Northwest NEWS

December 2, 2002


Head to the hearth with some good books
by Deborah Stone
Features Writer

Book jacket courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Company. Covor art for "Zathura" was created by Chris Van Allsburg
. With gray, dreary skies upon us this winter, the idea of curling up next to a fire with a good book and a steaming hot beverage is highly attractive. I actually look forward to wet and gloomy days because they are a perfect invitation to put aside my “things to do” list and head for the hearth. My kids, too, have discovered the joys of just kicking back with a book in one hand and a cup of hot chocolate (piled high with whipped cream) in the other. Of course, these cozy, domestic scenes do not appear very often, but when they do my family treasures them and appreciates their value.
This season, there are many good reads for all ages and interests. For young kids, there’s Chris Van Allsburg’s newest book, “Zathura,” a wonderfully imaginative tale that takes off where “Jumanji” left off, only this time the game involved leads to a series of outer space adventures. “Bob’s Big Story Collection,” 10 entertaining stories involving the characters from the popular T.V. show, Bob the Builder, is making a splash among young children, as well as Kay Thompson’s most recent addition to the Eloise saga, “Eloise Takes a Bawth.” This time, the irrepressible Eloise is at home in the Plaza Hotel enjoying the art of soaking in the tub, unaware that her bath time antics are causing disastrously funny consequences down below in the hotel’s ballroom. “Another Perfect Day” by Ross MacDonald is a guaranteed hit for this age group, too. With a salute to vintage comics and retro style printing, MacDonald’s gem illustrates the adventures of Jack, a child who plays the part of a super hero in his dreams, which suddenly go awry.
Intermediate level readers will be delighted to see that Lemony Snicket is back with volume nine of his wildly popular “Series of Unfortunate Events.” In “The Carnivorous Carnival,” the unlucky Baudelaire orphans are trapped in a carnival, where they must masquerade as freaks in order to hide from the evil Count Olaf. Fans of Snicket’s work will also enjoy learning more about the author in his bizarre and zany book, “Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography.”
Other hot reads for this group include “Artemis Fowl: The Arctic Incident,” by Eoin Colfer, a superb sequel to the author’s bestselling book, “Artemis Fowl.” In his second adventure, Artemis receives a message from his father, who has been kidnapped by the Russian mafia and pleads for his son’s help. “Hoot,” by Carl Hiaasen, has been flying off the shelves at local bookstores. It is an ecological mystery involving endangered miniature owls and their unlikely allies — three middle school kids who take on adult-sized battles. Michael Chabon’s debut novel for young readers, “Summerland,” is an imaginative and vivid fantasy that involves a host of magical creatures and is a great mix of folklore, baseball history and environmental themes.
Jerry Spinelli aficionados will relish his latest novel, “Loser,” a humorous tale of a hapless fourth grader named Donald Zinkoff.
For a highly suspenseful and adventurous story, readers can sink their teeth into “The Thief Lord,” by Cornelia Funke. Set in the city of Venice, Italy, the book details the escapades of two runaways who join up with a gang of thieving ruffians run by the mysterious Thief Lord.
Young adults will find a variety of novels to fit their reading interests, from the sports-oriented “Players,” by Joyce Sweeney Steve, to the exciting science adventure, “The Ice Limit,” by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child. In “Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas: Further, Further Confessions of Georgia Nicolson,” author Louise Renninson is back with another one of her humorous hit books regaling the trials and tribulations of British teen Georgia Nicolson. Another great sequel to add to the list is Megan Whelan Turner’s “The Queen of Attolia,” which follows the escapades of Gen, the rascal teen boy featured in Turner’s earlier award-winning book, “The Thief.”
Adult readers will have no end to the choices for quality fiction and nonfiction this winter.
In the nonfiction category, several standouts come to mind, including Jim DeFede’s “The Day the World Came to Town,” the heartwarming account of the people of Gander, Newfoundland, who went above and beyond helping the over 6,000 airline passengers who were stranded in their town after the air space over the U.S. was closed on 9-11.
Michael Johnston’s “In the Deep Heart’s Core” is an eloquent and impassioned story of the author’s experiences in the Mississippi Delta during his two-year stint with Teach for America.
Alice Sebold, the author of the bestseller novel, “Lovely Bones,” returns with a stirring memoir of her experience as a college-rape victim and her pursuit to bring her assailant to justice.
For gourmands, Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” is a pull-no punches, frank and outrageous confessional about the truth behind what goes on in the kitchens of upscale restaurants. Another must-read memoir is “Breaking Clean,” Judy Blunt’s story of her harsh life on the Montana prairie, and for some laugh-out-loud fun, read popular humor columnist Laurie Notaro’s collection of biographical essays, “The Idiot Girls’ Action-Adventure Club: True Tales from a Magnificent and Clumsy Life.”
In the fiction section, the options are overwhelming. Daniel Mason’s “The Piano Tuner” is getting much attention for its mesmerizing tale of a British expert piano tuner who is commissioned by his country’s war office in 1886 to travel to hostile Burma to repair a rare grand piano belonging to an eccentric officer.
Also receiving good press is “Homecoming,” the gritty debut novel by Belgrade-born author Natasha Radojcic-Kane.
Other recent hot titles include Rebecca Reisert’s imaginative tale, “The Third Witch,” which takes a look at Shakespeare’s “Macbeth,” as seen through the eyes of one of the three mysterious witches who predict the noted figure’s rise to the throne, and “Virgin’s Knot,” an exotic tale set in Turkey by author Holly Payne. This debut novel centers on the story of a young Turkish woman stricken with polio who possesses a gift for weaving miraculous rugs that others say can heal the sick and give good fortune to young brides.
Finally, two personal favorites of mine, “The Secret Life of Bees,” by Sue Monk Kidd, and “Bel Canto,” by Ann Patchett, are memorable reads for their beautiful use of language and exquisitely developed characters. Kidd’s book is a coming-of-age story in the rural south during the 1960s and Patchett’s novel is a dramatic and romantic tale set against a backdrop of terrorism in South America.
I could go on, but there’s just not enough space for every great book out there, so take your pick and head for that hearth. There’s plenty of winter remaining!