Welcome to the Baltimore County Public Library.

Baltimore County Public Library logo Personalized help is waiting for you with My Librarian.
   
Type of search:   
BCPL on FacebookBCPL on TwitterBCPL on TumblrBCPL on YouTubeBCPL on Flickr

Between the Covers / Shhhh... we're reading.   Photo of reading after bedtime
Paula Gallagher

A former middle school English teacher, hotel concierge, and freelance food writer, Paula Gallagher reads widely across many genres. Whether you favor intriguing memoirs, literary fiction, or books about pop culture, you can count on her to hand you a compelling read at the Pikesville branch. Paula depends on her daughter to help her critique graphic novels, children's books and teen reads. In addition to Between the Covers, Paula reviews for the Adult Books 4 Teens blog for School Library Journal.

RSS this blog

Tags

Adult

+ Fiction

   Fantasy

   Graphic Novel

   Historical

   Horror

   Humor

   Legal

   Literary

   Magical Realism

   Media Tie-In

   Mystery

   Mythology

   Paranormal

   Romance

   Science Fiction

   Thriller

+ Nonfiction

Teen

+ Fiction

   Adventure

   Dystopian

   Fantasy

   Graphic Novel

   Historical

   Humor

   Media Tie-In

   Mystery

   Paranormal

   Realistic

   Romance

   Science Fiction

   Steampunk

   Nonfiction

Children

+ Fiction

   Adventure

   Beginning Reader

   Concepts

   Fantasy

   First Chapter Book

   Graphic Novel

   Historical

   Humor

   Media Tie-In

   Mystery

   Picture Book

   Realistic

   Tales

+ Nonfiction

Author Interviews

Awards

In the News

Bloggers

 

Vampires at the Barn Raising

Vampires at the Barn Raising

posted by:
October 23, 2012 - 6:44am

The Hallowed OnesJust when you think you’ve read every possible permutation of the teen vampire trope, along comes an author to prove you wrong. Laura Bickle’s entrancing coming of age novel The Hallowed Ones follows Amish teen Katie as she contemplates marriage to Elijah. As one of the Plain folk, Katie knows she must follow the tenets of the Ordnung with unquestioning devotion. But Katie wants more from life than chores and family. She looks forward to her Rumspringa, a time when Amish youth are allowed a taste of the outside world before being baptized and fully committing to the church.

 

Bickle has created a believable, likable heroine. Abundant details of cloistered Amish life are smoothly woven into the narrative, making for a fascinating read. The author slowly builds suspense, as limited knowledge of something terribly wrong in the outside world filters into the sect. Soon, no one is allowed in or out of the fenced community. Some type of biological weapon has infected men, turning them into insatiable, flesh-tearing vampires. Only sanctified ground is safe.

 

When Katie offers asylum in her family’s dog barn to a badly injured young man, she knows it is the ultimate act of rebellion. Their relationship grows as she nurtures him back to health. Alex admires her for her intelligence and resourcefulness, rather than gentleness of word and deed. A rift grows between Katie and Elijah, as she resists committing to both him and the church. As the novel draws to a close, it becomes apparent that there are vampires within the gates. Katie’s resolve is put to the test. She has an ally in elderly Mr. Stoltz, the community’s Hexenmeister. He alone understands the true nature of the invasive evil. Vampires blanch at the sight of his protective hex signs and missives to heaven. How can they eradicate the evil within? Readers will be riveted by this uniquely told novel that skillfully blends bucolic realism with unspeakable horror.

Paula G.

 
 

Some Say the World Will End in Fire

AfterEven after the smoke clears, technology fails, science runs amuck, society as we know it collapses and the power-drunk take over, there is still a glimmer of hope for mankind. After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia presents tales that take place after of the end of the world as we knew it. Editors Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling commissioned work from some of the most popular and critically acclaimed authors for young adults. The resulting stories are both disturbing and thought-provoking, leaving readers pondering the what-ifs.

 

Carrie Ryan explores the zombie territory that made her name as a writer in “After the Cure,” where the teen protagonist has been “rehabilitated” from her former life as a member of a pack of the bloodthirsty undead. The zombie plague began as a diet drug gone wrong; the girl’s secret--her taste for flesh has merely been sublimated. Science again spins out of control in “Fake Plastic Trees” by fantasy author Caitín R. Kiernan, where a replicating “goo” intended to provide food for an ever-expanding population goes rogue. The nano-assemblers creating the substance begin rapidly transforming “just about anything” into plastic. Narrator Cody tells her story after The Event, but the threat of mutating strains of nanos persists.

 

Echoes of Nazi and Khmer Rouge soldiers brutalizing families under a dictator’s orders make Susan Beth Pfeffer’s “Reunion” one of the most chilling stories of the lot. Set entirely in an office where the walls and even the lone window have been painted a dull brown, the leader of a totalitarian government in a nameless location has fallen. Isabella’s mother seeks her oldest daughter, who had been taken away years ago by soldiers and given to a childless colonel and his wife. How will they know for certain which of the brainwashed young women is really Maria?

 

An afterword by the editors chronicles a brief history of teen interest in the dystopian genre, which has its roots in often-assigned adult classics written by authors such as H.G. Wells, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury and William Golding. The stories of After make worthy thematic companions.

Paula G.

 
 

Another Opening, Another Show

DramaFans of graphic novelist extraordinaire Raina Telgemeier will be thrilled to get their hands on a copy of her latest work, Drama. Seventh grader Callie’s life revolves around the annual school theater production, and this year it’s the musical Moon over Mississippi. Callie’s not an actress; she’s all about the set design. Told in a traditional comic panel style and rendered in vivid full color, Drama follows Callie and her production crewmates as they navigate relationships both onstage and off. Intended for a slightly older audience than the autobiographical Smile, this graphic novel addresses not only the complexities of boy-girl relationships, but also those of boy-boy.

 

A former high school drama performer herself, Telgemeier stays in touch with her inner theater geek, perfectly capturing the immersive nature of working on a school production. Can inexperienced Callie pull off an incredible set design (including a real working cannon and a leaf-shedding tree) on a bare-bones budget? What will the new guys at school, twins Jesse and Justin, lend to the show? And will Callie ever find her very own leading man?

 

Drama is rife with in-the-know backstage details, from the somewhat creepy costume vault to the lighting cues and the set change challenges. Callie is a likeable, fully-realized girl who readers can’t help but root for. Telgemeier populates Eucalyptus Middle with a diverse group of passionate, relatable friends. Her drawing style portrays both expression and depth, realism layered with comic conventions. Drama stands out as an appealing, addictive graphic novel, a book that will no doubt be read, re-read, and passed from friend to friend.

Paula G.

 
 

Antarctica or Bust

Antarctica or Bust

posted by:
September 21, 2012 - 7:01am

Where'd You Go BenadetteBernadette Fox—mother, wife, one-time architectural prodigy—has disappeared, and it’s up to her thirteen year-old daughter Bee Branch to put together the clues as to her whereabouts. Where’d You Go Bernadette is a brash satirical novel, told in a series of emails and other correspondence from various characters that relay the circumstances leading up to Bernadette’s flight.

 

Bee’s reward for a perfect report card throughout middle school was her own idea: a family trip to Antarctica. (She’d much rather have an expedition than a pony.) But her parents don’t quite share her enthusiasm. Bernadette, the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant at the beginning of her career, suffered a crippling setback when her Twenty Mile House (built from materials sourced within 20 miles of its location) met a vengeful demise. She retreated from the world of architecture, setting up house with her husband Elgin Branch, a techie wunderkind project manager for Microsoft whose TEDTalk is the fourth most viewed video on YouTube. Increasingly antisocial and generally testy, she abhors dealing with her fellow Galer Street School moms, a petty group she refers to as “gnats.” No one in Seattle knows that Bernadette is a genius in self-imposed exile who has hired a virtual assistant in India to deal with the overwhelming details of her life. How can she handle Antarctica? How can Elgin take a vacation when his team is working overtime on Samantha 2, a brain-computer interface?

 

Author Maria Semple, a former sitcom writer for shows including Arrested Development and Mad About You, has written a wickedly entertaining sendup of over-doting parents, the politics of private schools, the importance of keeping up appearances, the zeitgeist of Microsoft, and all things held sacred by the upper middle class Seattle intelligentsia. But at the heart of this novel are the relationships between a mother and daughter, and a husband and wife who appreciate each other in spite of it all.

Paula G.

 
 

Hit the Sand with Traction Man

Traction Man and the Beach OdysseyBritish author/illustrator Mini Grey’s beloved superhero action figure and his pet, Scrubbing Brush, are back in the all new summer adventure Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey. A trip to the shore brings new exploration possibilities, new friends, and a new nemesis, Grandma’s overly friendly dog, Truffles.

 

Traction Man’s landscape is populated by an assortment of googly-eyed sea creatures like anemones and whelks, as well as similarly anthropomorphized picnic foods like sandwich halves and a slice of quiche. Reminiscent of Toy Story’s Buzz Lightyear, Traction Man’s heroic feats take place in the world of his owner, an unnamed young boy. Grey’s humorous illustrations are full of witty details, making this a book that demands multiple reads. The accompanying words tell only part of the larger story.

 

When Traction Man and Scrubbing Brush are swept down the beach by an errant wave, they find themselves at the sandcastle of Beach Time Brenda and her fashion doll friends. How will Traction Man ever escape the embarrassment of being subjected to a seaweed beard, shell hat, and worst of all, a floral sarong? Help arrives in an unlikely manner, and new alliances are formed. Like the previous titles, Traction Man is Here! and Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog, this new picture book is a paean to the power of old-fashioned imaginative play.

Paula G.

 
 

Santat-apalooza

Santat-apalooza

posted by:
July 5, 2012 - 7:47am

Dog in ChargeBawk & RollFire! Fuego! Brave BomberosThe most prolific and talented illustrator in children’s books this year has to be Dan Santat. Known for his comically expressive animals and humans, Santat uses Photoshop to produce illustrations with a graphic designer’s sensibility.

 

Dog in Charge by K. L. Going features an English bulldog charged with keeping the cats out of trouble while the family is at the store. Five mischievous felines prove too much for our poor hero, who immediately exhausts himself trying to keep up. Retro wallpaper, furnishings, and a muted color palette lend a gentle tone to this madcap tale, full of onomatopoeia like splash, swish and fwomp. How can this canine ever retain his status as Good, Smart, and Very Best Dog? Santat’s illustrations elevate a good story to an excellent picture book.

 

Rockin’ heartthrob rooster Elvis Poultry is back in Tammi Sauer’s inspired Bawk & Roll. Marge and Lola, the tailfeather-shakin’ hens from Chicken Dance, have been recruited as Elvis’ backup dancers. But the poor hens haven’t performed anywhere but their home barnyard. Overcome by nerves, they faint! How will they ever overcome their stage fright? Bawk & Roll shows off Santat’s talent when it comes to perspective. On one page it’s as if the reader is part of the packed audience, on another you’re onstage behind Elvis and the girls. And if there were ever an award for best use of light and shadow in a picture book, Bawk & Roll would be a shoo-in.

 

Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos gives the illustrator a chance to play with fire, literally. To illustrate Susan Middleton Elya's rhyming, bilingual story of dedicated firefighters, Santat turned to some traditional ink and watercolor to enhance his usual Photoshop illustrations. He actually set some pages on fire, scanning the images in order to incorporate them into his work. You can visit Santat's blog for photos and a description of the process. Fire! ¡Fuego! Brave Bomberos is a must-read for young fans of firehouse tales.

Paula G.

 
 

Naturalist, Hunter, Inventor, Millionaire

BirdseyeAlthough the name Clarence Birdseye immediately conjures up images of frozen vegetables, the subject of historian Mark Kurlansky’s Birdseye:The Adventures of a Curious Man accomplished so much more. This fascinating biography shows the man as a curious problem solver and opportunist, always quick to devise inventive solutions while making money along the way. Birdseye was a naturalist from an early age, as well as an avid hunter. At the age of ten, young Clarence earned his first shotgun with the profits he made by shipping live muskrat to an English aristocrat who was stocking an estate. He promptly taught himself the art of taxidermy, even attempting to teach others for money.

 

As a student at Amherst studying the sciences, Birdseye spent his free time “wandering the fields with a shotgun on his shoulder.” He was forced to drop out due to lack of money.  His job as an assistant naturalist with the U.S. Biological Survey stoked his interest in cooking such exotic meats as chipmunk, mice, and rattlesnake. A later job with the Department of Agriculture sent him packing to the Bitterroot Valley of Montana as part of a group looking to study Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Birdseye put his hunting skills and enthusiasm to good use, killing a variety of mammals that host the carrier of the disease, the wood tick. His contribution to the study was notable.

 

Luckily his wife, Eleanor, was a patient woman who didn’t seem to mind her husband’s frequent absences. A later adventure saw him in the frozen land of Labrador where his interests turned to fox farming. His journal and letters to his family (which eventually included six children) were full of descriptions of food, especially recipes featuring unusual provisions like seal meat and porcupine.A deep interest in food preservation led him to begin experimenting with various freezing techniques, beginning with snow pack. Birdseye realized that freezing food is far from a straightforward process if one desires a palatable thawed product. Eventually his determination and sharp sense of observation paid off, leading to innovations that revolutionized the way people eat.

 

Birdseye:The Adventures of a Curious Man, holds wide appeal for anyone who enjoys intriguing nonfiction. The self-made man comes alive through Kurlansky’s evocative descriptions and choice details. Readers who enjoyed his previous classic titles (which included mentions of Birdseye) Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, and Salt: A World History, will find much to like here.

 

 

Paula G.

 
 

Never Trust a Marmot

Never Trust a Marmot

posted by:
June 20, 2012 - 8:19am

Mr and Mrs Bunny - Detectives ExtraordinaireMadeline is used to being the responsible one in her small family. She cooks, cleans, sews, repairs the plumbing and even holds down a part time job as a waitress. So when her hippie parents are kidnapped during Hornby Island’s celebration of lights, it’s only natural that she head up the effort to locate them. Enter Mr. and Mrs. Bunny, lagomorph sleuths Madeline employs to solve the case. Polly Horvath’s quirky, wryly funny novel Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire! follows the trio as they attempt to decipher an instruction note left by The Enemy.

 

Now that their brood of twelve has moved away, The Bunnys have moved to a new hutch, and are settling in. Mrs. Bunny knits, while Mr. Bunny reads aloud from The Scientific Bunny magazine. Why not become detectives? All they need are proper fedoras with earholes, of course.

 

Fans of Roald Dahl’s Matilda will welcome Madeline, another take-charge heroine superior in intelligence (and common sense) to her clueless parents.  Through Madeline’s interactions with the Bunny couple, she discovers that conversing in animal languages is one of her hidden talents.

 

Eccentric Uncle Runyon, Canada’s only decoder scientist, could be of some help when it comes to the mysterious note, but he’s easily sidetracked. Throw in a meddling, overbearing neighbor bunny, the insidious Grand Poobah of foxes, and a marmot villain with an overbearing craving for garlic bread and you have the recipe for an over-the-top adventure. Sophie Blackall’s black-and-white paintings throughout add an old fashioned, whimsical charm to this middle-grade chapter novel.

Paula G.

 
 

Man's Best Read-Aloud Friend

Oh no, George!Zorro Gets an OutfitSilly Doggy!In addition to being man’s best friend, dogs make natural picture book protagonists. A number of newly published works explore the comic side of canine life.

 

Irish designer and illustrator Chris Haughton’s Oh No, George! follows a long-schnozzed pup as he comes face to face with temptations (like an uncovered cake and the dirt in the flower pot) when his owner goes out for the day. George hopes he’ll be good, but can he overcome his instincts? Rendered in charmingly simple, boldly colored digital and pencil illustrations with the repeating question “What will George do?” and the refrain “Oh No, George!”, this humorous tale has the makings of a favorite read aloud.

 

Zorro Gets an Outfit marks the return of a favorite picture book pug. Here Zorro’s owner comes home with a hooded cape for him to wear. Wearing the outfit makes him resemble his heroic masked namesake, Zorro. The poor pug is embarrassed by this get-up, and sadly all the dogs in the neighborhood taunt him on his afternoon walk. However, a new outfit-wearing dog soon arrives at the park, causing Zorro to have a change of heart. Author-illustrator Carter Goodrich’s talent with watercolor brings personality and humor galore to all characters involved, especially Zorro and his housemate Mr. Bud. Fans of their introductory adventure, Say Hello to Zorro! will be thrilled to welcome them back.

 

Little Lily has always wanted a dog. Imagine her joy when she spies a four-legged, wet-nosed furry creature digging through the garbage can in her back yard. She christens him Doggy, throwing her scarf around his neck to act as a leash. Expect youngest readers to squeal with delight as the pages turn in Silly Doggy!, and Lily continues to treat the big brown bear as if he were a dog. Adam Stower does a superb job matching humorous illustrations with simple text as the story winds down to a poignant conclusion. A surprise twist at the very end may find you laughing out loud.

Paula G.

 
 

Unmistakably Irving

Unmistakably Irving

posted by:
June 1, 2012 - 1:01am

In One PersonRegular readers of John Irving flock to his literary novels for the strengths of his quirky, flawed characters as much as their circumstances. Irving fans have come to expect certain elements, present in so many of the author’s works—a New England setting, boarding school culture, an absent father, the search for self, wrestling, and of course, bears. All of these are present and accounted for in one way or another in his latest novel, In One Person.

 

Billy Abbott, of the small town Vermont town First Sisters, suffers from what he calls “dangerous crushes.” At age fifteen, Billy’s crushes include the town librarian Miss Frost, his stepfather Richard Abbott, who teaches Shakespeare at Favorite River Academy, and Kittredge, the physically stunning bully from the wrestling team. Billy’s crushes know no bounds of age or gender, something he acknowledges in conversations with Miss Frost. She guides him though the great love stories of literature, from the Brontë sisters to Dickens and finally James Baldwin’s novel of same-sex desire, Giovanni’s Room. As in many novels, literature becomes salvation.

 

The theater looms large in Billy’s life. His mother spends time in the wings as the line prompter for the community theater group’s productions, while his petite, sprightly maternal grandfather Harry is well known for playing leading lady roles. In an appropriate turn, Billy himself is cast as the sprite Ariel in The Tempest. Genetics seem to have much to do with his sexual proclivities, through both Harry and Billy’s absent birth father, a man he knows little about until later searches through school yearbooks reveal surprising truths.

 

Told in the immediate first person point of view, In One Person spans more than fifty years, chronicling Billy’s myriad relationships with men, male-to-female transsexuals (before the term transgender came into use, he points out), and even a few women. The novel is at turns absurdly funny, broadly comic and ultimately poignant. In One Person stands as a character-driven exploration of self, and the often fluid nature of sexuality.

Paula G.