When Mother Read Aloud by Katie Andrews Potter

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When Mother Read Aloud: The Life Story of Almyra King Holsclaw by Katie Andrews Potter is a true labor of love and family heirloom for generations to come. Almyra King Holsclaw is the great-great-great grandmother of author and family historian, Katie Andrews Potter. Almyra was born in Jennings County, Indiana in 1842, living her entire life as a Hoosier. The text is based from a manuscript dictated by Almyra King Holsclaw around the year 1930 to her daughter, Bertha. Potter has edited the historical information into more of a picture book story format, as well as added a detailed biography section.

The story section of the book has beautiful art illustrations completed by five high school students. The quilted border around the pages in the front section are a reproduction of an actual quilt that Almyra made, which is shown in pictures later on in the book. Potter’s writing style transports readers into pioneer Indiana life, with vivid descriptions of nature, wild game, forests, a pioneer home, cooking, weaving, sewing, social gatherings, church, stories and recollections, and the importance of family.

The biography section contains many historical family photos and even postcards written in 1924 and 1925. Almyra’s biography is well written and easy to follow. Included is a poem from her daughter, Bertha, entitled “When Mother Read Aloud,” which explains the reasoning for the title of Potter’s book. The unique format for the book with one part dictated story and the other fact-filled biography is pleasing and interesting to readers of all ages. Potter’s sources of information and photos are well-documented in a Works Consulted section at the end of the book. In her Author’s Note, Potter explains that her love for stories of our ancestors came from her grandmother and that her lifelong dream was to create a children’s picture book. She has done a fabulous job of just that, and I’m certain that Almyra would be very proud.

Thank you to Katie Andrews Potter for allowing me to review her wonderful tribute to her family’s rich history. Katie blogs about family history at katieandrewspotter.comI would encourage you to visit her there for more stories.

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Last Words by Michael Koryta

This book will be published by Little, Brown, and Company on August 18, 2015. I decided to read it because I knew the author lived in Bloomington, IN (at least part time) and the story took place mostly in a fictional small town in southern Indiana. Being an Indiana girl, born and raised, I was intrigued. I truly enjoyed the story. It has quite a bit of suspense and mystery, which kept me flying through the pages. The most fascinating part of the story to me was the setting in southern Indiana where caves and caverns are plentiful. I’ve been through many caves in that area, but only in the portions where public are allowed of course. I find the rest of the cave system dark and creepy, and one couldn’t pay me to be in them. Perhaps that is why this book gave me such a chill at times.

Mark Novak has lost his wife and the murderer has still not been caught or punished. For fear that he may lose his job due to his rash behavior, Mark’s boss, Jeff sends him to a small town named Garrison, Indiana to check out a cold case disappearance and possible homicide from 10 years ago. Ridley Barnes, the local crazy and best known cave expert is thought to have been involved in the disappearance and death of Sarah Martin, whose body he pulled from Trapdoor cave 10 years ago. The problem is that Ridley claims to not have any memory of his time in the cave or how he found Sarah’s body and brought her to the surface. He contacts Mark and asks him to come and investigate the case to see if he can finally provide the truth for Ridley and others. Was he involved? Did he kill Sarah? What really happened? Mark heads from his home state of Florida to snow covered, cold Indiana and has no intention of doing much with the case, only appeasing his boss. However, he soon becomes involved in more ways than one and even after a near death experience, decides to stick around until he uncovers the truth, no matter who or what tries to get in the way. Like I said, I would totally recommend this book because it is well written and fascinating. I was surprised at the ending because it didn’t end like I thought it might. Also, I think the author left it open for a sequel, or at least more stories with Mark Novak in them. I do hope he writes another one soon. Read it…you won’t be sorry!

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Nivens

All the Bright Places is at its heart a story of an unlikely friendship and then love between a girl named Violet and a boy named Finch. However, it’s not your average YA romance, and there are richly created scenes and moments. It has been compared to The Fault in Our Stars, but I found it to be so much more than just another story dealing with loss. I chose to read this book after a recommendation from a good friend who loves YA. The story takes place in my home state of Indiana, which is where the author grew up. I appreciated the amount of research the author completed about the different “bright places” of Indiana, as well as the way she wove in so many passages and quotations from famous literature and writers. This was a beautifully written, touching story, and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. The story touches on so many important issues which teens unfortunately may face on a daily basis: loss of a sibling, survivor’s guilt, grief, abuse, mental illness, bullying, and suicide. Both Violet’s and Finch’s narration captivate the reader, and both have important stories to tell. After reading, you’ll have a new appreciation for Post-it notes and teenagers. Read it, read it, please read it!