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New on My Nightstand, Tuesday Edition: “My Favorite Pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class,” “Drop-Dead Easy Knits,” “Roar! Roar! Baby Dinosaur” & “

November 29th, 2016

“When spiderwebs unite, they can tie up a lion.” — Ethiopian proverb

Oh-ho-ho, awesome books, just in time for the holidays…

“My Favorite Pets: by Gus W. for Ms. Smolinski’s Class” (Random House Children’s Books, written by Jeanne Birdsall (“The Penderwicks”), illustrated by Harry Bliss (“Diary of a Spider”), 2016, $16.99, 40 pages.) “Seventeen sheep are still sheep, not sheeps,” says Gus in his report for Ms. Smolinski. A girl sheep? “A ewe. If you say, ‘Hey, Ewe,’ she won’t answer.”

Hilarious book, and Bliss’s illustrations have so much movement to them. The characters really come alive. The story is super cute, too. Aimed at ages 5-8, but the big kids will have fun with this one, as well.

“Drop-Dead Easy Knits” (Clarkson Potter, Gale Zucker, Mary Lou Egan & Kirsten Kapur, 2016, $16.99, 144 pages.) Well, have you seen my knitting? I can do scarves and baby snuggies and that is it, folks. Nonetheless, even though I know I will never make any of the cool projects the authors came up with, this is a great book and I’m enjoying looking at the pictures! So there you have it.

“Roar! Roar! Baby Dinosaur” (DK Books, 2016, by Peter Minister & Dawn Sirett, $14.99, 12 pages) Perfect for the toddlers. Lots of flaps, lots of info boxes, and it’s light activated, so you can hear the saltasaurus babies chirping and squealing, and the leaellynasaura babies crunch-crunching pine needles.

All for now :)

wm

Grown-up Books on My Nightstand, Wednesday Edition: “Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love & Writing,” “The Magnolia Story,” “Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon” & “Gone to Soldiers”

November 16th, 2016

New releases, even! And one classic, from 1987, by my hero, Marge Piercy.

“Hungry Heart: Adventures in Life, Love & Writing” (Atria Books, 2016, 402 pages, $27.) Great memoir. I’ve liked Jennifer Weiner’s books since her first release came out. She’s fun, and funny, and I appreciate that she sticks up for female writers.

“The Magnolia Story” (By Chip and Joanna Gaines, with Mark Dagostino, W Publishing Group, 2016, $26.99, 184 pages.) Well, these two are awesome, plus adorable, plus of course their kids are sweet. Their HGTV show, “Fixer Upper,” is streaming on Netflix, excellent choice for binge watching. I keep a notebook handy when I watch it to write down design ideas. This is “their story.” Business, love, children, keeping as many of their fellow community members employed in Waco, Texas, as they can. It’s a fun read. Their personalities, quirks, dreams and motivation shine through, just like on their show. They’re real. You can tell they adore each other, and drive each other a little cuckoo sometimes, but they love each other, anyway. That’s what it’s all about, right? Now if I could just get them over here to help me work on my house…

For reals, I was especially moved by the bigger message of the book — don’t just survive, thrive.

“If you can’t find happiness in the ugliness, you’re not going to find it in the beauty, either.” — Joanna Gaines. She also said something else that really got through to me, too: You survive, you might get by day to day. But something big comes along, you’re going to drown. So you don’t just decorate the house; you take care of the home, and yourselves, and your community. Pretty cool memoir and I was glad to learn more about these two and their world.

(PS — back page says that Joanna’s design book is coming soon…)

“Gone to Soldiers” (Fawcett, 1987, 703 pages.) I’ve re-read this book, I have no idea, six or eight times? Ten stories, all woven together, set during World War II. Just a fantastic book. Piercy is a poet, novelist, essay writer, memoir writer. She has an impressive body of work, and I’ve read a lot of her stuff over the years. This is my favorite, hands down. (Here’s the New York Times review.)

“Homeward Bound: The Life of Paul Simon” My friend’s husband, Peter Ames Carlin, wrote this book. I just started it, it’s a great read. Simon’s back story is pretty incredible.

All for now!

wm

Tuesday Book Review: “The Mermaid’s Purse” and “Clangers: Looking for a Lullaby”

November 1st, 2016

Patricia Polacco, I love you so dearly. I love you like an auntie, a friend, a sweet neighbor. And one of my favorite children’s authors ever. Even though we’ve never met, I know you. Thanks for that! This newest book, “The Mermaid’s Purse,” is going on my list of top five Polacco favorites (others are “Thank You, Mr. Falker,” “Chicken Sunday,” “My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother” and “Mr. Lincoln’s Way.” For reals, everything she’s written and illustrated is great. How cool — and unusual — is that?)

“The Mermaid’s Purse” (Viking, 2016, $16.99, ages 3-5, according to press release, but I’d like to change that to “all ages”) is, as many of Polacco’s stories are, based on a story from her family. This is her grandmother’s story, about her love of books, her community, and the love of her life. Just so cool. Keep it in mind when shopping for holiday gifts this year.

“Clangers” is a sweet and funny little book based on the U.K. television show. The copy I received for review includes a CD. (“Clangers” was written by Janet Lawler and audio book is read by the one and only William Shatner, Grosset & Dunlap, 2016, $18.99, ages 3-5.) Stop-motion is cool because it’s not only fun to watch, visually, but it transfers well to the page. The book is bright, colorful, and includes froglets, bed caves and an Iron Chicken. What more could a kid want?

ps I made this Potato Leek Soup for dinner a couple weeks ago. Perfecto. And this? Callaloo? Looks super yummy.

– wm