Books in the Park

suggestions from the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library at Pinellas Park


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Ninefox Gambit, by Yoon Ha Lee

Every so often a science fiction author will have such an interesting, refreshing take on world-building that it makes you look at reality in a different way. The Hexarchate of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machinery of Empire series (of which Ninefox Gambit is the first) is such a universe. Organizing an entire space-faring culture around the effects of the calendar on genetics to enhance battle prowess is a unique and fascinating way to world-build a universe.

The book opens with Captain Kel Cheris winning a battle using unorthodox methods which put her at risk of being declared a heretic, a dangerous place for a young officer. She is allowed to redeem herself by the Hexarchate with a near-suicidal task of retaking a fallen space fortress. When asked what weapon systems she wants, she chooses an unusual way to win – she selects the mind of a brilliant, but dead general as her weapon. The one hitch – the general went insane after his last battle.

By adding this second mind to hers (in short, the process results in a constant conversation in her head between the general and herself), Cheris has the difficult task of taking advantage of the general’s prowess in battle without becoming too sympathetic to the general. It proves difficult because the general is, of all things, kind to her and helpful, belying the historical record of the mad general.

Filled with space battles and high stakes mathematical “calendar” calculations, the story unfolds as the general teases out Cheris’ feelings about the Hexarchate and the state of the world since he died. Lee is brilliant at explaining his universe without getting in the way of the story.  Through action, conversations and flashbacks, you find out details of calendrical warfare, the different races of the Hexarchate, as well as historical details about the general’s past and the events leading up to his last battle. The characters are sympathetic and have clear, if conflicting desires. The story of the Hexarchate continues in the next book, the Raven Stratagem.


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Raven the Pirate Princess Volume 2: Free Women, by Jeremy Whitley

In honor of Talk Like a Pirate Day, we’re continuing our reviews of the Princeless series! Raven’s journey continues. She now has a full crew of pirate women and has taken command of a ship. The crew sets sail to confront Raven’s brothers who have excluded her from her family’s pirate legacy.

The first volume focused mainly on the journey to finding said crew and ship, and volume two explores the characters and their back stories. It also delves into the democracy aboard the ship, which is something that most people don’t think of with pirates. Raven, a stern pirate thanks to her upbringing, is willing to be more flexible to work with her crew and manages them in a way that is kind and fair and gives everyone on board a voice.

As with the first volume, the art is gorgeous! The entire series uses bright colors that truly pop – there are lots of reds, blues, and golds and everything just feels vivid. The costumes that each of the pirates wear are very unique and distinguishable. Even in zoomed out panels you can tell who is who.

This volume also gives us a chance to see the crew in true life or death action. Raven’s brothers have sent a crew after her and her mates to take them captive and the ladies must find a way to foil their plan by working together.

Now, mateys, I challenge ye to go and find yerself a copy of this here graphic novel! It’ll leave ye wantin’ to find yer own crewe of pirate lasses to set sail with!

Search the PPLC catalog for Raven: Pirate Princess.


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Banned Books: Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Drama, by Raina Telgemeier

Drama is a middle grades graphic novel and a quick read, even for a reluctant reader! The illustrations are charming and colorful and the characters all have distinctly different designs, including the identical twins in the story.

The story stars Callie, a 7th grader at Eucalyptus Middle School, and a member of the theater stage crew. She has a passion for set design and no ambitions to actually perform the musicals that she loves so dearly.

Drama doesn’t just allude to the production being staged in the story, but to the actual drama of middle school life. Callie has a crush on Greg, her friend’s brother, but he’s dating someone else, and so on and so forth – Anyone who has ever been a middle school student will find it easy to relate to. Callie must balance her friendships and relationships with the upcoming production and the rapidly approaching deadlines that come with it.

Telgemeier tells a story that isn’t outlandish or unreal – it’s easy to imagine this happening at one’s own middle or high school. The characters all feel real and fleshed out and it’s easy to read their tone and personality through how they are drawn.

I would definitely recommend Drama to any middle or high school readers or any young adults looking for a trip down memory lane.

Check the PPLC catalog for Drama, by Raina Telgemeier.

 


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The Best Man, by Richard Peck

In The Best Man, Archer Magill narrates his life from age six on through grade school. His charm as a character, coupled with the gentle humor that permeates the book make for a highly readable story. Archer is a believable character, he’s a young boy, curious but, slightly clueless. He relies on the adults in his life and his self-possessed best friend, Lynette, to steer him toward emotional maturity.

The main appeal of The Best Man lies in Archer’s relationships with the men in his life: his father, the laid back classic-car buff; his architect grandfather; his career driven, sharply dressed uncle Paul; and, his fifth-grade student teacher, Mr. McLeod, a National Guardsman getting a master’s in education. The men in this book talk about their feelings and each one of Archer’s role models has something important to teach Archer about how to be a man. His father and grandfather form a solid foundation, Uncle Paul helps him handle a bully, and Mr. McLeod confronts homophobia by coming out in front of a classroom of sixth graders. Uncle Paul and Mr. McLeod become a couple but, Uncle Paul needs some persuasion to get serious about it. Archer asks his father if they’ll “talk it over.” His father replies, “No, we’re guys. We’ll talk about the Cubs, and cars. . . . But we’ll make sure he sees there’s a place for Ed McLeod in our family.”

Archer’s story is, in many ways, unassuming but, its approach to masculinity is refreshing. It also describes family, school, and community life in an earnest but relatable way. Our lives may not be quite so picturesque but, whether it be the quirky teacher or the lunch room bullies, children and adults alike will find something to relate to in The Best Man.

Check the PPLC catalog for The Best Man


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The Baby-Sitters Club #1 – Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier

The Baby-Sitters Club #1 – Kristy’s Great Idea by Raina Telgemeier (Based on the novel by Ann M. Martin)

The Baby-Sitters Club has been revamped! The classic series has been re-imagined by Raina Telgemeier for a new audience. Kristy’s Great Idea takes the same story from the original Baby-Sitters Club book that many parents will remember and retells it as a graphic novel, or a very long comic book.

The story is about a group of girls who make spare money babysitting neighborhood kids and, in some cases, their own siblings. Kristy, the eventual leader of the club, has the idea to work with her friends so that parents can call one phone number to schedule babysitting and not have to call each of them to see who may be available. The book also introduces the girls’ family situations; Kristy is growing up with her mom and brothers after her parents’ divorce, Mary Anne’s mom died when she was a baby, and Claudia’s creativity goes against everything her parents want for her in life.

I read the original Baby-Sitters Club Books growing up and recommend these for upper elementary and middle school aged readers.

Check the PPLC catalog for The Baby-Sitters Club


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Princess Super Kitty, by Antoinette Portis

“Maggie likes being a kitty. But sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes a girl has to be SUPER.” This description from the book flap perfectly captures the imaginative and fun tone of this story. Armed with a creative mind and a dress up box, there are no limits to young Maggie’s play. In the span of a few pages she’s a kitty who meows and eats under the table, a Super Kitty who opens jars for everybody, a Princess Super Kitty with lots of jewels, and a Water Lily Hula Porpoise Princess Super Kitty ready for bath time. This little girl really can do anything!

I would recommend Princess Super Kitty, by Antoinette Portis, to children ages 2-5. The vocabulary is simple, yet engaging, and a fun way to get inspired to play make believe!

Check the PPLC Catalog for Princess Super Kitty.


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Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, by Julia Denos

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, by Julia Denos

Swatch: The Girl Who Loved Color, by Julia Denos, is a beautifully illustrated picture book with a story of wildness turned to kindness. Swatch loves colors and colors love Swatch. The colors even listen to her and come when she calls them. Swatch is wild and loves to tame the colors.
Moving on from just taming them, Swatch decides to collect the colors in jars. She likes to find rare colors, shades of colors that you might only see in one place in the world. In Between Gray, for example, is found only on her kitten’s leg. Swatch scoops them up in the jars, pokes holes in the lid, and then keeps them in her room. There is one color that has eluded her, though – Yellowest Yellow. When Swatch finally finds Yellowest Yellow, she finds that not all colors want to be tamed.

The art in Swatch is whimsical and bright. The characters, mischievous. It feels like a colorful take on Where the Wild Things Are. I would recommend Swatch to all young artists in preschool through elementary and their parents.