Arthur Pepper has lived a simple, routine, lonely life since his wife, Miriam, passed away a year ago. His children are busy with their own lives, and he is grieving the love of his life. While searching through a wardrobe, Arthur finds his wife’s beautiful gold charm bracelet with a collection of charms. His curiosity leads him from York, England, to Bath, London, and Paris tracking the origin of the bracelet and the significance of each of the charms. His journey takes him out of his comfort zone and leads to adventures; new experiences, such as coming face to face with a tiger; and meeting different people. He discovers a side of his wife of forty years that he never knew and learns about himself in the process. Arthur’s interactions with his nosy widowed neighbor, Bernadette, and her teenage son, Nathan, enhance the story.
Phaedra Patrick’s The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a heartwarming, poignant, and amusing story.
What would you do if three planes crashed in your town within eight weeks? As fifteen-year-old Miri Ammerman, her mother Rusty, her grandmother Irene, and friends prepare for Hanukkah and Christmas in December 1951, an airplane crashes. In the Unlikely Event is an engrossing story told from multiple perspectives, has likable characters, and deals with relationships and romance in the midst of tragedy. Judy Blume has stated that that idea stemmed from real plane crashes that occurred in Elizabeth, New Jersey near where she lived – get the scoop in this Buzzfeed interview.
On October 28, 2016, the historic Willowbrook Ballroom burned down. The legendary ballroom and banquet hall in Willow Springs started as the Oh Henry Ballroom in 1921. It had its heyday in the big band era of the 1930s and 1940s featuring bands such as Jimmy Dorsey and the Glenn Miller Orchestra. When ballroom dancing was on the decline in the late 1960s and 1970s, Willowbrook Ballroom featured Chubby Checker and such bands as The Cryan’ Shames. Supposedly it was the last place Resurrection Mary danced before she left and was hit by a car. There have been sightings of her ghost in the Chicago area.
Check out Willowbrook Ballroom by Bonnie Classen to reminisce.
On August 21, 1911, Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre in Paris. R. A. Scotti’s Vanished Smile is a fascinating book about the investigation, leads, and suspects. Pablo Picasso’s apartment was even searched. The history of the Mona Lisa from when Leonardo painted it to when it arrived at the Louvre is intriguing. The painting was finally recovered in 1913. Did the thief act alone or was there a conspiracy?
In December 1962, through the efforts of Jacqueline Kennedy, the Mona Lisa left the Louvre for the second time and was exhibited at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C. Now France has a law forbidding her from leaving the country.
If you are interested in reading similar books, see True Crime: Lost and Stolen Art.
Enjoy close-up photos and read about Tai Shan, an adorable giant panda at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., from birth through seven months. Watch him grow from a blind, nearly hairless, helpless newborn into a black and white furred, curious, growing young panda. This short book with cute captions will delight adults and children alike. Some of the highlights of Panda Cam include interacting with his mother, rock climbing, and experiencing snow for the first time.
Tai Shan (peaceful mountain) was the first baby panda born at the zoo since efforts began in 1972 after President Nixon’s trip to China. The photos in this book are selections from a webcam set up in the Giant Panda Habitat to continually capture and monitor Tai Shan’s progress.
Tai Shan turned ten in July 2015. Watch his birthday celebration and other videos on youtube.
In this compelling book, Lawrence Anthony is asked to take a troubled wild elephant herd into his wildlife reserve in Zululand, South Africa, or they will be killed. The Elephant Whisperer deals with elephants learning to trust a man and life on the reserve with his wife and dogs, including handling poachers and the Zulu people. Lawrence’s bond with the matriarch Nana is particularly touching, especially when she brings her newborn baby to meet him. His engaging and sometimes humorous stories of life with the elephants made me empathetic towards their plight.
The Elephant Whisperer will appeal to both animal lovers and adventure readers. The expressive narration by Simon Vance, a four time Audie Award winner, enhances the listening experience.
Delight in to this amusing short book of poems from a cat’s point of view. The poems in I Could Pee on This really capture a cat’s quirky personality and behavior. Cute photos enhance enjoyment of Francesco Marciuliano’s book.
One poem I particularly liked:
It’s 8 a.m. and time to rest
It’s 10 a.m. and time to relax
It’s noon and time for repose
It’s 3 p.m. and time for shut-eye
It’s 6 p.m. and time for siesta
It’s 9 p.m. and time to slumber
It’s midnight and time to snooze
It’s 4 a.m. and time to hang upside down from your bedroom ceiling, screaming
Sergeant Stubby appeals to both military history buffs and dog lovers. This remarkable story follows James Robert Conroy and his brave canine companion, Stubby, from their early days to the battlefields of France during World War I, to their homecoming as heroes and then retirement. The soldiers’ lives during wartime are contrasted with the bond between soldier and dog. Photographs of Conroy and Stubby enhance the book.
In 1917, Conroy enlisted in the Connecticut National Guard and his unit became part of the 26th (Yankee Division) of the U.S. Army. Stubby was a stray that showed up at training on Yale University’s athletic fields and favored Conroy. He learned how to follow along with the soldiers as they paraded on the athletic fields and even learned how to salute. Stubby was smuggled and stowed away on the ship taking Conroy’s unit to France. Supposedly after officers became aware of Stubby’s presence, Stubby charmed them and became the official mascot of the unit.
James Robert Conroy returned to the States as a hero and Stubby became a celebrity.
Ann Bausum’s book was released to coincide with the 100th anniversary of World War I. If you are interested in reading further about World War I see All Time Faves: Our Favorite books about World War I.
Did you know that the cute cairn terrier that played Dorothy’s dog, Toto, in The Wizard of Oz performed in fourteen major motion pictures? This is a timely book to read since August 2014 is the 75th anniversary of the release of The Wizard of Oz movie (and check Bill’s review last month on other films of 1939). I, Toto, a charming book, is written from Terry’s point of view and is filled with photographs and newspaper clippings. Her first film was with Shirley Temple in Bright Eyes.
Other books about animal performers are Rin Tin Tin: the life and the legend by Susan Orleans and Zamba: the true story of the greatest lion that ever lived by Ralph Helfer.
Upon turning 65, Billy Crystal, a comedian, actor, and director, wrote this entertaining, humorous, and sometimes poignant book. It alternates between quips about aging and reflections on his family life and career. In the audio version of Still Foolin’ ‘Em, the chapters on aging seem right out of his stand-up act complete with laugh track. I especially enjoyed the sections on the making of the movies When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers and learning about his friendship with Muhammad Ali. Reading about his early marriage years with Janice through being a grandpa gave me a different perspective on this funny man.