My Library Story:”The Happiest Place on Earth”

By James Magruder

Authors James Magruder

Every Saturday morning of my childhood, my mother would pile my two sisters and me into the station wagon to go to the public library, where we were allowed to check out ten books at a time. We had a tough time picking just ten. We’d often finish them all, our own and each other’s, by Wednesday and beg her to take us back after supper.

As a queer teen, the Wheaton Public Library in Wheaton, Illinois was where I indulged my first passion project–the Broadway Musical. I’d bike into town, then sit for hours at a table in by the arts section on the second floor, reading (and re-reading) the standard histories–both gossipy and scholarly–of the form and its most famous practitioners. Then head downstairs to the periodicals department, where I would fill out carbon slips for bound copies of Time, Newsweek, Life, Look, and The New Yorker so I could read the original reviews of all the shows I was learning about. I felt like a scholar. To date, it’s the only research I’ve ever carried out with a full heart and boundless enthusiasm.

I used to declare that I wanted to have my ashes stored in a hollowed-out copy of John Kenney Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces and set on a shelf in my personal library, because a roomful of books–whether in Wheaton or Paris or the Pratt–had consistently been the happiest place on earth for me. I now know that my ashes will be laid to rest in Green Mount Cemetery among my husband’s family, but I can’t help but worry over the fate of my books.

Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall
by James Magruder

Join us for the Pratt’s Writers LIVE! event with James Magruder and Jen Michalski  on Tuesday, October 26 at 7pm. Follow the Love Slaves of Helen Hadley Hall  Author James Macgruder’s Library Journey. 

Please submit your library journeys to

Where my Library Journey Started

by Jen Michalski

Author Jen Michalski

My library journey started with my grandfather. When we were kids, he would take us to the North Point Branch of the Baltimore County Public Library every week. I remember the smell of the library on Saturday mornings, the long, yellow-spined row of Nancy Drew books I worked my way through as a nine-year-old, as well as Encyclopedia Brown, Ramona Quimby, and, as I edged toward my preteen years, S.E. Hinton, Lois Duncan, and J. R. R. Tolkien. My family was working class, lucky enough to have a week’s vacation at Ocean City every year, but as a child I never got to travel outside of Eastern Baltimore County much, except in books—to Hong Kong and Japan with Nancy Drew, to Middle Earth with Tolkien, to Terabithia with C.S. Lewis and Katherine Paterson. 

The Summer She Was Under Water
by Jen Michalski

But my journey didn’t only include books⎯I remember checking out REM’s Reckoning and Fables of the Reconstruction as well as Ella Fitzgerald LPs as a teenager, music I’d never hear on the radio in the tiny Eastern Shore town to which my family moved. It also provided necessary resources for a difficult time in my life. When I graduated college and moved to Baltimore City, the first thing I did was get a library card from the Central Branch of the Enoch Pratt Library. It was the early nineties, I hadn’t come out yet, and I remember picking up The Price of Salt, The Second Sex, and an LGBT handbook at a library sale. They were my first “queer” books, my first exploration of identify in a time before the Internet, and in the years to follow Enoch Pratt became my go-to place to digest important works of lesbian and gay authors. It was also the place at which I embarked on my journey as a professional writer, when I attended my first CityLit Festival in 2006. 

Of course, the pinnacle of my library journey is when I discovered a copy of one of my own novels, The Tide King, at the Central Branch. From young reader to writer to author, the library has played an integral part in my journey every step of the way. 

Don’t miss the Pratt’s Writers LIVE! event with Jen Michalski and James Magruder on Tuesday, October 26 at 7pm. Follow along The Summer She Was Under Water Author Jen Michalski Library Journey.

We want to hear your Pratt Library journey too. Email your story to

Learning with STEAM: Download Virtual Zoo

This October, young students can learn more about science, technology, engineering, art, and math with the help of Hoopla! Check out the Virtual Zoo collection that’s full of educational fun.

by Dom Conlon & Anastasia Izlesou
Playful As A Panda, Peaceful As A Sloth
by Saskia Lacey
The Elephants Come Home
by Kim Tomsic & Hadley Hooper

The Book Of Tiny Creatures
by Nathalie Tordjman,
Julien Norwood &
Emanuelle Tchoukriel
Why Are Flamingos Pink?
by Nancy Dickmann
How To Build An Insect
by Roberta Gibson
& Anne Lambelet
Horse Power
by Jennifer Thermes
Eye By Eye
by Sara Levine
& T.S. Spookytooth
Bees Build Beehives
by Elizabeth Raum
Armor & Animals
by Liz Yohlin Bail
A Walk In The Rain Forest
by Rebecca L. Johnson
& Phyllis V. Saroff
A Caravan Of Camels
by Christopher Robbins
& Nichola Cowdery

The Latest Albums on Hoopla

Donda or Certified Lover Boy? We’re not willing to say who had the best album of 2021 so you’ll have to take a listen for yourself! Check out the latest music from chart-topping artists on Hoopla Music. 

Certified Lover Boy
Artist Drake
Artist Kanye West
Happier Than Ever
Artist Billie Eilish
Artist Kacey Musgraves

Solar Power
Artist Lorde
If I Can’t Have Love , I Want Power
Artist Halsey
Remember Her Name
Artist Mickey Guyton
Dear Evan Hansen
(Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Various Artist
Love Is The New Black
Artist Anthony Hamilton
Artist J Balvin
Good Things
Artist Dan + Shay
Mercury – Act 1
Artist Imagine Dragons

In Their Own Words: Book Picks for Hispanic Heritage Month

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month by picking up a new nonfiction book. Here’s a few selections of nonfiction, memoirs, and biographies that we think you’ll enjoy. 

On screen, Danny Trejo the actor is a baddie who has been killed at least a hundred times. Off screen, he’s a hero beloved by recovery communities and obsessed fans alike. But the real Danny Trejo is much more complicated than the legend.

Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood

by Danny Trejo


One of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans in this deeply personal and groundbreaking portrait of a nation.

The Undocumented Americans

by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio


In this searing memoir, Jaquira Díaz writes fiercely and eloquently of her challenging girlhood and triumphant coming of age. From her own struggles with depression and sexual assault to Puerto Rico’s history of colonialism, every page of Ordinary Girls vibrates with music and lyricism.

Ordinary Girls

by Jaquira Diaz


Also, add these to your reading list:

My Beloved World
by Sonia Sotomayor
In The Dream House
by Carmen Maria Machado
The Devil’s Highway
by Luis Alberto Urrea
Children Of The Land
by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo Book|eBook
Bird Of Paradise
by Raquel Cepeda
In The Country We Love
by Diane Guerrero