Books in the Park

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


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The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie 

AlexieThere are a lot of things you should know about Junior Spirit. He lives on the Spokane Indian Reservation, he plays basketball, he speaks with a lisp (and a stutter), his best friend is named Rowdy, his grandmother is the nicest Indian on the reservation, and he has big dreams of becoming a cartoonist. Dreams, he realizes, that will never come true if he stays on the reservation.

To help him realize his dream, Junior has enrolled in a school in Rearden: the mostly white upper-middle-class town twenty miles away. He is nervous about what his neighbors will think of it, he is nervous about what the white kids will think of it, and he is very worried that Rowdy won’t like it, but Junior knows that if he ever wants to be a famous artist in the White world, he needs a White education.

There are two things that I love about this book: one is that Junior’s experience is completely relatable to high schoolers everywhere, and two is that Junior’s experience is not at all relatable to anyone who isn’t Indian. In True Diary, Alexie manages to perfectly capture the primal feelings that every young adult experiences. In this way any reader will understand and love Junior’s story.

Nevertheless, Alexie never lets the reader forget that Junior is a Indian from the reservation. True Diary examines not only common teen experiences, but ones that were true for an author who grew up on the real-life Spokane Indian Reservation. Partly biographical, True Diary details what it is like to live in real poverty in a country that seems to have forgotten you, and your people.

True Diary is an amazing story that I would recommend to pretty much everyone. Thought-provoking and heartfelt, Alexie has created a masterful YA novel that examines differences and creates empathy.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian.


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The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo, by Drew Weing

Charles could not be more appalled by his situation. His family has moved him from their sleepy suburban home to the expansive, and statistically unsafe, Echo City. The city is dirty, his new bedroom is too small, and the Asian market on the corner doesn’t sell his brand of chicken nuggets! To make matters worse, Echo City appears to be infested with ghosts, trolls, and an endless variety of monsters, all of which would not be opposed to taking a bite out of Charles.

Enter Margo Maloo: Monster Mediator. Her job is to resolve conflicts between children and monsters, and Charles is about to find out that she does not always rule in the child’s favor.

One reason I love this graphic novel is that Charles is learning and changing during the story. Charles starts out as a spoiled, self-centered, and small minded brat. When he asks for Margo’s help, she has some bad news; the monsters causing his problems were there before he was, and he needs to respect that. He can’t just barge into a place and bulldoze the existing tenants, because she won’t let him. After some tough-love lessons from Margo, Charles learns how to respect others and live in a diverse world.

This book features some impressively subtle metaphors. While not directly teaching lessons, The Creepy Case Files will expose readers to the dynamics behind heavy topics such as imperialism, manifest destiny, and modern gentrification. Hopefully, stories like these will give kids the groundwork to fully grasp these topics when they are older.

Check the Pinellas Public Library Catalog for this item.


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The Creeps, by Chris Schweizer

creeps-schweizerCarol, Mitchell, Jarvis, and Rosario are not popular. Their investigations into the bizarre happenings of their sleepy town have raised the ire of their classmates, their teachers, and even the police. Throughout Pumpkins County they are known as “The Creeps”. Not to say their title isn’t apt; on any given day the gang could find themselves elbow deep in reanimated frog corpses or fighting a mutant pudding monster (creepy stuff), but the ill-will from the townsfolk is completely unwarranted! How many times have these kids saved the town? Lots, just ask them, they’ll tell you! But nobody seems to care about the monsters that threaten the fine folk of Pumpkins County, and so The Creeps will continue their thankless job.

This title currently consists of three volumes, and each one is amazing. The Creeps is marked as juvenile fiction, but I would strongly recommend it to all graphic novel readers. *This series is marked as “multi-cultural”, meaning that roughly 60% of the characters you see on the page are not white. This helps to make Pumpkins County an amazing display of diversity. The townsfolk come in every color, size, shape, and even social circle that humans can come in. You’ll see farmers, punks, jocks, little old ladies, and environmentalists walking the streets. Almost any reader could pick up this book and see a character that reflects them.

Additionally, Schweizer takes care to depict the townsfolk as people who are worth saving, even though they can be cruel. Even the most rotten school bullies are rendered likable to some degree. The most lovable characters of all, though are the Creeps. Each character has their own unique skills and hobbies that complement the group’s goals, making them the perfect mystery solving team. Possibly the very best part of the book, however, is the relationship the Creeps have with one another. Carol, Mitchell, Jarvis, and Rosario joke and pick on each other good-naturedly, but when the stakes are high, they are there for each other 100%.

Each volume of The Creeps is humorous, harrowing, a little bit touching, and completely charming. The volumes are episodic, and there is no need to read them in a certain order. So pick up a volume of The Creeps today!

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Creeps.


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Ash Vs. Evil Dead (2016)

ash-evil-deadAsh Williams, general deadbeat and failure, has a secret. As a youth, Ash witnessed his friends murdered and then possessed by an unspeakable evil. Summoning every ounce of his strength, he was able to push that evil back where it came from and keep the world safe. In the present day, after a drunken party trick gone wrong, Ash has unleashed the evil into the world again, and those evil forces are gunning for revenge.

If you haven’t already seen first three Evil Dead films, let me warn you: this series is incredibly gory. However, despite the literal blood and guts flying all over the place, the show remains light, campy, and a little irreverent. Ash vs. the Evil Dead remains true to the spirit of the films—that is to say tastelessly gruesome.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Ash Vs. Evil Dead.


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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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2016 Year in Review

2016favorites-tinypng

2016 has been a good year for our blog; hits and comments are up from last year. We hope our spot in cyberspace has helped someone out there find a really good book or movie to enjoy.

Listed here are our favorite books, movies, and music that we enjoyed in 2016. While some of these titles aren’t new this year, it’s never too late for a good recommendation.

First, the 2016 favorites from our patrons. These stats were collected from checkouts countywide.

Most checked out fiction book:
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Most checked out nonfiction book:
The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Most checked out DVD:
Downton Abbey Season Six

And now staff shares their favorite books, movies, and music that they loved in 2016.

Cathy
Book: The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Movie: Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them
Music: Blackstar by David Bowie

Toni
Book: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Movie: Moana
Music: The Hamilton Mixtape by various artists

Andrew
Book: Raven: The Untold Story of Rev. Jim Jones and His People by Tim Reiterman
Movie: The Nice Guys
Music: Emotional Mugger by Ty Segall

Mike
Book: The Quartet: Orchestrating the Second American Revolution, 1783-1789 by Joseph J. Ellis
Movie: Race
Music: “Growing Up” from the album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

AnnMarie
Book: H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
Movie: Zootopia
Music: “Don’t Wanna Fight” from the album Sound & Color by Alabama Shakes

Bret:
Book: Forward: A Memoir by Abby Wambach

Erin
Book: Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage by Haruki Murakami

Dave
Book: Fool by Christopher Moore

Bonnie
Book: Pure by Julianna Baggot

Tony
Book: Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds

Beth
Book: Bindi Babes by Narinder Dham

Bonus:
Looking to read more books in 2017? Joining a reading challenge is a great way to stay motivated and read a wider range of authors and subjects. There are many challenges out there, but this Master List of 2017 Reading Challenges is very comprehensive. Prepare to be literally inspired.

Happy New Year 2017, everyone!


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The Friends, by Kazumi Yumoto

friends-yumotoYamashita, Kawabe, and Kiyama are friends on the verge of adulthood, or at least middle school. With the future looming ahead, the three boys think it is high time they underwent a rite of passage, namely: witnessing a death. For this activity, the boys choose to watch an unkempt old man who looks as if he has one foot in the grave already. Their plans crumble when the old man realizes he is being watched. Proving to be very lively, he browbeats the boys into doing his house work. Yamashita, Kawabe, and Kiyama’s grand rite of passage is ruined, but their journey to adulthood is just beginning.

This book is a Japanese import. Fully translated, it still contains some concepts that may not be familiar to American readers. The text explains these things in a way that can be understood and is unobtrusive to the narrative. The Friends reads almost like a 1980’s film, making the text easy and enjoyable to read.

The story is simultaneously warm, and unsentimental. The harsh realities of life and death are examined realistically, but this is softened by the truly wonderful relationships that develop between the characters. As the story unfolds, the old man becomes a nurturing figure that the three boys never knew they needed. Conversely, the boys bring a spark back into the old man’s life, enabling him to face his past, and his quickly shrinking future. This is a book for readers 10 and up, but has applications for any reader experiencing grief, death, or the existential terror brought on by the passage of time.