Category Archives: Books & Reading

Friday Reads: Tasting History by Max Miller

In February 2020, Max Miller posted his first Tasting History video to YouTube. A week later COVID-19 hit, and he was furloughed from his job. As the world entered the beginning of the pandemic lockdown, people went online, looking for entertainment, distraction, and connections. Tasting History was there. And the rest is, well, history.

Now, his viral video series has become a cookbook, Tasting History, Explore the Past through 4,000 Years of Recipes. Full disclosure: I haven’t cooked anything from this cookbook yet, I’ve just been enjoying reading through it so far.

We have been watching the Tasting History videos almost from the beginning, so when Max announced there would be a cookbook coming out, I knew we had to have it. And I was not disappointed.

The videos are a combination of recipe demo and history lesson, and that format has been carried over into the cookbook.

The book is arranged by geographic area: The Ancient World, The British Isles, Continental Europe, The Near & Far East, and The New World. Within each section the recipes are from oldest to newest. The oldest being Stew of Lamb, from Babylon, c. 1740 BC. The most recent recipes are both from 1914: Simnel Cake from England and Pecan Pie from Texas. Each recipe includes a few paragraphs about the history of the dish and the area of the world it originates from.

Since many old recipes do not provide precise measurements, or ingredients that we may recognize or have access to today, Max has re-created them as best as he can, based on his own cooking and historical knowledge. If you watch his videos, he does taste each dish, and he doesn’t always like them. But, that’s part of the fun and experimentation.

I think Tasting History, both the cookbook and the video series, is perfect for foodies, history buffs, or foodie history buffs. Max is still making videos, and I look forward to watching the new ones every week. A fun tip: he is a big Pokemon fan, and there is always a figure or plush in the background of each video that relates to the dish he is making. See if you can find them all!

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#BookFaceFriday “No Summit Out of Sight” by Jordan Romero

Off we go, into the wild blue #BookFaceFriday!

Get ready to climb every mountain with this week’s #BookfaceFriday,”No Summit Out of Sight: the True Story of the Youngest Person to Climb the Seven Summits” by Jordan Romero (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2014)!

This title is available as a book club kit, and fits right into the theme of the the 2024 Collaborative Summer Library Program (CSLP): “Adventure Begins at Your Library.” You can find even more tales of adventure and survival by choosing that genre in the drop-down menu on our Book Club Kit page – just right for those young readers looking for a vicarious thrill!

Our Youth Services Librarian, Sally Snyder, has been traveling all across Nebraska in recent weeks presenting Summer Reading Program (SRP) workshops for librarians. Didn’t make it to a workshop? Check out Sally’s NCompass Live: Summer Reading Program 2024: Adventure Begins at Your Library and learn about nature- and adventure-themed books perfect for your library’s SRP.

“The emotional pitch of the story remains high as Romero contends with extreme weather, frustration, exhaustion, and homesickness to reach, with almost palpable exhilaration, each peak.”

—Publishers Weekly

Book Club Kits Rules for Use

  1. These kits can be checked out by the librarians of Nebraska libraries and media centers.
  2. Circulation times are flexible and will be based upon availability. There is no standard check-out time for book club kits.
  3. Please search the collection to select items you wish to borrow and use the REQUEST THIS KIT icon to borrow items.
  4. Contact the Information Desk at the Library Commission if you have any questions: by phone: 800/307-2665, or by email: Information Services Team

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. 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!

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

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New Book Available on BARD!

“A Rose is a Rose” by Ruth Richert Jones is now available on cartridge and for download on BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download service. BARD is a service offered by the Nebraska Library Commission Talking Book and Braille Service and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled at the Library of Congress.

Kelley stopped believing in God when she stopped believing in Santa Claus. And she’s managed just fine without Him. She has a good career, a handsome man who wants to marry her, and now an exciting trip to England to fill her life. But suddenly everything falls apart. She meets Ian Stewart in England, and she begins to question her feelings for Charles, the man waiting for her in America. Shadows surround Ian, though, and Kelley is afraid to trust him. As the days go by, she realizes that either Ian or Charles is involved in the theft of a valuable microchip. One of the men who loves her is a thief. What’s more, the authorities suspect that Kelley was also involved in the robbery. Kelly is in danger of losing her career, her good name, maybe even her life. Where can she turn of help, when she doesn’t know whom she can trust? But, Kelley’s great aunt promises Jesus is a Friend one can always trust, for He never fails. What would it be like, Kelley wonders, to have a Friend like that?

TBBS borrowers can request “A Rose is a Rose,” DBC01994, or download it from the National Library Service BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website. If you have high-speed internet access, you can download books to your smartphone or tablet, or onto a flash drive for use with your player. You may also contact your reader’s advisor to have the book mailed to you on cartridge.

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#BookFaceFriday “Among the Bros” by Max Marshall

Dude, it’s #BookFaceFriday!

No cap, bro – this really happened! Fans of true crime and nonfiction storytelling are in for a wild ride

in this week’s #BookFaceAmong the Bros: A Fraternity Crime Story” by Max Marshall (HarperAudio, 2023.) This title is available as an audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! This week’s title fits into several different subject genres in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries including True Crime, Sociology, Autobiography & Biography, and Nonfiction. Depending on what you have a penchant for, you can search the entire digital collection by subject, whether it’s as broad as Nonfiction, or as niche as True Crime.

“Through chilling, candid conversations with his sources, Marshall convincingly illustrates how these young men allowed greed to wreck their lives. The result is a fast-paced and frightening campus crime saga.”

—Publishers Weekly

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. 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!

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  Misfits: A Royal Conundrum by Lisa Yee 

Olive Zang (almost 12) doesn’t really fit in – at school, with friends (what friends?) or even with her mom and dad. They are always gone on a trip for work, and seem to not really notice her.  This time, before they leave again, they put her in a boarding school located on an island in San Francisco Bay.     

Once she arrives at RASCH (Reforming Arts School) she undergoes an unusual set of tasks as an aptitude test for placement in the school.  Once placed with Pod 101 she is surprised at how quickly the group of five bonds.  They are hastily put into training to prepare them to be a contributing group for a secret crime fighting organization.  Soon the very existence of the school (the first one where Olive feels connected and appreciated) is on the line, can The Misfits (her group) help capture a jewel thief?  Will they help or hinder the effort?     

As Kirkus says, “A fantastical blend of quirky characters and goofy adventures.” (11/1/23) Includes occasional black and white drawings by Dan Santat. This is the first book of a new series aimed at grades 3-6 or so.

Yee, Lisa. The  Misfits: A Royal Conundrum. Random House, 2024.  

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Book Club Spotlight – Hector’s Bliss

A unique aspect of our Book Club Collection here at the Commission is our focus on Nebraska authors, settings, and stories, housing the hidden gems of Nebraska literature and history! Today’s pick for the Book Club Spotlight, in particular, focuses on a relatively unknown part of Nebraska’s Black History. While we know the story of white pioneers and homesteaders, there was also the incredible journey of formerly enslaved people who became landowners, farmers, and a community in the Sandhills. Hector’s Bliss: Black Homesteaders at Goose Lake, Nebraska, by Dennis Vossberg, is a historical fiction novel based on the incredible history of Black Homesteaders, who, under false pretenses, persevered in the harsh farmland until drought and the Dust Bowl overcame the whole region.

In the late 1800s, at the height of legalized racial segregation, just south of O’Neil, Nebraska, there was the short-lived story of Bliss, and the Black community members who called it home. During the economic downturn caused by the end of the Civil War, the newly freed people were looking for a reliable place to land. As newly married Hector and Julia Dixon were floundering in a small mining town, land promoters arrived, falsely promising flourishing farmland and untapped coal veins awaited them in the far reaches of the Nebraska Sandhills. The Dixons and 13 other families unknowingly move to the desert-like plains to start anew. Besought by harsh conditions, poverty, and rural isolation, their community works hard to create a solid foundation for the future despite the conditions. As one of the more educated residents, Hector Dixon finds himself wearing many hats in Bliss, as a farmer, the integrated school’s teacher, the justice of the peace, and eventually a milk road delivery man, all to support his growing and tenacious family. Striving to find a balance between the life his children dream of and the one he has worked so hard to build.

He took a lingering gaze over the peaceful countryside, thinking of how transient were the human inhabitants of this land, and how triumphantly enduring was the land itself

Dennis Vossberg

Hector’s Bliss is a moving historical fiction crafted with love and respect for the subjects, and Book Club Groups will find value in learning about this little-known Nebraska history. They may even be encouraged to learn more. Covered in the Nebraska Public Media story, “Looking for Bliss,” the story of the Dixons and Bliss is virtually unknown. Hector’s Bliss brings to light Black history that has been erased from cultural memory, revealing a more full and beautiful world. We won’t really ever know how the Black Homesteaders were treated by their white compatriots as those details have been lost to time. So, while prejudice and racism are addressed, Vossberg chooses to focus the limited peril on the indomitable human spirit and the life these people worked to build after slavery. 

If you’re interested in requesting Hector’s Bliss for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 4 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Vossberg, Dennis. Hector’s Bliss. Morris Publishing. 2006

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Friday Reads & #BookFaceFriday: The Fabric of Civilization by Virginia Postrel 

The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it.

Mark Weiser

Virginia Postrel’s The Fabric of Civilization begins with the dawn of human history, with the first fibers twisted into string, and ends with modern innovators creating new fibers and types of fabrics. The book is sectioned into seven chapters, each covering a certain step in the fiber-to-textile life cycle: Fiber, Thread, Cloth, Dye, Traders, Consumers, and Innovators. Postrel’s core thesis: fabric was among our first technologies, and it was also our most crucial and defining technology — and it still is. “We hairless apes co-evolved with our cloth,” Postrel writes. “From the moment we’re wrapped in a blanket at birth, we are surrounded by textiles.”     

This book was absolutely fascinating. As a knitter, crocheter, and now a beginning spinner, part of my awe for the fiber crafts comes from their long-stretching history: from me, to my grandmother, to endless generations past. The way I spin yarn from wool, sitting on my couch in front of the TV in 2024, uses the same motions that would be familiar to someone in ancient history. Fibers spun into thread were necessary for the cloth needed for sails, clothing, blankets, political functions, military uniforms, and religious/cultural rituals. My burgeoning love of spinning is likely why Chapter 2: Thread was my favorite. Postrel’s breakdown of how long it would take spinners and their spindles from different eras to produce the thread that was so crucial for exploration, competition, commerce, and general livelihood was incredibly thorough. Take a moment to think about all the fabric around you right now. That fabric is composed of woven threads or knitted yarns. Today’s modern factories use heavy machinery to spin fibers into miles and miles of that thread for jeans, cotton shirts, and wool coats. For much of history, however, that process needed to be done entirely by hand. Much of the rest of the world’s economy could not work until the spinners did, and the quest to expedite the process drove inventions and innovations that had far-reaching effects on industries beyond that of textiles.     

At times, Postrel’s overview and analysis bottlenecks into myopia, and the occasional – but thankfully brief – insertions of her own personal experiences with the textile process were jarring. Postrel occasionally falls into a columnist’s cadence, sacrificing the distance of academic de rigueur for a more conversational tone. Another reader might appreciate the first-person connections and exposé-esque sections – a la How It’s Madeand I can certainly understand the reasoning behind her choice, but I did not find that these added much to the book.  

Her myopia, however, is less forgivable. Postrel would have crafted a more solid body of work had she matched the title with the true scope of her endeavor, and called the book The Fabric of Western Civilization. Industrial Revolution-era Europe and New England are centered far more prominently than I would have preferred. Postrel touches briefly on the interaction between the South’s cotton industry and England’s mills — even after the latter abolished slavery — but doesn’t spend as long on that connection, even though I feel it would have bolstered her argument about global commerce and economy. This was an especially disappointing flaw, especially given Postrel’s own definitions of “civilization,” including the fact that it is a cumulative process not bound to one region or culture; in fact, as Postrel does mention, exchange (willing and unwilling) is what drove the evolution of textiles and humanity both.   

Postrel also falls into the trap of rebuttal for the sake of novel arguments, which end up bordering on dismissal of broader historical truths: particularly and most egregiously in her argument about cotton in the Pre-Civil War South, singling out Edward E. Baptist’s The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (2013) and his statement that increased cotton production was caused by ever-intensifying brutality inflicted on enslaved people. Postrel counters that the production increase can be simply explained, instead, by advancements in both cotton stock and processing technologies. However, there is no reason why both cannot be true. The same root issue is also at play when she disregards the low-wages of the pre-industrial (and typically female) spinners as solely a business decision, devoid of the influence of gender and class politics. History is not a field with single-causes and single-effects.  

Part of the appeal of non-fiction to me, however, is actively engaging with the arguments that the author presents. A sense of wonder is important, but I also want to think about the topic and build my own perspective. And so, overall, I enjoyed the book. I listened to the audiobook read by Caroline Cole, but I do plan to check out the print copy from my local library, in order to explore Postrel’s footnotes and bibliography for further reading and learning opportunities.  

You can find “The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World” by Virginia Postrel is available for download on BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download service. BARD is a service offered by the Nebraska Library Commission Talking Book and Braille Service and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled at the Library of Congress.

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

Postrel, Virginia. The Fabric of Civilization: How Textiles Made the World. Basic Books/OrangeSky Audio, 2021.  

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Big Talk From Small Libraries 2024 is tomorrow!

Small libraries! Awesome ideas! FREE!

Join us tomorrow for the 2024 Big Talk From Small Libraries online conference. Registration is still open, so head over to the Registration page and sign up!

We have a full agenda for the day, with speakers from academic and public libraries presenting on a wide variety of topics: fundraising, Memory Cafes, summer reading, accessibility audits, afterschool meals programs, DEIB: diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging, and much more.

This event is a great opportunity to learn about the innovative things your colleagues are doing in their small libraries.

And, Nebraska library staff and board members can earn 1 hour of CE Credit for each hour of the conference you attend! A special Big Talk From Small Libraries CE Report form has been made available for you to submit your C.E. credits.

So, come join us for a day of big ideas from small libraries!

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2024 One Book One Nebraska: Now Available on BARD!

Dancing with the Octopus: A Memoir of a Crimeby Debora Harding is now available on cartridge and for download on BARD, the Braille and Audio Reading Download service. BARD is a service offered by the Nebraska Library Commission Talking Book and Braille Service and the National Library Service for the Blind and Print Disabled at the Library of Congress.

This memoir of native Nebraskan, Debora Harding, is all about a traumatic childhood event, the aftereffects of which would change her family forever. Harding expertly weaves the past with the present in a riveting story of survival and family dynamics.

“With remarkable narrative skill, Harding untangles the lingering effects of family dysfunction and criminal trauma. This is a page-turner with a deep heart and soul, full of forgiveness but demanding of accountability.”

BookPage, “Best Books of 2020: Memoirs

This title has been selected as the 2024 One Book One Nebraska. The program is now in its 20th year of bringing Nebraskans together for the reading and discussion of one great book written by Nebraska authors or that have a Nebraska theme or setting. Nearly every One Book One Nebraska winner is available on cartridge and for download on BARD.

The narration was done by Connie Healey, who has been volunteering for Talking Book and Braille for 10 years and received a Nebraska Library Association Outstanding Volunteer Award in 2022. The recording took over 30 hours in the studio and an additional 20 hours of post-production to prepare for our patrons. Connie has now read three One Book One Nebraska selections, the other two beingThe Bones of Paradiseby Jonis Agee andPrairie Forge by James J. Kimble.

TBBS borrowers can request “Dancing with the Octopus: A Memoir of a Crime,” DBC02052, or download it from the National Library Service BARD (Braille and Audio Reading Download) website. If you have high-speed internet access, you can download books to your smartphone or tablet, or onto a flash drive for use with your player. You may also contact your reader’s advisor to have the book mailed to you on cartridge.

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Friday Reads, Mickey 7, by Edward Ashton

Mickey 7 by Edward Ashton is hard science fiction set in the far future. Mickey Barnes was born on a colony world where the hardest part of settling the colony is over. The planet is terraformed, and it’s safe to live there. Life is nearly ideal, except Mickey has no scientific or technical talents; he’s a historian on a world where everything can be looked up online. He does get a subsistence pay, but he’s gotten into deep debt, and needs to get off the planet, and there’s only one way off—the colony ship that’s been put together at great expense to the colony. Everything is weighed to the last milligram, and even the colonists pared down belongings aren’t allowed on, at the last minute. And his only way on is to become an “expendable.” The one member of the new colony that can die and be printed from a vat, with his mind transferred. You see, on the trip, and in the settlement, the robots they have can’t be replaced, but the expendable can. Plus, they have found, that the human body takes longer to shut down in adverse situations, like intense heat or radiation, than the electronic bots.

Mickey 7 by Edward Ashton


The story starts in real time stream, starting with Mickey 7, on the new colony world, an ice planet, falling down a crevice, and getting slightly (for him) injured. His air cover won’t come to help him, for fear of the creepers, the local life forms. He’s too deep to be rescued, but is rescued by a huge creeper, and set outside tunnels running under the planet’s surface. This is the source of the latest problem, when the air cover flyer got back to the settlement, he reported Mickey dead, so number 8 was printed. And Mickey 7 returned. The colony can’t support one more person, but neither want to die. There is a taboo about having more than one duplicate existing at a time. The explanation of the taboo, Mikey’s multiple deaths, and research into how other colonies have begun are the rest of the story. The author handles several heavy themes quickly, with humor. Where do you go for privacy, in a colony with just public spaces, with only under 200 people, when you can’t be in your room? Not being seen by the same people in overlapping times is much more difficult than one would suppose, and Mickey 8 is far less concerned about dying, that Mickey 7.


And then there are the creepers. When the planet was surveyed, it was done from their home planet. Since no industry was detected, and it seemed to have enough oxygen, and was just in the “Goldilocks zone” for life, it was thought habitable. When they got there, it was covered in ice, with unbreathable air. The creepers showed up, and seemed to be mere animals. However, Mickey discovers that their tunnels are evenly spaced at one hub. He has had a sneaking feeling for a while that they may be sentient. Which is just another of Mickey 7’s problems—to report, or not report. Especially since he believes, the leader of the expedition will not only end his life, but the indigenous life forms, too. So, of course, it gets much more complicated from there.


An interesting, and surprisingly funny stand alone, with some deep thinking hidden inside.

Mickey 7, by Edward Ashton, hardback, St. Martin’s Press, ISBN 978-1-250-27503-6, 27.99.

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#BookFaceFriday “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo” by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Hold on to your husbands, it’s #BookFaceFriday!

This week’s BookFace, “The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo: A Novel” by Taylor Jenkins Reid (Atria Books, 2017), is a hot ticket in our Book Club Kits Collection. It rarely spends time on the shelf!

Sometimes it can be difficult for book clubs to schedule and secure some of the more popular titles. If this happens to you often, we suggest using our Multiple Month – Year-At-A-Time Request Form. This allows us to help you plan out in advance your book club reads and get you in line for the most coveted titles. This title is available as an eBook and Audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a popular author; NLC has two of her books in our Book Club Kits Collection and Nebraska OverDrive Libraries has seven.

“The epic adventures Evelyn creates over the course of a lifetime will leave every reader mesmerized. This wildly addictive journey of a reclusive Hollywood starlet and her tumultuous Tinseltown journey comes with unexpected twists and the most satisfying of drama.”

—PopSugar

Our model this week is a new addition to the Nebraska Library Commission! Welcome to Bailee Juroshek, our new Office Specialist for the Public Information and Communication department. She worked previously as a freelance illustrator and is originally from Ogden, Utah. When it comes to books Bailee said one of her favorite series is “The Kingkiller Chronicle” by Patrick Rothfuss, and that she “loves a detailed fantasy world that you can get lost in.” Outside of reading, her hobbies include playing DND, creating artwork, and singing karaoke. She has three cats that keep her busy at home. “Their names are Coco Bean, Lilith, and Azmo, and they’re all adorable little trouble-makers.” If you get the chance, say hello to Bailee!

Book Club Kits Rules for Use

  1. These kits can be checked out by the librarians of Nebraska libraries and media centers.
  2. Circulation times are flexible and will be based upon availability. There is no standard check-out time for book club kits.
  3. Please search the collection to select items you wish to borrow and use the REQUEST THIS KIT icon to borrow items.
  4. Contact the Information Desk at the Library Commission if you have any questions: by phone: 800/307-2665, or by email: Information Services Team

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. 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!

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

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Book Club Spotlight – When Stars are Scattered

Cover for When Stars are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed. Two young Somali boys walk together, shoeless, through a encampment. They are smiling hopefully up at the night sky.

Happy Black History Month from Book Club Spotlight! The theme for 2024 is “African Americans and the Arts,” which honors the incredible contributions of African Americans to culture, music, art, and literature. And what better combination of art and literature is there than graphic novels? So, to wrap up our mini-series, we will follow young Somali refugees displaced by civil war. Where the Stars are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed, is based on the childhood of Mohamed, who grew up in Dadaab, the world’s largest refugee camp. The list of honors for this book is massive, including being a National Book Award Finalist, the School Library Journal Best Book of 2020, and a 2021-22 Golden Sower Chapter Book Nominee.

Omar and his brother Hassan have been in the Dadaab refugee camp for seven years! Without their parents, the boys live on their own, watched over by an aging foster mother, Fatuma. Having the responsibility of caring for himself and his nonverbal brother, everyday Omar must clean the floorless tent they sleep on, hide any valuables from thieves, and wait. Wait for water, wait for food, wait for his mother to find them, wait for the war to end, and wait to leave the refugee camp. When Omar gets a chance to attend school, he is far behind other children his age, and soon, the pressure of school and chores begins to make him angry and resentful. As he grows and becomes continually frustrated with his situation, he sees how everyone else is stuck just like him—especially the girls, who, like Omar, are burdened with too many responsibilities. With encouragement from his friends and community, Omar grows more confident in his abilities and in Hassan and starts dreaming about a future outside the camp. And one day, Omar’s and Hassan’s names are called for an interview with the UN for a chance to finally leave Dadaab, an exciting and terrifying possibility. 

“It was nice talking like this. Pretending we were normal kids, with normal futures to look forward too”

– Victoria Jamieson & Omar Mohamed

Written for middle grades and up, all will be deeply moved by reading this graphic novel. With wars waging worldwide, it’s hard not to feel overwhelmed and powerless, and listening to stories of those going through these tough times matters. When Stars are Scattered is an excellent representation of the day-to-day life in refugee camps. Maybe your Book Club Group wants to learn more about what life is like for refugees, or your students have questions about what is happening to displaced children like them. Since moving to America, Mohamed has dedicated his life to serving his community back in Dadaab and improving the living conditions of refugees, especially young girls through his nonprofit foundation, Refugee Strong.

“Please take away from the reading of this book an understanding that you should never give up hope. In the camp, we were given courage by our faith to always be patient and to never lose hope. Things may seem impossible, but if you keep working hard and believe in yourself, you can overcome anything in your path. I hope my story will inspire you to always persevere.” 

Omar Mohamed

If you’re interested in requesting When Stars are Scattered for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

To see more of our Black Voices book club titles, visit here.

Jamieson, Victoria & Mohamed, Omar. When Stars are Scattered. Penguin Random House. 2020

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#BookFaceFriday “Main Character Energy” by Jamie Varon

Big #BookFace Energy!

There’s nothing like a good romance in February, especially if it’s all about learning to love yourself. This week’s #BookFace “Main Character Energy: A Novel” by Jamie Varon (Park Row, 2023) is the perfect book for those looking for a feel-good romance. This title is available as an eBook and an Audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! You can find it along with 13,000 other titles in the Romance section on OverDrive. Did you know you can search the entire digital collection by subject, whether it’s as broad as Fiction and Nonfiction, or as niche as Self-Improvement or Mythology?

“Poppy is bright and complicated and utterly enchanting in Jamie Varon’s debut.”

—Ashley Poston, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Dead Romantics

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. 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!

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

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Friday Reads: Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls by Angela Sterritt

Several years ago, I heard my dad scream in the middle of the night. It was such a foreign sound I thought it was leftover from the dream that had woken me up in the first place. I froze on high alert, listening. Nothing. I had nothing in my memory to compare the sound against, so it was easy to quietly dismiss the scream as a dream.

Months later, my dad and I were watching a movie about missing and murdered indigenous women and I found out my aunt had been murdered long before my life was even a possibility. He said the only time he ever screamed was that night when he woke up and saw her face next to his bed. The scream was real, and I did nothing. I didn’t know what to do with that information. I wanted to know more, but nobody ever speaks her name. The pain is still too great. There are probably others I don’t know about who were lost.

So I read Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope, and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls by Angela Sterritt, a Native journalist who grew up on the streets of Vancouver, Canada. I’ve read a lot on this topic. The book is part memoir and part investigative journalism as Sterritt blends together her own story of survival with the stories of those who were lost along the Highway of Tears in British Columbia. This is a stretch of highway where more than 40 Indigenous went missing or were found murdered. I thought it would be hard to read, but it wasn’t. Each story is filled with an equal amount of love and heartache. As I read, I wondered about my aunt’s story.

Sterritt tells these stories because “She could have been me”. I share the book because this problem is bigger than Canada. My aunt was found in Seattle. In the state of Washington alone, in a single year, over 5,000 Indigenous women and girls went missing. In smaller numbers, similar stories can be found in Alaska and other parts of the nation. As Sterritt shared her experience of walking the same streets as these lost women, I realized that I probably walked on the same street where my aunt lost her life. I’ve been to that area in Seattle several times, often at night. The statistics were mind-boggling. The stories struck me to the core.

As I read deeper, I remembered my mom telling me that I shouldn’t wear my beaded earrings, even though I love making them. They make me feel good. She wouldn’t say why, but she was disturbingly adamant that I shouldn’t wear them. At the time, I interpreted this as disrespecting a heritage that wasn’t her own. I wore them secretly in rebellious Native pride. Now I realize I was missing vital information. My aunt was murdered by a serial killer targeting Native women in Seattle. On the wrong streets, those earrings make me a target. I still make and wear my beaded earrings proudly, but when the shadows come out at night, I hide my heritage in a jewelry box in my purse. 5,000 women in a year. She could have been me.

I used to lay awake at night wondering if I would wake up in the dead of night and see her face. Would I recognize her? Did she spill over from a nightmare my dad was having? Would I share the same dream? I wondered if the desecration of murder was so powerful it could scream through the generations. 

All I know is that this book was a journey for Sterritt. It was a journey for me. The stories of these women deserve to be told. Sterritt lived a hard life, but she emerged Unbroken. She seeks justice for the women who were lost along the Highway of Tears. She uncovers unbelievable acts of racism and unfounded hatred for Indigenous people. She shows how law enforcement ignored the problem and more went missing. She refuses to allow the media or the public to turn a blind eye to difficult topics. She lived on the wrong end of justice for long enough to show she speaks the truth.

Most of all, she shows how Indigenous women can survive and thrive in life. This book may be hard for some to read, but knowledge is power. Now I know what my earrings really mean. It’s not fair or just, but I have the power to make myself a little bit safer. It did help in a gas station parking lot late one night. That night, I was white. The world should know that statistically, the world is more dangerous to Native women. Read and learn the root causes of these terrifying numbers, especially if you have a Native population. Help keep that population alive.

STERRITT, ANGELA. Unbroken: My Fight for Survival, Hope, and Justice for Indigenous Women and Girls. GREYSTONE BOOKS, 2024.

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Friday Reads & #BookFaceFriday: Houses with a Story, by Seiji Yoshida

Sometimes art imitates #BookFaceFriday

After the holiday frenzy I needed to read something that would serve as a mental palate cleanser–the literary equivalent of a deep, cleansing breath. Houses with a Story, by Seiji Yoshida, fit the bill.

Yoshida, a Tokyo-based artist who works as a professional background illustrator in the game/anime industry, first published Houses with a Story in Japan in 2020. The English translation came out in November 2023. Language isn’t the most important component of this book, however. Instead, detailed illustrations of over 30 imaginative dwellings, along with brief text hinting at a backstory for each, predominate.

Each of Yoshida’s 30+ houses get at least a two-page spread featuring both a street view and a cut-away drawing that lets you see inside the structure’s various rooms. This allows you to view nooks and crannies, furnishings, and basic possessions. Sketched floor plans are also sometimes included.

One of my favorite dwelling/character combos is the Methodical Witch’s House. Her small abode is divided into two rooms by a partial wall, which includes a two-sided hearth designed to heat both. The witch grows herbs and vegetables in an outdoor garden (also depicted), which she then harvests and uses in cooking and medicine. According to a “Concepts and Commentary” section at the back of the book, Yoshida imagines this house existing in mid-nineteenth century Scotland.

As a librarian, I also love Yoshida’s Library of Lost Books. This temple-like compound of unknown origin exists in an imaginary, isolated, Tibet-inspired landscape. According to the accompanying annotation, it supposedly contains “all the books that have been entirely lost to this world.” The lone librarian’s main duty is to comb the shelves for newly lost books that appear daily in order to catalog and organize them—a seemingly unending task.

The publisher of Houses with a Story recommends it for fans of Studio Ghibli, which makes sense given their similar aesthetic. I also think that adults who enjoy looking at architecture, floor plans, and photo spreads of enchanting and unusual living spaces will be enthralled. Finally, if you were a kid who loved poring over Richard Scarry, I Spy, and Where’s Waldo books, this might be a good selection for adult you!

You can find “Houses with a Story: A Dragon’s Den, a Ghostly Mansion, a Library of Lost Books, and 30 More Amazing Places to Explore” by Seiji Yoshida and many more in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. 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!

This week’s BookFace “model” is a painting by the late Lincoln artist Larry Griffing, which hangs in librarian Lisa Kelly’s home. Thank you Lisa for capturing this photo for us!

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

Yoshida, Seiji. Houses with a Story. Abrams, 2023.

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Book Club Spotlight – Survivors of the Holocaust

Cover for Survivors of the Holocaust

In observance of Holocaust Remembrance Day, today’s Book Club Spotlight, Survivors of the Holocaust: True Stories of Six Extraordinary Children, is a graphic novel that commemorates the Jewish children who were displaced by World War Two. This book will be read in conjunction with next month’s spotlight, When Stars are Scattered, which follows two Somali brothers as they are growing up in a Kenyan refugee camp. While these children all survived, it’s important to remember those who are still being displaced or, worse, by war and apartheid. Survivors of the Holocaust is adapted from a six-part animated interview series, Children of the Holocaust, which won the VLA Graphic Novel Diversity Award for Youth Honor. It was edited by Kath Shackleton and illustrated by Zane Whittingham. 

The graphic novel begins with a foreword by Lilian Black, who was the Chair of the Holocaust Survivors’ Friendship Association. She introduces us to the six storytellers, Heinz, Trude, Ruth, Martin, Suzanne, and Arek, who were all children at the beginning of World War II and were impacted by the Holocaust and its systemic persecution of Jewish people. Split into individual sections, we begin by meeting each child shortly before war breaks out during Hitler’s rise to power. Some are forced to flee with their families, siblings, or all alone. Others are stuck in Germany and manage to survive their time in concentration camps. Their stories are told through evocative and mildly disturbing illustrations that work to bring the sense of terror that Hilter’s reign imposed on their young lives. Sections following the main stories include short paragraphs about each of the children as they grew up outside of the war, a timeline of events, a helpful glossary of terms, and further online resources.

“It is not easy for them to tell their stories. They agreed to because they want people to know what can happen when people are subjected to discrimination and persecution for being seen as “different”. Their dearest wish is that no one should suffer as they did and that people who never again stand by when injustice is taking place.”

Survivors of the holocaust – Foreword: Lilian Black

Appropriate for ages ten and above, Survivors of the Holocaust presents a solid reference point for young readers who are just learning about the Holocaust. As written by The Jewish Book Council: “These accounts rep­re­sent a good cross-sec­tion of expe­ri­ence, since plu­ral­i­ty of expe­ri­ence is vital in pre­sent­ing the Holo­caust to young read­ers. The illus­tra­tions make the iden­ti­ties of the vic­tims and per­pe­tra­tors clear and the maps used as back­grounds pro­vide geo­graph­ic ground­ing for bor­der cross­ings. Ren­der­ings of pho­tographs and pri­ma­ry doc­u­ments add anoth­er lay­er of under­stand­ing”. However, there are minor inconsistencies that often occur through retellings. From classrooms to adult reading groups, Survivors of the Holocaust presents a multifaceted approach to our continuing Holocaust education and commitment to victims of displacement.

As with many of our Book Club Kits, discussion questions and an Educator’s Guide are available to help teachers and Book Club Group leaders through discussion resources and additional information. 

Other Resources: 

If you’re interested in requesting Survivors of the Holocaust  for your book club, you can find the Request Form here. There are 10 copies available. (A librarian must request items)

Shackleton, Kath. Survivors of the Holocaust. Sourcebooks Explore. 2019.

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Smokey Bear Reading Challenge

To celebrate Smokey Bear’s 80th Birthday the National Forest Service has set up their Smokey Bear Reading Challenge.  To learn more about the Challenge, visit here.

The Forest Service is going to ask how many children signed up and filled in a log of the challenge, so please keep a count if you promote it to your community.

We have received the items the National Forest Service mailed to the Library Commission for their Smokey Bear Reading Challenge.  Each public library is welcome to receive the following items:

One roll of 500 Smokey Stickers
One package of 50 Smokey Cards
One Smokey Stamp

I plan to deliver what I can at the Library Systems’ Summer Reading Program workshops.  If you do not plan to attend the workshop, or if your system’s workshop has already met, we will be working on a way to get the items to you if you want them.

Also, take a look at the digital toolkit prepared by the National Forest Service.

Amanda Shelton, Director of the Franklin Public Library, made a QR code for their website.  Thank you Amanda!

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#BookFaceFriday “Rez Ball” by Byron Graves

This #BookFaceFriday is a slam dunk!

Get your game face on, because it’s #BookFaceFriday! If you’re interested in staying up-to-date on the latest and greatest in young adult books, check out this week’s episode of NCompass Live, Best New Teen Reads of 2023, presented by NLC’s Coordinator of Children and Young Adult Library Services, Sally Snyder, and Fremont High School librarian, Dana Fontaine. Today’s #BookFace selection, “Rez Ball” by Byron Graves (‎Heartdrum, 2023), was one of the titles featured in Sally’s teen list. Sally does two presentations like this each year on NCompass Live, one on YA books and another on children’s books. “Rez Ball” is a William C. Morris Debut Book Award winner and an American Indian Library Association Youth Literature Award winner. You can find it as both an eBook and audiobook in Nebraska OverDrive Libraries. If you’re looking for more information about NCompass Live or Sally Snyder’s Best Books lists, check out the NCompass Live Archive.

“Debut author Graves, who is Ojibwe like Tre, doesn’t shirk from showing his community’s ugly experiences, but he never languishes in them. Well-paced and exciting—the action of the basketball games is exceptionally well written—this is a solid piece of sports fiction.”

— Booklist

Find this title and many more through Nebraska OverDrive! Libraries participating in the Nebraska OverDrive Libraries Group currently have access to a shared and growing collection of digital downloadable audiobooks and eBooks. 194 libraries across the state share the Nebraska OverDrive collection of 26,174 audiobooks, 36,611 ebooks, and 5,210 magazines. As an added bonus it includes 130 podcasts that are always available with simultaneous use (SU), as well as SU ebooks and audiobook titles that publishers have made available for a limited time. 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!

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 Indigo Girl

The Indigo Girl, by Natasha Boyd, is an exceptional example of historical fiction, one of my favorite genres. In this incredible story of ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice, an extraordinary sixteen-year-old girl in Colonial South Carolina defies all expectations to achieve her dream.

“The year is 1739. Eliza Lucas is sixteen years old when her father leaves her in charge of their family’s three plantations in rural South Carolina and then proceeds to bleed the estates dry in pursuit of his military ambitions. Tensions with the British, and with the Spanish in Florida, just a short way down the coast, are rising, and slaves are starting to become restless. Her mother wants nothing more than for their South Carolina endeavor to fail so they can go back to England. Soon her family is in danger of losing everything.

Upon hearing how much the French pay for indigo dye, Eliza believes it’s the key to their salvation. But everyone tells her it’s impossible, and no one will share the secret to making it. Thwarted at nearly every turn, even by her own family, Eliza finds that her only allies are an aging horticulturalist, an older and married gentleman lawyer, and a slave with whom she strikes a dangerous deal: teach her the intricate thousand-year-old secret process of making indigo dye and in return—against the laws of the day—she will teach the slaves to read.

So begins an incredible story of love, dangerous and hidden friendships, ambition, betrayal, and sacrifice.

Based on historical documents, including Eliza’s letters, this is a historical fiction account of how a teenage girl produced indigo dye, which became one of the largest exports out of South Carolina, an export that laid the foundation for the incredible wealth of several Southern families who still live on today. Although largely overlooked by historians, the accomplishments of Eliza Lucas influenced the course of US history. When she passed away in 1793, President George Washington served as a pallbearer at her funeral.” [Audible]

This book is set between 1739 and 1744, and Natasha Boyd has done extensive research and masterful writing to form the story of a remarkable young woman whose actions were before her time. I listened to the Audible version, narrated by Saskia Maarleveld, and highly recommend this story about a little known piece of American history: the story of The Indigo Girl.

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ALA Announces the Youth Media Awards

A number of awards honoring titles and media for children and young adults were announced this morning.  The John Newbery Medal goes to The Eyes and the Impossible written by Dave Eggers, with five other titles named as Newbery Honor Books.

The Randolph Caldecott Medal goes to Big, illustrated and written by Vashti Harrison, with four additional titles named Caldecott Honor Books.

To see the ALA new release listing all the youth awards and titles, go here.

Simon Sort of Says by Erin Bow, set in Nebraska, was named both a Newbery Honor Book and a Schneider Family Book Award honor book for middle grades. This title is hilarious, heart-breaking and goofy –  an amazing book.  Simon and his parents move from near Omaha to a part of Nebraska that is a National Radio Quiet Zone (fictional, the real one is in West Virginia).  There is no Internet access and the town (Grin and Bear It, NE) lives with it.  Simon has been homeschooled for the past year and now is back in public school for the 7th grade.  He makes a couple of friends and begins to settle in.  His mom is undertaker for the town and they live in the mortuary.  His dad works for the Catholic Church.  Amazing writing, quirky people and animals, unusual situations will keep the students reading.  Spoiler: a school shooting has happened in the past and is revisited.  It will break your heart.

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