Nothing But the Truth by Avi
Nothing but the Truth by Avi is self-described as a documentary novel. An older book, this is a Newbery Honor Book that investigates truth – truth in the individual, truth in politics, truth in the news media – truth. So although older, this book is as timely as today’s headlines.
The premise is this – 9th grader Philip Malloy wants to be moved from Ms. Narwin’s English class so he can participate in the spring track season. His grade in her class is holding him back. He hums along with the National Anthem at the beginning of the school day and is sent to the office by Ms. Narwin for breaking the school rule of standing at ‘respectful, silent attention’ during the anthem.
From this small beginning, his action escalates into a national campaign celebrating Phillip’s patriotism, condemning Ms. Narwin for her unpatriotic response, and supported by politicians and talk radio who latch onto this as a signature issue.
All the reactions are fueled by small “untruths” that compound into a plausible but compelling climax.
This is a good book to read as a group, exploring each turn of events by weighing it against the known facts, as an excellent exercise for teens who are being met with ‘alternative’ facts in the real world.
Nothing but the Truth is found in the Young Adult section of the Youth Services department, among many of Avi’s other excellent books. Check ‘em out!
Day of Tears by Julius Lester
Public voices in recent times appear to have minimized terrible truths of American slavery and the horror of the Holocaust. Julius Lester’s Day of Tears should be required reading for those who have forgotten the reality of slavery in the years before the Civil War.
Lester’s book is based on a true event, the largest slave sale in the history of America, held March 2 and 3, 1859. Between 429 and 436 slaves – men, women, children, complete families – were sold those two days, in the midst of torrential rain storms. The storms were said to have plagued the entire sale, with the sky clearing only after its conclusion. The sale netted $303,850 for the plantation owner. He had bankrupted himself through gambling, and saw the sale as his chance to escape indebtedness.
The book is a series of short narratives from all perspectives. Slaves, the plantation owner, his daughters, the slave seller – all have a piece to say. Most telling are the owner and slave seller who are assured that the slaves have no real feelings, physical or emotional. The “masters” have no sense of the tragedy they cause by considering these human beings to be chattel. The book follows its characters through several generations, giving resolution to their paths.
This is a sobering book but needs to be read, along with similarly truth based books such as Night John by Paulsen, and histories such as Growing up in Slavery by Diouf.
Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky
Gracefully Grayson is another book that should be read – so many times we have to remember that it is critical for each of us to find stories about us – who we are and how we see ourselves. This book by Ami Polonsky is one which fills a need for those children who are struggling with gender issues.
Grayson looks in the mirror and doesn’t see a sixth grade boy – he sees the beautiful princess he wants to be. He wears his sweatshirts tied around his waist to feel that he is wearing a skirt. But there is no one in the world with whom he can share these thoughts.
Following a fatal car accident which takes his parents away, Grayson lives with his Aunt Sally and Uncle Evan in the suburbs. His cousins Jack and Brett are just down the hall. His mother’s mother is in a nursing home – his only surviving relative on his mother’s side. When she dies, she leaves Grayson three letters written by his mother to his grandmother. In these he discovers that his parents suspected, and were supportive of Grayson’s gender questions.
Grayson tries out for the annual school play, The Myth of Persephone. He decides to try out for and is chosen for the title role, that of a woman kidnapped by Hades and taken to the underworld. His fellow cast members support his efforts as lead – because he is excellent in the role! But his decision brings troubles along, both in his family and at school.
This is a strong, non-judgmental narrative, with believable insights into Grayson’s mind and emotions. For those of us who can only imagine the painful struggles some young people endure, this is an eye-opening book. The reader is left feeling sympathetic to and understanding of the struggles in Grayson’s life.
—Reviews by Jan Cravens, Youth Services Assistant
Pictured are LEGO Contest winners, judges, and just a few of the fantastic projects that were entered! Thanks to the Bartlesville Friends of the Library for funding this event.
Thirty-three participants, ages 5 to…ahem…middle-aged, entered projects into our 8th Annual LEGO Creations Contest! Winners were Malachi Hakola, Jackson Gerber, Andre Lemay, Jonathan Glover, Sloan Hewitt, Ian Holdman, Melissa Rupprecht, David Glover, Christian Melton, and Camden Melton. They received LEGO products which were funded by the Bartlesville Friends of the Library. Judges were George Halkiades, Becca Hall, and Eric Randall.
A Time to Dance by Padma Venkatraman
Padma Venkatraman’s A Time to Dance is a tale of a dancer in India who rediscovers herself after a serious accident leaves her with only one leg. It is hard to feel sorry for Veda, because she fights so hard to not feel sorry for herself!
Veda has been studying the traditional dance Bharatanatyam for 10 years, and after winning the Bharatanatyam dance competition, the bus taking her back to her studio is in an accident – she has lost her right leg. But her dream of dancing has not been shattered, and with the help of Jim, who creates a special prosthetic (artificial) leg tailored to the remainder of her knee, and the help of an amazing dancing teacher, she learns about herself and her strengths and dances once again.
What has made the difference is understanding the spiritual part of the dance as well as the physical. She begins to teach little ones and watches what the dance does for each. There is a difference in knowing and seeing and understanding. Along the way, we suspect she has found someone worthy of her love.
The story is based loosely on the author’s memory of dancer Shoba Sharma who was injured and became a dancer, as well as several other dancers, Indian and other nationalities, who overcame much to dance.
This was a 2017 Sequoyah Intermediate nominee. The author has written two other books, Island’s End, available in our library, and Climbing the Stairs. – Review by Jan Cravens, Youth Services Assistant
The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan
The Poet’s Dog by Patricia MacLachlan, is one of those books you wish you had never read so you could read it again for the first time! It is short and simply written.
The book begins with this quote: “Dogs speak words, but only poets and children hear.” The narrator is the poet’s (Sylvan’s) dog Teddy. Teddy was a stray, rescued by Sylvan. And Teddy in turn rescues a boy and girl who have become lost in the woods on a bitter, snowy day. He takes them home – and the children understand his words.
The children were left in their mother’s car when she went to find help after their car stalled in the storm. Teddy and the children weather the storm together, and through Teddy’s remembrances we learn of Sylvan’s work as a poet and teacher. When Sylvan died, it is his student, Ellie, who feeds and checks on Teddy – because Teddy could not leave their home, a cabin in the woods.
When the storm clears and Ellie comes, the children and Teddy wait for the parents to arrive. And the story ends there.
This is a thoughtful book, with little truths and little moments of poetry. MacLachlan is a writer of many children’s books – and winner of the Newberry Medal. Her books bear reading again and again. – Review by Jan Cravens, Youth Services Assistant
Sign up now, at the library’s Youth Services Department, for the 8th annual LEGO Creation Contest!
The contest is free to all and participants will be divided into three age groups: Kindergarten through 4th grade, 5th grade through 8th grade, and 9th grade through adult. First, second and third place will be awarded in each category with one overall grand prize being awarded. Winners will receive LEGO products and ribbons.
Contestants will build their LEGO creations at home using their own LEGOs, abiding by the rules and criteria noted on the registration form. They will then drop off their entries at the upstairs meeting room of the library on Saturday, April 29th from 9:00 am to 11:00 am. The room will be closed at 11:00 am to allow judging to take place.
Public viewing will begin that same day at 1:00pm, with awards being given out soon after. Winning entries will be shown in the library’s lobby display cases from April 30th through May 6th.
“I hope to see lots of sign-ups for this competition,” says Laura Pryce, Youth Services librarian. “And it would be great to have more adult competitors this year!” To register, come by the Youth Services Desk at the Bartlesville Public Library or call 918-338-4170 for more information.
The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier http://bartlesville.polarislibrary.com/search/searchresults.aspx?ctx=3.1033.0.0.6&type=Keyword&term=the%20night%20gardener%20auxier&by=KW&sort=MP&limit=&query=&page=0&searchid=1
The Night Gardener by Terry & Eric Fan http://bartlesville.polarislibrary.com/search/searchresults.aspx?ctx=3.1033.0.0.6&type=Keyword&term=the%20night%20gardener%20fan&by=KW&sort=MP&limit=AVAILABILITY%20>%200&query=&page=0&searchid=2
It’s not often that two books are published with the same title – and that both are really good! So when The Night Gardener (Jonathan Auxier) was nominated for an Oklahoma Library Association’s 2017 Sequoyah Award, it was apparent The Night Gardener (the Fan Brothers) would need to be read as well.
Auxier’s book is up for the Children’s and the Middle Grades Sequoyah Awards, with a target audience of grades 4 to 8. It is spooky and kept me reading. The Fans’ book is for children in Kindergarten through 3rd grade. It is a beautifully illustrated book with an important message.
A spooky setting, orphaned children and a cursed house set the background for Auxier’s book. Molly and Kip were orphaned when the ship bringing them from Ireland to England sank. Molly assumed care for her brother, and they came to work for the Windsor family in their remote, dank, overcast home. Something was clearly wrong from the beginning! A portrait of the family from the summer before showed that the good health and happiness radiating from them in the portrait had given way to forgetfulness, pale skin and haunted looks.
Outside the home was an ancient tree. It had grown to be part of the very foundation of the house – and Kip was forbidden to trim the branches which brushed against the house when the winds blew. There was a feeling that someone was entering the house through its locked doors, and making mischief with the family’s belongings.
It soon becomes apparent that the change in Mr. Windsor includes heavy gambling debts. The change in Mrs. Windsor includes shortness of memory and temper. Older child Alistair is mean, coming near to torturing his little sister, Penny, is frightened.
The story comes to a satisfying conclusion – but only after some truly creepy happenings!
The Fan Brothers (Terry and Eric) are both artists, and Eric a writer. This is their first children’s book, filled with gorgeous illustrations.
Grimloch Lane is a sad place. Houses are grey and the people who live there walk with heads down in isolation. One night, however, change begins. When William awakes, he hears a commotion in the street. Running outside, he discovers that someone has created a wise owl from a nearby tree! Each day, a new shape appears from the foliage in the trees. And the neighborhood begins to notice and to spend time outside and to be not so sad! Each morning, William is excited to awake and see what was new.
One night after the neighborhood festivities, William notices a stranger in the street. William follows the stranger to the Park. Sure enough, it is the Night Gardener and he asked for William’s help. William worked so hard he fell asleep but when he woke, there was a gift from the Night Gardener – a pair of garden shears. The Gardener no longer appeared, but William has become the shaper of the newly busy and happy neighborhood. – Review by Jan Cravens, Youth Services assistant
Our new Teen Area also got a Smart Table. Thanks to Phillips 66 for the grant with which we were able to purchase these fun and educational resources for our youth!
We very much appreciate all the LEGOs that have been donated to the library! However, we still need more before we can kick off our monthly club. If you run across any unused LEGO materials during your spring cleaning, bring ’em in and let’s fill up the case!
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson
On August 25, 2000, 93 headstones and monuments were damaged in the Jewish section of Rose Hill Memorial Park in Tulsa. One of the young men who was arrested was heavily tattooed in swastikas and other Nazi symbols. Now again we are hearing that one of our synagogues in Tulsa has received threats of violence. And Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis and Philadelphia recently were damaged, with more than 100 headstones in each cemetery desecrated.
There are many books in our library using the Holocaust as background for fiction, and many books in our non-fiction section which discuss the persecution of European Jews during World War II. Many survivors of concentration camps have written their stories for our young and old to read and learn from.
Two fairly new books are particularly timely – one fiction and one non-fiction.
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit is a beautiful book. Suitable for 8th grade into adult, this book follows the fictional journey of a young girl and her protector through the Polish countryside. It is 1939 and Anna (or sometimes Ana), aged 7, is waiting for her father to return from lecturing at the University. Unknown to her, he has been arrested in a roundup of university professors and lecturers, and will eventually die on the way to Dachau. Her father is a linguist and she has learned a variety of languages from him. As she wanders the streets, unable to return to her home since she has no key, she encounters the Swallow Man.
The Swallow Man is a shadowy figure who can fade into any background or command attention of the most respectful kind. He advises her, “Stay out of sight, for as long as you can.” And, doing so, she begins to follow him until they are united in eluding German soldiers searching in the dark. And throughout the book she follows him, crisscrossing Poland and cleverly avoiding capture at checkpoints and in cities for more than a year. Readers never learn all there is to know about the Swallow Man, except that he saves Anna and sends her to safety across what we assume to be the Baltic Sea. And we sense that in saving her, he has offered himself to be lost.
The second book, The Boy on the Wooden Box, is a memoir of one of Schindler’s Jews – Leon Leyson or Lieb Lejzon “ as was his given name”. Schindler’s Jews were a group of nearly 1200 Jews saved by industrialist Oskar Schindler. Schindler was able to move the workers in his factory out of Germany and into Czechoslovakia in order to save them. His story is seen in the movie, Schindler’s List. (available in the Adult dvd section)
Leyson was a true resident of Krakow as a child, moving there at 8 from a small village in the Polish countryside. When the Nazi army drove through Poland in 1938, Leon and his family continued safely for some time – until the night the Gestapo came to their home, beat his father and arrested him. Upon his release, Leon’s father quietly worked doing odd jobs. He was called one day to a factory taken over by Nazi sympathizers. The owner watched him do the job he had been called for, then offered Leon’s father employment. The owner was Oskar Schindler.
Because his father worked for Schindler, the family remained safe from deportation, even though they were impoverished and subject to the irrational behaviors of German soldiers. In 1941, the family moved into the newly constructed ghetto in Krakow. Life continued to deteriorate as neighbors and friends were rounded up for transport to concentration camps. Schindler was granted permission to build a sub camp next to his factory as a time saving ruse – and after months of separation from his family, Leon and his mother were placed on a hire list from Schindler’s factory, and the family was reunited. The rest is history – Schindler miraculously managed to protect his Jews until the end of the war.
The title reference is understood when we learn that Leon was so small (at age 12) that he had to stand on a wooden box to do his job at the factory – and was saved because his small hands were needed to do tedious cleaning of gun barrels that an adult was too large to do.
Both of these books, one fiction, and one not, set in Poland in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s demonstrate the terrors of the Nazi vendetta against the Jews. Each recounts the careless disregard of human life which results from the separation of populations into “us” and “them.” – Review by Jan Cravens, Youth Services assistant