Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Eve Green

On Wednesday, February 23 at 7 p.m. the Bookenders book group will meet at the library to discuss Eve Green by Susan Fletcher. Everyone is invited to attend.

Pregnant with her first child, Eve Green recalls her mother's death when she was eight years old and her struggle to make sense of her parents' mysterious romantic past. Eve is sent to live with her grandparents in rural Wales, where she finds comfort in friendships with Daniel, a quiet farmhand, and Billy, a disabled, reclusive friend of her mother's. When a ravishing local girl disappears, one of Eve's friends comes under suspicion. Eve will do everything she can to protect him, but at the risk of complicity in a matter she barely understands. This is a timeless and beautifully told story about family secrets and unresolved liaisons.

This debut novel is written with exquisite sensitivity, the chapters brimming with images of the Welsh countryside.

Fletcher perfectly captures Welsh country life with lyrical passages as moving as the story itself. Eve's tart, childish perceptions and the comfort of the natural world that feeds her soul create a wonderful portrait of a bereaved child searching for roots. Her incisive observations, a toussle of red curls and freckles, capacity for love, even her mistakes, make Eve a memorable character.

Like an artist painting so Susan Fletcher paints with words. The book is written with a great deal of feeling. The pages are rich with the description of the small details of everyday country life with its gossip, animosity and mysteries.

The description of the breathtaking beauty of the Welsh countryside in this book illustrates the author's love of it. She said, "I was keen to set the book in rural Wales. It is this wild, lonesome landscape that first led me to want to write."

Susan Fletcher was born in Birmingham, England in 1979. She grew up in Solihull, in the English West Midlands, and attended St. Martin's school from the age of 7 until she was 16, and then joined the 6th form at Solihull School. She studied for a B.A.degree in English at the University of York and then went touring for a year to Australia and New Zealand. When back in England she studied Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia where she received her M.A. and lived in Stratford-upon-Avon. She now lives in Warwickshire, England.

Her first novel, Eve Green (2004), tells the story of eight-year-old Evie, who is sent to a new life in rural Wales, where she discovers a family secret. Eve Green won the 2004 Whitbread First Novel Award and the 2005 Betty Trask Prize.

Her second novel, Oystercatchers, was published in 2007, and her third, Corrag, in 2010. Corrag was shortlisted for the 2010 John Llewellyn-Rhys Memorial Prize.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

February R.E.A.D. Book Group

On February 3 the R.E.A.D Book Group met to hear a wonderful book review by Diane Marsh. The featured book was Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford.


This book is a favorite among the librarians at Pleasant Grove City Library. 

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is a sweet love story set during the bitter time of World War II in Seattle, Washington.  Henry Lee is a twelve year old Chinese-American who has been sent to an all white school where his father thinks he will get a better education. He is bullied and made fun of by the other students and his “scholarship” is really a requirement to work in the lunchroom and clean after school. One day another student arrives to share this work. Keiko Okabe has also been sent by her parents to the all white school but she is Japanese-American.  As they work together, walk home together and Henry protects her from the anti-Japanese cruelty of the time they form a lasting friendship. Henry hides the relationship from his parents, who would disown him if they knew he had a Japanese friend. His father insists that Henry wear an "I am Chinese" button everywhere he goes. Keiko’s family being forced to leave their home and taken to an internment camp does not end their relationship. Henry is able to visit her in the camp and even bring her a gift: a record album of the music they both love.  When her family is moved to camp Minidoka in Idaho, they promise to write and wait for each other.  

This part of the story brought about interesting discussion at the book group. We talked about the many Japanese internment camps that existed in the United States during this time in history.

Following the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 which permitted the military to circumvent the constitutional safeguards of American citizens in the name of national defense.

The order set into motion the exclusion from certain areas, and the evacuation and mass incarceration of 120,000 persons of Japanese ancestry living on the West Coast, most of whom were U.S. Citizens or legal permanent resident aliens.  

These Japanese Americans, half of whom were children, were incarcerated for up to 4 years, without due process of law or any factual basis, in bleak, remote camps surrounded by barbed wire and armed guards. They were forced to evacuate their homes and leave their jobs; in some cases family members were separated and put into different camps. President Roosevelt himself called the 10 facilities "concentration camps."

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an old-fashioned historical novel that alternates between the early 1940s and 1984, after Henry's wife Ethel has died of cancer. In 1942 the Panama Hotel was situated somewhat between the Chinese and Japanese areas of Seattle. Forty years later, Henry discovers a parasol in the hotel's dark and dusty basement as he is looking for signs of the belongings that Keiko's family left behind when they were swept up in the evacuations to the internment camps. 

Their story is told as a widowed Henry looks back on his life and wonders if what was lost and broken and be found and repaired.  This is a book about family and identity, language and communication, hope and home, but most of all its about enduring love.

Jamie Ford
Jamie Ford is the great-grandson of Nevada mining pioneer Min Chung, who emigrated from Kaiping, China, to San Francisco in 1865, where he adopted the Western name “Ford,” thus confusing countless generations. Ford is an award-winning short-story writer, an alumnus of the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and a survivor of Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Having grown up near Seattle’s Chinatown, he now lives in Montana with his wife and children.

On March 3, 2011 Eloise Fugal will review Driven: An Autobiography by Larry H. Miller and Douglas Robinson for the R.E.A.D. Book Group at 10:00 a.m. We hope to see you there!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

How To Be a Princess

  • Learn to walk with a boot on your head
  • Put on your favorite dress
  • Read books after everyone else has gone to bed
  • Memorize all the rules
  • Break the rules
  • Save your friends from uncertain danger
  • And, most importantly, just be a girl
                           ---Shannon Hale

For our Great Reads for Girls book group we had the girls practice their poise by seeing how far they could walk with a book on their heads.

They were given play money when they arrived and then earned more money by demonstrating their princessly poise.

There was an on-time drawing with prizes--princessy things, of course.

Taylor told us some interesting things about Shannon Hale. We learned that she has a pet--

a plastic pig.
Shannon Hale is quirky like that.

There was a trivia quiz and the girls earned more money for answering the questions, which they did brilliantly.
Here is one of the more difficult questions:
 Finish this line: Clay in my ears and ________?

Answer: (Stone in my stare.)

These girls were impressive.

Then we discussed the book, Princess Academy.

We separated in groups and did a story shout, where each person in the group took turns telling a story, an activity that the people of Mount Eskel did in the book.

The main character, Miri, grew up on a mountain, in a quarry that mined linder rock, which plays a big role in the story.

So the girls and their moms decorated their own rocks.

Here are the results:

In order to get refreshments--brownie bites and candy--the girls had to practice their bartering skills.

An offer made, considered, refused.

Another bid, another refusal.


Princesses in the making!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Princess Academy

Every little girl dreams of being a princess, so they say.

And this Wednesday, February 9, every little girl from 8-16 can come to the library with a caring adult for princess school. There will be games, crafts, refreshments and a discussion on Shannon Hale's Newbery Honor Award Winner, Princess Academy.

While attending a strict academy for potential princesses with the other girls from her mountain village, fourteen-year-old Miri discovers unexpected talents and connections to her homeland.

Shannon Hale is a popular author and young mother of four from Utah. She wrote about her experience with winning the Newbery Honor Award { here }.

Shannon's publisher, Bloomsbury, made a video to introduce readers to Shannon and her books:

Thursday, February 3, 2011

January R.E.A.D. Book Group

Etta McQuade shared a delightful presentation on Mark Twain with the R.E.A.D. Book Group at the Pleasant Grove Library on January 6, 2011. She pointed out that one of the best things about reading Mark Twain's writings is that he is still funny and she certainly proved that as she shared many fun excerpts with us.

We discussed the new rewritten edition of The Adventrues of Huckleberry Finn and were all in agreement that it is best left as Mark Twain originally wrote it. Even though some of the words are now considered offensive it speaks to an important time in American history. It's good to remember that the moral to this story is to not be racist.
Changing the words of this book could open doors to all kinds of changes and censorship in classics novels that may be "offensive" to certain groups. If we go back and rewrite these books we, in a sense, rewrite history by altering the language to what is better accepted in modern times. What will future generations be able to learn if this becomes a common practice?

Etta read excerpts from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and we also discussed The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. We talked about the comparisons and the contrasts of the two books and these two beloved characters of American literature.

Etta shared some excerpts from Life on the Mississippi. This book is Mark Twain's memoir of the steamboat era on the Mississippi River before the American Civil War.

Then she shared some writings from Roughing It. This book tells of the escapades of Mark Twain in the American West. Etta pointed out how much he had written about Mormons, Utah and Brigham Young. She shared some of those passages with us. Twain's continued good humor in the face of misfortune and mishap throughout the book makes inspires laughter and makes it a fun book to read.

Etta told us about the first story that Mark Twain ever wrote. It is titled The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County which you can read here. Then she introduced us to The Innocents Abroad which is the first book Mark Twain wrote. It was published in 1869 and is based on Twain's letters to newspapers about his 1867 steamship voyage to Europe, Egypt, and the Holy Land. The Innocents Abroad sharply satirized tourists who learn what they should see and feel by reading guidebooks. Assuming the role of a keen-eyed, shrewd Westerner, Twain was refreshingly honest and vivid in describing foreign scenes and his reactions to them.


We were also introduced to Letters From the Earth, a book that is a miscellany of fiction, essays, and notes by Mark Twain, published posthumously in 1962. Written over a period of 40 years, the pieces in the anthology are characterized by a sense of ironic pessimism. The title piece comprises letters written by Satan to his fellow angels about the shameless pride and foolishness of humans.        

One of our favorite picture books at the library was presented to the group. The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy) by Barbara Kerley is a cute story told through the eyes of Twain's beloved daughter. In pursuit of truth, Susy Clemens, age 13, vows to set the record straight about her beloved (and misunderstood) father and becomes his secret biographer. Kerley uses Susy's manuscript and snippets of wisdom and mirth from Twain as fodder for her story. The child's journal entries, reproduced in flowing handwritten, smaller folio inserts, add a dynamic and lovely pacing to the narrative, which includes little-known facts about Twain's work. The text flawlessly segues into Susy's carefully recorded, sometimes misspelled, details of his character, intimate life, and work routine during his most prolific years. 

A very favorite part of the presentation was when Howard Carpenter and Etta read excerpts from the Adam and Eve Diaries which can be found in The Bible According to Mark Twain.

Etta told us about Mark Twain Tonight which was edited, adapted and arranged by Hal Holbrook

Holbrook had been bringing Twain to life for twenty years when an estimated thirty million viewers tuned in to see Mark Twain Tonight! on March 6, 1967. The two had been regular traveling companions, taking many roads to arrive at this electrifying moment in television history. This book brings together some of Holbrooks best work into an easy to read collection. It is really like reading a Mark Twain Biography. You can also watch scenes from Mark Twain Tonight! on Youtube. Please enjoy an example below.

We finished up with more great conversation and Almond Roca candy.

Etta shared many fun Mark Twain quotations during her presentation. Here are some of our favorites:

"I was born modest, but it wore off."

"When you cannot get a compliment any other way pay yourself one."

"Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow."

"If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything."

"A person who won't read has no advantage over one who can't read."
"It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt."

"Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter."

"Be careful about reading health books. You may die of a misprint."

You may like to checkout the new Autobiography of Mark Twain at the library. Mark Twain is his own greatest character in this brilliant self-portrait, the first of three volumes collected by the Mark Twain Project on the centenary of the author's death. It is published complete and unexpurgated for the first time. (Twain wanted his more scalding opinions suppressed until long after his death.) Eschewing chronology and organization, Twain simply meanders from observation to anecdote and between past and present. There are gorgeous reminiscences from his youth of landscapes, rural idylls, and Tom Sawyeresque japes; acid-etched profiles of friends and enemies, from his "fiendish" Florentine landlady to the fatuous and "grotesque" Rockefellers; a searing polemic on a 1906 American massacre of Filipino insurgents; a hilarious screed against a hapless editor who dared tweak his prose; and countless tales of the author's own bamboozlement, unto bankruptcy, by publishers, business partners, doctors, miscellaneous moochers; he was even outsmarted by a wild turkey. Laced with Twain's unique blend of humor and vitriol, the haphazard narrative is engrossing, hugely funny, and deeply revealing of its author's mind. His is a world where every piety conceals fraud and every arcadia a trace of violence; he relishes the human comedy and reveres true nobility, yet as he tolls the bell for friends and family--most tenderly in an elegy for his daughter Susy, who died in her early 20s of meningitis--he feels that life is a pointless charade. Twain's memoirs are a pointillist masterpiece from which his vision of America--half paradise, half swindle--emerges with indelible force.