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Author: Alyssa Larue
I am the teen librarian at DPL and the epitome of a book nerd. When I'm not producing our teen or tween short films or getting glue everywhere while making a teen zine, I can usually be found with my nose in a classic, historical fiction, or fantasy read!
Bella Johnson is a thirteen-year old writer who participated in the Summer 2023 Elemental Writing Challenge in which she wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Bella’s contemporary adventure introduces readers to Scarlett, a girl struggling to care of her ill mother, balance her complex friend groups, and decide what to do about a mysterious magical object offered to her by an even more mysterious sorcerer.
Read the full story below!
We began in an indoor pool with nobody there, the perfect place for 2, 14 year old girls to work. When the new aquatics center opened up nobody wanted to come to the old aquatics center. The girls’ names were Mia and Scarlett. Mia was a tall girl, with brown hair that was dyed blue at the tips. She had on a red swimsuit and Scarlett had a green. Scarlett was a little bit shorter, with red hair dyed with silver tips, she also had green eyes.
“What are you doing tonight Scarlett?”
“Same thing I do every night Mia. I have to look over my mother and watch my sisters. Sorry, I can’t do anything tonight either.”
“Are you going to hang out with me ever, I remember before your mother got sick. We used to hang out all the time. I miss that.”
“We are hanging out right now, wanna race?”
“Nah, remember the last time we raced?”
Scarlett thought about the last time they raced, she just found out that her mother was sick. She also remembered getting stuck in the water and almost drowned, but thanks to the lifeguards they saved her. That’s why she became a lifeguard.
“Yes, I remember.”
“Hey it’s time for me to go home, you got close up again?”
“Yeah, just be careful. I heard your sisters are at it again.”
“Aren’t they always? I will talk to you later bye.”
Scarlett changed out of her swimsuit into her school outfit putting on her most boring jacket. She turned in everything about that day and clock out. On her walk home, Scarlett could not stop thinking about how boring her life is. She can’t hang out with any of her friends unless her father is home or Grandma or Grandpa could come over and help out. When she got home she heard yelling inside the house. She stayed outside for a couple of minutes, before going into the crazy house.
Kayley Roach is a 14-year old writer who participated in the Summer 2023 Elemental Writing Challenge in which she wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Kayley’s contemporary romance follows the character, Kay, a high school senior preparing to graduate. Kay’s anxiety about the future manifests into strange mystical sensations amplified by the growing tension with her friend, Skye, who claims that Kay’s boyfriend cannot be trusted.
Read the full story below!
11:58am – After School
Sometimes, I wish I was a whole different person. I mean, I never really did ask to be who I am. All I know is that I was magically here one day and I’ve been living my life like this ever since.
I guess I decided not to do what I wanted and stay in bed till noon, but I guess I had to be there, you know. To say goodbye. If it weren’t for my best friend convincing me to come, I’d never have realized why I was being asked to come.
If only I had stayed home… in my warm bed, writing my stories at home. But no. Instead, Ihadto go to school, even though it was only for two and a half hours. What was the point? Was the last day of school reallythat important? All I knew was that I didn’t want to go back… Ever.
Layla Mendoza is a thirteen-year old writer who participated in the Summer 2023 Elemental Writing Challenge in which she wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Layla’s fantasy adventure tells the tale of Bringleclaw, a curmudgeonly villain desperate to return the flourishing kingdomof Betom back to the old ways, and a group of unlikely misfits determined to stop him.
Read the full story below!
Chapter 1: Bringleclaw
Far away, in a place that humans have scarcely seen, there was a kingdom called Betom, that had beautiful emerald green hills, sparkling bubbling brooks, tall, multi-colored trees that only you and I can dream of, and most of all: Magic. The magic that lived here dwelled everywhere, not just in the magical beings, but in the land itself, tucked away into the darkest corner, the smallest thorn, even small, unsuspecting insects!
And you can only imagine how joyous the creatures that lived here were! The elves often held grand feasts and dances. The goblins, as fierce as they might seem, liked to play wondrous music when they were feeling especially happy and even the smallest fairies would go about, joining in any festivities they could. Of course, it wasn’t always like this. In the ancient days, the Goblins liked to cause all sorts of mischief, wreaking havoc in not only their own realm, but as many others as possible.
But festivities and joyous occasions were the daily life for the citizens of Betom, and it went on for many years – the same things, the same celebrations. But then one day, everything changed.
Isaac McKinnie is a twelve-year old writer who participated in the 2022 Seafarer’s Writing Challenge in which he wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Isaac’s sci-fi thriller involves a young motorcyclist participating in a race that takes a drastic and traitorous detour.
Read the full story below!
Roads are dull. There is no other way to describe them. They are just slabs of concrete shaped to make a meaningless line. However, roads are even more mind-numbing when no one is using them. On these occasions it almost hurts to see a sight so boring. Luckily for the road next the small harbor in Winfred, Sasnak, this was hardly ever the case; and today was no exception. If someone had been counting how many cars had passed through, they would have lost count in the first ten seconds.
Yet, in all the hustle and bustle of this road, one vehicle stood out. It was a motorcycle, a Hoss Boss to be exact. Its black body paint glistened like obsidian in the early afternoon sun. The beautiful Hoss Boss sped down the (still dull) road with the same amount of importance as King Arthur and his own steed would have. The driver was unfortunately neither wearing a helmet nor taking any safety precautions at all. You might say that he was not very smart. If you did, I would commend you for being smarter than him. However, he seemed to prefer riding without any safety measures. Dylan (for that was the name of the motorcycle rider) laughed as the salty sea wind blew back his black hair and lifted the smell of the ocean to his nostrils. After he finished admiring the view, he revved the engine and sped off. As he rode, he decided to take a route he had not taken yet before going to the meeting place. He sped and then took a random turn. This was what excited him about motorcycling the most: the constant adrenaline, the rush of fear when he took a sharp turn, and the idea that anything might happen. He wove his way around the roads until he finally found his way to the meeting place. There it was––an abandoned warehouse. Now, this warehouse might look like any other abandoned warehouse. But if you went inside and walked through the abandoned warehouse you would find a tear in the wall. If you squeezed through that tear, you would see a small shed. It was there that Dylan met up with his friends.
Amy Rogers is a twelve-year old writer who participated in the 2022 Seafarer’s Writing Challenge in which she wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Amy’s contemporary story explores a young girl’s unexpected summer with her aunt which turns bloodier than expected.
Read the full story below!
I was happy with my life. No, I wasn’t just happy with my life, I loved it! I had indoor plumbing, electricity throughout the whole house, a comfortable smelling house [you know that nice scent when you come into a clean inviting house], and best of all I got to watch television and play video games! I didn’t have to worry about goats needing milked, and leaky roofs needing fixed, or even any chores at all. In short, I was a lazy, selfish, entitled princess who only cared about herself and nothing else.
But one day, a week before summer break, my father and stepmother told me something that changed my life forever…
Layla Mendoza is a twelve-year old writer who participated in the 2022 Seafarer’s Writing Challenge in which she wrote a 5,000 word original short story this summer. Layla’s nautical adventure tells the swashbuckling tale of Captain Howe and the spell that changes his life.
Read the full story below!
There really was no explanation as to how Captain Howe’s vessel had ended up in the Pacific Ocean. He could have sworn that they were going to stay in the Atlantic waters, but nooooooo, they just had to end up in the Pacific Ocean, and right by the Ring of Fire, too, if he had read his maps correctly.
“WHAT?” Captain Howe shouted, banging one pudgy fist down on the wooden table where he was sitting. Maps and books that had been on the edge of the table fell to the floor, and his Cartographer, the one who had spoken, slumped a bit lower in his seat.
“Uh, um, just that, we- ah- seem to be getting fairly close to some active volcanoes that are part of the Ring of Fire, if I’m right about where we are on the map. We aren’t exactly headed directly towards a volcano, but we might pass by one. But,” he shrugged his shoulders, “If you don’t want to take precautions-”
“No, no,” Captain Howe said gruffly. “Do take precautions. Try to alter our course so that we don’t have the chance of getting blown up by a volcano.”
Jessica Roux is a Nashville-based freelance illustrator and artist who specializes in animal and plant subjects. Her work has this colorful yet vintage style that plays with duality. It’s warm, but jarring. It’s gentle, but terrifying. Jessica will include a beautiful bouquet of flowers in vibrant paint next to an ivory skull or slithering serpent.
An Instagram post introduced me to her work. The post advertised her new oracle deck, Woodland Wardens, and from the moment I saw the drawings, I was enchanted. Unlike a tarot deck with its traditional cards and meanings, an oracle deck is entirely unique to the creator, and Jessica’s cards use the wisdom of both plants and animals to guide the user. I bought the deck at Barnes and Noble a few days after its release, and I have spent so much time staring at these cards and their art.
Jessica Roux also illustrates book covers, and one of her projects actually led to my next recommendation!
Book: A Game of Fox and Squirrels by Jenn Reese
I picked this book up because the cover art and illustrations were done by Jessica Roux, but the story itself is just as phenomenal as the drawings. This middle grade novel is about Sam who moves with her older sister to rural Oregon after experiencing domestic violence at the hands of her father. Sam’s aunt gives her a card game called Fox and Squirrels, and the cards summon a mythical fox with a dapper suit and a charming proposition. The Fox promises Sam that he will grant her a wish if she can locate the Golden Acorn, but the only way to find this wish-giving item is to give the manipulative Fox whatever he wants.
This book is so merciful in its representation of a child who has experienced domestic violence. It covers traits of PTSD and survivor’s guilt and building trust in other adults when one’s primary caregivers have betrayed them. It’s also written in beautiful prose that encapsulates the elegant forests of Oregon. The relationships between the characters is believable, especially in demonstrating how secrecy and shame become embedded in a family driven by emotional abuse. These characters are full, rich, and human in a relatable way. As someone who has gone through similar situations as Sam, I found this book to be profoundly validating, and I would recommend it to either children currently in this situation or adults who still live with those memories and scars to this day.
Music: Out Walking by Abby Gundersen
While I love loud, aggressive music to pump me up for a workout or rhythmic, R&B beats to dance to, sometimes gentle piano music is what the soul needs. Abby Gundersen is a composer from Washington who has been collaborating with her brother, Noah, and other musicians for years on multiple projects. Most often Abby works on other people’s tracks, playing piano, violin, or fiddle in the background, but every few years she’ll release a collection of solo instrumentals.
Out Walking is her newest EP. It features six songs, all piano tracks, and explores the feelings one has when walking around a neighborhood, garden, lighthouse, or just heading north. It’s a delicate album, and each song has this way of making whatever you are looking at or doing seem beautiful and profound. I listen to this album when driving and suddenly I feel like I’m in a movie where seemingly mundane things, like kids riding their bikes or construction workers tearing up a road, are existential and poignant.
I love the sounds you can hear on this album too. I believe Abby recorded on an older piano in some kind of attic because you can hear her hitting the piano pedals and the keys striking the base. It’s a palpable album, both soothing and emotional.
Netflix is a hot-spot for interesting documentaries, and The Lost Pirate Kingdom is an adventure into the Golden Age of Piracy. I’ve always been fascinated by the visage of the pirate; a rebellious sea-sailing warrior armed with freedom and pretty jewels, but the truth of the pirate is much more brutal. I wanted to understand what led individuals to such a chaotic and dangerous life.
The Lost Pirate Kingdom is part documentary/part dramatization. Shakespearean actor Sir Derek Jacobi narrates a six-episode series into the beginnings and endings of famous pirates like Benjamin Hornigold, Edward Teach a.k.a. Blackbeard, Sam Bellamy, and Anne Bonny. Combined with interviews from historians, the series features actors performing these roles aboard actual ships and playing out scenes that rival the cinematography of the Pirates of the Caribbean series. It’s a succinct, entertaining, and honest account of how these men and women took autonomy over their own lives by going against the tyranny of a monarch and its repressive values.
If you are curious about the timelines, actual events, and motivations behind these brackish buccaneers, check out this trailer and giveThe Lost Pirate Kingdom a try!
Whether you realized it or not, the United States Federal Census from 1950 is going to be available to the public today! April 1st! This is not an April Fool’s joke, people.
The more genealogy-oriented staff here at the Derby Library have been counting down the days to this event. But why? Well let’s talk about the census real quick.
Every ten years the United States conducts a federal census which is designed to count every resident in the United States. This data is used to determine the number of seats each state has in the U.S. House of Representatives and is also used to distribute billions of dollars in federal funds to local communities. The first federal census in the United States was in 1790. The records themselves are not released to the public until 72 years have passed. So the 1940 census was released to the public in April of 2012. The 1950 census will be released in April of 2022. That is right now!
What does that have to do with you? Well, the Census gives us a snapshot of history at the moment it is taken. It shows how Americans were living, where they were living, who they were living with, and so much more. Have you ever wanted more information about your family history? The census is exactly what you and genealogists are looking for, I dare say it is the backbone of genealogy research in America.
I’m going to show you an example of a local family in the 1940 census right here in Derby, Kansas so you can get an idea of what kind of information you could find about your family.
Justin J. Butterfield was a former mayor of Derby and ran the Farmers and Merchant State Bank in Derby for a number of years. His son Erland Philo Butterfield (who went by Philo) worked as a teller at the Bank, eventually becoming the president of the bank.
Using Ancestry.com, we will bring up the 1940 Census and navigate to the state of Kansas, county of Sedgwick, Rockford Township, city of Derby. The Butterfields were visited by an enumerator on April 19, 1940.
Beginning on line 28 we find Erland P. Butterfield as the Head of the Household. Erland is living with his wife Nellie and his two sons, Darrell and Mandell. The census shows each of their relation to the head of the household, gender, age. Were they attending school? If so what was the highest grade completed.
We learn from this census that Erland was born in Nebraska. His occupation is listed as a cashier in the banking industry. His income is listed as $1500. His wife and children were born in Kansas but not much more information is found about them. Check out the actual image below. Where was your family located in 1940? What information might be listed in the census for them? Maybe you will find out something that you didn’t know. Family secrets are more common than you might think. You can then start going backwards and finding your family in each census and seeing how their lives have changed. The next chapter is here with the 1950 census and we are all excited about it.
If you are interested in starting to research your family tree, give us a call and we can help start you on a path that, in my case, may very well consume a lot of your free time. The Derby Library also has a free subscription to Ancestry that can be used inside the library if you are interested. Come check us out!
Fun fact about me; I love Latin and Hispanic culture. I grew up in Houston, Texas where I listened to Selena’s live concert from the Astrodome on repeat and ate as many tacos and sopapillas as I could get my little hands on. That love has now manifested into a Frida Kahlo tattoo and an obsession with authors like Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and Isabel Allende.
When I discovered Rosalia early this year, I knew she would be the soundtrack of my 2021. This Spanish album is phenomenal. Rosalia is a musician from Spain who incorporates traditional flamenco with urban rhythms to create a unique sound. The album is inspired by a 13th century novel about a woman who overcomes an abusive marriage. Even if you can’t understand a word that Rosalia sings, both her vocals and the production will pull you in.
Book: Cece Rios and the Desert of Souls by Kaela Rivera
On the topic of Latin and Hispanic culture, this middle grade novel is a fantastical journey into the world of Mexican mythology. Having been raised in neighborhoods where local women would warn me of the ghostly La Llorona, I’ve always been fascinated by the mythos of Mesoamerica, and this book captures just that.
Cece Rios lives in Tierra del Sol, a desert plagued by vengeful spirits or criaturas. While Cece’s town try to scare off the criaturas, Cece feels they might not be as dangerous as others think. But when her sister is kidnapped by El Sombreron, she teams up with the legendary Coyote to enter a dark and dangerous world.
The characters, writing, and plot are all exceptional, and I was so immersed in the supernatural world. Also, if you are looking for the same vibe in TV form, check out Victor and Valentino here at the library or on Cartoon Network or HBO Max!
This eight-part miniseries on Hulu about Oxycotin is addictive. If you are into court dramas, mental health/health care, stories of addiction, or the insanity that is the pharmaceutical industry, I highly recommend this show, inspired by the non-fiction novel of the same name. It’s not easy to watch at times, but it’s told with such high production and performance quality and with a sincere reverence to those impacted by OxyContin in the early 2000s.
The series gives you all perspectives; members of the pharm company, a sales rep, a doctor, a patient, a DEA agent, and the lawyers who brought a case against the drug. Michael Keaton, Rosario Dawson, and Peter Sarsgaard have lead roles.
Interestingly, my mother worked as a hospital phlebotomist around the time of the drug’s release when I was about ten years old, and I remember her having pens and notepads with its logo. Never would I have imagined the scandal and deception behind it.
Company: Les Mills
Fitness has been a consistent part of my life for nearly four years. I box with Evolution Fitness Studios in Wichita (which I highly recommend), but when COVID hit last year, I had to find something else to keep both my physical and mental health intact. I stumbled upon this video on YouTube and fell in love with the New Zealand-based company called Les Mills.
I use Les Mills Plus, an on-demand subscription where I follow along with videos taught by instructors from all over the world. Les Mills has so many different programs including weight training (Body Pump), HIIT (Grit), shadowboxing (Body Combat), dance (Sh’Bam), cycling (RPM) and more.
The workouts can be tough, but they’ve pushed my fitness level in a whole new way. The instructors are motivating and helpful too. If you are hesitant to get into a gym or you are looking for something new, I recommend giving Les Mills a try.
First line: Numbers floated round my head like stars.
Summary: This book is a fictional story based on true events that happened at the American Library in Paris during World War II. Odile, a young Parisian woman gets a job at the library before war comes to France. Lily is Odile’s neighbor in Montana. The story jumps between Lily in the 1980’s and Odile from 1939-1944.
My thoughts: I had no idea there was an American library in Paris, let alone that it had managed to remain open through the Nazi occupation of the city. I’m a sucker for books about books or libraries or readers, so this one came to me naturally. However, once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down.
What incredible stories are written about the circumstances of those who experienced the hardships of the war firsthand. The author did an amazing job of slowly peeling back Odile’s story. And Lily was crucial to that telling. I love Lily and Odile so much.
FYI: Be sure to read the author’s notes to see which of the characters were actual staff members at the library.