Children’s author, Constance C. Greene, died this month at age 96. Growing up, I read and reread her ‘A Girl Called Al,’ ‘Leo the Lioness,’ and ‘Isabelle the Itch’ books multiple times. She belonged in the Judy Blume/ Norma Klein group of authors writing about kids from divorced parents and annoying siblings. Although her titles are somewhat dated now, I have great memories of picking up one of Greene’s books knowing I held a treasure in my hands.
Janet Skeslien Charles has written a novel based on a true story of the American Library in Paris during WWII. Odile is a librarian who joins the resistance movement by delivering books to her Jewish patrons who are no longer allowed to visit the library. She also steals “crow” letters from the desk of her father, who was chief of a police precinct. These were letters of betrayal, written by those who were hoping to gain favors from turning in their neighbors.
The novel jumps ahead to introduce Lily, a young girl in a small Montana town who is Odile’s neighbor, and is taking French lessons from her. Eventually, Odile tells Lily the story of her life during the war, which she has never shared with anyone else. There is an author’s note that reveals more about the history of the library, and how the characters were based on real people. A fascinating read!
The Hudson Valley is rich in outdoor art parks, as Nevin Martell reminds us in his recent Washington Post article. Social distancing is easily done in the great outdoors, and children can explore as freely and noisily as they choose in the open air. Art Omi (where you’ll find Olaf Breuning’s “Clouds,” pictured above), Storm King, Opus 40 Sculpture Park and Museum, and the Olana State Historic Site are a few nearby options to try.
Abigail is about to get married and everything seems to be right with the world. Her husband-to-be is a wealthy man who is letting her make all of the wedding decisions. He only wants to arrange their honeymoon. When the story begins, Abigail is on her bachelorette weekend. Unexpectedly, she meets a handsome stranger at the spa where she’s staying and has a one-night stand. Horrified at what she did, she wants to forget it and move on. The wedding takes place and the honeymoon begins. Up to this point I liked the book, but then the plot takes a more unbelievable turn and the second half of the novel is too far-fetched and unbelievable. The honeymooners are on an island being pampered, but odd circumstances foretell of danger. If you want a quick thriller to entertain you, this might do the trick. However, be prepared for that voice in your head saying, “This would never happen in real life.”
As I was entering new books into the system, I flipped through this title after reading the “About the Author ” section in the beginning, and I was struck by the author’s story. Muna Imady died before this book was published, after undergoing an operation that had a very low risk factor. Her mother and sister finished it for her, using Muna’s notes. The book is a series of poems and stories about her life in Syria, and they reflect the pain and sorrow she experiences at the changes that have taken place since the war began. It makes one realize how fortunate we are to be living in the U.S., and your heart breaks for these brave people. Muna’s mother feels that the strain of war added to the stress on Muna’s heart, contributing to her death. The book is a reminder of Muna’s artistry with words, and a fitting tribute to her legacy.