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Recent Acquisitions

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Author: Benjamin Alire Saenz
Publication Date: 2012-02-21

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

This book will keep pleasantly surprising you. Aristotle and Dante are two Mexican-American high schoolers who meet at the start of summer at a swimming pool, and from there the novel follows them through friendship together during summer months and apart during the school year. I expected a coming-of-age defined plot, and I got a lyrical novel more about the back and forth than too many defined events, and that was just fine. This is a good read for ages 12 and up.

Saenz has a way of talking about what we don’t talk about: loneliness, friendships, love, parents, dreams, sexuality. Even being Mexican-American but not feeling either way either Mexican or American. And it’s so beautifully written. While the beginning can feel a bit melodramatic, it’s because you’re inside Ari’s head and he thinks a lot more than he ever says. And the more you read in Ari’s head, the more you like it. He has such a lovely way of observing the people around him and of seeing the universe, while at the same time having such an anger about the world.The contrast and similarities between Ari, who feels a lot but expresses almost nothing, and Dante, who also feels a lot but expresses it all with an astounding openness, take each of them to heights of humanity (or, the secrets of the universe) in ways they could not without done each other. They loved each other as best friends, and then they fell in love as more than best friends.

Structurally, the lyrical novel has such a nice symmetry with summers. You can feel the boys growing up just from one summer to the next, from reading about their experiences, moods, and feelings. The chapters can be super short, but it’s refreshing. This book is recommended for those who enjoy poetic coming-of-age stories.

~Olivia Tooker, Willard Library Student Intern and Caffeine-addicted Bibliophile

Recent Acquisitions

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Author: Catherynne M. Valente
Publication Date: 2012-05-08

This is the kind of book you want to read aloud, so you don’t miss one single word. It’s charming. It’s fun. It’s quirky. All the characters you meet are a delightful mix of well-known and completely original. You want to hear all the sounds September hears, taste everything, see it all, and feel it all. While the plot-line is a familiar to all those classics (down-the-rabbit-hole, follow the yellow brick road, etc.), it brings in a modern voice and modern aspects.

September is the heroine and main character, and she is delightfully frank like many 12-year-old children. She acquires companions throughout the novel, like the Wizard of Oz, but are like none I’ve ever read: an almost-dragon who is also a third of a library and an almost-genie who is sad and shy and eats salt and stone.

My only complaint is that the chapters began to feel repetitive halfway through the novel. While the descriptions were completely different and the characters engaging, I felt the structure was not changing and neither were the outcomes. Girl meets Fairyland creature. Someone explains the creature. Something sad is discovered about the way Fairyland is run. Girl figures out one more thing about the Marquees that makes her dislike her a little more. But as soon as I got almost tired of it, September made the mistake of partaking in a fairy feast and began transforming into a tree, and things got vastly more interesting.

And, for the most part, there is enough mystery to keep you going throughout. When will the Key become important? Will we ever meet Queen Mallow? How will September get home to Nebraska? Will the Wyvern ever be unchained and able to fly again? These questions, and more, which I won’t spoil for you, drive the story through even if you can sense how the plot goes. Overall, an excellent modern fairy tale with rebellions, colorful characters, magic, and more. A good book for any middle school and above readers. It might even be a good chapter book to read at night, for each chapter is its own wonderful tale and then each word can be properly admired.

~Olivia Tooker, Willard Library Student Intern and Caffeine-addicted Bibliophile

Recent Acquisitions

Neighborhood Sharks: Hunting with the Great Whites of California’s Farallon Islands

Author: Katherine Roy
Publication Date: 2014-09-30

I want to put this book into all the young boys and girls who think art is lame but sharks are cool. This nonfiction picture book about sharks combines proper narrative, bloody watercolor, and an interesting flow of facts to create a really comprehensive book.

In terms of art, the watercolor is so cool. I turn into an excited 10-year-old when I think about these paintings on every page, which utilize dramatic suspense and some awesome blood. (Disclaimer: not real blood, it’s just some impressive use of red watercolor). And in-between the gory pages are some super-informative ones, with diagrams about the bodies of sharks and their favorite meal, the seal. The interesting biological portrait illustrated with words and wonderful pictures really bring it together. My favorite image is a diagram that compares a shark’s body with an airplane — which pretty much blew my mind. It even goes on to describe the great white shark’s habitat in the Farallon Islands and its food chain from top to bottom.

In short, it’s beautiful, informative, and dark — a perfect fit for any kid that loves sharks, which is many. The suggested reader age range is between 7 and 11 years old, but I’m 22 years old and in love with this book, so don’t let numbers stop you.

~ Olivia Tooker, Willard Library Student Intern and ​Current Shark-Enthusiast

The Glass Demon: A Novel

Author: Helen Grant
Publication Date: 2011-06-14

The Glass Demon follows seventeen-year-old Lin Fox as her dysfunctional family moves from England to Germany. Her father, after failing to gain professorship at his prestigious English university, now seeks to earn fame and academic distinction by finding a missing priceless medieval treasure – the Allerheiligen glass. The family immediately becomes village outcasts, as none of the townsfolk want the stained glass to be found. Why? This masterpiece has a bad reputation – allegedly, it is possessed by a demon.
The story is told from Lin’s perspective looking back in time, retelling the events after they have transgressed. What is meant to be the most dramatic casualty, the death of Lin’s sister, Polly, is given away at the very beginning of the novel. The mystery unfolds slowly, as one cryptic death follows another, but our determined protagonist stops at nothing to get to the bottom of the secrets of the Allerheiligen glass and protect her family. Though she has the best intentions in mind, she is often reckless, selfish and sometimes plain unlikeable. The characters are underdeveloped for the majority of the book, which makes the relationships seem unrealistic. Thrill-seeking readers may not mind the dark themes in this book, but this story of ritualistic-style murders and religious fanatics is not appropriate for children under thirteen.

Paula Nowaczyk~
University of Evansville Student
Willard Library Intern

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