Lately I’ve come across a lot of books set in the Midwest. Not exactly westerns, but books that are definitely not set in metropolitan areas or exotic locales. These books tend to feature small towns, tight-knit communities, and loyal heroes and heroines. The pace is slower but the intensity is just as high, and the ways of life remind you that not everything has to be the hustle bustle, make-it-or-break-it mentality found in city life. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this type of contemporary romance, and Hope Ignites is one of my favorites.
Movie star Desiree Jenkins is coming to Hope, Oklahoma to film her new movie on the L&M Ranch. Once she sets foot on the ranch she falls in love with the remoteness of the area, the gorgeous landscape, and the feeling that she’s found a place where she belongs.
Ranch owner Logan McCormack isn’t really interested in the goings on of the film crew. He’s rented his land for them to use and wants to make sure things go smoothly, but other than that he continues on with the daily workings of his cattle ranch. When he encounters Desiree he’s intrigued, but at the same time he’s not interested in chasing a woman he knows is going to leave.
Desiree is a normal woman whose profession happens to be acting. Luckily she has been successful at her chosen career. She grew up as a military brat and while she loves her job, she is also looking for a place to create a home. She wants to get to know Logan as a man, as a rancher, and as a member of his community. Logan is a good man and a good boss, but not good at trusting others with his heart. He grew up on the ranch and loves it. He doesn’t see how someone that grew up around the world would be satisfied living in a small town the rest of their life. It leaves you to wonder how a relationship can develop when one person refuses to trust the other.
Luckily it is through their actions that trust begins to build. Desiree teaches Logan about acting, and he teaches her about ranching. They spend time getting to know each other and interacting with both his and her friends. They find that they like each other and must decide whether the relationship they’ve developed is worth making compromises.
If you enjoy small town romances with a little heat, try Hope Ignites.
Check the WRL catalog for Hope Ignites.
Maggi and Milo is an action-packed book that follows Maggi and her best friend, a border collie named Milo, on their adventure to go frog hunting! Maggi receives a package from Grandma with frog hunting supplies, but when Maggi and Milo make it to a pond, there are no signs of any frogs. Not only are there no frogs, but soon there’s no Milo! “’Milo!’ called Maggi. He wasn’t there. Maggi tried very hard not to think about losing Milo or being alone.”
Is Milo really gone for good? Will the frogs return? Find out these answers and enjoy Burris’ beautiful pictures. The illustrations in this book are colorful and engaging for any child. Maggi and Milo is recommended for dog lovers of all ages.
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“Of the first few hauntings I investigated with Lockwood & Co. I intend to say little, in part to protect the identity of the victims, in part because of the gruesome nature of the incidents, but mainly because, in a variety of ingenious ways, we succeeded in messing them all up.”
Ever since the Problem began (in Kent), no one goes out at night, not unless they’re armed with iron and salt to guard against spirits. For the last fifty years, nighttime is when ghostly Visitors come out to lament or avenge their untimely deaths, terrorize the living, drive down real estate assessments, etc. Because the young are particularly sensitive to paranormal energies, children and teens with psychic talents are prized as field operatives for the best ghost-investigating agencies.
Lucy Carlyle, age 15, is the newest hire at a not-so-reputable agency, Lockwood and Co., a small-time outfit run without adult supervisors by “old enough and young enough” Anthony Lockwood and his colleague George. Lockwood, proprietor, can see the residual death-glows where someone has died; Lucy can hear their voices, if she gets close enough; and George does research and cooks.
When their latest case results in not only failing to rid the premises of a ghost, but also burning the house down, Lockwood’s only chance at keeping the agency afloat is to land a really lucrative client. Say, the CEO of Fairfax Iron, owner of the most haunted private house in England, epicenter of dozens of rumored hauntings along its Screaming Staircase and in its sinister library, the Red Room. All the agents have to do is spend one night in the manor… and live.
This first book in a new series from the author of the Bartimaeus books has well-paced action and good old-fashioned swashbuckling with silver-tipped rapiers. Lockwood is dashing and cheeky, a Sherlock Holmes with two Watsons who, while inspiring his cohorts to their best work, never lets them in on his thoughts or his plan. He and Lucy and George are a camaraderie-in-the-making, if only they didn’t get on one another’s nerves quite so often.
“I’m being ironic. Or is it sarcastic? I can never remember.”
“Irony’s cleverer, so you’re probably being sarcastic.”
Fast moving, witty, and nicely creepy, the series is written for a middle grade audience, but entertaining enough for any age that appreciates a good ghost story.
Check the WRL catalog for The Screaming Staircase.
I was on the hunt for a book that was light, fun, romantic, and funny. I had seen Jill Shalvis’s books on the shelves and I knew that her books are checked out often but I had never picked one up. On a whim and seeing a cover that conveyed light and fun, I decided to give the book a try, and it was a perfect fit for my mood.
To describe veterinarian Emily Stevens as “Type A” would be a little bit of an understatement. Her whole life is scheduled and organized, and she is extremely driven. She’s completing vet school and keeping food on the table and a roof over her head, but she isn’t finding much joy or satisfaction in her personal life. Even worse, her dream internship at a fancy clinic in Los Angeles has fallen through and she’s on her way to Sunshine, Idaho to complete the terms of her scholarship. Day one in Sunshine and Emily is literally counting down the days until she can hit the highway for L.A. Can we say uptight?
Wyatt Stone loves being a veterinarian at the Belle Haven vet clinic. As a child of foreign diplomats and having been raised in multiple countries, Wyatt has found his home and he’s staying put. Sunshine is everything he’s ever wanted: a home base, a career he loves, and good friends and family. Sometimes he wishes he could find a little distance from his crazy sisters, but on the whole he’s building the life he wants. He’s missing one element of the perfect life—the perfect girl to share it with.
When Emily and Wyatt meet the fireworks fly, but Wyatt is Emily’s new boss and she doesn’t know how she’ll survive the next year. She is crazily attracted to Wyatt and can’t help but let him know it by inserting her foot into her big mouth. After all, how can she resist a man so quietly confident, strong, nice, and funny? Remembering their one-night stand at a vet conference, Emily is reminded that she knows what she is missing.
If you’re looking for something fun to read that will make you smile and laugh, this is the book for you. It has witty banter and a misfit cast of secondary characters. It is the fifth in the Animal Magnetism series, but I didn’t feel like I was missing a thing from the previous books. If you want to know more, check out Melissa’s post on the first book in the series, Animal Magnetism.
Check the WRL catalog for Then Came You.
Native American Gardening: Buffalobird-Woman’s Guide to Traditional Methods was first published in 1917 as Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians: An Indian Interpretation and has been reprinted in numerous editions (and with slightly varying titles) in the following hundred years. This is not surprising because Buffalobird-Woman’s comments, interpretations and knowledge of organic gardening are just as relevant today as they were a hundred years ago.
I originally searched for this book because I had read that it was a great way to learn about organic gardening methods but I found myself fascinated by Buffalobird-Woman’s strong personality as she talked about the history of her tribe and the lives of northern Native Americans. Buffalobird-Woman, or Maxi’diwiac, was born around 1839, two years after smallpox nearly completely wiped out her tribe of Hidatsas. When she was interviewed by anthropolgist Gilbert L. Wilson in 1912, she had never learned to speak English, so her memories were translated by her son Edward Goodbird or Tsaka’kasakicand. Despite the passage of time and the distancing effect of her words being translated and transcribed by at least two other people her personal voice comes through. Even if she would have considered a wink and a nudge too bold, I can picture a twinkle in her eye as she describes the best way to fold a skin for cushioning on a hard wooden platform or talks about the cheekiness of boys as they try to steal corn or chat up girls. She is opinionated, pointing out that food preserved a different way than that used in her childhood is dirty.
The book works well for my intention of studying old-fashioned agriculture as practiced before mechanization. It turns out that Buffalobird-Woman weeded grass exactly the way I do, but worked much harder for much longer hours. She describes the entire agricultural practice from clearing the land through weeding and guarding the growing crops to harvesting and how to preserve food. She also includes recipes of the main things they made from their crops, but they mostly sound quite bland and uninteresting. Look for lots of low tech, practical ideas like spoons made from stems of squash leaves. I learned some surprising things, including that plants I thought of as South American, like maize, pumpkins, squashes, beans, sweet potatoes, cotton, and tobacco, were cultivated by Indians centuries before Columbus. Also that Buffalobird-Woman practiced selective breeding of sunflowers by choosing the largest heads to save the seeds from to plant next year.
The book is illustrated with the originally published diagrams and line drawings, many redrawn from sketches by Buffalobird-Woman’s son.
Native American Gardening: Buffalobird-Woman’s Guide to Traditional Methods is a great choice for readers of the difficult but inspiring lives of real women like Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy and Hard Times, by Jennifer Worth or Infidel, by Ayaan Hirsi Ali. It also has lots of practical information for readers interesting on authentic old-fashioned horticultural techniques such as Vegetable Gardening the Colonial Williamsburg Way: 18th Century Methods for Today’s Organic Gardener, by Wesley Greene.
Check the WRL catalog for Native American Gardening: Buffalobird-Woman’s Guide to Traditional Methods
It’s the first day of school, and Camilla Cream is terrified about fitting in—she tries on forty-two different outfits and still can’t find one impressive enough. And even though she loves lima beans, she never eats them because people might make fun of her. As if all that isn’t bad enough, she woke up this morning covered in stripes!
As the day goes on, Camilla’s case keeps getting worse. She becomes covered in stars and stripes during the Pledge of Allegiance, she turns into a giant polka-dotted pill when the doctor gives her medicine, and she even grows tentacles, branches, and a tail. Everyone, from doctors to news reporters, is baffled about what’s wrong with her—until an old lady visits and says that Camilla has the worst case of “the stripes” she’s ever seen. And she asks whether Camilla has been eating her lima beans.
Award-winning author David Shannon’s detailed, thought-provoking story is perfect for engaging older readers. For any kid who has ever worried about fitting in or being teased, A Bad Case of Stripes offers a hilarious and original tale about the importance of being you.
Check the WRL catalog for A Bad Case of Stripes.
Jan shares this review:
As a librarian, “Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them,” may be the best advice I have ever heard. This sterling counsel comes from children’s book author Lemony Snicket. His slim volume of silliness, Horseradish: Bitter Truths you Can’t Avoid, is full of similar useful admonitions. Lemony Snicket (or his alter-ego Daniel Handler) is most famous for his bestselling Series of Unfortunate Events, where his humor is also off beat, and always unexpected. I thought at first that this was a book of quotes from his other works, but he seems to have created original aphorisms, such as, “After you leave home you may find yourself feeling homesick, even if you have a new home that has nicer wallpaper and a more efficient dishwasher than the home in which you grew up.” As a person who tends to get left with the dishes, I judge my many past homes on the remembered quality of their dishwashers, so I consider this quite germane.
The book is arranged into thirteen chapters of advice pithy or wordy, starting with “Chapter 1: Home” and “Chapter 2: Family” and going on to “Chapter 12: An Overall Feeling of Doom that One Cannot Ever Escape No Matter What One Does.” There are many truisms to pop in and visit, no matter how you are feeling. The back cover of this book promises that its contents will not help with life’s “turbulent journey” but I beg to differ; life is always helped by laughter and a fresh perspective and Lemony Snicket can be relied upon to provide both. Try Horseradish: Bitter Truths you Can’t Avoid if you are in the mood for some frivolous fun, or you want an axiom that is more apt than usual. And remember, “A library is like an island in a vast sea of ignorance, particularly if the library is very tall and the surrounding area has been flooded.”
Check the WRL catalog for Horseradish: Bitter Truths you Can’t Avoid.
Is it possible to like a book if you don’t like the main character? Does it really count as dislike if I was intrigued by the story and compelled to know what happened next? Ladder of Years is a good book to explore these questions because I didn’t warm to the main character, Delia. She is a forty-year-old woman who feels unappreciated by her family and literally walks away from them. She makes a new life for herself in a small town, but ends up also walking away from the entanglements she makes there. The story is told through Delia’s eyes, who acts kindly towards the people she encounters but seems unaware of the effects her large acts may have on other people. She is oblivious to the fact that walking out on her husband and children, especially the son who is still living at home, will break their hearts. Does she lack the imagination or empathy to try to see the world through their eyes? She is otherwise portrayed as intelligent, so it is not clear. Her family are also to blame–it is not as if any of them tell her that their hearts are broken. With an astonishing lack of communication, once they learn she is safe, they just wait for her to come home. These are characters that I wanted to take by the shoulders and shake until their teeth rattled, so they obviously touched me.
Ladder of Years has a cast of colorful secondary characters including three wives who leave. The characters are all a bit askew, perhaps because like real people, they are not perfect, and have realistic flaws. They become entangled with each other in various ways they don’t expect, perhaps showing that it’s impossible to go through life without entanglements.
Author Anne Tyler is a Pulitzer Prize-winning writer of nineteen novels. In an interview she asked rhetorically, “Aren’t human beings intriguing?” and her fascination shows in her compelling books.
Check the WRL catalog for Ladder of Years.
Jessica shares this review:
What a thrill! This action filled novel is the first in the new series The Legion by Kami Garcia, co-author of the Beautiful Creatures young adult series.
We first meet Kennedy, a teen living a pretty normal life…until the day she mysteriously finds her mother dead at home. Devastated and alone (her father also left rather oddly years before) Kennedy cannot begin to imagine what is in store. When she is suddenly attacked by a force she can’t explain, twin brothers Jared and Lukas spring to her rescue. Confused, Kennedy doesn’t know whether to trust the brothers, or run away screaming in search of the police. But when they reveal they are part of a secret organization that has existed for hundreds of years to protect the world from a powerful demon, and that Kennedy’s mom was a part of the organization as well, she is truly baffled. Yet there is something in the brothers that she trusts and her curiosity gets the better of her. While the brothers continue to fill her in (including the fact that she must take her mother’s place among the other four members, all teens who lost their parents on that one fateful night) Kennedy finds herself in a new place surrounded by four exceptional people, all with unique talents and skills which far surpass the ones she believes exist within herself.
As the book progresses Kennedy surprisingly seems to fall into her new role and proves she has something to offer the others. But something is wrong too. Something that separates Kennedy. Something no one can seem to put their finger on. What will it mean for the team? More importantly, what will it mean for all of humanity? A great start to what is sure to be a fast paced, mystery-filled series (with a hint of romance) that brings in not only the paranormal but religious type-themes found in The Da Vinci Code as well.
Check the WRL catalog for Unbreakable.
Fans of Jonathan London’s Froggy books will love Froggy’s latest adventure–getting ready for bed. Froggy is exhausted…until his mother tells him it’s time for bed. Suddenly, Froggy is not tired at all and concocts one stall tactic after the next. He can’t take a bath until he finds his boat; he can’t brush until he finds his toothbrush (in the cookie jar); and he can’t go to sleep without a bedtime story.
Any kid who has ever resisted bedtime will sympathize with Froggy’s efforts to stay up just a little later. Parents, meanwhile, will appreciate the illustrations that prove that Froggy’s mother is getting more and more worn out by Froggy’s getting-ready-for-bed antics. Older readers will also delight in the book’s frog-related humor: Froggy has to brush his gums because frogs don’t have teeth and his idea of a bedtime snack is a bowl of flies. The book’s frequent use of onomatopoeia, from Froggy’s “flop, flop, flop” as he hops from one room to the next to the “glug, glug, glug” of drinking a glass of water, makes for a lively read. Froggy’s antics are great for engaging a large group, but this going-to-bed story is also perfect for one-on-one bedtime reading for all ages.
Check the WRL catalog for Froggy Goes To Bed.
Everyone’s heard of the painters Matisse and Picasso, but fewer have heard of the sisters who early last century brought hundreds of their paintings to the United States and, in the 1940s, bequeathed their huge collections to the Baltimore Museum of Art. To this day the Baltimore Museum of Art has one of the world’s premier collections of modern art housed in the sisters’ three-thousand piece, three-story Cone Collection.
The Art of Acquiring is a portrait of sisters Etta and Claribel Cone, who were born into a large and wealthy American family around the time of the Civil War. They never married and spent a good deal of their lives traveling to Europe, particularly Paris, and spending their inherited wealth on art. They were notable for their time for their unbending independence. Claribel trained as a doctor when such things were uncommon for women and she worked as a research scientist for a number of years. Younger sister Etta appears to have lived in her big sister’s shadow but she quietly asserted her own independence by buying paintings society considered obscene and scandalous, but are now seen as artistically important such as Henri Matisse’s 1935 “Pink Nude” (Grand nu couche). The sisters can only be described as tough and single-minded. A famous family story recounts that when Claribel became trapped in Berlin after the start of World War I, she hunkered down and waited out the war, diverting and charming visiting army officers with stashed candy.
Author Mary Gabriel spent years extensively researching the Cone sisters using letters, Etta’s diaries, Claribel’s notes, oral histories, and interviews. In the time before instant communications, people–especially rich people going on European tours–wrote lots of letters, sometimes several a day. Quotes from the letters are occasionally catty (especially when Gertrude Stein was involved), sometimes poignant, but always enlightening. The book also includes extensive notes, a bibliography and an index.
The color plates in The Art of Acquiring show some of the more significant paintings mentioned, but keep an art book or two handy to look at the other art works as they are described, both as they were created by the artists and purchased by the Cone sisters. The Art of Acquiring will be of great interest to modern art lovers and readers fascinated by the Belle Epoque of Paris in the early years of the twentieth century, with real life characters such as Gertrude and Leo Stein, Matisse, Picasso and more. It is also engrossing if you like biographies of real women who went against the social mores of their times and always followed their own paths.
Check the WRL catalog for The Art of Acquiring.
Why does the name Dimity appear only in a certain sort of British cosy?* I have never met (or even heard of) a real person named Dimity but one so-named occurs in Miss Read’s Thrush Green series, the Aunt Dimity series by Nancy Atherton, and Susan Wittig Albert’s series The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter (starting with The Tale of Hill Top Farm). I view it as a kind of code. If I read the name Dimity then I promptly make my hot chocolate, put on my dressing gown and slippers, and curl up in my over-sized armchair for a cosy treat.
And for those readers interested in a cosy interlude The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter are indeed a treat. Beatrix Potter is of course a real person and Susan Wittig Albert researched her extensively and followed her life events as they are known. Beatrix Potter really purchased Hill Top Farm in the village of Near Sawrey in England’s lovely Lake District and spent increasing amounts of time there away from the overwhelming presence of her parents. But the series is highly fictionalized even though some of it reads as a travelogue as the reader learns about charming Hawkshead, and some reads as a romance as Beatrix Potter’s affection grows for lawyer Will Heelis whom Beatrix Potter married in 1913.
On the shelves of the Williamsburg Regional Library these books have a small purple magnifying glass sticker showing that they are classified as mysteries, although nothing disturbing or gory happens. In The Tale of Hill Top Farm the mystery arises from the death of elderly local spinster Miss Tolliver. Could it possibly have been foul play and is it related to the inheritance of desirable Anvil Cottage? Beatrix Potter has a trained artist’s eye and is soon in the thick of village affairs to solve the mystery.
Fans of Beatrix Potter’s famous books will be thrilled to recognize many animal characters such as Tom Thumb mouse, Mrs. Tiggy Winkle the hedgehog, and Kep the farm dog. Like Beatrix Potter’s famous children’s book creatures, the animal characters in The Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter can talk, but only to each other as the Big Folk generally don’t understand them. They also wear clothes, use furniture, and Bosworth Badger XVII is even writing a badger genealogy, but like Beatrix Potter’s animals they follow their animal natures in personality and appetite.
The books are nicely rounded out by a map, a cast of characters, a list of resources, and recipes (I highly recommend the Ginger Snaps!).
The Tale of Hill Top Farm is the first in the series that continues on with eight titles, the most recent of which, The Tale of Castle Cottage came out in 2011.
These books are great for fans of cosy British series like Miss Read.
I listened to The Tale of Hill Top Farm on audio and I can only say that narrator, Virginia Leishman, did a lovely job with just the right sort of British voice.
*And “cosy” not “cozy” is most appropriate since they are Very British.
Check the WRL catalog for The Tale of Hill Top Farm.
Check the WRL catalog for The Tale of Hill Top Farm on CD.
Everyone loves birthdays! The Little Princess loves her birthday so much that she asks for two birthdays, instead of just one. So the Prime Minister gives her two birthdays, and she gets even more cake and presents. She loves it so much that she decides she wants three birthdays, then four, until soon she has a birthday every single day. But all of a sudden, the princess’s birthdays aren’t so fun anymore. People stop coming to her birthday party because they can’t afford to buy presents. Her birthday cake gets smaller and less tasty every day. And she can never play outside because she has to stay clean for her party. Finally, the king comes up with a solution: once a year, on the day she was born, the Little Princess will have an unbirthday. So everyone in the kingdom starts preparing special surprises to get ready for it.
This installment of Tony Ross’s popular Little Princess series is witty and detailed enough to appeal to older readers, yet the storyline is silly and straightforward enough for a younger crowd as well. This book is best read with a small group, because the illustrations provide a bonus storyline: unbeknownst to the Princess, the royal pets steal her birthday locket, and as the story goes on, it slowly makes its way back to her. I Want Two Birthdays! gently and humorously drives home an important message about how the best things are often enjoyed in moderation, and how only having one birthday every year is what makes it so special.
Check the WRL catalog for I Want Two Birthdays!
Rachael shares this review:
Leonard Peacock, age 18 today, doesn’t connect with anyone at school except for Herr Silverman, his social studies teacher. He spends his free time with a chain-smoking elderly neighbor watching Bogart films, and surfing the subway dressed in a suit, observing the workaday adults looking for any sign that “it’s possible to be an adult and also be happy.” He sometimes writes letters to himself from imagined loved ones from his future, as suggested by Herr Silverman to get through the daily life of his teenage experience. Leonard is a loner, to say the least, his self-absorbed failed rock-star father gone, and his aging model mother, pursuing a mid-life career as a fashion designer spending most of her time in New York with an insidious “Jean-Luc.” None of these are the reasons Leonard has decided to kill himself and his once best friend Asher Beal today.
Leonard Peacock has a bitterly funny and painfully sincere perspective reminiscent of Holden Caulfield, questioning the norms of a world in which so much seems wrong. He laments a world lulled into the habit of accepting or ignoring everyday evils, but because he harbors hope for the better: “Call an old friend you haven’t seen in years. Roll up your pant legs and walk into the sea. See a foreign film. Do anything! Something! Because you start a revolution one decision at a time, with each breath you take. Just don’t go back to that miserable place you go every day.”
This book is swiftly-paced, darkly humorous, and probably for the more pensive reader of realistic fiction. The darker themes may resonate more with older young adult readers, and adult readers shouldn’t miss out on this YA gem (Quick also wrote The Silver Linings Playbook). The characters are flawed, real, and some lovely. Several long footnotes/sidebars annoy at first, but seem to drop away once the main story and characters are established. Quick offers a perspective on hope and happiness in spite of terrible events, rather than for lack of them, and that happiness can require work. I really connected with this book and feel compelled to read the rest of his work – all of which have been optioned for film.
Check the WRL catalog for Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock
A rabbit wearing a blue waist coat is a familiar icon of childhood, but adults usually assume Peter Rabbit’s antics don’t have much bearing on reality. Beatrix Potter was a naturalist at heart so her animals often act their natural way (apart from speaking in the manner of citizens of an English country village and wearing clothes). In many cases they are also pictured in real places that Beatrix Potter knew and loved–her own lands and gardens.
Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life explains how that came about. The book starts with a biography, telling of her privileged, but perhaps lonely, childhood full of pet hedgehogs, country visits and drawings of fungi. Her overbearing parents didn’t want her to marry but she was finally able to wriggle out from under their thumbs by the age of nearly 40 by becoming engaged to her publisher Norman Warne, but her fiance died soon after of leukemia. She always took solace in nature so the great success of her children’s books meant that she was able to buy Hill Top Farm in England’s lovely Lake District. She was only able to live there part time for many years but gardened and farmed enthusiastically. She kept on buying land until at her death at the age of seventy-seven, she left over four thousand acres to the British National Trust. Her house and garden at Hill Top Farm still belong to the National Trust and can be visited by tourists.
If you love Peter Rabbit and his friends try Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life to see their real homes and haunts. Keep copies of The Tale of Peter Rabbit and her other famous works handy because it uses quotes from Beatrix Potter’s actual letters, her drawings, (both her sketches and her finished book illustrations), historical photos, and beautiful modern photos of the places she wrote about, making the book a delight even if you only have time to browse through and look at the pictures. I loved seeing a sketch or watercolor of a real place and then to see Peter Rabbit or Tabitha Twitchit standing in the picture.
For garden lovers, Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life doesn’t have much practical advice, so it is best as a wintertime curl-up-by-the-fire and dream book. It includes sections on her garden through the seasons, how to visit all the gardens she knew and created throughout her life and and a list of plants she mentioned or drew. It is essential reading for established Beatrix Potter fans who have already consumed her biographies Beatrix Potter, a Life in Nature by Linda Lear or The Tale of Beatrix Potter: a Biography by Margaret Lane; or her book of art, Beatrix Potter’s Art: Paintings and Drawings by Anne Stevenson Hobbs; or the series of cozy mysteries featuring her life and haunts by Susan Wittig Albert starting with The Tale of Hill Top Farm (more about these tomorrow).
As Beatrix said in a letter, “The best thing about sharing plants is that they always bring the giver to mind,” and the best thing about reading Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life is that her story will always bring to mind her enduring animal characters, her brave life, and the beauty and solace of gardening, especially in the real Lake District.
Check the WRL catalog for Beatrix Potter’s Gardening Life.
The Man Who Walked between the Towers is the story of French aerialist, Philippe Petit, who, on August 7, 1974, ran a wire between the Twin Towers in New York City. Petit then proceeded to cross this wire while the crowd below watched in awe. At the end of the story, author Mordicai Gerstein shows that, although the towers are no longer there, they still live in the memory of everyone who saw and experienced them.
This book is a gripping story of the bravery of Philippe Petit as he crossed between the towers. It shows that doing what you love is one of the most exhilarating experiences a person can have. The illustrations in this book include two extended illustrations where the reader can unfold the pages for a larger view. This book would be ideal for kids grades K-3.
If your child enjoyed this book he/she can also try Fireboat: The Heroic Adventures of John J. Harvey by Maria Kalman.
Check the WRL catalog for The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.
Olivia Taylor-Jones grew up in a privileged family. She attends the right type of charity functions, works as a volunteer at a shelter, and is engaged to be married to a handsome, proper CEO with political ambitions. Her life couldn’t be more perfect, until everything falls apart.
Reporters uncover that she was adopted and her birth parents are serving time for several heinous murders. Everyone has heard of the serial killers Pamela and Todd Larsen. Olivia just had no idea that she was their daughter.
The scandal and zealous publicity hounds are a bit too much for her adopted mother and fiance – so Olivia flees. At first she tries to find an apartment in Chicago, but because of her reluctance to tap into her mother’s money, she has very limited resources. After a particularly unsettling experience in a cheap, but unsafe, neighborhood she takes the advice of an older man and heads to Cainsville, a small town just outside of the city.
Cainsville is an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past. And Olivia feels strangely connected to the place. She lands a job as a waitress at the local diner and begins a rocky relationship with her birth mother’s lawyer, Gabriel Walsh. Walsh would like Olivia to help mend his professional relationship with Pamela Larsen – and Olivia wants to meet Pamela to find out about her past.
In the course of investigating her parents’ alleged crimes, Olivia stumbles upon the truth about one of the murders. Poking around in the past puts Olivia and Gabriel in danger – but also brings the two unlikely partners closer.
I appreciated that this one murder mystery was solved and I wasn’t left completely hanging at the end, though I know the story has many other issues to resolve. I’ll keep reading the series because I care about the characters and love the hints about there being something more than what meets the eye.
If you are just now starting the series — lucky you! — the second book just came out. Visions provides additional material as to what is so special about Cainsville’s residents.
Check the WRL catalog for Omens
Check the WRL catalog for Visions
When he takes a shortcut through a cemetery, Manta Oyamada meets a strange kid with headphones — surrounded by ghosts. The kid is the teenage shaman Yoh Asakura. Tapping the supernatural swordfighting powers of samurai ghost Admidamaru, Yoh fights Bokuto no Ryu, a sword-wielding gang member. But an even more dangerous opponent is stalking Yoh and Manta — a Chinese shaman who wants to possess Amidamaru. -Book Summary
Shaman King is a manga that centers around a teen with the ability to see spirits. He comes from a family of shamans, hence the name, and uses his gifts to protect the spirits in the area.
I found the characters to be likeable and humorous. The writer even used the side characters to his advantage in certain situations which really brought out other characters’ personalities. Although they are all likeable, each character has their own personal flaw. I found it interesting how each character changed throughout the book and how it effected the story.
Altogether, the first volume of Shaman King was excellent and should be enjoyed by many.
Check the WRL catalog for Shaman King, Volume 1
Here’s another fantastic book I read based on my colleague Nancy’s suggestion. Like her last recommendation, The Supreme’s at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat, this one takes a look at friendships and race relations in the South.
Starla Claudelle is an impetuous, spunky 9-year-old kid who learns a lot about the world during a two-week adventure in the summer of 1963.
Her mother moved to Nashville to be a country music star when Starla was just 3 years old. She has vague memories of a beautiful woman with a lovely voice, and her most prized possession is a demo record her mama sent her a few years ago.
Starla rarely sees her dad who works on an oil rig in Biloxi. She is growing up under the care of her grandmother, Mamie, who doesn’t have a lot of patience with Starla. Maybe Mamie is just worried that Starla won’t grow up into a proper young lady without the restrictions and high demands, or maybe she’s just got a mean streak…
After losing the privilege of attending her favorite holiday festivities because she was defending a younger girl against a bully, Starla decides to sneak out for the 4th-of-July parade and get her share of candy. When she is caught by one of Mamie’s friends, Starla reasons that she might as well run away to Nashville and live with her famous mother instead of staying in Cayuga Springs and being sent to reform school.
There aren’t many cars on the road on the holiday, and Starla is beginning to rethink her impulsive action when a black woman pulls up and offers her a ride. You know from the start that Eula doesn’t believe Starla’s story about why she’s on the road alone, but Eula takes her home anyway and eventually helps her get to Nashville to find her mother.
Through the course of the story Starla learns about kindness and meanness, justice and injustice, truth and lies. And the reader learns it, too, through her eyes.
I loved the way the reader, Amy Rubinate, handled the narration of the audiobook. I particularly enjoyed Eula’s voice – soothing and calm. I looked forward to hearing what she had to say, especially after hearing Starla go on about something she was upset about. Rubinate received AudioFile’s Golden Earphones Award for her work on this book.
When I got nervous that Starla was going to get in a heap of trouble, what Starla referred to as getting a “red rage,” I had to turn off the CD and pick up the book. It sounds silly, but I cared about the characters too much to listen to something bad happen to her or Eula. And no, I won’t spoil the story by telling you whether my fears were unfounded.
I’d recommend this one to book groups looking for a something like The Help or as Nancy suggested, The Sweet By and By. There is a lot to discuss about friendship, family and racial tensions. A reading group guide is available online at the publisher’s website.
Check the WRL catalog for Whistling Past the Graveyard
Check the WRL catalog for the audiobook of Whistling Past the Graveyard
Written in comic-book style, Adventures in Ancient Greece by Linda Bailey, follows the adventures of three siblings Josh, Emma, and Libby as they travel back in time to ancient Greece. Using Julian T. Pettigrew’s, the owner of “Good Times Travel Agency” Personal Guide to Ancient Greece, the Binkerton siblings explore the many aspects of ancient Greek life and culture (getting into all kinds of hilarious situations along the way). When Libby gets into trouble at the Olympics, it’s a race against time for the siblings to escape from Greece!
This book is a fun hybrid between fiction and nonfiction for the burgeoning history buff. The comic-book style storytelling and detailed pictures makes Adventures in Ancient Greece an entertaining and engaging read. This book is ideal for kids in grades 3-6.
If your child enjoyed this book, he/she can also try Adventures in Ancient Egypt and/or Adventures in Ancient China both also by Linda Bailey.
Check the WRL catalog for Adventures in Ancient Greece.