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SUMMER AT THE Z HOUSE

A well-observed, colorfully illustrated book about a close-knit family’s day-to-day life.

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A little boy, his mom and assorted pets enjoy a summertime visit from Grandma in this warm chronicle of everyday family life, enlivened with vocabulary-rich text and quirky illustrations.

When Grandma arrives for a visit, her engaged, caring presence makes the summer days more fun for Noah, his mom, and their animals, which include a dog named Pepper and three cats. Grandma turns dinner into a special occasion by writing descriptions of her feast (salad, roast beef, chocolate pudding) on a menu that Noah happily reads aloud before each course—a subtle underscoring of the author’s mission to encourage reading among her target audience. Grandma enjoys hearing about Noah’s creative day camp endeavors, which include crafting masks, making a totem pole and creating cartoons with clay figures (all beguilingly and colorfully imagined by illustrators Stommel and Czekalski). She also shares the family’s love for animals. The book is the third in a series of books centered on Noah, his mom and their growing collection of pets, each with its own distinct personality. Zanville (How the Dog Came to Live at the Z House, 2013, etc.), a veteran educator and a regular blogger about reading and literacy at zhousestories.com,offers vivid images throughout; for example, during the family’s trip to an aquarium, Noah observes “miniature jellyfish that looked like white parachutes with dangly tentacles” and “glowed in the lights of their dark tanks so brightly—it was like looking at little stars in the sky.” There are no wacky plot twists here—just refreshingly genuine warmth and quiet observations of real-life moments among family members, be they human, canine or feline.

A well-observed, colorfully illustrated book about a close-knit family’s day-to-day life.

Pub Date: Oct. 27, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-4819-5234-7

Page Count: 40

Publisher: CreateSpace

Review Posted Online: Jan. 27, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

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I'M GLAD MY MOM DIED

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

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The former iCarly star reflects on her difficult childhood.

In her debut memoir, titled after her 2020 one-woman show, singer and actor McCurdy (b. 1992) reveals the raw details of what she describes as years of emotional abuse at the hands of her demanding, emotionally unstable stage mom, Debra. Born in Los Angeles, the author, along with three older brothers, grew up in a home controlled by her mother. When McCurdy was 3, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Though she initially survived, the disease’s recurrence would ultimately take her life when the author was 21. McCurdy candidly reconstructs those in-between years, showing how “my mom emotionally, mentally, and physically abused me in ways that will forever impact me.” Insistent on molding her only daughter into “Mommy’s little actress,” Debra shuffled her to auditions beginning at age 6. As she matured and starting booking acting gigs, McCurdy remained “desperate to impress Mom,” while Debra became increasingly obsessive about her daughter’s physical appearance. She tinted her daughter’s eyelashes, whitened her teeth, enforced a tightly monitored regimen of “calorie restriction,” and performed regular genital exams on her as a teenager. Eventually, the author grew understandably resentful and tried to distance herself from her mother. As a young celebrity, however, McCurdy became vulnerable to eating disorders, alcohol addiction, self-loathing, and unstable relationships. Throughout the book, she honestly portrays Debra’s cruel perfectionist personality and abusive behavior patterns, showing a woman who could get enraged by everything from crooked eyeliner to spilled milk. At the same time, McCurdy exhibits compassion for her deeply flawed mother. Late in the book, she shares a crushing secret her father revealed to her as an adult. While McCurdy didn’t emerge from her childhood unscathed, she’s managed to spin her harrowing experience into a sold-out stage act and achieve a form of catharsis that puts her mind, body, and acting career at peace.

The heartbreaking story of an emotionally battered child delivered with captivating candor and grace.

Pub Date: Aug. 9, 2022

ISBN: 978-1-982185-82-4

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: May 30, 2022

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2022

THIS TIME NEXT YEAR WE'LL BE LAUGHING

An engaging childhood memoir and a deeply affectionate tribute to the author’s parents.

The bestselling author recalls her childhood and her family’s wartime experiences.

Readers of Winspear’s popular Maisie Dobbs mystery series appreciate the London investigator’s canny resourcefulness and underlying humanity as she solves her many cases. Yet Dobbs had to overcome plenty of hardships in her ascent from her working-class roots. Part of the appeal of Winspear’s Dobbs series are the descriptions of London and the English countryside, featuring vividly drawn particulars that feel like they were written with firsthand knowledge of that era. In her first book of nonfiction, the author sheds light on the inspiration for Dobbs and her stories as she reflects on her upbringing during the 1950s and ’60s. She focuses much attention on her parents’ lives and their struggles supporting a family, as they chose to live far removed from their London pasts. “My parents left the bombsites and memories of wartime London for an openness they found in the country and on the land,” writes Winspear. As she recounts, each of her parents often had to work multiple jobs, which inspired the author’s own initiative, a trait she would apply to the Dobbs character. Her parents recalled grueling wartime experiences as well as stories of the severe battlefield injuries that left her grandfather shell-shocked. “My mother’s history,” she writes, “became my history—probably because I was young when she began telling me….Looking back, her stories—of war, of abuse at the hands of the people to whom she and her sisters had been billeted when evacuated from London, of seeing the dead following a bombing—were probably too graphic for a child. But I liked listening to them.” Winspear also draws distinctive portraits of postwar England, altogether different from the U.S., where she has since settled, and her unsettling struggles within the rigid British class system.

An engaging childhood memoir and a deeply affectionate tribute to the author’s parents.

Pub Date: Nov. 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64129-269-6

Page Count: 314

Publisher: Soho

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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