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ALA Best Books for Young Adults
Click to search this book in our catalog Okay for Now
by Schmidt, Gary

School Library Journal Gr 6-9-When his blowhard dad loses his job, Doug Swieteck has to say so long to his friend Holling and Camillo Junior High and get used to things in stupid Marysville, NY. His oldest brother's in Vietnam, his middle brother's still a hoodlum, his mom is quiet but enduring, and his only salvation is weekly visits to the public library, where the librarian is teaching him to draw by using models from a volume of Audubon's Birds of America. Also not too bad is Lil, the daughter of the grocer who gives him a delivery job. Fans of The Wednesday Wars (Clarion, 2007) will find that this companion novel has more in common with it than just a charismatic narrator and pitch-perfect details of daily life in the 1960s. In addition to a mix of caring adults and comically unreasonable authority figures, Schmidt also revisits baseball, theatrical escapades, and timely preoccupations like the Moon landing and the Vietnam War. But Doug's blue-collar story is much darker than Holling's in the earlier novel, and, as a narrator, he's more psychologically complex. Readers know right upfront that his father is abusive, but for a while Doug keeps the depth and magnitude-among other secrets-hidden from those around him. He grows to realize a lot about his family's relationships through study of Audubon's painted birds (one plate is featured at the start of each chapter), and the volume itself becomes a metaphor for his journey from fragmented to whole self. Schmidt manages a hard balance of relatable youth-is-hard humor and nuanced family trauma, though the mix of antics and realism is a bit Shakespearean. Readers will miss Doug and his world when they're done, and will feel richer for having experienced his engaging, tough, and endearing story.-Riva Pollard, Prospect Sierra Middle School, El Cerrito, CA (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.

School Library Journal Gr 6-9-A forced move from Long Island to upstate New York in the late 1960s leaves Doug Swieteck on his own to deal with his reprehensible dad and bad-boy older brothers. His salvation comes largely from kind strangers who help to nurture his talents and his humanity. Schmidt's masterful characterization and balance of humor and pathos make this coming-of-age novel so memorable. (Apr.) (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 *Starred Review* In this stand-alone companion to The Wednesday Wars (2007), a Newbery Honor Book set in the late 1960s, Schmidt focuses on Holling Hoodhood's classmate Doug Swieteck, who is furious when his volatile father gets fired and moves the family to tiny Marysville, New York. Eighth grade gets off to a rocky start, particularly after Doug's brother is blamed for a series of local break-ins, and Doug, too, is viewed with suspicion. Life at home with his hard-drinking dad is rocky as well, especially after Doug's second brother returns from Vietnam without his legs. In addition to brief character references, this title shares much with The Wednesday Wars. Here, John James Audubon's portraits of birds, rather than Shakespeare's plays, provide a cultural awakening, and once again, Schmidt skillfully makes a reluctant boy's connection with the works a plausible and moving catalyst for strength and growth. Schmidt stretches credibility with another wish-fulfilling ending, but readers will likely forgive any plot contrivances as they enjoy Doug's distinctive, rhythmic narration, inventively peppered wit. stat. about his life, which reveals hard, sometimes shocking truths about the time period and, most of all, Doug's family. Delivered in a wholly believable voice, Doug's euphemisms are heartbreaking and authentic, as when he describes his dad's violence. He has quick hands. Reproductions of Audubon plates introduce each chapter in this stealthily powerful, unexpectedly affirming story of discovering and rescuing one's best self, despite family pressure to do otherwise.--Engberg, Gillia. Copyright 2010 Booklist

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

Publishers Weekly This companion to The Wednesday Wars follows the formula of Schmidt's Newbery Honor winner with less success. Doug Swieteck, a prankster in the previous book, has graver problems than Holling Hoodhood did, making the interplay of pathos and slapstick humor an uneasy fit. In summer 1968, the Swietecks leave Long Island for the Catskills, where Doug's father has found work. Doug's mother (like Holling's) is kind but ineffectual; Mr. Swieteck is a brutish jerk. His abuse of his three sons, one of whom is currently in Vietnam, happens mostly offstage, but one episode of unthinkable cruelty is recounted as a flashback to explain why Doug refuses to take off his shirt in gym class. Doug does make two key friends: Lil, whose father owns the deli for which Doug becomes delivery boy, and the less fleshed-out Mr. Powell, a librarian who instantly sees Doug's potential as an artist. There are lovely moments, but the late addition of an implausible subplot in which Lil, who has never shown an interest in acting, is drafted for a role in a Broadway play, seems desultory considering the story's weightier elements. Ages 10-14. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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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 Yes Please
by Amy Poehler


Agatha Awards
Click to search this book in our catalog The beautiful mystery : a Chief Inspector Gamache novel
by Louise Penny.


Oprah's Book Club
Click to search this book in our catalog Anna Karenina
by Leo Tolstoy


Pulitzer Prize
Click to search this book in our catalog The orphan master's son : a novel
by Adam Johnson.

Publishers Weekly Johnson's novel accomplishes the seemingly impossible: an American writer has masterfully rendered the mysterious world of North Korea with the soul and savvy of a native, from its orphanages and its fishing boats to the kitchens of its high-ranking commanders. While oppressive propaganda echoes throughout, the tone never slides into caricature; if anything, the story unfolds with astounding empathy for those living in constant fear of imprisonment-or worse-but who manage to maintain their humanity against all odds. The book traces the journey of Jun Do, who for years lives according to the violent dictates of the state, as a tunnel expert who can fight in the dark, a kidnapper, radio operator, tenuous hero, and foreign dignitary before eventually taking his fate into his own hands. In one of the book's most poignant moments, a government interrogator, who tortures innocent citizens on a daily basis, remembers his own childhood and the way in which his father explained the inexplicable: "...we must act alone on the outside, while on the inside, we would be holding hands." In this moment and a thousand others like it, Johnson (Parasites Like Us) juxtaposes the vicious atrocities of the regime with the tenderness of beauty, love, and hope. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Imagine a society in which the official political story tells only of happiness and prosperity, yet personal experience reveals the opposite. Imagine the resulting internal dissonance and the ways in which people might reconcile such opposing forces. This is the experience offered by Johnson (Parasites Like Us) in his novel of modern-day North Korea. Following the path of the hero's journey, young Pak Jun Do moves from an orphanage into a life of espionage, kidnapping, and torture, only to be given a new identity as the husband of the Dear Leader's favorite actress. With references to the classic American film Casablanca, Johnson's narrative portrays his hero as he makes his way through a minefield of corruption and violence, eventually giving his all so that his loved ones might have a better life. VERDICT Readers who enjoy a fast-paced political thriller will welcome this wild ride through the amazingly conflicted world that exists within the heavily guarded confines of North Korea. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 8/15/11.]-Susanne Wells, M.L.S., Indianapolis (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 *Starred Review* Pak Jun Do lives with his father at a North Korean work camp for orphans. In a nation in which every citizen serves the state, orphans routinely get the most dangerous jobs. So it is for Jun Do, who becomes a tunnel soldier, trained to fight in complete darkness in the tunnels beneath the DMZ. But he is reassigned as a kidnapper, snatching Japanese citizens with special skills, such as a particular opera singer or sushi chef. Failure as a kidnapper could lead directly to the prison mines. But in Johnson's fantastical, careening tale, Jun Do manages to impersonate Commander Ga, the country's greatest military hero, rival of Dear Leader Kim Jong Il and husband of Sun Moon, North Korea's only movie star. Informed by extensive research and travel to perhaps the most secretive nation on earth, Johnson has created a remarkable novel that encourages the willing suspension of disbelief. As Jun Do, speaking as Ga, puts it, people have been trained to accept any reality presented to them. Johnson winningly employs different voices, with the propagandizing national radio station serving as a mad Greek chorus. Descriptions of everyday privations and barbarities are matter of fact, and Jun Do's love for Sun Moon reads like a fairy tale. Part adventure, part coming-of-age tale, and part romance, The Orphan Master's Son is a triumph on every level.--Gaughan, Thomas Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, 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 Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants
by Katy Payne

Library Journal In this mixture of personal saga, social commentary, and scientific research, Payne researches elephants' use of infrasound (sound below human hearing) to communicate over long distances. She describes the research she undertook in Kenya and in Zimbabwe, a country that condones elephant culling. Dreadfully, most of the elephants she studied there were destroyed in a 1991 cull. She found this extremely distressful, withdrawing from her own research for a time. Upon returning to Zimbabwe, she faced more sorrow; three of her research associates had been killed in a plane crash. Most of the events of the book happened prior to 1992; perhaps just now Payne is able to write of them. Peppered with commentary, criticism, and catharsis, her book is neither pure natural history nor pure autobiography. Still, it offers interesting background reading for elephant followers. Acceptable for larger public libraries and large natural history collections.?Nancy J. Moeckel, Miami Univ. Lib., Oxford, OH

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

Book list Payne is an acoustic biologist who, after studying the songs of whales, turned her attention to elephants, curious about their reputed ability to communicate with each other over vast distances. Even though her first experiments take place in a zoo, she senses a "kind of thrill in the air," and suspects that like whales, elephants create sounds too low for human detection. Payne travels to Kenya to test out her theory in the field and hooks up with a number of elephant experts, including Joyce Poole. Payne writes glowingly of the elephants she studies and succinctly chronicles her remarkable discoveries regarding their infrasound communications, but she is soon overwhelmed by the carnage wrought on allegedly protected herds by both poachers and park administrators. Forced to the conclusion that any and all interaction with wildlife is detrimental to their well-being, she turns her narrative into a candid and sobering discussion of our species' perverse relationship with the rest of nature. --Donna Seaman

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

Publishers Weekly "I was hearing faint sounds that might have been overtones of stronger sounds that the elephants, but not I, could hear." In a chronicle that effectively blends memoir with the drama of scientific discovery, Payne (Elephants Calling), an acoustic biologist at Cornell, describes her role in the discovery of infrasonic communication between elephants. As she does so, she recounts her 13 years' study of African elephants?observing their social and family structures and behaviors, including the digging of wells. A scientist's respect for the elephants, "my gray friends," and for the native scouts informs her work. Payne writes, "You appreciate the value of silence when you watch elephants at night.... Every animal in the herd listens when the herd is listening. To use silence so well: if I could choose for people one attribute of elephants, I'd choose this." Payne can be passionate, especially regarding the issues of poaching and the harvesting of ivory, and she is convinced that any decision about ivory harvesting must take into account both the experience of elephants themselves as well as the historic relations between indigenous peoples and wild animals. Payne believes that "[i]n such a world animals reveal things to each other, and even occasionally to people like me: their attention to us is commensurate with ours to them." This book will make a wonderful addition to the library of any animal lover or of anyone fascinated by intra- and interspecies communication. Maps and drawing by Laura Payne. (Aug.)

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 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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Newbery Medal Winners
Click to search this book in our catalog Criss Cross
by Lynne Rae Perkins

Publishers Weekly Through narrative that has the flavor of stream-of-consciousness writing but is more controlled and poetic, Perkins (All Alone in the Universe) captures the wistful romantic yearnings of three friends on the brink of adolescence. There's Debbie, who makes a wish that "something different would happen. Something good. To me." There's Hector, who hears a guitarist and quite suddenly feels inspired to learn how to play the instrument. Then there's mechanical-minded Lenny who feels himself drawn to Debbie. The characters spend spring and summer wandering about their neighborhood, "criss crossing" paths, expanding their perspectives on the world while sensing that life will lead them to some exciting new experiences. (During a walk, Hector feels "as if the world was opening, like the roof of the Civic Arena when the sky was clear. Life was rearranging itself; bulging in places, fraying in spots.") Debbie forms a crush on a boy from California visiting his grandmother. Hector falls for a girl in his guitar class. Lenny hints at his feelings for Debbie by asking her on a date. All three loves remain unrequited, but by the end of the novel, Debbie, Hector and Lenny have grown a little wiser and still remain hopeful that good things lie ahead if they remain patient. Part love story, part coming-of-age tale, this book artfully expresses universal emotions of adolescence. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Publishers Weekly Through narrative that has the flavor of stream-of-consciousness writing but is more controlled and poetic, Perkins (All Alone in the Universe) captures the wistful romantic yearnings of three friends on the brink of adolescence. There's Debbie, who makes a wish that "something different would happen. Something good. To me." There's Hector, who hears a guitarist and quite suddenly feels inspired to learn how to play the instrument. Then there's mechanical-minded Lenny who feels himself drawn to Debbie. The characters spend spring and summer wandering about their neighborhood, "criss crossing" paths, expanding their perspectives on the world while sensing that life will lead them to some exciting new experiences. (During a walk, Hector feels "as if the world was opening, like the roof of the Civic Arena when the sky was clear. Life was rearranging itself; bulging in places, fraying in spots.") Debbie forms a crush on a boy from California visiting his grandmother. Hector falls for a girl in his guitar class. Lenny hints at his feelings for Debbie by asking her on a date. All three loves remain unrequited, but by the end of the novel, Debbie, Hector and Lenny have grown a little wiser and still remain hopeful that good things lie ahead if they remain patient. Part love story, part coming-of-age tale, this book artfully expresses universal emotions of adolescence. Ages 10-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

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