I recently completed the audiobook version of The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah, a big story about France during WWII; but within, a smaller story of two sisters and the ways they survived the terrible deprivations while contributing to preserving kindness and humanity throughout.
One sister, brash and willful Isabelle, ends up escorting downed allied airmen over the Pyrenees Mountains to safety in Spain. This part is based on a real story. She delivers over 100 servicemen to freedom before she is captured and sent to Ravensbrook, a German POW camp for those who aided the enemy. Sister Vianne meanwhile, manages at her small farm in Carriveau, as a school teacher and mother to Sophie. As the war progresses, Vianne finds her own ways to resist the enemy by working to save Jewish children from deportation and certain death.
I have read many novels and nonfiction works about the WWII era. The idea of human perseverance in the face of such terrible cruelty and relentless hardship inspires me with admiration and awe. At the same time I also wonder about the Axis powers – what motivated them? How could human beings participate in such an evil plan? The whole conflict is a giant cautionary tale.
There have been many other conflicts and disasters throughout time, and sadly, there continues to be in many parts of the world. I have to wonder then, when I hear current voices describing the culture of the United States in terms like, “It’s the worst time in history,” or similar hyperbole, I have to wonder. Do we not know what the “worst time” really looks like?
The last chapter of The Nightingale culminates in a very satisfying end. The heroes of this story were the “powerless” French women left to fend for themselves during a time of unimaginable hardship. For years. Their lives took a dreadful turn and they made decisions that no person should ever have to face. The fact that they, and many other victims persevered at great cost fills me with hope and gratitude.
History provides us with perspective. To ignore it places us at risk at repeating the same mistakes. But in the grander scheme, it is the little stories that give life meaning. A world preserved with no human kindness and compassion is not much of a world. Read The Nightingale. Read a history book! And enjoy your life today. It could have turned out much differently but for the millions of little stories.
When picking up a copy of Harper Lee’s recently released Go Set a Watchman, the first thing a lot of readers notice is how its cover is designed to evoke the cover of the original edition of To Kill a Mockingbird.
The original cover artwork for To Kill a Mockingbird is so familiar that, if it were displayed without any text at all, it would immediately bring to mind the novel. For that matter, if you encountered a Swedish translation with this artwork, you would know right away what it was.
Of course, there are editions of To Kill a Mockingbird with different cover art. The original image is the one that resonates with me, though. (By the way, according to Google Translate, the title used on the Swedish-language version pictured above translates as Deadly Sin.)
Here are some other examples of iconic cover art that, for me at least, spring to mind when certain book titles are mentioned:
I’ve worked here a looong time and sometimes I could just kick myself for not getting pictures of some of my customers because I just miss the heck out of some of ’em. One of my favorites was Bill Lynch. He would mosey on into the genealogy department with his blue eyes, straw hat, and kilowatt smile. Before he’d become a genealogist, he’d been a longtime developer in Denton County and would tell me bits of local and historical lore. Even offered me a Yankee dime, once.
One day – probably 2008 – he decided to tell me how Running Bear Road got it’s name. I grabbed a quick piece of paper and scribbled down the story. Here is what he said (and I hope I got everything right).
According to Mr. Lynch, before Lake Ray Roberts was built, he bought 80 acres in that area and sold the land off in lots. He had to build one road and he named it Running Bear Road. He meant for the road to be named Running Bare, but the County would not let him name it such.
The name comes from an incident in his past when he was a boy. He liked to skinny-dipping in one of the local creeks. His mother did not like him to do this because he would inevitably come home muddy. One day he was once again skinny-dipping and heard his father coming (or thought he was coming), so he ran out of the water – not stopping to pull his clothes on. He made it to the road when he ran out in front of a group of people. They were the Shepherd family and lived nearby. Bill did not think, he just ran. And ran. Instead of making for the other side of the road and cover (himself), he continued to run naked down the road. Later, the Shepherd father saw Mr. Lynch’s daddy and told him that his son could “run like a jackrabbit!” And so he decided to name the road after it, although that was not where the incident occurred.
Here’s to kids, skinny-dipping, and longtime memories.
I was very excited to get my hands on the recent sequel to The Napping House by Audrey and Don Wood. The title of the new book is The Full Moon at the Napping House, coming 30 years after the original was published. I checked it out from the library the same day I got Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman and Sue Grafton’s X. Awash in sequels and series, I landed at home to a hero’s welcome. My wife was excited about all three books (she’s the Kinsey Millhone fan), and both my kids couldn’t wait to read The Full Moon at the Napping House. My tween daughter immediately took the book to her room and read it to herself. I waited until bedtime to read it with my 1st grade daughter. This, friends, is the true test of a picture book. How does the text sound read aloud? How does it come across to the target audience? Are the illustrations engaging?
The Full Moon at the Napping House, like its predecessor, is a cumulative tale. If you don’t know what this is, think of nursery rhymes like This is the House that Jack Built or the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. A cumulative story is built on what comes before, with repeated words and images that shape the story as it goes along. This kind of cumulative structure is one of the main reasons The Napping House has that sort of fairy tale quality to it. The original story also uses complex metaphors (like the granny breaking the bed) that connote the coded language of nursery rhymes and traditional tales.
The new book has all of the same characters as the original, except the biting flea is replaced with a soothing cricket. The characters are all restless, trying in vain to go to sleep. They are so preoccupied with the giant full moon in the window that they cannot relax. Then, a lone cricket appears and begins lulling the characters to sleep with its chirping song. Most of them, anyway.
Overall, this sequel is a good companion to The Napping House. Don Wood’s expert illustrations propel well-known characters into the present, and Audrey Wood reimagines old friends in new situations. And while the sequel doesn’t quite rise to the level of the original, I think it’s a bit unfair to make that kind of straight comparison with a classic. At least we only had to wait 30 years for this sequel, unlike 55 years for some (thanks, Harper Lee). The Full Moon at the Napping House is a worthy addition to the Woods’ oeuvre, and it should be part of any fan’s reading list.
~Kerol Harrod, Youth Services Librarian
I never know what I’ll find when I’m looking through older issues of the Denton Record-Chronicle. It’s an eye opening experience to travel through 123 years worth of old newspapers. And while I’m looking for an obituary, or an article for someone (part of my job), a headline or word, such as “Kiverlid” will “pop out.” (see that, spell check doesn’t even recognize it)
So what’s a Kiverlid and how does it fit into a boyhood story about the Civil War? Well, a long time ago a man by the name of H. F. Browder, wrote a column called Ramblings By the Loafer that appeared regularly in the DRC. On October 22, 1918, he posted a column about the pleasure of seeing an old-fashion Kiverlid, a colloquial expression for coverlet, or comforter. His posting got some of the old-timers to write-in about their memories and Jefferson Davis Bates (b.6 Aug. 1861-d.23 Jan. 1937), wrote about seeing soldiers in blue:
“I remember the first soldier I ever saw. I had been named Jefferson Davis after the president of the Confederacy, and the older boys had told me that if the Yankees ever came thru there they would surely get me. One day I was playing around the big old double log house that we called home when some of the family exclaimed, ‘Look Yonder!’ I looked and it seemed to me that a great snake was coming across the prairie. Then I saw it was men dressed in blue coming two and two down the road. Somebody said, ‘It’s Yankee soldiers.’ That was enough for me and I headed into the house and under the bed. Directly I heard them talking. One said, ‘They are going to stop.’ Another said, ‘No they are going on by.’ Finally someone said, ‘Yonder two of them came up to the house.’ I was most scared to death and lay back as close to the wall as possible. I heard them come in and sit down on the porch and heard the family talking to them. Then they called me to come and see the soldiers, but I never uttered a cheep. Then they hunted me up and dragged me out of the hiding place. I was so sure that my last minute was there, but they took me out and told the officers what was the matter with me and they laughed and talked to me until I was over my fright. The whole regiment of 1000 men camped at our place because there was water there and they had a brass band – the first I had ever seen and the show was the greatest event in my life. I watched them drive the wagons in a great circle and then the band played, and I was carried away. It was the most wonderful sight I had ever dreamed of. The soldiers were on their way to Fort Richardson at what is now known as Jacksboro and I remember that when the horses trotted the riders would spring up and down English fashion and we made all manner of fun of any such riding.”
This leaves me to wonder, if this recollection would exist on paper, if not for a kiverlid. My grandmother made quilts and the memory of them transports me to her stories of being a woman during World War II. This post also makes me kind of sad because I think of how many words are lost to time and may never be used again; one of my favorites is thunder mug, but of course, why would we use it?
Genealogy cruising has become very popular among those of us who are committed to researching our family history and who also enjoy travelling. Genealogy cruises are fun, and give you a built-in crowd to hang around with during the time at sea. I just returned from my second genealogy cruise, this one to Alaska. During the seven days on the ship, 22 classes were offered, presented by world-class genealogy professionals. The cruise conference was sponsored by the Federation of Genealogical Societies. The classes ranged in skill level from beginner to advanced, including hands-on workshops on court records and reconstructing neighborhoods in rural and urban Ireland.
During any given year, one can find a myriad of genealogy cruise offerings to just about any location. Perhaps for next year’s vacation, take a look around the internet for “genealogy cruises” to locate one that interests you. All you need to do is dust of your “bucket list” of places you want to go. Don’t forget to read up on these exotic locations by checking out travel guides from the library. Take some free genealogy classes at the library before the cruise so you’ll know what to expect. You’ll learn new things about family history research, meet interesting people, and see amazing sights!
Special Collections Librarian
I first encountered Stephen King’s work when I was about 11 years old. My dad would let us wander the used book stores he frequented and said we could pick out a couple. In the early 80s teen books as we now know them were non-existent. As usual, I wandered the adult stacks hoping for something that was not boring. There I found a battered copy of “Salem’s Lot” and thought, “Vampires are cool.” (I guess teens don’t change all that much.) I started reading it on the way home. It terrified me and yet I could not put it down. It was a dark and twisted world but the characters that inhabited it were very real. I worried about them and had trouble closing the book leaving them alone. Though I did put the book outside my bedroom door so it wouldn’t be too close when I slept. When I finished, I hoped he had written more…and was not disappointed. This blind date with a used book has led to a 30 year relationship that is still going strong.
I always browse the stacks of the library hoping for that moment of serendipity when I pick up a title (be it a book, CD or movie) and decide “why not?” only to find a new brilliant connection.
While Stephen King’s name is synonymous with horror he has dipped his toe (or ran his scalpel) through many different genres. If you are thinking of giving him a try here are some (but not all) of my favorites.
Most of the world is wiped out by a flu-like plague and the survivors try and find their place in a scary new world. The Stand contains a large cast of intriguing characters (good, evil and unknown) that would be right at home in George RR Martin’s Westeros, only instead of King’s Landing, the power struggle centers in Las Vegas. A dystopian nightmare decades ahead of it’s time.
This seven book series follows the Roland of Gilead, a heroic and tragic figure as he pursues the enigmatic “Man in Black” across the pages. A blockbuster otherworldly tale full of nods to many of Stephen King’s other works.
If you read the first book “The Gunslinger” early on and didn’t love it you might want to give it another try, King revised it in 2003 and it is now a start worthy of the series.
When you think of the Shining, do you think of Jack Nicholson holding an axe and quoting Ed McMahon? If so, you are missing out.
A family snowed in at a deserted inn has a number of supernatural encounters. There is a line in this book that actually caused me to gasp, something that I rarely have happen during an entire horror movie.
Last year he came out with a very well-received and worthy sequel Doctor Sleep.
Have you ever wondered if you were dropped into a tragic moment in history and knew what was going to happen, how you would stop it, without being committed as a lunatic?
This is what happens when Jake Epping finds a way to travel back in time to the years before the Kennedy assassination. How would a regular person with no past change the future?
I’m sure people ask Stephen King all the time where he gets his ideas, what makes him so successful and how does he know so many ways to completely freak us out. He tries to answer some of these questions in “On Writing” which looks at his career and personal struggles, including the van accident that nearly took his life.
I have never met Mr. King. But as a lifelong fan I feel I know him through his words and the worlds he has created.
Though from time to time I do have to put one of his books in another room while I sleep. Just to be safe.
Emily Fowler Central Library