January Book Buzz Picks, "Looking Back, Moving Forward" - The Missourian: Newspapers In Education

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January Book Buzz Picks, "Looking Back, Moving Forward"

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Posted: Saturday, January 11, 2014 9:40 pm | Updated: 8:14 am, Mon Jan 13, 2014.

Welcome 2014! At the hive we eagerly look forward to lots of new books, like the trio recommended here. This month we kick off the New Year with “Looking Back and Moving Forward,” stories focusing on historic figures, gifted people who left their indelible marks, assuring that our world would be safer and more free, innovative and colorful. Page On!

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“You can’t keep a good man down,” is an apt theme for “Henri’s Scissors,” beautifully written and illustrated by Jeanette Winter, a past Book Buzz favorite.

From little on, Henri Matisse, a Frenchman relished art. He was continually creating, even drawing pictures in his law book. Soon his passion took front seat. He ditched law and set off to Paris to become an artist. “He painted pictures year after year. He was happy, and his paintings made people happy.”

Sadly, old age brought an end to Matisse’s ability to paint. Afflicted with illness, Matisse was wheelchair bound, yet pictures continued to come to him in dreams. On a trip to the seaside to recover, Matisse made a discovery. He began scissoring colorful shapes out of paper. His creations became a cut above and remain one of the calling cards for which Matisse is remembered.

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Our third president was a gentleman farmer, writer, statesman, and a complicated man of contradictions. Author Maira Kalman deftly reveals the life and times of this amazing Virginian in “Thomas Jefferson: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Everything.”

Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, designed Monticello, a home filled with treasures and innovations, and worked a deal with the French that lead to the Louisiana Purchase. But there was a moral duality to Jefferson as well — he helped write a document professing that all men are created equal, but Jefferson was a slave owner and had children with a slave after his wife died.

The contributions Jefferson made to America are varied and unique, and Kalman presents them with a light and honest hand, creating a book that presents the whole picture on Jefferson, one that’s uniquely creative and awash with color.

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“The Great Trouble: a Mystery of London, the Blue Death and a Boy Called Eel,” is a pageturner for readers 8 to 88, another masterful historical fiction title by Deborah Hopkinson.

Eel is an impoverished orphan eking out a living in London to support himself and his little brother. A street boy and “mudlark,” Eel combs the filthy Thames for bits of things that will net him a few coins. It’s a hardscrabble existence that goes from bad to worse when the Blue Death, later identified as cholera, begins to take lives.

Through a series of circumstances, Eel begins working with the real-life Dr. John Snow. A London physician, Dr. Snow, is credited with identifying the cause of cholera, putting an end to epidemics like the Broad Street scourge that took the lives of 616 people in 1854, the dramatic backdrop around which Hopkinson fashions her entertaining and informative new novel.

It’s another great read from an author who has made the genre her life’s work.

Reprinted with permission, Missourian Publishing Company. Copyright 2014.

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