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FlatironThe full title of this wonderful book by Peter Gwillim Kreitler is Flatiron: A Photographic History of the World’s First Steel Frame Skyscraper, 1901-1990. The Flatiron Building is that triangular building the looks like a ship’s hull from the front. It is probably one of the most famous buildings in the world. Every time I pass by it, I marvel at its beauty.

Flatiron, the book, is filled with photos dating from 1901 through 1990. It has commentary from journals and individuals from the beginning of its construction in 1901 through the mid-1980s. There are photos taken by famous photographers such as Alfred Steiglitz, Edward Steichen and unknowns, including many anonymous.

My favorite photos are one by Steiglitz taken in 1902 on a snowy day taken from the park across the street from the building and one by Ed Kaplan taken in 1977 which is almost like a silhouette of the building in the background with a steam pipe in front of it spewing white steam.

Not only is the book a history of the Flatiron Building, it is a photographic history of New York. At the outset, the photos depict a street filled with horses and carriages. However, by 1910-1912 there is no sign of a horse and carriage. The streets are filled with the horseless carriage. Additionally, you see the changes in the buildings surrounding the Flatiron.

Both praised and panned as it rose, the Flatiron has turned out to be an architectural and aesthetic marvel. This book is a marvelous tribute to the building.

 

UnfinishedAddison Stone outgrew her small home town in Rhode Island emotionally and artistically. While descriptions of her personality varied, her art was uniformly lauded and declared to be beyond her age. Both a troubled life and the instantaneous artistic fame at a young age had their impacts on her. She died young, the intent of her fall of the Brooklyn Bridge undetermined (at least at the point that I stopped reading).

In The Unfinished Life of Addison Stone Adele Griffin has her friends and family, teachers and students, boyfriends and boyfriend wannabees describe her life. Peppered with photos of Stone, reproductions of her artwork, newspaper articles, etc. this book tells the story of her short and unfinished life. This ‘multimedia’ approach is rare, although not unique. There’s a book I read whose name I’m having trouble remembering (but I will) which did a similar thing. (The book is Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral. See my review at: http://2headstogether.wordpress.com/2012/11/04/chopsticks-by-jessica-anthony-and-rodrigo-corral/)

I’ve been on a string of not finishing books recently (this is the third out of 4) so I really wanted to like it. It’s getting great reviews. However, I couldn’t get through it. The combination of artwork and narrative certainly made the book better, but still, I’m sorry to say I found it boring. Normally I wouldn’t use words like that but that’s the only word I can come up with.

Addison did not have an interesting life and to devote almost 250 pages to it seems excessive. Griffin is a well respected YA writer and I understand and applaud her intention to stretch the YA book boundary. I just wish it had been with a more interesting book.

LongWayHomeFor some reason I think I’ve read a Inspector Gamache mystery before but have no record of it. The Long Way Home got excellent reviews and I thought I’d give it a try. It was well worth the read.

One of the best ways to describe the Gamache mysteries is it is the Canadian version of Martha Grimes’ Richard Jury mysteries with Gamache being Jury and his entourage emulating Jury’s. Instead of the ever present dog in the Jury mysteries, there is a duck in Gamache’s. It is the same type of read, though.

Gamache has retired to the small Canadian town of Three Pines to recoup after a serious case. After walking with his wife and his dog each morning, he sits on a park bench overlooking the valley and reads from a small book…but he never progresses in the book.

Each morning, also, his artist neighbor Clara sits beside him and all the townspeople wonder why because they don’t converse. One day she gets up the nerve to talk to him. It seems slightly over a year ago she and her husband, Peter, also an artist, took a break from each other. They agreed that one year from the date of the breakup they would meet and reevaluate. But Peter hasn’t shown up, which is very unlike him.

This statement and request for assistance ultimately involves Gamache, his wife Reine-Marie, his son-in-law Jean-Guy also a police officer, Clara, and neighbors Ruth and Myrna. It’s interesting because the characters talk about art and muses. They visit the small scenic villages that you picture in Canada and England. The plot takes some unusual and unpredictable twists. With 50 pages left, there’s no violence.

Once I got started, I read the book for the characters, not the plot. Poet Ruth is a blast–sort of like Melrose Plant’s aunt Lady Agatha in the Grimes’ series.

Martha Grimes fans and Louise Penny fans should switch books because if you like one, you’ll surely like the other. A totally enjoyable read.

DarknessDarknessWell, it seems like I’ve just become a fan of British mysteries. Not the Dorothy L. Sayers, Agatha Christie, Sherlock Holmes variety. I like some of the modern mystery writers like Peter Robinson and now John Harvey. Unfortunately, I’ve started at the end because Darkness, Darkness is the last book in the Charlie Resnick series.

In 2014, Jenny Hardwick’s body has been found under a porch foundation. She had disappeared in November 1984, in the midst of the Coal Miners’ Strike in Great Britain. While she was vocally pro-strike, her husband Barry, a miner, was anti to the point of working during the strike…a scab. While back then the reason for Jenny’s disappearance was uncertain, it was assumed she ran off with a man to start a new life, leaving Barry and her three children behind. The investigation at the time led to no conclusions.

With the reappearance of Jenny’s body, the case needs to be reopened. Resnick, who was redundant, but came back to the police on a part time basis, is asked to help Catherine Njoroge, a young, very Black detective with the investigation (several strikes against her). Don’t make anything big out of it. No one wants to bring up police issues from the strike.

Knowing very little about the Coal Miners’ Strike did not, in any way, detract from this book. But Harvey does supply a bibliography for those interested in learning more about it. Not knowing the back story also did not detract from it. Darkness, Darkness flips back and forth between Jenny’s life leading up to her disappearance and the investigation of her murder.  It also flips between Resnick’s current and immediate past lives, the flipping being somewhat abrupt but not confusingly so.

In some ways, Resnick reminds me of Peter Robinson’s Inspector Alan Banks, possibly because they both have lives outside of the police force, they both like music, they both plod along until they get to the answer. In addition, many of Robinson’s stories are cold cases, which apparently I like….a lot!!!! (Yes, I did watch Cold Case when it was on TV.)

Begun in 1988, the Resnick series has 12 novels, 16 short stories and two television adaptations (you bet I’m going to try and find the TV adaptations). While I’m not going to go back to the beginning (you’d understand why if you saw my library reserve list), I will keep an eye out for more John Harvey mysteries. I’m suggesting you do the same.

Is e-reading Story Time?

There’s an interesting article in The New York Times today about e-readers and children. As you may have heard, the American Academy of Pediatrics recently advised doctors to remind parents at every visit  that they should read to their children from birth. Additionally, they recommend limited screen time for children; no screen time for children under two and less than two hours a day for older children. That’s pretty powerful stuff.ereading

So the question unfolds: is using an e-reader as powerful as the printed page, and unfortunately, the study results are inconclusive. The studies suggest that the interaction between parent and child, the discussion about what is being read, is quite important for the development of language and researchers further suggest that using e-readers that read to the child (in lieu of a parent) do not generate that discussion and, thus, slow the development of language.

The article points to a 2013 study of children ages 3 to 5 which indicates that children whose parents read to them from a traditional book had better reading comprehension than those whose parents read from an e-book. The reason being that more time was spent focusing on the e-reading device than on the story. This result was borne out by two other studies.

Another factor is that e-books contain more than books. There are links to games. There are other sound effects. These diversions limit the conversation and dialogue between parent and child, which is a main, but not the sole, point of reading.

My unscientific opinion? I’m not an e-reading fan. I love the tactile nature of books and especially some children’s book. Pat the Bunny on an e-reader is missing something. Children’s books come in all sizes and shapes which don’t fit into the e-reader format. And imagine trying to turn the e-reader upside down to read the upside down writing on the page. Imagine reading Peter Sis’ Madelenka on an e-reader where the Herbwriting is in circles.

Lastly, there’s the thrill of going to the bookstore and perusing the collection for just the right book, sitting on the bookstore floor reading it and then going home and reading it some more. That’s how Lisa and I found Herb, The Vegetarian Dragon by Jules Bass and Debbie Harter. It gave us hours of reading pleasure.

However, any reading is better than no reading, in my book (pun intended). Of foremost importance is reading. However, whenever possible, open a real book. The size, smell, shape, writing style and feel make it a much more rewarding experience for parent and child.

End of sermon!!!

 

Librarian Outreach

I work in a suburban library in a reasonably affluent community. It certainly has its advantages. The patrons are well educated and have all the modern electronic toys. They attend all of our college related courses–college financing, college essay writing, choosing a college. We have programs on art, music, current events, travel, etc. We don’t have to worry about smelly, homeless people disturbing the serenity of our library.

But there are disadvantages as well, such as really making a mark in the community. So, I want to move to Portland, OR (although I never will). They seem to be doing it right.

I want to be the librarian who rides around on my bicycle with a big basket in the front, visiting the homeless and helping them choose books. I know the photo makes it look more fun than it probably is, but still…instilling a love of books in another person or doing reader’s advisory in the great outdoors just sounds so fulfilling. So, in my dreams or in my next life, that’s what I’m going to be doing.

(Read the article linking at the bottom of the page.)

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/10/us/homeless-outreach-in-volumes-books-by-bike-for-outside-people-in-oregon.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Aw%2C%7B%222%22%3A%22RI%3A12%22%7D&_r=0

 

 

Tell Me by Joan Bauer

Tell Me by Joan Bauer is the sugary sweet story of twelve-year-old TellMeAnna McConnell’s summer at her grandmother, Mim’s, house in Virginia. Her parents are going through a trial separation and her father is staying at home in Philadelphia, her mother is off to her brother’s in New Jersey and Anna goes to her paternal grandmother.

Anna is an actress whose stellar role was as a radish in an after school production. At home she dresses up as a cranberry and dances for a local store at the mall. In Rosemont she’s recruited to dress up as a petunia for the local library. While taking a break and sitting on the library front steps, a van pulls up. An Asian woman gets out and drags a child into the library to use the rest room. The girl is dragged back out and into the van which takes off. Anna feels something wasn’t right and the girl’s big, doe-like eyes showed fear. Winnie, the librarian, also felt something was amiss. Winnie’s grandson, Brad, happens to work for Homeland Security. So goes this unlikely premise.

Rosemont, VA has the small town, east coast equivalent of the Rose Parade and Mim is the organizer. Amidst the backdrop of flowers and the parade, Tell Me tells the story of Anna’s insistence on finding the doe-eyed girl and her hopes of her parent’s reunion.

Tell Me is more of a fable with the moral blatantly displayed on every page…don’t necessarily dismiss what you see. Anna is concerned that she’s made more of the van incident than was actually there. But Winnie and Mim and her father and Brad tell her not to doubt herself.

I’m a big, big, BIG Joan Bauer fan. I’ve heard her speak and the energy and sincerity she displays are unequaled. I love her books, especially Close to Famous, Hope was Here and Rules of the Road. But even I have to say that diabetics should stay away from this one…it’s just too darn sweet. I’ve never met an Anna-like child, so good, so focused on being a radish or petunia, so insistent that something be done about the doe-eyed girl. I’ve never met adults who are soooooooooooo supportive, so indulgent of their children, so mushy.

I’m a parent and I hope that I supported my kids and I know I’ll spoil my grandkids but I’m not even sure that I want to be like Mim.

Aside from that, the plot doesn’t work for me. I’m not sure that grandma can convince Homeland Security grandson that something needs to be investigated…that human trafficking might be involved. Maybe, but maybe no.

So, it disappoints me to say that, while I liked Tell Me, it is over the top on story line, characters and sugar.

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