With eloquent accuracy, Spilman’s novel captures the life of a 19th-century sailor.
Bill Doerflinger is a young archivist wishing to record old sea shanties sung by a few aging sea captains and their mates. In October 1938, he travels to the Staten Island home of 85-year-old Capt. George “Georgie” Anderson, who recounts a fantastical tale. In 1870, at age 17, he sailed from New York to Australia and back in the medium clipper Alhambra. The journey begins under the command of Capt. Josiah Adams, who leads a motley crew of complex characters. The most fascinating of the common seamen is an enigmatic drunk named Jack Barlow. When Capt. Adams falls ill and dies, the ship faces all manner of turmoil, from rumblings of mutiny to the terrifying roar of a hurricane. As tensions on board increase, Barlow proves far more astute than he first appears. Meanwhile, the naïve Georgie is beginning to find his “sea legs” with the help and hindrance of his crew. The novel carefully charts the young man’s intellectual and moral development. His initial sense of awe, along with the precarious nature of life at sea, is captured with an effortless grace: “When the sun was shining, the endless progression of the Southern Ocean graybeards was breathtaking—rolling mountainous peaks, thirty and forty feet high and long, with low valleys between. The wave tops were ten feet of boiling foam while the waves themselves were mighty beasts seemingly ready to devour us, just about to overwhelm the ship, until the fine lady Alhambra lifted her skirts and rose up.” A profound understanding of nautical terminology and procedure is also evident, yet the author is careful not to confuse readers who don’t know a “crojack” from a “spanker.” Eager to educate, the book also contains a comprehensive glossary, a rigging diagram, and an essay on the history of the sea shanty. Spilman’s colorful, well-researched novel will enthrall both sailing enthusiasts and landlubbers.
Zobal’s debut collection of well-crafted short stories leaves a lasting impression.
Although grounded in the real world, Zobal’s stories read like fairy tales and urban legends. In the opening story, “Camp of Low Angels,” a group of boys flip their counselors’ controlled world upside down—hilarity and heartbreak ensue. A woman dies during a snowed-in vacation in “The Bellwether,” and her companions must dig an icy channel to the barn to make a place for her corpse. In “Outlaw,” an attempted Old West–style robbery of a gas station goes absurdly wrong. And in “And We Saw Light,” a bare-foot woman walks singing down a road, carrying a dripping gunnysack, its contents unrevealed. These images evoke weighty themes: savagery, loss, memory, and death. Death lurks in every story: “The water spoke of what it was to be dead. It was flat, still, and empty; yet on its cold surface wore our lifeless image.” The stories meditate on how people confront the inevitability of death, how they talk about it or avoid talking about it, how they remember the dead and, in remembering, keep them alive. One character says, “Let me admit that I have never believed that the dead are entirely gone.” Zobal draws attention to language, sometimes via his characters, who ponder the meanings and shapes of words. In the title story, a ghost writes words for the living in spilled salt on the table: “Woodshed, read the words in salt, birdcall, bone.” Zobal also experiments with structure. The tales spiral in on themselves or proceed in unconnected bursts, like the memories they evoke. Each story links to the one that came before it, sometimes by only a word or image, sometimes by a larger theme or emotion. The final story, “The Hospital,” completes the chain, delivering an emotional change-up of both grief and hope for a new life.
Haunting images and poetic prose flood this noteworthy collection.
As Grimes’ illustrateddebut shows, it’s hard enough to be a kid, but when you’re the middle child in a family of nine, you might as well be invisible.
“Who forgets their kid?” Pidgegrouses as she sits alone at a restaurant. “A family with too many kids, that’s who.” Mom rushes back in, apologetic, but the damage has been done. Back home and feeling neglected, Pidge decides to run away. She’ll slide down the laundry chute and sneak out the back door, she decides. But Pidge hadn’t counted on the quantity of laundry a large family produces: her exit is blocked by her brother’s football pads, and as she sits there trying to figure out what to do next, she’s bombarded by more sports equipment, a ballet tutu, a baby blanket, and more. For a while, Pidge almost enjoys her imprisonment—there’s a bag of candy someone accidentally threw down the chute and a book—but before long, she misses her family. In search of both physical and emotional warmth, she dresses herself in their laundry items. Finally, it’s the dog, Maverick, who sniffs her out, but it turns out that everyone has been looking for her—and every member of the family has felt her absence in a different way. “Without you in the middle,” says Mom, “we fall apart!” And Dad adds, “Being in the middle means there are people on all sides to love you.” The funny storyline, solid writing, and clever design of Grimes’ book help keep such statements from being just platitudes. Yes, there are exasperations that go along with having a big family—you don’t always get to choose when to be alone or together, and sometimes it’s hard to know whose stuff is whose—but in the end, Pidge seems to realize, these things are pleasures as much as they are pains. Both Grimes’ writing—much of it driven by Pidge’s internal dialogue—and DeOre’s cartoon illustrations are polished, spirited, and perfectly matched to the picture book’s audience. But it’s the creative typographical design that really makes the book stand out: the “thump thump thump” of Pidge stomping up the stairs is a jumble of boldfaced capital letters suggesting both the noise and the shape of the stairs themselves; the “swoosh plop darkness” that accompanies the tutu down the laundry chute has a balletic twirl and sibilance that puts the reader right there in the laundry chute, blindfolded by layers of tulle.
A funny story, a reassuring message, and a clever, creative design; highly recommended.
This combination self-assessment and idea starter should spark the interest of anyone with entrepreneurial drive.
Debut author Sullivan, herself an entrepreneur and small-business trainer, enters a crowded category but sets her work apart with its good intentions. Rather than supply the how-to advice commonly found in most be-your-own-boss books, Sullivan explores the motivational aspects of pursuing the entrepreneurial dream while also providing a wealth of business ideas. In the book’s first section, Sullivan offers such entries as “10 traits for entrepreneurial success,” “six benefits and six drawbacks” of being your own boss, and “14 keys to ignite your enthusiasm and passion.” Part 2 digs into the details of where an entrepreneur’s passion may lie. Here, Sullivan walks the reader through “12 areas of opportunity,” including both general and specific conceptual ideas. For example, the first two chapters in this section make a useful distinction between focusing on selling to consumers versus selling to businesses, while another chapter addresses selling to governments. Other areas key in on current trends that suggest possible areas of business opportunity: e.g., food and family farms, pets and companion animals, assisting seniors and people with disabilities, and “promoting a sustainable future.” A chapter entitled “Serving Needs of the Global Population” puts forth the concept of “social entrepreneurship.” The book’s final section concerns the entrepreneur’s assessment of the viability of a chosen idea. Here, Sullivan lays out a process for idea evaluation, offers helpful advice about how to do market research to determine an idea’s value, and provides an alphabetical listing of “50 Steps to Starting Your Business.” She includes a helpful multipurpose spreadsheet that can be used to rate areas of interest and ends with an extensive resources section. Sullivan applies a refreshing amount of altruism to her choice of categories that should give would-be entrepreneurs a sense of purpose as they consider what direction to take.
Clearly and cogently written, a thought-provoking book that provides useful guidance to entrepreneurial risk takers as well as a treasure trove of potential business ideas.