Book TalkFeatures


By November 5, 2020 February 4th, 2021 No Comments

Find inspiration in classics and new releases

In October, I read that C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe had been published 70 years ago. Translated into 47 languages and made into a movie, it’s a classic. The book has it all: evil witches, magic fantastic creatures and a wise lion who understands the everlasting truths about right and wrong. Better yet, two young boys, Edmund and Peter, are inspirations to us all

Early on, Edmund wants only to satisfy his own cravings, to the point of betraying his family, but he evolves into a brave and fair-minded young man. Peter isn’t perfect, but he displays courage and compassion; he’s quite the role model for children.

Reading up on the 1950 publication set me to thinking of all the fairy tales and fables I enjoyed as a child and a few I have fallen for as an adult. I loved many books in my youth, but none more than The Arabian Nights. I was captivated by the notion of a woman who avoids death by telling stories.

And I was an adult before I discovered The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, with its charming illustrations and pages jammed with poetic longing for love and home.

Even now, I find wisdom and gentle humor in books meant for readers younger than me. A diverse group of authors offers characters that have more interesting points-of-view and subjects that are grittier than ever.

Fans of Kimberly Brubaker Bradley’s The War That Saved My Life and The War I Finally Won will be happy to know that Bradley’s Fighting Words came out in August. This one is about sexual abuse and two sisters who must navigate the foster care system and stand up for each other while their meth-addicted mom is in prison. Does it get any grittier than that?

Here are a few gentler reads for the child in all of us.

Katherine Applegate’s newest book, The One and Only Bob, is the entertaining follow-up to her Newbery Medal winner, The One and Only Ivan, which introduced us to a gorilla, Ivan, who lives in a run-down carnival. Ruby is an elephant in the same seedy show; Bob is the scruffy dog who becomes their friend.

He is also the self-deprecating narrator of this new story that sets him on a search for his long-lost sister just as a hurricane makes landfall. Bob is left to prove that he has a heart big enough, courage bold enough and love strong enough to survive not only bad weather but the storms of life.

When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller is the story of Lily, who sees a magical tiger as her Korean grandmother becomes increasingly ill. Lily, her sister, Sam, and her widowed mother have moved in with the grandmother to help care for her.

Lily communicates with the magical beast and learns that her grandmother has locked away all the sad stories of her life. Are those bottled-up stories from the past killing the beloved grandmother?

Lily makes a deal with the tiger to heal her grandmother by releasing those tales. This coming-of-age story explores immigration issues as well as end-of-life challenges.

Ross, the central character in Wink, by Rob Harrell, tries to be like everyone else in seventh grade. But a rare eye cancer makes that impossible. Ross doesn’t want to wear a big hat to protect his eye or go for treatments or lose his hair. But he has a good friend, and together they find the funny in every situation. Ross hopes to survive not just cancer but middle school as well.

Inspired by the author’s own real-life experiences, Wink — illustrated with comic strips — is filled with humor more than heartbreak.

The author says of the book: “Humor can be the way through the dark times.” A little laughter is just what we need right now.

Mary Rogers is a Fort Worth-based freelance writer. Have a book or book club recommendation? Contact her at