The Flume: NH Teen Reader’s Choice Award

Lisa reviews recipients of The Flume Award. You can see more of Lisa’s picks on our Goodreads page!

The Flume NH Teen Reader’s Choice Award  was created in 2005 in response to a New Hampshire teen’s request to have a book award geared towards high school students. This award is a state-wide venture led by a collaborative effort from school and public librarians. Each year teens nominate titles, published within the last two years, they think deserve to be recognized. Librarians narrow the group of titles to a shorter list. Teens then vote for the winning title from that list.

What better way to learn what “kids these days” like than to read the books they feel deserve recognition in the form of an award?  I enjoyed most of the books on the list and have my favorite, but alas, I am ineligible to vote.  I can’t wait to see what the kids think is the best of the best!  We will know the results in May and we’ll let you know who took home the Flume.  In the meantime, my “peeper” rating system will let you know what I think deserves a look.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz


Any readers who have passed through adolescence will immediately recognize themselves in Dante and Ari, and the angst of being a teenager. Both boys are loners, but for different reasons. Dante is outgoing, but marches to his own drummer – making him less than popular with his peers. Articulating his thoughts and feelings is difficult for Ari which, combined with his righteous anger over his older brother’s incarceration, tends to alienate potential friends. As the boys cope with family problems, uncertain futures, and their own sexual identities they learn to trust each other and ultimately themselves.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell


EleanorAhh, first love.  It’s wonderful and awful at the same time, as Eleanor and Park learn during their sophomore year.  Sadly, the “awful” part comes from their environment.  Eleanor is poor and socially awkward, which her peers point out at every opportunity. Home offers little relief thanks to her cruel stepfather. Park is a quiet lover of music and comic books amid a family of sports nuts. They find solace in each other on the school bus.

Fan Girl by Rainbow Rowell 

xxxxxWren and Cath are twins who have spent much of their lives wrapped up in the fictional world of “Simon Snow”.  So much so that Cath has become a popular fan fiction author with a large online following.  When the girls go off to college, Cath finds herself very much alone as the outgoing Wren has chosen to live apart from her and embark on a very active and self-destructive social life.  The reader travels with Cath through her freshman year as she learns to live with a stranger (roommate), falls in love, deals with academic pressure and watches her sister make serious mistakes all the while maintaining a popular online presence.

Ketchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher

xxZoe (an alias) is a teenage girl who was caught in a love triangle with two brothers.  After the death of one of the boys she adopts a false name and begins a one sided correspondence with a death row inmate in Texas. Zoe attempts to excise her guilt by describing the relationships and justifying her behavior with each of the boys in her letters.  It is an unconventional form of therapy but seems to work for her.


Out of the Easy by Ruta Sepetys
Readers are in for a treat from the very first page, as the author describes 1950 New Orleans so vividly you can almost smell the Cajun cooking wafting from open windows.  Our heroine, Josie, is a character who inspires readers with her bravery and resourcefulness. Her mother is a prostitute, a selfish woman who neglects her daughter and wants only material things. Josie desperately wants to go to college and does all she can to make that dream a reality. She works hard in high school and has two part time jobs; one in a bookstore, where she also keeps a one room apartment, and another running errands and doing housework in the brothel where her mother works.  When her mother gets involved with a mobster and a man is found dead, Josie gets caught up in a mystery that threatens to ruin all her plans for a new life.

Winger by Andrew Smith
An unlikely rugby player, the very small and very young (14 years old) junior Ryan Dean is on the team for his speed and agility. Due to a minor offense, Ryan finds himself assigned to the dorm of last resorts at his boarding school. The book contains a number of Ryan’s illustrated musings about his life; he is crazy about his best friend but she does not return his adoration, he also has a crush on the biggest, meanest bully’s girlfriend which, as you might expect, doesn’t end well.  The book takes a surprisingly serious turn at the end and leaves the reader with a lot to think about.

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
Book one of the Mara Dyer trilogy
UnbecomingMara Dyer has experienced a tragic event so horrific even she can’t remember it.  In a late night display of bravado, Mara and her friends break into and explore an abandoned insane asylum. Their escapade ultimately leaves Mara’s best friend, boyfriend, and another classmate dead.  In an attempt to help Mara recover, her family relocates to Florida, hoping that a change of location will give Mara a new lease on life.  But Mara can’t escape the past that easily. Mara’s sleep is filled with nightmares, her days with hallucinations and/or ghosts. Additionally, people who make Mara really mad wind up dead under decidedly odd circumstances.  On the upside, with all this happening in her life, Mara manages to find love, falling for her school’s most sought after boy, who has a few secrets of his own.

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Book one of “The Selection” series

SelectionQ: What do you get when you cross The Hunger Games with “The Bachelor”?

A: The Selection.

Thirty five girls from the provinces of Illea are chosen to compete to become the bride of Prince Maxon.  Entrance into the competition is voluntary, however those who do enter are elevated to a higher caste and therefore are assured a more secure future.

America Singer is of a low caste, her family is very poor, and still she is reluctant to enter the competition, despite the fact that it would ease the financial burden on her family. She agrees to the competition only after her boyfriend insists that she join the Selection, thereby relieving him of responsibility should she later experience regret over what might have been. America is not interested in marrying the Prince, but once she meets him at the castle, they become friends and eventually an attraction develops. Amid the excitement of the fancy dresses, rich food, and the overall luxuriousness of palace life, the castle is being regularly attacked by rebel forces. Fear not, there are plenty of handsome men around to protect the women.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman
SeraphineAs the 40th anniversary of the treaty between humans and dragons approaches, tensions run high in the land of Goredd.  Dragons and humans coexist in an uneasy truce, but when one of the royal family is assassinated dragons come under suspicion for the crime.  Each group thinks themselves superior to the other, allowing bigotry to run rampant. Our heroine, Seraphina, finds herself in a predicament: her deepest secret is that she is half dragon, half human. and it’s a secret that is getting harder and harder to protect.  Few have as much to lose as she if the treaty is broken and war breaks out. Through her position as Assistant to the Music Master at the castle, she becomes a trusted confidant of the prince and princess. Together they solve the mystery of the murder and attempt to maintain peace.

The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Book one of The 5th Wave series
5thThis is an ambitious book in that it includes aliens, conspiracies, a love story, a pandemic, gun play, a chase scene involving Hummers, and so much more. Even with all this, it isn’t a daunting read. As soon as you are introduced to the two main characters you can’t help but root for them. The book is told in turns: Cassie’s story and Ben’s story. While each are having vastly different experiences, they will ultimately find themselves working together toward a common goal – defeating the aliens.

Research Tips from Richard: Phillips Exeter Academy’s Class of 1945 Library

Richard E. Winslow III, Local Historian Emeritus, has worked in Special Collections at the Portsmouth Public Library for 30 years. For one day each week, he offered patrons assistance with their research on a wide array of local history and genealogical topics – but every day Richard is in pursuit of history, visiting many local and regional collections. He is a local historian and author on topics such as the Naval Shipyard, the Gundalow, submarines, shipbuilding, privateers, Frank Jones, and more.

Untitled-1Of note, Richard is also an avid outdoor enthusiast, regularly paddling the great rivers of the U.S. and Canada.  His articles chronicling those adventures may be found in many newsletters, and journals, such as Qayaq.

Richard will be joining our blogging team to offer the research tips he’s collected throughout his years of work! 

Not known by many researchers, but close to Portsmouth, is Phillips Exeter Academy’s outstanding facility, the Class of 1945 Library – an architectural gem! Designed by Louis Kahn, this building is the largest secondary school library in the world, and a valuable storehouse of books, journals, magazines, archives, and films.


One of my areas of interest is mountaineering, and the PEA collection on this topic is terrific, including donations of the legendary climber Robert H. Bates, a longtime faculty member. His books, journals, clothing, and equipment from these ascents or near-ascents are housed in the Robert H. Bates Memorial Room, dedicated to his memory.

Along with this open hospitality at the library, visitors are free to explore the other buildings on campus, in particular, the Phelps Science Center, the Lamont Art Gallery, and the athletic facilities.

If a library visitor seeks lunch or dinner, he does not need to drive to the Exeter Inn or to the downtown restaurants. One simply walks out of the library, and heads for the adjacent building – the Academy Dining Room. Upon entering, he checks in with the meal clerk/cashier, pays a nominal sum, and partakes of an outstanding buffet. At the numerous tables, he can join the students and faculty.

Phillips2Go! Explore! Enjoy! The Academy radiates with a special feeling in the air. Who knows what you may find or what new friends you may make.

To contact the Library, call (603)-707-4054 or send them an email at


Richard E. Winslow III

Local Historian Emeritus, Portsmouth Public Library

Adventures in the “Big Kid” shelves (aka Early Chapter Books)

One of the joys of working in the Youth Services Department is watching children and families grow. They grow in number, height, and, of course our favorite way… reading interests. My favorite part of any work day is hearing what kids are reading and what they want to try next.

Every family makes similar progression- the board books, picture books, early readers and magazines, youth chapter books and teen fiction. Eventually we send them off to our colleagues upstairs to do research or find the next best read. But of all the transitions, the one that feels the most like a rite of passage is the one from early readers to the “real” chapter book section. This is the transition that feels like “becoming a big kid”.  It can feel a bit daunting scanning the shelves packed with books for everyone from Kindergarten to 5th grade. How do you know which ones are for you? Here are a few gems hiding on the “Big Kid” shelves. For more ideas stop by the Youth Services Desk. Making recommendation is one of our favorite parts of the job!

Gus and Grandpa by Claudia Mills (Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux, 1996)

This is a delightful story about an “almost seven” year old boy gus and grandpaspending time with his “almost seventy” year old grandfather. They both have their mishaps but share a lot of fun and a lot of love along the way. Simple and heartwarming with universal appeal.

Dragon Masters series by Tracey West (Scholastic, 2014)

A fabulous adventure series for early grade readers. Drake and his friends are Dragon Masters who work for the king. They learn a lot, quickly, about caring for dragons but they also learn a lot about dragon mastersfriendship along the way. These book move quickly and would be great for kids who enjoyed Harry Potter and How to Train Your Dragon movies but are not quite ready for the challenge of reading them.

Mrs. Noodlekugel by Daniel Pinkwater (Candlewick Press, 2012)

One of the most beloved authors of our time, Daniel Pinkwater works noodlekugelhis magic again in Mrs. Noodlekugel! This is a quirky story that will tickle the funny bone of all kids, cats and blind mice. It has all the elements of a great read: bored siblings, a secret doorway, and a talking cat. With charming illustrations and fabulous antics young readers will be laughing out loud!

Ark in the Park by Wendy Orr (Holt, 2000)

Every night as she looks out from her apartment window over the parark in the parkk below pet store inside the park, Sophie makes three impossible wishes: to have a pet, to have cousins and to visit the ark shaped pet store! The problem is her family is too busy, her parents came from a country far away, and she’s not allowed to cross the street alone! In this heart-melting story, Sophie’s wishes DO come true in unexpected ways. Whimsical illustrations accompany a sweet growing up story.

Stuart’s Cape by Sara Pennypacker (Orchard Books, 2002)

Stuart is Bstuart's cape.O.R.E.D. It is raining (still). He just moved so he doesn’t know anyone (and his toys got thrown out) and he wants an adventure! Of course, if he is going to be ready for adventure he needs a cape, right? Off he goes in his handmade cape on epic adventures. Simple language and a very relatable hero makes this a huge hit for early chapter book readers.

Daisy Dawson series by Steve Voake (Candlewick Press, 2007)

Daisy Dawson, like most kids, is a day dreamer. But the problem is that Daisy Dawson actually has a very unique skill- she can daisycommunicate with animals! It takes a long time to get to school when you have to chat with every squirrel, bird, cat and dog. It takes even longer when your animal friends need your help ASAP! Daisy Dawson is adventurous and lovable from start to finish!

Horrid Henry series  by Francesca Simon (Spotlight, 2013)

Henry isn’t really horrid but he sure is hysterical. These books are henryactually collections of short stories that are sometimes slimy, sometimes spooky but ALWAYS downright funny. For kids who love to laugh and like realistic fiction these are great early fiction books!

Submitted by Mollie Mulligan, Youth Services Library Assistant


Sappy, Super, Soppy for Valentine’s Day.

Soppy: A Love Story by Philippa Rice (Andrews McMeel, 2014)soppy1

Review by Stacia Oparowski

Valentine’s Day is on Saturday, which means all the good restaurants will be busy.

It also means that most people are thinking about love and romance. While modern Valentine’s day is a bit more about spending money, we should all take a while (perhaps the time it takes to read Soppy?) and think about the little things that we can do every day to show our partners we care instead of holding it in until February 14th when it explodes in a fury of hearts, roses, and chocolate.

Soppy: A Love Story is a chronicle of the relationship of comics artists Philippa Rice and Luke Pearson from start to now. It began as a webcomic and was recently compiled into an adorable book. What I like most about this book is that it isn’t text heavy. It’s a celebration of togetherness in pictures. When they lived separately, they stayed in touch by texting and meeting up to go on dates.soppiness

The best parts, though, are when they start to live together and are able to show that they care in many small gestures every day. Nothing says “I love you” like rewarming someone’s tea or coffee when you’ve noticed it has gone cold, or falling asleep together on the couch.


This is one of those comics I will recommend to everyone every February, and in all of the other months too. The characters are likeable, relatable, and un-dramatic. The art is cute and appropriately accented in red. I think everyone can see a bit of themselves in Philippa or Luke.


Philippa Rice is a comics-artist from England. You may have seen her work: My Cardboard Life.

Luke Pearson is a comics-artist from England. He works on Adventure Time, and writes and draws the amazing Hilda graphic novels.

(In case you want to extend the favor … a short tip on microwaving coffee so it doesn’t taste gross. Not from Soppy, but from Urawaza: refresh your stale coffee with a sprinkle of salt before microwaving.)

And here is my extra-special Valentine’s Day Graphic Novel Reading Guide (excluding Soppy because I already recommended it):

1. Zombie In Love by Kelly DiPuccio and Scott Campbell

2. Blankets by Craig Thompson

3. Hark, A Vagrant by Kate Beaton

4. Beauty by Hubert and Kerascoet

5. Seconds by Brian Lee O’Malley

6. The Nao of Brown by Glyn Dillon

s.o. (02/11/15)

Monthly Link Pack – Feb 2015

monthly (1)A collection of noteworthy links about books, movies, libraries, apps,
and generally cool stuff.

- Fantastic Fiction is a website we use at the library to quickly figure out the latest book by an author, or to figure out the the order of books in a series. Click here to see the page devoted to George R. R. Martin. Then click here to see what books we have of his in our collection.

– This has been shared a lot for good reason. A to X Writing Advice, Courtesy of Copy Chief Benjamin Dreyer. For instance, the singular of biceps is biceps; the singular of triceps is triceps. There’s no such thing as a bicep; there’s no such thing as a tricep. Via Swiss Miss

– I seriously got verklempt watching this TEDx talk about libraries. What to expect from libraries in the 21st century: Pam Sandlian Smith at TEDxMileHigh. To learn about our local TEDx click here → TEDx PiscatquaRiver.

This makes me want to find two turntables and a microphone.

– My 14 year old introduced me to EssayTyper. Cracks me up every time. Enter a subject and then randomly hit the keys on your keyboard.

Otlet’s Shelf is a a nice clean Tumblr theme that allows you to collect and display your favorite books. Unfortunately, it only works with Amazon. I wish it worked with libraries somehow.

– This list of Knight Foundation winning library project ideas is inspiring. Via No Shelf Required. By my count, Boston won four. “The projects will provide new tools and approaches that leverage libraries as a platform to build more knowledgeable communities.”

– I never even heard of Medium before I read this: A Teenager’s View on Social Media → written by an actual teen.

– Speaking of Medium, I’m intrigued by this new series on Medium called Forward. The tagline for the show is “Top notch thinkers take on #bigtimeideas with bestselling author Kelly Corrigan.” Via Tech Crunch. Preview some talks here: B.J. Novak, Margaret Atwood.

– Regarding DVDs → Downton Abbey Season 5 was recently added to our collection. We also circulate seasons 1-4.  Olive Kitteridge, the HBO miniseries, will be added soon. Watch the trailer here. Place a hold here.

– Have you heard the idiom “in my wheelhouse” lately? Learn about the origin here.

– If I’m reading it right then Puddle Dock Pond Ice Skating Rink at Strawbery Banke closes for this winter at the end of February. Follow their Facebook page for updates and/or check out their webcam.

– What do you think of this? Library patrons in Gretna Omaha can now check out a Ukulele.

– Introducing teens to new books with Book Tasting Musical Chairs sounds like a great idea to me. Via The Unquiet Librarian. I was also introduced to the concept of pre-search through the Unquiet Librarian. A great read for anyone doing research on their own, or helping others with research.

– Can you tell the difference between Modern Art and paintings by toddlers? I thought I could too. Take the quiz on Buzzfeed. We have a great collection of art books and magazines. Come in and browse our collection.

Be My Eyes is an app that connects blind people with volunteer helpers from around the world via live video chat.

– If you want more information about a particular event at the library, check our Event Keeper page. It is in the top right corner of our website. If you have a Facebook account you can join events on our Facebook Events page. If you still have questions, feel free to call us at 603-427-1540.

– HOT RIGHT NOW → a snapshot of the 5 Most Popular Adult Books at PPL right now (1/31/15)
1. All the light we cannot see : a novel / Anthony Doerr
2. The Boston girl : a novel / Anita Diamant
3. The life-changing magic of tidying up : the Japanese art of decluttering and organizing / Marie Kondo
4. The girl on the train / Paula Hawkins
5. Big little lies / Liane Moriarty


libchic-headshotThe Monthly Link Pack is a blog series curated by Jennifer Moore, library clerk, maker, and sustainable style blogger. If you have a suggestion for something that should be included in a future blog post, email her at

Slow Film II

Slow Film… Films you may have missed.

Brief reviews of films that are subtle and thought provoking – in short, food for thought. All films reviewed are in the Portsmouth Public Library. By Bob Miller.

Richard Burton in the 1965 film version of The Spy Who Came in From the Cold

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold

Directed by: Martin Ritt

Starring: Richard Burton and Claire Bloom

The Spy Who Came In from the Cold” was Le Carré’s third novel and it brought him international success. The film, directed by Martin Ritt, is every bit as precise and ruthless as the book. Richard Burton is superb as Alec Leamas, whose relationship with the beautiful librarian Nan, played by Claire Bloom, puts his assignment in jeopardy. There are no shoot-‘em-up scenes; no breath-taking chase scenes. The movie moves slowly through uncertainty, fear, rage, and anguish. What is breath-taking is the slow downward spiral of Leamas, which leads in the end to a kind of valor.

At the time of the film’s release, audiences were used to James Bond films, and found “The Spy Who Came In from the Cold” confusing and unfocused – a slap in the face to the gimmicky and flashy Bond movies. Set at the height of the Cold War, the film whitewashes no one and no side. Just the kind of political and social consciousness that defined Martin Ritt’s career as a director, making a perfect match of writer and director.

Black and white – 1965.

Along with this film is a companion disc that, among other things, contains a new and wide-ranging interview with the author John Le Carré. This interview is well worth watching. Here’s another interview with Le Carré on YouTube:

 Read some reviews of the film.


White Nights

Directed by: Taylor Hackford

Starring: Gregory Hines and Mikhail Baryshnikov

Here is another film set in the Cold War. Though “White Nights” is more Hollywood than the “Spy Who Came In from the Cold,” and firmly entrenched in the good vs. bad narrative of the Cold War, it also includes excellent dance performances by both Baryshnikov and Hines – definitely not your typical pairing! The dance routines are well integrated into the storyline (which in spirit bears a resemblance to Baryshnikov’s own escape from the Soviet Union). And though the story may be very predictable, the dancing is not. A brief but very strong performance by Helen Mirren shows how she can transform a small role into a minor masterpiece.

So if dance warms you up, as the bitter cold of winter slowly edges into spring, you might give “White Nights” a viewing.


Read some reviews of the film.


Floating Weeds

Directed by: Yasujirō Ozu

Starring: Ganjiro Nakamura and Machiko Kyo

Floating Weeds” takes place during a hot summer in 1958, in a sleepy seaside village in southern Japan. A troupe of travelling actors, headed by the troupe’s lead actor and owner, Komajuro (played by Ganjiro Nakamura), arrives by ship at the town. The rest of the troupe goes around the town to publicize their kabuki performances.

The plot is elegantly simple: an aging actor returns to a small town with his troupe and reunites with his former lover and illegitimate son, which enrages Sumiko, his current mistress (played by Machiko Kyo). There is no easy resolution in this film – only hardship for all. Ozu includes a number of sub-plots about the supporting members of the troupe attempting to seduce local women, and deftly handles the shifts in tone from the gently comic to the melancholic. The limitations of these beleaguered characters are observed by Ozu with a generosity of spirit, paving the way for Sumiko’s touching gesture of forgiveness.

“Floating Weeds” is richly atmospheric, with its expressive use of color, lyrical cutaways, and masterly interior compositions a feast for lovers of photgraphy.

1959 Japanese film with English subtitles.

Read some reviews of this film. Or, read about Ozu’s life and work.


The Good Braider packs insight and compassion through powerful verse

The Good Braider by Terry Farish (Marshall Cavendish, 2012)

We are fortunate to have so many gifted writers in the Seacoast. Among our many treasures is a true gem- Terry Farish. Ms. Farish has written books for people of all ages from one of our favorite pictures books, The Cat Who Likegood braiderd Potato Soup (Candlewick Press, 2003), to adult novels such as A House in Earnest (Steerforth Press, 2000). In her latest book, however, The Good Braider (Marshall Cavendish, 2012), Ms. Farish tests her mettle writing for young adults. This powerful novel in verse follows the experience of a Sudanese refugee girl as she arrives in New England.

Using sparse but powerful verse, The Good Braider, shares the story of Viola, a teenage girl in war-torn South Sudan. Surviving the horrific trauma of the genocide, Viola, her mother and her brother endure a harrowing escape from Sudan to Cairo and ultimately arrive in Portland, Maine. Once here, Viola and her family struggle to settle in. They have to find a home, jobs, learn the language, keep warm, participate in school, and learn the laws of their new society which are often in conflict with their own culture.

Many things make The Good Braider truly remarkable. This story of a current and ongoing genocide will captivate readers. The novel in verse format demands each word and phrase to carry a hefty load of content and feeling and Ms. Farish succeeds in conveying the most intense moments and feelings. This format also makes it very accessible for many levels of readers- including English Language Learners like Viola herself.

Ms. Farish is personally committed to the Viola’s of our region and the world. A long-time humanitarian, Ms. Farish’s extensive volunteer work at refugee camps in Kenya and with recent immigrants to Northern New England greatly informed Viola’s character and journey. Ms. Farish gives readers the unique gift of an authentic and unrelenting picture of the courage and tension that so many strong and courageous Violas experience. Viola, in turn, gives the reader a conduit for understanding and developing compassion for some of our newest neighbors.

The New Hampshire Hippo reviewer described my experience most succinctly:
If you want to know how [people from Sudan] got here, read the news accounts. If you want to know how it feels to move from a violent, war-torn country to a community that fights over where to put a Walmart, then read The Good Braider.”

Hippo, The New Hampshire Weekly May 17, 2012 p. 59-60
More about Ms. Farish’s work in the refugee camps along with anecdotes about the music, workshops, curricula, and communities inspired by The Good Braider can be found at her blog
The Good Braider is also the Teen Book Club’s book choice for our February. For more information about the Teen Book Club please contact Mollie at

Eileen Spinelli: Perfect for Reluctant Readers

Lisa reviews novels by children’s author Eileen Spinelli. You can see more of Lisa’s picks on our Goodreads page and on her Pinterest storytime board!

Eileen Spinelli may be best known as an author of children’s picture books, but she has also written three novels in verse, which are spectacular!  Frequently, when I recommend a novel in verse, people are skeptical, thinking they will be reading a novel length poem. In a sense they will, but because they are written in free verse, it won’t feel that way.  The economy of words makes novels in verse perfect for reluctant readers.

Summerhouse Time

61EW6JXSusL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Ages 8-12 years

Each year Sophie’s extended family vacations together at the beach. Sophie looks forward to this, as she will have seemingly unlimited time, as only children do, to play with her cousins – especially Colleen. Sophie can’t wait to tell Colleen all about her first crush, and get her opinions about a number of things happening in her life. Unfortunately, being a little older than Sophie, Colleen has outgrown many of their summer rituals – leaving Sophie confused and feeling a little left behind. Joanne Lew Vriethoff’s illustrations are a delightful compliment to the text.

 Where I Live

41mLkBSabLL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Ages 6 years and up 

Somehow Eileen Spinelli is able to capture the angst a child feels when moving, and leaving behind everything familiar, with very few words in this very moving story (sorry, it’s hard to resist a pun). Diana’s life feels just right: her best friend, Rose, lives across the street, and she loves her yellow house. But grown-up events change everything when her dad loses his job and her Grandpa Joe gets hurt.  The best plan for everyone is for the family to move in with Grandpa Joe.  Diana understands, but still wishes things could stay the same. Matt Phelan’s illustrations do a wonderful job of conveying the emotions of the characters on nearly every page.

Another Day as Emily

Another Day as EmilyAges 8- 12 years

Suzy has reached her limit.  Her 4-year-old brother is the town hero for calling 911 when their neighbor, Mrs. Harden, suffers a “spell.” Attention is being heaped on him 24 hours a day, which Suzy views as an injustice, since she was the one who comforted Mrs. Harden while they awaited the ambulance. To add insult to injury, Suzy’s best friend got a role in the community theater production, while Suzy was passed over for any part at all. Suzy’s summer seems to be a total loss, as her plans to see a Phillies game with her dad have fallen through. TInspired by a “Tween Time” library program, Suzy decides to live her life as Emily Dickinson did: wearing white dresses, staying in her room, and communicating with friends via written letters only. She soon learns that the life of a recluse is harder than she imagined.

You can learn more about Eileen Spinelli on her delightful website!

Acts of Courage – Black, White and Read

Cathy’s Hidden Gems features favorites & lesser known selections from the fiction shelves of the Portsmouth Public Library. By Cathy Okhuysen.


Stories of courage – like the one of these young women poets –  are inspiring in any season.

But during this time of year, as we celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and move into Black History Month, we often think of those heroes who have overcome hatred, prejudice and discrimination. May these novels, describing acts of courage large and small, give you hope in a time of societal tension and conflict.

tokillamockingbirdReading or re-reading as an adult the classic to To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee reminds us how necessary this book was in 1960, and how much courage was required just to write it.

The one place a man ought to get a square deal is in a courtroom, be he any color of the rainbow, but people have a way of carrying their resentments right into a jury box.


The Help by Katherine Stockett (2009) was made into a blockbuster movie in 2011. Such an act of courage by Abileen, to even tell her stories, and Skeeter to make them public. This is also a great audio listen – even if you have already read the book or seen the movie!

the-invention-of-wings-sue-monk-kidd_t580I will be curious to see if Sarah and Handful from Sue Monk Kidd‘s Invention of Wings  (2014) will show up on screen in a few years. Set in pre-Civil War South Carolina, this is the story of Sarah, who never wanted to own a slave, and Handful, who becomes closer to a friend than a servant. In their own way, each of the two girls grows up to defy many boundaries of the time.

The boundary lines are very blurry for Rachel in our hidden gem of courage (also our February Book Discussion title!),  The Girl Who Fell From the Sky by Heidi Durrow.

GirlWhoFellInspired by a true story of a mother’s twisted love, The Girl Who Fell from the Sky reveals an unfathomable past and explores issues of identity at a time when many people are asking, “Must race confine us and define us?”

In the tradition of Jamaica Kincaid’s Annie John, Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye and Sandra Cisneros’  House on Mango Street, here is a portrait of a young girl—and society’s ideas of race, class, and beauty.

Imagine starting a new school at 11 years old… moving from military to civilian life in the 1980s… and living with your father’s mother and sister, neither white nor black, but blue eyed from your Danish mother. Rachel struggles courageously to find out, and then accept, her own story.

More than 100 years earlier, blue eyed Lydia from Loom by Shella Gillus has the chance to move from house slave to passing as white, but struggles to find the freedom she seeks. Is staying or leaving more courageous? Don’t forget to read the author’s note.

Our Nig, by Harriett Wilson, (1859) is an 19th century coming of age story set in the North.  A free black, she too struggles with freedom and how she can change the story of her life. Just surviving required daily courage.

our-nigWho knew that this book, recognized as the first novel by an African American author to be published in the United States, had a New Hampshire connection? Rediscovered in 1982, this book now includes extensive scholarly notes. Wilson was born in Milford, NH and records show that her mother moved from Portsmouth to Milford. Perhaps she had relatives at the Portsmouth African Burying Ground.

What are your favorite tales of courage?

Monthly Link Pack – Jan 2015

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– Free for All is a documentary project that seeks “to inspire, entertain, and spark dialogue and action about the future of public libraries.” Good News → Their Kickstarter campaign is fully funded. via Library Journal.

– The Submarine Channel compiled their Top 5: Best Book Trailers of 2014.

– You know good pain? Like when your muscles hurt after you rake your entire yard. That is what is like, except for with your brain. Some problems can be frustrating, but once you solve one you’ll be very pleased with yourself. Good for all ages.

This app lets you draw your text messages. via Wired. This app lets you decorate your photos. via TechCrunch. Neat, right?

– Nightclubs for literature? Why book selling is booming in Taiwan. via

– A previously unknown Shakespeare folio was discovered at a small library in northern France. You never know what you’ll find at the library. via

– Did you know that you can search our catalog by actor?  Search last name, first name in the author field and limit to DVD. Here is what you get when you search for Streep, Meryl.

– Have you seen A Separation? It has a 99% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. We have the DVD in our collection. The director has a new movie out called The Past. We have that too. Just saying.

– This looks like a good book to start off the new year. #declutter

– Our head of programming and community relations, Laura Horwood-Benton, uses Canva to create stylish visuals for social media, posters and handouts. You should check it out.

Doodle is a great way to schedule meetings. Thank you Crystal for the tip.

– A patron told me that you can find great graphic novel and game recommendations on Felicia Day’s blog.  The patron learned about In Real Life by Cory Doctorow via Felicia’s blog. We have it in our collection.

– Do you like to read? If not, don’t click this link → Moonrise Kingdom – Animated Book Short.

– 7 tips for designing awesome animated GIFs. via Swiss Miss. Showing vs Telling with GIFs. via Mail Chimp blog.

– Do you know your collective nouns? A flock of sheep. A murder of crows. A pride of lions. What do you call a group of librarians? Answer here.

Vemödalen: The Fear That Everything Has Already Been Done [VIDEO].

– What do you think of this? WiFi devices available for checkout at some public libraries [VIDEO]. The New York Public Library is offering this service too. via Wall Street Journal.

– Libraries have long facilitated the “finding” of information. Now they are facilitating the creating of information.” – Breaking Out of the Library Mold, in Boston and Beyond

Jill Lepore is scheduled to speak at the Loft on Tuesday, January 20th at 7pm. We have her latest book – The Secret History of Wonder Woman.

– SNAPSHOT of 5 Most Popular Adult Books at PPL right now (12/31/14)
1. All the light we cannot see : a novel / Anthony Doerr
2. Hope to die / James Patterson
3. The Boston girl : a novel / Anita Diamant
4. Yes please / Amy Poehler
5. Wild : from lost to found on the Pacific Crest Trail / Cheryl Strayed


libchic-headshotThe Monthly Link Pack is a new blog series curated by Jennifer Moore, library clerk, maker, and sustainable style blogger. If you have a suggestion for something that should be included in a future blog post, email her at

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  • Before opening today. @PortsmouthDPW working to keep you safe. The eagle & the hearts If you need us we'll be daydreaming... "I started to see that my mindfulness practice gave me a sense of perspective... and gave me the ability to be kind to myself." Our 6-week mindfulness course with Liz Korabek-Emerson began today! If you didn't make it on the list, stay tuned for the second session in April. We'll announce the dates this week. Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language  Film. Here's a copy waiting for you! So many great downloadable magazines available thru the library's free Zinio service!
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