The Hollywood Book Club: reading with the stars
By Steven Rea
Once in a while, I need a quick and easy read. This was the perfect one for me. Hollywood Book Club is a good book for folks who still dream of old Hollywood and black & white pictures. Every page features a photograph of a movie star with a book in their hands. The opposite page includes a brief passage about the celebrity’s filmography along with the title of the book they are reading in the photograph. It was a neat little book!
I admire an author who writes a children’s book that works both as a great read-aloud while also appealing to youngsters just graduating from the easier beginning reader books. Local author Jamie Michalak has one such book with Frank and Bean.
In less than 50 pages and four short chapters we meet Frank, an introverted fellow who craves the peace and quiet required to write in his secret notebook, and Bean, who arrives on the scene with seemingly every instrument known to man. Not surprisingly, Frank (who if you haven’t already guessed is a frankfurter), is not happy about the intrusion. Bean (yes, the musical fruit) honks and toots and vrooms, loudly. (He’s also brought his motorcycle.) This is not auspicious for a workable relationship. And yet.
Bean is on a quest. And it turns out that Frank has the poetry that Bean is seeking to turn his (loud) musical musings into song. The humorous illustrations of Bob Kolar enhance this humorous yet warm story of the beginnings of friendship.
A sure winner with a gentle message.
By Nancy Kellner
by Stephen King
Ah, Stephen King, my old friend. It’s been a long time since I read anything by the Meryl Streep of horror and I went into this book hopeful and thinking, “It’s going to be traumatic X-Men. I’m definitely going to like it.” To reiterate, it was a very enjoyable experience starting with the punchy cover art of a child in a boxcar, meant to simulate his own bedroom (this is relevant to the narrative and not just for looks).
The novel starts out with twelve year-old Luke Ellis minding his own business and kicking back to have pizza with his parents while he decides whether he wants to go to MIT and Emerson, prematurely, now that he has surpassed the educational capacity of his elite private school. Besides his intellect, what makes Luke special is that he can move objects with his mind. Nothing major, but he does make pizza pans shake and other unusual disturbances that could attract unwanted attention.
One night he is stolen away from his home by a team of expert kidnappers and taken to The Institute where there are other children with similar powers. Some have telekinesis and some have telepathy, but all of them are being experimented on. Luke and his friends are determined to escape and uncover the secrets of this strange and highly secretive facility. Along the way, Luke befriends a number of his fellow inmates and forms an unshakable bond that will last, no matter where they go after their time at The Institute has come to an end.
What really impressed me about King’s latest venture into a coming-of-age story is, that he managed to pull off a really fantastic ending and some truly heartbreaking and horrifying twists. Stephen King is not generally known for having very good conclusions (I’m looking at you, IT), but in this one, everything was wrapped up in a very sensible and satisfying fashion.
The only major criticism I have for this book is that Luke does not sound at all like a child. His dialogue comes across as something that was written by someone who has not encountered someone in their early adolescence in a long time. Since this title has been branded as having cross-market appeal and can be targeted toward young adult and adult audiences, that could be a stumbling point. That may not be a dealbreaker for most people, but I found that some of those choices took me out of what was happening in the narrative because of the way something was said. It felt inauthentic. For an actual teenager, this may cause them to laugh out loud and hit the shelves to find something else. – Katie
The holiday season is a particularly bountiful time of year for sharing stories with children. There are so many beautiful children’s books about Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and more – and reading stories with children is a wonderful way to keep family traditions alive and build new ones. When my own children were young we started a family tradition of keeping a basket of Christmas books on the hearth in December, inspired by childhood memories of my dad reading aloud from The Night Before Christmas by Clement C. Moore. That book was the first one I put in the hearth basket, and each year my children and I would add a book to the basket, so that eventually we could read a book almost every night leading up to the 25th.
The one I love the most is Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree by Robert Barry. Like Mr. Moore’s well-known tale, this is a story in verse and a bouncy, joyful read-aloud. The story opens with the arrival of a Christmas tree bought by the dapper and wealthy Mr. Willowby, a tree that turns out to be just a bit too tall. When a hasty solution is devised, to the dismay of Mr. Willowby’s butler, readers are treated to a rollicking tale of generosity and gratitude that moves through the snowy countryside surrounding Mr. Willowby’s grand estate and ends up in a surprising place. With charming illustrations and a satisfying ending, this clever story is sure to bring smiles and laughter to your jolly holiday! The hearth basket of books is a tradition that is easily adapted to any of the holidays celebrated at this time of year. For inspiration, visit the Children’s Room at Rogers Free Library, or try a Keyword search of our online catalog for holiday-themed books and request they be sent to RFL for easy pickup! – Kristen Q.
The Testaments is the rabidly anticipated sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and I was eagerly counting off the days at the beginning of September until the launch date. Virtually everything about the book was shrouded in mystery. It would be set in Gilead, it would be 15 years after the close of the first book, and there would be three point of view characters. That was it. After over 30 years of wait time in between these works, some hype was felt, especially by me. I tried not to let it color my opinions, but it was extremely difficult.
One of the recurring stars of this dystopian drama is someone readers will be familiar with if they have read the previous installment or seen the tv show: the taser-wielding Aunt Lydia, the scourge of Gilead. Then there is Agnes. Agnes is a true child of Gilead who doesn’t remember any other way of life but she is fearful that she will be married off to the most powerful man that will have her. Last but certainly not least is Daisy. For this Canadian teenager her whole life and identity comes into question on what she believes is her 16th birthday.
While I enjoyed this book, I don’t think that it has quite the same acidic punch that The Handmaid’s Tale possesses and I think that is mainly due to splitting up the narrative focus between three characters. The absence of June’s incredibly strong voice leaves a considerable void for the reader, but ultimately this book is a well-written exploration of how life finds a way even under the darkest of regimes. Drawing inspiration from current politics, as always Atwood makes it very clear what her stance is and that alone makes this a delightful read. The Testaments also sprinkles in some additional details of the inner workings of Gilead and the true corruption and dysfunction that it takes to make the sausage. It’s not just birthmobiles and punishing handmaids; the aunts are the keepers of genealogies and they ensure that there are new aunts to go on pilgrimage outside of Gilead.
I’m honestly really hoping based upon what happened in this book, that there will be a sequel to this sequel coming down the pipeline. As Margaret Atwood herself puts it, “All good things come to she who waits.” – Katie
by Dinah Fried
I LOVE this book!!!! If you are a fanatic about classics and art then you will certainly enjoy this. Artist, RISD grad and now author Dinah Fried opens the book with her memories of reading the classics like Heidi, Lolita and Moby Dick. One of the more significant parts of these books though, for her, were the meals! Some of us might not think twice about that! Fried uses her talents as an artist to recreate some of the meals she read about and then photograph them. These meals are carefully curated and include a small excerpt from the story about the food along with some helpful and fun footnotes. It’s something book nerds and foodies can rejoice about! – Kristin
Q: Is there somewhere on your website that I can find recommendations for books my teenager might like to read? There are lots of suggestions online but I am really looking more for award winners and notable reads.
A: We actually have three pages of information on this topic! Click the links below to access the information!
Rhode Island Book Awards
Youth Media Awards
Young Adult Library Services Association