Saturday, January 31, 2015

Five Books That Make Jen Grateful for Modern Medicine

During the growing outbreak of measles in Southern California and environs, it becomes ever more clear that lots of people, including doctors, have never seen measles before and are not familiar with its presentation or its dangerous complications -- as is true of many diseases that used to plague our forebears. Here are five books (plus a few more) that provide a powerful and close-up view of some illnesses that, due to vaccines or antibiotics, no longer scare us the way they once did.

Fleabrain Loves Franny by Joanne Rocklin (Abrams, $16.95)
This new release is the story of ten-year-old Franny, who is relearning to navigate her world, both physically and socially, after contracting polio -- while living in the neighborhood of Pittsburgh where Dr. Jonas Salk is working hard on what Franny hopes is a cure. Alternate point of view (and some diversion for Franny) provided by Fleabrain, a flea with literary aspirations who lives on her dog's tail.

yellow fever:
Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (Simon & Schuster, $7.99)
A story of the eponymous yellow fever epidemic, which took place in Philadelphia. Follows 14-year-old Mattie Cook through her family's attempt to flee the fever, only to return and deal with it in a city that is falling into chaos. Includes a fascinating look at competing types of care, as physicians grasp for ways to contain the epidemic. About a week after I read the book I found myself walking in Washington Square, where, I had just learned, mass graves accumulated during the epidemic. It felt suddenly very different, walking on history...

Dreamers of the Day by Mary Doria Russell (Ballantine, $15.00)
This book is not about influenza; it's a historical novel about the politics of the Middle East in the 1920s, with Lawrence of Arabia and Gertrude Bell as featured characters. However, it starts by vividly framing the Roaring Twenties in the United States as a rebound from the horrors of death -- not just after World War One but also after the 'flu epidemic of 1918-1919 that ran rampant through otherwise healthy populations and devastated entire families and communities.

Pippi in the South Seas by Astrid Lindgren (Puffin, $5.99)
I hadn't reread the third Pippi book in a long time, so I was surprised to discover recently that her friends Annika and Tommy both come down with the measles, which confines them to bed for weeks and leaves them pale and shaky for a long time afterward. (Caution: this book, more than the others in the series, is predicated on a strongly colonialist view of the south sea islands.)

scarlet fever:
All of a Kind Family by Sydney Taylor (Yearling, $6.99)
A wonderful tale of life on the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1911. Scarlet fever shows up just before Passover, and the house is quarantined for the duration. (I was originally going to feature By the Shores of Silver Lake here, since the effects are more dramatic, but it turns out that Mary Ingalls' blindness was likely caused by something quite different, such as viral meningoencephalitis. Scarlet fever does not cause blindness.)

influenza and black death:

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis (Spectra, $7.99)
malaria ("fever 'n' ague"):
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder (HarperCollins, $6.99 or $8.99)
scarlet fever again:
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott (Penguin, $3.95)
I'm fairly certain that I once read a book in which someone has whooping cough. On a train, maybe? Does anyone have any idea what book this is? Please let me know!

Jennifer Sheffield, January 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sarah's Five Favorite Children's Read-Aloud Stories

The Book With No Pictures by B.J. Novak (Dial, $17.99)
This book, which is gorgeous despite its lack of pictures, never fails to make even the most serious little folks laugh. (I dare you to read it without laughing yourself.)

Press Here by Herve Tullet (Chronicle, $15.99)
This is more of a one-on-one read. Press Here encourages small readers to press pages, shake dots to one side, and more. If the interactivity weren't enough, it's also visually stunning.

The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Suess (Random House 8.99)
Thing 1 and Thing 2 are the best parts of this book, obviously. The rhythm of the words makes memorization fun and easy. Dr. Suess has written so many beloved books, but none more so than this one.

The Pigeon Needs a Bath by Mo Willems (Disney, $16.99)
I chose this book as a close second to the Elephant and Piggie books because they're all so fun and they prompt a call-and-response from your tiny audience. And, yeah, because sometimes bathtime is hard.

Curious George by H.A. Rey (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 7.99)
What will that cheeky monkey get up to next?

Sarah Rose, January 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bookstore Bestsellers, 2014

Happy New Year! I'd like to present the annual list of Big Blue Marble bestsellers -- the top 20 books sold in 2014, and top 25 overall.

Please tell us: What books have you read and loved over the past year?

Top 20 Bestsellers at Big Blue Marble in 2014:

1) Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia by Abigail Perkiss (local author, local Mt. Airy setting!)
2) Deadout by Jon McGoran (local author)
3) Brief Eulogies at Roadside Shrines by Mark Lyons (local author)
4) Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
5) Mt. Airy Musers: A Literary Journal Made by Kids for Kids: Editor-in-Chief, Cordelia Jensen (local authors)
6) Frozen: A Big Golden Book, adapted by Bill Scollon
7) Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
8) Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
9) Monk Eats an Afro by Yolanda Wisher (local author)
10) Drift by Jon McGoran (local author)
11) The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
12) Wild by Cheryl Strayed
13) Flora and Ulysses: the Illuminated Adventures by Kate DiCamillo
14) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
15) Amulet 6: Escape from Lucien by Kazi Kibuishi
16) Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
17) The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (2014 selection for the One Book, One Philadelphia program)
18) Hyperbole and a Half : Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh
19) Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean, & Southern Flavors Remixed by Bryant Terry
20) Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman

Top 25 Bestsellers at Big Blue Marble to Date:

1) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
2) Body Trace by D.H. Dublin (local author)
3) Philadelphia Chickens by Sandra Boynton (onetime local author)
4) Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathman
5) The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
6) The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
7) Good Night Philadelphia by Adam Gamble and Cooper Kelly (local setting)
8) Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
9) Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert (somewhat local author)
10) The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
11) The First 1000 Days by Nikki McClure
12) The Daring Book for Girls by Miriam Peskowitz (local author) and Andrea Buchanan
13) The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka (2013 selection for the One Book, One Philadelphia program)
14) Ivy and Bean by Annie Barrows
15) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (selected as companion book for the 2011 One Book, One Philadelphia program)
16) The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
17) The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
18) The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch
19) Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama
20) The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick
21) Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
22) The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart
23) The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
24) Flotsam by David Wiesner (local author)
25) Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Bonus: Tied for spot 26:
a) Zen Shorts by Jon Muth
b) Making Good Neighbors: Civil Rights, Liberalism, and Integration in Postwar Philadelphia by Abigail Perkiss (local author, local Mt. Airy setting!)

Also check out the list of our young adult bestsellers, posted in the January YA newsletter: Big Blue YA News -- Dragons, Music, History, and Bestseller Lists!

Happy reading for 2015!