Monday, April 14, 2014

April 2014 Staff Book Recommendations

April 14, 2013

American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell
By Deborah Solomon

American Mirror is a very interesting and detailed look at Norman Rockwell’s artistic development and career. Solomon’s book is controversial due to her consistent and puzzling hunt for clues to prove that Rockwell was a closet homosexual which are “stretched” so far as to, in the end, prove to be comical and call into question Solomon’s motives for doing so. She describes Rockwell’s childhood in upper Manhattan when Norman started copying battleships from cigarette trading cards. In 1905, Rockwell, 11 years old, won first prize in a New York Herald drawing contest. The family moved to Mamaroneck where he attended high school while also taking classes at the New York School of Art and the National Academy of Art. Later, in 1911, he enrolled in the Arts Student League of New York.

It is important to note that Rockwell grew up during the golden years of the Age of Illustration in America. Howard Pyle was his idol. However, Rockwell also always felt torn between illustration and fine art, even as the borders between the two began to blur (ironic, given that very recently Sotheby’s announced that an auction of a Rockwell painting of the Boston Red Sox, “The Rookie”, might bring $20 - $30 million dollars!). However, the starkly commercial aspects of magazine illustration always nagged at him.
Rockwell’s career spans nearly a century of American art. He did not change his particular style of painting and survived criticism and the vacillating tastes of both the public, art critics, and artists themselves. Not many know of the devastating fire in his studio in Vermont where many paintings and drawings were forever lost. He also had three marriages, all to teachers. He supported war efforts with his art but was strongly against the Vietnam War. He did purport to admire abstract art and even did some work in that area. However, in the end, his lasting legacies are his Saturday Evening Post covers and depictions of small town rural America.
Solomon’s book is well worth reading. It is an in depth account of an iconic American artist, although it is more of a socially than artistically critical appraisal of Rockwell’s years. Her book also contains a little bonus for any readers with a Worcester “bent”: there are two interesting local connections, one on page 215, and another on page 389 – I won’t say more than that. Check them out. In the end, one thing is certain: there won’t be another Norman Rockwell and I think many of us miss his great talent and humor.

April 7, 2014

The Martian
By Andy Weir

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”--Robert A. Heinlein

In Andy Weir’s first novel, The Martian, astronaut Mark Watney doesn’t slaughter any pigs, but he shows his self-sufficiency in many other ways. After a freak accident leaves him nearly dead on the Martian surface, his teammates abandon their habitat and what they believe to be his lost body, and begin the long journey back to Earth.

Watney needs to figure out how to survive for four years until the next Mars mission from Earth arrives, and how to get to their planned landing spot, thousands of kilometers away across the mountainous and cratered Martian surface. But he only has food and water designed to support a team of six for 30 days. The temperature outside the habitat averages 80 degrees below zero, the atmosphere is almost completely made up of unbreathable carbon dioxide, and the accident that almost killed him destroyed the communication equipment so he can’t call NASA for help.

Every astronaut on his team was an expert in at least two disciplines; Watney is a mechanical engineer and a botanist. His cleverness while trying to survive is reminiscent of the old TV show MacGyver, where the title character comes up with astonishing but perfectly reasonable solutions to what appears to be intractable problems.

Most of the story is told from his point of view, until an alert NASA technician sees evidence of change in images of the Martian surface at the location of the aborted mission. Mission Control wants to help but time and physics is working against them…

-- Melody

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"True Detective" Reading List

Your friendly WPL librarians don't only read books; we also love TV shows like HBO's "True Detective"!

Now that the show is over, if you (like us) find yourself anxious for more from Rust and Marty, we have some books you might enjoy. Click here for a list of 16 titles; you will find call number information and can place a hold with your library card if it's unavailable. The list includes Southern fiction for those most attracted to the setting; hard boiled detective stories for those interested in mysteries; tales of the macabre and magical; and philosophy books similar to Rust's own views.


"True Detective" is one of the few TV dramas written entirely by one person, Nic Pizzolatto. Before he wrote the episodes, he wrote the 2010 novel Galveston, whose protagonist could be easily  mistaken for a civilian version of Rust. The novel takes place in Texas and Louisiana, and includes just as much murder and mayhem as the show.

The disturbing Biblical imagery from "True Detective" is reminiscent of British romantic poet and artist William Blake. This collection is a great introduction to his work and includes many images.

This Chilean author said that he would probably have been a homicide detective if he didn't become a writer. He blends magical realism, government corruption, love and mystery in The Skating Rink, originally published in Spanish in 1993.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

From the Children's Room

Hooray for Spring! April brings to mind many of our favorite things here in the Children’s Room -- National Poetry Month, National Library Week, April Vacation, Earth Day, and El Día de Los Niños/El Día de los Libros. On a more serious note, it is also Holocaust Remembrance Month. We’ll be celebrating and reflecting in turn, and we would love to have you join us.

Celebrate art with Saori weaver Bayda Asbridge on April 5th or with graphic novelist Jamie Buckmaster on April 11th and April 25th. Celebrate diverse heritages with storyteller Laura Partridge on April 12th or during our day-long festival for “El Día” on April 30th. Celebrate the Earth during school vacation with the DPW&P on April 22nd (Earth Day!), a marigold planting on April 23rd, and our second annual Rustic Petting Zoo on April 24th.
We celebrate the library every day, but during National Library Week, April 13-19, we will have a special photo booth, and we want you to help us spread the word (psst...the word is read!) Drop by and have your picture taken!
All programs are free and open to the public. For more details, including ages, times, and registration details, keep an eye on our calendar and on Facebook. We hope to see you in April!

April in the Teen Zone

It’s all about the arts this month in the Teen Room! Join us for lots of programs that will get your creativity flowing and inspire you to create. On Fridays April 4th, 11th, and 18th from 4-5pm, we will be having our first sessions of Studio Art 101, taught by local artist Nancy McBride. Nancy will teach students over the three-week course about painting with acrylics. This class requires registration and students are asked to attend all three sessions. Register at the Teen or Children’s Room Desk by April 3rd.
April is also National Poetry Month, so we will be welcoming back poet Alex Charalambides for a Poetry Slam on April 16th from 6-7:30pm in the Banx Room. Come listen to other teens perform their poetry, or prepare something of your own to share in this friendly and supportive environment. All teens are welcome!
On April 25th from 3:30-5 in the Teen Room we will be crafting with recycled materials to celebrate Earth Day. Recycling whiz Carmen Barbosa will teach us how to upcycle used materials into awesome new items, including earrings, wallets, and purses. She will also give insight into the importance of recycling, so make sure to thank Mother Earth this month by coming to this crafty program!
If you are in the mood for something a little more palatable, come to our Edible Art program on April 18th at 4pm in the Teen Room. Everyone can create a work of art using some very tasty ingredients, and then eat it! And don’t forget about our Learn to Draw Manga classes on April 11th and 25th from 3-4pm in the Banx Room. These classes are taught by talented graphic artists Andy Fish and Jamie Buckmaster, and open to all teens for free and without registration. Join us!
And, of course, don’t forget about our other ongoing programs including Level Up: Video Gaming on Wednesdays from 4:30-6, Chess Club on Thursdays from 3-5, Teen Reads Book Club on April 15th from 5:30-6:30, the Teen Advisory Group meeting on April 8th from 4-5:30, the Spilled Ink writers club on April 30th from 6-7:30, and more! For more information about any of these programs, please email Teen Librarian Samantha at or call 508-799-1671.

Monday, March 31, 2014

March 2014 Book Recommendations

March 31, 2014

How to Get into the Twin Palms
By Karolina Waclawiak

While compiling a list of exceptional immigrant literature, I came across this title, energetically praised by Gary Shteyngart, author of the highly esteemed Little Failure: A Memoir. Admittedly, the cover peaked my interest too. (So much for not judging a book by its cover).

Suggestive of Joan Didion with a sense of humor, Waclawiak tells an L.A. story about an alienated Polish girl living the so-called American dream in a rundown Russian community of rentals with crocheted curtains, nosy neighbors, and apteka, stores selling everything from medical supplies to herring. Single, unemployed and abandoned by her newly Texan parents, Anya decides everything will be alright if she can just make it past the bouncers at the glitzy Russian nightclub down the street. This requires a bit of reinvention, including hair dye, wardrobe enhancement, and Lev, a homely, unavailable, yet irresistible gangster.

Capturing the crushing loneliness and disillusionment often depicted in a tales of immigration in a thoroughly modern way, this novel also brilliantly portrays the heartbreak and self-loathing involved in being “the other woman.” For tragi-comic effect, Anya’s stand-in mothers, the opinionated ladies at the local bingo parlor, and the Californian wildfires and their ubiquitous falling ash provide a fitting accompaniment for Anya’s painful yet ultimately cathartic path of destruction as she finally get what she wants—into the Twin Palms.


March 17, 2014

Fire Base Illingworth
By Philip Keith

Fire Base Illingworth is a very tense story of an infantry battle fought near the Cambodian border in Tay Ninh Province in the darkened early morning hours of April 1, 1970 towards the end of the Vietnam War. Mr. Keith, author of the acclaimed account of another related Vietnam battle, Blackhorse Riders, is a Harvard graduate and decorated Vietnam War naval aviator. Keith’s account is both an analysis of Fire Support Base strategy – using ground troops as bait to lure the enemy into attacking - in the waning years of the controversial war, and also a story of personalities and their reactions in a harrowingly dangerous combat situation. Moving beyond any political context, the story is also, inadvertently, an examination of courage, luck, and fate involving the combatants on both sides.

Keith does not avoid crucial issues such as drug use, command competition, personality clashes, and the darker psychological traps that intense combat can produce. However, he also portrays the fierce loyalty and selflessness ground troops had for each other in battle even in the final years of the war. Keith imbues his book with detailed narratives of American troops to personalize the combat. These are very human people from all over the United States. One Illingworth soldier, Peter Charles Lemon, however, was born in Canada and is the only Canadian born U.S. citizen to be presented with the Medal of Honor for fighting in the Vietnam War. Keith’s book updates the reader in a fascinating epilogue about many of the soldiers and their lives after Illingworth. He includes a number that were killed in the fighting and the very poignant written commemorations left at the Virtual Wall by strangers, friends, and family members. Peter Lemon is included in the epilogue and his is an amazing story in and of itself.
Readers who liked Blackhorse Riders will not be disappointed by recently published Fire Base Illingworth and can be assured that it will live up to its subtitle as “…an epic true story of remarkable courage against staggering odds…”.

March 10, 2014


By Andrew Smith

Oh, so you think you can just read a book like Winger and then go on with your life like nothing happened? You think that this is a lighthearted coming- of-age tale with some rugby thrown in? Wrong! If you choose to pick up this YA novel, you may find yourself giggling uncontrollably at the protagonist, Ryan Dean’s irrational fear of Mrs. Singer and her dreadful diarrhea hex. You may learn some things about the fringe sport of rugby including the very real possibility of catastrophic penis injuries. And you most likely will find yourself rolling your eyes at Ryan Dean West’s inability to stop thinking about every female around him as a possible mate. But after all this…when you’ve been lulled into false security…this book will wreck your life. I mean that in the nicest way possible. You’ll cry, you’ll curse, you’ll spend the rest of the day in a dark room shaking slightly. Or not. Is this enticing you to read the book? Maybe I should take another approach.
Andrew Smith has created a completely believable and original character in Ryan Dean West. The 14-year-old high school junior is treated like a little boy by the other members of his class. He attends Pine Mountain, a boarding school dedicated to reforming troublemaking rich kids. This year Ryan Dean has been assigned to Opportunity Hall, the dorm for the school’s worst offenders. He’s determined to change his life, get tougher, and finally win over his long time crush and best friend, Annie. He doesn’t anticipate getting into a fight with one of his best friends, bonding with the rugby team’s biggest jerk, or losing someone he cares about. This book is unabashedly real; it ignores typical narrative conventions and presents life (as viewed from inside the head of an excitable 14-year-old boy) as it really happens.
On March 18th at 5:30pm, the Teen Reads Book Club will be discussing this book. This event is open to all teenagers regardless of whether you’ve read the book. Join us to talk about Winger or to talk about the kinds of books you love to read. We’ll be meeting on the third Tuesday of each month. And depending on how things play out, this first meeting may turn out to be more a post-Winger support group. ; )

March 3, 2014

The Diviners
By Libba Bray

“Deep in the cellar of the dilapidated house, a furnace comes to life with a death rattle like the last bitter cough of a dying man laughing contemptuously at his fate. A faint glow emanates from that dark, foul-smelling earthen tomb. Yes, something moves again in the shadows. A harbinger of much greater evil to come. Naughty John has come home. And he has work to do.”

Libba Bray’s series-starter, The Diviners, is an addictive, thrilling young adult novel. It is somehow a perfect mix of mystery, horror, humor, and a touch of romance; there is so much going on in this book that I don’t know where to begin. The lowdown: Evie O’Neill is sent to live with her Uncle Will in Manhattan after a scandal in her hometown that revolves around the secret power she possesses. Will is the owner of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult—or the “Museum of the Creepie Crawlies”, as it is generally known. When Will is called in to assist in the investigation of occult murders happening in the city, Evie tags along and finds that her gift is good for more than just parlor tricks, it might actually help catch a killer.

So what’s going on in this book besides a murder mystery? Set in the 1920s, this novel features flappers, jazz, theater, prohibition and organized crime. Bray addresses issues like racism and homophobia without being heavy handed or a jot less entertaining. And over the gleaming light of 1920s Manhattan is a fog of terror: a haunted house, a Ouija board, séances, prophesy, and an evil spirit. The book benefits from Bray’s obviously extensive research. The dialogue flows with 20s slang and Bray effortlessly weaves historical context into the plot. For fans of paranormal fiction, this is a must-read.


Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Get a text from the library!

Our online catalog now allows you to place a hold on an item, then get a text message when it's in! You can also look up the call number of a book, DVD or audiobook that we have available, then get a text with that information to make it easier to find.

Watch our video below to learn how!