reviews: Anita Paddock
I’m looking forward to Christmas more than I have in a long time. There is a little girl named Violet in my family, and her presence will make for a lively time around the tree. And as everyone knows, the holidays are more fun if there are giggling children clutching gingerbread cookies in tight little fingers while climbing up in a lap for a Christmas story.
For the children in your family, I suggest this darling new book by beloved children’s author, Jan Brett. In Animals’ Santa, the animals wonder just who exactly delivers their presents. So a rabbit stays up to discover that a snowy owl in a red cap flies down with a pack full of presents. The story is sweet, the artwork beautiful, and it will surely please the little one on your list.
Another new Christmas book for children is The Last Christmas Tree by Stephen Krensky. In his book, he tells the story of a little crooked tree with few branches that’s for sale on a Christmas tree lot. It’s passed over by family after family until it’s the last tree left on Christmas Eve. But something magical happens, and it’s purchased by a very special person.
Ozark Urchins by local author Richard Cress is sure to delight the mature readers on your list. This charming book tells the true story of the nine Cress children who lived with their mother in the beautiful Ozark Mountains northwest of Winslow, Arkansas, from 1946 through 1951. The family lived in a tiny rented house with no electricity or indoor plumbing. As Cress reports, his family was often cold and hungry, but they never lacked for entertainment, and he chronicles the ways in which he and his siblings played. His stories will make you laugh out loud and maybe shed a few tears. It’s a winner, and one you’ll want to give to several on your list.
Nearly everyone loves a mystery, and this is one I recommend by a new author, Allen Eskins. The Life We Bury takes place in Minnesota and is told by the main character, Joe Talbert, who’s attending college and taking care of his autistic brother while holding down a full-time job. As a college writing project, Joe interviews Carl, a terminally ill convict who has been released from prison to a nursing home to die. Although he was a Vietnam hero in his early life, Carl was later sent to prison for abusing and then murdering a young girl, but Carl has always maintained his innocence. Joe half-heartedly believes him and sets out to learn the truth before Carl dies. You’ll learn the surprising truth right along with Joe, and the end result is a book that is both heartbreaking and full of hope.
I know lots of people who are fans of Southern writer Rick Bragg who wrote All Over but the Shoutin’ and Ava’s Man. His new book is the biography of rock and roll star Jerry Lee Lewis, and I can think of no better person to interview the famous crazy piano player than Rick Bragg. Here is a sample of Bragg’s introduction to the book Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story: “The party boats churned up the big river from New Orleans and down from Memphis and Vicksburg, awash in good liquor and listing with revelers who dined and drank to tied-down pianos and whole brass bands. Country people in worn-through overalls and faded flour-sack dresses watched from the banks.” Jerry Lee Lewis was a nine-year-old watching from the bank, and his daddy, Elmo, told him he’d be on one of those boats one day. Jerry Lee says he didn’t know if he’d be one of the rich folks, or if one of his songs would be played by the band on board. It turned out that both would be true. Rick Bragg dedicates this book to “anyone who ever danced in their socks” and I suggest that would be a good criteria to use for those on your Christmas list too.