Train Dreams by Denis Johnson Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Train Dreams by Denis Johnson. Picador/Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 116 pages; $13.00 (paperback). Reading level: adult. In a scant 116 pages, Johnson chronicles the life and death of both Robert Grainier and the American northwest from the 1880s through the 1960s. Grainier builds bridges, fells trees, transports goods, loses his wife of four years to a fire, and by… [Read More]

Lila by Marilynne Robinson Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Lila by Marilynne Robinson; Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014. 261 pages; $26.00 (hardcover); reading level: adult. This third installment in a series of “companion” novels covering the same events from different viewpoints (see Gilead, 2004 and Home, 2009) fills us in on the mysterious Lila. Rescued as a small, motherless child by Doll, Lila was… [Read More]

A Message for My Books – Inspired By a Passage in Alberto Manguel’s Book Curiosity

There are certain books I gaze at from afar, knowing I would love to read them but knowing, too, that I probably won’t because my list is overly long and I’m becoming more and more aware of how little time there seems to be in a day. One book I know I won’t get to… [Read More]

Check Out the Books On My Reading List Through 2016 and See Why I Choose Them. My Reviews Will Follow!

Each year I have the agony and the ecstasy of choosing nine books to read with my Indianapolis book discussion group. I don’t read the books before I select them. I choose them on the basis of reviews (New York Review of Books, the magazine Bookmarks, NPR) and recommendations from friends, librarians, writers, and bookstore staff…. [Read More]

The Zhivago Affair by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

The Zhivago Affair; The Kremlin, the CIA, and the Battle Over a Forbidden Book by Peter Finn and Petra Couvée; Pantheon Books/Random House, 2014. 352 pages; $26.95 (hardcover); reading level: adult. When the celebrated poet Boris Pasternak began the novel Doctor Zhivago in 1945, he and his fellow Russian writers were living under the terrifying,… [Read More]

Jump Back Paul; The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar by Sally Derby Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Jump Back, Paul; The Life and Poems of Paul Laurence Dunbar by Sally Derby; illustrated by Sean Qualls; Candlewick Press, 2015.  128 pages;  $16.99 (hardcover); reading level: grades 5-9. From the first sentence of this concise, lyrical biography a grandmotherly narrator takes the reader firmly by the hand:  “You never heard of the poet Paul… [Read More]

Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Vegetables in Underwear by Jared Chapman; illustrated by the author; Abrams/Appleseed, 2015.  32 pages; $14.94 (hardcover); reading level:  ages 4 and under. What item of clothing is more fascinating to a potty-training-aged fashionista than underwear? And what food is more on the minds of the fashionista’s care-givers than vegetables? Chapman gives a nod to both… [Read More]

If You Plant a Seed by Kadir Nelson Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

If You Plant a Seed; words and paintings by Kadir Nelson; Balzer + Bray/HarperCollins, 2015.  32 pages; $18.99 (hardcover); reading level: ages 3-8. Seeds – both real and metaphoric – are the subject of this stunning, oversized picture book.  The biblical adage of reaping what you sow (carrots…selfishness…kindness) is conveyed in a restrained text that… [Read More]

Like a River; A Civil War Novel by Kathy Cannon Wiechman Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Like a River; A Civil War Novel by Kathy Cannon Wiechman; Calkins Creek, 2015.  336 pages; $17.95 (hardcover); reading level: ages 10 and up. The stage is deftly set in the first two pages of this remarkable novel:  we are in Ohio, the Civil War is raging, and fifteen-year-old, Leander Jordan (“Jordan like the river”)… [Read More]

Canada Reviewed by Connie Nordhielm Wooldridge

Canada by Richard Ford. Ecco/HarperCollins, 2012. 420 pages; $15.99 (paperback). Reading level: adult. When sixty-six-year-old Dell Parsons looks back on the six weeks that changed his life back when he was fifteen, he begins his story this way: “First I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later.” It… [Read More]