Category Archives: Books & Reading

Vote for Your Favorite Library Reads

LibraryReadsLogoLet your voice be heard!  To celebrate their 1-year anniversary, Library Reads is asking librarians to vote on their Favorite  of Favorites from the last year.  The top ten list will be released December 1.

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What’s Sally Reading?

National Book Award Long List Announced!

The list for Young People’s Literature is included with the other categories on the National Book Award web page.  I notice one of our recent “Friday Reads,” Redeployment by Phil Klay, posted on August 8, 2014, is on the Fiction list.  Though I spend most of my time reading children’s and teen books, I do enjoy taking a look at lists of titles for adults that I might someday read.

At this point I have read one title on the Young People’s Literature list, though several are on my “to read” list and now I need to add a few more to it.  How many do you have in your library, and are the children or teens checking them out?  The Finalists will be announced on October 15.

Adventure, steampunk, and possible war are included in the 2013 One Book for Nebraska Teens, Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld.  Look for book club kits on the Commission’s list.

(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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Friday Reads: Avalon High by Meg Cabot (YA)

Friday Reads: Avalon High by Meg Cabot (YA)

A blending of Arthurian Legends and High School Chick Lit, Avalon High is a sweet and simple story of girl meets boy for the first (or is it the second) time and then is politely pursued by boy until she clues in that her crush isn’t unrequited; just add a dash of reincarnation and a pinch more of intrigue.

book cover: Avalon High

Avalon High by Meg Cabot

Elaine “Ellie” Harrison is a typical high school girl who moves with her professor parents for their research sabbatical, temporarily enrolling at a new school. Inundated for the past sixteen years by the facts, literature and legends of the dark ages, Ellie has developed an aversion to all things medieval; but when she is assigned a history report on Arthurian Legends, Ellie finds startling parallels between handsome, golden-boy Will Wagner and King Arthur of legend. But just like Arthur, Will may to be facing dark times ahead. Each chapter begins charmingly with a quotation from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s classic poem, The Lady of Shalott. I give it a solid 3 stars and recommend for junior high readers.

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Friday Reads: Cat Girl’s Day Off, by Kimberly Pauley

The Nebraska Library Commission has 2 book grcatgirlsdayoffoups: Adult & Children and I belong to both. This past month we read Cat Girl’s Day Off by Kimberly Pauley. The author pulls off a high school life with superpowers (like there isn’t enough drama already in high school), friends that have way too much worldly knowledge for their age, and too much pink (cats, clothes, dogs, hair). In a family full of “talented people” Nat, our lead, has a lower level Talent–she can talk to cats–which can be embarrassing especially when they start telling boy secrets (you’ll have to read it).  The story develops into a celebrity kidnapping mystery you’ll never forget, with twists that are almost believable. Did you enjoy Ferris Bueller’s Day Off? That should give you a hint of the comedy, action, and drama that Kimberly unveils for us. As Pauley says on her blog “Find out what happens when the kitty litter hits the fan”. Ages 12+

Pauley, Kimberly.  Cat Girl’s Day Off.  New York: Tu Books, 2012.


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What’s Sally Reading?

“Life Prep” Skills for Teens…

Not so long ago a member posted on the YALSA-BK mail group that she had asked her teens what specific “life prep” topics they would like a program on, they responded with the list below:

– making cheap but meaningful gifts

– cooking good meals cheaply (including for a date!)

– finances – getting a loan, establishing good credit, checking and savings accounts, how to budget/save/invest

– buying a car – what to look for/watch out for, what questions to ask, how to test drive, how to bargain, how to weigh your options

– renting – what lease agreements should/shouldn’t include, how to check on the neighborhood, roommate issues, setting up utilities, security, landlord/tenant rights and responsibilities

– how to find/access community help

– fixing appliances

– cleaning tips

– repurposing found/thrift shop items into furniture, etc.

– packing and moving

– travel tips and cheap vacations

– cars – how and when to register, get oil changed (or how to do it yourself), what basic parts look like and do, insurance, trouble-shooting

– relationships – healthy boundaries, saying no, building friendships (especially in a new area) – getting plugged into a new community

Wow! Maybe you would like to think about some possible presenters and then ask your teens what they would like to learn (or learn more).  If you have a Teen Advisory Board you could run this idea and/or list by them to find out what they think, and maybe they know someone who could present.  Good luck!

Looking for a humorous, fun title for readers?  The 2013 One Book for Nebraska Kids is Aliens on Vacation by Clete Barrett Smith.  Look for book club kits on the Commission’s list.

(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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NYTimes Revamps Best Sellers Lists

Today the New York Times Book Review announced that it is adding 12 new monthly lists: Travel; Humor; Family; Relationships; Animals; Religion, Spirituality and Faith; and Celebrities, with more to come next year.  The paper is also redesigning its print best sellers page.  All the best sellers lists are available at:

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New Government Publications Received at the Library Commission

Nebraska-State-SealState government publications ranging from Administrative Services to Nebraska Press, received July and August, 2014.

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Friday Reads: The Care and Management of Lies, by Jacqueline Winspear

winspear-careAlso set in World War I, this book is written from a different perspective than the book Mary Jo wrote about two weeks ago. The story opens in England on a hopeful note with Kezia Marchant preparing for her wedding to Tom Brissenden just weeks before war is declared.  It is a poignant story of love, friendships, changing relationships, differing philosophies, duty, sacrifice, and bravery. The lies of the title include those in the letters Tom writes from the trenches to limit Kezia’s concerns, and Kezia’s unique stories in return of the delicious meals she dreams up to serve him instead of worrying him about changes on their farm. Other characters lie to themselves or live lies to justify their actions and beliefs. This story provides a very human look at how the stresses of war can affect individuals, families, friends, communities and cultures.

This is a standalone book, but Jacqueline Winspear also writes the Maisie Dobbs series set in England after World War I.

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Recently on the NCompass Podcast

Have you listened to the NCompass Podcast lately? Here are the episodes from August 2014. To get all of the episodes delivered to you automatically be sure to subscribe via RSS or iTunes.



Episode 296: #SVYALit Project: Using Young Adult Literature to Talk with Teens About Sexual Violence and Consent

Episode 297: Harlequin Take Me Away: the NLC Booktalks Romance

Episode 298: What You Need to Know to Apply for a Youth Grant

Episode 299: Tech Talk with Michael Sauers: RFID, Checkout Kiosks, Security Gates, and … a New Way to Check Out

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Nebraska Learns 2.0: PowToons and We Are Anonymous

The Nebraska Learns 2.0 Thing for September is Create Animated Videos with PowToon

For this month’s Thing, we will learn how to use PowToon to create an online animated movie or presentation to promote your library and its services.

Another facet of Nebraska Learns 2.0 is BookThing. Each month we pick a single title that we feel has relevance to librarianship and/or information theory. Some of the titles will be very obviously related, while others may not seem so on the surface but there is a connection. Your assignment will be to read the book and create a blog post answering some questions about the title.

The BookThing for September is We are Anonymous: Inside the Hacker World of LulzSec, Anonymous, and the Global Cyber Insurgency by Parmy Olson.

Nebraska Learns 2.0 is the Nebraska Library Commission’s ongoing online learning CarhengeCrop5program. It is a self-discovery program which encourages participants to take control of their own learning and to utilize their lifelong learning skills through exploration and PLAY.

Each month, we offer you an opportunity to learn a new Thing (or lesson). You have all month to complete that Thing and receive one CE credit. You may choose which Things to do based on personal interest and time availability If the Thing of the month doesn’t interest you or if you are particularly busy that month, you can skip it.

If you are new to Nebraska Learns 2.0, your first assignment is to sign up to participate. This program is open to ALL Nebraska librarians, library staff, library friends, library board members and school media specialists.

We hope you’ll join your library colleagues in the fun as you learn about new and exciting technologies!

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Friday Reads: Stubby the War Dog

Stubby the War DogI have been reading books for preschool through high school ages preparing for next year’s summer reading program “Every Hero Has a Story.”  Among my favorites so far is a nonfiction title: Stubby the War Dog by Ann Bausum, written for grades 4-7.   Stubby was a stray who connected with J. Robert Conroy, an enlisted man among many who were training on Yale’s athletic grounds in 1917.  When the time came to ship out, Stubby was smuggled on board and soon was considered by all to be a part of the unit.

He brought companionship and relieved tedium, but also helped his fellow soldiers by killing rats in the trenches, warning them of imminent gas attacks, and even captured a German soldier on his own.

Period photographs of Stubby and of the countryside at that time help to bring his story to life.  And just so you know, Stubby made it back home, and so did his best buddy Conroy.

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Team to lead NEH-funded project to digitize Cather letters

“Willa Cather ca. 1912 wearing necklace from Sarah Orne Jewett” by Photographer: Aime Dupont Studio, New York – Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial and Educational Foundation. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Last year, the private musings of Willa Cather were made available to the masses for the first time in a book co-edited by UNL’s Andrew Jewell.

About 550 of the famous author’s letters were published in “The Selected Letters of Willa Cather.” Scholars and fans greeted the book with excitement, but the volume contained only a fraction of the more than 3,000 pieces of correspondence that Jewell and co-editor Janis Stout had uncovered from various archives and collections around the world.

Thanks to a three-year, $271,980 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, many more will be digitized and put online by the end of the decade.

A new digital scholarly edition titled “The Complete Letters of Willa Cather” will be published online as part of the Willa Cather Archive, a venture of UNL’s Center for Digital Research in the Humanities. The digital edition of Cather letters is expected to launch in January 2018, when the letters are scheduled to enter the public domain.

Read the full article @ UNL Today.

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Friday Reads: Johnny Got His Gun, by Dalton Trumbo

johhnygothisgunAt the risk of appearing like military-themed books are the only books that Nebraska Library Commission staff read during the summer, I’ve chosen a book that epitomizes this 100th anniversary of the start of World War I—for me. We always talk about books that change our lives and we know that different books can have a huge impact on our lives, sometimes depending on our life-stage and the environment. This is a book that stopped me in my tracks, and continues to this day to influence my ethical perspective and world view.

Written in 1938 by Dalton Trumbo, I came across Johnny Got His Gun as a student in a UNL English Literature class in the winter of 1970. It was among dozens of books we were assigned to read, but it is the only one I remember. This book sparked some of the liveliest discussions of my educational career, outside of discussing our original poetry in Ted Kooser’s Poetry Writing class—nothing gets the conversation heated up more than criticizing a classmate’s heartfelt, original works of poetry.

The book begins as a stream-of-consciousness, first-person narration by a severely wounded American soldier, Joe Bonham. Joe slowly comes to realize the extent of his injuries, as the reader gets to know Joe through his richly detailed memories of life before and during the war. The reader shares Joe’s growing horror as he begins to comprehend the loss of his senses one-by-one, interspersed with memories of how those senses gave him a rich full life and made him the man he was: touching, hearing, tasting, seeing, smelling (“There was a smell about the fair grounds you never forgot. A smell you never ceased dreaming of. He would always smell it somewhere back in his mind as long as he lived.”). Joe’s mind is still sharp as he struggles with existential issues: Is he awake or asleep? Is he dreaming or day-dreaming? Can he think his way out of this mess his life has become? What is the “future” for him?

The reader comes to realize the brutal horrors of war as they impact a very real person. Besides being a skillfully crafted story, the characters are so engaging and the depiction of time and place so perfect that reading this book really is like watching a movie. And no matter how badly I wanted to turn my eyes away, it was impossible to stop reading because Joe’s personality and predicament just got under my skin.

“And we won’t be back ‘till it’s over, over there,” went the words to a popular song used to recruit so many young people. But the reality is—it’s never over, over there—or over here. If the past one hundred years haven’t proved that, I don’t know what will. This war was romanticized beyond belief. The propaganda posters that drew so many to their death illustrate that target marketing was used to convince young people that their way of life depended on their participation in this “war to end all wars.” It’s a real education to take a look at examples of WW I posters at and then contrast them to those of the Vietnam War era at wwIposter

For many of us in that English class in 1970, the comparison of the Vietnam War to WWI seemed inevitable. As we discussed this book we railed against the war that was killing our friends and former classmates—sitting in our comfortable seats in Andrews Hall, smoking cigarettes, and arguing about making the world safe for democracy. Even though the reality is that these two wars were very different—WWI was the war that introduced us to modern, efficient killing machines and chemicals—there were enough similarities to feed the dissidence that was already growing. Even the author Dalton Trumbo agrees that not all wars should be lumped together when he says, “World War II was not a romantic war… Johnny was exactly the sort of book that shouldn’t be reprinted until the war (WW II) was at an end…Johnny held a different meaning for three different wars. Its present meaning is what each reader conceives it to be, and each reader is gloriously different from every other reader, and each is also changing.”

In May 1970, the semester ended prematurely for many of us that took part in the nationwide student strike. We left the classrooms for informal seminars and teach-ins on the floor in the student union. My grade for that English class was “Incomplete,” but I learned more in that class than I did in most other ones—and this book was a big part of my education.

“Woodstock,” by Joni Mitchell

… And I dreamed I saw the bombers

Riding shotgun in the sky

And they were turning into butterflies

Above our nation



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First Nebraska-Produced Talking Book Now Downloadable


August 19, 2014

Mary Jo Ryan

When the Nebraska Library Commission Talking Book and Braille Service (TBBS) recorded I Am a Man: Chief Standing Bear’s Journey for Justice, it enabled Nebraskans with a print-related disability to participate in the 2012 One Book One Nebraska statewide reading program. Now Nebraska’s recording is available for direct download to any qualifying U.S. resident through the Library of Congress’ Braille and Audio Reading Download service (BARD).

Written by Nebraska author Joe Starita and narrated by Alice Timm, this book is the first Nebraska Library Commission studio production to be offered through BARD online downloading. The book chronicles what happened when Chief Standing Bear undertook a 600-mile trek to return the body of his only son to their ancestral burial ground.

In recognition of Nebraska’s efforts, Library of Congress National Library Service Director Karen Keninger offered her congratulations, “Thank you for participating in the network-produced audiobooks on BARD pilot. I am pleased to inform you that your book . . . is now available on BARD. The posting of your book to BARD marks an important milestone in our efforts to increase the quantity of materials available on BARD.”

Launched in 2009 by the Library of Congress, BARD allows qualifying U.S. residents to download encrypted files of audio books and magazines, Braille, and music instruction materials. Materials can be accessed through home computers or through a mobile app for use with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch device. Currently 354 Nebraskans participate in BARD—9% of TBBS borrowers—many more could be eligible (see application instructions at For more information see or contact, 402-471-4038, 800-742-7691.

As Nebraska’s 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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2014 Hugo Award Winners Announced

EquoidAncillary JusticeBest Novel
Ancillary Justice, by Ann Leckie (Orbit US / Orbit UK)

Best Novella
“Equoid” by Charles Stross (, 09-2013)

Best Novelette
“The Lady Astronaut of Mars” by Mary Robinette Kowal (, 09-2013)

The Water That Falls on You from NowhereThe Lady Astronaut of MarsBest Short Story
“The Water That Falls on You from Nowhere” by John Chu (, 02-2013)

Best Related Work
“We Have Always Fought: Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves Narrative” by Kameron Hurley (A Dribble of Ink)

Best Graphic Story
“Time” by Randall Munroe (xkcd)

lightspeed_49_june_2014 We Have Always Fought Challenging the Women, Cattle and Slaves NarrativeBest Dramatic Presentation, Long Form
Gravity written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Esperanto Filmoj; Heyday Films;Warner Bros.)

Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form
Game of Thrones “The Rains of Castamere” written by David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, directed by David Nutter (HBO Entertainment in association with Bighead, Littlehead; Television 360; Startling Television and Generator Productions)

Game of ThronesGravityBest Editor, Short Form
Ellen Datlow

Best Editor, Long Form
Ginjer Buchanan

Best Professional Artist
Julie Dillon

Best Semiprozine
Lightspeed Magazine edited by John Joseph Adams, Rich Horton,
and Stefan Rudnicki

Best Fanzine
A Dribble of Ink edited by Aidan Moher

Best Fancast
SF Signal Podcast, Patrick Hester

Best Fan Writer
Kameron Hurley

Best Fan Artist
Sarah Webb

Full details including nominees and vote totals can be found on the Hugo Awards site.

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Friday Reads: Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin

book cover imageAt the end of summer, my 12-year-old son and I road tripped to South Texas to visit friends. This involved a two-day drive down and a two-day drive back. To me, road trips mean audiobooks. Although my son is the stereotypical boy who doesn’t read, he has enjoyed audiobooks in the past; therefore I came prepared with three young adult possibilities, checked out from OverDrive and downloaded to my Kindle Fire: a dystopian thriller, a baseball mystery, and a nonfiction history book.

Listening to an audiobook held no appeal for him on the way down to Texas, but on the way back, the novelty of road tripping having completely worn off, he gave in to my suggestion that he select a title for us to listen to. Scanning the three I’d downloaded, it was really no contest: he immediately picked the nonfiction history book, Bomb: The Race to Build—and Steal—the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon, by Steve Sheinkin.

This is a great example of a nonfiction title that reads like fiction, and my son was rapt throughout the seven hour narration. The story jumps back and forth between Soviet agents recruiting young, initially unemployed U.S. chemist Harry Gold as a spy, Robert Oppenheimer’s efforts to assemble a team of scientists to build an atomic bomb at Los Alamos, and Norwegian resistance fighters’ intricate and ultimately successful plan to sabotage a heavy water plant in Norway in order to disrupt Nazi development of nuclear weapons.

The plot involving the Norwegian commandos was like something out of a James Bond or Mission Impossible movie, and my son sat bolt upright in his seat, the Kindle held to his ear so he wouldn’t miss a word. At one point he exclaimed “I could listen to this book forever!” Talk about music to a librarian mother’s ears! And when the team succeeded in infiltrating and blowing up the plant, he reacted with a fist pump and a “Yes!”

Learning about the espionage networks at work at the time was also fascinating. One of my favorite scenes involved two spies meeting up. Their handlers had given each spy half a Jell-O box cover. At first contact each man produced his half of the Jell-O box cover; when placed next to one another they matched up perfectly, letting each spy know that the other was legitimate.

Upon returning home I looked up author Steve Sheinkin and discovered that he’s penned additional nonfiction history books for young adults. And what do you know! My son had previously read and enjoyed two of them: The Notorious Benedict Arnold: A True Story of Adventure, Heroism & Treachery and King George: What Was His Problem?: The Whole Hilarious Story of the American Revolution. Given his 100% satisfaction rating to date, Steve Sheinkin is definitely an author who’ll stay on my radar as I continue to search for the right books for my particular reluctant reader!

Sheinkin, Steve. Bomb: The Race to Build–and Steal–The World’s Most Dangerous Weapon. Listening Library, 2013. (Listen to excerpt)


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This day in history…

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Panama Canal.  Below is a poster sent out by the U.S. Census Bureau to commemorate this remarkable feat of engineering.

Panama Canal


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NCompass Live: Harlequin Take Me Away: the NLC Booktalks Romance

NCompass live smallJoin us for next week’s NCompass Live: “Harlequin Take Me Away: the NLC Booktalks Romance”, on Wednesday, August 13, 10:00-11:00 am Central Time.

Is a life spent reading a life well-spent? Devra Dragos and Laura Johnson, from the Nebraska Library Commission, think so. They’d like to share some of the great Romances they’ve read lately and to hear about the Romances you and your library users are reading. Join us for our second look at what the folks from the Nebraska Library Commission are reading and suggesting to others. Everyone can benefit from a happy ending!

Upcoming NCompass Live events:

  • August 20 – What You Need to Know to Apply for a Youth Grant
  • August 27 – Tech Talk with Michael Sauers: RFID, Checkout Kiosks, Security Gates, and … a New Way to Check Out

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: Redeployment by Phil Klay

Redeployment coverPhil Klay served in the Iraq War as a United States Marine and then earned his MFA degree. In this book, Klay’s short stories reflect the experiences of those who served in Iraq, both during deployments and upon returning home. He explores the harsh realities of war, but the sadness is tempered with humor, and I’m finding it very engrossing so far.

Klay, Phil. Redeployment. Penguin Press, 2014.

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Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival Scheduled for Sept. 25-27, 2014

plumcreeklitfestlogoNebraska library staff are invited to attend the Plum Creek Children’s Literacy Festival. Originating in 1996 at Concordia University in Seward, NE, the festival is a three-day literacy event for school age children and adults. Participants are provided with an opportunity to interact with nationally acclaimed authors and illustrators. The festival has grown from a one-day, one-author event to a three-day nine-author event. Over 10,000 school-age children and their teachers attend two Children’s Days of the festival at no charge. An adult conference is held the third day, with nine authors and seven literacy experts speaking to approximately 600 attendees. For a short video about the festival and registration links, see

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