Set in the 1870’s on the sparsely settled western Kansas prairie and taking inspiration from The Little House series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Caroline Starr Rose‘s May B. A Novel is a captivating tale of a young girl’s courage and struggle to survive. To help her homesteading family, May’s parents send her to work on the nearby homestead of a newly wed couple. May doesn’t want to go the 15 miles across the prairie, staying to help the bride, newly arrived from a city in the East, until Christmas, even if it will give her parents some money. She’d rather stay home, help on herRead More →

There’s one word that I come back to again and again when I read a book written by Christopher Paul Curtis: craftsmanship.   Curtis’ skill as a writer, his gift with storytelling and character development, and his awesome ability to reach through the printed page into the hearts and minds of his readers all combine into the mark of a true literary craftsman.  I’ve never been disappointed, been left wanting, or felt as though one of his books was swiftly pulled together to meet a deadline.  Instead, each page, each character, and each place is built slowly, carefully, lovingly, until the final product is somethingRead More →

It’s the summer before 6th grade and Zelly wants a dog. More than anything, actually.  But her parents have said no, repeatedly, to Zelly’s pleading, bargaining, and begging.  Then her boisterous, eccentric grandfather, Ace, comes up with a crazy scheme Zelly can use to convince her parents she’s ready for the responsibility of a dog: a “pretend dog” that just happens to be a used plastic orange juice jug.  But honestly, Zelly isn’t sure she wants to spend the rest of the summer hauling a plastic jug around on a leash for “drags” (since it can’t go on a walk without actual legs), scooping upRead More →

Sparrow Road by Sheila O’Connor is an enchanting, heartwarming story about the power of love, forgiveness and creativity.  The summer before seventh grade, Raine O’Rourke’s mother takes a job as a cook and housekeeper at Sparrow Road, a worn-out old former orphanage that houses an eccentric group of artists-in-residence during the summer.  Raine can’t figure out why Mama would leave her waitress job, their home with her grandpa, and  Milwaukee  to spend the summer outside the tiny town of Comfort on a sprawling farm where there’s a silence rule from sun-up to sun-down every day and there’s seemingly nothing to do.  To make it even more disconcerting, her mom keeps taking periodicRead More →

Adam Ziegler is in his element up in the catwalks:  bringing the magic of light into the theatre below; creating the illusions of color and shadow, helping to transport the audience into the world of the play; he wants to run the spot, not be in it.   Adam’s still lost after the tragic death of his father two years ago and even though darkness brings up terrible anxiety for him, being a Techie in the theatre department at his high school gives him a safe, secure place to try to survive.  But a few days before the opening of the spring show, nothing about the productions isRead More →