Norman Public Library
This month’s ‘Staff Selections’ guest is Tara, manager of the Children’s Services department at the Norman Public Library. Tara recently moved to Norman from Fort Smith, Arkansas, but assures us “don’t worry – I’m an Oklahoman through and through and was raised in eastern Oklahoma. In fact, I was the Oklahoma girl in elementary school and sang Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Oklahoma! at many school assemblies and talent shows.”
Tara earned an English degree from Arkansas Tech University in Russellville and a MLIS from the University of Oklahoma. “Over the last four years, I worked at the Crawford County Library System in Van Buren, Arkansas,” Tara says. “I started as a part-time library assistant at one branch, then worked as the Youth Services Librarian and presented children’s and teen activities for all five branches, before finally serving as the director of the library system for one year.”
Tara took up the reigns of the Norman Children’s Department in September of 2013. “I’m thrilled to be starting the next chapter of my life with the Pioneer Library System and the Norman Public Library,” she tells us.
As the holiday season approaches, Tara offers some titles that made a particular impression on her in 2013. “This time of year is great for several reasons,” she says. "It’s a time filled with food, family, and festivities. It’s also a great time to take stock of the year that is quickly winding down and perhaps make changes for the new year that is waiting just around the corner.
“Each year, I like to take a few minutes to review the books I have read. Unfortunately, I have not read as much as I would have liked this past year, but these are the books that I experienced and enjoyed and would recommend to others.”
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
The House of the Scorpion shares the coming-of-age story of Matt Alacrán and set in a future where Mexico (known as Aztlán) and the United States have ceded land to create a new country (Opium). As Matt grows older, he learns that he's not just any child - he is a clone, created for the sole purpose of harvesting his organs to prolong the life of El Patrón, the 142-year-old ruler of Opium. Matt struggles with knowing who he truly is and who he will be. Can he choose to be who he wants or will he always be a clone of a drug lord? Farmer recently published a sequel, The Lord of Opium, which is why I re-read this 2002 sci-fi adventure.
In Kagawa’s Blood of Eden trilogy, there are rabids, vampires, and humans (oh, my!). Allie Sekemoto is an orphaned unregistered human girl living on the fringes of society in a post apocalyptic future where vampires rule the land. Allie hates the vampires and refuses to be a registered human, which would give her food rations in exchange for monthly blood draws. But when she is attacked and left for dead by the rabids, creatures neither vampire nor human, she chooses to become what she hates in order to survive. The first two books of the trilogy have followed Allie as she struggles to maintain her humanity while also searching for Eden, a vampire-less oasis somewhere in the midwestern United States, and searching for a cure to Red Lung, the disease that all but wiped out the human race and has begun killing vampires as well.
And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
A well-written, heartbreaking tale of an Afghan family separated by a painful choice made ultimately for financial reasons. The choice haunts the lives of many, both family and friends, over the course of six decades until it is finally fully revealed. This novel of second chances details the consequences all choices, second or otherwise, make on our lives and the lives of those around us. Hosseini’s writing is always wonderful (in my opinion) and I have a love/hate relationship with his novels – I LOVE reading them, but I read them too fast and am left hating the void they leave once I finish them.
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
In the late 1950s, Laurel Nicholson witnesses her mother commit a violent crime. Although shocked by her mother’s actions, Laurel keeps quiet, never sharing what she saw so many years ago. In 2011, near her mother’s death, Laurel finds a faded photograph that sets her on the trail of an even bigger secret than the one she already keeps. This is a wonderful mystery with an unexpected ending.
Long Way Round: Chasing Shadows Across the World by Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman
This book accompanies the TV documentary of actors Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman’s 2004 trip around the world via motorbike. McGregor and Boorman take turns sharing their trip diaries as they travel from England, across eastern Europe and into the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Siberia all on their BMW motorbikes. After flying from Magadan, Russia to Alaska, McGregor and Boorman begin the North American leg of their journey, again on their motorbikes. They travelled 20,000 miles across 12 countries in 115 days. The book shares many details and photographs that were not included in the documentary and it is an interesting read with or without viewing the documentary.