Author Archives: valerie

Book Pairings: Fierce Femmes of Lore

Reading about historical women, fact & fiction, in Pénélope Bagieu’s graphic novel Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World and in Joy McCullough’s older teen book in verse, Blood Water Paint.

Valerie P., Teen Library Assistant

It’s obviously part of my job to read as many books as possible, so I can give the best recommendations to folks that are interested in the widest variety of topics, niche and otherwise. However, lots of the time I don’t actually have much time to actually… read (!). Because our libraries are so busy, a lot of my time off of the reference desk gets eaten up by planning programs like storytime and Teen Tuesdays, problem solving technical issues, and getting people excited about coming to the library! So, how do I stay on top of what the coolest most interesting books are?? I read a lot of reviews and am on a ton of email lists from professional book reviewers (*insert heart eyed emoji here*), so I can 1) be aware of what’s out there and fresh and 2) wisely decide which books to spend my valuable time reading. I am very selective about what books I actually sit and read all the way through, just because there are so many books that look so good, and I have to guard the time that I do have!

But actually, for both of the books that I’m going to rave about today, no one recommended them to me! They just snuck up on me and jumped on my back and wouldn’t let go until I read them!! THEY WERE BOTH AMAZING AND QUICK AND EASY AND YOU SHOULD DEFINITELY CHECK THEM OUT!

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

For the Francophiles out there, this graphic novel was originally released in two parts in French, called “Les Culottées”. Now, I don’t speak French, but according to Google Translate, that translates to “the cheeky ones,” which I personally think is a great title. I guess the publishers thought “Brazen” would sell better or whatever. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Excerpt from Bagieu’s “Brazen” (2018): Katia Krafft, Volcanologist

Regardless, French artist/author Pénélope Bagieu did an amazing job with it, and it covers thirty women – trans women, cis women, lesbian women, bi women, straight women, Black women, Asian women, Native American women, Middle Eastern women, white women, autistic women, disabled women. There was a woman or three that I had learned about in my schooling – and I have a Master’s Degree in Women and Gender Studies – but mostly women I had never heard of before, all women who had done something really super cool, and things that SHOULD HAVE been included in my education! There were also more long dead as well as still living women included that I had expected there to be.

The art is beautiful throughout, and I kept wanting to buy prints to cover the walls of my room with them, and the book overall was inspirational, fun, and light – and helped me get out of a funk I had been in. HIGHLY recommended for everyone to check out! 🙂

Also also also!! I just learned that apparently they made/are making a TV show based on this book for French television, consisting of thirty 3 minute episodes, done with a different artist. Maybe soon there will be an English translation, or you could use it to learn some French! 😉 Learn more about the series and its performance at film festivals here.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

trigger warning: this book contains instances of sexual assault, parental abuse, & misogyny

Another really awesome famous woman who happens to be super dead now is Artemisia Gentileschi, an Italian painter who lived in 17th century Italy. I mostly know her from this really cool piece of art, Judith and Holofernes, which is actually one of my favorite paintings from the Baroque movement (which lasted from the early 17th until the mid-18th century). I think one of the reasons that I like it so much is because it is a depiction of a scene from a Biblical story that has been done by other artists, but the way that Artemisia does it is so different, so much more real and full of emotion. Look at the expression on Judith’s face, and the muscles in her arms, how you can see her leaning back so she doesn’t get hit with the blood that’s squirting everywhere. ISN’T THAT COOL?!? Relatedly, for more information on her growth as an artist and an examination of the differences between her two paintings, below, check out this blog post “Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith Slaying Holofernes” by Dr. Esperanca Camara on SMARTHISTORY.ORG.

But like, aside from this cool work of art that I learned about when I was in high school, and was then lucky enough to SEE IN PERSON in a trip to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy, I knew nothing else about Gentileschi – until I read this book!



Left: Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith beheading Holofernes, 1611-12, oil on canvas, 159 x 126 cm (Museo Nazionale di Capodimonte, Naples); and right: Artemisia Gentileschi, Judith and Holofernes, 1620-21, oil on canvas, 162.5 x 199 cm (Uffizi Gallery, Florence)

Joy McCullough, the author of Blood Water Paint, actually first wrote this book as a play, which was staged in 2015 in Seattle and I’m super jealous of the folks that got to see it because it looks like it was really awesome! The book is actually mostly in verse – which means it looks like poetry – which can be a little intimidating if you’re not used to reading poetry or books in verse, but it’s actually really great and easy to read, with the format of the text heightening Artemisia’s emotions.

Because yes, Blood Water Paint is actually about Artemisia when she was a teen, and still learning how to paint, still learning about her place in 17th century Italy’s society. In the book, Artemisia is living with her father, who is a master painter, but Artemisia’s skills have actually surpassed her father’s, so she’s doing his work for him and signing his name on the art, to keep money coming in. Her mother died when she was small, and she doesn’t really have anyone to confide in. However, she still remembers the stories that her mother told her about other strong women, and she uses them to give her strength when times get tough. So when her father uses Artemisia’s youth and beauty to get her a spot working under a more respected artist who is in town working on a big ($$$) job, Artemisia is excited about the opportunity, and hopes that this handsome man can teach her how to paint perspectives. Unfortunately, being a woman has never been easy, and when those that she trusts take advantage of her, she has to make some hard decisions.

This book was powerful in a different way from Brazen, and particularly timely, as I happened to be reading it as more and more people were speaking out about their experiences of sexual assault. I would definitely recommend this book to everyone that feels able to read it. 

If you or a person you love are a victim of sexual assault and need someone to talk to, know that there are helplines and support systems in place. You can call the National Sexual Assault Hotline 24/7 at 800.656.HOPE (4673), or log on to the RAINN site at centers.rainn.org to find a local service provider who can help you with counseling, legal advocacy, healthcare, and more.

ACT Practice Test at Bon Air and Main THIS SATURDAY!

Anyone needing to prep for an upcoming ACT Test is welcome to join us THIS Saturday for a practice round! The practice test at Main/Bon Air will start at 9:30/10AM, but participants are encouraged to arrive fifteen minutes early to get signed in, and people who arrive after the start time will not be able to make up the time they missed. Bring two #2 pencils, an ID, a calculator, and a small snack to enjoy during the fifteen minute break. The test will last four hours, until about 1:30/2:00. If you are interested, PLEASE CALL THE LOCATION TO SIGN UP. Bon Air’s phone number is (502)574-1795 and Main’s phone number is (502)574-1724.

If you feel like you need to do some ACT prep, but don’t want to do a Practice Test right now, Newburg will be hosting an ACT Basics class on Saturday from 10 to 11:30, which will include what will be covered on the test, strategies for studying, and how to approach test day. Please call 502-479-6160 to register for that.

If you want to take part in some ACT prep but are unavailable THIS Saturday, Fairdale and Middletown will be hosting more ACT Practice Tests on Saturday, January 26th, and you can just call those branches to sign up! Middletown will also be hosting an ACT Basics class on Monday, January 14th from 6 – 8pm!

Have a good one, and good luck with any standardized testing in your future! 😀

Cover of the Virago Modern Classics edition, with the title in gold above bright red flowers.

Teen Book Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Page Count: 386

Genre: Crime, Gothic Romance, and Mystery

Series or Standalone: Standalone

Reading Level: High school and beyond

Review by: M.L., a local high school junior

            Rebecca is bursting with mystery and suspense throughout the book. The main characters are Rebecca, the Narrator, and Maxim, who is the owner of Manderley. Rebecca’s mysterious death still haunts Maxim. The Narrator speaks in the novel, in chapters 1-2 is present day, while the other Chapters are foreshadowing the past that leads into Chapters 1-2 as you re-read the first two chapters which gives you a better understanding. I found Rebecca more and more intriguing as I read it.The mystery of the book kept unraveling as I kept reading which made me want more and solve the mystery. Rebecca is a Gothic romance novel which is my favorite genre. I like the way the early chapters are set up to urge you to read on. At first the set-up was weird but suspenseful. I love this book and I’ll read the novel again.

            I thought that the Narrator was naïve , I wanted to slap her into common sense and for her fight, but she is younger than Maxim. It was a new experience for her throughout the book. The Narrator doesn’t have a name in the book. I felt as the book can show you to grow in different ways in life and to never judge a book by its cover. Including learning about a person first before you jump into something serious or conclusions. I would recommend this book to readers that want mystery, dark romance, and suspense. I’ll rate Rebecca as a 4/5, because there are some parts that vaguely explain what’s going on in the novel but overall, a great novel that readers would love and enjoy.

Cover of "A Raisin in the Sun"

Guest Book Review: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry

M.C., the reviewer, is a Junior in high school.

Book stats:

Number of pages: 151

Genre: Realistic fiction

Included in a series:  No

Estimated reading level: grades 8-high school

Summary:

This play, whose title is derived from the poem “Harlem” by Langston Hughes, depicts the lives of the Younger family who live in Southside Chicago. Set in the 1950s, the family of five—Mama (Lena) Younger, Walter Lee Younger, Beneatha Younger, Ruth Younger, and Travis Younger—face a family crisis as a life insurance check of $10,000  is placed in the family’s possession from the deceased Walter Senior. Walter—son of Mama and Walter Senior, father of Travis, husband of Ruth and brother to Beneatha—works as a chauffeur for white men and wants to use the money to invest in a liquor store. Beneatha attends college and wants to become a doctor; to her, the money would be best spent paying for school, however she isn’t as forceful with the check as Walter is. Mama works as a housemaid for rich white families and would like to spend the money on moving out of their less-than ideal home into a bigger home. Ruth is a housewife and would also like to spend the insurance check on a bigger home.

With this crisis at hand, the family must decide how the money should be spent to benefit the family as a whole; along the way, many obstacles arise which need to be overcome by the family in order to thrive.

Personal opinions:  

I felt that many obstacles in this play were quite realistic and relatable; the issue of an undesirable financial status—an underlying theme in this play—is experienced by many across the world, while the desire to fulfill one’s dreams is the ultimate wish of many. All in all, this play was a short, light, and easy read which is always well-appreciated. Try it, who knows? You might like it!

Rating:  4 – better than most

Bon Air Science Fair!

This upcoming Tuesday at 6pm, Bon Air Library will be hosting a program full of science experiments for teens, all supplies provided! Experiments will include Elephant Toothpaste, Silly Putty, Ice Cream, and building a wave machine. Come check it out!

What’s Elephant Toothpaste? Here’s a more extreme demonstration!

STRONGLY Recommended: Children of Blood and Bone

When I first got my library copy of Tomi Adeyemi’s debut novel Children of Blood and Bone, I groaned a little. I had been excited about it because I had seen the hype surrounding its release – Adeyemi had publishers fighting for the chance to print it, the title has been *heavily* advertised in the book world, and there’s already a movie deal! – but I had missed that it was over 500 pages long! Usually that’s not too much of an issue for me, as I am a bookworm (heck, I work at the library!), but for whatever reason I just wasn’t feeling a long book. But I knew if I didn’t read it when I got it the first time, I probably wouldn’t be able to get my hands on it again anytime soon (as of my writing this, there are 20 people waiting on LFPL’s 5 copies). So I forced myself to check it out. And immediately got sucked in. I am so glad I read this book, and now I’m going to gush about it because no one else has had the chance to read it yet and I need to talk about it!

So, to start off, know that the author, Tomi Adeyemi is a 24 year old (!!!) Nigerian-American who LOVES anime, especially Avatar: The Last Airbender, and has said that her main inspiration for this series (that’s right, it’s the first book in a series) comes from that love of anime, the beauty of Yoruba culture, and the constant feelings of fear and hopelessness she has due to the reality of police brutality that’s so prevalent in the United States. So. That’s definitely a REAL and interesting combination of things, but it honestly does all come together in an amazing way.

Here’s the blurb that’s on the back of the book, and it does a much better job at summarizing it than I did when I tried (I tend to get distracted and go on tangents, which can be fun sometimes but not the best for summaries).Cover for Children of Blood and Bone

THEY KILLED MY MOTHER.

THEY TOOK OUR MAGIC.

THEY TRIED TO BURY US.

NOW WE RISE.

Zélie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orïsha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zélie’s Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared. Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were killed, leaving Zélie without a mother and her people without hope.

Now Zélie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zélie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good.

Danger lurks in Orïsha, where snow leoponaires prowl and vengeful spirits wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zélie herself as she struggles to control her powers—and her growing feelings for an enemy.

If you can’t wait to get started reading it, here are the first 6 chapters of the book, made available in a Sneak Peek by the publisher! And, once you finish it, please come talk with me about it at Bon Air Library!