Mom and Me Reviews: Jim Henson’s Labyrinth The ABC Storybook

First Line: “Sarah wants to be an actress.”

Summary: If you’ve seen the movie by the Jim Henson group (with David Bowie), then you know the storyline.

Basically, a teenage girl is left to babysit her little brother. She becomes annoyed by him as she is trying to read and rehearse lines from her play. She wishes that the “goblin king” would take her brother away, like the girl in the story she’s reading does. The Goblin King grants her wish, and Sarah has to solve a labyrinth within 13 hours to get her little brother back. As expected, the labyrinth is filled with magical tricks that make her journey even more difficult.


                Maggie: 9 out of 10

                Conor: Did not participate in this storytime

                Mama Lala: 7 out of 10

Their Thoughts: I like the movie, and the story! It gives you such an imagination. I like all of the magical characters. It’s an ABC book, but it reads like a storybook instead of a baby ABC book. The pictures are good. If you haven’t seen the movie, the story doesn’t make sense… it doesn’t “fill in the gaps”. It just didn’t “move me” enough to get a “10”.

My Thoughts: I appreciate that this book is both an abc book, AND a storybook. It helps to bridge the gap between my two kiddo’s wide age range (2 and 9). My kids have seen and, as they should, LOVE this movie. IF they hadn’t i’m not sure it would be clear what happens in this story. Some characters are introduced, but their presence isn’t explained. All in all, I’m grateful this has been made into a storybook, but I had higher hopes for it. The illustrations are magically marvelous, though.

Happy Reading our friends,

Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

What’s Ashley Reading?: Dark Tides

Dark Tides by Philippa Gregory

First line: The ramshackle warehouse was on the wrong side of the river, the south side, where the buildings jostled for space and the little boats unloaded pocket-size cargos for scant profit.

Summary: Twenty-two years have passed since the events at Foulmire. Alinor and Alys have established themselves in a warehouse along the Thames with a decent income from sailors and merchants. But on the same day two people happen into their lives that will change it once again. Sir James who has spent years in exile is looking for his child. And Rob’s widow from Venice arrives with their young son. The women try to deal with these changes the best they can.

On the other side of the ocean, in New England, Ned has traveled in the hopes of starting a new life where he is free and far from the reaches of the King he hates. But even with an ocean between his old and new life he finds that things are still the same. He has befriended the native people and learned much from them but he is looked down upon for this from his fellow Englishman. He is stuck between two worlds and doesn’t know which side to choose.

My Thoughts: Once again Philippa Gregory writes a stunning book! I loved this just as much as the first one in the trilogy but for different reasons. The first part was very character driven and where the landscape plays an important role. This one is more plot driven but has strong characters and amazing locations. From the very beginning I was strongly invested in the story. At one point I had to put the book down because I was so frustrated with the characters.

I loved being back with Alinor even though she was not the main character anymore. This centered more on her brother, daughter and granddaughter. A new generation of the Reekie family in a new time. The picture of these poor women striving for a living along the Thames is perfectly done. And then we visit Venice in the second half of the story. I can picture the canals, gondolas, and beautiful buildings. I visited Venice years ago and loved the city on the water.

Ned’s life in New England reminded me so much of Gregory’s book, Virgin Earth, with her beautiful descriptions of the forests of America before the settlers cleared the lands. The plants, the people and wildness of the land comes alive in her telling. It is so hard to read about the past at times when you see all the injustices that were done. Settlers took advantage of the natives and treated them terribly.

FYI: This is book two in the Fairmile Trilogy.

Terese’s Thoughts: Voodoo Histories

Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History by David Aaronovitch

First Line: “In 1919, The European citizen–who five years earlier had perhaps, like the young Hitler, celebrated the outbreak of war–now surveyed a world that was utterly changed.


Aaronovitch breaks down a number of conspiracy theories, from the bogus Protocols of the Elders of Zion to the theory that Barack Obama isn’t a U.S. citizen to a conspiracy theory involving an elderly English woman who was passionate about growing roses. For each conspiracy, Aaronovitch meticulously traces its origins and details the ways in which it spread. Each falsehood is contradicted by the presenting of evidence, much of which has gotten lost over the years as the often more exciting version of the story spread.

This is a great book for anyone interested in how conspiracy theories start and what allows them to proliferate. It also provides useful information for anyone looking to arm themselves with facts that can be used to debate these conspiracy theories.

My Thoughts:

This book is wonderful in its thoroughness, but it can sometimes make for a dense read. That being said, I learned a lot. As the book states, at one point in time, a majority of U.S. and U.K. citizens believed that the government was somehow involved in the assassination of JFK. When I was in high school, a retired police officer was invited every year to give a presentation on the JFK assassination, the theme of which was that his death was a government conspiracy theory. This is a conspiracy theory that is readily accepted as fact among many communities. I can say that it is certainly something my father believes, as did the author’s mother. But what I didn’t know before reading this book was that Lee Harvey Oswald had attempted the assassination of an army major general just seven months prior to the assassination of JFK!

Mom and Me Reviews: The Tempest

First line: “My noble master, Prospero, is a clever magician.”

Summary: This book retells William Shakespeare’s play The Tempest as a Children’s picture book. If you haven’t read Shakespeare’s play by the same name, here is a quick overview: Prospero, duke of Milan, is overthrown by his jealous brother, Antonio. Alonso and his brother Sebastian help Antonio accomplish this. Antonio puts Prospero and his daughter in a boat and casts them out to sea. The boat washes ashore an island where an evil witch and her son rule. He rescues the spirit (our narrator) from the witch, then uses him for his own gain. Years pass. One day a boat carrying the people who wronged Prospero passes by. Prospero calls on the spirit (our narrator) to seek revenge on them– not to kill but to scare, and possibly abandon on an island, the way his has been abandoned. The spirit and prospero try to manipulate the island’s inhabitants to a fate of their choosing.

Ratings: Maggie gives this picture book 6 out of 10 stars. Conor did not hear this story. Mama Lala also gives this picture book 6 out of 10 stars.

Their Thoughts: I shared this book with my oldest, Maggie. She is nine. She liked that “it was magical”, and “it was colorful”. She had trouble understanding the book also because “my age group doesn’t read those kinds of things.” She had trouble connecting with the book, she said.

My Thoughts: The illustrations are beautiful. This retelling, though shortened for the benefit of a younger reader, still seems out-of-range for most picture book readers. I’d say this one is more for the parents, than the children it was intended to be read to. That said, Ellinas did a decent job of shortening the story to important plot points, in an understandable language for children.

Happy Reading, our friends!

— Mama Lala, Maggie, & Conor

What’s Ashley Reading?: The Best of Me

The Best of Me by David Sedaris

First line: I’m not the sort of person who goes around feeling good about himself.

Summary: A collection of previously published essays and stories from David Sedaris. He covers everything from short stories, family drama and the loss of a sibling. His stories range from serious to hilarious.

My Thoughts: Several years ago I fell in love with David Sedaris and his work. I have read all his books, listened to his holiday collection multiple times, and spent hours waiting to see him at Watermark. Ninety percent of these stories were ones I had previously read but I was pleasantly surprised to find a few that I had not experienced yet.

It was great to rediscover some of his early stories that I had forgotten about. I laughed just as hard this time around as I did the first time. Even though Sedaris is considered a humorist he also brings a lot of heart to his work. The way he talks about his family makes one appreciate my own family. Everyone has quirks and life can be crazy but we all love each other and will be there for one another.

I think that this was exactly what I needed at the end of 2020. Focusing has been difficult this year. A book of short stories and essays are perfect for my attention span lately. And the laughs help as well! Thank you Mr. Sedaris!

FYI: All stories are previously published.

Monica’s Musings: The Water Cure

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh

Trauma is a toxin that hooks into our hair and organs and blood and becomes part of us, the way heavy metals do, our bodies nothing more than a layering of flesh around everything ingested and experienced.

-Sophie Mackintosh

Sisters Grace, Lia and Skye are raised to believe that the world outside of their island is extremely toxic and deadly, especially for women. Their parents, whom they call King and Mother, have the girls living a life of purity, which is practiced through various cleansing rituals. One of which is called the water cure, where the girls put on a weighted dress and hold themselves under the water for as long as they can. This cult-like behavior begins to unravel, first when King disappears, and second when new men from the toxic mainland arrive on their island.

I will admit, this story was quite odd. The behaviors of this family were so strange, but it kept me intrigued. The dysfunction and cruel mindsets of these sisters had me unsure of who I was supposed to root for. All three of the girls had been brainwashed into maintaining an unhealthy lifestyle of “purity”. Although their practices seemed absurd, I am still unsure of what all is true of the outside world and what is not. Since the story is told from the girls’ point of view, we are also experiencing their confusion as the story unfolds. I believe the author, Sophie Mackintosh, left readers a little perplexed on purpose to replicate that of the sisters.

As I listened to this story on Libby, I had to backtrack multiple times to understand who was talking. The viewpoint switches between all of the sisters, so sometimes it was difficult keeping up with who was telling the story. I would recommend reading the hardback version because of this. Overall I found this to be an interesting read. Sophie Mackintosh created an intriguing yet troubling story to experience through the lives of Grace, Lia and Skye.

Mom & Me Reviews: A Super-Heroine Guide

If you are a lover of the comic superhero realm, you’ve likely been asked this classic question:
Marvel or DC?

It is a timeless question with many variations of answer.

Sam Maggs, a comic book maker, suggests we might love both. She wrote both Marvel Fantastic and Fantastic– Female Super Heroes Save the World, AND Brave and Bold!– Female DC Super Heroes Take on the Universe.

The Top 10 Greatest Female Superheroes In The History of Comic Books

First Line:

(Brave and Bold): “In a universe filled with adventure and danger, the brave female Super Heroes of DC’s comic books change the world and shape the future.”

(Fearless and Fantastic): “Students, warriors, secret agents, inventors, crime fighters, journalists… the inspiring female Super Heroes of Marvel Comics make their marks in many different ways.”

Summary: The two books aver compatible in organization, illustration, and writing. If you are looking for a brief introduction to the heroes of both the DC and Marvel world, these two books are a decent place to start. If you are particularly interested in the FEMALE superheroes, this is a GOOD place to start.

Considering the size of each book, Maggs does a good job choosing which POPULAR FEMALE COMIC BOOK CHARACTERS FROM MARVEL AND DC - Comic Book and  Movie Reviewscharacters to introduce to the audience. Fresh artwork of each character fills one of two pages allotted to them. About two paragraphs lie on the adjacent page– words devoted to a brief description of WHY this character got into the superhero business, and where their abilities lie. One of the most interesting features of these books, is the footnote at the bottom of each entry, directing the reader to two to four other superheroes who are “friends, allies, and role models” of the character in question. Of course, only other heroes listed within the book are included. Pepper Pots might love Tony Stark, but he is not listed among the allies at the bottom of her page.

My Thoughts: One caveat of these books are the age directed, when reflecting the writing. Carrying a Lexile of approximately 1200-1400, one would suggest this book be directed to 5th graders (at the youngest). However, because the content is at such an introductory level it could also be directed to younger age groups. In these cases, I’d suggest the content be read aloud by an adult to the young ones. (My daughter is in 2nd grade, at the time of reading, and this worked well for us. Every once in awhile I had to explain the meaning of a word, but it wasn’t often enough to make it not worth the while.)

Today is a great day to introduce your littles to these “wonderful women”. Boy or girl, young or old, having women worth looking up to is important. Though fictional, these women are a great place to start.

Happy reading, my friends!

Mama Lala (Chelsea) & Maggie

What’s Ashley Reading?: Leia, Princess of Alderaan

Leia, Princess of Alderaan by Claudia Gray and Haruichi

First Line: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Summary: Leia, the princess of Alderaan, is learning how to lead and one day take over the role of Queen. She needs to prove herself. But she is worried that she will not be able to live up to her parents expectations. And recently she has noticed her parents paying less attention to her. Are they disappointed? Or has she done something to upset them? She decides that she is going to take matters into her own hands with the hopes of earning their approval.

My Thoughts: I’ve read this story before but I had read the novel when it first came out and this is manga. This is my first venture into manga. If you have never read or even heard of manga I will give you a quick summary. Manga is a Japanese comic or graphic novel. They are usually printed in black and white. But the most challenging bit (for me at least) is reading from right to left. It took me a while to get used to the format and focus on following the story properly. I really enjoyed it!

I liked the artwork, the story was still great and it was a new adventure. If you want to try something different and are a fan of Star Wars I would highly recommend picking this up!

FYI: This is the same plot as the novel by the same name.

Xochitl’s Book Thoughts: Exhalation

Exhalation: Stories by Ted Chiang

First line: O mighty Caliph and Commander of the Faithful, I am humbled to be in the splendor of your presence; a man can hope for no greater blessing as long as he lives.

Summary and Thoughts: In Exhalation, multiple short stories written by Ted Chiang either look at the future or even the past through futuristic lenses and technology. Morals and ethics are brought up in each story. The reader is taken to a magical place in the Middle East, a distant planet, and other dimensions throughout this book. From an old-age robot nanny to built-in memory hardware for humans, there’s a short story for everyone. The first story takes a look at a young man’s journey into a time-traveling portal where he learns that fate and what is meant to be can never be altered. The second story is about a civilization on a foreign planet whose lungs need to be physically taken out to be filled up with oxygen, meaning their life expectancy is practically immortal, but that also comes with a price. What happens when the oxygen supply is running out? The next one, ‘What’s Expected of Us’, deals with the concept of free will with a button game and how it turns people mad when they think too hard about it. The fifth story is about a robot nanny who causes some trouble from humans, especially the inventor and his family. ‘The Truth of Fact, The Truth of Feeling’ is technically two stories alternating, but they both share the essential theme of memory. One half is set in the future, memory is now digitally stored in the human brain. One can now skim through old memories and relive or inspect them. The other half is set in with a native tribe and their journey with an English missionary. ‘The Great Silence’ is a haunting read as it’s told from a near-extinct bird’s thoughts. The story after that is a tale of religion and science co-existing together, but a religious archeologist is not so sure after a latest discovery. The last story is set in a world where it is easy to communicate with yourself in a different dimension. Of course, people use this to their advantage and not in a good way. Each story is different in length and in story-telling.

This was one of my favorite reads ever. Each story left me questioning my and society’s relationship with technology. Each story was beautifully crafted and unique, writing styles and storytelling differed so it never felt like I was reading one book. Some parts I did have to re-read to get as he sometimes gets confusing when dealing with past, present, and future being told as one. I liked that this didn’t feel like your typical science fiction book, so people who usually don’t read this genre can enjoy it too. He also spends some time explaining the science behind certain products used in stories which I was grateful for. Chiang doesn’t outright tell the reader what point he is trying to make so I often had to stop and ask myself what is he trying to say exactly. My favorite thing about this book is though the genre is science fiction, Chiang often sets his stories in the past. I like the blend of old and new he uses, to me it keeps the book from being repetitive. I would definitely recommend this book to people who read any type of genre.

FYI: There are sexual themes within one of the short stories but this isn’t a graphic book.

Ultimate Guide to Reading Wonder Woman through the Derby Public Library

Hey nerds!

Reading comics can be a complicated thing. The main character’s stories are told and retold by different authors, artists, and illustrators. They are reproduced, collected, recollected.

Popular issues are reprinted. Unpopular issues never see the light on their illustrations again. So how does one read a popular comic’s story from beginning to finish– alpha to omega? They search online for an ultimate guide, that’s how!

Today, I have for you an ultimate guide to reading Wonder Woman. This guide, however, is specific to what the Derby Public Library (and the consortium we are a part of) owns and lends out to the public.

Here we go:

Wonder Woman was “born” in the Golden Age of comics– 1942. I say born meaning published for the first time. Her story has been “restarted” multiple times, though. In other words, there are several options for “starting points” within Wonder Woman’s stories.

Her story was introduced in 1942 by William Moulton Marston. She was redesigned with the Silver age of comics in 1958 by Robert Kanigher. It was reintroduced in 1987 by George Perez, and again by Greg Rucka in 2006. Wonder Woman New 52 was introduced in 2011 by Brian Azzarello. Greg Rucka took another stab at a Wonder Woman reintroduction in 2016 with the “Rebirth” relaunch.

I like to start at the beginning, so that is what I will do with you. Keep in mind, though, that YOU can start wherever you want!

From here, I’ll leave you a list (with links!) of which books to read in which order. Each book will fall into one of four categories:
DPL book
Consortium Book
ILL book
Not currently Collected

A DPL book, is a book we carry here at the Derby Public Library. A Consortium book is a book one of our “sister” libraries has available for check out. You can check it out with you Derby Public Library Card, and it will be brought here via courier for your convenience. An ILL (or Inter Library Loan) book is not available in our consortium, but thanks to some amazing people here at the Derby Public Library… someone in Alaska, Florida, or anywhere in between might have a copy available for you to borrow. Our ILL team with source it, have it shipped here, and available for you to pick up with the simple request form. There is, unfortunately, a fourth category: the Currently Uncollected category. These are issues I have been unable to find collected CONVENIENTLY for you, the reader. These issues may be easier found as singles at your local comic book shop (or Amazon), or if you are lucky available for read online.

Without further adieu, your reading list:

How to Read Wonder Woman, at the Derby Public Library

  • Golden Age
    • Not Currently Collected:
      • Sensation Comics #105-106
      • Wonder Woman #48-97
      • Comic Cavalcade #13
    • ILL: Wonder Woman the Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 2 by William Moulton Marston
    • ILL: Wonder Woman the Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 3 by William Moulton Marston, Joye Murchison, Robert Kanigher, and others
    • ILL: Wonder Woman the Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 4 by Joye Murchison and others
    • ILL: Wonder Woman the Golden Age Omnibus Vol. 5 by various authors
    • ILL: All Star Comics Archive Vol. 0-11
    • ILL: Wonder Woman The Complete Newspaper Strip, 1943-1944 OR Wonder Woman: The Complete Newspaper Comics OR Wonder Woman The Complete Dailies
  • Silver Age
    • Not Currently Collected:
      • Wonder Woman: #205-211;
      • 223-270;
      • 291-293;
      • 296-329
    • ILL: Showcase Presents: Wonder Woman, Vol. 1-4
    • ILL: Diana Prince: Wonder Woman, Vol 1-4
    • ILL: Wonder Woman The Twelve Labors
    • ILL: Huntress: Darknight Daughter
  • Collections  part of “official Wonder Woman”, but not “in order”
    • Consortium (Andover/El Dorado)Wonder Woman, a Celebration of 75 Years by William Moulton Marston
      • All-Star Comics 8; Sensation Comics 1; Wonder Woman VOL. 1 7, 28, 99, 107, 179, 204, 288; Wonder Woman VOL. 2 1, Wonder Woman 64, Wonder Woman 93, 142, 177, 195, 600; Wonder Woman VOL. 3 0; Justice League: New Frontier Special 1; Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman 1, 7
  • In order APPEARANCES out of WW series
    • Golden
    • Silver
    • Modern
      • ILL: Wednesday Comics by Neil Gaiman
      • ILL: Flashpoint: The World of Flashpoint Featuring Wonder Woman       

Finally, if you LOVE the character, but aren’t so into the original story & trajectory, there have been many novelizations over the years. Too many to list here (perhaps another post, another day). They are easy to find with a quick Koha search at the library, though. We have novelizations (and graphic novels) for those interested in all ages: picture books, beginner readers, chapter books, young adult, and graphic novelizations!

Happy reading, my friends!