A Work in Progress

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Here at the new OTB we’re finally updating our webpage. Bear with us. Jenn has her own day job. And I have the brick-and-mortar to run. So, we’re still a work in progress. But then, come to think of it, we hope we always will be.

Keep up with us on Facebook, where we’ve continued posting regularly, and where we’ll begin sharing links to our refurbished website.

Cheers,
Andy

New Owners

Dear friends of Our Town Books,

At the beginning of May 2015, Our Town Books will celebrate four years of being in business.

And at the end of May, we will turn Jacksonville’s bookstore over to its new owners, Andy and Jenn Mitchell.

Creating and running Our Town Books has provided us with some of the happiest years of our lives. Nevertheless, we have decided to sell. We’re doing it for health reasons–good health, that is. We want to spend more time hiking, riding bikes, and visiting grandchildren.

It’s time, and we know it.

We would never sell to just anyone, but only to someone who loves the store as much as we do, someone who reads widely, someone who truly cares about books and readers, someone who knows what a “real” bookstore is.

In other words, Andy.

Andy

How could we not be happy?

Jim and Sally

P.S. We’ll miss you.

Teddy Bear Sleep-over

Teddy Bear Sleep-over on Wednesday,
February 25 at 7:00 p.m.

Children can bring a stuffed animal to this special evening story time with Miss Mallory. They’ll hear stories and tuck their stuffed animals in for the night before leaving. When kids come to pick up their stuffed animal the next day, they’ll get pictures of what their toys did after they left.

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Our Town Books Reviews: El Deafo

El DeafoThis book review originally appeared in the Jacksonville newspaper, The Source.

El Deafo
By Cece Bell
248 pp. Amulet Books. $10.95. (For Middle Grade-Schoolers)

When Cece starts first grade in the 1970s, she not only faces meeting new kids in a new school in a new town, but she has a bulky “brand-new superpowerful, just-for-school hearing aid: The Phonic Ear” strapped to her chest.

She’s scared. Well, who wouldn’t be?

The Phonic Ear works, however. Without it, Cece is deaf. But when her teacher, Mrs. Lufton, speaks into the microphone she wears around her neck, Cece can hear every word. And, to her astonishment, Cece can hear Mrs. Lufton’s conversations in the teachers’ lounge. She can hear Mrs. Lufton walk down the hallway. Oh, and she can hear Mrs. Lufton in the bathroom. “ZZZZIP…tinkle… tinkle…tinkle…. FLUSH!”

Cece suddenly feels like a superhero–somewhat like Batman on TV with all his technology. Her power? Super hearing! Whenever life threatens to overwhelm her, Cece reminds her self that she is a superhero–El Deafo! But as she points out, “Superheroes might be awesome, but they are also different. And being different feels a lot like being alone.”

In this graphic novel memoir–a comic if you will–we enter the grade-school experience of children’s book author and illustrator Cece Bell, who lost her hearing during a bout of meningitis at age four. Before her family moved from the city to a smaller town, Cece attended a kindergarten where she was taught lip-reading but not American Sign Language.

El Deafo tells the story of Cece’s years in a mainstream grade school. Along the way we learn a great deal about growing up deaf in a hearing world–the misheard words, the challenges of lip reading, the frustration of watching TV with no closed captioning, what it feels like to wear hearing aids, and much more.

But it’s the universal questions of childhood (and certainly of adulthood,too) that make this a real story about a real kid–Who am I? How do I fit in? Are you truly my friend? Cece finds her answers. And we are privileged to be able to watch her.

Reviewed by Sally Nurss

Our Town Books Reviews: The Night Before Christmas

The Night Before ChristmasThis book review originally appeared in the Jacksonville newspaper, The Source.

The Night Before Christmas
By Clement C. Moore.
Illustrated by Douglas Gorsline.
32 pp. Random House. $3.99.

In early December, Dr. “Chet” Bone of Jacksonville received a heartfelt standing ovation from a crowd of several hundred at the Governor Duncan Gala. It wasn’t just because he is a beloved and trusted medical doctor. It wasn’t because he has delivered at least 4,500 babies in our town. And people weren’t applauding just because he’s now age 99.

They were cheering, instead, his performance of “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement C. Moore–a poem Dr. Bone knows by heart and clearly loves. I like to think that perhaps as a child it was read to him every Christmas and that he, in turn, has read it aloud to other generations of children.

It’s a wonderful tradition. And like so many traditions, we tend to want things to remain exactly the same over time. Maybe that’s why my all-time favorite version of “The Night Before Christmas” is an inexpensive Random House paperback illustrated by Douglas Gorsline. We used to read it to our children, and it’s still in the stack of books near our fireplace every Christmas Eve.

Gorsline’s illustrations evoke both the peace and the excitement of a Victorian-era North American Christmas Eve. There’s the snow-covered village–looking just a bit like Jacksonville, the night sky illuminated by one huge star, the cluttered home with four children all sound asleep in one room–with a fifth tucked warmly in a crib in his parents’ room.

St. Nicholas is just right, too. Despite the Surgeon-General, he cheerfully smokes his pipe and the smoke encircles “his head like a wreath” just the way it has since the poem was written in 1822. (Some recent versions, have eliminated these lines.)

But it’s the cat I love. A small black kitten appears in every detailed interior scene, doing cat-like things: gazing disdainfully down at a sleeping dog, bathing on a window-sill with one hind leg gracefully raised (cat owners will recognize this classic pose), leaning affectionately against Santa’s bundle of toys. Watch for the cat.

Curious about Douglas Gorsline, I did some checking. He was a 20th-century artist who was originally part of the American Wave movement. He was particularly interested in expressing movement and studied “Cubist compositions as a means of approaching the real.” There are four sequential panels of St. Nick descending into the fireplace (much to the alarm of that cat) that capture this interest beautifully.

I had often wondered why the four sleeping children had both a map of the United States and a poster of France pinned to their bedroom wall. It turns out Gorsline moved to France in 1964 and lived there for the rest of his life. There is, in fact, a small museum dedicated to his work in Côte-d’Or, France.

But what made me unreasonably happy was when I read that Gorsline married the daughter of my “favorite” editor, Maxwell Perkins. Perkins edited F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and Thomas Wolfe among others.

But what really matters is that there exists a beautifully illustrated, inexpensive version of a classic American Christmas poem. With a terrific cat.

Reviewed by Sally Nurss