Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Black Cauldron (DVD)

Based on the novel by Lloyd Alexander comes Disney's The Black Cauldron, a creepy offering if there ever was one. 

Despite the lighthearted beginning, which shows singing birds and a big-eyed piglet who gives new meaning to cute (pure Disney fluff), this film turns very dark very quickly. The piggie, who is psychic, is intrusted to teenage Taran because she (the pig) is the only one who can show the whereabouts of the legendary and infamous Black Cauldron. The Cauldron can give whoever possesses it the power to create an army of unstoppable undead minions. Taran must take his swine charge someplace safe... but she gets abducted by some very evil looking dragons and taken to the palace of the evil Horned King, who desires the Cauldron and its powers. Why? Because he's evil and wants Power, I suppose (the motives were never very clear). Taran follows and ends up in the dungeon, where he is rescued by a Princess Eilonwy and her magical color-changing bubble. The pair, along with an aging musician, escape. They are joined by the furry, but cowardly Gurgi, who latches onto Taran. They encounter a trio of cauldron-hording witches and trade a magic sword Taran swiped from the dungeon for the Cauldron....which the Horned King quickly steals. Everyone but Gurgi (who runs away and hides) is dragged away by hulking soldiers. The undead army is created, but is stopped even before it crosses the drawbridge when Girgi, in a fit of serious angst, hurls himself into the Cauldron, stopping it's powers. The Horned King is destroyed, the Cauldron is no more, and the land is saved. Huzzah!

History lesson: The Black Cauldron was Disney's first animated film to receive a PG rating because of some scary scenes, some seriously depressing stuff (OMG! Gurgi's "I have No Friends/Nobody Loves Me" speech preceding the cauldron dive), and intense action. And I guess it was even creepier and darker, originally, having been heavily edited before it hit the theaters. 

The Verdict: The story was pretty entertaining, although the movie was more Don Bluth than Disney (if I didn't know it was Disney, I'd never have guessed). The animation style, the choice of story/plot... I don't know. It just wasn't Disney style. Also, the fact that it was edited extensively showed: A minor detail here, but I kept wondering what the heck happened to Eilonwy's magic bubble companion. It was with her throughout the entire dungeon scene, and seemed an important thing, but vanished after the escape. It appeared briefly in the witches' cottage, but then disappeared again. (Guess a bubble--even a magic one--isn't a very cool sidekick. Unless you're SpongeBob Squarepants. Still, being a librarian, I'm a stickler for consistency).   

If you're planning to rent this film, don't do so expecting catchy tunes, talking animals, or, really, anything stereotypically Disney. The Black Cauldron is a different thing entirely. But sometimes different is a good thing. If the Horned King had broken into song, he'd totlly have lost all bad-guy credibility. --AJB

p.s. For more creeptastic Disney stuff, rent The Watcher in the Woods.

p.p.s. What the heck is Gurgi supposed to be?  

2015 Battle of the Books Winners

Winning team Insert Cool Name Here!
Congratulations to INSERT COOL NAME HERE, winners of the 2015 Oxford Middle School Battle of the Books

INSERT COOL NAME HERE won the Battle following a three-way tiebreaker, which included last year's winning team. They beat out 11 other teams for the championship. 

Congratulations to INSERT COOL NAME HERE, and great job to everyone who participated. You all worked very hard at reading and getting to know the assigned books, and the results showed. And thank you to the OMS teachers, parents, and administrators for encourageing the teen readers and for continuing to make Battle of the Books a success!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver

Life for Samantha Kingston is pretty much fantastic-one of the most popular girls in school, dating the most popular boy, beautiful, and a great group of friends to add to the mix. On the best day of the school year, Cupid's Day, Sam knows it's going to be even more prefect day than the rest. With more roses than anyone else, a cute (and handsome date), and an invitation to a great party how could it not be?

Sam finds out seven times.

Her night does not go as she plans after being involved in a car crash. Sam wakes up to find that it's Cupid's Day all over again. Each day she realizes the differences she makes impacts those around her in tremendous ways. Deep down she knows her life may be over but maybe there is something she can do to save the ones around her.

Even though Sam lives the same day seven times Before I Fall does not loose its reader's attention. I know this for a fact because I was unable to but down the book (and the longer chapters does not help when you say to yourself "I'll put it down when this chapter is over".) Fair warning, the first fifty pages are tough to make it through. Frilly tank tops, frappuccinos, and ways to kiss a boy are the main topics of discussion. If you make it through this the entire tone of Before I Fall changes and Sam gain some true personality that readers will love.

If you enjoy drama and a good tear-jerker, this is a book that you need to pick up and try! Enjoy!

Age Disclaimer: Before I Fall is recommended for older teens due to some content and discussions that the characters have.


Monday, April 27, 2015

Half A Chance, by Cynthia Lord

I remember really liking Cynthia Lord's tween book Rules, which I read for Battle of the Books a few years back, so when I stumbled upon a review for her latest book, Half A Chance, I knew I had to read it.

Lucy's family has moved all over the country. Her photographer father tends to get restless staying in one place so, as soon as he feels like he's photographed everything there is to photograph in one place, he packs his family up and embarks on the quest for the next great photo. Unfortunately for Lucy, 12, this arrangement doesn't work so well. She's never had the chance to make any real, lasting friendships, and she doesn't feel like she belongs anywhere. But what Lucy wants more than anything is to connect with her father, who is away from home quite a bit and aloof and distracted when he is around. Opportunity knocks when Lucy learns about a photography contest her father is judging. She feels that if she can take the Perfect Photo and win the contest, she will win her father's attention and approval. So she decides to enter anonymously.

Much of the story revolves around Lucy's journey to find that Perfect Photo and the people she meets along the way: Particularly neighbor boy Nate and his grandmother, whose rapidly failig health is keeping her from doing the things she loves most. Lucy does take a winning picture, but when entering it involves an ethical delimma (she plans to do so using Nate's name), Lucy must make a very important choice about what is really important.

As with Rules, Half A Chance is awesome! Characters are well-rounded and real, and the plot is paced so it never gets dull. Although the story was probably written with girls in mind (the cover is very beachy), girls and boys alike will find something to relate to in this lovely story. 

Half A Chance can currently be found in OPL's Youth Area. Recommended for ages 10-14. --AJB

Saturday, April 25, 2015

I'm Glad I Did by Cynthia Weil

In this story, a sixteen year old, J.J. Green graduated from high school and wants to be a songwriter in 1960's New York, but she comes from a background where all Green family members must be lawyers. When she lands a 3 month summer job as a writer and assistant at a music company, she makes a deal with her mom and embarks on the beginning of everything she ever wanted until murder gets in the way.

I think this was a nice, clean mystery with lots of interesting complications and characters. It is a book about family, secrets, and lies. I loved the setting and the way that the author incorporated the civil rights movement gently into a story about the musical world where race had already begun to be problematic. It was an easy and fast read, and had a little of everything -- romance, mystery, history. Themes of finding your voice, learning to forgive, and reaching for your dreams add a nice depth. The language and situations are completely appropriate for all ages. *JK*

Interstellar (Movie)

Have you ever gazed at the stars at night and wondered what is it like to travel through space and if there is life on another planet or in another galaxy? The movie Interstellar, lets you experience an exciting adventure led by the NASA team. The movie is fun and has incredible suspense but before you watch this movie, you might want to understand some of the scientific concepts, such as: Spinning black holes, singularity, wormholes, artificial gravity, gravitational time dilation, and five dimensional reality. The movie also has an emotional side which focuses on a paternal bond between a father and daughter, which remains a constant presence across the film.

So here's the summary. The Earth's future has been riddled by disasters, famines, and droughts. There is only one way to ensure mankind's survival: Interstellar travel. A newly discovered wormhole in the far reaches of our solar system allows a team of astronauts to go where no man has gone before, a planet that may have the right environment to sustain human life.

Cooper, an ex-science engineer and pilot, is tied to his farming land with his daughter Murph and son Tom. As devastating sandstorms ravage Earth's crops, the people of Earth realize their life here is coming to an end as food begins to run out. Eventually stumbling upon a NASA base near Cooper's home, he is asked to go on a daring mission with a few other scientists into a wormhole because of Cooper's scientific intellect and ability to pilot aircraft unlike the other crew members. In order to find a new home while Earth decays, Cooper must decide to either stay, or risk never seeing his children again in order to save the human race by finding another habitable planet.

If you like science fiction movies, this is definitely a great movie to watch! *JK*

Thursday, April 23, 2015

The Jungle Book (movie)

Continuing with Throwback Week, I give you Disney's The Jungle Book.

Very loosely based on writings by Rudyard Kipling, this story, set in the jungles of India, follows the life of Mowgli, the boy raised by wolves. When word reaches the pack that the dreaded tiger Shere Kahn is returning to the area, they decide they must return Mowgli to the nearest man village as soon as possible. Shere Kahn hates humans because they're hunters/animal killers (honestly, can you blame him for feeling that way?) and will surely kill Mowgli on sight. Not to mention endanger the pack. The wolves recruit a prissy panther to escort Mowgli to his destination, but the kid soon befriends Baloo, a bumbling and somewhat clueless bear with an "hakuna matata" approach to life (though it will be decades before Disney uses this term to refer to a carefree attitude). Before finally arriving at the man village and being charmed away from his jungle friends by a girl who, I felt, was much MUCH too flirty for her age, Mowgli has a run-in with a fire-obsessed orangutan, a sneaky snake, a heard of goofy elephants, and a quartet of silly birds of prey with Beatles haircuts and accents. And, of course, he meets up with Shere Kahn...and defeats the poor kitty much too easily by tying a burning branch to his tail (am I the only one who felt sorry for the tiger?). 

Although I was pretty much raised on Disney films, I somehow missed out on this one as a child. Of course I knew Baloo the Bear from Tailspin, but never saw The Jungle Book until my husband, shocked at this disclosure, recommended I watch it. 

The Verdict:
I was NOT impressed. At all. The events that made up the story were far too random, and I didn't much care for any of the characters. Also, Disney's placing of animals in NON-native regions tripped my common sense meter far too often for me to even enjoy the so-called plot. It's obvious the story is set in the jungles of India, where you'll find tigers, monkeys, elephants, and dangerous snakes. Of course I'd have to double check this, but I'm pretty sure there are NO wolf packs in this area of the world. Ditto for the sort of bear Baloo seems to be. Also, at one point Shere Kahn is hunting what appears to be the sort of deer you'd find in the forests (and crossing the roads) of Michigan. Dear Disney. You get an F in zoology.

I realize this is Disney, and Disney has been known to take quite a lot of liberties with their animated films: Changing storylines completely, talking/singing animals, people with magical powers, etc. This has never bugged me before, but for some reason those liberties taken with The Jungle Book really irked me almost to the point of "I can't watch this." I saw it through, but overall, the film left a bad taste in my mouth. 

All I know is I'm going to have to watch Lilo and Stitch at least 10 times on repeat (and maybe a couple showings of Frozen) to get the ick of The Jungle Book out of my head. That is one movie I wish I'd never watched. --AJB

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Jem and the Holograms

Continuing blog posts about Blasts from the Past, today we give you Jem and the Holograms.

All the flash and fabulous-ness of the 1980s can pretty much be summed up in the animated TV series, Jem and the Holograms. Originally created to accompany a set of colorful-haired dolls meant to compete with Barbie (fail!), the animated TV show soon surpassed the toy in popularity. And now, it's back. And we have the first season on DVD.

Jerrica and her three best friends run a foster home for troubled girls, but funding is running out and, if a miracle doesn't happen SOON, they'll all be out on the street. Then comes a mysterious gift from Jerrica's deceased father. This gift enables the shy young lady to transform into JEM, the hottest rock star to hit the scene since...well, since anyone! Jerrica/JEM puts a band together and enters the local Battle of the Bands. Soon they are superstars and don't have to worry about affording to keep the foster home up and running. But this doesn't mean their life is easy. Rival band The Misfits, who JEM beats in the Battle of the Bands, and their crooked manager are determined to bring JEM down in any way they can (not to mention expose her secret identity). And that's just the beginning: In Jem and the Holograms, you'll find adventure, romance, excitement, and plenty of drama! And don't forget the killer soundtrack! Each episode features original music...and music videos!

According to IMDB, a live-action adaption of Jem and the Holograms will be hitting theaters this October. If the hype surrounding the movie is correct, it'll be a hit! So you'll want be sure to check out the original show before watching the movie.

The Verdict: This TV show is pretty cheesy, but in the best possible way. I remember loving it as a kid. And, revisiting it as an adult, it's still pretty awesome (definitely not one of those things that have you wondering what little kid you was thinking). Teens will like it because it's quirky, entertaining, and completely different than anything that's on TV today. Parents will like it for the nostalgia factor. Definitely check this one out before the movie hits and you have to wait months for it! --AJB

p.s. As a musician, I DO wonder how The Misfits can get by without a drummer (I mean, isn't that an essential component of a band?). Ditto for how the Holograms can do what they do without a bassist (I play bass guitar, so I notice things like that). Not to nit-pick. I'm just saying...

Monday, April 20, 2015

She's All That (movie)

For Thorwback Monday ('cause I don't want to wait til Thursday), I give you She's All That, a fantastic "oldie-but-goodie" I recently watched. Despite being filmed in the 1990s, when I was a teen, it wasn't until recently that I finally watched this uber-cute, feel-good movie. And I'm really happy I did.

When queen bee and all-around Mean Girl Taylor dumps longtime boyfriend Zack for an annoying reality TV star, Zack is shocked! This could mean his entire social status of High School Golden Boy could be at risk. But Zack is confident. Perhaps overly so. Before the dust settles on his broken heart, Zack has struck a bet with his best friend and fellow jock that he can make any girl (no matter how loser-y) into Prom Queen--just by hanging out with her. They pick nerdy-quirky art geek, Laney, and the fun begins.

Unlike most girls in school, Laney is immune to Zack's charms and thwarts all his attempts to befriend--or even talk to--her. She even attempts to humiliate him (the hacky sack scene!). Zack rises to the challenge and steps up his game. But the more time he spends trying to win Laney over, the more he respects her. The more he likes her. For real.

Soon Laney is transformed from adorkable artsy girl into hot chick (with the typical haircut/removal of glasses/wardrobe change), and she and Zack are looking like they'll become an item. Not to mention Laney is in the running for Prom Queen--and it's looking like she'll win. Doesn't exactly send the best message (if you change yourself, you'll be popular), but for the movie it works.

Of course nothing is that easy. Jealous Taylor doesn't appreciate Laney moving in on her ex OR attempting to take the crown. Also, Zack's friend, the one he made the initial bet with, attempts to sabatoge everything when it looks like he'll lose the bet.

There's some drama, angst, humor, romance. AND, of course, the Happily Ever After ending. And a killer soundtack. YAY!!

The Verdict: She's All That is an absolutely adorable movie! Of course it's predictable (all Rom-Coms from the 80s and 90s are), but oh-so enjoyable! The actors did an awesome job in their roles, particularly the actress who played the mean and bratty Taylor.

She's All That reminded me quite a bit of Can't Buy Me Love, an 80s movie about a nerdy guy who pays the most popular girl to pretend to date him in order to help his social status...but they end up falling in love at the end. Another similar movie from the same era is Teen Witch, where the dorky main character works a spell to become the most popular girl and get her crush to notice her. The spell works--too well!

She's All That is currently on our New Movie shelf. If you're looking for something feel-good and funny with a happy ending and characters you can totally root for, check this one out today! --AJB

p.s. Don't you just love movies where everyone does the same synchronized dance moves during the Big School Dance Scene?

Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, by Paige McKenzie w/ Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Based on the YouTube series...
Shortly after her 16th birthday, Sunshine's mother moves them to Ridgemount, Washington (not D.C.). Almost immediately, Sunshine feels it: A creepy, almost menacing watchfulness and a damp cold she can't shake no matter how many sweaters and scarves she layers. This feeling has nothing to do with the dreary, foggy weather. And within the first 24 hours in her new home, Sunshine has her first encounter with a paranormal being.

But this is not a story filled with sparklerific vegetarian vampires or uber-buff werewolf boys. No way! Based on the YouTube show of the same name, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is a good, old-fashioned ghost story, packed with plenty of spine-tingling moments and edge-of-your-seat suspense. And, on a refreshing note, there are absolutely NO love triangles. Or any romance at all.

Sunshine soon discovers her new home is inhabited by not one ghost, but two: There's the little girl in the soggy dress who cries in the night and seems desperate to communicate something important to Sunshine. Then there's the dark spirit who latches onto Sunshine's adopted mother, Katherine. These ghosts are connected, but how?

With the help of a local boy with an interest in the paranormal and a creepy teacher who seems to follow her everywhere, Sunshine learns she is no ordinary girl. She is a rare type of spirit guide who's mission is to help the spirits of the recently deceased move on. She also has the ability to vanquish demons like the one possessing Katherine.

On top of dealing with the hauntings, this is almost too much for Sunshine to take in, much less believe. But she must embrace her newfound powers if she's going to save Katherine's life. And she must do it SOON, because time is running out.

Regardless of if you're a fan of the YouTube show, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is a worthwhile read and a great recommendation for those looking for a paranormal story sans romance. Debut author Paige McKenzie, who is also the star of the YouTube show, does a stellar job bringing characters and setting to life on the page. A cliffhanger ending will leave readers eager for the next installment.

The Final Verdict: A great ghost story that reminded me of the suspense/mystery books I loved as a teen back in the 90s. I devoured the whole thing in two sittings and wanted more at the end. My only complaints, and these are minor to be sure, were constant mentions of Sunshine's frizzy hair (overdone, I thought) and references to Jane Austen that seemed to add nothing to the story. Overall, though. An awesome first novel by a teen author. I'll expect great things from the next two books in this planned trilogy. --AJB

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Keeper, by Kathi Appelt

Ten-year-old Keeper is part mermaid. At least, that's what she's always believed. After all, wasn't her mother, who swam away when Keeper was only three, a mermaid? How else could Keeper hear the cries of the gumbo-bound crabs, pleading for someone to rescue them before they became dinner? 

Of course, listening to those crabs is what turned the best day ever into a total and complete nightmare! Now Signe, Keeper's guardian, won't be able to have everyone over for the traditional Blue Moon dinner. Now Dogie won't be able to ask Signe the special question he's waited ten years to ask. Now Old Mr. Buchamp won't ever find the one thing he's been searching for since he was a boy. Everything, everything is ruined. And it's all because Keeper listened to those crabs.

Keeper needs her mother more than ever. So she sneaks out of her house in the dark of night, "borrows" the neighbor's row boat, and sets off to the open sea to find the place she last saw her mother all those years earlier. Her mother will know what to do. Her mother will help make everything right again. Won't she?

But what if Keeper's mother isn't there as expected? What if everything Keeper has believed about her life isn't true?

Keeper, by Kathi Appelt, is a delightful story about family, love, friendship, and self-discovery...all with bits of magic and mythology woven throughout. As well as a few surprises. Characters are believable, and Appelt's uniquely poetic writing style gives the story color, life, and depth. Keeper is definitely one of my favorites, and is one of those stories that can be enjoyed by people of all ages (guys and girls too). There's truly something here for everyone. Just read it! You'll be happy you did!

Keeper can currently be found in our Tween section. --AJB

Monday, April 13, 2015

None of the Above, by I.W. Gregorio

What makes someone male or female? Biological characteristics? Psychological characteristics? How one feels about themself vs. how they appear outwardly to the world? Whether they prefer same or opposite gender?

Think carefully before you answer.

I.W. Gregorio, a practicing MD and Stanford graduate, explores this delicate territory in her debut novel, None of the Above.

Kristin is pretty and popular and smart. She's got the dream boyfriend. She's just been elected Homecoming Queen. She's got a bright and shining future after graduation. She's got a charmed life. But everything crumbles after homecoming when she attempts to have sex with her boyfriend. There's pain. Too much pain. A visit to the GYN to investigate the cause of this pain reveals that Kristin not only has no uterus, but also two small, internal lumps that appear to be male testicles. A specialist confirms that Kristin is intersex, meaning neither male or female, but both. But what does this mean? Kristin looks and feels like a girl, and all her life she thought she was a girl. But... Is she really a girl? Is she a boy? Or something freakish and in-between. Over the next several chapters, Kristin deals with the repercussions of this world-shattering revelation: Not only personally, psychologically, but also with her family. And finally with how her peers and teachers react when her secret is leaked to the school. Can Kristin's life ever be normal again?

I picked up None of the Above after reading several glowing reviews, and it is fantastic! Characters are fully fleshed out and realistic, the story itself is interesting, and I.W. Gregorio handles the ultra-sensitive plot aspects with great care and tact. This one definitely lives up to the hype (if you've heard any hype), you guys. I highly recommend it. --AJB

p.s. Parents: Please keep in mind that, due to mature topics and situations, this one is recommended for older teens only.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

She is Not Invisible by Marcus Sedgwick

Laureth Peak's father is a writer. After years of writing "funny" books he is convinced to write a book about coincidences (coinky-dink's as Laureth's younger brother calls them). After years of research, failing, and near financial ruin his wife thinks he's obsessed and Laureth thinks he's on the verge of a breakdown. Mr. Peak is suppose to be doing research in Austria but after receiving an email saying that his notebook has turned up in New York, Laureth knows something is wrong. On impulse (after sending hundreds of texts messages and making many calls all with no response from her father) Laureth books her and her seven year old brother a one way ticket to New York. International travel and a missing father would be almost more than any sixteen year old could handle, but to Laureth these are minor things because she has to do them all without her eyesight.

She is Not Invisible has many great traits and a couple that may make it a tough for some readers. I loved Laureth's determination and drive throughout the book. She never gives up even when dead ends and worry continues to flood her way. I also love how the author makes you feel from Laureth's perspective. Multiple times I would set the book down and picture myself in the middle of New York city and then I would do it without being able to see. Mr. Sedgwick does a fantastic job at making you feel like Laureth's character and placing you in her shoes. The largest drawback to this book is the topic her father is researching, coincidences. There are some pages that look like the inside of his notebook that he has lost. They ramble on about different theorists and other research that he has conducted on the topic. They are essential to the plot of the story and yes you will begin to look at coincidences (or at least think about them) in your everyday life however, this research-likeness was not for me and made me second guess my reading choice several times.

If you stick through the research parts, I think you will enjoy She is Not Invisible. Check it out from our "New" Teen Shelf!


Parental Statement: Do Not steal your mother's credit card, no matter how much determination you have :)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Gabi, a girl in pieces by Isabel Quintero

Cover image for Gabi, a girl in piecesI read the whole book in one sitting, laughed out loud in several places and also shed a few tears :) Gabi’s journal, including illustrations and poems she writes for senior poetry class, is funny, wise and poignant as she draws the reader into the sometimes harsh but loving reality in which she lives. But reality it most definitely is - no Hollywood-ized glamorous life for Gabi in her Californian town. The use of Spanish and English phrases is seamlessly done and allows the reader to see how Gabi lives in two cultures at the same time, while not quite fitting into either. Moving and thoughtful, Gabi is a great female character, always working hard to reach her goal of going to college,that is if Mami allows her to leave home... (Recommended for older teens due to mature content.)SM

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Into the Woods--DVD

In need of a movie to watch over the weekend, I picked up Into The Woods, Disney's latest live-action flick to hit DVD. I didn't really know much about the movie. Just that it was a mash-up of fairy tale plots. Maybe with a bit of a fractured twist or two? I've always had a weakness for a good fairy tale story. And the stellar all-star cast was also a pretty big lure. In short, I was intrigued. And's Disney. So my expectations were way, way up there.

Perhaps too much so.

In the back of my mind, I was aware that this movie was a musical. After all, it's Disney...and almost everything Disney puts out is musical to some degree (except for maybe The Watcher in the Woods, the company's early 80s attempt at making a scary movie...but that's another story). I just didn't realize how musical it would be. Practically every sound uttered by the characters was done so in song. And, to be honest, I found that to be a more than little annoying. Music in movies can be great. In fact, it often adds to the story. But in the case of Into the Woods, it was just distracting. Annoying, even. Disney ought to reserve the musical numbers for their animated films. Just look at what "Let it Go" did for the Frozen franchise.

My personal verdict: Into the Woods is not Disney's best effort. The cast was star-studded, the costumes and sets were gorgeous, but the story itself was only passably interesting and seemed nothing more than a contest by the writers to see how many fairy tale bits and pieces could be squeezed into the film's allotted two hours. I'm guessing that this is one of those Disney films that will fade into oblivion once the initial newness of it has passed. Not unlike The Gnome-Mobile (What? Never heard of that one? I rest my case.) --AJB

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Say "Thank You" With a Poppy

Make a paper poppy in the Teen department, as a symbol of your appreciation for the service provided by local Veterans and their families to our country. The poppies will be delivered to the American Legion Post 108, Oxford, in early May, to be used as they see fit, for decorating the hall, distributing to Veterans or in the Memorial Day Service and Parade on Monday May 25. Also, please support the 2015 Buddy Poppy Sale when you see our Veterans out and about in Oxford this month.

One of the ceramic poppies that decorates the Tower of London
Last year in the United Kingdom, 888,246 ceramic poppies were crafted and placed in the dry moat of the Tower of London. Each poppy represents a life lost in World War I, 1914-1918. The great-grandfather of Sian Marshall, Head of Teen Services, was one of those soldiers who lost his life, and she now owns a poppy from the tower in his memory. The poppy will be on display in the Teen Services Department at Oxford Public Library from April 2. Please stop by and see it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Kick-Butt Female Characters

Tris wins title of "Most Kick-Butt
Female Character"
In March we asked you to vote for who was more of a Kick-Butt female character, Katniss (from Hunger Games) or Tris (from Divergent). The votes have been counted. And re-counted. Three times.

And we have the answer:

The winner of the Most Kick-Butt Female Character title is: Tris from Divergent!

Are you surprised?

Yeah, us too!

Really surprised, actually...

In all fairness to Katniss, the vote was very close. She only lost by one vote. (So to those of you out there who didn't vote because you didn't think your vote would matter: It might have made all the difference). So everyone's favorite Hunger Games winner didn't do too poorly.

In April, we're putting a Sci-Fi spin on the monthly poll and asking you to vote for your Favorite Time-Traveling Box. The contestants are Doctor Who's TARDIS and Bill & Ted's Phone Booth.

Stop by and let your voice be heard: VOTE!

And who just might win a prize for voting :)

Debunk It! by John Grant

"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine," or so says the R.E.M. tune (1987).

The cool, quirky cover disguises a dry, dull
load of boring. So don't judge by what you see.
In his book Debunk It! How to Stay Sane in a World of Misinformation, author John Grant tackles popular myth and misconception on everything from Evolution to alternative medicine, from climate change to apocalypse predictions, and more. In exceptionally long-winded expositions, filled with puff and fluff and fancy words, Grant explains the full and complete "truth" behind these myths: Where they came from, why they came about, how they became twisted, and whether we really have anything to worry about. For such widespread misinformation, he points fingers at popular media, social networks, celebrities, and second-and-third (and beyond) hand gossip, indirectly implying anyone who puts any stock in information from such sources is an idiot...and then sets himself above it all. Rather pompously, I thought. In his explanations, Grant sprinkles in opinions from both sides, and then throws in his two cents (for what they're worth). 

I picked the book up because, as a fan of the TV show Mythbusters, I thought it sounded interesting. And, ok, the cover looked quirky and fun. And I love quirky and fun. I was very, very disappointed! 

Despite its thin appearance (a paperback of less than 300 pages), Debunk It is deceptively heavy. In weight as well as content. Its pages are packed with small-type text, are devoid of pictures and color, and, as previously stated, are filled with dry, long-winded manifestos about what the author believes is true and what he thinks is full of total B.S. (or not). Half the time it reads like the rantings of a lunatic and the other half like a textbook...and a very dry, dull textbook at that.

And that leads me to wonder: Who the heck is this John Grant guy anyway? He has no titles attached to his name, and nowhere in the book is there an "about the author" section. Nothing at all to tell the reader why this guy should be an authority on any of these subjects. Why should I, the reader, put any stock in anything he says. He could be just another Average Joe who decided to whip up a book in his spare time between updating his Facebook status and cooking dinner. Who's to say he's not trying to mislead readers with his book? I'm just saying...

Overall, Debunk It is a snooze-fest! No teen I know is going to read this thing cover to cover much less give it 5 minutes of their time. I could barely get through the parts I read.

My Conclusion: SKIP IT!

I'd much rather spend my time watching Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage blow stuff up in the name of science. And you probably would too! --AJB