It’s hard to believe that when Morrow published John Irving’s Cider House Rules in 1985 he was just at the beginning of his prolific and critically acclaimed career with only Garp and Hotel New Hampshire preceding, other lesser-known academic works notwithstanding. The New York Times Book Review’s major critic treated it carefully but finally admitted it was an achievement and more mature and accessible than his previous work. It’s both comforting and comfortable therefore to look back over a quarter century with so many later novels in the can and with this one in the spotlight.
The novel follows Wilbur Larch, obstetrician and orphanage director, over the course of his very long life, with the main emphasis on the forty-some years he shares with his favorite and finally unadoptable orphan Homer Wells from the 1920’s to the 1950’s. Homer evolves into Larch’s apprentice, spending years with Gray’s Anatomy and real-life midwifery until there is little difference in training between Dr. and pupil. The father/son theme runs wide in this novel but has its genesis in Larch’s childlessness among many hundreds of orphans and Homer’s fatherlessness with Larch as father figure extraordinaire. The orphanage at St. Cloud’s has a deep secret that gives Larch his impetus to train a successor: it is the only place in a wide swath of rural Maine that a woman can receive a safe and professional abortion. Among the many births that keep the orphanage full and Larch and Homer busy in delivery, there is the other work of rescue that Larch pursues and Homer eventually rejects. The polemical possibilities of the pro-life and pro-choice debate are not missed in the long case of Larch and Homer, but it’s important to see this debate in the context of the time, and to see how Irving widens his lens on so much else in the moral universe.
Homer of course must leave and as a twenty-something man falls accidentally into the wide circle of the Worthington apple enterprise on the coast of Maine. There he falls madly in love with Candy Kendall, fiancée of Wally Worthington, apple heir and all-around most handsome and good natured fellow in Maine. There he also finds his self-perceived vocation as apple farmer:
At St. Cloud’s (orphanage) growth was unwanted even when it was delivered — and the process of birth was often interrupted. Now he was engaged in the process of growing things. What he loved about the life at Ocean View (Orchard) was how everything was of use and that everything was wanted. (p. 237)
Irving, John, 1942-. The cider house rules : a novel. New York : Morrow, c1985.
Guy Gavriel Kay is famous for his impressive blend of fantasy and historical fiction. In River of Stars, Kay returns to the realm of Kitai, a fictional empire based on Tang dynasty China that was first introduced in 2010’s Under Heaven. Centuries have passed since the events of Under Heaven and the empire has weathered numerous storms – rebellions, invasions by barbarian horde, and fractious political rivalries – and is somewhat worse for the wear. Ren Daiyan, the son of a magistrate clerk in a remote province, and Lin Shan, the daughter of a scholar, both have unusual talents and ambitions. In time, their gifts draw the attention of power, and of each other, and their lives are irrevocably drawn into events that will change Kitai forever.
Kay’s attention to historical accuracy is, as always, spectacular. The refinement and opulence of the imperial court and gardens, the delicacy of traditional Chinese arts such as calligraphy and poetry, and the beauty of the landscapes of China are all flawlessly captured. The astounding brutality and callousness of the era are presented as well, in a straightforward way that neither sensationalizes nor trivializes them.
River of Stars is a success on just about every level. The story is powerful and engaging, the characters are complex and well realized, and the greater themes of the novel such as heroism and man’s role in society are thoughtfully treated. Kay’s prose is poetic without being overwrought or melodramatic. Overall, River of Stars is joy to read.
Was the last time you prepared for an emergency Y2K? Are you new to Texas and not sure what to do in case of a Tornado? Does your family have a plan on where to meet if there is a disaster?
Come to our Disaster Preparedness Fair this Saturday May 11 from 11 am to 2 pm at the following Dallas Public Library locations to find out what you can do to be prepared for a disaster:
Representatives from Dallas County Department of Human Health Services, Dallas Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Dallas Amateur Radio Club, and other community groups will be on hand to talk about how you can be ready.
The following branches have a reference Disaster Planning Book Collection which provides in depth information on disaster preparedeness as well as free pocket Disaster Planning Guides:
In the coming weeks, all other Dallas Public Library locations will have a supply of the pocket Disaster Planning Guide for free distribution.
The pocket Disaster Planning Guide provides tips, tricks and contact information to help you plan and guide you to action after an emergency or crisis has occurred. The pocket Disaster Planning Guide and the reference Disaster Preparedness Book collection were made possible through grant funding from the National Network of Libraries of Medicine.
Actually, yes! James Patterson has written several series of books for young readers, both your son’s age and for teens. His latest series is called Middle School. The series has a Diary of a Wimpy Kid feel that appeals to reluctant readers as they follow sixth-grader Rafe Khatchadorian as he negotiates the rules, bullies, and problems of a new school.
James Patterson isn’t the only thriller writer who can be found on the shelves in the Children’s Center. Dean Koontz, known for his suspense/horror novels, has written multiple picture books. The most often requested is Santa’s Twin, in which two girls save Christmas from Santa’s less-kind brother – a not-so-nice magical character who delivers worms and spiders instead of candy.
Carl Hiaasen usually writes satiric thrillers set in Florida, but his kids books have ecological and environmental themes. Hoot, about a boy who tries to save a colony of owls from a proposed construction site, was made into a movie. Another Floridian, comedic writer Dave Barry coauthors a fantasy series with thriller writer Ridley Pearson called Peter and the Starcatchers. And not to be left behind, John Grisham writes the series Theodore Boone, Kid Lawyer, as well as a series for teens.
Although it may seem that modern authors are trying to cash in on the children’s market, crossovers are nothing new. For example, the creator of James Bond, Ian Fleming, was also the author of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and Patricia Highsmith, who wrote The Talented Mr. Ripley, co-wrote and illustrated a picture book.
English author and illustrator, Emma Dodd, depicts a boy’s view of bugs in her book, I Love Bugs! The boy looks for bugs under a log and through the tall grass. He looks at them under a magnifying glass. Bugs are everywhere. He loves bugs!
The author uses many descriptive words and rhyming phrases to talk about all kinds of bugs and insects. The actual bugs’ names are not given, so this is left open for children to identify as they read or listen to the book. “I love fuzzy sunny honey bugs and furry whirry funny bugs.” Which bug do you think this describes?
Check this book out to discover which bug the boy thinks is the best and find out how he reacts to the bug. My son’s favorite bug is the “curl-up-tight” bug – the roly poly!
Dodd’s illustrations are large and playful. My favorite scene is the picnic with all the butterflies flying around and the bees attacking the boy’s strawberry sandwich.
The Dallas Public Library has many books about bugs and insects for children and adults. And now the Lochwood Branch Library has also “bugged out” our Children’s Area thanks to a grant from the Texas State Library and Archives Commission bestowed upon the Dallas Public Library for the implementation of Every Child Ready to Read 2.0.
Come see our beautiful caterpillar rug that has the full alphabet in both capital and lowercase letters. Have fun with a rubber insect filled magnetic sand table. And children can relax on a giant rainbow caterpillar shaped floor cushion while they read a favorite book.