Book Review Advance review by Bookreporter.com
DON’T FORGET ME, BRO
By John Michael Cummings
Stephen F. Austin State University Press
Families: they love us, they hate us, they confuse us, they support us, they believe in us, they hurt us, they forgive us, they never forget our mistakes …
It’s no good picking and choosing which of the above (in what could be an interminably long list) best applies to your particular family, or mine, because today’s assumption will become tomorrow’s irrelevance.
As author John Michael Cummings shows with such poignant and searing skill in DON’T FORGET ME, BRO families contain all of it. There’s simply no tidy, predictable emotional or dynamic boundary to draw around these most primal of human units. Even those who don’t know their biological families have collective relationships that daily test their autonomy, individuality, self-worth and dreams.
Cummings, who’s spent more than three decades writing about human beings, mainly of the everyday American persuasion, excels in uncovering those beneath-the-skin familial stories that realistically probe uncomfortable, often invisible, areas of life. And even in our current decade of sociological transparency, perhaps nothing is more resistant to illumination in this context than mental illness.
As a broad collection of chemical, biological and/or psychiatric disorders of the brain, it eludes clear-cut treatments and solutions as successfully as families elude pat definitions of who and what they are. When families and their perceptions of mental illness collide, as happens with such gritty persistence in DON’T FORGET ME, BRO all the discomfort of relationships, normal and otherwise, comes to the fore.
Returning home to West Virginia to deal with the premature death of his older brother Steve, long diagnosed as schizophrenic, Mark Barr carries plenty of his own emotional and psychological baggage, including a deep-seated distaste for a father he remembers as abusive, a mother who seems a passive bystander to life, and a middle brother who comes across as just plain weird. With a number of failed relationships on record – including the one that’s falling apart even as he sets out from New York – he’s not so sure about his own mental health either.
“Going back home” stories are often based on narrow cliché-filled themes that focus on a single character or experience. Like series TV shows, they are easier to control and wrap up in a satisfying sentimental or tragic package at the end.
Fortunately, DON’T FORGET ME, BRO isn’t one of them. It’s a gripping emotional and literary journey that hits just about every pothole one can expect to find on life’s road; that part is engaging and sometimes oddly familiar. And when Cummings throws in a few unexpected left turns, thanks to his character’s unpredictable relatives and colleagues, there are moments of surprise and difference to ponder as well. That skilfully managed dichotomy in itself sets this author apart, drawing the reader into places that challenge assumption and attitude.
At the outset, Mark does think this back-home story is all about him, but he’s not driven by ego or self-absorption as much as by fear, worry and chronic indecision. His own identity, perhaps even his future, are on the line.
But as he blunders into memories, people, and artifacts from the chaotic mosaic of his dead brother’s life he rediscovers who Steve really was. In spite of himself he grows into a kind of belated and bewildered stewardship over his brother’s cremated remains, which become a catalyst for revealing ever-deeper layers of family stories he never really knew.
Haunted by the last words he heard Steve utter – “Don’t forget me, bro” – Mark realizes that at the heart of every human existence is the fear of being forgotten, of simply disappearing into cosmic anonymity. After all, even families that can’t stand each other tenaciously remember their own.
With the unexpected complicity of his equally dysfunctional remaining brother, Mark hangs around his hometown, stumbling upon ways to build better memories than the ones he’d fled more than a decade earlier when he went to New York seeking success.
The Barr family changes a little, just enough for its surviving members to actually remain civilly in the same room together. That’s about it. Cummings doesn’t make their story television-comfortable, nor does he eliminate the heavy reality of an uncertain future.
Set against the larger contexts of contemporary economic depression, social despair, fear of the known and unknown, as well as multiple shades of guilt, remorse and anger, in the end DON’T FORGET ME, BRO can only exhale in a long sigh of acceptance.
Cummings adeptly leaves the reader suspended in that fragile moment before the next breath must be taken, yet strangely satisfied that compassion and justice have been attained. DON’T FORGET ME, BRO is a rare thing, a brilliant addition to a theme in which so many other novels under-achieve.
– reviewed by Pauline Finch, Bookreporter.com
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Blog: Original Content (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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I was hit with a warning a couple of days ago from my library letting me know that the copy of Cress by Marissa Meyer that I'm reading was almost due. I finally got around this morning to renewing it on-line, but no luck. There's a hold on it. I'm at least two-thirds of the way through, so I'm going to bite the bullet, get hustling with my reading, and pay whatever fine I need to pay.
Why am I telling you this instead of writing what some might consider a real blog post? Well, I think it's very significant that someone wants this book. We don't have anyone beating a path to the YA section's door at our library. Until recently, we were still using one of those stamp-the-book systems for letting people know due dates. What that meant was that anyone could check the popularity of a book. I would take out new YA books, read them, see them back on the new books shelf, and there they'd stay. So I'd take a look at the date stamps. There wouldn't be any other than mine. Time would pass, and I'd look again. There'd be one. Maybe, but sometimes not.
So, yes, I think it's very significant that someone wants to read Cress badly enough to take it from me, when so many other books I've read were of no interest.
And now I must go get that book and get cracking with my reading. Time is money. Seriously.
Blog: Perpetually Adolescent (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: Author Interviews, Book News, Book Reviews - Childrens and Young Adult, Ann-Marie Finn, Australia, Dragon Tales Publishing, Family, interview, Jo Emery, life, love, My Dad is a FIFO Dad, Resource, work, Add a tag
My Dad is a FIFO Dad, an uplifting story that has already touched the hearts of many families, has beautifully encapsulated the highs and lows of the life of a child with a father who ‘flies in and flies out’ for work. (See Review here). But let’s not forget the strength, courage, commitment and perseverance […]Add a Comment
Blog: Jay Asher (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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And yes, it was a humongous slice of pizza. But I was hungry, so once they handed it over I devoured it. So I'm sorry for the lack of a pic, but my greasy fingers probably would've destroyed my phone anyway.
The next day, I spoke at Gilman, my first all boys school.
The students had begun filling out their #ReasonsWhyYouMatter cards and posting them in the hall.
My usual presentation lasts 40-45 minutes. At Gilman, the schedule required me to cut it down to 25, which involved a late night of strategizing and math work. But more than that, it required a lot of guess work because I never know how fast I'm going to talk or how much I'll be able to hold back the rambling.
But it went well! (The shot above is of the boys listening to school announcements. They looked a bit more lively in a few minutes.) Throughout the rest of my day, students came up to tell me they really enjoyed my talk. Yes, these dudes are all sorts of polite.
And then they streamed into the library over the next few periods to get their books signed.
Before I left, I participated in one of my favorite Q&A sessions with members of the Gay-Straight Alliance. (I didn't realize that's what it was until I started answering questions. I just knew I was going to speak to GSA later in the day. GSA? Sounds cool!) The questions were wide-ranging, but allowed me to open up about a topic that I know touches many of the readers I've met over the years.
Oh, I also ran into Sean Astin from Goonies (and a whole bunch of other movies, but none as important as that) in the hallway outside of my hotel room. I didn't have my phone on me, so I didn't get a pic, and I'm still so upset about that. And that's why I'm posting this really small. But he did say, "Howdy," to me!!! Add a Comment
Blog: Writing and Illustrating (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
JacketFlap tags: authors and illustrators, Book, illustrating, inspiration, Picture Book, Process, publishers, karen Romagna, NJSCBWI Illustrator Coordinator, Voyage, Add a tag
Here is your chance to win a copy of Karen Romagna’s new book, VOYAGE. All you have to do is leave a comment and be willing to write a short review of the book if you win. The review can be on your blog, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Facebook, or Goodreads. (See more at bottom of this post.)
Karen Romagna has just finished illustrating her first picture book. Voyage launched at The National Book Festival in Washington, DC on August 30, 2014 and is available in bookstores October 1, 2014. Written by former US Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, Voyage is the tale of a young boy setting off for an adventure on the open sea. Karen used the softness of watercolor in illustrating this wonderful dreamlike tale.
Karen is a traditional painter. Her illustrations are primarily done in watercolor However, she also loves painting in oil.
Karen grew up surrounded by art, music, brothers, sisters and parents that always supplied paint, paper, and the freedom to try new things. She lives in rural New Jersey where she and her husband, John, raised two sons, Matt and Tim, in a house filled with music and art… and hopefully a spirit that has allowed her sons to try new things too.
For those of you who are not a member of the New Jersey SCBWI, Karen is the Illustrator Coordinator for the New Jersey Chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.
I asked Karen if she would share the story behind Voyage and it’s beginning. Here is what she told me:
“Voyage” had an interesting beginning. Billy Collins wrote the poem back in 2003 in celebration of John Cole’s 25 years as Director of the Center of the Book in the Library of Congress. As John Cole wrote at the beginning of Voyage, “The creation and presentation of “Voyage” was wholly in the spirit of the Center of the Book, which was created to stimulate pubilc interest in books, reading and literacy.”
In 2013 Bunker Hill Publishing approached me wondering if I might be interested in “a collaboration with the poet Billy Collins!” Well…, of course! The publisher had seen a copy of the poem hanging on the wall in John Cole’s office and approached Billy with the idea of making it a picture book.
Billy Collins likes to pick the illustrators for his books and went surfing the net. He came across a painting of mine that made him think I should illustrate this poem. He asked the publisher to get in touch to see if I might be interested in this project. Well… “Of course!” Bunker Hill had an illustrator in mind for the book as well and asked me to submit a sample illustration along with a thumbnail dummy. Wanting to make sure I was giving myself the best shot, I asked the publisher if he wouldn’t mind telling me exactly which illustration Billy Collins had seen that made him feel I was the right artist for his book. “Of course!” he said “It’s the one of the boy in a boat.”
Well, my heart melted… that was not one of my illustrations… it was a portrait of my younger son, Tim. There was always something magical about my second child. He would find himself in a great adventure with a piece of rope that he’d found.
In the end I was chosen to illustrate “Voyage”. …so Tim will carry on this great adventure for a long time.
You might be interested in watching this video of Billy Collins and Karen Romagna talking about the book at the National Book Festival where she launched her book in Washington, DC. I laughed when Karen said she almost threw out the email from the publisher she received asking if she had any interest in illustrating the book thinking it was junky mail. Thank goodness she didn’t. Congratulations, Karen!
If you would like more changes to win you will get additional entries when you Tweet, reblog, or talk about Voyager on Facebook (Must check back and let me know what you did, so I can enter the right amount of tickets with you name on it.
DEADLINE: November 3rd. Winner announce November 4th.
Check back next Friday to read the four first page critiques.
Filed under: authors and illustrators, Book, illustrating, inspiration, Picture Book, Process, publishers Tagged: karen Romagna, NJSCBWI Illustrator Coordinator, Voyage Display Comments Add a Comment
Blog: Kelly Hashway's Blog (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Blog: Perpetually Adolescent (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Thanks for talking to Boomerang Books about your outstanding first novel Laurinda (Black Inc.), Alice Pung. Thanks for interviewing me! You are well known for your excellent non-fiction, Unpolished Gem, Her Father’s Daughter and as editor of Growing Up Asian in Australia. Why have you sidestepped into YA fiction? Growing up, I went to five different high schools, […]Add a Comment
Your hope for Little John & Gayle keep you turning the page. Nightingale's Nest by @Nikki_Loftin http://buff.ly/1pA6Ohb #WeReadDiverseBooks CHILDREN'S BOOK REVIEWS - NIGHTINGALE'S NEST by Nikki Loftin
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Blog: 4EYESBOOKS (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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About the Book
Title: Ten Thankful Turkeys | Author: Angela Muse | Illustrator: Ewa Podleś | Publication Date: October 4, 2014 | Publisher: 4EYESBOOKS | Pages: 32 | Recommended Ages: 2 to 8 Summary: This colorful autumn tale follows ten turkeys as they get ready for an important celebration. This story teaches about gratitude. There are also fun turkey facts in the back of the book.
Kindle version available for only 99 cents from Amazon on October 24 & 25, 2014. Grab your copy now!!
About the Author: Angela Muse
Angela Muse was born in California to a military family. This meant that she got used to being the “new kid” in school every couple of years. It was hard trying to make new friends, but Angela discovered she had a knack for writing. In high school Angela began writing poetry and song lyrics. Expressing herself through writing seemed very natural. After becoming a Mom in 2003, Angela continued her storytelling to her own children. In 2009 she wrote and published her first rhyming children’s book aimed at toddlers. Since then she has released several more children’s picture books and released books in her first young adult romance series, The Alpha Girls, in 2013/2014. Her husband, Ben Muse writes suspense/thriller books that can also be found on Amazon.
* $50 Book Blast Giveaway *
Prize: One winner will receive a $50 Amazon gift card or PayPal cash (winner’s choice) Contest closes: November 23, 11:59 pm, 2014 Open to: Internationally How to enter: Please enter using the Rafflecopter widget below. Terms and Conditions: NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. A winner will be randomly drawn through the Rafflecopter widget and will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. The winner will then have 72 hours to respond. If the winner does not respond within 72 hours, a new draw will take place for a new winner. Odds of winning will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received. This contest is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with Facebook. This giveaway is sponsored by the Angela Muse and is hosted and managed by Renee from Mother Daughter Book Reviews. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send and email to Renee(at)MotherDaughterBookReviews(dot)com. a Rafflecopter giveaway
Copyright © 2014 Mother Daughter Book Reviews, All rights reserved.
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Blog: E is for Erik (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Blog: An Awfully Big Blog Adventure (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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|Me on my beloved boat, Jester. Crikey, my hair was short back then.|
|Generic photo off the internet - as I didn't have my phone/camera to take a pic!|
|Here's one I took earlier.|
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Blog: Designing Fairy (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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The most interesting thing about southern Spain is the architecture. It tells the story of the Visigoths. The Romans. The Moors and the Catholics. It’s all here in every city expressed in tiles, scrolls, gold, statues and buildings. The most incredible mosques; some with Catholic cathedrals inside them. Others as stand alone expressions to their Catholic faith in Sevilla. Roman remains in gardens and a beautiful bastion in Granada- The Alhambra. Water, peace, protection and vestiges of power and wealth.
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Blog: My Inner Muse (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Disclaimer: I received no compensation from the author or publisher for this honest review.
About the Book
Celine Santini couldn't have been more shocked when billionaire bachelor Pierce D'Amato offers her a job as nanny to his four-year-old charge. After all, he hardly even knows her. But after finding herself thrown into an unexpectedly intimate encounter with him, are they really strangers? Celine is captivated by the green-eyed heartthrob who takes her heart ransom but how can she give in to her feelings when they're from two totally different worlds?
From the first day he lays eyes on the dark-eyed beauty, Pierce D'Amato knows he is lost. He immediately devises a plan to get her under his roof...and it works. But the more he gets to know the sweetly seductive Celine Santini the more he realizes there's a lot more to this woman than he could ever have imagined. Her intriguing combination of sophistication and innocence keeps him forever off-balance and, before he knows it, his bachelor heart turns traitor. The heart knows what the heart wants and it wants Celine Santini...whatever the cost.
A thrilling romance with twists and turns that will keep you turning the pages...
Buy the Book
Here's what I'm giving it:
I've been on a bit of a romance kick as of late and so I'm looking for that special something in the story. I will admit that I wanted to see Celine be a little bit more wary about Pierce's initial offer but other than that, I thought her reactions and behavior fit the story.
Pierce was interesting because he defied my idea of what kind of person/character he was going to be when he started waving around money and telling Celine that he needed her help. He was a little high-handed but that passed as the story unfolded.
Would I recommend this? Yes, I would.
Blog: The Cath in the Hat (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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The Flat Rabbit has a simple plot. A dog and a rat come across a rabbit on the side of the road. The rabbit is obviously deceased, run over no doubt by a car. Yet this fact is never mentioned. The crux of the book is the dog and rat deciding what to do with the rabbit. They knew her vaguely but weren't close. Yet something must be done; they both feel they can't leave her carcass lying there. After pondering the problem, the dog comes up with a solution. He and the rat peel her body from the road and attach it to a kite. Then they fly the kite until is high above them and release it to continue its journey skyward.
What I found compelling the second time around was the questioning attitude of the dog and rat. Much like children, neither one had answers--or even were sure of the questions. Yet they didn't flinch from the subject of death and how best to honor a life.
Marita Thomsen translated Oskarsson's text from Faroese, and to my ears has done a good job. The minimalistic text is understated and at times droll.
"They could leave her outside number 34, but what would the people there think if they saw a dog and a rat bringing back their rabbit, totally flattened? No good would come of that."
Oskarsson's illustrations, done in pastel watercolors, are equally spare. Everything isn't spelled out for young readers; they'll have to make connections by closely looking at the pictures. Is the gray car on the facing page that shows the flattened rabbit responsible for its condition? The author/illustrator isn't saying.
Honest, secular books for children about death are rare indeed. Margaret Wise Brown and Remy Charlip's The Dead Bird springs to mind. My favorite, though, is Duck, Death and the Tulip by Wolf Erlbruch. (Read my review.) The Flat Rabbit has joined this short list. I'm glad I gave it another chance.
The Flat Rabbit
by Bardur Oskarsson
Owl Kids, 40 pages
Published: september 2014
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Blog: Teaching Authors (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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Howdy, Campers! Happy Poetry Friday! Poem and link to Poetry Friday are below ~
Our topic this round is Do you try to appeal to reluctant readers, or any particular type of reader, when you write?
Carmela's post addresses the topic of writing to reading levels thoroughly. She writes:"If you want your writing to appeal to boys and other reluctant readers, don't try to target this particular audience. That's right, DON'T target them. Instead, write what moves, excites, or interests YOU."
Mary Ann's post, agrees: "I write what I am passionate about. I write for my inner eleven-year-old. It's the best that I can do. It's all any of us can do."
As for me?
I titled this 3 Leading Ways to Target Your Writing for Children--NOT! because I agree with Carmela and Mary Ann's conclusions. Essentially, write with passion and you'll hit a bullseye.
1) I am a reluctant reader. Always have been. Once I dive into a book, I'm swimming, but getting to the edge of the pool, dipping my toe in? Terrifying. Every book. Every time.
2) Many years ago, former bookseller, and book reviewer Janet Zarem was hired by my son's elementary school to talk to parents about reading. She began by passing out a paragraph in and asking us what it said. Okay, so let's try it. I'd like you to read this paragraph and tell me what it says. You have two minutes:
|*see bottom of this post for attribution*|
When we saw the paragraph, we were scared'r than a long-tail cat in a room full of rockin' chairs.**
Isn't that a powerful way to show someone the world from a new or challenged or reluctant reader's point of view?
3) That's how scared many of us feel about learning anything new.
For example, UCLA Extension's Writers' Program is in the process of changing how its instructors post course materials for our students. We are moving from a platform called Blackboard to one called Canvas.
When I saw the first email about this, I rolled into a little ball. I felt as outdated and useless as a screen door on a submarine.***
I see now that I went through the five stages of loss and grief, finally arriving at acceptance: Wow--it's done, it didn't take long, and I am truly invincible.
|Tah-dah--I did it!|
by April Halprin Wayland
Who are you talking to?
You’ll have to leave a message—
I think I have the flu.
It’s too bad that you saw me
I stick with tried and true.
If you want revolution,
I’ll leave it up to you.
You found me up this tree?
Just cut that sheet in two?
And paste it here with glue?
That’s all we have to do?
I’m standing on my head, now:
I see your point of view.
poem & drawing (c) April Halprin Wayland 2014
Don't forget to enter our latest book giveaway for a chance to win a copy of the 2015 Children's Writer's and Illustrator's Market (in which our very own Carmela Martino has an article!). See Carmela's post for all the details.
The giveaway ends Oct 31.
Poetry Friday is at Merely Day By Day ~ Thanks, Cathy!
posted by April Halprin Wayland, who thanks you in Greek for reading all the way to here.
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Blog: prime time rhyme (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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We're at a hotel and here is the thing -
Henry and Nana discover a swing.
It's more like a bench but suspended on chains;
The stress disappears and just calm remains.
We sit and we rock and I sing every song
And Henry just listens or hums along.
Whoever walks by tries to get a "Hi!"
But tucking his head, Henry's stranger-shy.
The world could explode and I wouldn't move.
It's Henry and me - nothing more to prove,
For love and contentment have taken hold;
It's my one compensation for getting old.
Here are some things you need to think about when you transition to another scene.
Blog: GottaBook (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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We Need Diverse Books (the group, not simply the concept) has announced a new award - The Walter (named for Walter Dean Myers) - and is kicking off an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds for it.
There are some gooooooood bonuses for funders... and a way to simply help spread the word by using the #SupportWNDB hashtag on Twitter (tomorrow during the hashtag party at 1 PM EST sure, but even beyond that!)
Here's all the We Need Diverse Books/Walter/Indiegogo information in one handy dandy place.
Please check it out. Please support. Because we really do need diverse books. Add a Comment
Blog: But What Are They Eating? (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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USA Today and New York Times best-selling author Lynn Cahoon is an Idaho native. If you’d visit the town where she grew up, you’d understand why her mysteries and romance novels focus around the depth and experience of small town life. Currently, she’s living in a small historic town on the banks of the Mississippi river where her imagination tends to wander. She lives with her husband and four fur babies.
Blog: Finding Wonderland: The WritingYA Weblog (Login to Add to MyJacketFlap)
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This cover is really awesome.Summary: Protagonists whose past is hidden--even, sometimes, from themselves. It's something author Stephanie Kuehn does well, if you've read her first book, Charm & Strange. Complicit is another suspenseful read, in... Read the rest of this postAdd a Comment
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