Tag Archives: fiction

March Recap

March contains some great celebrations: It’s Women’s History Month, there’s St. Patrick’s Day and International Women’s Day, March Madness, spring flowers start blooming and, of course, all the great posts we put up here on Eleventh Stack!

Cover of All About Love by bell hooksFor Women’s History Month, Natalie looked at women in the workplace and guest blogger Adina wrote about Emma Watson’s feminist book club Our Shared Shelf.

Ginny highlighted the many wonderful volunteers and organizations that were nominated for our Community Advocate and Outstanding Partner Award and shared resources that helped her become a better mentor. Guest blogger Ian shared his experiences running and how you can help raise money for the Library with the DICK’S Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon.

Amy E. reviewed The Witch of Lime Street by David Jaher, and explored America’s flirtations with spiritualism in the 1920s, while Scott M. explored popular philosophy and Suzy shared some silly picture books.

We didn’t write about basketball at all, but Abbey covered The Tournament of Books, and Jess continued her reading challenge with the third title in the Red Rising trilogy.

bookcoverOn the literary front, Leigh Anne wrote about accomplished female poet C.D. Wright, Kayla questioned Tessa Hadley’s The Past and enjoyed The Girl in the Red Coat. Melissa remembered the late novelist Pat Conroy.

Ross really appreciated actress Brie Larson in her many roles, and looked at Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, and geeked out over Batman v. Superman. Joelle gave props to character actors, Whitney recommended the television show Outlander, and Tara explored the world of foreign TV.

Megan shared her love for cooking, and Ginny updated us on her 50 cakes project.

Happy Spring!

-Team Eleventh Stack

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The Not Crying Post.

Last year around this time I posted about Things That Have Made Me Cry Lately.

It kind of hit a nerve. I won’t lie, these long Pittsburgh winters bring me down. I am desperate to see a flower, eat a fresh vegetable, walk around barefoot, ride my bike, dig in my yard, swim and generally loll about in the sunshine without 87 layers of clothes on.

The thing is, when this post drops (as the kids say) I’ll be on my way to Key West.

It’s kind of hard to be Captain Bringdown in the Florida Keys. So instead of making everyone sad, I figured I’d make everyone giggle. Here are some books I stumbled upon in the children’s room that maybe made me laugh more than I should.

crayonsThe Day the Crayons Quit & The Day the Crayons Came Home, Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers

Crayons have feelings, too, in this funny back-to-school story illustrated by the creator of Stuck and This Moose Belongs to Me –now a #1 New York Times bestseller! Poor Duncan just wants to color. But when he opens his box of crayons, he finds only letters, all saying the same thing: His crayons have had enough! They quit! Beige Crayon is tired of playing second fiddle to Brown Crayon. Black wants to be used for more than just outlining. Blue needs a break from coloring all those bodies of water. And Orange and Yellow are no longer speaking–each believes he is the true color of the sun. What can Duncan possibly do to appease all of the crayons and get them back to doing what they do best?

nopicturesThe Book With No Pictures, B.J. Novak

You might think a book with no pictures seems boring and serious. Except . . . here’s how books work. Everything written on the page has to be said by the person reading it aloud. Even if the words say . . . BLORK. Or BLUURF. Even if the words are a preposterous song about eating ants for breakfast, or just a list of astonishingly goofy sounds like BLAGGITY BLAGGITY and GLIBBITY GLOBBITY. Cleverly irreverent and irresistibly silly, The Book with No Pictures is one that kids will beg to hear again and again (And parents will be happy to oblige.).

BeekleThe Adventures of Beekle, Dan Santat

Winner of the 2015 Caldecott Medal This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and–at long last–is given his special name: Beekle. New York Times bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat combines classic storytelling with breathtaking art, creating an unforgettable tale about friendship, imagination, and the courage to find one’s place in the world.

YoureHereYou’re Finally Here, Mélanie Watt

Hooray! You’re finally here! But where were you? A bunny bounces through a range of emotions in this funny picture book about how difficult it is to wait. At first he’s ecstatic that you, the reader, has arrived. But then he can’t help letting you know that waiting for you took too long, was way too boring, and even became insulting. The bunny is ready to forgive everything if you will promise to stay. But hold on–he has to take a phone call. Wait! Come back! Where are you going? Underneath this book’s silly, in-your-face humor are feelings true to every child who has had to wait for someone’s attention.

MoleRatNaked Mole Rat Gets Dressed, Mo Willems

Wilbur is different from the other Naked Mole Rats in his Colony, because he wears clothes (and he likes it!). But what will happen when Grandpah, the oldest, wisest, and most naked Naked Mole Rat ever discovers Wilbur’s secret? Funnyman and three-time Caldecott Honoree Mo Willems exposes the naked truth about being yourself and wearing it well.

Okay, okay. ONE sad thing. The Only Child by Guojing










Happy Spring!


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Time Traveling with Tessa Hadley


The Past involves four siblings: Harriet, Alice, Fran, and Roland. They all get together for a summer holiday in Kington. It’s possibly their last holiday together in Kington because they are thinking about selling the house, which belonged to their grandparents. Along for the ride are Fran’s two children, Ivy and Arthur; Roland’s new wife Pilar and his daughter, Molly; and Alice’s ex-boyfriend’s son, Kasim.

One chapter can feature viewpoints from every single character, which I thought was cool. Sometimes it can get annoying to read a novel with just one point of view. It was a refreshing change of pace. One other thing that I found interesting about Hadley’s writing is that she didn’t use quotation marks for dialogue, but instead used a dash. I had never seen this style of writing before. It threw me off at first, but the further along I got in the book the more that I adjusted to it.

The characters talked a lot about the past so it was fitting that about halfway through the book the time period switches from the present to the past. During this part of the book, readers get viewpoints from the grandparents, the children’s mother, and Harriet and Roland when they were children. At this point in the book, Alice is a baby & Fran wasn’t born yet. Readers get to see what life was like for the family before everything changed.

The big moment that changed the siblings’ lives is when their mother dies of cancer. Then years later the grandfather dies and the grandmother soon after. We also get introduced to the siblings’ father, whom the mother left because he had an affair. After the mother dies, the father goes off with another woman and the children never see him again. This part of the story helps readers to understand why the siblings are the way that they are as adults. I noticed some characteristics of each sibling in their mother.

The story then switches from the past back to the present and wraps up all of the mini story lines in the novel. Without giving anything away, I will say that the past and the present connect at the end of the novel…sort of. The ending left me with more questions than answers, which was annoying.

The Past is available in our catalog in the formats of print, book on CD, eBook and eAudio.


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Shuffling Through with Paul Beatty


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.

bookcoverSo, I finally finished The White Boy Shuffle and I honestly don’t know how to feel about it. Half the time while reading this book I was wondering, “What’s the point?” I could tell from descriptions of the book and while reading the book that it was a satire. I admit that I did laugh a few times, but I was still confused. It took me until I was two thirds done with the book that I realized the purpose of this book.

The main character, Gunnar Kaufman, was dealing with accepting and embracing his blackness. In the beginning of the book, Gunnar lived in Santa Monica, which was a predominately white neighborhood and in classrooms he was always the only black kid. Then, he, his mother and his two sisters ended up moving to West Los Angeles, which was mostly made up of black & Latino people.  He was considered an outcast and often got bullied because he talked “proper,” listened to rock music & dressed differently than the other kids.

It wasn’t until Gunnar met Nick Scoby in a class that he got friends in his new neighborhood. Then Gunnar’s popularity skyrocketed when it was discovered that he was good at basketball. He was also very smart & a great poet. All of these things made Gunnar very popular, but Gunnar had a complex with his newfound fame throughout the book. At times, he embraced it & other times he rejected it.

The book is chock full of stereotypes about the different races and how others feel about them. Sometimes, I felt like I was reading a more sophisticated version of Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood. As the book went on, readers got to see Gunnar embrace his blackness and call out people who he felt didn’t genuinely like him for who he was, but for his talents on the basketball court & with poetry.

At times, I was caught off guard with what the characters were saying & at times I didn’t understand it. In the end, I still found two quotes that stood out to me. One was when Gunnar said:

The only time it’s permissible to cry is when you miss the lottery by one number or someone close to you passes away. Then you can cry once, but only once. There is no brooding, n***ers got to get up and go to work tomorrow.

This quote stood to me because I found it to be true. It’s like black people are constantly being policed, even on our emotions. We can’t express outrage or even be upset about something not going our way without being labeled as thugs for our behavior.

The second quote was when Gunnar stated:

The people of Hillside treat society the way society treats them. Strangers and friends are suspect and guilty until proven innocent.

This quote stood out to me because I’ve been in the situation that the people of Hillside were in, which is that people are passing judgement on them without getting to know them just because of where they’re from. I’ve gotten awkward pauses or looks or sympathy when I’ve told people where I live because it’s been deemed a “dangerous neighborhood.” Just because some bad things have occurred here doesn’t mean that every resident of that neighborhood is a bad person.

In the end, Paul Beatty wrote an interesting book about how to embrace your blackness and how you can be perceived by society just by being black in America. The White Boy Shuffle is cousins with the novel Oreo (read an Eleventh Stack review here) so you can check that out or one of Beatty’s other novels if you’re interested. Happy reading!


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Read Harder: Vol. 2


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.

This year, I plan on chronicling my adventures with Book Riot’s 2016 Read Harder Challenge.

In Rita Williams-Garcia’s One Crazy Summer, Delphine and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, are heading to Oakland, California to spend a month with the mother they barely know. Cecile left them seven years ago for a new life as an artist and poet on the West Coast.

Oakland in 1968 is nothing like their California dreams of Disneyland, movie stars and days at the beach. Cecile has no interest in showing them the sights — her work with the printing press in the kitchen is far more important. Instead, every day Cecile sends the girls to a summer camp held at the community center run by the Black Panther Party. Delphine’s ordered world view is altered by the time spent learning about the fight for justice and her mother’s role in the Party.

This quick read sent me on a quest for more information about the Black Panther Party, and I can recommend Stanley Nelson‘s documentary The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution.

For those following along with the Read Harder challenge, One Crazy Summer will help you cover the “Read a middle grade novel” and “Read the first book in a series by a person of color.” You can follow more of Delphine’s adventures with P.S. Be Eleven and Gone Crazy in Alabama.

– Jess

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Post-Katrina Fiction


Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh and Eleventh Stack are celebrating Black History Month by highlighting books, music and movies by African American Artists. We also have a ton of great events and programs for children, teens and adults. You can view all of our Black History Month posts here.

More than 10 years after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans and surrounding areas, it’s no wonder that we’re seeing the physical destruction,  human suffering and resulting complicated emotions reflected back to us through fictional lenses. Here’s a look at a few of the many post-Katrina titles worth your time.


A panel from Dark Rain by Mat Johnson

Dark Rain: A New Orleans Story – Mat Johnson

In this graphic novel, Dark Rain is not only an allusion to physical presence of the hurricane, but it’s also the name of a shady private security firm policing the citizens of New Orleans while simultaneously trying to capitalize on the mayhem. In a story where all the characters are trying to get a piece of the action, one character in particular has to decide what he’s willing to risk and what he’s trying to gain.


Quvenzhane Wallis in Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild 

Ok, so this movie isn’t technically about hurricane Katrina, but it’s pretty hard to deny that Katrina helped to shape and influence the film.  With elements of magical realism, the plot centers on a young girl, her father and their surrounding bayou community dealing with a major flood and its aftermath. One of the lead actors, Dwight Henry, has said that living through Hurricane Katrina directly impacted his performance: “I was in Hurricane Katrina in neck-high water. I have an inside understanding for what this movie is about. I brought a passion to the part that an outside actor who had never seen a storm or been in a flood or faced losing everything could have.” With absolutely stellar performances by the two stars, (both novice actors), gorgeous cinematography and evocative storytelling, this one isn’t to be missed.

Salvage the Bones – Jesmyn Ward 

Fourteen year old Esch is pregnant, one of her brothers is attempting to keep pit bull pups alive, her dad is a hard-living alcoholic trying and failing to take care of it all, and, oh yeah, a massive hurricane is on it’s way.  You can feel the looming hurricane in the air as the book builds to its crescendo, yet we never forget that the hurricane isn’t the only, or even the biggest, obstacle these characters face. Life will go on, somehow. Ward brings this family and their struggle to life with poetry and humanity that you won’t soon forget.



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Celebrating Alice

On the 27th of this month, we celebrate the 184th birthday of one of the most influential writers to grace children’s literature … the Rev. Charles Lutwitdge Dodgson. But most of us know him better under his super secret superhero/pen name: Lewis Carroll.

annotated aliceBorn in 1832 into a conservative and religious family, Carroll’s father, a parish priest, married his first cousin and had 11 children. Carroll was the eldest boy, the family entertainer, and even though he had a stammer, he was a practiced storyteller for his brothers and sisters and a brilliant student.

Carroll had an affinity for children and collected “Child Friends” throughout his lifetime that raised some eyebrows, even in Victorian times, when the age of consent was 14. This otherwise dry, methodical, punctilious and orderly man preferred them to his adult peers, thinking of them as a refuge from adults and his duties as a Don of Mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford.  He came alive before children, inspired by their innocence and mere presence. And most especially by the presence of one little girl in particular: Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Before you  think about comparing him to another famous entertainer and child-afficiando, his biographers have described him as a man who held himself to high moral standards. Although Carroll never attained full priesthood, he did take his holy orders, and in Victorian times, a clergyman having children over for tea wasn’t considered especially scandalous. He simply loved the innocence of childhood.

alicegraphicnovelOn a scorching hot July 4th in 1862 on the river Thames, he was, as usual, hanging out with Alice Liddell and her sisters. As they begged for a story, he unwillingly told them the story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. He hadn’t written a single word down, and it was only after Liddell’s incessant nagging that Carroll did finally put pen to paper (because kids are amazing at reminding grownups what they should be doing). So can I get all of you take a second out of your day to thank Ms. Liddell? It’s only because of her that generations of artists, photographers and writers were able to be influenced by this wonderful work of imagination. Let’s hear an amen to that!

The Library has loads of books based off of Mr. Carroll’s works. Let’s take a look at just a few of the awesome titles:

Share your favorite Alice spin-offs or tributes in the comments!



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