Monday, April 6, 2015

Tonight! (Monday) Middle Grade Mania, Plus Mark Wisniewski, Cristina Henríquez, Lilly J. Goren, John Riordan, Lizzie Skurnick, Mary Norris and More!

What's going on at Boswell this week? Short answer: A lot!

Monday, April 6, 6:30 pm, at Boswell:
Middle Grade Mania! Five authors with five great books for kids 8 and up.

--Steve Arntson, author of The Trap
--Stacy DeKeyser, author of One Witch at a Time
--Faith Harkey, author of Genuine Sweet
--Greg Trine, author of Willy Maykit in Space
--Marcia Wells, author of Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery in Mayan Mexico

Here's a little about each book, and what pie the author has picked for us to serve. Our pizza comes from Ian's on North Avenue. Much like we did for the Gentlemen's Tour last year, each author came up with a pie.

Eddie Red Undercover: Mystery in Mayan Mexico is the fun and fast-paced second installment of the Edgar-nominated series by Marcia Wells in which Eddie Red and his best friend Jonah must once again rely on Eddie's drawing skills and photographic memory to uncover clues to catch a crook when Eddie's father is falsely accused of a crime. Marcia Wells's pizza pick: mushroom on a gluten-free crust (yes, Ian's can do that!)

Greg Trine, debuts the first book in his hilarious new series, Willy Maykit in Space, in which our stalwart hero, Willie Maykit, is stranded during a class trip to outer space, where his wits tested against the monsters of Planet Ed. From Booklist: "Cartoon spot illustrations make the book's sense of fun and adventure pop. A wacky romp!" Greg Trine's pizza pick: smoked brisket and tater tots.

Savvy meets Three Times Lucky in Genuine Sweet, Faith Harkey's debut novel (I's also add A Snicker of Magic), a small-town Georgia tale of a hardworking but poor "wish fetcher" who can grant anyone's wishes but her own. School Library Journal writes that "character and events are well written and intriguing. Genuine's frustration over the dilemma of being able to help everyone but her own family is well crafted...authentic and unique." Faith Harkey's pick: barbecue chicken--thats what Genuine would order!

Magic beans quickly lead to danger in One Witch at a Time, the new stand-alone companion to The Brixen Witch by Wisconsin native Stacy DeKeyser. Kirkus Reviews said "the characters are awfully likable, and this tale is set so believably in a traditional Alpine world that it's easy to go along with the make-believe." Stacy DeKeyser's pizza pick: spinach and portobello muchroom.

Seattle musician Steven Arntson presents The Trap, in which science fiction, kidnapping, and first crushes combine for a thrilling fantasy that's Gary Schmidt meets Madeleine L'Engle. Kirkus Reviews called The Trap "An amazing blend of mystery, romance, science fiction and social commentary."  Steve Arntson's pizza pick:  tomato and pesto.

As we've also mentioned, we'll be hearing from Phoebe a little bit about our teacher program tonight. If you are an educator and either are on our distribution list for school viists, or would like to be added to the list, we'll reward you with a shopping pass, good for tonight only. Some restrictions apply!

Yes, this is sort of an everything but the kitchen sink event but that's what you have to do to counter program the finals tonight.

Oh, and a thank you to Ian's Pizza!

Tuesday, April 7, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Mark Wisniewski, author of Watch Me Go (photo credit Elizabeth Rendfleisch)

In Watch Me Go, we meet Douglas "Deesh" Sharp, who lives in the Bronx and has managed to stay on the right side of the law, in spite of the constant lures of drug-dealing friends, by hauling junk for cash to avoid the fate of former neighbors now on Rikers Island. But when he and two pals head upstate for a seemingly standard job, disposing of a sealed oil drum, Deesh is left betrayed and running for his life - the prime suspect in the murders of three white men. Meanwhile, Jan Price, a young horse jockey, is a rising star at a small racetrack in upstate New York, where her father was a local legend before his untimely death two decades earlier. As she struggles to piece together her father's mysterious past, Jan is charmed by a wannabe horse farmer and pulled into the gritty underworld of gambling and racing. As Jan and Deesh recount the events that sent their lives spiraling out of control, they begin to understand the whole story and how each fit into it, hoping it's enough to save Deesh's life.

Salman Rushdie called Watch Me Go "irresistible...pure, muscular storytelling" while Daniel Woodrell called it "a fabulous noir." In the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune, Peter Geye offers this praise: "Wisniewski is a sure and smart writer, and his philosophy never gets in the way of his story, which is suspenseful and original and wholly unpredictable." And here's a profile of Wisniewski by Mark Rubinstein in The Huffington Post.

Mark Wisniewski is an award-winning writer of fiction and poetry from Milwaukee. He has won praise for his stories, more than 100 of which have been published in magazines such as The Southern Review, Antioch Review, and Virginia Quarterly Review. He has been honored in Best American Short Stories, and has earned a Pushcart Prize and a Tobias Wolff Award.

Also on Tuesday, April 7, 6:30 pm, at the Frank L. Weyenberg Library, 11345 North Cedarburg Road in Mequon:
Bill Povletich, author of Green Bay Packers and Milwaukee Braves, and the forthcoming second edition of Some Like it Cold.

Native Wisconsinite, William Povletich, Mequon native and Homestead High School alum, is back at the Frank L. Weyenberg Library for their 2015 Community Reads program. While his surfing memoir, Some Like it Cold is not quite ready for its second edition (Wisconsin Historical Society Press is adding all the local detail cut by his previous publisher), we'll be there with copies of his two books on the Green Bay Packers and the Milwaukee Braves.

Wednesday, April 8, 7 pm, at the Lynden Sculpture Garden, 2145 W. Brown Deer Road in River Hills:
The Women's Speaker series, presenting a ticketed event with Cristina Henríquez, author of The Book of Unknown Americans. 

 I enjoyed Henríquez so much at her Boswell appearance that he recommended her to the Lynden for the paperback. Here's my recommendation: "There is a long and storied tradition of telling a bigger story by focusing the details on the workers at a particular job, the inhabitants of a block, the students of a school, or in this case, the folks who live in one particular apartment building in Wilmington Delaware. They may be all Hispanic, but their backgrounds are diverse (Venezuela, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic), and their lives even more so."

"But at the heart of this story are two families, one Panamanian and the other Mexican, and two teenagers, Mayor the younger sibling struggling to live up to the achievements of his soccer-playing and academically gifted brother, and Maribel, crippled by a blow to a head. The immigrant family's basic struggles (where to shop? how to find friends? what is safe?) is compounded by matriarch Alma's quest to both find a special ed program for Maribel and keep her safe from harm. Poignant, witty, insightful, moving, The Book of Unknown Americans works a springboard to discussion and as a novel to be cherished." (Daniel Goldin)

Tickets are $22 ($18 for members) include a copy of the book, and are available through the Lynden Sculpture Garden website or by calling (414) 446-8794. The Woman's Speaker Series at the Lynden Sculpture Garden is produced by Milwaukee Reads and sponsored by Bronze Optical. Admission on Wednesday, April 8, 7 pm (talk begins at 7:30) also includes wine and light refreshments provided by MKELocalicious, and at this time of year, we can say that admission also gives you a chance to explore the grounds beforehand.

Thursday, April 9, 7 pm, at Boswell:
Lilly J. Goren, co-editor of Mad Men and Politics: Nostalgia and the Remaking of Modern America.

The last run of episodes for Mad Men began last night (Sunday) on A&E. Here to give you the lowdown on how to fit Mad Men into the context of the times is Lilly J. Goren, a professor at Carroll University. After hearing this talk, you'll definitely wow your coworkers/gym friends/fellow book clubbers next time you're at the water cooler/spin class/table of snacks.

The chapters of Mad Men and Politics analyze the most important dimensions explored on the show, including issues around gender, race, prejudice, the family, generational change, the social movements of the 1960s, our understanding of America's place in the world, and the idea of work in the post-war period. Mad Men and Politics provides the reader with an understanding not only of the topics and issues that can be easily grasped while watching, but also contemplates our historical perspective of the 1960s as we consider it through the telescope of our current condition in the modern day United States.

Friday, April 10, 7 pm, at Boswell:
John Riordan, author of They Are All My Family: A Daring Rescue in the Chaos of Saigon's Fall.

In the chaotic final days of the Vietnam War in April 1975, as Americans fled and their Vietnamese allies and employees prepared for the worst, John Riordan, a young banker and the assistant manager of Citibank's Saigon branch, succeeded in rescuing 106 Vietnamese people. They were his 33 Vietnamese staff members and their families. Unable to secure exit papers for the employees, Citibank ordered Riordan to leave the country alone. Safe in Hong Kong, Riordan could not imagine leaving behind his employees and defied instructions from his superiors not to return to Saigon. But once he did make it back on the last commercial flight, his actions were daring and ingenious.

In They Are All My Family, John Riordan (now farming in Belgium) recounts how the escape was organized and carried out. John Riordan's story provides a compelling insight to the courage of individuals when all seemed lost. For all the tragedy of the Vietnam War, this saga is an uplifting counterpoint and a compelling piece of micro-history. You can see the story unfold on this clip from 60 Minutes, which first aired in 2013. CBS called Riordan the Oskar Schindler of the Vietnam War.

Saturday, April 11, 2 pm, at Boswell: Lizzie Skurnick, author of That Should Be a Word: A Language Lover's Guide to Choregasms, Povertunity, Brattling, and 250 Other Much-Needed Terms for the Modern World. (Photo credit Casey Greenfield)

Author of the highly popular "That Should Be a Word" feature in The New York Times Magazine, Lizzie Skurnick delights word lovers with razor-sharp social commentary delivered via clever neologisms like "fidgital" and "flipocrite." That Should be a Word is a compendium of 244 of Skurnick's wittiest wordplays, more than half of them new-arranged in ingenious diagrams detailing their interrelationships.

Rachel Martin talked to Skurnick on Weekend Edition. Here's a taste.

MARTIN: So how did this start for you? Have you always done this, just made up words?

SKURNICK: Yeah. I - you know, I've always rhymed, semi compulsively, since I was young. You know, I remember in second grade, I used to hand in my book reports in metered verse because I couldn't help it. (Laughter).


SKURNICK: So I have always made up words. And I have also always made up analogies. And I think all of that came together, you know, the punning, the rhyming, the mania.

Can't get enough Skurnick? Visit the Old Hag website for book reviews, sundries, culture, intelligentsia, and more words.

Sunday, April 12, 3 pm at Boswell:M Mary Norris, author of Between You and Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, in Conversation with WUWM's Bonnie North.

Drawing on wide-ranging and hilariously rendered examples, from Henry James, Emily Dickinson, and James Salter to The Girl from Ipanema, Moby-Dick, and The Simpsons, Mary Norris expertly guides readers through the most common and confusing grammatical issues, including why we should care about spelling in the age of spell-check and autocorrect and the hierarchy of punctuation. Although she is irreverent and blunt, Norris is never snarky or snooty in her grammatical advice. Throughout Between You and Me, Norris acknowledges the subjectivity of her work and advises readers to take a similar hands-on, case-by-case approach to language: "The dictionary is a wonderful thing, but you can't let it push you around."

Here's a recommendation from Boswellian Todd Wellman: "It was refreshing to read a book that assumed I'd be a careful reader. I chuckled, I sighed, I nodded as I read snippets of memory and care about and for writing. I smiled the most when Norris applied a respect for rules and a desire for style to her own writing; this made the text unstuffy, conversational while being correct. The true stories of working with writers at The New Yorker and a collection of writing-related ruminations met in an editing and reading life lift the book above being a simple writing guide."

Many thanks to all of Mary Norris's Madison friends, who are helping get the word out. And some Milwaukee ones too--FOB (Friend of Boswell) Mary reminded us that her daughter used to work with Mary at The New Yorker. It really is a small world. (Bonnie North at right!)

And here's a note about why I generally spell out the ampersand on the blog. I tend to write the blog on the HTML code page, and the ampersand converts to the code when I switch to the general composition page. And it's a pain to switch back. So we'll save for another day, a conversation about whether the ampersand is synonymous with the word "and" and whether it is set by the original source or whether it can be switched back and forth at the discretion of the person writing about it.

Sneak peek for next week: Monday, April 13, 6:30 pm, at the East Library, 2320 North Cramer Street, just across from Beans and Barley: Jason Reynolds, author of The Boy in the Black Suit and When I Was the Greatest.

Remember the reference to the Gentlemen's Tour Pizza Party above? Well one of the authors who was featured at this party was Jason Reynolds, who had just had his first solo novel published. Lots of us fell in love with Reynolds and his work and we made a pitch for a full day of schools and public event when his second novel was published. And we're thrilled to thank Simon and Schuster for making this happen. I think we've fulfilled our end of the bargain--already over 150 kids have gotten copies of the book and will have read it when Reynolds meets with them on April 13.

And after that, we're heading over to East Library to co-sponsor our first event at the all new, state-of-the-art branch. If you haven't been there yet, it's beautiful. A great selection of books, meeting rooms, laptop friendly, with librarians on the floor to help you in your information quests.

A little more about The Boy in the Black Suit: Here's my rec: "Matt Miller’s mom has just died; he’s not handling it well, and his father is doing even worse. His dad suggests he get an after school job and winds up at a funeral home, where the first question everyone asks is “Do you have to touch dead people?” But the answer (“no”) is not as simple as that, because Matt becomes obsessed with attending the funerals, and in fact, finds himself connecting, if not with the dead, than with the folks left behind."

"As he works through his grief, he learns a lot from Mr. Ray, the mortician, as well as Love, a young girl whose path crosses who turns out to cross his path several times. Perhaps it’s fate. What a wonderful cast of characters that make up The Boy in the Black Suit (yes, that’s what he wears to work), set in the vivid landscape of Bed Stuy. There’s a lot of texting, so we know it’s a contemporary story, but you have to believe that author Reynolds added a lot of old-school touches that make the story timeless. And there’s this wonderful thread of connection and mindfulness that runs through the novel, whether Mr. Ray is explaining the rituals of the repast or Love getting Matt to volunteer at a homeless shelter. Can this guy win the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award twice? Because this story sure deserves something." (Daniel Goldin)

Yes, the Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe award! What an honor for him, and what a thrill for us to co-sponsor this event.

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