"The heart, like the mind,

has a memory.

And in it are kept

the most precious keepsakes."

~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Do you ever read something that answers a question you didn't even know you had? Recently, I've been going through my daughter's mementos, and it is so hard to decide what to keep and what can go. We're talking 7 years of crafts and stories here. I think my favorites are the misspelled stories about mermaids, of which there are probably 10 alone. Dave Eggers won the 2024 Newbery Award for his book The Eyes and the Impossible, and recently brought his medal and an old, handmade book from his childhood with him to the podium. After I read the article below, I knew it was ok to keep so many of those mermaid stories. She might carry them to a podium someday.

From Shelf Awareness, 7.3.24:

'Eggers told the audience that his career had begun with writing and illustrating books in elementary school. While his first book had featured various monsters using his head as a ball for different sports, his second book was "about a boy who was terrified of the dark and what might be lurking in the closet. The boy opened the closet one day and found a furry, horned creature who was a monster--yes, but a nice monster." The teacher entered his book into an Illinois statewide competition, which allowed young Eggers to attend a celebration for those who had received honors in the contest. When he and his mother arrived at the ceremony, Gwendolyn Brooks was officiating. "Does that make any sense at all?" Eggers asked. "How was she there? Like every child in school, I assumed every author we read was dead." Eggers remembers "nothing about her speech" but the words "welcome" and "fellow authors." Eggers held up the handmade book that had brought him face to face with Gwendolyn Brooks: "I was never the same."

Eggers recalled that his mother had loved the library; she would guide him toward Newbery winners, and he would inevitably choose books about monsters. "My mother passed away at age 51 and my dad at age 54," Eggers said, beginning to choke up. "I've never told anyone this, but I vowed if I made it past 50, I would write whatever the hell I wanted to write from then on. So, when I hit 50, I decided I wanted to do something not so logical for a person of five decades, and that was write a story about a dog who ate garbage." The Eyes and the Impossible, Eggers said, "was my love letter to being alive past 50. This is the most personal book I have written and also the weirdest." Johannes, the dog protagonist of the book, "gave me a way to write the way I've always wanted to write, sing the way I've always wanted to sing." This book also gave Eggers "maybe the most respect my writing has ever gotten from my kid": when he told his son he had won the Newbery Medal, his son responded, "Whoa, like New Kid?"'

Staff Reviews This Week From Matt:

I Cheerfully Refuse by Leif Enger from Grove/Atlantic

Rainy and Lark live on the eastern coast of Lake Superior. They are a thoughtful and compassionate couple living in a future reality that is in great need of both qualities. There was no grand catastrophe; aliens from another dimension did not invade; there was no global war; things seem to have just stopped working. Libraries, schools, the road commission, all of these institutions have ceased to exist. One thing that seems to have survived is wealth inequality, with the 1% being renamed ‘astronauts’ and the working force (the other 99%) being forced increasingly into employment contracts that can span years and have criminal implications if broken.  

Still there is beauty in this world, and Rainy and Lark try to appreciate and foster it in their community. Their thoughtfulness and compassion run them afoul of a militia commander and the only escape is to "Flower," a small sailboat Rainy had been restoring. 

Thus begins an adventure through a dystopian Great Lakes region where the names of towns and islands have been lost or changed, and deciphering the locations becomes part of the fun. The sheer amount of love of literature, books, and the book industry present in the story repeatedly made me smile. I found myself trying to find out if certain books referenced were genuine or completely fabricated by the author, and I’m still not sure on a few. To be certain, this book is dystopian and dark at many points, but like the best of the genre it is also amusing and even uplifting with compelling characters that will keep you saying “just a couple more pages.”

Perfect for fans of Dog Stars, Station Eleven, and The Living Great Lakes.

Moon of the Turning Leaves by Waubgeshig Rice from Harper Collins

Moon of the Turning Leaves picks up about a decade on from where Moon of the Crusted Snow ended. It’s focus is on members of the surviving clan including Evan and Nicole, and others. The group has made a home for themselves in the bush of Ontario and have managed to thrive by relying on the wisdom of their ancestors. A new generation is growing up, one that has never known the modern comforts their parents knew and are perhaps better suited for this new world. The hunting and fishing grounds Evan and his people have relied on for years are not producing enough food and no longer seem to be able to sustain them. It is clear they must move to survive but where is safe? It is decided a group, including Evan, his daughter, and others, will scout for new hunting grounds with hopes of finding their original homeland Wiigwaaswaatigoong, or “the place near that big lake where all the birch trees are.” This begins a journey through an apparently abandoned landscape, but all is not as it may appear. 

As in its predecessor, the feel of this post-apocalyptic journey is not as dark and sinister as many books are in this genre. Unlike many survival stories, these characters are not in conflict with their surroundings, but striving to be one with it. They intuitively make use of all that is around them, not just to sustain themselves but also to find other things they need like medication and shelter. Most of all, nature and the land is respected and revered as opposed to something that must be conquered and overcome. That is not to say their journey is a walk in the park, and they do encounter much peril from both the land and fellow survivors they inevitably encounter.

Moon of the Turning Leaves is a phenomenally satisfying conclusion to the duology created by Waubgeshig Rice. Do not miss out on either of them!

Hot, Hot, Hot!

Lady in the Lake by Laura Lippman

Here by Richard McGuire

Next Events Not to Miss!

Found on the Shelf

Life On Our Planet: A Stunning Re-examination of Prehistoric Life on Earth by Dr. Tom Fletcher

This one comes with a detailed study guide! You can access the study guide by clicking here, and the link is included in the book as well.

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