Category Archives: Books & Reading

#BookFaceFriday “The Clutter Corpse” by Simon Brett

We are sparking joy with this #BookFaceFriday!

It’s Marie Kondo meets Agatha Christie in this week’s #BookFace. Check out “Clutter Corpse: The Decluttering Mystery” by Simon Brett (Severn House Publishers, 2020) it’s available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 16,670 audiobooks and 28,473 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use.

If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

Watching Ellen investigate… on her own is thoroughly fascinating. Brett fans, along with readers who liked Richard Roper’s How Not to Die Alone (2019), will love this quirky, warmhearted mystery’Booklist Starred Review

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: For Love of the Game by Michael Shaara

With the absence of baseball in the spring of 2020 comes the opportunity for an alternative – a good baseball book. I came across a copy of Michael Shaara’s For Love of the Game among my books. I don’t recall that I actually read the book at some time in the past. I do remember the movie version that starred Kevin Costner as Billy Chapel, the baseball legend and sure to be future Baseball Hall of Fame pitcher, the book’s protagonist.

Having read the book recently, the book and movie versions have some significant differences. So it goes. In short, Chapel will pitch the final game of the season and likely his last as a major leaguer. This with the background of an uncertain personal relationship and also the knowledge that the team he has been with for his entire career is about to betray him.

Michael Shaara is best known for The Killer Angels, his Pulitzer prize-winning classic regarded as one of the best Civil War novels. For Love of the Game was published after Michael Shaara’s death. The book includes an introduction written by Sharra’s son, Jeff.

Michael Shaara began his career writing science fiction short stories. A family vacation to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in 1966 was the inspiration for his novel, The Killer Angels. It was his love for baseball that resulted in For Love of the Game.

Shaara, Michael. For Love of the Game. Ballantine Books, 1991.

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#BookFaceFriday “Blue Hole Back Home” by Joy Jordan-Lake

It’s sweet summertime for this #BookFaceFriday!

Jump in feet first this summer into Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! New titles are added almost daily, like this week’s #BookFaceFriday! “Blue Hole Back Home” by Joy Jordan-Lake (Triple Falls Press, 2017) is available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in both eBook and Audiobook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 16,670 audiobooks and 28,473 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use.

If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

“Sacred’s not a word I’ve ever much liked. But maybe some things, and some places, just are. And maybe the Blue Hole was one of those things. Shelby (nicknamed Turtle) never had any female friends. But when a mysterious girl from Sri Lanka moved to town in the summer of 1979, Turtle invited her to a secret haven: the Blue Hole. Turtle had no idea how much that simple gesture would affect the rest of her life, or the lives of those she loved. In a time when America was technically well beyond the Civil Rights era, there were those in Turtle’s small Appalachian town who rejected the presence of someone different. And in just one summer-in a collision of love, hate, jealousy, beauty, and a sacred, muddy swimming hole-nothing and everything changed. ” — Book Jacket

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: The Beautiful Ones

Intro: With all the unrest in the nation that started in the Minneapolis area, I thought it appropriate to post this FR. Years ago, I had a high school friend who moved to Chanhassen, Minnesota (just south of the Twin Cities), where Paisley Park is. I visited my friend a few times in Chanhassen, and quickly realized January was not a good time. Summers were nice, though. Sadly, my friend has passed away (cancer). He never saw his 26th birthday.

Opening: Yep, it is another music biography. I have a sort of love and hate relationship with music biographies, but this one is well done and I recommend it. A few years ago, I was in the Minneapolis area (after the death of Prince) and thought of touring Paisley Park. I decided against it because I did not think that Prince would have wanted visitors that way. However, I completely understand the estate’s decision to do so. By not opening it up, there’s no way it would sustainable. Musical biographies can be quite a hit or miss, but often are a miss due to the fact they come across as braggadocios. Prince certainly seemed like the antithesis of that.

Background Info: Before he died, Prince was working on this book, with the help of Dan Piepenbring. The intro was written by Dan, summarizing his first meetings with Prince, and Prince’s vision for the completed work (he intended for it to cover his childhood up to his performance at Super Bowl XLI (in 2007). Dan’s anecdotes provide an interesting segue into the actual writing of Prince, and the numerous photos published in this book. The stories, including Dan staying at the local Country Inn and Suites (the place closest to Paisley Park in Chanhassen, MN), Prince driving him around in his Lincoln MKT, and live performances at Paisley Park.  

Filler Material: The bulk of the middle part consists of Prince’s actual writings, and then the translations. His writings are hard to read, given his affinity for code (e.g. eye symbol for I) and handwriting.  The gist of the book, and hats off to the publishers, was not to fill in the chronology after where Prince was at with his writing. Therefore, there is no speculation about his thoughts, as the material is published just as he wrote it, and stops at the point where he was at when he passed (before the Super Bowl XLI performance). As a companion piece, Originals (on CD, vinyl, MP3, take your pick) published after his death, is highly recommended. Toss it on the old (dust off the console stereo) or new hi-fi and turn up the volume.

Killer Ending: “So much has been written about me, and people don’t know what’s right and what’s wrong. I’d rather let them stay confused.” – Prince

Prince. The Beautiful Ones. Spiegel & Grau, 2019.

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What’s Sally Reading?

More Book Awards Announced!

The Bank Street Center for Children’s Literature announced, on May 6, 2020, the winners and honor books for two prestigious awards.  The Irma Simonton and James H. Black Award  went to The Crayon Man: The Story of the Invention of Crayola Crayons written by Natascha Biebow and illustrated by Steven Salerno. This award is for “an outstanding book for young children,” with text and illustrations working together, and is selected by children.  Given since 1973 (where have I been?  I just now heard about this award!) the award also has three honor books.

The Cook Prize has been awarded since 2012, and acknowledges excellence in picture books addressing STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) in its content.  Also selected by children, the 2020 winner is Mario and the Hole in the Sky: How a Chemist Saved Our Planet written by Elizabeth Rusch and illustrated by Teresa Martinez.

Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry is one of the Honor Books for the Irma Simonton and James H. Black Award.  Zuri’s hair is hard to control. Since today is a special day, Daddy is up to the task.  They try several hairstyles with poor results.  Then, just the right approach works for them. Everything is ready when Mommy gets home! There is a welcome banner up for her, but we do not know where she has been.  A wonderful story of family care and love.

(The Nebraska Library Commission receives free copies of children’s and young adult books for review from a number of publishers. After review, the books are distributed free, via the Regional Library Systems, to Nebraska school and public libraries.)

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#BookFaceFriday – “The Silence of the Library” by Miranda James

Hey, all you cats and kittens out there! Is your formerly silent library thinking about opening it’s doors again? The Nebraska Library Commission has resources available to make the process as purrfect as possible. Check out our Pandemic Resources page for recommendations and guidance from local and national organizations, as well as examples of policies and procedures being used by other Nebraska libraries.

If you’ve not yet told us that your library is reopening or modifying services for the pandemic, please fill out our Nebraska Library Services Form. The information you submit helps us keep our Nebraska Libraries Spreadsheet on closings, reopenings, and modifying services up to date in these rapidly changing times.

Keep an eye out next week for information on applying for CARES Act funding.

“The Silence of the Library” by Miranda James (Berkley, 2014) is a part of the Cat in the Stacks mystery series.

“Combines a kindhearted librarian hero, family secrets in a sleepy Southern town, and a gentle giant of a cat that will steal your heart.”—Lorna Barrett, New York Times bestselling author of the Booktown Mysteries

Our models this week are our tireless Computer Services Director, Vern Buis, and his lovely cat Bernie. A former stray, Bernie decided to move into Vern’s place about a year ago, and that was that. Now he’s living the good life and modeling for bookface photos on the side.

Love this BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young

I don’t know about you, but reading during this pandemic has been a challenge. Between working from home, keeping a school-age kid on track with his lessons and a preschooler out of the cookie jar, not to mention feeding everyone 3-5 times a day (why are we so hungry?!?), and the constant blare of the news, I just don’t have the time or attention span to concentrate on a book. Is it just me? (Apparently not).

Fortunately, my public library recently started contact-less pickup and I got a load of middle-grade novels and picture books for the aforementioned children. The Pumpkin War by Cathleen Young was at the top of the pile.

Set on Madeline Island in Lake Superior, this is the story of a half-Irish, half-Ojibwe girl named Billie who is determined to win her town’s annual pumpkin race and get revenge on her former best friend for sabotaging her attempt the previous summer. It is also the tale of how every story has two sides, growing pumpkins is a full-time job, and sometimes winning isn’t something we do on our own. It was the perfect book to kick off my summer reading and yours too!

Young, Cathleen. The Pumpkin War. Random House, 2019.

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ALA Partners with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission to Donate 6,000 Book Sets to Libraries

CHICAGO – The American Library Association (ALA) is pleased to partner with the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission (WSCC) to distribute 6,000 women’s suffrage youth book sets to libraries across the country. Public and school libraries are encouraged to apply for the book sets by June 15, 2020.

This generous donation celebrates the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment and highlights the importance of libraries as hubs of civic education and engagement.

Created by Congress to mark the centennial of women’s suffrage, WSCC selected the books and is providing funding for the project. Each set consists of three books corresponding to different reading levels: “Around America to Win the Vote” by Mara Rockliff for elementary readers; “The Woman’s Hour: Our Fight for the Right to Vote” by Elaine Weiss for middle schoolers; and the “National Park Service Women’s Suffrage Reader,” an anthology of essays for high school readers.

A working group representing members and staff from ALA’s offices and three youth divisions—American Association of School Librarians , Association for Library Service to Children, and Young Adult Library Services Association —will field the requests and have created a recommended list of diverse books, as well as program and display ideas to accompany the book donations. In addition, ALA and the WSCC will co-host a series of virtual women’s suffrage herstory times.

ALA and the WSCC look forward to getting books to libraries and into the hands of young readers, and to commemorating the diverse suffragists on whose shoulders we stand today.

Contact Jazzy Celindro, jcelindro@ala.org, for more information about the project or with questions about the application.

About the American Library Association
The American Library Association (ALA) is the foremost national organization providing resources to inspire library and information professionals to transform their communities through essential programs and services. For more than 140 years, the ALA has been the trusted voice for academic, public, school, government and special libraries, advocating for the profession and the library’s role in enhancing learning and ensuring access to information for all. For more information, visit ala.org.

About the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission
The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission was created by Congress to coordinate the nationwide commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and women’s constitutional right to vote in 2020. Led by a bipartisan group of women leaders, the WSCC has a nonpartisan mission to make sure Americans across the country have the chance to participate in centennial commemorations and to learn about this important but often overlooked history. Through digital events, educational programs, media campaigns, and collaborative partnerships, the WSCC is working to ensure that the centennial is honored nationwide. Learn more about the centennial and the WSCC on our website, www.womensvote100.org

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Friday Reads: Star Wars: Ahsoka

I am simultaneously mourning the end of The Clone Wars animated series and thrilled over the announcement that Rosario Dawson may be playing the live-action version of Ahsoka in season 2 of The Mandalorian.

So, in honor of both of those events, I am sharing the novel Ahsoka, by E.K. Johnston. It is part of the new series of novels that are being published in conjunction with the new films and TV shows.

Ahsoka Tano is my favorite Star Wars character, after the Rebel Princess Leia. She first appeared in the Star Wars world in The Clone Wars animated movie and series, as Anakin Skywalker’s padawan, training under him to become a full Jedi.

Ahsoka takes place a year after the end of The Clone Wars and Order 66, the order enacted by Chancellor/Sith Lord Palpatine declaring Jedi as traitors to the Republic and ordering their execution, which was carried out by their own clone troopers. Ahsoka was one of the few Jedi to survive. The novel explores how Ahsoka dealt with her personal fallout from that devastating event. And reveals how she ended up as a secretive but integral member of the Resistance 14 years later, in Rebels.

Being a huge fan of Ahsoka, I was thrilled to learn what happened to her between her two series appearances. And I was not disappointed. It is a well written story, portraying Ahsoka’s struggle to find her place in the galaxy and decide what her future will look like.

The book was published in 2016, before the final season of The Clone Wars was released this year. So, there are some references and specific dialogue in the book that does not match up exactly with the ending of the series. But, I find them minor issues that do not detract at all from my enjoyment of both the book and the final season of the show.

And the audiobook is narrated by none other than Ashley Eckstein, the voice of Ahsoka in The Clone Wars and Rebels. Bonus!

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#BookFaceFriday – “Where the Crawdads Sing” by Delia Owens

Sweet summertime is so close, the days are getting warmer and all I can think about is that perfect summer read. Keep your book clubs going all summer with titles like “Where the Crawdads Sing” (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2018) by Delia Owens. This New York Times bestseller is a part of our book club kit collection and available for your group to borrow. Check out all of our Book Club titles!

“A painfully beautiful first novel that is at once a murder mystery, a coming-of-age narrative and a celebration of nature…Owens here surveys the desolate marshlands of the North Carolina coast through the eyes of an abandoned child. And in her isolation that child makes us open our own eyes to the secret wonders—and dangers—of her private world.”—The New York Times Book Review

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Four Ways New Technology Is Revolutionizing the 2020 Census

From scribbled answers in 1790 to online responses in 2020, innovation has always been part of the Census. The Census Bureau has always been a leader in using, adapting and developing new technologies, but the 2020 Census will be the most sophisticated and high tech yet. 

The census began in 1790 with collected information handwritten by U.S. Marshals visiting outposts in every corner of the new nation. Every decade since, the ways the U.S. Census Bureau has tried to meet its goal of counting every person living in the United States have undergone changes as dramatic as the growth of the nation itself.

Through the centuries, the decennial count progressed from in-person collections of handwritten answers to mass mailings of paper questionnaires in 1970. Among other changes along the way: creation of an electrical punch card tabulator for the 1890 Census and the first use by a government agency of the world’s first modern computer – the UNIVAC 1 – for the 1950 Census. It was developed by engineers John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, whose corporation was a division of Remington Rand.

In the previous century, Herman Hollerith, a former Census Office employee, invented a punch card tabulating machine used by the Census Bureau from the 1890 Census forward. Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company, which eventually became International Business Machines (IBM).

America Counts spoke with Robert Colosi, a mathematical statistician in the Census Bureau’s Decennial Statistics Studies Division, about ways technology is revolutionizing the census.

He shared four specific changes that have had a major impact on how the Census Bureau counts everyone once, only once, and in the right place.

Innovation 1: Using Satellite Imagery to Check Addresses

Before the Census Bureau can count every person in the country, it must first collect addresses for every housing unit. One way the Census Bureau uses this address list is to mail census materials, including invitations to respond online, by phone or by mail.

Census Bureau employees used to “canvass” neighborhoods in person, jotting down new addresses and correcting old ones on paper.

This long-running operation, known as Address Canvassing, is one of the ways the Census Bureau updates its Master Address File or MAF. The Census Bureau also works with the United States Postal Service (USPS) to confirm already existing addresses on file.

Address canvassing was costly and time-consuming. Employees traveled a total of 137 million miles to update the MAF before the 2010 Census.

“The number of miles we traveled was astronomical,” Colosi said. “We’re not going to do that for the 2020 Census.”

In 2015, the Census Bureau began using aerial images from a network of satellites.

The Census Bureau developed computer software that allows employees in offices to compare satellite images from 2010 to new ones taken in real time. This helps them identify new houses, apartment buildings and other units to verify in the traditional Address Canvassing operation.

Thanks to the new In-Office Address Canvassing system, census workers reviewed 100% of all addresses in the United States for the 2020 Census and validated 65% in the office, removing them from the in-field workload.

That means workers needed to canvas fewer neighborhoods in person, saving time and money.

Address listers or canvassers hit the streets in August 2019 and completed the operation two months later, on track for the 2020 Census.

Innovation 2: Introducing Online Self-Response

The 2020 Census is the first time everyone has the option to respond to the census online as well as by phone or mail.

The Census Bureau has an Internet Self-Response tool designed to make it easy to complete the questionnaire online and keep responses secure. Directions for responding online will be included in letters, postcards and other mailings sent to most homes beginning in mid-March.

Every response submitted on the internet is encrypted. That means data are changed into a code that only Census Bureau data analysts can read. Responses travel through a secure cloud computer network and the Census Bureau locks them in a “digital vault”.   

The Internet Self-Response instrument, the website for completing the census online, is available in English and 12 other languages.

Census Bureau employees, called census response representatives will also provide computers and tablets for access to the Internet Self-Response tool at places like libraries, community centers, health care centers and places of worship. This is particularly helpful in rural and other areas with limited or no internet access. 

Innovation 3: Introducing Mobile Devices to Enumeration

From collecting census responses and job applications to storing questionnaires, the Census Bureau has used millions of pieces of paper to gather and file information. Now it relies much more on technology – and much less on paper.

In 2020, census takers who go door-to-door to help people respond will collect information on smartphones using a custom application created by the Census Bureau. 

“The Systems Engineering and Integration Team created 52 systems in our ‘system of systems,’” Colosi said. “There’s a whole group of systems related to that one contract of enumeration and operations control. All of it was built by Census Bureau staff and contractors.”

To protect privacy, we encrypt all data and devices require two-factor authentication to be unlocked.

When a device connects to the internet, encrypted data immediately transmits to the Census Bureau’s digital vault – and is no longer on the device. Encrypted data are only stored on the devices until they connect to the internet.

Software in the smartphones also provides specific routes for census takers to follow to visit homes. Optimizing routes in this way helps census takers do their jobs more efficiently. 

If a device is lost or stolen, the Census Bureau will remotely wipe it clean of all applications and information.

Innovation 4: New Ways to Protect Data

The Census Bureau is the leading source of quality data about the nation’s people and economy in its many surveys and programs, including the 2020 Census.

Opportunities to share and protect its data continue to grow with technology and innovation, particularly through data mashups.

Data mashups are algorithms that combine different data sources to expand graphical understanding of the data but can also find the origin of a particular set of data.  

To protect against that, the Census Bureau has developed processes to protect its data from people who might try to make such mashups. Its Disclosure Avoidance System helps prevent improper disclosure of data. This addition is one of several advances the Census Bureau has made to safeguard an individual’s data.  

“When we produced products in the old days, we didn’t have super high-tech and savvy users,” Colosi said. “The idea of computing data mashups to try and combine different data sources to find individual responses was not common. Now it is.”

All responses to the 2020 Census are confidential and protected by law. Title 13 of the Federal Code prohibits the Census Bureau from publishing or disclosing any private information, including names, addresses and telephone numbers.

“Our cybersecurity meets the latest, highest standards for protecting your information,” Census Bureau Chief Information Officer Kevin Smith said. “We work with industry experts to continually review and refine our approach to make sure we are staying ahead of threats and ensuring quick response. From the moment we collect your responses, our goal — and legal obligation — is to keep them safe.”

Census Bureau employees take an oath to keep your answers confidential. Violators face up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

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Census Bureau Launches COVID-19 Data Hub

COVID-19 Data Hub The U.S. Census Bureau has released a new resource page on Census.gov to help federal
agencies, businesses, and communities make decisions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Similar to the Census Bureau’s resources pages created during natural disasters, this resource
page includes information on population demographics, economic indicators and businesses.

Learn More

It features a new interactive data hub that centralizes already-released data from the American Community Survey and the County Business Patterns program to facilitate users’ access to data useful in pandemic-related decision making. The data hub, released as a beta version, will be updated periodically as the situation changes and as feedback is received from users.  You can sign up for COVID-19 Data Hub Updates here.
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2020 Census Updates

Nebraska is still FIRST in Census responses in our region! Here’s all the latest news from the Census Bureau:

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NCompass Live: Reading for Justice: A Database for YA & Youth Literature

Join us to learn about ‘Reading for Justice: A Database for YA & Youth Literature’ on next week’s FREE NCompass Live webinar, on Wednesday, May 20, 10:00am-11:00am CT.

The Reading for Justice Database aims to provide librarians and patrons with better access to YA and children’s literature book subjects centered around social justice. This database began as a project in Dr. David McKoskey’s Database Management course at St. Catherine University. The project then continued to develop through an independent study where the goal was to build a website and user interface for the database. The website includes a search page, report page, and an administrative page for editing.

The presentation will cover the initial stages of the database’s development, the challenges of gathering data, preventing a “default” from skewing our data, and the overall process of connecting the database to our user interface. We hope we have created something that librarians and patrons would find useful for identifying books centered around themes of social justice.

Presenters: Laura Bell, St. Catherine University; Katie Retterath, Visual Resources Specialist, Macalester College; Dr. David McKoskey, St. Catherine University, Adjunct Professor.

Upcoming NCompass Live shows:

  • May 27 – Pretty Sweet Tech – How to Make Digital Literacy Less Boring
  • June 3 – Automating Virtual Student Library Cards
  • June 10 – Identity and Impostor Syndrome in Library Makerspaces
  • June 17 – Who are These People & Why are They in My Library? Using Empathy & UX to Understand Your Library Patrons

For more information, to register for NCompass Live, or to listen to recordings of past events, go to the NCompass Live webpage.

NCompass Live is broadcast live every Wednesday from 10am – 11am Central Time. Convert to your time zone on the Official U.S. Time website. The show is presented online using the GoToWebinar online meeting service. Before you attend a session, please see the NLC Online Sessions webpage for detailed information about GoToWebinar, including system requirements, firewall permissions, and equipment requirements for computer speakers and microphones.

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#BookFaceFriday “Panic” by Sasha Dawn

Keep calm, don’t panic, it’s finally #BookFaceFriday!

Has the pandemic got you feeling anxious?  This week’s #BookFace is for you. In “Panic” by Sasha Dawn (Carolrhoda Lab, 2019), Madelaine has become overwhelmed by events both online and in real life, and struggles to make sense of it all.

This YA page-turner is available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 16,670 audiobooks and 28,473 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use.

If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

“Dawn (Blink, 2018, etc.) draws in readers, showing them that there is more to a person than what one sees on the surface. The author makes it easy to be both frustrated with the characters’ choices and yet to empathize with them. Compelling and captivating.“―Kirkus Reviews

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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Friday Reads: Squint by Chad Morris and Shelly Brown

Flint, 13 and in 6th grade, is losing his eyesight.  It has been deteriorating for a while and now he sits alone at lunch working on his entry for the “Find a Comic Book Star” contest – hoping to finish it before his eyesight is completely gone.   His former best friend now bullies him, since Flint can no longer play on the football team as he used to, and now they call him “Squint.”

Then one day the new girl, McKell, sits with him at lunch.  He first thinks it must be some kind of a trick, since she is friends with the popular group. When he realizes it is not a trick, Flint and McKell begin to develop a friendship – focused on McKell’s brother Danny’s, challenges on YouTube.  She needs help to keep her promise to him – to complete certain challenges. 

Hitting topics such as: bullying, empathy, loss, and friendship, as SLJ says, “Recommend for any library serving middle grade readers.”

Set in Lincoln , NE, this title is the 2019 winner of the Nebraska Center for the Book, Teen Novel Award.

Morris, Chad & Shelly Brown. Squint. Shadow Mountain, 2018.

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Friday Reads: Underland by Robert Macfarlane

When I was eighteen years old, I hiked with my freshman anthropology class from the Hudson-Meng dig site to Toadstool Geological Park, out in Nebraska’s Panhandle. It was one of the longest, hottest hikes I have ever trekked, the first where I’d ever heard the blood-freezing bone-shake tambourine of a rattlesnake and her tail, mere feet away from where I stood, and where I, with only my own two legs, traveled back in time. It is one of my favorite memories. Standing in a mostly-dry riverbank, after crossing over the pale limestone gashes in the the grasslands, eyes raised to the multicolored strata of the earthen walls around me, I was beneath and surrounded by different ages of the Earth, upon which feet so like mine might have tread. There is nothing that makes you feel smaller, more connected, more human.

Robert Macfarlane’s Underland swept me back to that moment in a breathtaking work of nonfiction. His writing is crisp, lyrical, and heart-cuttingly honest. The mark of an experienced storyteller traces through each paragraph and page like the webs of fungi beneath earth’s forests, connecting and communicating and enriching his experiences and ideas. Whether he is describing the way colors and sound return to the self after exiting a cave system, or forcing his body to crawl inch by claustrophobic inch through an unstable tunnel scarcely bigger than himself, there is a breath-robbing sense of adventure and awe throughout his journey.

There is also the sense of a great ache; we are, he writes, and circles back to, in the midst of the Anthropocene – the geological epoch of human impact, to be noted in the strata of our planet when we are long gone, “what will survive of us is plastic, swine bones and lead-207, the stable isotope at the end of the uranium-235 decay chain” (77). But this is not a book of pessimism, nor of misanthropy, even as it turns its gaze to The Hiding Place, in Olkiluoto, Finland, where we prepare to seal our nuclear waste. This is not a place of honour, the inscription for that chamber begins – a deterrent for the generations we hope that will come after us. And it is with the hope in the generations of whatever life that will come that the work is being done, Macfarlane realizes.

“The same three tasks recur across cultures and epochs: to shelter what is precious, to yield what is valuable, and to dispose of what is harmful” (8). This is why we go down into the Earth, why it features so heavily in our mythologies across our cultures and ages — what we have buried is a part of us, a reflection of us, what we grieve and what we hope for and what we believe in, the unknown selves we wish to uncover. It is as much a part of our future as it is our past. Underland begins with analyzing our reflexive revulsion to the underlands, and then peels back the earth and uncovers beauty and an incredible, unfathomable stretch of time that goes far before us, and will carry on far after.

Macfarlane, Robert. Underland: A Deep Time Journey. W. W. Norton, 2019.

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#BookFaceFriday “The Shop on Main Street” by Carolyn Brown

If Small Business Saturday was a #BookFaceFriday!

Described as “Steel Magnolias meets The Ya Ya Sisterhood,” New York Times bestseller Carolyn Brown knows how to bring the fire. Even if pink isn’t your signature color, this week’s #BookFace is for you. Check out “The Shop on Main Street” by Carolyn Brown (Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2019) it’s available to all Nebraska OverDrive Libraries in eBook format. 173 libraries across the state share this collection of 16,670 audiobooks and 28,473 eBooks. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use.

If you’re a part of it, let your users know about this great title, and if you’re not a member yet, find more information about participating in Nebraska Overdrive Libraries!

“Hilarious…fast-paced…A high-spirited, romantic page-turner.” ―Kirkus

Love this #BookFace & reading? Check out our past #BookFaceFriday photos on the Nebraska Library Commission’s Facebook page!

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What’s Up Doc? New State Agency Publications at the Nebraska Library Commission

New state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for March and April 2020.  Included are annual reports from a variety of Nebraska state agencies, economic development reports from the Nebraska Public Power District, Audit reports from the Nebraska Auditor of Public Accounts, and new books from the University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.

Most items, except the books from the University of Nebraska Press, are available for immediate viewing and printing by clicking on the highlighted link above, or directly in the .pdf below.  You can read synopses of the books received from the University of Nebraska Press in the Book Briefs blogposts.

The Nebraska Legislature created the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse in 1972, a service of the Nebraska Library Commission. Its purpose is to collect, preserve, and provide access to all public information published by Nebraska state agencies.  By law (State Statutes 51-411 to 51-413) all Nebraska state agencies are required to submit their published documents to the Clearinghouse.  For more information, visit the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse page, contact Mary Sauers, Government Information Services Librarian; or contact Bonnie Henzel, State Documents Staff Assistant.

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Book Briefs: New University of Nebraska Press Books at the Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse

The Nebraska Publications Clearinghouse receives documents every month from all Nebraska state agencies, including the University of Nebraska Press (UNP).  Each month we will be showcasing the UNP books that the Clearinghouse receives.  UNP books, as well as all Nebraska state documents, are available for checkout by libraries and librarians, for their patrons, in Nebraska.

Here are the UNP books the Clearinghouse received in March and April 2020:

The Better Angels : Five Women Who Changed Civil War America Robert C. Plumb

Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Clara Barton, Julia Ward Howe, and Sarah Josepha Hale came from backgrounds that ranged from abject enslavement to New York City’s elite. Surmounting social and political obstacles, they emerged before and during the worst crisis in American history, the Civil War. Their actions became strands in a tapestry of courage, truth, and patriotism that influenced the lives of millions—and illuminated a new way forward for the nation.

In this collective biography, Robert C. Plumb traces these five remarkable women’s awakenings to analyze how their experiences shaped their responses to the challenges, disappointments, and joys they encountered on their missions. Here is Tubman, fearless conductor on the Underground Railroad, alongside Stowe, the author who awakened the nation to the evils of slavery. Barton led an effort to provide medical supplies for field hospitals, and Union soldiers sang Howe’s “Battle Hymn of the Republic” on the march. And, amid national catastrophe, Hale’s campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday moved North and South toward reconciliation.

Exodus ‘Gbenga Adeoba (Series: African Poetry Book Series)

Winner of the Sillerman First Book Prize for African Poetry, ‘Gbenga Adeoba’s collection Exodus focuses on forms of migration due to the slave trade, war, natural disasters, and economic opportunities.
              
Using the sea as a source of language and metaphor, Adeoba explores themes of memory, transition, and the intersections between the historic and the imagined. With great tenderness and power his poetry of empathy searches for meaning in sharply constructed images, creating scenes of making and unmaking while he investigates experiences of exile and displacement across time and place.

How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences Sue William Silverman (Series: American Lives)

Many are haunted and obsessed by their own eventual deaths, but perhaps no one as much as Sue William Silverman. This thematically linked collection of essays charts Silverman’s attempt to confront her fears of that ultimate unknown. Her dread was fomented in part by a sexual assault, hidden for years, that led to an awareness that death and sex are in some ways inextricable, an everyday reality many women know too well.
              
Through gallows humor, vivid realism, and fantastical speculation, How to Survive Death and Other Inconveniences explores this fear of death and the author’s desire to survive it. From cruising New Jersey’s industry-blighted landscape in a gold Plymouth to visiting the emergency room for maladies both real and imagined to suffering the stifling strictness of an intractable piano teacher, Silverman guards her memories for the same reason she resurrects archaic words—to use as talismans to ward off the inevitable. Ultimately, Silverman knows there is no way to survive death physically. Still, through language, commemoration, and metaphor, she searches for a sliver of transcendent immortality.

In the Mean Time : Temporal Colonization and the Mexican American Literary Tradition Erin Murrah-Mandril (Series: Postwestern Horizons)

The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which transferred more than a third of Mexico’s territory to the United States, deferred full U.S. citizenship for Mexican Americans but promised, “in the mean time,” to protect their property and liberty. Erin Murrah-Mandril demonstrates that the U.S. government deployed a colonization of time in the Southwest to insure political and economic underdevelopment in the region and to justify excluding Mexican Americans from narratives of U.S. progress. In In the Mean Time, Murrah-Mandril contends that Mexican American authors challenged modern conceptions of empty, homogenous, linear, and progressive time to contest U.S. colonization.

Taking a cue from Latina/o and borderlands spatial theories, Murrah-Mandril argues that time, like space, is a socially constructed, ideologically charged medium of power in the Southwest. In the Mean Time draws on literature, autobiography, political documents, and historical narratives composed between 1870 and 1940 to examine the way U.S. colonization altered time in the borderlands.

Rather than reinforce the colonial time structure, early Mexican American authors exploited the internal contradictions of Manifest Destiny and U.S. progress to resist domination and situate themselves within the shifting political, economic, and historical present. Read as decolonial narratives, the Mexican American cultural productions examined in this book also offer a new way of understanding Latina/o literary history.

A Kingdom of Water : Adaptation and Survival in the Houma Nation J. Daniel d’Oney (Series: Indians of the Southeast)

A Kingdom of Water is a study of how the United Houma Nation in Louisiana successfully navigated a changing series of political and social landscapes under French, Spanish, British, and American imperial control between 1699 and 2005. After 1699 the Houma assimilated the French into their preexisting social and economic networks and played a vital role in the early history of Louisiana. After 1763 and Gallic retreat, both the British and Spanish laid claim to tribal homelands, and the Houma cleverly played one empire against the other.

In the early 1700s the Houma began a series of adaptive relocations, and just before the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 the nation began their last migration, a journey down Bayou Lafourche. In the early 1800s, as settlers pushed the nation farther down bayous and into the marshes of southeastern Louisiana, the Houma quickly adapted to their new physical environment. After the Civil War and consequent restructuring of class systems, the Houma found themselves caught in a three-tiered system of segregation. Realizing that education was one way to retain lands constantly under assault from trappers and oil companies, the Houma began their first attempt to integrate Terrebonne Parish schools in the early twentieth century, though their situation was not resolved until five decades later. In the early twenty-first century, the tribe is still fighting for federal recognition.

Sacrament of Bodies Romeo Oriogun (Series: African Poetry Book Series)

In this groundbreaking collection of poems, Sacrament of Bodies, Romeo Oriogun fearlessly interrogates how a queer man in Nigeria can heal in a society where everything is designed to prevent such restoration. With honesty, precision, tenderness of detail, and a light touch, Oriogun explores grief and how the body finds survival through migration.


 

The Soul of the Indian : An Interpretation Charles A. Eastman (Ohiyesa) (Series: Bison Classic Editions)

The Soul of the Indian is Charles A. Eastman’s exploration and documentation of religion as he experienced it during the late nineteenth century. A Dakota physician and writer who sought to bring understanding between Native and non-Native Americans, Eastman (1858–1939) became one of the best-known Native Americans of his time and a significant intellectual figure whose clarity of vision endures today.

In a straightforward manner Eastman emphasizes the universal quality and personal appeal of his Dakota religious heritage. First published in 1911, The Soul of the Indian draws on his childhood teaching and ancestral ideals to counter the research written by outsiders who treated the Dakotas’ ancient worldviews chiefly as a matter of curiosity. Eastman writes with deep respect for his ancestors and their culture and history, including a profound reverence for the environment, animals, and plants. Though written more than a century ago, Eastman could be speaking to our own time with its spiritual confusion and environmental degradation. The new introduction by Brenda J. Child grounds this important book in contemporary studies.


**All synopses courtesy of University of Nebraska Press  (https://www.nebraskapress.unl.edu/)

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