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Posts Tagged ‘children’s lit’

the bookstore lenox ma

168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, Laura Vanderkam
I reread this one after reading Vanderkam’s three short productivity guides. Vanderkam is practical, insightful and no-nonsense: she believes everyone has time to create a life they love. I’m rethinking my routines and hoping to make some good changes.

Goodnight June, Sarah Jio
June Andersen has built a successful career as a New York banker. But when her great-aunt Ruby dies and leaves June the children’s bookstore she owned in Seattle, June must return home and face her painful past. Sifting through Ruby’s papers, June finds a stack of letters exchanged by Ruby and Margaret Wise Brown – the genesis of Goodnight Moon? A sweet, bookish story with surprising depth. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 27).

May B., Caroline Starr Rose
Thanks to Serenity’s enthusiastic rec, I picked this one up and read it in one sitting. It’s a spare, lovely tale of a pioneer girl hired out to work in western Kansas, then stranded alone when her employers disappear. Written in verse, but reminiscent of my beloved Little House series.

Restoring Grace, Katie Fforde
Grace, a lonely divorcée scrambling to restore her huge, dilapidated house near Bath, meets Ellie, a struggling (pregnant) artist, and the two join forces. Romance, art restoration and tangled family relationships all play a role here. Fforde’s writing is light and fun – just the ticket during a crazy week.

Cress, Marissa Meyer
An action-packed sequel to Cinder and Scarlet. Cinder and her band of fellow outlaws attempt to rescue Cress, a young hacker imprisoned on a Lunar satellite. But the rescue misfires and the group is separated, scrambling to reunite as the planet hurtles toward war. Confusing at times – too many characters and plotlines – but entertaining. Now to wait for Winter, Book 4, which comes out in 2015…

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, Gabrielle Zevin
An irascible, widowed bookstore owner adopts a toddler who was left in his store, and gradually opens up to life (and love) again. A charming tribute to book lovers, bookselling and the ways books shape our lives. The characters are great (I especially loved the non-reading cop who becomes a book nut), but I wanted the author to explore them more deeply.

Mrs. Hemingway, Naomi Wood
“Each Mrs. Hemingway thought their love would last forever; each one was wrong.” Naomi Wood deftly portrays each of Ernest Hemingway’s four marriages – each one’s beginning tied up with the previous one’s end. Ernest is a central figure, of course, but this story belongs to the women: Hadley, Pauline, Martha and Mary. Gorgeously written, elegiac, deeply melancholy. To review for Shelf Awareness (out May 27).

The Gilly Salt Sisters, Tiffany Baker
In their isolated Cape Cod village, the Gilly women have farmed salt for generations. Sisters Jo and Claire each struggle to come to terms with their family’s destiny, especially after a fire leaves Jo badly scarred and Claire’s marriage later falls apart. I could not put this one down. Haunting and gripping.

The Amazing Adventures of Father Brown, G.K. Chesterton
A friend brought me this pocket-sized collection several years ago and I finally picked it up. Father Brown is quietly clever – a mix of Father Tim Kavanagh and Miss Marple. Gentle, ingenious, entertaining detective stories.

Highland Fling, Katie Fforde
When Jenny Porter gets sent to assess a failing Scottish woolen mill, she never expects to make friends with the locals – or fall in love with the man who could foreclose the whole business. Light, entertaining chick lit. I especially loved Meggie, the outspoken but kind daughter-in-law.

Links (not affiliate links) are to my favorite local bookstore, Brookline Booksmith.

What are you reading?

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My collection of Christmas books. Why, yes, I DID dig out four American Girl Christmas stories to add to the pile.

Among the Christmas decorations each year at my parents’ house is a stack of Christmas-themed books, a few for children but mostly for the whole family. My own stack is much smaller (see above), but here are the ones I remember flipping through in the living room when I was a kid:

1. The Tale of Three Trees – One becomes a feeding trough, one becomes a fishing boat on the Sea of Galilee, and one becomes a cross. So simple and powerful.
2. The Jolly Christmas Postman – Our favorite postman (we had the other book about him too) takes Christmas cards to all his friends. So many fun fairy-tale allusions here.
3. The Polar Express – a true classic, which needs no introduction. (We loved it for years before the movie came out.)
4. Little Grey Rabbit’s Christmas – a charming story about a group of woodland friends (there’s a whole series and I have a few of them).
5. Precious Moments of Christmas – a story for each letter of the word “Christmas.” Sweet and simple.
6. The Mouse in the Manger – Oscar, a little runaway mouse, ends up being present at the first Christmas.
7. A Little Golden Book version of Jingle Bells, which involves lots of animals taking a sleigh ride.
8. A wee little book of Christmas carols (and pictures of furry woodland animals singing them, naturally).

It’s rather shocking how many of these books are out of print, but I’m keeping an eye out for these and others to add to my collection. What Christmas stories (besides the obvious one) do you remember from your childhood?

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This past weekend, I did something I hadn’t done in a long while – took off for a solo adventure (J had flown to Texas for a conference midweek). I’ve been enjoying a delightful email correspondence with Allison, a regular reader of this blog, so I invited myself to her little apartment in Queens, and we spent three lovely days exploring the city together.

Allison is the daughter of a children’s librarian (just one reason we’ve become such fast friends), so she was quick to direct me to various locations in NYC involving classic kids’ books. Needless to say, I relished every one.

On Friday afternoon, amid torrential rain, we made our way to Alice’s Tea Cup for soup, sandwiches, cups of Earl Grey and delectable scones:

(That’s Allison’s pumpkin scone in the foreground, and my chocolate-cranberry scone in the background.)

The next day, I made a pilgrimage to the New York Public Library’s main branch, to visit a few old friends:

Yes. Those are the ORIGINAL Winnie-the-Pooh stuffed animals – Pooh, Piglet (center), Eeyore, Tigger and Kanga (and Lottie the Otter, a new addition, behind Kanga). And, of course, they are right in the middle of the Hundred Acre Wood:

The exhibit is right in the middle of the children’s room, which has wonderful, colorful New York wall art:

On Sunday morning, I found myself at the Met, to which Claudia and Jamie run away in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. It’s enormous, imposing and grand outside:

And simply gorgeous inside:

I didn’t see nearly everything Claudia and Jamie did, but I wandered through the galleries, gazing at the exhibits and enjoying the general effect of so many beautiful and curious things so close together, for a couple of hours. I’d bought a copy of the book at the Strand the day before, and I read myself back to sixth grade on the bus ride home.

All weekend, as Allison and I walked around Manhattan, we tried to decide where the Melendys would have lived when they had their Saturday adventures in New York. We decided it must have been a lovely, comfortable old brownstone like this:

With flowers in the window boxes, of course. Cuffy, or maybe Mona, would definitely have made sure of that.

On Sunday afternoon, we walked through Central Park, and paused at the lake, where the Melendys went rowing and Randy fell in:

It was a perfect way to end my children’s lit tour. (We didn’t get to go rowing ourselves, but that’s on the list for next time.)

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Noel Streatfeild wrote Ballet Shoes and Skating Shoes and Theatre Shoes and Dancing Shoes. I’d start with Ballet Shoes first; it’s my favorite. Although Skating Shoes is completely wonderful—but it’s out of print.

—Kathleen Kelly, You’ve Got Mail

I’d never heard of Streatfeild or the Shoe Books before I saw You’ve Got Mail (and watched poor Kathleen Kelly struggle to control her tears as she helped a bookseller at Fox Books find the right book for a customer). It was several years before I picked up a used copy of Ballet Shoes in Oxford, and of course I loved it. (Then I saw the BBC film adaptation with Emma Watson, and loved it too.)

I found a copy of Dancing Shoes, under its original title of Wintle’s Wonders, for $1 at Brattle last fall, but had somehow never got around to reading it. Then, recently, I found a vintage edition of Theater Shoes on Etsy, and started reading it the day after it came in the mail. I loved it so much I raced down to Borders to buy Skating Shoes (which is, fortunately, no longer out of print). And I’ve spent a large part of the past week immersed in these stories of dance, family and dreams.

My eclectic (and growing) Streatfeild collection

I love the quiet bravery of Streatfeild’s characters – not only the children who must go on the stage or learn to dance, but their older relatives and guardians who must make do with very little in wartime. I love the glimpses into backstage life, the sweet (but not saccharine) family dynamics, the descriptions of pretty clothes (which catch the eye all the more in times of poverty). Most of all I love the hope that permeates these stories. The hope that poor, often orphaned children, who have come from nothing, can learn to act or dance or sing and really make something of themselves.

Kathleen Kelly was right – these books are completely wonderful. And how fitting that, as a fictional bookseller, she introduced thousands of new readers to a beloved series.

Have you ever learned about a book through a movie? (And have you read the Shoe Books?)

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I mentioned recently, in my post about curating a library, that I treasure a few books passed on to me by people I love. I thought I’d share them with you, since treasures, after all, are meant to be shared.

My dad received a copy of Shakespeare’s Wisdom & Wit from a favorite junior college professor. (I think this was the same guy who’d put a totally random question on every test, and say with a smile, “Just pull that one out of your universal body of knowledge.”) It ended up in my Christmas stocking a few years ago – I think Santa and Dad knew how much I would love it. The inscription is wonderful:

I’ve loved the Betsy-Tacy series since I was a child – my sister is named after Betsy Ray, and I read and reread the first four books (though I don’t know where those copies are, actually). But my mom had an old library edition of Betsy and the Great World, and somehow it found its way from her bookshelf to mine, when I was in high school or college. I have the whole series now, the last six in HarperCollins’ gorgeous reissued paperbacks, but I cherish this copy, with its charcoal cover illustration depicting Betsy on her way to Europe and adventure.

After my sister and I outgrew naptime, we still had “quiet time” each afternoon during our summer visits to Mimi’s house in rural Missouri. I discovered No Children, No Pets in the hall closet one summer and curled up on the bed to read it – and giggled until my mom came in to ask what was so funny. I reread it every summer for at least 10 years, until Mimi finally gave me the book for my own. (I wouldn’t let her give it to me when I was younger – I wanted to keep it at her house. That was part of the magic.) I still reread it every year or two, always in the summer, and smile at the adventures of Jane, Betsy, Don and Mike in 1950s Florida.

Similarly, Neno’s house (that old blue farmhouse in Ohio) held some bookish treasures, including the entire My Book House collection, twelve volumes of nursery rhymes and fairy tales, folklore and Bible stories and adaptations of Dickens and Shakespeare (among others) for young readers. I fell in love with A Midsummer Night’s Dream because of these books, and read some of the fairy tales over and over again. They got packed in a box when my grandparents moved to Texas, but Neno pulled them out of a closet a couple of years ago, and passed them on to me. So precious.

Finally, when my great-grandma Ada (my mother’s grandmother) passed away, my grandparents gave my mom a few of her books to send to me. Some belonged to Ada, some to her mother, who I never knew. They are beautifully old, with spidery inscriptions in the handwriting of long-lost friends and relatives. I keep them on a table in the living room, and sometimes I wonder about the girls and young women who carried them, read them, wrote in them and loved them enough to keep them safe all this time.

Your turn. Any heirlooms – books or otherwise – that you treasure?

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