Sense of Wonder

“A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full or wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children, I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantment of later year . . . the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

— Rachel Carson, Sense of Wonder

Howl Like a Wolf!

Lo, good people of the interwebs! Today in small, seemingly rare good news . . . I’m beyond pleased to announce my first children’s book, Howl Like a Wolf, has a cover and release date. Look for it in mid-April in independent bookstores near you, or pre-order it now from the publisher site or various internet purveyors such as Powell’s, Amazon, B&N, and Target, if you know a child who loves animals. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The dry pitch is that it’s a combination of natural history and imaginative exercises revolving around animal behavior. The kid pitch is that in it you’ll meet a passel of awesome animals, and learn how to think and act like them — how to for instance, sneak like a leopard, joke like a raven, defend yourself like a skunk, sing like a whale, and of course, howl like a wolf.

It’s been such a tremendous experience working on this with Workman/Storey Publishing and my good friend and editor Hannah Fries. And the fabulous Kaley McKean’s illustrations are the perfect dreamy mix of artful and whimsical. I cannot wait to hold it in my hands, and encourage children to waggle, pollinate, hop, and echolocate.

The Latest in Reading Recommendations

Image result for the shell collector1. The Shell Collector, by Anthony Doerr
Tony Doerr is an exquisite writer. Goddamn. The luscious sentences in these short stories glimmer, drip, and shine with wonder, longing, displacement, and desire for connection. Part magical realism, part natural history, part basic human nature, these odd and beautiful stories truly dazzled me.

 

Image result for hunger roxane gay quotes2. Hunger, by Roxane Gay
Gay’s most recent book is a memoir, of sorts — the story of her (unruly) body.  Sometimes detached, sometimes visceral, always soul wrenching, she describes her rape as a girl, and subsequent struggles with over-eating, self-worth, security, and the eventual challenges separating her public and private lives. I originally chose to read this book because I wanted a better understanding of someone who struggles with their weight, especially in a fat-phobic culture, and I did gain some insight there, but this book is so much more than that. Many of Gay’s struggles, losses, and gains are painfully familiar, and I think any reader would be moved by her brave (she’d likely hate that descriptor) and candid book.

3. Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng
I loved this one. Dysfunctional families, mysterious pasts, simmering racial tensions, and suburban ennui come to roost in an affluent and neatly planned Ohio community. And then this passage, something I’ve thought about every day since becoming a mother:

“Parents, she thought, learned to survive touching their children less and less. As a baby Pearl had clung to her; she’d worn Pearl in a sling because whenever she’d set her down, Pearl would cry. There’d scarcely been a moment in the day when they had not been pressed together. As she got older, Pearl would still cling to her mother’s leg, then her waist, then her hand, as if there was something in her mother she needed to absorb through the skin. Even when she had her own bed, she would often crawl into Mia’s in the middle of the night and burrow under the old patchwork quilt, and in the morning they would wake up tangled, Mia’s arm pinned beneath Pearl’s head, or Pearl’s legs thrown across Mia’s belly. Now, as a teenager, Pearl’s caresses had become rare—a peck on the cheek, a one-armed, half-hearted hug—and all the more precious because of that. It was the way of things, Mia thought to herself, but how hard it was. The occasional embrace, a head leaned for just a moment on your shoulder, when what you really wanted more than anything was to press them to you and hold them so tight you fused together and could never be taken apart. It was like training yourself to live on the smell of an apple alone, when what you really wanted was to devour it, to sink your teeth into it and consume it, seeds, core, and all.”

Image result for Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions,4. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
How do you raise a feminist daughter (or son)? Well, you could start with the thoughtful suggestions featured in this slim book.

 


Image result for sing unburied sing5. Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward

THIS book. Woooo. I don’t quite have the words yet, but haunting certainly comes to mind… a deep, gorgeous ache. “Some days later, I understood what he was trying to say, that getting grown means learning how to work that current: learning when to hold fast, when to drop anchor, when to let it sweep you up.” Definitely in my top three for favorite books of the year. Here’s what the Times had to say.


Image result for red rising trilogy6-8. Red Rising, Golden Son, and Morning Star, by Pierce Brown

I didn’t know how much I needed the plot-driven revolutionary escapism provided by this trilogy until I pounded through the whole thing in a couple of weeks. Set in an off-planet future dystopian civilization organized in a genetically-engineered caste system, ruled by a brutal and decadent elite class, these books really satisfy that Hunger Games itch. Quick, fun (if not violent) read about a world that doesn’t seem all that unlikely these days…

Turtles All the Way Down9. Turtles All the Way Down, by John Green
John Green remains the king of thoughtful Young Adult literature. Never one to shy away from difficult subject matter (he’s written about teen suicide and kids with terminal cancer), Green brings his signature heart, wit, and depth to this story of loss and mental illness. It’s dark — more so, I think, than his other books, and personal (like his main character, he also suffers from OCD and unwanted “thought spirals,”) and maybe even a little harder to love right away, but I think that’s what makes it so important. It’s really stuck with me.

Image result for i'm just a person10. I’m Just a Person, by Tig Notaro 
You’ve probably heard, but a couple years ago comedian Tig Notaro faced the death of her mother, a breakup, a life-threatening C. diff infection, and breast cancer all within a couple of months. Her resulting stand-up show was nominated for a Grammy. This book is an account of that heartbreaking and terrifying time, and it’s a whole lot funnier than you’d think.

 

Just Your Friendly Neighborhood Kraken

Check this out: some good news, for a change. The British Virgin Islands Art Reef project just sunk an 80-foot steel kraken hugging a rusted out WWII-era fuel ship into the Caribbean. Its creators anticipate this badass marriage of art and conservation will encourage new coral ecosystem growth, attracting a myriad of sea creatures, researchers, and eco-tourists. And I, for one, would obviously visit there in a hot minute. Look at how cool this is! And then check out the very short film about the project at the bottom of Colossal’s post, here. (Photographs by Owen Buggy.)