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Sarah D's Rex
Sarah is our in house expert on all things performing arts, home, garden, cooking and DIY. She's a super-auntie, with a gaggle of nieces and a nephew - so ask her for picture book recommendations! She also loves fiction, YA and non-fiction written from unique perspectives.
I tore through this beautiful, personal portrait of Bridgett M. Davis' mother, Fannie Davis, who fashioned an extraordinary life for herself and her family through pure grit, gumption and a good dose of luck by running an underground gambling business. The historical backdrop of systemic racism in the USA contextualized through one woman's experience makes this a very timely read. I won't spoil the end for anyone, but I cried turning the last pages of this book!
The fictional last painting of Sara de Vos - At the Edge of a Wood - is the connecting thread in a story that spans three time periods. In 1631, Sara de Vos is admitted as a master painter to the Guild of St. Luke's in Holland, the first woman to be so recognized. In 1950s Manhattan, Ellie Shipley, a struggling grad student agrees to paint a forgery of At the Edge of a Wood to make money to get by. This is a decision that will haunt her. We meet Ellie again half a century later as she curates a show highlighting female Dutch masters and both the original and the forgery threaten to arrive at the gallery. Implausible as it may seem the intersection of these timelines and locations come together in a beautiful composition about love, loss and artistic life.
When I was a student, scientific topics felt foreign and unrelatable. As an adult, I find myself seeking out authors who approach science through the lens of art, culture and history and St. Clair does a tremendous job of this in The Secret Lives of Color. These micro-essays (1-2 pages max) explore the origin stories of 75 hues that inhabit the paint palette of our world. A quick, informative and delightful read, this would make a great gift for an art student...or maybe a student that thinks science is kind of lame.
Beer, wine, spirits, coffee, tea and Coca-Cola are the six drinks that frame Tom Standage's history of the world. Reading this, I learned how these six little beverages that could influenced agriculture, trade, culture and globalization. It's a fascinatingly specific lens to learn about world history! This book is the perfect gift for history and beverage geeks alike - cheers!
I picked up Itzhak: A Boy Who Loved Violin because I am a big fan of Abigail Halpin's illustration work. She's a local artist who lives in Wells, Maine and keeps her studio nearby in the Rollinsford Mills. Her illustrations did not disappoint and Tracy Newman's biographical account of world famous violinist Itzhak Perlman's upbringing was also a delight! When Perlman was a young boy, he contracted polio and was left disabled for life as a result. Despite this early life challenge, he went on to become a master in his field and lead a full life. Reading this title during 2020 felt very timely and I think that it would be a comforting narrative for children who may be struggling with anxiety and stress during the COVID-19 pandemic. The appendix provides a guide to experience Perlman's music online, so this would also make a great interactive gift for a burgeoning classical music lover.