Monday, February 20, 2017

Little Golden Books

Little Golden Books occupy a special book shelf in many people's hearts.  Here are some fun LGB facts for you:

1942 - LGB launched at 25 cents each, democratizing reading for young Americans.  At that time, children's books were a luxury for many, selling from $2-$3 each.

Twelve books were in the first LGB line-up and most of those titles were in their 7th printing by 1945.

1947 - supermarkets started selling LGBs.

Doctor Dan the Bandage Man, 1945, released with Johnson & Johnson Band-Aids clued to the title page.

183 million LGBs sole by their 10th anniversary in 1952.

Mid-50's - lots of Goldens released based on Saturday Morning TV shows including my faves Howdy Doody and Davey Crockett.  All Golden titles were sold around the world except for the Soviet Union where they were considered too capitalistic.

The Poky Little Puppy - one billion copies in print by November of 1986...and still selling like crazy! many more milestones have been reached and celebrated.  In May of 2017, Margaret Wise Brown's Manners, is being released - a never before published title by the author of Goodnight Moon.

Yes, Goldens still exist.  And yes, they are as colorful and joyful as ever.  If your your childhood book collection is packed away for safe keeping, 2017 would be good year to page through some memories.

Thanks for stopping.

Oh, check out our EVENTS page.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


Stay away.  Leave me alone.  Do not disturb.  I'm spending the week with Spencer Quinn.  You remember Spence, right?  He writes the Chet and Bernie books - the washed up police officer with the smack talking, ankle biting doggy detective sidekick?  Chet, the aforementioned sidekick narrated all the novels....OK, now you remember.  

You might also recall that my number one novel reading rule is that if there is a dog on the cover I don't read it.  Those books never end well.  I still get teary when someone mentions A Dog's Purpose, and don't get me started on Old Yeller.   No dogs ever die in Quinn's books.  In fact, Chet matures and evolves as the series grows.  He makes new friends, human and not; he develops new skills such as fishing, and he even finds love behind a circus wagon.

This week I discovered that I am two books behind in the series and that sets me up for a fine weekend of reading.  In Paw and Order, my favorite sleuthing duo travel to Washington D.C. where they find themselves embroiled in some international drama.  Pre-dusty orange Prez.  They're back in the desert for Scents and Sensibility.  The book jacket tells me they will get into a "prickly" situation at a music festival.  Sounds like good fun.

My greatest discovery of the week is that Spencer Quinn is busting his business out to middle readers.  New dog.  New protagonists.  Bowser and Birdie.  "Two humans stood outside my cage, a white-haired woman and a gum chewing kid.  gum chewing is one of the best sounds out there, and the smell's not bad, either."  How can you resist a talking dog falling in love at first sight with a spunky kid?  This book delivered as much fun as the adult series, but with less violence and no colorful cussing.  

I struggle a lot with what I want to read, what I should read to keep up with trends, and what others expect me to be reading.  That last one is the worst.  I have also been struggling with the make-up of book group #2 - totally cerebral women who have lived in lands other than Manitowoc.  Lands like Germany, Sweden, and Japan. They know stuff.  I was feeling alone and awful amid those great brains until another member said to me in a totally jovial manner," You know, Bev, I don't want to brag but I think I'm the dumbest one in the group."  Thank you.  I no longer feel so alone!

Happy Valentine's Day...or as we say in these parts...Valentimes Day.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Check back tomorrow for my thoughts on a fun new Tween series.  

We had Heart-a-Rama auditions yesterday and I have to get organized to relieve the anxiety of all our auditionees.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Big Little Lies

When one of my book groups selected this as our March book, I wasn't too thrilled.  "Crap" I thought to myself.  I hoped I had just thought it, but I fear the words may have escaped my lips.  Women's fiction. Fiction for the new adult.  Lightweight.  Quickly and poorly written.  Predictable.  A who-cares kind of plot with couldn't care less characters.  Yup, that's exactly what I thought, and more.  

But now that I'm a whoopin' thirty-six pages in, my opinions have changed a little.  After re-reading Missoula (you can read an early post about that book to the right), followed by Radium Girls, this light-hearted books comes as a pleasant escape.  Bridging the gap between the books just mentioned and The Hamilton Affair and Born a Crime, the next two on deck for my off-site group, I am happy to say I am enjoying this  pop fiction novel.  

The quirky characters, a group of aggressive and competitive moms of pre-schoolers, have grabbed my attention. Their mama bear instincts are trumped only  by their silly, junior high pettiness.  One of them will be dead soon - accident or murder yet to be determined.  So far, each is expendable.  My one hope is that the breezy telling prevails and that the winds of change don't suddenly spin this in a darker direction.  Murder can by funny, right?  Besides, for me, no one surpasses Lorna Landvick when it comes to pitting funny against fear.  Still, I think this will be a fun read - 

My once criticism is Moriarty's style is too choppy.  Really, most adults are capable of reading sentences longer than five to seven words.  We can even read compound-complex sentences without having to double back to discern the primary focus of the statement.  Subject-verb-prep phrase.  Perhaps it's because she's Australian.  I am sure that all will be forgiven as the pages continue to turn.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Radium Girls, The Inquisitor's Tale, and the pesky blue/gold dress

Marie and Pierre Curie discovered radium in 1898 captivating scientists with is supernatural-like nature.  This stuff glowed and before long it was glowing on drug store shelves as an elixir promising happiness and health.

In the manufacturing world, this not yet defined as deadly substance was used to paint numerals on watch and clock faces making them glow in the dark.  Factories paid employees - mainly women - generously to paint the tiny numerals. When employers determined that too much of the radium power disolved when painters dipped brushes into pans of water, the women were told to wet the brushes in their mouths instead.  Employers assured the women the practice was safe.  In fact, the women believed so strongly in the safety of radium, that many painted their faces with it  before leaving work for a night on the town.  We know so much more now!

Kate Moore's interest in these women began upon discovering Melanie Marnich's play about a group on women in Ottawa living with the side effects of working with radium.  According to Moore, The Shining Women showcases "real women standing up for their rights with strength, dignity, courage..."

Before picking up The Radium Girls, I had made a small dent in this fun little young adult novel - young adult being my genre of choice for 2017...we'll see how that goes.  This book riffs on The Canterbury Tales which is just fine with me.  On a dark night in 1242, travelers at an inn begin to tell stories of three children, Jeanne, a peasant girl who sees the future, William, a young monk with supernatural strength, and Jacob, a Jewish boy who can heal wounds.  Oh, and there's a greyhound resurrected from the dead.

Silly giggle-worthy characters names dot the story, especially the Marcs.  There's Marc, then there's Son-of-Marc, and Father-of-Marc and numerous other combination.  Can't forget Peter the Priest who is married Ygraine "even though he's not supposed to have a wife, on account of him being a priest".  Silliness abounds and I can't wait to get back at it.

Totally unrelated story..remember the magic dress everyone was talking about a while back?  The one that was either blue or gold?  Well, I thought the entire thing was sort of goofy until my dog returned from the groomer last week with gold ribbons on her ears.  My neighbor, who always love to see GB after a haircut remarked on how nice the lavender ribbons looked against her deep, black.  I see gold.  She sees lavender.  I have tried to make the lavender appear, but nope...those ribbons are gold.  Maybe next week I'll post a picture to see what color you think the ribbons are.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Madeline Girls

Madeline Houses existed mostly throughout Europe.  The earliest record of a similar institution dates back to 1758.

The Madeline Houses scattered through Ireland were workhouse confinements facilities run by the Catholic Church.  Young girls were sent to the Sisters in charge for a number of reason - perhaps they were too pretty and the parents were afraid of what could happen as a result, some were already pregnant, some were prostitutes.  Still others were girls of poor families who simply could not afford to care for them.  

Families signed over the right to the girls' care and protection to the Sisters, and the girls who were not successful at escaping, or who did not succumb and join the convent, lived their entire lives under convent rules.  Their main job was to launder and repair clothing brought in by residents, thus helping sustain the needs of the convent.  The girls and women worked in silence for 12-15 hours a day in the steamy laundry room, with a single break for a minuscule, nearly inedible meal once a day.

This book follows the lives of two girls who became "Madelines" for minor indiscretions.  A young priest flirted with Tegan; Nora was caught kissing a boy in her family living room.  Both were sentenced to live at the convent.  

"The Madeline Sisters" is a fine film depicting the unimaginable acts that went on in these institutions.  Although fictionalized, it is based on stories provided by surviving women.  Several actual Madelines speak briefly at the end of the film.  In many ways this book seems like a narrative of the film so I found it less that rewarding to read.  The book will fill the gap for those of you who can't find the movie.

The last Madeline House closed in 1996.  Horrible.

Coincidentally, the book I read last week, Everything I Never Told You, reminded me of another movie- the dysfunctional family drama starring Mary Tyler Moore, in a totally witchy role, and Timothy Hutten - called "Ordinary People".

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Everything I Never Told You

This is the third book selected by a small book group I recently joined. The group that meets at LaDeDa is still going strong - about 10 years or so.  In fact, on Friday we met for our belated Christmas party and celebrated with pizza, and a white elephant gift exchange.  I was lucky to be re-gifted one of the items I gave last year.  

Let me back-up.  Many years ago, I found  a Marie Osmond doll at St. Vinnie's.  I'm not talking a little Barbie type doll; this treasure is at least three feet tall and came with patterns so I can sew her a collection of totally mod fashions.  Won't happen.  Included in her storage box was a king size pillow case with a screened photo of a pre-pubescent Donny lounging.  The moment Nancy opened her gift last year, a wave of regret flooded through me - not quite to my soul, but still rather deeply.  Nothing could have pleased me more than re-getting this pillow case, unless it was the three nun finger puppets, the post-it note collection, the Penzy spices with a 2015 expiration date, or the bathroom freshener.  All in all, a grand night.

Back to the book now....much of what I am going to say is speculation since I had little time to read last weekend due to a poopsick doggy.  Vet says there is some sort of intestinal upset (no sh*t) and gave her antibiotics.  I suspect she drank a cup of coffee that I had misplaced.

OK.  The book.  The title hints at much, wouldn't you say?  A book of secrets?  Then there are the opening lines, "Lydia is dead.  But they don't know this yet."  I figured the story arc would focus on the how and why of Lydia's death, and to an extent, it does.  The bigger story is the day to day functioning of two generations and the impact the sins of the first have on the next.  In the 1970's, a Caucasian girl marrying a Chinese boy was not acceptable.  Who committed that sin - the young married couple or the mother who refuses to bless the union?  What about parents who readily admit they favor one of their three children over the others?  I can't forget to mention the parent who pushes a daughter to excel in areas she herself was unable to pursue due to her responsibilities as a wife and mother.  

This is the story of the complexities of family life.  So far, it is not a happy story and I fear that will not change.  But the real-ness has drawn me in and I no longer wonder about Lydia's death.  It is the impact of that death that will siphon truths from each character.  Where that will lead, I'm not sure, but I suspect this may be a book with an ambiguous ending.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Mothers

Life has a way of surprising us - rocking our routine, challenging our stability and sending us off on new, sometimes unsettling adventures.  Life also occasionally sucker punches us - rocking our routine, challenging our stabiilty and sending us off on new, sometimes unsettling adventures.  The difference between surprise and sucker punch is what we do when it happens.

Brit Bennett's book places mothers at the eye of the whirlwind that spins and comforts us during various stages in our lives.  My mother was 53 when she died; too young.  Nadia Turner's mother was even younger, and although the circumstances were different, the emotions ring true.  Days, months, years of asking "Why?" and "What if..."  

Attempting to numb the pain of her mother's death, Nadia makes choices that she cannot shake even though she attempts to by leaving home and only returning on rare occasions when she feels obliged.  No spoiler here, but I will say that when Nadia chooses to remain silent about one of her choices, that very silence spreads like a thick, slow moving poison through many, many lives.

Sounds a bit soap opera-ish.  Not at all.  This is a skillful first novel.  Bennett uses the popular technique of alternating chapter narration, but again, it is not sloppy or distracting as with many current novels.  One chapter is narrated in third person by a limited omniscient narrator.  Alternating chapters are voiced by elderly women, the mothers, of the church Nadia attends.  The mothers gather daily to honor prayer requests they receive through various means.  They share the stories of those they pray for, and, from afar, they watch Nadia and reflect on her actions.  In doing so, they share their wisdom with us.  

The book is simple and smooth.  Once opened, I only put it down once.  I believe I would have stay curled up in my chair by the window and read my Sunday afternoon away even if the temperatures were not sub zero.  

Just for kicks I also flew through one of Carolin Carlson's swashbuckling adventures for the 8-12 year old set.  Did you know that pirates have a code of conduct?  Me neither.  Here's what I learned...

A pirate must...
Be twice as bold as he is daring
Be handy with a cannon and handier with a sword
Appreciate the finer things in life: treasure, parrots, grog
Mind his manners only when it suits him
Be very nearly honorable
Enjoy a bit of plundering...

A pirate must not...
Attempt to sing if he cannot carry a tune
Displease his fellow scallywags
Forget to be fearsome

I say pirating for all in 2017.
Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Merry Christmas

Thanks for stopping by on Mondays and indulging my fantasy that I actually have something of even the slightest import to share (and for generously  excusing my spelling errors and typos).

The best of everything to you this holiday season and all of 2018...and beyond.  Fill your life with smiles.

Holiday Hours

Dec. 22 and 23....10-5:30
Dec. 24...10-2ish
Dec. 25, 26 and 27...closed
Jan. 2...closed

Monday, December 19, 2016

In sunlight or in Shadow

Short stories seemed like a good option for these busy, pre-Christmas days.  What I'm struggling with is the contrast between the holly-jolly music, sights and sounds of the season, and the utterly bleak selections in this book.  

It's not surprising that Hopper inspired stories would be filled with glimpses into lives of the alone, the sad, and those who keep secrets cloaked so tightly they suffocate the keeper.  Let me explain.  Lawrence Block chose a number of Hopper paintings that raise questions.  How did the woman in the picture get to this place?  What are the two people on the porch discussing?  Why is she so sad - what happened, what might happen?  He then invited prominent writers to tell stories that answer those and other questions.

"Girlie show" is a dicey little number that takes us to the dark dressing room of a seedy "gentleman's club."  We also meet a chilly woman with less than a gentlemanly husband.  A few turns lead cleanly to the climax, and a not unexpected ending.

In fact, the second and third stories were predictable as well. but the noir storytelling style drew me in and kept me reading.  I have a sort of "rear window" perspective here.  None of these stories give me enough to like or dislike the character and so I feel like a peeper - looking in on the lives of people I wonder about but do not know.  

Looking forward to the rest of the stories.

Sorry. gotta wrap this up...lots of people doing last minute shopping.