Clarksville Youth Care Group Appreciation Project

The photograph depicts several of the kits with school bus themes, including handmade cards with school bus illustrations, and chocolate and trail mix bars.

by Nancy T.

It’s back to school time! Not just for students, but for teachers and bus drivers as well. To celebrate this year’s return, more than 70 local students from the Clarksville Youth Care Group (CYCG) worked hard all summer to create teacher and bus driver appreciation kits. These kits consist of a hand-sewn school-themed pencil pouch and a handmade thank-you card, school supplies (pen, pencil, notepad, bookmark, etc.), snacks, and a bunch of goodies. Funded by a Howard County Innovation Grant, CYCG has made approximately 850 kits. They have delivered the kits to 45 HCPSS schools as well as the HCPSS transportation office. The students received a lot of positive feedback; many teachers wrote thank-you notes to the group and said that receiving the handmade kit full of nice goodies has been an encouraging start to a new school year. It is a wonderful way to let teachers know their work is appreciated. The group still has limited kits to distribute, so interested teachers or staff can request them here.

The photograph depicts a handmade card with a sunflower, a back-to-school-themed kit, and some of the items from the kit, including a pen, pencil, notepaper, a trail mix bar, and origami birds.

CYCG was founded by two River Hill High School students, senior Arthur Wang and sophomore Amanda Wang, at the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, with many students becoming involved in community service projects organized by CYCG. The group proudly donated 3,660 heavy-duty reusable face shields to hospitals, clinics, dental offices, and first responders in 2020. Last year, the group made Teacher Care Kits and donated them to 64 HCPSS schools. The kit consisted of a handmade school-themed mask, an ear saver to relieve ear stress, a mask lanyard, a thank-you card, and a mask filter. The kits supported teachers physically and mentally, winning a national award for their efforts.

The photograph shows the display case at Miller Branch with a selection of the teacher appreciation kits as well as photographs of the students at work creating them.

You can visit the display of CYCG’s work, showcased at Miller Branch, until September 30. For more information, visit www.clarksvilleyouthcaregroup.org

Nancy T. is an instructor and research specialist and the display coordinator at Miller Branch. When she’s not in the branch, you’ll find her in the swimming pool or out walking in the fresh air.

College Readiness Book Drive

A stack of AP and SAT books with spines showing their subjects.

By Chloe M.

Every high school in Howard County offers Advanced Placement (AP) courses in English, science, mathematics, social studies, computer science, world language, art, and research. Students who score well on an AP examination at the end of the course may be granted AP status or college credit upon entering a college or university. Unfortunately, as of 2018, a gap of 35 percent was recorded between the largest Howard County AP test-taking student group, Asian students, and the smallest AP test-taking student group, Black students. Additionally, in January 2021, the Howard County Board of Education released numbers showing that by student group, Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx students and students receiving Free and Reduced-price Meals (FARM) continue to have lower percentages of AP exams with passing scores of a 3 or higher than their peers.

So what can we do to help? As part of the Library’s commitment to advancing racial equity in our community, we invite you to donate new or gently used AP and SAT test prep books. We look to ensure all youth feel confident in their ability to pursue college-level studies successfully – which can lead to higher-paying jobs and reduce financial stress later in life.

The HCLS College Readiness Book Drive takes place at all library branches through August 15. Collection boxes are located inside each building to collect new or gently used college readiness (SAT and AP) practice books. These books will then be redistributed in the fall along with a YOU BELONG resource page to encourage a new narrative for those who have been discouraged from pursuing college-level courses.

While AP courses are offered in the Howard County educational system without cost, the tests cost approximately 96 dollars per exam last year, and test guides were prices at $30 each (depending on the subject). Financial logistics can be a major deterrent for students from low-income backgrounds hoping to access practice materials that lead to higher-scoring exams.

The Howard County Board of Education wrote in their meeting agenda that 11,157 exams were taken by local high school students in 2020. Many of these students purchase books each year to review, and as soon as the school year ends, they throw away or abandon the lightly-used test prep books. I personally have five on my shelf, with two being brand-new and unused. Consider donating AP and SAT books that students in your life no longer need!

I believe that, with your help of timely donations, this initiative can have a long-lasting affect on our community both in reducing waste and supporting students on their journey to post-secondary education.

Chloe McGeehan is a recent River Hill High School graduate. Through the DukeEngage Gateway summer program, she is working to facilitate collaborations that generate behavioral health resources for residents of all socioeconomic backgrounds. She enjoys trail running, spending time with family and friends, painting, and making music.

The Golden Age of Crime and Josephine Tey

The book cover shows an unbuttoned coat with arms extended, floating in dark waves, with a rocky island in the background with a lit candle shining from the summit.

By Julie F.

Think for a moment about Agatha Christie: how many versions and adaptations of Poirot and Marple have you read or seen? How popular do her novels remain to this day? And a question asked of librarians worldwide: If you’ve read and loved all of Christie, and viewed everything produced by Acorn and Britbox, where do you turn for a puzzling new mystery?

Faithful readers of Golden Age crime novels often read, and re-read, their favorite writers out of devotion to this inimitable era and style of crime fiction. Golden Age works were primarily written by British authors but also a few famous practitioners in the United States; these include Mary Roberts Rinehart, whose popularity in her heyday rivaled Agatha Christie’s. Rinehart’s novel The Door popularized the phrase “The butler did it!” even though those words appear nowhere in the book. In Great Britain, one of the best but most underappreciated writers in this style was Scottish author Josephine Tey. A versatile writer of plays, poetry, and short stories as well as mystery novels, Tey is most famous for the work declared “Greatest Crime Novel of All Time” by the British Crime Writers’ Association: The Daughter of Time (also available as an eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive).

The book cover depicts a painted, framed portrait of a king, presumed to be Richard III of England, against a white background.

Tey’s series character, Inspector Alan Grant, is sidelined in a hospital bed with a broken leg and bored to tears with inactivity. A friend of Grant’s, actress Marta Hallard, suggests that he try his hand at solving a famous historical mystery, since he can’t actively investigate clues or hunt down a killer while confined to the sickroom and limited in his movements. While researching various figures, Grant discovers that Richard III looks kindlier than the way he is portrayed in the historical rogues’ gallery of villains. In fact, Grant wonders if the famous Tudor king was really responsible for all the tragedy and evil attributed to him, including the deaths of his young nephews Edward and Richard? Richard III was serving as regent for Edward V when the two boys were declared illegitimate, then disappeared from history. Now, Inspector Grant is on the case!

The novel becomes a thorough exploration of that important task of historians: to sift the facts from myth and legend, to figure out what version of an event is authoritative, to consider how one viewpoint’s retelling becomes prevalent while another fades into the mists of time. The reader learns about history as a construct while Grant learns more about his infamous subject. It becomes the mission – if not the obsession – of Grant and his eager young assistant, British Museum researcher Brent Carradine, to crack the case.

The book cover depicts the headshot of a woman, lying on her side and staring at the viewer, with her fingers to her mouth. Her eyes are wide with long lashes and carefully manicured brows.

Tey wrote one other mystery with a tinge of history, The Franchise Affair, based on a famous kidnapping case in the eighteenth century even though it is set in the 1940s. This book and six others are part of Tey’s series featuring Inspector Grant, although he appears in it only briefly. I recently read the second book, A Shilling for Candles, and I loved what her fellow Scot, crime writer Val McDermid, had to say about her in a CrimeReads article. McDermid postulates that Tey is actually a bridge between the Golden Age writers and modern crime novelists like Ruth Rendell (my all-time favorite) and Patricia Highsmith, with a more subtle, psychological, sexually ambiguous character study than authors like Christie and Ngaio Marsh. Her work is an uneasy, darker take on individual identity that is decidedly a forerunner to Rendell and Highsmith. A Shilling for Candles (also available in ebook format from Libby/OverDrive) is also a good story for film and theatre buffs (like many of Marsh’s Roderick and Troy Alleyn novels). Tey’s experience as a playwright gives her remarkable insight into the competitive, dramatic lives of actors and actresses on and off the stage and screen.

Read Josephine Tey’s Inspector Grant novels if you have a hankering for a “new “author who is just as deserving as Dame Agatha of acclaim and fame. For those interested in whether Richard III really murdered his nephews, Marylander Barbara Mertz, who also wrote fantastic romantic thrillers under the pseudonym Barbara Michaels, explored this historical puzzle further in her novel The Murders of Richard III (available from Libby/Overdrive as an ebook), written under her more famous pseudonym, Elizabeth Peters. And finally, Nicola Upson has a great historical mystery series of her own, featuring none other than Josephine Tey as her amateur sleuth.

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch who finds her work as co-editor of Chapter Chats very rewarding. She loves gardening, birds, crime fiction, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.

Get Ready for Baby!

The illustration depicts Mother Goose in a beige shirt and green spotted pants, with a yellow scarf and green shoes, riding on the back of a flying white goose while holding a yellow chick, hatched and sitting in a half-shell. in the crook of her arm.

By Sylvia H.

Preparing for a new baby is one of the most exciting things a growing family experiences! We are pleased to be part of the anticipation with our new Hatchlings: Ready to Hatch program, a FREE interactive early literacy program geared to expectant families complete with songs, fun activities, and freebies.

Shopping for cute baby clothes and picking out an all-terrain stroller may be necessary (and so much fun!), but it’s also important to prepare for baby-to-be’s development. Babies introduced early to books and reading become children who perform better in school. Reciting nursery rhymes and singing songs helps your baby get ready to learn to read. Finally, reading and singing help with baby’s brain and language development. We’ll introduce families to all these concepts in these interactive sessions.

Two sessions remain:

  • Tuesday, June 7 at 6:30 pm with The Family Institute at the Howard County Office of Children and Families (Click on “Family Institute Workshops”)
  • Tuesday, June 21 at 10:30 am at the East Columbia Branch

Are you or someone you know expecting? Register today and join us!

Hatchlings is a pilot with the Maryland State Library based on the Mother Goose on the Loose program.

Sylvia is a Children’s Instructor and Research Specialist at the Miller Branch. She enjoys crafting, listening to audiobooks, naps, and walks with her dogs in 75 degree-ish weather.

Elevation by Stephen King

A deep night sky shows a sort of explosion, the tree line at the bottm is also illuminated.

By Gabriela P.

Short on time? So is Scott Carey, the main character of Stephen King’s novella, Elevation. Forty-two years old and in relatively good health despite a disposition towards being heavy-set, Scott discovers he is afflicted with a strange condition where he continuously loses weight but not mass. Eventually, he comes to understand that, soon, he will literally be leaving the physical Earth as his weight plummets. With a divorce in his recent past, a too-large house, and a complacently settled routine in the town of Castle Rock, it takes two new neighbors moving in down the street to spur the unfolding of a moralistic but heartwarming comedy.

Scott’s two new neighbors are women. In his small town, same-sex relationships are at best tolerated…but same-sex marriage becomes a root for tension, gossip, and outright hostility. Scott himself bears no ill-will towards Deirdre and Myra, except a slight annoyance with their dog’s preferences for his lawn. When he confronts the two, he is received coldly, a result of a necessary guard the two have had to put up in the face of prejudice.

Unlike the plot development one might expect from a Stephen King story, Elevation does not dive into the wild undoing of a man and a town, but instead comedically highlights one man’s gradual, though admittedly somewhat naive, social enlightenment. While Scott Carey literally begins to leave the ground, he is also able to figuratively rise above prejudice. To really tug at the heartstrings, readers should consider the irony of strengthening bonds and belonging with an inevitable end.

Also available as eBook, eAudiobook on Overdrive and CloudLibrary, on CD, and in large print.

Gabriela is a customer service specialist at the Miller Branch. She loves long walks, reading with her dog, and a good cup of coffee.

A Deadly Education

A black cover with gold text and a mysterious illustration of the phases of the moon, a mystical eyes, and spiral all centered above a book.

By Gabriela P.

Did you think your high school years were tough? Count yourself lucky that you could at least eat lunch without having monsters come at you. In Naomi Novik’s A Deadly Education, Galadriel “El” Higgins goes to her classes, studies, and navigates her social sphere all while trying to stay alive. She attends the Scholomance, a school for magic, where there are no teachers, holidays, school events, or friendships. Attending students are suddenly thrown into this school located within a terrifying inter-dimensional void. With monsters, or “mals”, in every shadow and around every corner, the students have only one goal – to graduate, which means staying alive.

El is a junior at the Scholomance, and has a unique problem. While every other student has to figure out how to protect themselves from mals and students-gone-dark, she has to concentrate on not destroying everything she touches. A rather bothersome prophecy, something about her being the bringer of mass destruction, keeps her more preoccupied with making sure she doesn’t end up destroying the world than with making friends. Though in this school, friendships are usually strategic. When we are introduced to the snarky, anti-social El, she makes it clear that her only plan is to make it as close to graduation as she can without attracting unwanted attention to herself. Then, in her senior year, she plans to figure out how to impress students from well known magical enclaves to guarantee her and her mother’s safety during and after graduation. However, her not-so pleasant disposition means her chances are slim.

Orion Lake, a student from a major enclave with a major savior complex, is famous among the student body, mainly because he is pretty much responsible for the higher-than-normal survival rate of their junior class. When he saves El’s life once, then twice, the spotlight suddenly turns to her. Suddenly El has to figure out how to use the attention for her benefit, but ends up finding herself drawn into a much bigger problem. On top of all that, she finds herself stumbling upon the discovery that she might be…making friends.

A Deadly Education is a refreshing spin on well-known tropes; magic schools, I-hate-him-I-like-him, monsters with a taste for children – the usual. Naomi Novak skillfully builds a fantastical universe with dynamic characters that you can’t help but fall for. Darkly funny and terrifyingly captivating, this book is definitely one that you won’t put down until the end.

You can borrow A Deadly Education as a book, an eBook, and an eAudiobook.

A dark green cover with golden text and illustration of a keyhold with points and rays, and a dangling key.

The story continues (which you will want to do immediately) with The Last Graduate, and the third installment, The Golden Enclaves, is due this fall. The second book is also available as an eBook and an eAudiobook.

Gabriela is a customer service specialist at the Miller Branch. She loves long walks, reading with her dog, and a good cup of coffee.

The Pull of the Stars

The cover shows an old-fashioned, open pocket watch against a dark blue background, with simple hand-drawn celestial objects including moons, stars, and planets scattered around it.

By Julie F.

Many novels depict the brotherhood of men at war. Donoghue celebrates the sisterhood of women bringing life into the world and those who help them along this perilous journey.” – Wendy Smith, The Washington Post, July 21, 2020

The Pull of the Stars by Emma Donoghue mesmerizes in the best possible sense. Both the pacing and the claustrophobia of this novel are intense – but it’s claustrophobic in a way that fully serves the plot, as the reader finds themselves in the tiny, overcrowded pandemic maternity ward of a Dublin hospital in 1918, basically the size of a closet, with the Spanish flu raging and World War I coming to a close. The little room is witness to so much – grief, pain, joy, love, trauma, fear, friendship, teamwork, unity, discovery – with the stories of nurse Julia Power and her influenza-ridden patients at the forefront of the action. The reader is propelled through the story, into this place where the characters’ trials and triumphs, representative of those experienced by women across the globe and across millennia, are so poignantly described. It is a story that will impress the reader with its introspective attention to detail and historical accuracy.

Nurse Power is a formidable character: efficient, tenacious, fearless, full of seemingly inexhaustible reserves of energy. Yet she is still young and, although not naive, full of uncertainty in a world where children randomly end up orphaned, babies and/or mothers die in childbirth, unequal outcomes are dependent upon wealth and social class, and soldiers like her brother Tim return from the war front unable to speak – or don’t return at all. She tries so hard to keep a cheerful spirit for her patients and for her young volunteer, Bridie Sweeney, yet at one point finds herself asking, “Back to this moment – what would be asked of me this morning?” (169). Her story echoes those of countless women who served their communities and countries in wars past, nurses and doctors and midwives and ambulance drivers who never shirked what was asked of them.

Post-2020 readers will find much of the pandemic description sad and uncannily eerie; Donoghue delivered the manuscript to her publishers in March of 2020, two days before Covid was declared a pandemic. But at heart, while still managing to address the random heartaches individuals experience in a world rent asunder by war, disease, and traumatic personal loss, The Pull of the Stars remains a hopeful, inspiring story (as is the author’s more famous and equally claustrophobic Room), about women’s solidarity and strength when tackling what seem to be insurmountable medical issues.

The Pull of the Stars is availalble from HCLS in print and large print, and also as an ebook and an eaudiobook from Libby/OverDrive.

Julie is an instructor and research specialist at HCLS Miller Branch who finds her work as co-editor of Chapter Chats very rewarding. She loves gardening, birds, books, all kinds of music, and the great outdoors.

Spring Arrives with Children’s Books

The cover depicts three little white kittens looking up at the cherry blossoms above as well as the title, superimposed in yellow script against a blue sky. A bumblebee flies above them and a robin perches in an overhead branch.

By Eliana H.

Spring has sprung! Or has it? As Kevin Henkes says in When Spring Comes, “It changes its mind a lot.” But whether you’re certain spring is here to stay or want to get in the mood to welcome it when it is, we have books for you. Here is a collection of books to share with young children focusing on themes of spring, especially growth and change. For more recommendations, visit your local branch and ask a member of our staff. We will be happy to help!

The book cover depicts a man and a girl in the foreground, on a green grassy hill, with a white house with a brown roof, trees with yellow-green foliage, and geese in formation in the sky in the background.

Birdsong by Julie Flett

First Nations author, illustrator, and artist Julie Flett brings her tender story to life with soft, striking illustrations in this beautiful book. It begins in spring, when a young girl is moving with her mother away from their home by the sea to a new house in the country. As the seasons pass, she grows used to her new home and gets to know her elderly neighbor, with whom she connects over their mutual love of art and nature. As spring returns, the young girl finds ways to comfort her ailing neighbor and realizes that she truly sees this new house as home now.

The book cover is a photograph of yellow and white flowers against a hazy background of gold and green foliage. The title is superimposed in white over the photograph.

Bloom Boom! by April Pulley Sayre

Seeing all the different flowers bloom is many people’s favorite part of spring. This volume showcases large photographs of a variety of blossoms in all different habitats accompanied by simple, rhyming text. The end includes notes about blooms in diverse ecosystems as well as details about the specific plants (and sometimes animals) on each page.

The book cover depicts a child in red rubber boots and a yellow rain jacket splashing in a puddle as raindrops fall and land on the ground.

Red Rubber Boot Day by Mary Lyn Ray, illustrated by Lauren Stringer

What do you like to do on a very rainy day? Simple text and acrylic paintings bring readers along with an unnamed child in this book, as rain pours down and different activity options are explored. Share this with little ones and start a discussion about favorite things to do in different kinds of weather.

The cover depicts an older woman in a lavender traditional Japanese kimono, seated on the ground with a young girl in yellow pants, white top, and rose sweater. A branch with cherry blossoms hangs above them, with the title in rose-colored script.

Sakura’s Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston, illustrated by Misa Saburi

Sakura, named for the cherry blossoms she loves enjoying with her grandmother, has to move to America with her parents and leave all that she knew behind. Told in a series of tanka poems, a traditional Japanese poetry form similar to haiku but with two additional lines, this story follows Sakura as she becomes accustomed to her new life. Along the way, Sakura finds new friends and unexpected joys in this place so different from her former home.

The cover depicts a white rabbit against a background of green hills, with a budding sunflower to the left and a sunflower in full bloom to the right. The larger flower has a ladybug on one of the leaves.

What Will Grow? by Jennifer Ward, illustrated by Susie Ghahremani

Spring is a time when many of us become especially aware of the life cycles around us, as we can witness much of the change and growth happening. In this book, bright illustrations with friendly creatures accompany short, descriptive text on each page, which includes the title question followed by the answer. Some pages fold out, down, or up to show a larger plant, and notes at the end offer simple instructions for planting different kinds of seeds, along with an overview of the life cycle from seed to plant.

The book cover illustrates two children caught in the wind, one clutching a red cap and one covering ears with hands, as the wind blows leaves around them.

Wind by Carol Thompson (also available in a Spanish edition, Viento)

Blustery days are a sure sign of spring’s arrival. This simple board book uses line drawings with lots of movement to show young children experiencing wind. The sensory experience of a windy day is highlighted with a range of descriptive words, ending with the final quiet as the wind dies down. Other titles in the series explore different types of weather with Rain, Snow, and Sun (available in Spanish as Lluvia, Nieve, and Sol).

Eliana is a Children’s Research Specialist and Instructor at HCLS Elkridge Branch. She loves reading, even if she’s slow at it, and especially enjoys helping people find books that make them light up. She also loves being outside and spending time with friends and family (when it’s safe).

The Institute by Stephen King

The book cover shows a boy in sideways silhouette in the back of a train caboose; he is seated on a bed with pillows and there is a desk with a lamp and a chair next to him. The small room contains a window with a cloudy bright sky, surreal because it is facing forward towards the next train car. The caboose is on a train track and is surrounded by a darkened landscape and skyscape depicting either dawn or dusk.

By Gabriela P.

Until recently, if someone mentioned Stephen King around me, all I pictured were the usual horror staples: clowns, spiders, dark hallways, mysteriously red and sticky substances. Of course my familiarity with King’s work was about the same as the average media consumer – starting and ending with the Hollywood blockbusters like It and The Shining. As a reader who prefers historical fiction over horror, I never ventured into his dizzyingly enormous body of work.

It was not until my recent read of King’s 2019 novel The Institute that I realized I may have been missing out on his ever-developing literary skills. The Institute delivers on a terrifying antagonist, but rather than supernatural, the bad guys in this story are all-too human. In the “Institute,” inmates with telekinetic abilities are kidnapped, imprisoned, and tormented with unexplained experiments. The inmates are children. The story primarily revolves around Luke Ellis, a 12-year old with extraordinary genius, as he wakes up in the Institute and attempts to navigate the sadistic staff and build peculiar friendships. As he and his newfound friends and allies learn more about where they are, readers come to understand that those working for the Institute believe they serve a higher good, and that there exists a place for cruelty with a purpose. The staff members in charge of the children would show up to work, run their terrifying tests, stop for coffee in their breakrooms, chat and flirt, then head home each night. Even as Ellis and his fellow captives live their days bouncing between mysterious injections and surreally normal basketball games, the real horror is apparent in the quiet complacency towards child abuse as a necessary evil, and at its worse no more than daily routine.

How could children survive in a place designed to strip them of dignity and humanity? Could they even survive? The Institute weaves together a story of unimaginable scale with the most authentically human characters: policemen, innkeepers, custodians. And yes, there is a 12-year old genius and kids who can read minds, but their abilities are the least important things about them. Their moments of anger, sadness, courage, and joy are their characters’ truly grounding elements.

While definitely a tough read, it surprised me how much I enjoyed this novel. Ruthless and brutal, but at times captivatingly heart-warming. If you’re interested in making a foray into the Stephen King sphere, The Institute is a great book to pick up and get absorbed into.

The Institute is available from HCLS in a variety of formats: regular print, large print, as an audiobook on CD, and as an eBook and an eAudiobook from Libby/OverDrive.

Gabriela is a customer service specialist at the Miller Branch. She loves long walks, reading with her dog, and a good cup of coffee.

Lunar New Year Celebrations

The cartoon image says "Year of the Tiger" in a variety of languages, with a smiling tiger extending his paw towards the viewer, with three gold lanterns hanging above him against a red backdrop.

Welcome to the Year of the Tiger! The Lunar New Year is the most important social and economic holiday for billions of people around the world. Tied to the lunar-solar Chinese calendar, the holiday was originally observed as a time to honor household and heavenly deities and ancestors. Today, Lunar New Year brings friends and family together for feasting and festivities in China, Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Mongolia, and other countries all over the world.

This website, recommended by our presenters, offers a helpful guide where you can discover more about everything from food and drink to clothing and decorations for Lunar New Year celebrations. In addition, we have an assortment of books and other materials available at HCLS to help families learn and celebrate.

In recognition of this significant holiday, HCLS is celebrating with an online class, Learn About the Lunar New Year Celebration, in partnership with Howard County Chinese School. A panel of middle and high school students and parents share the histories and traditions of the Lunar New Year celebration in a variety of Asian American Pacific Islander sub-communities. Join us on Saturday, Feb 5 for a combination of short presentations, Q&A, and interactive educational games with prizes.

Additional upcoming children’s classes with Lunar New Year-themed sessions include:

Please join us!