Thursday, November 10, 2016

Library closed!

Friday, November 11, we commemorate Veterans' Day, "A celebration to honor America's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good." (U.S. Department of Veterans' Affairs)



All branches of Burbank Public Library will be closed. We will reopen for regular hours at the Central Library and Buena Vista Branch on Saturday at 10:00 a.m.

Award-winning Teen Fiction #1

Here is the first story we'd like to share with you, from one of our top nine writers in the POV Story Writing Contest. Victoria is 13, and is in 8th grade.




Ghost Fields
by Victoria Macias

You killed us.

You killed me.

The voices pulled sleep out of Keenan’s grasping mind, murmuring like a reluctant breeze around him. They were quiet today, whispering for once instead of shouting. If Keenan hadn’t already known the words, he might not have been able to discern them from the general hubbub; but he did know the words, and now that the protection of sleep was gone they filled his ears again, attempting by that route to leech into his soul. He spent a fuzzy moment hoping against hope that he’d be able to fall asleep again; but of course he couldn’t. The day had begun, and he would have to begin with it.

The first thing to greet him once he opened his eyes was a face—or at least a thing of shifting grey mist that looked very like a face—hovering over him like a personal raincloud. In spite of its shifting transparency, it might have been lifelike, save for the bullet wound that gaped bloodlessly in its forehead. Beyond the aged visage, Keenan could make out the bare branches of a tree shaking in the wind, and a stormy sky.

I WAS MURDERED, a voiceless voice roared from its thirst-cracked lips. The mist-made eyes were intact, boggling out from a skull-like face; and the soldier’s uniform, too, was preserved in perfect detail.

Keenan grimaced, waving a hand through the mist in a fruitless attempt to shoo it away. Cold as ice, it left sharp frost-patterns on his hand.

“So what?” he returned grumpily, knowing the thing wouldn’t listen to him—they never did. “I didn’t kill you.” That was true, for once. “Go haunt the dead.”

The thing looked at him skeptically, but Keenan didn’t care any more for its skepticism than he had for its accusations. He got up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. Perhaps the thing drifted away after that; perhaps it didn’t. He didn’t much care.

Forresh, grazing at the very edge of the precipice that was their camp, whickered to welcome him back to the waking world. Keenan, not much wanting to be part of the waking world, only grunted in reply.

With undampened enthusiasm, the beast ruffled his wings and trotted over, barging through a few aimlessly wandering spirits on his way to Keenan’s side. Keenan couldn’t help but smile as the pegasus’s great head was laid against his chest, and he scratched the beast’s ears.

“The sky’s angry with me today, boy,” he said, smile disappearing as he looked up at the roiling clouds. “Sky and earth alike; that can’t be good, can it?”

Forresh snorted and shook his head, backing up with nostrils flared and spreading his wide black wings to be buffeted by the wind. He liked the angry weather, loved it even for its fierceness. Keenan remembered the feeling, dimly; that kind of love had long since lost its strength in him.

There was one real reason to be glad of the wind’s wildness. Fierce and cold, it seemed to drive away the end-of-summer stagnancy in which the screaming spirits thrived. During the past few hazy days, their voices had been everywhere, teeming around Keenan and crying for justice or vengeance, loud and inescapable. The wind seemed to scatter and confuse them, and Keenan was grateful for the small respite.

In a late attempt at escaping the voices, he and Forresh had made camp on a tall plateau—the highest height the bowl of moors offered without climbing the surrounding mountains. A single pillar of earth, rising like a fairy-tale tower from the flat grasslands that surrounded it, bare at its height save for the skeleton of a small petrified tree. It had been no escape from the ghosts or their cries, but Keenan had stayed there all the same. Such as it was, it was his home now.

Riding on the tail of the wind, black and purple storm-clouds came roiling. The air was rainless yet, but the way it ruffled itself through the wetland grasses promised a downpour.

The ghosts wandered through the dark grasses, moaning, mourning and screaming. Keenan was practiced in the art of ignoring them; but one face among the thousands caught his attention. It was turned towards him, pale and calm save for the dark, angry splatter of blood across its cheek. Expressionless, but not with the unbridled insanity of some of the vengeful ghosts; rather, purposefully so. She stared at him as though he were as transparent as she was.

Keenan’s stomach dropped. No. Not her. Any ghost, any spirit or phantasm the earth could muster—but not her.

Forresh whinnied shrilly, opening his wings again to be buffeted by the wind as he bounced in circles.

“Don’t get too excited,” Keenan cautioned, plopping a saddle on Forresh’s willing back.

Perhaps a flight would shake her off his scent for a while. Or perhaps it wouldn’t.

Forresh snuffled attentively at Keenan’s arm, but the beast’s red-flared nostrils and wide eyes showed that all his concentration was focused on the promised storm. He didn’t even bother to snort in protest as the saddle-straps tightened over his chest and belly.

Keenan jostled the saddle a bit, checking its tightness, and Forresh began dancing again.

“Hold, boy,” Keenan said, willing the beast to be still as he heaved himself up onto the broad back.

Quivering and pacing, Forresh was a thing of muscle and power, a force of pure energy that Keenan had been melded with by some unthinking accident. The feathers of black wings ruffled against Keenan’s legs, and there was something of Keenan’s own anxiety in Forresh as he jawed at the restraining bit.

The storm, sending a spattering of rain down as it drew closer, seemed to have chased the ghosts underground for now—even her. The grasslands rippled, the wind and distance bestowing the rough heath-grass with the character of an uneasy ocean. It all struck Keenan as looking grey, though he knew it wasn’t—the ground carpeted in gold and green and the reddish rust of dying heath, the deep blues and purples of the uneasy sky. And all around the vast, flat expanse of the moor, black mountains rose like hunchbacked giants cowering under the cover of crusted earth.

Not grey; not grey at all. And yet it looked grey–the grey of ghosts, and the grey of death.

Keenan looked over it all—his home, his empire, his prison, and pulled Forresh back from another attempt at running off the plateau’s edge. He had no heart left to fly today, no heart to face the wildness of the storm. The storm and Forresh would have to wait; he’d wait here, rebuild the fire, perhaps—

There was a touch on his shoulder, light and cold enough to freeze him to the bone. He jumped, turning to find the one face he’d recognize anywhere—the one face he never wanted to see, young and pretty even in its current death-pale form. The eyes were bright, looking at him intently.

The cold drove like a spike into Keenan’s heart, and his hands clenched instinctively around the reins. He knew what she had to say, and he didn’t want to hear it.

Forresh, just getting used to the idea of standing still, leapt up at the unwarranted dig of Keenan’s heels into his sides. Two jerking, dancing steps put a space of a few feet between them and the ghost-girl, who reached uselessly as she cried out for them to stop; and then, with a surge of wings and a plunging of stomachs, Forresh leapt off the last few inches of solid ground and into the open air.

It was a feeling like the end of the world, falling like that; all fluttering and flapping and the ground coming ever closer—the good kind of fear, a feeling that Keenan hadn’t known he’d forgotten—and then Forresh spread his wings, wide and black, into the vast grey world of the storm on a current of air strong enough to hold them both aloft.

The storm was here now, no longer threatening but upon them. The rain, was falling heavier now, and the sky was shot through with lightning.

Keenan’s could feel the incessant beat of a pounding heart—his or Forresh’s, it was impossible to tell. Beyond the fear was another feeling Keenan had unwittingly forgotten—joy. He laughed at the thunder—or perhaps with the thunder; the world was huge, and wild, and beautiful.

He gathered his strength and urged Forresh up and into the very center and heart of the storm.

The clouds boiled in thick multicolored mists beneath and above them. Keenan’s hands were frozen in Forresh’s mane, and crystals of ice flew past, slicing his skin; but they were riding free on the wildest of winds, and Keenan couldn’t help but feel all the joy of recklessness surging through his veins.

Lightning flashed its claws below, a blinding warning that lasted for a second, and the sound of it roared around them with a loudness that made him lose himself for a moment; and then it sizzled away. Keenan laughed, a sound of victory; a gladness long forgotten.Why had he ever given up the sky, the joy of flight?

He put a hand on Forresh’s neck in simple thanks.

But the pegasus did not seem to notice. He was shaking his head, absently as if to clear it.

“You all right, boy?” Keenan asked, as it became increasingly clear that Forresh was not all right. The lightning and the thunder had boggled him, somehow; he was flying blind.

The wind, no longer expertly navigated by Forresh’s wings, turned devilish. A sudden gust blew them sideways, into a twisting current of ice and cloud. An electric snap of lightning sounded far too close, turning the world white as thunder laughed a cruel I-told-you-so; and then the wind took them again, ignoring Forresh’s scream of pain, ignoring Keenan’s panicked prayers. It toyed with them, throwing Forresh one way and then another until his struggles lost their strength.

Finally a merciful current took and held them, pulling them out of the cyclonic heart of the storm and sucking them downwards. Forresh beat his wings weakly, uselessly, unable to set himself straight as the grasslands rose up to meet them.

The ground hit with the force of a fist, a sickening crack of bone the last sound in Keenan’s ears before the silence settled over him.

A rumble of thunder, distant and meaningless, gave Keenan a reason to open his eyes. Black feathers quivered overhead, shielding him from the rain; he blinked at them, wondering why the sight made him uneasy.

An aftershock of panic seized him, and he struggled to get up. His attempts chased the kind numbness away, and the pain that spasmed across his chest drove him to his knees. He felt broken—he probably was—but he forced himself to his feet anyway. Forresh wasn’t moving.

The storm had dropped them at the edge of one of the moor’s mountains, and their tower of earth was far away, too far away to reach even if he could climb it, even if the medical kit he’d idiotically left at the top could make a dent in the damage.

The grass around them was dead and rust-hued, and in the center of it all lay Forresh. The blackness of his wings spread like a splash of ink over the grass, feathers trembling uselessly in the wind.

Keenan staggered forward, landing on his knees by the beast’s head. His nostrils were still, flecked with droplets of red; and the wide eyes were open and fogged over, unmindful of the rain that spattered into them and dripped though the fur of the great face.

A voice as substanceless as a ghost’s heaved from Keenan’s lungs as he bent over the silent head, ignoring the prickling of pain from broken ribs as he mourned his friend. He wished he could scream, or cry, or shed some tears—but there was nothing inside him, not even sadness.

The apathy was a kind of pain in itself.

The ghosts were walking again, having grown used to the storm, their murmuring voices—sometimes directed at him, sometimes not—filling the air as the thunder faded. He crushed a hand painfully against his chest, trying to chase them away, but they only grew louder.

The great moor had been a battlefield once, years ago when Keenan had been a young man, and Forresh no more than a colt. His first battle; his last, too, for that day had brought about enough death, enough destruction and blood, to last a lifetime. The war—who knew what had started it, or why. But Keenan had survived it, Forresh with him, when everyone else had not; and this prison of a moor had been his hard-won prize.

It was a massacre, cried a young voice.

No one, no one left.

It’s his fault we’re dead!

I was slaughtered, trampled, broken, killed…

The accusers flooded around him now, and he dared not open his eyes lest he see the faces. He remembered some of them all too well, and others, he could not remember at all. He wasn’t sure which was worse.

He fumbled in his belt, searching for the dagger he always carried, and slid the thing from its sheath, pressing the tip into a space between his shattered ribs. His own muscles were rebelling at the thought of driving it in, as they had the first time he’d killed another man; but he’d overcome them then, and he would now.

Perhaps death was where he belonged.

Cold shot though his arm as a hand grabbed it.

“Don’t.”

He opened his eyes. The ghosts were everywhere, teeming and sneering as usual. But one was not sneering, instead looking at him with something almost like compassion. She was beautiful, eyes sharp and lively still, hair that drifted around her delicate face, oblivious to the wind. Her hand on his arm was strong and bitter-cold; he pulled away in fear, but she only stood before him with that same unreadable expression on her blood-spattered face.

He could remember killing her. She’d fought him, which had made it easier at the time—but he’d never been able to forget her. She’d finally come to accuse him; he knew the words. He’d heard them often enough before.

But she surprised him.

“Why are you still here?” Sounding more frustrated than anything else, she made a wide shooing gesture towards the mountains, as if trying to urge him over them. 

“The living don’t belong here. Nothing but death is here now.”

The thunder rumbled in agreement with that, but they both ignored it. Keenan looked at the dagger in his hand; a little rusty with misuse, but serviceable still.

Nothing but death. “Almost nothing,” he said, musingly. “Soon, nothing.”

“Not like that,” she said, shaking her head.

The other ghost’s voices had faded and drifted away, along with the ghosts themselves, and the plain held nothing but the two of them now, separated by a broken black wing and an invisible chasm that Keenan still wanted to cross. He chuckled, looking into the girl’s eyes; why was she, of all people, trying to save him?”

“Why not?” he asked. “Don’t I deserve it?”

“Deserve what?” she retorted. “Peace? I’d say not.”

“I killed you,” he reminded her; but she brushed the fact away with a filmy gesture.

“I noticed. And now you’ll murder yourself as well, to make everything better? It won’t, you know.”

Her banter, so easy and light in the face of his pain, made him furious.

“Don’t you see?” he shouted at her. “I’m dead already!”

Her face went blank at that, the silence stretching for a dark moment.

“Trust me,” she said. “You’re not.”

She would know. He’d showed her what death was.

“Leave here,” she said, gently enough, and he closed his eyes against the kindness in her face. He didn’t deserve it—not any of it—and it hurt even worse than the numbness, far, far worse than the accusations. Maybe good things were like that; full of pain. Life, and storms, and forgiveness; and maybe, just maybe, there was something beyond the pain that made it all worth it.

She drifted past him, and he opened his eyes to find the mountains rearing their height above his head. Perhaps there was something beyond them, as well. The death he craved, or the hope he’d lost—even if there was nothing at all, she was right. This valley was a place of death, and he didn’t belong in it anymore.

Something whuffled softly behind him.

Keenan spun around, ignoring the spasm of pain in his ribs, and was greeted by Forresh’s giant face happily bumping into his chest. With a joyful cry, he buried his fingers in the pegasus’s mane as the beast snorted. He was whole again, and safe, and very definitely alive; Keenan did not care how.

Still, a flicker of grey caught his eye–the girl, standing and watching them with a slight smile on her face.

“Thank you,” he managed, as Forresh snuffled into his shoulder.

Her expression flickered, some of the polished grey of her appearance disintegrating.

“Life’s a gift,” she said, as even more of herself began to fall away, skin peeling back into flesh, and flesh into bone—what had she given, to give Forresh back to him?

“Take it,” she managed, little more than a skeleton now, “And leave this place.”

And then she faded completely, leaving the words lingering after her—more than a ghost, those words, for they’d been burned into his soul.

“I will,” he whispered. “I promise.”

###



The pegasus artwork is from "Radacs" on deviantart.com.
See more here.


November Book Club Reports

All but three of our 6+7 Book Club met Tuesday night to discuss The Extraordinary Education of Nicholas Benedict, by Trenton Lee Stewart. The book is the prequel to the three Mysterious Benedict Society books, and takes place when the protagonist of those is only nine years old. All but two people were charmed by the book, and even those two gave it respectable reviews, only saying "it's not my kind of book." There was a lot of discussion about the relative intelligence of Nicholas Benedict and the young Sherlock Holmes and who would win if they went head to head to solve a mystery; and also a lot of appreciation of the book's treatment of such themes as bullying, disabilities, and trust in relationships. Most everyone who hadn't already (including me!) expressed the desire to read the other three books now, and the final rating given by the club was 8.5.




Next month's book, Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City, by Kirsten Miller, is an actual mystery (not "a McGuffin," as Anarda called the so-called mystery in this one), also with a couple of sequels to pursue if people enjoy this first one.

For the month of January, we will be reading an old favorite, Flipped, by Wendelin Van Draanen, and we plan to have a short book club meeting so we can also screen the movie on book club night. So please plan to be on time (or early!) on January 10!

Other books we considered:

The Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart
Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld
Among the Hidden, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
The Maze Runner, by James Dashner
Doll Bones, by Holly Black
Scarlet Stockings, by Charlotte Kandel
Gabby Lost and Found, by Angela Cervantes
Skulduggery Pleasant, by Derek Landy
Frozen Charlotte, by Alex Bell
The Sea of Trolls, by Nancy Farmer

Our next meeting will be on December 13.



The 8+9 Book Club was pretty unanimously enthusiastic over The Glass Arrow, by Kristen Simmons. They liked the story, the characters, and all the elements of the dystopia, and most weren't put off by some of its "ickier" moments. Special note was made of the fact that it's about a world in which women have no rights, are valued only for their reproductive and entertainment capacities, and are bought, sold, and traded like commodities. Given their interest, Anarda and I recommended some other books that they might want to read, including Glory O'Brien's History of the Future, by A. S. King, Wither (the Chemical Garden trilogy), by Lauren DeStefano, The Gate to Women's Country, by Sheri S. Tepper, and that classic early dystopian nightmare, The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood.

The final rating of the book, by 22 members, was 8.6.




For December, our book is The Rithmatist, by Brandon Sanderson, proposed many times and finally selected, to George's joy. And the choice for January is The Naturals, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes.

Other books we considered, in descending order:

Jackaby, by William Ritter
Court of Fives, by Kate Elliott
The Accident Season, by Moira Fowley-Doyle
And Then There Were None, by Agatha Christie
Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas
The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness
Paper Towns, by John Green
Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

Our next meeting will be on December 14.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Teens read to Tots!

Would you like to be one of the TEENS who reads to TOTS on Saturday, December 3?

We are doing “Dewey’s Dragon Tales” on Saturday, December 3, from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (two hours) at Buena Vista Branch in the children's room, and we’d like to have one teen for every 10- or 15-minute interval, prepared with one or two picture books to read to whatever audience shows up. We have flyers out in the library and are asking the children’s librarians to be sure to promote it, so we’re hoping for a good turn-out over the two-hour span.

WHAT’S REQUIRED:

  1. Go to a children’s librarian at any of the three branches (Tina and Donna at BV, Cathleen, Jenny, and Ashley at Central, or Arsine at Northwest) and ask them to help you pick out some dragon-themed picture books (We already asked them to be ready!); 
  2. Practice reading your picture books aloud until you have some familiarity with the story; 
  3. Come to one rehearsal (probably on Wednesday, November 30th, after school—TBD) so we can show you the best story-time methods; 
  4. And show up on December 3 ready to read! 

  • You don’t have to be there for the entire two hours—a half-hour commitment would be just fine. (Although you can stay if you’re enjoying yourself.)
  • You will receive service hours for the rehearsal and for the time you spend at the read-aloud. (A minimum of two hours, a maximum of four.) 
More questions? Email burbank.teens@gmail.com
Want to sign up? Email burbank.teens@gmail.com
Have friends who might be interested? Tell THEM to email us back!
(Are you sensing a trend?)


Sunday, November 6, 2016

10-12 Book Club Report

The 10-12 Book Club met last Tuesday night, although our ranks were down by 12--seven excused, and five NOT excused (ahem!). It was a strangely subdued meeting for those of us who attended, as everyone seems to be in mid-semester slump. Many of the people who couldn't come were working on their college essays or applications, since the early decision deadline was last week, and the rest were missing due to either sports or band.

We met to discuss A Darker Shade of Magic, by V. E. Schwab, and while the book got high ratings (a final score of 8.1, with all 7s, 8s and 9s except for one dissenting 5 that pulled the score down a bit), no one had a whole lot to say about the book, except for Cami, who was a big fan and had many good observations! We all agreed that while we love V. E. Schwab, we can't quite figure out how all her writing can be so different from all her other writing. The consensus was that we still love Vicious the best, and The Archived the least. Anarda and I encourage you to pick up the sequel, A Gathering of Shadows (the library owns four copies for check-out), if you liked this one. It's similarly good (maybe even better!), and introduces a really cool new character into the mix.




For December's meeting, we will be reading and discussing Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell.
Those of you who missed club can pick up a copy at either
Central or Buena Vista.

Things heated up a bit more when we discussed what book we would read for January. After deciding that the first choice (recommended by Anarda) was just too long a book to read during the school year (662 pages!), our final selection was Lock In, by John Scalzi ("Finally!" exclaimed Zoe).

Other books we considered, in order of preference:

The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss
I'll Give You the Sun, by Jandy Nelson ("Someday," I sighed.)
Side Effects May Vary, by Julie Murphy
Proxy, by Alex London
Beka Cooper: Terrier, by Tamora Pierce
Where the Stars Still Shine, by Trish Doller
Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia

(We have dropped the last two from our considerations list due to lack of interest, but I still say you would like them!)

The next club meeting is on December 6.