Friday, April 30, 2010

Five Jewish-y Books that Sheila Likes a Lot, for Many Ages

Mona in the Promised Land by Gish Jen
(Random House, $14.95)
The story of a Chinese-American girl growing up in a thinly-disguised Scarsdale, NY in the late 60’s and early 70’s. Mona works the peer counseling hotline and the synagogue and converts to Judaism (without telling her parents): a comic and wonderful exploration of race, identity, and the conflicts facing second-generation immigrants in America.

The Yiddish Policeman’s Union by Michael Chabon
(HarperCollins, $15.95)
Imagine a classic hard-boiled detective story set in an alternate world where Jews fleeing Hitler settled in Sitka, Alaska, creating a Yiddish-speaking city-state on a 60-year lease that’s about to expire as the book opens. Plus, fabulous use of the word “Jewess.”

The Castle on Hester Street by Linda Heller
(Simon & Schuster, $15.99)
With vibrant new illustrations by Boris Kulikov, this kids’ book conveys the Jewish immigrant experience to a new generation via a wonderful set of tall tales.

Nachshon Who Was Afraid to Swim by Deborah Bodin Cohen
(Lerner, $8.95)
A lovely story for younger kids about bravery and faith based on a midrash (i.e., a story about a Biblical story). Before the Reed Sea parted, Nachshon walked in. Explores a part of the Passover story that’s not in the haggadah.

Jewish Holidays All Year Round by Ilene Cooper
(Harry N. Abrams, $21.95)
This is a book aimed at families with elementary-school-aged children, with stories and projects for each holiday. It has rich content and lovely multi-ethnic illustrations of Jewish families.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Jen’s List of Five Young Adult Books Featured at the 2010 Mt. Airy Kids’ Literary Festival

A Wish After Midnight by Zetta Elliott
(Amazonencore, $12.95)
Gemma is having a pretty hard life in modern-day Brooklyn, until a wish she makes in the Botanical Gardens sends her back to Brooklyn during the Civil War. Intense and powerful.

The Secret Year by Jennifer Hubbard
(Penguin, $16.99)
A clandestine cross-class relationship ends with one character's death at the very beginning of the story, which takes us through the survivor's attempts to deal with her loss, particularly once he's been given her (equally secret) journal from that year.

Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
(Curbstone Press, $16.95)
A powerful coming-of-age story that portrays an immigrant teen's struggle to reach his tortured father, who has returned after five years of capture in Chile, and to find his own place in the world.

8th Grade Super Zero by Olugbemisola Rhuday-Perkovich
(Arthur A. Levine, $16.99)
An excellent portrayal of the intricacies of school interactions, the complexities of community service, and the power you can find in negotiating the apparently vast gulfs between the ways you see yourself and the ways others see you. Truly engaging book.

Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger
(Margaret K McElderry, $16.99)
Samar (Sam) hasn't been taught -- or been particularly concerned -- about her family's Sikh Indian heritage, until after September 11, 2001, when her turbaned uncle shows up for a visit, and she becomes suddenly and startlingly aware of the ways others regard differences that she had thought insignificant.

Horoscope, Week of April 23

Horoscope, Week of April 23 by Jane Cassady

Taurus: This is your month, happy birthday! Make not just a birthday wish list but a birthday bracket—folks around the office can bet whether “learn to cook” will beat out “new computer” to go on to play ”A pretty girlfriend/boyfriend/whatever.” Then fold it up and place it in a box marked “Things to Be Worked Out Later By Unseen Forces.” Wait.

Gemini: You are just plain awesome. Your garden is the most biodiverse on the block. Your handwriting is perfect. You always write back to your pen pals right away. People are always asking for your recipes at parties. Come August, your tomatoes will be the most succulent. Gemini FTW.

Cancer: In front of you at the Interactive Inlet is a pool of baby tiger sharks swimming in circles. You can touch them if you want to. There's a man whose whole job it is to remind you to be gentle. Remember to roll up your sleeves.

Leo: Practice existing this week: make appointments and keep them, paint a monumental painting of your signature, worry a little about your teeth. Pretend everything starts with the sound of your alarm clock, ends with your own pajamaed sleep.

Virgo: People disparage chick-lit, probably with good reason, but I guess I'm a chick because sometimes nothing else will settle my skin. Ah, ladies in stories having fun. What are your lighthearted taboos? What settles your fizzing bones but sure doesn't impress anybody? Do that.

Libra: Georges Braque said “You can't always be carrying your hat; this is why they invented the hatrack. Personally, I discovered painting so that I could hang my obsessions on a nail.” Hang your hat on something new this week, Libra, or better yet, make a new hat.

Scorpio: If you were a candy, what would you be? The beautiful post-racial harmony of Caramel Creams? Are you like Fruit Stripe Gum, fun to look at, but losing flavor almost immediately? Admit it, are you a sour-patch kid? Time to go down to the old-fashioned general store and try out some new flavors. How about root beer barrels or sarsaparilla?

Sagittarius: Girls with straight hair always wish they had curly and vice-versa. It's how we keep the sisterhood together. Crack open the oyster of envy and see what's in there—maybe a seed pearl, maybe just sand and guts.

Capricorn: My mom used to forbid the buying of silk flowers: tacky. My dad said you can't start the inside of a jigsaw puzzle until you've finished the edges. I held these as gospel truths until just recently, at 35. Breaking them both was a rebellious thrill. Break some arbitrary rules this week, Capricorn. See you in the flower aisle.

Aquarius: Consider the miracle that is the Mummer's Parade. Thousands of unioners working all year to perfect their feathers, strut, and makeup. A lot of engineering goes into those fancies, too—why do they do this? Start stockpiling your feathers, Aquarius, and learn about scaffolding.

Pisces: Flash bulbs on aquarium-glass make it hard to see the jellyfish inside. Watch the tank like a movie. Drift with the sting-rays, bounce like anemones. (With friends like this, who needs anemones?) Keep running away from the sting of tentacles. Remember which way is up.

Aries: My pal Maleka sent me an interview with Erykah Badu. It ends with Ms. Badu saying this: “We're saving up together, um, Bjork and I, to buy a hovercraft, so we can get the hell outa here and go back to our planet.” You have friends like this, lucky you. Find some more and pool your hovercraft money, but please stay.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Janet's April Picks

Children's Books

Let it Shine: Three Favorite Spirituals illustrated by Ashley Bryan
(Simon and Schuster, $16.99)

Bird by Zetta Elliot, illustrated by Shadra Strickland (Lee & Low Books, $19.95)
Featured in the 2010 Mt. Airy Kids’ Literary Festival!


Home Repair by Liz Rosenberg (Harper Collins, $13.99)

The Farmer by Alexander Olchowski (The Troy Book Makers, $16.95)


True Love by Thich Nhat Hanh (Shambhala, $6.99)

Friday, April 23, 2010

Kasey's Five Favorite Spiritual Memoirs by Women

Things Seen and Unseen by Nora Gallagher (Vintage, $13.95)
Lyrical and beautifully written, this memoir is organized using the Christian liturgical calendar and chronicles the author's life as a member of a liberal-activist church in California. Nora Gallagher writes so movingly about the ways her faith impacts all of her life: her work, her sometimes-difficult-but-also-loving marriage, and her volunteer job at her church's soup kitchen.

Girl Meets God by Lauren F. Winner (Random House, $15.00)
A smart, thoughtful, and often surprisingly funny book about the author's conversion from Orthodox Judaism to Christianity. Lauren Winner is deeply honest about her struggles and confusions as well as her joys; her journey is unique and surprising, but she also makes it clear that what's at the heart of her book--trusting yourself, leading a true and honest life--are universal desires and possible for everyone.

The Barn at the End of the World by Mary Rose O'Reilley
(Milkweed Editions, $15.95)
One of my all-time favorite books, a memoir that blends Quaker and Buddhist spiritual practice with the author's two very different occupations: tending sheep and teaching English literature at a Midwestern university. Mary Rose O'Reilley is wise and funny and her writing invites you to read this book over and over (which I have actually done).

Easter Everywhere by Darcey Steinke (Bloomsbury, $14.95)

Meeting Faith by Faith Adiele (Norton, $14.95)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Claudia's Happy-Go-Lucky List for April

1. Anatole and the Cat by Eve Titus; Random House; $14.95
Anatole is a mouse living in Paris who supports his 12 little children and his lovely wife Doucette as a cheese taster with a great reputation. But then the cheese factory owner's cat causes a lot of turmoil in Anatole's life. I loved this sweet book written in 1950 so much that I actually named my cat Anatole.

2. Let Your Life Speak by Parker J. Palmer; Jossey-Bass; $18.95
A dear friend recommended this little passionate book about finding your vocation in life.

3. Operating Instructions by Anne Lamott; Random House; $13.95
This memoir is filled with sweet, heart-wrenching and hilarious funny anecdotes and reminiscences; a must-read for chronically depressed people because it puts life in perspective.

4. Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott; Random House; $15.00
The title is my mantra in life.

5. In My Den by Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich; Chronicle Books; $8.99
On rainy or cold nights when I am snuggling with my cat Anatole, I will read this book to him. He loves it.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Staff Book Review: The Blue Orchard

The Blue Orchard by Jackson Taylor

Jackson Taylor's novel The Blue Orchard is just an amazing book. It's destined to be a classic. Not only is it incredibly well written, it is a powerful story based on a true family secret. Taylor spent over ten years writing and researching this book, including compiling oral histories of his grandmother who helped perform illegal abortions before Roe vs. Wade. Jackson was part of my Writers in the Process Author series and he had the entire Big Blue Marble store in awe of his writing and the powerful story he tells. Every where you go in Mount Airy you see people reading this book!

-Reviewed by Minter Krotzer

About Minter Krotzer: Minter Krotzer's writing has been published in Many Mountains Moving, the Saint Ann's Review, the Arkansas Review, Upstreet, Night Train, Before and After: Stories from New York (WW Norton 2002), Louisiana in Words (Pelican Press 2007), God Stories (Random House 2008), and the upcoming Norton anthology Hint Fiction. She has taught creative writing at International House and Teachers and Writers Collaborative in New York City and privately in Philadelphia. She has received writing fellowships from the New School, where she received an MFA, Bennington College, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the Squaw Valley Writers Conference. This summer she will be a Visiting Fellow at the Moulin à Nef in Auvillar, France.

Award-winning poet Hal Sirowitz, who moved to Mount Airy from New York City three years ago, will be teaching a poetry workshop with the accompaniment of his wife, Minter Krotzer. Hal and Minter moved to Philadelphia from New York City with the intent of teaching and sharing what they have learned from being part of the literary community in New York City for the past 30 years. In this workshop Hal and Minter will focus on poetry drawn from one’s life stories mostly in the forms of free verse and various poetic forms. Selected poetry texts will be read and discussed. There will be in class writing and optional sharing of work. The class will be supportive and encouraging, beginning poets are especially welcome. The workshops will be held on Sunday afternoons from 2-4pm from April 25th- June 27th (not including Mother’s Day and Father’s Day). The cost is $150 and this includes a reading materials fee and a private writing consultation.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Nif's List of Five Six Books That Changed Her Life Over the Last Four Years

Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck (Bloomsbury, $15.99)
Led me to eliminate processed food from my diet, which in turn rid me of my migraines.

The Anatomy of Peace: Resolving the Heart of Conflict by the Arbinger Institute (Berrett-Koehler Publications, $16.95)
Taught me to recognize whether my heart is at war or at peace. When my heart is at peace, I see others as people and not obstacles, and I am better able to resolve conflict.

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan (Penguin, $16.00)
Led me to find ethically raised sources for milk, meat, eggs and cheese.

The Queen of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed from the Western Diet and What We Can Do to Replace Them by Susan Allport (University of California Press, $19.95)
Taught me WHY pastured and grass-fed animal products are more healthful. Lots of fun science-techy-geeky stuff!

Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life
, by Barbara Kingsolver (HarperCollins, $15.99)
Led me to believe that I too could make deliciously seasonal local food the majority of my diet. I soon learned that eating locally and seasonally is awfully easy around here!

Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall, (Random House, $24.95; due out in paperback August 2010)
Reintroduced me to the forgotten joys of being barefoot. After years of injuring myself, I threw away my overly-supportive shoes, and I learned to trust my feet again.

April 2010, Jennifer Woodfin

Horoscope, Week of April 16

Horoscope, Week of April 16—When You Stare into the Cusp, the Cusp Stares Back

Aries: Congratulations! You share a sign with Agent Dale Bartholomew Cooper (April 19, 1954) from Twin Peaks, who said "Harry, I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Every day, once a day, give yourself a present. Don't plan it, don't wait for it, just let it happen. Could be a new shirt at the men's store, a catnap in your office chair, or two cups of good, hot, black coffee. Like this." Take advice from this or any other fictional character.

Taurus: Jon Sands says he reads horoscopes this way:“1) My horoscope, 2) Exes' in chronological order.” Nostalgia is a necessary game. Google all of your exes and familiarize yourself with everyone who shares their names. Almost everyone's name is common. Common's isn't. Except that it is.

Gemini: My sister likes websites where everything's kind of a mess: Cake Wrecks, Regretsy, Awkward Family Photos. I think this would make a good religion. This week, Katie, there are a lot of misspelled cakes: ”American History Celebrating Afraica,” “Back to Schol,” We apricate you.” I hope I proofread Gemini better than they proofread frosting...Lets hang in there for Sunday Sweets.

Cancer: Jessica Simpson is trying to be the Anthony Bourdain of the beauty myth, or Chris Rock for the honky set. (Watch Good Hair!) Everyone has her own sodium hydroxide. Each week, Jessica sits down with a woman whose face got ruined. Let yourself be your own kind of beautiful, because Jessica is coming.

Leo: Giggle during meditation. Make out at inappropriate movies, like Seinfeld did. Drink out of a Styrofoam cup. Eat nothing but junk food for 30 days, but not to prove a point or anything. But don't text while driving, dear, I love you too much for that.

Virgo: You're getting warmer. Sparks are starting to fly from the ends of your hair. Nearby marshmallows are pleasantly exploding, turning the house to cotton candy. There's only one way out, and it's melting on the tip of your tongue.

Libra: Quick! When your phone buzzes, who do you hope it is? Plan some secret installation art for that person, using one or more of the following materials: dried delphiniums, all-holiday tinsel, dollar store dishes, crepe paper, that salt-dough sculpting stuff from when we were kids, seashells, grass seed, sand.

Scorpio: You may want to Hulu Lost for this one... (And SPOILER ALERT!) So it turns out, the whispers in the leaves are people who can't move on. If they blow up the plane, go to the Hydra Station and hijack the submarine. There's no time to build another raft, just get the heck off the island, Scorpio.

Sagittarius: Spinoza said something like, if God is everything, then there's nothing that isn't God. Around the time I was learning this, I was into a show called Joan of Arcadia, wherein an ordinary high school girl got missions from said deity, who appeared as ordinary humans. She got an assignment from Her/Him every week. Then it turned out she had lyme disease, but anyway, when I was watching that show, I wouldn't have expected to ever meet anyone from the cast. Now Amber Tamblyn is a friend of some friends. This oddly gives me faith. Synchronicity can be surprisingly arbitrary, but neat.

Capricorn: Your heart is a Michael's. I come back to you whenever I run out of notecards. Let's learn the names of Martha Stewart's colors (Tea Bath, Firmament, Scented Notepaper...), choose the best turn of phrase, and buy that four dollar glitter. I'm trusting you to scrapbook everything.

Aquarius: I thought of a good one for you while I was trying to fall asleep last night. I should have gotten up and written it down. Have a little funeral for all of the ideas you've lost this way, through carelessness, dismissal, or sleep. Burn origami boats for them, on safe rivers. Put a notebook on the nightstand.

Pisces: No good will come of a story that starts “Ask them to smell this, see if it's still good.” You have no choice but to clean out the refrigerator alone, but don't worry. There'll soon be room for everything you want. If you're an Empty Fridge Person, please at least think about produce.

Jane Cassady is the booking maven for the Philadelphia Poetry Slam. She has appeared in The November 3rd Club, The Comstock Review, Valley of the Contemporary Poets, and other journals. She has performed at such venues as LouderArts in New York City, Valley Contemporary Poets in Los Angeles, and The Encyclopedia Show in Chicago. She has taught poetry to all ages from pre-K to adult, and believes in coaxing out everyone's unique poet voice. Check out her Time to Write poetry class starting on Tuesday, April 20 at Big Blue Marble Bookstore.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Last Book I Loved: Road to Tater Hill by Edith Hemingway

Granted, I've got a thing about mountains. Or maybe more than "a thing": At one point I quit my job and joined AmeriCorps in far-western Maryland to try to figure out why so many of my favorite books take place in the mountains. So I knew when I picked up Road to Tater Hill, by Edith Hemingway, that it would quickly become "the most recent book I loved." The author uses her keen eye and ear for detail to give us Annie, a 10-year-old in 1963 whose infant sister has just died. Annie befriends a mysterious woman who lives near the spot where Annie returns to grieve, and together Annie and the woman forge a new path onward.

Readers of all ages who have experienced loss--and what reader has not experienced loss?--will draw strength from Hemingway's sharp observations and message of unexpected renewal. And readers without a particular fondness for mountains don't need to worry. Though the characters are thoroughly rooted in their mountain community, the powerful story and hopeful message will resonate strongly on the subway, on the beach, and anywhere else books are enjoyed.

-Pamela Ehrenberg

--Pamela Ehrenberg is the author of two novels for young readers: Ethan, Suspended (2007) is set in Washington, DC, but Tillmon County Fire (2009) is set in the mountains.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Maleka's Five Books with Absolutely Fascinating Female Characters

1) Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

2) The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

3) Sex Wars by Marge Piercy.

4) Eat the Document by Dana Spiotta.

5) Fruit of the Lemon by Andrea Levy.

-April 2010, Maleka Fruean

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Poetic Horoscopes by Jane Cassady

A new regular column in the Big Blue Marble Blog! Check out the blog on a weekly basis for astrological horoscopes written by the talented local poet Jane Cassady. What do you need to meditate on this week? Full of poetic spunk, city wisdom, and pop culture references, the Big Blue Marble Bookstore is proud to offer these to the community and beyond.

Horoscope, Week of April 9

Aries: Heirloom roses only come in a few pinks. Give yourself over to the process of hybridization, cross-mixing, and color collaboration, you rose. Make flame-resistant flowers, bubblegum-scented flowers, roses that strike anywhere, like Diamond matches.

Taurus: Ration your time like you ration your calls to 911. You'll neither make unwanted appointments or cry wolf. Practice ignoring your devices, take pleasure in not calling back. Experiment (briefly) with misanthropy. Your apartment is cavelike, darling, spelunk.

Gemini: Experiment with sestinas, modernism, paint-by-number, any other structure you find appealing. Collect the drawings that come with assembly instructions, they are you gurus. Credit the industrial artists with your recovery.

Cancer: Turn the year clock, set to the lifetimes of lilac and wisteria. Cut the heads off daffodils before the flowers start to steal from the bulbs. Consider planting raspberries or starting a project that's equally brambly.

Leo: Clean out the pen cups-- they are far too full of dry souvenir pens, novelty pencil/snowglobes, and miniature light sabers that don't light up or write. Use these to build a little fence outside, where someone you like will see it. Then go buy some new pens.

Virgo: Visit the local historical garden. Stick your face in the early lilacs. They'll remind you, like they do every year, of the finiteness of life. Nearby, there's a chair, carved and velvet-upholstered, once sat in by the Marquis de Lafayette, well after the American Revolution. They won't let you sit in it. Don't steal the lilacs.

Libra: You keep seeing signs that say “Free Mulch”--ignore them. You need the weeds to come. Weed while you're thinking and get some sun on your face. Mom says you need to make sure you get enough sunlight, to get your Vitamin D. You're tired, though, of people reminding you of the things you need to make sure of.

Scorpio: You are happy, ecstatic, delighted, a walking serotonin factory, a hydrogen-driven sun. Never mind anyone else who isn't crackling with warmth, those Morlock-hued flint-people asking you to simmer down—don't simmer down.

Sagittarius: Go to the Picasso exhibit, if you can. Sit on his fur couch, if it doesn't give you the heebie-jeebies. You'll have everything you need: hot and cold-running horizontals, cinnamon-colored walls. Just stop there, and forget what you're usually doing.

Capricorn: Forget what Father McDermott said about the right hand never knowing what the left hand's doing. Be ambidextrous. Celebrate today every nice thing you've ever done. Do this birthday party style: glittery paper hats, door prizes, technicolor cake, and noisemakers. Don't forget the noisemakers.

Aquarius: In Italian, campanilismo means local pride, living in view of your own church steeple. Write a love-acrostic to the two streets of the nearest intersection. Decorate the local produce mart with multicolored Hershey and lipstick kisses. Make out and/or make art with the neighbors. Pet every single dog.

Pisces: There's only six or so episodes of Lost left. Maxwell Kessler says he's gonna wait til it's all over and see if everyone is disappointed with the finale before he watches one single episode. He wants to save himself the pain. The other day my wife thought she was playing the first episode of Twin Peaks when she was actually playing the last. The moral of these stories: 1. It's okay to watch things backwards. 2. Maybe there is a place where dreams intersect with purgatory, and maybe, like an intuitive detective, you can find it.