Wednesday, June 30, 2010

In the Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White

book cover for In The Sanctuary of Outcasts by Neil White
In the Sanctuary of Outcasts
by Neil White
Harper Perennial, 2010
352 pages
Source: TLC Tours (Thanks, Trish!)

Summary in a Sentence:

 Journalist and editor White is was sentenced to prison at Carville, the only leper colony remaining in the United States, for committing a relatively innocuous financial crime.


 Daddy is going to camp. That's what I told my children. A child psychologist suggested it. “Words like prison and jail conjure up dangerous images for children,” she explained. But it wasn't camp . . .

What do you get when you combine leprosy patients, nuns, corrections officers, and prison inmates? No, not the beginnings of a bad get the makings of a great memoir of a special place. Only in the South would there be a prison that also houses some of the nation's last living leprosy patients.

I've got a definite soft spot in my heart for Southern writers. I'm from Tennessee and the rest of my family is from Mississippi, so I love the eccentric characters that tend to pop up in Southern stories, fiction and non-fiction alike, perhaps because I recognize so many of them from daily life. 

To be completely honest, this book exceeded my expectations. I am a great fan of the memoir genre, but some writers tend to veer into a dangerously self-gratifying arena of autobiography. This book is at turns funny and introspective, without being grandiose. Each chapter is a different vignette of White's life in prison or life before prison, complete with an accompanying snapshot of family members and leprosy patients. This is a very character driven memoir, including mob lawyers, murderers, and drug dealers. One of my favorite characters was Link, a foul-mouthed inmate who constantly poked fun at White, and who in the end showed that even he had a soft spot when it came to his family. In the end, an interesting commentary on how people from different social and racial classes let former barriers drop once they are forced together involuntarily for long periods.


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Greetings from ALA 2010

We're all book dorks in the family, so we make ALA our yearly vacation of sorts. ALA Washington D.C. is one of our favorite destinations due to all the fab museums. Brother and I have played hooky a couple of times to visit the Holocaust Museum and the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

My favorite moment of the conference so far was the interview with Nancy Pearl and Mary McDonagh Murphy, documentarian and author of Scout, Atticus, & Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill A Mockingbird. Interspersed throughout the interview were clips of the original movie starring Gregory Peck, as well as authors sharing their own thoughts on the significance of Harper Lee's only book.

Also exciting is the news that Nancy Pearl (my personal hero) is soon to release her fourth book in the Book Lust series (I'm holding an ARC in the picture above). This book is all about travel. Each recommended reading list is based on a certain geographic country or region. I've been squealing with delight flipping through the pages this evening.

All for now...

Friday, June 25, 2010

5 Minute Factoids: Happy Birthday Mr. Carle!

Eric Carle (born June 25, 1929) is a children's book author and illustrator who is most famous for his book The Very Hungry Caterpillar, which has been translated into over 47 languages. Since The Very Hungry Caterpillar was published in 1969, Eric Carle has illustrated more than 70 books, many best sellers, most of which he also wrote, and more than 88 million copies of his books have sold around the world (Wikipedia).

  • He does not use computers to make the actual book.
  • He speaks English and German.
  • Carle got the idea for The Very Hungry Caterpillar from a hole puncher.

Want to read more on Carle? Check out this book...

The Art of Eric Carle
by Eric Carle
Philomel, 1996
128 pages

From Booklist:

Carle is one of the most beloved illustrators of children's books. This retrospective is more than just an appreciation of his art, however. The book also contains an insightful autobiography illustrated with personal photographs, an anecdotal essay by his longtime editor, a photographic essay on how Carle creates his collages, and writings by Carle and his colleagues. Still, it is the artwork in the oversize volume that seizes the imagination. More than 60 of his full-color collage pictures are handsomely reproduced and serve as a statement of Carle's impressive talent.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Waiting on Wednesday: The Personal History of Rachel DuPree

This week's pre-publication "can't-wait-to-read" selection is:

In exchange for a wedding ring, Rachel, hired help in an early-twentieth-century Chicago boardinghouse, agrees to give Isaac, the boardinghouse owner's son, her share of 160 acres from the Homestead Act, and together they stake a claim in the forebodingly beautiful South Dakota Badlands. Reminiscent of The Color Purple as well as the frontier novels of Willa Cather and Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Personal History of Rachel DuPree tells the little-known story of African American pioneers and gives voice to an extraordinary heroine who embodies the strength and spirit that built America. 

This title will be released on August 12, 2010.

What are you waiting on this week?

~ Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine ~

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

All Things Kid Lit: The Hive Detectives

Picture Book Pick of the Week:

The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastropheby Loree Griffin Burns
Published by Houghton Mifflin, 2010

Bees don’t just produce honey. “Your food supply depends on them,” says apiarist Dave Hackenberg. His bees have a busy travel schedule, pollinating around the United States from February to July. So when Dave inspected four hundred of his hives and found that the bees had simply vanished, “a dream team of bee scientists” got to work.

From School Library Journal:

The mystery of the vanishing honeybees began in the winter of 2006 when beekeeper Dave Hackenberg inspected 400 of his 3000 hives in Florida and discovered that 20 million bees had simply disappeared. He frantically alerted state bee inspectors and other beekeepers that there was some strange new ailment affecting these insects and asked for help in finding the cause. Soon beekeepers across the country were reporting similar catastrophes. Most of this lucid, fact-filled introduction focuses on the investigation into the problem, now known as "colony collapse disorder," or CCD. Youngsters concerned with the environment will find this meticulously researched title a valuable resource.

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mini Reviews: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Wench, and Pride and Prejudice

Title: Diary of a Wimpy Kid Dog Days
Author: Jeff Kinney
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction
Publisher: Amulet Books, 2009
Source: Local elementary library book fair (love it!)
Summary: Greg Heffley recounts his daily experiences during summer vacation as he tries to live out his ultimate fantasy of spending the days indoors playing video games with no responsibilities and no rules, despite his mother's attempts to pack the summer with outdoor activities and family fun.

So, when I was student teaching in an elementary school library, we literally could not keep this series on the shelf. I knew I needed to read this and be a part of the hype. I get it now. This stuff is hilariously wonderful.

Title: Wench
Author: Dolen Perkins-Valdez
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Amistad, 2010
Source: Local library
Summary: Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet, three enslaved African-American mistresses who are regularly brought to a resort called the Tawawa House prior to the Civil War, contemplate running for freedom after a fire sets off a series of tragedies.

I'm a sucker for historical fiction, so this book was a pleasure to read, indeed. Lizzie, Reenie, and Sweet are all house slaves, which sets them apart from all the field slaves or their plantations and isolates them from both the white and black populations. There's so much to think about in this story: the impending Civil War and the state of slavery in the 1850s, the strange relationships of white masters and their black slaves, the status of these couples' children, and the very fact that a place like Tawawa House actually existed. For those of you who have already read and enjoyed this one, try out Copper Sun by Sharon Draper.

Title: Pride and Prejudice
Author: Jane Austen
Genre: Classic; novel of manners
Publisher: T. Egerton, Whitehall, 1813
Source: Personal Copy
Summary: In early nineteenth-century England, a spirited young woman copes with the courtship of a snobbish gentleman as well as the romantic entanglements of her four sisters.

"Is not incivility the very essence of love?"

What can I say? I love it. This was a third reading, and I enjoyed it just as much as I thought I would. Oh, and if you haven't read it yet, consider yourself cyber-smacked on the hand.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

So, just wondering...

Is anyone going to ALA next week?

If so, I'll see ya there :)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

All Things Kid Lit: Pigs to the Rescue

Picture Book Pick of the Week:

Pigs to the Rescue
written and illustrated by John Himmelman
Published by Henry Holt, 2010

Tractor broke down? Garden hose leaks? The rooster can’t crow? Luckily, pigs come to the rescue every time on the Greenstalks’ farm. What helpful creatures! Farmer Greenstalk isn’t as sure: “Um, thank you, I think.”

From Booklist (February 1, 2010)

In this sequel to Chickens to the Rescue (2006), eight excitable pigs mount overachieving rescue missions to cope with minor problems at the farm. Does the rooster have a sore throat? “Pigs to the rescue!” Eight pigs, perched on the barn roof, wake the farm at daybreak with oinks, squeals, and snorts. Emily broke her shoelace? “Pigs to the rescue!” The weirdly costumed swine lasso her and tie her up, mummy style. Written with a minimum of fuss and illustrated with comic delight, this picture book from the To the Rescue series offers plenty of laughs for the read-aloud crowd.

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Monday, June 14, 2010

Books by Theme: Revolutionary Mothers

Founding mother Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams is revealed in Irving Stone's sprawling historical novel Those Who Love, which traces Abigail's relationship with her husband, John, and the time frame of American history from when the two famous lovers met until the end of the Adams's tenure in the White House. Stone details the heartbreaking loneliness that dogged Abigail when John had to be away, her steadfast and competent management of their Massachusetts farm, and the role she played as John's most important political advisor. Thick with details, Stone's well-researched work is dense but rewarding.

For a heroine just as feisty as the women in Founding Mothers but not as high in society, Karen Swee's Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Murder: A Revolutionary War Mystery features accidental detective and tavern mistress Abigail Lawrence, who finds a man skewered to her tavern floor with a British officer's sword. When her uncle stands accused of the murder, Abigail becomes embroiled in Revolutionary espionage as she tries to clear his name. 

Perhaps the defining look at the women behind the men of the American Revolution is Cokie Roberts's Founding Mothers. Covering the 1770s through the 1790s, this group biography focuses on the links among women such as Abigail Adams and Martha Washington as well as a wide variety of lesser-known historical figures like the lively Kitty Green. With amusing asides and an engaging, conversational tone, Roberts brings the bravery and sacrifice of these amazing women to sparkling life.

For a fictionalized look at some of the same women, readers should try Patriot Hearts: A Novel of the Founding Mothers by Barbara Hambly. Here, the focus is on the three wives and one lover of our first four presidents: Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolley Madison, and Sally Hemings. Hambly deftly shifts back and forth through time, employing a slowly unfolding narrative that depicts both the everyday details of the Federalist period and the looming social issues, particularly slavery, that overshadowed American life. Paired with Founding Mothers, it is a sure bet for a lively book discussion session. 

~ For more themed book lists, check out Listless by One Librarian's Book Reviews and Listed by Once Upon a Bookshelf ~

~ All summaries from Library Journal ~

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