Monday, October 02, 2006

Fall, Apples, and Great Reads!

I hope you all take the time to visit a local apple orchard and pick some apples. It is time for raking leaves, jumping into a big leaf pile, and finishing a busy day with a good book.

I want to recommend one old book and two new ones. A great read-aloud for the whole family is Patricia MacLachlan's Newbery Award winning, Sarah, Plain and Tall. This is a short, sweet story of a widowed father and his two children. He puts an advertisement into a newspaper to find a wife (mail-order bride) to come live with him and his children on the prairie. The book is one that children will enjoy listening to as much as parents will enjoy reading. This is the first book in a series that just recently concluded. The other titles in their order to the series are Skylark, More Perfect Than the Moon, Caleb's Story, and Grandfather's Dance. This series is heartwarming and tender. They are written from the child's point of view. Anna narrates the first, second and third book while Caleb "writes" the fourth and fifth. Children will enjoy the films made from the first two books starring Glenn Close and Christopher Walken. Many children love the "Little House" stories which would be wonderful to read after this series. Laura Ingalls Wilder was a real person and her books tell more details of the hard life on the prairie.

Another historical fiction book that the whole family will enjoy is by Richard Peck: Here Lies the Librarian. This gem from Peck, with his signature combination of quirky characters, poignancy, and outrageous farce stars orphans Peewee, 14, and Jake, the big brother she idolizes living in rural Indiana in 1914. They run a small garage, but face nasty sabotaging from their rival. The novel opens with a twister that tears up Buelahland Cemetery, turning up coffins, and strews laundry around the county. The tornado doesn't dare to touch the stern former librarian's grave. The board of trustees closed the library after her death, but that situation is about to change. A library science student from Butler University arrives with her three equally pretty and wealthy sorority sisters, all of whom drive fabulous cars, sparking Jake's interest (not just in their cars). After many pranks and hijinks, Peewee ends up being the only finisher in a rough-and-ready auto race, an event recounted in the closing chapter when she is an elderly, although still spunky, old lady. Peck aptly conveys the nuances of rural life in the early years of the last century while weaving in early feminism, the history of the automobile, and the message to be oneself. I loved the library puns and plan to use the epitaph in this book on my own grave! "SHH, Here lies the librarian, After years of Service, Tried and True, Heaven stamped her ---Overdue! Joyce Laiosa