Every week here on the Teen Blog, we’ll be posting a roundup of the previous week’s Summer Reading book reviews submitted by our KCPL teens. To find out how you can get your reviews posted, check out the Teen Summer Reading page. And stay up with what’s going on this summer on our KC Library Teens Facebook page.

And without further ado, the latest batch of book reviews…

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
"I would rate this book a 9 out of 10. I like how the author sticks to the point." J-A.S. @ Westport

Forget You by Jennifer Echols

It can happen at any age and any time. It’s the engulfing panic that maybe you chose the wrong career. Maybe you committed to the wrong person. Maybe you made all the wrong decisions. Maybe you’re living the wrong life.

For any woman who has wondered “what if” during her life, here are stories of other women who wondered, who dared, who tapped unknown reservoirs of strength and discovered the right person was actually living the right life all along.

Drinking the Rain, Alix Kates Shulman

For Alix Kates Shulman, it happened in the early Eighties. She felt herself slipping away in this unfamiliar world. Drinking the Rain is her enticing memoir of self-rediscovery during a summer spent on a remote Maine island. Schulman revels in her newfound independence as she collects rain water to drink, gathers mussels from a tide pool for dinner, and watches the ocean tides. Her solitary summer reveals numerous mini-miracles of life.

The Pull of the Moon, Elizabeth Berg

Though all employees work with the catalog at one time or another, not all are actually in the catalog. Our new Missouri Valley Special Collections director, however, is a noteworthy exception. Watch a video interview with Eli Paul...

Thomas is unsure about several things. He can’t remember where he is from, how old he is, or how he wound up in this place called “The Glade.” All he knows is that he is looking for answers, and all of the boys around him seem very unwilling to answer his questions. Where are they? Who put them here? And what are these vicious creatures known as “Grievers?”

Thomas arrives at the Glade in an elevator-like shaft with no memory, just like all of the other boys there his age. The boys in this isolated homestead are all in their early and mid-teen years, although no one is sure of their exact age. They raise the animals and crops for their food, they all have assigned jobs, and they live inside a huge and winding Maze.

So begins The Maze Runner, book one of a young adult dystopian sci-fi trilogy by James Dashner.

Every week here on the Teen Blog, we’ll be posting a roundup of the previous week’s Summer Reading book reviews submitted by our KCPL teens. To find out how you can get your reviews posted, check out the Teen Summer Reading page. And stay up with what’s going on this summer on our KC Library Teens Facebook page.

And without further ado, the latest batch of book reviews…

Outrunning the Darkness by Anne Schraff
My favorite character is Jaris. I love that he sticks up for himself and his pop. –A.S. @ Central

Astonish your school by grabbing a Tom Sawyer e-book.

The Kansas City Public Library is bringing back The Big Read this year, and you needn’t plunk down cash to buy in. You can download e-book versions of this year’s selection, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain from the Library’s website to keep and use on your e-reader free of charge. 

For the fourth year, the Library has been awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to help fund a series of public programs to get everyone reading and talking about the same book. This year’s Big Read selection hits closer to home than ever before.

In fact, it’s going to be hard to escape the sounds of Sawyer this fall in Kansas City. One of the first productions in the brand-new, gush-worthy Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts will be the world premiere of Tom Sawyer – A Ballet in Three Acts, performed by Kansas City Ballet. As a special treat for our community of readers, the Library is partnering with KC Ballet to bring patrons a preview of the production, featuring Tony-winning composer Maury Yeston. Other Big Read events – including a visit from Autobiography of Mark Twain Vol. 1 editor Robert Hirst – will be announced soon.

Andersonville Diary

For July, I thought something quintessentially American was called for, and as this is the sesquicentennial of the start of the Civil War, John Ransom’s diary of his 14 months as a P.O.W. in the Confederate prison system seemed a natural choice. 

Ransom was born in 1843, and joined the Union army in 1862.  He held the rank of sergeant and was the Quartermaster for Company A of the 9th Michigan Volunteer Cavalry. He was captured in Tennessee in 1863 and, after spending some time at Belle Isle prison in Virginia was sent to what is perhaps the most infamous prison camp in that brutal war – Andersonville in Georgia. 

Ironically, Ransom “flanked out” (i.e. he jumped the line) to get out of Belle Isle, where he was first imprisoned, figuring any other place had to be better – was he ever wrong.  In his first year at Andersonville, he writes, the combination of lack of food, poor conditions and a brutal administration result in the death of about half the prisoners at the camp. 

For example, one of the “dead lines” that prisoners are not supposed to get near is along the only source of fresh water in the camp, with the result that prisoners suffering extreme dehydration risk reaching beyond the line to get some fresh water, and are shot for their troubles.

Whether you hang your hat in gingerbread Victorian or a warehouse loft, the Library has the tools to help you uncover the history of your home. The Missouri Valley Special Collections contain a wealth of historical records in print, on microfilm, and online.

Though you can use the online resources without leaving the house you’re researching (assuming it has an Internet connection), some items on this list can only be accessed by visiting the Missouri Valley Room during regular hours.

Librarians are also available to answer questions – call 816.701.3427 or email lhistory@kclibrary.org.

Don’t miss: For antebellum architecture buffs, an ongoing speakers' series on Kansas City’s pre-Civil War homes continues this Sunday, July 10, 2011, at 2 p.m., at the Plaza Branch, where Tom Cooke examines the history of the Bent-Ward House (more info).

10 Resources for Researching Your Home’s History


1. City Directories

Last winter I experienced Disney World’s animated production It’s Tough to Be a Bug. I use the word experienced because no senses were left untouched. Wow, what imagination went into this nine-minute piece of entertainment! I walked out of the theater with all kinds of questions about creativity.

Is a person born with creativity? Can it be developed? Does artistic expression come easily to some? Why do some companies find awesome solutions while others primarily service the status quo? Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries, provides insight into some of these questions.

Business writer Peter Sims has corralled some entrepreneurial behaviors and attitudes into a philosophy he refers to as “little bets.” Don’t jump to the quick conclusion though that this book is just for business people. Little Bets will give ideas that will be useful to anyone who wants or needs to come up with new ideas or new ways of doing something – which means everyone.

It is a casual gesture – but when John Malkovich grabs a poker to stoke a fire warming his palatial estate, he also grabs filmgoers by issuing a sinister yet off-hand threat to Ray Winstone: "Do you want to tell me what you want, or do you want a truffling pig to find you dead in a month or two?"

What happens when people fall through the cracks? The dispossessed, the crazy street people, the runaways – they have to be running somewhere. In Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, we follow just such a person into just such a place

Richard Mayhew is the sort of character we can all relate to. He’s a securities trader, but he’s the kind who forgets to make reservations for important dinners and inadvertently collects troll dolls (people just kept giving them to him). He’s a bit of a bumbler. He has a beautiful, powerful fiancée, Jessica, but you really get the sense that she picked him to make herself look better.

Richard Mayhew is, when it comes down to it, a doofus who has lucked into what is supposed to be a perfect life. When Richard stops to help a bleeding, unconscious girl who falls onto the sidewalk in front of him, he finds that life suddenly gone.

He becomes essentially invisible – no one recognizes him, his apartment is given to someone else, and even the ATM won’t accept his card. He decides to find the girl, named Door, certain that she holds the key to getting his old life back. He follows her to London Below; the shadowy underworld made up of the basements, caverns, steam tunnels, and abandoned underground stations beneath the city. He joins her on her search for the persons responsible for murdering her family and attempting to murder her, hoping that he can somehow, someway, return to the London he knows.

In the summertime, the Library is more than just a place to read a book and cool off. It’s also a great place for talking gibberish. No, the heat hasn’t gotten to us quite yet – gibberish is just one of the ways theater instructor John Mulvey gets teens to think on their feet.

On a recent Friday afternoon, the orange-haired elder thespian led a group of 14 teens and preteens in a series of confidence-building improvisational comedy games. One such exercise included having off-stage students translate the gibberish issuing from the mouths of the actors on stage, creating a puppetmaster effect.

“My whole thing is, I want kids to be able to think for themselves,” says Mulvey, whose educational resumé includes the Theatre for Young America, Young Audiences and the Starlight Theatre.

For an hour and a half, under the lights in Truman Forum Auditorium, the teens engaged in the sorts of quick-witted sparring and comic improv you might see at the Westport Coffeehouse on a weekend night.

If you’re traveling abroad this summer, chances are pretty good that wherever you’re going, the people there speak English. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have some fun – and improve your chances of making new friends – by learning some essential phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting.

For seven years Michael Elder begged his parents, Rich and Janet, for a dog. Their answer was always a predictable no. Then Janet received a surprise breast cancer diagnosis. It was a moment that changed her life forever and also her mind about having a family dog.

For Dorritt Kilbride, her mother, and her younger sister Jewell, a comfortable and affluent life in New Orleans high society is about to come to an end when a deceitful, irresponsible stepfather forces them to relocate to the untamed Spanish colony of Texas.

The Desires of Her Heart by Lyn Cote is the first novel in the Texas: Star of Destiny trilogy. This inspirational historical romance depicts the life of an independent, beautiful heroine as she and her family leave New Orleans and travel across the Sabine River into Nacogdoches in an attempt to settle in Austin, Texas. The family’s hope is to obtain free land under Moses and Stephen Austin’s agreement with the Spanish Crown to bring 300 Anglo-American families into Texas.

But Dorritt isn’t too keen on the idea going in. “I know we were close to ruin, but Texas? Why Texas?” she pleads with her stepfather, who has squandered the family’s fortune in a horse race.