Monthly Archives: April 2012

Author Feature: Nancy Tillman

Enchantment and wonder: these are the words which best describe the picture books by Nancy Tillman. Dancing polar bears, sleeping in a tree with a fat panda, sleepy cows: this is the stuff of Tillman’s unusual books for children.  The illustrations are breathtaking and the words are lyrical. The main message to children in Tillman’s book is “You are special and you are loved.”

There are several books to choose from, check out Nancy Tillman’s website.

Nancy Tillman’s Website

‘On the Night You were Born opens with these words.
“On the night you were born, the moon smiled with such wonder that the stars peeked in to see you and the night wind whispered, ‘Life will never be the same.’ This book makes a great gift for a new baby.

‘Bedtime Story’ by Robert J. Wiersema

A good old-fashioned adventurous quest always makes for a compelling read. Although this novel by Wiersema is an adult novel in terms of some of the content, it has a Young Adult “feel” to it. This story is part domestic drama, part supernatural thriller. There are two parallel worlds and two parallel casts of characters. There are lots of twists and turns and maybe a bit of delicious predictability as well, typical of an epic quest.

Christopher Knox discovers a mysterious book which he gives to his son David. While reading the book, his son suffers a seizure and is rendered comatose. What the reader knows is that David has emerged into another world where he is given a challenging quest to recover the sunstone for the King. His father, as yet unenlightened but on a journey to discover this, enters into a quest of his own to save his son. The story gives the phrase “this book draws me right in” a very literal new meaning! (Note: when you start reading don’t be confused by the fact that the boy is Matthew and not David. All will be made clear shortly).

Wiersema is a skillful author. Another book of his which I read is called ‘Before I Wake‘.  Since I read it long ago I can’t comment on it specifically, but I do remember enjoying it. In this story there is also a child in a coma, a daughter. Wiersema himself says that ‘Before I Wake‘ is a story about mothers and daughters and ‘Bedtime Story‘ is a novel about fathers and sons. However, the stories and themes are very different.

‘Monday Mourning’ by Kathy Reichs

Where does this author find the time? Kathy Reichs has impressive professional credentials as a forensic anthropologist and manages to write a novel almost every year in addition to her work. Dr. Reichs works for the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, State of North Carolina and for the Laboratoire de Sciences Judiciares et de Médecine Légale for the province of Quebec. She is one of only sixty-eight forensic anthropologists certified by the American Board of Forensic Anthropology and formerly sat on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences. A professor of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, Dr. Reichs is a native of Chicago, where she received her Ph.D at Northwestern. She now divides her time between Charlotte and Montreal and is a frequent expert witness at criminal trials. She also produces the TV series ‘Bones’ which is based on the novels. Like I said, where does she find the time?

What I like about her crime novels is the authenticity of the forensic anthropology which she is expert at. The novels are somewhat formulaic, but I find this more comforting than irritating.  She usually is called in to deal with some odd bones which lead to the discovery of a crime.  Following her instincts, she investigates, often without the support of her colleagues, gets into danger herself, all the while juggling her private problems and love life while simultaneously solving the mystery!  Of course in the end she is ok, and the perps are brought to justice.  In a sense she has put herself into the character of Temperance Brennan, who also divides her time between the two locations, has the same credentials, and does the same work. What I like the best is that when she takes on the mystery,  she also takes those bones and makes real people out of them. She cares about the people the bones represent and wants to reveal their secrets to honour them, even in death. It all rings rather true, is entertaining, and I usually learn something interesting.

In this particular instalment, she finds some bones in a rat-infested basement of a pizza joint. The mystery leads her into the sad, but all too realistic, story of the kidnapping and brainwashing of these young girls whose bones she has found. In addition to the bones and what they reveal, she also takes on various criminal issues like this and deals very sensitively with them.

The first few books she wrote had French titles: Deja Dead, Death du Jour, and then a number of English titles followed, about one per year. Some are set in the States and some in Canada. Her website will give you a full listing. I’ve read seven so far and enjoy picking one up every year or so. Maybe you will too. I’ve never actually even seen the TV series but I’m sure the books are better! 🙂
Kathy Reichs Website

‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain

In the words of Roger Dangerfield, introverts can say “I don’t get no respect.” In North American culture extroversion is rewarded and favoured and introversion seems to be regarded as something to be cured.  There has been a noticeable shift from the days when “solitary flights of thought” as Cain puts it,  had higher value. She points out how things have changed and the value is now towards more interaction, which is not always helpful for introverts.  In schools, desks used to be in rows, now they are in pods with students facing each other. In the workplace, where there used to be individual offices, now there are open style cubicles. Group work is encouraged and team projects are often the norm. People are encouraged to speak up and take initiative. No one is saying that extroverts can’t be shy and introverts aren’t social;  we generally know that it has more to do with how one recharges. Introverts need to restore and recharge on their own, and extroverts need to recharge with others.

In this powerful and long overdue book Cain does a  great job of defining just what an introvert and an extrovert are, and how that affects how people live and work. There is not one better than another, they are just different. But the power of introvertism has been somewhat overlooked and Cain definitely shows how success and brilliance can come from both types and indeed always has. Her research is thorough and her findings are profound. She also explores different cultures and points out that some other parts of the world are not quite so pro-extrovert as North American and Europe have become.

Even if you know you are an extrovert, this book can be of interest to you. Since a third to a half of all people are introverts, chances are you are married to, or work with, or are related to an introvert. This book will raise awareness and go a long way towards a better understanding and sensitivity within relationships.

Cain mustered up the courage to do a TED talk, to get her message out there. Since she is an introvert, this was a challenge for her, but as she points out in her book, when introverts are passionate about something they can excel at public speaking and engage in more extroverted behaviour. The link to her TED talk is just below. The book goes into more depth but her main points are in the talk.