We start today with your chance to hear Scottish-American writer Douglas Stuart discuss, in person, his second novel, “Young Mungo” (Grove Press, $27). His debut album, “Shuggie Bain”, won the prestigious Booker Prize.
Please make room on your TBR list for this gripping book, which the author will talk about at 6 p.m. Friday, April 29, at Next Chapter Booksellers, 38 S. Snelling Ave., St. Paul, in conversation with the correspondent of the Minnesota Public Radio, Euan. Kerr. Admission is $27. To register go to nextchapterbooksellers.com/events.
Part mystery, part coming-of-age as a gay man, “Young Mungo” is filled with beautiful writing and characters so real they jump off the page. The reader is taken to the working-class tenements of Glasgow, Scotland and the lives of teenager Mungo, his sister Jodie and their older brother Hamish.
Here’s how Jodie feels about her brother:
Mungo’s capacity for love frustrated her. His love was not altruism; he just couldn’t help it. Mo-Maw needed so little and he produced too much, so it all seemed like a horrible mess. It was a crop that no one had sown, and it was born of a vine that no one had cultivated. It should have dried out years ago, like hers had, like Hamish’s. Yet Mungo had all this love to give and it lay around like a ripe fruit and no one bothered to pick it up.
Mungo, who may have Tourette’s Syndrome, is the only sibling to love their alcoholic mother, even though she leaves them all the time to pursue men. Jodie, who is planning on going to college, raised this handsome boy who appears to be sweet but can react furiously when pushed. Their brother Hamish, known as Ha-Ha, is the cruel leader of a gang of Protestant boys who thinks his brother needs to be toughened up.
When Ha-Ha summons Mungo for an all-out rumble with the local Catholic kids, using bricks and knives, Mungo knows he has to go to uphold the family honor and because if he doesn’t , Ha-Ha will beat him. He also knows that if he gets in the fight, he will lose James, a Catholic who breeds carrier pigeons.
It’s a two-part story. One thread concerns Mungo’s growing and forbidden love for James. The story of their feelings for each other and their love, never consummated, is told with tenderness. Mungo has to watch while James flirts with girls so no one thinks he’s a “poofer”. But the boys dream of finding a place to be together without being harassed.
The second, and scarier, thread concerns Mungo’s “Mo-Maw” who entrusts it to two men she has just met for a fishing trip in the cold western lochs, where the young man sees the beauty natural for the first time. . There, he must overcome his quiet nature to save himself by learning the true intentions of his companions.
The Hamiltons are a dysfunctional family. Mungo, named after a saint, only wants to be with James. Jodie is tired, after tending to her brother’s wounds, nurturing and loving him all their lives, replacing their mother. Hamish has physically tormented Mungo since they were boys. Their mother is by turns devoted, angry at her “withdrawal”, flirtatious with the men who frequent the food truck she tends to, and in various stages of drunkenness. No matter how disgusting his behavior is, Mungo loves him.
Violence is opposed to love in this book. Still, it ends on a hopeful note for Mungo’s future.
Learning from children’s picture books
One of the many pleasures of children’s picture books is that adults can learn from them too. For example, this reader had never heard of 19th-century poet and flower lover Celia Thaxter, or her classic book “An Island Garden.”
In “Celia Planted A Garden” (Candlewick Press, $18.99), award-winning Phyllis Root of Minnesota and Gary Schmidt take young readers to Appledore Island in the Isles of Shoals off the coast of Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Subtitled “The Story of Celia Thaxter and her Island Garden”, the book tells the story of a woman who brought beauty out of a hostile landscape.
When Celia was 4 years old, her father became the lighthouse keeper on White Island, where Celia planted flowers between the rocks. Then his father built a large hotel on Appledore Island, Maine. It was one of the first resort hotels to be built on the New England coast and a gathering place for late 19th century greats such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Childe Hassam, the painter impressionist who illustrated Thaxter’s best-known book. , “An island garden”.
When Celia married and moved to the mainland, she “missed the crumbling shores of her native island, and the rising and falling tides, and the crashing of the waves on the rocks – and her garden”.
Eventually Celia’s mother needed her and she returned to the island and ran the hotel, filling the lobby and grounds with flowers – “pansies, sweet peas and hollyhocks, black larkspur and foxgloves, and big red sunflowers and dahlias and nasturtiums and golden California poppies…”
“An Island Garden” was published in 1894, the year Thaxter died. The authors of “Celia Planted a Garden” point out that “although (Thaxter’s) poetry is still anthologized, and her paintings and ceramic decoration are still prized, it is her account of her garden which is her chief fame. “. The garden has been recreated on the island on which she is buried.
“Celia Planted a Garden” can’t be fully described as a children’s picture book because there’s a lot more text, suitable for kids who can read (and adults who love gardens).
Melissa Sweet’s illustrations are delicate and graphically the book is a joy, with flowers, sketches of the town, a photo of Celia and her husband, all filling every page with energy. (For more on Thaxter’s “An Island Garden,” go to digital.library.upenn.edu/women/thaxter/garden/garden.html.)
“Say what, little duckling? » by Jen Teschendorf, illustrated by Sarah Cazee-Widhalm (Derby Press/Gray Duck Media, paperback, $15.99, hardcover $21.99)
Did you know that there is a font specially adapted for dyslexic children? Minnesotan Jen Teschendorf wrote this colorfully illustrated book about a mother duck communicating with her gosling as the author’s daughter learned to speak and spoke only gibberish or shouting.
Little Duck had a lot to say,/but the words didn’t come out right!/So all he said was ‘QUACK, QUACK, QUACK’/all morning, noon and night.
Mother Duck deliberately uses the wrong name for a food that Little Duck loves like “Quackers”. The little guy knows it’s not right and says “CRRRACKERS”. Soon, “he talked and talked and talked, until he fell.”
The first edition of “Say What..” was independently published and is in 30 bookstores. Shortly after its publication, a traditional publisher asked to make a special edition for children with dyslexia. Although the publisher has gone out of business, it has helped the author create a dyslexic-inclusive edition that uses a font that helps people with the disease achieve better reading success.
Every child can enjoy this book, complete with fun images such as the cover illustration where Mother Duck, wearing glasses and headphones, flies away with Little Duck on her back also wearing glasses and a backpack. back.