Tag Archives: Macmillan

Staff Review: The Only Words That Are Worth Remembering

The only words worth remembering picThe Only Words That Are Worth Remembering 

Jeffrey Rotter

Metropolitan Books


Available now

Peel away the thin veneer of technology and sophistication that our civilization depends on, and we begin our inevitable descent into decline and ignorance. Would our changed circumstances somehow change our intrinsic humanity? Whether we live in the lap of luxury, imbued with knowledge, and with every convenience and advantage available to us, or if we suffer in the depths of poverty, ignorance, and difficulty, we still search for human connection and togetherness.

In The Only Words That Are Worth Remembering, a darkly humorous novel by Jeffrey Rotter, the near future has turned into a new Dark Ages. The earth is once again the center of the universe, the sky is made of an impenetrable Night Glass, and the Sun is a gap in the glass through which the ether leaks. Relics of the past abound, but no one seems to know their original purpose.

The scrappy Van Zandt family lives in a post-apocalyptic city in what used to be Florida. Pop and Umma both have jobs, at least for the present, and twin brothers Rowan and Faron are learning a vocation. Pop gets into trouble defending his winnings in a contest at work (well, he pushes an aggressor into a vat of bubbling boiling egg yolks), which sets off a cascading chain of events culminating in a tour bus hijacking by Rowan and Faron that eventually force the family to make an impossible choice: going to live in separate prisons for the rest of their lives, or volunteering to be test subjects in a rediscovered rocket to be launched to Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons.

The rediscovered rocket lies buried in the sands of the old Cape Canaveral, now Cape Cannibal, and the mission is supposed to be secret. Since only a few people even know that anything exists beyond the Night Glass anymore, it is not difficult to hide.  Rowan learns that gravity is “one of those things that you never miss until it’s gone,” and keeps boredom at bay by reading and rereading an old stash of Colson Whitehead novels. However, mental breakdowns, death, a horrifyingly comical funeral pyre, and squabbling between the two brothers and the other potential astronauts cause the eventual breakup of the Van Zandt clan. Rowan loses everyone he loves, living on the run for the next decade, convinced that he will be hunted down and punished. He travels all over the former southeastern and southwestern United States, going from job to job, and searching for the old observatories that he had learned about during his training. He has knowledge but cannot share it with anyone. He knows that Newton’s laws of motion govern mechanics, but that they do not govern “moral mechanics”; in other words, he describes inertia as “tak(ing) no effort to get a terrible sadness off the ground”, force & acceleration as “speak(ing) a few words so that everyone you love will be sent away”, and reaction as “sign(ing) a paper and your mother dies.”

A much older Rowan writes the story of his life for his young daughter, hoping that she will someday forgive him for the choices that he has made. His legacy to his daughter is the gift of knowledge and the curse of loneliness. He recalls the last happy time that the he enjoyed in the bosom of his family, when they had a full meal, a safe place, and lots of weed, music and singing. The only words worth remembering now and forever are sorrow and solitude.

Add The Only Words That Are Worth Remembering to my favorites in post-apocalyptic literature! It should join the canon along with such classics as Alas, Babylon, A Canticle for Leibowitz, Earth Abides, and Riddley Walker.

~Lysbeth Abrams

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Staff Review: The Beautiful Bureaucrat

hpThe Beautiful Bureaucrat

Helen Phillips

Henry Holt and Company


Available 8/11/2015

This perfect little novel reads like a hallucination, or one of those weird dreams that you get just before waking. Or maybe like an Orwellian version of the movie “Office Space.”

A young couple leaves “the hinterlands” for an unnamed city, in search of employment. They both find work in a large concrete office building with no windows and limited points of entry. Neither of them is allowed to talk about their work. Her job is to cross-reference strings of numbers and letters, and then enter a date into “The Database”, but she is not to question what this work is or why it is necessary. Her only real job requirements are to have an eye for detail and good eyesight. As the stress of this mind-numbing drudgery slowly overwhelms her, she comes to the horrifying realization of what “Data Entry” actually is. She cannot even turn to her husband, as he seems to be home less and less.

The sense of menace and isolation that has been lurking under the surface since the first page becomes almost unbearable at this point. There is no way out, both literally and figuratively. She must make choices. So must he. And the choices they make, in a stroke of pure genius, turn this novel into a kind of life-and-death version of “The Gift of the Magi.” More than that, I am not giving away. You have to read it for yourself!

~ Lysbeth Abrams

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Morse Pond is Buzzing about “The Next Big Thing!”

For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with Mrs. Abbott, who is the amazing and passionate librarian at Morse Pond Middle School in Falmouth, MA. Mrs. Abbott coordinates two book clubs, one for the 5th grade and one for the 6th grade. Thanks to many generous sales reps and publicity people at publishing houses, I have been able to bring ARCs (Advance Reader Copies) of books for the kids to read and review. In the spring of 2013, our Random House rep highly recommended Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein. I read it, loved it, and handed my copy to Mrs. Abbott. She read it, loved it, and passed it on to one of the 6th graders in the book club who read it, loved it, and reviewed it. That review kicked off a series of events that none of us could have anticipated, culminating a Mr. Lemoncello Weekend, where Chris Grabenstein visited Morse Pond AND we had an after hours event for 12 kids at the Falmouth Public Library.IMG_5995*

In preparation for this school year, Mrs. Abbott and I had a conversation about how many amazing things happened because of a seemingly small gesture: handing someone a book and telling them they have to read it. However, word-of-mouth recommendations are one of the most important factors in publishing. So we decided we wanted to see what books would capture the attention and imagination of Morse Pond’s book clubs this year.

We don’t know what will happen, but here are the steps so far . . . I asked people from various publishing houses to make recommendations of what books they think could be “The Next Big Thing.” Kate (Random House), Bernie (HarperCollins), Debra (Candlewick), Barbara (Simon & Schuster), Eileen (Algonquin Young Readers), Lisa, (Little, Brown) all kindly sent a few contenders. I also picked up ARCs from Abrams, Macmillan, Scholastic, and Penguin at a recent conference (see the full list of books here). Mrs. Abbott and I talked about each book and let the kids decide which ones they want to read. We’ve explained to the kids that buzzing — both via word of mouth and in written reviews — is crucial to this project. IMG_6039Mrs. Abbott put this awesome board up in the library and kids can post their comments about the books for their peers. Kids are talking to each other, their families, and teachers about some of their favorites. Mrs. Abbott can’t stop talking about Listen, Slowly by Thanhha Lai! Reviews are starting to arrive and will be posted here on the Eight Cousins blog — readers are, of course, free to read and review books not on the list. Although we don’t know what *will* happen, Mrs. Abbott and I already seeing a lot of middle school kids getting really excited about books, reading, and buzzing!

~ Sara




Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a favorite at Eight Cousins, Morse Pond, and the Falmouth Public Library. It was one of the Eight Cousins 2013 Picks of the Year, was one of Jill Erikson’s (Head Reference Librarian at the Falmouth Public Library) Summer Reading Picks, is currently listed on the Morse Pond Battle of the Books, and continues to get rave reviews from everyone who reads it.

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