Author Archives: Aimee Owen

#BookFaceFriday “Very Valentine”

If the shoe fits…

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani is the first book in the Valentine trilogy, and was an obvious choice for the week of Valentine’s Day! Love, travel, and shoes… what more could a girl ask for?

“With its vibrant cast of characters, its magical settings, and handmade shoes to die for Very Valentine is a sumptuous feast, a celebration of love and loss filled with Adriana Trigiani’s trademark heart and humour.” – from the back cover.

This week’s #BookFaceFriday model is Administrative and Communications Staff Assistant Kayla Henzel.

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available at Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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#BookFaceFriday “Miracle on 49th Street”

This week’s bookface was nothing but net!

Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica is the story of professional basketball player Josh Cameron, who is suddenly confronted by 12-year-old Molly, the daughter he never knew he had. Molly has just lost her mother to cancer, and is shocked to discover that her father is none other than her favorite Celtics’ MVP. Now all she has to do is convince Josh that she’s telling him the truth…

“This novel is . . . an enjoyable read with interesting peeks into the world of professional basketball. It will appeal to young teen sports enthusiasts as well as kids just looking for a good story.” –VOYA

Today’s #BookFace model is an “oldie but a goodie!” Sue Biltoft is back with the NLC as our accountant. Sue returned to us in December after a few years off, and we are very happy she did!

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available for book clubs at Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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#BookFaceFriday “The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist”

To #BookFace, perchance to dream…

“Poetry is all I have to give. I don’t know any other way to help.” Based on real-life abolitionist Gertrudis Gomez de Avellanda (Tula), Margarita Engle’s book of verse tells the story of a brave young woman who fought against her family’s expectations and spoke out against her country’s treatment of women and the practice of slavery. The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionistis a part of our NLC Book Club Kit collection, and is one of many YA selections that we have available. Reserve it for your book club today!

“An inspiring fictionalized verse biography of one of Cuba’s most influential writers… Fiery and engaging, a powerful portrait of the liberating power of art.” – Kirkus Reviews

Today’s #BookFace model is one of our Talking Book & Braille Service reader advisors, Holly!

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available for book clubs at Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: Paperback Crush: The Totally Radical History of ’80s and ’90s Teen Fiction by Gabrielle Moss

My most vivid memory of second grade was trying to read a Sweet Valley Twins book under my desk during class, only to get caught and kept in from recess. This may have happened multiple times (sorry, Mrs. Wade). From the ages 8 to 12, I heavily favored the sort of books that Gabrielle Moss revisits in her new history of tween and teen fiction from the 1980s and ’90s, Paperback Crush.

Flipping through this book was a fun trip down memory lane, with stops along the way in Stoneybrook, CT, Sweet Valley, CA, and Shadyside, OH. Was it classic literature? Not in the slightest. But I would stalk the shelves of my local library or mall bookstore, just waiting for the latest installment of my series-du-jour.

I was surprised at how many titles/series I had forgotten about over the years. Sleepover Friends and Girl Talk, The Face on the Milk Carton, 2 Young 2 Go 4 Boys; their plots had obviously wormed their way into my subconscious, judging by how many clubs I convinced friends to form and how fascinating the idea of having a twin was to tween-age me.

Moss has broken down the 80s/90s teen fiction genre into 7 broad themes (love, friends, family, school, jobs, danger, and terror) and covers the most popular books for each theme, and the knockoffs they inspired. Teen fiction during this time period certainly had its flaws: lack of diversity, corny plot-lines and cheesy cover art, neatly wrapped up endings, but it also fueled the girl-power movement and sparked a lifelong love of reading for many of us. These girls could do anything – take on the school bully, run for class president, deal with an annoying brother or divorcing parents, fight vampires… Interspersed throughout are interviews with authors such as Rhys Bowen, Caroline Cooney, and Christoper Pike, as well as a timeline of teen lit from the turn of the 20th century until more modern times.

If you ever started your own babysitter’s club, or asked yourself if you were an Elizabeth or a Jessica, I would recommend spending a couple of nostalgia-filled hours with this “totally radical” history book.

Moss, Gabrielle. Paperback Crush. Philadelphia, PA : Quirk Books. 2018.

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Friday Reads: (Another) Year in Review

As we begin the countdown to 2019, the Nebraska Library Commission is looking back at all the great books we’ve reviewed in 2018!

In our weekly blog series Friday Reads, a staff member at the Nebraska Library Commission posts a review of a book every Friday. Spanning all genres, from short stories to celebrity memoirs, young adult to crime fiction, we’ve shared what we’ve read and why we’ve read it.

Former NLC staffer Laura Johnson created this series to model the idea of talking about books and to help readers get to know our staff a little better. Readers advisory and book-talking are valuable skills for librarians to develop, but they are ones that take practice. We hope that our book reviews will start a conversation about books among our readers and encourage others to share their own reviews and recommendations.

The series has been going strong for 4 1/2 years and has produced over 200 reviews, which are archived on the NCompass blog, or you can browse a list of reviews here.

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Friday Reads: Short Story Binge

The Booklist Reader recently had a blog post about short stories that have been turned into feature films, leading with the announcement of a new film adaptation of The Lottery by Shirley Jackson. My first thought was that it would be difficult to create a full-length movie out of such a  short story, but the more I sat with it, the more it made sense. After all, most movies based on books have to trim the story considerably to fit within the allotted time. With a short story, you can capture the entire plot, or even expand as needed, playing with pacing and visual and sound effects.

The list of short stories and their corresponding big screen treatment inspired me to pick up a few of the suggested titles, so I’ve been having my own “short-story-athon” this past month. Here are some of the collections I chose from Booklist Reader’s list that I would recommend for anyone looking for a break from 300+ page novels:

Stories Of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang. A collection of science fiction and fantasy tales, the title story was the basis for the 2016 movie Arrival.

Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage by Alice Munro. The title story was adapted into Hateship Loveship with Kristen Wiig of SNL fame and is currently streaming on Netflix.

Short Cuts by Raymond Carver. Robert Altman adapted this collection for the screen, and he writes the introduction.

The Safety of Objects by A.M. Homes. Tales of suburban life and how you never know what is happening behind closed doors. The movie didn’t get rave reviews, but don’t let that dissuade you from reading it.

Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx. My library didn’t have the collection that this story is in (Close Range, one of three collections she wrote set in Wyoming), but I was able to listen to just Brokeback Mountain as an audio download during my commute one day. The movie stays very true to the story, and is a great example of why short stories make good films.

Love movies based on books? (Or hate ’em?). If you missed our recent NCompass Live discussion on the topic, you can catch it in the archives: Book Vs Movie: The Ultimate Showdown!

Chiang, Ted. Stories Of Your Life and Others. 2014. Audio.
Munro, Alice. Hateship, Friendship, Courtship, Loveship, Marriage. 2001. Print.
Carver, Raymond. Short Cuts. 1993. Print.
Homes, A.M. The Safety Of Objects. 1990. Print.
Proulx, Annie. Brokeback Mountain. 2005. Audio.

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#BookFaceFriday – “Pope Joan”

#BookFace– the woman, the myth, the legend!

“For a thousand years her existence has been denied. She is the legend that will not die–Pope Joan, the ninth-century woman who disguised herself as a man and rose to become the only female ever to sit on the throne of St. Peter…in this riveting novel, Donna Woolfolk Cross paints a sweeping portrait of an unforgettable heroine who struggles against restrictions her soul cannot accept.”

Pope Joan” by Donna Woolfolk Cross (Ballentine Books, 2009) is this week’s #BookFaceFriday selection. Based on the legend of the only women to hold the papal throne, it is the “dramatic story of a woman whose strength of vision led her to defy the social restrictions of her day”.   This novel a part of our NLC Book Club Kit collection, and it’s the perfect choice for book clubs that like historical fiction.

Pope Joan has all the elements one wants in a historical drama–love, sex, violence, duplicity, and long-buried secrets. Cross has written an engaging book.”–Los Angeles Times Book Review

This week’s #BookFaceFriday model is our interim director of the Western Library System, Kathy Terrell!

Love this #BookFace & reading? We suggest checking out all the titles available for book clubs at Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison

All 5-year-old Mike wanted from life was to go to Disney World. One day, his dad packed him in the car, drove him to an abandoned shipyard, and told him that The Happiest Place on Earth must have closed. That was the day that ol’ Mike Muñoz realizes that life will be a constant disappointment, and just when you think you’re going to get what you want, it will all be taken away.

Today, Mike is a 22-year-old landscaper (although he prefers the title “topiary artist” for his skills with the hedge-trimmers). He still lives with his mom and his developmentally disabled brother, their dad long gone to parts unknown. He drives a junky car, always one step away from engine failure, and still hangs out with his high school buddy, neither of them with any romantic prospects on the horizon.

When Mike loses his landscaping job for refusing to pick up dog poo, he is determined to do whatever it takes to break free of his hand-to-mouth existence and chase the American Dream, perhaps writing “the great American landscaping novel” along the way. And so begins a series of unfortunate events that will be all too familiar to anyone who has ever tried to escape from the cycle of poverty that holds down a good portion of our society. Though angry and resentful about his lot in life, Mike keeps his sense of humor, even as “The Man” takes everything else away.

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Behind the Scenes of #BookFaceFriday

BookFace How To GifCrafting our weekly #BookFaceFriday series this past year has been a blast! We’ve posted before about our bookface photos highlighting the Nebraska 150 book list, and we’ve since expanded into our book club kit and University Press collections. Today, we’ll take you behind the scenes to show you how we construct a bookface photo.

We start by judging books by their covers, so to speak. (We know librarians are not supposed to do that, but we like to bend the rules sometimes. Shhhh, don’t tell!) Books with faces on them are obvious choices, of course, but sometimes we mix things up with a body part or even holiday decor. On occasion, we use the photo to promote an event or award, but for the most part, we just like to share fun covers in our collections.

After we have the book, we choose our victim, er, model. Library Commission staff are regularly featured, but we also like to snag visitors when we can. Please don’t let that discourage you from visiting us.

Then comes the real “work” of posing the model and lining up the shot. Our photographer, Tessa Terry, goes to great lengths to get model and book aligned just so. I mainly just stand there with my arm out, trying not to let the book shake too much.

Love this #BookFace & reading? Want to check out all of our past #BookFaceFriday photos?  Follow us on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page or subscribe to the NLC blog!

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Friday Reads: Greetings From Witness Protection by Jake Burt

Do you ever dream about starting over? Leaving your old life behind, assuming a new identity and becoming a whole other person?

Elena Sicurezza was a lawyer for a notorious crime family, the Cercatores. After testifying against the mob, she and her husband and son are placed into witness protection. The U.S. Marshals decide adding a daughter to the family will make them harder to find – after all, the mob is looking for 3 people, not 4. Enter Nicki Demure.

13 year old Nicki is in-between foster families, a ward of the state after her father went to prison and her grandmother passed away. As hard as she tries, she just can’t seem to stick with any one foster placement – partially because she has a smart mouth and a bad habit of picking pockets, and also because she just knows her father will come for her as soon as he is paroled. But… Nicki learns that he has been released from prison and still hasn’t shown up… two years later. So when a federal marshal offers her the chance to join a family going into hiding, she takes the plunge.

So the Sicurezza family of New York become the Trevors of Ohio, and Nicki is transformed into their daughter Charlotte. The family is placed in North Carolina, where they try to lay low.

Pick up this middle grade novel to see how Nicki/Charlotte handles Southern-belle mean girls, visits from gangster henchmen, and a new brother who is loathe to give up his only-child status. If you enjoy humorous realistic fiction, you’ll love this story as much as I did!

Burt, Jake. Greetings From Witness Protection. Feiwel & Friends, 2017. Print.

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Tracking our reading: a conversation

Here at the Nebraska Library Commission, we talk about books A LOT. Surprised? Nah, we aren’t either.

Last week, Lisa Kelly and I chatted with our Online Services Librarian, Susan Kniseley, about our respective habits of tracking our books read, how we got started, and why we continue to do it.

SK: So both of you have indicated that you track the books you read each year. How long ago did you start keeping track of your reading? Also, can you share a bit about the mechanism you use? (I feel so NPR!)

LK: I started about 15 years ago when I made a new year’s resolution to read a book a week, because I wanted to be more intentional about my reading habits and to note my accomplishment when I finished. I use an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of my books. You are SO NPR Susan!

AO: I track primarily through Goodreads because it was used by a reading group I was in. I’ve been doing it for about 6 years. I am sure I used to keep paper lists earlier in life, but only sporadically. This year I am also going to track in my bullet journal (a customizable planner/diary/to-do list).

SK: What sort of information do each of you track about the books you read? Do you just list title/author, or do you include more information, like number of pages? Do you rate it?

LK: Over the years, I’ve definitely increased the number of audio books I consume – so I note when I read text vs listen, when I finish,if it was for a book club assignment and if it was part of series. No page numbers, no ratings, but I do include if someone recommended it – or other facts I think are important – like if my co-worker Susan and I read it together.

AO: I keep track of why I’m reading them on Goodreads, through the various “shelves” you can designate – if it’s for Golden Sower, reading aloud to my kids, something I need to know more about for reader advisory purposes, books on parenting, etc. Also the date I finished. I don’t designate audio versus print – I can’t tell the difference in my mind once I’m done. I do rate books, but I don’t worry about page numbers. And I’m a generous book-rater – I like most!

SK: So Lisa, since you are using Excel, do you ever play around with sorting, assuming you track information in different cells? (Awww, that’s so sweet Lisa. I’m part of your system!)

LK: No data collection of any sort- I just list the books so I can keep track, and note if I’m running behind and need to crack the whip to hit 52 before 12/31.

SK: And Aimee, is there a rating system you use in Goodreads, or do you make up your own? Do you write comments?

AO: They have a 5 star rating system, with 3 being “liked it”, 4 “really liked it”, 5 “loved it”. I am not even sure what 1-2 are because I don’t use them. If I’ve finished a book, I like it well enough to read to the end. I don’t write comments often, but I love to read them!

LK: Are you two aware of other folks who keep book lists?

AO: I have a lot of friends (real-life friends) that are also on Goodreads, so it’s nice to see what other people are reading at the same time.

LK: Does that affect your reading selections?

AO: Reading selections, no – I will note if they’ve read something I’ve already read, but I don’t usually get my ideas from there.

LK: Do you think it’s a boastful activity? The list keeping? Or do others view it that way?

AO: Sometimes, sure, but it’s generally just like everything else on social networking these days – we just overshare. And I think anything that encourages reading in our over-scheduled world is good – even boasting!

SK: Not necessarily boastful. And I knew Lisa kept a list, but I don’t recall her ever saying anything about it in terms of number of titles read.

LK: LOL — I don’t tell many people that I keep track. When I asked my book group if they kept lists, they said no – but concluded it would have been helpful when they started reading a book they’d already read (or already purchased). I do consult my lists when I’ve had to (gasp) skip over series titles (Jack Reacher) and need to fill in the blanks.

SK: I follow a vegan cooking person who I don’t know personally. She never talks about much except vegan cooking, but every year she posts a list of books she’s read. It’s neat to see this different aspect of her life.

LK: I like that Susan – it is a bit of a thumbprint of sorts, don’t you think?

AO: Agreed – it’s not why you follow them, but it does make them more human in your mind.

SK: It’s nice to know people read in their private life.

LK: It’s a bit like looking at someone’s books on their shelves when you visit their house.

SK: So Lisa mentioned keeping on track to reach 52 books by 12/31. Do you both have reading goals? If so, how have they changed?

AO: I did a Goodreads annual challenge several years ago, and have done one ever since. It used to be 100-120 books a year, but the last two years I’ve dropped back to 52-60.

SK: So here’s another thing I wondered about. Has the act of keeping a list had any impact on your reading life? Has it changed how or what you read in any way?

AO: Well, other than reading an occasional poetry book just for a quick score on my tally, I don’t think it has. I started keeping track because I needed to read certain books for the Golden Sower committee, but I would have been reading those regardless, and my “adult” book preferences haven’t changed.

LK: I can’t say the list has changed me – being in a book group has pulled me in different reading directions – but I feel satisfaction in looking at old lists and one one book can often naturally lead to another, i.e. Ruth Bader Ginsberg lead to Gloria Steinem. Richard Miller and I both said this last night at book group, age has lead us to read more bios, more nonfiction, and I’d say that’s true for me. But, I still adore my series authors.

SK: So when you look back over your entire list, stretching back several years, do you find anything noteworthy? Do you notice trends or changes? Does it seem to reflect anything in your life?

LK: Probably nothing worth putting into a paragraph other than the satisfaction of keeping a goal for many years – and that feels a bit like getting an A on your report card.

AO: My interests have changed – more books about parenting now (or complaining about parenting might be more accurate? Mommy-lit rather than chick-lit).

SK: So Aimee, do you feel the same satisfaction with hitting a goal that Lisa feels? In terms of number of title read in a year?

AO: I did when I read 100-120. I felt rather lazy last year with only 52 (I think I actually read 60 or so).

SK: So do you both record every single book you read? Or do you occasionally leave something off your list? If so, why?

LK: Since my lists are private – I don’t leave anything off. I think the act of the list is rather like a report card, showing progress, and a type A person like me gets enjoyment out of the process of tracking something.

AO: I can’t think of the last one I left off the list; I am pretty sure I list them all. Sometimes there is a book that I feel self-conscious about reading for whatever reason, but I figure no one is paying any more attention to what I’m reading than I am to their lists.

SK: That’s one of the reasons I stopped using Goodreads – I’m sure I could have figured out privacy settings, but I didn’t want to take the time, and I wasn’t sure I wanted all my books showing up to “friends” that I might not know well.

LK: Aimee – do you think you’ll always keep book lists?

AO: In one way or another – I enjoy having the history to look back on.

Thanks for reading through our ramblings! Do you keep track of your reading, online or elsewhere? Feel free to leave us a comment and join in the conversation.

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Friday Reads: A Year in Review

The NLC staff have done a lot of reading this year! We wanted to take a look at all the great books we’ve reviewed in 2017.

2017 Friday Reads CollageYou might be familiar with our weekly blog series Friday Reads; every Friday, a  staff member at the Nebraska Library Commission posts a review of a book. From memoirs to science fiction, murder mysteries to home organization, we’ve shared what we’ve read and why we’ve read it.

Former NLC staffer Laura Johnson created this series to model the idea of talking about books and to help readers get to know our staff a little better. Readers advisory and book-talking are valuable skills for librarians to develop, but they are ones that take practice. We hope that our book reviews will start a conversation about books among our readers and encourage others to share their own reviews and recommendations.

The series has been going strong for 3 1/2 years and has produced over 150 reviews, which are archived on the NCompass blog (,) or you can browse a list of reviews here:

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Friday Reads: The Dirty Life by Kristen Kimball

I have a secret obsession with farming. I have no delusions that I could actual be a farmer -I keep a small garden in the summer months, but I’m not a morning person, and prefer to keep my fingernails clean. However, I love to read tales of those who decide to take the plunge and live off the land. My latest foray into the realm of the modern homesteader was The Dirty Life: A Memoir of  Farming, Food, and Love by Kristin Kimball.

A New York City journalist, Kimball heads to rural Pennsylvania to interview an organic farmer about food trends. Despite her big-city lifestyle, she falls in love with the farmer and his dream of community-supported agriculture. Soon she’s traded her studio apartment in the East Village for a ramshackle house upstate, sans electricity, while she and the farmer search for land upon which to build his bucolic vision. She ditches 90% of her belongings, begins raising chickens, and gets engaged on a mountaintop. And that’s Chapter 1.

The rest of the book spans the first year of Kimball’s life with the farmer, as they find their land and begin the process of creating a self-sustaining farm, planning their wedding, and convincing their new community of the value of local, organic food. It’s full of the pastoral details I adore in print (but would run from screaming in real life I’m sure!): misbehaving roosters, tomato plants as tall as trees, Amish auctions, and a runaway team of horses. Kimball’s training as a journalist serves her well; I could smell the dirt and the vegetation and the life on the farm. As a good book should, it made me sad when I reached the last pages, but I’ll tuck it onto my bookshelf, knowing that I can visit the farm any time I want.

Kimball, Kristen. The Dirty Life: a Memoir of Farming, Food, and Love. New York: Scribner, 2010.
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Friday Reads: Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan

While my summer reading list was often full of nonfiction, despairing memoirs, and dystopian nightmare scenarios, sometimes I just need to escape into a quick summer beach read. In this case, my interlude came in the form of “mommy lit” – stories about mothers of young kids; sleep-deprived mothers who are running on coffee and dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets; moms who love their little ones dearly, but occasionally fantasize about long-ago child-free spa weekends – you know, someone I can relate to.

If you aren’t familiar with Bumni Laditan, she’s the creator of The Honest Toddler, a blog-turned-book written in that voice we all secretly think belongs to our own children. Confessions of a Domestic Failure is Laditan’s first novel, and it centers around Ashley Keller, a newly minted stay-at-home-mom (by way of corporate layoff).

Ashley is smart and resourceful – she was an ace at her marketing job before the layoff, and she can fashion an emergency diaper out of items in the backseat of her car – but she is also failing spectacularly at creating the blissful family life she thinks is expected of her. Her house is a mess, she hasn’t lost the baby weight, her daughter rarely makes it out of pajamas (so much for all those cute baby clothes!), and she is struggling to be supportive of her husband’s decision to quit his own corporate job to start a new company.

Ashley is determined to be a Pinterest-perfect mother with an Instagram-worthy home and a huge circle of supportive mommy gal pals… if she can ever peel off her Cheerio-crusted yoga pants and find the energy to shower. Laditan perfectly and hilariously captures the isolation and exhaustion of new motherhood and the pressures social media creates to project perfection.

Ashley is offered a chance to compete in a “Motherhood Better” competition held by superstar mommy-blogger Emily Walker. She stumbles through each challenge, and madcap antics ensue – from accidentally mooning the other competitors during a live video conference, to lying her way into a breastfeeding support group (though her daughter takes formula) while trying to make mom-friends, to nearly setting her house ablaze while “crafting”. But somehow she makes it to the finals and gets to meet her idol Emily. Will she win the contest and push her jogging stroller into the sunset… or will the pressure of domestic perfection cause her to crash and burn?

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Friday Reads: Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

I first encountered Amy Krouse Rosenthal’s work when I was shopping for a baby book, back in those pre-kid days when I could still leisurely shop. The pale yellow book I chose was quirky and funny, with just enough sarcasm to balance out the preciousness that is the first year of your kid’s life.  (Amy created several guided journals, and she was also a prolific children’s book author; one of her better known titles is Duck! Rabbit!)

Her latest “grown-up” title, Textbook Amy Krouse Rosenthal, came out on August 9th, 2016. On September 6th, 2016, Amy was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  She passed away just last month on March 13th, 2017.

I’d had this book on my to-read list for a while, and I wish I’d read it sooner. It is a follow up to her 2005 memoir, Encyclopedia Of An Ordinary Life; she comments that it was only appropriate to follow an encyclopedia with a textbook.  It is a short, fast read, with lots of white space. The book was meant to be “interactive”; Amy offers a cell phone number readers can text, so that at certain points in the book you can send her notes and photos and maybe even win a freshly-baked pie. Texts sent while Amy was alive were kept and added to the book’s website.

Amy writes of moments, of everyday occurrences.  She makes the mundane experiences we all have seem both hilarious and absolutely heartbreaking. She talks of how fleeting life is and how, even if she were to live to 80, the number of times she could cut up an apple, or look at her children, wouldn’t be enough. There was no way she could have known, as she was writing those words, how small that number would become. There is no way for any of us to know, and I’m trying to remember that every day and live by her words: “Make the most of your time here.”

If you are already an “AKR” fan, tomorrow (April 29th) would have been her birthday.  There is a Facebook group, #MoreForAKR, that you can check out if you’d like to pay tribute to Amy’s memory this weekend with acts of kindness.

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Friday Reads: Ms. Bixby’s Last Day by John David Anderson

I am a boy-mom.  (Or at least I was until we welcomed a baby girl into our house almost 2 years ago.  2?!? How is she almost 2?  Wait… where was I? Ah, yes, boys.) I am inclined to fall in love with realistic fiction centered on boys, probably because I can see my own son living these adventures and learning those early-life lessons. I felt especially enamored recently with the 3 friends that narrate Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. Topher, Steve, and Brand are 6th graders, finishing out their last year of elementary school.

Ms. Bixby is one of those rare teachers that is a “Good One”. She has a pink streak in her hair and spouts endless inspiring quotes, or “Bixbyisms”.  She sees what’s special in each of her students and helps them to see it too. But Ms. Bixby suddenly takes ill and can’t finish the school year.  When she has to miss her good-bye party at school, our three heroes decide to skip school and take the party to her in the hospital.

Each boy’s perspective colors the nature of their scheme. Topher, the artist and story-teller, is playing out a military-grade mission in his mind.  Brand is determined to do for Ms Bixby what he never could do for his own injured father.  And Steve is just worried about how much trouble he’s going to be in for ditching school.

Their quest is fraught with peril, as good adventures are wont to be, and the boys find themselves, and their friendship, put to the test.  Will they be able to give Ms. Bixby the last day she deserves?  It’s an incredibly moving story, both laugh-out-loud funny at times, and sob-inducing at others.  This boy-mom highly recommends!

Anderson, John David (2016). Ms. Bixby’s Last Day. New York: Walden Pond Press.

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It’s #bookfacefriday!

Tom Osborne "More Than Winning" BookFaceIf you’re on social media (Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter) and interested in libraries, you may have come across the hashtags #bookface or #bookfacefriday.

According to the New York Times “bookface involves strategically lining up your face or another body part alongside a book cover that features a matching body part so that there appears a melding of life and art.”

Mayor Helen Boosalis BookFaceTo highlight some of the Nebraska 150 books, we’ve been posing Library Commission staff (and sometimes their kids!) for our own Bookface Fridays. It’s trickier than you’d think! Fortunately we have a photographer with a great eye, and some good-natured staff!

You can see past bookface photos on the Center for the Book’s Facebook page, or check in every Friday to see the latest shot!

Has anyone at your library posted a #bookfacefriday?

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Friday Reads: The Fireman by Joe Hill

A fast-moving plague has set the world ablaze, quite literally. The “Dragonscale” spore marks its hosts with intricate tattoo-like patterns, which just happen to also cause them to spontaneously combust. Whole cities watch in terrors as their inhabitants burn to death, no cure in sight. To protect themselves, some citizens band together into “cremation squads” and hunt down those carrying the disease.

Before the local hospital ignited, Nurse Harper cared for the infected in her New Hampshire town. She and her husband Jakob made a pact to kill themselves if they ever caught the spore. Now Harper’s on the run from the cremation squads and Jakob, having discovered her own dragonscale markings… and her pregnancy.

This is the second book by Joe Hill I’ve read, the first being NOS4A2 (which I loved). It lived up to my expectations, and I will seek out more of his work. It wasn’t until I finished this book that I realized that Joe is the son of Stephen King, writing under a pseudonym so that his writing could stand on its own merit (which it does). If you’re in the mood for a fast-paced horror/thriller novel, this is it!

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Friday Reads: Bloody Jack, Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy by L.A. Meyer

bloodyjackI made a new friend this summer.  Jacky Faber is many things – fierce pirate, skilled sailor, cunning thief, loyal friend, talented musician, and… a girl.  Mary “Jacky” Faber is left on the streets of London in 1797 after an illness takes her parents and sister.  After watching too many fellow orphans be done in by the mean streets, she cuts her hair, dresses as a boy, and talks her way into a ship’s boy position on a British naval vessel.  For more than 2 years she pulls off her “deception,” despite her maturing body and a blossoming crush on a fellow shipmate, Jaimy.  During this time, she earns her nickname “Bloody Jack” after a skirmish with pirates, as well as a promotion to midshipman, before being discovered as female and packed off to a Boston finishing school. Things don’t always go well for Jacky – there are certainly darker elements to her story, as she must avoid lecherous sailors and the hangman’s noose – but she maintains a positive demeanor and always manages to “bob back up.” Readers will gain much in nautical terminology as well as historical facts.

If you have the option of listening to the audio version, I’d highly recommend that route.  Kathryn Kellgren’s treatment of Jacky Faber has often been compared to Jim Dale’s narration of Harry Potter – she really brings the characters to life.  Her wonderful voice has led me to have more than a few “driveway moments.”

Bloody Jack is the first of a 12 book young adult historical fiction series which follows Jacky around the globe as she tries to make her way in the world and reunite with her beloved Jaimy. I am currently partway through the tenth book and will sorely miss Jacky when the series ends.

Meyer, L.A. Bloody Jack: being an account of the curious adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, ship’s boy. San Diego: Harcourt, 2002.

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Friday Reads: Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

eligibleYou may be familiar with Elizabeth Bennett and her sisters Jane, Mary, Kitty, and Lydia; their mother desperate to make them good matches, and their father smart enough to try to stay out of the way.  But what if Liz Bennett was a magazine writer, Jane a yoga instructor, Mary focused on her online degree, Kitty and Lydia into CrossFit, and the family lived in Cincinnati circa 2013?

Meet Curtis Sittenfeld’s 21st century Bennett family.  In this retelling, Liz and Jane have moved to New York City to pursue their careers, but the rest of the girls still live at home in Ohio, where Mr. and Mrs. Bennett belong to the local country club and ignore the decay of their Tudor home, their rapidly dwindling fortune, and the failing state of Mr. Bennett’s health.  After their father ends up hospitalized, the older daughters return home, and Mrs. Bennett wastes no time in trying to set up one of her girls with reality television star-slash-ER-doctor Chip Bingley.

While a romance blossoms between Chip and Jane, Liz finds herself fending off advances from tech-whiz Cousin Willie and trying to save her family members from themselves.  Enter neurosurgeon Fitzwilliam Darcy and…well, if you’ve read Pride and Prejudice, you already know how this one goes…

Sittenfeld, Curtis. Eligible. New York: Random House, 2016.

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