Friday, December 27, 2013

High School AP English: Recommended Reading List

I am starting a series of reading brochures for all reading levels. To kick off this project of free reading brochures, below is a PDF for AP English recommended reading.  AP classes are challenging, but should be ultimately rewarding for both the teachers and students involved. I hope this guide (created in accordance with AP, and College Board's official AP reading list), is useful, and helps spruce up what can be a daunting process.

Feel free to use this personally, at your local library, or in your classroom. Please spread it around, and I only ask you keep the credits inserted in the brochure.

So, without further ado, here is the official debut of the AP English Recommended Reading Brochure:

Side One (Preview)

Side Two (Preview) 

The PDF for download is here (PC safe and easily) on our google drive by clicking HERE.

You're welcome.

Questions, comments, problems downloading, or requests for specific lists, email me at: 


Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Prickly Holiday Special

Note: A little of why I haven't posted in awhile. A little bit of odd Christmas reading recommendations. 

In my experience, it is best to not use the phrase: "I will never" when describing what you will not do. For example, whenever I say "I will never be a holiday person," a miracle happens, such as receiving an Amazon giftcard, or a relative I dislike falls ill just enough to cancel holiday plans. "I'm so sorry," I'll say, while simultaneously searching Netflix for Dr. Who reruns, wrapping myself up in the guilty happiness of a duvet, "So sorry to hear that, Peg."

Along with holiday nonchalance, I've also been known to say that "I will never be a pet person," but that sort of logic recently landed me over two hours away from home this week, taking a test to own a hedgehog, and scratching my head over short-answer questions such as: "How should one regard the 'hedgie scream of death'?"

My search for a pet began in the nineties. A time for me when apparently it was not acceptable, as a young girl of seven, to bring a garden snake into the house, and let it live under my bed.

"But I'll feed it!"
"It'll feed on you if the thing gets any bigger!"

Many, many years later, a hedgehog seemed like the perfect alternative. Quills instead of strikes to the face are bit more tame. And I need tame these days.
When done with the hedgehog test, I spent some time weighing my adult-life decisions while walking around the heated shed where the hedgehogs were raised and bred on this Illinois farm. It was about this time I cursed my friend for about the twentieth time for not coming with me. There were plastic bins lining the walls of the shed, long and spacious, which were assuredly good homes awaiting newly born hedgehogs. But something about the tubs spelled out every Dateline episode I had ever seen. They were very spacious bins, after all. Not to mention the rolls of duct tape, and cable ties cast aside on a table. I was just waiting for the mediocre synthesizer music with the deep-throat narration to whisper: "An adult, lured with the promise of a hedgehog, went off to an isolated town on the morning of..."

"Sorry, Lyne's out," the breeder sighed, glancing up at me from my test, and consequently, drawing my attention. "She's the owner and usually does all of this. But she's a vet, you know. Always on call."

"I can imagine," I said.

"Just the usual, though," she said, marking up the test, and putting it in a folder, "just a cow having trouble giving birth is all."


"Yup, the usual," she yawned."Now, let's pick out your hedgehog."

As the image of moaning cows flooded my head, I was not only a twenty-something year old, but a twenty-something year old who was a "certified" hedgehog owner.

I picked out a hedgehog that was pretty docile. It let me immediately pick it up, and it beelined for the warmth of my shirt to take a nap. It's methodical in its eating, sleeping, and waking times, and I realized I've just picked out a version of myself to live with, but smaller, and add 5,000 spiny quills. Given that fact, it sits around a lot, so I am reading even more than usual when I take him out.

So, as a thank you for listening to a pet story, here are some suggested materials for the non-typical human, in their pursuit to make it through the holidays (possibly with their hedgehog) in one piece:

1. "The Santaland Diaries," A short story by David Sedaris, which can be found in the collection of essays, Holidays on Ice.

"The Santaland Diaries" recounts a 33 year old man's unemployment around the holidays, and eventual job as an elf at Macy's. It's dark, humorous, and very hilarious. A Christmas classic for me, every year. 

2. The Nightmare Before Christmas, by Tim Burton 

This movie never gets old for me. Or understandable. 

3. Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky

For any teen feeling alone, or the Holiday Blues. Or a bit of both.

4. The Twelve Terrors of Christmas, by John Updike
Illustrated by Edward Gorey 

There's nothing like Edward Gorey's morbid drawings to get you in the perfect, cheery mood. 

5. A Christmas Story, Starring Peter Billingsley 

This is probably the best Christmas movie ever. My favorite scene being Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant. If you haven't seen this film, like my family, you really better do so.


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Gingerbread Wonderland

Here's some pictures from yesterday's event. The kids made their own gingerbread houses. They came out to be pretty neat! I was super-impressed.


(Pictured Above: Mad skills.)

Note: As for the pictures, yeah, they're dark. I like to pretend I have ISO settings to work with. The lighter pictures, (the better ones), are obviously Theresa's doing this time.

Also: don't forget: sign up for our January programs when we release the dates. Lately, attendance is crammed, so reserve a spot!

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Best Gift Books of 2013: Fiction & Nonfiction Guide

I hate to start out a blog post by saying, "Hey, it's been awhile..." But: "Hey, it's been awhile..."

Then again, I should't have expectations for this blog. After all, I found out that a common google search people have found this blog with is: "hamburger crafts." So maybe I should let that sink into my ego for a bit. 

Best Gift Books of 2013

Before you Shop: The Bookish Person is a Persnickety Person

Very much like the word "persnickety," book lovers are misunderstood in the gift-giving process.When you ask, "What books do you want?" And we answer, "Oh, just books." We say this because:
1. We do know what books we want;  we just don't want to tell you what books they are.
2. You haven't read a books since 1972 and we don't want to bang our heads into a wall.
3. We want a book that is, well... And we don't want judgement for this, uh, yeah.

(Some of you know what I'm talking about.)

Do us a favor, gift-givers. Us book lovers are tired of getting gifts for ourselves. There are only so many "To: Me, From: Me" gift tags you can fill out on presents before one feels like taking a nice shower with a plugged-in hairdryer, so here is a guide to your holiday book giving, edition 2013.

Best in Fiction

1. The Ocean at the End of the Lane, by Neil Gaiman 

(Gift For: The slightly-picky reader.) 

This is a Neil Gaiman book, and it isn't. There are tragic, dark, and whimsical elements for sure, but these are tied more into our everyday world than his other fantasy books. It begins with the suicide at the end of a lane, and ends with a revelation that is difficult to be described effectively. This book comes a little over 150 pages. It's a shorty, and an overall unforgettable book. 

Best in Children's Fiction 

1. Wonder, by R.J. Palacio 

(Gift For: All the humans.) 

This children's book really does live up to all of the hype it has in the literary world, and then some. Wonder is a serious gem, targeted to grade schoolers, and jr. high kids, but it reaches well  beyond that audience. The themes of finding friends and humor in a world that alienates is merged with great, smart writing. All-around sure-to-please book. 

2. Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck, by Jeff Kinney 

(Gift For: The kid who never reads...ever).

Yup. There's another one of these out. The Dairy of a Wimpy Kid series is known for its super-funny writing, and hilariously drawn comics. These books are perfect for the non-reader. 

3. The House of Hades, by Rick Riordan 

(Gift For: The kid who does not stop reading.)

For kids who like the Harry Potter series, fantasy, Greek Mythology, or just geeking-out over fantastic writing, The House of Hades is their book. Part of The Heroes of Olympus series, this book gives us serious book nerds some well-deserved lovin. 

Best in Picture Books 

1. The Dark, by Lemony Snicket & Illustrated by Jon Klassan 

(Gift For: The picky child who may be afraid of the dark, and may like Russian opera.)

There are few people I like more than Lemony Snicket. Need I say more.

(Pictured Above: Ideal life-partner for M.D.)

2. The Day the Crayons Quit By Drew Daywalt, Illustrated by Oliver Jeffers 

(Gift For: The odd, creative kid.) 

This book is funny, innovative, and a perfect gift for any creative kid in your life. Also, just read the author's bio on the book jacket if you want to learn what his favorite crayon color is, and mine. (You stalker.) 

Best in Adult Humor & Memoir 

1. Hyperbole and a Half, by Allie Brosh 

(Gift For: Just-everyone-read-this-okay-thanks.) 

Based on the wildly humorous blog under the same title, author Allie Broch's writing and comics are touching, disturbed, and always darkly comedic. Covering topics from depression, to "The God of Cake," please do yourself or a friend a favor and get this. 

2. Explore Diabetes with Owls, by David Sedaris 

(Gift For: "That odd person," taxidermy enthusiasts, vegetarians, men with bowties, men without bowties.) 

There are few things more strange than a Sedaris story. Often using stories which draw from his odd and dark childhood, Sedaris explores more of his middle age life with this book. If are looking for something even stranger, get a David Sedaris audiobook. Give his voice a listen. 

(You'll thank me later.) 

Best Adult Mystery and Thriller 

1. Cuckoo's Calling, by J.K. Rowling 

(Gift For: The friend that thinks they are British, British people, me, mystery lovers, crime fiction lovers.) 

This book reminded me of why I love crime fiction in the first place. It took the cliche of  a model's death (please though, no more dead models), and threw it on it's head. (Quite literally. Hardy. Har.) Brilliant dialogue, settings, and characters from Rowling, per usual. Cormoran Strike is sure to become a classic sleuth as the series continues. 

Best Young Adult Fiction

2. Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell 

(Gift For: The teen who likes a dab of romance, realism, and just a stellar book.)  

Ah, first love stinks. (Or so people tell me.) But this book doesn't. A well-written book for teenagers and adults alike. It's sure to resonate across love-sick generations. Happy Holidays! 

2. Allegiant (Divergent #3), by Veronica Roth  

(Book For: lovers of dystopian books, emotions (all the feels), and science fiction.) 

This is one of the few bandwagons I hear is worth catching onto. This dystopian novel is a part of a series which teens and adult readers enjoy. Snap up a copy...if you can find one. 

This concludes the Best Gift Books of 2013. Want other recommendations? Question these? Need help finding a good book? I live on goodreads: here.


Saturday, November 16, 2013

Why Reading will not Die (And Pant-Hikers)

For every person who loves reading, there seems to be ten grumpy-pant-trouser-hikers who will say:

"Nobody reads anymore."


"I just don't have time to read."

Or (brace yourselves, librarians):

"I just don't like reading."

Figure A: (Pictured above) A man who does not like reading, in his natural habitat.

I am terribly sorry if this was damaging for you to hear, readers. Let's pick up our brain matter, insert it back through our ears and noses from whence it exploded from, and continue.

Is it all back in? still have a bit of frontal lobe on your cardigan.

Right, let's continue.

The fact of the matter is, there are many individuals who say those things about reading. And if you haven't heard these things before, then you probably are a radical who relates only with bookish people, have great luck in family and acquaintances (killed the non-bookish people)...

Figure B: Hannibal Lecter, dealing with non-bookish people.

 ....or you live under a charming rock. In which case, I am looking for lodgings.

 But: I am not here to judge life choices. Only to look at the complexity behind them.

So, why do people not read? And why, if so, is this non-reading damaging?

I know I am preaching to the choir here, essentially, but there are things we can do to help others love reading. For instance, many were not given the background, or resources for reading. We as educators, and librarians, and book-lovers can provide this for others. We can also remind parents that teaching their child to read is a job of parenthood in the same way a parent needs to help a child walk, and talk, and "to-bathroom" in proper places. (<--Why I will probably not be a parent.) 

Parents, if you have fallen behind, PLEASE read to your children. I cannot say this strongly enough. It not only is cognitively healthy, (like a brain vitamin smoothie), but it will help your child get ahead in the world. Our world is ever-changing, and ever-growing. For your child to understand the complexity of the world, and its people, and its cultures, how can they have this knowledge? READ.

Educators, read to your students. There is never an age in which reading to a student is not beneficial. Believe me.

Teens, make reading a dialogue between you your friends. I know for me it was my friends and my inside jokes, "online adventures" (oh, tumblr and goodreads), and difficult conversations we could not have in person.

Now, evangelistic rant out of the way, I am going to talk briefly about the most important part of reading:

Reading helps you, unlike anything else, understand the complexity of other human beings. 

And this is why books, in whatever form, will not be replaced.

Granted, you can learn much about people from watching stories in the form of well-written movies, TV shows, online blogging, and videos, but all of these mediums have their limitations. And the greatest limitation of these mediums is one thing: time.

You are in a movie for an hour and a half; an online video lasts for a few minutes. Your well-written TV show will probably be over in forty, and plagued with heart-medication commercials (among others). But a book is a long-term relationship with people, ideas, and events. When you read a book over a series of hours, and days, you think about, and process complex ideas over an extended period of time. And this shapes the mind. This is where the transformation takes place.

Complex ideas take time. Complex ideas need to be present in a dialogue between a writer, and a reader. The most difficult issues we have to tackle as a human race are present in books, and through these books, we can better understand each other.

And better understanding the complexity of others, and our world: Isn't that a large part of why we're here?

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Teen Read Week Extravaganza

Teen Read Week was absolutely wonderful, and jam-packed. I saw some young people at the library who I never came into contact with before, and I felt like a creepy, lonely party host: 

"Oh, please stay. Please do." *whispers* "I made cake..." 

Perhaps less desperation next time? Mhmmm. Na. 

Anyhow, I am left feeling exhausted, and a bit off. (Which is probably not the result of Teen Read Week, but rather, cheap take-out food.) But now, stomach in check, here is the awaited rundown on the awesome week we had.


Hot Dates: What is better than an evening with a book? The perfect companion, I think. One that never talks back, or doesn't like you emailing them, or uses the phrase, "It's not you, it's me," or....

Julia had the awesome idea to bring the blind-date scenario to life at the library. Except, this kind ends well. And boy, were there hot selections. Fantasy, horror, and rrromance. It all was there, in cosmic-paper splendor:

Aliens?!: In accordance with the Teen Read Week theme, "Seek the Unknown," Theresa put up this guy. I am forced to battle between three thoughts concerning this:

1. How can I steal it without her looking?
2. What does Theresa's house look like?
3. How can I break into be invited to Theresa's house?

Pumpkin Decorating Contest:

Because of liability even with plastic knives that could not cut cheese, thanks law reasons, there was not a pumpkin carving competition, but rather, a pumpkin decorating one. I thought this may have been a bit tame, but was I wrong. The participants brought their enthusiasm, and wild creativity to the table, and I must admit, a bit grudgingly, that the pumpkin decorating was a smashing success:

Here were the final submissions:








And with your votes, here is the grand prize winner!

So, as you can see, there were some mad creative skills being utilized this week. On behalf of the Youth Services staff, I can say it has been a joy to see some new faces in the library this Teen Read Week. We hope you come to stay. Your creativity this week has shown us why we are here. 

A little creativity, and out-of-the box mentality goes a long way; if you are a teen, a student, or like us, a group of slightly-offbeat librarians.

Stay Out of The Box,