Books in the Park

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


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The Raven Cycle series, by Maggie Stiefvater

raven-boys-stiefvaterA family of psychics, a prophecy of death to a first true love, a boy who once cheated certain demise, an ancient legendary king who will grant one wish to the one who discovers him, rolling Virginia hills, mysterious ancient magic that lives in forests—you had me at hello.

Enter Blue Sargent, a seemingly typical teenage girl who is trying to get through school, works a part time job at a local pizza joint, and wants to move out of her small town in Virginia once she graduates. Seems normal, right? Wrong. Blue belongs to a family of psychics who perform all manner of fortune telling, tarot card reading, phone psychic hot line, bowl scrying, talk to the trees type stuff. Except, Blue seems to be the only member of the family who does not possess the gift. She is a major player in the family business, however, due to her ability to amplify their psychic powers.

The story begins on St. Mark’s Eve, where Blue sits at midnight in a church with her aunt, Neeve. Blue’s duty is to write down the names of all souls who pass into the church—souls that will perish in the coming year. Blue, of course, cannot see these souls. However, this St. Mark’s Eve proves to be different than from those in the past. One soul she is able to see. A teenage boy, wearing the sweater of the local all-boys private academy, Aglionby, drenched and whose name, he tells her, is Gansey. Blue seems struck at how close this boy feels to her and wonders why she is able to see this ghost when she cannot see any other. Neeve simply replies, “There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve, Blue. Either you’re his true love, or you killed him.”

And so begins the story of Blue Sargent joining Richard Gancey, Adam Parrish, Ronan Lynch, and Noah Czerny on a quest to find the ancient sleeping Welsh king, Glendower, who is rumored to be slumbering in the mountains of Virginia. The readers know from the get-go that Gansey faces impending doom and we read the story because, like Blue, we are railing against it. Along the way we discover hidden magical realms, remarkable talents that have been kept secret from the closest of friends, and characters that should not be walking on this Earth but seem to find a way. Fans of urban fantasy should sink their teeth into this juicy steak of a series.

Unfortunately, I had to wait for the release of each book with bated breath—The Raven Boys; The Dream Thieves; Blue Lily, Lily Blue; and The Raven King. But you, oh lucky reader, can devour this entire series as fast as your little eyes will allow. Enjoy it! It truly is one of the very best teen series I have read, and I’ve read so, so many.

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Raven Cycle series.


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Lost & Found, by Shaun Tan

lost found tanThree timeless tales for all ages with stunning and unique illustrations that will speak to an inner part of yourself, a part which relates to feelings of loss, nostalgia, and hope.

In the first tale, “The Red Tree”, a nameless character, a bright spot of color in a world of dull and subdued tones, is weighted down with feelings of isolation and melancholy. She meanders through her daily routine with no sense of direction or meaning until one day a bright red a leaf, a symbol of hope that blossoms into a flaming red tree, saves her from her bleak and subdued world.

“The Lost Thing”, my personal favorite, is about a boy who discovers a lost robotic “thing” wondering near the beach one day. Nobody seems to notice or care that it is lost and the boy decides to take it home. His parents, too busy speaking about current events to truly notice the lost thing, tell the boy that he needs to take it back. The lost thing, a metaphor for the loss of wonder, magic, and imagination of childhood, makes me nostalgic for the days where we could run and play outdoors for the entire day, noticing little details, not weighted down with worries and responsibility.

The last story, “The Rabbits”, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, is about a profound environmental crisis, a conflict between the old ways of spiritualism and the new ways of overbearing technology. This story is at once ageless and applicable to our current situation.

The themes in Lost & Found make it a collection that readers of all ages will want to return to again and again. The artwork is so detailed and unique that adults and children alike will look at it many times and always notice something new. I can’t recommend this book enough; it has been a book that I have revisited many times and enjoyed immensely. Look for Lost & Found in our chapter book section.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Lost & Found.


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The Chicken Squad by Doreen Cronin

chicken squadCronin’s transitional reader is a superb blend of hardboiled detective story and comedy. Cornell’s animated illustrations add life and dimension to the characters, and ultimately amplify the story’s humor.

The four main characters—Dirt, Sugar, Poppy, and Sweetie—are four chicken siblings looking for crimes to solve. Despite their small stature, these chickens’ personalities demand attention. Adults and children alike will enjoy the chicken squad’s sharp humor, which is represented perfectly in their attempt at adult-like reactions to the situation. Despite the young chickens’ attempt at maturity, it is obvious that they approach life with a child’s outlook—such as a fascination with shapes and colors, and the fact that Dirt carries around a sketchpad with crayons. The supporting characters are interesting as well—the scaredy-cat squirrel and the old retired search-and-rescue dog.

The mystery has the reader guessing until the very end of the story. What is that shiny green object that the squirrel is so afraid of in the yard? Could it really be a UFO that has come to abduct the farm yard animals? You’ll have to read the story to find out!

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Chicken Squad.