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We are very excited to present this week’s “3 Questions” with the writer and artist James Sturm. Mr. Sturm is the co-founder of The Center for Cartoon Studies, where he currently teaches. He is also the author of many critically acclaimed graphic novels (and, we are happy to call him a friend).

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Mr. Sturm will appear at 4 pm on Thursday, February 14th at The Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, Vermont to discuss his latest novel Off Season. The book illustrates one couple’s separation during the 2016 Presidential election season. It follows the face-off between US Senator Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the match up of Secretary Clinton and Donald Trump, and the aftermath of the eventual election of President Trump. Originally serialized on Slate, this expanded edition turns Mr. Sturm’s vignettes into a timeless tale of one family and their off season.

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This event is free and open to the public. A talk by Mr. Sturm at the Center for Cartoon Studies begins at the 4:00, and will be followed by a reception. Books will be available for purchase and signing. Please call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com for additional information. Please note this event is on a Thursday, not the usual Wednesday night for events at the Norwich Bookstore.MacDoodle St. Cover ImageThe Life and Death of Fritz the Cat Cover ImageMaus I & II Paperback Box Set (Pantheon Graphic Library) Cover Image

1.What three books have helped shape you into the writer you are today, and why?

  • McDoodle Street by Mark Alan Stamaty. I came across a book of this self proclaimed “famous comic strip novel” in the early 1980s. Besides being hilarious, I was charmed by its improvisational nature and it opened up new ways for me to approach comics making. I’m thrilled to see this book being reissued this year.

  • Fritz The Cat by R. Crumb. Full of vivid details, Crumb’s artwork and writing was both slap dash and masterful and, deceptively, made cartooning look like the most obvious course to take.
  • Maus by Art Spiegelman. I reread this almost every year and continue to learn from it.

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2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

Maybe someone who was known as a grand raconteur like Dorothy Parker? Or someone who witnessed history with such clear eyes like Joseph Roth? Or better yet, how about H.L. Mencken? I bet it would be fun to speak with him about this historical moment. It seems like every quote of his I come across is spot on: “On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”

Judas Cover ImageBerlin Cover ImageBrother, I'm Dying Cover Image

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

  • Judas by Amos Oz. Oz’s recent death motivated me to finally read his work.
  • Berlin by friend and colleague Jason Lutes. I read Berlin while it was being serialized in comic book form over the course of 20 years. Look forward to to sitting down with this magnificent, intimidating tome soon.
  • Brother I’m Dying by Edwidge Danticat. I’ve been reading some wonderful memoirs this past year (The Folded Clock by Heidi Julavits, Love and Trouble by Claire Dederer, All the Sad Songs by Summer Pierre, Spinning by Tillie Walden, etc) and Danticat’s is no exception.

NOTE: As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, The Book Jam has paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

As we face the reality technology often separates us as much as it unites us, we found some books that inspired us to have a few more dinner gatherings and a lot more interesting, meaningful, and ideally fun conversations. We hope they inspire you to put down the phone (after reading our reviews first – and yes, we recognize the irony) and talk to people who are sitting next to you or across from you or who live next door or…
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The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters Cover ImageThe Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters by Priya Parker (2018). Have you ever wondered what’s in that special sauce, the one that makes one get-together meaningful or even transformative while another can fall flat and lack energy, even if the guests are A-List? If so, this is the book for you. Author Priya Parker is a professional facilitator who writes from a vantage point of over thirty years of experience of bringing people together for wide-ranging events, from meetings, to conferences, to dinner parties, and even funerals. Not only does she understand how to create this special “sauce” but her prose is elegant and lucid, her insights about group dynamics illuminating while also fascinating. Each chapter is important, and not to be skipped over. Parker’s writing encourage us would-be gatherers to consider the purpose of our parties, the goal of our gatherings, the size of our meetings, the role of the host (don’t slack on this one), and the architecture of our space. This is the kind of work that compels readers to underline its energy-filled sentences with offerings  like the following: “We gather to solve problems we can’t solve on our own. We gather to celebrate, to mourn, and to mark transitions. We gather to make decisions. We gather because we need one another. We gather to show strength. “ If you are looking to elevate your gatherings to an art in 2019 – something that I think we all need and even crave very much right now – look no further than this extremely important work.  ~Lisa Cadow

 

We Need to Talk: How to Have Conversations That Matter Cover ImageWe Need to Talk by Celeste Headlee (2017) – Honestly, I can’t review this book more accurately than indie bookstore reviewers did, so I am totally copying their review here.  I will say, I think this book – once I actually incorporate some of its advice – may change my life. So from the indie bookstores’ review, “today most of us communicate from behind electronic screens, and studies show that Americans feel less connected and more divided than ever before. The blame for some of this disconnect can be attributed to our political landscape, but the erosion of our conversational skills as a society lies with us as individuals. And the only way forward, says Headlee, is to start talking to each other. In We Need to Talk, she outlines the strategies that have made her a better conversationalist—and offers simple tools that can improve anyone’s communication.” I add this book here to help you have great conversations during all those gatherings you will host and attend in 2019, and because I think we all could use some help having better conversations.  ~ Lisa Christie

Brunch Is Hell: How to Save the World by Throwing a Dinner Party Cover Image
Brunch is Hell by Rico Gagliano and Brendan Francis Newman (2017) – A humorous look at how to throw a dinner party, and save the world in the process, by the hosts of the public radio show The Dinner Party Download. Disclaimer — I have only perused this guide, but I plan to use it as a reference the next time I invite people into my home; perhaps for no other reason than this physical reminder of their lighthearted approach to important matters on their radio show may help me feel less stressed about any gathering. Besides, the authors’ major claim is — “if we revive the fading art of throwing dinner parties the world will be better off, and our country might heal its wounds of endless division” — and I’d like to believe they are correct. Note: The audio book version is read by the authors and is most likely very entertaining. ~ Lisa Christie
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Last autumn, we were honored to once again meet with an amazing, long-standing book group who asked us to come up with a list of great books for them to read, enjoy, and discuss. (They actually won us in a charity auction; and honestly, it is really fun to think our reviews benefitted someone’s charitable causes.) To help the rest of you (who were not able to join us on a fine autumn evening over delicious food) find the right books for your book clubs or your own personal reading, we divided the list mostly by subject area, not genre. Happy reading!

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Coming of Age

Chemistry: A Novel (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover ImageChemistry by Weike Wang (2017). Once I started reading this, the pages just began to turn themselves. Our nameless narrator takes us on a journey set in Cambridge, Massachusetts where at the outset she is pursuing a PhD in Chemistry while living with her kind and attentive boyfriend Eric. It is funny, smart, observant, and poetic. It also takes us with her to challenging places of self-doubt, reflects on a less than perfect childhood as a first generation Chinese American, and grapples with the contradictions and cliches of being a woman in 21st century America. Some reviewers have described this as a book about indecision, others have said it is about depression. Pieces have been written about Chemistry as one new important books that highlights the Anglo-Asian experience For me, what Wang is sharing a truth transcends cultural experience or a DSM-5 diagnosis. I found it to be a story of an interesting young woman struggling with what it means to succeed in her field, looking for meaning in her work, and questioning deeply what it would look like to create a family for herself. Highly recommended for book groups. There’s a lot to talk about here. ~ Lisa Cadow

Prep: A Novel Cover ImagePrep by Curtis Sittenfeld (2005). Ms. Sittenfeld’s debut novel provides amazing fodder for book club conversations as everyone has gone to school at some point in their lives and everyone who is old enough to read this novel has experience or is experiencing their teens. Scholarship student Lee Fiora is an intelligent, observant fourteen-year-old when dropped off in front of her dorm at the prestigious Ault School in Massachusetts. She’s there because she wants an education, but also because of the school’s glossy brochure, promising gorgeous and kind boys in sweaters, lovely old brick buildings, girls in kilts with lacrosse sticks, and a place where everyone looks beautiful in chapel. Lee soon discovers that Ault hosts jaded, attractive teenagers who spend summers on Nantucket and speak in their own clever shorthand based upon years of wealth and the privileges it affords. In this novel, Lee provides a shrewd observer of–and, at some point, a participant in life at Ault. ~ Lisa Christie

Growing Old/Death

When Breath Becomes Air Cover ImageWhen Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalinithi  (2016) – Chances are good that you’ve heard of this best selling memoir but may not have read it given the heavy subject matter. At the outset, we know that the author, 36-year old Paul will succumb to lung cancer at the height of his career as a neurosurgeon. Don’t let this put you off from reading his incredible story and from benefiting from the insights he gleaned during his short life. Kalinithi is a brilliant writer who was curious from a young age about the workings of the mind and it’s connection to our soul. He studied philosophy and creative writing before committing to medicine which gives him other lenses from which to explore profound questions. He is candid with the reader about his personal and professional struggles. Ultimately I found this book hopeful and inspiring. When I turned the last page I immediately wanted to share it with loved ones. ~ Lisa Cadow (and seconded by Lisa Christie)

Our Souls at Night (Vintage Contemporaries) Cover ImageOur Souls at Night by Kent Haruf  (paperback 2016). I couldn’t help immediately falling for Addie, the 70-something protagonist of this story when she knocks on the door of her similarly-aged neighbor and invites him to sleep with her. No, not in that way! She simply wants Louis to come over to her house to share what both characters agree are the loneliest hours. Thus begins the story of Addie and Louis unexpectedly finding meaning and human connection in the later part of their lives. Haruf wrote this slim novel at the end of his own life with his trademark spartan prose and simple language. Named one of the best books of the year in 2015 by the The Washington Post, this masterpiece is profound and poignant and worth every minute of reading time spent lost in its all-too-few pages.~ Lisa Cadow (Note: the Book Jam Lisas tend to love most of Mr. Haruf’s novels – Plainsong for example; so, don’t stop reading Mr. Haruf if you like this novel.) ~ Lisa Cadow

Impact of Technology/Our Future

Feed Cover ImageFeed by MT Anderson (2012). As screens dominate our work and leisure, and well, basically our lives, this book about a future in which we all have direct feeds into our brains, feeds through which corporations and governments directly provide us with all the information they think we need, is prescient and honestly page-turning. The group of fictional teens starring in this novel, teens whose feeds malfunction, demonstrate oh so very well how important what we consume through media is to our lives today and perhaps provides a tale of caution we all need. ~ Lisa Christie

 Gun Violence

Long Way Down Cover ImageA Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds (2017). Mr. Reynolds tackles gun violence in this unique, powerful and short novel. The story unfolds in short bouts of powerful, insightful verse over the course of a 60 second elevator ride. During this ride, Will must decide whether or not to follow the RULES – No crying. No snitching. Revenge. – and kill the person he believes killed his brother Shawn. With this tale, Mr. Reynolds creates a place to understand the why behind the violence that permeates the lives of so many, and perhaps hopefully a place to think about how this pattern might end. I’d love to hear how Book Clubs use this book as a place to begin solving this ever present public health issue. ~ Lisa Christie

Sexual Assault/Gender Equity

Young Jane Young: A Novel Cover ImageYoung Jane Young by Gabrielle Zevin (2017). A GREAT book about youth, choices, first jobs, and how all of that affects the rest of your life. If you are a person of a certain age, it may also remind you of a certain political scandal or two. Bonus: you will laugh a lot and it is a relatively quick read so great for those months crowded with so many things you can’t possibly read all the books you wish. We are certain it will be a movie soon – so read it now so you can cast it in your mind first. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
CIRCE (#1 New York Times bestseller) Cover ImageCirce by Madeline Miller (2018) – A perfect book for fans of mythology or the classics. Really one of the best books of 2018, this novel retells portions of the Odyssey from the perspective of Circe, the original Greek witch. As The Guardian described it, Circe is not a rival to its original sources, but instead “a romp, an airy delight, a novel to be gobbled greedily in a single sitting”. May lead to great discussions about feminism today. ~ Lisa Christie

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love?: Stories Cover ImageWhatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins (2016) –  I am so glad someone put this collection of short stories in my hands. The writing by Ms. Collins – a little known African American artist and filmmaker – is distinct and concise and paints vivid pictures of life in New York in the 1970s. The backstory to the collection is even better – these stories were discovered by Ms. Collins’ daughter after her death. (Best Book of 2016 by NPR and Publishers Weekly). ~ Lisa Christie

Convenience Store Woman Cover ImageConvenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (2018). As an indie bookstore reviewer, Lauren Peugh of Powell’s Books in Oregon, stated, “Keiko Furukura has worked at her local convenience store for 18 years. Every day, she ensures that the shelves are tidy, the hot food bar is stocked, and the featured items are adequately displayed. She greets every customer with a cheerful ‘Irasshaimase!’ and no one notices that she’s never fit in anywhere else. Murata draws lush descriptions of the beauty of order and routine out of simple, spare prose, and every page crackles with the life she’s created. Because of the humor, the wit, the almost unbearable loveliness of it all, Convenience Store Woman, a small book about a quiet life, makes an enormous impact on the reader.” ~ Lisa Cadow

Domestic Violence
American by Day Cover ImageNorwegian by Night Cover ImageNorwegian by Night (2013) and American by Day (2018) by Derek Miller. See our June 18, 2018 post for our rave review of the first book in this series, Norwegian by Night. In American By Day, detective Sigrid Odegard is back in to star in this literary mystery series by Derek Miller, this time is traveling the the United States to find her missing brother, Marcus,  a suspect in the murder of his girlfriend. It offers a fascinating  Norwegian perspective on “strange” America – our foods, our neighborhoods, our quirks and Sigrid’s impression of life in upstate New York. We also have the pleasure of meeting, Irv, the sheriff in the local town, who is not only a police officer but also a graduate of divinity school. Miller’s writing is refreshing and interesting and leaves the reader looking forward to his next book.~Lisa Cadow

Educated: A Memoir Cover ImageEducated by Tara Westover (2018). Educated, is one of the most affecting – if not the most affecting – memoirs of 2018 . In many ways this story is about author Tara Westover’s educational journey from her family’s rural homestead in Idaho where she received no formal tutelage, worked in the junkyard on their property, while only barely passing the GRE to matriculate to Brigham and Young. It concludes when she earns her PhD from Cambridge University in England. It is an astounding and moving narrative which often leaves the reader shaking her head in bewilderment. But when the last page is turned, this book is even more importantly about something that lies beyond formal learning and the ivory tower. It is about standing up for one’s self, making sense of reality, and finally harnessing the strength to say “This is my truth.”Many readers have observed that this book reminds them of Glass CastleJeanette Walls‘ affecting and best-selling memoir. This makes sense as they are both books about surviving and succeeding professionally unusual childhoods. And yet Westover’s experience deserves to stand alone. It’s that good. It offers a window into the Mormon experience, life in the West, and also addresses the the difficult subject of domestic abuse. Highly recommended and an excellent choice for book groups. ~Lisa Cadow

Race Relations

Between the World and Me Cover ImageBetween the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (2015). Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. This book is a letter to his son about race in America. As another of our favotire authors wrote about this book, “I’ve been wondering who might fill the intellectual void that plagued me after James Baldwin died. Clearly it is Ta-Nehisi Coates. The language of Between the World and Me, like Coates’ journey, is visceral, eloquent, and beautifully redemptive. And its examination of the hazards and hopes of black male life is as profound as it is revelatory.” ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Dear Martin Cover ImageMonday is Not Coming (2018) or Allegedly (2018) by Tiffany Jackson or The Hate U Give (2017) by Angie Thomas or Dear Martin by Nic Stone (2018). All these books are fabulous YA novels about life in contemporary USA. All lend themselves to great discussions about youth, race, and the USA today. And they are all pretty quick reads so perfect for months your book club is a bit overwhelmed. Briefly,  Dear Martin and The Hate U Give address gun violence in the USA. Monday is Not Coming speaks to treatment of African American girls in the USA and Allegedly addresses juvenile justice issues. ~ Lisa Christie

Immigration
Fruit of the Drunken Tree: A Novel Cover ImageDear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen Cover ImageFruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Contreras (2018) paired with Dear America by Jose Vargas (2018). Both of these books provide insight into what life brings for new immigrants to the USA.  Fruit of the Drunken Tree is one of those books that are so gorgeous when you finish you turn back to page one and start over again. I was so moved by this story and so sad to see it end that I finished the author’s notes at the end and began again, re-reading at least the first 30 pages before I was ready to let these characters go. The novel, set in Bogota during the height of Pablo Escobar’s power, shows the horrors violence breeds through the eyes of seven year old Chula and her family’s maid Petrona. Loosely based upon actual events in the life of the author, this debut novel devastates and uplifts with every perfectly placed word. Dear America is a memoir penned by the most famous undocumented immigrant in the USA. ~ Lisa Christie

Exit West: A Novel Cover ImageExit West by Mosin Hamid (2017). We LOVED this novel. It is short, gorgeously written, and covers important and timely topics – love immigration, war. Basically perfect. Or, as the New York Times said in its review, “It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future… At once terrifying and … oddly hopeful.” –Ayelet Waldman in The New York Times Book Review ~– Lisa Christie•

Amazing Fiction You May Have Missed

The Sea (Vintage International) Cover ImageThe Sea by John Banville (2005). I often describe this slim novel as the perfect dysfunctional Irish family novel.  In it Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman travels back to the seaside town where he spent his childhood summers in an attempt to cope with the recent loss of his wife. There he confronts all he remembers and some things he does not. ~ Lisa Christie 
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House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros (1991). My oldest son read this in High School and I joined him in the experience by re-reading Ms. Cisneros’s acclaimed novel about life as a Latino in New York City. I enjoyed it years ago and enjoyed it again this time, with a huge bonus of being able to discuss it with my son. I hate to trivialize it by calling it a coming-of-age story, but I will call it a masterpiece of childhood and self-discovery. ~ Lisa Christie

Nutshell Cover ImageNutshell by Ian McKewan (2016) – This mystery is a clever treasure. Told from the completely original perspective of a 9-month-old fetus awaiting his birth, we witness his mother, Trudy, and her lover, Claude, plotting the murder of his father. A modern day interpretation of HamletNutshell is at once tragic and immensely amusing — with the baby boy simultaneously evaluating his mother’s wine choices while expressing his powerlessness to help his unsuspecting father. Told by a master writer at the height of his story-telling abilities, this is not to be missed.  ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie
FC9780316243926.jpgBurial Rites by Hannah Kent (2013) – Ms. Kent’s first novel is based upon the true story of Agnes, the last woman executed in Iceland. In it, Ms. Kent vividly renders Agnes’s life from the point where she is sent to an isolated farm to await execution for killing her former master (or did she?). Be careful though, reading this may inspire some wanderlust because of the way Ms. Kent makes Iceland a character in a vast array of memorable people Agnes encounters. Enjoy. Note, this was also reviewed in our previous post “Books to Inspire Your Summer Travels“.~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

When the Elephants Dance by Tessa Uriza Holthe (2002).  This novel provides insight into Filipino culture in the waning days of World War II.  How?  By following the Karangalans – a family who huddles with their neighbors in the cellar of a house near Manila to wait out the war.  The book alternates between 1) heart-wrenching looks at life during war as those hiding in the basement venture out to forage for much-needed food, water and news and, 2) spellbinding myths and legends the group uses to entertain each other while they wait for the war to end.  The book is a testament to the power of stories in giving much-needed resolve to survive. ~ Lisa Christie 

Luckiest Girl Alive: A Novel Cover ImageLuckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll (2015). Reviewers compare it to Gone Girl. I just enjoyed reading this page-turner. Indiebound may have summed it best, “with a singular voice and twists you won’t see coming, Luckiest Girl Alive  explores the unbearable pressure that so many women feel to ‘have it all’ and introduces a heroine whose sharp edges and cutthroat ambition have been protecting a scandalous truth, and a heart that’s bigger than it first appears.” Have fun. ~ Lisa Cadow

A Fun Book that May Cause You to Rethink Mrs. Bush

American Wife: A Novel Cover ImageAmerican Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld (2008). Ms. Sittenfeld’s story of Charlie and Alice made me re-think Mrs. Laura Bush and the politicians who surround her. Hopefully you will enjoy it and rethink your thoughts of many politicians.   As an indie book reviewer from Wisconsin wrote, “The reader will recognize the main characters, Alice and Charlie, as they experience their tempestuous courtship and marriage, and their rise to political fame and fortune. Although the setting is Wisconsin, the protagonists bear a curious resemblance to a couple from Texas who achieved the highest office of the land. This story, told from the perspective of a fictional First Lady, is hard to put down!” ~ Lisa Christie

Creative Short Story Collections

The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher: Stories Cover ImageAssassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel (2014). From the title story about a man trapped in his flat with a would-be assassin of Prime Minister Thatcher, to a shorter tale about the end of a marriage Ms. Mantel’s narrators are a bit warped and the every day situations they encounter unusually framed. Basically, a superb and eclectic mix of stories to enjoy. ~ Lisa Christie

Vida Cover ImageVida by Patricia Engel (2010). This collection of linked stories would make a great movie about lives lived between two countries — in this case, Colombia and the USA (mostly New Jersey and Miami). This book follows Sabina, a second generation Colombian American, as she navigates life — a life in which nothing truly terrible or amazing ever happens, but somehow makes a compelling read. Collectively, the stories outline a coming of age tale we can all relate to, whether from a recent immigrant family or not. This collection was Ms. Engel’s debut, and it was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year; a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Fiction Award and Young Lions Fiction Award; and a Best Book of the Year by NPR, among other awards. We hope those accolades will convince you to try it, and will encourage someone in Hollywood to bring it to the big screen. ~ Lisa Christie

The Tsar of Love and Techno: Stories Cover ImageThe Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra (2015). The author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomenon comes through again with a SUPERB book. This time, he provides connected short stories about USSR and Russia from the Cold War through today. I usually don’t like short stories, but this one has remained with me throughout the past few years. To me, it was one of the best books of 2015. And I honestly think it would make a great place for some great book club discussions.  And if you are really short on time before one of your book club gatherings, you could pick one of the stories instead of them all. ~ Lisa Christie

Compelling Nonfiction
All You Can Ever Know: A Memoir Cover Image

All You Can Ever Know by Nicole Chung (2018). As a mother to two sons, adopted from South America and raised in overwhelmingly white Vermont, this book was truly difficult for me. Chung’s stories of growing up as the rare person of color in her predominantly white community in Oregon and the trauma that she had to work through as a result, hit a little too close to home. Her difficulties with identity and her adoption, tugged hard at my heart and my guilt. Her writing is poignant and pointed as she tells her tale of finding her birth family, exploring her own feelings about motherhood while preparing to give birth for the first time, and discovering what family means to her. In short, this book is a great memoir for anyone interested in the experiences of people of color in the USA, the experiences of adoption in the USA, and how families are formed no matter your race or birth status.~ Lisa Christie

My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Scientist's Personal Journey Cover ImageMy Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (2018). I used this book for one of the book clubs I run in my health coaching job.  In this memoir, Jill Bolte Taylor, a thirty-seven- year-old Harvard-trained brain scientist desxcribes her life before and after she experienced a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain. She watches her mind deteriorate to the point that she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life-all within four hours. However, her stroke was a blessing and enabled many revelations. A great book for intense discussions about life and thinking. ~ Lisa Cadow

Brazilian Adventure Cover ImageBrazilian Adventure by Peter Fleming (1932). In 1932, Peter Fleming, brother of Ian Fleming (yes, the James Bond Fleming) traded in his editor job for an adventure  — taking part in a search for missing English explorer Colonel P.H. Fawcett. Colonel Fawcett was lost, along with his son and another companion, while searching Brazil for the Lost City of Z (a trip recently memorialized by a Hollywood movie). With meager supplies, faulty maps, and packs of rival newspapermen on their trail, Fleming and company hiked, canoed, and hacked through 3,000 miles of wilderness and alligator-ridden rivers in search of Fawcett’s fate. Mr. Fleming tells the tale with vivid descriptions and the famous British wry humor, creating a truly memorable memoir and possibly one of the best travel books of all time.~ Lisa Christie

West with the Night: A Memoir Cover ImageWest With the Night by Beryl Markham (1942). This incredible book shows how an amazing woman lived, flew, loved and laughed in Africa in the early part of the 20th century. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Dare to Lead: Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts. Cover ImageSomething/anything by Brene Brown (assorted years). We first heard of Ms. Brown because of a TED talk. Then she seemed to be everywhere – on multiple NPR interviews, in magazines, books in friends’ homes. So we picked up a book or tow of hers and read.  In all, she takes her research studying difficult emotions such as shame, fear, vulnerability from her career at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work, and adds insights from her own “mid-life unraveling” and other real life adventures. Her messages throughout are more insightful than they may at first appear. And, she reminds us all that courage, compassion and connection are gifts that only work when exercised. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Pairings: Because They Can Be Twice As Good

Madame Bovary Cover ImageIn One Person Cover ImageMadame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1856) – John Irving’s In One Person (2012) – Madame Bovary  plays an important role in Mr. Irving’s tale of a bi-sexual man growing up on the grounds of a Vermont prep school and the life he then leads.

 

On Beauty: A Novel Cover ImageHowards End Cover ImageOn Beauty by Zadie Smith (2006) with Howard’s End by Forster (1910). Ms. Smith retells Howard’s End as the tale of an interracial family living in a university town in Massachusetts. Both sides of the Atlantic play a part in the escapades that ensue. Full of dead-on wit and relentlessly funny. Enjoy and then read Howard’s End, Forster’s classic tale of English social mores at the end of the 19th century and compare. ~ Lisa Christie

Gertrude and Claudius: A Novel Cover ImageHamlet Cover ImageGertrude and Claudius by John Irving (2000) with Hamlet by Shakespeare (1603). Most agree that Gertrude and Claudius are the villains of Hamlet . John Irving creates a Gertrude and Claudius Shakespeare left behind for his imagination. In this slim novel, Mr. Irving tells the tale of Hamlet from the villains’ perspective and things shake out slightly differently.  Read both versions and compare. ~ Lisa Christie

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So, perhaps things are a bit quieter after the bustle of December holidays. You may even have time to curl up with a good book by a wood stove, fireplace, or beach. Thus, today to end the year, we post our annual selections of great books to enjoy after the relative have left. HAPPY 2019!

Becoming Cover ImageBecoming by Michelle Obama (2018). Rarely does a book live up to its hype, but somehow, Mrs. Obama’s book does. Her reflections on her childhood, her own children, her career to date, and, of course, her interactions with her husband and other political leaders allow us all to learn something useful for our own lives. To top that off, she writes well. Her tale is unique. She has a great sense of humor and the right amount of gravitas. If you have not yet read this, we recommend you do so you can start 2019 off with a great book. BONUS: We have heard this makes an amazing audio book experience as well. ~ Lisa Christie

Cabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere Cover ImageCabin Porn: Inspiration for Your Quiet Place Somewhere by Zach Klein, Steven Leckart & Noah Kalina (2015). This beautiful, pensive book is the perfect balm to soothe the soul after a busy holiday season. Despite the salacious title, this is actually a deeply meditative collection of essays and photographs that reflects on how we can actively create community and build our own authentic quiet spaces. Author Zach Klein was looking for just this (and an escape from Manhattan) a decade ago when he went in search of land in Upstate New York. He found the perfect spot, a parcel with a brook running through it where he and a group of like-minded souls have now built several structures and created a school to teach building skills. (Check out their popular website here: https://cabinporn.com/ and become on of 120,000 followers). Their book is full of inspiration in the form of cabins, yurts, geodesic domes, converted grain silos, barns, and underground structures from all over the word. The pictures leave you feeling soothed and the essays incite reflection. In sum, if the increasing noise and fractured natured of our busy daily lives has you craving stillness and authenticity, look no further than to the pages of this book. If you dare to turn them, you just may find that a cabin lies ahead for you in 2019. P.S. Rumor has it a second book is in the works! ~Lisa Cadow

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LAST MINUTE GIFTS

Image result for images of holiday giftsDo not panic – we are here with some GREAT ideas for last minute gift giving. Happy end of 2018, and happy holidays.

Adult Nonfiction/Coffee Table/Gift Books

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany Cover ImageBibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Janet Mount (2018) – For the voracious book omnivore in your life, this cleverly curated offering will feel perfectly at home decorating a coffee table, in a well-stocked bathroom, or simply piled by the bedside. Wherever it lives, however, it will always find itself in someone’s hands. The colorful cover illustration entices the viewer to open the book and once in, provides much food for thought: What are the best bookstores in New York City (including the quizzes that they offer potential new hires!)? What are some of  the most iconic book covers of the past several decades? Name some of the best literary cats! There are even “Bibliophile” notecards and a daily planner that can accompany this lovely gift. ~Lisa Cadow

The Lost Words Cover ImageThe Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane, illustrated by Janet Morris (2017) – This gorgeous, oversized picture book could be gifted equally to the word lovers, nature-enthusiasts, etymological historians, and art-appreciators in your life. The Lost Words is a most thought-provoking recent compilation that challenges readers of any age to consider why words disappear — or, conversely, are born. It highlights and lushly illustrates words such as “dandelion,” “willow,” and “otter” that were, in the most recent revision of the Oxford Junior Dictionary, edited out of the compilation by the Oxford University Press. In their place, were put new ones such as “blog”, “broadband”, “chatroom”, “committee”, and “voice-mail.”  This is a beautiful conversation piece – perusing it makes the reader  feel as if she is taking a stroll through the English countryside – that will challenge all who encounter it to take a moment to reflect on our rapidly changing, albeit still stunning natural world. ~Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Calypso Cover ImageCalypso by David Sedaris (2018) – Mr. Sedaris’s latest collection of essays tackles the “not-so-joyful” aspects of reaching middle age. Perhaps because of this, this collection is not as laugh-out-loud funny as his previous collections. That said, it is impossible for me to read Mr. Sedaris’s work without hearing his distinctive voice in my head, making his wry insights even funnier than they initially appear on the page. And honestly, his perceptive commentary about life’s mundane and heartbreaking moments is superb no matter the level of humor. Pick this up and enjoy or give it as a great gift! ~ Lisa Christie

Adult Fiction

Lethal White (A Cormoran Strike Novel) Cover ImageLethal White (and other titles) by Robert Galbraith (2018) – This series continues to be one of my favorites. I was so grateful to devour this thriller as the news from DC was so horrid. And I will let the New York Times speak for me – “At times you might feel as you did when reading the Harry Potter books, particularly later in the series, when they got longer and looser. You love the plot, and you love being in the company of the characters, and you admire the author’s voice and insights and ingenuity, and you relish the chance to relax into a book without feeling rushed or puzzled or shortchanged…. Long live the fertile imagination and prodigious output of J.K. Rowling.”The New York Times ~ Lisa Christie

CIRCE (#1 New York Times bestseller) Cover ImageCirce by Madeline Miller (2018) – A perfect book for fans of mythology or the classics. Really one of the best books of 2018, this novel retells portions of the Odyssey from the perspective of Circe, the original Greek witch. As The Guardian described it, Circe is not a rival to its original sources, but instead ” a romp, an airy delight, a novel to be gobbled greedily in a single sitting”. If needed, this would be an especially great gift for the feminists in your life. ~ Lisa Christie

Priest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God: Poems Cover ImagePriest Turned Therapist Treats Fear of God: Poems by Tony Hoagland (2018) –  I would have picked this up for the title alone, but a recommendation from delightfully smart and poetry-loving Penny McConnel of the Norwich Bookstore meant I had to read it. She wanted to include it in her Pages in the Pub selections, but ran out of choices; so, I am happy to include it for her here. This collection contemplates human nature and modern culture with anger, humor, and humility. I honestly wanted to read this collection in one fell swoop and had to force myself to slow down and savor each poem. As The New York Times wrote, “Hoagland’s verse is consistently, and crucially, bloodied by a sense of menace and by straight talk.” ~ Lisa  Christie

Exit West: A Novel Cover ImageExit West by Moshin Hamid (2017) – We LOVED this novel.  It is short, gorgeously written, and covers important and timely topics – love immigration, war. Basically perfect. Or, as the New York Times said in it’s review, “It was as if Hamid knew what was going to happen to America and the world, and gave us a road map to our future… At once terrifying and … oddly hopeful.” –Ayelet Waldman in The New York Times Book Review ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Teens

Love & Other Carnivorous Plants Cover ImageLove & Other Carnivorous Plants by Florence Gonsalves (2018) – A superb YA book that deals with eating disorders, death, questioning one’s sexuality, mental health issues, and going away to, and returning from college with grace and love and humor. Quick plot summary Danny and Sara met in Kindergarten and vowed to be friends forever – a vow strained by Danny’s departure to Harvard after first promising to room with Sara at another college. Things unravel for them both while apart and their reunion back home during the summer after their first year away starts the drama of this book. Truly a stellar debut by this young (I think she is 24) author. This book received a starred review by Book List and praise from the School Library Journal and Kirkus. Impressive all around. (Bonus fact: She is a Dartmouth graduate.) ~ Lisa Christie

American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures Cover ImageAmerican Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Two Cultures by America Ferrera (2018) – A great and timely selection of essays about being an American immigrant or child of immigrants. Most of the essays address aspects of being a teen in the USA, providing a great “in” for most teens to the stories of these immigrants.  Plus, you will recognize a lot of the authors (e.g., Lin Manuel Miranda). ~ Lisa Christie

Picture Books for All Ages

In the Town All Year 'Round Cover ImageIn the Town All Year Round by Rotraut Susanne Berner (2008) – This is an older title that we somehow missed until recently. A sophisticated “Where’s Waldo” of the surprising things you find in town every day. A great way for kids and the adults who love them to discuss what people do day in and day out. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Atlas of Adventures: A collection of natural wonders, exciting experiences and fun festivities from the four corners of the globe Cover ImageAtlas of Animal Adventures and Atlas of Dinosaur Adventures and Atlas of Adventure Wonders of the World by Lucy Letherland (assorted years) – Ms. Letherland wrote one of our favorite oversized picture books of all time – Atlas of Adventure. We are pretty certain we gifted it to just about every family we knew once we discovered it. And, we must say every family thanked us profusely for adding it to their collection. Thus, we were excited to see Ms. Letherland’s illustrations grace these other books. All of these books provide oversized, joyous illustrations and plenty of inspiration to learn more about a wide variety of places and topics. ~ Lisa Christie

More Traditional Picture Books

Harriet Gets Carried Away Cover ImageHarriet Gets Carried Away by Jessie Sima (2018) – AWESOME tale of imagination and love.  A little girl’s mission is simple – to find party hats; how she gets them so complicated. We also are hoping the fact her adventures include two dads and a lot of penguins is a shout out to And Tango Makes Three, a great picture book based upon an actual penguin at the Central Park Zoo with two dads. ~ Lisa Christie

Ada Twist, Scientist Cover ImageAda Twist Scientist by Andrea Beaty illustrated by David Roberts (2018) – Ada’s curiosity is unending and leads her to great big messes.  Doe sit also make her a great scientist?  We all can learn from Ada’s fearless explorations, and the rhymes and illustrations are fun. ~ Lisa Christie

City Cover ImageCity by Ingela P. Arrhenius (2018) – The bold, colorful, almost block-like pictures remind of us our favorite board book for toddlers – My Car by Byron Barton. Very few words and bold graphic illustrations make this the perfect oversized book for very young readers to share with the adults who love them. ~ Lisa Christie

 

Chapter Books for Kids to Read or Families to Read Aloud

The Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle Cover ImageThe Adventures of a Girl Called Bicycle by Christina Uss (2018) – This delightful story of a girl who loves bicycles, is faced with a fate she does not want – friendship camp – and decides to take her life into her own hands and onto her favorite two wheels, has everything a great tale for kids should have – spirited heroine, a cookie-wielding sage, ghosts, quirky inventors, luck, a grand goal – bicycling across the country to meet her hero, and ultimately adults who help her seize her own destiny. Told in a perfectly sly manner with great humor and charm, this adventure book will leave every reader smiling. Thank you Ms. Beth (see below as well) for putting this in my hands.  ~ Lisa Christie

The Extraordinary Colors of Auden Dare Cover ImageThe Extraordinary Colors of Auden Dare by Zillah Bethell (2018) – Ms. Beth, our small town’s children’s librarian, put this in my hands and I honestly couldn’t believe that any book could live up to her hype. But, it charmed me completely. In this novel, a colorblind boy, Auden Dare lives in a future world where the scarcity of water is the cause of all wars.  Auden’s brilliant scientist uncle suddenly dies, leaving a home to Auden’s mother and notes outlining a mystery for Auden and Auden’s new friend Vivi. These notes lead them on an adventure they both needed and to a new friend, the mysterious robot Paragon. Together Vivi and Auden must solve the mystery that is Paragon and possibly save the world and their own families in the process. Auden, Paragon and Vivi will stay with you long after the last page. ~ Lisa Christie

Mascot Cover ImageMascot by Antony John (2018) – I laughed. I cried. I snorted from laughing and crying. And, I loved this book about baseball, horrific accidents (a dad dies and a son is in a wheelchair), rebuilding muscles and lives, friendships, parents who annoy, and middle school. I might even have to become a Cardinals fan. Reminiscent of my other favorite middle grades baseball novel Soar in its scope and its unflinching look at tough situations and how people can inspire as they face every obstacle. You will be so grateful you read this book. Or as Kirkus reviews says, “Noah’s dilemma is universal: the struggle to rebuild identity when what once defined us no longer exists. Highlights the challenges of adapting to puberty and sudden disability at the same time.” ~ Lisa Christie

Speechless Cover ImageSpeechless by Adam P. Schmidt (2018) – This tale of Jimmy, a middle school aged boy tasked with giving the eulogy for his “very hard to love” cousin, is a superb way to think about all the “hard to love” people we encounter as we go through life and what we may do to be better as a result. The fact Jimmy’s suit is way to small and buttons are threatening to pop at any moment is one of many small details that Mr. Schmidt uses with great skill to make the characters, their issues, and the whole plot real. A great debut novel that will have you thinking at its close. Note: this novel addresses alcoholism, tragic accidents, abuse. ~ Lisa Christie

Wallpaper Deer New year Lantern Star decoration Christmas tree Snow Berry Branches Pine cone Holidays Boards 3840x2400 Christmas New Year tree Conifer cone Wood planks

 

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We are very excited to present this week’s “3 Questions” with the writer George Howe Colt, bestselling author of The Big House, which was a National Book Award finalist and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (and that we LOVED), Brothers, November of the Soul, and his latest book The Game: Harvard, Yale and America in 1968. He lives in Western Massachusetts with his wife, the writer Anne Fadiman.

Mr. Colt will appear at 7 pm on Friday, December 14 at the Norwich Bookstore to discuss The Game: Harvard, Yale and America in 1968. The book offers an analysis of the USA during 1968 as seen through the young men who lived it and were changed by it. These men include a Vietnam Vet, two anti-war activists, an NFL prospect who quit in order to devote his time to black altruism, a postal worker’s son, a wealthy WASP, and the actor Tommy Lee Jones. Mr. Colt’s latest book received a starred review from Kirkus – “A richly detailed, engaging story… First-rate reporting and writing that will appeal to gridiron fans and general readers as well.” We think it would make a great holiday gift for the nonfiction readers in your life, and the Bookstore can ask Mr. Colt to personalize it for you if attend or contact them in advance.

This event is free and open to the public, but reservations are recommended as space is limited. Please call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save a seat. Please note this event is on a FRIDAY, not the usual Wednesday night for events at the Norwich Bookstore.

The Game: Harvard, Yale, and America in 1968 Cover Image
And now, his answers to our three questions. (Our favorite fun fact – Mr. Colt is married to Anne Fadiman. Our favorite part of his answers — his use of baseball lingo to describe the stack of books by his bedside.)
A Little Princess (Puffin Classics) Cover ImageSelected Poems Cover ImageIs There No Place on Earth for Me? Cover Image

1. What three books have helped shape you into the writer you are today, and why?

The Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. Of the many books that got me hooked on reading when I was a child, this was my favorite, because it so quickly and completely transported me from the suburbs of Boston to the garrets of London.

Selected Poems by T.S. Eliot. After reading The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, I wondered, “How did he know me?” The book that made me decide I wanted not only to read, but also to write.

Is There No Place on Earth for Me? by Susan Sheehan. The book that showed me what nonfiction was capable of.

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2.What author (living or dead) would you most like to have a cup of coffee with and why?

My wife, Anne Fadiman, with whom I am lucky enough to have a cup of coffee—or two—every day. She’s always interesting, always surprising, and makes a mean cold brew. If I had to invite a guest, I’d invite Jack Kerouac, an early literary hero of mine—but only if I could invite the pre-1957 version, before On the Road and all the craziness.

All on Fire: William Lloyd Garrison and the Abolition of Slavery Cover ImageIn the Darkroom Cover ImageScenes of Clerical Life Cover Image

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

I just tidied up my bedside table, reducing some fifty or sixty books to a more-manageable-but-still-tottering skyline of 24. At the plate, on deck, and in the hole, respectively: All on Fire, Henry Mayer’s biography of William Lloyd Garrison; In the Darkroom, Susan Faludi’s memoir of her father; and Scenes of Clerical Life by George Eliot.

NOTE: As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to better understand the craft of writing, The Book Jam has paired with the The Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont to present an ongoing series entitled “3 Questions”. In it, we pose three questions to authors with upcoming visits to the bookstore. Their responses are posted on The Book Jam during the days leading up to their engagement. Our hope is that this exchange will offer insight into their work and will encourage readers to attend these special author events and read their books.

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Here in Vermont we are benefitting from a blizzard of recommendations of books for kids and young adults this holiday season. What is our source? Well, two BOOK BUZZes over the course of two days means that numerous students from area schools presented their favorite books to read, give, and get. On Friday we posted the selections from the middle school students at Crossroads Academy, today we post the selections from students from our own Norwich elementary school, the Marion Cross School.

We hope you (and the kids you need to shop for) enjoy the selections from these students. Their names and grades are listed at the end of this post.

The Secret of Platform 13 Cover ImageLast Day on Mars (Chronicle of the Dark Star #1) Cover ImageThe Unicorn in the Barn Cover Image

Books for your friends who don’t like to read but who would love a great story

The Serpent's Secret (Kiranmala and the Kingdom Beyond #1) Cover Image

Superb books you would assign to your favorite adult (teacher, aunt, parent) as required reading

  • The Serpent’s Secret by Sayantani DasGupta (2018). Selected by Hannah. Another dimension with a hidden adventure.

Iron Hearted Violet Cover ImageThe Little Prince Cover Image

Best family read-alouds

  • Iron Hearted Violet by Kelly Barnhill (2012). Selected by Twyla. Best friends, dragon, mirrored sky, war.
  • The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1942). Selected by Mr. Bill. A little philosopher ponders life’s mysteries.

The One and Only Ivan Cover ImageWaiting for the Magic Cover Image

Perfect books to help you ignore the fact you are waiting for your sister or brother to finish hockey practice

  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate (2012). Selected by Gavin. Silver-back Ivan and Elephant Stella.
  • Waiting for the Magic by Patricia MacLachlan (2011). Selected by Mrs. French. Four dogs help family find comfort.

Who Is the Dalai Lama? (Who Was?) Cover ImageWho Is Jane Goodall? (Who Was?) Cover Image

Fun non-fiction books for kids who prefer TRUE stories

Refugee Cover Image

Fiction Books that do a great job of teaching history

  • Refugee by Alan Gratz (2017). Selected by Penelope. Three kids, all refugees, different times.

I Will Always Write Back: How One Letter Changed Two Lives Cover ImageGrandpa's Great Escape Cover ImageAll's Faire in Middle School Cover Image

GREAT Books to give to your friends for their birthdays

Ballpark Mysteries #6: The Wrigley Riddle Cover Image

The BEST Book to give to your younger brother or sister because it was your favorite in 2nd grade

Mascot Cover ImageThe Contract (Jeter Publishing) Cover Image

Sports books that are about so much more

  • Mascot by Antony John (2018). Selected by Jacobi. Kid in wheelchair. Out with Fredbird.
  • The Contract Series by Derek Jeter (Assorted Years). Selected by Joe. A dad, a bully, & a nothing.

Otis and Will Discover the Deep: The Record-Setting Dive of the Bathysphere Cover Image

Picture Books to read with your reading buddy (or younger sister or brother)

The Apothecary (The Apothecary Series #1) Cover ImageThe Zodiac Legacy: Balance of Power Cover ImageFriday Barnes, Girl Detective (Friday Barnes Mysteries #1) Cover ImageCalvin and Hobbes Cover Image

A series you won’t be able to put down, or what to read when you run out of Wimpy Kid books

  • The Apothecary Series by Maile Meloy (Assorted Years). Selected by Adeline. Potions! Flying! Chemistry! Stop the Bomb!
  • Zodiac Legacy by Stan Lee (Assorted Years). Selected by Benjamin. Zodiac Powers Return After 144 years.
  • Friday Barnes, Girl Detective by R. A. Spratt (Assorted Years). Selected by Milly. Smart girl detective solves crazy mysteries.
  • Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson (Assorted Years). Selected by Daniil. Calvin and Hobbes Never Grow Old.

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The Marion Cross presenters

4th grade

  • Drew
  • Ally
  • Harrison
  • Joe
  • Addy
  • Roxy

5th grade

  • Wyatt
  • Twyla
  • Milly
  • Daniil
  • Jacobi

6th grade

  • Penelope
  • Campbell
  • Benjamin
  • Gavin
  • Lucy
  • William
  • Hannah

Adults

  • Mr. Bill (Thank you Mr. Bill for your support of BOOK BUZZ and the MCS students always.)
  • Mrs. McCaull (Thank you Mrs. McCaull for all your help coaching the students. BOOK BUZZ would not happen without you.)
  • Mrs. French (Thank you Mrs. French – and the 4th, 5th and 6th grade teams – for your support of BOOK BUZZ; teachers like you make a huge difference.)

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