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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Noteworthy New Children's Books

The shelves of new children’s books at the library are stocked with the latest treasures from the publishing world. Here are a few gems that stand out.

The Nantucket Sea Monster: A Fake News Story by Darcy Pattison

This colorful book introduces the topic of fake news by relating a true story about a "sea monster" that became news in 1937 New England. Appendixes include a timeline of actual events, an overview of the free press and sources. This can be a good introduction to the topic of fact-checking and media literacy for home or school groups. It’s best for children age 5-10.

Frida Kahlo and her Animalitos by Monica Brown

This picture book biography of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo approaches the subject from the perspective of animals Frida owned and loved throughout her life. Spider monkeys, turkeys, parrots and Xolo hairless dogs were among her menagerie; many of them appear in her famous self-portraits. Superb illustrations reveal details of Frida's life, such as the extent of her disability, that are not as evident in the text. Ideal for preschool through kindergarten.

Hello Goodbye Dog by Maria Gianferrari

Moose is a typical dog – she loves hello and hates good-bye. Moose loves hello most when it involves her favorite human, Zara. When Zara goes to school each day in her family’s wheelchair-accessible van, it means good-bye- but not for long. Moose finds ways to get to school, much to the chagrin of the staff. Finally Zara gets the idea to have Moose certified as a therapy dog so Moose can say hello to the schoolchildren every day and help them read. Ideal for preschool through kindergarten.

Meet a dog like Moose at your library! See the FCPL schedule for read-to-the-dog programs.

-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Regional Library

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

On the Shelf: The Whistling Season

Editors Note: Looking for a good book to read while you wait for the season's hottest title to become available at your library? We have just what you need - a new series with suggestions of titles that you are likely to find on the shelf at your local branch. 

The Whistling Season picks up the reader from wherever he is in time and place and plants him firmly on the wind-swept plains of 1909 Montana. The story is told largely through the eyes of 13 year-old Paul, the oldest of three Milliron boys, whose father, Oliver, attempts to keep the home fires burning after the tragic death of his wife. The white flag of surrender goes out when he answers an ad by a housekeeper which reads, “Can’t cook, but doesn’t bite.” And thus, weeks later, Rose Llewellyn, sweeps off the train from Minneapolis, in a swathe of blue satin dazzling the prairie-brown hearts of all males at the station. She is followed by her brother, Morrie, a stylishly-clad gentleman whose description included “an extraordinary amount of him was moustache.” The two of them proceed to upset, straighten, transfix, intrigue, educate and reorganize the lives of the four Milliron men to the best of their abilities – and beyond - all to the tune of Rose’s relentless cheerful whistling.

This novel is a paean to love. We the readers can only stand by and wonder.

Beyond the predictable seedlings of romance, is the love of the land. Doig writes with such reverence for the soil, snow, furrows, mountains, sky, wind and the beauty of the vast aloneness. Into this passion, he weaves the rhythms of family. You grieve with loss just as deeply as you chuckle with the brotherly rivalries and spats and eventual forgiveness. Oliver reins in his enthusiastic family with a steady hand, suffering no fools, but always with a clear eye for fairness.

Most of the action – if you can stretch that word far enough – takes place in the one-roomed schoolhouse the boys attend, which by a fluke of circumstance - i.e. the teacher’s eloping with the holy-roller revival preacher-man – is commandeered by the agile Morrie. He turns out to be a genius – full of ideas and information that he doles out to the homesteading children in most unorthodox, astonishing ways. His quick-silver approach not only prompts him to assess Paul’s need for higher stimulation – which results in private Latin studies with him – but his heart is just as attuned to the brutishly raised Eddie. Though he can’t ultimately save him from his creature-skinning father, with face-saving cleverness he provides Eddie with reading glasses, so at least as school he has a chance to see the world clearly.

And everyone has secrets they are keeping with hand-spitting solemnity. Rose and Morrie have a humdinger which ultimately must be reconciled. The school children swap ultimatums in the midst of “dog-piling” in the schoolyard, horse-racing riding backward, spelling-bees, harmonica concerts, revival meetings, school inspector’s visits and all the sturm and drang a one-room schoolhouse can muster.

The novel dances with beauty of phrase. In one deft finishing sweep, Doig contrasts the lowly simplicity of the school with the magnificence of Halley’s Comet overhead, and you feel within you the turning of life with its clear, white light. We pause and listen.

-Lois Glick, Great Falls Library

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

What’s New from Jeffrey Eugenides

Fans of Middlesex and The Marriage Plot by Pulitzer Prize winning author Jeffrey Eugenides will be pleased to know that characters from those novels reemerge in his new book of short stories, Fresh Complaint. Mr. Eugenides read from this collection and answered questions October 3 at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Washington, DC, in an event organized by Politics and Prose Bookstore.

The story he read aloud, "Complainers," was his way of sorting through the experience of his mother’s decline from dementia. The author explained how he wrote this story by starting with the part of his mother he knew least- her long friendship with another woman- and building the narrative around that. 

In the story "Air Mail" Mitchell, a character who is left hanging at the end of The Marriage Plot, surfaces abroad as if continuing his journey… but the date of the story reveals that the author wrote the piece in 1996, fifteen years before The Marriage Plot was published. Dr. Luce reappears in "The Oracular Vulva," a story Mr. Eugenides describes as an “outtake” from Middlesex.

Below is a sampling from the question and answer portion of this event:

Q: You have written convincingly from the point of view of a hermaphrodite, a man with bipolar disorder and a teenage girl. How do you inhabit personas different from your own?

A. You become a writer, because you don’t want to talk only about yourself and those you know but a wider human experience. Within that, I try to see each character as an individual, not an example of a type.

Q. Who are some of your favorite short story writers?

A. Alice Munroe- she packs the density of a novel into 30-40 pages.

Q. Your Pulitzer Prize winner, Middlesex, is set in Detroit, where you grew up, and that setting is integral to the novel… are there other novels set in Detroit you would recommend?

A. Them by Joyce Carol Oates; it won the National Book Award. I also set The Virgin Suicides in Detroit, without specifying that.”

Q. I love the cover design for Fresh Complaint. Did you have any say in the design?

A. Yes, the first one they showed me was a woman’s shoe with a nail for the heel… that might work for some other kind of book.

-Suzanne LaPierre, City of Fairfax Library