Good Summer Reads - Book Reviews

Book Review by Ann Jonas, Tradebook Buyer - CSB/SJU Bookstores
this review was published in the St. Cloud Visitor.

Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool; Random House; October 2010; 351pp
Author Clare Vanderpool's first novel, Moon Over Manifest, won the 2011 Newbery Award as the most distinguished American children's book published in 2010.  The story is set in a small town in Kansas in 1936, with "flashes" in the form of letters and newspaper columns from the World War I era.  The book is told from the point of view of twelve-year-old Abilene whose father drops her off in Manifest, Kansas for the summer, while he works on the railroad.  Abilene isn't happy to be left behind, but she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos and old letters that motivate her to learn more about Manifest.  Moon Over Manifest is rich in historical detail and interesting characters.  It is an interesting read for pre-teens and young teens (and adults!)

Through No Fault of My Own: A Girl's Diary of Life on Summit Avenue in the Jazz Age by Coco Irvine; University of Minnesota Press; March 2011; 84pp 
While perusing the Minnesota Historical Society archives, writer Peg Meier discovered the diary of twelve-year-old Clotilde "Coco" Irvine, daughter of a wealthy St. Paul lumber baron.  The diary, which Irvine received as a Christmas gift in 1926, is a record of a year's worth of escapades by a precocious young girl.  Irvine's diary gave her the chance to explain her side of the story when she got in trouble; she frequently states in the diary "I'm in deep trouble through no fault of my own."   In her mid-fifties and ill with cancer, Irvine revisited her hand-written diary and, it is thought, edited sections to omit boring pieces.  The diary was then privately printed and given to family members.  A copy of the book was donated to the Historical Society, where Meier found it.  The University of Minnesota Press has reprinted the diary, exactly as it was originally published, giving it the title Through No Fault of My Own.  Meier's introduction provides the background for the diary and her afterword tells of Irvine's adult life.  This book is a brief but captivating look at the life of an irrepressible young girl in the 1920s.  

Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero by Tom Clavin and Danny Peary; Simon and Schuster; paperback edition published May, 2011; 430pp 
In 1961, Roger Maris, a soft-spoken outfielder from the Midwest, broke Babe Ruth's single-season home run record, by recording his 61st homer on the last day of the season.  Authors Tom Clavin and Danny Peary did extensive research and interviews and produced a definitive biography of a misunderstood athlete.  Their book, Roger Maris: Baseball's Reluctant Hero, now available in paperback, traces Maris' life from his boyhood in Fargo to his rise to the major leagues.  The main focus of the book is the 1961 season, when the introverted Maris endured mistreatment from the Yankee press and fans as he and his teammate and friend, Mickey Mantle, chased Ruth's record.  This book chronicles the life of a gifted ballplayer, a family man who was loved and respected by his teammates, and a man who played ball and lived with courage and integrity.  It is a moving and fascinating read and a must-read for baseball fans. 

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie by Wendy McClure; Penguin; April 2011; 336pp
Wendy McClure discovered Laura Ingalls Wilder's books while growing up in the 1970s and 80s in Oak Park, Illinois.  As a young child, McClure was rather obsessed with the beloved "Little House" series of books that take place in the Midwest.  Her obsession never entirely left her, and after re-reading Little House in the Big Woods as an adult, she was inspired to read again all of the Little House books.  Next, she found numerous books written about Laura Ingalls Wilder and soon decided to retrace the pioneer journey of the Ingalls family.  The Wilder Life is McClure's amusing and somewhat irreverent account of her journey.  Her pilgrimage takes her to Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and even New York (Almanzo Wilder's childhood home) to visit the Little House sites.  McClure's writing is humorous and thoughtful; this is a fun read for adults who grew up reading the Little House books. 

The Living Garden: A Place That Works With Nature by Jane Powers; Frances Lincoln Ltd. Publishers; April 2011
"I spent my teens and twenties looking for the meaning of life. And then, in my thirties, I found the answer. It was in the compost heap."  Thus begins author and organic gardener Jane Powers' new book The Living Garden.  Powers was born in Ireland to American parents; her father was novelist and short story writer J.F. Powers, who taught at St. John's University.  The Living Garden is a reference book for new and experienced gardeners who want to garden naturally.  Information on planning and planting for birds, bees, and other creatures, growing food for ourselves, looking after our soil, composting, sowing and saving seeds, and propagating plants are all included in the book. Powers' writing is engaging and her photographs, many from her own garden in Ireland, illustrate this lovely book.

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