Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews and Walt Disney: for most of us, the three are linked together with supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, tea parties on the ceiling and Jane and Michael Banks of 17 Cherry Tree Lane. The name P.L. Travers, however, is recognizable by only the most diehard of Poppins fans, as she is the author of the Mary Poppins children’s book series, as well as the subject of the biography Mary Poppins, She Wrote by Valerie Lawson.
P.L. Travers was born in Australia and christened Helen Lyndon Goff; she later adopted Pamela Lyndon Travers as a pseudonym. Travers valued her privacy, and felt protective of the Mary Poppins characters and stories. Lawson explains that each contained elements of Travers’ own rather peripatetic and often difficult life. Initially, Walt Disney encountered resistance from Travers when he approached her about adapting her Poppins books to a film version. The “real” nanny is sharp-tongued, mysterious, controlling and a bit vain. Travers felt Disney would “replace truth with false sentimentality” and called Disney’s movie-making “vulgar.” In the end, Disney’s coffers trumped Travers’ misgivings, and the Julie Andrews version of Mary triumphed on the silver screen.
Expect to hear more about P.L. Travers after the December release of the new movie Saving Mr. Banks which follows Disney as he woos Travers for the film rights to the now-classic movie Mary Poppins.
Allie Brosh has been publishing her stick figure drawings on her blog Hyperbole and a Half since July 2009. Her sense of humor and quirky drawings made the blog incredibly popular. Now Brosh has taken the blog a step further, publishing her first book filled with her familiar simple, but hilarious drawings. Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened contains a mix of classic stories from the blog and brand new ones.
Longtime Hyperbole and a Half readers will enjoy revisiting favorite pieces like “The God of Cake,” a story from Brosh’s childhood in which she became obsessed with her grandfather’s birthday cake, and did everything she could to devour the entire thing. While new stories like “Lost in the Woods,” a tale in which Brosh, her mother and younger sister end up lost in the woods for hours after her mother decides that the girls need to learn about nature, will make readers — new and old alike — laugh out loud. Readers will also enjoy brand new pieces about Brosh’s comical dogs — the simple dog and the helper dog. Hyperbole and a Half does take a turn for the serious with Brosh’s two-part piece on her experiences with depression. Both parts are refreshingly honest, but not without her unique brand of humor.
Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened is a hilarious collection of stories and drawings. Brosh’s storytelling ability combined with her comic drawings make for a fun and insightful book.
It’s cookie-baking season again and there are a number of places to look for new recipes to add to your repertoire. A new book from Krisztina Maksai, European Cookies for Every Occasion, takes on old-world favorites with a contemporary twist. Focused specifically on the sweet treats of Central Europe, Maksai’s conversational introductions to each recipe are a good counterpoint to the clear, all-business side of the techniques used as she creates each of the morsels. Clearly coming from a 21st century perspective, she indicates the value of using organic ingredients (such as lemon zest) and her concern over artificial dyes.
This is a gorgeous cookbook full of excellent step-by-step photographs explaining the process of making each cookie. The book is broken into four main sections, starting with Quick and Easy, then Moderately Easy, Moderately Difficult and, finally, Challenging Cookies. Also included is a short list of essential baking tools and an introduction of how Maksai became the baker she is today. In it, she explains the importance of tasting various dark chocolates to select the right one for the application, and also describes why using a double-boiler may not be the best choice for melting chocolate.
Cookie ingredients that are particularly popular in Europe make numerous appearances in the book, such as various jams, marzipan and poppy seeds. Maksai was born in Romania, moved to Germany as a child but grew up in Hungary. Since then, she has lived in Austria, the United States and Hungary once again. This blend of cultures is evident in the cookies she highlights within this elegant cookbook. Krisztina Maksai’s YouTube channel even includes a video of her constructing a stained glass gingerbread house which includes a smoking chimney!
Hobbit fans rejoice! The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug premiered in Los Angeles on December 2, and will be opening nationwide on December 13. This grand fantasy was co-written, produced and directed by Peter Jackson and is the second installment of a planned trilogy based on J. R. R. Tolkein’s novel, The Hobbit. The storyline follows the events of last year’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Stephen Fry and Orlando Bloom are just a few of the featured stars. An epic film demands companion guides, and fans of the series and movie buffs alike will enjoy the following sumptuous titles.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Official Movie Guide is a behind-the-scenes guide to the making of the film, and features interviews with key cast and crew. Enjoy exclusive interviews with Peter Jackson and other filmmakers who share production insights. The rich illustrations take readers deeper into the world of Bilbo Baggins with an abundance of photos of the actors, creatures, costumes and special effects.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Visual Companion offers background into the world of Middle Earth, and includes character profiles and notes on various landmarks. This lavishly illustrated companion follows The Company of Thorin Oakenshield as they embark on a dangerous journey to Erebor, where the dragon Smaug awaits. Introduced by Richard Armitage, who plays Thorin Oakenshield, and complemented with beautiful illustrations, the Visual Companion offers an impeccable narrative of the Company’s passage to Erebor.
The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Chronicles: Art & Design celebrates the creative vision behind this movie. Readers will enjoy the unrestrained exploration into the design and development of the environments, cultures, creatures and artifacts encountered by the characters during their epic journey. Filled with hundreds of images, including conceptual art and supplementary photographs, the comprehensive commentary provided by the film’s cast and crew is enlightening and informative.
Want to dress for success? Confused by your closet? Two new titles from fashion experts will solve all your design dilemmas, including just what in the world to wear to that holiday party!
Gretta Monahan, Rachael Ray’s style guru, successfully tackles universal style questions with accessible answers in Style and the Successful Girl: Transform Your Look, Transform Your Life. A graduate of Harvard Business School, Monahan has built a multi-million dollar fashion and beauty empire that includes swanky boutiques and spas. Her chic approach is embraced by Hollywood A-listers, but also works for the average woman of any age and any style. The lessons, tips and transformations are beautifully presented in this exceptionally illustrated guide that is guaranteed to help women achieve a fun and functional wardrobe without losing personal flair. From head to toe, readers will come away with makeover suggestions which will also serve to empower and attract success.
America’s favorite frugal fashionista, Lilliana Vazquez, has been providing tips and tricks since 2008 on the popular CheapChicas.com. Now, Vazquez offers her advice on shopping smart in The Cheap Chica’s Guide to Style. With hundreds of appearances on national shows where she shares her thrifty point of view, Vazquez is a recognized style savant. In her fun guide, she approaches fashion from a practical point of view. Light quizzes help readers determine their style and budget. Once those critical elements are defined, readers can take Vazquez’s advice on creating individual panache, copying designer favorites and finding the best places to shop. One quick pointer: your own closet is a super source of bargain shopping! This attractive volume is an indispensable accessory for the New Year.
During an interview following Kurt Cobain’s suicide in 1994, his mother remarked, "Now he's gone and joined that stupid club. I told him not to join that stupid club." Journalists began referring to “the curse of the 27 Club” when writing about the surprisingly large group of musicians whose lives were all cut tragically short when they were 27 years old. Howard Sounes explores this sad coincidence in 27: A History of the 27 Club Through the Lives of Brian Jones, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse.
While Sounes lists 50 musicians who died at age 27, he examines the facts surrounding the lives and deaths of the six most iconic in his book. He calls the idea of the 27 Club a media construct and maintains that their deaths at the same age are merely a coincidence. In reality, the common factors in their lives were difficult childhoods, addiction, personality disorders, self-destructive behavior and a fast rise to fame during their early 20s. Given these circumstances, Sounes argues that the fact that each died at such a young age was not surprising. This book is an antidote to the media hype and Internet mythology surrounding the 27 Club. The author brings a measured examination of these stars’ lives and tragic deaths.
Sounes recently recounted the events of the final hours of some of these musicians’ lives in this Rolling Stone feature.
Fifty years ago the country was rocked by the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. His life and tragic death remain a cultural touchstone, and today's anniversary has resulted in a proliferation of published titles on the subject. Three of these new entries shed light on the man, the assassination and his enduring legacy.
Award-winning author James Swanson thoroughly documents the day Kennedy was killed in End of Days: The Assassination of John F. Kennedy. From the Kennedys’ Texas train trip, to the shooting in Dealey Plaza, to the aftermath awash with confusion, Swanson does not miss a detail. The narrative unfolds hour-by-hour, and the reader is immediately caught up in this riveting account which defines all of the major players, from Jack and Jackie to Lee Harvey Oswald and Jack Ruby. The research is remarkable, and the accompanying photographs add heft to this absorbing and important account.
Dallas 1963 by Bill Minutaglio and Steven Davis offers a different take on the assassination by focusing on the city which will become inextricably linked with President Kennedy. In a fascinating study, they describe the sociological and political forces which collided to create a tinderbox of activism, along with the colorful characters who stirred the political pot. Included are profiles of oil baron H. L. Hunt, Dallas Morning News publisher Ted Dealey and provocative congressman Bruce Alger.
Parkland by Vincent Bugliosi is a companion to the film of the same name produced by Tom Hanks, released earlier this fall and now available on DVD. Parkland focuses on the aftermath of the assassination by following key players in the hours and days following the shooting. The group of individuals includes the doctors and nurses at Parkland Hospital, the chief of the Dallas Secret Service and Abraham Zapruder, the cameraman who captured perhaps the most examined footage in history. Bugliosi, also the author of Helter Skelter, successfully delivers a richly detailed narrative of this circle of men and women involved in the historic tragedy of November 22, 1963.
Winners of the 64th annual National Book Awards were announced last night at a black-tie dinner held at Cipriani Wall Street. This morning, the literary world is abuzz about James McBride’s win in the Fiction category for his novel The Good Lord Bird. With a strong list of finalists, many considered McBride’s novel to be an underdog. McBride seemed shocked by the win. He shared that writing the novel became an escape for him during a difficult season of his life. McBride also expressed his pleasure about the win, remarking, “Had Rachel Kushner or Jhumpa Lahiri or Thomas Pynchon or George Saunders won tonight, I wouldn’t have felt bad because they are fine writers, but it sure is nice to get it.”
Mary Szybist was presented with the Poetry Award for Incarnadine: Poems, her second collection of poetry. The award for Young People’s Literature was given to Cynthia Kadohata for her novel The Thing About Luck. George Packer’s The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America won the award for Nonfiction.
Congratulations to all the winners!
With a chill in the air and the holidays right around the corner, now is the perfect time to experiment with recipes from these new cookbooks. Heather Bertinetti’s Bake It, Don't Fake It!: A Pastry Chef Shares Her Secrets for Impressive (and Easy) From-Scratch Desserts is the go-to guide for those of us who want to impress family and friends with tasty desserts made from scratch. With recipes like Raspberry Almond Tart with Chantilly Cream, Dulce de Leche Cheesecake, Chocolate Hazelnut Cake, Bourbon-Chocolate Pecan Pie and Red Velvet Macarons, Bertinetti’s desserts will dazzle your family and friends, but her foolproof tips and techniques make them accessible for even less-experienced bakers. This book is filled with mouthwatering recipes and plenty of color photos to make it easy for you to create these tempting treats. It includes a foreword by TV personality and Food Network star Rachael Ray, and it is part of Ray’s new line of cookbooks published by Atria Books.
Paula Shoyer brings together a year of holiday baking in The Holiday Kosher Baker: Traditional & Contemporary Holiday Desserts. Arranged into sections for each holiday, the recipes vary from easy to challenging. Shoyer presents a mix of traditional and modern recipes that exhibit her unique flair. You’ll be tempted to serve her elegant Raspberry and Rose Macaron Cake, stunning Ombre Layer Cake or whimsical Tie-dyed Mini Black and White Cookies at your own family gatherings. Shoyer has appeared on the Food Network’s Sweet Genius and is a frequent magazine contributor. She lives in Chevy Chase, Maryland.
Who doesn’t love the smell of bread baking on a chilly day? The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery that Revolutionizes Home Baking by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois is a revised and updated version of their runaway bestseller. Their secret is that the dough is made ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Hertzberg and Francois prove that even inexperienced bakers can make bread at home without kneading or special equipment. This new edition includes step-by-step photos, 30 more recipes and a chapter of gluten-free breads.
By 1942, the United States government had fully committed to the idea of building an atomic bomb. The scope of that project would dwarf any other single undertaking in human history in cost and material. The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan details the experiences of 16 women who find themselves wrapped up in the secrecy and inadvertent social engineering of the Manhattan Project.
Oak Ridge, Tennessee was the first of the three biggest Manhattan project facilities and did not exist until the Department of Defense built it. For years, it didn’t even appear on any maps. The town started small, but as the project ramped up there was an increased need for housing, stores, sundries and recreational outlets. By the end of World War II, 75,000 lived in and around Oak Ridge. With so many able-bodied men in the military, women formed a vital backbone to the efforts at Oak Ridge. Some were transported in from the coasts without knowledge of their final destination. Others were from the surrounding area, lured in by the promise of well-paying, if secretive, government work. There were also the women scientists involved in the research, although they were often deprived of the accolades. Many of these women had never been away from home; many had never earned their own salary before. They found themselves someplace where the security and secrecy was oppressive. Some were even recruited to spy on their fellow workers.
Kiernan lets the women tell their own stories, and if many of them are similar, the cross-section is still broad. Especially interesting is the vast difference in experiences based on race, the United States still viciously segregated at the time. It’s also interesting to see how this group of clever young people made a dry county one of the best areas for the production and smuggling of moonshine in the U.S. Many of the women Kiernan interviewed were shocked at the war’s end to realize what exactly they had been working on. Most of them, though, remained in Oak Ridge - at least the town if not the facility.