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Fiction ’ Category
Friday, October 18th, 2013
New York Times bestselling author of the young adult Merlin series, T.A. Barron, loves the earth–and often writes about it. His new book, Atlantis Rising is the story of the magical island of Atlantis–not its destruction this time, but instead, its creation. This is the first of a trilogy.
As a writer who cares deeply about the environment, Barron wrote the following essay about how to get our kids to care, too.
“We all know the bad news: The planet is seriously suffering from all sorts of environmental abuses. Some people remain stuck in denial. And kids, our last best hope for the future, are being hammered by depressing news and the overwhelming scale of environmental problems – even as they are spending less time out in nature.
In the face of all this, can parents, teachers and others who care about our children do anything? Are there any ways to enlighten as well as empower young people to help protect the air, land, water, and creatures of the Earth?
The answer is Yes.
As a dad, I’ve learned a lot from my kids – starting with how little I really know. But one of the most important things they’ve taught me is that raising environmentally aware young people doesn’t start with learning. No … it starts with loving. Before kids can be expected to understand the facts about our planet, they need to feel an enduring bond with the marvelous places and trees and birds and animals who share that planet with us. We are emotional beings – so we can’t ask kids to protect and steward something they don’t truly love.
That love comes, first, through a child’s experiences in nature. No matter whether that happens in a patch of grass at a city park or somewhere in deeper wilderness – it’s a time of magic.
All kids need is a chance to play in soil or sand or a pile of leaves. To explore a quiet glade (with no electronics to intrude). To discover a mossy stream or a pair of baby raccoons or a piece of petrified wood that’s a million times older than the child herself. My family, for more than 20 years, has watched butterflies emerge from their cocoons each summer – a thrilling experience for everyone.
All these are teachable moments, offering opportunities to learn more about connectedness, natural patterns, transformation, evolution, water sources, or geologic time. But most of all … they are opportunities to wonder, discover, and love.
When that emotional bond is secure, then it’s time to explain the serious environmental challenges we face – with honesty but also a light touch. The goal is to impart understanding, not despair. So talk about the links between the purity of water, the health of frogs, and the survival of humankind. Discuss the essential wisdom of not fouling our nest, preserving the complex web of natural systems that support us all. Finally, look at some photos of the Earth from space – and then consider how unique and precious our lonely planet really is. Add all that together, along with nature’s unending ability to delight and surprise … and you’ll have kids who are truly motivated to help save the Earth.
Now comes the hardest part – maintaining hope. In our troubled times, this is difficult for any caring adult. But it’s even more difficult for young people, who haven’t seen as many winters followed by springtime. The best way to keep kids’ hope alive, I believe, is to convey the idea that every person matters. That every human being – even a child – has the power to make choices that can cumulatively make a difference.
How to do that? Certainly not through lectures or sermons! Instead, just share stories. Whether true tales of remarkable people or fictional tales of unlikely heroes – such stories are lifelines that keep us afloat. They connect us to people who have faced enormous challenges and found the courage to persevere – and sometimes, to triumph.
Hope often eludes us, especially in a world that is sometimes darkened by the clouds of despair. But hope is resilient, like a wildflower in the harshest mountain storm. It can survive, and maybe even flower beautifully.
And if hope survives … so will we.”
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Atlas Rising, environmentalist, kids and environment, Merlin, save the earth, T.A. Barron | Categories:
Best Sellers, Children's Books, Fiction, Guest Blogs, Mom Must Read, Parenting Advice, Popular Books
Thursday, October 17th, 2013
I love the National Book Awards. They always give me great ideas for what to read next. I’m just bummed that two of my favorite young adult books on the longlist (that was new this year) didn’t make the shortlist! You simply must read Flora and Ulysses to your kids and Two Boys Kissing for you!
In the meantime, check out the NBA picks and stay tuned for the winners which will be announced Nov. 20.
Rachel Kushner, The Flamethrowers (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)
Jhumpa Lahiri, The Lowland (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
James McBride, The Good Lord Bird (Riverhead Books/Penguin Group USA)
Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge (The Penguin Press/Penguin Group USA)
George Saunders, Tenth of December (Random House)
- Tom Drury, Pacific (Grove Press)
- Elizabeth Graver, The End of the Point (Harper/HarperCollinsPublishers)
- Anthony Marra, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena (Hogarth/Random House)
- Alice McDermott, Someone (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
- Joan Silber, Fools (W.W. Norton & Company)
Kathi Appelt, The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp
(Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
Cynthia Kadohata, The Thing About Luck (Atheneum Books for Young Readers/Simon & Schuster)
Tom McNeal, Far Far Away (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
Meg Rosoff, Picture Me Gone (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, a division of Penguin Group USA)
Gene Luen Yang, Boxers & Saints (First Second/Macmillan)
- Kate DiCamillo, Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (Candlewick Press)
- Lisa Graff, A Tangle of Knots (Philomel, A division of Penguin Group USA)
- Alaya Dawn Johnson, The Summer Prince (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)
- David Levithan, Two Boys Kissing (Knopf Books for Young Readers/Random House)
- Anne Ursu, The Real Boy (Walden Pond Press/an Imprint HarperCollinsPublishers)
Jill Lepore, Book of Ages: The Life and Opinions of Jane Franklin (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
Wendy Lower, Hitler’s Furies: German Women in the Nazi Killing Fields (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
George Packer, The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Alan Taylor, The Internal Enemy: Slavery and War in Virginia, 1772-1832 (W.W. Norton & Company)
Lawrence Wright, Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, & the Prison of Belief (Alfred A. Knopf/Random House)
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- T.D. Allman, Finding Florida: The True Story of the Sunshine State (Atlantic Monthly Press)
- Gretel Ehrlich, Facing the Wave: A Journey in the Wake of the Tsunami (Pantheon Book/Random House)
- Scott C. Johnson, The Wolf and the Watchman: A Father, a Son, and the CIA (W.W. Norton & Company)
- James Oakes, Freedom National: The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865
(W.W. Norton & Company)
- Terry Teachout, Duke: A Life of Duke Ellington (Gotham Books)
Flora and Ulysses, National Book Awards, The Flamethrowers, The Good Lord Bird, The Lowland, Two Boys Kissing | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Children's Books, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books
Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013
American Horror Story: Asylum scared me so badly last season that I couldn’t even go into my dark basement (still can’t). And forget walking the dogs at night–they had to fend for themselves because I was afraid Bloody Face was outside plotting to murder me.
No matter how chicken I am, I can’t wait to watch the new season one week from today. It’s mostly because I will follow Jessica Lange anywhere–from her role in King Kong to her new foray into children’s book publishing. In AHS: Coven, she’ll play the glamorous witch Fiona Goode. But I have a feeling Fiona might be really, really bad.
Beautiful Jessica Lange, of course, is best known for her award-winning acting. But she’s also an avid photographer who loves the technique of old-fashioned hand tinting. Add her hand-tinted photos to a partly-true story, and she has produced a uniquely satisfying children’s book called It’s About a Little Bird. This book sat in my pile to review, and I loved it even before I noticed the byline that reads, “Story and pictures by Jessica Lange.” The artwork and story are bright, fresh and different. And all of them are handmade by Jessica–nothing is digital! Even my 7-year-old twins fell hard for this book–the girls, the grandma, the farm and the bird. They ask for it every night.
I love to read It’s About a Little Bird and introduce them to Jessica Lange. I tell them how I got to interview her on the phone recently. Jessica Lange talked to me about her sweet (and not scary) new book. See what she had to say about it–and AHS–below.
KK: How did this book come about?
JL: ”I’ve done photography for quite a while. Really it was just for myself, but it became more than that. From that, I became very interested in the old colored postcards, the hand-tinted photographs. I started hand tinting my black and white photographs and created a story around some of these images. It was meant as just a little family thing. But it spiraled out of control, and now it’s a book. This is a story I made up for my granddaughters.”
KK: In the story, two little sisters, Adah and Ilse, stay at their grandmother Mem’s farm. Of course, they explore everything and then ask Mem to tell them about a birdcage they found. It turns out that Mem once lived in Rome and had a special canary named Uccellino. This bird went with her everywhere and sang gorgeous songs. One day, when Mem had to return to the U.S., she couldn’t bear to go without her bird. So she snuck Uccellino onto the plane in her pocket. The two landed safely and lived happily ever after. I hear some of this is true!
JL: “There is an element of make believe, but a lot of it is true. The whole thing with the little bird happened. It’s true where I got the bird, how I got it back and about the birdcage… Putting together a book is brand new territory for me. I don’t know how it’s going to be perceived. It’s good to do things that mix it up a little bit.”
KK: Yes! You definitely mix it up each season on American Horror Story. Can you give us any hints on what will happen next?
JL: “It takes place in New Orleans which has a very rich element to add to the story. It deals with witchcraft and broader themes, too. I think he’s (Ryan Murphy) thinking in terms of using witches as metaphors for any minority that is persecuted. There are things that go back to the Salem witch trials. This season, sometimes I’m wondering, ‘What the hell are we all doing?’ I think it should be interesting. And it will be scary. It’s always scary.”
So get your fill of Jessica Lange this week–check out her enchanting and emotional new book and then watch her scene-stealing acting on FX next Wednesday, October 9, at 10 p.m. EST.
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AHS, American Horror Story, American Horror Story: Asylum, American Horror Story: Coven, hand-tinting, It's About a Little Bird, Jessica Lange, photographs, Uccellino | Categories:
Best Sellers, Celebrity Books, Children's Books, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Picture Books, Popular Books, Q&A With Authors
Thursday, August 29th, 2013
I’ve had two summer obsessions–and it wouldn’t be fair or nice to keep them all to myself. These are books turned into TV shows that I can’t get enough of. They are so brilliant that they won’t let me sleep or even bother to watch my kids. (I exaggerate, but just a little.) I’ll just be honest, I also love how sexy these stories are.
I kept hearing about Orange is the New Black from friends and in news stories online. I wasn’t too excited about it, but I thought I’d check it out since I have a Netflix account for my kids. Besides, did you see True Blood this season? It was barely watchable. Summer TV was a vast wasteland of bore. That was, until I binge-watched OITNB. It’s about Piper Chapman, a seemingly nice girl with a nice fiance who all of a sudden gets a call from the Feds. Her secret is that 10 years ago, she carried a suitcase full of drug money for her flashy, intriguing and sexually satisfying girlfriend who imported heroin. For her indiscretion, Chapman pleads guilty and must serve 15 months in minimum security federal prison. The main character is such a delightfully complicated mess on the show that I dare you not to watch. But even better are all of the supporting actresses–the women in prison with their own imaginative stories. Her fiance, played by Jason Biggs, dutifully visits her while her ex-drug-dealer-girlfriend (Laura Prepon) taunts her in their shared prison quarters.
Even better, I found out that the basis of the story is real. Orange is the New Black was a memoir first, written by the real Piper whose last name is Kerman. The book is fantastic, too, but it’s not nearly as dramatic. Kerman got herself together in real life. Her alter-ego Chapman has a very long way to go. I can’t believe I have to wait another year for season two.
My husband is jealous of my love of The White Queen–both the book by Phillipa Gregory and the TV show on Starz. I voraciously read it in two days, and then I sat down to watch the first three episodes on demand. OMG, if you are into crazy English history–war, blood, romance, plots, witches–you will believe you’ve hit the jackpot. The show follows the same arc as the book. The mostly true story is about the beautiful common woman Elizabeth Woodville who entrances the young King Edward during The War of the Roses in the 1400s. She reigns as queen and must constantly woo and scheme to keep her royal position and her head. The story is told through the eyes of women and suggests that they played more of a role in medieval politics than they’re often given credit for.
The White Queen book is part of a series, and I’m already onto The Red Queen. It’s every bit as addictive and good. I don’t know if Starz plans to follow Gregory’s brilliant writings into a second season, but I certainly hope that they do.
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Jason Biggs, Laura Prepon, Orange is the New Black, Phillipa Gregory, Piper Chapman, Piper Kerman, The Cousins War, The Red Queen, The War of the Roses, The White Queen, women's prison | Categories:
Best Sellers, Books-to-Movies, Fiction, Memoirs, Mom Must Read, Must Read, Popular Books
Thursday, August 8th, 2013
What did you read this summer? What will you read? After all, we still have more than a month left! My friends and their kids started school in the Midwest, so their beach vacations are over. But here in the Northeast and elsewhere in the country, getaways are still in full swing. Well, regardless of your schedule, here are a two of my favorite books this summer so far.
by Meg Wolitzer
Who doesn’t love a book about friendships and love and happiness and heartache? This book, written by an expert commentator on culture and conundrums, spans decades nailing life’s changes that define each one. The story follows a clique of people who met as teens at summer camp in 1974. Jules, Ash, Ethan, Jonah, Kathy and Goodman all represent a part of yourself or someone you know. This book is not about a stunning, dramatic plot line. Instead, it’s for readers who love characters and their richness. On nearly every page, Wolitzer writes some poignant line that is something you’ve thought before but not been able to put into words: ““After a certain age, you felt a need not to be alone. It grew stronger, like a radio frequency, until finally it was so powerful that you were forced to do something about it.” I didn’t want this one to end.
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by Curtis Sittenfeld
I’ll just be honest. The only reason I read this book was because I loved the author’s debut novel, Prep, so much. I knew Sittenfeld had a knack for recounting intimate thoughts and revealing tidbits about slices of life I knew nothing about. She still has those chops when it comes to Sisterland. But the subject matter is totally different. Stay with me here: Twin sisters Kate and Violet have ESP. One doesn’t dig it at all and tries to live a quiet, normal life. The other, Violet, is a flamboyant psychic who predicts a major earthquake in their state of Missouri. Head-butting ensues. If you can get over the gimmicky plot, the book is great. That’s because the author really gets that sibling relationship down. Her pace and her characters kept me turning the pages. Read it–find out if that earthquake really happens.
best books of summer, Curtis Sittenfeld, Meg Wolitzer, Prep, Sisterland, summer reads, The Interestings | Categories:
Best Of Lists, Best Sellers, Fiction, Mom Must Read, Must Read