Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lynne Jonell

Lynne Jonell is the author of the novels Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, Emmy and the Home for Troubled Girls, and The Secret of Zoom, as well as several critically acclaimed picture books. Her books have been named Junior Library Guild Selections and a Smithsonian Notable Book, among numerous other honors. Born in Little Falls, Minnesota, Jonell grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis. She now teaches writing at the Loft Literary Center and lives with her husband and two sons in Plymouth, Minnesota, in a house on a hill.

Jonell's new book is The Sign of the Cat.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
I usually have a mix of books going at the same time—there’s always got to be one in every bathroom, for example—but there is generally one I’m reading straight through. And I’m a children’s writer, so I am always reading in that field as well.

Children’s books I’ve been reading this week are:

Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai

Mai, the smart, California-hip daughter of immigrants, is guilted into accompanying her grandmother, Ba, back to Viet Nam, on a quest to discover if Ba’s husband really did survive the war. Without ever being cloying or thumping a message into us, Thanhha Lai evokes two worlds colliding in one child, and gives us history on a plate full of emotion.

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

Somehow or the other, I never got around to reading Terry Pratchett—so this week I rectified that situation. What a whippy, odd, quirky, fun read! I love his wacked out imagination, heavily steeped in Celtic lore, but most of all I love that underneath the weirdness is a true gold vein of heart and soul. I’ll be reading more of his works.

The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

Oh, how I loved this book. Ada is ten, born clubfooted, and lives in the London slums with an abusive mother who starves her of food, affection, and any sense of the world beyond the narrow view from her window. Yet Ada gets glimpses through her little brother, Jamie, who is allowed out. When German bombs threaten, and children are evacuated to the countryside, Ada manages to get on a train with Jamie and escapes. The children are taken in, unwillingly, by a woman with wounds of her own—and the story takes off. An intensely satisfying read.

The Boy’s King Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory

First published in 1485, the book I have was edited in 1880 by Sidney Lanier. The words are Malory’s but the spelling edited for the modern reader, and occasional words explained in brackets. Even modernized, it is not always easy to follow, but it is a tale told in the grand, high manner, and this week the story of Tristram led me, by varied and branching paths, to the medieval tune “Sumer is icumen in” from the mid-thirteenth century. So I promptly learned it and bored several people by singing it to them. I haven’t yet gotten anyone to sing it with me as a round, but I am nothing if not persistent.

For adult books, I’ve been reading:

Look Homeward, Angel by Thomas Wolfe

This is another classic I never got around to, unbelievably, and I have been savoring it slowly. When a character gets up off the page and walks before your eyes, you know that author can really write.

90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet

Every time I start a new book, I end up reading something or the other that promises to make the process less painful. It’s a fool’s dream, I know, but so incredibly seductive! Domet has daily assignments that, she assures me, will lead to a completed draft by the end of the summer. The bad news is, it’s taken me a week to work through her first day’s assignment, and I’m not done yet. The good news? The book gives me a way to begin again when my brain goes frozen.

The Joyful Christian by C. S. Lewis

I love C. S. Lewis—he’s funny, practical, profound, and fully engaged in the battle. This book contains short selections from his theological works, and this week I’ve been pondering his pieces on anxiety and faith. I find it’s easy to plan to live my life in a way I know to be good, and hard to actually do it; books like this help.

And last of all, a picture book:

The Bearskinner by Laura Amy Schlitz

This is a retelling of a Grimm fairy tale, and its beginning is masterful:

“They say that when a man gives up hope,
the devil walks at his side.
So begins this story:
A soldier marched through a dark wood,
and he did not march alone.”
Visit Lynne Jonell's website.

My Book, The Movie: The Sign of the Cat.

The Page 69 Test: The Sign of the Cat.

--Marshal Zeringue