Friday, June 24, 2005
Librarians weigh in with suggestions for summer reading
It's that time of year when schools let out, committee meetings are fewer and further between, and vacation plans become a reality. As one prepares for more down time or trips to far-off places, finding the right book to have on hand becomes a top priority.
As is usual at this time of year, the Mosquito has asked a special group of people in town to share some of their ideas for books that they believe would make good summer reading. What better place to go than the Gleason Public Library where librarians have a feel for what Carlisleans might like to read over the next several months and even beyond? Here, then, are their suggestions and if by chance you see them at the library, you can let them know how you felt about their choices.
Angela Reddin, Director of Gleason Public Library
The Memory of Running by Ron McLarty
"Smithy" is lazy and spineless — a character fixed in place, flat and foggy. When he begins a wandering journey by bike, he becomes utterly intriguing, symbolic, and human. I was unable to let his transformation leave my mind. This is a satisfying book that will stay with many readers.
One Sunday Morning by Amy Ephron
A bite-sized, quick read, with a twist, this book about gossipy young lady socialites in the 1920s is perfect for that short escape. This book is like a soft cool breeze, a dip in the creek, or a glass of sweet and sour lemonade.
Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay by Nancy Milford
Literary biographies are often too heavy or too light. On occasion, such as here, an effective contextual picture gives great insight into the meanings and motivations of a brilliant writer. One needs not like or know St. Vincent Millay's poetry to enjoy considering how specific poems reflect the life and times of a renowned and interesting poet.
Marty Seneta, Children's Librarian
Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner.
This is a memoir about the author's childhood growing up in the 1950s in western New York. It is by turns touching and hilarious as it details the unusual childhood of this only child who was a real handful. I found it riveting.
Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo is the first in the Children of the Red King series. This fast-paced fantasy features ten-year-old Charlie Bone who discovers that he is able to hear the thoughts of people in photographs. He is sent off to Bloor's Academy for the "endowed" (children with magical powers), where he hears a conversation about a girl who has been missing for years. Charlie and his friends attempt get the girl back while Charlie's evil relatives try to thwart them.
Dealing with Dragons (and sequels) by Patricia Wrede.
Princess Cimorene doesn't like the traditional duties of sewing and being ladylike so she runs off to live with a female dragon named Kazul. At first she spends her time discouraging princes from rescuing her, but when wizards try to poison Kazul, Cimorene must outwit these enemies and she rises to the occasion.
Kay Edelberg, librarian
Breaking the Limit by Karen Larsen
Although knowing Karen as she grew up in Carlisle during the '70s and '80s adds a deeper dimension to Breaking the Limit, her book would be equally appealing to anyone who admires courage and would enjoy the odyssey of a young woman traveling alone by motorcycle across North America. Her 16,000-mile, two-month journey from Princeton, New Jersey to Alaska and back to Carlisle is filled not only with powerful descriptive passages, but anecdotes and encounters with all kinds of people (many wonderful, some difficult or strange, and a few potentially dangerous). Her insights into the issues that develop are thoughtful, interesting, and fun to read. Karen's journey is also a personal one as she moves from one old, disintegrating relationship to tentative meetings with her birth parents and back again to the love, warmth and familiarity of her adoptive family.
Ella's Big Chance by Shirley Hughes
Ella's Big Chance by Shirley Hughes is the classic Cinderella story with a modern twist. Set in the opulent 1920s, it has all the elements of the original fairy tale but Ella Cinders has characteristics of a modern heroine; she has a "career" as a talented dressmaker and a devoted and loyal friend outside the Cinder household. In a surprise ending, Ella rejects the duke's proposal of marriage because her heart already belongs to another. Ella's Big Chance is appropriate for those children (ages 5-9) who still like picture books and are already familiar with the original fairy tale. The illustrations, which are very powerful, were awarded the prestigious Kate Greenaway Medal for Children's Illustration.
Conni Manoli-Skocay, librarian
Among the many hats I wear as a staff member in a small library is that of JH (Junior High) Librarian. In addition to my adult reading, I also read a steady stream of JH fiction as part of my job (and just because I like it). Some of the best writing today is being done for children and teens, and increasingly by well-known authors such as Edwidge Danticat, Isabel Allende, and Joyce Carol Oates.
Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko.
Al Capone Does My Shirts was chosen as a 2005 Newbery Honor Book and it deserved it. Set in Depression-era California, 12-year-old Moose Flanagan must contend with living on Alcatraz Island where his father has a job as an electrician (and where infamous criminal Al Capone is incarcerated), as well as having to care for his autistic sister while his mother gives music lessons. Choldenko offers an original setting, endearing characters, honest family dynamics, and illustrates the manner in which autism was perceived and treated before it was accurately diagnosed. This was my favorite book of the past year.
Others that deserve mention are Godless by Pete Hautman, a 2005 National Book Award winner in which a small group of imaginative teenagers invent a religion based on worshipping the water tank that rises above the landscape of their town.
Katherine Lasky's Blood Secret tells the story of a young teen living with her elderly aunt in the contemporary Southwest. The mysteries she finds hidden in a trunk of ancient artifacts turn out to be related to the Spanish Inquisition, while their discovery transforms the identity of the family.
Joan Hoffman, librarian
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
This is an excellent novel about family, love, and adversity. It is heartfelt and left me appreciating my own family, as well as the courage life calls upon all of us to show, one way or another. This is a good summer read for anyone in the mood for a more serious subject. It is a real page turner. I missed it after it ended.
Light on Snow by Anita Shreve
This book is a compassionate look at life as a family copes with tragedy. We meet this family at its most raw, and watch as hope finds its way. Anita Shreve creates yet another excellent book. It is a quick, absorbing read.
Shirley Pearlman, librarian
The Namesake by Jumpa Lahiri
I enjoyed this book because it is a look into a culture other than my own.It is a beautifully written story of a family from India who, as newlyweds, come tothe Boston area so the husband can continue his education at MIT.It is their story of living in two cultures from the timethey were students to the young adult years of their children.I found myself smiling at some parts and saddened by others. It made me thinkabout all the peoples throughout history who have had to leave their homes and families andmade me wonder how I would react.
Big Russ and Me by Tim Russert
For anyone who watches the astute moderator of Meet The Press on Sunday morning, this book introduces us to another facet of Tim Russert.It is a very humanaccount,full of respect, admiration and love for his father andhis heritage.AsI read it,Irealized how much each of us has, both consciously or unconsciously,learned from our parents. We hope our children willlearn from us in the same way.It is very easy reading andI highly recommend it.
Scott McLachlan, librarian
Murphy by Samuel Beckett.
Murphy is an interesting and amusing early novel of Beckett's that delves into the issues of personal identity and coping. A black comedy with pathos and support.
Remembrance of Things Past by Marcel Proust.
This epic novel makes for a great summer read. Its melodic and captivating style carries the reader easily through memory and its losses and gains. It may take the summer to read, but it is well, well worth the time spent. (P. S. Swann's Way is the first book in this novel.)
The Arabian Nights: Tales from a 1001 Nights, translated by Richard Burton.
Enchanting tales for young adults and up. Bawdy, grisly and touching, nothing like Disney's versions.
Linda Dodge, librarian
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult.
Picoult raises a number of moral and legal questions regarding medical transplants among minor-aged siblings. She does this story well from the perspective of different family members. Readers will find the ending a curious twist.
The Family Frying Pan by Bryce Courtenay.
Various members of a band of Russian refugees tell an entertaining set of tales as they find their way across Russia to freedom. The main character, Mrs. Moses, is the sole survivor of a Cossack raid on her village. She escapes with only an enormous cast iron frying pan from which the band is fed each night, as one by one they tell their stories around the campfire.
© 2005 The Carlisle Mosquito