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San Francisco Blurbs

Recently a librarian from the Children’s Day School in San Francisco shared the feedback that many of her students wrote after reading The Yin-Yang Sisters and the Dragon Frightful. I’ve been smiling ever since because of their kind words and insight into this story. They also shared some pictures of the dragons they imagined. I hope these Kindergarteners and First Graders inspire you as well! I’m now blessed to have an online visit with them scheduled for June. Can’t wait!

“I liked that…at first they thought that they had to frighten the dragon, but then they realized that the dragon just wanted something – that it didn’t mean to be frightening.” Arcadia

“Your story is very good. I like your story a lot because it has dragons and I like dragons.” Max

“I like the parts where Mei helps Wei. Thank you for sharing your story with us!” Zaina

“I appreciate the author for being really nice to write this story!” Aaron

“One thing I liked about the story was that one of the sisters helped the other sister!! Thank you for sharing your story with us!!” Riley

“It was a cool story and nice. They act dis-alike: One’s scared and one likes to fight and they both were brave at the end.” Yahli

“The sisters worked together as a team and didn’t give up until they did it. I like the details of the story and the handwriting. It was just so joyful to hear that story!” Rohan

“One of the things I like about your story is the part when Wei went to Kung Fu class. I also like the pictures!” Malinteotl 

“It was funny when you said the sticky buns for the dragon” Kalyani

“They’re both really brave because, well, Mei at the beginning thought she was NOT brave but she actually IS brave.” Lisana

“The Yin-Yang sisters are similar because they’re both very brave. I liked your story because the people are really brave.” Kalyani

“I appreciate Nancy Tupper Ling because the two sisters kept on trying. The brave one actually made the dragon feel better and the really brave one tried her very best – and they kept on trying until they got it!” Vera

“What I liked about the story was that they may be opposites but sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and do what your fears are. I was really scared to go on these swings and I went on there . . . I just took a deep breath and went on there.” Parker

 

Busy, Busy, Busy, During COVID-19

It’s been a bit daunting, this new world of COVID-19. As difficult and overwhelming as it’s been, however, there has been an amazing outpouring of goodness from the world of libraries and authors.

While my spring school visits have been canceled, I’ve had some wonderful opportunities to still “meet” with children and families online. 

I had one visit with my coworker, Ms Kate, from the Morrill Memorial Library. You may find that conversation here

Likewise, I was able to lead a Double Happiness poetry workshop online that Kate Messner posted on her blog

I hope you find a little time in the midst of this chaos, to nurture your writing and your self. 

Blessings,

Nancy

 

Finding a Treasure Trove

When someone you love is suddenly gone from your life, there are obvious things that you will miss—their captivating smile, their warm embrace, that goofy joke they told at every family gathering.

Not surprisingly there are other heartaches that we cannot anticipate or measure—things we never imagined that we would long for after a loved one passes away. This was the case with my father. This April it will have been two years since he departed and I am shocked at how quickly we have forgotten some of his character traits and idiosyncrasies. For a while, I couldn’t find any recordings of his voice, and I was distraught. Yes, I remembered exactly how he would say “Hello Nana-Banana” when he gave me a hug, but I wanted to remember more, each intonation. Thankfully, several friends and family members found recordings on their phones that they shared with me- one even highlighted his laughter which was a treasure to hear.

The reverse of this is also true, however. I have discovered memories of my father that I didn’t know existed. In our family, we always called him the “Mad Clipper” because he constantly cut out cartoons and articles from local papers. He would hand these out to a particular person he thought would benefit from a laugh or a tip. His clippings could range from a Wizard of Id cartoon to a Consumer Reports article about the best dishwasher brands, rated and ranked by price.

Just the other day I uncovered a notebook I had never seen before. The front is covered with a variety of stickers: Tin Can Sailors, Retired Navy Pride, Association of Naval Aviation (ANA). Inside I found a treasure trove—book reviews of his latest reads, mostly related to the military service. He also kept correspondence between his friends as they shared their latest “good reads” analysis.

This is like uncovering another glimpse into my father’s life and his interests. He read books that I would never have thought to read, and he took notes on them, too. This discovery dredged up a memory, too. Every year when we headed to a local Christmas tree farm, he made sure to exchange books with the owner. Turns out they had both served in the Navy and had similar interests.

Needless to say, I thought I might share these findings with you, dear reader. Granted, these titles are older, but the good news is they will be readily available since they’re not “hot items.” To be sure, you will quickly catch onto the nautical theme of these selections:

Halsey’s Typhoon: The True Story of a Fighting Admiral, an Epic Storm, and an Untold Rescue by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin. As if December 1944 didn’t have enough trouble of its own, this is the story of a popular naval hero, Admiral William “Bull” Halsey, who “unwittingly sailed his undefeated Pacific Fleet into the teeth of a powerful typhoon” later named Cobra. Admiral Halsey’s task had been to maneuver two dozen fleet oilers to provide fuel for the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise. When hit by the typhoon, three destroyers capsized. Any survivors of this catastrophe faced shark-infested waters, seventy-foot waves, exhaustion, and dehydration before rescue arrived. Thanks to Lt. Com. Henry Lee Plage, “who, defying orders, sailed his tiny destroyer escort USS Tabberer through 150-mph winds to reach the lost men.” According to my father’s notes: “Weather reporting was few and sketchy at best at this time. There wasn’t much warning of a typhoon. Ships were low on fuel and couldn’t refuel due to high seas and wind. They tried various methods and none worked.” Basically, hands down an amazing story of a lesser known World War II event.

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian. Many of our library patrons love to read O’Brian and his acclaimed Aubrey-Maturin series. That said, I had no idea that my father was also a fan, at least of O’Brian’s first book. In Master and Commander, the friendship between Captain Aubrey, R.N., and Stephen Maturing, ship’s surgeon and intelligence agent, is established. Set in the Napoleonic wars, O’Brian captures the life of sailors and servants in Admiral Nelson’s navy. As a quotation from the Guardian reads, “There are two types of people in the world: Patrick O’Brian fans, and those who haven’t read him yet.” I believe it’s time to read at least one O’Brian story so I can also become a fan, or try the Master and Commander DVD with Russell Crowe.

The Hungry Ocean by Linda Greenlaw. Many readers first learned of Captain Linda Greenlaw in The Perfect Storm, where her boat the “Hannah Boden” was the sister ship to the fated “Andrea Gail.” In this book, Greenlaw has adventures of her own during a month-long swordfishing trip in the Grand banks. My father was impressed with this Colby graduate’s sailing skills. He also took note of the average expenses of running a five person fishing boat and the hardships that they face on a daily basis. In Greenlaw’s own words: “If we don’t catch fish, we don’t get paid, period. In short, there is no labor union.”

Ten Hours Until Dawn: The True Story of Heroism and Tragedy Aboard the Can Do by Michael Tougias. I know my Dad loved to attend local library programs where local historians like Michael Tougias presented their latest books. I remember Dad sharing the story he had heard about the brave captain of the pilot boat, the “Can Do,” who set out to rescue the tanker “Global Hope” in the Salem Sound and the Coast Guard patrol that was caught in the maelstrom as well. According to Dad’s notes, Tougias “did a good job describing the main characters and their families and the results to each of the loss.” That sounds like a win!

Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas by John S. Burnett. I can understand how this book would have fascinated a retired Naval Commander like my father. As he wrote, piracy is still a big problem for “whole ships disappear without a trace. Crews are captured, killed, tortured.” In particular, Burnett focuses on an area between Singapore and Sumatra called the Malacca Straits which is susceptible because “it’s a narrow area and very busy and a highway of ships going to and from the far east.” Amazingly, 25 ships per hour, 600 ships per day, pass through this area and pirates have no trouble boarding them by “climbing up ropes, poles, anchor chains etc.” Combine this read with the movie, Captain Phillips, and you will be staying off the high seas for some time.

The Good Times by Russell Baker. I’m not too surprised to find Baker’s second memoir on Dad’s list, since he also served in the Navy and grew up in the Depression. I remember my father regularly following his column entitled “The Observer” in the New York Times. Like my father, Baker spent his childhood delivering papers in his neighborhood and finding humor in so many day-to-day events. According to the Library Journal, “Aspiring writers will chuckle over Baker’s first, horrible day on police beat, his panicked interview with Evelyn Waugh, and his arrival at Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in top hat, tails, and brown-bag lunch.” Who doesn’t appreciate a man who brings a brown-bag lunch to the Queen’s coronation?

While Dad’s list consists of book titles that I would not have picked out on my own, it has been wonderful to add a little variety to my repertoire. I hope you think so, too. I also hope you discover a treasure like this from your own loved one, providing insight into their interests, hopes, and dreams.

 

WRAD 2020

Long before COVID-19 was on our radar, back when we were only worried about the common cold, I had a fabulous visit with the Cottage Street Elementary School in Sharon for World Read Aloud Day (February 5, 2020). What amazed me, as always, was how deep and real and fabulous the students’ questions were about my picture books. These First Graders and Kindergarteners were such discerning readers, asking all sorts of questions about writing and dragons. If all goes well, I will venture back to their school in April to create a few Double Happiness poems.

A Few Fall Events

Here are a few places where I’ll be hanging out this fall!

~~Aesop’s Fable, Holliston, MA…on Saturday, September 12th, at 10:30 am for storytime. https://aesopsfable.com/

~~RI Coalition of Library Advocates (COLA), “Launching Young Lives: Why Authors Love Libraries.” Barrington Public Library, Barrington, RI…on Saturday, September 21st, from 2:30-4 p.m. 

~~Brookline Booksmith, Brookline, MA…on Sunday, October 6th, at 10:30 am for storytime. https://www.brooklinebooksmith.com/events/2019-10/nancy-tupper-ling/

~~Blue Bunny Books, Dedham, MA, “So You Want to Write a Children’s Book” author/agent panel…on Wednesday, October 16th, 7 pm. 

~~Barnes and Noble, Framingham, MA, anthology book signing…on November 16th, 1:30 pm.

Elizabeth Ling

 

 

Your Family Tree

I grew up with an awkward middle name: Lincoln. It wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of cool and hip. As a young child in the ‘70s when most of my friends had middle names like Ann, Marie and Jean, I was well-aware that Lincoln was not a name to be shared out loud if I could help it. The only folks who knew this secret information were the local bank teller and the pediatrician.

As is often the case with family history, details began to emerge as I matured. Soon I realized that my dad had the same middle name, as did his father. By fifth grade, when we began to explore our heritage in school, I started asking more questions and gradually the family lore was revealed. Lincoln had been a last name, and the family had wanted to carry that name on – thus the awkward middle name. Why? “Well, you’re related to Abraham Lincoln, of course.” Hold on! What?? That was a game changer. More comments were being tossed around: “Somehow you’re related through the Tupper line.” “Yes, there was an Eaton. I think a Harriet, from Hingham, MA?” “And there is that Mayflower connection, you know.”

Turns out, I didn’t know. Not at that age, but I was beginning to take note. My father didn’t put a lot of clout in genealogy or family lineage. “Be the best you can be, and serve others” was his unspoken motto. For the most part, I agreed. When I was in my twenties, I would not have placed the subject of genealogy high of my list of interests. After I married, I changed my name, replacing Lincoln with my given surname. That horrid middle name was behind me. Still, my husband was curious. Could those stories really be true?

It wasn’t until I had two Eurasian daughters that it seemed important for them to know about their Chinese and American heritage. When they told fellow students at school that they were related to the 16th President of the United States, they were confronted with disbelief. How could someone who looked like them be related?  “Well, Lincoln had dark hair too,” I told them. But where were the facts?

I began to gather a few family archives from around my parents’ house: the two volume set of the Tupper Family History, a half-hearted family tree, a list my mother had started connecting me back to General Israel Putnam. I tried to Google the Lincoln family tree. Still, I couldn’t quite make the connection back. While I was collecting pieces that would eventually fold together into the family quilt, I had lots of gaps and unravelings.

It wasn’t until I took a spontaneous trip to the Family History Library in Salt Lake City that the dots started to connect. A volunteer helped me set up an account on the online database called Family Search. Patiently she walked me through, inputting my parents’ information, then my grandparents’. Each piece was verified with the vital records. It took about an hour, but when I walked downstairs, I was given an iPad which connected to a wall display. Lo and behold, up popped the famous people in my lineage… and there was President Abraham Lincoln!

When I returned home, however, I wanted to fill in the tree even more. Good thing there wasn’t any shortage of resources at my fingertips. Not only can you have access to various databases through your library card (search under “Books and More” on the norwoodlibrary.org website for “Databases”), including Ancestry Library. This is the “In Library Use Only” version. Some of the Norwood newspapers are now digitized and available online as well, so one can research family stories in the news.

We also have a genealogical expert, Joe Petrie, who will be offering several one-on-one sessions in the fall for those who would like to learn how to do more in-depth online research. These sessions will be two hours long on select Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays in September, October, and November. Be sure to contact our Reference Desk (781-769-0200 x110) to reserve a spot. They are offered at no charge. What an amazing opportunity!

For online research assistance, you can also check out Genealogy Online by Elizabeth Powell Crowe. Here you will “discover how to start your search, find specific types of genealogical information on the Web, and use online tools effectively and efficiently.”

Other helpful resources are in print, too. I found one book so easy to use. The whole topic can be a bit overwhelming, but Genealogy for the First Time by Laura Best made it approachable. Best begins with the chapter “Where do I Start?” and she holds the reader’s hand throughout. In her opening words she says, “Genealogy is, metaphorically speaking, one large puzzle. You may pick up the pieces in any order to place them. However, some pieces will be more difficult to place than others and may need to be set aside until other pieces are fitted together to give better reference and framework.”

As you become more engrossed in your research, your questions will become more difficult. Like, did your great-grandfather really come over on the Rotterdam steamer into Ellis Island in 1896? And was his name originally Bremmer before officials changed it to Brimner upon his arrival? They Came in Ships by John P. Colletta, Ph.D. guides you through your ancestors’ arrival records. There are resources that aide with those picky problems too. For example, there is a series of books for a variety of ancestries. A Genealogist’s Guide to Discovering Your Scottish Ancestors by Linda Jonas and Paul Milner is one of many, also available for English, Italian, and German ancestors.

Likewise, if you have deep roots in New England, the Genealogist’s Handbook for New England Research by the New England Historic Genealogical Society might be your cup of tea. And if you’re feeling like you’re hitting a brick wall, The Family Tree Problem Solver by Marsha Hoffman Rising could offer a ladder up and over those problems.

If you’re already an expert in genealogy, the book Your Guide to Cemetery Research by Sharon DeBartolo Carmack would not be a surprise to you. That said, I was amazed at the research that people do right at the gravesite. Carmack provides guidance for everything from Records of Death and how to read them, to searching the cemetery for clues and rubbings.

Of course now that people are rushing to get a 23andMe personalized report, there are family stories emerging that were hidden for years. Sometimes they can be very revealing. A popular memoir by Dani Shapiro called Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love addresses this very topic. When Shapiro was doing her own genealogical research, she submitted her DNA for analysis on a whim, only to discover that her “beloved deceased father” was not her biological one. Shapiro addresses those secrets within families and what it means to unlock them.

That day in Salt Lake City I was so grateful to have some of the pieces of my family puzzle come together, but that didn’t mean the whole puzzle was complete. Only part of it. If I choose, I can head down more rabbit holes with the family tree. If you decide to do the same, I hope some of these resources hold the key.

Beloved Reader

In many ways the 21st century public library and its role have been re-imagined. In this digital age the library has become much more than a repository for great books. Libraries are promoters of community as well. Take a look at the Morrill Memorial Library events happening in the month of April alone. We have everything from Musical Sundays to talks on Stone Carvers of Old – from Beginning Yoga to The Secret Lives of Owls.

Part of our shifting role includes providing information on the run. As mentioned by the Brookings Institute, “This ‘go-to’ role has influenced library programming and events, with libraries providing advice and connections to health, housing, literacy, and other areas.” Or, in author Neil Gaiman’s words, the library is “a community space. It’s a place of safety, a haven from the world.”

And yes, I could not agree more. In this digital world the library serves as a connector, providing access to information through workshops and speakers and more. At the heart of it all though, the library returns to two essential ingredients 1) free access to information and 2) our beloved readers.

In many ways the idea of free information for all began in Franklin, MA. The Franklin Public Library is considered America’s “first public library” because of Dr. Benjamin Franklin’s book donation for the use of the town’s residents in 1778. The original Franklin collection is still housed in the library’s Reading Gallery, and the United States is now populated by public libraries from sea to shining sea. According to the American Library Association, an estimated 116,867 public libraries exist today. Thankfully, the Morrill Memorial Library is one of them.

Several times at the library I have been approached by a person who recently immigrated to the United States. They cannot believe that our programs and services are free; this world is at their fingertips. Not only is this true here, but in the next town, and the town after that, and the one across the state, and across the country.

Which leads to the other essential ingredient at the heart of our libraries—our beloved reader, the person who lives and breathes for a good book. The person who enters the library, whether child or aged 102, with an empty tote bag, excited to fill it with 5, 10, 15 new reads. For FREE!!

During my years working in the Outreach Department, I have had the privilege of becoming a friend to many beloved readers. Often they are unable to come to the library on their own, so our volunteers deliver books and other items to them. While they miss browsing the bookshelves, they are grateful when these treasures arrive at their doorstep. It’s like a having a birthday every few weeks.

I have worked with many of these beloved patrons over the years but a few have stood out in my mind. Annette Webber was surely one. Sadly, she passed away this March just shy of her 93rdbirthday. Every other week her Outreach volunteer delivered about 15-20 books to her. The most amazing thing was her interests were limitless. Not only did she reread To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee but she gave Lee’s latest novel Go Set a Watchman a try as well. She always loved biographies, especially about politicians. The Kennedy Debutante by Kerri Maher and A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts by Therese Anne Fowler were two of her latest. However Annette could not be pigeon-holed onto a certain shelf. All-American Murder: The Rise and Fall of Aaron Hernandez, the Superstar Whose Life Ended on Murderers’ Row by James Paterson and Alex Abramovich was also one of her reads, along with Gold Dust Woman: The Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis.

Sylvia Clark was another life-long learner. I first met Sylvia when I was running a book discussion at Benchmark Senior Living. She had lost much of her eyesight from macular degeneration but as soon as she realized she could borrow a CD player and audio books from the library, she signed right up. Later I learned that she was an educator who had taught at Maynard High School, Needham High School and Regis College. How I marveled that she was willing to become an auditory learner when necessary. Historical fiction was a favorite genre of hers and she relished books like Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr and The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. That said she could tackle a mystery series with equal aplomb, so we would toss in a James Patterson or Daniel Silva novel to keep her going.

Of course these are just two examples of the many beloved readers who have loved the library and all its treasures. It’s nice to know our patrons need the library as much as the library needs them. While the library has stepped boldly into the 21st century, our doors are always open to the patron who is searching for the perfect read.

Talent Search

We all have a variety of skills and talents. Perhaps we have worked hard to develop these abilities over time or perhaps we were lucky enough to be born with a gift or two. For example when I’m asked to write an article for the weekly library column, I feel equipped to do so. I’m comfortable writing children’s books or poetry. Crafting words is a skill I’ve developed over time. Likewise, I enjoy entertaining. I become a whirling dervish beforehand, but hosting a family gathering or holiday party is definitely my cup of tea.

However, the question I often return to is this: What am I doing with the wee talents that I have? Am I using them to the best of my ability? Do you ever ask yourself the same thing? And how wonderful it is when people share their talents, whether it is here in the library or at a local hospital, school, or homeless shelter. My coworker, Marg, is an example of someone who is always giving of her time and talent. She ventures to the housing facilities in town, teaching crafts like wreath-making and decoupage. My father was the same way, spending more time helping others than finishing his own projects.

If you are like me, you may have a “Bucket List of Talents” – skills you would like to master or perfect before you depart from God’s green earth. When my father passed away this April, my wish list grew longer. I thought about all his talents that were foreign to me. For years before Dad become a Dean at Central Connecticut State University, he had been an Industrial Arts teacher. While he inspired his students with his designs and craft, no one in my immediate family had learned to use the tools on his work bench. He had saws and drills and levels galore, and yet I hadn’t a clue how to handle them. How sad was that?!

For a brief amount of time I considered researching the topic of woodworking at the library. After all, we had book titles from Quick and Easy Woodworking Projects by the Handyman Club of America (2000) to Woodworking Simplified: Foolproof Carpentry Projects for Beginners  by David and Jeanie Stiles. Maybe I could learn to craft something. It wasn’t impossible, was it? In middle school I made a candle stick holder on a lathe. Perhaps I could watch a Youtube video or, better yet, take a Woodworking 101 class. The only problem was my heart wasn’t in it. While I marveled at my father’s talents, I didn’t feel an ounce of excitement toward wood unless it was going into the fireplace. I loved my father, but his passion wasn’t going to be my own. Instead my mother and I found a wonderful neighbor who adopted my father’s collection; he knew exactly what to do with each and every tool.

Nevertheless I hoped to follow in Dad’s footsteps in some fashion. It couldn’t be sailing – too expensive. Or model planes – too many parts. Since it was spring, I began to think about gardening. Again, I checked out a few books: Stuff Every Gardener Should Know by Scott Meyer; Improving Your Soil by Keith Reid and Practical Gardening by Jackie Matthews, Richard Bird and Andrew Mikolajski. I also peeked at his Harris Seed catalog. Lo and behold, I found a box of his seeds in his basement that was waiting to be planted (tears)! At least gardening was a talent I had begun under his tutelage. In my backyard, I’d managed to grow a small plot of tomatoes and peppers over the years, enough for salad and soup now and then. Dad’s garden plot had rich soil waiting for someone to start seeding. Turns out, I wasn’t that person.

Surprisingly, my 15-year old daughter, Sarah, was the one who took on this project. She researched which seeds to plant and how to plant them. Working in “Papa’s Garden,” as we called it, was healing for her. It also became a community project. The neighbors brought over seeper hoses and black weed barrier cloth to make the work lighter. In no time the seedlings took root and the garden began to thrive. Sarah even succeeded in growing bundles of eggplant, which had never grown for me. Along one edge she kept my Dad’s rhubarb, while colorful zinnias lined the other end. In between there were peas and beans and zucchini and peppers. Perhaps this talent had skipped a generation, but it was growing nonetheless. I decided to stick with the herbs on my deck and in my kitchen instead. After all I had the Indoor Edible Garden by Zia Allaway to help.

What I’ve come to realize is that there are some talents that may never come my way, as hard as I might try. Woodworking is one of them. And why struggle with a garden when I can sit back and enjoy the fruits of my daughter’s labors? That said, I did discover one of my father’s passions that I can do with gusto. I watched all of the World Series with a sense of pride and an understanding of why it is America’s “greatest pastime.” It seems my talent search ended right where it began, with words, these words: Go Sox! Damage Done!

It Takes a Stretch

You must have a favorite author. Someone you turn to when the rest of the world seems in chaos. Someone who is as comfortable to be with as your warm fuzzy slippers and a chair beside the fireplace. Perhaps it is Jamie Ford or Susan Meissner (two of my favorites) whose lyrical stories carry you back in time and make you fall in love with their characters. Or maybe you are addicted to Mary Higgins Clark or Louise Penny, and you cannot wait to settle down with their latest creations in your hands.

While there is something magical and wonderful about those treasured authors, there is also something to be said for those books that you never ever thought you would read, and suddenly you do. Perhaps you’ve been astonished when your world expands after being stretched by a story or concept that greeted you when you dared to open a book that wasn’t part of your regular repertoire.

Every month I lead between four or five book clubs. I know! I should have my head examined. Still, I enjoy each and every one of them. When I started these groups, I surveyed my readers to see what type of books they loved to read. Many of them preferred mysteries. Hands down! Ironically, it is a rare month now when I select a mystery for a book club read. When it comes to this genre, I find there isn’t a lot to talk about in a group. Trust me, I’ve tried. Once you know “who done it,” the conversation tends to be a bit sparse. So I decided to choose a wide range of books and topics instead. And yes, I like to stretch my readers. Actually, I like to stretch myself, too. Sometimes this means I pick a total flop. This doesn’t bother me, though. We’ve had the most engaging conversations even when the book choice is a bust.

An example of this happened recently. The Spy Wore Red by Aline, Countess of the Romanones was a big hit with my book clubs. Everyone loved the suspense in this true life story of a World War II spy. With this success behind me, I decided a similar read entitled A Spy Among Friends by Ben Macintyre was appropriate. Boy, was I wrong. This was the story of a friendship between two spies, Kim Philby and Nicholas Elliott, and the years that Philby deceived both MI6 and the CIA. While we had a lot to discuss, the style of writing was rather dry for most of my readers. Nevertheless, we learned a lot about the circle of Cambridge University friends that the British intelligence recruited. Certainly, our minds were stretched.

Over the years my book clubbers have read a variety of genres that they might not have tried on their own. While we covered classics like Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Margaret Smith, we have also tried a western or two like True Grit by Charles Portis and post-apocalyptic science fiction like Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. On occasion we jumped into young readers like Skating With the Statue of Liberty by Susan Lynn Meyer or The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. Why? Why not! Challenge accepted.

If you’re willing to stretch your definition of “good reads,” you might be drawn into another reader’s obsessions as well. I have a coworker who loves books about cats, any and all cats. Who am I kidding? I’m surrounded by coworkers who read cat books. To be honest, felines don’t always tickle my fancy as characters but, lo and behold, I found myself swept into a picture book called Caramba by Marie-Louise Gay when I saw it on my coworker’s desk. Now I’m addicted. I’m hoping Caramba, the cat who can’t fly, has many more stories to discover.

Likewise my husband has certain topics that fascinate him and I’m not sure if there’s any rhyme or reason for them. For a while Appalachian history captured his interest. For several nights in a row I fell asleep as he read out loud Night Comes to the Cumberlands by Harry M. Caudill. Soon I became intrigued by Appalachia as well. When Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance was hot off the press, I raced to get a copy. Later, when my husband’s curiosity shifted to the topic of North Korea, I followed suit. A Thousand Miles to Freedom by Eunsun Kim and North Korea Undercover by John Sweeney are two books I would never have touched without my husband’s influence. It seems that other people’s obsessions are catchy.

Truth be told, I enjoy being stretched. I bet you do too! In the words of Charles Scribner, “Reading is a means of thinking with another person’s mind; it forces you to stretch your own.” The only problem is finding enough time to fit it all in. I’d highly recommend trying something completely new. You might even win a prize if you take the opportunity to fill out our Summer Reader’s Bingo in the process. Consider some of the categories: “A Book With a Beach Setting,” “A Book Set in Winter,” or “A Book With a Food Theme.” Go ahead… give it a chance. What have you got to lose?

 

Fall Schedule

Upcoming signings:

September 18th, Book Birthday, Putnam Books for Young Readers, The Yin-Yang Sisters and Frightful the Dragon

September 22nd, 10:30 am, The Boston Athenaeum

September 28th, 6-8 pm, nErDy Author Night, Freeport, ME

September 29th, 1:30 pm, Children’s Book Reading Feat, Gordon College Bookstore, Wenham, MA

October 13th, 11 am, Book Launch Party, The Blue Bunny Bookstore, Dedham, MA

October 27th, 11 am, Story Time, Wellesley Books, Wellesley, MA

November 16th,  NCTE 18, Houston TX 12:30-1:45 pm, presenting on a panel “The Power of Quiet: Helping Introverts (Quietly) Speak Up” with four other awesome authors: Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, Erin Entrada Kelly, Nancy Tupper Ling, and Tamara Smith. 3:30 pm, Signing at the Penguin Booth on the exhibit floor. 

November 24th, Book Signing, Annie’s Book Stop, Worcester, MA