Materials We Have

Banned Books Week 2014

For more than thirty years, Banned Books Week has drawn attention to the most challenged books in libraries, schools and institutions across the country. Many of the most recognizable classics in the world have graced the list for containing content deemed unsuitable for children and teens, excessive violence, offensive language, and more.  

This week, we celebrate our freedom to read by highlighting the latest list of most challenged books.

Here's a look at the top five...

1.Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey

When prankster fourth-graders, George and Harold, hypnotize their principal into thinking he is an underpants wearing superhero, things get out of hand as he escapes to the streets and starts fighting crime. Originally written for reluctant young readers, Captain Underpants is an award winning series that has had children (and their parents) in hysterics as they witness the adventures of Harold, George, and Principal Krupp (a.k.a. Captain Underpants) in their latest attempts to save the world. Pilkey's use of offensive potty humor and the inclusion of violent scenes have brought this series to the top of the most challenged list for the past two years running.


2.The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Originally published in 1970, The Bluest Eye is Morrison's first novel, following the life of Pecola Breedlove, a young African-American girl growing up in a primarily white community. Often mocked for her curly hair and brown eyes, Pecola yearns to fit in with the blonde hair, blue-eyed youth that surround her. Morrison, a Nobel laureate, presents a haunting story that is a lesson in self-hatred, racial identity, and our obsession with conformity. Offensive language, explicit content, and violent scenes are the primary reasons it has reached the second spot on the most challenged list this year.


3.The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie's award winning book tells the story of Junior, a young Native American teen who attempts to break away from the reservation where he grew up, and enroll in a farming town high school to secure a better future. Based on the author's own past experiences, readers are brought on a journey of self discovery as Junior becomes alienated from his tribe and attempts to fit in to a new, more privileged community. This is the fourth consecutive year that The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian has made the most challenged books list. Racism, offensive language, and scenes containing drug, alcohol and tobacco use have been the primary reasons for challenging this title.


4. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James

The first in E.L. James's Fifty Shades TrilogyFifty Shades of Grey  follows literature student, Anastasia Steele, as she embarks on an affair with successful entrepreneur, Christian Grey. First published in 2013, the Fifty Shades Trilogy has become an international bestseller and is set to hit the big screen in February 2015. It has also been removed from public library shelves and banned from entire cities due to its explicit content and language.



5. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The first book in the Hunger Games Trilogy is famed for its violent content. Katniss Everdeen, a 16-year-old living in futuristic Panem, volunteers to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a gladiator-like televised competition in which representatives from different districts fight to the death. The trilogy by Suzanne Collins has become an international bestseller since its debut in 2010, and the third installment of the film adaptation is due out later this year. The book has been banned from schools and libraries for containing content that is unsuitable for teens.


Interested in taking a chance on a banned book? For the banned book lovers among us, or for those who are just plain curious, check out our lists of Recent Banned Books and Most Challenged Classics

Honor Killing: How the Infamous "Massie Affair" Transformed Hawai'i

Sometimes truth is stranger that fiction. That may be what fascinates me about the books in the "364.1..." nonfiction section of our library. Reading about real-life criminal offenses and how the crimes were solved (or not) is intriguing to me, so when a friend recommended Honor Killing: How the Infamous "Massie Affair" Transformed Hawaii (2005) by David E. Stannard, a well-researched book about a 1931 sensational murder trial, I had to read it. The events that followed this trial broke the legacy of racism and white privilege in Hawaii. Clarence Darrow ends up on the wrong side in this case and it ends up being a career-ender for him. Your thoughts about Hawaii in the early part of the 20th century being a paradise of pineapples and palm trees will be transformed as you read about how native Hawaiians were treated as poorly as African Americans in the southern United States.

Pioneer Girl by Bich Minh Nguyen

I still remember my first encounter with the Little House series. During a weekly class visit to my elementary school library, I decided that it was time to read more grown up books, and sought out the thickest book I could find in their fiction section. I reached for a displayed copy of Farmer Boy, the third book in the famed Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Counting the number of pages (a whopping 372!), and frankly amused by the title, I checked it out. A few short months later, after my summer vacation had come and gone, I had read the entire series by Laura Ingalls Wilder...more than once. I studied those books, carefully paying attention to their descriptions on churning butter or how to make Johnny cakes, amazed that people lived this way once, creating everything from scratch, surviving through winters on one potato a day, walking miles just to go to school, or enduring the summer heat in layer upon layer of clothing, because that's just the way it was done. Her stories were of survival, as thrilling as any adventure book in my eyes, because unlike the latest Choose Your Own Adventure story (it was the early 90's, after all), they were based on actual experiences.

Many years later, as I was browsing a list of upcoming titles, I came upon a book with a very interesting cover. As my eyes caught hold of the girl wearing a pioneer-era dress, the prairie grasses, and those signature braids, the signs merged in my Little House-centric mind, sending signals that this book must have some tie to Laura Ingalls Wilder. Upon further investigation, I discovered that this book was written by someone with a similar obsession to my own, an obsession that is carried through to the main character of Pioneer Girl as she discovers a link in her family history to none other than the Wilders themselves. As Nguyen's main character, Lee, sets out on the research journey of a lifetime to track down further information on Rose Wilder Lane, the famous writer, reporter and daughter of Laura Ingalls Wilder, and the source of the link in her family's history, the frustrations of genealogy lead her to dead ends, uncertain sources, and events that will ultimately change her life.

To say that I enjoyed this book would be a definite understatement. I practically inhaled the words on the page, greedily postponing my daily obligations to delve straight into this story, to uncover little known facts that, despite my experiences with the books and my further reading, I had yet to discover. Yes, some story arcs are fictional, but others are based on very real events. I will leave the privilege of determining which is which to you.

A highly enjoyable, light summer read for old and young alike. Recommended for anyone interested in family history or for those who share a fondness for all things Little House.

Science Kits Now Available!

Looking for a new way to explore the sciences this summer? Stop by the children's area to check out ELPL's new collection of science kits!

Geared toward children ages four to twelve, ELPL's science kits cover a broad range of topics including architecture, DNA, electricity, animation, and more. Each kit is equipped with the supplies and instructions needed to complete a variety of activities. Create your very own weather station at home, build a radio from scratch, defy gravity with magnetic levitation, catch and analyze insects in your back yard, or explore the constellations. For a full list of kits, click here to view our catalog.

Due to popular demand, science kits are limited to one kit per person for a checkout period of 14 days.

Have an idea for future science kits? If there is a topic or theme that you would like an opportunity to learn more about, let us know by filling out our Suggest a Purchase Form.

Endless Summer

As a teacher, the summer provides me the opportunity to enjoy some much needed catch-up time.  I am a list-maker, so I always have a list of projects that I am hoping to accomplish.  This summer I've added some fun ideas to the list - like watching all of the movies that I have not already seen on American Film Institute's list of 100 greatest movies.  This weekend I am taking home The Manchurian Candidate (original) and Goodfellas.

The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible...On Schindler's List

Watching a news story a few days ago featuring filmmaker Steven Spielberg and the 20th anniversary of both the making of the movie Schindler's List and the USC Shoah Foundation reminded me of a wonderful book I had read recently. The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible...On Schindler's List is a memoir written by Leon Leyson, the youngest boy on Oskar Schindler's "list." Mr. Leyson died in January 2013, only seven months before the book was published. This touching memoir is aimed at ages 9-14, but teens and adults would enjoy it as well. To read a wonderful book review on the USC Shoah Foundation site, click here.

The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick

From the author of The Silver Lining's Playbook comes a new story about a band of quirky misfits struggling to find their way in the world. When 38-year-old Bartholomew Neil loses his mother to cancer, he isn't quite sure how to cope. Bereft and alone in the world, his days are spent in the company of Wendy, his grief counselor, and Father McNamee, a priest at his church and a close friend of his mother. 

After discovering a "free Tibet" letter from Richard Gere in his mother's room (she was a devoted fan), Bartholomew begins writing to the actor. At first, he recounts stories from his past, talking often about his mother and her illness. As his letters progress, they become less about the past as Bartholomew's life begins to gain momentum. He writes to Gere when Father McNamee abruptly defrocks himself and leaves the church in order to care for Bartholomew, how he moves in to Bartholomew's home and prays for hours on end, drinking full bottles of Jameson Irish Whiskey for reasons unknown to him. He begins to suspect that his grief counselor, Wendy, is involved in an unhealthy relationship. He finds a friend in Max, a man desperately upset over the death of his cat, at a group counseling session, and another in Max's sister, who just happens to be the "Girlbrarian" at his public library, a woman who caught his eye many months before for her extra-careful book handling and precise shelving habits.

After clues emerge that his biological father is alive and well in Montreal, the characters in Bartholomew's story begin to converge. The story takes shape as Bartholomew, Father McNamee, Max and the Girlbrarian embark on the trip of a lifetime to find Bartholomew's father and perhaps swing through Ottawa to see cat parliament (clearly Max's idea). At once hilarious and touching, this is a coming of age story that should not be missed. Matthew Quick's latest comes highly recommended by this "Girlbrarian".  

The French Market Cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier

This is a gorgeous little cookbook by Clotilde Dusoulier, who is also famous for her food blog,  The book, and recipes, are organized by season, so that you can easily pick out the best recipes to try no matter when you are reading the book.  Dusoulier focuses on vegetarian recipes but omnivores and meatlovers will find plenty to love in this book.  

Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish

I had not heard of David Rakoff or read any of his works, when I watched an episode of The Daily Show in the summer of 2013.  His good friend and author Sarah Vowell was on the show promoting David Rakoff's posthumous novel Love, Dishonor, Marry, Die, Cherish, Perish.  You can watch the interview on Comedy Central's website.  As the show sometimes does, an extended version of the interview was on their site, which I had to watch after seeing the first half.  During the extended version they read a section from the book, which was really interesting and very funny (contains explicit language).  The next day, I checked out the book from the library and enjoyed every minute of it.  The entire novel contains rhyming couplets which are witty and fun.  Unfortunately, author David Rakoff died of cancer in August 2012 and we will never know what other amazing works he might have created.  

The library has a copy of the book and audiobook.

A Butterfly is Patient

As I read the April 8, 2014, article in the Lansing State Journal titled, "Butterfly House still a perenial draw at MSU," I was reminded of all the wonderful butterfly books for children that our library has, both fiction and nonfiction.

Lexicon by Max Barry

4/5 stars

Emily Ruff is a tough girl living on the streets who ends up at the unique school of the Poets. There she is taught the power of words, persuasion, manipulation, and the dangers of letting anyone get to know the real you. Wil Jamieson is a seemingly normal guy who winds up caught between rival factions of Poets not because of something he has, but because of something he doesn’t: the ability to be persuaded and controlled. Their two stories and lives eventually come together in a way that reveals all of the secrets the Poets tried to keep hidden.