BLAST FROM THE PAST
Bookseller lingo for books that are coming out in the upcoming season is frontlist. Titles that continue to sell from past seasons are backlist. Frontlist books are often what everyone wants to hear about. They are the latest and everyone hopes for a fabulous new find. Frontlist is exciting but don’t neglect the backlist! Books are in so many ways friends and while it is great to add new friends, you would never replace dear old friends for new just for the sake of novelty. I know the metaphor is weak but the message is strong. Sharing your favorite titles, no matter how long ago they were published is a great gift idea. I like the way I can know a person better by discussing favorite books even when our tastes are dissimilar. In sharing a book you love, you give a bit of yourself and deepen your relationship with the person who receives the gift. I want to share some of my favorites with you. Maybe you will be reminded of your favorites. Maybe you will see something that is new to you.
I do not like didactic books but I do enjoy books with subtle bits of wisdom. Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox, illustrated by Julie Vivas is a sweet reminder that friendship is ageless and priceless. Tops & Bottoms by Janet Stevens allows us to laugh when a clever rabbit gets the best of a lazy bear. In Yertle the Turtle we see that individuals make a difference, it doesn't pay to brag, laughter is best and more. Don’t you want every child to know the work ethic of The Little Red Hen and the satisfying repetition of “Not I …” and “she did!”
Midnight Fox by Betsy Byars, The Bronze Bow by Elizabeth George Speare, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings, and Ramona the Brave by Beverly Cleary have left powerful emotional marks in my life as if I had associated with the author personally. And in a way I have; only the benefit was all mine.
I have read everything I could put my hands on by and about Madeleine L’Engle because I have felt like even though we did not share the same religion, we shared the same faith. When I got a chance to meet her in person I had to laugh at myself because I felt surprised that she didn’t know me when I knew her so well. What a gift it is to read and see into someone else’s heart or into your own more clearly.
What books fill your heart?
Day 12: December 3rd
Knowing I lov'd my books, he furnish'd me
From mine own library with volumes that
I prize above my dukedom.
William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616), "The Tempest", Act 1 scene 2
New Fiction for Young Readers
My parents always gave us a book or books for Christmas. It is one of my favorite traditions. When the excitement of Christmas cooled I had a book waiting to extend the pleasure of the day. I love the delicious anticipation of a good book waiting. Even built on this experience, in this day and time with all the bells and whistles of technology, it takes courage for me as a grandparent to give a book at Christmas. I don’t want it to be an after-thought, as in here is a glitzy toy and then by the way we’ll throw in a book, so I have committed to giving solely books. Sometimes I do add something that I think enhances the book but I want them to know that I value books. So I invest a lot of thought and, I admit, a lot of anxiety in choosing what book would please each person. A benefit of this decision is the opportunity to consider the person as I choose a book for them and I savor those moments spent in appreciation for the individuality of each loved one. Often I have to let go of what I want for them as I search for what they will enjoy. It’s a tricky business, this book selection and I am very aware of that as I offer suggestions to others.
"It is both relaxing and invigorating to occasionally set aside the worries of life, seek the company of a friendly book...from the reading of 'good books' there comes a richness of life that can be obtained in no other way." - Gordon B. Hinckley
"Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested: that is, some books are to be read only in parts, others to be read, but not curiously, and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention." - Sir Francis Bacon
Suzanne LaFleur is the author of Eight Keys published in 2011 a book that I really enjoyed and this year she has given us Listening for Lucca. This is a book that refuses to be put in a box. It is a book set in reality but it has elements of the fantastical. Thirteen year old Sienna enters the past but this isn't a time travel book. We have the unsettling feeling that she must repair the past but I wouldn't call it a ghost story. It certainly is not creepy. It is about family. Sienna’s little brother Lucca started talking and then quit and hasn't said a word in a year. About the time he quit talking Sienna became obsessed with collecting abandoned objects. These two seemingly unrelated pieces of the story lead to other pieces from other times. Family connections are the glue for this book. It is tender, original and received starred reviews from Kirkus, Publisher’s Weekly and School Library Journal.
After twelve years without a library in the small town where Kyle Keeley lives, billionaire game developer Luigi Lemoncello’s has built an impressive new facility. Kyle and eleven other kids win a chance to be the first to experience the library with all its technological wonders in a locked-in overnight stay. They use the library’s incredible resources to solve clues and riddles to learn how to leave the library. A good part of the fun is recognizing favorite book references as they figure into the story. The book is fast paced suspenseful and a puzzle you will want to untangle in Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein.
Newbery Medal winner, Cynthia Voigt brings readers another book demonstrating the resourcefulness of young people apart from their parents. Mister Max: the Book of Lost Things is a mystery. The primary mystery, among others, is what happened to Max’s parents. They have gone missing. In this book, and the two to follow, Max lives on his wits taking care of himself and contributing to the well-being of many others. Dubbing himself “The Solutioneer” he reunites a mother with her lost child, saves a girl from the work house, solves a mystery of missing periodicals from the library and much more.
In Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan, Willow Chance is brilliant but socially challenged. She comforts herself by counting in sevens. When she loses the only family she has ever known in an accident, she overcomes the loss and finds her place with a new family who love her as she loves them. The message of this book is not tragedy but renewal and hope.
Dragon Run by Patrick Matthews may be about Dragons and their powerful hold on the world but it is even more a story of recognizing self-worth and not accepting negative assessments of others. Twelve year old Al has been permanently marked a zero. For their own protection his family has turn away from him. He survives against all odds and thrives.
Day 13: December 4th
Does Thanksgiving lead you in a historical direction? I don’t know if it is the historical roots of the holiday or gratitude for family or possibly the awareness of contemporary benefits and conveniences. I often am particularly mindful of historical events this time of year. Favorite books that can complement those thoughts are:
Brave Companions by David McCullough. This book is a long-time favorite of mine and I read once that it is a favorite of the author's. This is a book of essays about interesting people and events in history, all with McCullough's classic storytelling mastery. I have given this book to people of widely various interests and have never talked to someone who didn't like it. It is a great book for reading that must be done in bits and pieces.
Boy on the Wooden Box is a memoir by Leon Leyson. He describes his life in Poland before the Nazi invasion as "a world defined by the love and warmth of family." That was drastically changed as his family is torn apart, slowly to be gathered together again under the protection of Oskar Schindler. Leon was one of the youngest of Schindler's factory workers, small enough that he had to stand on a box to work. This would be a good companion book to Beyond Courage: Untold Story of Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust by Doreen Rappoport. As well as Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport by Deborah Hodge. All three of these books focus on resistance, survival and coming to the aid of others. I can't read them without a determination to be more aware and more kind.
Day 14: December 5th
I am thankful for the holiday season and families getting together. I love to watch the grandchildren in our family to perform! We are not necessarily a performance kind of family but while the children are without inhibitions I love for them to enjoy the limelight. Sandra Boynton has contributed to our fun with her books of original songs starting with Philadelphia Chickens. I can’t see the cover without remembering my grandchildren bouncing around like little jumping beans on first hearing the music. It has even been known to inspire a bit of lip-syncing among the aunts. All the books are favorites but if I had to narrow it to three I would choose Philadelphia Chickens, Blue Moo, with new lyrics to old tunes, and now Frog Trouble and Eleven Other Pretty Serious Songs “for ages one to older than dirt” – original lyrics to country music performed by country music stars. If you like these then try Lisa Loeb’s Silly Sing Along. One night my daughter called and I could hear her children in the background belting out Fried Ham as they did the dishes. They had memorized the entire book in two days. It is pure silly fun. Don’t knock it until you try it!
Day 15: December 6th
The day I have been waiting for has arrived and I can talk about Christmas Books with impunity. I have plenty of editions of The Night Before Christmas and yet this year I find myself buying one more. The Clement C. Moore poem illustrated by Holly Hobbie is a whole new experience. I can’t think of another version that expresses the same kind of wonder that you see in the eyes of the bright-eyed toddler in this tale. The story in the illustrations can stand alone.
Some of my old favorites are sadly unavailable this year so my advice to you is don’t procrastinate buying the books you really want to keep. One favorite that I read every year is Christmas Day in the Morning by Pearl S. Buck, illustrated by Mark Buehner. Mark is a Utah artist. The story without the illustrations was originally published in 1955. It is the story of a gift of love from a son to his father.