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Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Cover art for Go Set a WatchmanLet’s get it out of the way: Harper Lee’s new book Go Set a Watchman is no To Kill a Mockingbird. For 55 years, the reclusive Lee has been lauded for her Pulitzer Prize-winning story of racial inequality and justice in Alabama as told by young Scout, and yet Lee remained a curiosity by shunning publicity and never publishing another word. Earlier this year, the book world was set atwitter with the news that Lee had agreed to the publication of Watchman, an early and forgotten manuscript said to be fodder for what became her beloved classic.

 

Go Set a Watchman opens with Scout, now Jean Louise Finch and a NYC resident, riding the sleeper car train back to Maycomb for her annual visit. She thinks about marrying childhood friend Hank who now practices law with Atticus, and she prepares for the inevitable head-butting with her Aunt Alexandra, who remains ever the example of proper Southern womanhood. Instead, grown-up Scout finds that she can’t go home again as she discovers the men she reveres have feet of clay, ascribing to a repugnant philosophy of white supremacy, paternalism and disenfranchisement.

 

Lee’s particular gift of filtering a puzzling world through the mindset of a child shines in Watchman, just as in To Kill a Mockingbird. Jean Louise’s memory of when she, Jem and Dill played a backyard game of church revival, which ends with a naked Scout’s “baptism” in an algae-slicked fish pond, is a lovely and gently sardonic poke at small town religious tradition. Both stories deal with coming of age in a community governed by a rigid unforgiving class structure which neither blacks nor whites escape. Watchman, however, seems more firmly rooted in a past when ugly language and divisive actions were acceptable in polite society, and here Jean Louise is left dealing with the unsatisfying ambiguities of adulthood.

 

Isaiah 21, verse 6: For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth. The watchman is both the announcer of the events he witnesses and a moral compass. Go Set a Watchman serves to remind the reader of the imperative to follow one’s conscience.

 

Lori

 
 

Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman

posted by:
July 10, 2015 - 10:00am

Cover art for Go Set a Watchman

Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, set for publication on July 14, is one of the most anticipated books in recent memory. Publisher Harper Collins has said that pre-orders for this novel are the highest in company history. The book has been closely guarded, but now a few details are being revealed with both The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian previewing the first chapter available here. If you want to get a taste of Reese Witherspoon’s narration of the audio book, here’s a sneak listen to the first chapter.

 

Lee’s second novel takes place in the 1950s, 20 years after her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, and opens with Scout returning by train to Maycomb, Alabama. Lee has said the novel did not undergo any revisions since she completed the manuscript in the 1950s and is “humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”

 

Learn more about this big event, including a preview of PBS’ Thirteen Days of Harper Lee, on BCPL’s tumblr, and be sure to check back for a Between the Covers post about the novel soon!

Maureen

 
 

Celebrate the 2015 Tony Awards

Tony AwardsThe Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre, more commonly known as the Tony Award, recognizes achievement in Broadway theatre. The 2015 awards will be presented by the American Theatre Wing and The Broadway League on Sunday, June 7 with co-hosts Kristin Chenoweth and Alan Cumming.

 

The frontrunner for Best Play is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, based on the critically acclaimed novel by Mark Haddon. Director Marianne Elliot has been universally praised for bringing the world of Christopher Boone, a young boy with Asperger's syndrome, to life. Vying in the same category is Wolf Hall, based on the best-selling novel by Hilary Mantel.

 

An American in Paris, based on the famed movie starring Leslie Caron and Gene Kelly, garnered 12 nominations for Best Musical. Fun Home also received 12 nominations and is based on the graphic novel by Allison Bechdel, which is the autobiographical story of Bechdel’s coming to terms with her sexuality and dysfunctional family. Sit back and imagine yourself on the Great White Way as you check out 2015's Best Musical cast recordings from our collections. Also available for your listening pleasure are the cast recordings for all three of the nominated Best Musical Revivals: On the Town, On the Twentieth Century and the timeless The King and I. Enjoy the show!

Maureen

 
 

Master Thieves

Master Thieves

posted by:
May 26, 2015 - 7:00am

Cover art for Master ThievesStephen Kurkjian is a man on a mission. The Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist from The Boston Globe revisits what remains the largest property crime in U.S. history in his new book, Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters Who Pulled Off the World’s Greatest Art Heist. It's a detailed accounting of the events, suspects and stalled investigation that has mired Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in a 25-year-old mystery. Perhaps not surprisingly, Kurkjian has his own theories on who-done-it and why, after all these years, the crime remains unsolved.

 

The FBI’s website calls art theft “stealing history.” Indeed, the 13 stolen works taken in the wee hours  on March 18, 1990 by two men wearing fake mustaches and disguised as police officers represent a distinct and priceless collection by a few of the world's true masters, including Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet and Degas.

 

Kurkjian, with his fast-paced narrative and plethora of research, aims to crack this case. There are brief descriptions of all the players at the beginning of the book. Readers will need the list, as Kurkjian lays out a web of who’s who in the Boston underworld, from low level crooks to mob bosses. And just when you think the author is getting repetitive, Kurkjian offers up intriguing bits of the sometimes strange efforts to recover the paintings. He also expresses pointed frustration over the FBI's mishandling of the investigation from the get-go. He notes that there hasn't been a single confirmed sighting of the works. He calls it a "disgrace."

 

For those who enjoy the logistics of the chase, Master Thieves has plenty to offer to both nonfiction and fiction readers. Written in an accessible journalistic style that includes several interviews with key figures, Kurkjian brings his 20-year obsession to his readers, who will ultimately form their own opinions on why this crime remains unsolved today.

 

Cynthia

 
 

Terry Pratchett, 1948 – 2015

Terry Pratchett, 1948 – 2015

posted by:
March 12, 2015 - 1:00pm

Cover art for The Color of MagicImage of Terry Pratchett.Sir Terence David John "Terry" Pratchett, OBE, died today after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The fantasy author is perhaps best known for his beloved Discworld series which began in 1983 with The Color of Magic. His first novel The Carpet People was published in 1971. Pratchett was one of the United Kingdom’s best-selling authors with over 85 million copies of 70 books published worldwide in 37 languages.

 

Pratchett was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in 1998. In 2001, he won the annual Carnegie Medal for The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents, the first Discworld book marketed for younger readers. He received the World Fantasy Award for Life Achievement in 2010.

 

In December 2007, Pratchett announced that he was suffering from early-onset Alzheimer's disease, but continued writing. "The world has lost one of its brightest, sharpest minds," said Larry Finlay of Transworld Publishers. "Terry enriched the planet like few before him. As all who read him know, Discworld was his vehicle to satirize this world: He did so brilliantly, with great skill, enormous humor and constant invention.”

Maureen

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ALA Awards Announced

ALA Awards Announced

posted by:
February 2, 2015 - 12:30pm

The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend by Dan Santat The Crossover by Kwame Alexander Firebird by Misty Copeland The most prestigious awards for teen and children's literature were announced by the American Library Association (ALA) in Chicago today. Awards were given in a wide range of categories that covered all formats and age levels. You can find a complete list of awards, winners and honorees on the ALA website.

 

The Randolph Caldecott Medal is awarded annually to the artist of the most distinguished American picture book for children. This year’s winner is The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend written and illustrated by Dan Santat. This beautifully illustrated tender tale of one imaginary friend waiting patiently to be picked by a child will captivate young readers with its creative spark.

 

The oldest of the medals awarded, the John Newbery Medal, is awarded to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. This year’s medal recipient is Kwame Alexander for The Crossover, a novel in verse sharing the coming-of-age story of twins Josh and Jordan and their changing lives on and off the basketball court.

 

The Michael L. Printz Award annually honors the best book written for teens, based entirely on its literary merit. This year’s winner is I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson, the story of twins (again!) Noah and Jude, their fractured relationship and attempt to recover what they once had.

 

The Coretta Scott King Awards are given to outstanding African-American authors and illustrators of books for children and young adults that demonstrate an appreciation of African-American culture and universal human values. Christopher Myers received the Coretta Scott King Illustrator Award for his vibrant collage combinations of paint, paper and photographed elements which bring to life the inspirational story of a budding ballerina in Firebird, written by Misty Copeland. Jacqueline Woodson, already the recipient of the National Book Award, was awarded the Coretta Scott King Author Award for Brown Girl Dreaming, her lyrical novel in verse of her childhood in the 1960s and 1970s.

 

Check out the winners and honorees at BCPL!

Maureen

 
 

Colleen McCullough, 1937-2015

Colleen McCullough, 1937-2015

posted by:
January 29, 2015 - 2:49pm

Cover image for The Thorn BirdsColleen McCulloughAcclaimed Australian author Colleen McCullough died at age 77 following a long illness. McCullough wrote over 20 novels during the span of her long career, which began with the publication of her first book in 1974. Her most recent novel, Bittersweet, shared the story of four sisters navigating love, life and loss in 1920s Australia.

 

It's the mega blockbuster, The Thorn Birds, for which McCullough will be most remembered. A sweeping romantic saga spanning three generations of an Australian family, it was the most talked about book of its day and sold 30 million copies worldwide. The paperback rights alone sold for $1.9 million, and the miniseries featuring Richard Chamberlain, Rachel Ward and Barbara Stanwyck was the second highest rated miniseries of all time.

 

McCullough always stretched herself as a writer, trying her hand at different genres. Her mystery series featuring Carmine Delmonico, a police captain in a small Connecticut college town was critically well-received, and her Masters of Rome series, a seven-book, impeccably researched historical series, had fans in the political realm, including Henry Kissinger and Newt Gingrich. Explore her legacy...

Maureen

 
 

Hidden Reservoir

Hidden Reservoir

posted by:
January 8, 2015 - 8:00am

Cover art for EbolaRolling up your sleeve for your flu shot this season, you probably did not think about the zoonoses you are keeping at bay. A zoonosis describes an infection that is transmitted from animal to human. The flu falls into this nasty category, as do other scary things like West Nile Virus, Lyme disease, rabies and, yes, Ebola. Science writer and explorer David Quammen is not trying to scare us in his slender but potent new book, Ebola: The Natural and Human History of a Deadly Virus. Rather, he provides much needed perspective on the 2014 epidemic in West Africa that dominated the news here and abroad.

 

Where did Ebola come from? That's the question everyone wants answered about a disease whose first recognized emergence dates to 1976. Quammen takes us back to that point and the consequences of interconnected ecosystems. He writes in layman's terms about early efforts to sequester various species for testing only to be disappointed each time. "It was Zorro, it was the Swamp Fox, it was Jack the Ripper — dangerous, invisible, gone," Quammen says. This is the problem with a disease that moves, or spills over, from animals to humans. Identifying the reservoir host animal is key to understanding how the virus wreaks havoc, then disappears again, for perhaps decades. The need for containment is great for fear that it will eventually adapt. For scientists, the hunt is on.

 

Quammen, who extracted and updated material from his 2012 book, Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic, spent time in the jungles of Gabon, where he first encountered the "peculiar, disconcerting disease." Through interviews with laboratory sleuths and Ebola victims' families he fills in as many blanks as possible, writing in a highly readable journalistic style. Readers of Richard Preston's The Hot Zone, whom Quammen gently takes to task in his book, will find a fast-paced science mystery that urgently begs solving.

Cynthia

 
 

Norman Bridwell, 1928 - 2014

Norman Bridwell, 1928 - 2014

posted by:
December 17, 2014 - 10:34am

Cover art for Clifford the Big Red DogNorman BridwellScholastic Books announced that author and illustrator Norman Bridwell died last Friday in Martha’s Vineyard at age 86. Bridwell was best known for creating the lovable Clifford the Big Red Dog character which spawned into a hugely successful children’s book series.

 

The first book was published in 1963 and the series would grow to include more than 150 Clifford titles. The series has been translated into 13 languages, and sold 129 million copies worldwide. Clifford successfully crossed over to the small screen with a PBS Kids’ animated series, which drew more fans. He is headed to the big screen in 2016.

 

Dick Robinson, chairman, president and CEO of Scholastic, noted in the company’s press release that, “Norman Bridwell’s books about Clifford, childhood’s most loveable dog, could only have been written by a gentle man with a great sense of humor. Norman personified the values that we as parents and educators hope to communicate to our children — kindness, compassion, helpfulness, gratitude — through the Clifford stories which have been loved for more than 50 years.” Listen to Bridwell himself on the magic of Clifford in this 50th anniversary video.

 

Maureen

 
 

J. California Cooper, 1932-2014

J. California Cooper, 1932-2014

posted by:
September 24, 2014 - 10:04am

Cover art for FamilyCover art for Some People, Some Other PlaceCover art for Homemade LoveAcclaimed novelist and short story writer J. California Cooper has died at the age of 82. The award-winning writer’s well-known works include the novels Family and Some People, Some Other Place and the short story collection Homemade Love.

 

Cooper led a storied life herself which included a variety of jobs such as manicurist and Alaskan pipeline teamster before realizing her dream of being a professional writer. Throughout her varied employment, she was constantly writing and achieved success initially as a playwright. But it wasn’t until Pulitzer Prize winning author Alice Walker attended one of her plays and encouraged Cooper to try her hand at novels and short stories that Cooper’s writing path changed course.

 

Walker was a catalyst in Cooper’s career but her unpretentious and informal storytelling style helped her develop legions of devoted fans including new readers who continue to find her work relevant and enjoyable. One such aficionado is National Book Award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni, who has called Cooper "my favorite storyteller." Cooper was also critically praised and awards bestowed upon her include the James Baldwin Writing Award and the Literary Lion Award from the American Library Association.
 

Maureen