Friday, March 30, 2012

Sheila's Five Books of Dead Women Talking

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher (Penguin, $10.99)
I was excited for this book to come out in paperback and read it right away. The premise is that teenaged Hannah has killed herself and left a box of audio cassettes to be passed along to the people she blames for her death. I came away feeling like Jay Asher is a better writer than a character judge. I didn't like Hannah at all by the end of the book, and while there was room in the text to be angry with her, I think that the author wanted me to like her at least a little bit. But this was a compelling young adult read (for high-school students), the plot was the kind of teenaged trainwreck you can't look away from, and the writing was nicely paced and Clay's anguished night of listening to the tapes was nicely drawn. It got me thinking about other books I've read where, in one way or another, a dead girl or woman is shaping the story.

The principle I used to choose the list gives enough away, so to avoid further spoilers, I'm just listing titles and authors without blurbs, but all of these are suited to adult audiences, and they are all wonderful reads if you like your books smart, engrossing, and at least a little dark.

The Likeness by Tana French (Penguin, $15.00)

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury, $15.95)

The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold (Back Bay, $14.99)

Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (Scribner, $15.00)

Sheila Avelin, March 2012

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Minter's Four Memoir Pairs

Here are some memoirs that can be fun to read in pairs. A number of them will be featured in my Life Stories book group in the next year (which meets the last Wednesday of the month at 7:15pm).

1) Alexandra Fuller's Don't Let's Go To The Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood (RH, $15.00) and Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness (Penguin, $25.95)
The first was Fuller's debut memoir about growing up in Africa in an eccentric family. The book her mother still calls "that awful book." It's not awful, it's very good and shocking in many ways. How could anyone have had this kind of childhood?

The second is a follow-up to her memoir, telling more of a story of her family's history and her parents life in Africa and their relationship.  The latest is written in a more mature voice, with confidence, and humor. Many stories are revealed here that are only hinted at in the first book.

2) Tobias Woolf's This Boy's Life (Grove Press, $15.95) and Geoffrey Woolf's The Duke of Deception (Vintage Books, $14.95)
The memoirs of two brothers, about their father, a notorious deceiver and con artist, and their childhoods (one raised by the mother and one by the father). It is fascinating to read them together, to see the difference in the childhoods of two brothers.

3) Edwidge Danticat's Brother, I'm Dying (Random House, $15.00) and Create Dangerously (Random House, $14.95)
Brother, I'm Dying is Danticat's first memoir about her father's death and her relationship with him, a story of an immigrant's family. It was nominated for the National Book Award and is beautifully written. Create Dangerously is her latest book, the One City One Book selection for Philadelphia in 2012. It's a combination of memoir and personal essays about artists who are exiled from their homelands and the importance creativity in their lives. It was a NY Times Notable Book of the Year.

4) Mira Bartok's The Memory Palace (Free Press, $15.00) and Nick Flynn's Another Bullshit Night in Suck City (W.W. Norton, $14.95)
Both of these memoirs are about homeless, ill parents, and both are told in unique, amazing ways! Bartok combines her mother's journal entries and her own drawings, weaves the story of finding her mother when she's dying after fleeing her most of her life. Flynn works at a homeless shelter in Boston and runs into his father there. It's a story of his own journey to sobriety and living a creative life as a writer. In both of these touching memoirs we see children attempting a relationship with the shattered lives of their parents, ending with redemption of their own.

Minter Krotzer, March 2012

Monday, March 26, 2012

Cordelia's Suggestions for Readers Who Love Eloise and Frances: Spunky Female Main Characters in Today's Picture Books/ Early Readers

Here are five books to get you started. Every one of these books features a main character who is either part of a series or in other books by the same author.

Lilly in Lilly's Big Day by Kevin Henkes (Greenwillow, $16.99)

Olivia in Olivia Forms A Band by Ian Falconer (Atheneum, $18.99)

Lulu in Ladybug Girl by David Soman & Jacky Davis (Dial Books, $16.99)

Zelda in Zelda and Ivy: The Runaways by Laura McGee Kvanovsky*** (Candlewick, $4.99)

Nancy in Fancy Nancy and The Posh Puppy by Jane O'Connell & Robin Preiss Glasser (Harper, $17.99)

***One of Cordelia's teachers at Vermont College of Fine Arts

Cordelia Jensen, March 2012

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Jen’s Five Books That Micah Loves at Age One

Micah celebrated his first birthday at the end of February, and he now has a bunch of new books to try out! So I took a moment before the influx to record his then-current favorites.

Peek-a-Who? by Nina Laden (Chronicle Books, $6.95)
This was the book that taught Micah to turn pages! Also, we got to see him turn the book over and over, comparing the picture on the back with the picture on the front, which was an exciting development. Excellent cut-outs to peep through. Silly rhymes.

In My Tree by Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich (Chronicle Books, $8.99)
Another board book with cut-outs, this time with an owl finger puppet peering through. The “In My...” books are simply and excellently illustrated, and they follow a lovely progression through the activities of the protagonist, all ending up at home “with my family!” (And the families are nicely non-gender-marked.)

Global Babies, a Global Fund for Children book (Charlesbridge Publications, $6.95)
I switch back and forth when reading this book: sometimes the inspiring text, sometimes just the names of the countries that go with the different babies. Most recently, Micah has begun pointing to their mouths or noses or brightly colored clothing as we go.

Cat by Matthew Fleet (Simon & Schuster, $16.99)
Micah’s first word was “cat”. His second word was the name of one of the cats. His third word was the name of the other cat. Three months later, he’s still working on “Mommy” and “Mummy”. He ... likes cats. And he loves this “multisensory” thick flap book, though it has some fragile bits. He’s allowed to pet the fur and turn the pages, but not to pull on the fold-out flaps.

Moo, Baa, La La La by Sandra Boynton (Simon & Schuster, $5.99)
We get to practice our nonhuman animal sounds with this book! That is, Nif and I do; Micah’s not there yet. He gets a kick out of hearing us, though! And I particularly like the singing pigs. (Which reminds me that I need to get a copy of the Grunt: Pigorian Chant book and CD. It’s my birthday too, and Sandra Boynton is awesome.)

Jennifer Sheffield, March 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Janet's Five Titles That the March Winds Blew In

Blowin' in the Wind by Bob Dylan (Sterling Children's Books, $17.95)
For those of you unfamiliar with our three gems written and illustrated by Jon J. Muth, you and your child are in for a visual journey.  Follow the paper airplane as a metaphor for our hearts flying in the wind towards the answers each of us looks for in life.  A CD is included. 

Heart and Soul by Kadir Nelson (Harper Collins, $19.99)
African American history written for age nine and older illustrated with the type of talent that captures a volume in each person's eyes.  The play of light in the portraits makes this a work of art.

Humble Homes, Simple Shacks, Cozy Cottages, Ramshackle Retreats, Funky Forts by Derek "Deek" Diedricksen (Lyons Press, $16.95)
"The new Triple-Caffeinated EXPANDED EDITION".  Tiny home lovers (like me) can dream their way through this book and "No," the wind will not blow your home over.

Making Toast by Roger Rosenblatt (Harper Collins, $12.99)
Taken by the title, I happened to pick up this new arrival one day at the store and kept reading.  It is a simply written memoir by a gifted author about loss, family, and recovery, and, of course, making toast.

Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult, (Atria, $28.00)
Soon to be released, Lone Wolf is a study of the wolf family and a man whose study of that family keeps him hostage from his own family.  A good read when one tires of the tragic...I just happened to pick it up and kept reading.

Janet Elfant, March 2012

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Join us for an evening of poetry with Monica A. Hand who will be reading from her collection, me and Nina, at Big Blue Marble, Friday, March 30th at 7 pm. 

1) How would you describe your poetry?

I write in many different forms, some traditional, some homegrown. One of my favorite forms are zuihitsu and haibun because they mix prose and verse. I like the narrative poem but not necessarily a linear treatment of the narrative.  I also like writing persona poems.  I identify with what the poet Saeed Jones calls a queer poetics – “queer” according to Jones, “implies a slipperiness, a subversion of expectations and conventions, and inability to sit still, a refusal to obey.”

2) How does poetry fit into your everyday life? 

Poetry is how I sustain my life in the everyday, every day.

3) What poets and/or authors inspire you? 

My legacy poets are Langston Hughes and Lucille Clifton. I enjoy many modern and contemporary poets and who I am inspired by changes.  Currently  I am inspired by the work of Toi Derricotte, Bhanu Kapil, Kimiko Hahn, Terrance Hayes, and Garcia Lorca.
4) How does the community of Philadelphia play a part in your poetry? 

From 1971 – 1975, I attended Beaver College, now known as Arcadia, in Glenside, PA.  After college I settled in Philadelphia for several years and was active with Alexandria Bookstore, Hera Feminist newspaper and Rites of Women Theatre Collective.  I served briefly as poetry editor for Hera and I wrote material performed by Rites of Women.

5) What is the last book you have read that you enjoyed? Tell our Big Blue Marble community a little about it. 

The last book I have read that I really enjoyed is Toi Derricotte’s, “The Undertaker’s Daughter.” This is an amazing collection of poems that are honest, soul searing, complex and brave.  It is part memoir and reminds me of Lucille Clifton’s “The Good Woman” in that the first part of the book let’s us look inside of Derricotte and get a glimpse of what she is made of.  We come to know her demons and her overcoming.  Some of the poems are whimsical and playful and in reading this work we get to witness a true master at work. 
Check out Hand performing "Everything Must Change" here:

EVERYTHING MUST CHANGE from David Flores on Vimeo.

Monica A. Hand is a poet and book artist currently living in Harlem, USA.  Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Aunt Chloe, Black Renaissance Noire, The Sow’s Ear, Drunken Boat, Beyond the Frontier, African-American Poetry for the 21st Century, Gathering Ground: A Reader Celebrating Cave Canem’s First Decade and elsewhere.  She holds a MFA in Poetry and Poetry in Translation from Drew University, and is a founding member of Poets for Ayiti.