I just read a really good book – one to add to my list of “must show students in September!” The Misadventures of the Family Fletcher, a middle grade novel by Dana Alison Levy, is a happy and warm-hearted novel about family. It reminds me of The Penderwicks and The Year of Billy Miller and even Ramona. Levy is excellent on the fun of daily family life. Her episodic novel focuses on holiday celebrations, the anxiety about going to a new school, and fear of a gruff neighbor. The family is modern though – the Fletchers are not the sort of family I read about growing up in the 1970s. The Fletcher family has two dads and four ethnically diverse adopted sons. It made my heart happy to read about this family. Just by being themselves and loving one another, the Fletcher family says everything important about what makes a family. Also, I kept thinking about kids who live in new non-traditional families who deserve to see their lives reflected back to them and to normalize their lives to their friends. The Fletchers are like all of us because they are all of us.
On Friday I had lunch with one of my favorite people who happens to be the children’s librarian in Norwell. To make our lunch date more perfect, we looked through a stack of new picture books that she recently ordered. They are such fun (and perfect read-alouds) that I’ve ordered each of them for Inly’s library:
The Tweedles Go Electric by Monica Kulling (A funny and engaging story about the Tweedle family who “go green” – in the early 20th century – when they buy an electric car instead of opting for the new gas-driven cars that everyone else in town seems to have. The illustrations by Marie Lafrance sealed the deal – antique bicycles, street scenes and figures wearing period clothes.)
A Gift for Mama by Linda Ravin Lodding (Same time period as the Tweedles, but this one takes place in Vienna. A Gift for Mama is a circular story – think If You Give a Mouse a Cookie – but with beautiful oil paintings of Vienna street scenes by Alison Jay. I love Jay’s work – especially the crackle-style paintings she did for World of Wonders: Geographic Travels in Verse and Rhyme by J. Patrick Lewis.)
Queen Victoria’s Bathing Machine by Gloria Whelan (A nonfiction picture book about the more playful side of Queen Victoria. It seems that Queen Victoria faced a dilemma: she wanted to take a swim on a hot day. But she couldn’t be seen in a 19th century bathing suit in public! So her loyal and kind husband came to the rescue with a bathing machine that the Queen could sit in and roll right into the sea!)
A recommendation….this week’s New Yorker (June 23) features a wonderful article by Janet Malcolm, “The Book Refuge.” Malcolm’s article is a profile of the three sisters who run one of New York City’s most well-known and respected bookstores, Argosy, which has been run by the Cohen family since 1925. Argosy carries books on every subject – and has something for every budget. There are used books for $1.00 and currently, according to Malcolm’s article, Argosy is currently offering a first edition of Ulysses for $65,000. The store is also well known for its collection of antique prints, maps and autographs. I remember going into the store years ago and feeling like I was getting a taste of what it must have been like for families (like the Tweedles in their electric car) to visit a bookstore.
Malcolm’s article is so worth reading. It’s about the book business and New York and people who love books. Good stuff.