All Our HousesIn the spring of 1981, four young gay male patients were referred to Dr. Michael Gottlieb, a young assistant professor at UCLA specializing in immunology, with a series of opportunistic infections. Author Bruce J. Hillman, MD charts the course that Dr. Gottlieb took that would lead to the discovery of AIDS and the dissolution of his academic career in A Plague on All Our Houses.

 

After contacting the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), an action that had to be suggested by the editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) owning to Gottlieb’s professional naivety, he confirmed an additional case via autopsy. Gottlieb and his colleagues collected their data and he drafted what is now considered one of the most notable medical publications of the century. As the lead author of the NEJM article which described a new disease, Gottlieb was pulled in many directions: academic researcher, clinician, spokesperson, grant writer and fundraiser. As the doctor who discovered a new undetectable infectious disease, Gottlieb attracted many patients, most of whom were gay. At the same time, UCLA was trying to brand itself as a transplant center. A mixture of fear and homophobia began to build in earnest. Jealousy joined the mix when Gottlieb drew additional attention as the specialist who cared for Rock Hudson. When Elizabeth Taylor decided to dedicate herself to finding a cure after the death of her friend and a relative, she turned to Gottlieb for counsel, and the mixture neared the boiling point.

 

If you enjoyed Rebecca Skloot’s work examining the health and societal impact of the HeLa cells juxtaposed against the lives of her children deprived of their mother in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, this medical story is for you.


 
 

Between the Covers with Jamie Watson

posted by: January 18, 2017 - 7:00am

Jamie WatsonThe John Newbery Medal is a literary award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association (ALA). This annual award is given to the author of "the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children." The Newbery and Caldecott Medals are considered to be the most prestigious awards for children's literature in the United States.

 

The medal is decided by a committee elected by their peers and for the past year, Baltimore County Public Library’s Collection Development Coordinator Jamie Watson has been a member of this committee working hard to determine this year’s medal winner and honor books. Jamie sat down with me to share insight into the committee. Her passion for this committee work and children’s literature are evident! The Newbery Medal, along with the other ALA awards will be announced on Monday, January 23 in Atlanta.

 

Between the Covers: Please give us a brief overview of the process of committee member selection process for the Newbery Medal.

Jamie Watson: There are 15 people on the committee. Eight of them are elected during the American Library Association elections held in the spring. I was elected! You are nominated by your peers. Then, six more members and the committee chair are chosen by the president of the Association for Library Service to Children.

 

It was bittersweet being elected because one of my friends missed joining me on the committee by a mere three votes!

 

For librarians who might want to be on the committee, this has really been a long process of serving on other committees for the last 17 years, getting to know people, practicing book discussion skills and networking. It was something I knew I always wanted to do and I’m so pleased and honored to be doing it.

 

BTC: Is the committee given any criteria to choose its winners or does it come up with its on their own?
JW: There are very specific criteria, and I’ve probably read them 100 times or more over the last year! Here they are, direct from the manual:

 

Committee members need to consider the following:
• Interpretation of the theme or concept
• Presentation of information including accuracy, clarity and organization
• Development of a plot
• Delineation of characters
• Delineation of a setting
• Appropriateness of style

 

Note: Because the literary qualities to be considered will vary depending on content, the committee need not expect to find excellence in each of the named elements. The book should, however, have distinguished qualities in all of the elements pertinent to it.

 

This gets challenging because you might be comparing so many different types of books. How can you compare a picture book with a biography for middle grade readers with a book of poetry with a novel for 8-year-olds? Ultimately, you apply these criteria to each and every book, and see how well they stand up to it.

 

BTC: How does the committee decide which books to read? How many did you read this year?

JW: Publishers will send you books all throughout the year. You will read reviews. You will hear other people talking and speculating. However, it’s up to each individual committee member to decide which books to read. Also throughout the year, the members communicate by sending “suggestions” to the chair, who then compiles them and sends them to the entire committee. So you can see what things other committee members are reading and liking. But not which person, or why they liked them. It’s just a list that says “You might want to check these out.” I tried to balance reading well-reviewed things, reading suggested things and reading things I didn’t know much about just to see what might be getting overlooked. Everyone on the committee has their own approach.

 

I likely read in the vicinity of 200 books from cover to cover. I likely skimmed 200 more, or read just a bit of them. Some books that are on the list of nominations I’ve read twice, and a few even three times. I’ll be continuing to re-read right up to the deadline just to see what else I might have missed.

 

This is why serving on committees has made me a much kinder “second guesser” of awards committees. Even the most avid readers have likely not read this intensely and with this volume for a year. We are really looking HARD at these books, because we really want to make a great decision.

 

BTC: How is it all kept secret? How do you communicate with one another? What is the approximate timeline for the year? Do you have in-person meetings? How does the voting work?

JW: As of now, none of us have talked about the books to each other at all. We don’t know who nominated what, who likes what — nothing. We start fresh on January 20. There is NO DISCUSSION of the books AT ALL until we are behind that closed door on January 20. The chair communicated with us throughout the year, letting us know what people were suggesting and checking in with logistics, but our communications with each other were completely limited.

 

Keeping it secret is hard for a big talker like me, but I respect that the surprise adds such an extra layer to the announcement on Monday, January 23. I had to quit doing Goodreads for the year, which I really missed. I couldn’t say on Facebook “OMG I JUST READ THE BEST BOOK” because everyone would assume that meant it was on the fast track to the Newbery.

 

My time on the committee was from January, 2016 until June 2017. After we make the announcement, the hard work is done. But the final payoff is at the ALA Annual Conference in the summer, when the award is presented at the Newbery/Caldecott banquet. Here, committee members usually get to meet the author, often having dinner with him/her, and just enjoy the fruits of their labor. The author will give a speech, which has nearly moved me to tears even in years when I was not on the committee!

 

So, at conference in January, we will begin to discuss the books. We have two full days of discussion, and then we vote. You only get to vote for THREE books. If a clear winner isn’t determined after the first ballot, all books that received votes get rediscussed. And then you revote. You can’t leave the room on Saturday, January 21 until you have a winner. I’ve heard stories of tears and anger, (nothing specific, as it’s all secret forever, but rumors!) so I hope our voting process goes swimmingly!

 

BTC: How has being on the Newbery Committee impacted your job as a librarian?

JW: The hardest part really has been my inability to recommend titles that I’m reading to keep secrecy at its utmost. I really miss being able to enthuse as I go along! The other impact has been not being able to do everything I might normally. While I hope I kept up on my day-to-day job OK, there were extras that came my way that I couldn’t do this year. There’s only so much brain power you have!

 

BTC: What do you personally take away from being on the Newbery Committee?
JW: This is just such a huge honor. Seeing that seal on a book and knowing that I played a part in getting recognition for a book and an author that should be recognized is a great honor and responsibility. It also reminds me what got me into librarianship to begin with — a love of reading and books and story and literature. The passion for our duty is going to be overwhelming in that room in Atlanta, and I’ll carry it with me forever!

 

BTC: What was your favorite book as a child? Do you have a favorite Newbery winner?

JW: As a kid, without question my favorite Newbery book, and still one of my favorite books of all time, is From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg.

 

Most of the time in recent years, because I read a lot of children’s books, I have read the Newbery before it was announced. The one that made me the happiest was Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo. I’m also a big fan of When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead.
But that’s another difference between OBSERVING and picking a winner. “Which book did you like best” is NOT a criteria. You can angle it and say “The plot was developed so well” or etc., but it really doesn’t matter if you LIKE it. You have to be impartial and unemotional and just say “DID THIS WORK?”

 

I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.


 
 

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