Books in the Park

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


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The Iron Druid Chronicles, by Kevin Hearne

hounded-iron-druid-hearneI love books written in series because they give you a chance to really get to know the characters and to delve deeply into the world they inhabit. I recently ran across Hounded, the first title in Kevin Hearne’s The Iron Druid Chronicles, and proceeded to binge-read every title in the series. The series does all I ask for with well-crafted plotlines, good world-building, and memorable characters that you root for, including a magically enhanced Irish wolfhound. Plus, there is mythology—lots of it.

Atticus O’Sullivan (his actual Gaelic name looks terrifying to pronounce, but is included in a handy pronunciation guide) is the last druid alive and is at least 2000 years old. Before the Romans exterminated all the Druids left in Ireland, Britain, and Gaul, he escaped in order to be able to fulfill his destiny, to protect Gaia. He now lives in Tempe, Arizona, and takes care of the lands around there while avoiding the attentions of the gods.

Gods? Yes, gods. Hearne’s world-building is masterful, blending all the pantheons in a multiverse sort of way, with the Irish gods, Norse gods, and Greco-Roman gods featuring prominently in the stories. There are also witches, vampires, and werewolves. As Atticus is Irish, most of his dealings are with the Tuatha de Danann, the Irish pantheon of deities. He is under Morrigan’s protection, and as such, is a pawn in their pantheon’s plots and machinations. As gods do, they act through other, less deific agents on earth, and so the first few books deal with the magical inhabitants of the Tempe area. Later adventures involve many other pantheons, including even Ganesh the elephant-headed Hindu god.

Atticus has friends, especially his Irish wolfhound, Oberon. Oberon is magically enhanced and carries on hilarious telepathic conversations with Atticus from a dog’s worldview. Atticus’ legal affairs are taken care of by, of course, a vampire and werewolf. As the series progresses, he adds an apprentice, Granuaile (pronounced gran ya wail, if you want to know) whose decade-long training is interrupted with adventures through seven books.

The stories are full of humor, adventure, and the occasional throwdown between gods and mortals. The books’ events follow in sequence, so they really need to be read in order. Atticus is both brash and human, despite his advanced age. His good intentions occasionally go awry, but they make him likable.  The mixing of the various pantheons allows for magic, science, and deific powers to coexist seamlessly, and even with some broad humor. I enjoyed the series thoroughly and look forward to more of Atticus and Granuaile’s adventures.

Check the PPLC Catalog for:

Book 1: Hounded
Book 2: Hexed
Book 3: Hammered
Book 4: Tricked
Book 5: Trapped
Book 6: Hunted
Book 7: Shattered
Book 8: Staked


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The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown

wild-robot-brownWhen Roz the robot is shipwrecked on a tiny island, she has only her basic programming to guide her. Roz is not built for the outdoors, but she is designed to be adaptable, thoughtful, and intelligent, and she soon realizes that her best hope for survival is to learn and gain support from the island’s hostile animal inhabitants. Gaining the animal’s trust takes time and it’s only when she tries to care for an orphaned gosling that the other animals finally decide to help her. The island starts to feel like home to Roz until one day, the robot’s mysterious past comes back to haunt her.

The Wild Robot is author and illustrator Peter Brown’s first novel. Brown, known for his children’s picture books, such as Children Make Terrible Pets, has totally succeeded in producing an utterly charming first novel. Though The Wild Robot starts off slow, once Roz learns the language of the animals, the story flourishes. The animals of the island all have big personalities and Roz begins to form friendships with them, like with Chitchat the squirrel and Loudwing the goose. Roz solicits their help to care for the gosling Brightbill who she becomes a mother to. Roz and Brightbill eventually become invaluable members of the island community. Roz even helps the animals survive through a grueling winter by teaching them to make fire.

This book has been compared to Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain. Readers who enjoy these types of survivalist stories will definitely be drawn into Roz’s tale. It could also be compared to Stuart Little. Both are stories about extraordinary protagonists who don’t quite belong and through adventure and perseverance make a life for themselves. Lovers of these types of stories as well as both robot and animal lovers will find something to delight in here. For adult readers, The Wild Robot makes a great parenting story and the philosophical questions that naturally arise between robot Roz and living animal Brightbill can be in turns both fun and thoughtful. With such a wide appeal, Brown’s book can also be enjoyed together as a read aloud for younger children. No one should miss out on this sparkling book!

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Wild Robot.


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Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, by Junji Ito

junji-itos-cat-diary-itoA horror manga artist, J, has recently moved into a new home with his fiancee, A-ko. The artist can see a rosy new life opening up before him—until A-ko asks him the fateful question: “Are you a dog person… or a cat person?” Thus begins J’s life with two fractious cats, Yon and Mu. Yon is  A-ko’s quirky childhood cat, and Mu is a Norwegian Forest kitten, adopted as a companion  In a series of biographical vignettes, Ito chronicles J and A-ko’s life with their exasperating but beloved felines.

Ito is best known for his horror manga, and it is a stroke of genius to bring a creepy element to this sleepy slice-of-life comic. Ito creates a sense of dread, both with the atmosphere and the illustration. This is beautifully juxtaposed with the humorous tone, and the everyday plot of human/cat interaction. It makes for a very surreal and entertaining story. In addition, Cat Diary perfectly captures the joys and frustrations of living with cats. Ito’s love for his fur babies shines through, making the manga adorable and touching.

Admittedly, this is a weird book, and it might not be for everyone. However, if you have had surreal experiences with cats of your own, you will enjoy Junji Ito’s Cat Diary.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Junji Ito’s Cat Diary.


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Sounder (1972)

sounderPromoted as a family movie, Sounder is a masterpiece of such slow-moving complexity that I think it might be difficult for a child to sit through it all. But this is an excellent film nonetheless with a superb cast and talented director. Just be sure to keep some tissues handy because the story packs an emotional punch.

Sounder is based on a book of the same name by William Armstrong.

In rural, Depression-era Louisiana, 12-year-old David Lee (Kevin Hook) is by far the oldest child of his poor sharecropper family. Poor is an understatement; this family is downright destitute, scraping by on a meager diet of biscuits and gravy as the owners of their farm take virtually all of their regular harvests. Every day David and his father (Paul Winfield) take their loyal dog, Sounder, out hunting for anything that will put meat on the table. But, despite Sounder’s skill, they haven’t caught anything in a long time. One morning, however, David and his siblings awaken to the glorious smell of meat frying. David is instinctively wary of the unexpected gift, and his uneasiness grows as his parents dodge his questions. Soon enough, the police show up and arrest David’s father for petty theft.

As David’s mother, Rebecca (Cicely Tyson), struggles with the farm on her own, David is torn between helping his family and getting an education. The film focuses heavily on David’s coming-of-age as the boy encounters oppression and desperately seeks a way to rise above it.

Rated G.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Sounder.


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Vote for Me! by Ben Clanton

vote for me clantonDonkey and Elephant have lots of reasons why you should vote for one of them, even if those reasons aren’t very good. Donkey promises candy if you vote for him; Elephant promises peanuts. The not-so-serious debate soon devolves into literal mud-slinging as the candidates call each other all kinds of funny names. But the story has a surprise ending that neither Donkey nor Elephant could have predicted.

If a child you know has shown any interest in the hotly contested United States 2016 election, s/he will love this book and its derisive humor. Both Donkey and Elephant are portrayed as one-dimensional characters with no other ambitions except to win your vote. The book also shows children that there are more than two candidates to vote for, no matter what Donkey and Elephant say. And the colors, blue for Donkey and red for Elephant, will help the child recognize the traditional symbols of our two major political parties. Although this book was written in 2012 during the Obama/Romney election season, it works well for any United States election.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Vote for Me!


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Y: The Last Man (Vol. 1) by Brian K. Vaughan

y last manAnother gem from Brian K. Vaughan. This series pre-dates the Saga series but is no less awesome. Totally different in story and illustration, Y: The Last Man is 10 volumes of adventure.

In this post-apocalyptic Earth, every person with a Y chromosome has died—except for Yorick Brown and his monkey friend, Ampersand. Together they must work with Agent 355 and Dr. Allison Mann to discover what happened to their world and discover a solution to save humanity.

In the first volume we discover that Yorick’s only real skill is escaping. Years of practicing upside-down in a straightjacket have finally paid off. However, his mouth often gets him and his female saviors into trouble. Agent 355 of the U.S. government’s mysterious Culper Ring organization is tasked with protecting Yorick on his journey to discover the truth. She’s a no-nonsense, butt-kicking professional who also happens to knit. All of the other characters introduced in volume one are quirky like this and it makes for a fun read. Initially, the idea that a world without men would lead to chaos offended me. I quickly got over it as it is made apparent that it’s not the women who are incompetent; it was the system that was in place before the fall that really created the chaos. The first page lists that in 2002 (the time of the plague) “495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are now dead” and that “in the United States alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died as did 92% of violent felons”. Any loss of this magnitude would turn the world into a chaotic mess. Do not fret my feminists friends, this comic was not designed to attack you! I loved this first volume and look forward to reading the others.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Y: The Last Man.


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H is for Hawk, by Helen Macdonald

hhawk macdonaldThis genre-blending memoir/biography/nature story was published in 2014, and now, nearly two years later, the waiting list for it at our library has just started to taper off. So if you haven’t read this critically-acclaimed book yet, now is a great time to place a request. And if you have already read it, feel free to tell us what you thought in the comments.

Helen is still reeling from the unexpected death of her father when she decides to purchase and train a goshawk: a large bird of prey prized in the ancient art of falconry for its remarkable hunting ability. Although Helen is an experienced and accomplished falconer who has trained many hawks, she has never attempted to train one as big and wild as a goshawk. The book documents Helen’s trials and tribulations as she trains her hawk and, slowly, finds meaning in life again. Interleaved with Helen’s own falconer story is that of The Once and Future King author T.H. White, a troubled man who also trained a goshawk.

H is for Hawk is critically acclaimed for a reason. It was so beautifully written and complexly told that, when finished, it was difficult for this librarian to move on to another book. Even if you’re not into falconry, or dealing with grief, or you’ve never heard of T.H. White, this book will regardless strike a nerve. Highly recommended.

Check the PPLC Catalog for H is for Hawk.