You asked for more…5 Books To Get You Through A Long Winter, this time

by Library Staffer Valerie Grabek:


1)The Darkest Part of the Forest– Holly Black -Warm weather, love, a mystery, and a faerie prince keeps you enthralled in this modern fairy tale.


2) A Court of Thorns And Roses – Sarah J. Maas –
Lovers of Beauty and the Beast rejoice for an epic revision that makes you forget the world around you.


3) Raven Boys Series– Maggie Stievfater –
Steeped in Welsh lore and myths, the series really leaves the reader wondering what will happen next.


4) All Souls Trilogy– Deborah Harkness – So many layers are involved in this series for romance fanatics, supernatural lovers, and historical fiction readers; makes one forget about the raging blizzards!

 5) Iron Druid Series– Kevin Hearne – A laugh out loud and inviting universe to escape to, and the best part is there are many in the series to get lost in.


The Staff at the Library enjoyed this video from Epic Reads so much we felt we had to share it with our readers. Epic Reads is a website for folks who enjoy YA books…check it out here.

Lean In At The Essex Library

February 24, 2014

Thursday, February 27th from 6 – 7 p.m.
Grades 7 and up.
The Essex Teen Department is working with local high school students to create a library Lean In Circle. This past year, you may have noticed publicity regarding Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg. After the publication of this book, groups across the nation began to create supportive Lean In circles. Click here to access the LeanIn website. These circles began to grow within communities of working women, on college campuses and in homes. After a request by a local teen to begin a circle of our own, we jumped into action. Our group will be facilitated by Jessica and upper high school students as mentors. We invite young ladies aged twelve and up to participate. This group will share a few commonalities with GirlZone (a self-esteem program from a few years back,) and will focus on facilitating friendships and creating a safety zone and support system for girls growing into adulthood.

Click here for more information on programs, materials and volunteer opportunities in our Teen Department.

We added six new Great Courses from The Teaching Company to our collections recently. For those of you unfamiliar with Great Courses, The Teaching Company records lectures by professors at Ivy League and other leading colleges on a wide range of subjects, numbering more than 300 to date. The courses are primarily on CD, with some on DVD, with accompanying print materials for the lifelong learner in you.

In addition to our other Great Courses, patrons will now be able to enjoy borrowing:

The American Revolution taught by Allen C. Guelzo

Comparative Religion taught by Charles Kimball

The Emperors Of Rome taught by Garrett G. Fagan

Greek Tragedy taught by Elizabeth Vandiver

The Italian Renaissance taught by Kenneth Bartlett

The Long 19th Century: European History from 1789 to 1917  taught by Robert I. Weiner

Fans of Alan Bradley will be very happy this holiday season as a new Flavia de Luce mystery has just been released: I Am Half-Sick Of Shadows. It should be noted that with an 11 year-old sleuth these books can be equally popular with teens as adults. If you’re looking for something new for your teen mystery fan to read, we heartily recommend this series.

“It’s Christmastime, and the precocious Flavia de Luce—an eleven-year-old sleuth with a passion for chemistry and a penchant for crime-solving—is tucked away in her laboratory, whipping up a concoction to ensnare Saint Nick. But she is soon distracted when a film crew arrives at Buckshaw, the de Luces’ decaying English estate, to shoot a movie starring the famed Phyllis Wyvern. Amid a raging blizzard, the entire village of Bishop’s Lacey gathers at Buckshaw to watch Wyvern perform, yet nobody is prepared for the evening’s shocking conclusion: a body found, past midnight, strangled to death with a length of film. But who among the assembled guests would stage such a chilling scene? As the storm worsens and the list of suspects grows, Flavia must use every ounce of sly wit at her disposal to ferret out a killer hidden in plain sight.” The titles in the series are all wonderful curiosities and the book covers alone make readers dive in to see what’s what. This time around the title comes from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s The Lady of Shalott. 

“I am half-sick of shadows,’ said The Lady of Shalott.”

The first book in the series, The Sweetness At The Bottom Of The Pie, won The Macavity Award for Best First Mystery Novel, the Agatha Award for Best First Novel, the CWA Debut Dagger Award, among others.  Our mystery readers found much to enjoy with Flavia de Luce, the 11-year-old sleuth.  From the publisher: “It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath. For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.””  The title  comes from William King’s The Art of Cookery, published in 1708.

Unless some sweetness at the bottom lie,
Who cares for all the crinkling of the pie?

The second book in the series is The Weed That Strings The Hangman’s Bag. From the publisher: “Flavia de Luce, a dangerously smart eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders, thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacey are over—until beloved puppeteer Rupert Porson has his own strings sizzled in an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. But who’d do such a thing, and why? Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What about Porson’s charming but erratic assistant? All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head?”  This title comes from Sir Walter Raleigh in a poem to his son:

THREE things there be that prosper all apace,
And flourish while they are asunder far;
But on a day, they meet all in a place,
And when they meet, they one another mar.

And they be these; the Wood, the Weed, the Wag:
The Wood is that that makes the gallows tree;
The Weed is that that strings the hangman’s bag;
The Wag, my pretty knave, betokens thee.

Now mark, dear boy—while these assemble not,
Green springs the tree, hemp grows, the wag is wild;
But when they meet, it makes the timber rot,
It frets the halter, and it chokes the child.

 A Red Herring Without Mustard is the third book in the series and continues with Flavia’s sleuthing successes. “Flavia had asked the old Gypsy woman to tell her fortune, but never expected to stumble across the poor soul, bludgeoned in the wee hours in her own caravan. Was this an act of retribution by those convinced that the soothsayer had abducted a local child years ago? Certainly Flavia understands the bliss of settling scores; revenge is a delightful pastime when one has two odious older sisters. But how could this crime be connected to the missing baby? Had it something to do with the weird sect who met at the river to practice their secret rites? While still pondering the possibilities, Flavia stumbles upon another corpse—that of a notorious layabout who had been caught prowling about the de Luce’s drawing room. Pedaling Gladys, her faithful bicycle, across the countryside in search of clues to both crimes, Flavia uncovers some odd new twists. Most intriguing is her introduction to an elegant artist with a very special object in her possession—a portrait that sheds light on the biggest mystery of all: Who is Flavia?” This time the title comes from Thomas Lodge and Robert Greene in A Looking Glasse for London and Englande (1592):

….a cup of ale without a wench, why alas,
’tis like an egg without salt or a red herring
without mustard.

The nominees for the National Book Awards have been announced including those for Young People’s Literature. The winner in each category, to be announced on November 17th, will win $10,000.

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
“In America’s Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota–and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all it’s worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life.”

Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine
“In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead and Dad is no help at all. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of closure, she realizes that is what she needs. In her search for it, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white—the world is full of colors—messy and beautiful.”

Dark Water by Laura McNeal
“Fifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live in Fallbrook, California, where it’s sunny 340 days of the year, and where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl doesn’t pay much attention to them . . . until Amiel. From the moment she sees him, Pearl is drawn to this boy who keeps to himself, fears being caught by la migra, and is mysteriously unable to talk. And after coming across Amiel’s makeshift hut near Agua Prieta Creek, Pearl falls into a precarious friendship—and a forbidden romance.”

Lockdown by Walter Dean Myers
“Fifteen-year-old Pearl DeWitt and her mother live in Fallbrook, California, where it’s sunny 340 days of the year, and where her uncle owns a grove of 900 avocado trees. Uncle Hoyt hires migrant workers regularly, but Pearl doesn’t pay much attention to them . . . until Amiel. From the moment she sees him, Pearl is drawn to this boy who keeps to himself, fears being caught by la migra, and is mysteriously unable to talk. And after coming across Amiel’s makeshift hut near Agua Prieta Creek, Pearl falls into a precarious friendship—and a forbidden romance.”

One Crazy Summer by Rita Williams-Garcia
“Eleven-year-old Delphine has it together. Even though her mother, Cecile, abandoned her and her younger sisters, Vonetta and Fern, seven years ago. Even though her father and Big Ma will send them from Brooklyn to Oakland, California, to stay with Cecile for the summer. And even though Delphine will have to take care of her sisters, as usual, and learn the truth about the missing pieces of the past. When the girls arrive in Oakland in the summer of 1968, Cecile wants nothing to do with them. She makes them eat Chinese takeout dinners, forbids them to enter her kitchen, and never explains the strange visitors with Afros and black berets who knock on her door. Rather than spend time with them, Cecile sends Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern to a summer camp sponsored by a revolutionary group, the Black Panthers, where the girls get a radical new education.”

October 7th from 4-5 p.m.  6th grade and up at the Essex Library.
Come place your vote for the best local pizza! We’ll have mystery pies from all over the area and their donating restaurants are hoping you’ll vote! Winners will be announced and a raffle prize will go to a lucky winner. Register today by calling 860 767-1560 or emailing Jessica at

A  three-year study was recently completed at the University of Tennessee which found “a significantly higher level of reading achievement in students who received books for summer reading at home.”  University of Tennessee, Knoxville, faculty members Richard Allington and Anne McGill-Franzen, both professors of education, concluded that “the summer reading setback is the primary reason for the reading achievement gap between children who have access to reading materials at home and those who do not. Students who do not have books at home miss out on opportunities to read. Those missed opportunities can really add up.”

“What we know is that children who do not read in the summer lose two to three months of reading development while kids who do read tend to gain a month of reading proficiency,” Allington said. “This creates a three to four month gap every year. Every two or three years the kids who don’t read in the summer fall a year behind the kids who do.”

The professors went to 17 low-income schools in Florida and gave a group of 1st and 2nd graders the opportunity to select books at a spring fair to take home for free. They also gave another group of kids an activity book (non-reading) to take home. They repeated this three more times and after the third year they measured the reading levels of the two groups. Not surprisingly, the kids who took home books they selected, even if they were biographies of Brittany Spears or the Rock, scored significantly better on reading tests than the kids who had the activity books or no books at all.

The two main conclusions from this study–not news to many of you–are that reading during the summer is critical for academic success in the school year and letting your child select the books he or she wants to read is very important-particularly for reluctant readers. “Research has demonstrated that choice makes a very important contribution to achievement,” said McGill-Franzen.  The study will be published in the fall issue of Reading Psychology.

So what’s the best book for your kids this summer? It’s the one they want to read, which may not necessarily line up with the school summer reading list or your choice for them. The idea is to open the door to a love of reading; once inside, they’ll read more and better books with time. So bring them in to the Library and let them browse the shelves or ask any of the staff to help them find a book they’ll enjoy.

Click here to see Tennessee Today “Fun, Sun, and Good Books: UT Experts Say Summer Reading Keeps Skills Strong”

Click here to see The New York Times article “Summer Must-Read for Kids? Any Book”

We could offer many reasons for learning a foreign language–for traveling, adding to your skills list on a resume, communicating with friends living abroad, etc., etc. Whatever your reason or motivation, we’ve got some tools to help you with your language instruction. produced a list of 7 online games (free) that help with learning a foreign language. Here at the Library, we have–through a generous grant from the Middlesex County Community Foundation, new resources for foreign language instruction including CD-ROM language learning programs, ESL study guides for Spanish and Chinese speakers, bilingual books and workbooks, flashcards, medical phrase books, and circulating MP3 players for downloading language instruction audio books and a Rosetta Stone program for French.

So play some of the games online and when you get more serious with your studies, come in to the Library and make use of our foreign language materials.

If you’ve been following our posts then you know summer is a great time to do some reading for pleasure, especially if you’re a student. We have posted the Valley Regional High School Summer Reading List on our website. There’s something on it for almost any taste. Let us know which books you liked—and didn’t.