Filgate, Michele (editor). What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About: Fifteen Writers Break the Silence. Simon & Schuster, 2019. ISBN 978-1982107345 288 pp. $
Essays about navigating the points of disagreement in mother/child relationships: mothers who share everything, mothers who don’t share anything, and everything in between.
Conniff, Richard. Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time: My Life Doing Dumb Stuff with Animals. W. W. Norton & Company, 2009. ISBN 978-0393068931 pp. $
Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time is a wonderful collection of natural history essays, but some stories are definitely more entertaining than others–sometimes Conniff gets caught up in “just the facts” and at other times, his writing just shines and he has such a nice turn of phrase.
Espenson, Jane, editor. Finding Serenity: Anti-Heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon’s Firefly. Smartpop 2005. ISBN 978-1932100433 256 pp. $19.95
A space western accented with Chinese culture and language and peopled with solid characters had a short-lived run on Fox networks in 2002, but it spawned a crazy loyal fan base of millions, that resulted in the concept being optioned for the big screen– watch for Serenity to debut September 30 at a theatre near you. This is truly an example of the Long Tail effect in action.
Whedon’s following tends to be highly educated, and this collection of scholarly essays deconstructs the 13 episodes of Firefly and examines the role of strong women, the ship as a character, the use of music, chivalry, the sacred feminine and goddess/whore, and the Chinese influence, complete with an episode-by-episode pronunciation guide and glossary. And other themes. Comparisons to other great SF engines are inevitable – Star Wars, Star Trek–but Don Debrandt’s essay comparing Firefly to another cult classic, the Tick, is an unexpected delight. Slamming of Fox network for canceling the series is mostly kept to a minimum. Contributors include science fiction and fantasy authors, actors, fans, and scholars such as Nancy Holder, Mercedes Lackey, Keith R. DeCandido and Joy Davidson.
This title isn’t full of glory though; writers raise questions about the role of the least explored characters on the ship, Shepard Book and River Tam; trash the pilot; take Whedon to task for his (perceived) lackluster commitment to feminism; and speculate about the unexplained Reavers. Hypotheses about what the show could have become (had it not been for it’s early demise) abound. Finally, actress Jewel Staite (“Kaylee”) shares her favorite moments from each episode, demonstrating the closeness of the cast and their love for what they helped make.
Everything is pulled together beautifully by editor and episode author Jane Espenson (Shindig”), who adds context to each entry. A must have for fans, and a great introduction for those who have yet to declare their Browncoat status.
Recent picture book favorite:
Hest, Amy. Mr. George Baker. Candlewick, 2007. ISBN 978-0763633080 32 pp. $
Whimsical, descriptive language tells the story of a 100 year-old-man, Mr. Baker, and a young boy who wait for the bus together. They are both learning to read.
Recent chapter book favorite:
Munoz Ryan, Pam. Becoming Naomi Leon. Scholastic, 2005 (reprint). ISBN 978-0439269971 272 pp. $7.99
Munoz Ryan never disappoints. Naomi is a soft-spoken, thoughtful, clever little girl with a talent for carving. Owen, her younger brother, has been diagnosed by Doctors as an FLK, “funny looking kid” because of his physical disabilities. That doesn’t stop him though, Owen’s the smartest kid in his class. Gram is Naomi and Owen’s great-grandmother, and their guardian for about seven years. She loves and treasures them and takes care of them like they were her own children. They are a happy family in a trailer park in the town of Lemon Tree until the day that Naomi and Owen’s problem Mom shows up and wants to take Naomi away. Read the story of an unusual family’s struggles and travels to keep things together.
Recent grown-up stuff:
Sedaris, David. Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. Back Bay Books, 2005 (reprint). ISBN 978-0316010795 257 pp. $17.99
It amazes me that one write manages to make me laugh until my guts are about to burst and in the next paragraph cry like a baby. Sedaris’s poignant stories about life, love, family, Christmas celebrations, gun laws and much more have a way of piercing the most tender part of your heart and then hammering on your funny bone.