10.04.2022

Barb Brouillette

Barb Brouillette, photo courtesy of Barb Brouillette.

October 2022

Interview by Kayla Smith

Born and raised on the Jersey Shore, Barb Brouillette graduated cum laude from Columbia International University, with a Bachelor of Science in Logic and Philosophy. For nearly 20 years now she has been a Boston area resident working in the insurance industry by day, pursuing various personal passions by night.

Brouillette has lovingly nurtured the tenet that it’s never too late to explore one’s curiosities, wasting no time in putting them into action. A lifelong learner, seasoned cellist, solo traveler, and designer of themed European experiences, she has recently welcomed feature screenwriting into her world.

Mainly self-educated through books, scripts, movies, and podcasts, Brouillette completed her first screenplay in 18 months, before submitting to various competitions for judge scores and critique notes. She is now in the feedback rewrite stage.

On a cloudy afternoon, tucked away in one of the many private spaces in the Boston Athenæum, we were lucky enough to be able to speak with a member who recently wrote her very first screenplay. As it is with a great number of those who now call the Athenæum a home away from home, Brouillette hadn’t heard of the library until walking by one day with a friend who pointed it out to her. Before the week was over, Barb had joined the ranks of a select group of Bostonians who are brought together not only by the awe-inspiring architecture and design of the building, but also by their deep love and appreciation for reading, learning, and sharing knowledge with others.

Brouillette spent countless hours writing, revising, and rewriting her screenplay within our institution, considering spots like the silent fifth floor and the Art Department to be sacred spaces. When asked to discuss her favorite locations in the library, Brouillette (like many members before her) gave away a few special locations, but kept the most important and well-loved to herself.

“It’s never too late to try something new…”

BARB BROUILLETTE: I started dreaming up some of these ideas long before COVID, but I figured I’d take the opportunity during the quarantine period, which provided a lot of good solitary time to put the project in motion.

A screenplay is meant to be a map…a blueprint. It’s not really meant to be overly flowering narrative, it’s meant to be very succinct in action descriptions, and as much as I love this format it’s not without strict industry guidelines. It has to be a certain number of pages, for each genre, a certain font, a specific format. Even when you can’t be too narrative in your action description, you can still be creative and selective in your word choice and order, so that you’re making suggestions to the camera. You can’t really make camera or lighting suggestions, editing ideas, or music choices in there—that’s for the professionals and they know what they’re doing. I’m just here to tell a story. You can be creative with how you suggest things so that the camera might have a certain focal point.

A screenwriter’s main goal is a tricky one: to give the audience the same vision that you have. The tricky thing is that a script is ultimately meant to be seen and not read, which causes you to approach it differently.

Q: Can you take us through your writing process for this project?

BB: I have never done anything formal before, never done any kind of writing project. This was my first ever. I haven’t taken any classes on it. I’m fully self-educated through books and scripts. It took about 18 months, but it took two things: learning how to write a screenplay, and then after that, actually writing the screenplay.

Maybe the next story I do will be different, but this one is a crime thriller that takes place in Oxford. The main character is a musician whose instrument is being hunted down. She isn’t sure why until the end of the story.

At first I wanted to do this project only for myself, known only to me. The more I got involved, and the more I got attached to my characters, the more interested I was to receive feedback on my script. So, I entered competitions in an attempt to see an unbiased opinion on my work. I just wanted to get judge scores and critique back, wanted to manage my expectations and see where I was.

[When we spoke to Brouillette, she had just gotten her manuscript back from a few different competitions, and with it, feedback.]

“…if we only do what is comfortable, what is life?”

A theme of the script is that living to meet others’ expectations is not living. We have to be our authentic selves, instead of what others want to pressure us into being.

The rewrite process was difficult—there are so many different ways to go about doing a rewrite, and for this project it was better for me to go back and focus on one thing at a time (characterization, storytelling, etc) rather than rushing to put it all together at once.

Q: Why start writing now?

BB: I started the cello at 29 years old…I knew I wasn’t going to be a concert soloist, but I wanted to see how far I could go with it. Doesn’t have to be a big, thriving career, but I’ve played with different orchestras and thoroughly enjoy my time.

This screenplay has been so much work, but I have been having the best time! It’s like putting a puzzle together. I love problem solving.

Q: What are some favorite scripts you’ve read?

BB: Alien, Sideways, and Chinatown are strong examples of what a screenplay should be. They’re well paced, everything has a purpose in the script, they have an even read (the page has a lot of white), succinct action sequences, and there are lovable/relatable characters for the audience to get to know and share some commonalities with.

Q: What are you reading now?

BB: I’m reading Directed By James Burrows—if you’re a fan of Cheers, Friends, Will & Grace, you’re gonna have seen that name hundreds of times. I’ve always had a creative crush on James Burrows…not only is he a genius with what he does and knows how to get the most out of his actors, he is also a very welcoming presence. He is an approachable person who wants to foster a collective effort, which seems an admirable quality for directors.

After writing the screenplay, I feel as though I am a much different viewer of movies and television. I feel as though I’m paying a lot more attention to the credits. I think I just take for granted so much that when we look at a final work, it looks like it just came together so naturally, when really there was so much involved! Big choices, little choices, everything that comes together just makes the end result look effortless. All those little details make a scene impactful (or not).

08.25.2022

Staff Book Suggestions Autumn 2022

Dan Axmacher
Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino.

(Library of Congress Classification PZ3.C13956 Co)

I recently finished Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics, a delightful little collection of short stories that play out across millennia. The immortal narrator Qfwfq recounts a series of situations and stories from his various lives and incarnations, exploring human relationships and foibles on a cosmic scale. This one was a real treat. Available as an audiobook on cloudLibrary.

(Library of Congress SH383.2 .D65 2007)

Next, I’m plummeting back down to Earth and into the sea: I’ve just started Leviathan, Eric Jay Dolin’s historical account of the American whaling industry. I’m only a few chapters in, but so far it’s been interesting to see how the growth of the whaling industry was so closely intertwined with the growth of the United States from its earliest days. It doesn’t hurt that the subject matter pairs perfectly with some of these gloomy New England autumn days. Available on cloudLibrary as both an audiobook and ebook.

Emilie Barrett

(Library of Congress PZ4.H134 Ot 2020)

For those of us who love Jane Austen, The Other Bennet Sister by Janice Hadlow is a deeply interesting delve into the characterization of the forgotten Bennet sister, Mary. Through a journey of self-discovery and romance, Mary must throw off the false expectations and wrong ideas that have combined to obscure her true nature and have prevented her from what makes her happy, and undergo an evolution in order to finally find fulfillment in her life. Hadlow’s prose is a beautifully written accompaniment to Austen’s original work and keeps in the spirit of the characters we originally loved in Pride and Prejudice, while adding additional layers of intrigue, lovability, and disdain to many of the characters we did not get to know as well.

John Buchtel
Chief Inspector Gamache series by Louise Penny

(Library of Congress PZ4 .P4275)

John Buchtel has gotten hooked on Louise Penny’s Chief Inspector Gamache series, with its rich cast of characters, delightful sense of humor, and insight into the art world, the world of libraries and books, and especially into human nature. Not to mention a protagonist who is both truly noble and deeply human, and a setting that will make you want to pack your bags for the Québec countryside as soon as you can: the idyllic, Brigadoon-like village of Three Pines. The first four books are each set in one of the four seasons, starting with the autumnal Still Life. Some titles are available on cloudLibrary.

Jacqueline Chambers

(Library of Congress PZ4 .B1275 An 2020)

This extremely funny and heartwarming novel is sure to make you laugh and cry! Quirky characters abound, and seeing how these strangers grow and come together through a bizarre situation is delightful. 

Will Evans

(Library of Congress PZ3 .T1626 Mak)

The Makioka Sisters by Junichiro Tanizaki.

Unfolding during the years just prior to WWII, the Makioka sisters are the last in a line of a once powerful and wealthy family in the Osaka area of Japan. The story primarily centers on the family’s attempts to find a suitable husband for the third oldest sister, Yukiko, an emotional reticent woman on the verge of spinsterhood, and the rebellious (read: often Western) behavior of the youngest sister, Taeko, who is forbidden to marry until her older sister has done so. While the plot concerns the two younger sisters, it’s through the eyes of the second oldest sister Sachiko—a happily married woman with genuine love and concern for her younger siblings—that we experience the story. 

Tanizaki serialized the story during the war, and he presents in microcosm what must have been cataclysmic societal shifts happening in Japan at the time. Many of the characters, especially Sachiko and her husband Teinosuke, exhibit wistful longing for the past, while we witness the transgression of tradition, patriarchy, and obedience to elders in the form of Taeko’s actions. The tone, period, and setting made this a compelling read for me, and I was fascinated by customs it outlined, especially around marriage. 

(Cutter Classification VEF .Sh165 .fo)

Does time erode one’s culpability for a wrong committed long ago? Isobel Bracken, the foolish gentlewoman, becomes convinced it does not. A sentimental, kind-hearted widow, Isobel is determined to right a wrong she enacted in her youth by means of an extraordinary, grand gesture. Her prickly brother-in-law and solicitor Simon steadfastly tries to thwart Isobel’s efforts to provide restitution for what he considers a very venial sin.

Like her contemporary Stella Gibbons, Margery Sharp is a shrewd observer of the comic and unremitting Englishness of the British. Available as an ebook on cloudLibrary.

(Library of Congress PZ4 .L6775 Sh 2005)

Octogenarian Nikoli, an eccentric Ukrainian emigre living in the English countryside, has married buxom, blond Valentina, who recently arrived from the Ukraine with an expired green card, a “gifted” school-aged son, and a volatile personality. Seeing through Valentina’s obvious charms and even more obvious motives, Nikoli’s daughters Vera and Nadezhda set aside their troubled history with father and each other to free the smitten old man from the clutches of his new wife.

This book careens from humor, pathos, and human cruelty, and it may be off-putting to some (it depicts elder abuse among other travesties). Nevertheless, the sometimes frustrating, comic, awkward, and joyful experience of caring for an aging parent depicted here rang true for me. Additionally, the enlightening snippets of Ukrainian history told through the family’s history and Nikoli’s treatise on tractors (which gives the book its title) provide some insight to current events. Available as an ebook on cloudLibrary.

Leah Rosovsky
Crying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner.

(Library of Congress PZ4.O8336 Th 2020)

Four friends, living in a retirement village in England, solve murder mysteries in their spare time. The series is delightful, witty, and surprising. Available as both an ebook and audiobook on cloudLibrary.

(Library of Congress CT275.Z386 A3 2021)

Michelle Zauner comes to terms with her mother’s death by writing about their shared obsession with food. It’s a lively memoir that alternates between humor and pain. And, the descriptions of Korean food are mouth watering! Available as both an ebook and audiobook on cloudLibrary.

Emily Schuman

(Library of Congress TX357 .S23 2022)

A fascinating look at the history of foods and the impact of mass farming. It’s made me think about how to buy and support the local farms and ecosystem both from an environmental and a health perspective. 

Jessica T. Pinkham Schweber

(Library of Congress PZ4 .W74728 Se 2021)

The author of this book weaves several generations of Dakota women’s stories together within her main character’s life experiences of trauma, love, and loss. It was both personally and historically compelling. Available as an audiobook on cloudLibrary.

(Available as an ebook on cloudLibrary)

This reader is not always a fan of murder mysteries, but I was delighted by Tursten’s somewhat ethically challenged protagonist Maude, an octogenarian who will not be pushed around.

Graham Skinner
His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik (volume 1 of the Temeraire series)

(Available through cloudLibrary on both audiobook and ebook)

Screenshot of the cover for His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik from the Athenæum’s cloudLibrary portal.

Dragons and the Napoleonic Wars! What else is there to say? Aside from dragons, I became enamored with the historic fantasy fiction novel and the friendship between the dragon Temeraire and the at first reluctant Captain Will Laurence, who makes a decision between seafaring and becoming part of the Aerial Corps. There is an amazing cast of characters, humor, and friendship that Novik’s writing style captures and is so deeply engaging that I am now three novels into the series.

Mary Warnement

(Library of Congress PS3556.A314 Z46 2017)

Suggesting a book to fall in love with for everyone is a tall order! I have an author to recommend: Anne Fadiman has written on a variety of topics, and her book of essays Ex-Libris is my favorite book to give, but more recently she wrote a biography of her father. Also available as an audiobook on cloudLibrary.

(Library of Congress PZ4.S52645 Gu 2008b)

If you haven’t discovered it or you’re a fan of rereading, I recommend returning to the charming world in The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Available both as an ebook and as an audiobook on cloudLibrary.

Murder on the Vine by Camilla Trinchieri

(Library of Congress On order for the Athenæum)

And finally, something new, a book set in October during the wine harvest season in Tuscany, currently available as an ebook on cloudLibrary. Maybe you want to read the series in order, in which case get Murder in Chianti, also available as an ebook and as an audiobook on cloudLibrary.

08.22.2022

Eva L. Elasigue

Eva L. Elasigue, photo courtesy of Eva L. Elasigue.

Summer/September 2022

Interview by Carly Stevens

Eva L. Elasigue is a science fiction fantasy author living in the Pacific Northwest. Her debut work is the trilogy Bones of Starlight, a fantasy space opera. The third volume, Greater Beyond , is currently being serialized. You can keep up with her on her main Facebook page, “Eva L. Elasigue,” or her side group, “ELE:Mentation.” Her Instagram is @primal.spiral and her Twitter is @primalspiral.

Q: Can you tell me about your background, both personal and academic?

EVA L. ELASIGUE: I’ve always lived somewhere along the Pacific Northwest coast in the areas between San Francisco and Seattle, but I have traveled widely including Europe, Central America, Australia, and the Philippines. As a writer, I was recognized and accelerated early as a child. I tested well, won a youth state medal in California, got involved in local arts, and had a couple of small pieces published. My college career started in creative writing, shifted to arts and humanities, then biopsychology, and ended in biology, with some hired research done in genetics and native plants.

After finishing college, I landed a full time writing gig for the contract furniture industry, writing articles, editing, and researching. This was good, but ultimately not quite what I wanted to be doing. After that, I went on a soul searching journey that put me on small farming homesteads and in the backcountry where I gained familiarity with natural building, wildcrafting, and bush lore. I returned to civilization doing wholesome, grounded work in renovation and market retail. That is when I turned back to writing. This time, a really big idea was ready for me, and I decided I was ready for it. I began Bones of Starlight, the fantasy space opera trilogy that I’m now concluding. This has since taken me to worlds beyond in creativity, through conventions and festivals. I’ve run concurrent projects in mixed media visual arts and poetry, and I enjoy movement and music. I’ve personally bonded with a snake, a cat, and a dog, and lived with humans and farm menagerie. I’m spiritually and secularly curious, happily queer, and blended heritage Filipina-American.

Q: What books have you written and what are you currently working on?

ELE: The two novels I’ve released are part of the trilogy Bones of Starlight: Fire Within, and Abyss Surrounding. The third, Greater Beyond, is concluding now in online serialization. These three are a unified story about the turn of an age in an alternate universe intergalactic empire with fantasy aliens—sometimes concept heavy, other times campy and magical. The main character is a Scion Princess, and the ensemble is assembled from all kinds of folks from all over, who discover surprising and profound connections as they do their parts in the turn of the change.

Q: Can you talk about your writing process? Does it vary from book to book or topic to topic? Has the pandemic affected your process?

ELE: I operate differently for different projects, though I have been on this main trilogy for a while. The trilogy novels ironed out their progression eventually, where I write first, second, and third drafts in parts by turn, which have serialized steadily online at bonesofstarlight.com. If I get the chance to work on other projects in the trunk, I suspect I will approach them each in a unique fashion, because my assortment of ideas belong in differing subgenres. Poetry for me is more like the occasional strike of lightning, though I enjoy offering typed poetry concepts for events.

The pandemic was something I had to get through. I had by then become a social writer, thriving on continued relevance and awareness in receptive communities, so it was a matter of innovating and hanging in there.

Q: What do you hope readers will get from your books?

ELE: Deep reflections, inspiring notions, some smiles and laughs, and perspectives of a beautiful and bigger world filled with imagination. Maybe also newfound relation to others who are like yet unlike them, and some added understanding of self and life. I believe this is what fiction in general offers us, particularly in speculative fiction, and what the reader finds depends on what they really need.

Q: How did you find the Athenæum?

ELE: I was accompanying my family on a tour, and the Athenæum wasn’t actually a stop but while we were standing there I noticed the door. I stepped aside for a moment to peek in and take a brochure. I was fascinated.

Q: Did the Athenæum’s collections inform your research?

ELE: Sure, yes. I’ve enjoyed deep random browsing at the Athenæum, both in the catalogs and different departments. I’ve been into Special Collections, perused the vintage card catalogs, and chosen many different places to sit and inquire into the shelves.

Q: Do you have a favorite spot to do work?

ELE: I was directed to the Seminar Room on 1G for a good place to use my typewriter, which is a sometime companion for drafting my novels. I really appreciate that openness to make a little studious noise, and it’s an empowering space. I also enjoy the quiet and sunny fifth floor desks, making some tea and stepping out on the balconies.

Q: What are some of your favorite books? I know it’s a tough question. name as many as you like.

ELE: I connect to genre, literary, and graphic novels, and I am passionate about fiction but also interested in research. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings was pivotal. I have also resonated with Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea and more, Shakespeare, Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach , Hermann Hesse’s Demian , Little, Big by John Crowley, Tad Williams’s Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy , the Sandman series, and so much more.

Q: What are you reading right now?

ELE: Poems for Other People’s Lovers, by Jeremy Brownlowe the Typewriter Troubadour; We Were Dreamers, an immigrant superhero autobiography by Simu Liu; and the Binti trilogy, by Nnedi Okorafor.

06.22.2022

Summer 2022 Reading Challenge

Crank up the heat this June with this Summer 2022 Reading Challenge.

Comic Books/Graphic Novels

Trojan Women by Anne Carson
(Children Picture Book Lg BRUNO)
This is a new comic version of Euripides’s The Trojan Women, which follows the fates of Hekabe, Andromache, and Kassandra after Troy has been sacked and all its men killed.

Otto: A Palindrama by Jon Agee
(PZ7.A2678 Ot 2021)
This graphic novel is told entirely in palindromes! Otto’s dog Pip goes missing, and his search leads him into a strange world of talking owls, stacks of cats, storms and mazes, boats and trains and automobiles. Everything seems to be the same forward and backward, and Otto is unsure if he’ll be able to make it home to Mom and Pop.

Marshmallow and Jordan by Alina Chau
(PZ7.C405 Ma 2021)
Jordan’s days as a star on her basketball team were over when an accident left her paralyzed from the waist down. She is still the team captain but her competition days are behind her. When she meets a mysterious elephant named Marshmallow, she discovers a new sport- water polo. Will water polo be the way for her to continue her athletic dreams, or will it come between Jordan and her friends on the basketball team?

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
(PZ7.B7999 Be 2018)
All Vera wants to do is fit in, but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and attend the best summer camps, but Vera’s single mother can only afford to send her to Russian summer camp. Vera thinks this may be the one place she can fit in, but camp is very different than she imagined. Nothing had prepared her for the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, or outhouses straight out of nightmares!

Awkward by Svetlana Chmakova
(PZ7.C5444 Aw 2015)
On her first day at her new school, Penelope, or Peppi, reminds herself of her two rules for surviving school: don’t get noticed by the mean kids, and seek out groups with similar interests and join them. But when she trips into a quiet kid named Jaime in the hallway, she’s already broken the first rule, and the mean kids start calling her “nerder girlfriend.” How does she handle this? By shoving Jaime and running away. Falling back on rule number two and surrounding herself with new friends in the art club, Peppi can’t help but feel bad about the way she treated Jaime. To make matters worse, he is a member of her clubs archrivals, the science club. When the clubs go to war, Peppi realizes sometimes you have to break the rules to survive middle school.

Books with a blue cover

The Proudest Blue by Ibtihaj Muhammad
(Children Picture Book + MUHAM)
With her new backpack and light up shoes, Faizah knows the first day of school is going to be special. It’s the start of a brand new year and her older sister Asiya’s first day of hijab. Her hijab is made of a beautiful blue fabric, but not everyone sees it that way. In the face of hurtful and confusing words, Faizah will find new ways to be strong.

Daniel’s Good Day by Micha Archer
(Children Picture Book ARCHE)
The people in Daniel’s neighborhood always say, “Have a good day!” But what exactly is a good day? Daniel is determined to find out, and as he strolls through his neighborhood, he finds a wonderful world of answers as varied as his neighbors.

Smile by Raina Telgemeier
(PZ7.T245 Sm 2010)
Raina wants to be a normal sixth grader, but one night after Girl Scouts Raina trips and falls, which leaves her with two severely injured front teeth. What follows is a long and frustrating journey with braces, surgery, embarrassing headgear, and a retainer with fake teeth. On top of all that, she is dealing with a major earthquake, boy confusion, and friend issues.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell
(PZ7.S45696 Ca 2018)
Welcome to a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary boxes into colorful costumes, and their ordinary block into a cardboard kingdom! This summer, the sixteen kids will encounter knights and rogues, robots and monsters, as well as their own inner demons, on one final quest before school begins.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan
(PZ7.R9553 Es 2000)
Esperanza thought she would always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico, with her fancy dresses, nice home, and servants. But a tragedy forces Esperanza and her mother to flee to California during the Great Depression and to settle into a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she is now facing. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances.

Pie in the Sky by Remy Lai
(PZ7 .L182 Pi 2019)
When eleven year old Jingwen and his family move to a new country, he feels like he’s landed on Mars. School is tough, making friends is impossible since he doesn’t speak English, and he’s often stuck looking after his little brother, Yanghao. To distract himself from the loneliness, Jingwen daydreams about making all the cakes on the menu of Pie in the Sky, the bakery his father had planned on opening before he passed away. The only problem is he and his brother are not allowed to use the oven while their mom is at work. As Jingwen and Yanghao bake elaborate cakes, they’ll also have to cook up elaborate excuses to keep the cake making a secret from their mom.

Books about friendship

Words to Make a Friend by Donna Jo Napoli
(Children picture Book + NAPOL)
When a young Japanese girl moves into her new house, she is happy to see a girl her age playing in the snow next door. The only problem is the Japanese girl doesn’t speak English and the American girl doesn’t speak Japanese. Each girl’s love of play, snow, and making a new friend transcends the need to speak the same language, and by using simple words in both languages and charades, the girls find they have all they need to build a snow creature.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
(PZ7.J156 Ro 2015)
Twelve year old Astrid has always done everything with her best friend Nicole. When Astrid signs up for roller derby camp, she assumes Nicole will too, but instead she chooses to do dance camp with a new friend instead. Astrid faces a tough summer of bumps and bruises as she learns who she is without Nicole and what it takes to be a strong, tough roller girl.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale
(PZ7.H1385 Re 2017)
Shannon and Adrienne have been best friends since they were little, but one day Adrienne starts hanging out with the most popular girl, Jen, and her circle of friends called The Group. Everyone wants to be Jen’s best friend, and many will do anything to stay on top, including bullying others. Now everyday Shannon finds herself asking if she and Adrienne will stay friends, if she will stand up for herself, and if she is in The Group or is out.

Frog and Toad All Year by Arnold Lobel
(PZ7.L7795 Fr)
In winter, spring, summer, and fall, Frog and Toad are always together. We get a wonderful story about their friendship throughout the seasons of the year.

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
(PZ7.P273 Br)
Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer to be the fastest kid in fifth grade. He almost is, until a new girl named Leslie Burke beats him. The two become friends and spend their time in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength from his friendship with Leslie to be able to deal with his grief.

Books about animals

Acoustic Rooster and his Barnyard Band by Kwame Alexander
(Children Picture Book + ALEXE)
Acoustic Rooster forms a jazz band with Duck Ellington, Bee Holliday, and Pepe Ernesto Cruz to compete in the annual Barnyard talent show.

Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae
(Children Picture Book Lg ANDRE)
Gerald the Giraffe is too clumsy to dance with all the other animals at the Jungle Dance until he finds the right music.

Skunk and Badger by Amy Timberlake
(PZ7.T479 Sk 2020)
The last thing Badger wants is a roommate, and certainly not a skunk for a roommate, but since the house does not belong to him he doesn’t have a choice. Soon everything in Badger’s quiet and ordered life is turned upside down. But after he drives Skunk away, he misses him and sets out to find him and make amends.

Skunk and Badger: Egg Marks the Spot by Amy Timberlake
(PZ7.T479 Eg 2021)
Buried in the heart of every animal is a secret treasure. For rock scientist Badger, it’s an agate he found as a cub that was stolen by his cousin, Fisher. For Skunk, the treasure is Sundays with the New Yak Times Book Review. When an old acquaintance, Mr. G. Hedgehog, announces his plan to come for the book review as soon as it lands on his doorstep, Skunk decides an adventure will solve both of their problems. Together they set off on an adventure.

Animal Rescue Agency #1: Case file: Little claws by Eliot Schrefer
(PZ7.S37845 An 2021)
When a polar bear cub ends up trapped on a piece of ice heading out to sea, his mother knows there is only one place to turn, the Animal Rescue Agency. Esquire Fox used to organize elaborate chicken raids, but after she met Mr. Pepper, she turned from a life of crime to form the Animal Rescue Agency. Esquire and Mr. Pepper coordinate with their agents to get them to the Arctic, where they learn that what happened to the polar bear cub was no accident. Saving him will pit them against the scariest predator in the world- a human.

Animal Rescue Agency. #2: Case file: Pangolin pop star by Eliot Schrefer
(PZ7.S37845 Cfp 2022)
After their frigid Arctic rescue, Esquire and Mr. Pepper get an invitation to Beatle the Pangolin’s private island concert. But when they arrive, the island is in chaos. Their field agent tells them that after an incident during dress rehearsal, Beatle is trapped underground. Foul play is suspected, and there are multiple suspects. This might be the Animal Agency’s most challenging case yet!

Nonfiction

The Astronaut with a Song for the Stars: The Story of Dr. Ellen Ochoa by Julia Finley Mosca
(Children Picture Book + MOSCA)
Growing up in a family of immigrants, Ellen dreamed of becoming a professional flutist, but that changed when she discovered engineering in college. Though she was told that field of study wasn’t for girls, she refused to give up, and became a NASA astronaut!

Classified: The Secret Career of Mary Golda Ross, Cherokee Aerospace Engineer by Traci Sorell
(Children Picture Book + SOREL)
Mary Golda Ross designed classified airplanes and spacecrafts as Lockheed Aircraft Corporation’s first female engineer. This book shares how her passion for math and the Cherokee values she was raised with shaped her life and work.

Rad Women Worldwide by Kate Schatz
(CT3202 .S26 2016)
This is a collection of forty biographical profiles, each with a striking illustrated portrait, highlighting extraordinary women from around the world. They are fresh, engaging, and inspiring stories of perseverance and success, and feature an array of diverse figures.

I Survived True Stories: Five Epic Disasters by Lauren Tarshis
(GB5019 .T37 2014)
From the author of the “I Survived” series comes five true stories of survival, featuring real kids in the midst of disasters.

Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
(+ F788 .C485 2017)
Home to an astonishing variety of plants and animals that have lived and evolved there for millenia, the Grand Canyon is more than just a hole in the ground. Follow a father and daughter as they make their way through the cavernous wonder, discovering life both past and present.

Tutankhamun: The Mystery of the Boy King by Zahi Hawass
(+ DT87.5 .H39 2005)
Learn about the life of King Tut, his burial, and the discovery of his tomb.

Books with “summer” in the title

Summer by Cao Wenxuan
(Children Picture Book CAO)
During a hot summer day in the grasslands, a group of animals race to claim the single spot of shade under one tiny leaf clinging to a branch. The animals fight until they are inspired by an act of love to offer shade to one another.

Summer of the Gypsy Moths by Sara Pennypacker
(PZ7.P3856 Su 2012)
Stella loves living with her Great-aunt Louise in her house near the water on Cape Cod. This summer, Louise has taken in a foster child named Angel. Angel couldn’t be less like her name, and the two hardly speak to each other. But when tragedy unexpectedly strikes, Stella and Angel are forced to rely on each other to survive and they learn they are stronger together than they could have imagined.

Summer Party by Cynthia Rylant
(PZ7.R982 Su 2002)
Nine year old cousins Lily, Rosie, and Tess are sad when it is time to leave Aunt Lucy. The cousins arrange a party and get a special surprise to look forward to in the near future.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki
(PZ7.T14 Th 2014)
Every summer, Rose goes to a lake house in Awago Beach with her mom and dad. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there too. But this summer is different from the ones before. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction, they find themselves in a whole new set of problems.

The Penderwicks: A Summer Tale of Four Sisters, Two Rabbits and a Very Interesting Boy by Jeanne Birdsall
(PZ7.B51197 Pe 2005)
While vacationing with their widowed father, four sisters discover the summertime magic of the Arundel estate’s sprawling garden, treasure-filled attic, tame rabbits, and a cook who makes the best gingerbread. Best of all is Jeffrey Tifton, son of Arundel’s owner. Mrs. Tifton is less pleased with the Penderwicks than Jeffrey, and warns the new friends to stay out of trouble.

Books that take place near the water

We are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom
(Children Picture Book + LINDS)
Inspired by the Indigenous led movements across North America, this book issues an urgent rallying cry to protect the Earth’s water from harm. When a black snake threatens to destroy the Earth and poison her people’s water, a young water protector takes a stand.

Captain Jack and the Pirates by Peter Bently
(Children Picture Book + BENTL)
When brave mariners Jack, Zach, and Caspar build a ship and set off on an imaginary adventure at sea, they face pirates, a storm, and a shipwreck.

Aquamarine by Alice Hoffman
(PZ7.H6533 Aq 2001)
Hailey and Clare are spending their last summer together when they discover something at the bottom of the murky pool at Capri Beach Club. There in the depths is a mysterious and beautiful creature, a mermaid named Aquamarine, who has left her sisters to search for love on land. Now, as this mythological yet very real being starts to fade in the burning August sun, a rescue is begun.

Gone Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright
(PZ7.E724 Go 2000)
When Portia sets out to visit her cousin Julian, she expects their adventures will include exploring the woods, collecting stones and bugs, and playing games. But after their first day of exploring, they discover a boulder with a mysterious message, a swamp full of reeds and quicksand, and a ghost town on the far side of the swamp. At one time the swamp was a lake, and the fallen houses along its shore an elegant resort community. Though both are long gone, the houses still hold a secret- two people who never left and can tell the story of what happened there.

Lily’s Crossing by Patricia Reilly Giff
(PZ7.G3626 Li 1997)
Every summer Lily and her dad go to the family’s house in Rockaway, near the Atlantic Ocean. But this summer, World War 2 has called Lily’s dad overseas and Lily is forced to live with her grandmother. But then a boy named Albert, a refugee from Hungary, comes to live in Rockaway. He lost most of his family to the war. Soon he and Lily develop a special friendship and share secrets. But they have both told lies, and Lily’s lie may cost Albert his life.

Lulu and the Dog From the Sea by Hilary McKay
(PZ7.M191 Lud 2013)
Lulu loves animals. When she goes on vacation, she finds a stray dog living on the beach. Everyone in town thinks the dog is trouble, but Lulu is sure he just needs a friend.

Main character is a person of color

Eyes that Kiss in the Corners by Joanna Ho
(Children Picture Book + HO)
A young Asian girl notices that her eyes look different from her peers, who have big round eyes and long lashes. She realizes hers are like her mother’s, her grandmother’s, and her little sister’s. They have eyes that kiss in the corners ang glow like warm tea, crinkle into crescent moons, and are filled with stories of the past and hope for the future.

Magic Like That by Samara Cole Doyon
(Children Picture Book + DOYON)
While her mother works magic styling her hair, a young Black girl recalls how her hairstyles can reflect the natural world and how her hair can be elegant, mischievous, or whimsical.

Dragons In A Bag by Zetta Elliott
(PZ7 .E46959 Dr 2018)
When Jax is sent to spend the day with a mean old lady his mother calls Ma, he finds out she is not his grandmother, but that she is a witch! She needs his help delivering baby dragons to a magical world where they’ll be safe. There are two rules when it comes to the dragons: don’t let them out of the bag, and don’t feed them anything sweet. Before he knows it, Jax and his friends break both rules. Will Jax get the dragons delivered safe and sound, or will they be lost forever?

Fast Pitch by Nic Stone
(PZ7.S8825 Fas 2021)
Shenice Lockwood has her eyes set on the Fastpitch World Series. As team captain, she’d like nothing more than to help her team win the trophy and take the prize money home. And as one of the few brown faces on the field, it’d be a personal triumph to show up her rich, white opponents. But Shenice’s focus is shaken when her uncle reveals that a family crime may have been a set-up. Shenice will stop at nothing to uncover the past. But the closer she gets to the truth, the further she gets from her goals.

Stef Soto Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres
(PZ7.T626 St 2017)
Estefania “Stef” Soto is itching to shake off the embrace of her family’s taco truck, Tia Perla. It’s no fun being known as the “taco queen” at school. But when it looks like Stef is going to get exactly what she wants and her family’s livelihood is threatened, she will have to become the truck’s unlikely champion.

The Many Meanings of Meilan by Andrea Wang
(PZ7.W1785 Man 2021)
Meilan Hua’s world is made up of a few key things: her family’s beloved matriarch, Nai Nai, the bakery her family owns and runs in Boston’s Chinatown, and her favorite chinese fairy tales. When Nai Nai passes, her family has a falling out that sends Meilan, her parents, and her grandfather on the road in search of a new home. They land in Redbud, Ohio, which is the opposite of Chinatown. Meilan’s not quite sure who she is, and being renamed at school only makes it worse. She decides she is many Meilan’s, each inspired by a different Chinese character with the same pronunciation as her name. Meilan keeps her facets separate until an injustice at school shows her the power of bringing her many selves together.

BOOKLISTS

06.03.2022

Staff Book Suggestions Spring & Summer 2022

Will Evans

A House in the Country by Ruth Adam
(Library of Congress Classification PZ3.A196 Ho)

Adam, along with her husband, small children, and a band of friends, decide to pool their resources to escape the deprivations and squalor of London at the close of WWII. Renting a manor house in the seemingly idyllic English countryside, they immediately become the envy of their city friends and foes, who all too frequently assume the form of unwanted guests. Moreover, Adam and company, former flat dwellers, quickly realize the necessity of servants needed to run such a behemoth of a residence, a proposition at odds with their democratic ideals newly born out of the irrevocably altered, postwar social order. Additionally, these erstwhile urbanites often serve as a form of amusement for the local rustics by their general cluelessness of country life. Lack of fortitude among the principles soon gives way to shirking and recrimination, and the band of utopians slowly dwindles. Part social experiment, part fish-out-of-water story, this semi autobiographical work offers wit, gentle humor, and a fleeting glimpse at a way of life that has all but disappeared. This work is unique among Adam’s writings, the majority of which explore feminist issues.

(Library of Congress PZ3.C3133 Be)

Possessed by self-assurance but unencumbered by any formal education, 17 year-old Sarah longs to restore the family country estate to its former glory. Reduced to genteel poverty by a deceased father that exercised poor business judgement while among the living, Sarah and family dwell amid the crumbling manor with little purpose in a neighborhood inhabited by eccentrics common to English villages. Her terminally vague mother does little to help the cause, when she marries a maestro, who brings to the union a fragile constitution and his objectionable children, a stepfamily rich in artistic pretensions, but poor in liquid assets. A new acquaintance in the form of a handsome diplomat, all kindness and flash, might rescue Sarah, but he proves to be frustratingly enigmatic largely due to Sarah’s naiveté. Determined to impress him, she impulsively escapes to London to earn a living, but her lack of any qualifications lands her a menial job and lodgings unsuitable for a carefully brought-up young lady. Sarah’s combination of cluelessness and candor is endearing and the cast of supporting characters do much to enhance this comedy of manners. But it’s England, the summer of 1939, and throughout the book an atmosphere of wistfulness coupled with a hint of impending doom hangs in the air. 

Anna Kelly

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley
(Library of Congress Classification PZ7.B6637 Fi 2021)
Available through cloudLibrary in eBook format.

This book follows 18-year-old Daunis Fontaine, who is half white and half Ojibwe, as she navigates family tragedy, a budding romance, and a drug issue on her reservation. When she witnesses a shocking murder, she steps in to help the FBI with their drug investigation. She is reluctant, but her love for her family and community is strong, and she believes she can help the community find peace and healing by helping to find a solution. As she uncovers secrets, she realizes going undercover and searching for the truth was more complicated than she imagined. Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Ojibwe woman (Anishinaabe kwe) and how far she’ll go for her community and loved ones.

Boulley does a tremendous job of bringing to light the drug trafficking and resulting tragedies that are occurring on this reservation and providing context for the prevalence of an issue like this, while simultaneously showcasing the strength, beauty, and resilience of Native communities and cultures. She reminds us to consider the human aspect of these types of tragedies, the effects they have on real people, and how to continue to honor those whose lives are taken at the hands of such tragedies. I also felt attached to Daunis immediately; as someone with a white mother and a Native father, I understood Daunis’s feelings of not quite belonging in either world. She is so easy to root for because of how smart and strong she is and how deeply she cares about her community and family, even with its faults. 

Christina Michelon

The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry
(Library of Congress Classification PZ4 .P46465 Es 2018)
Available through cloudLibrary in eBook format.

I highly recommend this as a late summer beach read, especially if you find yourself in marshy North Shore areas such as Massachusetts’s own Essex. Over the span of a year and set in late Victorian England, Perry beautifully illustrates a range of relationships, exploring the nuances of friendship, love, and intimacy. All the while, an invisible threat forever alters the lives of this broad group of complex characters. Gothic tropes abound!

This had been on my “to read” list for years but its recent adaptation as an Apple TV series motivated me to finally give it a go. My advice: read the book, skip the show! (Not even Claire Danes and Tom Hiddleston could save it.)

Leah Rosovsky

Just Kids by Patti Smith
(Library of Congress CT275.S6444 A3 2010)
Available through cloudLibrary in eBook and eAudio format.

I have particularly enjoyed Patti Smith’s Just Kids, which covers her first experiences living in New York City and her relationship with Robert Mapplethorpe.

 

Meatless Days by Sara Suleri
(Library of Congress CT1518.S85 A3)

 

Meatless Days is a memoir about postcolonial Pakistan. Sara Suleri was the daughter of a prominent Pakistani journalist and a Welsh mother. She tells powerful stories of her family and her losses in a hypnotic style.

The Summer Book by Tove Jansson
(Library of Congress PZ3.J27 Su 2008)
Available through cloudLibrary in eBook and eAudio format.

The Summer Book is a novel with a strong feeling of memoir. A young girl and her grandmother spend the summer on an island in the Gulf of Finland. Told in a series of vignettes, we watch the impact of time on an older person, on a child, and on the island itself. 

Graham Skinner

Role Models by John Waters
(Library of Congress PN1998.3.W38 A3 2010)
Available through cloudLibrary in eAudio format.

While not as beautifully sickening as Waters’s Carsick, the “King of Filth” and director of Pink Flamingos and Serial Mom muses on role models and influences on his early and later life. The book is a delightful walk through a gallery of his friendships, personal and filmic influences, his love of Rei Kawakubo’s fashion, and even a muse on the arts that he’s brought into his home. A good read for a John Waters fan, but Role Models is also a fabulous book that may not look at individuals we typically see as role models, but definitely the influences and “loves” of his life.

Carly Stevens

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
(Library of Congress PZ4 .H1447 Mi 2020)
Available through cloudLibrary in eBook and eAudio format.

I listened to The Midnight Library on cloudLibrary . It was narrated by actress Carey Mulligan who did an excellent job. Overall, the plot is a fun concept and I found the characters heartwarming. 

Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
(Library of Congress PZ4.B98666 Pa 2016)
Available through cloudLibrary in eAudio format.

Parable of the Sower is a beautifully written book with great characters. It is an interesting and important story crafted by a talented writer. 

Mary Warnement

August Snow by Stephen Mack Jones
(Library of Congress PZ4.J7938 Au 2017)

This title may confuse, but no, it is not a depressing weather forecast for New England but rather a rollicking thriller set in Detroit whose ex-military, ex-cop, incurable Romantic hero is named August Octavio Snow. Jones is a poet and playwright and while those sensibilities may inform his prose, this story is a page-turner for the beach, the plane, or the backyard hammock. You’ll get to know Mexicantown and other areas in Detroit, which are most likely unfamiliar. Yes, it’s a macho romp, but you’ll rethink the word “macho” after finishing.

Godine at Fifty: A Retrospective of Five Decades in the Life of an Independent Publisher by David R. Godine
(Library of Congress Lg Z1217.D38 G63 2021)

If you are a book collector living in the Boston area, you probably know about David Godine’s books, and the subtitle of this tells you pretty much all you need to know about his latest. Not simply a checklist or annotated bibliography, it’s a beautifully illustrated brief history of both his work in general and individual titles in particular. Anyone looking to satisfy a bookish craving will find nourishment with every flip of the page.

Bruno’s Challenge: And Other Stories of the French Countryside by Martin Walker
(Library of Congress PZ4.W183 Br 2022)
Available through cloudLibrary in eBook format.

In recent years, summer has meant a chance to bask in the sun of southern France while reading of the amorous and culinary adventures of Bruno Courrèges, chief of police of a village in the Dordogne who mediates everything from neighborly disputes over geese to espionage with major international implications. The latest in the series won’t be out until the end of August, but these short stories act as an amuse-bouche until the main entry is ready.

06.02.2022

Rollo G. Silver

Rollo G. Silver, from ismardavidarchive.org.

June 2022

By Rebecca Johnston

Rollo G. Silver worked in a variety of professions and had many interests, but he is known today for his contributions to the history of early American printing, publishing, and typography. Throughout his life from 1909 to 1989, he witnessed some of the most turbulent events of the twentieth century, including the Great Depression and two World Wars. However, Silver found his home in academia and scholarly research, publishing several books on early American history and receiving recognition for his contributions to the field.

Rollo G. Silver was born to Anna (Newman) and Stanley Gabriel Silver in New York on June 27, 1909. As an undergraduate, he attended Brown University and graduated in 1931, in the early days of the Great Depression. Returning to New York City, Silver worked at the luxury department store, the B. Altman Company, on Fifth Avenue. He moved to Boston in 1934 and managed the Better Service Garage in Brockton, Massachusetts. Balancing work with his scholarly interests, Silver studied at Boston University and received a Master’s degree in English in 1941.

As World War II began, Silver joined the U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps in 1943. He was assigned to the Climatic Research Laboratory in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where he participated in tests designed to test the clothing and equipment worn and used by soldiers under varying climatic conditions. After the war ended, Silver continued working in the laboratory as assistant director until 1947. Building on his academic interests as well as his experience in scientific research, Silver then sought out opportunities in the field of library science.

In 1948, Silver graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Library Science from Simmons University. Silver continued researching and gained experience at other libraries before returning to Simmons in 1950 as a Professor of Library Science. He taught there for 15 years before retiring in 1965 to pursue his research interests full time.

One of Silver’s longest-standing research interests was the life of Walt Whitman. Silver began publishing essays on Whitman in 1930, well before beginning his formal career as a scholar. Silver also collected many of Whitman’s poems. In partnership with his wife, Alice Gindin, whom he married in 1933, Silver compiled a set of manuscripts and other works related to the famous author. Silver donated a 1930 edition of A Child’s Reminiscence by Whitman to the Athenæum, which is available for viewing by appointment.

A majority of Silver’s work focused on the early printers of the United States. In 1960, Silver published Mathew Carey 1760–1839, which described in detail the equipment used by this early American printer and the costs associated with it. Typefounding in America, 1787–1825 from 1965 explored the construction of metallic printer type in early America. According to C. William Miller of Temple University, works focusing on this topic in early America were relatively rare and Silver’s work “fills an obvious gap.” In response to 1967’s The American Printer, 1787–1825, Lester J. Cappon of the Institute of Early American History and Culture declared that Silver “has established himself in this distinguished company [of scholars focusing on early American printing], contributing notably to the bibliography of early American printing.” Rather than just a history of printing in America, this work “is an exposition of printing as a craft, the artisans involved and their relations with one another, the business and practice of printing, the printer’s dealings with authors, and problems of typography that relate ultimately to bookmaking and the art of printing.” Silver’s use of detail as well as his ability to communicate with his reader made his works notable.

During his lifetime, Silver was a part of many organizations that spoke to his interests. He joined the bibliophilic Grolier Club and the Society of Printers; he was also one of the founding members of the American Printing Historical Association. He was a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts as well as an honorary member of the Bibliographical Society of America. Silver also served as a trustee of Boston University and received an honorary doctor of letters degree from Brown University, his alma mater, in 1986. The author, professor, and lifelong learner passed away on September 20, 1989. Today, the Boston Athenæum is honored to be the home of many of Silver’s published works as well as donations from his collection of Walt Whitman’s works.

Further Reading:

The American Printer, 1787–1825 by Rollo G. Silver
The Boston Book Trade, 1800-1825 by Rollo G. Silver
The Costs of Mathew Carey’s Printing Equipment by Rollo G. Silver
The Inventory of the Rollo G. Silver Collection at Boston University
The Rollo G. Silver Collection of Printing and Publishing History at Brown University
Typefounding in America, 1787–1825 by Rollo G. Silver

05.03.2022

Helen McCloy

Helen McCloy, taken by Van Dyke Studios in Boston and appeared in the 1980 publication of Burn This.

May 2022

By Rebecca Johnston and Carly Stevens

Are you impressed by Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs? Or maybe you prefer Dr. Spencer Reid on the hit television show Criminal Minds? If either of these characters entices you, check out some Helen McCloy novels featuring one of the world’s first psychiatrist detectives: Dr. Basil Willing. McCloy’s series featuring Dr. Willing mixed psychology and the classic detective story to get inside the mind of a killer. McCloy published over 30 mystery novels from 1938 to 1980, 14 of which featured detective and doctor Basil Willing. When McCloy died in Boston in 1994, she was remembered as a prolific mystery novelist and as the first woman president of Mystery Writers of America in 1950.

Helen McCloy was born on June 6, 1904 in New York, NY. Her father was William Conrad McCloy, managing editor of The New York Sun and her mother, Helen Worrell McCloy, was also a writer, contributing to magazines such as Good Housekeeping. McCloy was raised a Quaker and attended the Brooklyn Friends School in Downtown Brooklyn. McCloy loved to read and was particularly fond of Sherlock Holmes stories. She started writing as early as 14 and continued throughout high school. At the age of 19, McCloy moved to Paris to attend the Sorbonne. After graduating, she stayed in Paris and began working for Universal News Services, owned and operated by William Randolph Hearst. She continued her career in Paris working as an art critic until around 1927, when she returned to the United States and began writing fiction.

McCloy’s career and personal life revolved around writing mystery novels. In 1946, she married a fellow mystery writer Davis Dresser, who wrote under many pseudonyms but used Brett Halliday most often. They had one daughter together named Chloe McCloy. While married, McCloy and Dresser began the Torquil Publishing Company. The two separated in 1961, but remained on good terms. In a published collection of McCloy’s short stories, Dresser spoke highly of his then former wife, “I feel that Miss McCloy offers readers something more than the usual detective story… There is something more for the imaginative reader… In each there is an element of the uncanny. In each the reader is challenged to go below the surface of what seemingly-is to the submerged currents of what-may-very-possibly-be.” McCloy’s writing and storytelling capabilities were highly regarded by everyone in her life.

One of McCloy’s best known characters was Dr. Basil Willing, first introduced in 1938 in Dance of Death. According to McCloy, Willing was “the first American psychiatrist detective” and “the first psychiatrist detective to use psychiatry in detecting clues as well as in analyzing the criminal mind.” In this first novel, he acts as the forensic psychiatric assistant to the district attorney, searching for the killer of a young woman whose burning hot body was discovered in a snowbank. He claimed that “every criminal leaves psychic fingerprints” and focused on methods using logic and psychological analysis to catch the guilty party. Over time, the reader learns more about Willing’s background, including that he came from Baltimore, his Russian mother made him a fluent linguist, and he studied psychiatry in Paris and Vienna after beginning his education at Johns Hopkins. McCloy wrote more about Willing and his background in 12 of her novels.

Over time, McCloy noticed that her writing style was changing. As the years passed, her books strayed from classic detective story patterns in response to a post-World War II trend “demanding more suspense and less detection.” The year 1950 saw the publication of McCloy’s masterpiece, Through a Glass, Darkly. This novel is a more suspenseful adventure for Dr. Willing and brings in the paranormal, as he faces off against a doppelgänger. McCloy brought several paranormal entities in her later books, from flying saucers to poltergeists. McCloy used an unsettling, potentially un-scientific antagonist in these novels to emphasize the horror of the situation. While many praised her “psychological thriller” books, she preferred the classic detective story.

Beyond her writing, McCloy was an active and well-respected member of the mystery and crime writer community in America. She was involved in the Mystery Writers of America, which was established in 1945 with the “purpose of promoting and protecting the interest and welfare of mystery writers and to increase the esteem and literary recognition given to the genre.” The MWA is also responsible for presenting the Edgar Awards, which honors the best in mystery fiction, non-fiction, television, film, and theater. McCloy became the first woman to head the organization as president in 1950, and she went on to win an Edgar Award for Mystery Criticism in 1954 for articles she published in the Westport Town Crier. McCloy’s career as a prolific mystery writer continued alongside her involvement in the MWA. In 1971, McCloy started the first local chapter of the MWA in New England which inspired the formation of ten other chapters to form across America from Florida to the Rocky Mountains. In 1990, McCloy was named a Grand Master by the MWA, the highest honor a mystery writer can receive. Famed mystery writers like Agatha Christie, Alfred Hitchcock, John le Carré, and Stephen King also had this honor bestowed upon them. Today, the Mystery Writers of America continues to honor McCloy’s memory through The Helen McCloy Scholarship. The scholarship is given to two individuals annually with the goal of nurturing talent in mystery writing—in fiction, nonfiction, playwriting, and screenwriting.

But perhaps McCloy’s greatest contribution was her unwavering faith in the power of storytelling. She believed that the “true detective story is fun to write and fun to read,” and argued against the impulse to look down on stories that were simply about enjoyment. The detective story was one of the few surviving forms of storytelling, according to McCloy, and “love of the story is older than any folk-lore we know, as old as human language itself.” Despite positive reviews and acclaim, McCloy was modest about her work and her impact on the genre. When looking back on her career, she decided, “I cannot say what I have done. I can only say what I have tried to do.” Whatever her intentions, her devotion to storytelling was—and is still—celebrated.

04.02.2022

Dragons and Unicorns

Add a little magic to your April with these dragon and unicorn books.

Picture Books

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin
(Picture Book Basket RUBIN)
This zany book tells you all you need to know to throw a taco party for dragons. Just don’t give them hot sauce, or else… well you’ll see.

The Paper Kingdom by Helena Ku Rhee illustrated by Pascal Campion.
(Picture Book Basket RHEE)
Daniel needs to go to work with his parents as they work overnight as office cleaners. To keep Daniel entertained, his mom and dad begin to tell him of the magnificent kingdom of paper they work in. Soon the office turns into a kingdom full of dragons and kings. Magical illustrations bring the tale to life.

Unicorn Thinks He’s Pretty Great by Bob Shea
(Picture Book Basket SHEA)
Goat thought he was pretty cool until Unicorn came to town. Unicorn can fly and make it rain cupcakes! How could Goat ever compare to that? Turns out he doesn’t have to because they are both pretty cool in their own ways. Envy turns to admiration and finally to friendship for Goat and Unicorn.

Graphic Novels

The Yin-Yang Sisters and the Dragon Frightful by Nancy Tupper Ling ; illustrated by Andrea Offerman.
(+ PZ7.L66135 Yin 2018)
This empowering story of two sisters demonstrates that we should value our differences. When a fearsome dragon takes over their village bridge, twin sisters Mei and Wei have opposing views of how to fix the problem. Wei wants nothing more than to confront that stinky old dragon head on, but Mei favors a more thoughtful approach. With Wei’s confidence and gumption plus Mei’s creativity and diligence, it’s only a matter of time before everyone can be happy again.

The Tea Dragon Society by Katie O’Neill.
(Lg PZ7 .O5527 Te 2017)
Adorable illustrations bring this graphic novel of magical dragons to life. Meet a delightfully diverse cast of characters while you pour over O’Neill’s illustrations and learn about the mystical tea dragons.

Youth Fiction

Dragons in a Bag by Zetta Elliott ; illustrations by Geneva B.
(PZ7 .E46959 Dr 2018)
In Brooklyn, nine-year-old Jax joins Ma, a curmudgeonly witch who lives in his building, on a quest to deliver three baby dragons to a magical world. Along the way Jax learns more about dragons and himself.

How to Train your Dragon by Cressida Cowell.
(PZ7 .C8356 Ho 2010)
You may know Hiccup from the movies based upon this series. This series follows the adventures and misadventures of Hiccup Horrendous Haddock the Third as he tries to pass the important initiation test of his Viking clan, the Tribe of the Hairy Hooligans, by catching and training a dragon.

The Basque Dragon by Adam Gidwitz & Jesse Casey ; illustrated by Hatem Aly
(PZ7 .G345 Ba 2018)
Part of the series Unicorn Rescue Society, this book follows the group on a trip to the Basque country where they have to save a dragon from the billionaire Schmoke Brothers. Will they be able to rescue the magical creature from greed?

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin
(PZ7.L65775 Wh 2009)
Minli’s father always tells her tales of mythical creatures and magic. Minli decides to chase after one of these tales to bring her family better fortune then their poor village has to offer. She buys a magical goldfish, and then joins a dragon who cannot fly on a quest to find the Old Man of the Moon in hopes of bringing life to Fruitless Mountain and freshness to Jade River.

The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland.
(PZ7.S9669 Dr 2012)
Looking for your next favorite series? Look no further than the Wings of Fire books! Packed with action and adventure, you’ll find yourself lost in the rich fantasy world Sutherland has created. Look for the graphic novelization as well!

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.
(PZ7.B26 Gi 2016)
This epic tale will be hard for any middle grade fantasy reader to put down. Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon. Xan rescues the abandoned children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Will Luna be able to harness her newfound powers on her own? And what will happen when danger comes to the forest?

Dragons and Marshmallows by Asia Citro with pictures by Marion Lindsay.
(PZ7.C5452 Dr 2017)
This early chapter book series is sure to delight! A girl, Zoey, and her cat, Sassafras, use science experiments to help a dragon with a problem. Keep reading the series to see how Zoey helps other magical creatures.

Young Adult Books

A Creature of Moonlight by Rebecca Hahn.
(PZ7.H12563 Cre 2014)
Marni, a young flower seller who has been living in exile, must choose between claiming her birthright as princess of a realm whose king wants her dead, and a life with the father she has never known–a wild dragon. This coming of age story about defining your own identity is sure to be a page turner.

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman.
(PZ7.H2645 Se 2012)
Seraphina is a talented musician for the court of Goredd, a kingdom where dragons and humans coexist. On the surface, the kingdom is peaceful, but secrets and scandals lurk under the surface. When Crown Prince Rufus is found dead, everyone suspects dragons. Seraphina is caught up in the investigation with a very important secret of her own to protect.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
PZ7.R79613 Car 2015
If you are a fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, you should give this fantasy a try. Born out of a fictional story in Rowell’s Fangirl, this book follows Simon Snow, the worst “Chosen One” ever to be chosen. He is constantly miss-casting spells and wreaking havoc on the Watford School of Magicks. His roommate Baz, an evil, sardonic vampire, would love to see the disaster that Simon’s last year at school is turning out to be, but he hasn’t shown up yet.

03.29.2022

Sara Freeman

Sara Freeman, photo courtesy of Jeff Landman.

April 2022

Interview by Rebecca Johnston

A recent resident of Boston, Sara Freeman grew up moving between her home in Montreal and several countries in Europe for her father’s job as a foreign correspondent. After an early career in law, Freeman decided to pursue her passion for writing and received her MFA in Fiction from Columbia University in 2013, where she won the Henfield Prize. Her debut novel, Tides, was called one of The Globe and Mail’s “most exciting of 2022” and Lithub’s “most anticipated books of 2022.” Visit her website to learn more.

Our conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Q: Where did you grow up? Where do you call home now?

SARA FREEMAN: I was born in Montreal, and I grew up between Canada and Europe. My dad was a foreign correspondent for a Canadian newspaper, and we were posted to Berlin when I was ten. I lived there and then in London as a teenager, and then subsequently came back to North America for university. I have been living in Boston for the past five years now. And yet, in many ways, after all this moving around, I still consider Montreal my home.

Q: Where did you study in the United States? 

SF: I first went to McGill for undergrad, where I studied history and Hispanic studies. The Hispanic studies program was mostly literature-focused, so that’s where I got most of my literary education. A few years after that, I went to do an MFA in fiction at Columbia. I was in New York for seven years before moving here.

Q: Did you have a particular class that was really interesting or impactful?

SF: For me, the first and most important moment was finding a creative writing workshop in my undergrad. I took a poetry workshop my final semester with an American poet called Thomas Heise. And it was the first time that I was in a group of other writers. Up until then, I had mostly written privately and probably not very well. It was really nice to be with other people who seemed to be as excited about each small word choice as I was. I started to think, “Oh, maybe I can do this, I could have a life as a writer.” But it also felt like there had to be a community around it. I didn’t know how to do it by myself. So those classes, those first workshops, were really meaningful to me. 

Q: Was that the moment you decided on your career, or were there other stops along the way? 

SF: Definitely other stops along the way. After I graduated from university, I worked in a human rights and housing rights law firm in London. I read a lot of affidavits and case reports, and found I was much more interested in people’s stories than in litigating. I went through a bit of a crisis about this and enrolled in continuing education classes in creative writing and English literature. I realized that I did want to pursue writing as my job. I had to confess to my family, “I’m not going to be a lawyer. I can’t do it. I’m sorry.” And then I started thinking about the possibility of an MFA. I really wanted that formal training. 

Q: And maybe the community aspect as well?

SF: Definitely. Having graduated from Columbia’s MFA program over ten years ago, I still rely on a lot of the people I met there as readers. Even if I don’t see them very often, the network is still there.

Q: Have the writers in your network been published as well? 

SF: Interestingly enough, I’m one of the late bloomers in the class. It took me nearly a decade after I graduated to get a book published. A lot of my classmates were published almost immediately after the program ended or within a couple of years. I had a few false starts, which is part of the story of Tides.

Q: What a great segue. Please tell me about Tides.

SF: As I was finishing my MFA, I started working on a novel, which was set in Montreal in the 70s. It was an ambitious, multi-generational social novel. Which is very different from what Tides ended up being. I worked on this first novel for at least three years. In the end, it didn’t coalesce. I felt a real sense that it had, at least artistically speaking, failed. I had to put it aside and mourn this project I had invested so much time in. 

When I got the courage to start up again, I knew that I wanted to write a much smaller and more intimate novel, a novel with a single character that I was following closely for a short period of time in a very heightened psychological circumstance. I had a sense that those constraints would allow me to finally write a novel that worked. But as these things go, the first draft also had many of the same issues I had encountered in my previous novel. There were moments that were really compelling, but the cohesion still wasn’t there, the form I’d chosen didn’t quite hold the narrative together. 

I decided to put the draft aside for a couple months, and then I reread it and found a few sentences—truly, just a dozen or so sentences—where there was an atmosphere that I found moving and intriguing. I remember going to the fifth floor of the Athenæum and opening a new document, trying to follow the line of those particular sentences, their atmosphere. That is how the final form of Tides emerged, with its condensed passages with a lot of white space around them. The final draft is very different from the first draft, almost unrecognizably different. That initial moment of surprise, of finding this new way to tell this story, and the unfamiliar rhythm of the language, was so wonderful. Before this moment, I hadn’t ever felt that the process was pulling me rather than me pushing up against the process. So that was a moment of real elation, and also terror, because I’d never done anything like it before.

Q: How long did it take to go from leaving behind that first project to finding your way through this new project?

SF: The first draft took me six or seven months. I pause a lot while I’m writing because I like to de-familiarize myself with the material in order to see what’s alive in it. With Tides, I took a few months off of writing before re-reading my first draft, and then came this energetic burst of rewriting, which was pretty quick, only a few months long. I had packed in so much energy around it and built up so much anticipation in the waiting, that it felt like the project had its own engine.

Q: Are you thinking about any projects in the future? 

SF: Yes, I am beginning to think about a new novel. It’s funny, I do wonder if this experience of such radical revision, which I experienced with Tides, will happen every time. I started playing around with something new recently, and it’s very different, in scope and style. It’s more of a developed social world, with more characters in it, and it’s far less internal. But I don’t yet know what its shape will be. I don’t yet hear it very well either. I’m still really feeling around for what it is. So, who knows, maybe I’ll have another moment on the fifth floor.

Q: What originally brought you to the Athenæum?

SF: My husband and I have a very close friend whose father has been a member for years and years. When we moved to Boston for my husband’s graduate school, it was one of the first places that we came to visit. I wanted to know if there was a place where I could write. When I lived in New York, I was part of a writers’ room, which I had come to rely on for my writing practice. I remember coming here and thinking, “This is certainly somewhere where I can write.” My husband’s an architect so he was blown away by the stacks and particularly thrilled by the glass floors. We were immediately won over by the atmosphere of the place. And the beauty.

Q: I always like to ask about hidden gems in the Athenæum. Have you found any you’d be willing to share?

SF: Well, the thing is, I feel very, very protective of my hidden gem. There is a particular table somewhere in the Athenæum that I love, but I’m not going to tell where it is. The incredible thing about this particular spot was that at important moments when I was writing or rewriting and really needed full solitude, that table, every time I arrived, was empty. It was waiting for me. And I haven’t really visited it too much since then because I’m a bit superstitious about it, because it is just so perfect. It’s like the Muses wait for you there.