Spring into reading with a great book from the Holyoke Library!



Henry and Mudge in Puddle Trouble : the second book of their adventures

story by Cynthia Rylant ; pictures by Suçie Stevenson


The Penderwicks in Spring

Jeanne Birdsall


Hogwood Steps Out : A Good, Good Pig Story 

Howard Mansfield


Curl Up With an Awesome Award Winner

Caldecott Award Winner And Honor Books


Finding Winnie: The True Story of the World’s Most Famous Bear, illustrated by Sophie Blackall, written by Lindsay Mattick

Trombone Shorty, pictures by Bryan Collier and words by Troy Andrews

Last Stop on Market Street, illustrated by Christian Robinson and written by Matt de la Peña


Pura Belpre Award Winner and Honor Books

Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: A Memoir, written by Margarita Engle

Drum Dream Girl, illustrated by Rafael López, written by Margarita Engle

The Smoking Mirror, written by David Bowles


Newberry Award Honor Books

The War that Saved my Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley



Roller Girl, written and illustrated by Victoria Jamieson

Humans of New York, Stories Review

humans of new york

Call Number: E851 St26h (in the new book section)

This is the second Humans of New York book by photographer Brandon Stanton.  The first book was mainly photographs, while this book is a compilation of photographs and stories.  Humans of New York originated as a blog, and also has a facebook page.  The idea started when Brandon became unemployed and decided to take 10,000 photographs of people in New York.  He sometimes got short quotes from them, but as his blog evolved he began getting longer stories.

The really interesting thing about this book is the stories that go along with the powerful photos.  While one of the interviewees referred to it as being labeled, the stories give fascinating insight into people’s lives.  The book doesn’t have chapters and the pictures aren’t officially grouped in any way, but there seems to be a theme for groups of photos, such as sickness or loneliness or love.  Brandon shoots a variety of people, not shying away from the homeless or mentally ill.  This is important because it gives these people, who are often ignored, a voice.  The reader gets a glimpse into their lives and how they feel.  He also does this with children, who are another group of people whose opinions aren’t always heard.

Some of my favorite photographs are the ones of children, and these often have funny quotes about life from a child’s perspective.  One of my favorites was a series of three pictures of a little boy in a school uniform.  The first paragraph is him talking to Brandon about math and the reader immediately can tell how smart and likeable he is.  In the second paragraph he admits that he doesn’t have many friends and that other kids think he is a geek.  The third picture of him is with an adult we assume is his parent, with this parent explaining how unique and caring he is.  This series of pictures was my favorite because it gives you several perspectives of the same person.  The reader is able to see what he thinks of himself (that he’s smart and loves math), what his peers think of him, and how his family feels.  This allows the reader to see who he is in a more in depth way and shows that certain opinions aren’t always important.

Because many of the stories were one or two sentences or short paragraphs, it seems like Brandon is focusing on the most important or traumatic moments in these people’s lives.  Many of the stories are about suicide or drug addiction, and while this is important to hear about, it often reduces the person’s story to just one problem.  I would have really liked to know more about these people’s lives and not just their struggles with mental illness or drug addiction.  I feel like this book was more about building awareness about these issues than the actual people themselves.

One other problem with the book was that the author never specified who was speaking, so in photos with two or more people, the reader can’t always tell who the quote is from, which can be confusing.  On the other hand, this may have been done on purpose, and sometimes, in group shots, it really doesn’t matter who’s speaking.

All in all, this was a really fun, quick read with beautiful pictures and interesting stories.  You can see more about Humans of New York at http://www.humansofnewyork.com/photographer or on their facebook page.

Review of Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans

drowned city

Written and illustrated by Don Brown
Call Number: YA Brown Graphic (also available as a downloadable ebook)

This is an amazing young adult graphic novel about the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina and how it affected New Orleans.  The drawings were created with pen and ink and digital paint.  The artwork reflects the seriousness of this event by using dark colors in muted tones.

What I loved about this graphic novel was that it’s a great way for adults and teens to learn about the terrible effects of Hurricane Katrina in a clear, simple manner that is not overly upsetting.  There are descriptions of how people died and also illustrations of people who have drowned, but this is important to have since the book is trying to paint an accurate picture of what actually happened.  The author tells the story of tragedy with a lot of empathy and also tries to explain the political and scientific reasons behind it.

Reading this as an adult, there were still a lot of things I learned that I hadn’t previously known, such as the route the storm took on the way to New Orleans and the other areas it impacted.  It really shows how the problem got out of control, with police abandoning their posts and provisions not being delivered.  Because this book is illustrated, instead of just being a narrative, the reader gets a much better idea of what it would be like to experience it.

The novel also touches on the reactions of political figures, such as George W. Bush and Mayor Nagin.  While it documents the responses of these political figures, which were mostly negative, and the reactions of the people to these responses, it doesn’t get overly political, and lets the reader draw their own opinions.  It also makes a point of following the storm from its very beginnings, to the devastation afterwards, and finally the rebuilding of the city.  Because it’s told in the form of a story, it’s much more interesting and engaging than just reading articles about the storm.  This is especially important for younger and struggling readers.

While a lot of the novel focuses on the horrific events and terrible living conditions after the storm, the author also makes it a point to also show the bravery of the rescue workers and how much people helped each other, from regular citizens with their own boats to animal lovers that rescued more than 15,000 animals.  Pointing out the lengths people went to help each other really helps balance the sadness of the rest of the book.

Another thing I really loved about this book was that it really helps readers understand how the storm affected people who didn’t have the economic means to evacuate.  It emphasizes the fact that people such as the poor and elderly had a much harder time because of their situation.  I think it’s important for readers to see how socio economic status and other factors can make a disaster even more difficult to deal with.
If more historical events were written in the form of graphic novels, I think that people would be much more eager to learn about them.

Books That Will Make You Cry

Who doesn’t love a book that moves you to tears?  Crying can be cathartic and surprisingly, has a lot of health benefits.  If you’re in the mood to read something that will make you cry, these are some great books we have here at HPL.


the kite runner

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
Call Number: Hosseini LP (in the Large Print section) (Also in Audio)

Amir grew up in Kabul with his best friend Hassan, but during their childhood Amir betrays Hassan.  Amir, who is living in America find out that Hassan has been killed and goes back to Kabul to look for his son.


the song of achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Call Number: Miller

Achilles, who is the son of a king in Greece, befriends a banished prince.  When Achilles must go to war to save Helen of Sparta, the prince goes with him, not knowing that their friendship will be tested.


a man called ove

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Call Number: Backman

Ove is a bitter, grumpy old man and makes a terrible neighbor.  But when a young couple and their two daughters move in next door everything changes and friendships start to develop.


a tale for the time being

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Call Number: Ozeki

16 year old Nao lives in Tokyo and has decided to kill herself, but decides that first she must document the life of her great grandmother.  Ruth, who lives across the Pacific, finds a washed up lunch box and is intrigued by what happened to Nao.


we the animals

We the Animals by Justin Torres
Call Number: Torres

The youngest of three brothers, who are of white and Puerto Rican descent, finally breaks away from his family.  Although the brothers were often wild, he misses the closeness of his family and feels alienated on his own.


the invention of wings

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
Call Number: Kidd (Also in Paperback and Large Print)

Sarah, who is the daughter of a wealthy family, is given a slave, Hattie, to be her handmaid.  Inspired by the life of Sarah Grimke, who was an abolitionist, this book follows thirty five years of both Sarah and Hattie.


the art of fielding

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Call Number: Harbach (Also in Large Print)

Henry is a baseball star at a small college and destined to become pro.  But things suddenly change and the lives of five people go off course.

Review of The Three by Sarah Lotz


Call Number: Lotz

When four planes crash simultaneously in different areas of the world, and only three children survive, people begin to question if there is something supernatural going on.  When the children start to display strange behavior, such as talking through a robot or curing a sick grandfather, religious cults begin to form around them.  This novel is not only about the children themselves, but also about the effects the events have on the world.

The Three is written in the same style as World War Z, with many different characters dictating their own personal stories of the events to a reporter who then compiles it into a book.  I think this worked very well for this book.  It can be hard to focus on one event for an entire novel, but by giving dozens of different perspectives the author is able to keep the reader engaged.

Because the novel takes place in several different countries, the reader is taken from one interesting setting to the next, and also gets an idea of the different cultures, especially Japan.  Although the book seems to take place in the present there are several hints that it may be slightly farther in the future, such as the humanoid robots the father of one of the surviving children creates.

One of the best things about this novel was the characters.  There was a range of interesting characters, from the mundane and relatable, to the bizarre and comic.  Pastor Len, who creates the a doomsday cult, and his followers are so strange and narcissistic that they are comical, as I believe the author intended.  But because they come across as comical, the author seems to be pointing out how absurd religion can be, and how hypocritical some of those who practice it can be.  The women who follow Pastor Len are often backbiting and horrible to each other, although they claim to be best friends.  On the other hand, these characters are not completely one dimensional.  Their behaviors are often justified by their previous experiences and their lives in general.

The three creepy children are very interesting.  Although the book revolves around them, we don’t see very much of them.  The creepiest relationship, and my favorite, is between Jess, one of the three, and her Uncle Paul, who takes her in.  We see Paul go from a doting uncle and a really likable character, to a paranoid alcoholic who fears his own niece.  It’s really interesting to see the most normal characters question themselves and descend into madness, when really they are the ones who are closest to the truth.  While Jess doesn’t even do anything very sinister, her constant happiness and strange comments make her pretty scary.

This is classified as a horror novel, and although there was creepy scenes, there were not enough of them for it to really come across as scary.  It is more of a supernatural mystery, especially because it is more focused on the characters and their lives than it is on supernatural events.  The ending of the book was slightly disappointing because the mystery of the three is never really explained.  There are vague hints as to what is really going on, but nothing concrete enough for the reader to be sure.  Though the reader doesn’t get a lot of answers to their questions, the book is still really enjoyable because of the characters and their lives.  We really get to see them from several different perspectives, their own, and often their friends and enemies, which gives them a lot more depth as characters.  A really fun read.

Authors like Janet Evanovich


Janet Evanovich is most well known for her best selling mystery/romance series about Stephanie Plum, who is a bounty hunter from New Jersey.  Stephanie Plum is a unique character that loves to cook and has a fondness for junk food.  These books are lighthearted and fun, especially appealing to women, and always written in the first person.  Evanovich is also the author of the Wicked series and the Fox and O’Hare series.

Listed below are authors that are similar to Evanovich and write books that involve both mystery and romance.  All of the books listed can be found here at HPL

Donna Andrews

  • The Real Macaw: a Meg Lanslow Mystery
  • Six Geese A-slaying


Sue Grafton

  • V is for Vengeance (Paperback, Spanish, and Audio)
  • Kinsey and Me: Stories (Adult fiction, Paperback, and Large Print)


Sarah Strohmeyer

  • Kindred Spirits


Victoria Laurie

  • Lethal Outlook: a psychic eye mystery
  • Vision Impossible


Joanne Fluke

  • Gingerbread Cookie Murder
  • Cream Puff Murder: a Hannah Swensen mystery with recipes


J.D. Robb

  • Celebrity in Death (Adult Fiction and Paperback)
  • New York to Dallas


Lisa Lutz

  • How to Start a Fire
  • The Spellmans strike again


Gemma Halliday

  • Play Nice


M.C. Beaton

  • Something Borrowed, Someone Dead: an Agatha Raisin mystery
  • Busy Body