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Check It Out

Courier Articles by Sandy Schultheis
Sunday, December 3, 2000

Short Books Are Long on Imagination

Short reviews on some very short books: It's time to start gathering ideas for holiday gifts. Books are the perfect gifts because they can be enjoyed repeatedly by the recipient or passed on to others. Of late I've found myself drawn to a number of very small or very slender books and decided they would be perfect little stocking stuffers or small gifts for special friends. They are all available through your public library so you may sample them for free before you decide to buy.

Pobby and Dingan by Ben Rice (Knopf, 2000).

Kellyanne Williamson has two imaginary friends named Pobby and Dingan who suddenly disappear. Her older brother thinks its about time she stops being "a fruitloop" but Kellyanne begins to withdraw from life and , must figure out a way to overcome his own skeptiism and convince the people in his small Australian mining town to help him find his sister's lost friends. This first novel comes with glowing reviews from The New York Times Book Review and will be enjoyable for teens as well as adults. At 94 pages it is a quick, funny and very moving first novel from a talented writer.

The Christmas Quilt by Thomas J. Davis (Rutledge Hill Press, 2000).

Set in the mountains of northern Georgia in 1942, this fictional gem celebrates the simple virtues of family love and forgiveness as seen through the eyes of a young boy whose
Uncle Joe has been away working at an important job in Detroit for years and finally announces his arrival home for Christmas. Granny begins to work on a Christmas quilt to celebrate the event but his arrival is bittersweet. A heartwarmingly-perfect present for someone who enjoys nostalgia and sentiment.

In the Land of White Death

For the adventure lovers on your holiday list here is a classic piece of arctic survival literature which has at last been translated into English. The author was one of 23 people stranded in the Siberian arctic for two years. He lead a small party of sailors across the frozen ice pack in an attempt to reach land and rescue. His harrowing tale is elegant, spare and amazing.

Girlfriends Forever by Susan Branch (Little,Brown, 2000).

I'd like to give this wonderfully illustrated slender volume to all my girlfriends. It is about the joys of sharing recipes, decorating, wardrobe tips and party ideas as well as funny memories (including one about the author's meeting with the Beatles in the late 60s). Reminiscent of Mary Englebreit's artistic style, this book is lots of fun to browse through and a marvelous gift idea.

A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen (Random House, 2000).

Self-help books are sort of questionable as gifts, but take a look at this very quick read (about 10 minutes) When Quindlen was in college she lost her mother to cancer (her novel One True Thing was based on this experience). That event changed her outlook on life and she tells about here in a very few words. There are black and white photos that enhance the mood of joy and impermanence.

The Very Persistent Gapers of Frip

The wonderful artwork by Lane Smith (of Stinky Cheese Man fame) attracted me to this slim fable that adults and children can both enjoy. The tale is typical of Saunders' short stories in his earlier books, although without any ". The story is at once strange and endearing; the characters inhabit world so different than our own but seem oddly familiar.

Longitude by Dava Sobel (1995).

In this slender 184 page book tells the story of John Harrison an amateur clock-maker from Yorkshire who solved the problem of determining longitude at sea with a chronometer rather than observing the stars . He was considered a crank by the scientific establishment but eventually won the Longitude Prize of twenty thousand pounds which was a huge fortune. A fast read which will please scientific types as well as those who appreciate tales of those who overcome the odds to succeed through personal grit and determination. There is also a lavishly illustrated version available.

Sandy Schultheis is a librarian with the Evansville-Vanderburgh Public Library. The opinions expressed in this column are personal and do not reflect policies or official recommendations of EVPL.