Booksink's HamletHub Wed, 12 Dec 2018 15:51:39 -0500 Homer and Harry Potter: Scars, Wandering, and Coming Home

A challenge of researching reception of classical literature is that we cannot always know whether intertextual references are intentional or incidental. Rereading the Harry Potter series alongside The Odyssey, the parallels are striking. So much so that it’s difficult to believe they’re coincidental. As I’ve noted before, though, it may be a case of timeless human experiences and themes—home, identity, etc.—recurring across literary texts. Whether intentional or not, intertextuality can show us that and how we are connected across time and place.

In my last piece on hospitality, I mentioned that tokens (trinkets or physical marks) enable abandoned babies to be recognized. In Homer, tokens in the form of physical marks also feature in narratives about heroes returning home from Troy, called νόστος (nostos/returning). Tokens enable heroes to be recognized though they have changed during the many years they’ve been gone. Being recognized can be potentially desirable or dangerous.

In The Odyssey, Odysseus’ token is a scar on his leg. While visiting his grandparents as a child, he went on a boar hunt and was gored. Harry’s token is, of course, his famous lightening-shaped scar, the result of Voldemort’s failed attack on him as a baby.

Parallels and divergences between the two are telling. Harry was the hunted not the hunter. He did nothing to invite violence against him. Odysseus, though a child, was armed and on the hunt, the clear aggressor. This difference remains significant throughout the Harry Potter series. With a few exceptions, Harry typically battles from a defensive position, and even then, he does not attempt to kill. In books five and six, Harry expresses a desire to kill Voldemort, but he never actually attempts to do so. Voldemort dies because his own killing curse backfires on him. Odysseus, in keeping with his warrior culture, goes willingly into battle and sees violence and murder as acceptable responses to perceived threat, affront, or injustice.

For both Harry and Odysseus, their scars are part of their character and identity. As identifying markers, their scars can either harm or help them, especially when they are attempting to return home. Odysseus’ scar becomes a liability when it allows Eurycleia, his nurse, to recognize him before he wants his return to Ithaca made public. Witches and wizards recognize Harry by his scar before he even knows his own identity. In book seven, when Harry is wandering on the wizarding world’s outskirts during his search for Voldemort’s horcruxes, Hermione attempts to mask Harry’s scar to prevent Voldemort’s minions from recognizing him.

As suggested above, nostos in The Odyssey means returning home from Troy by sea. More broadly, nostos can also mean surviving lethal dangers.

Obviously Harry is not returning home from Troy. But it was a war—the first wizarding war that ended when Voldemort failed to kill him—that forced Harry to leave his “home.” Here, home means both the dwelling he shared with his parents and, in the broader sense, the magical world as his true place. After the war and his parents’ death, Harry enters a period of “wandering”: He spends 10 years in the muggle world, as Odysseus spends 10 years attempting to return to Ithaca. Obviously, Harry does not cross a sea to return home to the magical world. But he does cross a body of water to get to Hogwarts, which Harry says in book one feels “more like home than Privet Drive ever had”: Hagrid brings first year students from the train station to the castle across a lake.

The homecoming theme also interestingly reverses in Harry Potter. Each of the first six books begins with Harry returning to the magical world and ends with him leaving it. The final book flips back: It begins with Harry, Ron, and Hermione retreating from the magical world, wandering in their search for horcruxes, then returning at the end. Their quest lasts 10 months—there’s that 10 again! After Harry vanquishes Voldemort (with his trusty and nonviolent disarming spell), he returns to his old Hogwarts dormitory, his first “home” after his return to the magical world. In the epilogue, Harry sends his sons off to Hogwarts.

In Homer, home is a central feature of identity. Odysseus is not the sum total of his personal features—barrel chested, scar on his leg, cunning, brave in battle. Odysseus is also the son of Laertes, the husband of Penelope, the father of Telemachus, the king of Ithaca. These roles define him as much as any of his individual features. Thus to accept Calypso’s offer of immortality and endless youth in exchange for never returning to Ithaca would be to cease being Odysseus. He chooses uncertainty and danger in the hope that he will make it home and recover his true identity.

Harry also chooses uncertainty and danger in order to maintain his identity as a wizard. This notably happens in book two when Dobby visits Harry at Privet Drive to warn him not to return to Hogwarts—the “home” for children coming into their wizard/witch identities. “I don’t belong here,” Harry tells Dobby. “I belong in your world—at Hogwarts.” In the muggle world, Harry is isolated and friendless, cut off from his community and his family inheritance (i.e. his magical skills). The instance in the second book is overt. But throughout the series, Harry willingly faces danger rather than retreat to safety and anonymity because he is fulfilling his role and responsibility, broadly as a wizard and specifically as “the Chosen One.” (Quite literally: Voldemort chooses Harry as his adversary.)

One last feature of nostos narratives I’d like to mention is the idea, in Homer, that the place you leave isn’t the place to which you return. Heroes change, and the landscape of home changes. In Odysseus’ case, he returns to Ithaca to find his home overrun with aggressive suitors. Ostensibly, they’re vying to marry Penelope. In reality, they’re partying all day, and helping themselves to Odysseus’ provisions in the process. He must vanquish them to resume his place as king of Ithaca. Harry returns to Hogwarts at the end of book seven to find the castle overrun with Voldemort’s followers. He must vanquish them to resume his place in the magical world.

Harry Potter is far from a retelling of The Odyssey. As mentioned above, the differences are as telling as the parallels are striking. This is especially so as regards the questions, “what is justice?” and “how do we achieve it?” (surely a topic for a future post in this series). These questions suffuse the literature of ancient Greece, perhaps most urgently in Athenian tragedy. But it’s there in Homer too, and in Harry Potter.

Perhaps this is what makes researching reception so intriguing. Reading ancient and contemporary literature side by side, seeing where and how they intersect and diverge, provides a history of the human imagination. It shows us, as does history of events, that we have been wrestling the same monsters since literature (and recorded history) began.

There’s Dumbledore proven right: “It was important, Dumbledore said, to fight, and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then could evil be kept at bay, though never quite eradicated…”

Also in this series:

Homer and Harry Potter

Homer and Harry Potter: Hospitality and Suppliants


]]> (Sally Allen) Readers Fri, 07 Dec 2018 11:23:09 -0500
On the Children's Shelf: The Magic of Pop-Up Books

I love when I read a book and the story comes alive. It feels like scenes jump off the page, and I can picture them so perfectly. I can picture the lost city of Atlantis in Keeper of the Lost Cities. I feel like I've walked under the floating candles in the Great Hall at Hogwarts. I've had chills as I walked through the Forbidden Forrest with Hagrid. The rich details paint a picture in my mind that I remember as well as many of my actual memories of events that happened in my life.
As the words and story come to life in my mind, I like to imagine the words transforming into a scene above the book, the one I picture as I read. So it might make sense that I also have a weakness for pop-up books. I love that from the outside, it looks like any other book until you open that first page, and the story literally jumps off the page and takes form in front of you. 
Over the past two years, I've found several cool Harry Potter pop up books, and we all love watching the story unfold before our eyes. A few weeks ago, I stopped by Booksy Galore in Pound Ridge and found a beautiful pop-up copy of The Snow Queen. There's a scene in the book featuring a sleigh and horses, and the pop-up picture is magical. 
While my children are past the age of picture books, something special happens when they open a pop-up book. Pop-up books are like a little bit of book magic, and we are never too old for a little bit of magic.
]]> (Jessica Collins) Readers Fri, 07 Dec 2018 11:13:11 -0500
My Life on the Post Road: Sleep No More

“Still it cried, ‘sleep no more! To all the house;/Glamis hath murder’d sleep, and therefore Cawdor/Shall sleep no more – Macbeth shall sleep no more.” Macbeth II.ii.39-41

I sorely miss my friends in Stratford, so when one told me he’d be here just after Thanksgiving to present a paper, I felt elated. And even more so when he asked if I’d like to attend Sleep No More, the Punchdrunk theatre company’s immersive performance inspired by Macbeth. We’d discussed it in my Shakespeare’s Legacy class during my MA program, looking specifically at adaptations and appropriations. And, well, you know how I feel about anything Shakespeare.

My friend had never been to the City, or the States for that matter, so we met at Grand Central and did a whirlwind tour of the Library, Bryant Park with its pop up shops and skating rink, Fifth Avenue, Rockefeller Center (where they’d graciously just lit the tree with its new star for us), Saks’ windows, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and MOMA. 

We might have considered a less ambitious itinerary had we known what the evening had in store for us. I want ardently not to spoil the experience for anyone who intends to go, so I’ll steer clear of revealing details, but I will say that my expectations strongly impacted my reaction to the event. In a word, I expected to wander through the Macbeths' manse with them as they navigated the fallout of a series of unfortunate events. That didn’t happen. Instead, I ran up and down steep, narrow, embossed metal staircases (heed the comfortable shoe suggestions as you would the Witches’ prophecies) and around four floors of industrial, very west side warehouse, chasing some of the buffest and most agile dancers I’ve ever seen for clues about what had transpired. I poked and prodded their personal property (at their urging) when I needed a breather. All this in semi-dark, very overheated, exquisitely designed stage sets, where around every corner lurked an image that was as likely to figure as prominently in my nightmares as to elucidate the plot line.

The hosts, who felt more like bar staff from The Shining than Scottish servants, made us hand over all our coats and bags and separated us upon entry, and handed us plastics masks that were the love children of those worn by physicians treating plague victims and the Phantom of the Opera’s face covering. They also swore us to silence for the duration of the evening. One nervous, giggly woman on the elevator received a stern rebuke from the Lurch-like operator, and we never heard from her again.

All this resulted in a feeling of edgy, lonely anonymity. And urgency. And so much sweat that I was pretty sure the mask had fused itself to my face by the evening’s end. It was a marvelous, creepy piece of performance art. It is decidedly not Macbeth. Wikipedia claims that it is “primarily based on Macbeth, with inspiration also taken from noir films, as well as some reference to the 1697 Paisley witch trials.” It is for the inquisitive, adventurous, and fit. It is decidedly not for the timid, queasy, or Manolo Blahnik-clad.

My friend and I had a few moments to debrief in the taxi and then in his uber-trendy hotel’s uberer-trendy lounge. We had each seen scenes that the other had missed and so understood why companions divide to conquer, and guests return.

I rushed back to GCT to catch a train before my car at the station turned back into a pumpkin. The 12:07 a.m. provided an entirely different type of performance art. Fellow theatergoers jammed the full train in close proximity to party people calling their jealous friends at home to report their alcohol intake. (“Well I had six, because I’m not counting the two tequila shots someone just gave me…”). A gaggle of suburban moms (I recognize my own) who apparently don’t get out often were playing timeless hits like Wham!’s Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Madonna’s Lucky Star at a volume only surpassed by their own off-key voices singing only half the lyrics accurately. Visions of Zoolander immolating his male model friends at the gas pump and the twirling tulle-and-lace clad Ciccone danced in my head until the conductor shut them down.

“Really? Really?” asked one of the women. “Really,” said the conductor conclusively. The last thing I saw before alighting in Westport was that same mom puking in the aisle. Tragicomic theater of a whole different ilk, courtesy of the snail-slow MTA.

I wasn’t in bed until about 2:30 a.m., which, for me, is a pretty delightful anomaly. A good time was had by all; I just need to sleep some more.

Photo by Diane Lowman

]]> (Diane Meyer Lowman) Local Writers Fri, 07 Dec 2018 11:07:26 -0500
Sunday in Bethel: Byrd's Books Celebrates Seven Year Anniversary

On Sunday, Dec. 9, Bethel's Byrd's Books will celebrate its 7th birthday with an afternoon of fun and baking. From 2 - 4 p.m., owner Alice Hutchinson and crew welcome writer Rose Levy Beranbaum to join them to discuss her latest cookbook, Rose’s Baking Basics: 100 Essential Recipes, with More Than 600 Step-By-Step Photos.
But who will bake the cake? The award-winning author of the The Baking Bible, an International Association of Culinary Professional Best Baking Book of the Year, and The Cake Bible, now in its 54th printing, hopes you will! If you choose to buy the book and bake for the event from the book before you join in, you will receive a $20 gift certificate to Byrd’s Books when you bring your goodie and book to the event. The author will get the chance to sample your efforts, and so will the rest of the group. 
Boxes will be available for taking the fruits of all the baking efforts home for the holidays, so Byrd's Books encourages folks to bake small items like cookies to easily share. The Boxes can be purchased for $10, which will be directly donated to DAWS, Bethel's local no-kill shelter.
The event is free, but registration is strongly suggested due to limited space. To save a spot and register, click here.
Byrd's Books is located at 178 Greenwood Avenue in Bethel, Conn.
]]> (Ted Killmer) Authors Fri, 07 Dec 2018 10:58:30 -0500
Meet the Author in Westport: Heather Frimmer at Le Rouge Chocolates

Just in time for the holiday shopping crunch, Le Rouge Chocolates will host a Meet the Author event with Heather Frimmer on Wednesday, Dec. 12 from 11 a.m. - 1 p.m. Signed and personalized copies of the book will be available for purchase. Add La Rouge's gorgeous handmade chocolates for a perfect gift combo for the readers in your life. 

Released in October, Bedside Manners follows a mother and daughter, Joyce and Marnie Novak, as they navigate the medical field from two perspectives: patient and physician. Joyce is newly diagnosed with breast cancer while Marnie has recently graduated medical school. Through their interlocked journeys, both Joyce and Marnie’s futures change in ways they never would have expected. To learn more about the author and her book, visit

Le Rouge is located at 190 Main St. in Westport, Conn. For more information, click here.

]]> (Books, Ink editors) Authors Fri, 07 Dec 2018 04:37:07 -0500
Librarian at Katonah Village Library Receives 2018 I Love My Librarian Award

Stephanie Hartwell-Mandella, librarian at Katonah Village Library in Bedford, New York, was named a winner of the prestigious I Love My Librarian Award. Hartwell-Mandella was selected from a pool of more than 1,000 nominations and is recognized for her leadership in transforming lives and communities through education and lifelong learning. She is one of only 10 librarians in the U.S. selected for this year’s national honor.

Since 2011 Hartwell-Mandella has served as the head of Children’s Services at the Katonah Village Library. She is a catalyst who is committed to empowering the community to celebrate its differences by bringing patrons together in a safe, welcoming space to address such divisive issues as race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, physical abilities, religious or political beliefs. Hartwell-Mandella is commended for her commitment to fostering empathy and understanding and ensuring that all stories are recognized as important and meaningful.

“This award means the world to me because it comes directly from the words of the community. It makes me feel like they really understand what I am trying to do,” Hartwell-Mandella said. “My favorite thing about being a librarian is making connections, whether I am helping a child who is a reluctant reader, helping someone find services they need or providing programming to support marginalized members of the community.”

Hartwell-Mandella will receive a $5,000 prize at an award ceremony and reception to be held this evening in New York City. The ceremony is hosted by Carnegie Corporation of New York, which co-sponsors the award along with The New York Public Library and The New York Times. The American Library Association administers the award through its Communications and Marketing Office, which promotes the value of libraries and librarians.

As part of the award process, library users are invited to nominate librarians working in public, school, college, community college and university libraries. This year library users submitted 1,083 nominations detailing how their favorite librarians have gone above and beyond to improve community members’ lives.

In the United States there are 160,000 librarians working in libraries of all types, and only 110 librarians have been selected for this distinguished honor since the award’s inception in 2008.

This year’s award recipients include four academic librarians, three public librarians and three school librarians. A complete list of the 2018 I Love My Librarian Award recipients can be found at


]]> (Macey Morales) Readers Fri, 07 Dec 2018 03:53:00 -0500
It’s A Wonderful Life, Live Radio Play at Theater Barn for the Holidays

The Ridgefield Theater Barn is mounting a family-friendly holiday event this December: It’s A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play, based on the original Luxe Theater broadcast. Directed by Erik Tonner, performances run Dec. 6 to the 16, Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 p.m., and Sunday December 9 and 16 at 2 p.m.

Similar to the story made famous by the Frank Capra film, and featuring many of the same lovable characters, the radio play incorporates live sound effects and commercials from the era. The play will be brought to life by Rob Mayette, Sebastian Donnelly, Dandy Barrett, Rick Haylon, Jake Levi, Scott Schulte, Larry Greeley, David Fritsch, Ricky Pollack, Catherine Malloy, Rick Hodder, Christine Hruska, Alice Layton, Patricia Holzhauer, Anne Testa, Emmanuelle Krolick, Delaney Tonner, Barbara Disraeli, Valerie Huegel, Lori Federico, and Lisa Tancredi.

The Ridgefield Theater Barn is located at 37 Halpin Lane. Seating is cabaret style and audiences are encouraged to bring food drinks to enjoy before the show. Doors open one hour prior to curtain. Tickets, both for individual performances and for the entire season, are available at

]]> (Ridgefield Theater Barn) Clubs Fri, 07 Dec 2018 03:48:00 -0500
An Evening with Three Connecticut Authors at Ridgefield Library on December 11

Ridgefield Library will host an evening with three Connecticut authors on Tuesday, Dec. 11 at 7 p.m.
Christ Belden, James M. Chesbro, and Ioanna Opidee, all Fairfield MFA program graduates, will share their recent work with a brief Q & A and book signing to follow.
Chris Belden is the author of the novels Shriver and Carry-on, and the story collection The Floating Lady of Lake Tawaba. A graduate of the Fairfield University MFA program, Chris co-founded the Ridgefield Writers Conference and currently teaches writing at both the Westport Writing Workshop and Garner Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison. He lives in Ridgefield with his wife and daughter.
James M Chesbro is the author of A Lion in the Snow: Essays on a Father’s Journey Home. His work has appeared in The Writer’s Chronicle, America, The Washington Post, Brain, Child Magazine, Essay Daily, and The Huffington Post. A graduate of the Fairfield University MFA program, Jamie lives in Fairfield with his wife and two children and teaches at Fairfield Prep.
Ioanna Opidee is the author of the novel Waking Slow, and her work has appeared in several literary journals and magazines. An English teacher at Weston High School and a graduate of Fairfield University’s MFA in Creative Writing program, Ioanna lives in Newtown with her husband and two daughters.
Ridgefield Library is located at 472 Main St. in Ridgefield, Conn. To register for the program, click here.
]]> (Ridgefield Library) Authors Fri, 07 Dec 2018 03:19:00 -0500
Stratford Library Screens "Ocean's 8" on Dec. 10

The Stratford Library’s popular “Monday Matinees” series continues with a screening of the hit heist film, “Ocean’s 8” on Dec. 10 at 12 p.m.  The series, which presents recent, popular films monthly on Monday afternoons, is free and open to the public.

Upon her release from prison, Debbie (Sandra Bullock), the estranged sister of legendary conman Danny Ocean, puts together a team of unstoppable crooks to pull of the heist of the century. Their goal is New York City's annual Met Gala, and a necklace worth in excess of 150 million dollars. The movie, a sequel to the popular “Oceans” film series starring George Clooney, features an all-star female cast that includes Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Mindy Kaling, and pop singer Rihanna.  “Ocean’s 8” is rated PG-13 and runs 110 minutes

Movies in the “Monday Matinees” series are shown uncut on widescreen in the Stratford Library’s Lovell Room. The new film series for 2019 will be announced soon.

The Stratford Library is located at 2203 Main Street in Stratford, Conn. For further information, call the Library at (203) 385-4162 or visit

]]> (Stratford Library) Clubs Fri, 07 Dec 2018 02:42:50 -0500
How Art Changed the Prison Opening January 27, 2019 at The Aldrich

The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum will present How Art Changed the Prison--The Work of the CPA Prison Arts Program. On view from Jan. 27 to May 27, 2019, the exhibition's visual art was made in Connecticut’s correctional institutions over the past three decades. The pieces are borrowed from current and former inmates, private collections, including that of the curator, and from the permanent collection of the Prison Arts Program (PSA). PSA is part of Community Partners in Action (CPA), a non-profit that focuses on behavioral change of both current and past inmates of Connecticut’s prison system, in addition to advocating for criminal justice reform.

Organized by Jeffrey Greene, who has been with the program for27 years, the exhibition will include the work of approximately 28 artists, including Edward Schanck (Willard-Cybulski Correctional Institution, Enfield); John Jay Arnold (released); Mark Despres (Osborn CI, Somers); Veronica May Clark (Garner CI, Newtown); Nicholas Palumbo (Osborn, CI); Ross VonWeingarten (released); Ryan Carpenter (Brooklyn CI, Brooklyn, CT); Luis Norberto Martinez (Osborn, CI), and June Seger (York CI, Niantic).
Connecticut’s Prison Arts Program is unique due to Greene’s radical approach that rejects art as an activity pursued through academic exercises, but instead sees it as an expansive and integrative pursuit that focuses on giving voice to inner worlds and personal histories, and believes that learning and growth are primarily achieved by the making of art, not by learning technique.
“The inmates in the program stop thinking of an artist as someone they could become, but someone that they could draw out of themselves,” states Greene. “They stop thinking of art as something in the center of a piece of paper, but rather something that could span from their cell to the moon. In the oppressive environment of the prison they need something that they control; they need to express and confirm that they are still themselves; they need to send out into the world something that states their wish to love and be loved. They have every reason to make art.”   
Originally named The Prisoners’ Friends Society, CPA was founded in Hartford in 1875 by a group of notable citizens interested in social reform, including Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) who was a member of CPA’s first board of directors. From the beginning, CPA was dedicated to building a better community by providing services that promote accountability, dignity, and restoration for people affected by the criminal justice system in Connecticut. The CPA’s Prison Arts Program is one of the oldest in the US, and its mission is to positively and constructively change the prison environment while encouraging empathy, self-discipline, self-esteem, technical and communication skill development, thoughtfulness, and tranquility.
The majority of the work on view was made in the artists’ cells using materials that require minimal workspace, dry quickly, and can be stored immediately, such as ballpoint pen, graphite, and colored pencil. Several artists use more traditional prison art media including toilet paper, cut and folded paper, magazines, ramen noodle packaging, thread, yarn, floor wax, Q-tips, and soap. Often these works involve hundreds of hours of rigorous focus. The artists’ work reflects their ever-changing and complicated lives within the prison system affected by cellmates, prison blocks/units, prison transfers, prison staff, access to materials, access to workshops, colleagues, critiques, as well as mental and physical health. How Art Changed the Prison offers a glimpse at art’s role in the lives of people in Connecticut’s prison system.
Jeffrey Greene is an artist, musician, and curator. Besides managing CPA’s Prison Arts Program, he has created collaborative arts projects in SROs (Single Room Occupancy residences) for the formerly homeless in New York City, and in Connecticut’s halfway houses with returning inmates. His audio project, Affordable Future, was part of the New Museum’s Festival of Ideas for the New City in 2011. That same year he co-curated the landmark exhibition Transeuphoria, at Umbrella Arts Gallery in Manhattan, focusing on the work of transgender artists. As a musician, he helped lead the band The Butterflies of Love to momentary fame in the UK and currently fronts Famous Problems, a group that has just released its first album on Where It’s At Is Where You Are Records in London.
A full-color publication, with an essay by the curator, will be available during the exhibition.

The Aldrich is located at 258 Main Street in Ridgefield, Conn.

]]> (Emily Devoe) Beyond Books Fri, 07 Dec 2018 00:08:00 -0500
On the Children's Shelf: How do you raise a reader?

A conversation over coffee led me to ponder this question. How do you help foster a child's love of reading? Here are my suggestions (for the record, I'm one person, and these are simply suggestions, please take them as such).
1. Let your child chose what they want to read
There are so many great books I would love for my child to read, but everyone has their own preferences, and my insisting they read a book won't make them love it. Let them find the books they want to read. 
2. Ask questions
Not interested in a story about a dinosaur but your child is....ask them about it. You may not fall in love with the story, but hearing your child excitedly talk about this book...priceless.
3. Share
My children love to hear what my favorites books were when I was their age, because they want to hear about a book that made me excited when I was a kid (and sometimes they ask if I still have my copy so they can read it).
4. Read the same book
A few years ago, we started attending "Reading is a Family Affair" at our library. Parents and children read the same book and have a group discussion. It's awesome if you can do this in a large group, but even if you don't have a a book as a family.
5. Read a book aloud
We read so many books aloud when my children were small. As they got older, I thought they were moving past that, but they still enjoy hearing a story aloud (and I still believe something magical happens when you read a story aloud and give the characters voices).
6. Revisit holiday favorites from years past
I packed away with our holiday decorations the holiday children's books that my children enjoyed. While I thought they were done with those books (and reading level-wise they are), each year as we unpack holiday decorations I see them flipping through the pages of those old favorites, revisiting their old friends.
7. Be open to different kinds of books
I never read a graphic novel until my children and I read Flora & Ulysses together. It took a bit for me to get used to the format, but my children were instantly engrossed in the story. They loved the combination of words and pictures, and their enthusiasm was contagious.
8. Model a love of reading
Read. Let your children see you read. Tell them "this book I'm reading is so good, it's hard to put it down." Share that you were sad when something bad happened to a character that you like or that you can't wait to find out what will happen in your book. While my children aren't specifically interested in the book I'm reading, they love hearing me say how much I'm enjoying a book.
9. Plan a bookish event like read the book then see the movie
Raising a child who is waiting for their Hogwarts letter? Search on Pinterest for some super easy Hogwarts ideas and have a Harry Potter movie night. Hang a few Hogwarts letters from the ceiling by the mail slot, draw a lighting bolt scar, watch the movie, and ask your child what they liked best about the movie and what they liked best about the book. 
10. Visit your local library and book store
Magical things happen at libraries and book stores (especially local independent book stores). Many have programs or story times for little ones and the best part....they know books and are a bit like magicians. When a child says "I love dinosaurs and trucks," they somehow know the book that's about a dinosaur and a truck and know exactly where to find it. 
Lastly, just follow your gut.  If one of these suggestions works for your family, that's great. If you find something totally different that works for you, that's great too.
]]> (Jessica Collins) Readers Fri, 30 Nov 2018 11:11:36 -0500
5 Best Reads of November

There goes another month. Before I'm ready for, we’ll be popping corks, singing Auld Lang Syne, and welcoming our most anticipated releases of, gulp, 2019. But enough fretting about the passage of time. My title promised you a few of my favorite November reads, and I keep my promises.

I read 12 books in November, as of midday on the 30th. To be frank, quite a few of them were uninspiring. Still, I managed to find five that I can recommend rather heartily, depending on your reading priorities.

The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson

This not a fun and enjoyable read, though it can be darkly humorous. Still, if you like big, layered, complicated books that use style self-consciously, this one is impressive. Set in the recent past, it follows the fortunes of Jun Do as he navigates the treacherous waters of North Korea’s dictatorships. (Yes, this is an Odyssey pun, as Jun Do journey could be described as epic, in the poetic sense.)

The Washington Post captures it perfectly in this one sentence: “Imagine Charles Dickens paying a visit to Pyongyang, and you see the canvas on which [Adam] Johnson is painting here.”

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Normally, I try not to include my Odyssey project in these lists since I think of it as its own thing. But Mitchell’s translation of The Odyssey was one of the better books I read in November. It’s an enjoyable translation to read, if you’re inclined to read a verse translation of the most influential literary work of all time (according to the BBC…and me).

House Arrest by K. A. Holt

I was assigned this book for a freelance project, and well, I cried a lot while reading it. It’s a middle grade novel in free verse that tells the story of Timothy, a 7th grader when the story begins. He is on “house arrest” for having stolen a wallet to pay for his infant brother’s exorbitantly expensive medication. Timothy has a huge heart and so much love for his baby brother, who suffers from trachea problems and requires 24-hour care. The poetry and allusions play lovely counterpoint to the heart-wrenching story. It doesn’t reduce or simplify, and it is a beautiful book. I’m getting choked up just thinking about it.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

This young adult murder mystery was another freelance assignment, but I might have read this book even if I weren’t being paid to (shhh, it’s a secret). Five seniors enter detention, but only four come out alive. Each has secrets that are gradually revealed, building to a climax that isn’t totally shocking but also isn’t totally not shocking. Piecing together the well-place clues is engaging, and the messaging has value in our crazy, social media-driven world.

My Plain Jane (The lady Janies #2) by Cynthia Hand, Jodie Meadows, and Brodi Ashton

This was my favorite audio book of November. It’s a creative retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre, in which both Charlotte and Jane are characters, along with Charlotte’s brother and several ghostly apparitions. Friends, I do not love Jane Eyre, but I really, really, really enjoyed the way Hand, Meadows, and Ashton reshaped the story. It was delicious and ridiculous, so two of my favorite things.

What were the best books you read in November?

]]> (Sally Allen) Readers Fri, 30 Nov 2018 09:41:51 -0500
My Life on the Post Road: Weather Woes

“It’s a great country… except for the weather.” “We had summer. Yesterday.” “All the rain keeps it green… if we could ever see it.” People on both sides of the pond had extolled England’s myriad charms, but decried its crap weather.

After a dazzlingly warm and sunny first few days when I arrived for my year abroad, September confirmed the dire predictions. It rained. Every day. Before the Hunter boots I’d shipped to myself arrived.

But other than two bouts of snow in the winter (it was the snowiest winter in four decades), which coincided with the arrival of US guests both times – and completely paralyzed the bucolic and ill-equipped hamlet (pun intended) of Stratford Upon Avon, the ominous weather oracles proved hyperbolic. Yes, it rains, but Brits are adequately equipped for it (just like Vermonters are for snow). You pull on your Wellies, don your mack, pop open a brolly, keep calm and carry on. And indeed, the verdant rolling Cotswold Hills were a welcomed side effect of all the precipitation.

But the spring, summer, and fall disproved the dire prognostications, or perhaps they were the exception that proved the rule. The spring sparkled, the summer blazed (it was the hottest and driest summer in four decades), and the autumn glowed.

Meanwhile, back here, the summer stunk, weather-wise. Facebook continually reported deluges that cancelled all sorts of festival festivities. Since I’ve been back, the weather has been… crap. Unseasonable freezes, a nor’easter that dumped unnavigable snow on important plans, and frequent Westport police department warnings about coastal flooding.

I’m always amused by the perceived gravity and impact of fairly routine weather. I’m not talking about life-threatening disasters. I’m talking about precipitation and temperature. It takes up an awful lot of real estate in the news and conversation time in the collective psyche. It always seems to surprise people when it gets cold and snows. In New England. In the winter. Or when it gets really hot and thunderstorms. In coastal Connecticut. In the summer.

I’m as subject to the vagaries of the weather as anyone, but I think of a lovely scene from Woody Allen’s enchanting Midnight in Paris, when Owen Wilson embraces the rain in the City of Light, and actually walks outside. In the rain. And loves it.

I vote for embracing his mesmerized wonder with the rain – the same attitude that I witnessed as an undergrad in Middlebury, and as a grad student in Stratford Upon Avon. Dress in, or strip off, layers as necessary. Buy waterproof everything. And go outside, keep calm, deal with it, and enjoy the fresh air.

Photo by Diane Lowman

]]> (Diane Meyer Lowman) Local Writers Fri, 30 Nov 2018 08:34:39 -0500
Holiday Book Sale at Wilton Library Continues through Jan. 2

The Wilton Library's holiday Book Sale in the gallery is a seasonal tradition featuring an array of pristine books, DVDs, CDs, and audiobooks suitable for gift-giving to all ages.

This year, the sale includes a diverse collection of classical, jazz, Latin and blues CDs. All CDs are priced to sell, many are new shrink-wrapped items. All merchandise is perfect for holiday gift-giving. As items are sold, new ones appear daily. All sales support the library.

The sale opened on November 29 and continues during regular library hours through January 2, 2019. The library closed on Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day.

Wilton Library is located at 137 Old Ridgefield Road in Wilton, Conn. For information, directions and registration, visit or call (203) 762-6334.

]]> (Wilton Library) Readers Fri, 30 Nov 2018 08:27:01 -0500
Writing Workshops at Bethel's Byrd's Books on Dec. 2, 4, & 18

Byrd's Books in Bethel will be hosting three writing workshops in December: prompt-writing on Dec. 2 taught by Judith Mark-White and works-in-progress on Dec. 4 and 18 taught by Linda Chiara. Participants are welcome to select one or all.

Sunday, Dec. 2 from 3:30-5:30 p.m: This workshop is with Judith Mark-White. This is a very casual, all-skills-level prompt-writing workshop that is a lot of fun for all. Monthly on Sunday afternoons at 3:30, the group gathers to write from a choice of provided prompts, shares their work and their feedback. This workshop is a great way to break a writer’s block, jump-start your writing or see if writing is something you would like to try. All skill levels are welcome, please bring something to write or type on. Each session is $15, with a minimum of six participants. 

Tuewday, Dec. 4 and 18 from 6-7:30 p.m.: This workshop is with Linda Chiara and is structured so the participants each bring a body of work in progress- three typed, double-spaced sheets to share with the rest of the group (6 copies). Each person reads their work, and discussion follows. The intention of this workshop is to improve and refine work headed to publication. Further instruction is available with Linda, privately. Each session is $15, with a minimum of four and a maximum of six participants. 

Byrd's Books is located at 178 Greenwood Avenue in Bethel, Conn. For more information or to register, click here or phone (203) 730-2973.

]]> (Byrd's Books) Local Writers Fri, 30 Nov 2018 07:56:07 -0500