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Litchfield MN 55355


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Sunday, March 3, 2013

One Lump or Two?

 By Jan Pease

Where did proper young ladies go to be “finished” during the time of Queen Victoria?   Why, to finishing school, of course.  But in Gail Carriger’s   steam punk world of fashionable vampires and militaristic were- wolves, young ladies attend Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality .  The first book in the “Finishing School” series is “Etiquette and Espionage,” which follows Sophronia, a young woman who is a severe trial to her mother, as she goes to this most unusual school for young ladies.   Here, Sophronia learns useful skills that will come in handy in her adult life, whether she marries a fashionable gentleman or works as an “intelligencer” for the queen.   As one of the teachers says“It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School.”

Although I have enjoyed Gail Carriger’s  books immensely, I’m happy to see some new books that are historical   fiction, without the paranormal emphasis that has been so prevalent the last few years.  “Jepp, who Defied the Stars,” written by Katherine Marsh, is set in the 1500s.  Ms. Marsh based her character on a real person, Jepp, a dwarf who served Tycho Brahe, an astronomer and alchemist in Denmark.  Jepp wonders if fate is written in the stars from the moment we are born, or if it is a bendable thing that we can shape with our own hands.   

“Navigating Early,” by Clare Vanderpool, is set in the years just after World War II.   This is the story of Jack Baker, whose father moves him from Kansas to a boarding school in Maine.  He has an unusual friendship with Early Auden, who now would probably be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  The boys go on a quest to search the Appalachian Trail for the great black bear rumored to be in nearby mountains.  They share adventures that include “pirates, a volcano, a great white whale, a hundred-year old woman, a lost hero, a hidden cave, a great Appalachian bear, and a timber rattlesnake – in Maine!” (“Navigating Early” page 294).

  “Who Done It,” by Jon Scieszka,  is a really, really unusual book.  The premise is that the nastiest editor in the world has been murdered, and the 80 suspects are authors of children’s and YA fiction, including Lemony Snicket, John Green, Mo Willems, Todd Strasser, and 76 other well-known names.  The reader is charged with examining each alibi to solve the crime.  Each of the writers spins a story, but Mr. Scieszka says the problem is that all of them are liars.  All of the proceeds of this book benefit 826NYC, a literacy and creative program for kids. 

Finally, Ally Carter has produced the third novel in the “Heist Society” series.    “Perfect Scoundrels” continues the story of Katarina Bishop, nicknamed Kat, who is part of a family of loveable criminal masterminds.  My only quibble with the series is that Kat seems much older; 20 something at least.  She’s sophisticated and smooth.  But just because I was still awkward at 16, doesn’t mean that a 16 year old couldn’t be an international jewel thief.   All of these great books, and more, are waiting for you at Litchfield Public Library.