Book Review: The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson by Mark Twain

7b2a921099-09df-4f7e-ac40-53abed028ef47dimg400The titular Wilson comes to a small town in Missouri and is categorized as an idiot (pudd’nhead) right from the start, and the name sticks. He gets used to it pretty quickly and the town gets used to his little quirks, like his interest in the nascent science of fingerprinting. Roxy is an enslaved woman who is only 1/16 black with pale skin and light eyes, but due to the one-drop law of the time, she is categorized as black and a slave. So is her son (though he’s only 1/32 black). At the same time as she is nursing her own son, she is also caring for the son of the master of the house, whose mother died in childbirth. Eventually she gets to thinking about her lot in life and that of her son’s, and then it hits her — the two boys look like twins. No one will know if she switches them, ensuring that her son is raised as a white boy with all the riches and privileges that entails. Roxy is granted her freedom a few years later and makes a decent life for herself, until misfortune hits and she decides to let her true son know his origins so that she can gain a bit of his riches. Complication after complication hits: a pair of Italian twins arrive in town and cause quite a stir; there’s a thief ransacking the town; and a duel leads to deadly consequences. Can the Pudd’nhead sort this all out?

As a product of its time, this book is full of racial slurs and stereotypes. However, it is also an indictment of the one-drop rule, which stated that so long as a person had a single black ancestor, no matter how far back in the family tree, that person would be considered fully black. There is also a thread of nature vs. nurture going through the story but it doesn’t really resolve cleanly. In truth, I found it a difficult read and put it down for several months before finishing. Of Twain’s works, this is not one that stands the test of time for me.

Review by Jessica A.

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What’s New at the Library?

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See what’s new this week at the Danville Public Library at:

*** http://wowbrary.org/nu.aspx?fb&p=8491-186 ***

There are four new bestsellers, ten new movies, two new music CDs, nine new children’s books, and four other new books.

The new bestsellers this week include “New Memory Man Novel,” “Noir: A Novel,” and “After Anna.” The new movies this week include “All The Money In The World,” “Cult Movie Marathon, Vol. 2,” and “Cult Movie Marathon.”

Book Review: Cruel Shoes by Steve Martin

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A collection of short stories so short that they would be called “flash fiction” today, Cruel Shoes highlights Martin’s absurdist sense of humor. The title story involves a shoe store clerk offering every pair of shoes in the store to a client and then saying “you’ve tried everything except for the cruel shoes,” which turn out to have non-Euclidean twists and turns and the client thinks they’re perfect. I’ll be honest, most of the stories make very little sense, but somehow they are still entertaining. Also, Steve Martin looks amazing on the cover. It’s a really quick read and I imagine any Steve Martin aficionado will enjoy it.

Friday Reads: National Library Week

At the close of National Library Week, let’s talk about banned and challenged books. The American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 354 challenges to 416 books in 2017. These challenges came from, patrons, parents, administrators, librarians, teachers, and more. Books are generally challenged for containing violence, strong language, sexually explicit content, LGBT content, among other reasons. Below are the 10 most challenged books of 2017. To learn more, please visit ALA’s Banned Books website.

 

220px-thirteenreasonswhyThirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

When high school student Clay Jenkins receives a box in the mail containing thirteen cassette tapes recorded by his classmate Hannah, who committed suicide, he spends a bewildering and heartbreaking night crisscrossing their town, listening to Hannah’s voice recounting the events leading up to her death.

 

 

 

693208The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, art by Ellen Forney

Budding cartoonist Junior leaves his troubled school on the Spokane Indian Reservation to attend an all-white farm town school where the only other Indian is the school mascot.

 

 

 

vlmdbq1zrr6zphtqk5hj_full_telgemeier-raina_-drama_Drama by Raina Telgemeier, color by Gurihiru

Callie rides an emotional roller coaster while serving on the stage crew for a middle school production of Moon over Mississippi, as various relationships start and end, and others never quite get going.

 

 

 

51ac4tixgil-_sx309_bo1204203200_The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Traces the unlikely friendship of a wealthy Afghan youth and a servant’s son in a tale that spans the final days of Afghanistan’s monarchy through the atrocities of the present day.

 

 

 

 

41j4yjmgqfl-_sx327_bo1204203200_George by Alex Gino

When people look at George, they think they see a boy. But she knows she’s not a boy. She knows she’s a girl. George thinks she’ll have to keep this a secret forever. Then her teacher announces that their class play is going to be Charlotte’s Web. George really, really, REALLY wants to play Charlotte. But the teacher says she can’t even try out for the part . . . because she’s a boy. With the help of her best friend, Kelly, George comes up with a plan. Not just so she can be Charlotte — but so everyone can know who she is, once and for all.

61fmbamj2bbl-_sx258_bo1204203200_Sex is a Funny Word by Cory Silverberg and Fiona Smyth

“A comic book for kids that includes children and families of all makeups, orientations, and gender identities, Sex Is a Funny Word is an essential resource about bodies, gender, and sexuality for children ages 8 to 10 as well as their parents and caregivers. Much more than the “facts of life” or “the birds and the bees,” Sex Is a Funny Word opens up conversations between young people and their caregivers in a way that allows adults to convey their values and beliefs while providing information about boundaries, safety, and joy. The eagerly anticipated follow up to Lambda-nominated What Makes a Baby, from sex educator Cory Silverberg and artist Fiona Smyth, Sex Is a Funny Word reimagines “sex talk” for the twenty-first century.”– Provided by publisher.

to-kill-a-mockingbird-cover-1-186x300To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Scout Finch, daughter of the town lawyer Atticus, has just started school; but her carefree days come to an end when a black man in town is accused of raping a white woman, and her father is the only man willing to defend him.

 

 

 

117997And Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell, illustrated by Henry Cole

At New York City’s Central Park Zoo, two male penguins fall in love and start a family by taking turns sitting on an abandoned egg until it hatches. Based on a true story.

 

244mdrgvqkihemddqa8b_full_jennings-jazz_-iamjazzI am Jazz by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, pictures by Shelagh McNicholas

Presents the story of a transgender child who traces her early awareness that she is a girl in spite of male anatomy and the acceptance she finds through a wise doctor who explains her natural transgender status.

 

Note: All descriptions are from the SHARE catalog and all book covers are from Google Images.

Book Review: Dark Days by Derek Landy

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Spoilers for book three in the series: Skulduggery Pleasant has been sucked into the world of the Faceless Ones and now Valkyrie is working to bring him back. There’s also the matter of a man who has been in prison for the last 200 years wanting to exact some revenge upon the Sanctuaries (the ruling bodies of the magical world). And sensitives are starting to experience dreams and prophecies of the world coming to an end. Nothing to worry about.

This series has always been a lot of fun. Pleasant’s dry humor is spot-on and unlike the Harry Potter series (which also famously involves a child who learns about the magical world and his place in it), this is a little more grim from the get-go. Valkyrie doesn’t go off to a wizarding school, she just gets taken on as apprentice to Pleasant who is a detective. He’s also a skeleton, by the way. By this book, she’s been working cases and saving the world with Skulduggery for years. They’ve gathered a sort of motley crew of allies who help out when things get dicey, and they always do.

It had been a few years since I had read book three in the series, so I was worried I might not remember much when I started reading this one, but I needn’t have worried: It’s basically impossible to forget these characters. (Except Fletcher. I totally forgot about Fletcher.) The world created by Landy is so distinctive and real for me that it was easy to slide back in and enjoy the new story. I wouldn’t recommend reading this series out of sequence, but I wholeheartedly recommend this series, starting with (conveniently enough) Skulduggery Pleasant.

Review by Jessica A.