Virginia Woolf’s Garden: The Story of the Garden at Monk’s House

‘….there are cherries, plums, pears, figs, together with all the vegetables. This is going to be the pride of our hearts, I warn you.’ Virginia Woolf.

If you are: a) an admirer of Virginia Woolf and interested in the private, intimate side of her life or, b) a garden lover with a special attraction to English gardens or, c) simply in need of a relaxing, beautiful book, with outstanding photographs, that will transport you to the garden haven of Leonard and Virginia in the Sussex countryside, then this book is waiting for your enjoyment.

Virginia Woolf's Garden: The Story of the Garden at Monk's house is written by Caroline Zoob, who lived at Monk’s House and tended the house and garden for ten years on behalf of the National Trust of England. This is an intimate and detailed account of the full glory of these gardens which include many walkways and terraces, an orchard, ponds, three distinctive gardens, beehives, a cactus house, a bowling lawn and the writing lodge. It sounds rather formal, but these outdoor “rooms” are all relaxed, with an unstudied air. The glorious photographs, by Caroline Arber, contrast expansive views with small, enclosed spaces – and flowers everywhere!

There is a full history of the gardens from the beginning through to the present, where they continue to be cared for and developed, with all the flowers, fruits and vegetables grown by the Woolf’s, but with some new (and carefully chosen) additions to enhance the beauty for the admiring public.

With many new and old photos of the gardens, the house and its famous residents, with both their human and canine friends, this beautiful book is pure pleasure and reveals a side of the famous author I never imagined.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #460

Being released the latter part of June is Everything I Never Told You * *, the deeply-affecting debut novel by Celeste Ng, a UM grad (MFA, Helen Zell Writers' Program) and recipient of the Pushcart Prize and Hopwood Award. I expect a fair amount of buzz, not just locally. (Check out Vogue's Summer's Buzziest Beach Reads).

"Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." - every parent's worst nightmare. All her family knows is that the 15 year-old is missing from her home. The local police treats it as a runaway while her mother refuses to accept anything other than stranger abduction of her middle and favorite child - a motivated and exceptional student, pretty, popular and well-behaved. The rest of the family is less certain and in turn, as they each reflects on the Lydia that they know and love (including Lydia herself), a fractured image emerges, casting shadows, laying bare secrets each is desperate to keep.

The narrative flashed back to 1957 in Cambridge when a premed Radcliffe freshman Marilyn Walker met James Lee, a first-generation Chinese-American who was her graduate teaching instructor. They married over her mother's objection, trading in her dreams of becoming a doctor for the anonymity of a faculty wife at a small college in nowhere Ohio where James was able to find a teaching position. Their background (his - immigrant laborers and scholarship student), (hers- single mother from the South), aspirations (his - to belong) (hers - to stand-out), and dashed dreams became means by which their children were defined and measured, but never truly understood.

"As the police try to decipher the mystery of Lydia's death, her family realize that they didn't know her at all. Lydia is remarkably imagined, her unhappy teenage life crafted without an ounce of cliché. Ng's prose is precise and sensitive, her characters richly drawn." Highly recommended as a YA crossover and book group choice.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Celeste Ng will be in Ann Arbor, July 18, 2014 @ Literati Bookstore, 124 E. Washington. Don't miss this chance to meet her. I am hoping she might touch on her take on ethnic fiction, and why she does not want to be the next Amy Tan.

Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out

Those interested in personal memoirs and stories will love Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out, by Susan Kuklin. Six honest teens from diverse backgrounds share their inspirational and often heartbreaking experiences in trying to find and identify who they really are. Each teen describes how they first realized they were a different gender and their transitional experiences since then. With a format based on taped interviews, readers will feel as though they are having a conversation with each teen in person. In addition to providing a great introduction to readers first exploring what it means to be transgender or intersex, "Beyond Magenta" would function well in teen book clubs or group discussions on identity. An extensive glossary and resource guide are located in the back of the book for extra clarification and further research.

Susan Kuklin is well-known for her raw and informative nonfiction books, including No Choirboy: Murder, Violence, and Teenagers on Death Row and Iqbal Masih and the Crusaders Against Child Slavery. Many of her books, including "Beyond Magenta", feature her own engaging photography. To learn more about Susan Kuklin, visit her website.

Quiz: How much do you know about the upcoming Awards Celebration on June 3?

Take this quiz to see how much you know about the 3rd-5th Grade Short Story Challenge Awards Celebration on June 3!

1. The fabulous children's author who will be present at the event is...
a. Bob Shea
b. Laura Numeroff
c. Lisa Wheeler
d. Lara Zielin

2. Writers who participated in the Challenge will receive...
a. bacon
b. a certificate
c. a commemorative pen
d. a wheelbarrow

3. Everyone interested in kids' library events can pick up...
a. the pace
b. steam
c. the pieces
d. the new summer Jump! brochure

4. There will be a food table with...
a. cookies and water
b. cookies and cream
c. donuts and lemonade
d. Elephant and Piggie

5. The top 9 winners of the Challenge will get...
a. a deflated tire
b. a smelly old sock
c. a pony!
d. a Target gift card

Whew, tough quiz. Let's see how many you got right:
(p ϛ 'ɐ ㄣ 'p Ɛ 'q ᄅ 'ɔ Ɩ)

If you got:
1 correct: You need to study up. Try stopping by the Awards Celebration and then try again!
2-4 correct: Nice! It sounds like you missed a couple things, but you can make up for that by coming to the Awards Celebration in person!
5 correct: Superstar! Show off your amazing quiz-taking skills by coming to the Awards Celebration!

Best Adult Fiction For Teens (And Adults!)

There are many fiction books written for adults that appeal to teens due to the subject matter or the teen protagonists in the story. The number of adults reading books for teens or featuring teens keeps getting higher as the genre becomes stronger with quality books. There are many good books that fall into this category. A few adult fiction novels featuring teens as main characters that I’ve read this year and recommend are:

The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton Disclafani
In the midst of the Great Depression 15 year old Thea Atwell is sent to a boarding school for southern debutantes as punishment for her role in an unforgivable family tragedy. She ends up there longer than she expected, makes friends, excels at horseback riding, and learns a lot about herself as she tries to sort through being estranged from her family and being racked with guilt and feeling lost. The books is part family drama and part scandalous love story. I couldn’t put it down.

The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
Alex is struck by a meteorite at the age of 10. He is a bookish, outcast, son of a fortune teller – so he hasn’t had the easiest life. As the story jumps forward to Alex at age 17, he befriends an cantankerous elderly neighbor Mr. Peterson and the duo bond over Kurt Vonnegut. The book opens with 17 year old Alex being pulled over at the customs border with illegal substances in the glove box and an urn of ashes in the passenger seat as he sits blaring classical music while having a seizure. There’s only one thing to do but be curious enough to read it.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler
Rosemary is a witty college student still coming to terms with the fact that her sister (who was raised as her twin) was removed from the house at a young age, which led to her brother running away from home, leaving Rosemary and her parents alone with what’s left of the family. What gets talked about? What doesn’t? It’s a beautifully written book based on experiments done in the 1970s regarding behaviorial psychology.

Here’s a list by School Library Journal of the top books in this category for 2013, and here’s a list of books that won the Alex Award this year – given to the top 10 books written for adults that appeal to teens. There's a bunch of good titles to put on your list!

Sophie’s Squash

It’s the season for gardens, planting, and VEGGIES, VEGGIES, VEGGIES. The local farmer's markets have been HOPPING with vendors and shoppers. Though it's not quite squash season... Sophie’s Squash is a darling new picture book that features a young girl who loves her freshly plucked squash. So much so that she names it Bernice and treats it as though it’s a baby doll. Her parents are perplexed and don’t know what to do when Bernice starts to rot. Sophie is determined to love Bernice forever! This is a funny and sweet book that talks about the seed to plant process and goes along with that stack of kids gardening stories you’ve got at home. It has such a cute ending.

School Library Journal lists it as one of the Best Picture Books of 2013.

The Silkworm: A Cormoran Strike novel

Those who enjoyed J. K. Rowling’s venture into mystery writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith will be happy to hear that Cormoran Strike is back! The Silkworm is the second mystery novel featuring the war veteran turned sleuth and his eager assistant and it promises to be just as entertaining as the first.

“When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.

But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realizes. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.

And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before…”

--Publisher's Description

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #459 - Paris, far more than setting

Novelists' endless fascination with the city and we readers can't seem to get enough of it.

A Paris Apartment * - cramp, decrepit, shuttered for 70 years but it is Paris, and it is in the 9th arrondissement. Sotheby's European furniture specialist April Vogt is glad for the assignment, and for putting a little distance between her and a troubled marriage. Under the dust sheets, she finds a treasure trove of priceless furniture and works of art - one being a stunning portrait of Marthe de Florian, owner of the apartment and one of Belle Epoque's most renowned actresses/courtesans.

In Michelle Gable's debut, once April begins to read over letters and journals written by Marthe, suddenly it is no longer about the materiality and provenance of the objects, but more about an extraordinary life lived and the secrets buried in the apartment. In the process, April is force to take a deeper look into herself.

"Gable's debut is strongest when Paris is the focus...". "With its well-developed, memorable characters and the author's skillful transitioning between story lines, finding similarities in the lives of two women decades apart, this stunning and fascinating debut will capture the interest of a wide audience but particularly those interested in stories about women behind famous men..."

I am Having So Much Fun Here Without You * is a sardonic dig at Richard Haddon's predicament. In Courtney Maum's debut, as the novel opens in 2002, English artist Richard Haddon is on top of the world. His first solo show in a trendy gallery sold out. His beautiful French wife Anne, is a successful attorney with pedigree, and wealthy in-laws had bestowed on the young couple a palatial apartment at an enviable Paris address. Then Anne finds the letters from Richard's mistress, a brash and sexy American journalist who has since moved on. Well, sort of.

In an effort to win back Anne's respect and affection, Richard intends to create the next masterpiece, proposing a controversial installation that would be a sly critique on Iraq's role in the global conflict around the issues of Weapon of Mass Destruction.

"Equally funny and touching, the novel strikes deep, presenting a sincere exploration of love and monogamy. These characters are complex, and their story reflects their confusion and desire... (a)n impressive, smart novel". (This debut is one of Library Reads picks for June).

Now, most appropriate for the City of Love, Emma Mars' (a pseudonym) Hotelles * - "Rife with sexual tension and mystery" this first tale in a trilogy is about a young Paris escort; the Hotel des Charmes where each room is dedicated to one of French history's greatest seductresses; and a silver notebook.

"Funny, sensual, candid, and revealing". It has been compared to The Story of O by Pauline Réage, originally published in 1954 and quickly became the talk of the Paris salons and cafes. While the identity of the author remains shrouded for 40 years, the novel went on to win the prestigious Prix des Deux Magots in 1955, and is still one of the most "curious and mysterious novels of recent times".

While I have your attention...just one more. Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 * *, an electrifying union of fact and fiction by Francine Prose, built around a famous photograph entitled Lesbian Couple at Le Monocle, 1932 by Brassai. Prose originally intends to write a biography of Violette Morris, a decorated athlete, race-car driver, and Nazi collaborator (she is the one NOT in a dress).

"In an intricately patterned, ever-morphing, lavishly well-informed plot..., it is Paris in the 1920s (that) shimmers with excitement, dissipation, and freedom. It is a place of intoxicating ambition, passion, art, and discontent, where louche jazz venues like the Chameleon Club draw expats, artists, libertines, and parvenus looking to indulge their true selves." "A dark and glorious tour de force".

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

Moo!

There are a lot of books about mooing at AADL. If you’re a reader of children’s picture books, animals and animal sounds are heavily featured in this area. Moo! by David LaRochelle is one of my favorite new picture books, and it’s told with only one word: MOO!

The gist of the story is that the cow gets ahold of the farmer’s car and takes it for a ride, and well, things don’t go so well for him. The coolest part of the whole book is that the entire is story is told using only the word “moo.” It’s a great opportunity for kids to learn about reading aloud, voice inflection and how the same word sounds differently when said with a “.” or an “!” at the end. Moo. Moo? Moo! Mooooooooooooo. Give it a whirl be ready to laugh!

PreK BITS - SPRING time STORIES

Who's seen TULIPS? Whose seen ROBINS with WORMS?
Who's heard THUNDER? Who wears BOOTS in the RAIN?
Who's seen GREEN GRASS?
It's SPRING !!!

Ms. Rachel led WAITING For SPRING STORIES in Storytime.
The Bunnies hid from the rain. The Wind stole the clothes from the laundry line and the Tree gave the clothes back.
Everyone in the house got into bed as the thunder went BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!.

If you want more stories of SPRING, here are some favorites:
999 FROGS WAKE UP by Ken Kimura
KEVIN DISCOVERS SPRING by Liesbet Slegers
FLETCHER And The SPRINGTIME BLOSSOMS by Julia Rawlinson
SPRING THINGS by Bob Raczka
10 HUNGRY RABBITS by Anita Lobel
RUNNY BABBIT: A Billy Sook ... poetry in spoonerisms by Shel Silverstein

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