Fabulous Fiction Firsts #30

If you are still waiting for Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants, rest assured that the wait is well worth it.

In the meantime, there is Renee Dodd's A Cabinet of Wonders. There are many similarities between these two Fabulous Fiction Firsts - they are well researched, engrossing in the storytelling, and chock-full of realistic, behind-the-scenes details of the little known world of circuses and traveling carnival shows.

Set in the Depression, they both paint a vivid portrait, with emotional authenticity, of the lives, dreams and relationships of the performers and personalities, as well as their struggles to stay together for what might very well be, one last season.

Starred Kirkus review praises A Cabinet of Wonders as "...a rare treat: a diverting and insightful piece of quirky fiction".

Henri Cartier-Bresson

bresson

August 22 is the anniversary of the birth of Henri Cartier-Bresson, co-founder of the Magnum Photo Agency, who was born in 1908 in Chanteloup, France. Originally a painter, Bresson fell in love with photography after purchasing his first Leica camera. Known for capturing "the decisive moment," Bresson is well known for his sometimes brutally honest portrayals of lives often lived on the edge.

Many of the current Magnum photographers follow his precedent as evidenced in the moving and powerful travelling exhibit of photos taken of the September 11th tragedy currently on display in the lower level Multi-Purpose Room at the Downtown Library.

Bessie Smith and the Night Riders by Sue Stauffacher

Emmarene is excited when Bessie Smith and the Harlem Frolics arrive in her town. She can't afford a ticket to the show and waits outside the tent for a peak at Bessie. She sees a member of the Ku Klux Klan pulling out the stakes of the tent and runs in to warn Bessie. To her surprise Bessie comes out and confronts the Ku Klux Klan, frightening them off. Based on a true story with some embellishment for the entertainment of younger readers, Sue Stauffacher shows how the courage of one person can save the lives of many.

Punxsutawney Phyllis

This adorable tale by Susanna Leonard Hill is all about a young groundhog named Phyllis and her desire to become the next Punxsutawney Phil, the famous groundhog who emerges every February 2nd to determine whether spring will arrive early or late. The only problem is, Phyllis is a girl and the tradition of foretelling the weather has always been passed down to the men in the family. Well, little Phyllis has her own ideas and great senses too. You'll have to read it to see if she gets her wish. This wonderfully illustrated picture book also includes a nifty summary of Groundhog Day and a brief history of Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania.

Back to Friends

Just in time for the youngest of the back to school crowd, Best Best Friends is the story of Mary and Clare who learn that crowns and cupcakes may cause tiffs but true friendship triumphs every time. Caldecott honor winner Margaret Chodos-Irvine gives us a simple and sweet tale for the preschool set.

Weekend Warrior

Weekend Warriors- There's still time before Summer's gone to get those honey-do lists done.
If you can’t figure out how to actually add that electric circuit, plumb that fixture, build that deck, etc. then check out some of the popular guides that you can get at the Library. I’ve always turned first to the Reader's Digest Do-It Yourself Manual for a good overview on the home. However,I recently discovered Renovation by Michael Litchfield in it’s 3rd edition. I'm very impressed with the accuracy and depth of information presented in this book.

A Popular Summer Novel

The Lake, the River and the Other Lake, a Michigan novel by Steve Amick, is popular in Ann Arbor this summer. The paperback was #3 last week on the local bestsellers list. Amick’s CD There's always pie is attracting some attention, too. It has an intriguing song list: The song of the townies -- Cheese sandwich -- Wasn't I great? --You're the one -- Still so much -- I feel sorry for you (if you don't live here) -- Dum-dum -- I wanna be with you -- The arithmetic of love -- Part of me -- Big fat berries -- Michigan moonlight. Sounds fun.

Maps to Take With on Your Vacation

Mackinac Map

When I go on vacation I need maps, maps of cities I will be visiting and maps of states I will be driving through.

I borrow the maps from the library’s map files on the Second Floor of the Downtown Library. The library has maps for Michigan cities and regions, for states, for most major cities in the United States, and for foreign countries and cities. The maps circulate for four weeks.

During a recent trip up north I found where I was going with the aid of street maps of Mackinaw City, Mackinac Island, Harbor Springs, Petoskey, Charlevoix, and Traverse City and a regional Michigan map of the Northern Tip of Michigan.

In the past year the map files helped with maps of San Francisco, Napa and Sonoma counties, Chicago, Boston, Greenville (S.C.), Chapel Hill (N.C.), and Ithaca (N.Y.)

The map files are a great resource. Ease the stress of travel with some good maps.

Wild Man LA Writer Charles Bukowski

Today is the birthday of Charles Bukowski, who lived 1920-1994 and published more than fifteen books of fiction and poetry. Abused as a child, Bukowski grew up to be, at least for a while, literally a starving writer, limiting himself to one candy bar a day, while writing up to five short stories a week, according to The Writer's Almanac, where you can find more information. Bukowski's books include Run With the Hunted.

Thievery Has Never Been So Good

I feel like not many people know about this fantasy series by Megan Whelan Turner (see below). Maybe I am wrong; maybe it is not the secret gem I think it is, but, if not, if you're saying to yourself, "hey, dude, never heard of it", then check it out (both literally and figuratively!).

The first book, The Thief, won the newberry honor in 1997 and is a short novel with a clever twist (don't worry, I'm not spoilling anything; I knew there was a twist ahead of time and still couldn't figure it out!). Now, though I know people have heard of this first book, it's the second and third book in the series that I am not so sure people know about (but maybe I am wrong here). The second book,The Queen of Attolia, is where things really take off, in my opinion. The plot becomes much fuller, more complex, and more intense. Instead of one really great twist like in the first book there are several upon several untill your head starts to spin a little. The characters are ones you fall in love with, as is the way with any good book, especially the brash, rude, young thief who is the main character. The Third book The King of Attolia, has just recently come out and continues the storyline.

Maybe I just like the characters a little too much, but to me, these are lesser known, good books.

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