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Featured Book Lists
New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog Lila
by Marilynne Robinson

Publishers Weekly This third of three novels set in the fictional plains town of Gilead, Iowa, is a masterpiece of prose in the service of the moral seriousness that distinguishes Robinson's work. This time the narrative focuses on Lila, the young bride of elderly Reverend Ames, first met in Gilead. Rescued as a toddler from abusive caretakers by a rough but kind drifter named Doll, raised with love but enduring the hard existence of a field worker, and later, in a St. Louis whorehouse, Lila is a superb creation. Largely uneducated, almost feral, Lila has a thirst for stability and knowledge. As she yearns to forget the terrible memories and shame of her past, Lila is hesitant to reveal them to her loving new husband. The courtship of the couple-John Ames: tentative, tender, shy, and awkward; Lila: naive, suspicious, wary, full of dread-will endure as a classic set piece of character revelation, during which two achingly lonely people discover the comfort of marital love. Threaded through the narrative are John Ames's troubled reflections that the doctrines of his Calvinist theology, including the belief that those who are not saved are destined for hell, are too harsh. Though she reads the Bible to gain knowledge, Lila resists its message, because it teaches that her beloved Doll will never gain the peace of heaven. Her questions stir up doubt in Ames's already conflicted mind, and Robinson carefully crafts this provocative and deeply meaningful spiritual search for the meaning of existence. What brings the couple together is a joyous appreciation of the beauty of the natural world and the possibility of grace. The novel ends with the birth of their son, to whom Ames will leave his diary in Gilead. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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Independent Booksellers List
Click to search this book in our catalog Mission to Paris
by Alan Furst

Publishers Weekly Alan Furst's writing reminds me of a swim in perfect water on a perfect day, fluid and exquisite. One wants the feeling to go on forever, the book to never end. Such is it with this historical spy novel. From September 1938 to January 1939, the reader vividly lives through Paris's last stormy breaths of freedom before Germany's attack in 1940. Our unlikely hero is Frederick Stahl, 40, a handsome American movie star, not an action figure but everyone's favorite silver screen doctor or uncle or romantic leading man. Warner Bros. loans Stahl out to make a picture in Paris. He likes Paris, and he likes keeping Jack Warner happy. But there's a little known fact in his past that the Nazis can make much of-born in Vienna, Stahl worked as a gopher for the Austrian legation in Barcelona at the end of WWI, and Austria had been an ally of Germany. So when officials in Germany's political warfare department discover Stahl will be in their sphere of influence, they alert their Paris section to put him on "the list" to be used. From movie studios to embassies, from parties with the untouchably wealthy to a sexy love affair with a sophisticated emigre living in a tenement, Stahl finds himself caught between those who believe France must rearm to fight Germany, and those who are desperate for a negotiated peace. When Stahl refuses to support "peace," the Nazi threats begin. To retaliate, he becomes a secret U.S. courier, bravely carrying hundreds of thousands of Swiss francs into Germany and Morocco to exchange for intelligence about the Nazis. Reading Furst is the next best thing to having been in Berlin: "Uniforms everywhere.... This country was already at war, though enemy forces had yet to appear, and Stahl could sense an almost palpable violence that hung above the city like a mist." Like Graham Greene, Furst creates believable characters caught up, with varying degrees of willingness, in the parade of political life. And because they care, the reader does, too. And like Lee Child, Furst captures personality with insightful brush strokes: Stahl's father had "a face like an angry prune." Long on an ability to translate good research into great reading, Furst has only two downsides: although threats escalate, little comes of them, and when Stahl takes risks, they tend to deflate. For example, Stahl insists he's honor-bound to pursue the Nazis who've stolen the film crew's cameras, but he ends up waiting in a rowboat with a gun while others do the dangerous work offstage. And when the woman he loves is held in Budapest for interrogation, Stahl's solution is to use his box-office status to get her a visa at the U.S. embassy, then phones the William Morris Agency in hopes his agent can come up with an exit strategy. Still, my complaints are minor compared to the breadth and realized ambition of this seductive novel. Furst is one of the finest spy novelists working today, and, from boudoir to the beach, Mission to Paris is perfect summer reading. Agent: Amanda Urban, ICM. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list *Starred Review* Through his dozen historical-espionage novels, most set just prior to or during WWII, Furst has taken us across Europe, but he is most at home in Paris, which is why legions of his fans, upon seeing the title of his latest book, will immediately feel their pulses quicken. It only gets better. Recalling The World at Night (1996), which starred Parisian filmmaker Jean Casson dodging Nazis in 1940, this equally entrancing tale returns to the world of moviemaking, this time in 1938. Hollywood movie star Fredric Stahl, on loan from Warner Brothers to appear in a French production, arrives in Paris just as Neville Chamberlain is negotiating peace in our time. A Slovenian who was raised in Vienna, Stahl is quickly contacted by old friends, now all Nazi supporters, who see him as a valuable asset in their political warfare against the French. But Stahl has other ideas and, like so many casual hedonists in Furst's books, finds himself drawn into the prewar cloak-and-dagger world but not on the side of his former friends. There is romance, too, of course, but, as always, it carries that familiar carpe diem double edge, as lovers' attention jumps from one another to an unexpected knock on a hotel door. Furst has been doing this and doing it superbly for a long time now, and fans will note sly nods not only to The World at Night (Casson makes a kind of cameo) but also to Kingdom of Shadows (2001) and The Foreign Correspondent (2006). Is Furst repeating himself? Not really, but who would care, even if he was? Rather, he is revisiting a familiar moment in time but viewing it from a slightly different angle, through the eyes of other sets of characters. Thank heavens for that. It looks like we'll always have Furst's Paris. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: Long ago Furst made the jump from genre favorite to mainstream bestsellerdom; returning to his signature setting, Paris, he only stands to climb higher.--Ott, Bill Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

Library Journal Fredric Stahl, a successful Hollywood actor with a Viennese bloodline, returns to Paris to make a movie for a big studio. The German Reich's publicity machine works to steer him into the anti-war French camp, and he hobnobs with champagne magnates and German elites to enjoy the high life of 1938 Paris. Like every Furst hero, though, Fredric has a conscience, so he begins his own anti-Hitler campaign in the quiet ways familiar to Furst's legions of fans. VERDICT Between them, Fredric and Paris make this a book no reader will put down until the final page. Furst evokes the city and the prewar anxiety with exquisite tension that is only a bit relieved by Fredric's encounters with several women, each a vivid and attractive character. Critics compare Furst to Graham Greene and John le Carre, but the time has come for this much-published author (this is his ninth World War II novel after Spies of the Balkans) to occupy his own pinnacle as a master of historical espionage. [See Prepub Alert, 12/12/11.]-Barbara Conaty, Falls Church, VA (c) Copyright 2012. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Tale of Despereaux
by Kate DiCamillo

School Library Journal Gr 3 Up-In this delightful novel, a tiny mouse risks all to save the princess he loves from the clutches of a devious rat and a slow-witted serving girl. With memorable characters, brief chapters, and inventive plot twists, this fast-paced romp is perfect for reading alone or sharing aloud. Winner of the 2004 Newbery Medal. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Gr 3 Up-A charming story of unlikely heroes whose destinies entwine to bring about a joyful resolution. Foremost is Despereaux, a diminutive mouse who, as depicted in Ering's pencil drawings, is one of the most endearing of his ilk ever to appear in children's books. His mother, who is French, declares him to be "such the disappointment" at his birth and the rest of his family seems to agree that he is very odd: his ears are too big and his eyes open far too soon and they all expect him to die quickly. Of course, he doesn't. Then there is the human Princess Pea, with whom Despereaux falls deeply (one might say desperately) in love. She appreciates him despite her father's prejudice against rodents. Next is Roscuro, a rat with an uncharacteristic love of light and soup. Both these predilections get him into trouble. And finally, there is Miggery Sow, a peasant girl so dim that she believes she can become a princess. With a masterful hand, DiCamillo weaves four story lines together in a witty, suspenseful narrative that begs to be read aloud. In her authorial asides, she hearkens back to literary traditions as old as those used by Henry Fielding. In her observations of the political machinations and follies of rodent and human societies, she reminds adult readers of George Orwell. But the unpredictable twists of plot, the fanciful characterizations, and the sweetness of tone are DiCamillo's own. This expanded fairy tale is entertaining, heartening, and, above all, great fun.-Miriam Lang Budin, Chappaqua Public Library, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly The author of Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tiger Rising here shifts gears, demonstrating her versatility while once again proving her genius for mining the universal themes of childhood. Her third novel calls to mind Henry Fielding's Tom Jones; DiCamillo's omniscient narrator assumes a similarly irreverent yet compassionate tone and also addresses readers directly. Despereaux, the diminutive mouse hero ("The last mouse born to his parents and the only one of his litter to be born alive"), cares not a whit for such mundane matters as scurrying or nibbling, and disappoints his family at every turn. When his sister tries to teach him to devour a book, for example ("This glue, here, is tasty, and the paper edges are crunchy and yummy, like so"), Despereaux discovers instead "a delicious and wonderful phrase: Once upon a time"-a discovery that will change his life. The author introduces all of the elements of the subtitle, masterfully linking them without overlap. A key factor unmentioned in the subtitle is a villainous rat, Chiaroscuro (dwelling in the darkness of the Princess's dungeon, but drawn to the light). Ering (The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone) brings an understated drama to the black-and-white illustrations that punctuate each chapter. His artwork conveys a respect for the characters even as they emit the wry humor of the narrator's voice. The teller of the tale roots for the hero and thus aligns himself with the audience: "Reader, you must know that an interesting fate (sometimes involving rats, sometimes not) awaits almost everyone, mouse or man, who does not conform." In addition to these life lessons, the narrator also savors a pointer or two about language (after the use of the word "perfidy," the narrator asks, "Reader, do you know what `perfidy' means? I have a feeling you do, based on the little scene that has just unfolded here. But you should look up the word in your dictionary, just to be sure"). Reader, I will let you imagine, for now, how these witticisms of our omniscient narrator come into play; but I must tell you, you are in for a treat. Ages 7-12. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Gr. 3-6. Forgiveness, light, love, and soup. These essential ingredients combine into a tale that is as soul stirring as it is delicious. Despereaux, a tiny mouse with huge ears, is the bane of his family's existence. He has fallen in love with the young princess who lives in the castle where he resides and, having read of knights and their ladies, vows to honor her. But his unmouselike behavior gets him banished to the dungeon, where a swarm of rats kill whoever falls into their clutches. Another story strand revolves around Miggery, traded into service by her father, who got a tablecloth in return. Mig's desire to be a princess, a rat's yen for soup (a food banished from the kingdom after a rat fell in a bowl and killed the queen), and Despereaux's quest to save his princess after she is kidnapped climax in a classic fairy tale, rich and satisfying. Part of the charm comes from DiCamillo's deceptively simple style and short chapters in which the author addresses the reader: Do you think rats do not have hearts? Wrong. All living things have a heart. And as with the best stories, there are important messages tucked in here and there, so subtly that children who are carried away by the words won't realize they have been uplifted until much later. Ering's soft pencil illustrations reflect the story's charm. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2003 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog Sean Griswold's Head
by Leavitt, Lindsey

Publishers Weekly A chronic worrier, high school freshman Payton Gritas has just had a massive wrench thrown into her hyperorganized life: for six months her family has kept her father's multiple sclerosis diagnosis a secret from her. The school guidance counselor asks Payton to keep a journal about a "Focus Object" of her choosing, and she picks Sean Griswold's head, since he has sat in front of her in class for years. The drama begins when her boy-crazy best friend, Jac, decides that they should research Sean-and then starts playing matchmaker. Payton soon falls for sensitive Sean and begins to share his passion for cycling, but between her father's illness, her declining grades, and her faltering friendship with Jac, she isn't sure that she can let someone new into her life. Leavitt (the Princess for Hire series) delicately handles topics of illness, evolving relationships, and what it means to grow up. Payton's alternately sarcastic, snappy, and reflective narration ("The truth, I know, is that it's not my dad I'm really mad at. I'm mad at his disease") carries this insightful story. Ages 12-up. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list A teenager charts her rocky course toward, as she puts it, getting over myself in the wake of the revelation that her father has contracted multiple sclerosis. Enraged to learn that everyone else in her family has been shielding her from the knowledge for six months, 15-year-old Payton stops speaking at home, lets her schoolwork slide, and manages to alienate both her stubbornly loyal best friend and budding romantic interest Sean a classmate who, thanks to alphabetization, has occupied the desk in front of her since third grade. Setting up the central conflict as an inner one between Payton's anger-fueled grief and her deep-seated good nature and common sense, Leavitt tucks in lines like I don't do spandex. The devil wears spandex. And I doubt the devil's butt is as big as mine while bringing her protagonist around to acceptance and repaired relationships with help from patient family members and peers, an unexpectedly wise guidance counselor, a little prayer, a newfound love for long-distance biking, and plenty of self-analysis. It's formulaic, but the formula is tried-and-true.--Peters, John Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 6-9-When 15-year-old Payton Gritas gives her family the silent treatment for withholding her father's MS diagnosis for six months, her parents request the aid of their daughter's guidance counselor, who assigns a focus object exercise. Payton chooses Sean Griswold's head because she and Sean have been linked by last name proximity since the third grade. Soon, with the help of her boy-crazy friend Jac, Payton gets to know Sean Griswold the person and the head. Interpersonal conflicts abound as the teen chooses to focus on avoidance rather than confronting the fear she is experiencing. In a balanced proportion of comedy and gravity, she comes to terms with her father's illness, deals with conflicts she has created with Jac, and eventually opens up her heart to a little romance. While the path that Leavitt paves for her protagonist is somewhat predictable, the likable characters will have girls gravitating toward the novel. Though the book takes a light look at a teenager coming to grips with a parent's serious illness, it is refreshing and realistic without being overwrought with angst.-Adrienne L. Strock, Maricopa County Library District, AZ (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Pulitzer Prize
Click to search this book in our catalog Angela's Ashes
by Frank McCourt

School Library Journal YA?Despite impoverishing his family because of his alcoholism, McCourt's father passed on to his son a gift for superb storytelling. He told him about the great Irish heroes, the old days in Ireland, the people in their Limerick neighborhood, and the world beyond their shores. McCourt writes in the voice of the child?with no self-pity or review of events?and just retells the tales. He recounts his desperately poor early years, living on public assistance and losing three siblings, but manages to make the book funny and uplifting. Stories of trying on his parents' false teeth and his adventures as a post-office delivery boy will have readers laughing out loud. Young people will recognize the truth in these compelling tales; the emotions expressed; the descriptions of teachers, relatives, neighbors; and the casual cruelty adults show toward children. Readers will enjoy the humor and the music in the language. A vivid, wonderfully readable memoir.?Patricia Noonan, Prince William Public Library, VA

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal The memoir of an impoverished childhood, from Brooklyn to Ireland and back.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal McCourt is the eldest of eight children born to Angela Sheehan and Malachy McCourt in the 1920s. The McCourts began their family in poverty in Brooklyn, yet when Angela slipped into depression after the death of her only daughter (four of eight children survived), the family reversed the tide of emigration and returned to Ireland, living on public assistance in Limerick. McCourt's story is laced with the pain of extreme poverty, aggravated by an alcoholic father who abandoned the family during World War II. Given the burdens of grief and starvation, it's a tribute to his skill that he can serve the reader a tale of love, some sadness, but at least as much laughter as the McCourts' "Yankee" children knew growing up in the streets of Limerick. His story, almost impossible to put down, may well become a classic. A wonderful book; strongly recommended for readers of any age. [Previewed in Prebub Alert, LJ 5/1/96.]?Robert Moore, DuPont Merck Pharmaceuticals, Framingham, Mass.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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Agatha Awards
Click to search this book in our catalog Chasing Vermeer
by Blue Balliett

Publishers Weekly Puzzles nest within puzzles in this ingeniously plotted and lightly delivered first novel that, revolving around the heist of a Vermeer painting, also touches on the nature of coincidence, truth, art and similarly meaty topics. Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay become friends in sixth grade at a school operated by the University of Chicago (Balliett taught at the University's Lab Schools), both of them independent thinkers excited by their maverick teacher, Ms. Hussey. For reasons unknown to her students, the teacher asks her class to ponder the importance of letters (the epistolary sort) and to mull over Picasso's ideas about art as "a lie that tells the truth." Readers have the edge on the characters, being privy to an enigmatic letter sent to three unidentified persons outlining a centuries-old "crime" against a painter's artistic legacy. These mysteries deepen exponentially when someone steals a Vermeer masterpiece and holds it hostage, demanding scholarly redress for misattributions within Vermeer's small oeuvre. The art mystery and the crisp intelligence of the prose immediately recall E.L. Konigsburg, but Balliett is an original: her protagonists also receive clues through dreams, pentominoes (math tools with alphabetic correspondences), secret codes (including some left to readers to decipher) and other deliberately non-rational devices. Helquist (the Lemony Snicket books) compounds the fun with drawings that incorporate the pentomino idea to supply visual clues as well. Thick with devilish red herrings, this smart, playful story never stops challenging (and exhilarating) the audience. Ages 8-12. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Book list Gr. 5-8. The Westing Game, The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler--how exciting to find a book that conjures up these innovative, well-loved titles. That's exactly what Balliett does in her debut novel, which mixes mystery, puzzles, possibilities, and art. The story is set in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood at the University of Chicago's Lab School, where Balliett was a teacher. There, outsiders Petra and Calder become friends as they try to find out what happened to a missing Vermeer painting. That's really all the plot one needs to know. More important are Balliett's purpose in writing and the way she has structured her story. The former seems to be to get to children to think--about relationships, connections, coincidences, and the subtle language of artwork. To accomplish this, she peppers her story with seemingly random events that eventually come together in a startling, delightful pattern. The novel isn't perfect. It glides over a few nitty-gritty details (how did the thief nab the picture), and occasionally the coincidences seem more silly than serendipitous. However, these are quibbles for a book that offers children something new upon each reading. Adults who understand the links between children's reading and their developing minds and imaginations will see this as special, too. Helquist, who has illustrated the Lemony Snickett books, outdoes himself here, providing an interactive mystery in his pictures. --Ilene Cooper Copyright 2004 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright American Library Association. Used with permission.

School Library Journal Gr 5-8-Fans of Ellen Raskin's The Westing Game (Dutton, 1978) and E. L. Konigsburg's From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler (Turtleback, 1967) will welcome this novel about two classmates determined to solve the mystery of a missing painting. Brainy 12-year-olds Petra Andalee and Calder Pillay attend the University of Chicago Laboratory School where their teacher's unorthodox methods make learning an adventure. When Vermeer's A Lady Writing disappears on its way to exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, the two overcome their adolescent awkwardness and let their friendship bloom, pooling their talents to rescue the masterpiece and expose the thief. Many elements play a role in unraveling the secrets surrounding the crime: Calder's set of pentominoes; his encoded correspondence with his friend Tommy about a missing boy named Frog; and Petra's intuitive communing with the woman in the painting, all augmented by the unusual ideas presented in a strange old book that Petra has found. Balliett also provides lots of plot twists and red herrings along the way. Helquist's atmospheric black-and-white illustrations add to the fun, incorporating clues to a secret message, the answer to which can be found on the publisher's Web site. Puzzles, codes, letters, number and wordplay, a bit of danger, a vivid sense of place, and a wealth of quirky characters enrich the exciting, fast-paced story that's sure to be relished by mystery lovers.-Marie Orlando, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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