Loah counts the hours until her mother returns from the frozen Arctic, where she has been on a birding expedition for nearly two months. She will be disappointed. In “The Most Perfect Thing in the Universe,” a rewarding middle-grade novel by Cleveland Heights author Tricia Springstubb, a friendless 11-year-old girl finds unexpected courage.
Loah’s mom calls to say she’s not on her way home after all. She made a remarkable discovery (perhaps). As her team wraps up their two-month mission, they hear the call of a loah bird, of which there have been no confirmed sightings for 30 years. It’s so rare that she bears her daughter’s name, and she’s so horny that she’s decided to be left alone.
Loah is devastated. She lives in a dilapidated house with “questionable electrical wiring” and a slate roof that drops tiles like rain, endangering people on the ground; people like the municipal housing inspector, who comes in with a clipboard and uses words like âuninhabitableâ.
Springstubb excels at writing characters like Loah, who don’t understand how estranged they are from other people’s lives. Loah is related to Mo Wren from 2010’s âWhat Happened on Fox Street,â a girl who lives in a deteriorated Cleveland house with her widowed father, missing her only friend who has moved.
The girls at Loah’s school make fun of her spooky house. When her mother is gone, which is most often the case, she is placed in the care of old Miss Rinker, an undemonstrative woman who serves liver sausage sandwiches on moldy bread. Miss Rinker’s brother Theo, a kind man who is not up to the task, leaves Loah to make any repairs he can.
It all sounds deeply disheartening, but Springstubb also excels at uplifting his characters with friendship and courage. Loah finds a friend, Ellis, who stands with her when Miss Rinker and Theo are away, and with Ellis comes more courage that Loah will need.
âThe Most Perfect Thing in the Universeâ (192 pages, hardcover) costs $ 17.99 from Holiday House Publishing.
“The New Heart: In Search of the American Dream”
Photography of urban decadence is now a well-established art, like that of Seph Lawless from Olmsted Falls who documents dead malls. In “The New Heartland: Looking for the American Dream”, photojournalist and Akron professor Andrew Borowiec took the opposite approach: the most recent construction, some so new – as in the cover photo – that the turf of the new lawn is rolled up. and stacked on the barren yard, resembling a moldy sushi platter.
About half of the 67 full-color photos in the large-format book are of residential buildings, some modest like the ones on Elizabeth Parkway in Akron, and others extravagant, like a McMansion in Bath with a sign saying “This is a private house” from afraid someone will confuse it with a Federal Reserve bank. A tidy concrete patio is furnished with a potted palm tree, swan planter, and chimney-piece, all set against the looming presence of the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant.
Former Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels recalls in his introduction his own years of working in construction at the university. If he notices the âfalsityâ of the houses, with their âextruded foam and synthesized brickâ, he respects the craftsmen who worked there. Giffels has undertaken the painstaking restoration of a ruined 1913 Akron Tudor, which he recounts in his “All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House” (2008, William Morrow), and he knows its bricks .
Most of the other photos are of so-called lifestyle centers or open-air malls like Legacy Village in Lyndhurst, designed to mimic a small town plaza with fake phone booths and faux stucco on faux walls of rock. There is no annotation other than the place and date of the photos.
âThe New Heartland: Looking for the American Dreamâ (96 pages, hardcover) costs $ 45 from George F. Thompson Publishing. Andrew Borowiec is a Distinguished Professor of Art Emeritus at the University of Akron, where David Giffels is now Professor of English.
Loganberry Books (13015 Larchmere Blvd., Shaker Heights): Michele Rudolph and other contributors to “Far from Their Eyes: Ohio Migration Anthology” read an excerpt from their work at 2 p.m. Sunday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Parma-Snow branch, 2121 Snow Road): Magician Joshua Jay talks about his new book “How Magicians Think: Misdirection, Deception, and Why Magic Matters”, Monday from 7 pm to 8 pm. Register at cuyahogalibrary.org.
Email local book information and event notices at least two weeks in advance to BeaconBookTalk@gmail.com and email@example.com. I’m tweeting @BarbaraMcI.