Hanukkah begins tonight at sundown. Whether your family celebrates the Festival of Lights or they’d like to learn more about the holiday, these books will be perfect to share with any child.
"Four Sides, Eight Nights: A New Spin on Hanukkah, by Rebecca Tova Ben-Zvi, lives up to its subtitle. This new spin on Hanukkah is child-friendly, fun and educational: a rare mix. It is a dense little book that reads as light as my latkes should be. Facts galore—about history, religion, trivia, science, food and customs—are organized in manageable bites, including marginalia with fascinating tidbits. Charming, detailed pencil drawings invite young readers to actually read the thing, and young listeners to ask what it says."
"One Candle by Eve Bunting is the touching story of a young girl whose extended family gathers together each year to celebrate Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. And every year her grandmother and Great Aunt Rose perform a ritual to recall their childhood, part of which was spent in a German concentration camp during the Holocaust. In those bleak days, despite unrelenting hardship and fear, they sought to maintain their religious faith by smuggling a potato and some margarine into camp—elements which they used to construct a makeshift candle so they could surreptitiously celebrate Hanukkah."
" 'Old man Scroogemacher was as sour as a pickle and had a tongue like horse-radish.' The first sentence of Hanukkah, Shmanukkah! gives a forshpice (appetizer) of the Yiddish flavors that follow—a hint that Dickens' A Christmas Carol has undergone a religious and cultural conversion. Yes, the most unloved character in the most beloved Christmas story has been appropriated for the other big holiday in December. As odd as it may seem, author Esmé Raji Codell pulls off the switcheroo with humor, history and heart.”
What does your family like to read during Hanukkah? Tell us in the comments.
Today Random House announced the April 13 publication of Beatrice & Virgil, a new novel from Canadian author Yann Martel—his first since the surprise 2002 hit Life of Pi. The book was previously scheduled for a summer release.
Few details are available, though Amazon has this description:
A famous author receives a mysterious letter from a man who is a struggling writer but also turns out to be a taxidermist, an eccentric and fascinating character who does not kill animals but preserves them as they lived, with skill and dedication — among them a howler monkey named Virgil and a donkey named Beatrice.
Confession: I didn't read Life of Pi. Any fans want to tell me what I'm missing? Are you looking forward to the new book?
Related in BookPage: our review of Martel's story collection, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios.
As an addendum to Tuesday’s “looking forward to March” post, here’s another book that I know many of you will be eager to read. Frances Mayes, author of Under the Tuscan Sun, will release another memoir detailing her experience in Italy: Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life. The book goes on sale on March 9.
In college, I wrote a series of travel essays for a creative writing project. Mayes’ 2006 collection A Year in the World was a beloved companion as I formed my own stories.
A paragraph from the memoir's introduction stuck with me: “I asked an impulsive question, What if we did not go home, what if we kept traveling? Should you not listen well to the questions you ask out of nowhere? Only in looking back do you find those crumbs you dropped that marked your way forward.”
In reading the introduction from Every Day in Tuscany, it appears that Mayes is back in top form; vibrant imagery (delicious food! gorgeous landscapes!) and introspection abound. (An excerpt: “The journey itself is home. . . Transition feels sweet. I’m balanced between worlds and can roam forward and backward along the strada bianca, that white road of the innermost journey.”)
I don’t think Mayes is for everybody; her writing often feel like a series of vignettes, rather than a straight narrative, and I sometimes find myself reading sections of her books at random, rather than devouring the memoir from start to finish. (Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing.) In any case, armchair travel in Tuscany is sounding pretty good right now as the temperature drops in Nashville.
Do you have a favorite travel writer? You may find a new one in our December feature, “A globetrotter’s delight: Experience the world’s treasures, real and imagined.” Mayes fans should check out Slow: Life in a Tuscan Town by Douglas Gayeton.
Related in BookPage: Read an interview with Mayes about A Year in the World. I think many travelers will understand her “perennial tug-of-war” between setting off on wild adventures and being pulled by the comfort of home.
Many of you will spend hours in the car as you journey to visit family and friends during the holidays. Why not make the most of your transit time and listen to an audio book? Our top 10 picks for 2009 span from tear-jerker novel to complex financial scrutiny, all chosen by BookPage audio columnist Sukey Howard.
Rain Gods by James Lee Burke (Simon & Schuster Audio)
The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson (Random House Audio)
The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Penguin Audio)
The Shawl and Rosa by Cynthia Ozick (HighBridge Audio)
The Women by T.C. Boyle (Blackstone Audio)
Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (Random House)
David Sedaris: Live for Your Listening Pleasure by David Sedaris (Hachette Audio) -- Review coming soon in the January issue of BookPage
Fool’s Gold by Gillian Tett (Tantor)
Losing Mum and Pup by Christopher Buckley (Hachette Audio)
Panic by Michael Lewis (Simon & Schuster Audio)
Do you have any audio books to add to this list? Tell us in the comments.
Americana buffs everywhere will have A New Literary History of America on their holiday wish lists. A compilation of more than 200 essays by writers like Jonathan Lethem and Sarah Vowell on pivotal pop cultural, literary and historical events from the Salem witch trials to Britney Spears, this book is a vibrant reminder of our rich history—and probably belongs under the tree of your favorite culture maven. Want to read more? Check out our full review or read a sample essay on the book's website.
Our 12 books of Christmas series continues with Phaidon's hefty survey of contemporary painting, Painting Today.
The modern painting fan in your life would be happy to find Painting Today under their tree. A comprehensive look at the paintings of the last 40 years—oils, watercolors, and more—this $75 behemoth is full of stunning images and knowledgeable commentary from Tony Godfrey, who works at Sotheby's Institute of Art and is a Fine Arts professor. The book is divided into sections by topic: neo-expressionism, pure abstraction, landscape art, the figure, post-feminism, and more, and the 500+ images are by artists of every background.
Do you have a favorite modern artist? Tell us in the comments before noon CST tomorrow, and you'll be entered to win a copy of Painting Today. Sorry, US residents only.
Read more reviews of art books on BookPage.com.
Other great gift ideas can be found in our holiday catalog.
OK, he's not exactly "live," but Victorian novelist Wilkie Collins is making a splash on the web these days. The occasion is the 150th anniversary of the serialization of his best-known work, The Woman in White. Fans can now read the story as it was originally published—in weekly installments. Collins enthusiast Paul Lewis is emailing PDFs of the text to subscribers around the world, on the same calendar date that readers of Dickens' popular paper All the Year Round read the story 150 years ago.
These PDF reproductions are authentic down to the errors, which Paul documents in each weekly email.
Readers can also view the John McLenan illustrations that accompanied the story when it was published Stateside, in Harper's Weekly.
The fourth installment will be released December 14, with the final section appearing on August 22. I'm signed up and pretty excited about experiencing the novel this way, since there's no way I could otherwise justify squeezing in a re-read of anything! If your "to-be-read" stack is similarly daunting, it might be a refreshing alternative. Want to read along? Email Paul, or visit the site to download the PDFs.
Via Entertainment Weekly’s Shelf Life blog, we learned yesterday that Queen of Romance Nora Roberts is expanding into the computer game market. Vision in White, her novel about four friends who run a wedding-planning business, will turn interactive as gamers play “nuptial-themed mini-games” and perform “hidden-object tasks” in its computer game equivalent.
Agatha Christie, James Patterson and Dan Brown have already inspired games, and Roberts – herself a gamer – is pleased to join their ranks. “I think it’s great that there are so many kinds of media to play with,” said Roberts in a press release. “And to have a story translated into a game like this, it’s tremendous fun for me.”
Besides the occasional Mario Kart or Guitar Hero, I’m not much of a gamer myself – but I can see the appeal of bringing a novel to life outside of the page. Do romance fans think Roberts’ stories will translate well in this medium? Will you be downloading the game?
Related in BookPage: Romance columnist and author Christie Ridgeway writes that Vision in White, the first of Roberts’ Bride Quartet, is “romantic and wistful, sexy and stylish...another winner for Roberts.”
Looking for gifts for the little ones on your list? Our top 10 picture books are full of engaging illustrations and text that will get young readers hooked.
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All the World by Liz Garton Scanlon, illustrated by Marla Frazee (Beach Lane/Atheneum)
Duck! Rabbit! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal, illustrated Tom Lichtenheld (Chronicle)
John Brown by John Hendrix (Abrams)
One Giant Leap by Robert Burleigh, illustrated by Mike Wimmer (Philomel)
Pouch by David Ezra Stein (Putnam)
Rhyming Dust Bunnies by Jan Thomas (Beach Lane/Atheneum)
Skippyjon Jones: Lost in Spice by Judith Byron Schachner (Dutton)
The Lion & The Mouse by Jerry Pinkney (Little, Brown)
Trouble Gum by Matthew Cordell (Feiwel & Friends)
Willoughby & The Lion by Greg Foley (HarperCollins)
Wombat Walkabout by Carol Diggory Shields, illustrated by Sophie Blackall (Dutton)
Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories by Kevin Wilson
March 2009, Harper Perennial
From “Grand Stand-In”
The key to this job is to always remember that you aren’t replacing anyone’s grandmother. You aren’t trying to be a better grandmother than the first one. For all intents and purposes, you are the grandmother, and always have been. And if you can do this, can provide the level of grandmotherliness with each family, every time, then you can make a good career out of this. Not to say that it isn’t weird sometimes. Because it is. More often than not, actually, it is incredibly, undeniably weird.
I never had a family of my own. I didn't get married, couldn't see the use of it. Most of my own family is gone now, and the ones that are still around, I don't see anymore. To most people, I probably look like an old maid, buying for one, and this is perfectly fine with me. I like my privacy . . . . I like the dimensions of the space I take up, and I am happy. But it's not hard to imagine what it would have been like: husband, children, grandchildren, pictures on the mantle, visits at Christmas, a big funeral, and people who would inherit my money. You can be happy with your life and yet still see the point of one lived differently. That's why it seemed so natural when I saw this ad in the paper: "Grandmothers Wanted—No Experience Necessary."