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Lost in a Book is out Jan 31!

CALENDAR (details):

January 31, 2017
LOST IN A BOOK published by Disney Books in the US

March 12, 2017
LOST IN A BOOK launch party at Oblong Books, Rhinebeck, NY

May 6, 2017
Hudson Children's Book Festival in Hudson, NY

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NEWSLETTER


March 2007

Dear Readers,
 
You won’t find this in any weather textbooks, but there’s a name for this part of the year – you know, the slushy, draggy, final days of winter – it’s called the reading season.
 
Ok, I made it up, but nevertheless, I think it should become official. We should get a long, three day weekend where everything closes and the entire country curls up by a roaring fire with a pot of tea and a book. In fact, this scenario is one of my most enduring fantasies. It’s right up there with my other enduring fantasy…that my local news station will devote the final five minutes of its nightly broadcast to books instead of basketball, football, hockey, and baseball.
 
Yeah, I know, I know…but that’s why they call it fantasy, right?
 
Three day weekend or not, I’ve just finished two stunning, shattering books – The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation and The Road.
 
Octavian, written by M.T. Anderson, won this year’s National Book Award for young adult fiction. Set in Massachusetts in the late 18th century, the story is an original and disturbing look at the history of slavery in New England through eyes of a young African boy. Living at the Novanglian College of Lucidity with his mother, a beautiful African princess, Octavian is being raised and given a classical education by a group of learned philosophers. The men, all specialists in different disciplines, are dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge. They catalog, query, and quantify everything. Some of their experiments are wacky but harmless, others far less so. Octavian comes to understand that he, too, is a principle in one of their experiments. But for what end? 
 
One of the many things I admire about this book is how the reader learns the truth of Octavian’s life as Octavian himself does. Most of the story is told by Octavian in what appears to be a series of depositions. Because Anderson doesn’t give us the buffer of distance, the safety of a protected perspective, we’re as shocked and destroyed by the truth of Octavian’s situation as he is. It’s a hard book at times, brutal and bleak, and yet it’s dazzlingly written, slyly funny, truthful, and finally hopeful.  
 
I read The Road by Cormac McCarthy in two and a half hours. Nothing else got done while I had this book in my hands. I’m surprised I remembered to breathe. The story is set in a not-too-distant apocalyptic future. It follows the journey a man and his young son take to the sea and greater safety, showing their struggle to survive in a desolate, ash-covered world as they scrounge food wherever they can, and at the same time try to avoid becoming food. The style is McCarthy’s own – terse, evocative, and diamond-hard, and the story is suspenseful, terrifying, and devastating – yet it’s also incredibly moving. I can’t remember a more affecting portrait of a father’s overwhelming love for his child, or of a child’s goodness, battered and anguished, but indestructible.    
 
I was grateful for every light switch in my house when I finished The Road. For central heating, the food in my fridge, running water, and Al Gore. It’s possible The Road will garner more converts to the cause of saving the planet than even An Inconvenient Truth.
 
On a much cheerier note, I’m happy to report that here in Brooklyn, my entire family has fallen head over heels in love with a seventy-ish man with cranky legs and a fondness for cats and opera.
 
His name is Mr. Putter and he’s the star in a series of early reader books written by Cynthia Rylant and illustrated by Arthur Howard.
 
We want his house. We want his cat. We want his life.
 
This guy has it made. He’s retired. He spends his days tending to his fruit trees and painting his porch. When it snows, he stays inside, makes soup, and bakes cakes. He and Tabby and his neighbor Mrs. Teaberry and her good dog Zeke have adventures. They take train rides, go boating, tell stories, and eat pie.     
 
The series – with titles like Mr. Putter & Tabby Stir the Soup and Mr. Putter & Tabby Pour the Tea – is witty, sweet, gentle, and so good that Rylant actually makes getting old and cranky-legged something to look forward to.  
 
In fact, I think I’ll take a cue from Mr. Putter right now. I’ll brew up a batch of cinnamon tea with honey sticks, grab a fresh-baked muffin or three, and plunk down by the fire with a wonderful book.

 

Take your time, spring. I’m enjoying the reading season.