Jenny Rivera

De Colores, by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein

Jenny Rivera and her family read De Colores (In Colors), A bilingual book of harmony, by Patty Rodriguez and Ariana Stein. Jenny shared the following: “My husband Izzy bought this book for baby Isla. It is one of the first books in her collection. We wanted to introduce her to words in both English and Spanish. This book is special to me because my mother used to sing the words to me when I was little. So, when he brought the book home and surprised us, I was so excited! I could now not only sing it to Isla, but also read it to her. To me, it feels like a tradition passed on, as this book is inspired by a traditional Spanish folk song that our family knows and loves. The book is also full of beautiful illustrations with color that really catches Isla’s attention. I love the animals’ lyrics because it makes Isla smile: ‘Canta el gallo con el quiri quiri quiri…los pollitos con el pio pio pio.’ It’s important for my family and I to not only keep our culture’s traditions, but for our children to be exposed to both languages. Whether it’s through talk, singing, reading, art or play. We hope for this to be one of many books that Isla enjoys, and that she will share with others.”


Big Fish and Little Fish by Christy Webster

I think the author’s purpose was to teach us that reading can start with a single step. The book is very fun and it comes with a page of shiny stickers in the back. I love this book because it’s about fishes and the ocean. My favorite character is Dory because she is funny. I like going to the pool and imagining that I am a fish in the ocean.


The Babysitter Club series: Claudia and Meanie Janine By Raina Telgemeier

I got this book because I love the author. I have read three of other books in the series. Even though it’s a story, I feel like the author is talking about her childhood and herself. I help my mom babysit my siblings and it can be very annoying! The book is very entertaining. I especially like the main character Claudia.

Stella Wilderspin-Sager

Viking Ships at Sunrise

By Mary Pope Osborne

The Magic Tree House series makes children imagine things; like about how people survived 1,000 years ago in Europe. When I was 4 my older brother read this book to me. When I was a little older my first day in History class I was in the library and I found this book. It was the first book that I read by myself. Once I went kayaking with my grandpa and it reminded me about Jack and Annie adventures. At first I thought reading was boring but now I like it. I love books that are about history. I think Jack and Annie are the best characters, but my favorite is Annie.


Goosebumps by R.L. Stine

I love scary stories and I think the author does too, I believe this is why he writes these books. Goosebumps are very cool chapter books. I’ve read like seven of the books and I’ve seen the movies. What is interesting is the spookiness, which I like best. My favorite character is the villain Slappy because he is an entertaining fictional character.

Xiomara Gutierrez

Where I Live by Eileen Spinelli

This is a story about how it is difficult to move to a different city and all the opportunities that come to us because of moving. The book connects to my life because I needed to move away from my real family and needed to go to a foster family so now, I am part of a different family. Because that sounded about something interesting to me, I started reading this book. I love how Where I Live explains how difficult is to move from a different house. My favorite character was Rose. I didn’t like it when I had to move but now, I know why I moved.

Brittany Vardakis, Y-Kids Preschool, Lead Teacher
Greater Holyoke YMCA – Pre-school

The Big Pumpkin

by Erica Silverman

We read this book around Halloween last year. The children in their second pre-school year remembered the book and enjoyed hearing it again. Kids love catchy and repetitive text. We will keep on reading it because it’s so popular. This story has been carried out throughout the entire year and that is why we read it even when it’s not Halloween. We read the book out loud with the help of the audio book version, and the kids just love it. We are very big on literacy; we have subject stations in the class room with books that have to do with what we are learning about. In the Science station we have books about plants, farm animals. We try to make literacy very embedded in our curriculum.”

 — with Holyoke YMCA.

Virginia K. Dillon
Executive Director
Homework House INC

Let the Great World Spin
by Colum McCann

This book evokes so many memories for me. I grew up in the decaying New York of the 1960’s & 70’s – a place that bears almost no resemblance to the city today. I was going into my junior year in high school when Petit made the tightrope walk between the Twin Towers and I vividly remember standing in the very hot, un-air-conditioned kitchen of my family’s apartment listening to 1010 WINS reporting about it on the radio. I think that McCann really captures the feel of the city at the “Ford to NY: Drop Dead” time. This book also speaks very much to my New York Irish-Catholic self.

Aaron Vega
5th Hampden Representative
Vice Chair Committee on Technology; Intergovernmental Affairs

Un Puente Hasta Terabithia:
Written by Katherine Paterson and published in 1977 by Thomas Crowell.

“To me the purpose of this book is to bring the reader back to their own childhood, to remember how the world looks from a young persons perspective and how we deal with tragedy and loss as young people. I’ve read this book at a young age and identified with the characters and their ability to create imaginary worlds and stories. I was a little like Jesse the 5th grader, shy and a bit reserved, but wanted to be more like Leslie as she was artistic and full of imagination. It was the first book that made me cry while reading it. Till this day I am still affected by this book; the deep sadness and loss that as I have gotten older have experienced. It’s a story of love, while becoming oneself and finding a way to deal with the world around us.”

Lhea Marie Destromp (Mrs. Mud Pie

Holyoke Educator and Family Advocate

“The Cherry Tree”
Author: Daisaku Ikeda.

“This is a tale of Taichi and Yumiko, two children who rebuild their lives within their community in the wake of war. When their playmate cat runs off and the local playground is found in ruins, the duo set off on an adventure to find their missing companion. They leave no stone unturned. The trail leads the kids to the legend of the sweet-scented Cherry Tree.”

The Cherry Tree came to life as the children used stick figure puppets to act out the story. Mrs. Mud Pie explained that she finds this method to be very effective for students who say they don’t like to read; “sometimes we just need to put the story in their hands in a new way”.

This book pushes us to be the change we want to see in the world and teaches us to never give up hope in the face of even the greatest opposition. Our children are watching. They will not know the power they carry in each of their hearts and hands unless we show them.

Lhea Marie Destromp, as Mrs. Mud Pie performed “The Paper City Mermaid Parade” at Holyoke’s Community Field on Aug. 16th. Her most recent project is a project with the Holyoke Public School’s Success Center; a program that supports and empowers neuro-diverse learners who need an alternative pathway to identify and lay the foundation to their most independent and successful future selves. If you or someone you love is considering dropping out of high school, has recently dropped out or would like to return to get their diploma or equivalency, the Holyoke Public Schools Success Center is here to help. 413-552-2916

Amy Piedra

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dual Language Program at E.N. White

“Love You Forever “
Author: Robert Munsch.

One of my favorite picture books is Love You Forever by Robert Munsch. I have read many picture books in my lifetime as a mom of three and a teacher, but this one will always be close to my heart. It was this book that started our bedtime reading routine when my first daughter, Arianna, was born. Munsch’s stories always have meaningful messages with a funny twist. Love You Forever is a heart-warming story that describes the adventures of having a child and watching them grow up. It shows children that parental love is unconditional even in the craziest and hardest of times. He also adds a powerful message that love turns back around when the children become adults and must take care of their parents. It made my children realize that they will always have my unconditional love and that there will be a time when they will have the chance to give that love right back. It is a great story of enduring love, through the best times and the driving-me-crazy times, from infancy to the end of our lifetimes.

Francia Wisnewski
Regional Program Manager for Raising a Reader in Holyoke

“The Little Prince”
Author: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.

It’s hard to choose a book – I have many favorites. In eighth grade, back in my native Colombia, we had to read The Little Prince by Author and Illustrator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. To me the author is sharing a world, his world of resilience and persistence, to show us how to make the best out of every situation. I have a warm memory of our eighth-grade class director reading it to us with such engagement and enthusiasm. I remember vividly that reading this book was what my classmates and I looked forward to the most. Ever since, my appreciation for the book has only grown for this book, its stories and lessons. Every time that I read it, I can see different perspectives of it, and, as an educator, this book has inspired me to bring out the best in people. I love that this book has endless life lessons that you can apply to your everyday life. One of my favorite quotes is, “Don’t judge others by their words, but by what they do.” The Little Prince talks about a very important topic: looking after the planet. This story speaks to how relationships make life worth living and how the important things in life cannot be seen with your eyes, only with your heart.

Amy Burke
Principal, Joseph Metcalf School

“Miss Rumphius “
Author: Barbara Cooney.

I was born in Maine, went to college in Maine and have always kept Maine’s seacoast very close to my heart. Miss Rumphius spent her life, living by the philosophy that she wanted to do things to make the world a more beautiful place. Throughout her life that meant different things at different times. I have tried to live my life by that same philosophy. There are so many ways to make the world more beautiful.

Lauren Dulude
2019 Grand Colleen

“Left to Tell: Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust “
Author: Immaculée Ilibagiza.

I first became interested in this book after seeing an interview with Immaculée Ilibagiza. I immediately wanted to learn more. I was nervous that I would not like the book because it is historical. After reading her account of the Rwandan holocaust, I gained a love of reading historical memoirs and autobiographies. Ilibagiza’s writing reminds me to be compassionate in the face of adversity. She tells a story of deep sorrow, pain, and suffering, which blossomed into strength, love, and forgiveness. Left to Tell was one of the first books I read in which I was forced to take on a different perspective. Now I take the time to educate and expose myself to people of different cultures, races, religions, gender identities, and lifestyles. I believe understanding our complexities as human beings is a necessary step for all who wish to contribute good into the world.

Gustavo Romero
Assistant Property Manager

“The Lorax”
Author: Dr. Seuss.

Our favorite book to read together is The Lorax by Dr. Seuss. I think the author is brilliant; he
wants to inform and educate the minds of our little ones. My two girls and the importance of
proficient reading in their lives is what brought me to this book. I love Dr. Seuss’ creativity and
word play, but the best thing is that my girls enjoy his books and will read them without any
fuss. The Lorax himself was my favorite of course. His message of caring for nature and one
another is a noble cause. If the Lorax was to see my streets, he would not be happy, as they are
littered on a constant basis. This book made me a lot more conscious about how my
neighborhood looks and what Mother Nature might feel as we litter.

Kathy McKean
Director of the Massachusetts International Festival of the Arts Victory Theatre

“Goodnight Moon”
Author: Margaret Wise Brown.

This is the first book I can remember reading. It was a ritual in my house growing up to read this book at bedtime. My parents read it to me so many times that I could read the book by just turning the pages. I read it to my younger brothers and sister and then years later to my own daughters. It was my entryway into the world of books and my start on a journey of lifelong reading. To this day when I hear “In the great green room there is a telephone and a red
balloon…” I feel a sense of peace. “Good Night Moon”

Manuel Frau Ramos
Editor of El Sol Latino newspaper

“Pedagogy and the Struggle for Voice: Issues of Language, Power and Schooling for Puerto Ricans”
Author: Catherine Walsh.

La persona que me regaló este libro fue mi mentor, Dr. Luis Fuentes, cuando yo estudiaba el Doctorado
en Educación en la Universidad de Massachusetts -Amherst. Nosotros teníamos frecuentes
conversaciones sobre educación bilingüe y su estrecha relación con lenguaje, identidad, problemas de
poder, y el estatus colonial de Puerto Rico. Dr. Fuentes conocía muy bien mis gustos académicos y
cuando éste se jubiló me regaló esta copia del libro.

The person who gave me this book was my mentor, Dr. Luis Fuentes, when I was studying for my
Doctorate in Education at the University of Massachusetts -Amherst. We had frequent conversations
about bilingual education and its close relationship with language, identity, power issues, and the colonial
status of Puerto Rico. Dr. Fuentes knew my academic tastes very well and when he retired he gave me
this copy of the book.

Dr. Catherine Walsh señala en este libro que “El estatus colonial de Puerto Rico y el efecto histórico que
este estatus ha tenido en la realidad política, socioeconómica y psicológica de las personas rara vez se
discute, ni su efecto en la identidad de los niños, el desarrollo y el uso del lenguaje, y en su comprensión

Dr. Catherine Walsh states that, “The colonial status of Puerto Rico and the historic effect this status has
had on the political, socioeconomic, and psychological reality of the people is rarely discussed nor its
effect on children’s identity, language development and use, and on their semantic understanding.”

Muchos estudiantes puertorriqueños están conscientes de esta relación entre lenguaje, identidad y poder.
El estudio de Dr. Walsh confirma que la perspectiva de los estudiantes puertorriqueños muy pocas veces
es reconocida, escuchada o tomada en consideración. Frecuentemente la voz de estos estudiantes es
ignorada o mal interpretada. La autora propone la educación bilingüe como modelo pedagógico dirigido a
corregir algunas de las prácticas educativas discriminatorias contra los estudiantes puertorriqueños.

Many Puerto Rican students are aware of this relationship between language, identity and power. The
study by Dr. Walsh confirms that the perspective of Puerto Rican students is rarely recognized, heard or
taken into consideration. Frequently the voice of these students is ignored or misinterpreted. The author
proposes bilingual education as a pedagogical model aimed at correcting some of the discriminatory
educational practices against Puerto Rican students.

El tema, los hallazgos y las soluciones propuestas en este libro siguen siendo relevantes hoy en día. La
experiencia de los estudiantes puertorriqueños en las Escuelas Públicas de Holyoke no ha cambiado
mucho en los pasados 30 años atrás.

The topic, the findings, and the solutions proposed in this book are still relevant today. The experience of
Puerto Rican students in the Holyoke Public Schools has not changed much in the past 30 years.

Candice Pelletier
Holyoke Farmers Market

“The Glass Castle”
Author: Jeannette Walls.

Kent Jacobson, my professor and then-director of The Care Center, gave me this book when I graduated the Clemente Course in the Humanities. It’s a memoir, addressing the trauma Jeannette grew up with, and her struggle to rise above it. I love this book and its poignant moments, such as when Walls says, “Everyone who is interesting has a past.” The book deeply moves me, whether to tears, to laughter, or to anger with each page. It reflects the hardships a lot of families face surrounding poverty, violence, and alcohol or drug use. It is so worn from just a few years because I always pull it out when I’m having an especially rough time. This book reminds me that pain is temporary and that time and effort can bring you through anything. It reminds me to keep succeeding, and to move past my past, day by day, page by page.

Dr. Stephen Zrike, Jr.
Superintendent/Receiver Holyoke Public Schools

Author: Kathryn Otoshi

I love children’s picture books that share an impactful message. ONE powerfully, yet simply highlights the influence that one person can have when they find their voice. The book serves as a reminder to me that each educator who works in the Holyoke Public Schools has the awesome power to make positive and lasting change on behalf of the children we serve. Our students should be given the message that their voice matters and that they truly have the ability to make lasting change at their school and in their community. It should not matter what language they speak, what their socio-economic level is or where they live, the should feel empowered to advocate for what they/their community needs to be successful.

Sheila Gould
Assistant Professor at Holyoke Community College

“Maybe Something Beautiful”
Author: F. Isabel Campoy and Theresa Howell

Having a degree in fine arts made me very interested in the book because the cover is so vibrant and full of color. When I started reading the book I felt connected to it because it
reminded me of my childhood and some of the things that my daughter does. I bought this book for my daughter earlier this year because I noticed that she would create little things to brighten up dull areas of our home, old furniture, and our yard. She is always creating. The book also reminds me of my mom, who always found ways
to make our childhood home more vibrant. She always let me paint on things and she would too. Our kitchen was painted like the hills of Ireland and she would even paint fancy rugs on floors. The book speaks to how children have this innate desire to give. It is based on the real life story of Mira, a little girl from San Diego who brought her community together and made everyone feel that they had something to give. Mira starts to make her drawings, on buildings and on paper, for everyone around the community. One day a muralist sees her art on the gray wall of a building. The muralist admires it so much that rather than cover Mira’s art he paints around it. I loved that the book takes away all the stigma and negativity that is depicted about living in an urban area by picturing it through the eyes of a little girl who loves her home.

Salome Moreno, Holyoke High School student

“Violent Borders: Refugees and the Right to Move” by Reece Jones

The book was a gift from a professor of an ethnic studies and social justice course whose class I had sat
in for a demonstration. The book starts with a narrative, later progresses into discussing statics and
facts about the issues about strict borders and the despair of refugees. Violent Borders: Refugees and
the Right to Move is a brutally honest telling of the struggles of avoiding conflict and I love that there is
no sugar coating of it. As a child of immigrants, the book gives you a realization about the brutal struggles of moving to
another country as an immigrant. Violent Borders shows the corruptness of a system that is meant to
keep the wealth in regulated sectors. Knowing this motivates me to keep going in my venture for social
justice and bring justice to the various people like my parents who have sacrificed everything to make a
better life for themselves.

Willie L. Spradley, Jr, Manage Your Health and Wealth, LLC

Book: Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill

Reading was a passion in my youth. Life happened and priorities shifted. Reading has now taken the highest priority as I’m focused on taking control of my future. The paradigm shift has been slow but consistent. I’ve come to realize that “success is the progressive realization of a worthy ideal”. My roadmap is the book, “Think and Grow Rich” by Napoleon Hill sponsored by Multi-Billionaire Andrew Carnegie. What I love about this book is that each time I revisit a chapter I always get a deeper level of awareness. Why? Simply because each reading leads to a time of contemplation. The ability to improve myself required several shifts in my thinking about success. I realized that my current perspective worked well as long as I was content with being content. This book shares lessons from the greatest achievers in the country who were willing to share their roadmap to success. This book is a priority in my everyday life because I’ve accepted the challenge of getting better, feeling better and helping other people feel the same. The principles of this book when consistently applied
have proven to be a roadmap for conquering my challenge.

Patricia A. Spradley, Manage Your Health and Wealth LLC

Book: THE FOUR AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel Ruiz

I absolutely love reading and had a very hard time choosing jus one book! However, I landed on The Four Agreements because I especially like reading books that help me to be a better person. I’ve read the book multiple times and carry the agreements around with me. I love that the book is a practical guide that encourages you to constantly and consistently check your “self-limiting beliefs”, in a very simplistic way. The four agreements are: ‘be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make
assumptions and always do your best. These agreements apply to each of us regardless of the different ways we may have been raised, the places we live, or the color of our skin. And what I really like is, we all have an opportunity to undo what we don’t like, keep what we like, and endlessly open the possibilities for what we can be and what we can do! All the agreements influence me regularly. But “be impeccable with your word” is the one that is most important and the most difficult for me to honor. And for that reason, I devote the most attention because others receive the benefit when I am doing this well! Over the past several years, I have realized just how powerful my words really are; both bad and good. It has caused me to be very conscious about exactly what I speak, especially for my own life. “It’s through the word that you manifest everything”. It’s been amazing creating events in my life!

Natalia Munoz

News Director at Holyoke Media
“Puerto Rico: An Oral History: 1898-2008” edited by Barbara Tasch Ezratty.

She compiled the stories of dozens of Puerto Ricans.The experiences of the Puerto Ricans featured in this book are told in their own words. I love that their stories are completely theirs, unadorned by a writer’s need to set up quotes and put events in context. The people themselves explain their own context. And I love that it is book that answered the author’s question: What is the history of Puerto Rico, in the words of its people? She is a Jewish American who with her husband worked for decades in Puerto Rico, and she wanted to know more about its people. So she put an ad in the newspapers asking for people who wanted to share their stories to get in touch with her. It was that simple. And the result is a powerful history lesson. Here are the stories of my compatriots. We know so little of our own history; we know so little about who we are as a people. We come from everywhere — there are Puerto Ricans with Irish ancestries, Chinese ancestries, American and from everywhere else in the world. This book is a history lesson, told by Puerto Ricans of all walks of life, in which they share their struggles and achievements, their concerns, doubts, frustrations — everything. It is a snapshot of their lives and Puerto Rico.

Joanne O’Toole

“The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle”

I chose this illustrated children’s book because it seemed like a good choice because of my work
at Homework House and because the caterpillar and I both turn 50 this year.
The vividly illustrated book features a small caterpillar who emerges from an egg and begins
eating everything in sight including apples, salami and lollipops. It eats a variety of foods until it
is no longer hungry and no longer small. The big, fat caterpillar builds a cocoon around himself
and transforms as a beautiful butterfly. The butterfly ultimately covers two pages with primary
colors creating his textured wings. The book teaches children colors, the days of the week and counting. It introduces a wide
variety of food and the life stages of a butterfly. The caterpillar’s stomach ache is also a
reminder that there are consequences to eating too much junk food. In life we too sample new
things that transform us into who we are. The book brings back many sweet memories for me. My aunt, who spend here entire teaching career teaching in Holyoke, had a copy autographed for me when I was a child. I remember
having it read to me. I read it to my younger brothers over and over again and then read it to my
own children over and over again. Homework House’s Summer Readers and Leaders is a free summer literacy focused summer
camp for children entering grades 2-4. Please call (413) 265-1017 for registration information.

Kate Preissler, Director of Wistariahurst Museum

“The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” by Agatha Christie

I chose The Murder of Roger Ackroyd because I love it as a reminder that books written primarily for entertainment can also be of literary significance. My personal story is that in the summer between 7th and 8th grade my family moved. I found myself in an unfamiliar quiet suburban town, not knowing anyone, missing my old home, and with no school or activities to occupy my time; I was really bored. I ended up tagging along with my mom to the town library which had a whole tiny room devoted entirely to mysteries. For whatever reason I decided that my project that summer of boredom would be to read every Agatha Christie book they had. To this day, if I’m feeling down, in a rut, or just plain bored, I’ll pick up a couple of good mysteries to sit with and binge read to get through it. I think everyone has a genre of fiction like this that is their go-to comfort reading. Mysteries just happen to be mine. For their time, Christie and her detective novel peers were able to be critical of society under the guise of salacious entertainment. Christie’s characters, while famously and purposefully underdeveloped, showcase a range of people who would have been outside the mainstream, or openly vilified, in the post-World War I era in which she was primarily writing. Her two most famous detectives, Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple, are both outsiders. Poirot is a foreigner navigating a sometimes overtly xenophobic England, and Miss Marple’s success is largely dependent on the way society ignored and infantilized unmarried and older women. In the dizzying array of characters who appear in her sixty-six books are figures who were rarely represented in that era’s fiction including queer and gender-fluid characters, happily unmarried women, non-white characters, people with disabilities, and individuals with mental illnesses. The books’ plots are sometimes driven by the prevalence of (at-that-point- unlabeled) PTSD after World War I, the harm caused by imperialism, and the ubiquity of greed and other dark impulses across identities.

Israel Rivera Area Studies Program Manager CLACLS

When the Prisoners Ran Walpole: A True Story in the Movement for Prison Abolition”
by Jamie Bissonette

Honestly, I stumbled upon this book while doing research on Social Movements for a
Race and Policing class while completing my undergrad at the University of Massachusetts.
This book is about how the prisoners at Walpole’s Massachusetts Correctional Institute
organized and formed a workers union; this union was a recognized chapter of a much larger
network named the National Prisoners Reform Association (NPRA). Forming a Union allowed
prisoners to conduct collective bargaining with prison administration, as well as address their
living and working conditions. Prisoners began running their own educational programming
partnering with a variety of outside advocates (Churches, College students, Non-profits),
resulting in more prisoners going home for good.
This newfound power challenged and threatened the authority of the prison guards; the
guards union protested prison reform and many of the changes. The guards union organized a
union strike on behalf of the guards protesting the new reforms, guards walked off the job
leaving prisons to be “unguarded”. This began on March 9th 1973, and on that day the prisoners
were ready; they ran the prison without any instances of violence, rape, or murder until it got
over ran by the prison guards that walked of the job on May 18 (almost 3 months).
Prisoners are people, whether society likes it or not, and people run society. Everyone is
needed and room must be made for all.

Jordan Hart
Programs & Services Coordinator
Greater Holyoke Chamber of Commerce

I Looked Over Jordan, and Other Stories” by Ernie Brill

It’s my favorite book anyone has ever given me, a present from my creative writing teacher on my last day of high school. One of my favorite teachers, he helped me tap into my skills as a writer. In high school, I was always carrying a blank note pad because I wrote poetry all the time. I am not really a story teller, but I like to tell stories through short poems.
My creative writing teacher enjoyed my work and he always let me know that. He was a teacher who really saw my potential and taught me how to be vulnerable in my writing, really express emotions. Being vulnerable is important as a writer, it allows the reader to tap into hidden emotions and really feel a connection with the characters you are reading about. I think that you know that you found a good story when you feel enlightened, or you feel like a new person by the end.

“I Looked Over Jordan” is a collection of short stories, published in 1980. It is Ernie Brill’s first published book. Many of the stories center the patients or co-workers that he encountered in the 1970’s, working various jobs within hospitals and institutions. The stories are often very raw situations, but he turns them around to show the light in some dark scenarios. The stories are cleverly written, so you can really picture everything that’s going on. What I really like about not only this book, but all well written books, is that you can really know all of the stories’ characters. I think that’s what’s powerful about reading.”

Maria Pagan

Walking In The Shadow Of The Veteran: The Heart Of The Veteran by Linda Leary

It is a Veteran’s caregiver memoir. The book spans Ms. Leary’s dedicated 34-year career, putting a human face on those who served us by serving their country. It captures veterans in real life situations as they try to put their lives back together. Ms. Leary brings insight into some of the inherent issues that are stumbling blocks for our vets while at the same time highlighting some of the wonderful people who help them. It’s especially pertinent at a time when our VA system is often in the news. Getting to know who our vets are is so important. My brother, Jorge A. Pagan, was an Operation Desert Storm Veteran and passed away on February 1, 2019, at age 53. A few days later, this book came into the Library. Written by a Veteran Care-giver and a Holyoke resident, it automatically attracted my attention. First, because it was written by a local resident, so it is a perfect fit for the Holyoke Public Library’s “Conversations with Author” series. Second, with Memorial Day approaching, hearing personal experiences from one who dealt day after day with veterans and saw first-hand what they go through is important. Third, because of losing my youngest sibling and only brother, I thought it could help me understand what my brother was going through and learn why he protected us from knowing too much of what he was dealing with.

Ms. Leary will be speaking at Holyoke Public Library Monday April 22nd at 6pm.

Lora McNeece Barrett

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

I made a goal for myself that I would read one book each week. I share with some old high school friends what we are reading, and one of the people whose reading taste I really respect had suggested this book. I think I read it maybe three or four years ago. The boys in the boat just got stuck with me because it’s the classic story of the underdog. I’m drawn to books that have a storyline that is grounded in reality. My book preference are biographies, documentaries and autobiographies. The book presents what these young men went through to get to the 1936 Olympics. The story is a testament to the strength and the resilience of people who have almost nothing. All nine team members were young college students from the University of Washington who did not come from wealthy households; they needed to work during the summer and find time to practice. These men were all rowing when it was considered to be the main sport in the U.S. These young men were competing against universities such as Yale, Harvard and other elite colleges. They did fundraisers to get to the Olympics, they stayed in nasty hotels, they didn’t travel in luxury, they were assigned to row in the worst lane in the race, and yet they beat everybody against the odds. I am in love with this book because it speaks to the joy in resilience.

Book: “Man’s search for meaning” by Viktor Frankl

“I first came across the book during my graduate program, where it was a required reading. I believe that a positive attitude/mindset can help you get through hard times as well as positively affect your mental and physical health. During his three years of extreme suffering in a concentration camp, Viktor Frankl discovered that the desire to find meaning is essential to the human experience. One quote from the book that stood out to me was, “he who has a WHY to live for can bear almost any HOW”. This book is very powerful and I recommend it to anyone who find themselves stuck in life or anyone who wants to be inspired to keep on fighting the good fight.”

– Richard Rodriguez

Alena Ayvazian

Best Friends for Frances by Russell Hoban

This is one of many books in a series about Frances. Part of the reason why I like it so much is because my parents would read it to me and my little brother. Frances has a little sister and they go on all these adventures, and they’re always either eating or planning on what they’re going to eat next. And we could never figure out what kind of animal they are. They look like raccoons, bears, or like a skunk. They have such big appetites. All the books are related because they’re all about Frances, her family, and her friends. She always learns something in the end, kind of like a “moral of the story”.

Even if they’re categorized as kid’s books, I still enjoy reading them. I still find myself talking about the book with my parents or brother. My parents are from Brazil, so they also read a bunch of books to us in Portuguese, so I guess reading was a big part for us in learning both languages.

2017 Holyoke Saint Patrick’s Parade Grand Marshal Sister Jane Morrissey on a favorite book:

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett

It was one of the first two movies that I ever saw, I think with my dad. In the theater, the girl who played the lead character, Margaret O’Brien, was just really good. She was a lovely actress and I could identify with her. The book starts in Colonized India, a country that I love, when there is sickness, death, devastation and grief. All she had was in this new manor house and a head housekeeper is the only one taking care of her. She is just seeing the world that she knew disappearing. She could sympathize with everyone. This new world is enchanting but strange for her. She finds out gradually that there is a boy in the manor house who’s crippled. When she starts to empathize with this boy in the movie, then I became emphatic too. They find this secret garden, which like the boy’s own story life has been closed up and become all brambles. They bring it back to life. In the movie it’s very beautiful because it’s in black and white but when the garden comes to life it turns to color. Several movies have been made of the Secret Garden but this one, clearly, won my heart and drew me to the book.- Sister Jane

Topdog Underdog by Suzan Lori-Parks

I studied African American culture in college. It has always been a part of my frame of reference, literature especially. The play tells a story about two African American brothers who live in a rundown part of town. One’s named Lincoln and the other named Booth. They constantly play on American violence and the legacy of violence. Going back to the civil war, how President Lincoln is supposed to be the emancipator yet died tragically in a theater booth. The play depicts themes of masculinity shedding light on its inherent violence. In a single room setting the two men hash it up, they argue, they fight, they hate each other, love each other, they’re family, they’re not family. It’s pretty fascinating and sad. The time set for the audience and the reader is the present. In 2002 it won the Pultitzer Prize for Drama. Yet it feels that it never stops being relevant. This is an issue that never stops happening and that’s the implication. I taught this book a lot and it causes students to question themselves and society. – Benjamin Hersey

From Bomba to Hip Hop Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity by Juan Flores

“Juan was a professor in sociology in NYU. “From Bomba to Hip Hop Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity” is a very synthetic book, bringing together different aspects of Latino culture and identity. Honing in on the question “What does Puerto Rican identity mean?” Also exploring how Puerto Rican culture has been played out in a diasporic context. It talks about the migration of Puerto Ricans from the island to the mainland. How that back and forth-ness gives certain qualities and characteristics that define Puerto Ricans. This book holds a special place in my life, mainly because growing up in a Puerto Rican and Polish household in the middle of Brooklyn, my identity has always been confusing. On one hand it’s a scholarly book but also a very accessible one. Anyone can and should read it. When I first came across this book I was beginning to look at the work that I was doing in Holyoke and thinking about my identity as a Puerto Rican. It was this kind of framework that he talked about, this nature of being in between, that drew me to the book, both personally, professionally and academically. “- Joseph Krupczynski

A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.

The book itself I guess has two components to it, first my story and then the author’s story. I was always a reluctant reader, I hated reading. It always seemed like a chore to me, like something you did “in school”. As a growing adult the notion continued. Until a buddy of mine said to me “Hey I have this book that might jump start your interest in reading, “A Confederacy of Dunces”. You are really going to love this book because it’s so out of the ordinary, you know.”
The title itself is a play on words by Jonathan Swift: “When a true genius appears in the world, you may know him by this sign, that the dunces are all in a confederacy against him.” The title is a spin on that concept. I read this book in 1991 and people are still reading it, it’s still just as relevant today”- Luis Soria


OneHolyoke CDC Executive Director announces Holyoke – City That Reads with a book he loved:

The most important book I read in 2018 was The Deepest Well by Dr. Nadine Harris Burke. She is a pediatrician who discovered how much trauma harms the children she treats. Her research and persistence changed the way she practices medicine, and improved the lives of her patients and their families.

And she doesn’t just tell a personal story or a medical memoir. She points the way in meaningful and practical terms for all kinds of practitioners that serve the housing, educational, economic and health needs of children and families.

It’s not just about poor communities, but matters a lot in places of concentrated poverty that are the most severely affected.

It has so much potential for the work we do as a community development corporation that I have given copies to over a dozen community leaders who I hope will help me bring Dr. Burke Harris’s ideas to Holyoke.