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OverDrive’s Big Library Read

OverDrive’s Big Library Read

Hey bookworms! OverDrive’s next Big Library Read is here! From October 7th to 21st, we can all simultaneously access a book, and start reading without holds or waitlists. This time they’re featuring two books!

In the Shadow of Blackbirds is a thrilling tale of 1918 California, where the Spanish flu runs rampant in the states, World War I runs rampant in Europe, and sixteen year old Mary Shelley Black must solve the mystery behind the death of the boy she loved–the boy who is now haunting her.




The Door in the Hedge is a collection fairy tales, each written in McKinley’s signature lyrical prose. Familiar narratives such as twelve princesses who dance and frogs that talk sit side by side with McKinley’s original fairy tales.





So head to our OverDrive website to get your book and join the big read!

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Reflections on Denis Belliveau’s In the Footsteps of Marco Polo

Reflections on Denis Belliveau’s In the Footsteps of Marco Polo





After last week’s author visit and presentation from Denis Belliveau, sophomore Sara Z. kindly wrote us a piece on her thoughts…


In our history classes, we are often told that we need to cultivate historical and cultural empathy in order to be informed citizens of the world, and I can think of no better way to do so than by observing. Observation is the act of learning without interfering. Most people think this means stepping back to get a broader view of  the situation, and while that often works, the best way to observe is to integrate yourself so fully into your surroundings that your presence and your actions won’t affect what you’re observing. This kind of observation is not something we get to do very often, but it is by far the best way to understand a different perspective. Our guest speaker, Mr. Denis Belliveau, had the opportunity to do that sort of immersion for two years while following the footsteps of Marco Polo.

And what did he learn from all this observation? Did he find anything in common amongst the different cultures? Surely, warlords in Afghanistan don’t have anything in common with monks in Mongolia. We assume this because of the information we have already acquired. We have learned about Buddhist beliefs and rituals in history class, and they sound nothing at all like the ideologies of the gun-wielding Afghans. Sure, they have the same biological makeup, but their historical differences created two completely different cultures that foster two completely different mindsets. Beyond the fact that both groups are Homo sapiens, they can’t have anything in common. Or do they? When asked during the assembly, Mr. Belliveau said that throughout all his travels across Europe and Asia there was one common thread shared by everyone he met. And that thread was kindness and hospitality towards all humans, a sense of kinship with a stranger.

When Mr. Belliveau met with an Afghani warlord to try to obtain safe passage through war-torn Afghanistan, he didn’t know if  he would be killed on the spot by any one of the countless rifles propped against the walls. When the travelers handed the warlord a letter they had received from an acquaintance, the man replied, “The man who wrote this  is my brother. I will do anything in my power to help you.” To this man, it didn’t matter that the travelers were from America. It didn’t matter what their political ideologies were. All that mattered was that someone he respected had asked him to help these people. They had come to Afghanistan to observe, not to interfere. They came simply as human beings. And for that reason, they were treated kindly.

I think that an essential part of nurturing our historical and cultural empathy is understanding that the people we talk about are all human. Sometimes this sense of humanity gets tucked away in our minds because of more pressing issues that draw our attention to the differences between us. When we target terrorist groups, we can’t worry about the fact that those terrorists are people, too, with lives and families. It’s far more important to take actions in the interest of our safety and for the safety and liberty of other countries.

But most situations are less extreme than that. If we are ever to going to create a world in which everyone understands and respects each other, we need to remember that the people we may disagree with are humans, too. When we establish that in our minds, we can begin to see how their emotions, loyalties, and beliefs may factor into their decisions, culture, and ideologies. When we can remember that they are human, we can remember that they have needs and feelings and a heart. With that in mind, we can truly begin to observe in a less biased and self-righteous way. Unbiased observation can only lead to understanding and empathy. And with understanding, we can find ways to engage that are in everyone’s best interest. All we need is our humanity and an ability to step back, watch, and reflect.

By Sara Z. ’18


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Upcoming Bay Area Literary Events

Upcoming Bay Area Literary Events

October 6, 2015. 4:30-6:00 pm, Linden Tree Books, Los Altos.

Judd Winick, author of the graphic novel Pedro and Me, presents his new novel HILO, which is billed as “Calvin and Hobbes meets Big Nate” and recommended for fans of Bone.


October 8-10, 2015. Begins 2:00 pm, October 8. Event Space TBA, San Mateo.

The San Mateo County Library presents the first ever YA Novelist Convention (YANovCon). The three day event will include panel discussions and book signings with a group of YA authors that includes Courtney Alameda, Alexis Bass, Maureen Goo, Ann Jacobus, Stephanie Kuehn, Gretchen McNeil, Nina LaCour, Frank Portman and Tamara Ireland Stone.

For more information, check #YANovCon on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Vine.


October 9, 2015. 7:00 pm, Redwood Shores Library, Redwood City.

Patrick Ness, YA author of Carnegie medal winner A Monster Calls and the Chaos Walking trilogy, will be talking about his new novel, The Rest of Us Just Live Here, with Sabaa Tahir, author of An Ember in the Ashes.

RSVP HERE to attend this free event.


October 12, 2015. 7:30 pm, Fox Theatre, 2215 Broadway St., Redwood City.

In her only Bay Area appearance this fall, Margaret Attwood will appear to discuss her new book, The Heart Goes Last. Margaret Atwood is the Booker Prize winning author of more than 40 books of fiction, essays and poetry; her books have been published in thirty-five countries.

Tickets are available at Kepler’s or through Fox Theatre Box Office.


October 14, 2015. 4:00-5:30 pm, Linden Tree Books, Los Altos.

Sheila Turnage, the Newberry Award winning author of the Ghosts of Tupelo Landing series, presents the third book in the series, The Odds of Getting Even. RVSP to (650) 949-3390.


October 14, 2015. 7:00 pm, Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park.

Marageret Stohl, acclaimed YA co-author of the Beautiful Creatures series will be at Kepler’s to present her new book, Black Widow: Forever Red, a “heart pounding adventure” novel about Marvel’s Avengers member Natasha Romanoff.

RSVP HERE to attend this free event.


October 17, 2015. 2:00-3:30pm, Linden Tree Books, Los Altos

Sherri L. Smith, the author of YA novels Flygirl and Orleans, has written The Toymaker’s Apprentice, a book for middle grade readers that is based on a retelling of The Nutcracker. There will also be a craft making activity.


October 20, 2015. 7:00 pm, Kepler’s Books, Menlo Park.

Soman Chainani, the author of New York Times bestselling The School for Good and Evil, presents the third book in the series. School for Good and Evil, Book 3: The Last Ever After is a fairy tale meets fantasy novel for middle school readers.

RSVP HERE to attend this free event.





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Book Trends: Graffiti

"Spin graffiti" by jaqian from Dublin, Ireland - Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons .

“Spin graffiti” by jaqian from Dublin, Ireland – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons .

While we were squeeing over our new books at the start of the year, we noticed a trend–graffiti. Magical murals that change before your eyes; street art as a means of self-expression or rebellion; graffiti as a mutual interest that forms the basis of a friendship–or more.

Graffiti and other forms of street art have gotten a lot of attention recently online and in the news, especially with the opening of Banksy’s Dismaland, and the public art coming out of social movements such as Black Lives Matter. Considering that, it’s not surprising that graffiti artists are showing up more in our new books. Below, we’ve rounded up some novels to get you started in this new trend, as well as a nonfiction book on street artists to get you up to speed with graffiti in the real world.


cover of Into the Dangerous World by Julie Chibarro

Into the Dangerous World by Julie Chibarro



Into the Dangerous World stars Ror, who was raised in a commune by her father. When Ror’s father burns the commune down with himself inside, she ends up in Manhattan and falls in love with Trey, the leader of graffiti crew Noise Ink. Ror’s loyalties are divided between her love of street art and Trey, the wishes of her deceased father, who wanted her to study classic art, and a teacher who encourages her to go to college.





the cover of Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older, featuring a young African American woman

Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older



In Shadowshaper, Sierra Santiago’s summer plans involved friends, art, and hanging out in Brooklyn. But when a zombie shows up at a party, and murals start moving before her eyes, Sierra’s plans inevitably change. She discovers that her family have powers, and they can connect with the spirit world through their art. These powers, like all power, are coveted by others, and Sierra is drawn into a battle for her family, her heritage, and her life.





cover of Now That You're Here by Amy K. Nichols

Now That You’re Here by Amy K. Nichols



For Now That You’re Here‘s Danny, the job was simple: get the directions, pick up the stencils and paint, and tag the walls. But just when he realizes the directions come from an extremist group and gets in trouble with the cops, he falls into an alternate universe. In this world, his parents are dead, his friends hate him, and Eevee, the beautiful girl he remembers kissing once, is in love with quantum physics and might be his only chance of getting home.





cover of The Street Art Book: 60 Artists in Their Own Words by Ric Blackshaw by Liz Farrelly

The Street Art Book: 60 Artists in Their Own Words by Ric Blackshaw and Liz Farrelly




The Street Art Book collects the words and artwork of sixty different street artists. These artists work in a variety of media, from posters to spray paint to charcoal and soot, and their reasons for creating stem from political statements and protests, to neighborhood beautification, to self-expression. This book is a great introduction into today’s street art scene.

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My Favorite Things: Political Fact-Checking Websites

My Favorite Things: Political Fact-Checking Websites

Source: "Academic fact fight - debate" by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig on

Source: “Academic fact fight – debate” by Frits Ahlefeldt-Laurvig on

With just over a year until the 2016 presidential elections, we have a broad field of candidates and many debates in our near future. But when you hear the claims and counter-claims the candidates are making, how do you decide what to believe?

Luckily, there are increasing numbers of political fact-checking websites, non-partisan political watchdog organizations that research the veracity of what politicians say. Here are some sites that you can visit if you have a question about any of the arguments you hear:

Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 9.28.06 PM The League of Women Voters is a great place to start. Often, candidates will make claims about other candidate’s positions. The LWV is a citizen-run organization that provides voter information, so it is a great place to see what candidates say about their own positions on various topics. Also, it has the broadest coverage of all the sites mentioned here. is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania. It describes itself as being a “nonpartisan, nonprofit ‘consumer advocate’ for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” It follows and critiques TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews and news releases. Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 8.38.55 PM
Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 9.22.08 PM From The Center for Responsive Politics, an organization originally founded by a bipartisan group of Senators who were worried about the impact of money on politics, advocates for transparency in government through exposing political contributions. It tracks and analyzes federal campaign contributions and lobbying activities., by the researchers and reporters of the Tampa Bay Times, keeps an eye on promises made by President Obama, congressional Republicans, and governors and mayors around the country. They use Truth-O-Meters and Flip-O-Meters to rate the quality of arguments politicians make and how they vacillate on issues. Screen Shot 2015-08-18 at 8.29.45 PM
Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 3.11.00 PM is an independent newsroom that covers a wide variety of topics. This non-profit organization “produces investigative journalism in the public interest,” including coverage related to elections and political campaigns.
Ever wonder who runs our elections? Learn more about how our voting system works, what your district is, what ballot measures are up-and-coming, and more at the California Secretary of State’s Election Division. Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 2.58.12 PM


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No Library This Summer? Think Again!

No Library This Summer? Think Again!

photo 2Worried that you’ll miss the Casti Library this summer? You don’t have to! Our collection of more than 1000 ebooks is open 24/7. You’ll be able to log in whenever you like.

Ebooks are readable on many different devices and apps. Learn more on our FAQ or stop by the library to talk to one of your librarians before you head out on summer vacation. We can also show you how to download audiobooks from your public library. You should also take a look at the column near the entrance of the library, where your classmates and teachers have posted book recommendations and their own plans for summer reading.

So what’s in the digital library? Something for everyone, we hope! From childhood classics to YA to adult; from science fiction to historical fantasy to contemporary realism; from popular bestsellers to spectacular under-the-radar releases; the collection has a lot to choose from. If you need a book recommendation, click on the purple square to your right and look at our recommended reading booklet, Pinterest account, NoveList Plus, and recommended other sources for finding great books.

If you are doing an internship or academic enrichment program this summer, you’ll be happy to know that our databases are open all summer as well! You may even find them fun to peruse for pleasure reading. 2014-15 Library TA Kiana B. ’16 will tell you all about how great databases are for finding information on fun topics you never knew people wrote about. Click on the blue square to access all the library’s databases.

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