Not surprisingly, the poetry of Emily Dickinson plays a role of its own in the story of Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things by Kathryn Burak. Lines from this poem appear early in the book and spark an important relationship for Claire.
“Because I Could Not Stop for Death” by Emily Dickinson December 31, 2012
“Emily’s Dress and Other Missing Things” by Kathryn Burak December 29, 2012
232 pages; published October 2012
Claire’s father hopes that distance from Rhode Island and a new start in Amherst, Massachusetts will help Claire heal from two terrible losses – her mother and her best friend.
Claire has just moved to Amherst, Massachusetts and frankly, she’s going a little nuts. To say the last year was difficult is saying far too little. The loss of her mother to suicide has been compounded by the unsolved disappearance of her best friend – in which she was a suspect.
Now, she’s a year behind in school. Amherst is supposed to give her the chance to start in a new place, get her bearings, and figure out how to go on. Likable, smart and funny even in the depths of her grief, Claire develops some connections – with a new friend at school, with a student teacher from her English class, and with long-dead poet Emily Dickinson. When she starts visiting Emily Dickinson’s home-turned-museum at night, she doesn’t even really mean to break in and she certainly doesn’t mean to – in a moment of surprised panic – steal Emily’s famous, historic dress.
This book is not just about a girl dealing with grief. It is also a mystery and a romance and a teaser for Emily Dickinson’s haunting poetry and funny and hopeful. It’s complicated in a good way and so, so enjoyable.
“Far From You” by Lisa Schroeder December 24, 2012
355 pages; published December 2008
Alice misses her mom – who died of cancer a few years ago – and resents the heck out of her new stepmother, the father who has re-focused on his new wife, and now the baby they’ve decided to add to the family. All her emotional turmoil comes to a head when she gets trapped in a snowstorm with her stepmother and half-sister. Suddenly, survival is more important than anything.
Lisa Schroeder tells a riveting, emotion-packed story in simple, pared down concrete poetry. She explores the experience of Alice, who is feeling badly out of sorts. Despite having a new boyfriend, a best friend, and a loving (if distracted) father, she is almost completely overwhelmed by the loss of her mother. Then, things start to go really wrong. Her friend gets tired of her maudlin obsession. Her father and stepmother have a new baby, leaving her feeling like she doesn’t have a place in her own home. And then, on a road trip from California to Seattle, the unthinkable happens. She, her half-sister, and her step mother get stranded in a snow storm. Faced with a true life-or-death situation, Alice finds herself able to see her loved ones – living and dead – in a new way.
I’m not a poetry fan and tend to be leery of stories told in poetic form, but I found this concrete poetic narrative both engaging and memorable.
“The False Prince” by Jennifer A. Nielsen December 5, 2012
342 pages; published April 2012
Carthya is headed toward civil war. To try to prevent it, a nobleman named Conner proposes a bold plan – to collect four orphan boys, train them, and pass one of them off as the long-lost prince and heir to the throne.
I quickly started to think of The False Prince as a kind of mini-Hunger Games. Sage is an orphan who gets collected up – along with three other orphan boys – and used by a nasty nobleman named Conner as part of a plot to try to impersonate the country’s missing (and presumed dead) Prince Jaron and prevent civil war. Pure villain, Conner nastily pits the four boys against one another during a rigorous training period, making it clear that one will earn the right to compete for the Carthyan throne … and for the others it will be the end.
The excitement begins on the first page and continues in a jumble of sweat, fear, flying blood, intrigue, horse riding, sword-fighting, plotting, and unexpected twists. Sage is a clever, unruly, seemingly fearless boy who has no desire to be crowned king based on a lie, but has crazy way of charming and annoying everyone he meets. Will he bend to Conner’s will? Or does Sage have the power to turn the game into something else entirely?
Wait, There More!
The False Prince is just the first in The Ascendance Trilogy. The second, The Runaway King, is due out in March 2013.
369 pages; published October 2012
Jepp, a dwarf born in the 1500s in Astraveld, strikes out to seek his fortune on the promise of a stranger. Sold as an amusement to the Infanta, ruler of the Spanish Netherlands, and later sent away again and sold into the service of an eccentric Danish astronomer, Jepp sturdily continues to believe in his value as a man and in his right to determine his own destiny.
Jepp is just so charming, he makes this book almost irresistible. Life is not easy for this 16th century dwarf. He is tempted away from the hearth of his loving mother to become one of a troupe of dwarfs who entertain the Infanta, ruler of the Spanish Netherlands. Things get complicated and after many sad events, Jepp is on the road again, this time headed to the home of another historic figure – the rather strange Danish astronomer Tycho Brache. Tycho and his jumble of family and young scholars live on an island given to Tycho by the Danish crown. They carry on at all hours, at times mapping the stars with tremendous mathematical skill, and at times roaring with laughter at the drunken antics of Tycho’s pet moose who has developed a taste for ale, all the while struggling to keep Tycho’s copper prosthetic nose affixed to his face. Through it all is Jepp, earnest and smart and resilient as he manages to elevate himself, sort out the mysteries of his paternity, and maintain his faith in true love.
The big question explored throughout the book is one of destiny vs free will – whether a man (no matter how tall) might be ruled by the stars or whether he himself is the most powerful force in the course of his own life.
Blurb from the Cover So Awesome I Wish I Had Written It
“This highly unusual story about a highly unusual hero will also feel like your story. Few of us are imprisoned dwarfs, but all of us want to guide our own lives. ” — Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close