Some of my fondest memories from holidays in my childhood are of watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade on television. The magic of the parade with its wonderful balloons signaled the beginning of one of my favorite times of year. But I never gave much thought to the history of the parade and its famous balloons. When I saw the book Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade, by Melissa Sweet, I couldn’t resist the chance to meet the man behind the magic.
I'd put off reading Altered Carbon for a few years, always reading something newer. Shame on me. This Philip K. Dick Award-winner is a brilliantly dark and gritty mixture of hardboiled detective fiction and cyberpunk that anyone looking for a story with a razor-sharp edge will love.
“...it makes me uncomfortable to know that my story Tuck Everlasting is required reading in some classrooms. My sympathies are entirely with the children, for many will react to Tuck as I well might have with a shudder. Many will find its language too ‘fancy,’ its pace too slow, its topic unsettling, the behavior of its hero incomprehensible.” — Natalie Babbitt in "Saying What You Think." The Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress*
It is perhaps surprising that an author would almost prefer her books were not required reading. But it is less surprising in Natalie Babbitt’s case. Her best-beloved books are sweet and strong and true in spirit while containing enough wonder and marvel to lend a sparkle to a reader’s otherwise mundane childhood. This children’s author, like many of the best, remembers what it is like to be a child. What she liked to read—and what she didn’t. She understands that children have strong opinions on their favorite books, even if they may not be comfortable in expressing them. She certainly remembers what she liked:
“Most kids grow up leaving something out for Santa at Christmas time when he comes down the chimney. I used to make presents for the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.”
When I picked up a copy of Jeanette Winterson’s recent memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal, I couldn’t wait to start the first page. I’ve been fascinated by Winterson’s novels for years, but never imagined she would narrate her life in the coherent, linear style associated with memoirs. In Winterson’s fiction, she constantly manipulates the boundary between fantasy and reality, integrating personal experience, mythology, and philosophy into a fluid conglomeration. Although Why Be Happy does feature some of Winterson’s trademark structural experimentation, it is also an engrossing story about one woman’s experience of dysfunction, madness, violence, love, and religion.
Peter Friedman has been training as a baseball pitcher his entire life. He and his best friend A.J. have always planned on making and dominating their high school team. But you can't always count on your plans to work out. Curveball: The Year I Lost My Grip is one teen's journey to figure out what Plan B is.
When Peter seriously injures his throwing arm during the last game of his middle school career, it becomes clear that he's not going to be throwing any more strikes. It must be devastating to have to change your main goal in life so suddenly. Thankfully Peter also has an interest in photography, due to his grandfather, who has shot thousands of weddings. The kid has a lot of expertise and training on his side. Pete's grandfather knows all the equipment and techniques. He even remembers the name of every bride he's shot.
The staff of the Central Rappahannock Regional Library are thrilled to announce restoration of the evening and Sunday hours that were curtailed two years ago due to budget cuts. Starting on Sunday, July 8, the Porter, England Run and Headquarters libraries will join the Salem Church library in opening from 1:00-5:30 on Sundays. Starting the week of July 8, the Porter, England Run and Headquarters libraries will join the Salem Church and Snow libraries in staying open until 9:00 Monday through Thursday.
In A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World, we are introduced to 18 children from different continents, such as Mahasin and her family, nomadic cattle herders in Sudan. Mahasin is nine years old and attends a traveling school for children. When she’s not learning lessons, she likes to weave baskets and help her mother and sisters cook their staple meal, asida, a dish of vegetables and grains mixed with spices. We also meet Isa, age 10, who lives in Sierra Leone and was taken by fighters in the country’s civil war for two years. Now he is back with his family, attending school, planting a few crops, and playing checkers with his friends. The stories and photographs of these children’s lives are fascinating and will appeal to any child who wonders how the world’s children are alike and different.
You can find them on a map. Barely. Little towns that used to be rather important hubs dot the Virginia countryside, dating from the days when agriculture ruled along with the horse and buggy or mule and wagon. These central spots, often near rail stations, rivers, or better roads, were communities in their own right and many have faded away as the interstate system grew. The Lost Communities of Virginia, by Terri Fisher and Kirsten Sparenborg, takes a look at these fading places, several of them near our area, including Mineral, Woodford, and Milford.
Fans of Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café can relate to little Milford, situated in Caroline County and still located on a railroad line. Originally the popular area here was Doguetown, named for the Dogue Indians who used the Mattaponi River for transportation. Milford, named for a nearby plantation in 1792, also used the river as a point for shipping—and inspecting—tobacco. The Mattaponi River was connected to both the York River and the Chesapeake Bay. By the early 1840s, the Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac Railroad ran from Richmond to Aquia Creek with a stop in Milford. Milford’s North-South railroad connections made it a target in the Civil War.
For those who have followed Charlotte and Thomas Pitt from their awkward yet charming days of courtship in The Cater Street Hangman, Anne Perry’s recent Dorchester Terrace is a very enjoyable continuation of the series. Thomas has risen far since his days as a regular London policeman. He’s now head of Special Branch, a reward for his brilliant detective work and, probably not incidentally, saving Queen Victoria from a dastardly plot.
But, in class-conscious, 19th-century Britain, family background matters a lot to some people. Thomas, a gamekeeper’s son, often encounters people who question his ability to do his job when they find out who he isn’t. One of those is his immediate predecessor as head of Special Branch, Victor Narraway. In the preceding novel, Victor lost his job to Thomas almost but not quite disgracefully and rather lost his heart to Thomas’ clever and kind wife, Charlotte. Charlotte, born to live in Narraway’s world of privilege, has assisted her husband’s investigations through the years, but now that he is privy to so many state secrets, that will surely change—won’t it?
A group of teens and school librarians are devoting part of their summer to reading young adult books and discussing them at regular meetings. Why? They’re passionate about the library’s Cafe Book program--book discussion for seventh and eighth graders in area schools. These summer meetings result in a carefully balanced list of 20 titles for next year’s participants to read, then choose their favorites. Each school just finished with last year’s titles, and selected their 2012 Teen Picks creating the ultimate suggested reading list for your middle school student.