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Review: “Calvin” by Martine Leavitt

May 24, 2016

caIt’s tough being a teen–figuring out who you are, who you want to become, what your life is all about. It’s even tougher when you develop a mental illness that plays with your perception of what is real and what is not. Martine Leavitt gently and humorously navigates this difficult place by taking the reader on a journey of survival in “Calvin.”

Calvin was born on the last day that the comic strip “Calvin and Hobbes” was published. His grandpa gave him a stuffed tiger named Hobbes, and his best friend’s name is Susie. So when Calvin starts developing schizophrenic symptoms, it’s not a big surprise when Hobbes shows up, large as life, in his imagination. Or is he real? In order to make sense out of his new reality, Calvin believes that if he hikes across frozen Lake Erie, Bill Watterson will meet him on the shore and create one more comic strip that will bring sense and healing to his life. The catch? Susie–real or imagined–insists on accompanying him. In a journey with challenges that are just as mental as they are physical, Calvin struggles to come to terms with his life.

“Calvin and Hobbes” fans will appreciate this homage to the classic comic strip, and those who love a good survival story will be caught up in the mystical landscape of frozen Lake Erie. School Library Journal recommends this for eighth grade readers on up.

–Andrea W., Headquarters

Book Trailer: “The Only Child” by Guojing

May 4, 2016

The Only Child” by author Guojing is a beautiful and fantastical wordless picture book. It is the story of a little girl who gets lost while traveling alone to her grandmothers’ house. Along the way she meets a mysterious stag and other creatures to help her find her way. In the foreword, Guojing talks about herself getting lost at the age of six when her father put her on the bus alone to her grandmother’s house. “The Only Child” is a picture book but it’s story of loneliness which is relatable to everyone regardless of age.

2016 Teen’s Top Ten Nominees

April 27, 2016

The full list of the 2016 Teen’s Top Ten Nominees was announced last week.  YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) publishes the list each year, but the books are chosen by teens across the country each year. Starting August 15, teens may vote for their favorites to find the Top Ten for the year. All titles in the SLCL catalog are linked below. Happy Reading!


Review: “Salt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys

April 22, 2016

saltA Prussian on a secret mission. A Lithuanian nurse. A young German sailor sold out to Hitler. A pregnant Polish girl. Under ordinary circumstances, they never would have met. Europe in 1945 was under far from ordinary circumstances, however, and so all four of these young adults become connected to one another as they run for their lives in “Salt to the Sea” by Ruta Sepetys. Fleeing from the brutality of the Russian onslaught as they march through East Prussia, thousands of people flee to a port on the Baltic Sea where the Germans are launching Project Barbarossa, an effort to ferry refugees to safety on any ship available. This is the story of the Wilhelm Gustloff, perhaps the greatest maritime tragedy that hardly anyone has heard of. Sepetys’ trademark meticulous research  shows in this suspenseful and tragic story. Watch the gripping trailer below and the introduction that follows, then read the book to experience WWII from the eyes of young refugees. School Library Journal recommends this book to eighth grade readers on up.

–Andrea W., Headquarters


2016 Write Stuff Contest Winners

April 20, 2016

St. Louis County Library is pleased to announce the 2016 winners of “The Write Stuff” writing contest. Kids and teens were asked to write a short story using the writing prompt “”You’ve just won!’ the radio host announced.” We had over 100 entries this year!

Each 1st and 2nd place winner in each age category is listed below:

Ages 8-10

1st Place: Yahfi G., age 10, “Deja Vu”

2nd Place: Summer L., age 10, “Radio Day”

Ages 11-14

1st Place: Gabe D., age 13, “The Waiting”

2nd Place: Owen F., age 11, “The Luck of the Draw”

Ages 15-18

1st Place: Mary M., age 15, “Radio”

2nd Place: Katherine H., age 16, “A Voice in the Wind”

Congratulations to all the winners! Click here to read the first place winners in the younger categories over on the Kids Blog. And keep scrolling to read the first place winner in the teen category.


“You’ve just won!” the radio host announced.

“Hell,” I heard Roger mutter.

He was lounging on the sun room couch, eyes closed, feet hanging over the side. I hated that couch. Roger’s back covered the majority of the damage, but all the rips and the pee stain from little buster, the baby of the family, still peeked out from under his faded flannel. The couch was the first thing a person saw when they walked into the house and stood as the loud and proud symbol of just how poor my family had become since Papa’s death. The current radio conversation made me hate the couch even more.

“How do you feel? You are now one million dollars richer!” The host continued.

I wondered how the host felt giving all that money away and not having it for himself. I was bitter and I was a million miles away in a Podunk town in Oklahoma. There wasn’t a rich person for miles. I knew my jealousy would come bursting out of my ears like steam if I lived near so many wealthy people, especially if I gave money away for a living.

A woman responded tearfully.

“Oh my god I don’t know what to say,” she sobbed.

“Nothin would be just fine,” Roger muttered from behind me.

“I just…I just… I don’t know,” she continued, her dramatic tears making the radio crackle painfully.

“Hush up Rog, I’m listening,” I gave my brother a shove from the ground where I sat, Indian style. I sat pressed so close to the radio I was practically part of it. My nose hovered just centimeters from the dial.

Roger grunted and rolled over. The woman on the radio regained partial composure.

“I am so happy right now” she hiccuped.

She sounds rich I thought bitterly. This angry assumption was a habit I had picked up over the years since Papa’s death. I grew bitter watching my family slowly sink into poverty while so much of the world seemed to have more than enough money. Ever since Roger put his elbow through our only T.V. back in April my attitude had gotten even worse. Due to the radio being my only form of entertainment, I had gone from judging people on appearance to judging people purely on their voices.

“Give it a rest, would ya?” Roger mumbled, his face pressed into the back of the sofa. His words were muffled by the fabric.

“Why don’t you stop giving it a rest and go look for a job,” I snapped.

“I ain’t old enough yet,” he snapped back, but a second later his voice softened “besides you know I’m gonna look as soon as I can,”

I felt monetarily guilty for my comment. No matter how aggravating he could be I knew Roger was hurting too. His words were sincere, Roger wanted the family to be stable again just as much as I did. But the next comment on the radio made me forget I was feeling guilty.

“What are you going to do with all that money?” the host asked.

I pictured him in my mind, all bright teeth and bleach blonde hair.

“I’m going to buy a sports car for my boyfriend!” the woman replied practically shouting.

That was the last straw, I flipped the radio off with an irritated growl. Roger ignored me, he knew better than to try to cheer me up. Mama was the only one who could really bring me out of one of my jealous moods. Her constant patience and gratitude for the little things in life made me ache with guilt for wanting more. She was always reminding us that it could be worse. Looking around at my siblings, pale as hell and skinny as rails, I doubted it. Sometimes, I would say something wistfully like I wish I had a million dollars and Mama would be off, listing a hundred and one different things a million dollars couldn’t buy.

“A million dollars can’t buy a baby brother who adores you, now can it Sammy?” Mama would ask me, picking up little buster and wiping his slobbery mouth.

“But a million dollars could clean up all the drool he leaves behind on the carpet,” I would respond.

“A million dollars can’t buy a cozy little house with a loving family inside, now can it Sammy?” Mama would chastise.

“No Mama, but a million dollars can fix the droopy front steps, and the broken window latches, and the cracked sink in the bathroom,” I would answer.

This banter was common and usually took place several times a week. Mama would shoot off questions in rapid succession and I would respond just as quickly

“A million dollars can’t buy grandmother’s recipes, now can it Sammy?” Mama would ask, hunched over the stove making us dinner after a long day’s work.

“No Mama, but I bet it could buy a restaurant to serve those recipes in,” I replied.

“A million dollars can’t buy the grave of a father who loved you with all his heart, now can it Sammy?”

“No Mama, but it could buy flowers to put on that grave,”

A comment like that was usually where our conversation ended. Mama would try to hold back tears and I walked away frustrated with myself for disappointing her again.

The sound of the front door unlatching brought me back to the present and the familiar sound of Mama’s shoes on the front porch made me take off running to help her inside.

Mama stood on the stoop balancing several grocery bags in her arms.

“I wish I had a million dollars, Mama,” I said to her taking a bag from her.

She shifted the bags she was still holding, her forehead wrinkled.

“A million dollars can’t buy my love for you, can it Sammy?”

“No Mama, it can’t,”

For once Mama looked pleased at my response.

“You’re a smart girl, Samantha,” she kissed the top of my head.

Book Review: “The Love that Split the World” by Emily Henry

April 15, 2016

love that split the worldNatalie has been hallucinating since she was very little. She has terrible dreams of car accidents ending in blood and death. She sees a black orb hanging over her. She converses with an old Native American woman late at night, but her therapist tells her this “Grandmother” figure doesn’t exist. One night, at the end of her senior year, Grandmother tells Natalie that “the closing” is near and that she has mere weeks to “save him.” But save who? And how?
Natalie has a lot of stuff going on in her real life, too. Her ex-boyfriend can’t seem to move on. She is getting ready to move to an Ivy League school. She is struggling to find herself and her identity as a Native American woman adopted by a white family. Despite all this, Natalie keeps getting sucked into a dream world. The one with Grandmother. And the one where she meets Beau, the boy who shouldn’t exist. Who doesn’t exist in her world. The boy that she falls for, and falls for hard and fast. Is he the one she is supposed to save?
There is a lot of beauty in this book. It is, after all, a book about love. But not just the love between Natalie and Beau. It is about the love between friends, between family, and the love for yourself. While this book is definitely a time-traveling romance, it is also a great story of self-discovery. Maybe you are facing the end of high school and looking toward college, or maybe you are dealing with a big change in your life. If so, this book is for you! It will leave you feeling powerful and inspired to face whatever life throws at you.

Reserve a copy of “The Love that Split the World” by Emily Henry before the waiting list gets too long!

School Library Journal recommends this title for grades 9 and up.

–Samantha D., Weber Road

Book Trailer: “Blue Lily, Lily Blue” by Maggie Stiefvater

April 13, 2016

The final book in the Raven Cycle series, “The Raven King,” by Maggie Stiefvater will be published at the end of April! *Kermit arms flailing about*

To tide you over until then I give you the book trailer for “Blue Lily, Lily Blue,” the third book in the series.

Heck, request all of the titles and have a marathon read before the new one comes out. You know you want to…


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