small books


The warm weather is calling us outdoors!  Whether we’re gardening or jogging or strolling the Downtown Mall, we’re happy to enjoy the onset of Spring.  So this weekend, I’ll offer a few small books, books you might read over the weekend and still have time to play outside.

Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter

A father and his two sons are grieving the sudden loss of their wife and mother.  Who shows up to help them?  Crow – trickster, instigator, babysitter and therapist –  who “finds humans dull except in grief” and threatens to stay until they no longer need him.  This unusual story is told from the three voices – Dad, the Boys, and Crow – as months go by and this little family moves through its sadness and begins to recover.  With poetry woven throughout, this is quite an extraordinary little book!

The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett

One of my favorites and not just because it involves a bookmobile!   Following her corgis from the garden, Queen Elizabeth is led to the bookmobile parked by the palace kitchen doors.  Always polite, she steps aboard to apologize for the dogs’ behavior and, for the first time in her life, is offered the opportunity to read something for pleasure.  This act changes all her relationships: with her staff, other heads of state, the British people, and herself.   This small book will cause you to reflect, laugh, and examine the power of the written word.

Bachelor Brothers’ Bed & Breakfast by Bill Richardson

A sweet little book, this one is for lovers of literature everywhere.   Bachelor twins Hector and Virgil consider their B&B a refuge for gentle, bookish people like themselves.   Guests may bring their own books or peruse the brothers’ considerable library.  So whether one is looking for some quiet time to finally make it through War and Peace or happily re-reading Beatrix Potter yet again, all are welcomed by these delightful brothers.

BookShots series by James Patterson

James Patterson has a theory that some folks today aren’t willing, or able, to commit to reading an entire novel.  To address this issue, last year he started publishing “BookShots” – small paperback novels, complete at 150 pages or less, that sell for $4.95.  Some of these stories include his regular characters (e.g. Michael Bennett and Alex Cross) and some introduce new protagonists.  I’m not sure whether they’re such a success because of their size or because of Patterson’s popularity, but they have been a hit.  JMRL has quite a few in our catalogue which are searchable under “keyword: book shots.”  Check them out!

Sing your way to early literacy

By Camille Thompson and Jacqui Dempsey-Cohen

This month, we’re celebrating early literacy with our Winter Reading activities for children birth-age 5.  Early literacy skills are the building blocks children acquire before they learn to read and write which help them on their journey towards literacy.  One of the ways caregivers can help children develop early literacy skills is through singing.  Singing, reciting nursery rhymes, and reading books with rhyming phrases helps children hear the smaller sounds in words, which will help them sound out words when they learn to read.  You don’t need to be a virtuoso to sing with your child– whether you can carry a tune or not, you and your child will reap the benefits of singing for early literacy, all while having fun together!  Try out more fun activities from our Winter Reading Activity Sheet, and once you’ve completed it, turn it in to any JMRL location for a free book.

These books are wonderful for rhyming and singing with your child:

Every Little Thing by Cedella Marley: An exuberant picture book adaptation of Bob Marley’s song that illustrates the reassuring story of a bouncing, dreadlocked boy who won’t let anything get him down.

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Jerry Pinkney: A lavish rendition of the classic song following the adventures of a curious chipmunk who embarks on an imaginary voyage to the stars.

Barnyard Dance by Sandra Boynton: Adorably silly farm animals dance and prance across board book pages in a frolicking read-aloud with foot-stomping rhythms and rhymes.

Goodnight Songs by Margaret Wise Brown: A collection of charming lullabies by the celebrated  author of Goodnight Moon, illustrated by 12 award winning artists.

Baa Baa Black Sheep by Jane Cabrera: Black sheep graciously offers bag after bag of wool to Miss, who hand-knits mittens, a tea cozy, and other fuzzy gifts for her friends. Includes music for piano and guitar.

Inch by Inch by David Mallett: Inch by inch and row by row, a boy and his dog help their garden grow in this playfully illustrated version of the classic song.

Seals on the Bus by Lenny Hort: What will the people on the bus do when raucous animals hop on board and add their voices to the din? This beastly twist on a favorite song will have young readers errping and roaring and honking along.

I Went Walking by Sue Williams: A melodious guessing-game concept book in which a shock-headed child goes for a walk and collects a procession of surprisingly colorful animals.

Time for Christmas!


November has come and gone, the leftovers are finished, and decorating has begun – it must be December!   Many of us are starting to think of Christmas and luckily there are plenty of books to get us in the mood.  There are any number of authors who faithfully write a small (and most of them seem to be small) Christmas story each year.  Mary Higgins Clark with her daughter Carol Higgins Clark and Anne Perry can be counted on for Christmas mysteries that do not necessarily feature their regular protagonists.  If you’re in the mood for a western holiday romance, both Janet Dailey and Linda Lael Miller have several.  Debbie Macomber has a series of Christmas books featuring the angels Shirley, Goodness, and Mercy and Thomas Kinkade has a number of nice holiday tales that take place in the fictional town of Cape Light.  Richard Paul Evans rose to fame with The Christmas Box and has since continued his Christmas chronicles.

Many of our favorite authors have Christmas stories that are part of their regular series – Jacqueline Winspear’s Maisie Dobbs, Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott,  and Joanne Fluke’s Hannah Swensen, to name a few.   Jan Karon’s Mitford series includes Shepherds Abiding – be sure to check the acknowledgement to local artist Stefanie Newman, who restored the actual Nativity figures for the story.

Garrison Keillor’s A Christmas Blizzard, John Grisham’s Skipping Christmas, and David Baldacci’s The Christmas Train, all from excellent storytellers, add humor, mystery or adventure to the mix.  Bailey White, of NPR fame, offers a lovely collection of stories in Nothing With Strings.

Christmas at the Mysterious Bookshop, edited by Otto Penzler, is unusual.  Mr. Penzler is the founder and proprietor of The Mysterious Bookshop in New York City, described by Wikipedia as “one of the oldest and largest mystery specialist bookstores in the world.”  Each year, Mr. Penzler would commission a Christmas story, set in the bookstore, from a leading mystery writer.  These stories were printed as pamphlets and given to his regular customers.  In 2010, he collected 17 of them and published them in book format.  The authors include Lawrence Block, S.J. Rozan, Anne Perry, Mary Higgins Clark, Ed McBain, and others!

For the whole family, read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson, a true classic that reminds us of the real spirit of the holiday.  It’s usually performed as a play by one of the local theater groups or schools around this time of year.  The Nativity, with words from the King James Bible and beautiful illustrations by Julie Vivas, brings the age-old tale to human proportions.


So whether you re-read your old favorites or try something new, I wish you all a joyful, peace-filled holiday season!