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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog The Floating Islands
by Neumeier, Rachel

School Library Journal Gr 6 Up-Tragically losing his family in Tolounn and then turned away by his Tolounnese uncle, grieving Trei, 14, ventures to the Floating Islands (kept aloft by wind dragon power) hoping his mother's family will take him in. Seeing the kajuraihi-an elite group of men who borrow wind dragon power to fly-Trei immediately longs to become one despite being only half-Islander. He finds a kindred spirit and eventual coconspirator in his sharp-tongued cousin Araene. Society would have Araene's ambitions stop at wife and mother but with her culinary talent she'd prefer to be a chef. A habitual secret jaunt while disguised as a boy leads her to the hidden school for mages and she discovers yet another supposedly male-centric gift. Neumeier's primary heroes-Trei, Araene and, to some extent, Trei's friend and fellow kajuraihi novice, Ceirfei-all struggle to find their true purposes despite the limitations others place on them. In the process they prove to be invaluable allies and assets when warmongering Tolounn threatens to conquer the Floating Islands. While the mechanics of magic need more explanation and similar-sounding names may give pause, the well-drawn protagonists are sympathetic and behave consistently. Emotions are palpable, from grief and doubt to frustration. Neumeier has a talent for world-building and a knack for description, evident in her unique settings. Recommended for general purchase in school and public libraries with a fantasy fan base.-Danielle Serra, Cliffside Park Public Library, NJ (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.

Book list Themes of finding home, creating identity, and sorting out loyalties in the face of others' suspicions are woven beautifully into this fantasy story. Trei, who lost his family and home in a disaster, eventually finds his way to another country, the home of his cousin Araenč. The two become tentative friends and share their personal dreams: his, to fly with the majestic wingmen, and hers, to study to become a chef, although she must disguise herself as a boy in order to attend school. Their adventures converge when Trei's adopted homeland is threatened by attack from his land of birth. Araenč provides the necessary defensive weapon a dragon's egg acquired illegally on her first day in the mage academy. Both adolescent and adult characters are rounded and realistic, and the two cousins' parallel journeys are equally absorbing. Neumeier's writing is fluid and evocative, and the questions raised are reflections of those intrinsic to every individual's journey to adulthood.--Goldsmith, Francisca Copyright 2010 Booklist

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

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ALA Notable Books for Children
Click to search this book in our catalog The Fingertips of Duncan Dorfman
by Meg Wolitzer

School Library Journal Gr 4-7-Three kids meet at a youth Scrabble tournament and help one another work through various issues. Nate has an overly competitive father, while April wants to get noticed by her sports-obsessed family. Duncan's situation is more complicated: he has the power to see things with his fingers, a potential secret weapon in Scrabble games. This fantastic element fits awkwardly into an otherwise realistic novel, and the fact that Duncan barely uses his talent for anything but Scrabble seems odd. The boy's eventual principled actions are offset by a dishonest ruse he uses, behind his mother's back, to get into the tournament. The narrative switches smoothly to capture the points of view and experiences of the three protagonists, although personalities and feelings are frequently spelled out rather than shown through action or dialogue. An anticlimactic attempt by a former player to sabotage the tournament fails to add much drama. Though Duncan is the only character with much depth, the other kids are likable and appealing, and the Scrabble background is neatly rendered in a way that even nonplaying kids can enjoy. The inclusion of tricky game strategies and insider terms like "vowel dumps" and "coffeehousing" bring the tournament scene to life, and the players all have different, believable reasons for their connection to the game. Consider for fans of "puzzle novels" Eric Berlin's "Winston Breen" books (Putnam) and Jody Feldman's The Gollywhopper Games (Greenwillow, 2008).-Steven Engelfried, Wilsonville Public Library, OR (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.

Book list Duncan Dorfman is adjusting to life in a new Michigan town with his struggling single mom, who lands a job at a local big-box store run by a rarely-seen millionaire. After moving, Duncan finds that he can discern letters with the fingertips of his left hand, which helps him choose needed tiles after he joins the school Scrabble club. Eventually, Duncan's skills bring him to the national Scrabble tournament in Florida, where he meets two other young Scrabble players: a boy from New York City, who has a fraught relationship with his father, and a girl who tries to prove her worth in a family of athletes. As the kids get to know each other, they take a side trip to a crumbling, sinister amusement park, which launches them into an unexpected adventure. At the novel's end, the focus returns back to Duncan, who discovers a surprise about a family secret. The overpacked plot drags a bit, but readers who stick with it will be rewarded with portraits of winning, well-drawn kids struggling to succeed in a complicated world.--Morning, Todd Copyright 2010 Booklist

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

Publishers Weekly The lives, families, and story lines of three 12-year-olds intersect at the annual Youth Scrabble Tournament in adult author Wolitzer's (The Uncoupling) entertaining middle-grade debut. Possessing a supernatural power that gives him an unfair advantage in Scrabble, the title character wrestles with his conscience and a desire for increased social status offered by his conniving partner. Meanwhile, Nate's obsessed father homeschools him in Scrabble only, hoping his son will win the tournament he lost in his youth, and April's sports-fixated family cannot comprehend word games. Themes of competition, passion bordering on mania, and teamwork weave through the narrative, as the protagonists face the consequences of parental choices and flaws-which provide plentiful humorous moments-and contend with ethical struggles of their own. The tournament proves a great equalizer as families wealthy and poor, blended and nuclear, enthusiastic and indifferent support their children's ambitions, and quirky players meet kindred souls from many different corners of the country. Readers don't have to be Scrabble enthusiasts to enjoy this novel, though a passion for it may well develop by the end. Ages 8-12. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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New York Times Bestsellers
Click to search this book in our catalog The Bone Clocks
by David Mitchell


Agatha Awards
Click to search this book in our catalog The Body in the Transept
by Jeanne M. Dams

Publishers Weekly Drawing on American sensibilities and English tradition, Dams's debut introduces widowed American sleuth Dorothy Martin, who will delight lovers of cozies set on both sides of the Atlantic. Dorothy has moved to the fictional university/ cathedral town of Sherebury, where she and her academic husband had planned to retire before his unexpected demise. After the Christmas Eve service in the Cathedral, Dorothy stumbles over the body of Canon Billings. Once she recovers her equilibrium, she finds herself feeling involved in the case and curious about the unpleasant but learned Canon, who had made more enemies than friends. He had recently argued vehemently with his young, hot-headed assistant in the library, had tried to get the choirmaster fired and was gathering evidence against the verger who was stealing from the collection plate. Dorothy charmingly insinuates herself into village life in the best Miss Marple tradition, talking to neighbors and befriending others (including widower Chief Constable Alan Nesbitt) and determinedly pursuing the killer even as she puts herself in danger. With her penchant for colorful hats, Dorothy establishes herself as a fresh, commanding?and always genteel?presence among female elder-sleuths of the '90s. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal This offering from newcomer Dams gleams with all the polish of a quaint English-village mystery. American widow Dorothy Martin, sixtyish and plump, inhabits a picturesque Jacobean house in Sherebury. Feeling low, she attends Christmas Eve services at a nearby cathedral and afterwards trips over the bloody body of a clergyman. Unable to put the matter out of her mind, and in need of something to do, she begins sleuthing. Nicely described small-town antics, a cleverly concocted plot, and a charmingly competent heroine. Recommended.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog Mother of Pearl
by Melinda Haynes


Pulitzer Prize
Click to search this book in our catalog American Prometheus: The Triumph and Tragedy of J. Robert Oppenheimer
by Kai Bird

Publishers Weekly Though many recognize Oppenheimer (1904-1967) as the father of the atomic bomb, few are as familiar with his career before and after Los Alamos. Sherwin (A World Destroyed) has spent 25 years researching every facet of Oppenheimer's life, from his childhood on Manhattan's Upper West Side and his prewar years as a Berkeley physicist to his public humiliation when he was branded a security risk at the height of anticommunist hysteria in 1954. Teaming up with Bird, an acclaimed Cold War historian (The Color of Truth), Sherwin examines the evidence surrounding Oppenheimer's "hazy and vague" connections to the Communist Party in the 1930sAloose interactions consistent with the activities of contemporary progressives. But those politics, in combination with Oppenheimer's abrasive personality, were enough for conservatives, from fellow scientist Edward Teller to FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, to work at destroying Oppenheimer's postwar reputation and prevent him from swaying public opinion against the development of a hydrogen bomb. Bird and Sherwin identify Atomic Energy Commission head Lewis Strauss as the ringleader of a "conspiracy" that culminated in a security clearance hearing designed as a "show trial." Strauss's tactics included illegal wiretaps of Oppenheimer's attorney; those transcripts and other government documents are invaluable in debunking the charges against Oppenheimer. The political drama is enhanced by the close attention to Oppenheimer's personal life, and Bird and Sherwin do not conceal their occasional frustration with his arrogant stonewalling and panicky blunders, even as they shed light on the psychological roots for those failures, restoring human complexity to a man who had been both elevated and demonized. 32 pages of photos not seen by PW. (Apr. 10) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Library Journal Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in the life, career, achievements, and trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the "father" of the atomic bomb. In 2004, there were two new biographies by significant science writers-Jeremy Bernstein's Oppenheimer: Portrait of an Enigma and David C. Cassidy's J. Robert Oppenheimer and the American Century. In addition to this current title, another is scheduled for publication in 2005, Abraham Pais and Robert Crease's Shatterer of Worlds: A Life of J. Robert Oppenheimer. This collaboration between writer Bird and English professor Sherwin is an expansive but fast-paced and engrossing work that draws its strength from the insights provided into Oppenheimer's thoughts and motives and the many anecdotes. The book's five parts cover his youth and education, his early career and dalliance with communism, the Manhattan Project, his return to academe and growing political influence, and, finally, his dealings with the FBI and eventual retreat from public life. The emphasis throughout is on Oppenheimer's personality and how he navigated the sociopolitical minefields of the era, with relatively less discussion of his scientific work. For a readable and well-researched biography of the man, this suffices quite well. However, with so many other biographies available, not to mention histories of the Manhattan Project, it provides little new information here. For general readers in larger public and academic libraries.-Gregg Sapp, Science Lib., SUNY at Albany Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Book list Robert Oppenheimer's work as director of the Manhattan Project--bringing hundreds of iconoclastic nuclear physicists together in the New Mexico desert to design and build the first atomic bomb--remains one of the most remarkable feats, both triumphant and tragic, of the twentieth century, but as this definitive biography makes clear, it was only one chapter in a profoundly fascinating, richly complex, and ineffably sad American life. Bird and Sherwin set the stage beautifully, detailing Oppenheimer's young life as a multidisciplinary child prodigy at the progressive Ethical Culture School in Manhattan. The young Oppenheimer was a tangled mix of precocity and insecurity--a far cry from the charismatic leader who would emerge at Los Alamos. Funneling more than 25 years of research into a captivating narrative, the authors bring needed perspective to Oppenheimer's radical activities in the 1930s, and they reprise the familiar story of the Manhattan Project thoroughly, though without attempting the scope and scientific detail of Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb 0 (1987) .0 Where Bird and Sherwin are without peer, however, is in capturing the humanity of the man behind the porkpie hat, both at Los Alamos and in the tragic aftermath, when Oppenheimer's tireless efforts to promote arms control made him the target of politicians and bureaucrats, leading to the revoking of his security clearance by the Atomic Energy Commission in 1954, during a hearing that the authors portray convincingly as a kangaroo court. That Oppenheimer both helped father the bomb and was crucified for lobbying against the arms race remains the fundamental irony in a supremely ironic story. That irony as well as the ambiguity and tortured emotions behind it are captured in all their intensity in this compelling life story. --Bill Ott Copyright 2005 Booklist

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

Choice Oppenheimer became one of the world's best-known physicists in 1945 when the public learned that he had successfully led the effort to design and construct the first nuclear fission bombs. He and other researchers worked hard after WW II trying to convince the government to place nuclear materials under international control. Oppenheimer lobbied against a program to produce a nuclear fusion bomb on the grounds that it would be massively destructive. In order to squelch his influence, some of his opponents instigated a hearing before a board of the Atomic Energy Commission; as a result, Oppenheimer lost his security clearance in 1954. He spent the rest of his career at the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton, where he had been director since 1947. Writer Bird and Sherwin (English; American history, Tufts Univ.) offer this comprehensive biography based on analysis of masses of documentation and many interviews. Their book stimulates thinking about key issues--international control of nuclear materials, openness in science and politics, freedom of debate, and discussion of ideas--that are as important today as they were then. ^BSumming Up: Essential. All levels. M. Dickinson Maine Maritime Academy

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.

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Scientific America Young Readers Book Awards
Click to search this book in our catalog Making Things: The Handbook of Creative Discovery
by Ann Wiseman

School Library Journal Gr 4-8?A compilation of the "best selections" from Making Things and Making Things 2, published in the 1970s, this book has many inspirational quotes, philosophical tidbits, and a wealth of creative ideas. "Save Things for Making Things" is a valuable list that opens the presentation. Not only are there things to save, but also reasons for doing so. Several excellent articles, "Connecting Things with Ideas," "Questions," and "Solutions," are appended. The body of the book has many activities to stimulate creativity and will be a valuable resource for adults, but is not a source children should be given for independent use. The projects are mainly for beginners, often children, but the author minimizes precautions and requests for adult help. Pages are very busy with directions that jump from the gutter edge to the margin, numerous diagrams, and personal asides. Those who are looking for some craft ideas and have time to read everything carefully first, and make a sample so that they are familiar with steps that need guidance, may want to consider this book. Nancy Blakey's Lotions, Potions, and Slime (Tricycle, 1996) will better serve adults who have any apprehensions about their own craft abilities or about crafting with children as active participants.?Marilyn Fairbanks, East Junior High School, Brockton, MA

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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National Book Critics Circle
Click to search this book in our catalog Wolf Hall
by Hilary Mantel

Book list Mantel fictionalizes the life and times of Thomas Cromwell, crafty architect of Henry VIII's annulment from Catherine of Aragon, the execution of Sir Thomas Moore, Henry's schism with the Church of Rome, and the Reformation. Delving deeply into the psychology of the man behind the throne, she paints a portrait of a brilliant schemer, bullied by his brutish blacksmith father determined to rise above his circumstances by dint of his own wits and the strength of his own resolve. Competent, complex, and the consummate behind-the-scenes wheeler-dealer, Mantel's Cromwell is not an unsympathetic character; in fact, readers will be surprised that he is presented in a far more favorable light than the sainted Thomas Moore. This wholly original and authentically detailed take on an often reviled real-life figure will appeal to fans of meaty historical dramas and fictional biographies.--Flanagan, Margaret Copyright 2009 Booklist

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

Library Journal As Henry VIII's go-to man for his dirty work, Thomas Cromwell (1485-1540) isn't a likely candidate for a sympathetic portrait. He dirtied his hands too often. In the end, Henry dropped him just as he had Cromwell's mentor, Cardinal Wolsey, who counseled the king before him. But as Mantel (Beyond Black) reminds us, Cromwell was a man of many parts, admirable in many respects though disturbing in others. Above all, he got things done and was deeply loyal to his masters, first Wolsey and then the king. Nor was Henry always bloated and egomaniacal: well into his forties, when in good spirits, the king shone brighter than all those around him. Verdict Longlisted for the Booker Prize, this is in all respects a superior work of fiction, peopled with appealing characters living through a period of tense high drama: Henry's abandonment of wife and church to marry Anne Boleyn. It should appeal to many readers, not just history buffs. And Mantel achieves this feat without violating the historical record! There will be few novels this year as good as this one. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/09; history buffs may also enjoy reading Robert Hutchinson's biography, Thomas Cromwell: The Rise and Fall of Henry VIII's Most Notorious Minister, reviewed on p. 66.-Ed.]-David Keymer, Modesto, CA Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Henry VIII's challenge to the church's power with his desire to divorce his queen and marry Anne Boleyn set off a tidal wave of religious, political and societal turmoil that reverberated throughout 16th-century Europe. Mantel boldly attempts to capture the sweeping internecine machinations of the times from the perspective of Thomas Cromwell, the lowborn man who became one of Henry's closest advisers. Cromwell's actual beginnings are historically ambiguous, and Mantel admirably fills in the blanks, portraying Cromwell as an oft-beaten son who fled his father's home, fought for the French, studied law and was fluent in French, Latin and Italian. Mixing fiction with fact, Mantel captures the atmosphere of the times and brings to life the important players: Henry VIII; his wife, Katherine of Aragon; the bewitching Boleyn sisters; and the difficult Thomas More, who opposes the king. Unfortunately, Mantel also includes a distracting abundance of dizzying detail and Henry's all too voluminous political defeats and triumphs, which overshadows the more winning story of Cromwell and his influence on the events that led to the creation of the Church of England. (Oct.) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Sarah, Plain and Tall
by Patricia MacLachlan