Books in the Park

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

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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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This Day in June, by Gayle E. Pitman

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman

This Day in June by Gayle E. Pitman is a beautifully written and illustrated picture book with a simple rhyming pattern throughout the book. With these short, sweet, simple rhymes, Pitman conveys the feelings of the Pride Parades that are held annually in June to celebrate the LGBT community.

As you pick up and open This Day in June, the first thing that catches your eye are the gorgeous illustrations by Kristyna Litten. The style is very charming and expresses joy, love, and pride throughout the book. Each page shifts in hue, reflecting the colors of the rainbow. 

In addition to the story, the book includes a note to parents and caregivers. It gives suggestions for talking to children in different age groups (3-5, 6-12, and 13-18) about sexual orientation and gender identity in age-appropriate ways. It also includes a reading guide that explains the historical events and figures mentioned throughout the book.

With Pride fast approaching pick up a copy of This Day in June to get the party started early!


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Annie On My Mind, by Nancy Garden

annie on my mindLiza Winthrop is spending a quiet afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where she wasn’t intending to make a new friend, but she does, in the form of Annie Kenyon. Annie and Liza are very different from one another, but the two become fast friends and, eventually, lovers.

This young adult novel details the story of two high school girls who discover first love and all the perils that come along with being gay in the eighties. It is a quiet story focused entirely on Annie and Liza. It sidesteps the larger issues that faced the gay community at that time in favor of showing how personal prejudices affects the lives of these two girls.

Garden intended this novel to stay relevant long after it was published. There are few cultural references, effectively making the story relateable. It was very easy to imagine this love story unfolding today. Amazingly, the only things that really date the story are the bigoted responses of characters reacting to gay people. Thankfully, many of these silly notions have been dispelled, and the idea that anyone actually thought that is laughable.

Annie on My Mind is part timeless romance, part testament to how ignorant society was in the past, and in no small part an entirely entertaining read.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Annie on My Mind.

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Looking for Alaska by John Green

** This suggestion was posted during Banned Books Week 2015 **

banned books 2015 dave 2Miles Halter is a skinny kid who memorizes the last words of famous people and has a nondescript life in a nondescript Florida town where he attends, but isn’t really present, at a public high school. When he gets the chance to go to a private school in his junior year, he jumps at the opportunity, hoping to get a little excitement out of a new locale. He leaves home, and his parents, to travel to Culver Creek.

At Culver Creek Preparatory High School, an Alabama private school near a wealthy town, he is quickly welcomed by his roommate and soon-to-be co-conspirator: “the Colonel”. The Colonel gives Miles the ironic nickname of “Pudge” and introduces him to the rest of the group of boarding students who carry on a prank war with the “Weekday Warriors”: the sons and daughters of wealthy local parents. This group includes Alaska Young, a beautiful, funny, temperamental, and self-destructive girl who Pudge falls in love with after their first meeting.

The story revolves around the prank war, school days, and Pudge’s infatuation with Alaska. The Colonel and Alaska plan and implement pranks in retaliation for perceived slights and betrayals that loom large in the lives of private school teens. One night, after drunkenly celebrating an elaborate prank, tragedy strikes and Pudge’s world changes forever.

Looking for Alaska explores that awkward time in our lives when we are leaving childhood but not quite adults. Often, we are left on our own to start figuring out the things parents don’t always talk about, like loyalty, love, sex and death. The book explores these themes through Pudge’s fumbling missteps and small triumphs. We can see him change and mature as he starts to find out who he is, and perhaps who he will be.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Looking for Alaska.

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Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut

** This suggestion was posted during Banned Books Week 2015 **

banned books 2015 annmarieIt’s easy to understand why parents might not want their teens reading Kurt Vonnegut’s classic novel, Slaughterhouse-Five: it’s full of obscenities, sex, and blasphemous statements. But when you consider that the book’s alternative title is The Children’s Crusade, the whole argument against teens reading it begins to break down.

Vonnegut was only 23 when he was captured and held as a prisoner of war by the Germans during World War II. His captors took him to Dresden, Germany where he witnessed the war’s most controversial Allied attack: a beautiful city full of artistic marvels and innocent civilians was razed in multiple bombings over a two-day period. After the war, the Dresden bombings lapsed into relative obscurity. Vonnegut had a hard time getting official details about what exactly happened there. All he had were his own terrible memories.

The most powerful message of Slaughterhouse-Five is its anti-war stance: nothing about war (and there’s a lot of war) in this book is portrayed in a virtuous light. But it’s laid out in the first chapter that writing an anti-war book is a futile effort; wars are “as easy to stop as glaciers.” So why would Vonnegut spend twenty agonizing years reliving his wartime experiences just to write a futile book? You could argue that the famously fatalistic Vonnegut wrote it because he had to. But a better argument, and a more hopeful argument, is that he didn’t actually think it was futile at all.

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BANNED: The Rainbow by D.H. Lawrence

** This suggestion was posted during Banned Books Week 2015 **

the rainbow bannedThough it can seem tame by today’s standards, D.H. Lawrence’s The Rainbow was very controversial at its time of publication for its portrayal of how sexual desire, especially in women, can affect relationships. The book was so controversial, in fact, that it was banned in England for 11 years and over 1,000 copies were burned.

The book follows the Brangwen family for three generations: a period of roughly 65 years from the 1840s to 1905. I love these sort of stories, much like Ken Follet’s two series The Century Trilogy and the Pillars of the Earth/World Without End duology. Multi-generational tales like these guide the reader through the evolution of a family (in the case of The Rainbow) or a community (like Ken Follet above) and give a picture of the forces that shape and grow the family.

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Beloved by Toni Morrison

** This suggestion was posted during Banned Books Week 2015 **

banned books 2015 ameliaBeloved is one of those books that creeps onto summer reading lists for high school or onto the syllabus for college courses. Everyone knows it’s great, partially because Oprah loves it and you just gotta trust her. Despite the high praise it has received and the obvious literary merit, some people still ignore it. Opting to use Cliff’s Notes to cram for the test or watch the movie to at least pretend like they know what they are doing. I totally get that; Toni Morrison is intimidating. But, seriously, just read it. From the first lines, “124 was spiteful. Full of baby’s venom” Morrison will catch you.

Beloved is a supernatural tale of sorts that weaves back and forth through time and perspective. However, the story is driven by Sethe– a free woman who escaped while pregnant from a plantation called Sweet Home where horrific acts of violence and sexual abuse were inflicted on the slaves that were kept there. While on the run, Sethe goes into labor and is helped by a white woman she meets along the way. Their unlikely partnership saves her life and allows Sethe to be reunited with her older children at their grandmother’s house. The family is free and safe for almost a month when the plantation owners come back to collect their “property”. What Sethe has to do to insure her family’s freedom is gruesome and ultimately haunting. Her choices that day will change the lives of their entire family and new community.

Without giving any more away, for those who haven’t cheated and read a synopsis, I want to recommend this title to everyone with eyes and/or thoughts in their brains. No other book I’ve read delves into the psychological repercussions of slavery as thoroughly as Beloved. Every time I read it I find something new I’ve missed so I also recommend you read this again even if you read it ten years ago in high school.  Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1988 and often challenged in schools, this book needs to be in your library.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Beloved.