Book Lover Travel Alert: Outlander Sweepstakes Last Chance to Enter September 8, 2014

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Update! Second Outlander Contest; enter daily
https://www.facebook.com/twc/app_710598455654118?ref=ts


The Grand Prize winner will receive a nine (9) night trip for two (2) to Edinburgh, Scotland.
The trip includes:
Use of Tour Director, round trip economy air transportation from major airport nearest winner’s residence to Scotland; an Insight Vacations Country Roads of Scotland Journey including standard hotel accommodations for nine (9) nights; welcome reception and dinner; full breakfast on days 3 through 10; four (4) additional evening meals; $1,000 awarded in the form of a check; a one (1) year subscription to STARZ; and one (1) STARZ Outlander pop-up.

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Explore the Work of Brian Selznick in Wilmington, DE

Eye peeping through the #5, inside view with Hugo looking out for the Invention of Hugo Cabret, 2007. Brian Selznick (born 1966). Pencil on watercolor paper, 11 x 8 inches. © 2007 by Brian Selznick. Courtesy of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.
Eye peeping through the #5, inside view with Hugo looking out for the Invention of Hugo Cabret, 2007. Brian Selznick (born 1966). Pencil on watercolor paper, 11 x 8 inches. © 2007 by Brian Selznick. Courtesy of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.

Brian Selznick single handedly changed the way I think about books and storytelling when he published his award winning novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Like many, I was utterly charmed by the fictional Hugo Cabret, an orphan who lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station. In 2008, Selznick was awarded the Caldecott Medal for The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which was made into the Oscar award-winning film Hugo (2011), directed by Martin Scorsese.

Selznick’s illustrations animate the imaginations of children and adults with his blending of illusion, history, and adventure. As a result, I am looking forward to the upcoming exhibit, From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick, which will be presented by The Delaware Art Museum from October 18, 2014 through January 11, 2015.

Cover art for The Houdini Box, 1991. Brian Selznick (born 1966). Acrylic paints on watercolor paper, 19 x 33 inches. © 1991 by Brian Selznick. Courtesy of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.
Cover art for The Houdini Box, 1991. Brian Selznick (born 1966). Acrylic paints on watercolor paper, 19 x 33 inches. © 1991 by Brian Selznick. Courtesy of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.

This traveling exhibition presents over 100 paintings and drawings. It encompasses works from Hugo and 18 of Selznick’s other books, including the The Houdini Box, Walt Whitman: Words for America, Amelia and Eleanor Go for a Ride, The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, and Frindle. The illustrations are accompanied by the books, allowing visitors to put each image into the context of the story.

Title page for The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, 2001. Brian Selznick (born 1966). Acrylic on watercolor paper, 19 x 16 inches. © 2001 by Brian Selznick. Courtesy of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.
Title page for The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, 2001. Brian Selznick (born 1966). Acrylic on watercolor paper, 19 x 16 inches. © 2001 by Brian Selznick. Courtesy of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.

From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick expands on the Delaware Art Museum’s world-renowned collection of illustration and works by well-known illustrators such as Howard Pyle and N.C. Wyeth.

There came a horseman, galloping swift, and gave... for The Boy Who Longed for a Lift, 1997. Brian Selznick (born 1966). Acrylic, pen and Ink on watercolor paper, 14 1/2 x 17 inches. © 1997 by Brian Selznick. Courtesy of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.
There came a horseman, galloping swift, and gave… for The Boy Who Longed for a Lift, 1997. Brian Selznick (born 1966). Acrylic, pen and Ink on watercolor paper, 14 1/2 x 17 inches. © 1997 by Brian Selznick. Courtesy of the National Center for Children’s Illustrated Literature, Abilene, Texas.

Additional works from the Museum’s Illustration collection will also be on display in the first and second floor galleries through January 2015.

Exhibition-related events and programs:

Brian Selznick Members Preview
Friday, October 17 | 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. | Members and their guests only

Join award-winning children’s author and illustrator Brian Selznick for this lively opening celebration. Guests will enjoy hors d’oeuvres, a cash bar, tours of the exhibition, and more! Free for Members, $20 each for guests of Members. RSVP at 302.351.8506 or events@delart.org.

From Houdini to Hugo Family Day, Artist Talk, and Book Signing
Saturday, October 18 | 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Get ready to go on an adventure with the whole family! This free family day explores the art and imagination behind Caldecott Medal-winning illustrator and author Brian Selznick. Families will create art projects inspired by Selznick’s illustrations and stories as well as enjoy an entertaining magic show. Selznick will give a talk and Q&A followed by a book signing. Free. Sponsored by Highmark Delaware.

Art is After Dark: From Houdini to Hugo
Friday, November 14 | 6:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.

Tour the new exhibition From Houdini to Hugo: The Art of Brian Selznick and try your hand at drawing your own magical illustrations with a drop-in studio workshop. Experience sleight-of-hand magic tricks or enjoy a screening of the movie Hugo (2011), adapted from Brian Selznick’s book The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The film will begin at 7:00 p.m. Free for Members & Studio Workshop Participants, $8 in advance or $10 at the door for Non-Members. Cash bar and café.

Family Film: Hugo
Sunday, November 16 | 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.

Families are invited to a special screening of the Academy Award-winning adventure drama Hugo (2011). This family film includes popcorn and a take-home activity for kids. Free.

A Magical Library in the Mark Twain House, Hartford, CT

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In spite of his frequent journeys, speaking engagements and lectures, Samuel Langhorne Clemens (a.k.a. Mark Twain) was a family man; a fact that is readily apparent when visiting his Hartford, CT home. The library served as a gathering place for family and friends. His feeling towards both are illustrated by the library mantel, the room’s focal point. Clemens regularly stood before the large oak mantelpiece and recited poetry, told stories and read excerpts from his works. To complete this setting, he added a brass smoke shield inscribed with a quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.”

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I marveled at his creativity during my tour of The Mark Twain House & Museum. Although many of his famous quotes are inscribed on the walls of the museum, his legendary imagination was further defined by my guide. When he gathered his family together in the library, he created a new story on the spot for their delight. Each new story had to feature the items displayed along the top of his bookshelves, and they had to be recounted in the correct order. If he made a mistake, his children demanded he begin again.

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Twain House first floor library HABS CONN

For all its charm, Clemens didn’t write in his library. His favorite place to work was the third floor billiards room, where he could write at his desk and spread his manuscripts out on the oversize table. He penned some of his most famous works, The Gilded Age, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, The Prince and the Pauper, Life on the Mississippi, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, A Tramp Abroad, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, in this home.

Twain House 3rd floor billiard room HABS CONN
Twain House 3rd floor billiard room HABS CONN

Washington Irving’s Sunnyside, Tarrytown, NY

Image Courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley
Image Courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley

Like many avid readers, I love touring libraries and bookstores. I especially enjoy seeing another writer’s library. Browsing through their bookshelves makes me feel like I’m getting to know them, and understand how they think. One of my favorite libraries belonged to Washington Irving, in his Hudson River Valley home, “ Sunnyside .” It shares a lot of characteristics with other period libraries, floor-to-ceiling bookcases filled with leather bound volumes, a beautiful desk, and comfy chairs. What I really like though, is the banquet placed in the alcove, where Irving was known to take the occasional nap. That’s a writing technique I regularly practice.

In the pantheon of American literary lights, Washington Irving shines bright. He is the well-known and beloved author of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and other short stories. His characters are familiar to adults and schoolchildren everywhere, from Brom Bones and Ichabod Crane to the mysterious Headless Horseman and the comic Rip Van Winkle, Irving’s creations continue to resonate with contemporary readers. The library of films made from his stories include a 1999 movie, “Sleepy Hollow,” which was the third Johnny Depp/ Tim Burton Collaboration.

More recently, the Fox network has used the 1820 short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” as the template for their modern-day supernatural police drama, Sleepy Hollow.”

What some readers may not remember is that Irving was America’s first internationally famous author. In fact, he could be considered something of a patron saint of American authors. Since Irving was among the first American writers to become popular with European readers, he was able to push for writing as a legitimate profession, and argued for stronger laws to protect American writers from copyright infringement, something modern writers should acknowledge and appreciate. Irving also encouraged American authors such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Fascinating tours of Sunnyside are available, and are particularly fun during the fall when pumpkin festivals and costumed storytellers delight visitors. For a comprehensive look at daily life in 18th century New York, visit nearby Philipsburg Manor. Guests can participate in hands-on activities of the 18th century and learn the little-known story of enslavement in the colonial north.

Image Courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley
Image Courtesy of Historic Hudson Valley

Guests on Earth: Lagniappe

Since the novel opens in New Orleans, and Guests on Earth by Lee Smith is so rich with description, I decided to split the novel into two posts. In the south, particularly in Louisiana, you’ll hear about “lagniappe,” or a little gift. It’s usually provided to reward a purchase, a little something extra from a proprietor to a favored customer. Think of a baker’s dozen; in theory, the customer isn’t charged for the extra one.

One of my favorite local bookstores,Hockessin Book Shelf, hosts a different kind of book group every month. In their Eat, Drink, Read Group, members gather to savor meals selected from the book while discussing the novel. For July, the EDR group chatted about Lee Smith’s latest, Guests on Earth.

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Like many readers, I was intrigued by the novel buzz, since most of it centered on Zelda Fitzgerald, and her residency at Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina.

The novel follows Evalina Toussaint, an orphan from 1936 New Orleans , as she travels from the Big Easy to the progressive Highland Hospital. Author Lee Smith Skillfully weaves fact and fiction together as she creates an alternately enthralling and disturbing world peopled with the mentally ill.

Highland Hospital, the colloquial name of Dr. Carroll’s Sanatorium, must have seemed equally grand. The Carroll’s home resembled an ancient stone castle, the Colonial Revival men’s hall and the deep, sheltering porches of the administration building.

Image Courtesy of National Park Service
Image Courtesy of National Park Service
Image Courtesy of National Park Service
Image Courtesy of National Park Service
Image Courtesy of National Park Service
Image Courtesy of National Park Service

In the early 20th century, Ashville was known as “The Paris of the South,” and was a particularly popular destination during the Jazz Age due to its art community and liberal leanings.

Image Courtesy of National Park Service
Image Courtesy of National Park Service

F.Scott Fitzgerald frequently visited Zelda while she was a resident of Highland Hospital, and usually stayed at the luxurious Grove Park Inn.

Image Courtesy of NPR
Image Courtesy of NPR

Zelda’s life came to a tragic end on March 10, 1948 when she, along with eight other women, died in a fire. This has cataclysmic effects on Evalina Toussaint’s life, as well as the lives of the other surviving patients.

Image Courtesy of Asheville and Buncombe County
Image Courtesy of
Asheville and Buncombe County

Some of Zelda’s painting from her time at Highland Hospital survive.

“Hospital Slope.” Watercolor by Zelda Fitzgerald, ca. 1946. North Carolina Collection Gallery.

To read the first part of this essay go here.

Shelf Awareness is Giving Away a Free Book Every Day in August, 2014

Image Courtesy of Shelf Awareness
Image Courtesy of Shelf Awareness

Enter to win a free, first edition of exciting new titles every day throughout the final month of summer.

They’ve got new books by Terry Brooks, Mary Gordon, Greg Kincaid, Ben Nova, Cassandra Dunn, Ann Ross, Tom Clancy (who they must be channeling) and more.

A few lucky grand prize winners will take home signed copies of Sara Benincasa’s GREAT, Melissa Walker’s ASHES TO ASHES, and the thriller anthology, FACEOFF, with Lee Child, Michael Connelly, RL Stine, David Baldacci and more. (Gotta love those “and mores!”)

When you sign up, you’ll also receive Shelf Awareness for Readers, a twice-weekly newsletter that features reviews of the best books publishing each week.

http://apps.shelf-awareness.com/signup/125

A Little Something Extra for Guests on Earth

Lee Smith has written an evocative novel, which fully immersed me in the sights and sounds of protagonist Evalina Toussaint’s life. Smith describes 1937 New Orleans, with its vivid neon lights, sultry ambiance, and fabulous architecture. Sumptuous descriptions of regional dishes tempt the reader to reach outside their comfort zone and try meals filled with spice and zest.

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Back in my corporate days, I often traveled to New Orleans, or Nola. In an effort to imagine the 1936 cityscape, I looked for period photographs featuring Nola’s distinct neighborhoods. The rue Dauphine, where Evalina lived with her performer/courtesan mother, Louise Toussaint, is in the heart of the French Quarter and familiar to many travelers.

The notorious Gardette-LePrete Mansion, rumored to be the home of a Sultan and the site of macabre murders, showcases the wrought iron work found on many of the buildings located in the French Quarter. It is easy to imagine the young Evalina Toussaint peering out through a grill to the nightlife below.

Image Courtesy of Wiki
Image Courtesy of Wiki

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Given Smith’s description of the neon lights and music, it is possible, Evaline’s home looked like this.

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With her mother entertaining in the nightclub located on the street level.

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If it did, then Evalina’s shock would have been all the greater when she traveled to the Garden District home of Arthur Graves. When I visited the area, I rode the St. Charles Streetcar out, and walked back enjoying the marvelous collection of antebellum mansions and fragrant gardens.

Image Courtesy of New Orleans CVB
Image Courtesy of New Orleans CVB
Image Courtesy of New Orleans CVB
Image Courtesy of New Orleans CVB

Like Evalina, I also enjoyed views of the famous St. Louis Cathedral , one of New Orleans’ most notable landmarks, overlooking Jackson Square. The venerable building, with its triple steeples towering above its historic neighbors, the Cabildo and the Presbytere, looks down benignly on the green of the Square and General Andrew Jackson on his bronze horse and on the block-long Pontalba Buildings with their lacy ironwork galleries.

The Cathedral-Basilica of St. Louis King of France is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States.

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While Evalina’s home life may have been modest, the quality of food in her neighborhhod was outstanding. Powder sugar beignets at the Café du Monde , dinner at The Court of Two Sisters and Commander’s Palace ; menus filled with gumbos, muffuletta, etouffe and bananas foster, all enriched her life.

 Cooking the Book

When I lived in the south, Nola was also known for its bread pudding, and I had a beau that favored the dessert. Since I was a novice cook, I was delighted when our local newspaper printed the recipe from the famous Commander’s Palace. Unfortunately, I was such a newbie that the quantity of ingredients involved didn’t alarm me until I was well into the pudding preparation.

The instructions were for a restaurant number of servings, and as I kept adding more and more ingredients, my mountain of pudding grew and grew. I ended up with a vat of pudding; it was enough to serve my entire neighborhood at a backyard barbeque. It turned out well though, and up until now I have always pretended that I meant to make that much.

This newer version of the Commander’s Palace Bread Pudding is widely shared, and makes a more manageable number of servings.

Image Courtesy of Commander's Palace
Image Courtesy of Commander’s Palace

Ingredients:
Bread Pudding
3/4 cup(s) sugar
1 teaspoon(s) ground cinnamon
1 pinch(s) nutmeg
3 medium eggs
1 cup(s) heavy cream
1 teaspoon(s) vanilla extract
5 cup(s) 1-inch cubed New Orleans French bread (see Tip)
1/3 cup(s) raisins

Whiskey Sauce
1 cup(s) heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon(s) cornstarch
1 tablespoon(s) water
3 tablespoon(s) sugar
1/4 cup(s) bourbon

Meringue
9 medium egg whites
1/4 teaspoon(s) cream of tartar
3/4 cup(s) sugar

Directions:

1. For the bread pudding: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

2. Combine sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a large bowl. Beat in the eggs until smooth, then work in the heavy cream. Add the vanilla, then the bread cubes. Allow bread to soak up custard.

3. Place the raisins in the greased pan. Top with the bread-custard mixture, which prevents the raisins from burning. Bake for approximately 25 to 30 minutes, or until the pudding has a golden brown color and is firm to the touch. If a toothpick inserted in the pudding comes out clean, it is done. The mixture of pudding should be nice and moist, not runny or dry. Cool to room temperature.

4. For the whiskey sauce: Place the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, and bring to a boil. Whisk cornstarch and water together, and add to cream while whisking. Bring to a boil. Whisk and let simmer for a few seconds, taking care not to burn the mixture on the bottom. Remove from heat.

5. Stir in the sugar and bourbon. Taste to make sure the sauce has a thick consistency, a sufficiently sweet taste, and a good bourbon flavor. Cool to room temperature.

6. For the meringue: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter six 6-ounce ramekins.

7. First, be certain that the bowl and whisk are clean. The egg whites should be completely free of yolk, and they will whip better if the chill is off them. This dish needs a good, stiff meringue. In a large bowl or mixer, whip egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy. Add the sugar gradually, and continue whipping until shiny and thick. Test with a clean spoon: If the whites stand up stiff, like shaving cream, when you pull out the spoon, the meringue is ready. Do not over-whip or the whites will break down and the soufflé will not work.

8. In a large bowl, break half the bread pudding into pieces using your hands or a spoon. Gently fold in one-quarter of the meringue, being careful not to lose the air in the whites. Add a portion of this base to each of the ramekins.

9. Place the remaining bread pudding in the bowl, break into pieces, and carefully fold in the rest of the meringue. Top off the soufflés with this lighter mixture, to about 1 1/2 inches. Smooth and shape tops with spoon into a dome over the ramekin rim.

10. Bake immediately for approximately 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately. Using a spoon, poke a hole in the top of each soufflé at the table and pour the room-temperature whiskey sauce inside the soufflé.

Tips & Techniques
New Orleans French bread is very light and tender. If a substitute bread is used that is too dense, it will soak up all the custard and the recipe won’t work.