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Don’t worry, there still remains time to put those now waning but still (!) extra daylight hours to good use with Part Two of our Summer 2012 Picks.  As in the last Book Jam post, our criteria remain that summertime reads should optimally:

1) Not require too much work from the reader (hence our title – “Summertime and the Reading is Easy”);

2) Be placed in an “estival” – just a fancy word for having to do with summer – setting;

3) Elicit a chuckle or two.

So with these in mind, some further suggestions from us to inspire your summer reading. Have fun riding the waves, hiking those mountains, swinging in hammocks and turning those pages.

For a Summer Setting:

 The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home by George Howe Colt (2003). This is an “oldie-but- goodie” as it was published in 2003 but it’s lost none of its ability over the past decade to deliver a dose of summer nostalgia and insight into the meaning of vacation, memory, and family dynamics. The reader can practically feel the breezes from Buzzard’s Bay fluttering across the pages of this memoir of a family and it’s beloved beach house. Author Colt masterfully tells not only the story of a multi-generational experience in this eleven bedroom shingled behemoth on the shores of Wings Neck, Cape Cod but also of the history and psychology of summer pilgrimages since the time of Thoreau. Sadly, the time has come for the Colts to sell this treasure as the upkeep and maintenance has become too much of an expense and complications for the fourth generation to bear. A true classic to keep  on the bookshelf next to the bowls of sea glass and piles of shells. ~Lisa Cadow

Maine by J. Courtney Sullivan (2011). You can’t get any closer to the beach than with this novel that illustrates how a summer home can fill the hearts and minds of the family that inhabits is pine walls for half a century. Sullivan does an excellent job creating three generations of female characters whose hopes, dreams, and fears collide on the coast of Maine one year in late June. Young Maggie is pregnant, Ann Marie seemingly has it all but feels lonely and aimless in her empty nest, and matriarch Alice is still haunted by a night that changed the course of her life over sixty years ago. Need I say it? Maine is a great beach read. ~Lisa Cadow

For a Chuckle:

The Pigeon Pie Mystery by Julia Stuart (04 August 2012) – As with Ms. Stuart’s previous book – The Tower, the Zoo and the Tortoise – quirky and oh-so British characters drive the plot of this novel. In Pigeon Pie, Princess Alexandrina is left homeless and penniless by the sudden death of her father, the Maharaja of Brindor. Luckily, there are “grace-and-favor homes” in Hampton Court Palace for downtrodden royalty and Queen Victoria offers one to the Princess. Though the Palace is rumored to be haunted, initially all is well, the princess is befriended by three eccentric widows, the dampness of the quarters can be withstood with a stiff upper lip, her favorite servant – Pooki – comes along, and, well, they have a roof overhead. However, all gets complicated when Pooki bakes a pigeon pie for a picnic and the truly, truly insufferable General-Major Bagshot dies after eating a piece or two or three. When the coroner finds traces of arsenic in his body, Pooki becomes the #1 suspect. However, the Princess is not going to lose her dearest friend and unique discoveries and encounters abound. Bonus for reading it this summer?  The London setting will enhance any Olympic watching. ~ Lisa Christie

For when you need to escape your family vacation with a great book about one as dysfunctional as your own”

Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown (May 2011) – I know the other Lisa reviewed this for our previous Shakespeare inspired post, but this may have been my favorite read this summer, so I am putting it in here as well. What caught my attention in a way that differed from the other Lisa’s?  As someone who has always been slightly fascinated by the influence of birth order on personality development, I loved that aspect of this fun, well-written book. It’s plot? Three diverse and interesting twenty-something sisters and their lives when they each return (for their own unique reasons) to their hometown to live for awhile with their parents. Why are they back home? Due to various failures of their post-collegiate lives to meet their desires, and a need to deal with their Mom’s cancer. Bonus? The Shakespeare references. ~ Lisa Christie

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And with this list, we sign off for the entire month of August to read more books ourselves and to find some superb new selections for you.

May you all have great, just can’t put this book down moments during your end-of-summer reading. See you after Labor Day with some great new selections.

~Lisa and Lisa

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Our town, Norwich, Vermont – home to 3,400 hearty souls- has a great many things to recommend it. Chief among them is our superb library, full of well-chosen titles, as well as some interesting, little recognized historical buildings.  On March 4th, 2012  these will all be celebrated with a tribute to Dr. Seuss.  Yes, Dr. Seuss is uniting books, libraries and historical preservation.

But how? You mean you didn’t know? As Dr. Seuss says, “You’ll miss the best things if you have your eyes shut!” So open them up wide and come to Seusstival – a Dr. Seuss read-a-thon combined with a children’s production (kids over age 8 need not apply) of The Loraxbeing held on Sunday, March 4 at Tracy Hall.  Seussian readers include Norwich’s own Olympic Gold Medalist Hannah Kearney , our town’s volunteer fire fighters, police chief Doug Robinson, and Tracy Smith, art teacher extraordinaire, who will be retiring in June after 25 years of working with our elementary school students. What a special afternoon! From there to here, from here to there, funny things are everywhere!

All proceeds from this event will benefit the Norwich Public Library’s  Children’s Room (which happens to be housed in a historic building) and two historic one room schoolhouses – the Root District School and the Beaver Meadow Schoolhouse – both of which are in need of some serious renovations.  For details visit the event’s Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/seusstival. Historical footnote : Dr. Seuss, aka Theodor Seuss Geisel, attended our neighboring college –  Dartmouth – and began his cartooning career there when he edited Jack-O-Lantern, the College’s humor periodical.

In an effort to salute this meaningful collaboration and to support Read Across America, whose efforts inspired Norwich’s “Seusstival”, The Book Jam has reviewed some Dr. Seuss titles below.  A few were  new to us but others are  perennial favorites. For anyone needing Dr. Seuss tales and also wishing to support Seusstival, the Norwich Bookstore will donate 20% of all Dr. Seuss sales between now and March 4th to Seusstival. Remember, the Norwich Bookstore  will ship anywhere in the world.

Those new to us:

Scrambled Eggs Super by Dr. Seuss (1953) – A local 6-year-old was laughing so hard at the names in this book that he literally fell off the couch while being read aloud to by his mom.  Ha, you think not? Well, you try to say -Mop-Noodled Finch, Zummzian Zuks, Ham-ikka-Schnim-ikka-Schnam-ikka Schnopp, or Mt. Struckoo Cockoo – with a straight face. “I dare you to try it, I dare you to your face.” This story about making a batch of scrambled eggs from a bunch of CRAZY bird eggs will have you laughing, too, and wondering why you ever settled for the normal, hen-based kind. With its colorful egg theme, this book would make a great addition to an Easter Basket!

McElligot’s Pool by Dr. Seuss (1947) – The optimists in us love this one.  An oldie but goodie Dr. Suessian tale, this one is narrated by a boy sitting above an unlikely fishing hole. He fishes and fishes and firmly believes, not only that he will he catch one, but that he will catch maybe three.  And to top that off, he believes that they will all be quite rare and special for him by swimming straight to his lair. It may be a kid day-dreaming and wishing very hard who tells this story but it is an excellent reminder for the middle-aged adult that faith and persistence in face of the odds really can pay off…. and also that it might be time to clean up our fishing holes!

Gerald McBoing Boing by Dr. Seuss (1950) – First seen as an academy award-winning cartoon. It is less subtle than most in reminding kids that all people have talent and all kids have worth. Meet Gerald who may not be able to talk but can make the greatest sound effects of all time. With great illustrations and superb silly words to be loved from here to New Perth.

Thidwick The Big Hearted Moose (1948) New to one Lisa but not to the other, Thidwick is a fun, funny story about what happens when you say yes to everything and everyone – including a bobcat, a turtle, four squirrels, a bear and 362 bees. A not-so-subtle poke at Harvard (a collegiate  rival of Dr. Seuss’ beloved Dartmouth) is included in this tale about how a generous moose finally saves himself from the demands of his fellow forest creatures  – all of whom want to live in his antlers! A timeless message about taking care of yourself and a lovely book for anyone living in the north country, near their own version of “Lake Winna-Bango,” to have on their shelves.

Now for the classics:

The Lorax by Dr. Seuss (1971) – An environmental tale told by the now remorseful Once-ler who, bewitched by the Truffula Tree tufts, greedily chops them down to produce and mass-market Thneeds.  As the trees disappear, the Lorax, speaks for the trees “for the trees have no tongues”, and warns them all – but for his words the Once-ler has no needs. A message that never loses its power or importance, read this aloud and inspire the next generation to access its inner  Lorax.

The Sneetches and Other Stories by Dr. Seuss (1961) – A story of haves and have-nots in which access to goodies is determined by whether you have a star on your belly, or not.  But then one day, the scheming Sylvester McMonkey McBean comes to town and shakes everything up with his very peculiar machine that gives the plain bellied sneetches, gasp, stars on thars!!! Chaos and confusion ensue and soon nobody can tell who  is who. Arbitrary and constructed criteria? Yes!  But, that is the point is it not?

And though those of us at the Book Jam have not yet read it, for those of you needing a more serious take on Dr. Seuss, we note Theodor Seuss Geisel(2010) a biography of Dr. Seuss written by Dartmouth professor Donald Pease.

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