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Life in Schongau, Bavaria in 1659 is pretty bleak. The town is rebuilding in the decade after the Great War - orphans abound, jobs are limited, and the townsfolk are quick to accuse each other of misdeeds. Although the rampant witch trials of the town's past have faded to a dim collective memory, it doesn't take much to start rumors of dark deeds swirling again. When a young orphan is found murdered and branded with a “witch’s mark,” a scapegoat is quickly located in Martha Stechlin, the town’s midwife who dabbles in herbs and encourages the orphans’ company. She is quickly taken into custody and it is up to Jacob Kuisl, the town’s hangman, to torture the truth out of her in The Hangman’s Daughter by Oliver Pötzsch, translated by Lee Chadeayne.
Every town at this time has a hangman, who inherits his profession from his father. Although Jacob Kuisl is well-read and financially well-to-do, the townsfolk routinely shun him because hangmen are considered the lowest in the town’s social order. When Martha is jailed, Kuisl suspects that something is not right because he has worked with her for decades and knows her to be an honorable and gentle midwife. He secretly starts researching her case to prove her innocence, while publically fulfilling his job as her torturer.
The Social Animal, by David Brooks, is a non-fictional account of the social lives of human beings. It looks deep into the human psyche in order to discover the motives for human actions. The story follows Erica and Harold, a fictional couple, through their entire lifespans. This includes a full examination of growth and development that starts in utero and expands over their lifetimes. Harold and Erica's relationship shows an array of longitudinal information that follows their relationship and explores such disciplines as psychology, sociology, politics, and history in an engaging approach to the social sciences.
In his book Lawn Boy, Gary Paulsen has done a wonderful job of capturing an everyday job for a tween boy--like mowing the lawn--and expanding it into a hilarious summer experience.
Lawn Boy is a great book for boys, but I think girls will enjoy it, too. Paulsen elaborates on experiences most all teens can relate to--like not having any money and being bored during summer vacation. They’re too young to drive but not that interested in toys, unless you consider video games toys. And if they want to get new video games to play, they have to come up with the funds to buy them.
This readalike is in response to a patron's book-match request. If you would like personalized reading recommendations, fill out the book-match form and a librarian will email suggested titles to you. Available for adults, teens, and kids. You can browse the book matches here.
Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian: This, the first in the splendid series of Jack Aubrey novels, establishes the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturin, ship's surgeon and intelligence agent, against a thrilling backdrop of the Napoleonic wars. Details of a life aboard a man-of-war are faultlessly rendered: the conversational idiom of the officers in the ward room and the men on the lower deck, the food, the floggings, the mysteries of the wind and the rigging, and the roar of broadsides as the great ships close in battle.
If you like Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, here are some suggestions of books dealing with men and the sea, from times gone by.
Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Peter Blood, a physician and English gentleman, turned pirate out of a rankling sense of injustice. Barely escaping the gallows after his arrest for treating wounded rebels, Blood is enslaved on a Barbados plantation. When he escapes, no ship sailing the Spanish Main is safe from Blood and his men.
Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling
Harvey Cheyne is the over-indulged son of a millionaire. When he falls overboard from an ocean liner her is rescued by a Portuguese fisherman and, initially against his will, joins the crew of the We're Here for a summer. Through the medium of an exciting adventure story, Captain's Courageous (1897) deals with a boy who, like Mowgli in The Jungle Book, is thrown into an entirely alien environment.
Alabama Moon, by Watt Key, is a great adventure tale. The story starts with Moon on his own--completely on his own. His dad, who has just died, was a recluse who hid in the woods and had very little contact with the outside world. He raised Moon to be suspicious of people and to trust his own skills for survival. But Moon is only 10 years old when he is left all alone, and he questions what his father has taught him. Can he survive and build a life for himself? Is that the life he wants? Is there anyone he can trust? He ends up getting caught by "Authorities" and is sent to an institution for troubled youth. But, they can't keep him for long. He escapes! And is on the run...
Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen is about a young black woman named JoLayne Lucks who has one of two winning tickets to the Florida lottery--and when she cashes it in she will win $14 million. As a vet assistant, she is very involved with raising the baby turtles that she finds and plans on using her money to buy a section of Florida swampland to create a wildlife refuge. However, two con men named Chubb and Bodean Gazzer--who have formed a white supremacy militia--own the other winning ticket. When they find out that JoLayne is also a winner, they decide that $28 million would be even better to help them finance the White Clarion Aryans.