Vicky Smith and Alex Trebek courtesy of Jeopardy! Productions, Inc.
Like many a trivia-accumulating American, I have been an on-again, off-again fan of Jeopardy! for years. I sit on my couch and shout answers at the TV, groaning when a contestant muffs a question: "Harriet Tubman was from Maryland! How can you not know that?" So when I saw an announcement for an online test to screen potential contestants, I thought, Why not?
An online test, an in-person audition, and several months later, I had a taping date in Culver ...
Photo courtesy Erin English
The inspiration for Coretta Scott King Honor Award winner Karen English’s latest middle grade novel all comes down to one unforgettable quote.
“We had a housekeeper,” says English, who was born in 1954 and grew up in Los Angeles, “and she pulled me aside one day, when I was about nine, and told me that, if I ever went to Africa, the Africans would kill me, because they didn’t like, in her words, ‘no light-skinned negroes.’
“I didn’t ...
Some of this month’s excellent nonfiction
Heading into the heart of summer in Charleston, South Carolina, where I live, sometimes it’s too hot for anything except hunkering down in the air conditioning with a good book. Here are seven to check out this July, with quotes from our reviews.
The Unwomanly Face of War
by Svetlana Alexievich
“The Nobel laureate writes about ‘the wrong kind of war’: oral confessions from Russian women intimately involved with fighting for the motherland….Essential reading full of remarkable emotional wealth ...
We talk to Jan Weissmiller, co-owner of Prairie Lights
Iowa City’s Prairie Lights started small in 1978 and shelved the then-newer voices of Alice Munro and Raymond Carver alongside heavy hitters like Eudora Welty and George Orwell. The general bookstore expanded to three and a half floors (the half is home to Prairie Lights’ cafe) and hosts a celebrated reading series broadcast live on WSUI and WOI. We spoke with poet and co-owner Jan Weissmiller about life at the legendary indie.
How would you describe Prairie Lights ...
A political analyst with ABC news, the co-author of 2006’s Applebee’s America, and the former chief strategist for the Bush-Cheney 2004 presidential campaign, Matthew Dowd has spent the last seven years ruminating on the current state of the country. Through his columns and TV appearances he sharpened his observations about leadership and what is lacking in that leadership, but it took a very public break with the president, a series of personal tragedies, and a pilgrimage around the world to ...
Photo courtesy Jana Ašenbrennerová
Rare is the book about which one can say, in earnest, “I’ve never read anything like this before,” yet with A Twenty Minute Silence Followed by Applause, Shawn Wen has written such a book. From its idiosyncratic area of interest to its chameleonic formal modalities, Applause resists easy categorization at every turn, and this is one of its many strengths. What begins as an inviting and imaginative gesture toward a biography of the mime Marcel Marceau branches out ...
Robin Smith photographed by Dean Schneider.
As it inevitably must on occasion, the children’s literature world shrank a little bit recently, on June 23, when Robin Smith passed away far too young. Correction: it shrank a lot.
A second-grade teacher at Ensworth School in Nashville, Tennessee, she was also: a longtime, savvy reviewer for Kirkus, BookPage, and the Horn Book; the original convener of the Calling Caldecott blog, which engages in smart, vigorous discussion of Caldecott-eligible books each fall, leading up to a mock Caldecott vote ...
New globe-trotting nonfiction
Summer means travel, and travel means discovery. Here are 10 July books that offer stimulating (but not always pleasant) explorations of various locales around the globe.
To the New Owners, Madeleine Blais
An “unfailingly charming reminiscence of summers spent on [Martha’s Vineyard].”
We Are Syrians, Adam Braver
“Three Syrians who have faced down their country’s police state tell their respective first-person stories.”
A Paris All Your Own, Eleanor Brown
“A quick and fun read that should delight seasoned ...