new england literary news

A literary success story

“Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” earned Peter Brown the Boston Globe-Horn Book award for best picture book.
“Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” earned Peter Brown the Boston Globe-Horn Book award for best picture book.

A literary success story

The Nantucket Book Festival, cofounded by island bookstore owner Wendy Hudson, has come a long way in three years. This year’s gathering, which starts Friday, boasts a star-studded roster of about three dozen authors appearing at the private Westmoor Club, the historic Nantucket Atheneum, and elsewhere.

For the little ones, there’s a pirate story hour aboard the Belle. The cultured set can opt for a $100-a-person lunch with John F. Mariani, author of “How Italian Food Conquered the World” (Macmillan). Those who prefer a meditative state can attend a free yoga class and talk by Sara DiVello, author of “Where in the OM Am I? One Woman’s Journey from the Corporate World to the Yoga Mat” (Worcester Square).

Interestingly, this year’s festival features only three Nantucket residents, all year-rounders: Elin Hilderbrand, Nathaniel Philbrick, and Nancy Thayer. Many of Hilderbrand’s and Thayer’s novels take place on Nantucket. Hilderbrand’s “The Matchmaker” (Little, Brown) was published June 10. Thayer’s “Nantucket Sisters” (Ballantine) is being released on Tuesday.


Philbrick’s big break came with “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex’’ (Viking), his account of the sinking of a Nantucket ship that won the 2000 National Book Award. Ron Howard is directing a film version.

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Nantucket has long drawn writers to its shores. According to festival publicist Betty Fulton, John Steinbeck wrote part of “East of Eden” in a house he rented next door to the Benchleys, a literary family that spent summers on the island. Peter Benchley’s novel “Jaws” became a national sensation and launched Steven Spielberg’s moviemaking career.

The film industry has long held close ties to Nantucket. Every October the island’s Screenwriters Colony provides fellowships for four screenwriters who are mentored by film industry veterans.

The festival’s final event will be a panel discussion in which Philbrick, Jodi Picoult, Ben Mezrich, and others talk about the adventure of having a book become a film. Details at

Children’s book winners

The Boston Globe-Horn Book awards, which honor excellence in children’s literature, were first presented in 1967. Two librarians and a professor at Simmons College selected this year’s winners, who will participate in a colloquium, “Mind the Gaps: Books for All Young Readers,” at the college on Oct. 11.


Steve Sheinkin is the young adult nonfiction winner for “The Port Chicago 50: Disaster, Mutiny, and the Fight for Civil Rights” (Macmillan). It explores an accidental explosion during World War II that killed hundreds of African-American servicemen loading ammunition at Port Chicago, a Navy base in California.

The fiction winner is Andrew Smith for “Grasshopper Jungle” (Dutton), an over-the-top story of male adolescence, science gone wrong, and 6-foot-tall praying mantises.

Writer and illustrator Peter Brown is the picture book winner for “Mr. Tiger Goes Wild” (Little, Brown).

Coming out

 “Top Secret Twenty-One” by Janet Evanovich (Bantam)

 “The Red Room”
by Ridley Pearson


 “Redeeming the Dream: The Case for Marriage Equality”by David Boies and Theodore B.

Pick of the Week

Andrea Bien of Books on the Square in Providence recommends “Summer House with Swimming Pool” by Herman Koch (Hogarth): “If you enjoyed ‘The Dinner,’ you will relish the strong, smart, sometimes chilling voice of the narrator in Koch’s new novel. Marc Schlosser is a successful but reluctant doctor for many theater people and artists in Amsterdam. When he, his wife, and their beautiful teenage daughters join a famous actor and his family at a rented house on the Mediterranean, the scene is set for tragedy.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at JanL