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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to help independent booksellers, 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. (We have a rotating list of six possible questions to ask just to keep things interesting.) 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, will encourage readers to attend these special author events, and ultimately, will inspire some great reading.

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image from the March 7, 2017 Boston Globe

This week we feature Andrew Forsthoefel  author of Walking to Listen. Based upon his travels as a new graduate of Middlebury College, when he walked America with a backpack, an audio recorder, copies of Whitman and Rilke, and a sign that read “Walking to Listen”, this book offers us all a chance to hear those Mr. Forsthoefel met along his route.

Walking from his home in Pennsylvania, toward the Pacific, he met people of all ages, races, and inclinations. Currently based in Northampton, Massachusetts, Andrew Forsthoefel is a writer, radio producer, and public speaker.  He facilitates workshops on walking and listening as practices of personal transformation, interconnection, and conflict resolution.

Walking to Listen: 4,000 Miles Across America, One Story at a Time Cover ImageAndrew Forsthoefel will visit the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont at 7 pm on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 to discuss Walking to ListenThe event is free and open to the public. However, reservations are recommended as space is limited.  Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save your seat.

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek Cover ImageThe Snow Leopard: (Penguin Orange Collection) Cover ImageA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius Cover Image

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

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, by Annie Dillard, welcomed me into the wonders of contemplative writing—she plumbs the depths of her inner world while exploring her natural surroundings, and the balance becomes a revelatory relationship between her heart and the earth, her mind and and the woods. The Snow Leopard, by Peter Matthiessen, is a masterpiece of subtlety and humility, blending spiritual wondering with boots-on-the-ground, embodied experience. And Dave EggersA Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius was an inspiring model of how to write a memoir from a place of acute self-inquiry, sincerity, and radical transparency. I also gotta pay homage to Walt Whitman and Rainer Maria Rilke—poets, healers, warriors of the heart, makers of beauty and peace.

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

I’d have coffee with the Sufi poet Rumi in the desert somewhere, just to be around someone who was so profoundly in love with the world, so willing to feel the full catastrophe of being human without retreating into cynicism or despair. He made medicine of his experiences by translating them into poetry, and his life became an offering by the way he was willing to commit himself to the labor of love, his faith that the human experience is not an irreparable disaster, that it is undergirded by the redemptive potential for connection with oneself, one another, and the planet. Almost a thousand years later, he continues to serve humanity with his words. What a life! We might not even say a single word in our conversation, might just look at each other and smile. After coffee, we’d have to go for a walk.

The Law of Dreams Cover ImageJust Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption Cover ImageThe New Jim Crow Cover Image

The Wisdom of Insecurity: A Message for an Age of Anxiety Cover ImageThe End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment Cover ImageBraiding Sweetgrass Cover Image

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

I just finished The Law of Dreams by Peter Behrens, a heartbreaking novel about one young man’s emigration from Ireland in the 1800s. Couldn’t put it down. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, and The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander, were recent (and necessary) reads for me, illuminating the racism and oppression laced into and created by our criminal justice system. The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts, and The End of Your World by Adyashanti, arrived in my hands right on time a few months ago, and I’m keeping them on my bedside table to remind me not to fall asleep. Up next: Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer.

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to help independent booksellers, 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. (We have a rotating list of six possible questions to ask just to keep things interesting.) 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, will encourage readers to attend these special author events, and ultimately, will inspire some great reading.

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This time we feature Brooke Williams. Mr. Williams has spent the last thirty years advocating for wilderness. He is the author of four books and his pieces have appeared in Outside and the Huffington Post.

Open Midnight: Where Ancestors and Wilderness Meet Cover Image

Mr. Williams will visit the Norwich Bookstore in Norwich, Vermont at 7 pm on Wednesday, March 29th to discuss Open Midnight, his latest book which explores two themes: 1) a year he spent alone verifying backcountry maps of Utah, and 2) his ancestor’s trip from England to the American West in 1863. The event is free and open to the public. However, reservations are recommended as space is limited.  Call 802-649-1114 or email info@norwichbookstore.com to save your seat.

Here Is Where We Meet Cover ImageThe Voyage of the Beagle: Journal of Researches Into the Natural History and Geology of the Countriesvisited During the Voyage of H.M.S. Beagle Cover ImageThe Things They Carried Cover Image

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

This is Where We Meet by John Berger (2006). I love how Berger takes seemingly everyday events and imbues them with intense meaning. This has been important to me, knowing that my own experience is valuable and can be mined for universal meanings.

The Voyage of the Beagle by Charles Darwin (1839). This was the grand adventure. But it is Darwin’s attention to the details of the natural world that serves as an example. The only real truth we have is the wild truth and this has served me as the foundation on which I stand and from which I step forward.

The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (2003). I love how his stories are based on real events but for me, it’s the relationships the characters have with one another that adds a dimension which makes this a book I read often.

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

Robinson Jeffers, the California Poet. I get the sense that he was tapped into other quantum-like worlds. His writing is comforting and in a way, simple, and yet, in so few words transports me into those other worlds. I have many questions for him.

Landmarks Cover ImageThe Earth Has a Soul: C.G. Jung on Nature, Technology and Modern Life Cover ImageQuiet Until the Thaw Cover Image

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?

— Alexandra Fuller’s galley for Quiet Until the Thaw (2017), in which she tells historic stories through the eyes of Lakota characters.

— Landmarks by Robert MacFarlane (2016), a beautiful book about the language of the wild.

— The Earth Has A Soul by Meredith Sabini (2002). I love thinking of the collective unconscious as where our entire evolutionary history is stored.

 

 

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While it is hard to top the list the Pages in the Pub presenters gave us in November or the one that BOOK BUZZ students gave us earlier this month, for those of you still needing gift suggestions, we have a few books for you to try. We truly hope our list helps you succeed with your last minute present shopping. Happy Holidays!

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Adults

Clever Novels for Fiction Lovers
Nutshell Cover ImageHomegoing Cover Image

The Nutshell by Ian McEwan (2016) – I heard about this retelling of Hamlet from the perspective of an unborn fetus while in the UK this summer. I was skeptical, but since I love most of Mr. McEwan’s work I read it as soon as it was available.  WOW!  As Lisa Cadow said in our previous review  – this novel is treasure. Told from the completely unique 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. As Lisa Cadow said, this modern-day interpretation of Hamlet, Nutshell 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 Christie and Lisa Cadow

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) – A perfect debut novel to give to people who like to discover new authors. The work spans eight generations of characters living in Ghana, the UK and the USA. Thank you Liza Bernard for bringing this to our attention. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Must Read Memoirs, with Belly Laughs

You'll Grow Out of It Cover Image

You’ll Grow Out of It! by Jessi Klein (2016) – Recommended by Lucinda Walker, librarian extraordinaire, during Pages in the Pub, this laugh out loud, poignant, insightful memoir was exactly what I needed to counteract the vitriol of the recent election. ~ Lisa Christie

For Those Book Lovers Who Have Everything

Sense and Sensibility Cover ImageMadame Bovary: Provincial Lives Cover ImageGreat Expectations Cover ImageAnna Karenina Cover Image

Assorted Classics such as Sense and Sensibility, Madame Bovary, Inferno (for example),  from the Penguin Clothbound Classic series. Or, you might prefer the Word Cloud Classics faux leather series with  Great Expectations , Jane Eyre, and Anna Karenina to name a few. Titles in both these series are gorgeous and reasonably priced. Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Closet Mystery Lovers (We review a few more of these as they make great gifts.)

A Great Reckoning Cover ImageThe Waters of Eternal Youth Cover ImageI Let You Go Cover ImageThe Girl in the Spider's Web: A Lisbeth Salander Novel, Continuing Stieg Larsson's Millennium Series Cover Image

A Great Reckoning by Louise Penny (2016) – Somehow Ms. Penny cast of characters in her lovely Quebec Village of Three Pines makes murder comforting. The latest instalment of her Inspector Gamache series is well plotted, infused with poetry and just a great end of summer read.  Enjoy! ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

The Waters of Eternal Youth by Donna Leon (2016) – Another superb Commissario Guido Brunetti mystery. This time a young girl is attacked and left for dead, but instead suffers severe brain damage.  Years later her grandmother asks Guido to investigate. The tale weaves illegal immigration, refugees and mental illness together.  It also allows us to spend time with Guido and his superb family. Enjoy. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

I Let You Go by Clare Macintosh (2016) – THE thriller for summer. Written by a retired UK police woman, this is better than than the books it gets compared to – Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train. You will like the characters, you will feel each plot twist and you will lose a day of productivity as you finish this novel. Have fun! ~ Lisa Christie

Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz (2016) – Fans of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series will not be disappointed. This had me entertained for hours en route home from the UK. ~ Lisa Christie

For History Buffs
Wine and War: The French, the Nazis, and the Battle for France's Greatest Treasure Cover ImageThe Night Watch Cover Image

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters (2006) – This one is for fiction lovers. Yes, another WWII novel, but worth reading.  This time the plot revolves around people in London just after WWII ends, during the nightly bombings of WWII, and at the start of the war, all told backwards chronologically.  May of the women have taken up important positions as ambulance drivers, the men are in jail for a variety of crimes; their adventures and connection they share link the tales. The prose is beautiful and the images Ms. Waters creates of life for civilians during war memorable. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Wine and War by Don and Petie Kladstrup (2002) – This one is for nonfiction readers. I haven’t finished this yet as someone (hello Langhus Family) just gave it to me as gift, but I am loving this true tale of how the wine industry in France was saved during WWII. Combine this paperback with a bottle from France, and voila you have a perfect holiday gift combination. ~ Lisa Christie

For Food Lovers 

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The easiest way to find great cookbooks is to visit our recent post on great cookbooks.

For Travellers and Others Who like Books about Cool Stuff

The Best Things in Life Are Free Cover ImageMap Stories: The Art of Discovery Cover ImageGreat City Maps Cover Image@Natgeo: The Most Popular Instagram Photos Cover Image

The Best Things in Life Are Free by Lonely Planet (2016) – Just when you thought Lonely Planet had covered all the travel book angles, they do it again. This time a guide to all things free as you travel this world. Have fun not spending money as a result of owning this book. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Map Stories: The art of discovery by Francisca Matteoli – The author uses twenty places and voyages that inspired her to show how maps emerge from discovery and how discovery creates maps. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Great City Maps: A historical journey through maps, plans and paintings by DK Smithsonian (2016) – This is like a museum in a book. The authors take you through maps of various cities and show you how cities are shaped by events, geography, and the people inhabiting. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

@Nat Geo: The most popular instagram photos by National Geographic (2016) – This could be the perfect gift for your favorite photographer or explorer. Perhaps you could have it accompany an actual camera under the tree for your aspiring picture takers or a coupon for an exploration of a nearby, unknown territory during the holiday break? ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Kids and Kids at Heart

For All Fans of Harry Potter

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay Cover Image

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by JK Rowling (2016) — This is terribly fun to read and really what is better than returning to the wonderfully magical world of Harry Potter? This time you visit in 1920 and hang out with a Hufflepuff hero. There is a reason JK Rowling once said that was her favorite Hogwarts house. Combine this screenplay with two tickets to see the movie, and you have a perfect last minute gift for almost anyone. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

For Those Who Like Memoirs and Biographies

The Distance Between Us: Young Readers Edition Cover ImagePrisoner B-3087 Cover Image

The Distance Between Us: YA version by Reyna Grande (2016) – This book seems especially important with all the recent talk about walls along the US border and hatred towards illegal immigrants.  Ms. Grande has adapted her memoir for young adults and in it she tells of her life as a toddler in an impoverished town in Mexico, her three attempts to cross into the USA with a coyote as a young child, her life in LA as an illegal immigrant, how her family gained legal status and how she managed college. This is not for the faint hearted due to themes of physical abuse and complicated relationships with parents who are always leaving.  But it is important to be informed, and this book will put faces on any political discussions about immigration that the teens in your life might encounter. ~ Lisa Christie

Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz (2013) – An amazing book about the holocaust that my 13 year old just declared probably “the best book he’s read”.  Mr. Gratz takes the true story of Jack Gruener, who was moved through ten concentration camps including Auschwitz, and with slight poetic license creates a tale of survival amongst unspeakable horrors that must be remembered. ~ Lisa Christie

Just for Fun

The Trials of Apollo, Book One: The Hidden Oracle Cover ImageRaymie Nightingale Cover ImageJust My Luck Cover Image

The Trials of Apollo: Book One by Rick Riordan (2016) – Mr. Riordan’s treatment of mythology may be getting old for some, but not for me. Why? Well because his ability to capture teen angst and power remains spot on and perfect for narrating these tales. In his latest book, Apollo has fallen to earth as a teenage boy with flab and acne as punishment for his most recent sin against his father Zeus. He turns to his children at Camp Half Blood for help, and with his mortal enslaver manages to figure out what is going wrong on earth. The question is can he solve it? (Cliffhanger alert – Not in book one.) ENJOY! And thank you Augie Fortune for introducing me to this author all those years ago when you visited Vermont. ~ Lisa Christie

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (2016) – Ms. Camillo returns to 1970s Florida and creates a superb tale of three young girls who discover each other and themselves over the course of a summer.  The plot centers around Raymie’s plan to bring her father, who left town two days ago with a dental hygienist, back — she will win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition, get her picture in the paper and remind him he needs to come home. First though she must learn to twirl a baton and defeat the two other girls in her lessons. Delightful! ~ Lisa Christie 

Just My Luck by Cammie McGovern (2016) – Truly a superb book that illustrates what it is like to be a 4th grader, have an autistic older brother, a distracted teacher, and feel as if you were the cause of your father’s life-altering accident. Basically it shows what it is like to be loved and to love. ~ Lisa Christie 

Great for Reluctant Readers

Booked Cover ImageWho Was Harriet Tubman? Cover Image

Booked by Kwame Alexander (2016) – Another hit by Mr. Alexander. This time a soccer player experiences family hardships (divorce) and teen angst (soccer tryouts).  The poetry format is winning. And my 13-year-old fan of The Crossover finished this in 18 hours (with school interfering.) We also highly recommend The Crossover .~ Lisa Christie

Who is What Was Who Is series (assorted years) – We recommend this series every year, but they keep adding great books.  Truly perfect for reluctant readers, and they will learn a lot. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Books Based in Historical Facts and/or People

The Seventh Most Important Thing Cover ImageThe War That Saved My Life Cover ImageSalt to the Sea Cover ImageAnna and the Swallow Man Cover Image

The Seventh Most Important Thing by Shelley Pearsall (2015) – Listened to with my ten year old and his friend on a long trip to Maine. We all loved this tale of a “trash man” who is actually making an amazing piece of art (actual artist James Hampton), the boy who hurts him and the penance he must pay.  There are lessons for all in this, but most importantly there is a good story of what happens when someone tales the time to get to know someone. ~ Lisa Christie

The War that Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015) — When Gary Schmidt (one of my favorite authors) blurbs a book with the words “I read this in two big gulps” I pay attention. This tale of two of the many children who were sent from London to the countryside for safety (think The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe) is full of adventure, hardship, and ultimately love. I especially loved Ada and here feisty fight for her place in the world. ~ Lisa Christie

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys (2016) – Just when you thought you WWII had been written about from every angle, an author proves we needed another WWII book. In this one four teenage refugees and their friends flee the Russians and the Germans.  Their tales will haunt you as you listen to today’s headlines about Syrian and other refugees. This one is important. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie 

Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit (2016) – This slim YA novel looks at life as a refugee – this time in Poland during WWII.  Anna’s father never comes home from work on day and she is befriended by a mysterious stranger who remains nameless throughout the book. Somehow, the author makes walking in circles in Poland compelling and meaningful, especially in light of today’s headlines from Syria. A great choice for fans of The Book Thief~ Lisa Christie 

Picture Books – We are going with the experts at Marion Cross School as heard during BOOK BUZZ

Chalk Cover ImageGo, Dog. Go! Cover Image

Chalk by Bill Thomson (2010). Selected by Ava B – Magic chalk drawings come to life.

Go, Dog. Go! by PD Eastman (1961). Selected by Mateo, presented with help from Drew – What is up in that tree?

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!  May the final days of 2016 be filled with books and loved ones.

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Norwich is buzzing about BOOK BUZZ: Book selections by kids for kids, just in time for holiday giving

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The spirit of community is afoot in Norwich, Vermont. At the end of a snowy day in our hometown, people gathered to taste wine and raise money for the Haven, our local shelter; some attended a First Wednesday presentation, a project of the Norwich Public Library and Norwich Historical Society and Vermont Humanities Council; they attended our Select Board meeting and heard about all the area nonprofits who need support; they joined our school board meeting; and of course they shopped at Dan & Whit’s, our unique General Store and the Norwich Bookstore, our beloved indie bookseller. Yes, one of the many reasons The Book Jam loves our hometown is that fact that on certain nights your options for community engagement are abundant. (Continuing the Norwich community theme, just next door in White River Junction, at Open Door, people were listening to Norwich beloved doctor, Michael Lyons and storyteller extraordinaire Cindy Pierce discuss how to talk about sex with your kids.)

However, what really has the town buzzing is the fact that on this same night, ten elementary school students (all in 4th 5th or 6th grade), one teacher, and one principal stood up in front of an audience of 100 and presented two of their favorite books. Why? Quite simply because they wanted to help you find the perfect books for the kids in our town, and to raise money for our school. Yes, BOOK BUZZ came to Norwich last week, and wow did the student presenters give us a great list of books to share. These books are kid tested and kid approved and will make great holiday gifts, and/or provide a superb list for your kids to tackle over the upcoming holiday break.
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THANK YOU to all the presenters:

Thank you to the BOOK BUZZ sponsors – The Marion Cross School PTO (especially Stephanie McCaull and Susan Simmers), boloco and the Norwich Bookstore.

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And now, the presenters’ list.

Shiloh Cover ImageThe Orphan Army Cover ImageFriday Barnes, Girl Detective Cover Image

BOOKS FOR YOUR FRIENDS WHO DON’T LIKE TO READ BUT WHO WOULD LOVE A GREAT STORY

A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story Cover ImageThe Tao of Pooh Cover ImageThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time Cover Image

SUPERB BOOKS YOU WOULD ASSIGN TO YOUR FAVORITE ADULT (TEACHER, AUNT, PARENT) AS REQUIRED READING

Sheep in a Jeep Cover ImageFish in a Tree Cover ImageSmells Like Dog Cover Image

BEST FAMILY READ-ALOUDS

  • Sheep in a Jeep by Nancy E. Shaw; Margot Apple, ill. (1986).Selected by Jasper – My family likes to read it.
  • Fish in a Tree by Linda Mullaly Hunt (2015). Selected by Ava G – Girl with dyslexia finds new friends.
  • Smells Like Dog by Suzanne Selfors (2010). Selected by Ava B – Treasure-hunting adventures with Homer and Dog.

Because of Winn-Dixie Cover ImageThe Wild Robot Cover ImageAl Capone Does My Shirts Cover Image

PERFECT BOOKS TO HELP YOU IGNORE THE FACT YOU ARE WAITING FOR YOUR SISTER TO FINISH HOCKEY PRACTICE

  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (2000). Selected by Hazel – Lost dog found by a special girl.
  • The Wild Robot By Peter Brown (2016) – Selected by Rowan – Robot finds her way in nature.
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (2004) – Selected by Anna A – Interesting story, boy lives on Alcatraz.

When the Wolves Returned: Restoring Nature's Balance in Yellowstone Cover ImageWho Was Roberto Clemente? Cover ImageWhat Was the Alamo? Cover ImageWho Is J.K. Rowling? Cover Image

FUN NON-FICTION BOOKS FOR KIDS WHO PREFER TRUE STORIES

  • When the Wolves Returned by D.H. Patent (2008) – Selected by Mrs. French – Wolves return balance to Yellowstone Park.
  • Who Was? What Was? Who Is? (series) (assorted authors and dates) – Selected by Lisa – Great people, places, and things explained.

The War That Saved My Life Cover ImageA Night Divided Cover Image

FICTION BOOKS THAT DO A GREAT JOB OF TEACHING HISTORY

  • The War That Saved My Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (2015) – Selected by Mateo –  Beaten down, but still got up.
  • A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen (2015) – Selected by Rowan – Girl struggles to find her dad.

Treasure Hunters Cover ImageThe Seventh Most Important Thing Cover Image

GREAT BOOKS TO GIVE YOUR FRIENDS FOR THEIR BIRTHDAYS\

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made Cover Image

THE BEST BOOK TO GIVE YOUR YOUNGER BROTHER OR SISTER BECAUSE IT WAS YOUR FAVORITE IN 2ND GRADE

Chalk Cover ImageGo, Dog. Go! Cover Image

PICTURE BOOKS TO READ WITH YOUR READING BUDDY (OR YOUNGER SISTER OR BROTHER)

  • Chalk by Bill Thomson (2010). Selected by Ava B – Magic chalk drawings come to life.
  • Go, Dog. Go! by PD Eastman (1961). Selected by Mateo, presented with help from Drew – What is up in that tree?

The Boys in the Boat (Young Readers Adaptation): The True Story of an American Team's Epic Journey to Win Gold at the 1936 Olympics Cover ImageSoar Cover Image

SPORTS BOOKS THAT ARE ABOUT SO MUCH MORE

Warriors #1: Into the Wild Cover ImageEncyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Treasure Hunt Cover ImageThe Terrible Two Cover ImageThe Terrible Two Get Worse Cover Image

SERIES YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO PUT DOWN, OR WHAT TO READ WHEN YOU RUN OUT OF WIMPY KID BOOKS

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As part of our mission to promote authors, the joy of reading, and to help independent booksellers, 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. (We have a rotating list of six possible questions to ask just to keep things interesting.) 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, will encourage readers to attend these special author events, and ultimately, will inspire some great reading.

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This week we feature beloved children’s author and illustrator Tomie dePaolaMr. dePaola has been published for over 40 years and has written and/or illustrated nearly 250 books, including Strega Nona, 26 Fairmount Avenue, and Christmas Remembered. Over 15 million copies of his books have sold worldwide. Mr. dePaola and his work have been recognized with many honors including the Smithson Medal from the Smithsonian Institution. The University of Connecticut, Georgetown University and Pratt Institute, among others, have granted him honorary doctoral degrees. In 1999, he was selected for the New Hampshire’s Governor’s Arts Award of Living Treasure. He lives in New London, New Hampshire, with his Airedale terrier, Brontë, and works in a renovated 200-year-old barn.FC9781481420624.JPG

Mr. dePaola will return to the Norwich Bookstore Thanksgiving Weekend from 10:30 am until noon on Saturday, November 26th for his annual book signing. The bookstore will have a surplus of dePaola’s books on hand — both his new The Moon’s Almost Here and his classics. Come and meet Mr. dePaola and get books signed for your special young readers (or for yourself). And now, Mr. dePaola’s answers our three questions.

D'Aulaire's Book of Greek Myths Cover ImageThe Nutcracker Cover ImageThe Year at Maple Hill Farm Cover ImageLittle Women Cover Image

Johnny Tremain Cover ImageThe Brothers Karamazov Cover ImageHigglety Pigglety Pop!: Or There Must Be More to Life Cover Image

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

As an artist, and as a child: The d’Aulaires, Sheilah Beckett.

In Art School: Martin and Alice Provensen.

As a writer, and as a child: Little Women. In High School: Johnny Tremain. In Art School: The Brothers Karamazov, Higglety Pigglety Pop, and many more.

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

Author: Gertrude Stein, because she really liked artists.
Artist (Illustrator): Jon Klassen

The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World Cover ImageMister Monkey Cover ImageRainer Maria Rilke's the Book of Hours: A New Translation with Commentary Cover Image

3.What books are currently on your bedside table?
The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams
Mister Monkey by Francine Prose
Rilke’s Book of Hours

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Every year the annual Oscar broadcasts honors movies, but inadvertently it also honors books, because many movies find their inspiration in literature. This year was no exception. So as the 2016 Oscar buzz fades, we review some of the books behind two of this year’s Oscar nominated movies, as well as a book or three we think would make great movies (you are welcome Hollywood).

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Brooklyn by Colm Toiban (2009) This film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is one of the rare examples of a movie that is as good as the book — though, at times, it is notably different. Brooklyn is a coming of age story about a girl, Eilis, who leaves Ireland post World War II to travel to New York for better prospects. She arrives alone, leaving behind her beloved sister, Rose, her mother and brothers. Brave, smart Eilis carves out a life for herself and even finds a beau in sweet Tony before tragedy calls her unexpectedly back to Ireland. Brooklyn is a complicated love story, one that also paints one of the most poignant pictures of homesickness and a rough transatlantic journey that we have ever read. It is definitely a book that will stay with the reader and generate plenty of discussion for lucky book groups that have yet to select it. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

Room by Emma Donoghue (2010). There’s now way around it, the concept behind this novel sounds awfully depressing: a woman and her five year old son son are held captive in one room (the mother for seven years and the son since his birth). The mother, however, with her grit and creativity, makes the entire experience an adventure to preserve some semblance of her son’s childhood, as well as her own sanity. Somehow, the book leaves the reader feeling hopeful. Well-written, suspenseful and worth recommending to friends looking for a “good read”. The movie received four Oscar nods, including best picture, Actress in a Leading Role (SHE WON), Directing, and Adapted Screenplay. NOTE: Last reviewed on the Bookjam in October 2015 as a book we would (actually) reread if we had the time. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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And now a few that we think should become movies (and as an unintended bonus would help make the Oscar contenders a bit less white – a very good outcome in our vision).

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward (2013) – This coming of age memoir shows what it is like to grow up smart, poor, black, and female in America. Ms. Ward begins with a two year period of time, shortly after she graduated college, during which five boys who she grew up with along the Mississippi Coast experienced violent deaths. (Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath also play a role in this drama.) Her prose illuminates these dead young men and the people who loved/still love them; it also exposes the people behind the statistics that almost one in ten young black men are in jail, and that murder is the greatest killer of black men under the age of twenty-four. And while the material is difficult, the memoir is not; it is insightful, introspective, beautifully written, and important. At some point Ms. Ward states that the series of deaths is “a brutal list, in its immediacy and its relentlessness, and it’s a list that silences people. It silenced me for a long time.” We are glad she found her voice and told her story. And, we truly hope to see it on a big screen soon. ~ Lisa Christie

Vida 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 Cadow and Lisa Christie

For those of you who prefer Romantic Comedies for your movie enjoyment, we reviewed this next book – Eight Hundred Grapes – as part of our 2015 end of summer reading picks. We thought it would be a good movie then, and we stand by that now. (Keeping with our theme of picks that would make films less white, we challenge the producers to cast Asians, Latinos, African Americans, Indians, Native Americans, or other ethnic groups in some of the roles or as directors, best boys, or grips or…) NOTE: Apparently we do pretty well when picking books that should also be movies, we just discovered that shortly after we posted our review, FOX optioned this book for film. Coincidence? We think not.

Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave (2015) – The title refers to the number of grapes required to make a bottle of wine. The story revolves around a Sonoma, California vineyard and the family who has tended it for decades. The novel launches with the narrator, a successful LA lawyer with a lovely British architect for a fiance, sitting, inappropriately dressed, in her brothers’ bar after discovering there is more to her fiance than she believed. When she retreats to her family’s vineyard to think, she learns her fiance is not the only one with secrets. ~ Lisa Cadow and Lisa Christie

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Once again we approach African American/Black History Month with curiosity and questions. In addition to pondering why only one month is devoted to contributions of African Americans, we are embracing February’s heightened attention to contributions of African Americans as an opportunity to review GREAT books by Black authors. One is considered a classic; others are brand new, some somewhat new. One is geared to kids, others for adults, and one for young adults. But, we recommend them all. (We also revisited our past year of reviews to see how well we represented the diversity of race and culture that books offer us. Details of our annual audit are at the end of this post.)

Enjoy!

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God Help the Child by Toni Morrison (paperback January, 2016). A  story about the power of parenting and its unforeseen effects on our children (and society). I have only read Beloved so am a relative newcomer to the power of Morrison’s prose. This story is the only one of Morrison’s books to be set in the modern day yet it has a timeless, almost parable-like quality to it. It centers on two main characters, young lovers Bride and Booker, both in their 20’s, whose life paths and current missteps have been and continue to be affected by the events of the actions of their parents.  We meet them in glitzy, bustling LA but follow them to a quiet, obscure town in northern California that provides a backdrop for painful truths to emerge. Morrison addresses the subject of racism within the black community as well as the epidemic of sexual abuse within our society. There are, however, themes of hope, new life, and healing woven in throughout. Not an easy read but an important one.~ Lisa Cadow

Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred Taylor (1975) – Somehow I missed reading this classic in my youth, which is why I am so glad my 4th grader chose this book for our current read-aloud. While the subject matter is tear-inducing, this ten-year-old and I are enjoying this well told tale of a loving family living through horrific relations among black and white populations in a rural town. In fact, my son keeps comparing this novel to Stella By Starlight, another book we read aloud about “messed up” (as my teen would say) race relations that I highly recommend (reviewed on my ongoing reading list). He also connected this book to what he heard on the news during the past year, resulting in many great conversations. ~ Lisa Christie

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie (2015). On page ten of this succinct, accessible manifesto, Adichie already has readers laughing out loud when she describes herself as  “Happy African Feminist Who Does Not Hate Men Who Likes To Wear Lip Gloss And High Heels For Herself And Not For Men”. Full of disarming humor, this book invites serious discussion about a term (feminist) that is challenging to unpack the world over – whether you live in Nigeria or New York. Adichie raises lots of “What if’s?” about the future, ponders the present, and tells stories of her own family and upbringing in Africa. This work was inspired by a a TEDx talk Adichie delivered in 2006. If you would like to see it, watch here. Please share the it – and the book – with your daughter, your son, everyone. ~ Lisa Cadow (Lisa Christie wholeheartedly seconds this review)

Black Man in a White Coat by Tweedy Damon, MD (2015) – “It’s up to us, as doctors, to find the commonalities and respect the differences between us and our patients,” Dr. Tweedy writes. This examination of a black man’s medical education and subsequent service as a doctor offers insight, honesty, and questions about the role of race in America today. I enjoyed every self-reflective moment of being with Dr. Damon in his memoir; may all my doctors embody his compassion. (This would make a great gift for the medical students/doctors in your life.) As a NYTimes review of this book states, “on one level the book is a straightforward memoir; on another it’s a thoughtful, painfully honest, multi-angled, constant self-interrogation about himself and about the health implications of being black in a country where blacks are more likely than other groups to suffer from, for instance, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, kidney failure and cancer.” ~ Lisa Christie

All-American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely (2016) – Two authors, one black and one white, were placed together on a book tour. As a result, they became friends as they bonded over their sadness/dismay/anger over what was happening to black teens in the USA (i.e., Trayvon Martin, Ferguson). As a result of their need to make sense of what they were seeing and to help, they created this book – their view of an incident in which a young black man is beaten by a white cop. The tale is told in alternating chapters and voices – one voice being the black male who was beaten and the other a white teen who witnessed the beating. Nothing is as simple as it seems, but the voices feel real, and I love the idea of these two authors collaborating on such an important issue. This novel also reminded me of another book I loved and highly recommend – Kekla Magoon’s How It Went Down, reviewed on the Book Jam last June~ Lisa Christie

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We end today’s recommendations with a review of how broad a selection of authors we have featured since last February’s diversity audit. We found that during the past twelve months, we reviewed books by 140 authors. (We removed the “Pages in the Pub” and “Three Questions with Authors” and “Guest Author” posts as we do not choose those all of those books.)  Slightly over half (59%) of the authors we featured were women, 37% were men, and 4% were written by groups of authors or organizations such as Lonely Planet. A majority of the authors we featured (77%) were white, with 23% authors of color. Overall, 15% of the authors we featured were nonwhite Africans or African Americans, 4% Hispanics, and 2% Asians. Geographically speaking, we featured almost all the continents, with 56% of featured authors hailing from the USA, 33% from Europe, 7% from Canada, 3% from Australia, and 2% from Africa.

To sum, we can and will do better featuring authors of color.

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