Summer Reading from The New York Times Book Review

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I didn’t read it until Monday evening.  Not too bad.  There have been times when I had to wait an entire week until I had a chunk of uninterrupted time to read The New York Times Book Review.  And this past Sunday’s review was no ordinary edition.  This was one of two  “special sections” featuring children’s books that the Times includes each year – one in December and the other in May.  This is absolutely appointment reading, and I make sure the laundry is done, the dishwasher unloaded and the e-mails answered before I sit down to pour over every article.

It is right next to me as I write this so I can pass on a few recommendations for summer reading.  Here we go…

Rich Cohen reviewed – and loved – Barbara Kerley’s book, The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley. It is a really clever book – Mark Twain seen through the eyes of his daughter.  Here’s an excerpt from Cohen’s review: “But more than the public man, what you get here is the husband and father, the private figure named Samuel Clemens.  The authors – by the end, Barbara Kerley and Susy Clemens seem like co-authors of this book – tell you what you want to know about Twain.”  I loved the way Kerley uses Susy’s actual words in a book-within-a-book format.

One book I added to my “to buy” list after reading the book review is I Know Here by Laurel Croza.  It’s the story of a child who is moving to a new place and how they carry their memories through drawing pictures.  It sounds like an essential purchase for any school library.

I can’t wait to get my hands on a book called Herbert: The True Story of a Brave Sea Dog by Robyn Belton.  Like many people, I’m a sitting duck for true stories about dogs who survive a frightening ordeal, and Herbert sounds like a brave little soul.  Here’s an excerpt from Jim McMullan’s review: Herbert “is the story of a little dog who falls off a boat in frigid New Zealand waters and who miraculously survives for more than 30 hours until he is rescued.  Belton wisely uses sketchy yet realistic drawings to move us through the story to reach its dramatic and heartwarming conclusion.”  The picture  in the review shows a little black nose emerging from the water as a little boy looks down on him from the boat.”  Yep – this one will be purchased today.

For older readers, the review of Robert Lipsyte’s new novel, Center Field, intrigues me.  Lipsyte is the author of seven other young adult novels and a former sports reporter for The New York Times.  I’ve only read The Contender and always planned to read another Lipsyte novel.  Center Field is described as superb by the reviewer, Kevin Baker, who goes on to say the novel is pitch-perfect.  Another one to add to my growing list.

At least in the summer I can bring my stack out to the deck where I can read with a cold Starbucks cup by my side.  And when I begin to daydream, I can begin to look forward to  the December issue of the Book Review…


An Extraordinary Book


I just read a truly amazing picture book biography: The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley. Kerley is pretty extraordinary herself. She is the author of numerous books for young readers, including one of my favorites, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins.

Kerley’s new book will be added to my “go to” shelf as I anticipate many uses for this wonderful new book. It’s a creative and original biography of Mark Twain—but based on the “biography” Twain’s young daughter, Susy, wrote about her father. It is Twain through the eyes of his daughter. Several of Suzy’s journal entries are reproduced as mini booklets on nearly every page, and it works beautifully.

The back materials include information about Twain and his daughter as well as an extraordinary page on how to write biographies. I can’t wait to share this book with my students!

Happy New Year and Happy Reading!