Mama Lala Reads: Maya and the Rising Dark

My Thoughts (SPOILERS): This book makes me want to research. I know I’ve heard of the Orisha before…

First Line: “T- minus five days.”

Summary: There is magic in this world, and the rest, and nobody knows it. One day Maya watches the color drain from the world, and wonders if she is going crazy. Then her dad disappears– literally– and Maya knows something is going on. When the truth is revealed to her, she knows she must go save her father.

Rating: 4.5 stars! I know something about this book must not be perfect, but I cannot think of it!

My Thoughts (SPOILERS): This book makes me want to research. I know I’ve heard of the Orisha before, I believe it is an African folklore, but i want to KNOW. I want to compare these characters to the Gods they are based on. I want to dive deep into the mythology.

A little warning, I wanted to read this book with my daughter, who is 9. I’m a little glad I didn’t. Some kids could handle this book at that age, and others would have nightmares. I’m not sure which side my girl would land on, and that is why I’m glad I didn’t share. The villain is quite creepy, and he can kill you in your dreams (which is why I was timid to share with my young one).

All in all, it’s a wonderful book, just be sure your creepy kid won’t get nightmares before you bring it home to them.

You can check it out at the library via the link above. Hope to see you soon.

Happy Reading my friends,

Chelsea (Mama Lala)

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Children’s Blizzard

The Children’s Blizzard by Melanie Benjamin

First line: The air was on fire.

Summary: On January 12, 1888 a blizzard swept across the Plains so suddenly it caught many settlers unawares. Over 200 people died during and as a result of the storm but a majority of them were children, which gave this storm its name, The Children’s Blizzard.

Young schoolteachers, Gerda and Raina, were teaching in their one room schoolhouses when the storm appeared. Unsure what to do with the frightened children they had to make a decision, stay in the cold building or brave the storm to find their ways home. The decisions of these young women lead to consequences they never even imagined.

My Thoughts: This book was more intense than I was ready for. I felt the tension and fear of the settlers as the storm swept over them. We are lucky to have weather forecasts that gives us some warning on what is coming. These people had nothing. And the amount of snow, temperatures and the white out conditions are terrifying.

I loved the different viewpoints that gave a look at the storm from several angles such as a young girl in the storm, the teachers, a newspaper man and a father who braved the storm to rescue his children. I cannot imagine the choices that these young girls had to make and the fear they would have felt. What sixteen year old with very little schooling could make a decision this big? That is a lot of pressure. Then the author spent time after the storm to see the aftermath on the land and the people. Many lives were lost due to carelessness or bad luck. People died just feet from their homes because they could not see where they were going through the snow.

From the Omaha Daily Bee on January 13, 1888.

After finishing the novel I visited www.newspapers.com, a library database with historical newspapers from all over the country. My ancestors spent years living on the Nebraska prairie. I wondered if there was any coverage of the storm near their hometown. I found nothing directly connected to them or their town but I read numerous stories in other papers that told the story of this tragic event.

FYI: The aftermath can be harsh for some readers especially hearing about the frostbite and amputations.

Anni’s Book Pick: Jacky Ha-Ha, My Life is a Joke

Jacky Ha-Ha, My life is a Joke by James Patterson

First Line: Greetings from jolly old England, darling daughters, where I am feeling anything but jolly.

Summary: Jacky Hart has found a hidden talent in the performing arts, and she’s a triple threat onstage! She wants nothing more than to act and sing all summer — but her parents have other plans for her. Jacky reluctantly signs up for a summer job in her resort town of Seaside Heights, New Jersey, where tourists come to enjoy the beach and fun carnival atmosphere. Now she has serious responsibilities like her job and babysitting her younger sisters, but Jacky longs to perform in the summer stock performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream . Can she handle all of her important commitments and still have fun with her friends — or will she learn that juggling isn’t one of her many talents? (jamespatterson.com)

My Thoughts: This book had me laughing the whole time, I enjoyed reading about Jacky and all of her summer troubles. I could not put this book down because I was always wondering ‘what will Jacky do next’. I liked this book not only because it is child appropriate, but also somewhat relatable. There were times when I would laugh and there were times when I would get worried. This book teaches several lessons, one being do not steal and another being sometimes life gets hard and we have to make choices we don’t like. I look forward to reading other books in this series.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Catherine the Great

Catherine the Great by Robert K. Massie

First line: Prince Christian Augustus of Anhalt-Zerbst was hardly distinguishable in the swarm of obscure, penurious noblemen who cluttered the landscape and society of politically fragmented eighteenth-century Germany.

Summary: Catherine the Great, Empress of Russia, reigned for over thirty years. She came to Russia as a fourteen-year-old German princess to marry the heir to the Russian throne. After years of marriage and her husband’s ascension to the throne she staged a coup and took over the country. During her time she implemented many new ideas of the Enlightenment on a country that had been living decades behind the rest of Europe.

My Thoughts: I became fascinated with Catherine the Great while watching the Hulu Original series, The Great. Even though it is not historically accurate it was a lot of fun! As I watched I looked up items about Catherine and her story is one that is made for television. She had power, lovers, and conflict. I knew that I needed to learn more about this woman who ruled such a vast empire. Luckily I was gifted the book for Christmas and I immediately started reading it.

I loved how the author wrote. It read like fiction. It was broken into short chapters dealing with different parts of her life and the people around her. I learned so much about the empress, the country and politics of the time. The book is 575 pages which is a time commitment but I broke it up by reading other books at the same time.

As I read I compared it to the TV show. Very little was the same but the show did include little details that gave it some peak into the history. The descriptions of her husband and the other members of Russian court are astounding. These people lived lives that are beyond what normal people can comprehend. It took me nearly a month to finish Catherine’s biography but I found it worth every minute. She did so much for her adoptive country. She bettered it and truly earned title of “Catherine the Great.”

FYI: The TV show is very adult. There are scenes of sex, violence, blood and vulgar language. But it has beautiful sets and costumes along with a great cast.

Courtney’s Book Chat: The Astonishing Color of After

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X. R. Pan

First Line: My mother is a bird.

Summary: Coping with her mother’s suicide, Leigh is shocked when she learns her mother has transformed into a red bird. She and her dad set off to visit her grandparents for the first time in Taiwan and find the bird. There, Leigh unravels her family history and tries to reconcile having kissed her long-time best friend Axel the day her mother died.

My Thoughts: I love this book. Emily X. R. Pan crafts lyrical prose while also retaining a decidedly distinct teen voice for her protagonist, Leigh. This book gives a nuanced portrayal over grief, family dynamics, and mental health, all while encompassing it within Taiwanese cultural norms. It resonates deeply with rich emotion and themes, which are enhanced by the deftly incorporated fantasy elements. Leigh’s character and feelings are also elegantly rendered through the use of color and art pigment. Though the amount of flashbacks surprised me and almost felt like they could have been better balanced out at times rather than clustered together, these flashbacks added depth to each character and relationship. It is the relationships that pulse at the heart of the book, both deeply-felt yet authentic with its natural dialogue. This works both for the brewing romance between Leigh and long-time best friend Axel and the relationships within Leigh’s family.

Captivating with many layers, The Astonishing Color of After is a beautiful book about family and grief through the realistic lense of a sixteen-year-old girl. It resonates with poignance and hope.

Looking Ahead to Valentine’s Day!

After the rush of the winter holidays, mid-January starts to feel a little dreary. My instinct is to find something to look forward too. Thankfully a holiday filled with love is right around the corner!

My family doesn’t do anything fancy to celebrate this particular holiday. It typically falls in the middle of some serious school time chaos but I love to do a little baking, and if some extra energy reserves are available a little something to give away to friends. This year my daughter is getting into the game and helping motivate my efforts!

Since we are still social distancing, she decided to put together little gift buckets to drop off on her best pals porches. Because I’m determined to incorporate more math into her world, I saw this as the perfect opportunity. She has been given a budget per bucket as well as a total amount to spend. Now off to the internet for research!

We have plenty of fun cooked up at the Library as well. Craft kits for all kid age groups, a Family Fun Challenge and more! Need some details? Click here

The library has loads of holiday books perfect to help spark some ideas on how to celebrate! My favorites though are the ones that help us learn how to be more kind and loving to the people around us, friends and stranger alike. Each title below will link to the catalog, ready for you to place it on hold for checkout at the drive-thru! Happy Valentines Day!

By: Emily Pearson
By: Pat Miller
By: Carol McCloud
By: Mij Kelly and Gerry Turley
By: Nancy Rose
By: Ruth Owen
By: Megan Borgert
By: Mike Berenstein

Meet Grace, our newest Youth Services Assistant!

This blog post was written by Grace Cavin, our newest Youth Services Assistant.

Hello new friends! 

Grace and her dog!

My name is Grace, and I just started as a Youth Services Assistant here at the library! I thought I’d share a few of my favorite books with you so you can get to know me.

I graduated this past May with a degree in English, and during my studies, I read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It radicalized me in college. You may know Dostoyevsky as the author of Crime and Punishment, but The Brothers Karamazov is a 700+ page read written very densely and full of weepy moments of despair, redemption, and maybe murder. It completely changed me as a person.

When it comes to my interests, I enjoy reading, writing, and learning all I can about quantum physics. It all began when I was probably ten or so and first read A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. I don’t want to spoil it by over summarizing the plot for you, but space and time travel are definitely involved. Also, if you’ve seen either film adaptation without reading the book, I would say that the heart of the book is lost in both of the adaptations so please read it if you haven’t (or if you have, maybe it’s time to read it again)! 

Growing up, I moved every few years (I think I’ve moved about a dozen times so far) and often the first friends I made were the stray neighborhood cats and the local librarians. Books on animals, especially mice, always ended up in the ginormous stack I’d take home every week from my local library. 

A few I remember enjoying that you could check out are: 

As for the books I’m currently reading, they’re a mixture of classics, fantasy, and mystery, which is just how I like it: 

  • Piranesi by Susanna Clarke—a book that I currently have no clue what is happening in, but I am loving the journey and the way the story is told.   
Grace on a trip to Colorado!

Thanks for reading my first blog post! Come by the Youth Services Desk sometime, and let’s chat! I’m happy to help you find your next great book!  

Fond Farewell To Our Youth Services Coordinator

After 23 years of service, our Youth Services Coordinator, Carri Fry, is retiring. Carri has been a part of the Derby Public Library’s many metamorphoses from the facility’s humble iterations to its now grand and growing infrastructure.

When Carri first joined the library’s team, only two employees worked in Youth Services, and due to circumstance, Carri found herself as the head of the department within a few years of employment. Now Carri manages a team of four others on staff and has supervised that team through facilitation of programs for all ages. Carri has watched our library’s Summer Reading Program evolve from just a few hundred reading finishers to the massive institution that is our summer reading program today with thousands of sign-ups and finishers and a prize package rivaling some of the country’s top libraries.

I’ve been a part of her team for nearly ten years and can still recall the joy and compassion she exuberated in my job interview. She has been a sturdy foundation for me and the Youth Services team. She’s been a leader and mentor, a voice of encouragement, and of course, “the library lady” to so many of our community’s families and their children. Her contributions to the Derby Public Library have helped to evolve our services and resources into what they are today.

Before joining the Derby Public Library’s team, Carri believed she would be a teacher. In college, she participated in preschool lab sessions and instantly knew that early education was the field for her. She would go on to become the director of a child care facility and commit most of her twenties and thirties to both aiding in the upbringing of her local community’s children, and in the raising of her own two boys.

When she was hired as the Youth Services Assistant in 1997, the Derby Public Library was a much smaller organization with barely enough room for preschool storytimes, but Carri would call upon her directorial experience once more when she became the Youth Services Coordinator.

More changes were to come for the library. She says “It has grown substantially. I was fortunate to take part in the campaign, design, and move to our new facility in 2009. And with this new building, we are able to expand the number and scope of the programs we offer the community. By incorporating technology, we have truly become a community gathering space.”

First day at the new library!

Soon Carri was adding more part-time positions into her team which allotted for expanded programming. Derby as a city was also expanding, and summer reading program seasons required additional hires and teen volunteers. Carri also introduced school-aged programming for K-5th graders into the weekly schedule and built long-lasting partnerships with some of our well-known summer performers like Jim Cosgrove and Jay and Leslie’s Laughing Matters.

When Carri reflects upon some of her greatest achievements, many examples come to mind.

“I take great pride in the the Arlee Killion Early Literacy Area and StoryWalk Derby. The Early Literacy Area was made possible by a generous gift from Arlee’s children. I had the privilege to design and implement this addition to the library in 2016. It has proven to be a very popular destination for young families and grandparents. I also had the opportunity in collaboration with the Derby Health Collaborative, City of Derby, and other community sponsors to bring StoryWalk Derby to High Park in 2017. I took the lead on this project as well as designing and installing picture books displayed in signage around the pond and in Derby’s High Park.”

Carri and I also share an achievement that we worked on together in 2016. Carri and I applied for the Association of Library Services to Children (ALSC) Curiosity Creates Grant with funding provided to the ALSC by the Walt Disney Company. We were one of 79 recipients and the only recipient in Kansas to receive the grant! Using this funding, we adapted our popular Teen Moviecraft summer program into a 12-week spring program for tweens. Carri and I also published an academic paper entitled Chasing Disney: Tween Filmmakers Get Their Shot at Creativity in the ALSC’s professional journal. This was such a highlight for both of us, and we were surprised to have won the grant and had the chance to provide our program on a much bigger scale. You can even watch us in their documentary here!

When Carri recalls some of her fondest memories, it really all goes back to the children.

“Working with children from a newborn infant’s first library experience to seeing preschool children have so much in storytime to watching them fall in love with books and reading to the teenagers who feel like they belong here…watching them grow and have families of their own and be a part of their children’s lives is the best.”

Of course, as with any position, Carri has been met with challenges over the years. From department changes and communicating with other partners to navigating and adapting our services during a global pandemic, Carri has learned so much about doing what is best for the community. When asked what are the more difficult aspects of the supervisory role, Carri says that “hiring” is one of the harder elements. “You only have a small glimpse into who this person is, and really, you have to go with your gut instinct to know if they will be the right fit.”

I’ve definitely benefited from how she’s modeled leadership over the years, and she suggests that a supervisor “should always consider the work that the team is doing and approach the team with as much understanding and empathy as possible.”

Carri and fellow employee, Linda

When looking to the future, Carri recommends to any new librarians to “find a specialization in the field, especially within Youth Services. Focus on a particular age group or demographic, and incorporate learning into your everyday life. Be a life-long learner.”

Carri will continue that learning even into her retirement. She plans to join the Friends of the Library and volunteer her support. She hopes to one day join the Library Board and also to act as a consultant for other libraries interested in developing early literacy elements or youth resources into their facilities. She also is looking forward to some quality time with her family.

Carri with her husband, Monte

“I’ll be spending time with my husband Monte and our sons Vaughn and Tyler and our extended family. Monte and I have been very fortunate to have been able to travel internationally a great deal in the past years and plan on more adventures once travel restrictions are lifted. In addition, we are planning on purchasing an RV to travel around the U.S.”

On my very first day at the library, Carri immediately encouraged me to jump in and give a program a try. She truly believes in the abilities of others, in their adaptability to work, and in their creativity to mold and match the needs of our patrons. Of all her talents as a leader and supervisor, one of her greatest is in her constant look towards a sustainable team. This has been most apparent now as we move into a new generation of Youth programming in an ever-evolving community and world.

Carri may be moving onto the next adventure of her life, but it’s a guarantee that she has made a lasting imprint on our library staff and on every family that she has supported. We here at the library, all of our patrons, and even our beloved books thank her for these years of service and will always remember her dedication and passion to the power of stories.

What’s Ashley Reading?: Clanlands

Clanlands by Sam Heughan & Graham McTavish

First line: Well, in The Beginning…there was a man in a kilt.

Summary: Sam Heughan and Graham McTavish, stars of the widely popular TV show Outlander set out on a trip around the Highlands of Scotland exploring the history, culture and landscape of this beautiful countryside. In their camper van they traverse the roads, lochs and pubs while sampling whiskey and traditional foods of the Highlanders.

My Thoughts: I highly recommend checking out the audiobook on CloudLibrary because I feel that this is what made the book much more interesting. Sam and Graham narrate the book. They recount times on set and with fellow cast members. They goof around and make fun of each other. I could tell that they really enjoy each other’s company and are good friends.

I learned a lot about the history of Scotland while reading this. As I listened I looked up the locations and people mentioned. It is astounding that there are homes older than our country. I could tell how proud they are to be Scottish.

I have always wanted to visit Scotland but I want to go even more after reading/watching Outlander. The land is beautiful and wild. The culture is rich and enduring. Much of my genealogy comes from Scotland. I want to experience the world my ancestors knew.

FYI: Find the audio book on CloudLibrary.

Monica’s Musings: Coraline

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

“She had the feeling that the door was looking at her, which she knew was silly, and knew on a deeper level was somehow true.”

― Neil Gaiman, Coraline

            I, like most people, love the claymation movie, Coraline. When I first watched it back in 2009, I was young enough for it to sort of scare me! Now it is one of my favorites to watch during Halloween season. I chose to listen to the audiobook this year because I have always heard that books are better than movies, and I wanted to see if that was true for this one.

            Coraline is a young girl who has just moved into a new apartment with her mom and dad. Their new place is big, and they have a lot of odd neighbors. Coraline’s parents are workaholics who refuse to look up from their computers to give her any attention. So, she spends her time exploring, and one day she finds a tiny door in her apartment that leads to another world! It is an alternate universe of such, and it seems a little too perfect. In this world, her mother and father have all the time in the world to spend with her, which is what keeps her coming back. However, her excitement begins to disappear when she finds out the real motive of her “other” parents.

            I knew I would love this book because of how amazing the movie is. Honestly, I did not think that either one was superior to the other. Each allowed me to imagine a strange world that exists inside the mind of the author, Neil Gaiman. Not to mention, Gaiman reads the audiobook version, so it is told exactly how he imagined it to be read. I will listen to this story again, and I will watch the movie again! Overall, it is a great story in all formats.