Fabulous Fiction Firsts #496

Classical violinist Louisa Treger (biography) depicts the life and loves of Dorothy Richardson (1873-1957), one of the most important writers of the 20th century in a fictional biography The Lodger, - "(a) compelling story of one woman tormented by unconventional desires."

The novel opens in 1906 with Dorothy Richardson being invited to spend a weekend in the country with her old school friend Amy Catherine (called Jane now) and her new husband Bertie (H.G.) Wells, a writer hovering on the brink of fame. The sumptuous meals and idyllic seaside setting stand in sharp contrast to Dorothy's attic room in a seedy Bloomsbury boarding house, and her £1/week wage as an assistant to a Harley Street dentist.

But what draws Dorothy most (though he first appears unremarkable) are Well's grey-blue eyes and "his intellect and impish nature". Despite her good intention not to betray her friend, Dorothy free-falls into an affair with Bertie.

When a new boarder arrives at the boardinghouse, the beautiful Veronica Leslie-Jones, Dorothy finds herself caught between Veronica and Bertie. Amidst the personal dramas and wreckage of a militant suffragette march, Dorothy finds her voice as a writer.

"The early 1900s weren't exactly a friendly time for single women in London, and the book does a wonderful job of showing Dorothy's desire for independence as well as her fear of being alone... Treger's writing flows easily and the book is impeccably researched (including Richardson's twelve-volume autobiographical novel-sequence Pilgrimage), making this an enjoyable read."

"Dorothy Richardson may not be a household name, but Treger's novel does a fine job of showing just how compelling her life was in this novel full of passion, history and literature." For readers who enjoy Virginia Woolf and Edith Wharton.

Stunning Debut Fiction: Etta and Otto and Russell and James

Etta and Otto and Russell and James, by Emma Hooper, is described as “a gorgeous literary debut about an elderly woman’s last great adventure walking across Canada. A beautiful novel of pilgrimage, of fulfilling lifelong promises, of a talking coyote called James, of unlikely heroes and hundreds of papier-mâché animals….”

Elderly Otto wakes up one morning to find his eighty-two-year-old wife gone from their bed. Upon walking into the kitchen of their home, he finds a carefully penned note from her saying that she has set off on a walk to fulfill her lifelong dream of seeing the ocean, and that she’ll try to remember to come back home. The only problem: the ocean is 2008 miles away from the couple’s home in Saskatchewan.

Otto surprisingly doesn’t pursue his beloved wife, but instead keeps himself busy and his worries at bay by carefully crafting hundreds of papier-mâché animals and writing Etta long letters that he does not know where to send. Otto’s close friend Russell, who has loved Etta from afar for decades, insists on finding Etta, however. He leaves his farm for the first time in his life determined to pursue her and bring her home safely.

Etta, meanwhile, steadfastly continues her journey to the ocean accompanied by a friendly coyote named James, and as her trip goes on the lines between memory, illusion and reality become increasingly blurry. The book itself is a mixture of memory and reality, too; it’s not told in chronological order, but rather blends emotions and experiences in the present with those from the past.

The stunning descriptions of Canada are a wonderful backdrop to this novel that “reminds us that it’s never too late to see the things you’ve longed to see, or say the things you’ve longed to say.”

NEW Picture Book: Mix It Up!

As a fan of Hervé Tullet’s fantastic interactive picture book Press Here, I was excited to take a peek at the author’s latest interactive picture book, Mix It Up! The premise behind the book is simple but so much fun! Children are directed to mix colorful patches of paint (really just pictures of paint) in a variety of ways – from mixing it with their fingers to squishing the patches of paint together – and then turn the page to reveal the new color their mixing has created. Far less messy than traditional fingerpainting, this innovative picture book is great for young children learning all about colors.

Fans of the author may also want to check out his other brand-new picture book, 10 Times 10, a counting book coming soon to our shelves!

National Book Award Winner for Young People's Literature

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature at last night's awards ceremony. In the book the author shares her childhood memories and reveals the first sparks that ignited her writing career in free-verse poems about growing up in the North and South. The other finalists in this category were:

Threatened by Eliot Schrefer

The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights by Steve Sheinkin

Noggin by John Corey Whaley

Revolution: The Sixties Trilogy, Book Two by Deborah Wiles

See the full 2014 National Book Award list of winners in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. (And AADL's list of the titles in the catalog for quick hold placing!)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #495 - “It's the questions we can't answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think." ~ Patrick Rothfuss

The Question of the Missing Head: An Asperger's mystery by E.J. Coopperman (as Jeff Cohen when he writes nonfiction) introduces a new series featuring Samuel Hoenig, a man with Asperger's Syndrome - "an increasingly popular diagnosis given to people displaying a constellation of behaviors often associated with autism—inflexible thinking, reduced ability to read social cues, constricted range of interest." But Samuel's observational skills and heightened cognitive and linguistic functioning make him an ideal owner (and sole employee) of his New Jersey-based business called Questions Answered.

When Marshall Ackerman, chief administrator of the Garden State Cryonics Institute insists on him solving the mystery of a missing preserved head in their high-tech laboratory, Samuel, being a non-driver, conscripts his current client, a Miss Washburn to accompany him to the scene of the crime. Upon arrival, the urgency of finding the missing head is overshadowed when Dr. Rebecca Springer, one of the facility's scientists, is found murdered, in a locked room.

"In this well-crafted story, the Asperger's element, rather than becoming a distraction, provides a unique point of view on crime-solving, as well as offering a sensitive look at a too-often-misunderstood condition. "

"(A) delightful and clever mystery".

Troll Swap

Have you ever wanted to trade places with a troll? Here’s one way to do it:

In Troll Swap, a funny picture book, we have Timothy the troll who is very neat and polite and tidy – much the opposite of all the other messy trolls.
Somewhere else we have a young girl named Tabitha who is very loud and loopy and messy – which upsets her neat parents half the time.

Tabitha and Timothy were both having a hard time getting along with others, until one day they bumped into each other and decided to trade places! That might solve all their problems! Maybe Tabitha’s parents would prefer a well-mannered troll who is polite and tidy? And maybe the trolls would enjoy Tabitha who is loud and loopy and messy like them?

Troll Swap is a silly book with wonderfully silly illustrations, and of course a happy ending. It's a cute book about just being yourself.

Readalikes for Serial Fans


Millions of people are hooked on the new Serial podcast, in which journalist Sarah Koenig attempts to unravel the 1999 murder of Baltimore-area high schooler Hae Min Lee and the subsequent conviction of her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed for the crime. New episodes are released each Thursday, and binge-listeners of the show are eager to listen, re-listen, and debate the findings and their suspicions.

Here are a few nonfiction titles that might help pass the time between episode releases - each title features a crime, compelling characters, and an attempt to piece together the clues to make sense of the whole picture.

Blood Will Out - Walter Kirn's examination of a con artist who posed for years as "Clark Rockefeller," an ambiguously wealthy member of the upper crust, heavily features Kirn's own multi-year friendship with the man who turned out to be not just duplicitous, but dangerous as well.

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil - John Berendt's story of Savannah is unique in that the crime around which the book is centered almost gets lost amid the outsized personalities of his cast of characters, which includes a flamboyant antiques dealer, a voodoo priestess, and the unforgettable scene-stealer Lady Chablis.

The Monster of Florence - author Douglas Preston becomes spectacularly entangled in this investigation of a violent serial killer stalking couples in the Italian countryside. The extreme ineptitude of the police force on this case is as appalling as the dedication of journalists like co-author Mario Spezi is admirable.

People Who Eat Darkness - award-winning journalist Richard Lloyd Parry traces the disappearance of a young woman in Japan through the search and investigation phases which lead finally to her murder trial, even at the risk of his own safety.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher - Kate Summerscale dissects Britain's infamous Road Hill House murder case which featured a locked room scenario, mishandled evidence, and in an unusual addition for 1860 - a detective, one of the first eight members of the newly-formed Scotland Yard.

What addictive stories have been satisfying your Serial cravings? Share them in the comments! Also - Adnan: guilty or no?

PreK Bits - Kangaroos and Pockets

"BOING BOing Boing boing" song by Angela Twigg ... and here come kangaroos ...
Ms. Rachel brought mama kangaroos to Storytime because they have special pockets for their babies.
POUCH by David Ezra Stein is a story with two mama kangaroos and their two babies who want to explore outside the pouch.
KATY NO POCKET by Emmy Payne, is the story of Katy who was born with no pouch yet she needs to carry her baby. She seeks advice and finds the perfect solution for baby Freddy ...

for more kangaroo and pocket stories try the following titles for home:
KANGAROO MOB ... to read first facts about kangaroos in Australia.
BEST FOOT FORWARD; Exploring Feet, Flippers and Claws
IF ALL The ANIMALS CAME INSIDE by Eric Pinder
HEART IN The POCKET by Laurence Bourguignon
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH A KANGAROO? by Mercer Mayer
WHAT DID YOU PUT IN YOUR POCKET? by Beatrice Schenk De Regniers
A SOCK IS A POCKET FOR YOUR TOES by

New Adult Nonfiction: A Deadly Wandering

In the brand new book A Deadly Wandering: A Tale of Tragedy and Redemption in the Age of Attention by Pulitzer Prize winning author Matt Richtel, humans’ relationship with technology is explored through the lens of a deadly car accident. Utah college student Reggie Shaw killed two scientists while weaving in and out of his lane on the highway, texting a friend. Richtel describes the accident and follows Shaw through the aftermath, including the investigation, Shaw’s prosecution and his ultimate redemption. This tragedy offers a unique backdrop for the larger issues that Richtel explores in this fascinating book. He uses recent scientific findings on human attention, evolution, and the impact of technology on our brains to explain how it embeds itself into “all aspects of our lives, plays to our deepest social instincts, and preys on parts of the brain that crave stimulation, creating loops of compulsion and even addiction” (from book jacket). Richtel also uses all this information as a jumping-off point for actionable solutions to help manage our personal and societal distractions.

Matt Richtel is a reporter for the New York Times who focuses on the impact of technology on our lives. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2010 for a series of articles that exposed the risks of distracted driving and its root causes. His work has prompted widespread reform in promoting awareness of and creating policies against distracted driving. He is also the author of Hooked: A Thriller About Love and Other Addictions, and Devil’s Plaything: a Mystery for Idle Minds.

New Youth BOCDs @ AADL

If there is a family road trip in your future, consider taking along a few New Youth Books on CD. Recorded stories can keep a family entertained for hours. Our newest selections include Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue, an Origami Yoda book by Tom Angleberger. In this book, state tests are coming up as the Origami Rebel Alliance finds powerful allies in their fight against the "FunTime test preparation program". Another new selection is Absolutely Almost, by Lisa Graff, in which a new nanny named Calista makes a big difference in the confidence of Albie, a ten-year-old boy. Enjoy!

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