Vickie Aldous Angela Howe-Decker
The problem with most book reviews is that they come out when new books are in their expensive hardcover editions, costing $20 or more. the time a book is out in paperback, the review is long forgotten.
But the Ashland Public Library regularly buys new books for the community to share. Look for the shelves near the check-out line that are stocked with new fiction books on one side and nonfiction works on the other. Here's a small taste of what's available:
— In "Dinner With Dad: How I Found My Way Back to the Family Table" by Cameron Stracher, the author describes working 80-hour weeks and enduring four hours of commuting each day to provide his family with the dream life in the suburbs. He rarely sees his kids before he leaves for work, and they are often in bed when he returns. Then he vows to spend five nights a week at the dinner table with his family, setting off a chain of lifestyle changes and hard choices. The effort sometimes doesn't seem worth it, especially in a house with an omnivore husband, vegetarian wife and two picky children. His macaroni and cheese baked with breadcrumbs is met with disdain by the kids.
"I am outraged that after all the effort I have put into dinner &
the thinking, the planning, the shopping, the cooking &
these ungrateful wretches could be so . . . ungrateful," he rants to himself as his wife searches in the refrigerator for something the kids will eat.
But the experiment also has its highlights, as when the kids happily slurp up noodles they made by hand with their dad. &
— For many girls who came of age in the '70s and '80s, the novels of Judy Blume were practically sacred. They offered brief salvations from adolescent trauma with stories about growing breasts, being teased, losing a best friend and even losing one's virginity. Blume's honest and sensitive tales were the stories many girls were living in some way or another.
A new anthology edited by Jennifer O'Connell, "Everything I Needed to Know About Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume," offers 24 personal essays by women authors (many who now write young-adult fiction) talking about the significance of one or more Blume novels in their childhood.
Most of the essays discuss a "Judy Blume moment," in which the author draws a parallel between an event in her life and a Blume novel. In one example, author Meg Cabot tells the story of a girl who causes all sorts of suffering in her fifth-grade classroom in Bloomington, Ind., comparing the incident with "Blubber," Blume's book on adolescent bullying.
Judging from the content of the essays and subsequent biographies, many of the contributors, like Judy Blume's characters, had similar middle class, suburban upbringings. This may be why there is a bit of sameness to the stories. It would have been nice to hear from a broader segment of Blume's readership &
those girls who connected with Blume's stories even though their backgrounds were vastly different from the main characters.
Still, the book brought back fond memories. I credit Judy Blume with my single moment of popularity in sixth grade. I was the only girl in school whose mother let her check out "Forever," Blume's wildly popular and frequently banned novel about teenage romance and sexuality. For about two weeks, all the girls were my friends as we snuck under the bleachers and read the sexy bits aloud.
While the essay collection isn't everything it could have been, readers will likely smile warmly at a few stories in the book, and make a mental note to pick up a favorite Judy Blume novel the next time they visit the library. &
The Ashland Public Library accepts suggestions for new book purchases. Visit jcls.org/suggest.html or ask for a form at the check-out desk.
To submit your own mini-review of a library book, go to and visit the Quills Queues column.
New at the library
Vickie Aldous Angela Howe-Decker