Category Archives: Books & Reading

One Book, One Nebraska Selection Now Ready for Talking Book Borrowers

Death Zones and Darling Spies is now available at Talking Books

Death Zones and Darling Spies is now available at Talking Books.

The 2015 One Book, One Nebraska selection, Death Zones and Darling Spies: Seven Years of Vietnam Reporting, is now available on cartridge directly from the Talking Book and Braille Service (TBBS). Written by Beverly Deepe Keever and narrated in our studios by Judy Hanefeldt, the book can be ordered by TBBS borrowers as DBC 760. It can also be downloaded directly from BARD, a website hosted by the Library of Congress for talking book borrowers.The book is written by a Nebraska farm girl turned journalist who became the longest-serving American correspondent covering the Vietnam War. The author earned a Pulitzer Prize nomination. With compelling prose, Beverly Deepe Keever tells personal and human stories that are matched by her insights regarding the war’s political and military strategies. She draws form interviews with generals, politicians, American marines, captured North Vietnamese soldiers, Buddhist monks, and Viet Cong officials.


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Friday Reads: The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

imagesCAN6O13QThe Bone Clocks moves along quicker than The Cloud Atlas, by the same author, and seems to flow better, in my opinion. It begins in 1980 with Holly Sykes, a 15-year-old London girl, who has an ugly row with her mother, then the earth shattering betrayal by her older, illegal,  boyfriend and her best friend. Then she runs away.

But she can’t run away from the radio people. The paranormal entities that she’s been hearing and been in contact with much of her life. And she isn’t just hearing things. They’re real. The genius of this writer is that he’s writing perfectly fine real life coming of age story, war story, writer’s life story and then in walks the paranormal, and it’s not the one you think it’ll be from all your mystery or horror reading. Eventually you learn who the sides are. Both are immortal, One “eats” the gifted souls to live eternally, carnivores, or Anchorites. The other dies natural deaths and continues on, only if not killed unnaturally, the Horologists, following a script (as in a play.)

Slowly, we go through personal stories of each individual, with sudden steps into the paranormal. Each interweaves with the other, a 14-year-old girl, a war correspondent, a young con man, a literary writer, and more. Getting closer to an event of proportions we cannot guess. But it will change lives.

Review by William Skidelsky in the Gaurdian

Review by Derek Thompson in the Atlantic


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What’s Sally Reading?

Get to Know the Nominees for Teens’ Top Ten 2015

The Hub has begun a four-part The Hub to highlight the 24 titles on the Teens’ Top Ten list for 2015.  The books were published between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2014.  You can see the entire list here if you want to check and see how many your library owns.  Teens from all over the country can vote for their favorite title beginning on August 15, 2015 and continue through Teen Read Week (October 18-24, 2015).  The ten titles receiving the most votes will be named the Teens’ Top Ten list for 2015.  I hope your teens will want to participate!

Vernon048Castle Hangnail by Ursula Vernon, who wrote the Dragonbreath series, introduces readers to new characters and setting, which could become a series as well.  Castle Hangnail has been without a master for far too long, and the main caretaker is worried it will be decommissioned.  Then Miss Molly, a 12-year-old witch arrives to claim the castle.  She does have an invitation (one of many sent out) but she seems so unorthodox, she’s nice (usually) and considerate, but she can do some magic.  She has four tasks to complete in order to claim the castle, maybe everything will work out.  Then, the sorceress who was the actual recipient of the invitation appears at the door; and she is nasty, just as the master of the castle should be.  But the minions in the castle rather like Miss Molly, what should they do?

(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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Juan Felipe Herrera named new U.S. Poet Laureate

The Librarian of Congress announced the appointment yesterday.  Herrera will start in the fall, participating in the National Book Festival on September 5 and presenting a reading of his work in Washington D.C. on September 15.  Herrera, the first Hispanic Poet Laureate, is the author of 28 books of poetry, novels for young adults and collections for children.  See further information about him here.

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Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go to Sleep! to Represent Nebraska at National Book Festival

June 9, 2015

Mary Jo Ryan

Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go to Sleep! to Represent Nebraska at National Book Festival

The Nebraska Center for the Book selected Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go to Sleep! by Bruce Arant (Peter Pauper Press, Inc., 2013) to represent Nebraska at the 2015 National Book Festival. The book is the state’s selection for the National Book Festival’s “Discover Great Places through Reading” map. Each state selects one book about the state, or by an author from the state, that is a good read for children or young adults. The map will be distributed at the Festival on September 5 and listed in “Great Reads about Great Places” on the websites of both the National and Nebraska Centers for the Book.

Will poor Farmer Simpson ever find a way to lull his sheep to sleep? Illustrated with soft pastel drawings, Simpson’s Sheep Won’t Go to Sleep! is a story for every parent or grandparent who has put a child to bed—and every child who has creatively resisted. The selection was awarded the 2014 Nebraska Book Award in the Children’s category. NOTE: Entries for the 2015 Nebraska Book Awards will be accepted until June 30—see

The National Book Festival will feature award-winning authors, poets, and illustrators at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, DC. Festival goers can meet their favorite authors, get books signed, have photos taken with mascots and storybook characters, and participate in a variety of learning activities. States will staff exhibit booths to promote reading, library programs, and literary events.

The Nebraska Center for the Book is housed at the Nebraska Library Commission and brings together the state’s readers, writers, booksellers, librarians, publishers, printers, educators, and scholars to build the community of the book, supporting programs to celebrate and stimulate public interest in books, reading, and the written word. The Nebraska Center for the Book is supported by the Nebraska Library Commission. As the state library agency, the Nebraska Library Commission is an advocate for the library and information needs of all Nebraskans. The mission of the Library Commission is statewide promotion, development, and coordination of library and information services, bringing together people and information.


The most up-to-date news releases from the Nebraska Library Commission are always available on the Library Commission Website,

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Friday Reads: The Tea Rose Trilogy by Jennifer Donnelly

tea roseIn The Tea Rose, it is 1888, and Fiona Finnegan and Joe Bristow hoard shillings and pennies so that they can marry and open a shop. But Jack the Ripper stalks the streets of London’s East End, and poverty threatens from the shadows. Setting the story in motion is the murder of Fiona’s father, a dock worker whose union activities angered his tea-company boss. Fiona and her younger brother must flee to New York City to avoid their own murders. Through hard work and luck, Fiona and her beloved Joe prosper on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Misunderstandings and mistakes keep them apart as they build separate lives and incredible fortunes. Children’s book writer Donnelly effortlessly takes her narrative through slums and high society while intertwining a number of subplots without tangling them. Both major and minor characters capture and hold interest and sympathy.  winter rose




The Winter Rose, the second book in the Tea Rose Trilogy,  begins in late Victorian London. Idealistic new medical school graduate India Selwyn Jones goes to work at a clinic in the city’s poorest neighborhood, much to the dismay of her aristocratic mother and ambitious fiancé, political up-and-comer Freddie Lytton. The squalor is a bit much for India, but she manages to keep her emotions under control until she meets underworld crime boss Sid Malone. Sid begins as India’s nemesis, becomes her patient and ends up something much more than that. What India doesn’t know is that Sid is the brother of tea heiress Fiona Bristow, wife of self-made, highly principled businessman Joseph Bristow. What Sid doesn’t know is that India’s fiancé is as ruthless as Sid’s most ruthless henchman, willing to commit theft, betrayal and even murder to launch his career, force India out of hers and bring down Sid in the process.

wild rose


In the third Tea Rose Trilogy book, The Wild Rose, it is London, 1914. World War I looms on the horizon, women are fighting for the right to vote, and explorers are pushing the limits of endurance in the most forbidding corners of the earth. Into this volatile time, Jennifer Donnelly places her vivid and memorable characters: Willa Alden, a passionate mountain climber who lost her leg while summiting Kilimanjaro with Seamus Finnegan, and who will never forgive him for saving her life; Seamus Finnegan, a polar explorer who tries to forget Willa as he marries a beautiful young school teacher back home in England; Max von Brandt, a handsome German sophisticate who courts high society women, but has a secret agenda in wartime London.

I listened to the audio versions of these books.  They are all narrated by Jill Tanner, who does a wonderful job with all of the character’s voices.  Whether you read the book, or listen to the audio version, I’m sure you will find this historical fiction saga as enjoyable as I did.

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Focus on Nebraska authors: Stephanie Kallos

I became aware of Stephanie Kallos, an author with a Nebraska connection, when I served on the committee to help select One Book One Lincoln in 2006. Her first novel, Broken for You had been nominated and I was struck by the artful way Kallos spun multiple themes of brokenness, both overwhelming and subtle, together into one plot. The selection committee ranked it in the top 5 five of all the nominations and I successfully recommended it to a few of my friends after I finished.

Stephanie grew up in Lincoln and now resides in Seattle with her husband, two sons, a Labrador and two tabby cats and is currently working on her third novel.  Broken for You was published in 2004 and was chosen by Sue Monk Kidd as a "Today Show" book club selection and received the Washington State and PNBA Book Awards. Her second novel, Sing Them Home, was published in 2009 and was selected as a January ’09 IndieNext title.

We own both of Kallos' titles in our book club collection so consider selecting this Nebraska author for your next book club read.

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New State Agency Publications Received at the Library Commission

NEState SealNew state agency publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for May 2015.  Included are titles from Nebraska Department of Education, Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, Nebraska Department of Labor, and University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.

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Friday Reads: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

“Somewhere the saving and putting away had to begin again and someone had to do the saving and keeping, one way or another, in books, in records, in people’s heads, any way at all so long as it was safe, free from moths, silver-fish, rust and dry-rot, and men with matches.”fahrenheit451

I find it somewhat hard to believe that I haven’t read Fahrenheit 451 until now. In addition to its status as a classic, it would seem that, given, my chosen profession, I’d have managed to read it already. As the above quote illustrates, the message of this book should appeal to librarians.

Before I started reading this book, I was familiar with the general premise, a dystopian future in which books are outlawed. The book’s protagonist is Guy Montag, who works as a fireman. In this future society, firemen don’t put out fires; they set them, in order to burn illicit books. Montag becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the state of the society in which he lives, and he takes steps to oppose the status quo.

I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how much I’m enjoying finding out all the details of this book that has existed in my consciousness only as a cultural icon all this time. I think it is very well-written, and I love Bradbury’s prose. Although the book was originally published in the 1950s, I find many of its descriptions of everyday life and technology very similar to our current society. Reading about how, instead of interacting with one another, people focus their attention on televisions that take up three walls of their living rooms and constantly listen to earphones made me feel guilty about the amount of time I spend mindlessly using my TV, tablet, and iPod. (However, I did use my iPod to listen to this audiobook, so maybe electronic devices are not all bad!)

The particular audiobook I am listening to is narrated very well by actor Tim Robbins, which adds to my enjoyment. Robbins does a great job of bringing Montag to life and provides distinguishable, believable voices for the supporting characters.

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451. Newark, NJ: Audible Studios, 2014.

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Sisters in Crime Love Libraries

Did you see that great article in Novelist’s RA News newsletter about the Sisters in Crime organization? This group of women mystery writers will give a $1000 “We Love Libraries” grant to a lucky U.S. public library each month. See the RA News article (and maybe sign up to get the newsletter in your email) at See more about the SinC grant opportunity at

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Friday Reads: Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly, by Anthony Bourdain

kitchenconfidentialI remember hearing buzz about Kitchen Confidential, Anthony Bourdain’s account of what it’s like to work in a restaurant kitchen, shortly after it was published in the summer of 2000. Interviews and reviews that surfaced in the media piqued my interest, but I never got around to reading it at the time. Since then Bourdain’s fame has grown due to his participation in several television series, most notably No Reservations and Parts Unknown. Finally, last week, my husband checked out the eBook edition from Lincoln City Libraries’ OverDrive collection. He laughed so hard he cried as he consumed it nightly before bed, interrupting my reading to share excerpts so frequently that I felt compelled to check out, download, and listen to the audiobook edition, read by Bourdain, himself.

Early in the book Bourdain describes the life lived by restaurant kitchen workers as a subculture. From his anecdotes, which my husband swears aren’t exaggerations (he cooked for two years while I attended library school), that sounds spot on. This is not a ponderous or philosophical book, though Bourdain does share interesting insights and opinions. The prose is raw, in-your-face, and eloquently crude. As Bourdain reads his own words one imagines this is just the way he speaks in real life, when not restrained by television censors. If profanity bothers you, this is not the book for you!

By the end of the book any illusions the reader might have had that cooking for a living is glamorous will have been completely shattered. Bourdain paints a picture of a physically and psychically hard life, where drug addiction and dysfunction reign. Kitchen crews are described at various times as pirate crews and mercenaries. It wouldn’t be the life for me, but I enjoyed reading about it!

Bourdain, Anthony. Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Group, 2001. Internet resource. (Listen to sample)

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NCompass Live: Reading & Sharing: The System Directors Talk About Books

NCompass live smallJoin us for next week’s NCompass Live, “Reading & Sharing: The System Directors Talk About Books”, on Wednesday, May 20, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

The directors of the Nebraska Regional Library Systems, Anneka, Denise, Eric, Scott, and Sharon, get together to do one of their favorite things-talk about the books they’ve been reading. The hour is sure to include some great suggestions-and maybe some surprises.

  • Anneka Ramirez, Director, Three Rivers Library System
  • Denise Harders and Sharon Osenga, Co-Directors, Central Plains Library System
  • Eric Green, Coordinator, Western Library System
  • Scott Childers, Director, Southeast Library System

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • May 27 – IT Security for Libraries
  • June 3 – Connecting to your community through the Human Library program: The Pace University Library experience
  • June 10 – Making The Most of The Cloud
  • June 17 – NebraskAccess Expansion
  • June 24 – Metadata Manipulations: Using MarcEdit and Open Refine to Enhance Technical Services Workflows

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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Friday Reads: Nemesis by Jo Nesbo

NesboAlong with millions of others, I am a fan of Stieg Larsson’s “Millenium” trilogy of crime novels.  Seriously, is there a more compelling character than Lisbeth Salander? Those were the first novels I’d read by a Scandinavian author. Having enjoyed Larsson’s series I was curious to learn more about Jo Nesbo, a popular Norwegian author who writes crime fiction – a lot of crime fiction. Harry Hole is the main character in a series of, so far, ten crime novels written by Nesbo. Hole is described as a “classic loose cannon” in the Oslo (Norway) police force. He’s flawed, but, of course, brilliant.

Thus far I’ve read Nesbo’s Nemesis (#4) and The Devil’s Star (#5). Had I known more about the series I would have started with the first book. Even so, the books need not be read in sequence. There’s sufficient detail to fill in the pieces.

Nesbo is a prolific writer. His books have universal appeal (at least for the crime fiction crowd). His books have been translated into over 40 languages and have sold over 23 million copies.

In addition to Nesbo’s Harry Hole novels, he’s written books in series based on other characters (Doctor Proctor, for one). He’s written stand-alone works (Headhunter is another I read recently) and children’s books. He even finds time to be the lead singer for a band performing a hundred or so gigs a year.

Those who enjoy crime fiction, as I do, will find it worthwhile to give Nesbo’s books a try.

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How to Set Up a Citizenship Corner at Your Library

Citizenship-cornerLibraries play an important role in raising awareness about the naturalization process and the rights and responsibilities of U.S. citizenship.

Create a dedicated space in your library where immigrants can find information about becoming a U.S. citizen.   USCIS has developed educational materials to help prepare individuals for naturalization. These materials are ideal for setting up a Citizenship Corner in your library. Here immigrants can find the information and resources they need to start the path toward becoming a U.S. citizen.

A typical Citizenship Corner includes citizenship test preparation materials along with information about the naturalization process. Libraries can also add information about community resources, English teaching materials, and other relevant books and videos from their collections. While there are a number of immigration topics that may be of interest to libraries and their customers, USCIS recommends displaying only citizenship and naturalization-related resources in the Citizenship Corner.

How to Set Up a Citizenship Corner at Your Library

  1. Order one free copy of the USCIS Civics and Citizenship Toolkit. The Toolkit contains immigration and civics publications, handbooks, and multimedia tools. Additional copies are available for purchase through the U.S. Government Printing Office.
  2. Build your collection by purchasing other USCIS materials. Most of the following publications are also included in the Civics and Citizenship Toolkit:
    • The USCIS Naturalization Interview and Test video
    • Learn About the United States: Quick Civics Lessons for the Naturalization Test
    • Vocabulary Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test
    • Civics Flash Cards for the Naturalization Test (English and Spanish)
    • Civics and Citizenship Multimedia Presentation
  3. Download Form N-400, Application for Naturalization and provide copies in the Citizenship Corner. (Remind your customers that all USCIS forms are free.)
  4. Display and distribute free USCIS informational resources:
  5. Enhance your Citizenship Corner with other citizenship-related and English as a Second Language (ESL) resources from your library’s collection:
    • Locate the Citizenship Corner near ESL textbooks and resources or post signs directing customers.
    • Feature books and magazines that address the content of the 100 civics questions on the naturalization test such as famous Americans, historical events, and important founding documents.
  6. Arrange your Citizenship Corner to be welcoming and helpful. Here are some additional suggestions:
    • Decorate the Citizenship Corner in a patriotic theme.
    • Distribute promotional flyers for citizenship or ESL classes offered at your library.
    • Distribute flyers from local BIA-recognized organizations that may be able to help immigrant customers with USCIS forms. Visit for more information on finding legal services and BIA-recognized organizations.
    • Create and distribute a referral list of local community organizations that provide citizenship services and ESL classes in your community. Start by visiting the Find Help in Your Community page on the USCIS Citizenship Resource Center. Another resource for finding community organizations that offer ESL, civics, and citizenship education classes is America’s Literacy Directory. Search for programs by zip code.
  7. USCIS often hosts naturalization information sessions and administrative naturalization ceremonies in libraries. View the list of upcoming naturalization information sessions at libraries nationwide. Contact your local USCIS Community Relations Officer if you are interested in USCIS hosting a similar session at your library.
  8. Create a virtual Citizenship Corner on your library website:
    • USCIS offers many free web resources in the Learners section of this site. You may want to add a link on your website.
    • Link to USCIS resources by adding a widget to your website. The widgets are small online applications in English and Spanish that can be embedded on social media sites, blogs, or other web pages.
    • You can also include information about immigration and citizenship resources available at your library.
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Nebraska USDA Rural Development Announces Funds Available for Low Interest Home Repair Loans and Grants









The U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development has announced adequate funding remains available to assist very low income households with home repairs.   For those who own and occupy homes in need of essential repairs and who are wondering how to get financing, USDA Rural Development can help with grants and low-interest loans for homeowners in rural communities. All communities in Nebraska are eligible for housing programs with the exceptions of Fremont, Grand Island, Hastings, Kearney, Lincoln, North Platte, Omaha and South Sioux City/Dakota City.

Applicants must own and occupy the home and not exceed income guidelines established by county and household size. The family’s income must below 50 percent of the county median income.  For many counties in Nebraska, the income limit for a one person household is $21,350; two person, $24,400; three person, $27,450; four person, $30,500 and five person, $32,950.  However, some counties may have higher income limits.  Please contact your USDA Rural Development office for the details in your county.

Available Low-interest Loans:

Rural Development’s Home Repair Loan program offers low-interest (1 percent) loans, up to $20,000, to very low income rural homeowners. Loans may be used to repair, improve or modernize homes or to remove health and safety hazards.  Homeowners must meet household income guidelines, have an acceptable credit history and show repayment ability for the loan based on a household budget.

The USDA repair loan may be made up to $20,000 at a 1% interest rate, with a repayment term up to 20 years.   Loans of less than $7,500 may not require a mortgage against the property.  The low interest rate and extended terms of the loan make repayment more affordable for households with limited income.  For example, a $10,000 loan at 1% interest for 20 years would have a monthly payment of $46, compared to a conventional loan with an interest rate of 5% for 10 years, with a monthly payment of $106.

Available Grants:

Rural Development’s Home Repair Grant program is available to owner-occupants of a rural home, who are 62 years of age or older, are very low income and are unable to repay a loan. Grant funds may only be used to remove health and safety hazards, such as replacing a roof, electrical and plumbing repairs, sanitary disposal systems and accommodations to make the home handicap accessible.  Maximum lifetime grant assistance is $7,500.

Eligibility for the program is based on household income and applicants must be unable to repay a loan.  If applicants can repay part, but not all of the costs, applicants may be offered a loan and grant combination.

For more information, go to the Nebraska RD website at  You may also contact Single Family Housing Specialist Krista Mettscher at 402-437-5518,

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities.  USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

Helping people stay in their home and keep it in good repair helps families and their communities.  Households interested in affordable home improvements may contact their local USDA Rural Development office or visit the Agency website at for additional information.

USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer. To file a complaint of discrimination, write: USDA, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, DC 20250-9410 or call (866) 632-9992 (Toll-free Customer Service), (800) 877-8339 (Local or Federal relay), (866) 377-8642 (Relay voice users)

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Friday Reads: The Curse of Chalion, by Lois McMaster Bujold

chalioncoverIn The Curse of Chalion Lois McMaster Bujold, creates a fantasy world based on Reconquista Spain, a world shot through with divinity and magic. The hero, Cazaril, returning home from the wars betrayed by his superiors and broken in body and spirit, finds a new job as tutor-secretary to the royal heiress, and finds something new to believe in and care about as he attempts to guide her through political intrigue and family tragedy.

The world building in the book is well thought out and incredibly detailed. The magic in this world flows from the gods, and is often indistinguishable from miracles. The characters, even minor ones, are well fleshed out; even the villains have understandable motives and emotions. The main plot takes a little time to get rolling, but plenty is happening to keep the story moving along briskly, and the writing is compulsively readable.

Ms. Bujold has set two more books in this same world, Hugo award winner, Paladin of Souls (a direct sequel) and more distantly related, The Hallowed Hunt.

I’m a great Bujold fan, and will read whatever she writes, but this book is one of my favorites.  Chalion is not a brand new book, but it is one worth suggesting to readers looking for a human story set against an epic background, or a fantasy grounded by very human characters.

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What’s Sally Reading?

Malinda Lo’s Four-Part post of “Perceptions of Diversity in Book Reviews”

Take some time to read and think about the things Malinda Lo has to say to us all.  You will have to scroll down to read the posts in order since the web page has them lined up with the fourth post first and so on.  While she is specifically addressing phrasing in book reviews, her message is well worth consideration.  I intend to reread this often as I write my blurbs for presentations on recent books I recommend to Nebraska librarians.  I am certain that in the past I have made similar assumptions and I hope to stop it completely.  If you are interested in following Malinda Lo and Cindy Pon on their blog, it is located here.

Applegate219Ivan: The Remarkable True Story of the Shopping Mall Gorilla  by Katherine Applegate is a nonfiction picture book that tells the story of Ivan, who was the main character in the author’s Newbery Medal winning title, The One and Only Ivan.  Here she tells of his capture in Africa and travel in a crate with another baby gorilla named Burma.  The man who owned a shopping mall in Tacoma, Washington had paid for their capture in 1962.  He eventually put him on display at the mall and Ivan was there for 27 years until a protest by the people of the area convinced the owner to send Ivan to Zoo Atlanta.  There he once again walked on green grass and met other gorillas.  A two-page spread at the back of the book tells older children and adults more about Ivan and has a couple of photographs.  This book is great for kindergarten through third grade children.

(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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Focus on Nebraska authors: Kent Haruf

Kent Haruf (rhymes with sheriff) graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University in 1965 where he later taught as an assistant professor. He earned an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop at the University of Iowa in 1973. These are only a few of his credentials but he came to my attention when his book Plainsong was announced as the very first One Book One Lincoln in 2002. That book marked the beginning of my own book group and a relationship with the One Book One Lincoln program that remains to this day.

Plainsong takes place in the fictional town of Holt, Colorado and is based on the town of Yuma where Mr. Haruf lived in the ‘80s. In a Newsweek review, Jeff Giles called the book “a moving look at our capacity for both pointless cruelty and simple decency, our ability to walk out of the wreckage of one family and build a stronger one where it used to stand.” Many local readers were miffed at the lack of quotation marks throughout the book and this caused a bit of kerfuffle. As I listened to the audio version, it wasn’t an issue.  Another Haruf title follows some of the same characters in Holt and is entitled Eventide.

Kent Haruf died at the age of 71 in November of 2014. To honor this writer, you may wish to select some of his titles in our collection: Eventide, Plainsong, The Tie That Binds and Where You Once Belonged

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Friday Reads: Fables

FablesFables is a multiple Eisner Award-winning comic book series written by Bill Willingham. It tells the story of characters from fairytales, folklore, and mythology who have been ousted from their homelands by the mysterious Adversary. They have been living in hiding in New York City for centuries, attempting to blend in with the non-magical human population. They stick together as a tight-knit community called Fabletown. Many of them live in an apartment building called the Woodland Luxury Apartments, which also houses the Business and Security offices of Fabletown, their own town hall and sheriff’s station. Any Fables who are unable to pass as human, such as animals or monsters or giants, live on The Farm in Upstate New York. Spells are in place to keep it hidden from Mundys, short for Mundane, the human natives of this world. People like you and me.

Well-known characters appear in the books, but with slightly different histories than you may remember. And of course, these tales take place long after the time of the stories we know, so things have changed quite a bit. Snow White and Prince Charming are divorced (he’s just TOO charming…and can’t resist sharing that charm with all the women he can); she is the Deputy Mayor of Fabletown, handling the day-to-day operations for the Mayor, King Cole; Bigby Wolf, aka the Big Bad Wolf, is the Sheriff. And we can’t forget Bufkin, the flying monkey librarian from Oz.

In the first collected volume, Legends in Exile, Snow White’s rebellious sister, Rose Red, has been murdered. So, the series introduces us to these unique characters through the telling of a complicated murder mystery, with the classic surprise ending.

A bit of a warning: these are not fairy tales for small children – there is a very bloody murder, sexual situations, and adult language. These books are definitely for a mature audience, teens and older.

The series isn’t new – it started in 2002 and is currently ongoing with monthly issues of the comic. Sadly, Willingham has announced that he will be ending Fables this year, with issue #150. But, it has been released in collected volumes, 20 so far. Each volume collects 5-12 issues of the comic book, making it very easy to start and catch up.

I’ve not caught up myself yet. But, I am really enjoying this interpretation of traditional fairy tales and stories. The characters are well developed and the writing makes you want to learn more about who they are and how they got where they are today. The artwork is very good, and incredibly detailed in many places. I may have spent way too long on the pages in the Business Office of the Woodland Apartments, which is magically larger on the inside than you would expect, trying to find every little detail of the accessories that the Fables brought from their Homelands to our world. I think that’s Excalibur in the stone back there…behind the Magic Mirror…and is that Captain Hook’s Jolly Roger floating by?

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New Government Publications Received at the Library Commission

NEState SealNew state government publications have been received at the Nebraska Library Commission for April 2015.  Included are titles from Nebraska Colleges and Universities, Nebraska Game & Parks Commission, the Nebraska Fire Marshal and University of Nebraska Press, to name a few.

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