Looking for something to read? Here’s one recommendation

by Sylvie Merlier-Rowen, Children’s Librarian

Prairie Lotus is Linda Sue Park’s newest historical novel. I read it soon after I read A Place to Belong by Cynthia Kadohata, and I could not help but notice a few similarities between the two novels. Even though we find ourselves in a very different environment in Prairie Lotus, Hanna, the main character, has a lot in common with Hanako.

Prairie Lotus
by Linda Sue Park

After losing her Chinese mother, Hanna’s father wants to start a new life away from California that has been Hanna’s only home. Prairie Lotus starts with Hanna and her father on the way to their final destination, just like Hanako is on her way to Japan at the beginning of A Place to Belong. The two girls are both going to an unfamiliar place that should become their new home. They both are scared and excited at the same time. They both have suffered from prejudices, and they both lost someone or something dear to them.

Yet, Hanna’s environment is so different from Hanako’s. Hanna’s story is set in the year 1880 in Dakota Territory. She and her father are going to a town called LaForge, where everything is new, and everyone has great hopes for the future. Hanna loves to sew and she dreams of designing dresses. Her immediate goal though is to finish high school and get her diploma. That should be easy to achieve, but Hanna knows all too well that being half-Chinese could pose a problem. Prejudice is at the heart of Prairie Lotus. Hanna and her father have been on the road for three years unable to settle anywhere because of xenophobia. They have high hopes in LaForge because Hanna’s father has a friend who lives there. His name is Mr. Harris, and he is the town’s Justice of the Peace.

Shortly after their arrival in LaForge, Mr. Harris gives permission to Hanna to attend school. The first day she goes to school, she keeps her hat on to hide her face, but she decides to take it off on the second day. By evening, the people of LaForge are up in arms against Hanna going to school with their children. Through them, Linda Sue Park depicts the most primal form of prejudice, the one that is born out of ignorance, fear, and insecurity. This is the same hurtful prejudice they have against the Native Americans from whom they stole the land. It is fitting that the author includes a few Sioux women who Hanna befriends. The group of Sioux women and children are dignified by the author’s writing. She also contrasts Hanna’s shy friendliness and interest in them with the LaForge people’s hostility and lack of respect.

Hanna is not alone in this battle against prejudice. She has a few adult allies and one or two school friends, but is that enough for her father and her to defeat the demons of prejudice, and settle in LaForge?

More Reviews from Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Heather T. on The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah: Kristin Hannah is in a league all her own with this book. It is a story that I will read for years to come. The journey traveled by the young woman in this book is remarkable yet her feelings, emotions and experiences are those that anyone can relate to. It’s beautiful, sad, heartbreaking and endearing all together in a gorgeous but dangerous setting. I have a new heroine in the pages of The Great Alone.

The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah

Rochetta G. on The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl by Issa Rae: This was a FABULOUS read. Totally relatable, easy to read, funny, brilliant!

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl
by Issa Rae

Sarah H. on The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine: At first, I thought this was a totally predictable novel about a woman’s attempt at transcending her social class in order to steal another woman’s husband. Although the first part of the book was full of foreshadowing, I had NO idea what to expect as soon as part two began. After the jarring twist in part two, this book became an absolute page-turner that I ended up finishing entirely in less than five hours. The ending was satisfying and left me with one of those good feelings that comes with putting a good book to rest after the last page.

The Last Mrs. Parrish
by Liv Constantine

Sarah B. on Cymbeline by William Shakespeare: This read like a sibling to The Winter’s Tale. I thoroughly enjoyed this play! Even with some archetypal characters, the conflict was believable. The resolution felt part natural, part contrived. Pisanio was the realest real one, as Shakespeare servants are, and the villains were first-class evil schemers. Posthumus’s path of repentance wasn’t as well done as Leontes in The Winter’s Tale. This had a little bit of everything: romance, humor, killing, war, deception, prophecies, and *holy crud*, the god Jupiter!

Join the fun! For a chance to win fabulous prizes in the Adult Summer Challenge, create a free Beanstack account and log each book you finish between June 17 and August 31.

Comics 411: A Review of DC Black Label “Harleen”

Gotham. Batman. Joker. Each one of these famous names invoke meaning. Gotham, the city of monsters and madness; Batman, the dark knight and defender of Gotham; and Joker, the infamous crime lord who revels in madness with a smile. Then there is Harley. Harley Quinn, is the harlequin or joker-esque equivalent to the crowned prince of crime. Infamously, Harley is known as the right-hand woman of the Joker, but who was she before she painted her face with a smile?

In this origin story, we meet Harleen Quinzel, a struggling young psychiatrist who is determined to prove that her revolutionary rehabilitation theory can help save the citizens of Gotham from its haunting  madness. To test her theory, she is given the opportunity to conduct her research at Arkham Asylum. Her study eventually leads to her fateful encounter with the Joker.

by Stjepan Sejic

This story is fascinating in that you get an origin for Harley Quinn through the eyes of her alter-ego, Harleen Quinzel. Although this is the same woman, Harleen and Harley come across as completely different . The writing is not too crazy and over the top, as Harley Quinn can be portrayed, but comes off as sophisticated. We also get the opportunity to see the city of  Gotham  through Harleen’s perspective in this unorthodox romance novel. The script is also very  intriguing in that it  does a great job of diving into the study of criminal psychology.

What I love most about this is that it’s not just an origin story for Harley Quinn. This novel highlights other very prominent Gotham characters  and Harleen’s encounters and decisions serve as a catalyst for their own. Who could they be? Well, you have to read it to find out!

The art and story were both by Stjepan Sejic. This is great because at times you may get a really great team of writers and illustrators who collaborate on a graphic novel series (e.g. Fiona Staples and Brian K. Vaughan for Saga, Image), but this can possibly become detrimental to the story if the great minds don’t think alike . However, there is nothing more satisfying than the storyteller being able to appropriately illustrate how they’d like to tell  their tale. I  also enjoy how the artwork is used to capture the story. You can see how Stjepan plays with the color scheme, inspired by that of Harley Quinn’s costume, by giving  hints of red and black on each page. The  artwork is also quite dynamic in how it helps express character thoughts, feelings, memories and actions.

Novel Recommendations: More of Stjepan’s work as well as Joker or Harley Quinn related comics and novels on Hoopla, RBDigital, and Overdrive.

Stay tuned for the next focus of Comics 411 where there will be a readers’ advisory for DC Black Label’s Luthor.

Other cool recommendations for adult graphic novels- Graphics Galore: Graphic Novel Recommendations by Deborah on the Enoch Pratt Free Library’s Facebook page.

Book Chat with Pratt: Graphic Novels edition

Today we are discussing graphic novels with Deborah, Humanities Librarian. Let us know what questions you have in the comments.

Posted by Enoch Pratt Free Library on Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Don’t forget Enoch Pratt’s Summer Challenge is also for adults! (Summer Challenge info for adults) Imagine Your Story!

How to Access Virtual Visual Art Resources at the Pratt

by Doyun Lee, Librarian

Though the recent closures due to COVID-19 prevents us from visiting art galleries and seeing works of art in person, there is an abundance of opportunities for visual art experiences online. Most major museums and other institutions have worked over the years towards digitizing their resources but recent shutdowns have pushed these establishments to provide greater virtual experiences to the public. Not sure where to start your at-home virtual art journey? Here is a list of various resources and some highlighted activities to help you navigate the sites.

Did you know that the Enoch Pratt Free Library is also home to a digital collection of rare and unique historical materials? This is a great place to start browsing images to learn about local Baltimore and Maryland history. Some featured collections include photographs taken of the Bethlehem Steel Co. Maryland between 1891 and 1962, Chicory, a magazine of poetry and art published by the Pratt Library between 1966 and 1983, and photographs from between the 1890s and the 1970s depicting the social, economic, and political lives of African American Marylanders.

Bethlehem Steel Company

ART21 is an award-winning PBS series that focuses exclusively on contemporary art and artists. Curated playlists such as the Teaching with Community and Taking a Stand playlists can be a good place to start. There is also a live broadcast channel streaming a random clip if you are feeling wild. Full episodes can be viewed on the official PBS site.

Artbound is another award-winning art series focusing on LA art and artists. Full episodes such as The Mundane Afrofuturist Manifesto and Artist and Mother as well as clips are available on the site.

Museum Crush and SHOW ME are UK sites that help users navigate various objects housed in UK museums. Museum Crush features stories that weave together artifacts found in different museums and SHOW ME is a family oriented site that provides games, collections, videos, stories and homework help to foster an appreciation of museums in young audiences.

Google Arts and Culture is a museum portal offering a wide range of access to museums around the world. Though not exhaustive and always up-to-date with the latest resources, it is the most thorough list online and a great starting point. You can begin locally with Baltimore’s own Walters Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art (Click on the links to the museums’ respective pages for further exploration!), and then travel around the country or the world at will by visiting museums in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles, Tokyo, London, Istanbul, Paris and Mexico City! You can even tour Frida Kahlo’s studio in Mexico City using Google Street View or stop by The Musée de l’Orangerie to view its critically acclaimed installation of Monet’s Water Lilies in the oval rooms. The Google Arts and Culture main site also features fun games and activities such as the Art Transfer App which allows you to transform your photos into the styles of renowned artists like van Gogh and Kandinsky.

Visiting the sites of individual art museums can also provide endless amounts of creative activities that can be done in the comfort of your home. Here is a list of some examples:

  • There is a wide array of virtual programs being offered on a daily basis at the Museum of Contemporary Art, LA (MOCA). Watch what artists are doing at home and at their studios during the shutdown or join the reading discussions centered around art-related texts!
  • Travel virtually all the way to Mumbai, India and explore the Sarmaya Arts Foundation, the nation’s first ever digital archive. 
  • Tate Britain’s Create Like an Artist tutorials are for both kids and adults and provide guidance on painting, printing and collage, textile, sculpture, and more. 
  • The Chez Baldwin online exhibition by the National Museum of African American History and Culture demonstrates how the places that James Baldwin chose as home affected the trajectory of his life.
  • Like the work of its eponymous painter, the Dali Theatre-Museum is a surreal experience. You can tour the theatre-museum virtually in its entirety. 

Exhausted your collection of coloring sheets weeks ago? Color our Collections provides free coloring sheets donated from the collections of libraries, archives and other cultural institutions. You can find coloring pages filled with illustrations of real and mythological creatures, botanical illustrations, and historical engravings.

If you are working on a creative project and need some reference materials, Sketchfab provides over 3 million 3d models that can be downloaded with purchase. However, viewing the models is free and is a great resource for drawing references!

For even further exploration, here are two extensive lists of virtual museum resources:

Imagine Your Story, Part 7: Reviews from Adult Summer Challenge Participants

Whitney J. on They All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall: They All Fall Down is a book that makes one wish Mom was still alive. I needed someone to tell me that it was time to turn out the lights. I knew before I started that all the players would be gone by the end of the story, but I certainly didn’t see the last death coming! It’s also very funny in places. I really enjoyed it and found it difficult to put down!

They All Fall Down
by Rachel Howzell Hall

George H. on Before and After the Book Deal by Courtney Maum: Incredibly helpful for those looking to get started in literary publishing. Maum collects the wisdom of many authors and highlights aspects of publishing that often aren’t talked about in books like this.

Before and After The Book Deal
by Courtney Maum

Laura R. on The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin: A fun little book for book people and bookstore lovers. Lighthearted and at times serious. Just enough character development to enjoy the people of this small town and their relationships and how books weave throughout their stories.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry
by Gabrielle Zevin

Cheryl D. on The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick: Delightful, Fun and a quick read despite its size (530 pages.) This is a very different style book with many full page original drawings (which fill many pages so you fly through the 500+ pages.) I selected this book from the online catalog for my second graders but didn’t realize it was over 500 pages until I picked it up. I almost put it directly into the return box but figured I should give it a try. I am so happy that I did! I do not like reading fiction so I was delighted to find this story based on nonfiction historically accurate people and places. Set in 1930s Paris, you learn of the city and early film! Give this book a try!

The Invention of Hugo Cabret
by Brian Selznick

Join the fun! For a chance to win fabulous prizes in the Adult Summer Challenge, create a free Beanstack account and log each book you finish between June 17 and August 31.