For many of us, the next few weeks will be a flurry of holiday parties, last-minute gift runs, and the chance to see family and friends. In a bid to remember why we go through so much trouble to be with loved ones this time of year, consider picking up the third literary anthology in the Freeman’s collection entitled Home(Grove, $16). Thirty-seven writers from around the world focused on the idea of home, each bringing a new perspective and interpretation.
In the narrative nonfiction piece “Vacationland,” author Kerri Arsenault returns to her hometown of Mexico, Maine, which sits on the banks of the Androscoggin River. Now a derelict relic of a bygone era, the townspeople’s former prosperity came from toiling in the paper mill in nearby Rumford. “That’s money coming out of those smokestacks,” Arsenault’s father used to say, but there was plenty else coming out of those stacks, too–dioxin, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, and other by-products of contemporary mass-produced papermaking, slowly poisoning the surrounding environment and its inhabitants. (Read “At the Crossroads” in On Paper for a look inside the modern commercial papermaking experience.)
For a pleasant mid-winter mix, we offer two books in the spirit of warmth and love.
Mother Bruce, by Ryan T. Higgins; Hyperion Books, $17.99, 48 pages, ages 4-8.
is a solitary type of bear–downright grumpy, in fact. His single joy is cooking eggs. Bruce scours the forest for his hard-shelled treats, harvesting them for
complicated recipes he finds on the internet. (Naturally, there’s WIFI
in his den.) One day, a clutch of locally-sourced goose eggs hatches,
and Bruce has to put aside his own concerns in order
to raise the baby chicks. Alongside plenty of edgy adult humor to
keep parent and child entertained, Higgins offers a droll examination of interspecies
families and unconditional love.
Fans of Lemony Snicket’s The Composer is Dead and cover art for the band The Decemberists will quickly recognize the work of Carson Ellis in her debut solo picture book. Here, Ellis employs gouache and ink to showcase all the different fanciful places that may be called home. Whether it’s a Norse god at Valhalla, a Keynan blacksmith at his abode, or an old lady and her shoe, each homebody is united by the fact that their dwellings all provide warmth and protection. (Keep an eye out for Ellis herself, hard at work in her studio.) Whimsical and touching, this is a tender reminder that no matter what you call it, home is where the heart is.