Summer continues to simmer as we fall into Autumn. Our students, teachers, parents and caregivers prepare for another new and unusual year of learning, returning to a school schedule into a new grade – all while still navigating the pandemic. This year brings us a mixture of school anxiety and excitement as we build relationships and grow as we learn together. We wanted to share some books from our Monarch system, as well as local and national online resources to assist in making the transition to this new year a little easier with enjoyable, engaging tools sprinkled in. The books listed below are available for request through the Monarch library catalog. (Descriptions provided are taken from the book publishers.) Be sure to take a look at the additional resources we included as well. We hope everyone has a safe and enjoyable school year!
There will be times when you walk into a room and no one there is quite like you.
There are many reasons to feel different. Maybe it’s how you look or talk, or where you’re from; maybe it’s what you eat, or something just as random. It’s not easy to take those first steps into a place where nobody really knows you yet, but somehow you do it.
Jacqueline Woodson’s lyrical text and Rafael López’s dazzling art reminds us that we all feel like outsiders sometimes-and how brave it is that we go forth anyway. And that sometimes, when we reach out and begin to share our stories, others will be happy to meet us halfway.
Below, I’ll share some books pulled together by my coworker, Erica, that would be perfect for this challenge. There are separate sections for adult books and teen books; descriptions have been taken from our catalog or the publisher. If you’re looking for children’s books, check out this previous blog post by Bree, Love Your Mother Earth!
Featuring 144 short and fascinating nature essays grouped by season, this beautifully illustrated volume serves as a trailside companion year-round. Find out about black bears and blackbirds, walleyes and woodchucks, snow geese and snow fleas, all in your own backyard. Nature lovers of all ages will appreciate Buchholz’s breezy style and wealth of outdoor knowledge.
Summer is winding down, and now is the perfect time to mark off another square on your Bookish Bingo card! Whether you’re looking for a title to carry to the beach or a page-turner to carry you away while on a staycation, these books are sure to take you on an adventure. From the Midwest to Mongolia, from caves deep beneath the sea to flights 30,000 feet in the air, these authors have seen it all—and lived to write the tale.
Our community was settled largely by immigrants from Germany, so it seems fitting that our next stop is that country. Schadenfreude, a love story: me, the Germans, and 20 years of attempted transformations, unfortunate miscommunications, and humiliating situations that only they have words for is perhaps the longest book title in our catalogue. Rebecca Shuman is a typical Jewish American teen when she encounters her first love—a teenaged boy with a volume of Franz Kafka in his backpack—which leads to the discovery of her real love: all things German. For the next twenty years, Schuman visits and lives in Germany, trying in both a literal and metaphorical way to make herself understood and to understand. It’s a bildungsroman told with great wit and humor, a snapshot of a young woman discovering herself in a country that’s piecing itself back together after the end of the Cold War.
There’s a trite but rather true impression that most little girls go through a horse-mania phase. Mine was mostly expressed by repeated readings of Black Beauty. Author Lara Prior-Palmer, however, decided to sign up for a 1,000-kilometer (621 mile) horse race. In Mongolia. On a whim. As detailed in Rough Magic: Riding the World’s Loneliest Horse Race, Prior-Palmer is nineteen and all at loose ends when she sees an ad for the Mongolian Derby—a race that recreates Genghis Khan’s horse messenger system. She impulsively decides that riding a series of 25 wild ponies across the steppe is the next logical step in her life-long love of horses and riding. The teenager is woefully underprepared for this race, bringing along scant equipment and unable to work the GPS. Her win is a testament to her grit, determination, and competitive spirit. And yet, because of Prior-Palmer’s frank avowal of her foolhardiness (and her spite towards another competitor), manages to save this memoir from the all-too-familiar narrative of the gritty underdog making good.
If you want to mark two squares with one book for the Bookish Bingo Challenge, Imagine Wanting Only This is the one for you. Kristen Radtke spins her tale in the form of a graphic memoir, relating scenes and circumstances with a combination of lyrical prose and black-and-white art. Loss of a beloved uncle combined with the unwitting desecration of a photographer’s memorial lead the author into a fascination with ruins. Traveling from Cambodia to Colorado, Radtke’s pursuit of these places reveals an existential restlessness, a fear that settling down and settling in means eventual decay into a ruin herself. If you have never thought of a comic book as an art form capable of moving and challenging its readers, Imagine Wanting Only This will shift your perspective.
Perhaps no other author on my list exemplifies the female adventurer as well as Jill Heinerth. She led teams that discovered long-submerged ruins of Mayan civilization, and she is the first person in history to dive deep into an Antarctic iceberg. Her memoir Into The Planet: My Life as a Cave Diver detail her transformation from office drone to renowned cave diver. Her prose is crisp yet conversational, alternately thrilling with its description of danger and charming with its depictions of underwater marvels. From the opening sentence to the final paragraph, Heinerth sets the adrenaline rushing and the imagination free.
TV comedy writer Kristin Newman spent her 20s and 30s watching her friends get married and start families. Unwilling to either settle down or become the sad single girl, Newman instead spent months each year travelling around the globe. She details her adventures with an easy, infectious humor and delves with equal aplomb into self-reflection. Why is it, exactly, that every obstacle sends her on a transatlantic flight?
Author Kate Harris dreamed of being an explorer when she was a young girl. Unfortunately, the world had already been discovered and mapped long before she grew up in a small Ontario town. In between studying at Oxford and MIT, Harris and her childhood friend decided to travel the Silk Road by bicycle. Cycling through miles of remote countryside, Harris begins to wonder about the definition of “explorer.” It is someone who discovers something, or is it someone who lives life outside of boundaries, discovering themselves?
It is 2011, and all universities in North Korea have been shut down for an entire year, the students sent to construction fields– except for the 270 students at the all-male Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST), a walled compound where portraits of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il look on impassively from the walls of every room. Suki Kim offers a moving and incalculably rare glimpse of life in the world’s most unknowable country, and at the privileged young men she calls “soldiers and slaves.”
In 1993, the New York Times debuted a new feature, the Frugal Traveler, in its pages. Susan Spano was the first columnist, and she took her readers on fascinating trips around the globe. French Ghosts, Russian Nights, and American Outlaws is a collection of some her most beloved pieces. Join Spano as she journeys from the Artic Circle to Java, from China to the Andes Mountains. Through her tales, Spano lives her philosophy of life and travel: Go forth and find meaning. And return home with a tan, whenever possible.
Mary Morris was supposed to be going on sabbatical. Instead, an accident left her in a wheelchair for three months while she endured two surgeries, extensive rehabilitation, and doubts about her ability to ever walk again. While reading Death In Venice, she was captivated by the lines, “He would go on a journey. Not far. Not all the way to the tigers.” Morris decided then and there that she would travel all the way to the tigers. She spent weeks over a three-year period in India, searching for the world’s most elusive predator, learning about and finding a deep connection to the wild cat. Told in over a hundred short chapters, Morris weaves a multi-layered tale of determination, family, travel, and growth.
Book descriptions are courtesy of Monarch Catalog, except Schadenfreude, a love story: me, the Germans, and 20 years of attempted transformations, unfortunate miscommunications, and humiliating situations that only they have words for—provided by Amazon.
Now that the 2021 (2020?) Tokyo Summer Olympic Games have ended we all have additional time to work on our Mead Bookish Bingo Challenge. Below, I assembled several titles that will let you cross off the square for “Books set in a country that has NEVER hosted the Olympics”.
For instance, did you know that despite having over 50 countries registered with the International Olympic Committee, there has never been a modern Olympic games hosted by any country in the entire continent of Africa? This is largely due to the extreme cost attached to hosting an Olympics. Beijing reportedly spent $40 billion to host the 2008 Summer Olympics. If that big ol’ price tag is a deterrent for wealthy nations, imagine the strain this would have on a developing country. While there is talk of the games coming to Senegal far down the road, we must make due in the meantime.
The titles listed above represent the tiniest sliver of literature produced in un-Olympic-ed nations. From travelogues to groovy science fiction, there is a pantheon of literature to choose from to get this bingo square crossed off.
Do you still need a Mead Bookish Bingo card? It’s not too late to complete a row. Pick up a copy at the first or second floor desk at Mead or print your own out HERE. Would you like a little more community while you work on our bingo card? Consider joining our Goodreads group HERE.
If none of the titles listed appeal, contact us for additional recommendations. Please do not hesitate to reach out for help requesting materials, troubleshooting our ebook platforms, or anything else, really.
With a whopping 200 holds on its various formats, The Four Winds has topped hundreds of people’s summer reading lists. Kristin Hannah’s tale of a woman’s struggle to keep her farm, family, and marriage alive through the Dust Bowl has hooked readers with deft writing and details of the gritty reality of 1930s rural life. But what to do if you’re still waiting for your copy to turn up?
Below are 5 titles to tide you over while you wait.
Today, after seeing that Where the Crawdads Sing was still showing up on various trending/bestseller lists, I began to wonder – what had been Mead’s most popular titles so far in 2021? So I looked at which books had been checked out the most times so far this year. Below, you can find the top five – if you like talking about books with other people, you’re likely to find a lot of people in Sheboygan who have read these! (Descriptions taken from catalog/publishers.)
Texas, 1934. Millions are out of work and a drought has broken the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as the crops are failing, the water is drying up, and dust threatens to bury them all. One of the darkest periods of the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl era, has arrived with a vengeance.
In this uncertain and dangerous time, Elsa Martinelli—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or go west, to California, in search of a better life. The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American Dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.
Juneteenth is this Saturday – and now it’s also our newest federal holiday! Falling on June 19th each year, it originally marked the abolition of slavery in Texas. It’s since expanded to commemorate and celebrate the end of slavery across the nation. More information can be found in this New York Times article. For this week’s blog post, I wanted to go a little wider than just historical/documentary movies and, instead, pick out and highlight some movies exploring the Black experience in America. Descriptions are from our catalog or the publisher:
It’s the hottest day of the year in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. Tensions are growing, with the only local businesses being a Korean grocery and Sal’s Pizzeria. Mookie is Sal’s delivery boy. Radio Raheem has the letters of love and hate written on his hands. He is defiant and together with a motivated Buggin Out, push Sal and his sons to their breaking point.
The cops intervene, using force and brutality to apprehend the large Radio Raheem. He is unwilling to succumb to the over-excessive brutality of the police and the racist views of Sal and his family. The overzealous police officers don’t understand the repercussions of the violence they just unleashed. The neighbors band together to protest this extreme form of pure, toxic bigotry. Mob mentality takes over and the other local non-African American store owners become threatened. Tempers flare and rage is in the air.
In a continuation of last week’s post centered on LGBTQI+ excellence in books and movies, please enjoy this list of graphic novels to celebrate Pride and the inherent talent and diversity within. Below, I highlight four graphic novels that are worth a look whether it’s Pride month or not. Book descriptions were sourced from publisher information.
This series is what it might look like if Nancy Drew liked girls and had non-white friends. 16-year-old Marigold “Goldie” Vance lives at a Florida resort with her dad, who manages the place. Her mom, who divorced her dad years ago, works as a live mermaid at a club downtown. Goldie has an insatiable curiosity, which explains her dream to one day become the hotel’s in-house detective. When Charles, the current detective, encounters a case he can’t crack, he agrees to mentor Goldie in exchange for her help solving the mystery utilizing her smarts, random skills, and connections with the hotel staff and various folks in town. Available on Hoopla.
James Tynion IV (Detective Comics, The Woods) teams up with artist Rian Sygh (Munchkin, Stolen Forest) for an incredibly earnest story that explores what it means to find a place to fit in when you’re kinda an outcast. When Jory transfers to an all-boys private high school, he’s taken in by the lowly stage crew known as the Backstagers. Hunter, Aziz, Sasha, and Beckett become his new best friends and introduce him to an entire magical world that lives beyond the curtain that the rest of the school doesn’t know about, filled with strange creatures, changing hallways, and a decades-old legend of a backstage crew that went missing and was never found. Available on Hoopla. Ongoing series.
Pan’s life used to be very small. Work in her dad’s body shop, sneak out with her friend Tara to go dancing, and watch the skies for freighter ships. It didn’t even matter that Tara was a princess… until one day it very much did matter, and Pan had to say goodbye forever. Years later, when a charismatic pair of off-world gladiators show up on her doorstep, she finds that life might not be as small as she thought. On the run and off the galactic grid, Pan discovers the astonishing secrets of her neo-medieval world… and the intoxicating possibility of burning it all down. Available on Hoopla.
When Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray met at church bingo in 1963, it was love at first sight. Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid-’60s, Hazel and Mari reunite again at a church bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage. Available on Hoopla.
Additional LGBTQI+ graphic novels to celebrate Pride month with:
All of the above titles can be found in the Monarch catalog. Most of the titles are available on Hoopla. In fact, Hoopla is host to hundreds of comic book and graphic novel titles, so no matter one’s interest area there is bound to be something that appeals.
Please do not hesitate to reach out for help requesting material or troubleshooting tech stuff. As always, we are thrilled to pieces to give reader’s advisory book recommendations whether it’s for Pride month or any other occasion.
Happy Pride month! June is for celebrating queer culture and remembering the innovators and agitators who fought for, and continue to fight for gay rights and freedom. While there is much work to be done, it’s important to take some time to reflect on the progress made. Commemorate and celebrate along with the community by engaging with queer-created content. Below, I list books and movies to educate and entertain alongside the celebration.
Anyone who has been paying attention to publishing trends over the past decade should be pleased to notice the availability of more and more diverse books. Whether you’re talking romance, sci-fi, memoir, or history, there is something for everybody. And guess what? You don’t even need to be gay to enjoy all this great content.
In the Dream House: a Memoir (2019) by Carmen Maria Machado; considered one of the best books of 2019, Machado uses horror tropes to explore the impact of abuse in same-sex relationships.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (2017) by Mackenzie Lee; being gay in contemporary times is still, sadly, fraught with danger. This book explores the stifling conventions of 17th century nobility and how they impacted people who are not content to live within the bounds of convention. Lots of fun, with a third book in the series debuting this fall.
Pet (2019) by Akwaeke Emezi; I have for sure blogged about this book minimum once before, and I will admit it’s likely I will blog about it again, but this book is so good. Just. So, so good. It’s fantasy, but real. It’s the future, but not too far away. Monsters come in all forms, and Pet examines them with great feeling and humanity.
Sissy: a Coming-of-Gender Story (2019) by Jacob Tobias; assigned male at birth, Tobias uses their story to explore how a stringent gender binary is keeping us from fully being who we really are. Might want to read someplace you won’t get looked at funny for laughing out loud.
Wow, No Thank You (2020) by Samantha Kirby; Super funny collection of essays about the author’s life.
All About My Mother (1999) by Pedro Almodovar; considered one of Almodovar’s best. Riffing on golden age of Hollywood sensibilities and Betty Davis, this is the story of a mother’s journey across Spain to inform her estranged husband of the death of their son.
Boys Don’t Cry (1999) This movie will devastate you. Don’t watch it alone and don’t watch it if you cannot stomach violence. Do watch it to gain some understanding about the dangers of being trans in a world that doesn’t want trans people to exist. Hillary Swank won Best Actress for her portrayal of Brandon Teena which now leads us to some fascinating conversations about trans actors representing themselves on screen.
Moonlight (2016) directed by Barry Jenkins; this is hands-down one of the most beautiful movies ever made. We follow protagonist Chiron through three life phases as he grows from a boy into a man. Another worthy exploration of race and sexuality in America. And let’s not forget about the best acting of the year coming from Mahershala Ali as Juan, one of the only adults to show young Chiron an ounce of tenderness. Currently available on Kanopy.
Paris is Burning (1990) directed by Jennie Livingston; this wonderful, shiny and bright documentary explores the African American and Latinx ballroom drag scene of 1980s Harlem against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, homophobia, transphobia, and racism. If you enjoy Ryan Murphy’s Pose, you have to watch Paris is Burning. I don’t make the rules here, just do it.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019) directed by Celine Sciamma; gorgeous 17th century love story between two women. Now available on Kanopy.
Many of the books and movies mentioned above can be found on Mead’s Pride book display, located on the first floor, until the end of June, 2021. All titles are available in the Monarch catalog, often in multiple formats, as well. Don’t see anything that grabs you? We are thrilled, THRILLED to help you find what you are looking for. That goes for any genre or topic piquing your interest at any particular time, diverse or not. Never hesitate to reach out for book recommendations or tech help, we love that stuff. And remember: just because we celebrate in June doesn’t mean we go without Pride all year long.
Don’t forget to check back next week for a list of LGBTQI+ graphic novels!
Did you know that Stephen King wrote a book set in Wisconsin? I didn’t! I also didn’t know that Neil Gaiman has a home near Menomonie or that YA author Shannon Schuren is a librarian right next door in Sheboygan Falls and YA author Amy Zhang went to high school in Sheboygan Falls! So below, please find some books that have a Wisconsin setting or connection. (Also, you can find an interview in the Sheboygan Press with Shannon Schuren right here!)
Twenty years ago, a boy named Jack Sawyer traveled to a parallel universe called the Territories to save his mother and her “Twinner” from an agonizing death that would have brought cataclysm to the other world. Now Jack is a retired Los Angeles homicide detective living in the nearly nonexistent hamlet of Tamarack, Wisconsin. He has no recollection of his adventures in the Territories, and he was compelled to leave the police force when a happenstance event threatened to awaken those long-suppressed and dangerous memories.
When a series of gruesome murders occurs in western Wisconsin, reminiscent of heinous killings committed several decades earlier, Jack’s buddy, the local chief of police, begs Jack to help find the killer. But are these new killings merely the work of a disturbed individual, or has a mysterious and malignant force been unleashed in this quiet town? What causes Jack’s inexplicable waking dreams—if that is what they are—of robins’ eggs and red feathers? As these cryptic messages become impossible to ignore, Jack is drawn back to the Territories and to his own hidden past.