Liza Bernard has had many careers including weaver, cookbook writer, art show director, graphic designer, and bookseller. All of these taught her the different skills needed to do the many things necessary to keep the Norwich Bookstore afloat. She lives in Pomfret with husband Brian and enjoys occasional visits from her grown daughter Rachel, who was known as the "bookstore baby" because she spent a lot of time here when both the bookstore and she were under a year old!
Finding Freedom is the powerful story of how Erin French learned to first find and then trust herself through food and love... Set in hardscrabble Maine, she has created a magical, world-renowned restaurant, and loving family but not after bad choices and tough relationships brought her to the brink with stress and addiction. I'm glad I knew the ending before diving into this troubling tale!
How do you explain bigotry, nationalism, and fear to 12-year-olds? With storytelling! Max turns to fables and legends told by his grandfather to come to terms with refugees, power, and most of all his absent mother. Secrets the desire to help lead to a high stakes journey. And there is football! Sadly, this is a story for our time.
Gregory Maguire reimagines a classic tale to paint a vibrant coming of age novel set in 1960's New York. A consummate story-teller, Maguire's use of language brings the setting and characters to life: from the attic rooms and the workmen making repairs, to shrill - and fearful - grandmother and the boy with a swan's wing in place of an arm who suddenly appears during a storm. The protagonist, 15 year old Laura, somewhat lost and lonely, narrates her own story silently in her mind as a way to make sense of her world. This tale within the tale highlights the power of storytelling.
An "own voices" novel in verse that addresses the troubling high school to prison pipeline for Blacks. Dr Yusef Salaam was one of the 15-year-olds wrongly convicted in the "Central Park jogger" case. He has teamed up with writer Ibi Zoboi to pen this powerful story of a situation gone wrong and the cascading effect of one bad decision on a young man. Teenage angst and swagger play a role, as does creativity and love, all influenced by cultural biases embedded in the fabric of this country. A must read!
This powerful young adult novel explores the gender imbalance in Argentina. Young Camilla is a soccer star, but has to hide her playing from her abusive and angry father and less skilled older brother. But soccer offers her a way out: the possibility to play for a US college scholarship, so she can hide no longer. Her life is complicated by her attraction to a boy, a childhood friend, who is becoming an international soccer sensation but does not understand her desire to play and shine in her own right... Not an easy life, or simple story, but one of determination and strength, this is a novel that will stay with me for a long time.
Jacqueline Woodson brings us into the life of 12-year-old ZJ whose father is a beloved football star. But after years of professional head-bashing, something is terribly wrong: headaches, memory loss, mood swings. With the help of his mother and good friends, "the Fabulous Four," ZJ faces his father's decline. An important and heart-felt prose poem.
I have been trying to figure out how Bradley can take an extremely difficult topic - war, abuse, neglect - and write about it in a story for young readers that is sensitive and real at the same time. She doesn't sugarcoat it, nor does she aggrandise it. The war happened, abuse is real. Period. She does this with fully realized, caring and complicated characters including - perhaps especially - the children.
The Boy in the Field is a quietly powerful novel of family and trauma. A wounded boy is discovered by three teenage siblings on their way home from school. Each of the four main characters navigate the intricacies of the situation in different ways and from very different perspectives. At times, their reactions bring them together and at others, draw them apart, both at home and out in the community.
Another sensitive historical novel from Lauren Wolk (Wolf Hollow and Beyond the Bright Sea) set during the depression. Each member of 12-year-old Ellie's family is affected differently by the shift from living in town to a homestead on an isolated mountain. When an accident puts Ellie's father in a coma, even greater challenges must be faced, but help comes from unexpected places.
The Chicken Sisters was just what I needed to read! Community and friends, misunderstandings and assumptions, siblings and mates, kids and chickens. KJ Dell'Antonia has a fine ear for - and sensitive understanding of - family relations and our current obsessions with social media and reality TV.
So excited to have a new mystery by Sarah Stewart Taylor! (I have missed Sweeney St. George.) Maggie D'arcy, an American detective, travels to Ireland two decades after her cousin went missing there. New clues have surfaced and though she cannot officially work the case, she is actively involved. Plot twists and red herrings abound in this atmospheric page-turner!
A portrait of a young American couple during WWII. He is a mathematician working on what turns out to be the Manhattan Project and she is a party girl to start with. This novel explores the internal conflicts of war, work and the power of relationships - social and familial. I was drawn into this big novel told from an intimate perspective. The chapters alternate: 1st person narratives in her voice, his story is in the 3rd person. Moving and surprising.
A myriad of empathetic observations of others and stories of personal challenges, exquisitely rendered in words. The stories are illustrated with honest images - not staged or composed (what would have been Polaroids years ago). Many of the people and places are here in the Upper Valley, others are further afield. A book to sip and savor the writing, consider the tales being told, reflect and ponder, not gulp…
While she was still in high school, Koh's mother and father left Koh and her brother in CA to return to Korea. In this moving memoir, she translates 49 of mother's letters and tells her mother's backstory. She also explores her own struggles dealing with absent parents, cultural divides, and a family history of depression, all told with poetic grace and even some humor.
Ali Cross is the 12-year-old son of Patterson's famous NY detective, Alex Cross, and he wants to follow in his footsteps! When Ali feels that the authorities are not doing enough to find his missing best friend, he takes matters into his own hands. Computer games, foot chases, tested friendships, and family dynamics are all part of this kid-driven, action-packed mystery.
A powerful novel set in Ethiopia in the 1930s - a time and place unfamiliar to me. Mussolini and the Italian Invasion are recalled forty years later by a woman who was a young orphan and mistreated servant.The "shadow king" is a peasant pretending to be exiled Emperor Halie Selassie whom she guards. Other important characters include a sadistic Italian colonial and a Jewish army photographer who is caught up in the conflict. A beautifully rendered, complex story of loyalties, brutalities, and a woman's place in war.
This is a story of Sherman, a once-neglected donkey, with people, community, caring, and connections at its core. McDougall (Born to Run) adopts Sherman and explores ways to help him heal - beyond the obvious physical support. A colorful cast of two- and four-legged characters is involved with side explorations of mental and physical fitness and health issues. Burro racing in CO anyone?
From 14-year-old Beverly's inner dialog about losses and hopes, to her interactions with her co-workers and friends, we witness the blossoming of a thoughtful young woman. Kate DiCamillo is writing for a slightly older reader with Beverly, Right Here. Good exploration of character and community...
Kendi shares his journey from a young Black boy questioning why there were no Black teachers in his school to parroting their racist ideas. He questions the academic system and comes to embrace learning. He challenges himself on his own racists thoughts and behaviors. Is he racist against Whites? Is he colorist? Is he homophobic? If we reflect on his questions, we might squirm but also hold hope for ourselves and our culture as we celebrate the ability to grow and change. An important book for EVERYONE to read right now!
This amazing novel portrays the plight of copper miners in Michigan in 1913. Firmly based on historical people and their actions, Russell takes the novelist's license to explore the underlying thoughts and emotions of this challenging period. Why do well-meaning people do things that hurt others? And where do the miserable and down-trodden find the energy to help? It has been 4 years since her last book and Mary Doria Russell never writes the same book twice!
Aleppo was home to Nuri, Afra and their young son when the city slowly - and then quickly - fell apart. Life had been focused on beekeeping, making art, and family. War brought hunger, threats, bombs, and death. Now, to survive, they had to flee.
In recounting the daily brutality as well as the glimmers of beauty, this novel humanizes the terrifying refugee stories we read about in the news. Lefteri explores questions of trust and portrays what trauma and loss can do to individuals and their relationships.
The Beekeeper of Aleppo is a beautiful rumination on seeing what is right in front of us - both the negative and the positive.
A spare, probing look at four generations of two families thrown together by a teenage pregnancy. Moving back and forth in time, we hear from all of the major characters, the sixteen-year-olds and their parents as well as the child's perspective beginning with her sixteenth birthday celebration. Contrasting social standing, goals, desires, and understandings are played out, underscoring how early decisions and actions can change the course of lives. A powerful, poetic novel.
While some of the stories are a brief, tightly focussed half page and others relate convoluted episodes, most explore the interconnected tales centered on the community of Fall River and its denizens. Poignant and sometimes humorous - often at the same time - these stories are nuanced portraits of complicated individuals and relationships. Highly recommend!
I don't understand how John Hare can telegraph emotions without drawing a face, but he does! In this wordless story, a young astronaut gets left behind on a field trip to the moon. But he is not alone... Saying more would spoil the story! You have to read it for yourself.
I did not get any of my chores done last weekend because I had to finish the The Rationing! Set in a not-too-distant future looking back to the current time and what could be just around the corner makes the story both fascinating and terrifying... It is a smart, page-turner with attitude!
Save Me the Plums is the story of how Reichl went from NYTimes food critic to the editor of Gourmet told as only she can - with gusto for the foods, wines, and people she meets along the way. She describes the grand lifestyle that preceded - perhaps caused - the demise of the publication. We also learn more about her husband and son, and their role in her busy life. (Full disclosure, I listened to the audiobook, read by the author in her unique voice, available through our website.)
In the eve of WWII, Petra lives with her family in a lighthouse perched on the east coast of England. Her mother, a German immigrant, is distrusted by the formerly friendly community. Her feisty older sister is being drawn into a web of lies. And her rock steady father seems to become a different person altogether... The human side of conflict is deftly painted by Lucy Strange in this novel for middle-grade readers.
Emily Bernard writes from the - sadly - somewhat unique perspective of a black professor in Vermont. Though there are things we share the experience of being a daughter, a mother, a wife, her world is different than mine in ways I want and need to understand. These essays are personal and revealing, and beautifully expressed. A gift for us all.
With his signature detailed drawings, David Macaulay uses his personal story of immigrating to the US in 1957 to explore the history and design of engines and ships. He plays with scale - a huge hand on the page moves parts of a machine to show how it works - to explain complexities. The amusing details - a rabbit startled by a moving piston, a face peeking out a porthole, and a half eaten cookie on a drafting table - draw the reader into the story behind the science. There is more to discover with each reading!
While this graphic novel is about being the new kid in middle school, it is perhaps more importantly about being one of the few minority students in a private school. Jordan loves drawing but his parents want him to have the advantage of strong academics. He processes his experiences through his art and the reader gets to see the world from his perspective - and it is not always pretty... Good story to enjoy and a great discussion starter for all ages.
Fearing it would be too dark, I avoided this incredible novel for months. Though heart-wrenching at times, it is an amazing exploration of how the heart can expand to accept - if not heal from - the hurts we inflict and experience. Giddy first love is contrasted with violent jealous rage. Dubus writes about the loneliness and isolation of a man in prison, and of his daughter growing up in the care of her grandmother, essentially an orphan. The author's first novel in a decade is well worth the wait!
I had been meaning to read Stephen Mack Jones' first mystery, August Snow, when the second book landed so I read both in one weekend! Like Lee Child' Jack Reacher, Mr Snow is an ex-cop working for good outside of the system. Unlike Reacher, Snow is firmly grounded in the Detroit neighborhood in which he was raised and honors the connections and relationships his family have built. The first book centers on a financial institution gone rogue, the second on ICE and immigration including human trafficking. Both are page turners!
An inkblot escapes from the sketchbook of a graphic novelist and mighty high jinks ensue! But really this is a story of family, and friendship, loss and recovery, and the power of imagination.
Once again, Jodi Picoult takes on a hot-button issue! In A Spark of Light, she shows readers multiple perspectives on the issues of abortion through interwoven stories. Set during a hostage crisis in a clinic in the south, the commonalities between the anti and pro forces are highlighted as much their differences. A teenager looking for birth control as a step toward being responsible is trapped alongside a right-to-life activist who was spying for incriminating materials. A Catholic doctor is wounded by a distraught father. The line between hero and villain is not clear and the reader is asked to bring understanding and compassion...
The main characters in Kingsolver's new novel could be our neighbors, struggling to make sense of the world: job loss, aging, politics, responsibilities for extended family... The secondary story line, set in the late 1860s, gives the novel context and color. That there is a role in the narrative for nearly everyone on the political spectrum, from Trump supporters to Occupy participants - mirrored by 19th C developers who are petty tyrants to Darwin's supporters - makes this a great book for reading groups!
Joe Gunther has his team back together for this 29th book! Set in Vermont in a grocery warehouse, at a ski resort, and in a small hospital, Mayor has built a complicated plot. Arson, deadly refrigeration chemical leaks, a tractor trailer crash, a pregnant corpse, and a deadly infectious outbreak might all be connected. But it is the strong relationships between the main cast of characters that propels this series. Witty and quirky as always, the detectives and their families are the real story behind the mysteries they unravel.
Sy Montgomery celebrates her animal friends and family in thirteen essays that are essentially love letters! Starting with Molly, the Scottish terrier who was her big sister, and Christopher Hogwood, who we met in The Good Good Pig, we learn about the personalities and quirks of a weasel, an octopus, a trio of emus and others. Interspersed with these stories are delightful drawings by Rebecca Green and the book closes with a collection of photos of the author and her four-legged and feathered friends. A good read for all ages!
George Howe Colt takes a moment 50 years ago and, by examining the lives of participating individuals, paints a richly detailed portrait of a particular slice of history. College students, coaches, fans, their extended families, and friends all add color to the picture. He writes about what shapes a person, an institution, and society in general by telling the personal stories of veterans and conscientious objectors, rich and poor, jew and Christian, white and black... For football fans, history buffs, and anyone interested in the quirky history of our culture. Colt is a genius storyteller!
World building is taken to new heights in this first volume of The Mirror Visitor Quartet! After a cataclysm on earth, society is now dispersed among floating islands known as arks. A young woman with the skill to read the history of objects is taken from her home to marry into another ark. Family squabbles and jealousies are manipulated by masters of illusion and mind control - to name just two of the powers - challenge her sanity and very survival. I am eager for volume 2 coming in April!
Beautifully told in short, episodic passages - sometimes I could read just one in a sitting - we follow the horrific experience of a young woman eagerly looking forward to her secondary studies who is kidnapped by the Boko Haram. After witnessing the murder of her father and uncles, she and her little brother are taken along with several of her friends to a camp. She is a slave, starved and beaten, until "married" to a Boko Haram fighter. This horrific tale, based on real crimes, portrays strength and resilience in the face of deeply troubling atrocities.
Hiassen combines an environmental message, kid-propelled adventure, and goofy adult behavior for a rollicking middle-grade novel, again! As in Hoot, Scat, etc., the bad guy is really bad and the good guy comes out on top, though until the last chapter the reader is not sure how that will work. In Squirm, snake-loving Billy Dickens and his sort-of step-sister Summer Chasing- Hawks have to figure out how to help his father stop the poaching of endangered species. Science facts and high stakes escapades, drones and eagles, are all part of this lively story.
Dare You to Lie is a fast-paced, suspenseful story of one spunky high-school student's mission to get her wrongly-accused father freed from prison while trying to clear her name from a sexting scandal in her own past. The FBI, dirty cops, evil teachers, a gentle grandfather, bullies, victims, friends, and crushes all have a role in this page-turner!
In this powerful novel, Woodson paints stunning portraits of six "special" 5th and 6th graders. Given the opportunity to have an hour every Friday just for themselves, they learn that by sharing who they are, their fears - and their dreams - become manageable. One boy's father has been detained and may be sent back to the Dominican Republic. One girl's mother is dead and her father is in prison. Another boy is bullied every day on the way home from school. A “rich" girl struggles with behavioral issues... The messages about the importance of friendship, of empathy, of understanding and accepting others has never been more urgent than now.
"It's not that. It's just that I don't want to be sad and mad when I think about it all. I just want to think about the good stuff."
"Then you want forgiveness, for forgetness..."
I was drawn into the author's world of fatherhood through these essays that touch on so many facets of being a parent in today's world. He ruminates on when to support the child and when to challenge. He admits being bored sometimes, and reflects on his relationship with his own father. Serious at times and humorous at others, these short pieces have been previously published, though were new to me and I am a fan. A gem!
Local and global issues are explored in this intimate and intense novel by Melanie Finn. From East Africa to the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont, love and cruelty abound. Kay, a journalist struggling with the constraints of a marriage and family, searches for meaning and discovers other, ugly realities surrounding her. Perceptive and perplexing portraits of unique and sometimes damaged individuals illuminate universal dilemmas of love and belonging.
Check out Melanie Finn's interview on VPR!
During the period that Shakespeare wrote most of his plays, criticism of rulers was forbidden for fear of shutting down the theater or worse! So the bard reached back into history to draw portraits of individuals whose hunger for power, insecurities and corruption led to the the rise of tyrants and the terrible consequences that followed. Not once does Greenblatt mention the current resident of the White House though he acknowledges writing this book in reaction to the 2016 elections. Shakespeare's tales continue to be relevant!
Though it was nearly a dozen years ago that we were introduced to this wonderful family in Becca at Sea, only a few years has gone by on the island and 11-year-old Becca is staying with her grandmother, aunt, cousins and other assorted characters. In this moving novel for middle-grade readers, Baker shows us the beauty and occasional brutality in nature, how to see beyond a person's outer mask, the consequences of rash behavior, and the importance of caring family and friends. And Shakespeare's The Tempest is staged!
Sisters Alix and Jools, along with their parents, spend a summer week at the beach. We have the pleasure of experiencing the sea for the first time through their eyes - and ears and hopes and fears! A refreshingly wonderful interlude in the otherwise tumultuous array of chapter books written for this age group. No parent dies, no one is abused, there are no floods: just caring and sharing, learning and growing with wonder about the world around them.
Amazing, personal stories from 24 Young Adult authors and how they chose hope when faced with challenges: discrimination, fear, injury. and more. An exploration of the power of hope as well as an expose of contemporary culture. Most importantly, a great example of writing that offers "windows and mirrors" to foster understanding and empathy. (I highly recommend the audio version of Hope Nation - available from us through Libro.fm.)
A collection of essays to savor! Alexander Chee explores issues of identity, family, art, gardens, life as a writer, and so much more. He shares his discoveries about himself and our culture in these thoughtful - and thought-provoking - essays. His perspectives on the creative process are intensely personal and at the same time universal. I found myself backtracking to re-read passages for the combination of simple beauty of the language he used to express the truth he revealed.
When we are upset, it is important to be heard! Often our well-meaning friends try to sooth, distract, or even plan revenge. What we need is a Rabbit in our lives: some one who is present, who listens, who understands, rather than trying to fix things for us. An important book in these times of breakage and shouting; an oasis of healing and comfort. The uncluttered illustrations pair perfectly with the simple text creating a clear yet complex tale.
O'Farrell writes fascinating, personal - and yet somehow universal - stories of her brushes with mortality. She relates being in the wrong place at the wrong time, contracting an unusual illness, and genetically risky combinations with restrained humility and grace.
A bittersweet collection of Mosher's last writings about his beloved Kingdom. Set again in the Northern Vermont community he called home and completed just weeks before his death, he gracefully ties up all the loose ends in the Kinneson family's history.
In writing this colorful homage to her father, Anne Fadiman paints a portrait of a specific time, location, and culture. Much of what drove Clifton Fadiman was leaving the poor, Jewish, Brooklyn neighborhood of his childhood. She explores the meaning of family, friends, wine, and the power of words.