We are all familiar with Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet. We also remember the feud between the Capulets and the Montagues. Finally, I’d be willing to bet that many of you know the Bard’s famous play was set in Verona, Italy. However, here are a few facts that might surprise you. Shakespeare’s telling was the culmination of several previous versions by various other authors. The original lovers were Giuletta Tolomei and Romeo Marescotti. There was, indeed, bad blood between the families, and the tale was set in Siena, not Verona. In a new telling, Anne Fortier’s Juliet alternates between a 20th-century pairing of Guiletta and Romeo and their 15th-century alter egos.
Julie Jacobs’ father perishes in an unexplained fire. Two years later, her mother dies in a suspicious auto accident. Fearing harm to toddler Julie and her twin sister Janice, their Aunt Rose whisks the children from Italy to the United States. Together with her live-in assistant Umberto, she raises the girls but for years avoids discussing anything related to the twins’ parents and their untimely demise.
Since March, Capitol Choices, a group of public and school librarians, booksellers and children’s literature specialists have been attending meetings monthly to find the one hundred best books of 2010 for young people. Members take their charge seriously, committing to read everything nominated in a specific age group.
Kerry Williamson is 15 years old and suddenly has been selected by three of the most popular girls in school to be a part of their group. In Richard Peck's book Three Quarters Dead, we meet Tanya, McKenzie, and Natalie, the three girls who rule the school and are the meanest girls around. Kerry is surprised by this sudden attention from these three who previously ignored her. They sit with her at lunch, they include her in their shopping expeditions, and she is invited to their party preparation meetings. Tanya is clearly the ring leader of the group. She is in charge of all the activities and the wardrobe decisions. While at lunch with Tanya, Kerry begins to notice that time seems to stand still and lunch goes on much longer than it has in the past although the clock has not stopped. There are several significant occurrences like this that Kerry notices but she is so happy to be part of the group that she ignores any signs that things may be weird.
Artwork by the students of Johnny Johnson's workshop is on display in the Headquarters Library Atrium Gallery and theater this January.
See selected works below.
Graycliff Garden's Cat by Pat Knock
Acrylic on board, $200
I am thrilled to share my first column with Caroline’s readers. Through the years, I have helped many of you find the titles Caroline recommended so I know how enthusiastically the column was embraced and will endeavor to continue her tradition of sharing great books for children of all ages. Luckily, children’s literature is in my blood. I began shelving books in the Headquarters Library children’s department while still in high school.
The constant beating of the winds against the house, the roaring, shrieking, howling of the storm, made it hard even to think. It was possible only to wait for the storm to stop. All the time, while they ground wheat, twisted hay, kept the fire burning in the stove, and huddled over it to thaw their chapped, numb hands and their itching, burning, chilblained feet, and while they chewed and swallowed the coarse bread, they were all waiting until the storm stopped.
Do you ever wonder how you might react under extreme duress? Would you rise to the occasion and become an example to those struggling around you or would you withdraw and cower in fear? In One Amazing Thing by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, nine everyday men and women are put to that exact test as their lives change over the course of one disastrous event.
In advance of a planned trip to India, the above-mentioned people—most solo, but several in pairs—have all chosen this day to go to the consulate in California to obtain a travel visa. As with many bureaucratic departments, the wait is interminable. Graduate student Uma is preparing to visit her parents who have recently moved back to India. In her irritation with the long delay, she ignores the first slight rumble. The second quake, however, rips apart what was only seconds earlier a solid building.
This interview airs beginning January 19.
Jack Edlund has been slowly uncovering the secrets of Fredericksburg’s Old Stone Warehouse. He is also a collector of old and interesting artifacts and an artist. Jack talks about his dedication to discovery and digging in the dirt to learn about the past.
Alternating from biography to science, Rebecca Skloot in writing The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks avoids sentimentality and making judgments.
Skloot, a science journalist, tells the story of Henrietta and her DNA. The subject was born Loretta Pleasant—nobody knows how her name became Henrietta—Lacks, in a family known to marry their first cousins in the now-razed town of slave cabins and tobacco farms named Clover near Roanoke, Virginia. She married her first cousin, David ‘Day’ Lacks, moved to Baltimore to work in a plant riddled with asbestos. Her husband's unfaithfulness gave her both neurosyphilis and gonorrhea. Her environment, poverty and lack of education made her the tragic heroine of a great scientific experiment. Henrietta Lack's deadly cervical cancer cells—taken without her consent—were the first to be grown and then thrive in a lab. HeLa cells, still growing today sixty years after her death, would weigh in total more than 50 metric tons.
You can tell a book by its cover. So, if a book’s cover or title “calls” to you, it's karma - pick it up! A couple of years ago I was in the library and a book by a debut author was in display. The Heart-Shaped Box by Joe Hill was definitely calling to me. I thought, “Who is this Joe Hill? I don’t know him and maybe his book isn’t good.”
A couple of weeks later a patron came into my office and asked me, “Have you ever read anything by Joe Hill?”
“No. Why? Is he good?” I asked.
“Well, you know that he is Stephen King’s son. I wanted to see if he writes like his father.”
Now I am kicking myself mentally! I should have listened to the book calling me! I ran to the display and thankfully it was still there!