From a fun picture book that teaches kids where they belong, where they can go in the Twin Cities, to a Wyatt Earp Wives Tale, here’s today’s walk through the genres .
“We belong” by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Carlos Velez Aguilera. (Carolrhoda Press, $17.99)
“I love writing challenges,” says Laura Purdie Salas of “We Belong,” her new rhyming verse children’s picture book illustrated by Carlos Velez Aguilera.
And it was a challenge.
Salas is an award-winning author of more than 130 books, including “BookSpeak! Poems About Books,” winner of a Minnesota Book Award. So she’s not new to writing poetry-focused picture books. But “We Belong,” she says, was “totally different” because she had never done a rhyming picture book.
In 2018, Salas sent a manuscript of a preschool picture book on intersectionality to Carol Hinz, associate editor at Minneapolis-based Carolrhoda Books. Hinz rejected the rhymeless manuscript but loved two stanzas of Salas’ rhyming verse. “How would you feel about writing an affirmation book for young children all in verse?” she asked Salas.
Salas took up the challenge and created the new animated book with three things in mind to introduce to his young readers: rhyme, opposites and the idea of belonging.
“Perhaps you are silent,/You wonder./You dream. Thoughts flow gently,/clear as a stream. Maybe you’re loud, /AH-CHOOOOOO/TSY-S-TAT! Nobody says, ‘Can you repeat that?’
“Does the world call you Black?/Does it say you’re white?/Whatever your color, your skin is perfect. We all wear our skin like trees wear their bark, / in endless shades between light and dark.
“Play with the toys you think are fun. / Put on a tutu and hit a home run! / Be whoever you want. / CHOOSE WHO YOU ARE.”
“I wanted to explore the differences and what we have in common,” Salas said in a YouTube video. On his webpage (laurasalas.com) she says she believes that “every quality has value, and people along the continuum of any quality are also valuable. Accepting our differences is important. But feeling safe and valued is still more essential. … I’m thrilled to tell kids, “I appreciate you, just the way you are. It doesn’t matter what you look like, where you’re from, or how you express your gender. You belong.”
Aguilera’s bright and energetic illustrations of children laughing, screaming, jumping, make this a book full of life. There are children of all colors in all kinds of clothes; some in wheelchairs, others a little chubby. But everyone is having a good time. They really feel like they belong.
Salas will host a virtual book launch at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, March 2, hosted by Red Balloon Bookshop in St. Paul. She will read excerpts from the book, provide insight into her writing process, and suggest a writing activity for families or classrooms. For more information, visit: redballoonbookshop.com.
“The great cities! The twin towns” by Colleen Sexton (Arcadia Children’s Books, $14.99)
Subtitled “Minneapolis and St. Paul combine to form world-class city pair!” this is an introduction for children ages 7 and up that introduces the history, people and culture of this state’s largest metropolitan area. Even adults might be surprised by some information. Did you know there is a state rock? (It’s agate.) Or that St. Paul and Minneapolis have city flags?
From the Children’s Museum in St. Paul to the Mill City Museum in Minneapolis, this book features places kids will love to visit. There are listings of art and theater venues, restaurants, sports, and people from other cultures.
It would be a good source for a book report or as a starter text in a geography class (or whatever they call learning places these days).
The book’s color and black-and-white photos, as well as cartoons, are woven into a busy, colorful layout that’s eye-catching and just the right mix for this age group.
“Geographies of the Heart” by Caitlin Hamilton Summie (Fomite, $15)
… Sarah is the sun, all heart and warmth. She knows every name on the family tree, every twisting little branch. Glennie is the moon, distant, more muted. She remembers the way people carried their babies, their shape and the ailments that took them away. Together they remember everything, and Glennie is sure that only love binds this combination of memory and blood. They just love differently.
Caitlin Summie, a 1986 graduate of Edina High School who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee, won awards for her 2017 collection “To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts,” short stories centered on family relationships.
Three of these stories inspired Summie’s first novel, “Geographies of the Heart,” a quiet story that captures the reader’s heart more the more she reads.
It starts slow, with sisters Sarah and Glennie as close as possible. Both love their grandparents. But something happens as the girls grow up and they gradually separate. Beautiful Glennie is determined to become a doctor, and she’s never around when Sarah needs her. Although Sarah is happily married to Al, a big, sweet, easy-going boy, she misses her sister, who didn’t even attend their grandfather’s funeral.
The story is told from the perspective of Sarah, Glennie (who becomes OBGYN), and Al, revealing all of their feelings for each other. There’s no great drama in this novel, but the tension that underlies the characters’ lives becomes increasingly clear as the story progresses. The deep love they have for each other also underlies their feelings.
“Necessary Disappointments: Wyatt Earp’s Women” by Pamela Nowak (Five Star Publishing, $25.95)
Half an hour later they gathered in the dining room and ordered whiskeys all around. If there was one thing Mattie loved about this family, it was that the women were okay. They shared past lives – except Allie who said she had been a waitress – and a fondness for drinking and a need to manage their men.
As far as women go, famous lawman Wyatt Earp was not a nice guy, despite his reputation as an honorable lawman.
Earp’s life and that of his brothers James, Virgil and Morgan are starkly different in Pamela Nowak’s intriguing historical fiction, “Necessary Deceptions,” which chronicles the lives of families from the wives’ perspective.
Wyatt Earp was a horse thief, murderer, card cheat, brothel visitor, desperate to become a lawyer so he could save tax money. He also had no problem sending his wives back into prostitution when money was scarce. Meanwhile, he couldn’t keep his hands off the other women and they responded to this tall, broad-shouldered man.
Wyatt’s first wife died of typhoid fever. His second and third wives – Mattie Blaylock and Josephine Marcus – both craved respectability after spending time in brothels. Mattie had run away from home with her younger sister Sarah after their parents decided to marry the 15-year-old to an older man. Josephine and a girlfriend voluntarily joined a group of young girls heading to a brothel in Prescott, Arizona, thinking they were going to have nice clothes and live in the big rooms they saw in the most elite homes. .
As the Earp couples moved to boom towns across the west, the brothers made big plans that the women, especially Mattie, had to avoid. It was the women who anticipated and tried to keep their men on track.
Even though Mattie supported Wyatt during his days under arrest for breaking various laws, he abandoned her. Living as a prostitute, alone, she committed suicide with laudanum and whiskey.
Josephine, who had a long affair with Johnny Behan, gained some respectability and remained with Wyatt until his death, shaping his legend through half-truths, omissions and exaggerations while hiding his own past.
Nowak, who lives in the West but grew up in Minnesota, excerpted local history from her earlier novel, ‘Never Let Go: Survival of the Lake Shetek Women,’ about five women who lived through the Dakota attack. in 1862 at Lake Shetek, a small settlement about 70 miles west of Mankato.
This book begins with the stories of each of the women, so at the time of attack the reader knows and cares about them.
The author uses the same format in “Necessary Deceptions”, telling the stories of Mattie and Josephine in the first half of the book. Wyatt Earp doesn’t even appear until the middle, and by then the reader understands Mattie and Josephine and the lies they tell each other about Wyatt loving them.
Earp and Josephine were together until her death in 1929. They interacted with all the characters we know so well, including “Big Nose” Kate Elder, a former prostitute who was “Doc” Holliday’s longtime companion. , along with Bat Masterson and other gunmen.
The lament of Wyatt’s wives is summed up by Mattie when she tries to calm her bored husband in Dodge City: “Your wild side always comes down to you drifting across the line of respectability and taking me with you. .”