From the Shelf
Women and Wildness: Forging New Paths in Alaska
Among explorers, hunters and fishermen, Alaska was long known perceived as a man's world. Women have often had to fight for the chance to love this harsh, beautiful land and prove they can handle its challenges.
Sophie Forrester, military wife and aspiring photographer, is initially denied her chance to see Alaska when her husband is assigned to explore the Yukon Territory in 1885. But she faces her own challenges at the barracks in Vancouver, and (mild spoiler) does eventually get to see Alaska. Eowyn Ivey tells Sophie's story in her stunning second novel, To the Bright Edge of the World (Back Bay Books, $16.99).
For memoirist and obituary writer Heather Lende, Alaska is home: she's spent decades living and working there. Her three books (If You Lived Here, I'd Know Your Name; Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs; Find the Good (Algonquin, $16.95) offer a welcome balance to Alaska's lonely wildness: the warm, colorful community of fellow residents that is necessary for survival.
Kristin Knight Pace ended up in Alaska almost by accident, as a heartbroken divorcee. But her initial five-month stint turned into a decade, and now she runs a dog kennel with her husband. She chronicles the wonder, challenges and the grit required to complete two storied 1,000-mile dog races (the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest) in This Much Country (Grand Central Publishing, $27).
Adrienne Lindholm was unprepared for the rigors of backcountry life when she moved to Alaska after college. Nearly two decades later, she's carved out a home for herself and wrestled with fundamental questions about identity and motherhood. Her luminous memoir, It Happened Like This (Mountaineers Books, $16.95), chronicles her journeys out and back in, exploring her efforts to live and thrive in a gorgeous, demanding inner and outer landscape. --Katie Noah Gibson, blogger at Cakes, Tea and Dreams
In this Issue...
by S.A. Lelchuk
A protector of abused women must also prevent a new technological invention from being used worldwide for evil.
by Joseph Coelho
In the lyrical picture book Grandpa's Stories, a young girl finds solace in her cherished memories after the loss of her beloved grandfather.
by Mary Laura Philpott
Mary Laura Philpott's hilarious and comforting essay collection will reassure women questioning their abilities and choices.
Review by Subjects:
01/21/2020 - 7:00PMFollowing journalist and novelist Fatima Bhutto, here a few months ago with her book on pop culture in India, the United Emirates, Turkey, and Latin America, is William Wheeler, with another in Columbia Global Reports’ books of long-form journalism. He visits with what is his first book, State of War: MS-13 and El Salvador’s World of Violence. "In State of War, his gripping, electrifying study of the brutal Salvadoran gang culture, William Wheeler dramatizes with almost painful immediacy a...
01/21/2020 - 6:30PMThis month’s selection for reading and discussion is Ada Hoffman’s novel, The Outside (Angry Robot). Learn More
01/22/2020 - 7:00PMWidely respected and highly regarded, Asma Uddin comes here as a religious liberty lawyer who has done work on behalf of a considerable range of religions and faiths. In her powerful new book, When Islam is Not a Religion (Pegasus), she does so through the lens of the present political climate in the U.S. around Islam, and the rights of Muslims. “Asma Uddin has written a terrific book. It is all at once a primer on the very American commitment to religious freedom, a history of the...
01/22/2020 - 11:30AMOur friends at PJ Library, who do these song & storytimes designed for tots, toddlers, and those looking after them at a number of select bookstores in the area, visit as a regular feature of our Wednesday mornings. These are free and open to all and are usually thirty minutes of good fun, activity, and exploration of language, movement, and rhythm. Please join us in the Children’s Section by the castle!
01/23/2020 - 7:00PMIn The Art of Return: The Sixties and Contemporary Culture (University of Chicago Press) James Meyer turns to art criticism, theory, memoir, and fiction to examine the fascination with the long sixties and contemporary expressions of these cultural memories across the globe. He draws on a diverse range of cultural objects that reimagine this revolutionary era stretching from the 1950s to the 1970s, including reenactments of civil rights, antiwar, and feminist marches, paintings, sculptures,...
01/23/2020 - 7:30PMPeggy Orenstein, author of the groundbreaking New York Times bestsellers Girls & Sex and Cinderella Ate My Daughter now turns her focus to the sexual lives of young men in Boys & Sex: Young Men on Hookups, Love, Porn, Consent, and Navigating the New Masculinity (Harper), once again offering “both an examination of sexual culture and a guide on how to improve it” (Washington Post). “Masculinity doesn’t have to be toxic—but so much of what we communicate to boys about masculinity is just...
01/24/2020 - 7:00PMFirst published a year ago to much praise, and ultimately achieving bestselling status (being selected by Reese Witherspoon for her national book club never hurting), Yangsze Choo’s riveting debut novel, The Night Tiger (Flatiron), found many readers here, and should, even more with this new paperback edition. Set in her home country of Malaysia, when it was colonial-era Malaya, is a novel of the clash of classes, of entitlement and aspiration, and of some particular quests. “Mythical...
Books That Would Make Great Video Games
"Books that would make great video games" were considered by Quirk Books.
"Rare Harry Potter first edition with typos sells for $90,074," UPI reported.
Pop quiz: "Did science fiction predict these inventions?" Mental Floss asked.
PBS News Hour checked out "when a laundromat becomes a library."
A Hemingway center has opened in Havana, Cuba, "to preserve writer's work," the Guardian reported.
For sale: Pippi Longstocking's fictional home in Fernandina Beach, Fla.
Rediscover: Vonda N. McIntyre
Science-fiction author Vonda N. McIntyre died on April 1 at age 70. She wrote novels, short stories and media tie-in books, especially for Star Trek, edited a groundbreaking anthology of feminist SF (Aurora: Beyond Equality), and founded the Clarion West Writing Workshop. She won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards for her 1979 novel Dreamsnake, and another Nebula for her 1997 novel The Moon and the Sun. McIntyre was the third woman to win a Hugo. She also founded Book View Café, an online publishing collective for member authors to sell their e-books.
Dreamsnake (1978), based on McIntyre's 1973 novella Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand, takes place in a post-apocalyptic world in which biotechnology has advanced far beyond the present day, and follows a tribal healer who relies on a small "dreamsnake" that produces hallucinogenic effects. The Moon and the Sun takes place in the court of King Louis XIV, where a mermaid-like sea creature is held captive. It was adapted into a film starring Pierce Brosnan in 2015.
The Writer's Life
Chris Rush: Memory, Childhood and Mad Love
Chris Rush is an artist and designer, and author of The Light Years (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27; reviewed below), a candid and funny memoir of a remarkable childhood. At 13, Rush left behind his family in New Jersey to join his older sister in the Southwest. There, he dealt drugs, did drugs, explored the wilderness and became part of the counterculture, in spite of his tender age.
Why did you decide to write a memoir about this period of your life now?
I did not, over the course of my life, think very much about the events that are described in the book. I found art, I found love, I found a life. In my 40s, I started to travel, and I kept a travel journal. The further I got from home, the more I could remember it. I started to put things in my journal that amazed me, that I hadn't thought about in years. On a long train ride through central India with a friend, I started to tell him these stories. The more I talked, the bigger his eyes got. He said to me, "Chris, your life is so strange! Keep writing."
I decided to try to write these stories into some cogent fashion. When I began, I thought it was going to be a rowdy road trip of a book. As time went on, it got deeper and deeper--and weirder and weirder--and more intense. I worked for 10 years on the book, and I knew I had something I'd never read before.
You describe the details and feelings of being a child perfectly. How did you remember so much?
For the first two or three years, the only thing I did was write down everything I could remember. And I realized that I remembered far more than I had ever called upon, that memory is very holographic, and once you walk in one door, there's another door up ahead. I just kept walking through all these rooms and memories and reliving them.
After I had written down everything I could remember, I tested my recollections against my brothers, sisters and mother. They all gave me extensive interviews, particularly my mother. She is a very healthy 92-year-old woman who remembers everything perfectly; it's uncanny. The Light Years would not be the book it is without those interviews. We all agreed this was a crazy and wonderful time that will never happen again.
Throughout the process, I wanted to see if I could find the child's mind and the child's voice. It was the only way to make sense out of what we did and who we were. I crawled deep, deep down into my mind to recall what I was thinking and feeling. I tried to touch on the mad joy of childhood. It was a wonderful, wonderful experience.
As an adult looking back, do you resent your mother for not protecting you?
The main discovery of the book for me was to understand that my mother probably loved my father more than she loved her children. As a child, I was the audience. My parents had an epic and dangerous love affair, full of jealousy and betrayal and endless arguments. As I've gotten older, I've realized, who hasn't dreamt of dangerous love? And though I did suffer in some ways, I have immense respect for love and romance.
My parents are that peculiar Great Depression-World War II generation who could never speak about love or pain. So I still have to use a great deal of deduction to understand their mad love, but I am a believer in mad love. I've made peace with whatever kind of confusion and neglect I experienced as a child. As I said to my mom, because she wept after reading the book, "You couldn't have saved me. I had to save myself." My mother is my oldest friend; I've known her for over 60 years. We have a long and complicated relationship, and this book is just a part of it. Yes, my mother was less than perfect, but she was at least fierce. I can look back on it and say, "My mother risked all for love," and that's kind of great.
Baking pies was a part of your recovery. Do you still bake pies?
I do! There is nothing like an apple pie in the fall. I've tried every weird version of what a pie should be, but when you get down to it, a golden apple pie coming out of the oven is the reason we live. When I started making pies at the end of the memoir, that was the beginning of finding my next life. It's when the joy came back. And there's nothing better than sharing a piece of pie! --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book By Book blog
Sing to It: New Stories
by Amy Hempel
Amy Hempel (Reasons to Live) delivers a wildly exploratory short story collection. The 15 pieces in Sing to It include a nice mix of flash fiction and longer entries. The titular first story sets an ever-mysterious tone: "At the end, he said, No metaphors! Nothing is like anything else." Of course metaphors abound, bizarre spectacles, but also a sense of specificity that could rightly be called the opposite of cliché. The same story also hints at what unites it with the others: "When danger approaches, sing to it." Hempel carves out distinctive characters in the crook of exceptional circumstances. They are imperiled people, all facing something ominous in their lives, sometimes visible, sometimes invisible. It's as if Hempel has a secret guide to her own creations, knowing the point of inflection for each.
In "A Full-Service Shelter," a volunteer at an animal shelter that euthanizes dangerous dogs explains how the animals see the humans: "They knew me as the one who loved in them what I recoiled from in people: the patent need, the clinging, the appetite." But the narrator seems to need the dogs just as much, as if caring for them makes the world more sensible. Some of the stories reach the realms of surrealism, such as the "The Doll Tornado," which includes a storm of dolls touching down in an old factory in Greensboro, N.C.
Sing to It fascinates. It pulses with absurdist glee, but has enough humanity to ground its characters in the hard work of looking forward. --Scott Neuffer, writer, poet, editor of trampset
Discover: Amy Hempel offers a smorgasbord of characters in this weirdly affecting short story collection.
Look How Happy I'm Making You
by Polly Rosenwaike
All of the women in Look How Happy I'm Making You are new mothers. Or want to be mothers. Or were mothers, or were almost mothers. In "Field Notes," a woman who studies cancer in mice finds herself unexpectedly--and unwelcomely--pregnant. In "White Carnations," a group of women who are motherless and not mothers themselves celebrate Mother's Day together. Women struggle with the transition into new motherhood in "June" and in "The Ten Warning Signs of Postpartum Depression." Similarly, in another story, a woman tries to understand how she can love her daughter so much while still questioning her decision to become a mother in the first place.
Taken individually, each story is a portrait of new motherhood: the emotions that come from a positive pregnancy test, the trials of newborn days without sleep or sanity, the conflicting advice received from well-wishers when walking through the world with a visible baby bump; the gaping sense of loss left in the wake of miscarriage or death. Taken as a whole, Look How Happy I'm Making You is a testament to the diversity of motherhood. There are any number of ways a woman can (or cannot) become a mother, and any number of ways to feel about that situation. And there is no way to capture fully the wide range of emotions that come with pregnancy, loss, birth, childhood, you name it. And yet, the stories here seem to say, there is something universal about the impossibility of that task that will resonate with any reader, be they mother or not. --Kerry McHugh, blogger at Entomology of a Bookworm
Discover: A collection of short stories about the many, varied experiences of new motherhood, including pregnancy, loss, birth and early childhood.
Let Me Out Here
by Emily W. Pease
Women who find themselves in lives they didn't imagine, and which aren't satisfying, connect the stories in Let Me Out Here. Emily W. Pease, in her debut collection, brings to life a complex Southern landscape and strong sense of place in 16 stories both tender and tough.
The strong and sometimes strangling bonds of family and community weave through these stories. "Primitive" finds a young wife and mother, her husband often away, trapped in a dead-end life. She sees no way out of the crashing boredom that makes up her days and says, "I longed for something to happen, like an explosion, a fire, a crashing plane." Ashamed, she castigates herself: "Oh, the darkness of my heart." In "Submission," a family is making an improbable trek through the woods with their dying infant, in an attempt to summon healing spirits. As they hike, the narrator thinks about the satellites orbiting the earth that are "searching, listening. But not listening to us."
Pease describes women who, frustrated with their lives, often resort to some type of destruction. One woman ruins her art. Another, mortified by a less-than-perfect family dinner, sets fire to her balcony. A Sunday school teacher explains parables through surprisingly violent demonstrations. "The harder you're cracked, the finer you become," she instructs the children, and this remark underscores the broken people in these stories. Primarily women, but men and children, too, bear cracks in their souls and hope that the scars will, somehow, redeem. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.
Discover: Let Me Out Here is a debut short story collection with sharp yet sympathetic portraits of imperfect people struggling to get by in contemporary Southern settings.
Mystery & Thriller
Save Me from Dangerous Men
by S.A. Lelchuk
A woman in tight jeans walks into a bar and gains the attention of every man in the joint when she crushes her opponent in games of pool for cash. Afterward, one admirer invites her to his place nearby. The woman goes. And proceeds to teach the man a lesson he won't forget: never lay a hand on his girlfriend again or he'll be signing his own death warrant.
Meet Nikki Griffin, a motorcycle-riding, pugilistic guardian angel for abused women and star of S.A. Lelchuk's debut thriller, Save Me from Dangerous Men.
By trade Nikki is a PI, hired by a tech CEO to follow an employee he suspects of stealing company secrets. Nikki discovers the case is much bigger--as in global--than what she's been told, and if she doesn't stop certain dangerous men, people will die, including her.
Nikki is not only a badass but a book nerd--an irresistible combination. She owns a bookstore called the Brimstone Magpie (a Dickens reference) and can quote Kierkegaard as fast as she can make a violent thug cry uncle. She's part Lisbeth Salander, part Jack Reacher, part MacGyver. Before readers start thinking she's an unrealistic fantasy figure (Lelchuk is male), Nikki points out she intentionally plays into men's images of an ideal woman in order to lure them to her. And she's far from perfect: she had a tragic childhood and fears she lacks impulse control. Plus, she misses a couple of conspicuous clues until late in the game. But Nikki is a fiery, magnetic character, and thriller fans will race through this book faster than Nikki on her motorcycle. --Elyse Dinh-McCrillis, blogger at Pop Culture Nerd
Discover: A protector of abused women must also prevent a new technological invention from being used worldwide for evil.
The Good Detective
by John McMahon
The Good Detective, John McMahon's debut spin on the detective-tortured-by-grief theme, is the first in a planned series featuring P.T. Marsh. He is an up-and-comer in the Mason Falls, Ga., police department, until he loses his wife and son and turns to alcohol. Uncertainty over his father-in-law's potential role in their fatal accident continually gnaws at him.
Off the clock, P.T. visits the abusive boyfriend of a local stripper to give him a warning. The house becomes a crime scene when the man is found dead in his chair, leaving P.T. flummoxed, almost certain he left the jerk beaten but alive. Things go downhill fast when a black teenager is lynched and burned and evidence ties the two killings together.
P.T., partner Remy and former partner Abe dig into both crimes, and the clues fly at a furious clip while P.T. secretly tries to avoid being suspected of the first murder. A few of the numerous plot arcs are extraneous, some leaps in logic are made and police procedure often goes by the wayside, but McMahon is a fine storyteller and his characters are intriguing.
McMahon's fluid writing highlights the dark and emotive themes, with P.T.'s bulldog Sweet Purvis, all he has left, used as a tender emotional touchstone via P.T.'s subconscious. The beautiful small touches McMahon "shows" (e.g., the overgrown shoe ruts in the dirt under P.T.'s son's swing) are more powerful than the "telling," but The Good Detective is fast-paced, compelling and a good start to a promising series. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review
Discover: A detective struggling with the loss of his family becomes embroiled in multiple murders that may involve white supremacy and well-heeled Georgia families.
Science Fiction & Fantasy
by M.T. Hill
The England of 2030 is largely automated, its economy debased to gig work without any social safety net. Remi is a cycling courier in a London crowded by self-driving cars and little airborne robot assistants. He took the job after losing his daughter several years ago and suffering through drug addiction. Now he carts subversive analog documents among clients eager to avoid omnipresent state surveillance.
Remi's latest job ends less than satisfactorily when he's nearly hit by an automated car and accosted by a strange man on the subway. His new life in London unravels via increasingly bizarre encounters with an unnaturally fearless fox. Soon Remi is wrapped up in a mysterious organization based on a 1970s sci-fi novel and its radical author. In exchange for his cooperation with this neo-Luddite group, Remi is promised the one thing he thought he could never have again--his daughter.
Zero Bomb by M.T. Hill is a wildly weird science-fiction mystery with plenty of surprises. Hill (The Folded Man, Graft) manages to maintain an intriguing mystery while building a convincing future England. Though plot and perspective take dramatic shifts during the course of the novel, Zero Bomb is ultimately a satisfying look at the future of labor, automation, human frailty and the duality of terrorist versus freedom fighter. Hill's book is a startling depiction of a multitude of modern anxieties. --Tobias Mutter, freelance reviewer
Discover: A struggling courier runs subversive documents in this weird science-fiction mystery set in near-future England.
Biography & Memoir
The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees
by Meredith May
Warning: before starting Meredith May's memoir, be sure there's a jar of honey in the house. While The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees is a testimony to a child's resilience and her grandfather's support, it is also an homage to bees and their golden nectar, and a craving for honey is inescapable.
Before May was five, her parents' tumultuous marriage ended in divorce, and her mother moved her two children from the East Coast to California's Carmel Valley, to live with her parents. "Somewhere over Middle America, she had relinquished parenthood," May writes, so no-nonsense Granny took control. But May gravitated to her Grandpa's workshop, a World War II Army bus outfitted with beekeeping equipment, stacks of honeycombs and barrels and pipes for honey-collecting. Their bond was immediate, but May had to earn her way into the Honey Bus. Casually swatting at a bee as if to kill it, she incurred Grandpa's rare wrath: "You. Must. Never. Hurt. Bees," he said, prompting her eager absorption of his bee expertise. She helped Grandpa in the bus and with the hives on his acres of wild Big Sur lands. Through her painful adolescence with her alternately neglectful and abusive mother, "the hive was predictable... it was a family that never quit."
A fifth-generation beekeeper who now tends hives in a San Francisco community garden, May devotes more of her memoir to bees than to her difficult life. She honors her grandfather by pledging to work to stop the alarming bee decline. The Honey Bus is a call to action and an inspiration. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco
Discover: A beekeeping grandfather provides focus and a lifelong passion in this inspiring memoir of a challenging childhood.
The Light Years
by Chris Rush
Artist and designer Chris Rush's first book, The Light Years, is an immersive, colorful, dark and funny memoir about his very unusual childhood and adolescence in the 1960s and '70s.
At just 11 years old, Rush was sent away to boarding school, both because his flamboyant way of dressing was an affront to his father and because his IQ scores on recent tests were "alarming" in the words of his mother, and "inappropriately high" in the words of his sixth-grade teacher. He tried a Catholic boarding school and a very liberal art school, but neither worked out. Rush knew he was different and felt isolated, so shortly after his 13th birthday, he left his home in New Jersey and went to the Southwest, where he moved in with his older sister. Still just a boy, Rush became a part of the counterculture, surrounded by young adults of the "turn on, tune in, drop out" generation. He lived an exciting life of adventure but also one filled with loneliness, disappointment and violence.
In this truth-is-stranger-than-fiction memoir, Rush tells his stunning, remarkable story with warmth and authenticity. Despite his sometimes-horrifying experiences, almost every page is imbued with a wicked wit and plenty of laugh-out-loud moments. Miraculously, he is able to look back on these wild and dangerous years of his adolescence with humor rather than bitterness in this engrossing memoir. --Suzan L. Jackson, freelance writer and author of Book By Book blog
Discover: A candid, unflinching and funny memoir about a boy's adolescence on his own amid the drug culture of the 1960s and '70s.
by Rudyard Griffiths, editor
Political Correctness is a transcription of the 2018 Munk Debate in Toronto on the implications of political correctness and freedom of speech. Born from the vision of philanthropists Peter and Melanie Munk and their Aurea Foundation, the debates have been a fixture of Canadian public cultural discourse since 2008.
Nothing sparks heated discussion like the term political correctness, and this example is no exception. As moderator, Rudyard Griffiths brings together a dynamic pairing of personalities to deliberate the motion, "Be it resolved, what you call political correctness, I call progress." The intellectual powerhouse team of Michael Eric Dyson and Michelle Goldberg argue in favor of the motion, while British comedian and LGBTQ rights advocate Stephen Fry joins critic Jordon Peterson to argue against.
For professor and ordained minister Dyson, it's about conferring a sense of dignity to those who have been marginalized, and for Goldberg, a New York Times columnist, there is a clear connection between political correctness and the march towards equality. Peterson, a professor and author, insists that the left has gone too far in hindering free speech. His absolute dogma on the subject contrasts dramatically with Fry and his soft, leftist "do-no-harm" philosophy. The comedian sees the progressive orthodoxy of the political correctness movement as a blunt instrument causing more harm than good because it is a "recruiting sergeant for the Right."
Addressing the cultural panic resulting from the #MeToo movement, the conflicting priorities of individual rights versus collective rights, and the erosion of rigorous debate on college campuses, Political Correctness packs a powerful punch. --Shahina Piyarali, writer and reviewer
Discover: A debate among four media personalities on the necessity, effectiveness and limitations of political correctness.
Essays & Criticism
I Miss You When I Blink
by Mary Laura Philpott
Mary Laura Philpott's collection of 31 essays, I Miss You When I Blink, is for every woman doubting herself, reaching an impasse or having a "small identity crisis." Borrowing from her six-year-old son's spontaneous poetry, "I miss you when I blink" became Philpott's touchstone phrase for shoring up self-confidence, knowing "all the selves I simultaneously have been, am, and will be" are within her, and she'll do the right thing.
The cover art of colorful eyelashes hints at the whimsical tone of these essays. This is not a "self-help" book, but an "I know how you feel" collection. An accomplished artist (Penguins with People Problems), essayist, interviewer and the founding editor of the "Musings" newsletter from Nashville's Parnassus Books, Philpott's autobiographical essays are laugh-out-loud funny. She credits her mom--"a warlord zipped into the body of Sally Field"--with both her perfectionism and her sense of humor. But she notes the myth of perfect parenting, and that everyone's life is "a little mystery we all unfurl on our own." The pieces address questions about big issues, including family and career, as well as daily conundrums. In a hilarious essay on her intolerance for meaningless small talk, she says, "It made me feel like the world around me was tuned to sports radio, and everyone but me knew what it all meant."
The collection is loosely chronological, from Philpott's competitive approach to her first-grade spelling bee to her TV interviews, from childhood through motherhood--still seeking perfection but telling her "crowd of selves" that everything will be okay. --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco
Discover: Mary Laura Philpott's hilarious and comforting essay collection will reassure women questioning their abilities and choices.
Children's & Young Adult
Grandpa's Stories: A Book of Remembering
by Joseph Coelho , illust. by Allison Colpoys
Employing his poetry skills in a narrative picture book, Joseph Coelho (A Year of Nature Poems) tells the moving story of a young girl's loss of her Indian grandfather and the memories that help her heal. Coelho's lyrical text walks the reader through a year of seasons, each of which previously was marked by its own special, loving grandfather and granddaughter activity. The little girl recalls the joy of fixing a secondhand racing track and driving her imagination into the stars: "We use our hands to zoom the cars up and down,/ up and down,/ up, up, up/ and fire them off/ into deep space." She warms the chill of loss with the memory of a handmade journal: "Grandpa gives me a rainbow pencil./ 'Write and draw,/ write and draw/ all your dreams.' " These reminders of joyful times spent together help her cope with his loss. "If all the world were memories," her first-person narration states, "the past would be rooms I could visit,/ and in each room would be my grandpa."
Illustrator Allison Colpoys (Captain Starfish) adds a second layer to the narrative with brilliant colors, strong brush strokes and charming depictions of freckled child and mustachioed grandfather. The bold pinks, bright blues and sunny yellows project happiness and the power of positive memories, while intermittent abstract spreads make tangible the little girl's loss and her nostalgia for time spent with Grandpa. The overall beauty of this collaboration comes as close to the majesty of a child's adoration for a grandparent as feels possible. Heartwarming, heartbreaking and inspiring, Grandpa's Stories is a must for every child's library. --Jen Forbus, freelancer
Discover: In the lyrical picture book Grandpa's Stories, a young girl finds solace in her cherished memories after the loss of her beloved grandfather.
by Kyo Maclear , illust. by Byron Eggenschwiler
Mr. K's final assignment for his middle-school music class is the "Soundtrack of My Life Presentation," in which each student must "choose a song for this moment in your life and write about it." Mr. K enables and enlightens his musical explorers by exposing them to artists as diverse as Patti Smith and A-Ha, and genres as different as bluegrass and punk rock.
For Charlotte Noguchi, aka Charlie, Mr. K's lessons become a catalyst for deep self-reflection. Learning about "Emo" makes her recall her friend Luka, and why he's been missing from school for two weeks. Opera takes her by utter surprise: "It's enough to make me forget everything around me." Her immersive reaction leads her to choose Maria Callas for her "Soundtrack" assignment. Her extensive research about Callas's difficult life encourages Charlie to "[refuse] to be small or ignored" and to admit she wants "to do big things" in her life.
Award-winning Canadian author Kyo Maclear (The Liszts) turns to the graphic novel format in this collaboration with Canadian artist Byron Eggenschwiler (Coyote Tales). Operatic is a spectacular, cleverly intertwined, three-part narrative comprised of Charlie's coming-of-age, Luka's backstory and a compelling Callas biography. For each of the stories, Eggenschwiler assigns distinguishing hues--yellow for Charlie, blue for Luka and red for Callas. The colors overlap when stories momentarily converge, such as Luka's blue desk sitting in Mr. K's golden classroom. Combining enchanting art, mellifluous music and just the right words, Maclear and Eggenschwiler provide a marvelous composition guaranteed to resonate. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Discover: Operatic is a resonating graphic novel for middle-school audiences celebrating the sometimes surprising "Soundtracks of Our Lives."