Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Best Books of 2017 - Did Your Favorites Make These Lists?

It's our favorite time of the year here at About Books! As one year ends and another begins, we reflect on the highlights of the last twelve months. What have we learned? How have we grown? And perhaps most importantly, what great books did we miss? The end of 2017 means best books of the year lists are everywhere, and they have something for everyone. Use them to build your 2018 list of hot, new books you may have missed or to size up what you read in 2017 against the critics.

Did your favorite books make these lists? Happy Browsing!

Washington Post "Best Books of 2017"



Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Virtual Reality in Fact and Fiction

With Oculus Rift headsets and touch components now readily available, the virtual world is becoming more of a reality. However, science fiction authors have been looking ahead towards its possibilities for decades. What does the future hold for our virtual lives? The following books explore the theme in fact and fiction.

Virtually You: The Dangerous Powers of the E-Personality, Elias Aboujaoude

Stanford psychiatrist Aboujaoude explores the phenomena of the e-personality and how it may impact our day-to-day lives even when we are offline. The author asserts that all of us possess an e-personality which may differ in subtle or extreme ways from our in-person self. Most of us are bolder and more impulsive online whether purchasing products, sending email or posting to social media- and even more so when anonymous in chat forums or interactive games. The author suggests guidelines for managing the potential dangers of this contemporary phenomenon.

Virtual Reality, Josh Gregory

For young readers age 8-12, this new guide explains the latest in virtual reality technology as well as the history and future innovation prospects.

Ready, Player One, Ernest Cline

There’s still time to read this science fiction gem before the movie comes out in 2018! In the year 2044, fossil fuel exhaustion and climate change have degraded the quality of life on Earth. Most humans escape the bleakness by entering the virtual reality world of OASIS. In OASIS they can access any book ever written, explore other planets and have endless adventures. Even more compelling, the creator of OASIS, who was obsessed with 80s pop culture, left a fortune to whomever could solve a complex puzzle after his death. Trivia from that decade are the keys to unlock the prize. With stakes so high, some are willing to kill to win.

Snow Crash, Neal Stephenson

“This Snow Crash thing--is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?” Juanita shrugs. “What's the difference?” Hiro Protagonist delivers pizza for the Mafia while living in a converted storage unit and hacking in his spare time. But in the virtual world known as the Metaverse, he’s an elite sword fighting warrior on a mission to track down a deadly virus – Snow Crash – that has the power to destroy both worlds. Cyber punk villains and robot dogs populate this action-packed adventure. Some say this book predicted the online world Second Life.

-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What's on Your Librarian's Shelf? Great Falls Reads

Ever wondered what that friendly librarian at your local library is reading? Take a peek below to see titles that have staff at Great Falls excited this month. See something intriguing? Click on the title to find out more. Take a minute to let us know what has you excited as well, either in the comments below or in a branch. We always have time to share a really great book!

The Last Days of Night
by Graham Moore. Part legal thriller and part love triangle, the story of the intense battle between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse over the invention of the lightbulb is told from the perspective of Westinghouse’s inexperienced young lawyer.  - Lynn Anderson

Voices by Arnaldur Indridason. It is a few days before Christmas, and someone has killed Santa- oops!  The story takes place at the Grand Hotel in downtown Reykjavik, and there is no shortage of suspects between the hotel staff and the visiting international hotel guests. This is the third book in the popular series that started with the book Jar City. - Sandy Souleles

The Frozen Hours by Jeff Shaara. This is a novel about the Korean War, specifically the Battle of Chosin Reservoir, and the egotism of MacArthur. - Fredda Ruppenthal

All Rights Reserved
by Gregory Scott Katsoulis. Speth is turning fifteen, and that means it’s time for her to start paying up for every word she speaks and every gesture she makes. Two seconds of screaming will cost her $1.98 while a word like supplication will cost $32. What will be the cost of Speth’s vow of silence and can she afford to resist her society’s oppressive norms? - Hallie Jackson

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides. A Pulitzer winner about three generations of the Stephanides family from Greece to Detroit to Germany. At the same time serious and funny, every day and out-there, told by an intersex narrator named Cal. - James Cullen

Still Writing: The Perils and Pleasures of a Creative Life
by Dani Shapiro. After a patron returned this book, I checked it out hoping I would feel less guilty about not writing for days and struggling to write in general. Dani Shapiro shares thoughtful lessons she has learned as a writer and a teacher in the hopes of making a connection with her family, friends and fellow writers.  - Michelle Pepino

Anything is Possible by Elizabeth Strout. For fans of My Name is Lucy Barton. Strout expands the lives of peripheral, hometown people mentioned in My Name is Lucy Barton in a series of short stories, separate, yet gently woven together. They form a hymn to life, certainly laced with sadness but great wisdom as well. - Lois Glick

Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen. If you’re in need of a few hours of pure charm with a dash of laughter as well as tears, download this book. With the lightest of touches and a witty, perceptive eye, Rosen traces the dress, “borrowed” from Bloomingdale’s for nine different occasions with momentous results. - Lois Glick

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Noteworthy New Children's Books

The shelves of new children’s books at the library are stocked with the latest treasures from the publishing world. Here are a few gems that stand out.

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story by Darcy Pattison

This colorful book introduces the topic of fake news by relating a true story about a "sea monster" that became news in 1937 New England. Appendixes include a timeline of actual events, an overview of the free press and sources. This can be a good introduction to the topic of fact-checking and media literacy for home or school groups. It’s best for children age 5-10.

Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Monica Brown

This picture book biography of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo approaches the subject from the perspective of animals Frida owned and loved throughout her life. Spider monkeys, turkeys, parrots and Xolo hairless dogs were among her menagerie; many of them appear in her famous self-portraits. Superb illustrations reveal details of Frida's life, such as the extent of her disability, that are not as evident in the text. Ideal for preschool through kindergarten.

Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari

Moose is a typical dog – she loves hello and hates good-bye. Moose loves hello most when it involves her favorite human, Zara. When Zara goes to school each day in her family’s wheelchair-accessible van, it means good-bye- but not for long. Moose finds ways to get to school, much to the chagrin of the staff. Finally Zara gets the idea to have Moose certified as a therapy dog so Moose can say hello to the schoolchildren every day and help them read. Ideal for preschool through kindergarten.

Meet a dog like Moose at your library! See the FCPL schedule for read-to-the-dog programs.

-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

On the Shelf: The Whistling Season

Editors Note: Looking for a good book to read while you wait for the season's hottest title to become available at your library? We have just what you need - a new series with suggestions of titles that you are likely to find on the shelf at your local branch. 

The Whistling Season picks up the reader from wherever he is in time and place and plants him firmly on the wind-swept plains of 1909 Montana. The story is told largely through the eyes of 13 year-old Paul, the oldest of three Milliron boys, whose father, Oliver, attempts to keep the home fires burning after the tragic death of his wife. The white flag of surrender goes out when he answers an ad by a housekeeper which reads, “Can’t cook, but doesn’t bite.” And thus, weeks later, Rose Llewellyn, sweeps off the train from Minneapolis, in a swathe of blue satin dazzling the prairie-brown hearts of all males at the station. She is followed by her brother, Morrie, a stylishly-clad gentleman whose description included “an extraordinary amount of him was moustache.” The two of them proceed to upset, straighten, transfix, intrigue, educate and reorganize the lives of the four Milliron men to the best of their abilities – and beyond - all to the tune of Rose’s relentless cheerful whistling.

This novel is a paean to love. We the readers can only stand by and wonder.

Beyond the predictable seedlings of romance, is the love of the land. Doig writes with such reverence for the soil, snow, furrows, mountains, sky, wind and the beauty of the vast aloneness. Into this passion, he weaves the rhythms of family. You grieve with loss just as deeply as you chuckle with the brotherly rivalries and spats and eventual forgiveness. Oliver reins in his enthusiastic family with a steady hand, suffering no fools, but always with a clear eye for fairness.

Most of the action – if you can stretch that word far enough – takes place in the one-roomed schoolhouse the boys attend, which by a fluke of circumstance - i.e. the teacher’s eloping with the holy-roller revival preacher-man – is commandeered by the agile Morrie. He turns out to be a genius – full of ideas and information that he doles out to the homesteading children in most unorthodox, astonishing ways. His quick-silver approach not only prompts him to assess Paul’s need for higher stimulation – which results in private Latin studies with him – but his heart is just as attuned to the brutishly raised Eddie. Though he can’t ultimately save him from his creature-skinning father, with face-saving cleverness he provides Eddie with reading glasses, so at least as school he has a chance to see the world clearly.

And everyone has secrets they are keeping with hand-spitting solemnity. Rose and Morrie have a humdinger which ultimately must be reconciled. The school children swap ultimatums in the midst of “dog-piling” in the schoolyard, horse-racing riding backward, spelling-bees, harmonica concerts, revival meetings, school inspector’s visits and all the sturm and drang a one-room schoolhouse can muster.

The novel dances with beauty of phrase. In one deft finishing sweep, Doig contrasts the lowly simplicity of the school with the magnificence of Halley’s Comet overhead, and you feel within you the turning of life with its clear, white light. We pause and listen.

-Lois Glick, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

What’s New from Jeffrey Eugenides

Fans of Middlesex and The Marriage Plot by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jeffrey Eugenides will be pleased to know that characters from those novels reemerge in his new book of short stories, Fresh Complaint. Mr. Eugenides read from this collection and answered questions October 3 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Washington, DC, in an event organized by Politics and Prose Bookstore.

The story he read aloud, "Complainers," was his way of sorting through the experience of his mother’s decline from dementia. The author explained how he wrote this story by starting with the part of his mother he knew least- her long friendship with another woman- and building the narrative around that. 

In the story "Air Mail" Mitchell, a character who is left hanging at the end of The Marriage Plot, surfaces abroad as if continuing his journey… but the date of the story reveals that the author wrote the piece in 1996, fifteen years before The Marriage Plot was published. Dr. Luce reappears in "The Oracular Vulva," a story Mr. Eugenides describes as an “outtake” from Middlesex.

Below is a sampling from the question and answer portion of this event:

Q: You have written convincingly from the point of view of a hermaphrodite, a man with bipolar disorder and a teenage girl. How do you inhabit personas different from your own?

A. You become a writer, because you don’t want to talk only about yourself and those you know but a wider human experience. Within that, I try to see each character as an individual, not an example of a type.

Q. Who are some of your favorite short story writers?

A. Alice Munroe- she packs the density of a novel into 30-40 pages.

Q. Your Pulitzer Prize winner, Middlesex, is set in Detroit, where you grew up, and that setting is integral to the novel… are there other novels set in Detroit you would recommend?

A. Them by Joyce Carol Oates; it won the National Book Award. I also set The Virgin Suicides in Detroit, without specifying that.”

Q. I love the cover design for Fresh Complaint. Did you have any say in the design?

A. Yes, the first one they showed me was a woman’s shoe with a nail for the heel… that might work for some other kind of book.

-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Library

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

If You Like...Ghostly Stories

I’m not sure at what point I realized stories that included ghosts didn’t have to be scary. I know when it came to stories I read when I was younger, it was when I began E.W. Hildick’s Ghost Squad series – a mystery series that had four child ghosts and a couple of live kids working together to solve the mysteries that came their way; in fact, being a ghost has its perks in the detective business! At any rate, the books on this list are not for anyone looking for ghost stories in the horror sense, though some of these titles have their spooky moments. However, they all feature ghosts significantly in the story as a character or plot point and are well worth a read!


Lockwood and Co. series – Jonathan Stroud

Stroud’s London is a London long afflicted by a ghostly epidemic with which only brave children can deal effectively, children who are able to see the specters and who sometimes are talented beyond seeing. And Lockwood and Co. is unique among Psychic Detection Agencies, being run entirely by children, with young Anthony Lockwood at its head. Humorous and, at times, undeniably creepy, it is easy to get lost in this series and even forget the main characters are actually children. The Screaming Staircase is the first in the series.

A Study in Sable – Mercedes Lackey

This book is a recent addition to Mercedes Lackey’s Elemental Masters series, a series which, to this point, has mostly retold fairy tales. As you might guess from the title, this book delves into the world of Sherlock Holmes. It also features a healthy dose of ghosts, since one of the main characters, Sarah Lyon-White is a medium. Sarah and Nan, a psychic, have been commissioned to help Dr. and Mrs. Watson on a few of their more occult cases and both their talents and their friendship are tested.

The Graveyard Book – Neil Gaiman

Nobody Owens grows up in a Graveyard, raised by the ghosts who inhabit it and the mysterious Silas, who is neither living nor dead, after the murder of his family when he is still too young to remember. Unfortunately, the murderer is still out there and determined to finish the job once he tracks down the baby he failed to kill. Bod is only safe in the graveyard – but a growing boy can’t stay in a graveyard forever…


Ghost and Mrs. Muir– R.A. Dick

When Mrs. Muir is widowed at a relatively young age, she decides to exert her independence and moves her little family away from her in-laws – to a house haunted by the ghost of a sea captain with unfinished business. Striking a bargain with him, he allows her little family to live in the house in peace and their growing friendship will change Mrs. Muir’s life – and possibly even afterlife - forever. Readers who enjoy Gone with the Wind, for its writing style or the interaction between Rhett Butler & Scarlett O’Hara may especially enjoy this book!

Constable and Toop – Gareth P. Jones

Unlike the other books in this list, this book tells its story through the points of view of both the living and the dead interchangeably. Yet again set in London, this London’s ghosts are actually disappearing thanks to an infestation known as “The Black Rot”, which imprisons unsuspecting ghosts in haunted houses that have lost their ghosts. It’s caught the attention of both the Ghost Bureau and an undertaker’s son, Sam Toop, a “Talker” who can see and hear ghosts. Only by working together may they be able to push back the darkness and bring back harmony to their worlds.

The Mediator Series - Meg Cabot

Susannah Simon has been able to see, hear and speak to ghosts from a very young age. When her mother remarries and she moves with her across the country, Suze is hoping for a fresh start, one that doesn’t involve any ghostly business. But as she will soon learn, someone with her gift can’t set it aside so easily. She is a mediator, and it is up to her to learn the tricks of her trade, to protect the living and help the dead to move on. Shadowland is the first in the series.

Have other recommendations for those who want something ghostly to read that’s not too scary? Don’t forget to leave them, along with any suggestions for future “If You Like…” posts, in the comments!

-Denise Dolan, George Mason Regional Library

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

What's on Your Librarian's Shelf? George Mason Regional Reads

Ever wondered what that friendly librarian at your local library is reading? Take a peek below to see titles that have staff at George Mason Regional excited this month. See something intriguing? Select a book cover to find out more. Take a minute to let us know, either in the comments below or in a branch, what has you excited as well. We always have time to share a really great book!^AUTHOR^AUTHORS^Author Processing^Author&searchoper2=AND&thesaurus2=AUTHORS&search_entries2=AU&search_type2=AUTHOR&special_proc2=Author Processing&searchdata3=commonwealth&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

At the christening party for Franny Keating, a guest brings the unusual gift of a bottle of gin. Commonwealth follows 5 decades of two families whose lives will be forever changed on that hot day. Lots of twists, turns and complex characters. Partly set in Virginia.
-Karla Pruefer{CKEY}&searchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^&user_id=WEBSERVER

As a half-breed prince far removed from the royal line of inheritance, Maia lives in obscurity under the watchful eye of his spiteful cousin—that is, until the day news arrives that much of the royal family has died in a dirigible accident, and now Maia must ascend the throne as Emperor.
-Cuong Nguyen^AUTHOR^AUTHORS^Author Processing^Author&searchoper2=AND&thesaurus2=AUTHORS&search_entries2=AU&search_type2=AUTHOR&special_proc2=Author Processing&searchdata3=beautiful animals&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

Do you like glamorous psychological thrillers? This is your next read. Two beautiful girls, vacationing on the Greek island of Hydra, find an immigrant washed up on the beach. One of them has a plan to rescue him, or so she says. A fun read which I could not put down!
– Carey Hagan in moscow&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

Sentenced to house arrest in Moscow's Metropol Hotel, Count Rostov lives the fullest of lives, discovering the depths of his humanity.
-Jenny Grimsley{CKEY}&searchfield1=GENERAL^SUBJECT^GENERAL^^&user_id=WEBSERVER

Jayne Entwistle is my new favorite narrator. Flavia deLuce grows better and better in each book. This is a great for detective story lovers like me.
-Shelly Kaufman-Young the birds in the sky&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

Technology vs. magic. I picked this one by the cover. So there.
-Sarah Souther serpent&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

Sightings of a legendary sea serpent bring together a young Victorian widow intrigued by the natural sciences, a rural vicar and a Dickensian cast of supporting characters. A British Book Awards Book of the Year.    
-Rebecca Wolff^AUTHOR^AUTHORS^Author Processing^Author&searchoper2=AND&thesaurus2=AUTHORS&search_entries2=AU&search_type2=AUTHOR&special_proc2=Author Processing&searchdata3=german girl&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

A 12 year old Jewish girl escapes from Germany to Cuba in 1939 only to discover she’s unwanted there, and after the revolution in 1959, watches history repeat itself. Friends disappear in the night, it's not safe to be outside, jobs are taken away and people are arrested for no reason.
-Marie Cavanaugh^AUTHOR^AUTHORS^Author Processing^Author&searchoper2=AND&thesaurus2=AUTHORS&search_entries2=AU&search_type2=AUTHOR&special_proc2=Author Processing&searchdata3=japanese lover&srchfield3=TI^TITLE^SERIES^Title Processing^Title&searchoper3=AND&thesaurus3=SERIES&search_entries3=TI&search_type3=TITLE&special_proc3=Title Processing&library=ALL&match_on=KEYWORD&shadow=NO&sort_by=-PBYR&user_id=WEBSERVER

This book was recommended to me by my 86 year old father. San Francisco’s charmingly eccentric nursing home called the Lark House is where newly hired Irina meets resident Alma. It’s a bit “Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet” meets “Orphan Train” and so much more!
-Karla Pruefer

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Five Fictional Bookstores You Won't Want to Miss

It’s a poorly-kept secret that many librarians deep down really love– gasp – a really great bookstore. While I love libraries so much I try to visit a new one every time I travel, I’m no exception. I love inhaling that new-book smell while wandering past stacks of pristine, never-touched books. Ditto for the slightly musty scent of a well-stocked used bookstore, with shelves of hidden treasures waiting for the discerning browser.

It’s hardly surprising, then, that I also can’t resist a great fictional bookstore. Who wouldn’t want to walk in wonder through J.K. Rowling’s Flourish and Blotts or pop into Portlandia’s Women and Women First? Take a stroll through this eclectic collection of fictional bookstores and you’ll be a fan as well.


The Storied Life of A .J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
Grumpy, disillusioned A.J. Fikry is more than ready to leave his woes and his failing bookstore on Alice Island far behind. He’s even willing to sacrifice his most prized possession – a 1st edition copy of Poe’s Tamerlane – to do so. It takes a midnight theft and a surprise package to help A.J. see his life, love, and yes, his bookstore, in a whole new light.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
When unemployed website designer Clay Jannon takes a job working the night shift at San Francisco book store, he agrees to honor the odd stipulation he never to open a single book. Intrigued by the quirky shop’s odd design and eccentric customers, he embarks on an adventure using technologies old and new to solve an ancient mystery.

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafron
As a young boy in post-war Barcelona, Daniel Sempere’s father took him to a secret bookstore called the Cemetery for Forgotten Books and allowed him to choose just one book to take home. Daniel found solace and wisdom in his chosen book as a boy. As an adult, however, he encounters secrets and tragedies as he attempts to track down the author of The Shadow of the Wind.  


The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George
Jean Perdu doesn’t just sell books from his bookshop on a Paris barge; his customers go home with books to cure their bodies and souls. Monsieur Perdu, however, has never found the written words to repair his own broken heart. A shocking revelation from his past causes him to flee Paris on his floating bookshop on a journey to reconnect with life.  

The Bookshop On The Corner by Jenny Colgan
When British librarian Nina Redmond loses her job due to budget cuts, she picks up the pieces of her life and relocates to the Scottish Highlands. There she uses her skills in literary matchmaking to run a bookshop from a refurbished van. While exploring the wide beautiful vistas, she finds new friends and a few matchmaking opportunities of her own.

-Rebecca Wolff, George Mason Regional Library

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

What We're Reading This Fall

Word of mouth is one of the best way to find new reads. See what old favorites and new titles have been creating a buzz here at the library by visiting our What We're Reading Fall 2017 page.

What buzzworthy books have you been recommending this fall? Join the conversation by leaving a comment below!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Words Have Power - Read a Banned Book!

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

Every year there are hundreds of attempts to remove books from library, school and bookstore shelves because of content. Here at Fairfax County Public Library, we celebrate the librarians and others who stand up to these challenges and fight for your freedom to read, especially during this week of Banned Book Week.

We agree with the American Library Association (ALA) about losing access to books with disputed ideas or characters: "That’s thousands of lost opportunities to explore ideas that fuel understanding. Words have power and access to diverse ideas makes all of us more powerful."

Curious how many books and what titles are challenged for which reasons? This infographic from the ALA breaks it down:

Artwork courtesy of the American Library Association

September is also library card sign up month. If you don't have one, you can apply for one online and pick it up at your local library branch. You'll find many displays honoring banned books this week. Celebrate with us and fight for the freedom to read by checking out some of the titles you find.  

-Ginger Hawkins, Patrick Henry Library

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

David Sedaris at Wolftrap

It is a bibliophile’s thrill to have a favorite book signed by its author. For the second year in a row, thousands of David Sedaris fans had the opportunity to hear him read at Wolftrap, and those willing to stand in line before or afterwards could meet the author and have their books signed. Sedaris read from his latest book, Theft by Finding, derived from his diary entries of 1977-2002. He also read some new stories that have yet to be published.

The author revealed information about his work in progress, such as the title for the second volume of his diaries, still a couple of years from being published – Carnival of Snackery. Inspiration came off the menu of an Indian restaurant in London. Sedaris often chooses titles based on absurd phrases he happens upon- a curation habit that aligns with his knack for documenting pithy occurrences of everyday life.

The question and answer period uncovered more tidbits about the author’s life and work. Sedaris was asked about Carol, the semi-tame fox that lived near his home and would walk beside him. Sadly, Carol was killed by a neighbor- “because he used to have chickens” the author fumed. When asked for advice about public speaking, Sedaris explained that he always takes time to talk with his readers during book signings before shows. This enables him to get a feel for his crowd, and he pictures those people he’s met in the audience as he speaks.

Sedaris fans often ask him for book recommendations, and August 19th was no exception. He recommended Elizabeth Strout’s My Name is Lucy Barton and Anything is Possible. The latter is a collection of stories he describes as simply astounding in an unassuming way, without show-offish turns of phrase. 

He reported that he listens to many audiobooks while completing several miles per day of walking. Recently he was amused by a Joan Crawford memoir on audio, My Way of Life, read by the author (not owned by FCPL). He also let drop that any short story by Lorrie Moore is the first thing he’ll read in The New Yorker. Quirky and clever, Sedaris doesn’t disappoint in person. Whether or not you were able to catch Sedaris, be sure to enjoy some of the free upcoming author visits at Fairfax County Public Library and Fall for the Book.

-Suzanne Summers LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Trickster Tales from Latin America

Every culture has its own version of the trickster tale: the wily rabbit who manages to outwit the bear and fox or the fool who isn't as foolish as people assume. For Hispanic Heritage Month, consider sharing some of these wonderful new and old trickster tales from Latin America with the young people in your life.

Martina the Beautiful Cockroach: A Cuban Folktale, Carmen Agra Deedy
In this Cuban version of a popular folktale, it is time for lovely Martina the cockroach to give her leg in marriage. Many animals come forth to court her, but do they really have her best interests at heart? Martina’s wise grandmother has given her an idea. She “accidentally” spills a little coffee on each suitor’s shoe to see how he reacts when angry.

Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book and Just in Case: A Trickster Tale and Spanish Alphabet Book, Yuyi Morales
When Senior Calavera comes to call at Grandma Beetle's house, she puts him off with "just a minute" while she counts down the preparations for a fiesta with her grandchildren. In the follow-up book, Senior Calavera decides to give Grandma Beetle a birthday gift for each letter of the alphabet. Both award-winners boast colorful illustrations evocative of Mexican Day of Dead folk art. See also the author’s website for online and printable extension activities:

Moon Rope/Un Lazo a la Luna: A Peruvian Tale, Lois Ehlert
Fox wants to go to the moon. Mole prefers to keep all four feet on the ground- preferably underground in his tunnel. But when Mole is convinced that the moon is full of succulent worms, he agrees to attempt the journey. This book tells the classic Peruvian folktale in both English and Spanish with Ehlert’s popular collage-style illustrations.

Juan Bobo Goes to Work: A Puerto Rican Folktale, Marisa Montes
Juan Bobo and the Pig: A Puerto Rican Folktale, Felix Pitre
Juan Bobo: Four Folktales from Puerto Rico, Carmen T. Bernier-Grand

There are many Puerto Rican folktales about the boy Juan Bobo. Juan Bobo tries to do everything his mother asks him to do, but sometimes he follows her advice a little too literally. In the tradition of the wise fool, Juan Bobo’s silly mistakes often lead to chaos but sometimes manage to teach everyone a lesson in the process.

--Suzanne Summers LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Newbery Medal Winner - Fairfax Librarian Will Help Choose Winner!

The 2017 Newbery Winner.
Which book will Sondy
choose to win in 2019? Stay tuned!
Our colleague, Sondra Eklund, youth services manager at City of Fairfax Regional Library, is on the prestigious Newbery Medal Award Committee. The Newbery Medal was named for eighteenth-century British bookseller John Newbery. It is awarded annually by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children.  

We asked Sondy a few questions about this special honor.

What does being on this committee entail?

I’ll be reading as many books as I possibly can that are published in 2018 in the United States by American authors for children ages 0 to 14. At the start of 2019, I will meet with 14 other people in a locked room, and we will choose the winner of the John Newbery Medal. We will also decide if we want to name any Honor books which are also distinguished.

That seems like a lot of work, is there a way others can help you?

There are thousands of children’s books published in America every year. I’m going to read as many books as I can, and other committee members will read as widely as they can. There is a nomination process during the year, so committee members will formally nominate, from our reading, which books we will consider in the final deliberations. But in case some good books get overlooked, if you or your children read an especially good children’s book published in 2018, I hope you’ll let me know! Just stop by any library branch and ask a youth services librarian to tell me.

How are members selected for the Newbery committee?

Eight of the fifteen committee members are elected by the membership of the Association for Library Service to Children (ALSC), a division of the American Library Association. The chair and six other members are appointed by the ALSC president. I was elected to the position.

Tell us how you were elected for the Newbery committee.

I became a librarian as my second career. I began writing a website of book reviews in 2001. As I was getting my Master’s in Library Science (2007), the ALA Annual Conference came to Washington, DC. I went to the conference, attended the Newbery/Caldecott Awards Banquet and heard Susan Patron give her acceptance speech for the Newbery Medal given to The Higher Power of Lucky. That was when I realized serving on the Newbery committee might be a possibility in my new career.

2007 Newbery Winner. Patron's acceptance speech inspired Sondy
to seek a spot on the award selection committee.

I next applied to attend the Bill Morris Invitational Seminar on media evaluation to learn how the award committees work. It took three tries, but I was accepted to attend the seminar in Dallas in 2012.

At the seminar, we heard from past chairpersons from various award committees. They advised us to get involved in other ALSC committees and to put our name into the hat for award committee service.

I put my name in, and got on the ballot in April 2013 to be on the 2015 Newbery Committee. But missed being elected by 15 votes! (Out of about 800 ballots cast.) It was already too late to get on the ballot for the following year, so I very sadly gave it a rest and worked on other ALSC committees. In the meantime, I applied for and got to be a Cybils judge five years in a row. I gave my name for consideration to be on the Newbery Award Committee ballot again in March 2016. This time, I made a web page with my qualifications, printed cards to pass out at ALA Midwinter Meeting and the ALSC Mini-Institute that happened a couple months before voting. This time I got the news on April 12, 2017, that I was indeed a member of the 2019 Newbery Award committee!

How do you feel about being a committee member?

I am thrilled by this dream come true! I’m proud to have this important responsibility. And I’m clearing my schedule for a lot of work! I’ll have my nose in a children’s book every chance I get in 2018.

Thanks Sondy! We are so proud of you. Good luck with all your reading in 2018. -The Editors