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…



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The Snow DayMy passion for books, reading, libraries and bookstores began when I was very young.  One of my most vivid memories is of a bookstore that was on the bottom floor of a small shopping center where my family would sometimes go because they had a nicer grocery store.  I remember feeling so overwhelmed and excited at the prospect of all of those books in one place.  I wanted them all—regardless of what they were about or if I could read them.  Sometimes I would have to step out of the store for a minute because I could truly feel myself hyperventilating.  How would I ever have time to read all of them!  Can I just live here!

I’ve calmed down (a little) since those days.  But when I visit a particularly wonderful store for the first time, I stand there a bit paralyzed—planning my route so that nothing will be missed.

The only sensation that comes close to my childhood memories of the bookstore  is a couple of times a year when The New York Times Book Review dedicates a whole section devoted to children’s books.  My husband announces its arrival as he brings the paper in and I quickly pull it out—without looking!  That’s key.  I need to wait until the perfect moment to look.  It can’t be when there is laundry to do or papers to grade.  I can literally “feel it” all day as I move through my tasks.  I love knowing it is there.  Especially this one.  The issue in November that announces the NYT choice for the 10 best illustrated books of the year.

So, I looked—but only at the back cover where, to my surprise, the best picture books were featured.  I could be wrong, but I think this is the first year the selections are on the back.  Usually, they are on the center spread over two pages.  Ummm….a little strange.  Good selections, but I miss the larger pictures that could be featured over two pages.  I can only comment on this part of the insert because it’s all I’ve looked at.  Really.  I still have a few things to do and it’s getting late, so the rest will have to wait until tomorrow—something to look forward to!

I love all of the selections and am happy to see that they are all books in the Inly Library collection.  And the one I was most crossing my fingers for is there—The Snow Day by Komako Sakai.  It is such an incredibly beautiful book.  The pictures make me kind of hurt because they are so gentle and cozy.  And, of course, Only A Witch Can Fly by Alison McGhee and Moonshop by Brian Floca are there.  The little witch in McGhee’s book (illustrated by Taeeun Yoo) looks like she stepped out of a farmhouse in the mid-1900s.  I know it’s a Halloween book, but I’m hopeful McGhee and Yoo collaborate on the rest of the holidays.