Category Archives: Reading Recommendations

Dragons and Constructed Languages

The Dragon's Cave by Georg Janny, 1917

The Dragon’s Cave by Georg Janny, 1917

The earliest written work in any kind of the English language is Beowulf, which has a horrible, treasure-hoarding dragon in it. Because he was a philologist (expert and critic of written languages and language histories), and arguably the foremost scholar on Beowulf, J. R. R. Tolkien knew all about the dragon, and wrote a bunch of stories for his kids, which eventually mutated into a novel, The Hobbit. Beowulf‘s dragon is a creature of mindless animalistic greed and savagery, but Smaug, the dragon and central antagonist of The Hobbit, can talk. Imagine him voiced by Benedict Cumberbatch. But if Bilbo Baggins can understand Smaug, and there isn’t any magic involved here, they share a common language, Fire-Drake and Hobbit. One of the reasons for J. R. R. Tolkien’s works’ staying power is that the world created for them is fully realized enough to bear up under questions like this. So, what language do Bilbo and Smaug share?

In J. R. R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth books, including The Hobbit, and all of the books in The Lord of the Rings, English is used as a stand-in for Westron, a hypothetical fictional language commonly spoken on Middle Earth. As a philologist, though, Tolkien created several full-fledged languages, and even language families and language histories (!!), to inhabit his fantasy universe. Elvish languages, such as Sindarin, are a language family, and have their own fictional history. In a very real way, The Lord of the Rings isn’t a fictional work with made-up languages in it, but rather Middle Earth’s fictional languages happen to be wrapped up in a pretty neat story.

The connection between dragons and artistic languages doesn’t stop there, however. You probably know at least three words in Dovahzul. Click and drag between the brackets to reveal. [ FUS RO DAH! ]

The main plot-line of the 2011 video game Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim revolves around dragons. Taking a step further still from Smaug’s command of Westron, not only do these dragons talk, but their language has the power to change reality. In this game, words spoken by someone who truly understands them become focused into a Thuum, or Shout, with different effects depending on the meaning of the words, from breathing fire, to knocking enemies backwards, to turning invisible, or revealing the presence of the undead. The acquisition of words in this language is pivotal to the gameplay in Skyrim. The developers of the game created Dovahzul as a complete artistic language to serve this purpose, and all of the dragons in the game speak the language as well. Over time, the language was expanded and fleshed out by the fanbase, and now Dovahzul is a full-fledged artistic language.

Brush up on your vocabulary and grammar here!

Girl Power Graphic Novels

If you like comics and love a great story full of action and girl power, you can’t go wrong with these three new graphic novels.

Princess with a crown

Princeless: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley

Princess Adrienne gets tired of waiting for a prince to rescue her and takes matters into her own hands. She escapes from her tower with the help of Sparky the dragon, and she sets off on an adventure to rescue her sisters.

Girl in rollerskates on book cover

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Astrid signs up for roller derby camp even though her best friend wants to go to dance camp. She works hard to master her skates while she makes new friends and finds a place on the roller derby team.

Ms Marvel book cover

Ms Marvel: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

Start here to watch Kamala Khan morph from ordinary Muslim girl to extraordinary superhero while remaining true to herself. Two more issues are coming soon!

What are you reading this summer? We love to see your recommendations!

-Susan, Teen Services, Iroquois Branch

It’s Time Once Again for the SWON Teen Reading Challenge!

susans-books

Every year from February through April, library staff in Kentucky and Ohio gear up for summer programming by reading as many young adult novels as possible. I have participated for several years, and I am ready to jump back into it. (Go Team Louisvillains!!!) For three months, I will be swimming in young adult titles.

I thought I would share some of the new books on my desk.

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Paving the Way for Equality

In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday and in celebration of the latest historic film, Selma, I would like to dedicate my article to those who paved the way for equality. Bloody Sunday is a reference to the unprovoked attack on March 7, 1965 by state troopers on peaceful marchers crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, en route to the state capitol in Montgomery. Many of the lifestyles we live today would not be possible if it weren’t for these courageous, respectful and honorable individuals.

Mississippi Trial, 1955 by Chris Crowe

All of the known and unknown people who gave life and limb during the Civil Rights Movement 1954-1968 are heroes. Everyone involved were from different races, economic backgrounds, nationalities, ethnicities and religious denominations. It didn’t matter where you lived and how much money your family had, they all risked their lives in order for African-Americans to share in the same rights as everyone else and to be able to do so without fear of violence.

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Something for Everyone in Five Comics Books

Whether you have always loved comics or you never picked one up in your life, if you want to read about cape-and-tights heroes or curl up with something trendy and artsy, then this list has something for you.

The Arrival – Shaun Tan

The Arrival is proof that a good story doesn’t even need words. A stunning narrative of an immigrant’s experience in a new and alien land, it’s like having someone play solos about hope and isolation on your heartstrings.

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Give Back This Holiday Season

The holiday season has come again, and it’s a great time of year to remember those in need. Volunteering your time is a wonderful way to help out the community and make a difference in someone’s life. There are several organizations in Louisville that rely on volunteers: The Kentucky Humane Society, Norton Healthcare, The Louisville Zoo, The Kentucky Science Center, The Louisville Nature Center, and The Louisville Free Public Library all offer volunteer opportunities for teens. Make sure to call them ahead of time to see when they are accepting volunteers as some of these organizations only have opportunities seasonally.


Check out this and other titles on Volunteering

Remember that there are many ways to help others everyday too. You can do something for an elderly neighbor such as taking out their garbage or raking the leaves in their yard. Most grocery stores are taking donations of food, clothing, and toys to prepare for the holiday season. The Red Cross is always in need of blood donations, especially of rare blood types. If you see a need that is not being met you can even create your own charity, like 16 year old Maddy Beckman who fashioned Coat-A-Kid to help keep kids warm in the winter.

Spread the spirit of the season by finding your own unique way of giving back!

-Lynn, Children and Teen Services, St. Matthews and Westport Branches

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making: a Review

12-year-old September is bored.  She’s bored with Nebraska, bored with washing tea cups, bored with her mother, bored with her dog. She wants an adventure, and an adventure finds her with the fast talking Green Wind, who whisks her off to Fairyland where she must retrieve a spoon from an evil Marquess.  Along the way, she encounters a lively and wonderful cast of characters that would put the Wizard of Oz and Wonderland to shame;  including a wyvern ( like a dragon) named A-through-L who loves books (my kind of dragon) and a mysterious blue boy (he’s the color blue, not sad…) named Saturday.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland book cover

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente

Fairyland is in disorder, and it’s up to September and her newly acquired tribe of misfits to make things right.  September is given a warning before entering Fairyland concerning fairy food…but does she listen?

This book is beautiful.  And charming!  Entrancing!  Thoughtful!  Marvelous! Superb writing.  It’s imaginative, a bit odd and absurd in places and yet perfectly lovely. It might make you tear up in places….most excellent-est Young Adult novel EVER! In this teen librarian’s humble opinion.  🙂

If you enjoy Terry Pratchett, Philip Pullman, Patrick Ness, Neil Gaiman or Madeleine L’Engle you’ll love The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland.  Try it out, you won’t regret it.

-Heather, Children and Youth Services, St. Matthews Branch

Bone Chilling Books

When I was in the 2nd grade, Stephen King’s IT was made into a TV movie. I’m pretty sure the movie wasn’t targeted to seven and eight year-olds, but everyone I knew stayed up late and somehow or another snuck a way to see the movie. If you don’t know, IT is about 7 kids who are being terrorized by what appears to be a clown who wants to kill them.  I may be over-blowing the importance of the phrase (I was seven), but I have some serious memories of this creepy clown poking his head out of a sewer and beckoning to a little boy that “they all float down here”. “They” being the bodies of the dead that he–Pennywise– killed, and “here” being the sewer.

Stephen King's It  book cover

A few years later, I became obsessed with the show, Are You Afraid of the Dark? which introduced me Zeebo the clown. Creepy right? So, if you happen to meet a person of a certain age and they mention over the course of the conversation that they suffer from coulrophobia, it is possible that they may have spent some time hiding under the covers because they were traumatized in their youth.

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Coming Soon: Banned Books Week!

Celebrate your freedom to read by participating in Banned Books Week from September 21-27. Banned Books Week began in 1982 in response to thousands of books being challenged in libraries, schools, and stores. Books are challenged for many reasons including: use of language, unsuited to age group, political viewpoints, and religious viewpoints just to name a few. In order for a book to be banned from a public library it must be put through a formal review process where several librarians read the book to determine if its content reflects the complaints made against the book. Keep in mind that it is rare for a book to be banned from a public library because it is the library’s mission to provide everyone with equal access to information.

These are the top ten most challenged books from 2013:

1. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison

Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence

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