Time for Bed, Miyuki by Roxane Marie Galliez, Seng Soun Ratanavanh (Illustrations)

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“Miyuki, it’s time for bed.”

“But, Grandfather, I must water my vegetables.” “All right,

Miyuki,” Grandfather sighed.

“Water your vegetables, and then it’s time for bed.”

Miyuki may well be creating a Canopy for the Queen but she is the Queen of Stalling. This beautifully illustrated children’s bedtime book is a French import with Japanese culture as its theme. Having lived in Japan, it’s imagery is a reminder of the years my family and I spent there. Miyuki is one of my favorite names too. There is such a gentle tenderness, a patience in her grandfather and this illustration in particular moves me.

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(Image copyright Seng Soun Ratanavanh, 2018, text copyright Roxane Marie Galliez, 2018. Courtesy of Princeton Architectural Press.)

My daughter used to stuff her little feet into shoes just like the one that becomes Miyuki’s bed in the above photo, long after she outgrew her favorite pair. The mushroom, the details in all of the illustrations are perfection. I miss fun, sweet illustrated children’s books.

Like most children when it’s time to wind down, Miyuki’s imagination is running wild, her energy is contagious and lucky for her, Grandfather is more than willing to go along on her journey, accomplishing her many tasks. His soft sighs are the only tell that he is worn out. It really isn’t time for bed, no way, not yet.

The carp streamers (windsocks) known as Koinobori, that she sits upon in one of the illustrations dominate the towns during Children’s Day in May. I remember the beautiful colors the first time we saw them, isn’t it lovely, a day to celebrate children? This book is a nod to nature and it’s elements too. Lily pads, dragonflies, frogs, snails for travel, tiny birds, ants hard at work… its perfect imagery for a little one’s mind before entering dreamland. Growing up in the late 70’s and early 80’s children’s books had the best illustrations, I am so happy to see such artistry dedicated to the young today.

I am going to find a copy in French too for my grown children, it’s very sweet!

Out today!

Princeton Architectural Press

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Our Homesick Songs: A Novel by Emma Hooper

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Sometimes mermaids save people, said Molly.

Sometimes they don’t, said Martha.

The Connor Family cling like barnacles to their dying fishing town, Big Running. The fish have vanished, and Eleven year old Finn wants to solve the great mystery and maybe save them all. His sister Cora, through her fantasies with decorating empty houses and longing for far away places longs for travel, wants to leave like many others have. Locals cannot make a living when there aren’t any fish to catch, and there is the looming threat to close up the town. Aidan and Martha have no choice but to earn money to stay afloat by working at an energy site, alternating one month up north one at home so that one parent is always with the children. It takes a toll on their marriage, and family.

The story drifts back and forth between Aidan and Martha’s early years, when they first met (1970s) and their present day (1990s). Every night young Martha was drawn to the shore, and the singing that had to be coming from a mermaid. The Murphy girls had lost both parents to the sea, and were on their own with the oldest only 19. It is the singing that brings her love. Through the years the sisters drift off, through marriage, illness but always the love for sisters must come before any boy! Aidan knows loss as much as all the others in the village, knows he can’t leave because his mother needs him and then it’s Martha who anchors him.

They want to stay, to hold fast to the traditions of their village, to the only home they’ve ever known and fight to keep hope alive for the few who remain. The children have plans of their own and when Cora takes flight, running away there is no explanation. But it’s evident the town is too stagnant, that she is restless, all she wants is another life, to see the world, to escape this dying place. Finn finds comfort in Mrs. Callaghan, all her stories, a strange friend for a young boy, but there are no children left. So he spends his time learning the accordion with her. People aren’t the only thing that can die, the very world they’ve known is passing away and they do not want to let go. Infidelity comes between Martha and Aidan but when their girl goes missing, it may well be the only thing to keep them together.

I had a difficult time with her writing style, and the story moves slowly. The back and forth through past and present flowed perfectly, but the conversations were sometimes too stiff for me. It is a quiet novel and has its sweet moments. Most people likely prefer Cora and Finn but I would have loved to just remain in the past and have a full story about the Murphy girls. A lovely, though sometimes slow, story about how time and the environment can change so many lives. The struggle of a dying fishing village and it’s people, their folk songs and stories. Hope and sorrow as it swims through generations. Do we stay or do we move on?

Publication Date: August 14, 2018

Simon & Schuster

Where the Crawdads Sing: A Novel by Delia Owens

 

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Kya lay her hand upon the breathing, wet earth, and the marsh became her mother.

Kya Clark is a strange creature in her home town on the North Carolina Coast. Once a lost little girl, abandoned by every one she ever loved, forced to care for her abusive father, discarded, abandoned by her mother and siblings run off one by one by her father, she merged with the marsh, the only mother she has left. Growing up as much a part of the land as the trees, the insects and the birds she is closer to nature than to other human beings. It’s no mystery that in 1969, when Chase Andrews is found dead, the people immediately turn their suspicions upon Kya.  But first, we must go back to the beginning.

It starts with love story between her mother and father, a man full of promises that soured. It had to have been love once, surely? Was it the depression that brought her Pa so low, or his war injury? Something cracked that Kya is too young to understand. What her parents were before the family ended up here, in a rough-cut shack, eating scraps under the thumb of a cruel father, beaten down by life- Kya is too young to know. It is 1952, and life is mean for her and her siblings. Something is missing behind her mother’s eyes, but Kya and her brother Jodie couldn’t imagine just how bad things could get. Left with their father’s ‘red-faced rages’, the family dissolves until only Kya remains. For a time, she dodges her fathers fists and fury and learns to be the caretaker, with the gnawing hunger in her belly and her empty heart, it is through trial and error that she learns to cook. Her father demands she earns her keep! There is nothing for it but to grow up, insulate herself with tough skin. Her survival dependant fully on herself, she is blessed to know Jumpin’ and Mabel, who despite struggling themselves reach out to Kya. The marsh becomes her mother, a provider when she learns to listen and hunt for food, it isn’t long before she is living in isolation completely. She turns to the marsh for sustenance, the land others fear and dare each other to enter (surely it’s haunted) is her safe haven, the only home she has ever known. She is nothing but a whisper to the townfolk, the marsh girl. 

As she comes of age, she is never without the town’s malice, thought of as nothing more than poor marsh trash. Her only attempt at school taught her nothing as vital as just how separate she is from every other boy and girl, lacking in social graces and intellect, not meant for any world but the marsh. She spies on people, quiet as a wild animal, always from a distance, until Tate. Tate awakens in her the world she has been denied, teaching her lessons of literature and of the heart. But not all things tender last, the nature of love is as untamed as her own spirit. What begins in innocence intensifies as her body changes, and her desires grow. Yearning for her mother, for guidance, she leans on Tate. There are threats surrounding them, the biggest one of all… the future. How can she ever fit into a life beyond her barefoot, quiet existence? Why does she long for the people who turn their backs on her? How can she open herself to trust when nothing and no one is solid? Her wants are as meager as her belongings, simply to be touched, to belong. But every single person she has ever loved may as well be a phantom for all their vanishing.

Then there is another boy, whom she has watched, wondering how it would feel to be among his group of friends with their easy, casual play. The very boy who torments everything in his path. Where Tate is shy, sweet, this other boy takes what he wants as his due and just as carelessly discards things he doesn’t. Both will come to play pivotal roles in her lonesome life, each enraptured, almost obsessed by her fierce independence. She is a stolen moment, a world separate from the demands of others, a secret, something easy to take and take your fill of. Isolation grows, even love can’t save her from a life as an outcast.

The years pass, her legend and mystery grows and when she is accused of a horrific crime, how will she convince a town ,whose never shown her one lick of kindness, of her inocence? What of the dead man, could she have had anything to do with his demise? We float along the rough, solitary years of Kya’s life as a boat glides through water, unraveling not just the mystery of a death but of Kya’s unique existence. Nature is as much the reader’s constant companion as it is Kya’s. Can a wild thing ever be kept, tamed through love? Should it be? Those who betrayed her, hurt her, will she even get her own pound of flesh?

The ending was as sad and beautiful as the entire novel. Lingering mysteries are solved, and true love proves itself in the end. It is a story about the nature of the heart and the land. A gorgerous debut novel.

Publication Date: August 14, 2018

Putnam