When the weather turns brisk and fall is in the air, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a good book. We’ve picked 10 new releases that will captivate your imagination while you sip on some hot cocoa.
Just when you thought Mark Twain’s death was not greatly exaggerated, he’s back…sort of.
The new children’s book The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine dates to more than a century ago, when on an evening in 1879, at a hotel in Paris, America’s most beloved literary icon made up a fairy tale for his young daughters. Later, he scribbled 16 pages of explicit notes, but never finished the story.
In 2011, a scholar discovered the notes among Twain’s papers at the University of California at Berkeley. While Samuel Clemens often told his daughters bedtime stories, remnants from The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine (Doubleday Books for Young Readers, 152 pp., for ages 8-12, **** out of four stars) are the only ones found from those heavy-lidded moments.
To the rescue comes Caldecott Medal-winning husband-and-wife duo Philip and Erin Stead. Together, he writing, she drawing, they had already awakened the bedtime-story genre with such well-told and sweetly rendered modern classics as A Sick Day for Amos McGee and Bear Has a Story to Tell.
And, as Philip Stead explains their Twainian calling in the author’s note, somebody needed to finish this tale, and they aren’t dead and Twain is.
In the story, Twain creates a “luckless hero” named Johnny, who is a kind and unhappy boy living in a poverty-stricken land with his bad grandfather. Johnny’s life is so destitute his only friend is a chicken named “Pestilence and Famine.”
Johnny’s adventure begins when his grandfather sends him down the dangerous road to the markets at the king’s castle to sell his chicken “for something worth eating.” The plot is pure Twain; isn’t his greatest tale, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, about a boy navigating a dangerous world on his own?
Anyway, Johnny meets an old blind woman who hands him magic seeds that, later, grow flowers enabling him to talk with animals. By the end, kindly creatures, from a helpful skunk to the edgy tiger, help Johnny rescue the insufferable, kidnapped…