PLEASE NOTE:Eastwood Branch Library is CLOSED Tuesday, September 19 due to a water leak. We apologize for the inconvenience.

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Staff Picks: Books

Hey Harry, Hey Matlida

The charming novel Hey Harry, Hey Matilda, formatted as a series of back and forth email messages between twins Harry and Matilda, will delight readers who like their doses of bourgeoisie torment mitigated by witty sarcasm and pithy observations about thirty-something anxiety. Matilda is the zany, unfiltered twin who cannot seem to maintain a meaningful, long-term relationship and who laments her narrowing career opportunities, clinging to the desire to live the "authentic" life of an "artist". It is revealed early on in the book that Matilda has told her current boyfriend that her twin brother has died, a childish fib that not unsurprisingly leads to Matlida’s increasingly erratic correspondence. Harry, a literature professor and the more seemingly self-assured and conventionally situated sibling, finds trouble when he begins to date a younger student at the university. Hey Harry, Hey Matilda is a fun, imaginative and quick read that was originally unfurled on author Rachel Hulin’s Instagram account before it was published earlier this year.


CATAWAMPUS RUMPUS

The Catawampus Cat  by Jason Carter Eaton is the tale of a somewhat off kilter feline who mysteriously arrives one Tuesday morning into an unnamed town.

First to notice the slightly askew cat is Mr Grouse the grocer, who tries to straighten the cat out, but to no avail. In the midst of the cat straightening attempt excitement, the grocer and his wife tilt their heads as well and make a very happy rediscovery!

Next the town barber spots the cat and is so taken aback that he accidentally clips his customer's hair at an angle, much to the woman's delight!

And so it goes on, everyone who notices this unusually positioned cat sets off to try new things with wonderful results. The cat's slightly slanted, catawampus perspective becomes the town's obsession.Even the mayor declares that there be a Catawampus Cat Day in the feline's honor.But when the day arrives and the mayor declares "we are all different now, just like you", the cat responds with something out of the ordinary that dismays his adoring public.

A fun, humorous book with appealing illustrations  by Gus Gordon, that is sure to please preschool, and early elementary kids!


All the Wild that Remains

On my vacation trip to Utah this year, I brought along All the Wild that Remains by David Gessner. Gessner is a creative writing professor at the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and is well known for his nature writing. Although he is a New Englander, he fell in love with the West and two revered and influential writers: Wallace Stegner and Edward Abbey, during some time he spent there in his 20s.


In All the Wild that Remains, Gessner travels around the West to important places in Stegner’s and Abbey’s lives; sometimes interviewing old friends of theirs, and commenting on these writers’ legacies and what they taught us about living in the West.

 
Stegner, my favorite author, spent some of his formative years in Salt Lake City and chose to have his papers archived at the University of Utah rather than Stanford where he founded and led an outstanding writing program that boasts a long line of famous attendees such as: Larry McMurtry, Wendell Berry, Ken Kesey, Robert Stone, and our other featured author, Edward Abbey. Stegner fought to preserve the wild places of the West in many ways and is best remembered in environmental circles for what is called the Wilderness Letter, which was influential in creating the National Wilderness Preservation System.


Abbey lived a wilder life and his novel, The Monkey Wrench Gang, was the inspiration for the creation of the environmental organization Earth First!. Many agree that his masterpiece though is the autobiographical Desert Solitaire that Abbey wrote about his time as a park ranger in Arches National Park. Unable to attend Abbey’s funeral celebration in southern Utah, Stegner sent these words for Wendell Berry to read, "He had the zeal of a true believer and a stinger like a scorpion . . . He was a red-hot moment in the life of the country, and I suspect that the half-life of his intransigence will be like that of uranium."


If you haven’t heard of either of these authors, it wouldn’t be that surprising. They were characterized as Western authors and therefore, somewhat ignored by the East Coast literati, much to Stegner’s chagrin. Stegner’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Angle of Repose wasn’t even reviewed in the New York Times Book Review. 


But now you know about them, so add them to your reading lists.


Everyone Brave is Forgiven

I first fell in love with Chris Cleave’s writing in Little Bee, and when I read this novel set during World War II, I fell in love all over again. But as with a person, it can be hard to pinpoint what about a book makes you fall in love, particularly when the book depicts so many horrors of war.

I recently reread Everyone Brave is Forgiven to try to figure it out, and I think what most draws me to Cleave’s writing is that his characters are so full of heart and spirit that even bleak events (or the telling of them) seem to have redeeming value.

Cleave’s descriptions and dialog are vibrant and often humorous, and his writing is masterfully paced, playing with the way time can elapse very slowly and then without warning stand still on a sudden dramatic event. It’s quite a balancing act and evokes the precarious experience of going through daily life under the constant threat of bombing.

This is a story of suffering and tragedy, but paradoxically, the message I take away from it is of survival, redemption, bravery, and love.


Echo

When more than one patron and all the youth librarians you know, say you should listen to a particular audiobook, you must listen.  Echo by Pam Munoz Ryan is an incredible book but it might be the best audiobook I've ever listened to. It's so good that I want to keep driving around instead of parking my car and getting to work. It's a story within a story about a young boy named Frederik, living in the heart of the Black Forest, during the early Hitler years. His father, an accomplished cellist, is deemed a Jewish sympathizer and is arrested and taken from Frederik. He's left to figure out how to navigate this most dangerous new world without him. But did I mention, Frederik does carry with him a magical harmonica. And that's just Part 1. Part 2 opens in Pennsylvania! This incredible story is suspenseful and superbly performed, with multiple voices and musical pieces throughout. It's historical fiction and fantasy combined into one amazing story. Available from KPL in print, Ebook, and audiobook as Compact Disc or through our downloadable service, Hoopla.


ONE BABY BUNNY WITH TICKLISH EARS SO FUNNY

Tickle My Ears is a very sweet and simple interactive board book for toddlers. Young readers help a little rabbit prepare for bed by getting him into his pajamas, fluffing his pillow, tucking him in, etc.

A book with expressive, irresistible illustrations and words by Jorg Muhle, it is meant to be read and reread for the delight of every young child.

This blog is dedicated to the memory of our very smart bunny named Patrick, who lived in our household about seven years . He died in late April from kidney failure at the age of ten. Patrick, you will never be forgotten!


Norse Mythology, Told Three Ways

The recently released Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman is by no means new stories. They are very old stories. They are stories so old that the details have been blurred with the passage of time. Gaiman retells these stories in a way that reads like a novel. It begins with an expansive and rich creation story, telling how gods, the world, and people came into existence. Then, we hear the stories of the gods, giants, demons, and people who populate the legendary 9 worlds. We meet Thor, and learn how he got his hammer, called Mjölnir. We hear of all the ways that Loki, the Trickster, manipulates and deceives the gods repeatedly and seemingly for his own amusement. We learn where bad poetry comes from. Finally, we see it all destroyed in Ragnorok, the epic battle that will end the reign of the gods of Asgard. 

The joy of stories is in the retelling. In the book The Gospel of Loki (by Joanne Harris), we get to hear the same stories, but told from Loki’s perspective. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if he is convincing as a sympathetic character betrayed by the “popular crowd” of Asgard, an evil deity bent on destruction, or something in between.

What if the stories don’t end there? American Gods (by Neil Gaiman), explores the idea of gods being brought to America with their believers, and what happens to them once they are here. Do gods need belief to keep existing? What about the new gods of America, such as Media, and Technology? American Gods follows the story of Shadow Moon. In the first few pages of the book we meet Shadow in prison, where he is released a few days early because his wife has been killed in an auto accident. He meets a mysterious man who calls himself Wednesday, who offers Shadow the job of escorting and protecting him. What I like about this book is the atmosphere and feel that the author is able to create. It’s part road trip story, part epic legend.


Kizzy Anne Stamps is an excellent story

Virginia schools are integrating and Kizzy Anne Stamps is about to start a new school. Although, Kizzy is strong willed and stubborn she’s nervous about attending school with white kids. Her old-school teacher suggested she become acquainted with her new teacher so Kizzy started writing her letters. She told Mrs. Anderson all about herself, her dreams and her struggles.

This is a great story about a little girl and her border collie dog, Shag. She had a lot of challenges but she met them with strength, kindness and humor.


Strong Female Protagonist

Mega Girl discovered she had superpowers at age 14. Super strength, invulnerability and the ability to leap over buildings in a single bound. It was great at first, but now she’s all grown up, and realizes that it takes a lot more than punching killer robots to fix the world’s problems. At age 18, Alison decides to hang up the cape and enroll in college to find a more meaningful way to change the world but the past has a way of always catching up.

This graphic novel is a fresh and critical examination of the superhero genre, questioning and overturning comic book tropes we often take for granted while exploring what it actually means to be a hero. We have the first volume here at the library, and the series continues online at strongfemaleprotagonist.com


TIDY TO A FAULT

Author and Illustrator Emily Gravett has done it again! In "Tidy", she introduces us to Pete the Badger, who happens to be a cleanaholic. Pete was born to clean, scour, tidy up anything and everything; a daunting task if one lives in a forest. No tidying challenge is too big for Pete and he soon gets carried away resulting in a disaster for the forest and its inhabitants.

Luckily, Pete and his friends set things right and Pete learns a valuable life  lesson. Too much of a good thing may not be good after all!

This rhyming book is pure fun and the illustrations are delightful. It also effectively delivers a subtle message about preserving the environment. After all, as the saying goes "you don't know what you've got 'till its gone".