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.
Are you looking for books for your middle grade reader to spice up their summer reading list? Consider including some survival stories! Survival stories keep readers on the edge of their seat with their dramatic twists and turns. Readers vicariously experience obstacles and witness the strength of the human spirit through the perspective of the characters involved in their struggle to survive. I have some recommendations from our children’s library below that will keep readers in suspense and anxious to find out what happens next.
You will not be able to put this book down! The chapters in this book alternate between characters: 9 year old Brandon on September 11, 2001, and 11 year old Reshmina in 2019. Brandon is supposed to spend the day with his father while he works on the top floor of the north tower of the World Trade Center. Brandon winds up on a different floor of the tower from his father when the tower is hit by a plane, and he doesn’t initially understand what is happening. The full scope of what happened unfolds as Brandon tries to make his way through the building in an effort to get back to his father, but then realizes he must make his way out of the building in order to survive. Readers are introduced to Reshmina as she tries to convince her twin brother he shouldn’t join the Taliban, while living in their small village in Afghanistan. Events unfold that lead to Reshmina risking the safety of everyone in her village by taking in a wounded American soldier. Both Brandon and Reshmina experience extreme danger and witness horrific events, all in one day. Their stories, while absolutely riveting, seem to be unconnected at first. As the story progresses, readers uncover how connected they actually are. These are fictional characters, but their stories are based on true events. There is an author’s note at the end of the book that provides further information on the history of the WTC, details on the attacks occurring on that day, the terrorists involved, the war in Afghanistan, and the way life has changed in America as well.
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!
How has your Bookish Bingo Challenge been going? We’re approaching the halfway point of 2021, so it is by no means too late to finish up a row, or start completely from scratch to reach your bingo goal. Not sure what the Bookish Bingo Challenge is, or need a copy of the bingo sheet? Click HERE. Also, take a look at past installments of Bookish Bingo blog posts for inspiration HERE.
This week’s post focuses on the “read a graphic novel, graphic memoir, or manga” square. My public school experience happened to line up with the place in time when we stopped saying “comic books” and started saying “graphic novels”. Really high-falutin’ and academic types might even have uttered “sequential art” when trying to frame comic books as a serious literary and artistic medium. My seventh grade english teacher quickly did an about-face at my proposed book report on Art Spiegleman’s seminal Maus, when told that it had won a Pulitzer Prize that year; a first for any comic. Anyone familiar with this remarkable title will understand how Spiegleman’s work helped usher in a truly golden age of graphic novels, manga, comics, comix, funny pages, or however you know the medium. Take a look at the list below for some additional high-chroma recommendations.
Graphic novels: Black Panther: World of Wakanda (2017) written by Roxanne Gay and Ta-Nehisi Coates; gone are the days when comics were known for shoddy writing. Gay and Coates are some of the country’s greatest living authors, so we should all take a moment to appreciate the depth of talent at work in all aspects of contemporary graphic novels.
Check Please! (2018) by Ngozi Ukazu; there’s a trope in queer fiction in which gay protagonists are subjected to unceremonious deaths, overt gay-bashing, or some other violent consequence of homophobia. I’m begging you to read this book not only because it is an absolute delight, but gay characters are defined by their thoughts and actions, not by their trauma. Also: PIE!
A Contract With God and Other Tenement Stories (1978) by Will Eisner; widely considered the first modern graphic novel. Eisner is so important to the medium they named the award for industry achievement and innovation after him. Take a look at the list of Eisner award-winning work HERE.
Love and Rockets (1981-1996) by Gilbert, Jaime, and Mario Hernandez; I, personally, cannot talk about American comic history without mentioning the Hernandez brothers. They gave voice to minorities and women in an industry that still isn’t always welcoming to these populations, as well as define the post-underground generation of comic artists.
Usagi Yojimbo (1987-present) by Stan Sakai; follow masterless bunny samurai Miyamoto Usagi around a 17th century Japan populated with anthropomorphic animals. This long-running series is packed full of awesome action, Japanese mythology, folklore, and humor. Does Usagi seem familiar? It might be because he has been known to join the Ninja Turtles on adventures, as well.
El Deafo (2014) by Cece Bell; perennial favorite of middle-grade readers, and rightly so. Full of heart, humanity, and humor.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic (2007) by Alison Bechdel; you may also recognize Bechdel’s name from the eponymous “Bechdel Test” which is a simple if imperfect way to evaluate female representation in fiction. Read more about it HERE, because honestly it’s fascinating.
Maus: A Survivor’s Tale (1991) by Art Spiegelman; aforementioned as perhaps THE book that helped comics reach mainstream notoriety.
Persepolis: the Story of a Childhood (2004) by Marjane Satrapi; I learned more about the 1979 Iranian Revolution from this book than the entirety of my formal education. See also: the animated movie adaptation.
Need even MORE excellent graphic memoir recommendations? Take a look at the list assembled over at Bookriot.
Akira (1984) by Katsuhiro Otomo; the manga that launched a thousand obsessions. As with many middle-Americans, Akira was my first encounter with anime which then extrapolated into my first encounter with manga. The influence of both film and book on modern media cannot be overstated. Watch the movie and marvel at its late 80s technical excellence and totally badass soundtrack.
High School Debut (2004-2013) by Kazune Kawahara; beloved romance series known for its straightforward charm.
O Maidens in Your Savage Season (2017-present) by Mari Okada; this one comes highly recommended by fellow librarian Carol, and if one can trust anyone’s opinion, it’s hers. This is a great title for women and girls who are tired of seeing themselves objectified from hell to breakfast in manga (and plenty of American media as well, to be fair).
One Piece (1997-present) by Eiichiro Oda; this long-running, best-selling adventure series will publish its 100th volume later this year.
Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror (1998) by Junji Ito; horror manga tends to be filled with super gross, intense depictions of gore and violence. This three-volume series goes easier on the reader without scaling back the genuine creep-factor.
I will admit manga is a personal blind spot for me, so please take a look at THIS list from Bookriot for further recommendations. One thing I love about manga is that many tend to be published as long-running series, so if one book is appealing there are likely to be dozens more (looking at you, One Piece).
For a great introduction to the main genres of manga, take a look at THIS excellent guide published by the New York Public Library.
At one time the word “comics” might have conjured the blurry, three-color lithography of Sunday papers, superhero rags made famous by DC and Marvel, and not a lot else. Superheroes and newspaper funnies are still valid and important, but the form has come a long way over the years, which benefits us all. Framed as a gateway to broader reading, many reluctant readers morphed into avid book lovers after connecting with a graphic novel they loved. My gateway comics were Archie Comics and Herge’s Tintin; these were the first books I ever read on my own & cemented my positive relationship with reading. Hopefully, the books and lists above will provide Bookish Bingo players ample inspiration of their own. All titles listed above are available via the Monarch catalog. For help requesting materials or additional book recommendations including but not limited to bingo square challenges, we would love to hear from you via phone (920-459-3400), email (firstname.lastname@example.org), chat, or in-person.
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.
The last year has been a stressful time. Needless to say, quite a few people will likely still be dealing with some anxiety when everything finally dies down. I’ve collected a few books to help you learn ways to handle that anxiety. You’ll find our catalog’s description of the book under each title.
“We are living through one of the most anxious periods any of us can remember. Whether facing issues as public as a pandemic or as personal as having kids at home and fighting the urge to reach for the wine bottle every night, we are feeling overwhelmed and out of control. But in this timely book, Judson Brewer explains how to uproot anxiety at its source using brain-based techniques and small hacks accessible to anyone. We think of anxiety as everything from mild unease to full-blown panic. But it’s also what drives the addictive behaviors and bad habits we use to cope (e.g. stress eating, procrastination, doom scrolling and social media). Plus, anxiety lives in a part of the brain that resists rational thought. So we get stuck in anxiety habit loops that we can’t think our way out of or use willpower to overcome. Dr. Brewer teaches us map our brains to discover our triggers, defuse them with the simple but powerful practice of curiosity, and to train our brains using mindfulness and other practices that his lab has proven can work. Distilling more than 20 years of research and hands-on work with thousands of patients, including Olympic athletes and coaches, and leaders in government and business, Dr. Brewer has created a clear, solution-oriented program that anyone can use to feel better – no matter how anxious they feel.”
What’s your favorite coping method? Lately I’ve got two. First, I’ve been daydreaming and scheming over the past 14 months about having a mini road trip adventure. Soon I will leave my dark hovel and re-enter the bright, shining world, and when that time arrives I know which books are coming with. Which leads me to coping mechanism #2; keeping an eternal, endless reading list that will never get shorter, only longer. Always longer. Check out my list below for some summer reading inspiration of your own. What’s that? It’s not officially summer til June 20th? Why don’t you tell someone who hasn’t been living in their head for the better part of a year and a half, because I will never listen.
Below, I list my top three genres and the books I’ve been saving to read on the road, along with their runners-up.
Some will know T. Kingfisher as Ursula Vernon, author of the very popular juvenile graphic novel series, Dragonbreath. She felt the need to create a pen name to distinguish the adult titles from the juvenile titles, and after enjoying work published under both names, I can see why. Kingfisher spins dark fairytale-adjacent stories filled with sinister characters, terrifying big boss-style monsters, and genre-defying badass women. Check out some of her short fiction HERE. I’ll look for a spooky roadside motel near the woods to read this one at night.
Here are some additional titles to make your skin crawl:
Summertime is murder mystery time, specifically Agatha Christie time. There’s just something about the warmth and the light that makes me want to read her work. One would think that after being a Christie stan for more than two decades I would have already gotten to this gold-star standard, but no. Along with Death on the Nile, The ABC Murders, and A Caribbean Murder, And Then There Were None is considered among her greatest novels. I have seen minimum one movie adaptation but have since forgotten whodunnit, but should know the solution to the mystery by the end of my vacation, if all goes according to plan. Ideally, picnicking somewhere gorgeous.
And Then There Were None is also a fascinating example of how beloved media can, and should change over time. The original title of this book featured the worst racial epithet I can think of and was also known at one time as “Ten Little Indians”. To read more about the racism subsequent publishers have done their best to purge from Christie’s work, take a look at THIS article. It’s an apt topic to explore and discuss while everyone is so het up about “cancel culture”. Some things should be relegated to the past, and unnecessary and negative portrayals of racial stereotypes is one of those things.
This book checks a lot of boxes for me; outer space, giant space station, giant space station disaster, artificial intelligence, neurodivergent protagonist, woman author. The past decade has been a cavalcade of excellent women and femme-penned speculative fiction and scifi, all to the credit of the genre. Reading about far off galaxies and hitherto unknown beings gives me a sense of calm and peace that I can’t articulate. I’m going to read this at an outdoor patio while I wait to be brought something delicious to eat and drink.
Will I actually end up reading the books I have picked out? No way to tell. Chances are that I will find many distracting and cruddy paperbacks in secondhand stores while I gallivant far and wide. All listed titles are available through the Monarch catalog unless otherwise specified. Don’t see any titles that float your boat? Why not give the Your Next Five Books tool a try? Never hesitate to reach out for tech help, book recommendations, or encouraging words. Email email@example.com or call 920-459-3400, option 4. Oh, and have a fantastic vacation.
This week, I asked Sheboygan Poet Laureate Lisa Vihos if she’d be willing to close out National Poetry Month by sharing some recommendations for poetry she loves! She was kind enough to do so, and here’s what she wanted to share:
When someone asks me “who is your favorite poet?” I am usually at a loss because I don’t have just one favorite poet. I have many! I don’t even have one favorite kind of poetry. By that I mean, I’m not more partial to free verse than I am to formal poems (like haiku, sestinas, sonnets or villanelles). I like them all! If you are writing poems, forms are fun to experiment with because they provide a structure that needs to be maintained, but without sounding forced. That is always a great and interesting challenge. I recently learned of a Vietnamese poem form called a luc bat in which the lines alternate between six syllables and eight syllables, and in which the rhyme scheme is rather complex across the lines:
x x x x x A
x x x x x A x B
x x x x x B
x x x x x B x C
x x x x x C
x x x x x C x D
etc. as long as you want to go! I actually wrote several luc bat poems for the recent project, Poetry by Post, that will be on view in the display case on the first floor of the library in the month of May. See if you can find the luc bats!
As for some favorite poets, I’ll give you a few who I always love to return to, as well as one poet who I just recently discovered. Head to the stacks and look for:
Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet and Sufi mystic. What I love about his poems (in translation, of course!) is the way that they sound very contemporary to me, even though they were written eight centuries ago. His words are so full of wisdom and show the interconnectedness of all things.