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April 2017


Jo's Picks

The Lotterys Plus One
By Emma Donoghue


This is one of those charming books which seems almost like a classic although it is thoroughly modern in fact. The Lotterys (they chose their family name after winning the lottery which enabled them to buy a rambling old house- Camelottery- in Toronto) are a blended, diverse family with four parents: PapaDum, PopCorn, MaxiMum and CardaMom. The book is filled with many such endearing wordplays and lots of puns mostly due to the fact that Brian (formerly Briar) who is four is a master at putting her own spin on words. The kids ranging in age from baby to upper teen are named after trees- Sumac is the main narrator- and they are home schooled. They are inquisitive, combative, and feel entirely real. I'm reading this to the 15 and 10 year old and at first it was hard to keep track of everyone--not including the parents, there are 7 kids, but Donoghue gradually builds each character so that they become individual and unique. There is a beautiful rhythm to the way this loving, bustling household interacts among themselves and the greater world outside their doors, until PopCorn's estranged father who is suffering from dementia (or dimensions or dementors ) is dropped into the vibrant mix. How can Sumac help this cranky old man, Grumps, feel part of the family?  That is the basic plot, which feels a little young and simplistic to me but can be forgiven because of the rich tapestry Donoghue weaves.

Anne-Marie's Pick

Bob, Not Bob!
Written by Liz Garton Scanlon & Audrey Vernick
Illustrated by Matthew Cordell

(Disney Hyperion)

Given winter's stubborn refusal to make way for spring this year, it seems somehow appropriate that my pick this month features a small child with the worst cold ever.  Little Louie is usually quite independent, but his sickness has rendered him helpless and in constant need of his mom.  Sadly, his clogged nose makes his calls for her sound like he's calling for his big, slobbery, well-meaning dog Bob. "No, I wan by Bob, not Bob!" cries Louie.   Much hilarity ensues, making this a read-aloud crowd-pleaser, especially if you read - as the cover urges you to - as though you too have the worst cold ever.  The text is paired perfectly with Matthew Cordell's loose line drawings which are reminiscent of Quentin Blake's and infused with the same sort of dishevelled humour.   Bob, Not Bob! is a funny, light-hearted romp which captures the messy misery of colds and the resultant, enduring need for one's "Bob".

Alice's Picks

Men Walking on Water
by Emily Schultz
(Knopf Random Vintage Canada)


Men Walking on Water by Emily Schultz is an engrossing read. Set in 1927, in Detroit and Windsor, with the rum-running trade at its centre, this is an epic novel. The book begins with a car going through the ice of the Detroit River, and a series of interlocked events unfold. A widow, a pentecostal bootlegging preacher, gang members of all ages, a madame running a brothel, a bridge engineer, and many other characters populate the novel, and they're all quite believable and engaging. Schultz captures the zeitgeist of the time of Prohibition and the strange feeling of border communities. Her last book, The Blondes, was a slow-burning feminist dystopian fable, that would seem to have very little in common with Men Walking on Water - but for its insightful descriptions of female - and human - experience. This is great writing, and though set in a specific historic period, it is thoroughly relatable to contemporary life.

The Thief
By Megan Whalen Turner

This is the first in a series of four books and a fifth is coming out in 2017. It's fantasy of a sort but there is not much magic in it, instead it is a tale of feuding kingdoms, a quest, battles, mysteries and myriad clues, unreliable narrators, and  switchbacking plot lines. The narrator Gen (Eugenides- a Grecian theme runs throughout the books) is a master thief, and one whose boasting that he can steal anything has landed him in the King's jail. He's bailed out by the King's Magus- a councillor of a sort- in order to retrieve a gem. No one is what they seem in this book, tiny details take on greater importance later on and that coupled with gradual build that Turner employs has led some to say that it is too slow-paced. I beg to differ. This is witty, suspenseful world and character building by an author with delightful grasp of language. She sets the stage for the next books in the series which in my opinion only get better and better. I wish I'd read these books when I was younger because they are truly special, the kind of books which bring magic to childhood and beg to be re-read for the joy they bring.



Little Labors
by Rivka Galchen
(WW Norton)

Little Labors by Rivka Galchen is an absolute delight of a book. It is a collection of short chapters - ranging from single sentences and thoughts, to multi-page essays - that detail moments in the life of a woman living with and writing about life with her daughter, a baby she refers to as "the puma". Galchen's mind is wide open with inquiry. She writes about the 47 Ronin, The Tale of Genji & The Pillow Book, sleeplessness and repetition, and the way babies are received in the world. A single piece that lists female and male writers and the fact and timing of their parenting, or lack of children, blew my socks off! Galchen's work reminds me a bit of the short stories of Sherril Jaffe (Scars Make Your Body More Interesting), for the simplicity and depth of the writing. I highly recommend this slim volume, full of humour and intense perception.







Alice's Recommendations

Anne-Marie's Recommendations

Jo's Recommendations