The summer is waning and for some, the new school year has already begun. I haven’t been a student since 2005, but I still feel a giddy compulsion to do some homework when the goldenrod flowers and the nights begin to cool toward September. Of course, one of the best things about having majored in English is that I can scratch that seasonal itch by reading just about anything. How much better if it’s something that appears on a reading list! This month, our editors offer emphatic endorsements for a variety of books that feel like a learning experience — in a good way.
E-zine Editor Jessica DeVoe Riley makes her own recommendation for a book that was recommended to her: “I recently read the YA novel, The Clockwork Three by Matthew J. Kirby, which has absolutely no connection to A Clockwork Orange (everyone asks when they hear the title). It features three children who befriend one another in an unnamed American city (quite like New York City) during an unspecified time period (quite like the end of the 19th century). They are Guiseppe, an unwilling street busker with an abusive padrone; Frederick, a boy with unhappy orphanage memories who has been adopted by and apprenticed to a master clockmaker; and Hannah, who works as a hotel maid to take care of her family, which has been struggling since her father’s debilitating stroke. The narrator’s point of view shifts from child to child with every chapter, so readers journey with all three as they seek a hidden treasure, elude deadly enemies, and navigate the competitive, underhanded world of clock making. Librarians and educators will tell you that the most reluctant reader demographic is adolescent boys, so when my male ESL seventh grader gave me this book because he loved it and wanted to share it with me, it piqued my curiosity. With its adventurous story and touch of magic, The Clockwork Three did not disappoint.”
“Four Worlds” Columnist Avery Fischer Udagawa suggests a clever read for parents who could use a little inspiration: “Last month a Wichita, Kansas bookseller showed me a book with a card inside for Amy Ruth Henry: ‘Mom. Writer. Crumb picker upper.’ Henry’s book Humpty Dumpty Just Needed a Nap relates children’s books to parenting how-tos and reveals her as anything but a child-trailing maid: She is a tough and hilarious Catholic mom of six who says no to begging, lets her kids get bored, takes care of her Ya-Yas, and pockets her own version of Harold’s magic purple crayon. Through vignettes that connect to nearly 50 children’s tales she asks, after the grandfather in Miss Rumphius, will your parenting leave the world a better place? The book inspires me to make the answer yes.”
Kristina Riggle, fiction Co-Editor, is enjoying the latest work of a favorite writer: “I’m reading The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan. I so much enjoyed the complex family interactions portrayed in Maine that I couldn’t wait to dig into her new novel; it has been just as rewarding. The book follows various characters across time from the 1940s to the present day, exploring various aspects of marriage and engagement and focusing — as far as I’ve read — on the thorny complications that arise from an institution that is supposed to be the ultimate expression of romantic love and commitment.”
Caroline Grant, Editor-in-Chief, pays the greatest of compliments to the book in which she’s currently engrossed: “I’m reading Amy Shearn’s new novel, The Mermaid of Brooklyn, and I want to sneak away from my family for a day so that I can curl up and read it undisturbed. From its intriguing opening (‘Before I died the first time, my husband left me broke and alone with our two tiny children and it made me feel very depressed, etc.’) to its arresting images (‘I looked over just in time to see [my toddler] open her mouth and hatch a mound of chewed grilled cheese onto the table’) — the novel is as fresh and compelling as anything I’ve read all summer.” (LM’s Kate Hopper just profiled Shearn, so you can read more about her here: https://literarymama.com/profiles/archives/2013/08/a-conversation-with-amy-shearn.html)