The Play Ground

The Play GroundThe Play Ground

The Performance Network concludes its 25th regular season with Amadeus by Peter Shaffer. Reviews have been good. This version is a culmination of rewrites by the author over many years and finalized in 1998. It is neither the Amadeus of 1981 nor the film of 1984. Starring and directed by Malcolm Tulip, this is of course the story of Salieri who is consumed with jealousy of the genius Mozart in the royal court of Joseph II in Vienna. Through June 10. 663-0681.

Jump Start Your Herb Garden

Time to get those herbal container gardens started! Now that frost warnings are (more or less—this is Michigan) a thing of the past, it’s high time to ditch the bottled, freeze-dried stuff in favor of something fresher. Stop by the Pittsfield Branch this Saturday afternoon to get a head start, and grab one or two of our herb gardening books while you’re at it! Abbott’s Nursery will be providing plants and soil as well as valuable information to patrons looking to green things up a bit, and add some fresh, summer flavor to their food. Bring your own container, or take one of ours. Come early for best selection!


Afraid you may be losing your perspicacity*? An opportunity to test yourself is just hours away. But what if the questions come from a guy who, according to an article in the New York Times, “has a tattoo of the phonetic vowel chart on his back”? Steve Kleinedler, owner of the aforementioned tattoo, will be presenting a Define-a-thon at the Ann Arbor Book Festival on Saturday, May 19. According to the article, Define-a-thons, sponsored by Houghton Mifflin’s American Heritage Dictionaries, are sweeping the nation, and attracting huge crowds to witness contestants battling for largest lexicon. I, for one, am relieved not to be competing—I had to keep open while reading the article—tintinnabulation, anyone?

*The first person to correctly identify this reference gets a prize**!
**The prize is the receipt of my approbation and obeisance.

Terry Ryan, author of The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio, has died

Terry Ryan, author of The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less, died of brain cancer on May 16, 2007.

Ryan immortalized her resourceful mother, Evelyn, whose gift for winning limerick and jingle contests in the 1950s, repeatedly saved her family in the nick of time with her winnings. Ryan lovingly reveals the backstory – her father’s uncontrollable alcoholism kept his family in abject poverty and her mother’s promising college and writing career was sidetracked by the demands of her marriage and large brood of well-loved children.

Julianne Moore and Woody Harelson brought Ryan’s story to life on the silver screen in 2005 in a movie by the same name.

Ryan was 60 years old when she died.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #64

If you had missed Still Life, Louise Penny’s debut of her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache series, don’t despair. Check out the books on CD while you are waiting for the second in the series A Fatal Grace, due out this month.

Still life was the winner of the New Blood Dagger in Britain and the Arthur Ellis Award in Canada for best first crime novel. It was also named one of the Kirkus Reviews Top Ten mysteries of 2006.

This lovely cozy is set in Three Pines, a ficticious and picturesque small village in Canadian Quebec, a short drive from Montreal. The beloved local retired teacher is found shot to death in the woods and Chief Inspector Gamache from the Sûreté du Québec must sort out the killer among the locals which include artists, a gay couple who runs a little bistro and only B & B in town, a cantankerous poetess, teenage troublemakers, a too-eager to inherit estranged relative.

Snappy dialogue, well drawn characters, lovely and atmospheric settings made for a pleasurable read. Don't miss this one.

2007 Andre Norton Award

The first book in an amazing trilogy, Magic or Madness, by Justine Larbalestier was chosen as the winner of the 2007 Andre Norton Award. The story? When her rational, magic-hating mother suffers a mental breakdown, Reason is taken to live with her grandmother, Esmerelda, where she discovers that something as simple as stepping through a door can bring forth a world of danger and yes, magic!

What a page-turner! The action is tense and suspenseful. And the portrayal of the dark side of magic. . . well, just try it and the two other titles in the triology, Magic Lessons and Magic’s Child.

Lloyd Alexander, 1924-2007

Lloyd Alexander photoLloyd Alexander photo

One of our best-known writers for children, Lloyd Alexander, passed away on Thursday at the age of 83. Alexander was the author of over 40 books, mostly fantasy novels for children; his series included the Prydain Chronicles, the Westmark Trilogy, and the Vesper Holly Adventures. He won the National Book Award for The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian, the American Book Award for Westmark, and the Newbery Medal for The High King. Read the Washington Post obituary or visit his website for more information on this great author.

As a child, I wrote a fan letter to Lloyd Alexander, and he took the time to write a very kind reply. I know several other people who have similar stories. He’ll be missed.

Persepolis animated film premieres at Cannes

Fans of Marjane Satrapi and her popular and acclaimed graphic novels, Persepolis and Persepolis 2 may be interested to see this french trailer for an animated film based on the books which is premiering this week at Cannes. It includes voice acting from Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni, and will surely see a US release. While you wait, you might try Satrapi's lesser-known Embroideries or Chicken with Plums, or view this video of the author's visit to the Seattle Public Library when Persepolis was the subject of their 2006 community read.

Picture Book Best Seller List

When you think of best seller lists you think of John Grisham's new title or the South Beach Diet. But there are lists for all kinds of books. Here is the list of the current best selling children's picture books according to this coming Sunday's New York Times.

1. Fancy Nancy and the Posh Puppy by Jane O'Connor. Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. This sequel is as good as the original. See #6.
2. Someday by Alison McGhee. Illustrated by Peter Reynolds. A Mother's Day favorite.
3. Thanks to You by Julie Andrews Edwards and Emma Walton Hamilton.
4. Bad Dog, Marley! by John Grogan. Illustrated by Richard Cowdrey. Children's version of the author's Marley and Me.
5. On the Night You Were Born written and illustrated by Nancy Tillman. This is a celebration of a child's birth.
6. Fancy Nancy by Jane O'Connor.Illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser. This has been on the best seller list for 69 weeks.
7. Flotsam by David Wiesner. 2007 Caldecott Medal winner.
8. Ghost Ship by Mary Higgins Clark. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. A writer of mysteries for adults is trying her hand at a children's book.
9. Pirates Don't Change Diapers by Melinda Long. Illustrated by David Shannon. A crew of pirates try their hand at babysitting.
10. The Longest Season by Cal Ripken Jr. Illustrated by Ron Mazellan. This title is being ordered but is not yet in the system.

A Dangerous Mind Comes to Town

Part secret agent, part talent scout - Chuck Barris has lived a life most of us only dream about. Host of The Newlywed Game, The Dating Game, and The Gong Show, and a one-hit wonder with the 1962 hit "Palisades Park," Barris also wrote Confessions of a Dangerous Mind: The Unauthorized Autobiography, ("a remarkably well-crafted and entertaining book" Publishers Weekly) which includes a dubious "confession" of his double life as a decorated CIA assassin. (The book was later made into the 2003 film directed by George Clooney). Barris' most recent effort is the novel The Big Question.) Bang a gong with one of the more inventive minds of the television era next Tuesday, May 22, at 7:00 p.m. in the Downtown Multi-Purpose Room.

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