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Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Around the holidays I kept seeing the same book for sale everywhere I looked — “SUPERNOVA.” I was drawn to the beautifully drawn cover and the mysterious figure of a girl in a red cape. And then I noticed the author’s name — MARRISA MEYER. One of my recent favorites!

If you’re not familiar with Meyer’s work, she wrote a popular series called “The Lunar Chronicles” several years ago, and I read every single one of them and loved them. How can you go wrong with a Cinderella story featuring a cyborg? Yes, I said cyborg. Seriously, it is so good!

I digress, but it’s hard to mention Meyer without taking about “Cinder” and the other books in her “Lunar Chronicles” series. But the real story here is Meyer’s newest series, “Renegades.” The interesting book I kept seeing was “Supernova,” the third and final book in the series.

In “Renegades,” Meyer has created a world where there are prodigies — people who have been born with or later acquire special skills. For years, prodigies were feared, marginalized and even killed. Then along came Ace Anarchy — a powerful prodigy who took down the establishment and caused Gatlon City to become a place of chaos. His group became known as the Anarchists, and during his time in power, there was not a formal government, allowing for the rise of gangs, violence and many deaths. From this time of anarchy rose a powerful group of prodigies who began fighting to help the greater good. These superheroes, soon known as Renegades, were eventually able to beat the Anarchists, take over, and set up a form of government run by the original group of Renegades, known as the Council.

After a brief prologue, the story starts 10 years after the Renegade Council took over and follows the main characters, Nova, the niece of Ace and Adrian, the adopted son of two of the Renegades.

Fifteen-year-old Nova Artino (aka Nightmare) was taken in by her uncle Alec (aka Ace Anarchy) after witnessing the murder of her parents and sister at a young age. She grew up with the Anarchists and, after the battle that destroyed her uncle, she vowed to get revenge and destroy the Renegades. A plan is developed by the remaining Anarchist, and soon, Nova is working to infiltrate the Renegades.

Adrian Everhart (aka Sketch) has a lot going for him. His parents are both Council members, as a Renegade he and his friends — Oscar, Danna and Ruby — fight crime daily, and he has one of the coolest superpowers, being able to give life to practically anything he draws.

Both Adrian and Nova have secrets they want to keep, but soon their paths cross and they will have to decide what is more important and how they will choose to live.

The heart of the book is good versus evil, but as with real life, there are grey areas, and Meyer does a good job exploring that in her three-book series. All three books are interesting, and after finishing the final one, I am mostly happy with how Meyer decided to tie up the loose ends and how the conclusion came about. Because I read all three books, I don’t want to give away too much. I will just say this — most readers will be surprised by the dramatic twist at the end of the first book.

Jeana Gockley is the director for the Joplin Public Library.

Find in catalog.

A Pair of Infographic Eye Candies

Biographic Austen by Sophie Collins

Seeing Science: An Illustrated Guide to the Wonders of the Universe by Iris Gottlieb

Summer’s heat and humidity have cooked my brain, and no matter how much I’d like to lounge around immersed in a giant, juicy, beach read I find myself unable to keep one going. Picture books to the rescue!  Adults need picture books, too, no matter their intended audience. Picture books for grown-ups are nothing new and are easy to find–titles about decorating, photography, travel, etc., in non-fiction plus loads of graphic novels and comics.

Book-length infographics are the new kids on the block. Like their stand-alone relatives, they primarily use images (charts, graphs, illustrations) to relay information and provide a digestible view of a complex topic. The images are often colorful and can be hand-drawn or computer-generated. Accompanying text can range from very light to paragraph-length captions. The visual presentation is as artistic as it is informative.

Biographic Austen by Sophie Collins is a great example of this new-ish genre. It displays Jane Austen’s life and literary career in engaging, sometimes whimsical, pictures; it also places her in context with political, economic, social, and literary events of her day.  Collins skillfully uses contemporary typeface and design elements to pull back the curtain on Regency-era life. In “Who Drives What?”, she outlines horse-drawn transportation used by various Austen characters by brief definition and a comparison to automobiles. (No surprise that Sense and Sensibility’s Mr. Willoughby drove a single-seat curricle, “Like a Porsche!”). “Plots of Persuasion” is a jaunty flow chart in muted pinks and greens that follows the final chapters of Persuasion’s final version and first draft (now in the British Library) point by point. “Austen’s Laptop” shows writing tools she would have used–lap desk, quill pen, paper–including a recipe for homemade ink.

Give this visual biography of Jane Austen to a Janeite of your acquaintance or to someone just introduced to her novels; this is a book for older teens and adults or for younger teens who absolutely love the topic. Biographic Austen is part of the “Great Lives in Graphic Form” series of Ammonite Press–several of which the library owns (including Biographic Bowie, a must for David Bowie fans).

Iris Gottlieb puts a hand-drawn, text-laden twist on the infographic in her book, Seeing Science: An Illustrated Guide to the Wonders of the Universe. A citizen scientist, Gottlieb created her book “to open up the world of complex science with art and metaphor and storytelling”. She divides her work into sections focusing on life science, earth science, and physical science. Each section offers a variety of topics presented in two-page spreads. She serves whimsy at every turn from subject choice to section titles to illustrations. Her text is clear, concise, and solid.

In “How Food Is Preserved: Eight Ways to Eat Fish Later”, she straightforwardly presents the hows and whys of chemistry’s role in food preservation while she jazzes up the entry with colorful, amusing depictions of preserved fish. I can’t believe I just wrote that sentence, but her drawings of a fish head in a Hoover (vacuum-sealed) and a fish lollipop (sugar-cured) are a hoot!  Gottlieb’s dry wit winds its way through the book as in “Vacuums: Creating Nothingness, Then Filling It With Dog Hair”, “Glaciation: As Explained By A Snickers”, and “Ferns: Introverts of the Forest Floor”. (Yes, it sounds odd. No, this is not a spoof. Read the book and see for yourself.) My favorite entry is “Measuring pH: In A Cabinet of Gross Liquids”. A drawing of shelves holding jars of different liquids sits on the right-hand page. The left-hand page holds the key to the mystery of the jars. Gottlieb defines pH and explains how the pH scale is structured. Along the top is a rainbow-colored pH scale. A box down the side of the page lists the contents of each jar in the previously-mentioned drawing with the contents color-coded according to the pH scale, so water appears in the bright green assigned to neutral pH while battery acid is written in the bright red reserved for the most acidic substances and drain cleaner shows the deep purple of the most basic end of the scale. She’s included illustrated definitions of the word “mole” at the end of the entry, thereby clearing up the perennial confusion around this chemistry term.

Seeing Science is loads of sassy, scientific fun. It’s a great way to dip into science basics or to clarify scientific principles muddied by confusing textbooks. High schoolers and adults are a great audience for this book; it’s also suitable for middle school science fans who have had “the talk” about reproduction. The author writes, “It is my hope that this book makes science more accessible, less intimidating, and more magical to anyone who has a sense of wonder–and a sense of humor.” She certainly hits the mark!

April Fool’s Day Shenanigans

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letters from a Nut by Ted L. Nancy

Sir John Hargrave’s Mischief Maker’s Manual by John Hargrave

Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America by Gail Jarrow

April Fool’s Day is one of my favorite holidays.  It’s shenanigans of the highest order and delicious entertainment when practiced appropriately.  Half of the fun is planning–brainstorming ideas, choosing a “recipient”, fleshing out details, gathering supplies, lying in wait.  Small-scale or grand in scope, there’s nothing like a well-executed April Fool’s joke.

What happens when you spread your prankish master plan across the country?  Read Letters from a Nut by Ted L. Nancy to discover the possibilities.  Both the title and author have a ring of bogusness to them and for good reason.  They are the products of comedian Barry Marder who in the mid-1990s mailed many, many fake (and hilariously bizarre) customer service letters across the world to corporations, magazines, entertainers, universities, government officials, airlines, hotels, casinos, sports teams (to name just a few).  The original letters and any responses were collected into a book popular enough to spawn 6 sequels. (Yes, that’s right–6 volumes of side-splitting, asinine letters accompanied by replies from their perplexed recipients.)

Some of my favorites are the silliest letters or the least expected replies.  Nancy offers himself to Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus describing a ludicrous, one-man show; the circus calls his bluff and asks for video submission.  A letter to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel warns of an upcoming business meeting with Nancy dressed as a ripe banana; the hotel’s polite reply references its formal dress code.  Even the King of Tonga isn’t spared (see the book’s final entry). Letters from a Nut, like comedy in general, is better enjoyed at face value rather than dissected.  Read this out loud, as suggested in its introduction. It’s most easily accessible for an adult audience primarily for the sense of humor and generationally-dated references and to a smaller extent for content.  Otherwise, you might try the title on a high school student who enjoys dry humor in historical context.

Sir John Hargrave’s Mischief Maker’s Manual claims “this book is so awesome it is illegal in 13 states”.  Whether you buy that or not, it is a prankster’s dream!  Written and arranged in the style of a D.I.Y. manual, it groups practical joke ideas by mischief level and subject matter (“Classic Capers”, “Bathroom Basics”, “Startling Contraptions”, “Surprise Food”, “Experts Only”).  Each entry includes description and instructions for the prank, black-and-white illustrations, safety tips, along with a breakout box outlining supplies, budget, time, success rate, and “mischief level”. The text is aimed at an upper elementary/middle school audience but is easily enjoyed by high schoolers, adults, and evil genius types.

One of the manual’s best parts is its focus on humane pranking practices.  The author advocates for ethical joking in “The Prankster’s Code” which stresses avoiding self-harm, bullying, and property damage.  Caution boxes accompany each entry, and Hargrave addresses potential negative outcomes in the “Trouble” chapter including sections on “The Eight Steps of Confession” and “Worst Likely Scenario” (“if you’re unwilling to live with the worst likely punishment, then you shouldn’t do it”).  Despite the safety alerts, keep an eye out for some of the expert-level stunts calling for the use of dry ice or an air compressor.

With great pranking comes great responsibility.  Practical jokes–small or large–can fall flat or worse.  Spooked!: How a Radio Broadcast and The War of the Worlds Sparked the 1938 Invasion of America relates the nationwide panic caused by the infamous Mercury Theatre radio play.  (For folks unfamiliar with it, the play is a convincing adaptation of an H.G. Wells science fiction title describing a Martian invasion of Earth.)

Gail Jarrow, author of Spooked!, offers a fantastic examination of this collective freakout.  She presents a detailed account of the broadcast, its creation, and its reception along with background material on the major players and the original H.G. Wells work.  She places the event within historical context, explaining the national mindset at the time. Her research is top-notch, full of primary sources, and seamlessly translates to interesting, accessible prose.  The text is accompanied by a range of engaging illustrations–sepia drawings, period photographs, newspaper clippings, telegrams. Brightly colored spreads summarize the play and highlight quotes from letters reacting to the broadcast.  A festive timeline, resource links, source notes, and a thorough bibliography round out supplementary material. Jarrow neatly ties up the package in her final chapter describing mass hoaxes from the 19th century to today, cautioning readers about gullibility in the age of viral videos and social media.  This is fun non-fiction for middle school and high school students plus adults interested in history, hoaxes, or classic radio.

I’ll be enjoying the hijinks of our Middle School Book Club on April Fool’s Day, and I can’t wait to see what they have planned.  May your holiday contain just the right amount of shenanigans. Remember–please prank responsibly!

A Trio of Space Non-Fiction Titles

The Planets: Photographs from the Archives of NASA, text by Nirmala Nataraj

The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration: From the Ancient World to the Extraterrestrial Future by Roger D. Launius

The Practical Astronomer by Will Gater and Anton Vamplew

 

Temperatures have been chilly and, by the time you see these words in print, winter weather may have made its mark on the Four States.  What better time to think ahead to summer reading! I’ve spent the recent grey days anticipating sunshine and combing through titles for next year’s summer reading program.

Space is the theme for 2019’s summer reading fun, and the library is preparing to share “A Universe of Stories” with everyone.  It’s a rich topic: mechanical space exploration continues with the recent InSight lander on Mars plus next July will mark the 50th anniversary of the first lunar landing.  Publishers have noticed, and many interesting books featuring space and astronomy are out there. Take a look at these featured titles for engaging non-fiction with adult and teen appeal.

If you like space exploration but aren’t ready to commit to astronaut life, try The Smithsonian History of Space Exploration: From the Ancient World to the Extraterrestrial Future by Roger D. Launius.  Don’t let the long title deter you from the interesting content.  Chock full of illuminating text and a variety of illustrations, this selection provides a broad look at mechanical and human space endeavors.  The book follows chronological order with the first chapter an overview of astronomy and rocketry from ancient Egypt to World War II–a tall order for a single chapter.  The rest of the nearly 400-page tome brings space flight from the 1940s to the present encompassing lunar expeditions (the Apollo program), orbital systems (Space Shuttle, International Space Station), and observational voyages in and beyond our solar system (Voyager, Pioneer, Cassini).  The book ends with chapters featuring current efforts (Mars, space tourism) and speculating about future possibilities (lunar colonization, interstellar exploration). It’s a lot of ground to cover, but it’s done broadly and serviceably. This title is packed with fantastic illustrations–photographs, diagrams, charts, posters–plenty of engaging eye candy.  There are sidebars on various topics scattered throughout along with sections highlighting outer space in pop culture. Offer this book to teens with a passion for space exploration, aeronautics, or innovation history and to adults with broader interests. Approach this book over multiple, short visits for maximum enjoyment; don’t take on the entire universe all at once.

Picture books can be tons of fun for all ages.  The Planets: Photographs from the Archives of NASA is a fantastic example for the 12-and-older crowd.  With text by Nirmala Nataraj and a preface by Bill Nye (the Science Guy), the content pairs perfectly with the rich photographs.  Concise, informative captions pack facts with just the right amount of detail plus an observational tone, resulting in readable paragraphs that leave you eager for more without feeling overwhelmed.  It’s easy to linger over the amazing photography, enjoying the book in small portions and coming back to it again and again. There is definitely something new to see each time. Or, equally rewarding, indulge in all 251 pages at one sitting.  The book is versatile enough to handle either approach. Arranged in solar system order with a chapter for each planet, The Planets includes Pluto in the chapter “Other Bodies of the Solar System” along with the sun, various moons, a comet, and an asteroid.  However, NASA’s stunning photography is the real star here. Whether color or black-and-white, the images range from intriguing (“Martian Dust Devil”, page 107) to spectacular (“Venus Transit”, page 34) to achingly beautiful (solar images, pages 208-9).  The spread “A Backlit View of Saturn” (pages 150-51) alone is worth picking up the book.

Even if you love NASA photography, there’s something to be said for personally viewing the night sky.  The Practical Astronomer (2nd edition) by Will Gater and Anton Vamplew is a handy tool for doing just that.  Published by Dorling Kindersley, this book offers the usual DK goodness–clear illustrations, clean layout, bite-sized informative text, helpful sidebars–albeit in a compact package compared to their children’s titles.  The photographs, diagrams, drawings, and artworks shine without overpowering the factual content. Topics include an introduction to celestial bodies, star charts for both hemispheres year round, tips for viewing and recording the heavens, plus valuable reference tables of star stats to aid viewing.  My favorite section is “Pathfinders” which introduces constellations from around the globe; each two-page spread shows how to find the sequence in the sky, the location of major stars or objects within it, and the story behind its name. This title begs to be used rather than merely read; it’s a fantastic resource for casual stargazers, budding astronomers, family entertainment, Scout badges, or homeschool coursework.

Whether you’re an enthusiast or a dabbler when it comes to outer space, there are plenty of good books on the subject.  You can find these and many more at the Joplin Public Library–stop by and try one today!

Resources for Teen Drivers and Their Parents

Working in the library’s Teen Department, I frequently hear from teens (and their parents) about the quest to obtain a driver’s permit.  It can be an exciting and anxiety-ridden time for everyone involved. Unfortunately, formal, school-based driver education programs are virtually non-existent these days.  Fear not–helpful resources are at hand! Even if there isn’t a formal driver education program near you, there are some options for parents and guardians to get teens off to a good start behind the wheel.

Crash-Proof Your Kids: Make Your Teen A Safer, Smarter Driver by Timothy C. Smith is a solid, no-frills tool for adults teaching teens to drive.  Smith arranges the book using the same philosophy as the graduated driver license, each section introducing new skills building on previous mastery and experience.  All of the basics are covered–car care, safety of all sorts, fundamental driving skills, awareness, emergencies, road conditions, residential and highway driving, etc.  The text is clear, concrete, and friendly as is the approach. Smith also addresses parental driving habits and outlines a contract between new drivers and their adults. There are no illustrations, so use this book with other resources for complete instruction.  Whether used in whole or in part, this is a useful option.

Rules of the Road offers, in DVD format, valuable information for teen drivers and their parents.  The factual content is spot on–clear directions and explanations, helpful footage and illustrations, sound reasoning–directly and concisely communicated.  However, the presentation is pure cheesiness–a super duper block of it, in fact. This DVD is an excellent resource though. How then to use it without the trappings overwhelming the message?

One way is to focus on the DVD’s “Special Features” content instead of the main portion of the video.  This supplemental section consolidates key information with clear camera work minus the banter. The chapters “Basic Maintenance”, “In Case of Emergency”, “Signs Index”, and “3D Illustrations” are particularly useful.  “3D Illustrations” is excellent as it offers computer-animated instruction with some multi-angle viewing options. The “Special Features” alone make Rules of the Road a valuable resource.

Another option is to embrace the cheese.  Watch the full DVD together with a lighthearted approach, tongue-in-cheek; it’s a great opportunity to show a sense of humor and to start a conversation.  The main content provides important instruction in basic vehicle operation, city and highway driving, safety under normal and hazardous road conditions, and expectations for the driver’s license exam.  There is also an thorough discussion of the dangers of impaired driving. Throughout, there are opportunities to jump to related topics in “Special Features” and to take practice quizzes.

A point to consider regarding both the book and the DVD…these tools, while valuable and sound, are a decade old and do not offer the in-depth coverage needed of cell phones as a cause of distracted driving.  Be sure to supplement information on this important topic.

Need to study for Missouri’s written driver permit/license exam?  We have a resource for that, too! Driving-Tests.org is a one-stop study spot.  Among its many treasures is the latest version of the Missouri Driver Guide: A Guide to Understanding Missouri Motor Vehicle Laws and Licensing Requirements, the official handbook for driver license information.  Available in PDF, it can be read online or downloaded to an electronic device.  The site’s FAQs are well organized, concise, easy to read, and address the basic questions expected.  But, the practice tests are what make this tool amazing. Questions are arranged in batches according to difficulty and cover material on the actual exam with a separate section for road sign identification.  You can access this tool from the library’s website or directly at https://joplinpl.driving-tests.org/missouri/.

In addition to the previous resources, the library’s Teen Department has partnered with safety organization First Impact to provide a free program for the Joplin area.  First Impact is a statewide initiative of Think First Missouri, part of the University of Missouri School of Medicine, working with trainers from across the state to equip parents and guardians of teens taking the wheel.  First Impact’s presentation is designed to “teach parents about Missouri’s Graduated Driver License (GDL) law” and to “provide them with the tools they need to monitor, coach, and support their new teen driver”. Although the information is tailored for adults, teens are welcome to come along.

First Impact’s presentation will be held at the Joplin Public Library on Tuesday, November 27, from 6:00-7:30 pm.  Speakers will be Sgt. John Lueckenhoff of the Missouri State Highway Patrol and Deana Tucker Dothage, Director of First Impact.  There is no charge to attend, but registration is required.  Register by calling First Impact at (573) 884-3463 or online at https://firstimpact.missouri.edu/events/first-impact-traffic-safety-parent-program-at-joplin-public-library/  For more information, email firstimpact@health.missouri.edu  The event is free, no library card needed.  Register soon to save a seat!