Thursday, January 5, 2017

Molly MacRae

Molly MacRae spent twenty years in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Upper East Tennessee, where she managed The Book Place, an independent bookstore; may it rest in peace. Before the lure of books hooked her, she was curator of the history museum in Jonesborough, Tennessee’s oldest town.

MacRae lives with her family in Champaign, Illinois, where she connects children with books at the public library.

Her latest novel is Plaid and Plagiarism, book one in the Highland Bookshop Mystery series.

Recently I asked MacRae about what she was reading. Her reply:
I’m writing this on my supper break at the library, so although I’m typing about books, I’m thinking about food. That’s appropriate, too, because here’s a smorgasbord of books. Some I’m reading and others I recently finished.

The quickest read is Baby Loves Aerospace Engineering, written by Ruth Spiro, illustrated by Irene Chan. This is one of those sturdy cardboard books meant for toddlers. It sets out to teach basic facts about flight—and succeeds. I have the enviable job of checking in the newest children’s books at a busy public library, and I came across this one last week. It’s an amazing book and cute, too. (So cute, I bought a copy for my two-year-old grandson.)

The School Ship Tobermory is another children’s book, this one a mystery suitable for third through fifth grade readers. It’s enjoyable for adults, too, because it’s written by the always charming and wonderful Alexander McCall Smith (The #1 Ladies Detective Agency). The story follows twins Fee and Ben MacTavish as they embark on the adventure of a new boarding school, which happens to be the sailing ship Tobermory. I’m only three or four chapters into the book, but its style is light and engaging, and McCall Smith is setting up intrigue with every quickly turning page. This is the first book in the series, released in October. The second book, The Sands of Shark Island, will be out in July.

Next there are two books by the poet Janice N. Harrington. The first, Catching a Storyfish, is another children’s book for third through fifth grade, this time a novel in verse. Through a variety of poetic styles, which she notes in a glossary at the end of the book, Harrington tells the story of Keet, a story-talking, story-making girl, whose grandpa tells her she could talk the whiskers off a catfish. But Keet’s family moves from Alabama to Illinois and things begin to go wrong. She has trouble making friends at her new school. Kid’s tease her because of her southern accent. She hardly dares to speak and doesn’t feel like herself anymore. Then tragedy strikes and Keet struggles to find herself, her words, and the words to save someone she can’t bear to lose. Harrington’s story is fresh, full of surprises, and an absolute joy.

The second book by Harrington is Primitive: The Art and Life of Horace H. Pippin. This is a book of poetry for adults. Harrington uses Pippin’s paintings and excerpts from his notebooks and letters to reflect on his life and work from his time fighting in the trenches of World War I to his death in 1946. Pippin is arguably the most important African American painter of the 20th Century, and Harrington’s book is part biography, part art history, part social critique, and entirely brilliant poetry.

The last book is one of my favorites of the year—Some Writer: The Story of E.B White, written and illustrated by Melissa Sweet. It’s a biography meant for kids, but it will appeal to anyone who loves White’s writing. Sweet’s text is bright and informative and her art makes the book a visual feast. The whole package is delightful.
Visit Molly MacRae's website.

My Book, The Movie: Plaid and Plagiarism.

The Page 69 Test: Plaid and Plagiarism.

--Marshal Zeringue