The Body of Christopher Creed, by Carol Plum-Ucci. Volo, 2001.

One of our Tuesday-night regulars recommended this book to me. I was skeptical, and waited until I got my three-day due-date warning before opening it. After a rough beginning, I was hooked.

It's a teen angst novel that explores the issues of tolerance, diversity, prejudice, stereotyping, and hazing during the week after a classmate vanishes. There are allegations and finger-pointing, sleeping around, murder, and theft on many levels, and both the characters and the reader come to see that they don't really know at all those whom they thought they knew inside and out. And that common knowledge covers up lies and secrets.

This book would appeal to both boys and girls, as there are strong protagonists of both genders who keep the story moving right to its modern-day end.


The Green Poodles, by Charlotte Baker. David McKay Company, Inc, 1956.

There are only a few books I read as a student that remain clear in memory. Petroushka was one, a Russian tale about a squirrel with three golden hairs in each ear. Never found any reference to that one again. The horse books by Dorothy Lyons: Silver Birch, Golden Sovereign, Midnight Moon. No longer in the library system. Often, revisiting those early favorites is a shock. Societal mores have changed; stereotyping is out of favor, pejorative language is passe. You feel uncomfortable that you ever liked it.

I must have read The Green Poodles when I was about 10, and I LOVED it! I learned all about poodles, dog shows, obedience trials - and there was a mystery to be solved, as well. I've kept a reminder for about 20 years, and looked for it off and on, and just recently, I found a copy in San Jose State University's library! It is EVERYTHING I remembered!

Fern Green, from England, is orphaned and sent to live with her Green cousins in Texas. She brings her champion poodle, Juliet, with her, and the Greens' rural lifestyle is forever changed. Aunt Lena develops a health problem that prevents her from returning to her job as a seamstress, and the family is faced with a financial crisis that still resonates today. The three Green siblings and Fern build a business around the poodles with the help of Miss Seymour, a professional breeder, and with Juliet's help, they solve a century-old family mystery.

Baker's language is spare, but descriptive, and her pen and ink illustrations bring the children and poodles to life. Her characters and setting are timeless. I place her squarely in the same league as Beverly Cleary, and can totally recommend The Green Poodles to any child today with an interest in dogs and good storytelling.


The Memory Keeper's Daughter, by Kim Edwards. Viking, 2005
David and Nora Henry are expecting their first child. It comes in the winter during a storm, and the obstetrician is unable to attend due to injury in an auto accident on his way to the hospital. David, who is a bone surgeon, delivers his own son. Except, unexpectedly, there is a second child, a daughter, who has the markers for Down syndrome. In a split moment, David decides to tell his wife the second baby was stillborn. He instructs his nurse to take her immediately to an "institution" in another city, thereby setting in motion a chain of events that will have a profound impact on everyone.

The author's use of language to evoke the settings - and particularly the emotions - of the characters is stunning. It mimics real life, in which there are secrets, revelations, motives - altruistic and selfish, presumptuous and defensive - that are not apparent even to people who are closest to each other. Although the plot is mostly predictable, I stayed up many nights, reading as long as I could keep my eyes open, just to revel in the beautiful, lyrical language and the insightful development of the main characters.