UnmaskSloganIt is that time of year at the Library—SUMMER READING IS ON THE WAY!

Starting Tuesday, May 26th, we will have activities, books, programs, and a superhero-themed summer reading club to help fill those seemingly endless days of summer. Mark your calendars and come in on May 26th or anytime after to pick up your child a Gameboard so they can earn two FREE books.

Babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children can ALL participate, and thanks to a special summer reading rule, any child who participates can get a FREE card no matter where they live.

After picking up the Gameboard chances are you will be looking for books to read and this column should help. Here are several superhero-themed titles to pique your child’s interest (and maybe yours, too).

Picture Books

“Traction Man is Here!” by Mini Grey—Wearing combat boots, battle pants, and his warfare shirt, Traction Man is ready for action! With the help of his lucky boy owner, action figure Traction Man has many adventures—searching for the Lost Wreck of the Sieve as he helps do the dishes, rescuing Dollies as he romps in the flowerbed, and battling the Mysterious Toes while scuba diving in the bathtub.

And do not miss these additional Traction Man titles: “Traction Man Meets Turbo Dog” and “Traction Man and the Beach Odyssey”. They are every bit as fun as the original!

Plus, here are some more picture books you might enjoy: “Superhero ABC” by Bob McLeod, “Ker-Splash” by George O’Connor, “The Amazing Adventures of Bumblebee Boy” by David Soman, and “Hero Cat” by Eileen Spinelli

Easy Reading & Beginning Chapter Books

“Captain Awesome to the Rescue” by Stan Kirby—Eight-year-old Eugene McGillicudy, aka Captain Awesome, is new to Sunnyview and despite getting off to a bumpy start at his new elementary school he is determined to protect and defend his new town from bad guys. Evil quickly rears its ugly head and it is up to Captain Awesome and his new friend Charlie to solve the mystery of the disappearing class pet.

Plus, here are some more easy reading and beginning chapter books you might enjoy: “Mercy Watson to the Rescue” by Kate Dicamillo, “Toys Go Out: Being the Adventures of a Knowledgeable Stingray, a Toughy Little Buffalo, and Someone Called Plastic” by Emily Jenkins, and “Stink: Solar System Superhero” by Megan McDonald.

Chapter Books

“The Tale of Despereaux” by Kate Dicamillo—In this charming illustrated chapter book, four storylines interweave to create one enchanting story. The first storyline focuses on Desperaux Tilling—a small mouse who loves music, stories and a princess named Pea; the second focuses on Princess Pea herself; the third follows servant girl Miggery Sow on her quest to become a princess; and the last centers on Roscuro —a rat with a passion for light and soup.

Plus, here are some more chapter books you might enjoy: “NERDS: National Espionage, Rescue, and Defense Society” by Michael Buckley, “Gregor the Overlander” by Suzanne Collins, “Harriet the Spy” by Louise Fitzhugh, “Ella Enchanted” by Gail Carson Levine, and “Adventures of Captain Underpants” by Dav Pilkey.

The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy is a sequel – sort of. In 2012 author Rachel Joyce published the first novel, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”. To follow Queenie’s tale you need to know Harold’s story.

Recently retired Harold Fry lives a solitary life with his wife of 40 years in the southern English village of Kingsbridge. One morning in mid-April Harold receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy. It has been twenty years since he has heard from Queenie and now she is writing to say good-bye. She is in a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed in the northern most part of England.

After penning an awkward reply Harold heads out to post his letter at the nearest box. But when he gets there he is reluctant to send his reply and walks on to the next box then the next.

At a stop for refreshments he tells the young clerk he is posting a letter to a friend who has cancer. She replies her aunt had cancer but you have to believe they will get better. She says “if you have faith, you can do anything”.

As Harold reaches the last box in Kingsbridge he comes to the realization that he wants to have faith, he wants to make a difference. He calls the hospice on a pay phone to leave a message for Queenie – tell her Harold Fry is coming and all she has to do is wait. He will keep walking and she will keep living.

With that Harold begins the 627 mile walk from one end of England to the other in his inappropriate yachting shoes and a windbreaker. He marks his progress with postcards to Queenie, his wife, and the girl who told him to have faith.

Reaching Queenie is the goal in this novel but she is a just a character; Harold and his life is the story. So now Joyce brings us Miss Queenie Hennessy and the rest of the story.

It begins when Queenie receives Harold’s first letter telling her to wait. When the letter arrives Sister Catherine remembers Harold’s phone call. The excitement of a visit is soon tempered by the realization of just how far Harold has to walk and the realities of a life in hospice care.

Surgery and cancer has taken away most of Queenie’s ability to communicate. She laboriously writes notes. Deeply upset by all she has to tell Harold and her inability to communicate, Queenie is visited by a nun new to the hospice, Sister Mary Inconnu. Sister Mary tells Queenie she must write a second letter and she will help. Queenie can write in shorthand and Sister Mary will type up the notes.

Queenie’s letter is as if she is talking directly to Harold. She fills him in on life in the hospice and reflects on her time in Kingsbridge. Unrequited love, friendship, sacrifice and heartache are all covered as well as her life after Kingsbridge in her garden by the sea.

We now view Harold through Queenie’s eyes and heart. We see a Harold very different from how he sees himself. And the tragedy that tore Harold’s life apart and forced Queenie to leave Kingsbridge forever is the final truth she needs Harold to know.

But this is more than a story of two people. The other inhabitants of the hospice get caught up in Harold’s journey. Flinty, Barbara, Mr. Henderson, and the Pearly King are soon anticipating each postcard and are drawn closer together.

Joyce not only completes Harold and Queenie’s story but also explores life with a terminal illness. The emotional path to acceptance has already been taken by some of the characters but not by all. The undertaker’s van comes often. Sometimes the visit is matter of fact and other times it is heartbreaking.

If you read about Harold first – which you should – you know how this ends. However, knowing in no way diminishes the impact of Queenie’s story. I enjoyed both novels and the characters stay with you long after you read the last word.

“The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy” is a sequel – sort of. In 2012 author Rachel Joyce published the first novel, “The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry”. To follow Queenie’s tale you need to know Harold’s story.

Recently retired Harold Fry lives a solitary life with his wife of 40 years in the southern English village of Kingsbridge. One morning in mid-April Harold receives a letter from Queenie Hennessy. It has been twenty years since he has heard from Queenie and now she is writing to say good-bye. She is in a hospice in Berwick-upon-Tweed in the northern most part of England.

After penning an awkward reply Harold heads out to post his letter at the nearest box. But when he gets there he is reluctant to send his reply and walks on to the next box then the next.

At a stop for refreshments he tells the young clerk he is posting a letter to a friend who has cancer. She replies her aunt had cancer but you have to believe they will get better. She says “if you have faith, you can do anything”.

As Harold reaches the last box in Kingsbridge he comes to the realization that he wants to have faith, he wants to make a difference. He calls the hospice on a pay phone to leave a message for Queenie – tell her Harold Fry is coming and all she has to do is wait. He will keep walking and she will keep living.

With that Harold begins the 627 mile walk from one end of England to the other in his inappropriate yachting shoes and a windbreaker. He marks his progress with postcards to Queenie, his wife, and the girl who told him to have faith.

Reaching Queenie is the goal in this novel but she is a just a character; Harold and his life is the story. So now Joyce brings us Miss Queenie Hennessy and the rest of the story.

It begins when Queenie receives Harold’s first letter telling her to wait. When the letter arrives Sister Catherine remembers Harold’s phone call. The excitement of a visit is soon tempered by the realization of just how far Harold has to walk and the realities of a life in hospice care.

Surgery and cancer has taken away most of Queenie’s ability to communicate. She laboriously writes notes. Deeply upset by all she has to tell Harold and her inability to communicate, Queenie is visited by a nun new to the hospice, Sister Mary Inconnu. Sister Mary tells Queenie she must write a second letter and she will help. Queenie can write in shorthand and Sister Mary will type up the notes.

Queenie’s letter is as if she is talking directly to Harold. She fills him in on life in the hospice and reflects on her time in Kingsbridge. Unrequited love, friendship, sacrifice and heartache are all covered as well as her life after Kingsbridge in her garden by the sea.

We now view Harold through Queenie’s eyes and heart. We see a Harold very different from how he sees himself. And the tragedy that tore Harold’s life apart and forced Queenie to leave Kingsbridge forever is the final truth she needs Harold to know.

But this is more than a story of two people. The other inhabitants of the hospice get caught up in Harold’s journey. Flinty, Barbara, Mr. Henderson, and the Pearly King are soon anticipating each postcard and are drawn closer together.

Joyce not only completes Harold and Queenie’s story but also explores life with a terminal illness. The emotional path to acceptance has already been taken by some of the characters but not by all. The undertaker’s van comes often. Sometimes the visit is matter of fact and other times it is heartbreaking.

If you read about Harold first – which you should – you know how this ends. However, knowing in no way diminishes the impact of Queenie’s story. I enjoyed both novels and the characters stay with you long after you read the last word.

I’m a big movie fan and lived the first nine years of my life seven blocks from the Warner Bros. Ranch, so imagine my delight to see Warner Bros.: Hollywood’s Ultimate Backlot by Steven Bingen at the library. Sadly, there are no aerial photos from quite high enough to see my old house (no longer in existence), but you can’t have everything!

Subtitle notwithstanding, the book covers the studio itself (the front lot) primarily. There are lots of pictures of the studio soundstages, mostly exteriors, as well a number of pictures from the backlot through the years. Warner Bros. has one of the few remaining backlots in Hollywood. Universal has long since turned its backlot into a theme park, and most others have been sold off during hard times, since a few acres of Burbank (and other greater Los Angeles area real estate) are highly sought after and scarce.

As far as the Ranch is concerned, pages 223-240 are strictly devoted to it with photos of a number of the “houses” (some are just fronts, others contain at least some interior sets). If you’ve ever watched television or movies through the years, some of the houses will look very familiar. Among them are the Deeds House (which figured first in “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town”) and which later played high schools for the television series “Gidget” and “The Partridge Family” and the Lindsey House which was used as Gidget’s home as well as the Baxter home on the 1960’s series “Hazel.” It’s probably most familiar to people now as Murtaugh’s (Danny Glover) house in the “Lethal Weapon” series.

Of course, along with the houses there are entire streets and neighborhoods on the backlot. Western Street, a jungle and lagoon, English Street, and various other streets that have played everything from European settings to the American Midwest. For a very long time, there was a train shed complete with tracks and railroad cars (cut in half to facilitate interior shots). It was demolished in the 1960’s, given that trains had largely faded away and no longer figured much in movies and television.

Going back to the earlier parts of the book, it starts with a brief history of the Warner Bros. studio and the beginnings of Hollywood. That is followed by an exhaustive tour of the front lot: front gate, security, property (props) building, the electrical fixtures department (full of some truly amazing lighting fixtures), mail room, the old Writer’s building (largely rented to production companies these days), the commissary, and so on. Depending on your interest in moviemaking, some of the coverage may seem excessive, but I found it pretty much all fascinating. One of the more astonishing bits is about Marion Davies “bungalow.” Bungalow, my Aunt Fanny! Davies, the mistress of William Randolph Hearst, was a star in her day (with plenty of help from Hearst). For a while, she worked from the Warners lot, and her (ahem) dressing room was “Spanish-style, with fourteen bedrooms, a sitting room, a master kitchen, a study with a walk-in fireplace, a serving pantry, a dining room, and four baths.” If that’s not sufficiently astounding, the entire shebang was cut into pieces to be trucked to the studio from MGM whence she came in 1934, and was again moved in 1937 when Davies left the Warners lot.

Far less grand are the soundstages, covered in the next section. Each soundstage’s history is covered, including dimensions and costs to build. Some are little more than wide open spaces, waiting to be divided into interior sets. Others have pools (including some big enough to float boat sets in such as for “The Old Man and the Sea” or “The Goonies.”

The book finishes up with an appendix (admittedly not exhaustive, but quite extensive) of productions shot on each of the backlots. For those with a good visual memory, that would be worth the price of admission all by itself! Speaking of the price of admission, all this can be yours to peruse with just your library card. Come on in and check out this or any of our other books on film and television or the stars from them.

47 Ronin by Mike Richardson and Stan SakaiLord Asano has been called to the Shogun’s palace to receive the Emperor’s emissaries. Because he is not familiar with the ways of the court, Asano is assigned to the court official Kira who will give him a crash course in court etiquette before the emissaries arrive. Kira is a corrupt official who demands a bribe in order to help Asano effectively, but Asano is a true samurai and follower of the bushido code. He refuses to pay more than the customary gifts to Kira.

And thus begins Asano’s undoing. Because of Asano’s refusal to bribe Kira, Kira begins mistreating and intentionally miscommunicating with Asano. Asano stoically bears this mistreatment and discourages his friend from responding to Kira in a negative way. Asano’s stoicism expires when Kira begins to insult him in front of the emissaries. Asano, in direct violation of the rules in the Shogun’s palace, draws his sword on Kira and slashes his face. Both offenses are punishable by death.

Asano is ordered to commit seppuku, his lands are taken from his family, his name is disgraced, and his retainer samurai are disbanded to become “ronin” or masterless. Kira, despite his provocation of Asano is complemented by the Shogun.

When word of Kira’s involvement in Asano’s ruin reaches Oishi, Asano’s chief retainer, a plan is made. Oishi calls all of Asano’s samurai and asks them abide by the Shogun’s ruling and not go after Kira immediately. This is hard for many of the samurai to take–they’d rather avenge their master’s death and die than have the dishonor of being truly ronin. Ultimately, only 46 other samurai trust Oishi enough to follow his plan.

Little do the other samurai know, Oishi’s plan is only to pretend to be ronin. They spend over a year convincing Kira’s spies that they have nothing more to think about than drinking and debauchery or manual labor and that avenging their master’s death will never happen.

Once Oishi is fully convinced that Kira’s guard is down, they infiltrate his newly built estate and exact their revenge.

“47 Ronin” is based on true events that happened in 18th century Japan (you can even visit the tombs of Asano and his most loyal retainers) and is one of the most enduring legends in Japan, so I feel confident telling you most of the story. There are numerous plays, books, movies, and other adaptations of this story in both Japanese and American culture (including a 2013 movie with the same title starring Keanu Reeves).

This iteration of the story is wonderful. The script by Mark Richardson (with editorial consulting by Kazuo Koike) is impeccably researched and the art evokes the amazing woodblock prints of Japan while giving the story a life and style of its own. Sakai’s art also portrays each character’s depth and emotion while giving readers an accurate and fascinating view into 18th century Japanese architecture and costuming.

Despite the fact that many murders take place within its pages, “47 Ronin” isn’t a very bloody book. Yes, you know people are being murdered (or are committing seppuku), but most of the deaths (and bloodshed) take place off camera.

I would highly recommend this title to anyone interested in Japanese legend or history as well as anyone who enjoys stories about loyalty and subterfuge.

Bailey Carpenter is a special investigator for a prestigious law firm in Miami, Fla. At age 29 her life seems perfect. She is a beautiful, independent young woman who lives in a luxurious condo in a classy downtown high rise, has a handsome boyfriend and loves her job.

Bailey and younger brother Heath soon will inherit their wealthy father’s sizable fortune. Their father was married twice before he married their mother, and although he had other children, he chose to leave his entire estate to Bailey and her brother. Currently the main stress in Bailey’s life is a lawsuit for a share of this inheritance brought by her half-brothers and sister. Gene, a high-powered district attorney, leads the siblings’ lawsuit.

One evening while on a surveillance job, Bailey’s idyllic life comes to a tragic halt. She is brutally assaulted, raped and beaten by an unknown attacker. She only remembers that her assailant was wearing Nike shoes and whispered in her ear, “Tell me that you love
me.”

Bailey’s gun and purse with ID, credit cards and keys were lost that night. Although her lock has been changed, she goes from room to room in her apartment armed with a pair of scissors to make sure that no one is hiding anywhere. She performs this ritual three or four times a day. Bailey becomes paranoid to the point that she can barely function, a prisoner in her own apartment. She is suspicious of any man she sees, wondering if he is the rapist.

Half-sister Claire, whom Bailey has only seen a time or two, and Claire’s precocious teenage daughter, Jade, appear at Bailey’s door to lend their aid. Heath warns Bailey that Claire and Jade are helping her only because they’re after her money. Claire seems sincere in her desire to help, but Bailey wonders if Claire has ulterior motives. Bailey enjoys Claire and Jade’s company, and they move in with her.

Bailey can’t get over the feeling that someone is watching her. Out of boredom and idle curiosity, and for entertainment she begins to use the high-powered binoculars that she once used in her work to spy on her neighbors — a take on the movie “Rear Window.”

One playboy-type guy in particular catches Bailey’s attention, and she becomes obsessed with him. He parades naked around his apartment and appears to be constantly admiring himself. Claire, Jade and Bailey dub him “Narcissus.”

One night Bailey is sure that Narcissus is staring back at her. Is it possible that he is the rapist? Bailey decides it is time to rely on her own skills and investigate the crime herself, even if it risks compromising the police investigation.

In this suspenseful novel, the author focuses heavily on the trauma of rape — the emotional, psychological and physical toll that such a vicious crime takes upon a person.

Bailey’s dysfunctional family makes an interesting subplot in the novel. The characters are engaging, and my favorite, the irrepressible Jade, is funny and irreverent. The novel has clever plot twists and turns, mystery and intrigue. The story is a guessing game, full of red herrings. The ending took me totally by surprise. I would look forward to Bailey Carpenter returning in a sequel, but unfortunately, Joy Fielding doesn’t write sequels or series.

Are there seriously still people out there that think graphic novels aren’t for grown-ups? If so, they need to drop in on a book club I’ve recently joined.

Hurley’s Heroes, a comic and gaming shop located at 824 S. Main St. in Joplin, has established a public book club that is meant to appeal strictly to adults 21 and older: Comics and Cocktails, which meets the third Wednesday of every month at Infuxon, 530 S. Main St. The idea is that participants read the same book (hopefully after buying it from Hurley’s, because it’s important to support your local small businesses, folks) and gather at Infuxon to discuss it and consume tasty edibles and well-crafted cocktails, including a special one inspired by the book.

“Seconds” by Bryan Lee O’Malley – known to many as the author and illustrator of the “Scott Pilgrim” series of graphic novels – was Comic and Cocktails’ inaugural selection. It’s the story of Katie, a talented and successful young chef. Her life seems utterly charmed, until quite suddenly things start to turn sour – among other complications, her ex-boyfriend reappears and construction on her new restaurant faces obstacles. Katie is soon provided a solution, in the form of a strange girl who offers her a mushroom and these instructions: 1. Write your mistake. 2. Ingest one mushroom. 3. Go to sleep. 4. Wake anew.

Kate follows the directions and the next morning finds that what was done has been undone. However, she is quickly caught in a cycle of doing and undoing that begins to have unsettling, even supernatural, consequences. I’m stopping there; you’ll have to read “Seconds” if you want to find out what happens.

There was a lot I appreciated about this graphic novel. It’s a coming-of-age story, even though Katie is technically already an adult. O’Malley has chosen a beautiful color palette; the rich reds of Katie’s hair, her car and the dresser that the mushroom-toting Lis perches on really pop against the more widely used earth tones. Additionally, while he illustrates the characters with clean, bold lines, there is some very fine detail work in the background.

One caveat: I must admit that I found Katie kind of annoying after a while. She seems to have the emotional maturity and impulse control of a young teenager, yet she’s allegedly a well-respected professional in the culinary world who manages to run her own restaurant and is building another. I don’t know that I completely buy her personal growth as the story progresses to its conclusion, either. However, the secondary characters were much more intriguing, particularly the mysterious Lis and the shy waitress, Hazel.

But read “Seconds” for yourself; don’t let my opinion of Katie sway you. You can find it in the adult non-fiction collection of the Joplin Public Library. Also, if you’re interested, the next Comics and Cocktails event is Wednesday, April 15. For more information, check out Hurley’s Heroes Comics and Games on Facebook, call 417-782-6642 or just stop by the store.

Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg

It’s not a graphic novel, but I can’t help but tack on a brief mention of a new non-fiction book we recently added. If you need a laugh, check out “Text from Jane Eyre.” The entire book – which I think I read in 20 minutes – is chapter after chapter of imagined texts sent to and by well-known writers, as well as characters ranging from Hamlet to the twins in the “Sweet Valley High” series.

There’s Mrs. Bennett from “Pride and Prejudice” texting her daughter Elizabeth: “remember when there was someone who wanted to marry you” “yes” “hahahaha there isn’t anyone like that now”

And how about T. S. Eliot’s J. Alfred Prufrock?: “let’s have a tedious argument in the streets” “have you been drinking?” “the sky is so beautiful tonight like a patient etherized upon a table” “I’m coming over I’m worried about you” “there’s yellow smoke on the window-panes” “What kind of smoke? Did you leave the stove on?”

Then there are texts with John Keats: “oh my god oh my god do you know what I LOVE like what I am just crazy about” “is it this urn” “THIS URN” “I figured you seemed really excited”

Trust me. You need to read this book, especially if you’ve ever taken a literature class. I wish I’d had it within reach during my undergraduate and graduate school days when I needed a giggle.

Lisa E. Brown is the Administrative Assistant at the Joplin Public Library.

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