Wahoo Cray’s yard is a zoo, literally. That’s where his dad, Mickey, keeps all of their animals, including pythons, monkeys, and an alligator named Alice. Mickey is the best animal wrangler in Florida...or he was until he got hit on the head by a frozen iguana. Since then he hasn’t been able to work. Money is so tight that Mickey accepts a job offer from the Expedition Survival TV series with Wahoo as his assistant. Things get off to a bad start when the show’s bumbling but egotistical star, Derek Badger, gets bitten by a snapping turtle and then an alligator. And that’s before he even leaves the safety of the Cray’s yard in Chomp by Carl Hiaasen.
Jean Spangler disappeared on the night of October 7, 1949. She applied her lipstick, straightened the seams on her stockings and kissed her daughter good-bye. Jean was beautiful and ambitious - and was never seen again after that night. Her broken purse and a cryptic note, found in a park, were the only clues. The case has never been solved.
Insurgent is the sequel to the science fiction bestseller Divergent and picks up Tris Prior’s story immediately where the first book left off. Tris, Tobias, and the other Dauntless members who have not allied with the Erudites after the massacre of the Abnegation faction seek shelter with other factions, trying to find a place to regroup and recover. But Jeanine, the Erudite leader, and the Dauntless “traitors” give them no peace. One by one, their potential allies fall away until the only remaining option is to join forces with the previously despised Factionless.
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Rhett Butler's People by Donald McCaig: "Through Rhett's eyes we meet the people who shaped his larger than life personality as it sprang from Margaret Mitchell's unforgettable pages: Langston Butler, Rhett's unyielding father; Rosemary his steadfast sister; Tunis Bonneau, Rhett's best friend and a onetime slave; Belle Watling, the woman for whom Rhett cared long before he met Scarlett O'Hara at Twelve Oaks Plantation, on the fateful eve of the Civil War. Of course there is Scarlett. Katie Scarlett O'Hara, the headstrong, passionate woman whose life is inextricably entwined with Rhett's: more like him than she cares to admit; more in love with him than she'll ever know." (Book summary)
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These titles are works that offer new takes on classic books:
March by Geraldine Brooks
Imagines the Civil War experiences of the father of the "Little Women" family.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
Did you ever wonder what caused Mr. Rochester's wife to go mad? This novel tells her story.
As the sun sets, the animals in the farmyard should be settling down for the night. But in Lindsey Craig’s Farmyard Beat:
“Chicks can’t sleep. Chicks can’t sleep.
Chicks can’t sleep
‘cause they got that beat.”
And so begins a toe-tapping dance party where each animal’s noisy contribution to the beat wakes up another. The chicks go peep and wake up sheep. Cat’s purr and meow wake up cow. The racket grows until it is so loud that Farmer Sue comes to investigate the noise. Of course, she joins in and the entire farmyard dances to the beat until they “fall in a heap. Asleep.”
When it first appeared in 1963, Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are didn’t look like or read like any other children’s book out there. It was full of mystery and wonder--and Wild Things with attitude, including the King of all Wild Things, our hero Max.
But Max of the wolf suit wasn’t originally supposed to voyage to the Land of the Wild Things. He was first scheduled to be visiting the Land of the Wild Horses--which was how the book was planned and given to Maurice Sendak to write and illustrate. The problem was, the author/illustrator did not know how to draw horses. So his editor let him change them to Wild Things, a take on the Yiddish phrase "Vilde chaya,” meaning boisterous children.* This changeover was magic.
Gemma Hardy’s story parallels Jane Eyre’s experiences—both have an evil aunt and have to work for their educations at boarding school as charity girls. Both girls are bullied and treated unfairly by family, school staff, and students. Both girls have disappointments with men who have secrets. If you enjoyed Charlotte Bronte’s gothic tales or Daphne Du Maurier’s Rebecca, you will love The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey. Set in the 1950’s and 1960’s in Scotland and Iceland, the author uses the imagery of birds and flight to underscore Gemma’s journey.
I had never heard of “the Talk” until a recent radio interview shared the agonizing conversation that many African-American parents have with their sons. The mother had a son who ran track, but, as a precaution, wasn’t allowed to run in his own neighborhood. I was instantly reminded of Jacqueline Woodson’s book “If You Come Softly” and my own skepticism at a plot development I naively mistook as contrived.
“If You Come Softly” is a love story, effectively told in alternating viewpoints that provide insight into what it’s like to be a teen, interracial couple. The boy, Jeremiah, “was black. HE could feel it. The way the sun pressed down hard and hot on his skin...He felt warm inside his skin, protected.” Inside his neighborhood, he felt good, “but one step outside. Just one step and somehow the weight of his skin seemed to change. It got heavier.” He had just started attending a fancy Manhattan prep school and collided with Ellie the first day. Corny as it sounds, it was love at first sight. Despite the challenges their race differences brought, they persevered, but there’s one thing neither Ellie nor I could completely comprehend: what it’s like to be a young African-American man. Jeremiah’s parents weren’t against the relationship, but they were concerned. In their discussions they said one thing that surprised me--never run in a white neighborhood. In a moment of sheer joy, that advice is tragically forgotten. As simply an ill-starred love story, the reader will weep, but knowing about “the Talk,” readers will be heartbroken at circumstances necessitating such a conversation in the first place.
The personal histories included in All There Is are compelling and powerful. Some are joyous celebrations of love and companionship, while others are stoic accounts of tragedy and perseverance. Despite their differences, each narrative is characterized by an overpowering sense of authenticity. The stories recorded in All There Is were not shared for personal gain or publicity. Rather, they were collected through the efforts of StoryCorps, an oral history project that allows any willing volunteer to record his or her most precious memories and experiences. The participants share the most essential aspects of their lives in interviews that are recorded for their personal archives and, in many cases, for the American Folklife Center.
Since its debut in 2003, the StoryCorps project has spread across the United States, recording over 40,000 interviews. As Dave Isay, StoryCorps’ founder, states, “StoryCorps’ mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. With a relentless focus on recording the stories of people who are often excluded from the historical record, StoryCorps captures lives that would otherwise be lost to history and reminds the nation that every story matters and every voice counts.”
Did you know that the Cinderella story is one of the world’s oldest fairy tales? The first version can be traced back to ninth-century China and was written about a heroine named Yeh-shen. Today, more than 1500 versions of the tale exist, many with a unique twist. I recently enjoyed what I consider to be the most singular version of Cinderella that I have ever come upon in Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
Cinder Linh is a cyborg – part human, part robot – who knows nothing of her birth parents or history. She is a ward of her evil stepmother, Adri, who relies on Cinder’s extraordinary talent as a mechanic to support the family all the while vilifying Cinder at every opportunity. Together with two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony, they live in technologically advanced, post-World War IV “New Beijing.” Unfortunately, New Beijing is threatened by an airborn plague called letumosis, which strikes at random and has an almost 100% fatality rate.