Monday, June 24, 2013

Dive Beneath the Surface: Undersea Week

Note from Darcy:  Last week's steampunk entry has been quite popular!  This week, we are going "beneath the surface" of the ocean with our Undersea Week activities and decor!  Our newest staff member, Johanna, demonstrates why she is an excellent addition to our team with the following blog about "marine" lit:

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne tells the tale of a fantastic adventure deep beneath the waves in the Nautilus submarine. Captain Nemo, the owner, designer, and constructor of this electric powered submarine takes French scientist Professor Annorax on a journey through the Indian, Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean, and Antarctic waters. This classic science fiction tale written in 1870 is full of descriptive narratives of underwater life, shipwrecks, and history.

            Sirena by Donna Jo Napoli blends Greek mythology into a tale of mermaids winning their immortality by obtaining the love of a human male. This beautiful story explores the beginning of the Trojan War from the point of view of a mermaid who abandons her sisters as they sing sailors to their deaths. Sirena swims to the deserted island of Lemnos to live the rest of her life alone away from her murderous kin. She is surprised at the arrival of Philoctetes, friend of Hercules, who had been bitten by a snake sacred to Hera. She saves his life and wins his love and her immortality. This beautiful story captures in so few pages the wonders of integrity, love, and loss.
            Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan is a continuation of the Percy Jackson saga. The second book of the Lost Heroes series, Son of Neptune follows an older Percy who has lost his memory. Percy’s adventures begin as he fights gorgons who will not stay dead. He finds sanctuary in a Roman camp for demigods and is introduced to the Roman form of the gods who are different in temperament than their Grecian aspects. New friends and enemies are found in the Roman camp as well as a dire new prophecy. Will Percy and his new friends be able to release Thanatos and save the world from Gaea’s awakening? Riordan spins an epic tale and introduces new heroes to the list of favorites from the Percy Jackson saga.
Forgive my Fins by Tara Lee Childs is a tale of a mermaid princess, Lily, living on land to experience the life of a normal teenage girl and learn about her mother’s human culture. Unfortunately, mergirls are bound by different rules than humans and when Lily tries to bond with her crush, Brody, she ends up bonding with Quince, her annoying next door neighbor instead. There’s nothing to do but to swim back to her kingdom of Thalassinia to undo the mystical bond that she now shares with the wrong boy. This light hearted, funny novel full of sea puns is followed by Fins are Forever.

            The Vicious Deep by Zoraida Cordova tells the story of a merdude. Swimmer and lifeguard Tristan Hart has realized he has feelings for his best friend, Layla. Unfortunately, he has a reputation as a player. One day on the beach, Tristan’s sucked deep into the ocean by a tidal wave. He wakes three days later with only vague memories of the incident and the sudden itch to get into the water. This itch turns into Tristan’s legs becoming a tail. Totally freaked out by this turn of events, Tristan listens as his mother finally tells him that she was the princess of the Sea Kingdom. This makes Tristan a Sea Prince. Tristan goes on a journey to see his aging grandfather. There, Tristan discovers he has to compete as one of the heirs for pieces of a trident to become the Sea King. This fast-paced story full of mythos and teenage drama is an interesting story with a male point of view meant for older teens.
The Adventures of Tintin: Red Rackham’s Treasure by Herge is a classic graphic novel from the seventies. Tintin and the rum-drinking Captain Haddock look for Red Rackham’s treasure on land and under the sea. This grapic novel is full of slap-stick type comedy that may appeal to young adult readers.

Scuba Diving by Monty Halls and Miranda Krestovnikoff is a spectacular non-fiction book for anyone who would like to learn more about scuba diving. Somewhere between a how-to book and an encyclopedia entry, this Eyewitness Companions book describes diving techniques, equipment, marine life, where to dive, and so much more! Beautiful underwater photographs illustrate the breathtaking beauty that exists beneath the surface. Especially enjoyable are the easy-to-understand scientific explanations of basic concepts which affect divers such as pressure, buoyancy, tides, currents, and gas exchange. Scuba Diving also presents a list of possible scuba careers, basic equipment care, hand signals for communication, and safety tips.

Ocean by Miranda MacQuitty is an eyewitness book full of great photos and interesting descriptions of a variety of sea life, currents, a geologic look at the ocean floor, technology, and resources that the ocean gives us. Eyewitness books have brief snippets of powerful information that range from very specific to general. These books are great to begin an exploration of a subject without being buried in technical jargon or too much specificity.
Ocean Animals published by NorthWord Press is a non-fiction description of dolphins, manatees, sharks, and whales. Interspersed with beautiful underwater photographs, this book gives a basic overview of scientific information about these amazing creatures including development, examples of different species within the class, habitats, and some fun facts. This is a fairly quick read full of interesting, informative material that will not overwhelm younger readers.

            Close To Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916 by Michael Cappuzo tells the non-fiction tale of a rogue great white shark. The book contains many wonderful articles and dynamically switches back and forth between narrating the shark’s experience including more biological information about great whites and the newsworthy attacks including excerpts from interviews. The photographs of newspaper articles and places give great visual impact while reading. This was an interesting read which gives not only a great factual description of the multiple attacks along the Jersey and New York shore, but gives readers a real sense of the vast difference in clothing, culture, and technology between 1916 and today.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Cogitate Beneath the Surface: Steampunk Week

Note from Darcy:  In our department, each of the four of us take turns planning our weekly summer reading themes and activities. Since my colleagues have expertise in the books related to each week's theme, they have graciously agreed to write the corresponding weekly blog posts for our summer reading program. This week, my friend Rachael wrote the following entry.

“Steampunk” has been a rising trend among teens for several years now. It began in books and spread to other art forms such as music, art and crafting. The steampunk genre is often focused on the Victorian era or a post-apocalyptic society where modern technology is not as available. Steampunk is the concept of a steam powered mechanism made of gears, cogs, metal and, occasionally, clockwork, that can function on a sophisticated level. There are many recent books that focus on this trend, but the idea is much older than many people realize.

The Time Machine by H.G. Wells—Published in 1895, a man known only as the “Time Traveller” tells stories of strange travels he has undertaken in a mechanism that took him to the future. The story focuses on his time among people called Eloi who seem to live in a perfect society. However, as night descends, he learns that there are many dark secrets and life is dangerous among the people he has befriended. The Time Traveller loses his machine and must face the dark secrets of the future in order to return to his time.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer is a steampunk take on the old fairytale Cinderella. Set in a futuristic society, Cinder is a mechanic in new Beijing.  She is composed of both human and mechanical body parts and is labeled a cyborg, a lesser member of society. She has no memory of her life before the age of eleven. Cinder is a talented mechanic who supports her stepmother and two stepsisters with her trade. When her stepsister contracts a deadly plague, Cinder is submitted for testing and finds that her lost past could save the political unrest in her country and a possible chance to save her stepsister. If you enjoy this book, the next book in this series, the Lunar Chronicles, is Scarlet, a steampunk take on Little Red Riding Hood, also by Marissa Meyer.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare is the first book in the Infernal Devices trilogy. Set in the Victorian era, it details the adventures of Tessa Gray who travels to London to live with her brother. Upon her arrival, she is tricked by the Dark Sisters who hold her hostage and train her to take on the appearance of others by holding something that belongs to them. Her brother eventually rescues her, but not before Tessa is plunged into a dark world of vampires, clockwork armies and the war between good and evil in the London shadows. The trilogy continues with Clockwork Prince and Clockwork Princess, also by Cassandra Clare.

The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross, follows the story of Finley Jane. Finley Jane is a servant who must flee after she knocks out a young lord who tries to take advantage of her. She is taken in by an orphaned lord, Griffin King, and joins his band of misfits. She fits in well until the Machinist, a dangerous criminal, threatens to tear the group apart. The Girl in the Clockwork Collar and The Girl with the Iron Touch are the next novels in the Steampunk Series by Kady Cross.

As well as being a fictional genre, steampunk is also expressed through creative crafts. In the teen room this week, teens created steampunk top hats with duct tape and charms as one of the summer reading crafts. There are also non-fiction books available at the library that describe the steampunk style and give examples of simple crafts. The Steampunk Bible by Jeff Vandermeer, call number YA 809.3, provides many photos with instructions of steampunk crafts. Steampunk Accessories: 20 projects to help you nail the style by Nicola Tedman, call number YA 745.5, also provides many creative suggestion for “steampunking” modern accessories.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Beneath the Surface: UnderCover Week

Summer is in full swing here at the library:  we're seeing an influx of kids, teens and adults coming in for books, computers, and summer reading programs.

In the Teen Room, our summer reading theme is "Beneath the Surface."  We are using our weekly drop-in activities to explore this theme in a variety of ways.  Teens can join us Monday through Thursday afternoons from 1-4 for crafts, quizzes, and fun snacks. 

Our weekly theme for June 10-14 is "Go Beneath the Surface - UnderCover week."  Our activities include spy diguises, trivia quizzes, observation hunts, and survival crafts.

Along with completing our fun activities, why not pick up one of the following titles from our Young Adult fiction and nonfiction collection?  All of them feature undercover characters, thrilling action, and exciting gadgets.

Liar's Moon, Elizabeth Bunce:   In this mystery/fantasy hybrid, Bunce follows the story of Digger, a female pickpocket who finds herself in prison for the night. While there, she discovers that a good friend is imprisoned for the alleged murder of his wife, and is due to be executed. Digger knows that the man is innocent, so when she is released from her cell, she vows to use her skills as a spy - and a thief - to uncover the truth. What she finds is a complicated political plot and a mystery that even she cannot solve.  This book is a sequel to Bunce's Star-Crossed, but can be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel. Bunce is a gifted writer whose rich characters and complex plots completely absorb her readers.

Etiquette and Espionage, Gail Carriger:  Genre-blending is one of the hottest new trends of YA literature, and this tale is one example.  The main character, Sophronia, is what we would call a "tomboy." She would rather climb trees, take apart machinery, and make messes than sit for tea and crumpets, causing embarrassment to her family.  She is enrolled in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality to learn how to behave like a lady. But she soon discovers that the school is really a floating airship charged with teaching the skills of espionage.  "Proper" ladies and gentlemen are combined with dirigibles, robots, werewolves, and vampires, making this story a steampunk mystery and adventure. A good prequel for next week's steampunk summer reading activities!

I'd Tell You I Love You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You, Ally Carter:  Set in a spy school for girls, this novel centers on 15-year-old Cammie, the headmistress's daughter, who must decide if she is cut out for a life of secrets. Cammie and her friends take classes in 14 different language, covert operations, and self-defense. But when Cammie, known as the Chameleon for her ability to disappear in public places, is spotted by a cute boy named Josh in the middle of the town fair, she begins a new mission: learning to be an ordinary girlfriend. Cammie soon leads a double life, and must decide which one is right for her.  This is the first in the Gallagher Girls series; the author has written five books in this series, as well as Heist Society, her second YA series.

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle:   No list of mystery and detective stories would be complete without a nod to this classic character.  Sherlock Holmes has been the character inspiration for many detectives of fiction and movies, and yet his cool intelligence in solving mysteries has never quite been duplicated. Doyle wrote the adventures as short stories, making this a good choice for a reader who does not want to commit to a longer novel. 

 Stormbreaker, Anthony Horowitz: Alex Rider's world is turned upside down when he discovers that his uncle and guardian has been murdered. The 14-year-old makes one discovery after another until he is sucked into his uncle's undercover world. The Special Operations Division of M16, his uncle's real employer, blackmails the teen into serving England. After two short weeks of training, Alex is equipped with several special toys like a Game Boy with unique cartridges that allow it to scan, fax, and emit smoke bombs. Alex's mission is to complete his uncle's last assignment, to discover the secret that Herod Sayle is hiding behind his generous donation of one of his supercomputers to every school in the country. This is the first title in Horowitz's perenially-popular series; eight other titles continue to follow Alex's adventures.

Evil Genius, Catherine Jinks:  Cadel Piggott has a genius IQ and a fascination with systems of all kinds. At seven, he was illegally hacking into computers. Now he’s fourteen and studying for his World Domination degree, taking classes like embezzlement, misinformation, forgery, and infiltration at the institute founded by criminal mastermind Dr. Phineas Darkkon. Although Cadel may be advanced beyond his years, at heart he’s a lonely kid. When he falls for the mysterious and brilliant Kay-Lee, he begins to question the moral implications of his studies for the first time. But is it too late to stop Dr. Darkkon from carrying out his evil plot? This older YA novel is the first in a trilogy:  the other titles are Genius Squad and Genius Wars.

Death Cloud, Andrew Lane: Before he was the detective whose calm intelligence made him the curse of criminals, Sherlock Holmes was a teenager, brushing up on his powers of deduction and becoming the curse of one very nasty criminal indeed. This series introduces a 14-year-old Sherlock who's been left at his uncle's estate during the holidays. A new friend, a clever tutor, and the tutor's pretty daughter aren't enough to keep Sherlock out of trouble (well, actually, they're part of the trouble) when a mysterious cloud and several unfortunate deaths draw him into a malevolent plotter's web.  The first of a series, this is the only Sherlock Holmes spin-off to be officially endorsed by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's estate.

Sovay, Celia Rees: Rees brings us another example of her excellent historical fiction, this time following the story of Sovay, a British socialite caught up in international intrigue. Raised in the English countryside during the French Revolution, 17-year-old Sovay embarks on a mission to find her missing father and brother, who've been condemned for supporting the Revolution. Her search takes her to dangerous corners of London and Paris, where she plays the roles of highway robber, spy and socialite to gather clues and outwit a treacherous villain who desires to overthrow Britain's throne.

Code Name Verity, Elizabeth Wein: Another historical novel, Code Name Verity was named a Michael Printz honor book for excellence in YA fiction. Julia is an unnamed prisoner, formerly a wireless operator for the British, held captive in France by a seemingly sadistic Nazi interrogator. She has supposedly "sold her soul" in exchange for small bits of freedom, giving pieces of code in exchange for her life. Interspersed with the story of her fierce fight for survival is a different tale: that of how she came to be in France and of her friendship with Maddie Brodatt, a British civilian pilot.  As Julia tells their story, she also reveals small bits of her attempts at survival and escape. In the second half of the book, Maddie narrates, telling of her desperate attempts to rescue her friend and revealing both the truth of what happened to each of them, and the truth of Julia's bravery.

101 Spy Gadgets for the Evil Genius, by Brad Graham:  This nonfiction guide is packed with a wide variety of sleuthing contraptions you can build yourself, with some knowledge of electronics and access to electrical parts.  Find out how to disable several spy devices by hacking easily available appliances into cool tools of your own, and even turn the tables on the snoopers by using gadgetry to collect information on them. This is an excellent nonfiction title for readers who would rather make things than read stories; there is some expertise involved in creating the gadgets.

Stop by the library to pick up one of these titles, or ask us to help you find other choices.  Then go "Beneath the Surface" of a great book this summer!