The Kansas City Public Library joins libraries nationwide in celebrating Teen Tech Week from March 6 – March 12, 2011. The Teen Tech Week theme – Mix and Mash @ Your Library – brings reading together with online and wireless technologies through two tech-driven activities:

Book Blurbs: Teens who text a review of their latest reads will receive a free custom set of earbud headphones and carrying case. All Book Blurbs should use no more than 160 characters and include the title, author, and thumbs up or down verdict—plus whatever else will fit! Book Blurbs should be sent to 816.876.6637. Other submission options include e-mailing teens@kclibrary.org. (All participants will receive an electronic receipt that may be redeemed for a free set of custom earbuds at any Library location.)

Video Trailer Workshops: Teens will receive one-on-one guidance on creating their own promotional video trailer for their favorite book (or movie, game, website, or magazine). No materials needed! The Library will provide filming equipment and offer tutorials on how to use free video-editing software. Join us for these awesome Video Trailer Workshops:

Friday, March 4 @ 7 p.m. @ Sugar Creek
Thursday, March 10 @ 4 p.m. @ Waldo
Thursday, March 17 @ 4 p.m. @ Bluford
Friday, March 18 @ 5 p.m. @ Ruiz
Saturday, March 19 @ 2 p.m. @ Central

LeVar Burton – yes, the LeVar Burton – paid a special visit to our Central Children’s Library this past Friday to read to a group of kids from the Derrick Thomas Academy. It was like an episode of Reading Rainbow come to life. But you don’t have to take our word for it! Follow the “Read More” link to see a video of LeVar in the Library with friends, including local author and musician Shane Evans.

Talk about synchronicity. When I decided that I was going to re-read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time for the Library’s Building Bridges Book Club, I already happened to be reading Henry Louis Gates’ Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Man, a collection of profiles of prominent African-American men.

The first profile in Gates’ book is of James Baldwin, whose writing Gates fell in love with while in high school (Gates even got in trouble with his teacher for using too many commas in imitation of Baldwin’s architectural style) and whom he finally got to meet as an adult.

Baldwin had been so highly regarded as one of the voices of Black America in the early ‘60s that Time magazine featured Baldwin on its cover when The Fire Next Time was published. But by the time Gates met him, Baldwin had been bypassed in favor of more radical voices. 

Baldwin fell into the shadows in his later years because the time called for strong and strident voices, whereas he had always been very careful in his language and balanced in his thinking. For Baldwin, there were no easy answers – he’d likely do poorly in the current sound-byte political climate – and his style reflects that careful consideration and reflection on ideas.

Spectacular Now

Every now and then, we spend a little time doing something we know is wrong. Sometimes, especially if we get caught, we admit to the crime. But sometimes the crime feels a little too good to let go. Such is the case with Sutter Keely, a senior in high school on the brink of graduation. He has the world at his fingertips — and an ice-cold glass of 7&7 in his actual fingers. Constantly.

Through the expert recommendation of Central Youth Services Supervisor Jamie Mayo, I stepped outside of my reading comfort zone and gave The Spectacular Now by Tim Tharp a try. It’s very straightforward and deals with very real issues, so that wasn’t necessarily a stretch. But I was also thrown an extra challenge — to listen to the book as an audio novel.

Only one word can describe it: Spectacular.

Reader MacLeod Andrews’ honey drawl brings the book to brilliant life, and gives an understanding and compassion to the characters that is unforgettable. Through the entire book, you’ll want to smack the self-titled "Sutterman" upside the head, hug him back in euphoric joy, and bite your nails at who might die at his hands.

And you’ll forgive him for all of it.

About the Author

In the years before the Civil War, Kansas was a battleground. As Free State forces clashed with pro-slavery marauders from Missouri, a 40-something mother of four from Vermont waged a war of her own. As “Bleeding Kansas” raged around her, Clarina Howard Nichols came into her own as a champion of equal rights for women and blacks.

A new biography tells the story of this often-overlooked reformer and her contributions to social justice in 19th century America.

In Frontier Feminist: Clarina Howard Nichols and the Politics of Motherhood, Marilyn S. Blackwell and Kristen Tegtmeier Oertel provide an accessible, deeply researched, and often thrilling study of Nichols’ life and achievements.

For one of its authors, the book represents a homecoming long in the making.

Known to generations of book lovers as the host of Reading Rainbow, LeVar Burton is coming to the Kansas City Public Library. And we’re offering our followers on Twitter and fans on Facebook the opportunity to meet him in person! Find out how you can enter our contest for a chance to visit with the Emmy-winning actor and director simply by sharing your love of reading.

Love warps the mind more than a little. In every woman’s past is a tale of a love gone wrong. These tales usually make for great conversation over brunch with the gals. “What were you thinking?!” “He was never good enough for you!” “Good thing you got out of that one alive!” For readers who want to avoid all the ooey-gooey-I-love-you-tooey sentimentality of the holiday of hearts, try one of these heart-shakers.

It’s one thing to fall in love with the wrong man, but what happens when the man wants to be the woman? This dilemma faces Allison Banks in Trans-Sister Radio by Christopher Bohjalian. With his distinctive grace and appreciation for ordinary people in extraordinary situations, Christopher Bohjalian plots the simple and complex changes endured when Allison’s boyfriend, Dana Stevens, confides his greatest secret—he longs to be a woman.

Envy by Robin Wasserman

Welcome to Grace, California...Home of the Seven Deadly Sins.

Harper still wants Adam and Kane still wants Beth for some reason.. They each get so desperate that they ask for help from the goddess of Lust herself...Kaia. Kane still wants to try it his way before he goes THAT far. Seniors have SAT's so he enlists the help of the smartest girl he knows...Beth. Soon they’re hanging out for more than just studying. Miranda is still determined to get Kane, even while he's fawning over Beth. But how? She's nothing like his type of bimbo but hey it wouldn't hurt to try to play the part. Would it?

And Adam is getting jealous and starts hanging out with Harper more and more. Then when Beth gets kissed by her new French teacher that changes everything in her world but she still doesn’t tell anyone. Meanwhile Kaia is still after the sexy new French teacher doing anything she can, wearing the skimpiest outfits even getting into trouble to stay after to try to seduce him but nothing works with this guy. When it starts looking like Beth isn’t going to leave Adam for Kane he gives in to Kaia's plan to fake a kiss between Kane and "Beth" but really Kane was Kissing Harper. After the pictures are taken they stick them in Adam's locker and finally Adam and Beth break up.

Sometimes at the Library, our best ideas come from patrons. When I.H. Ruiz Branch regular Keishla Collins saw a need for more programs for teenage girls, she spoke up. Now every month, a group of around 20 girls and women meet to talk about books and take part in fun, beneficial activities. But stay back, fellas - this here's the Girls' Night Out Book Group.

Though she's currently studying to become a licensed practical nurse (LPN), Collins is no stranger to book groups - or to libraries. A resident of Kansas City's Westside neighborhood and mother of two, Collins began frequenting the Library when she decided to go back to school.

"I was getting videos on algebra and GED books to brush up on reading, writing, and math," Collins says. "And Julie [Robinson, Ruiz Branch manager] was a big, big help to me. Whatever I needed, I went to her, and we looked it up. And when I went to take the test, I passed it. I owe her so much."

After reading The Glass Castle, Jeannette Walls’ best-selling memoir of her dysfunctional, impoverished childhood, you can’t help but have certain expectations of her latest book, Half-Broke Horses: A True-Life Novel. You want to know why her mother, Rose Mary Walls, turned out to be such a neglectful, bereft parent. You want to know why in the world Rose Mary would marry such a ne`er do well. Walls, however, holds these questions at bay with an almost unbelievable story of her grandmother, Lily Casey, told in first-person. 

Members of the Plaza’s Barista Book Group, which read this book in January, all agreed that Lily Casey was really something else. The opening of the book gives you quick insight into the indomitable spirit of Lily Casey, who at 8-years-old is ushering her siblings into a tree to protect them from an oncoming flood. Lily devises a game to keep them awake throughout the night until the flood waters subside.  

At 4:30 a.m. on the morning of Wednesday, February 2, 2011, most people in Kansas City were snuggled up warm in their homes. Jerry Houchins was in his office on B1 of the Central Library, watching the weather on Fox 4 news. By 5 a.m., he was on the sidewalks of 10th & Baltimore, cleaning up after a blizzard that dumped 8-12 inches of snow across the city, with drifts up to two feet tall.

Houchins, the Library's operations manager, had slept in his office overnight. The Library had closed early the day before, at 1 p.m. By the time he had completed the myriad tasks that come with closing early (changing the maglocks, turning out the lights, updating the phone hotline, and so forth), the blizzard was raging.

He figured it was safer to spread out some couch cushions from the staff break room than attempt to drive to his home in Smithville, Missouri. (Noticing his situation, Deputy Director of Branches Dorothy Elliott and her husband, Mitch, delivered Houchins a "care package" that included home-cooked chili.)

Early mornings and physical labor are par for the course in Facilities department at the Kansas City Public Library. For a crew that's appointed with keeping patrons and employees safe in all kinds of weather, last week's blizzard was, in many ways, just another day at work.

If God is good and loving, why does He allow so much suffering? Why does God let our loved ones die but allows others to live and prosper? Why does He remain silent and leave our most urgent prayers unanswered? These are the faith-testing questions posed in Lynn Austin’s latest historical-fiction novel, While We’re Far Apart.

Set in a Jewish neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York, in 1943, three characters’ stories intersect as World War II progresses and life on the home front becomes more and more difficult.

An elderly Jewish landlord, Jacob Mendel, grieves the death of his wife in a car accident, as his son, Avraham is trapped in a war-ravaged Hungary. 12-year-old Esther Shaffer is angry at her father, Eddie, who decides to enlist in the army right after the loss of his wife. Penny Goodrich, desperately in love with Eddie, volunteers to take care of Eddie’s children in hopes that he will eventually return her love and marry her.

Jacob isolates himself from the outside world, spending most of his time listening to the news and searching for the whereabouts of his son. Penny takes on the challenging responsibility of raising resentful Esther and Peter, while starting a new job as a bus driver. Without the presence of her parents, Esther experiences loneliness, the growing pains of a teenager, and the fear of losing her father to the war.

Americans across the nation frequently profess their love for their country with football, hot dogs, fireworks, and country music. But the U.S. is a country known for its wide-open spaces and all-of-a-kind populace. There’s always been more to love about our home than the Super Bowl, Chevrolet, and Route 66.

Barbara and Brent Bowers and Agnes and Henry Gottlieb – all with serious journalistic cred – have compiled 1,000 Things to Love About America. Counting down from 1,000 to 1, this book runs the gamut, from expected objets d’affection like the Empire State Building, to the je ne say what? of Yogiisms (“When you come to a fork in the road, take it”).

Wondering which bits and pieces deserve your heart? How about #871: Mysterious Disappearances? Ambrose Bierce did a fade out sometime in 1913 while following Pancho Villa. Amelia Earhart entered the cloud somewhere over the Pacific in 1937. D.B. Cooper tried walking on sunshine after hijacking a 727 in 1971, but the bag of cash he took with him when he jumped from the plane probably weighed him down.

For her Winter Reading video book review, Megan Garrett, librarian at the Sugar Creek Branch, talks about a future where children are no longer born and society is collapsing. That's the story behind P.D. James' harrowing but hopeful dystopian novel, The Children of Men.

The annual Adult Winter Reading Program runs from January 10 – March 13, 2011, at all Kansas City Public Library locations. The 2011 program offers a chance to win a Nook e-reader as well as the opportunity to see Winter Reading featured author Jasper Fforde in person on March 17 at the Plaza Branch, where he will discuss his new book, One of Our Thursdays Is Missing.

Terrance Hayes’ latest collection of poetry, Lighthead, is an exploration of past and present, lightness and dark. The poems are lithe and fresh. They draw the reader close, seductively, before introducing a grain of truth, uncomfortable or inexpressible, that can’t quite be quantified.

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