New Books for Younger Readers
by Celia McGee
Cat in the City
by Julie Salamon, illustrated by Jill Weber (Dial Books for Younger Readers)
First there was Jenny Linsky. In fact, Happy Birthday to Esther Averill’s classic book series, which got its start exactly 70 years ago with her stories of the gentle, plucky Greenwich Village cat in the jaunty red scarf, happily reissued by New York Review Books. Now, greet with pleasure Cat in the City, proof that traditional opposites can attract and actually roll around in teachable moments.
As Julie Salamon sagely intimates and Jill Weber reflects in her blithely New York-centric, colorfully bittersweet illustrations, there isn’t just one way of perceiving the city, its famous buildings and architectural landmarks. To a cruising hawk, bustling Washington Square down below is merely a “rectangular field” for hunting. What initially looks like a “wrung out mop” to the predator comes into focus as a tasty-looking feline. He swoops, he misses, and the tangle of fur skedaddles instead smack into Roxie, Henry, and Maggie, each a dog with a distinct personality and a hostile, sarcastic attitude toward anything that purrs. Yet even the dogs’ hearts inevitably melt at so pitiful a sight. Marched briskly off to Roxie’s human’s home and tschoke shop, Pink Patti’s, he’s washed and scrubbed, blow-dried and fluffed up, and Patti names him “Pretty Boy.” The effects of kindness, taking risks on strangers, raising up the underdog (or undercat) and exchanging truculent “self-reliance” for the clarifying joy of community add special value to seemingly everyday adventures. Another, unfortunate, daily occurence in New York, Patti gets priced out of the real-estate market, and leaves the city behind.
The solitude would’ve pleased Pretty Boy once; now, not so much. Salamon fills the void in this particular one of Pretty Boy’s nine lives with the friendship of a nearby family’s young son, Eli, who himself dreads the mean-spirited isolation of a new school, and wants, in an unmusical family, to be a musician. Operating under the novel’s philosophical stance that happiness is helping people, and animals, out of tough spots, Salamon—can give surprises as well as she can get. Pretty Boy introduces Eli to the “Cello Man” who regularly plays in Washington Square.Hold onto the name of another New York institution, the Barrow Street School of Music, which Weber illustrates to scaled-down perfection. You just never know.
A Novel Approach
More Magazine writes, "In quaint headquarters, tucked among the blank towers of midtown Manhattan, the Center for Fiction feels like somewhere you'd be more likely to run ito Bartleby the Scrivener than your therapist—unless she's a "bibliotherapist" like Noreen Tomassi, the center's executive director, who manages a service called A Novel Approach. For $125, Tomassi will handpick 12 books, basing her choices on a 45-minute phone call, an e-mail exchange or, preferably, a face-to-face session with you..." For more on bibliotherapy or to schedule a session, please click here.
We are thrilled to announce a stellar line up of fall reading groups! Here at the Center we've made it our practice to bring the very best guides to lead our reading groups—extraordinary translators, renowned scholars and notable writers. Where else can you read García Márquez with his award-winning translator, Edith Grossman, or discuss Proust with writer and scholar George Prochnick? FIND OUT MORe
Congratulations to 2011 Emerging Writers Fellow Marie-Helene Bertino for her newly published novel, 2 A.M. at the Cat's Pajamas (Crown)! Watch Marie-Helene Bertino read and discuss her short story collection, Safe As Houses, at The Center.
2014 Summer Literary Seminars/Center for Fiction prize winner
Four reasons for Edith's body to fidget: the scentless pillow case, the scratchy sheets, the removal of the left breast, the downshift of the morphine. One thing Mort does, downstairs in the den, lodged securely in his olive La-Z-Boy: slide his hand between the cushion and the side. What he finds there: his missing MedicAlert bracelet. Well I'll be a monkey. Two hiding places he had checked: his motorcycle saddlebag, wrapped around the insinkerator blades. Two origin stories about the bracelet: the shrapnel poking at his lung, his mate Johnson pushed it on him right after the mortar split Johnson's leg like a log.
Our summer intern, Delia Graham-Costello, recommends Junot Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her as a must-read for high-schoolers.
"I like this book so much it almost makes me angry. Junot Diaz is another writer who just nails it. He has mastered the art of well-placed humor—a difficult task for even the most seasoned authors. His prose is witty, touching and full of (often misplaced) love. I will admit that this book is in no way PG-13, but its raw language is well placed and well worth it. The language of this book perfectly aligns itself with reality—nothing is sugar coated or assuaged. Additionally, the structure of the book allows you to choose how you read it...."
Founded in 1997 by then Center director Harold Augenbraum, the Proust Society's mission is to encourage the reading, study and enjoyment of the work of Marcel Proust. The Society presents lectures for the public and members take part in groups that read and discuss Proust's masterpiece, À la recherche du temps perdu.