Fabulous Fiction Firsts #587 “The only way you can truly get to know an author is through the trail of ink he leaves behind him. The person you think you see is only an empty character: truth is always hidden in fiction.” ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Selected for the March Indie Next and the LibraryReads, The Madwoman Upstairs * by Catherine Lowell is "a mystery, a love story, and a very dark comedy with the Brontës...playing a role back there in the shadows."

20 year-old American Samantha Whipple is the last of the Brontë line and the presumed heir to a long-rumored trove of diaries, paintings, letters, and early novel drafts never revealed to anyone outside of the family. When she fulfills her father's dying wish to attend Oxford (his alma mater) almost immediately, she is the center of speculation and unwanted attention, especially among Brontë scholars and fanatics.

Soon long lost objects thought to have perished in the fire that killed her father begin relentlessly rematerializing in her life, compelling her on an elaborate and frustrating scavenger hunt, guided only by her father's cryptic notes. When she is emotionally and physically challenged to her limits, and a careless mistake places her at risk academically, help comes unexpectedly from her handsome but inscrutable tutor who is "as complex and passionate as his student." Together, they must decode the clues hidden within the Brontës’ novels in order to put the rumor to rest.

"Smart and surprising and fiercely funny." “An entertaining and ultimately sweet story." For fans of Juliet by Anne Fortier.

Companion reads:
Nelly Dean : a return to Wuthering Heights * * by Alison Case, that re-imagines life at Wuthering Heights through the eyes of the Earnshaws’ loyal servant, Nelly Dean. This is the first novel by a professor of 19th century fiction and poetry at Williams College.

Charlotte Brontë : a fiery heart by Claire Harman, is a "landmark biography (that) transforms Charlotte Brontë from a tragic figure into a modern heroine." The Brontës at Haworth by Ann Dinsdale paints a detailed picture of everyday life at Haworth, and provides fascinating insight into the lives of some of the most beloved authors of the 19th century.

* = starred review
* * = 2 starred reviews

Evicted offers an intimate view of poverty and inequality in America

Harvard sociologist Matthew Desmond’s new book Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City changes the way we look at poverty in our country. Desmond tells the stories of eight different families living in the poorest neighborhoods of Milwaukee, all of whom have spent everything they have to try and keep roofs over their heads… and now they’ve fallen behind. These families are at the mercy of two landlords, one of whom owns inner city apartments, while the other runs one of Milwaukee’s worst trailer parks. Desmond paints a fascinating, complex picture of these two people in particular, and of the circumstances that lead them to evict their tenants. It’s amazing to hear the different situations that lead the families in Evicted to be kicked out of their homes. One man was a nurse who loved his job before he fell prey to a heroin addiction. Another man with no legs tries to work his way out of debt, but can’t physically do many jobs. A single mom has only $20 left a month with which to raise her two sons after she pays the rent on their decrepit apartment.

Evictions have historically been fairly rare in American cities, but they have been on the rise in the past decade, as poor families spend more than half of their already meager incomes on housing. Little is left for other necessities, especially when families are large. Desmond’s intimate, behind-the-scenes view into this issue (he spent months amongst the poor families of Milwaukee) presents readers head-on with the inequality that exists in America today.

You can read Desmond’s recent article from The New Yorker, which discusses the same issue as Evicted, here. Desmond is also the author of On the Fireline, an in depth exploration into the lives of wildfire firefighters.

Spring Forward with New Spring Books!

Nature’s Day: Discover the World of Wonder On Your Doorstep is a beautiful children's book with oversize pages illustrating painted birds, flowers, animals, insects, and more throughout the seasons. What happens during various seasons to our surroundings? What do the garden, the pond, the backyard, and the woods look like in summer vs. winter? This lovely books offers images and words for things to keep an eye out for as you explore the world around you.

When Green Becomes Tomatoes: Poems for All Seasons is another great new book on the seasons, this time explored through poetry! The sweet little poems from dates throughout the year are accompanied by darling illustrations.

Both of these children’s nonfiction books are great to get you thinking about SPRING!

Boom Whacka Boom!

You may be familiar with the popular Boomwhackers from our music tool collection. They are a set of individual tubes that create notes when gently tapped. Kids particularly enjoy them! We have some new music books in the tools collection that will help you play oodles of songs! Take a look and see the possibilities that lie at your fingertips.

Fun with Boomwhackers!

Whack-A-Doodle-Doo!: Color-Coded children's Songs for Boomwhackers Musical Tubes

Whacked on Classics: Music of the Masters for Boomwhackers Musical Tubes

Boom boom!: Classics! for Boomwhacker Musical Tubes

Boom boom! Popular movie and tv songs: For Boomwhackers Musical Tubes

A bear finds a piano in the woods....

The Bear and the Piano, by first-time author David Litchfield, is an adorable look at the life of a celebrity musician. When a bear finds a strange object in the woods, he isn’t sure what it is—though readers will of course, notice right away that it is a piano. He touches it experimentally, and is shocked at the sound that comes out! Over time, he teaches himself to play, and becomes a world-famous musician. Litchfield uses this charming story to explore the life of an actual musician. The necessity of “days and weeks and months and years” of practice, the wonder of fame coupled with the loneliness of leaving home, and the exhaustion of traveling and performing. The bear is worried that his friends back in the forest may have forgotten him but when he returns in his rumpled tuxedo, he finds that they have been eagerly following his career, rooting for him the whole way! And of course, it is always friends who are the best audience of all.

Publisher’s Weekly gave The Bear and the Piano a starred review, calling it a “tenderly moving story about embracing one’s potential while remembering one’s roots.” Put it on hold today!

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #586

Ways to Disappear * by poet/translator Idra Novey is what the NPR book reviewer called "a fast-paced, beguilingly playful, noirish literary mystery," about the disappearance of a famous Brazilian novelist and the young translator who turns her life upside down to follow her author's trail.

Celebrated author Beatriz Yagoda has vanished, last been climbing into an almond tree with a suitcase and cigar in hand. As soon as the news reach her translator in Pittsburgh, Emma Neufeld puts her life in on hold and hops a flight to Rio de Janeiro, leaving behind a seriously exasperated boyfriend.

Upon arrival, Emma is met by an angry loan shark who threatens violence if Beatriz does not repay the half a million dollars owed from online gambling. Joining Emma's search is Beatriz's two grown children - the practical, business-like Raquel and the exceedingly handsome Marcus. But before long, they realize they are way over their heads. Meanwhile, Roberto Rocha, Beatriz's publisher finds himself equally entangled, and he might be the only one who could save the day.

"Novey’s characters are hilariously impulsive, terribly misguided, hopelessly lost, relentlessly determined, and immediately sympathetic. An incisive meditation on the relationship between literature and life, a reflection on the cumulative result of everyday decisions, and a dazzling, truly memorable work of humor and heart."

For readers who enjoyed The Family Fang by Kevin Wilson; Mr. Penumbra's 24-hour bookstore by Robin Sloan; and The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery.

* = starred review

Get Fuzzy this spring

Darby Conley has been working on "Get Fuzzy" for 16 years now with the comic being syndicated in daily newspapers. Every once in a while Conley takes some of his best strips and combines them into a wonderful collection of his wit (and occasional wisdom). Two of these collections are I'm Ready for my Movie Contract and You Can't fight crazy.
For those of you who are not familiar with the strip Get Fuzzy is about a Boston Ad Executive (think Mad Men but less cool) Rob Wilco and his two anthropomorphic pets Satchel Pooch and Bucky Katt. The comic plays on a lot of cat/dog stereotypes and readers will soon get to know that Bucky is mean and conniving and Satchel is sweet and innocent (and very very gullible) while Rob tries to keep the peace in his home.

The comic plays well with the strip format, with one or two strips making up an entire story-line and thus it makes these collections perfect for anyone who wants a book that they can pick up and put down without having to find the end of the chapter etc.

If you've never read any of the strips then these collections are a wonderful way in which to get introduced to them and if you are a fan of the series then these collections will let you enjoy some of the more classic of the strips along with ones you've probably never seen before.
So if you're looking for a quick to read book with lots of witticisms (such as eating dog food doesn't give you super powers) then pick up I'm Ready for my Movie Contract or You Can't fight crazy.

PreK Bits - "F" is for Foolish FROGGIES

It's time to feature froggy stories! Froggies are funny. They are fun to hear and watch. First-frogs-of-the-season time is near. We will soon hear spring peepers and croakers.

Ms. Rachel introduced GREEN FROGS thru MelCat loan. It is a Korean Folktale that explains why little children in Korea may be called "green frogs". Hint: It has something to do with "unruly".
We sang "5 Green And Speckled Frogs" ... a classic "counting and singing song" you can find on the CD LITTLE PEOPLE: Songs & Games For The Road.
We discovered WHY The FROG HAS BIG EYES ... a "beginning Reader" folktale.
You may be able to read this one yourself if you have learned to read some words already.

For more froggy tales try these favorites:
Arnold Lobel Classic Readers ... with Frog & Toad
I DON'T WANT TO BE A FROG! ... perhaps a complaint?
999 FROGS WAKE UP … in the springtime.
TOO MANY FROGS … at bedtime.
QUENTIN BLAKE’S TEN FROGS = DIEZ RANAS … counting in Spanish.
QUENTIN BLAKE’S TEN FROGS = DIS GRENOUILLE … counting in French.
I DON’T WANT TO BE A FROG … being green gets old.
The CROAKY POKEY … dance your froggy parts to Hokey Pokey!
TUESDAY … a frog fantasy that won the Caldecott Award for illustrations in 1992.

High Interest/Low Reading Level Fiction

If you, or someone you know, are an English Language Learner looking for higher level reading materials to increase your vocabulary, here’s a cool way to find them on aadl.org. Go to the Catalog tab and enter Lang-Learn-RL into the search box. RL stands for Reading Level. You can also enter 'Hi/Lo' into the search box. To search for a particular reading level, simply type in a different number after RL. Once your search results come up, you can refine your search to find the titles that interest you the most. These high interest, low level readers, sometimes called HiLo books, are also great for adults who are learning to read.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #585 "You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

The Nest * *, a "warm, funny and acutely perceptive" debut by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney is about the four Plumb siblings, and the fate of their joint trust fund - “The Nest,” that has shaped their lives, and the choices they make.

Jack, Beatrice and Melody Plumb meet on an unseasonably cold October afternoon in New York City to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly out of rehab. Back in August at a family wedding, an inebriated and stoned Leo crashed his car on a country road, and his passenger, a 19 year-old waitress was badly hurt. To make his troubles go away, Leo pillages The Nest, just as it is about to be distributed on Melody's (the baby of the family) 40th birthday. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest mid-life supplement, the Plumb siblings have been counting on the money (thanks to the bull market) to solve a number of self-inflicted problems, financial and otherwise.

Melody is about to lose her painstakingly restored house in the suburb and worries about college tuition for her twin teenage daughters. Jack, an antiques dealer, has secretly borrowed against the beach cottage he shares with his husband, Walker and is truly desperate for cash. And Bea, a once-promising short-story writer, just can’t seem to finish her overdue novel. They are all relying on Leo to somehow restore the fund. "The rest of the book is a wise, affectionate study of how expectations play out in our lives—not just financial ones..."

"Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney brings a remarkable cast of characters to life to illuminate what money does to relationships, what happens to our ambitions over the course of time, and the fraught yet unbreakable ties we share with those we love."

For readers who enjoyed The View From Penthouse B by Elinor Lipman; The Vacationers by Emma Straub ; and The Red House by Mark Haddon. Readers familiar with Wes Anderson's films would likely draw comparison to The Royal Tenenbaums.

* * = starred reviews

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