Pick of the Month, November 2008


The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wrobleski, Ecco, $29,95

A memorable novel about a boy born mute, his dogs, and the turmoil caused by the murder of his father.


The ABC of Literacy: Preparing Our Children for Lifelong Learning by Cynthia Dollins, Cumberland House Publishing, $16.95

The author, an educator, makes a compelling case for the importance of parents reading to their children. The book includes advice on how to encourage children to read and provides summaries of 300+ age-appropriate books.


Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Connor, illustrated by Robin Preiss Glasser, HarperCollins,$17.99

This  funny and delightful book, oriented to girls 4 to 8, was published in 2005 and continues to be popular. Parents will enjoy reading it to their children, and children will keep rereading it for its wonderful illustrations and engaging plot.

Specailty/Small Press

Cumberland House Publishing, founded in 1996 and now specializing in nonfiction, has issued titles on a wide range of topics - Abraham Lincoln, the Beatles, the Cleveland Browns, and a disphagia cookbook to name a few. Its The Rebel and the Rose: James Semple, Julia Gardiner Tyler, and the Lost Confederate Gold by Wesley Millett and Gerald White presents a  riveting true life mystery. Hope and Help for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia by Alison C. Bested and Alan C. Logan with Russell Howe is one of several books on health & fitness.  Jane Austen: Writer of Fancy by Peter J. Leithart will be published in March 2009.

Shurik in high school uniform

Kustas Tammisson, Shurik’s father



Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, 89, died on August 3, 2008 of heart failure. Winner of Nobel Prize in Literature, he played a significant role in the collapse of the Soviet Union. Ariel Cohen called him “a great model of the power of ideas - and the power of the intellect.”  His works include poetry, plays, short stories, novels, and nonfiction. 

Solzhenitsyn survived eight years in the gulag. Afterwards he wrote the masterpiece, The Gulag Archipelago, the definitive work on Stalin’s concentration camps where some twelve million men, women, and children perished. In the 1950s he was diagnosed with stomach cancer that had spread.  He incorporated some of his experiences in his battle with this disease into his last novel Cancer Ward.

After a Russian Orthodox service, he was buried in the cemetery of Moscow’s Donskoy Monastery. He is survived by his wife Natalya and sons Stepan (an urban planner in NY), Ignat (pianist and conductor), and Yermolai (a writer).


Tasha Tudor died on June 18, 2008 at age 92. She is famous for the nearly 100 books she wrote and/or illustrated, most of them for children. They include the delightful A Is for Annabelle: A Doll’s Alphabet and 1 is One. Her last book, Corgiville Christmas was published in 2003. Her work has inspired a cottage industry -  greeting cards, prints, grandfather clocks, cookie cutters, collector dolls. A museum is in the works.

Tasha’s immersion into the lifestyle of the 1830s has fascinated the public. It has ranged from wearing clothes of the period to raising her four children in a house without electricity and running water until the youngest was five. One of her traditions was to take food to forest animals during Christmas. Her friend Jill Adams-Mancivalano said, “She was ahead of time, but lived in the past.”


Michael Crichton, 66, novelist and graduate of Harvard Medical School, died on November 4, 2008 from cancer. He won in 1969 an Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Mystery Novel, which he wrote under the pen name Jeffery Hudson. At the time of his death an estimate 150 million of his novels had been sold worldwide, many of them techno-thrillers about technology gone wild, with Jurrasic Park his biggest hit.

“In the information society, nobody thinks. We expect to banish paper, but we actually banish thought.” (Michael Crichton, Jurrasic Park) A workaholic, he also wrote screen plays, created the TV show ER for which he received an Emmy, and directed seven films. He is survived by his fifth wife Sherri and a daughter Taylor, 19.

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The Baltic Crusade by William Urban, Northern Illinois University Press, a book from Shurik’s library