Bite-Sized Magic: A Bliss Novel, Book 2, by Kathryn Littlewood

Teen reviewer: Abigail Borne

Bite-sized Magic is centered on Rosemary Bliss, who won the Gala des Gateaux Grands baking competition, beating her evil aunt Lilly and winning back the Bliss Cookery Booke. Sadly this brings her much unwanted fame. All Rose wants to do is bake sweets with her family at their bakery.

Not long after the outrageous Big Bakery conservation law is passed, her family’s bakery is forced to close down. Fortunately, they discover a loophole and are still able to make treats and give them to the people of the town. But Rose’s fame from winning the Gala des Gateaux causes her to be kidnapped by the Mostess Corporation and is taken to their compound where she has to perfect their snack cake recipes or never see her family again.

So with a team of unlikely bakers - a talking cat, and two troublesome brothers - Rose risks everything in order to try and bring the evil Mostess Corporation down once and for all. When you read Bite-sized magic be prepared for a wildly fun ride with twists and turns that you never saw coming. It will leave you wanting more and more!

When it comes to reading mystery series, I generally follow a simple procedure: Start with the third or fourth book in the series and then work back at some later point if the author grabs me. My reasoning is that most series writers don’t really get moving, don’t really get a feeling for their characters, don’t fully grasp the world in which their detectives live until the third or fourth novel. And so, if you start with the first novel, it is quite possible you might give up on a good series simply because it got off to a poor start.

That said, there are some remarkable first books in a series. A Study in Scarlet, which introduces us to Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes, is one, and Ed McBain’s Cop Hater – which kicks off his long-running 87th Precinct crime series – is another.

One advantage McBain had over other mystery writers starting a series was that he was already a successful author when he got the idea for his 87th Precinct novels. As Evan Hunter (his real name, having legally changed it from his birth name of Salvatore Albert Lombino), he already had written several fine stand-alone novels including Blackboard Jungle. When he was approached about writing a mystery series, he decided that he wanted to focus not on an individual detective but rather on the precinct, making the precinct itself the central character. As he says in his introduction to Cop Hater, “it … seemed to me that something new in the annals of police procedurals … would be a squadroom full of cops, each with different traits, who — when put together — would form a conglomerate hero.” And so was born the 87th Precinct.

Clearly the city in which the 87th Precinct stories take place is based on New York City, but McBain didn’t want readers fixating on New York. And so, he named his city Isola, which is (but is not) New York just as Metropolis and Gotham City are (but are not) New York. He takes care in the first novel to describe the geography of the 87th Precinct in some detail, devoting a couple of pages. In giving us a very strong feel for a city that is like, but isn’t quite, New York — in creating a sense of place — McBain demonstrates the highest level of skill.

McBain, however, was not entirely successful in avoiding having a main individual character. One, Steve Carella, appeared in the first novel and remained a prominent figure in many of the subsequent stories about the precinct. Still, it is clear that Carella is part of a team that is almost family, absent the dynamics one sees in a family. In envisioning the 87th Precinct, McBain may have been inspired by films about World War II, many of which focus on “the squad” rather than an individual. Battleground (1949) is an example.

Cop Hater, released in 1956 and available through interlibrary loan, sets the start of McBain’s series in the hottest July anyone can remember. At a time when air conditioning was not omnipresent, the heat adds to the tension felt by the cops as they try to find out who has cut down one, two, and ultimately three of their number. Just look at how McBain describes the heat, as if it were one of the characters in the drama:

“The heat on that July 26th reached a high of 95.6 at twelve noon. At the precinct house, two fans circulated the soggy air that crawled past the open windows and the grilles behind them. Everything in the Detective Squad Room seemed to wilt under the steady, malignant pressure of the heat.”

McBain knows how to start his book with a bang. Within the first few pages, we already have our first murder victim, Detective Mike Reardon. His introduction is brief but skillfully handled. We get the sense that he is a good cop and a loving family man, and so we are eager to see his killer brought to justice.

It is fitting that we are introduced to the world of the 87th Precinct through the eyes of a cop at home — about to go to work — for family life gives us insight into the cops themselves and how they are molded by the world beyond the station house walls. Some, like Mike Reardon, are good family men. Others, like Hank Bush, Steve Carella’s partner, are good cops but jerks.

McBain aims to enhance the reader’s feel for the investigation by using actual police forms throughout the book, and so we see facsimiles of ballistic reports, coroner’s reports, and the like. We get snippets of news stories and headlines, as well. All of this gives us a sense of the action happening in a real place and in real time. And, just as in any police investigation, though we see more than the cops do, we are not given any information pertinent to the investigation until they get it. Our third-person narrator is not omniscient, and that makes for a more challenging mystery.

A film version of Cop Hater stars Robert Loggia as the chief detective, and is available online through or other outlets. But if you really want to see a stunning film adaptation of an 87th Precinct novel, catch Akira Kurosawa’s High and Low — loosely based on McBain’s King’s Ransom. Moving the story to Tokyo entails some changes. But it’s refreshing to see what a Japanese master makes of a largely American form, the police procedural.

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

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Changeling, Order of Darkness series, by Philippa Gregory

Teen Reviewer: Zeke Pedrino

I think that Changeling: The Order of Darkness Book One is a fantastic book. I think this book is fantastic because it is fast paced and has action, which I am fond of. It also has a lot of religious based ways, most are catholic, which is surprising and allows me to learn about other religions.

The book’s main characters are two headstrong kids, one an inquirer of great skill. His name is Luca Vero and he is only seventeen. The other is an exiled lady, Isolde, who is convicted of a murder she didn't do and so she runs away. And it was Luca who convicted her. Then he finds out that she wasn't the criminal. Instead it was someone he fancied. Shortly after this, he runs into Isolde and they journey off to truth, wherever it lies.

Win a tablet!

The Summer Reading Program is back and this year we are again giving away a tablet computer at your local branch! Come into the library for all of our awesome events this summer and while you're there register for the Summer Reading Program.

Every book review that you fill out (And they can be short!) wins you a library buck, an entry to win the tablet, and the admiration of your Teen Services Librarian.

Still have questions? Check out this page for the answers!

See you this summer at the library!

Inspired by stories of her German father’s childhood and letters written between her grandparents during WWII that were rediscovered after fifty years, author Maria Hummel’s historical novel, Motherland, tells the tense and turbulent survival tale of a Third Reich family in Germany near the end of the war.

The story begins in December of 1944 in the small spa town of Hannesburg, Germany. The brutal conflict has discovered this once peaceful community and transformed it into a ravaged and fearful skeleton of its former self.

Food has become a luxury. The housing authority is stuffing refugees into residents’ homes until they look like human anthills with walls, and Allied air attacks are regularly destroying anything that is left of the recognizable landscape.

For Liesl Kappus, life in Hannesburg has become terrifying. Newly married to Frank Kappus, a local doctor and recent widower with three young sons, Liesl has been alone with the boys since Frank was drafted into medical service. While in her care, the middle son has contracted a mysterious illness that is only growing more severe.

Stationed as a surgeon in Weimar, Frank spends much of his time worrying about his family, and after receiving a desperate note from Liesl about his child’s debilitating condition, he deserts his post and attempts to make his way home.

As Motherland’s story anxiously unfolds and alternates between Liesl and Frank Kappus and their ultimate outcomes, you slowly begin to view them as people more than characters. You experience their fears, their bravery, what brought them together, and what they are willing to do to survive.

What gives this book an additional interesting layer, too, is that the Kappus family is Mitläufer, meaning “Germans who went along with Nazism.” This is an issue that Hummel pondered deeply when she was writing Motherland. Her own grandparents — whose letters partially inspired Motherland — were Mitläufer and always good, decent people, but still she wondered to herself, “What did they know about the Holocaust and other Nazi war crimes and when did they know it?”

Eventually, Hummel pared that question down to its bare bones, and instead of asking what did they know and when, it became, “What did they love and what did they fear?” Stripping that question to its basic core changed Motherland from a novel about guilt or innocence, knowing or not knowing, into both a dark and hopeful story about personal and political choices and consequences.

So, why is the book named Motherland? For one, mothers are a strong symbol in the novel and Liesl is by far the strongest character. Additionally, when Hummel was writing the book, her own child became sick with a mysterious illness, later diagnosed as an autoimmune disease. As a mother, this gives her a special maternal connection to Liesl and her inability to help her stepson with his strange sickness.

Motherland was also partly inspired by a poem of the same name by Rose Ausländer:

My Fatherland is dead
They buried it
In fire

I live
In my Motherland—

(translation by Eavan Boland)

This poem signifies that women and mothers must rise up and create a new world out of the ashes from what men lost and destroyed, even if it is only in the mind/word – very similar to Hummel’s book.

Motherland is definitely worth reading. Published in January 2014, the historic novel moves quickly, has an engaging writing style, presents solid characters, and best of all, it that takes a familiar subject and looks at it from a slightly different perspective, one that ultimately reaches into the depths of your soul looking for answers.

Check out a copy of Motherland from the Kansas City Public Library today. If you like it, also try reading The Boy In The Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.

About the Author

Amy Morris

Amy Morris is a senior library technical assistant at the Westport Branch. She earned a B.A. in English, with an emphasis in creative writing, from Avila University. Besides reading and writing, Amy enjoys traveling, art, being creative, playing the piano and spending time with her family. She also writes her own blog at

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Sea of Shadows, by Kelley Armstrong

Teen Reviewer: Grace Anne Pedrino

Twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are the Keeper and Seeker of their small village, Edgewood. The Keeper and Seeker's job is to keep quiet the souls of the Damned - the dead people's souls.

But, on their mission to do so, they are separated and abandoned in a wasteland that is no longer empty. As they journey back together they experience many hardships, such as betrayals and abandonment. But even those tragedies are no match for the brewing war.

The Sea of Shadows was an extraordinary book. It was written wonderfully and with care. It made me feel as though I was right with the characters all along. It was an amazing book. I literally could NOT put it down. The characters were very realistic. They even had realistic reactions. Even the minor characters had realistic reactions. Even so, the ending made you need the next book, it was so good. BUT, I personally could have gone without the cliffhanger ending. Regardless, it was a great book. 5 stars.

Maya Angelou lent grace even to Twitter.

“Listen to yourself,” the 86-year-old author and poet tapped out late last week, “and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.”

It would be the last of her 255 tweets — to nearly 400,000 followers — and among the last public pronouncements from an American treasure. Angelou died Wednesday at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, closing an extraordinary life that began in Missouri and yielded what President Obama described as “one of the brightest lights of our time.”

Most acclaimed for her seven autobiographical volumes and perhaps best loved for the poetry that brought her to the podium at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration in 1993, Angelou accumulated Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award nominations, three Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts and, in 2011 the Presidential Medal of Freedom. She once worked as a streetcar conductor and a restaurant cook, once was a madam and a prostitute, once danced in nightclubs and sang calypso. Her experiences shaped her and her writing, and her willingness to write about even the most ugly and painful of them — including a childhood rape — broke new ground for African American women.

It also struck some nerves. Angelou’s first and most praised autobiography, the best-selling I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, was published in 1969 and covered her birth in St. Louis, the rape, and nearly five subsequent years in which she didn’t speak in the wake of the rapist’s murder. In identifying him, she later explained, she felt she had killed him.

But the subject matter, which also included racism and homosexuality, and the volume’s sometimes-raw language made it a banned-book target. Caged Bird ranked sixth on the American Library Association’s lists of top 100 banned and challenged books of the decade from 2000-2009, just behind Of Mice and Men. A decade earlier, it ranked third.

Angelou kept good company. Steinbeck. Twain. Salinger. Toni Morrison.

She ruffled a different set of feathers a little more than 12 years ago, when she partnered with Kansas City-based Hallmark Cards on a line of greeting cards and other household items ranging from bookends and wall hangings to pillows and mugs. Leading poets sniffed their displeasure at the supposed lower-brow platform.

Angelou told USA TODAY that she found it “challenging and daring,” recalling one struggle to pare five pages of writing down to a single sentence: "The wise woman wishes to be no one's enemy, the wise woman refuses to be anyone's victim.”

She told the newspaper, “When I finally got it just to those two lines, I came into the dining room and poured myself a glass of red wine!”

Throughout her career, a vast majority celebrated her work with her. Angelou taught. She provoked. She inspired.

“Still I Rise,” the title piece of her third volume of poetry — published in 1978 — speaks eloquently to her life’s journey:

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

For manga or graphic novel lovers, or any fan of the sequential art form, comes Comics Plus - Library Edition! Through Comics Plus and The Kansas City Public Library, patrons with a library card and email address can checkout free e-comics. With a 10-book maximum for a 7-day checkout, kids, teens, and even adults can access a wide range of comics, classic favorites, and full manga series all from your own personal or public computer, phone, or tablet device.

Inside Comics Plus - Library Edition, you can find volumes of some of your favorite comics. Many of these texts are out of print with the publisher, but are now available at the click of a checkout button. From classic favorites like Charlie Brown and The Peanuts, Garfield, Marmaduke, and Dilbert to Viz Media titans like BLEACH, Dragonball, Naruto, and One Piece, Comics Plus has a little something for every comic book enthusiast. You may even find something new to read in the collection.

Comics are categorized by publisher, or you can search by age group. The material on Comics Plus, ranges from ages 5 and up, to 16+. There are also familiar fiction titles and popular shows like the Big Nate series, NFL Rush Zone, Adventure Time, and Bravest Warriors comics available for checkout.

New registers will need to know their library card number and email address to log in. Yet with automatic check-in and return, you will never have to worry about items being misplaced or incurring fees. Comics Plus - Library Edition is a great new digital resource available through the Kansas City Public Library anytime, right at your fingertips. Made for all kinds of comic book lovers, Comics Plus is an awesome collection for the seasoned comic reader or anyone just beginning their leap into comic books or graphic novels.


About the Author

Shaun Teamer

Shaun Teamer is a creator and storyteller. He enjoys drawing, animating, and reading comic books and graphic novels. Shaun works as a youth associate for the Central Library.

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What does it mean to be part of two cultures? Kids who grow up in the United States but who are adopted from other countries ask themselves this often. They navigate the challenges and enjoy the richness of their complex heritages. In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, below are books about international adoption with parents from the United States and babies from Asia. Whether or not your family has experienced cross-cultural adoption, these stories will resound. At their center, they are about the love between parents and their children.

My Mei Mei by Ed Young is based on his real life. His older daughter, who was adopted from China, talks about the adoption of her baby sister, Mei Mei, when she was three. This story follows the tensions and delights of sisterhood.

Sweet Moon Baby: An Adoption Tale by Karen Henry Clark/ Illustrated by Patrice Barton takes a fantastical view of the adoption process. A Chinese couple wants a better life for their baby daughter, so they send her down river in a basket. Animals carry the sleeping baby along while her adoptive parents in America travel far to bring her home.

Goyangi Means Cat by Christine McDonnell/ Illustrated by Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher depicts the growing pains that a young girl has when she immigrates from Korea to the United States. She cannot speak English, but her adoptive parents learn some Korean words so that they can communicate. The girl, Soo Min, bonds with the family cat and finally feels at home when the lost feline returns.

Every Year on Your Birthday by Rose Lewis/ Illustrated by Jane Dyer is a love letter from a mother to the daughter she adopted from China. It describes how the family celebrated each of her birthdays up to when she turned five. The text and pictures show how they integrate part of American life with traditions from her Chinese heritage.

The Red Thread: An Adoption Fairy Tale by Grace Lin is a story within a story. An Asian girl and her Caucasian parents are reading together. The book is about a king and queen who follow the red strings tugging painfully at their hearts, to discover, at the end, a beautiful baby meant just for them. The story makes subtle connections between the contemporary family reading the book and the one in the fairytale.

About the Author

Anna Francesca Garcia earned her Master of Library and Information Sciences Degree from the University of North Texas and has worked for over nine years in public libraries in Nevada and Missouri. Currently, Anna is Kansas City Public Library’s Education Librarian.

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Alice in the Country of Hearts, Omnibus Vol. 1, by QuinRose

Teen Reviewer: Erica Whorton

Alice in the Country of Hearts is a manga series based on the Japanese game Alice in the Country of Hearts Wonderful Wonder World, which in itself is a re-imagining of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland.

Instead of Alice following a white rabbit into wonderland, she is kidnapped by the white rabbit and is forced to play a game. In the Country of Hearts the pedestrians carry weapons and do not care about life at all. Alice is confused and has to adapt to the way of life there whether she likes it or not. There is romance along with action. I like this manga because it is very humorous. The art in it is excellent. I would definitely recommend it to others. Even though it is girly, I believe guys would like it too.

When it comes to books about monsters, be prepared for all kinds! At a very young age, we create these creatures from the detailed corners of our imagination; it’s no surprise that there is no limit to the possibility and creation of monster stories. Below are just a few fun monster reads, either for the monster lover at heart or for someone looking for monsters with a funny and friendly side!

The Ghastly Dandies Do the Classics
By Ben Gibson

Look who’s coming, it’s the Ghastly Dandies! Who are the Ghastly Dandies you might ask? Well, they’re dapper, they’re erudite, and they’re monstrous! The Ghastly Dandies are beastly creatures who act out quick renditions of your favorite literary classics, such as Moby Dick, Frankenstein, Sherlock Holmes, Hamlet and many more. Each interpretation told by the Ghastly Dandies is funnier than the last! With amazing art and design that nicely transfers from tale to tale, The Ghastly Dandies Do the Classics is great for longtime readers who will immediately recognize the references and implications, but also great for those new to these classic literary themes and imagery.

Words By Sonia Goldie Pictures By Marc Boutavant

Have you ever seen a ghost? The kind wearing a white sheet with holes cut out of it, floating around saying boo over and over? Well, Ghosts would tell you that you’re sadly mistaken! Welcome to the Ghost Ball, where we party and learn the real truth about household ghosts. You can slide down the chimney with Chimney Ghost, discover reappearing wall art with the Picture Ghost, or even make a stop for a restroom break to chat with Bathroom Ghost. Ghosts is a fun book with a multitude of illustrations on each page, and with a specialized text layout per ghost that wonderfully makes your eyes travel from the top to the bottom.

Monster Chefs
By Brian and Liam Anderson

The horribly horrible Monster King is tired of only eating eyeballs and ketchup. He wants to eat something new! So the Monster King summons his four monster chefs to find him something new to eat. But what does a horrible Monster King like to eat? Rabbits? No. Fish? Nope. Snakes? I don’t think so. But, what the fourth and last monster chef finally brings for the king may change monster time dinner forever! A success for its conventional use of repetition and rhythmic storytelling, Monster Chefs will keep you wondering until the very end.

About the Author

Shaun Teamer

Shaun Teamer is a creator and storyteller. He enjoys drawing, reading, and hanging out with the Loch Ness Monster. When he is not looking for Bigfoot, he works as a youth associate for the Central Library.

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Fairy tales, myths and classic tales. We can’t get enough of them, and luckily publishers and authors agree! Below is a list of retellings, and if you STILL can’t get enough ask your local librarian for more recommendations, or check out this massive list that Epic Reads compiled:

Fairy Tales:

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine
A classic middle grade retelling of the Cinderella story.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer*
Puts a cyborg twist to Cinderella.

Ash by Malinda Lo*
Yet another Cinderella retelling, this time with a LGBTQ angle.

Fathomless by Jackson Pearce
Haunting, scary version of The Little Mermaid.

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale*
Graphic novel for middle grades.

Lies, Knives, and Girls in Red Dresses by Ron Koetge, Ilus by Andrea Dezso
Macabre, intense retelling of several different fairy tales.

Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee
Retelling of the Snow Queen.

The sisters Grimm series by Michael Buckley
Two sisters turn detective in order to explore their fairy tale ancestors.


Splintered by A.G. Howard*
Alice in Wonderland. First in a series.

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel*
A different take on the story of Frankenstein.

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen*
Gender bending the Peter Pan tale.

Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Peter Pan retelling from Tiger Lily’s point of view.

For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diana Peterfreund*
Dramatic retelling of Jane Austen’s “Persuasion”.

The Dark Lady by Irene Adler (Iacopo Bruno)
Middle grade version of Irene Adler and Sherlock Holmes’s relationship.


Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
Boy finds out he is a descendant of Poseidon. Chaos ensues.

The Olympian series by George O’ Conn
Graphic novels, each exploring a different God or Goddess legend.

The Cronus Chronicles series by Anne Ursu
A girl must save humankind. Greek myths.

The Chaos of Stars by Kiersten White*
Human daughter of Egyptian Gods, trying to find her place in the world and in her family.

*denotes that the book is part of a series

Ross MacDonald (pen name for Kenneth Millar [pron. Miller]) was one of the triumvirate of great hard-boiled detective fiction, the others being Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Just as Chandler looked to Hammett, the pioneer, MacDonald looked to Chandler, whom he called a “slumming angel.”

MacDonald was the last of the three to start writing, publishing stories while still a graduate student at the University of Michigan, where he earned a Ph.D. in English literature with a dissertation on romantic poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. MacDonald is credited with bringing to the hard-boiled genre a psychological depth of characterization and motivation. And it is with this book, The Galton Case, that MacDonald’s fiction really begins to take a much more psychological direction.

MacDonald was married to Margaret Millar, a fellow Canadian. Ms. Millar was a mystery author in her own right, whose novels often took a psychological and even pathological bent (Note: MacDonald chose a pen name so that his own work would not be confused with his wife’s work). Her earliest mysteries featured psychiatrist Paul Prye as detective, and her later stand-alone novels often involved instances of psycho-pathology.

MacDonald’s early novels were consciously imitative of Raymond Chandler’s work, as you can see from this brief excerpt: “A Harvard chair stood casually in one corner. I sat down on it, in the interest of self-improvement.” And later, when he’s summoned to his client’s secretary, he gets up from the chair noting: “I got up out the Harvard chair. It was like being expelled.”

MacDonald’s detective, Lew Archer, like Philip Marlowe, was a former member of the police, now an independent investigator, and like Marlowe, was let go because he was not a team player. MacDonald’s style was originally a lot closer to the syncopated style of Chandler, and in his earliest outings, his detective was more cynical than he would later become. Over time, Archer became less hardened, and more world-weary. He could still utter wise-cracks with the best of them, but he clearly came to be much more sympathetic to the unfortunates with whom he came into contact in his investigations.

In The Galton Case, Archer goes to track down a wealthy man long alienated from his family. What he finds instead is a youngster claiming to be the man’s son. He had grown up in Canada, however, far from California, where he had been born. The young man seems to have some secrets, though, and Archer stays on the case at the request of the Galton physician, even after the young man is introduced to the elderly Mrs. Galton. This novel marked a shift towards more psychologically rich characterization and to more Oedipal stories, features that would become standard in subsequent Archer novels. Some of the impetus towards greater psychological writing may have come from his wife’s novels, which were psychologically oriented. And MacDonald himself underwent psychoanalysis around the time he began working on this book, through which he came to consciousness of issues he had with his own absent father. And in John Galton, Ross MacDonald crafted a character very much like MacDonald in his twenties. Like the young Galton, MacDonald was born in California, lost his father at an early age, was raised by relatives in Canada, and went to college at the University of Michigan.

MacDonald was hugely influential on the next generation of hard-boiled detective authors, especially Robert B. Parker, whose own doctoral dissertation at Boston University, "The Violent Hero: Wilderness Heritage and Urban Reality", focused on the works of Hammett, Chandler, and MacDonald. Parker’s hero Spenser may owe his name to Chandler’s Marlowe (both named after Elizabethan poets and both knights errant in their own way), but Spenser’s sympathetic involvement with his clients recalls Archer more than Marlowe. Note: MacDonald named his detective after Lew Wallace (author of Ben-Hur) and Miles Archer, Sam Spade’s partner at the start of The Maltese Falcon. Sue Grafton, author of the popular alphabet series (starting with A is for Alibi) featuring Kinsey Milhone, places her detective in the fictional town of Santa Teresa, the same town where Lew Archer operated in years past (Santa Teresa was a thinly disguised Santa Barbara, where MacDonald lived for most of his adult life).

If you’re eager for more MacDonald (and who isn’t?), you might also try The Chill, The Ivory Grin, The Zebra-Striped Hearse, The Far Side of the Dollar, and The Blue Hammer. If you’d like to watch a movie based on MacDonald’s Archer, you might check out Harper (based on The Moving Target) and The Drowning Pool, both starring Paul Newman as Lew Harper (I don’t know of any definitive reason for the name change – there’s more than one explanation out there). You can’t go wrong with Ross MacDonald for hard-boiled fiction with heart and psychological depth.

About the Author

Bernard Norcott-Mahany, a library technical assistant at the Lucile H. Bluford Branch, is our resident connoisseur of classic literature. He is also the leader of the Black Classics and In the Heat of the Night book groups.

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I grew up in a family that was filled with voracious readers. From the time my brothers and sister and I were very, very young, we heard our parents reading to us and telling us stories of when they were young.

I fell in love with words and letters as far back as I could remember. I found it fascinating to watch Mom and Dad simply look down at an open book and then hear as this steady flow of words and sentences and paragraphs and stories would flow out of their mouths.

At that time, I didn’t have the necessary words I needed to describe what I was feeling, but I could see that my parents had the key to unlock this amazing mystery, and I yearned, almost ached to discover the secret so I could do the same thing.

My mom loved to tell the story about when my sister Barb and I first got our library cards.

I grew up in Boise, Idaho, and our family made regular trips to the Boise Public Library, which I later learned was one of the Carnegie libraries. It sat on the outskirts of the downtown business area, its entrance just one block west, as the crow flies, from the entrance to the church we attended. The children's department was partly below ground level, and had its own separate entrance on the south side of the building—concrete steps leading down from the sidewalk that circled from the front of the building, where the grown-up steps went up to the front entrance.

For local residents the only requirement to get a library card was to write your name on the form. (I imagine you also had to show some form of ID, but Mom’s library card apparently probably covered Barb and me.) I was about four years old and, as I’ve indicated, already deeply fascinated with letters. (We had a small framed blackboard with an attached tripod, letters surrounding the frame—probably in alphabetical order. I loved copying the letters from the frame onto the blackboard in different combinations, then asking Mom if I had written a word. As I remember, considering that I wrote random combinations, I had a fair amount of success. Perhaps I was already starting to associate the shape of letters with sound.)

After we had entered the children's department, Barb and I walked up to the circulation desk with Mom and told the children's librarian that we wanted to get our library cards. Mom filled in our address and other information, and then put the forms in front of Barb and me.

My mind was already attuning itself to the nuances of language, especially when it came to how rules were laid out. I had discussed my idea with Mom, so after the librarian told us all we had to do was write our names, she was rather surprised when Barb and I each reached into a pocket and pulled out a piece of paper upon which Mom had printed our name.

With great care I spread the paper flat on the counter and then, with painstaking focus, copied the letters of my name onto the form.

The librarian got a big, big smile and told Mom she had never known of any children who had wanted a library card as much as we did.

From then on there was no stopping us.

About the Author

Dr. John Arthur Horner of the Missouri Valley Room has a Ph.D. in Dramatic Art from UC-Santa Barbara, as well as a deep love of history. He is an award-winning playwright and member of the Dramatists Guild of America. He lives in Independence with his wife, two pianos, and their multitude of books.

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07-Ghost by Yukino Ichihara, Yuki Amemiya

Teen Reviewer: Erica Whorton

Teito Klein was once an orphan and a slave. All he has ever known was to obey orders that were given to him and to never betray the military. Not having a full grasp of his memories was fine with him until he meets the person responsible for his capture.

Escaping from the military, and on the run, Teito ends up in the church district where he meets three priests who bring him to the church where he is safe for a while. Teito eventually decides to become a priest and sets off on a journey with one of the three priests to discover the truth of his past and the truth of the Barsburg Empire's past.

I love this manga series. It is action packed with twists and turns that are unexpected and expected. The art is compelling. The only problem I have is that sometimes the art has too much action that makes it difficult to tell what is going on. All in all it is a good series and I highly recommend it to teens who love action packed mangas.