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As someone with a subterranean-level threshold of all things scary or grotesque (the sharks in Finding Nemo are about my limit), I still can’t believe I read To Stay Alive by Skila Brown.  This book is billed as historical fiction written for teens.  However, it is a compelling rendering of a real-life American horror story—the plight of the Donner Party.

The story of the Donner Party is one of harrowing survival and a fixture of American history.  This group of pioneers, led by George Donner and James Reed, consisted of multiple families and individuals traveling west to California from Missouri in the spring of 1846.  Delayed by multiple mishaps and unfortunate decisions (including an ill-conceived “shortcut”), they found themselves in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in mid-October, low on supplies and weakened by previous efforts crossing the Wasatch Mountains and the Great Salt Lake Desert.  The group, ill-prepared for surviving winter, was forced to hastily make camp when snow blocked the mountain pass.  Exposure, starvation, and illness heightened the nightmare.  A small detachment of the group set out in December 1846 attempting to cross the mountain and send back help; its remnants made it to safety on January 17, 1847.  The first rescue party made to the pioneers’ camp on February 18; the final person out of the camp made it to safety on April 29.  Only 48 of the approximately 90 members of the original group survived. Fewer than 100 miles from their target, many of them had to resort to cannibalism to live.

The Donner Party’s experience has fascinated and horrified audiences for over a century.  Skila Brown’s book To Stay Alive is an intriguing departure from past efforts to explore the topic.  It’s a novel in free-verse form, consisting of over 200 short poems, told from the point-of-view of 19-year-old Mary Ann Graves who made the trek.  Real-life pioneers, Mary Ann along with her parents and eight siblings left Illinois in April 1846; their hideous journey ended nearly a year later.  The poems describing Mary Ann’s experience blend narrative with inner reflection, their forms advancing the story while mirroring her emotions.  The book is divided into the four seasons of the journey, the final chapter jumping ahead to four months after Mary Ann’s life-changing hike over the mountain.

Brown’s verse doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to the subject matter.  She wields it like a camera, panning exterior and interior landscapes.  In places, it reads smoothly like the easy part of Mary Ann’s journey—text is almost like prose, and the character’s thoughts are fluid, sequential.  Further in, the economy of verse reflects the hardships faced by Mary Ann; here, words are spaced out to reflect the wide expanse of country or peppered with pauses the length of a hard swallow while crossing the desert or tumbled about the page mimicking the bump wagon ride.  Brown’s sparse poetry conjures up the horrors experienced by the Donner Party without resorting to sensationalism.  Reading the poems depicting Mary Ann suffering from starvation and exposure, the desperation is vivid and the terrible solution becomes apparent.  It begs the question, “What would you do to survive?”

As the author notes, “Historical fiction requires a careful balance of real and embellished, a base of facts with a sprinkling of supposition and imagination”. Skila Brown has done her research.  Her details are spot on whether describing the pioneer experience in general or situations specific to the Graves family.  In addition to the story, the author offers some helpful resources.  An epilogue adds a postscript of Mary Ann’s life.  An author’s note summarizes the events befalling the Donner Party, analyzes the literal and metaphorical wrong turns they took, and offers multiple perspectives on the consequences of manifest destiny.  Here, the author relates what drew her to this story and why she believes it relevant over 100 years later.  An easy-to-read map shows the group’s path compared to the routes traditionally taken by pioneers.  The author also provides a photograph of Mary Ann Graves and a list of the entire Donner Party, noting deaths and survivors.

While a departure from the usual fare of historical fiction, To Stay Alive has a great deal to offer.  It doesn’t give up its gifts easily though.  The topic is difficult—it’s not for everyone.  And, although this one is much more accessible than most, novels in verse may require more effort from readers than narrative prose.  Move past these challenges, and the rewards are apparent—powerful messages of perseverance in the face of overwhelming circumstances, survival amidst suffering, heart-breaking sacrifice.  To Stay Alive is a great choice for mature secondary students and lends itself more to discussion than pleasure reading.  Beyond that, give this one to teens who are hardcore fans of historical fiction, have the patience to follow a narrative in free-form verse, and can handle the subject matter.

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“Every day I watched how a bare metal frame, rolling down the line would come off the other end, a spanking brand new car…Maybe, I could do the same thing with my music.  Create a place where a kid off the street could walk in one door, an unknown…and come out another door, a star.”          –Berry Gordy, Jr., Motown founder

After seeing this quote from Berry Gordy, Jr., I couldn’t resist the chance to read Andrea Davis Pinkney’s book Rhythm Ride: A Road Trip Through the Motown Sound.  It’s a nice introduction to the story behind one of America’s iconic record labels and an interesting contribution to non-fiction written for teens.

Rhythm Ride provides an overview of Berry Gordy, Jr.’s career from his roots in an entrepreneurial family in Detroit through the height of Motown’s success to his relocation to the West Coast and the sale of the company.  The book digs into the history of Motown Records beginning with Gordy’s desire to bring African American music to the forefront of American culture.  The author explores Gordy’s influences and how he, in turn, influenced a wide variety of artists.  She details the early years of Motown with its nurturing, family atmosphere when a teenager could literally answer the phones then turn right around to become one of its hit-makers. (Martha Reeves!)

While she takes her readers behind the scenes at Motown, Angela Davis Pinkney doesn’t delve into gossip.  Instead, she summarizes prevailing opinions just enough to show how public opinion and employee perceptions led to artists departing the record company.  Despite her generally positive approach to Gordy, she isn’t afraid to point out when his judgment or actions weren’t in Motown’s best interest.  She also puts the label’s story into context by relating it to events of the time such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War.  Rhythm Ride lures readers with the 1960s vibe of its cover and offers a variety of vintage, black and white photographs inside its pages.  An informative timeline and discography round out its resources.

For the most part, Rhythm Ride is written as an accessible introduction to a pivotal time in America’s cultural history.  The author, however, adds an unexpected layer to her researched text.  The first chapter introduces an imaginary narrator named The Groove who proceeds to address the reader throughout the book, acting as a transition between chapters and offering commentary on historical events, on the premise that it and the reader are on a road trip together through music history.  The effect can be disconcerting as the book vacillates between approaches, and it could make or break the book for some readers.  Those who enjoy this extra voice will enjoy the whole package.  Those who are able to look past this technique will find an interesting, readable book.

Whether you appreciate the author’s approach or not, Rhythm Ride offers a solid history of Motown Records as well as a glimpse into a pivotal time in American history.  Offer this title to teens who are deeply interested in pop music history or the 1960s and ‘70s.  Or, read it yourself while enjoying the Motown sound.  It’s a great excuse to enjoy some amazing music!

Make: Getting Started with 3D Printing by Liza Wallach Kloski and Nick Kloski

Raspberry Pi Electronics Projects for the Evil Genius by Donald Norris

Unscrewed: Salvage and Reuse Motors, Gears, Switches, and More from Your Old Electronics by Ed Sobey

The library is chock full of excitement this May.  In addition to preparations for our move to the new building, we are gearing up for the annual summer reading program.  This year’s summer reading slogan is “Build A Better World” highlighting design, construction, and other STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math) activities—a great match with the opening of the new facility.  All ages are welcome to participate in the reading program or events or both.  Stay tuned to the library’s website http://joplinpubliclibrary.org/ and Facebook page for details about summer reading and the move.

Summer reading fervor has prompted me to explore STEAM books at the library.  Here are a trio of teen and adult non-fiction titles written for novice-to-intermediate tinkerers interested in technology.  All of these books are informative, helpful, and designed to support project-based creative endeavors.

Make: Getting Started with 3D Printing by Liza Wallach Kloski and Nick Kloski comes from Maker Media, the publisher of Make: magazine and creator of the Maker Faire events showcasing innovations in the maker movement.  The publisher defines the maker movement as a grassroots, “tech influenced DIY community” of “hobbyists, enthusiasts or students” creating, innovating, and “producing value in the community”.  In general, makers are people who engage in hands-on learning through tinkering.  Their creative explorations may lead to innovations or new understanding of the world around them and may involve new technologies or low-tech tools and equipment.  This particular book focuses on 3D printing, the process of building a three-dimensional object by a machine adding layers of material from the object’s bottom to its top.  Getting Started offers a nice introduction to the 3D printing process.  It is less an in-depth history or background of 3D printing than it is an overview with specific tips for project development.  The authors discuss basic “hows” and “whys” of the process then move on to examine different printers and filament.  There are helpful chapters describing the process of choosing an object to print, creating a virtual model of it, and preparing the model for printing.  Additional chapters outline working with specific modeling software—some big names are mentioned, but the offerings are narrowed to a few.  Full-color illustrations throughout are an asset.

For something a bit different, the Raspberry Pi is an accessible entry to computer coding and electronics.  About the size of a library card, the Pi is a fully-functioning computer (albeit with a smaller memory than a laptop) complete with ports for accessories and portable file storage.  Some models have Wi-Fi capability.  Raspberry Pi Electronics Projects for the Evil Genius by Donald Norris presents ideas for activities starting at the intermediate level.  Although there is a brief introduction to the technology, the book is written for those with some background knowledge or experience in computers or electronics.  Project directions and discussion are clear, concise, and direct.  Like the writing style, the black-and-white illustrations are serviceable and relevant.  Snippets of computer code are included where needed.  The author offers two approaches to exploring the Raspberry Pi—discovering a concept or component related to the Pi and implementing a project designed around it (adding a touchscreen and creating a demo of the screen) and building a specific project (create a nighttime monitor for your garden).

My favorite book in this trio is Unscrewed: Salvage and Reuse Motors, Gears, Switches, and More from Your Old Electronics by Ed Sobey.  Tinkering is a key component of the maker movement, and Unscrewed is the road map to tinkering for the uninitiated.  The book’s premise is that inoperative or unwanted gadgets are a treasure trove of hands-on learning.  The author presents basic instructions for dismantling 53 items ranging from a hair dryer to a VCR to an electric toothbrush to a bar code scanner.  Each chapter includes a list of the tools required for the job and a “Treasure Cache” detailing the particularly useful pieces of the gadget.  In “What Now?” the author suggests uses for parts of each device.  Useful safety tips and black-and-white illustrations are used throughout.

Whether you are new to the maker movement or are an expert in the world of STEAM, the library has titles for you.  Join us this summer for loads of fun and a wealth of information!

If youWires and Nerve’ve been anywhere near fiction written for teens in the past few years, then you are aware of Marissa Meyer’s highly popular series, The Lunar Chronicles, where fairy tales meet science fiction.  If you haven’t heard of The Lunar Chronicles, then go check them out.  Right now.  You’ll be glad you did.  They’re deliciously addictive and easily devoured.

The series is set in a distant future where the moon is populated with telepaths ruled by a vicious queen bent on taking over Earth.  Cars levitate magnetically, space travel is commonplace, ID chips are implanted into humans, and robots are ubiquitous.  Four familiar fairy tale characters are introduced over the course of as many novels, each named for one of these heroines—Cinder (a cyborg mechanic living in China), Scarlet (a French farm girl who sports her favorite red hoodie and lives with her grandmother), Cress (an extraordinarily skilled computer hacker with extraordinarily long hair who has been locked away since childhood), and Winter (a telepathic Lunar who refuses to use her powers and happens to be the evil queen’s stepdaughter).  Meyer adds a compelling, rounded cast of strong secondary characters to her sci-fi/fantasy mix then throws in plenty of adventure and a dash of romance to create an amazing epic.

Just when you think she’s finished her tales, Meyer plucks a secondary character—one of the ubiquitous robots—to headline a graphic novel series set in the Lunar universe.  Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 seamlessly picks up where the adventures in the Lunar Chronicles stopped.  But before we continue, if you are currently reading the Lunar Chronicles or plan to do so for the first time in the near future please note that this next chapter lies in spoiler territory.  The beginning pages of Wires and Nerve introduce the leads of the original series and continue its plotline—details of which will disappoint readers who have yet to complete (much less begin) the series.

If that’s not a concern to you, then Wire and Nerves is a great read all on its own—no Lunar backstory is necessary to follow and enjoy Meyer’s first graphic novel (an item checked off her bucket list, according to her website).  She focuses on Cinder’s android pal, Iko, for this book to great effect.  An important character in the original series, Iko sometimes took a back seat to the humans.  Here, Meyer places Iko front and center.  Although the other characters are featured, it’s Iko’s story from the start.  She has been assigned to round up packs of rogue, engineered, wolf-Lunar hybrids from their hideouts on Earth and deliver them back to Luna for trial.  Because she’s an android, she can complete the job quicker, easier, and with fewer injuries than her Earthen and Lunar colleagues.  However, Iko’s personality chip has become more human over the years (a version of Pinocchio’s inward journey to becoming a real boy) which has left her delightfully sassy although vulnerable to vanity, jealousy, and doubt.  Iko gives her best effort to the mission, but will it be enough?  After some entertaining fight scenes and witty dialogue plus suspense (Ambush! Kidnappers!), Marissa Meyer leaves Iko and readers dangling with an ominously-toned cliffhanger.  I wanted a sequel the minute I turned the final page.

Iko’s outward journey is as captivating and action-packed as anything in the Lunar Chronicles.  Her inward journey makes the story even more appealing.  Within that quickly-moving plot, Meyer sets up an exploration of the price of fame as well as what makes us human.  She started the exploration in Cinder, considering the outcome of mixing mechanical and electronic parts with human flesh; here, Meyer takes the idea further by encasing human emotions in an android.  Don’t worry—the author doesn’t spoil the fun.  All of these Big Thoughts are kept palatable and entertaining although no less thought-provoking.

The graphic novel’s somewhat cartoony art—closer to Lumberjanes than to Peanuts—helps keep the Big Thoughts grounded and accessible.  The action moves beyond the limitations set by drawing the story in panel format.  The characters appear expressive, particularly in their facial expressions.  The entire book is done in bluetone (think sepia tone but using a few shades of blue), and the cumulative effect of it reminded me of blue-screened, backlight electronics.  Characters are drawn lively, vibrant, and engaging; they drew me in from the start.  Yet, they don’t look like the ones I pictured as I read the original series.  If that really bothers you, then definitely read the original books first and possibly think twice about the graphic novel.  Honestly, the art is so engaging that you can easily move past it.

You can find Wires and Nerve, Volume 1 in the library’s Teen Department along with the rest of the Lunar Chronicles.  I hope you enjoy it!

a-study-in-charlotte

     Are you Sherlocked?  The new season of the PBS show, Sherlock, has sent me down a Holmes and Watson rabbit hole.  Luckily, the popularity of the television shows Sherlock and Elementary on CBS along with the recent films starring Robert Downey, Jr., have inspired a rash of titles featuring the classic characters.  I’ve found radio plays, comics, stories imagining Holmes solving crimes without Watson or the other way ‘round, tales riffing on the original canon by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, books attempting to tie Holmes to Jack the Ripper or the assassination of John F. Kennedy, a series depicting Sherlock in middle school, novellas featuring Sherlock’s brother Mycroft, adventures of Sherlock’s purported vampire twin, retellings from the perspective of Professor Moriarty, countless puzzle books, numerous “how to” titles for the art of deduction, and—believe it or not—a board book for infants entitled Little Master Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes in the Hound of the Baskervilles: A BabyLit Sounds Primer.   (On a side note, the last entry is part of a board book series that includes baby versions of Moby Dick and Anna Karenina in addition to the Pride and Prejudice parody, Goodnight, Mr. Darcy.)

     An interesting newcomer to the mountain of Holmes titles is last year’s A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro.  I wholeheartedly agree with the book’s tagline, “You’ve never seen Watson and Holmes like this before.”  Jamie Watson and Charlotte Holmes are 21st-century descendants of John and Sherlock—both Londoners dropped into an upper-crust Connecticut boarding school for reasons I cannot relate due to massive spoilers.  (Not surprisingly, there is a fair amount of this plot I cannot reveal due to spoilers, massive or moderate.)  Watson and Holmes are atypical teens leading atypical lives trying to balance homework assignments, dances, and rugby practices with extortion, kidnapping, and murder.

     James “Jamie” Watson meets Charlotte Holmes at Sherringford, the posh school he attends on a rugby scholarship.  Jamie secretly wants to be a writer, an aspiration he cultivates out of the public eye as he navigates his new surroundings.  He has grown up in the U.S. and, most recently, London which he misses desperately.  Jamie’s estranged father and his new family live only an hour away, another sore point.  Charlotte, as you can imagine, has been busy with other activities.  Her upbringing reflects the family business—training in observation, deduction, the sciences (yes, all the sciences) sprinkled with lessons in lock picking, computer hacking, and wiretapping.  Jamie first spies Charlotte at the weekly poker game she runs in her dormitory’s basement.  A few days later, they officially meet and have the awkward conversation about their ancestors; a few weeks later, they are becoming crime solving colleagues bonding over clues in Charlotte’s personal laboratory.  By the end of the semester, they are fighting for each others’ lives.

     This book is really about relationships—between Charlotte and Jamie, Charlotte and her family, Jamie and his family, Charlotte and her past, the main characters and the school, Charlotte and…wait a minute, can’t tell you that one another spoiler (a HUGE one, trust me).  Certainly there is plenty of action-filled plot; by finals week, this Holmes and Watson duo unravel the mystery behind an assault, a poisoning, a deadly snake, eerie recreations of the original Holmes stories, an attempted murder, blackmail, clandestine surveillance, and a school-shuttering explosion.  This doesn’t even count the roller coaster ride occurring in the last few chapters of the book!

     Brittany Cavallaro successfully translates the spirit of the original Sherlock Holmes stories for a current audience.  Her main characters are interesting, three-dimensional blends of wit, intelligence, generosity, loneliness, adventure, and heart.  Her secondary characters are fleshed out as needed for the story, appearing when needed to further the plot then receding into the background until their next task; they aren’t necessarily flat or uninteresting just not as rounded as Holmes and Watson throughout the book.  Instead of directly translating Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories point by point into Sherringford, Cavallaro blends elements from several of them to create her mystery.  Some elements are more obvious—an exasperated-yet-grudgingly-respectful detective, Mycroft Holmes becomes Charlotte’s brother Milo, Jamie’s solicitous dorm mother, a murder weapon purposefully copied from The Blue Carbuncle (among others).  Charlotte displays the distinctive personality traits of the original Holmes, including an opiate habit which sets up one of the most moving scenes in the book—Jamie nursing Charlotte through an overdose attempt and its aftermath.

     A Study in Charlotte is an entertaining romp of adventure and mystery (with a dash of romance) that incorporates realistic situations and a serious topic or two along the way.  It’s a fun read, well-suited to high schoolers and teen lit. lovers looking for a quick book.  Due to some mature language and topics, it may not be to everyone’s taste.  You can find this book (and a variety of others) in the Teen Department of the Joplin Public Library.  Hope to see you soon!

studs-terkel-chicagothe-world-series-curse

One of the things I love about libraries is their propensity for serendipity.  There’s just something marvelous about browsing the shelves and running across an unexpected delight or clicking links in the electronic catalog and falling down a rabbit hole of an interesting tidbits only to climb out and tumble into another one.  That’s exactly what happened when I ran across this week’s titles.

By the time this review appears in the paper, autumn will have truly arrived and the 2016 World Series will have receded behind other headlines.  Even so, the Cubs’ victory remains memorable, and the entire series offered some outstanding baseball.  I was riding the wave of excitement after Game 7 when I started combing the library’s catalog for books about baseball, curses, Cleveland, and Chicago.  Forty-five minutes later I climbed out of the rabbit hole with two widely different reads tied together by happenstance.

First item up to bat is The World Series Curse by David A. Kelly which popped up while looking at books about baseball curses and the Cubs.  Written for children, The World Series Curse is the first in a spinoff series of baseball mysteries featuring major league teams and their stadiums.  Cousins Kate and Mike are baseball fans and accidental, amateur detectives—the perfect mix for sniffing out and solving predicaments at the ballpark.  Here they find themselves in the midst of a potential scandal affecting the outcome of a hotly contested World Series between the Cubs and the Red Sox.  Cubs players have been accused of cheating on the road and at home, including corking a bat.  Kate and Mike happen to know the right people and be in the right place at the right time to solve the mystery and prove the Cubs’ fair play.  Throw in lively illustrations, a bitter sportswriter, and a red herring disguised as a goat, and you have an interesting, light read for elementary-age readers.  Give this one to reluctant readers who enjoy sports stories or to mystery fans seeking a less-than-intense book.

Second in the lineup is a book by one of my favorite authors, Studs Terkel.  A true son of Chicago, Terkel spent the bulk of his life and his career immersed in the city.  Although known for his radio interviews and oral histories, Terkel’s own voice is front-and-center in this title.  Studs Terkel’s Chicago (a no-nonsense name reflecting a no-nonsense author) is a love letter to his hometown.  It’s a loose, almost sloppy love letter though—more stream-of-consciousness conversation or storytelling than formal declaration.  That’s part of its charm.  Terkel travels his own path through the streets of Chicago, linking historical events and figures, personalities from the varied neighborhoods, and vignettes from his youth.  He strings together these gems as he meanders through the physical landscape and his mental path.  Terkel’s voice is all but literally present—if you’ve ever heard an interview with him, you can hear his gravelly voice as you read the book.  In fact, it would be just as good or better as an audiobook; the downside would be the loss of the fantastic black and white photographs depicting life on the streets of Chicago.  Studs Terkel’s Chicago is a fantastic journey through one man’s experience with one of the great cities of the world.  It’s charming and gritty and delightful, but it’s not the easiest read out there.  If you are unfamiliar with Studs Terkel or passingly familiar with his well-known works, this is not the place to get acquainted.  Try one of his books of oral histories first—the library has several.

Both of the books I’ve mentioned happen to be available in electronic book format from the library’s Overdrive service.  You can access hundreds of e-books and electronic audio books at no extra charge with a Joplin Public Library card.  Overdrive is available on home computers or as an app for cell phones, tablets, and other electronic devices.  These electronic titles can be checked out and put on hold just like physical versions although borrowing times may differ.  The titles disappear when they are due, so there aren’t any overdue fines.  The Overdrive app also includes features which help ease eye fatigue while reading on a screen.  If you would like to know more about Overdrive and how to access it, stop by or call the library at (417) 623-7953.  Our staff at the Reference, Children’s, and Teen Departments are happy to answer questions about Overdrive or to help you use this handy resource.  Give it a try!

bloody-jack

Ahoy, mateys!  Although International Talk Like A Pirate Day was officially observed on September 19, it’s never too late to celebrate life on the high seas.  (No kidding, it’s an actual parody holiday originated by two guys known as “Ol’ Chumbucket” and “Cap’n Slappy”; see http://talklikeapirate.com/wordpress/ for details.)  I couldn’t resist this perfect opportunity to tell you about the title which led me to a life of piracy.  Author L.A. Meyer provides a rollicking introduction to nautical fiction for teen readers in his book Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary “Jacky” Faber, Ship’s Boy.

We meet Mary Faber as a child standing on the street outside her apartment watching the bodies of her parents and sister, who had died in an epidemic, being carted away for disposal.  From That Dark Day (as Mary calls it), she is forced to survive by her wits.  She is taken in by a gang of urchins who are no strangers to Mary’s predicament; they fight to survive on the mean streets of early 19th century London, no easy task indeed.  When disaster strikes the group, Mary jumps at the chance to create her own place in the world.  She disguises herself, hiding her “true nature”, and joins the Royal Navy as a ship’s boy.  Adopting the name “Jacky”, Mary joins in the ship’s adventures of storms, hunger, backbreaking work, pirates, and liberty trips on shore.  She learns how to tie knots, climb rigging, splice line, beat to quarters, and keep accounts; more importantly, she learns how to think on her feet and to look out for herself in a rough, often hostile, environment.  Her biggest challenge is keeping up “The Deception” until she can come up with a plan and the means to survive on land.

Sounds familiar at this point—the author isn’t the first to come up with this plotline by any means.  However, it’s what he does with his plot and his characters which make the difference.  L.A. Meyer creates a vibrant, intelligent, plucky, engaging heroine in Jacky and drops her into a world set against her from the beginning.  He gives his readers a strong, compelling female character that is realistically portrayed—a feature of teen fiction which is growing but still not as prevalent as you might think.  Jacky shows her flaws and is forced to face them.  Meyer depicts his other characters as engagingly as he does Jacky.  He puts them in settings and situations vivid enough to seem as if you are right there.  More importantly, Meyer addresses some important, heavy duty topics within the historical context.  Meyer acknowledges his young characters’ journey through puberty in a respectful, concrete manner.  He shows all sides of living under harsh conditions in close quarters.  He also recognizes the ugly parts of history with accurate portrayals of class, economic, and racial differences.  Meyer has certainly done his historical research, and he pairs it with a sensitivity to the lives of and issues faced by his teen readers.

Bloody Jack is the first in a series of 12 books featuring the title character.  Each book holds as many madcap, death-defying adventures as the first, and each title builds on the tales told in its predecessor.  Meyer takes Jacky & Co. from one end of the Napoleonic-era world to the other.  By the end of the series, the plucky (or foolhardy, depending upon your point of view) heroine has danced the flamenco in Spain, been a privateer, run for her life from the British Navy, studied at a high-society finishing school, served in the French infantry, started a Boston fire brigade, attended the fiercest pirate in the South China Sea, and found herself in the hangman’s noose more than once.  The final book, Wild Rover No More: Being the Last Recorded Account of the Life and Times of Jacky Faber, was published in 2014, a few months after the author’s death.

Jacky Faber’s adventures spurred me to explore new avenues of reading.  I had not read much about life on the high seas—no Treasure Island as a child—but Meyer’s lively descriptions and action scenes piqued my interest.  As a result, I’ve enjoyed nautical fiction (the Master and Commander and Horatio Hornblower series) as well as several histories of the Napoleonic era.  Sometimes, the story itself is half the fun of reading; there’s an excitement in falling down rabbit holes of discovery.

Book groups are a great way to fall down those rabbit holes, too.  The library’s Teen Book Club meets monthly, is open to 6th-12th graders, and is free—no registration necessary.  Participants read a book (or audiobook or graphic novel) of their choice relating to the monthly theme then come together to chat about their selections.  Our next meeting is Thursday, October 13, from 6:00-7:00 pm in the library’s Small Meeting Room; bring a brown bag dinner, and we’ll provide the dessert.  The theme of Teen Read Week, which we will be celebrating, is “Read for the fun of it.”  Come and tell us about a book you enjoyed reading—can’t wait to hear about it!  For more information about the Teen Book Club or other teen programs at the library, contact the Teen Department at (417) 623-7953 or teen@joplinpubliclibrary.org  See you soon!