Paula Recommends: Critical Mass

December 17, 2013


by Paula Longhurst

V. I. Warshawski (or Vic to her friends) is drawn into the investigation of a missing meth addict and her genius son. Vic’s longtime friend Dr. Lotty Herschel shares a past with the missing woman’s grandmother. What seems like a simple addict-on-the-run case turns complicated as Vic uncovers connections between the great-grandmother and a Nobel-winning Austrian scientist who worked on the Manhattan project. And her investigation is ruffling some pretty high-level feathers . . .

Critical Mass, Sara Paretsky, Putnam, $26.95

The ABC of It

November 25, 2013

logo_72photoshop“Books for Young People Have Stories to Tell Us about Ourselves”

by Vivian Evans


Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to visit the New York Public Library’s exhibit entitled: “The ABC of It: Why Children’s Books Matter.” This exhibit continues until March 23, 2014. The show’s nearly 250 books and artifacts are woven together by the curator, Leonard S. Marcus. The moment I stepped through the door I felt like a child stepping back in time to the candy store down the street. Memories of delicious thoughts and feelings arose as I viewed books I devoured in my youth and then revisited with my children. The exhibit argues, “books for young people have stories to tell us about ourselves.”

The first artifact is a 1727 edition of “The New-England Primer” –“the oldest known copy of the most influential American children’s book of the 18th lessons found in books of that time. It is open to A for Adam: “In Adam’s Fall/We Sinned all.” B is for Bible: “Thy Life to mend/This Book attend.” Continuing on are other examples of books written to teach.

This historical survey of children’s books is the first part of the exhibit. Moving along, one finds displays of fairy tales and the progression of the here and now in children’s literature. There is a life-size wall cut-out of a monster from Where the Wild Things Are with the quote behind “And Max the king of all wild things was lonely and wanted to be where someone loved him best of all.” After stepping through this cut-out, turning around you find the wall covered in fur.

There is a life-size cut-out of Alice whose neck grows and then shrinks with the quote beside it. “Just at this moment her head struck against the roof of the hall: in fact she was now rather more than nine feet high.”

An exhibit about Hans Christian Anderson, “A Great Dane,” tells about his life and the type of fairy tales he told. Several original copies of his work are displayed. Edward Lear’s Nonsense Verses are recorded and can be viewed on a nearby wall with an original drawing of his.

The great green room of Margaret Wise Brown’s Goodnight Moon appears with the window cut out for stepping through. There is also an enlargement of Charlotte’s web with the words “terrific, radiant and humble” woven into it.

Some of my favorite artifacts on display were the original stuffed animals belonging to Christopher Robin, the peacock umbrella and nanny doll P. L. Travers owned, and the original manuscript to The Secret Garden written by Frances Hodges Burnett.

The exhibit has original drawings from The Wizard of Oz, Madeline, and The Wind in the Willows. A nice display of Eric Carle’s hand-dyed papers he created to use in his collages is shown. There is also a wonderful original die-cut from This Little Light of Mine. Quilts made by Faith Ringgold to honor African-American authors can also be found.

An excellent display of banned books really drives home the crazy reasoning over the years. Eight books are highlighted including: Little Black Sambo, Pippi Longstockings, And Tango Makes Three, and Huckleberry Finn. A large tower has been built with book titles stacked to the ceiling of books that have been banned.

There are also great displays about many authors and illustrators such as Randolf Caldecott, John Newbery, E. B. White, Wanda Gag, and J. K. Rowling.

Children’s books make such an impact on society and reflect our many values. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing this exhibition with the great information and artifacts it displayed. I highly recommend taking the time to see it if you are in New York over the holidays or before it closes March 23, 2014.

A long time member and former president of The Children’s Literature Association of Utah, Vivian loves people and books. When the two come together, she is especially happy.



Betsy Recommends: The Rosie Project

November 19, 2013



by Betsy Burton

Not many books can make me laugh out loud at four in the morning, but this one did. Meet Don, a distinguished geneticist high on the Asperger’s continuum who’s decided it’s time he found a wife—using scientific methods, of course. Meet Rosie, a feminist, extroverted barmaid who’s searching for the identity of her biologic father. Meet Gene and Claudia, two psychologists attempting to co-exist peacefully in an open marriage.

Told in the pitch-perfect voice of someone wired “differently” who has coped with his differences through his intellect, compulsive interest in his career, and an even more compulsively scheduled life, this is a love story that is also a tale of coming of age in middle age.

It is crisply written, the characters are complex and fully conceived, the dialogue is both clever and compelling, as is the plot. But most of all it is hilarious. Uproariously so. Save Simsion’s novel for the aftermath of some personal disaster when you’re sure nothing will ever make you laugh again. The Rosie Project will, I guarantee.

The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, Simon & Schuster, $24

Editor’s note: Graeme Simsion will be at TKE on Saturday, December 7, at 7 p.m. to read from and sign a staff favorite we’ve picked as best stocking stuffer of the year.

Our Lovely Wendy’s Update from London

November 1, 2013

Wendy in Chelsea Physic Garden-1I know that it is about time that I sent you an update on my gap year in England. The first month was filled with problems, and I simply did not want to write anything. But, slowly, we began feeling better, and we solved some of the “immigrant” problems…yes, we felt a little like immigrants only we have money to solve problems…we do have great sympathy for people moving into a new culture minus our security blanket and family. At least, I knew how to turn on the lights (when they didn’t pop—which they did) and make the electric kettle work, but we did fill in a lot of forms for bank accounts, bus passes, and library cards. We now have all of the above and can start to move through the city smoothly.

The first month also saw us entertain four sets of American guests and take a trip to a family wedding in Grange-over-Sands and visit DC friends in Peranuthnoe, Cornwall. I did not read anything those first weeks even though we are surrounded with books in Betsy’s flat. Yesterday I began the search for independent bookshops. John Sandoe is very close to the flat and the staff is friendly. I couldn’t help but buy a couple of books and can recommend an old book by Jan Morris, Coast to Coast. Perhaps everyone else has read it but it is new to me. Morris traveled from coast to coast in America in the 50s. Her description of the Mormons is wonderful. I have given the book to local friends already and ordered another copy for me. The Europa Editions have a variety of exotic mysteries. Hatchards on Piccadilly is an old independent who will have a Christmas party in two weeks with authors who I have only dreamed of before. Even our local library has book talks with authors who just happen to live here.

My great joy here is art. I can go to all the museums I want when I want to. I have joined the Tate, the Victoria and Albert, and the British Museum but spend much time at the portrait gallery and the national. I have discovered The Wallace Collection and Aspley House and the paintings in Kensington Palace and Buckingham Palace. I have a senior bus pass which allows me to hop on and off any transit and I can go from gallery to gallery. I went to Tate Britain three times in the first month to see an exhibit of works by L.S. Lowry who has been a favorite of mine for 60 years.

I have finished reading Dominion by C. J. Sansom (who we have read) and it comes alive when living here. It is an alternative history…what if England had made a pact with Hitler? It is on the best seller list here and I have the ARC. I believe it will be out in the U.S. in January. Just pulling books from Betsy’s shelves I am finding books that I have not read or, many times, not even heard of. For those of you who enjoy Jane Gardam, I am enjoying The Queen of the Tambourine. Ruth Rendell’s Harm Done was a good size for carrying on the train. There are so many books on these shelves that I feel strange buying more but can’t resist when I am in a bookshop. Thank heavens for the library card so I can listen to audio books while painting.

I do find myself thinking of you all and wondering how you all are. I pass the Millenium Hotel on Sloane Street regularly as I take the 19 or 22 bus to Piccadilly. I am trying to discover the restaurants which have vegetarian options… Wagamama, Wasabi, or even take away in our neighborhood. The food has been wonderful.

Tomorrow we plan on a trip to Parliament to see whether we can get in the gallery—if not, the Tate Modern is down the river or the National across Trafalgar. An important trial begins tomorrow at the Old Bailey but we will never be able to get in at this time. It is the journalists who were caught bugging various and assorted people.

The clocks have moved back and it is dark by 4:30 now. We are in our little flat listening to the wind and rain. Tomorrow will be a good day whether for a walk in Hyde Park or a visit to a museum. I don’t care which. I only know that I am not reading as much as I did in Utah because each street and each window makes me curious and I walk and walk. If you are coming, bring walking shoes and get your Oyster Pass at the airport.