New children’s book contemplates animals and eternity
Will Oldham spent some years in the late ‘80s and ‘90s bouncing around Providence, starting at Brown and completing semesters here and there, staying in and around as the century gave way. The Louisville musician, who records under the name Bonnie “Prince” Billy, has been releasing moody, seductive, mischievous records for thirty years, and recently released his first children’s book. “Shorty’s Ark” (Drag City) is based on the lyrics from a song off the collaborative record “Superwolves” that Oldham made with Matt Sweeney in 2021 (it’s their second team-up; their first record came out in 2005). Illustrated by Lori Damiano, the book is a playful, loving collection of animals: “I want to save all the animals, before it starts to rain. I want to march them two by two. I want the kids to know their names.” Eagles with sunglasses, garlanded cows, card-playing moles, phoenix-looking hounds, “humpback whales crocodiles goldfish and giraffe.” Damiano uses deep colors; the stars swirl; the lively creatures are friendly-wild. And something metaphysically rich — eternity, mortality — lives at the thumping heart of it. “When the rain comes we’ll be there to sing them in the sky, make constellations with our song, together you and I. They’ll remind us of eternity so we won’t have to die. They fill our dreams with savage schemes, we’ll join them by & by.” It’s a lullaby into the mysteries.
Boston Public Library presents special exhibit for Pride Month
In celebration of LGBTQ+ Month in June, the Special Collections Department at the Boston Public Library has organized a Pride Month Special Collections Sampler, highlighting objects from the BPL’s archives that illuminate LGBTQ+ history. The hands-on exhibit includes a map showing more than 60 Boston-area sites with LGBTQ+ significance; a children’s book from 1903 called “Wanderfolk in Wonderland” written by Edith Guerrier, a North End librarian, and her partner, Edith Brown. It also includes a rare edition of a stage play from 1611 called “The Roaring Girle, or, Moll Cut-Purse, as it Hath Lately Beene Acted on the Fortune-Stage by the Prince and His Players,” about “roaring girle” Mary Frith, who resisted binary gender roles and bucked the mores of the day over 400 years ago. An autographed vocal score of gay composer Benjamin Britten’s opera “Peter Grimes” will also be on display, among other items. An open house takes place on Tuesday, June 6 from 2-4 p.m. at the Boston Public Library in Copley Square. The BPL has also curated a We Are Pride booklist, which includes 75 titles for kids, teens, and adults, with works by Chen Chen, James Hannaham, Janella Monáe, Akwaeke Emezi, Douglas Stuart, and many others. For a complete list of titles, as well as more Pride Month programming at the BPL, visit bpl.org/events.
Center for the Book program encourages students to write to their favorite authors
Massachusetts Center for the Book understands the importance of telling someone when something they’ve done has moved, impacted, or altered you. Their Letters About Literature program invites students in grades 4-12 to write letters to authors about the books that have landed in a deep way in their lives and minds. This year they honored 15 students for the letters they penned to writers they admire. Receiving top honors in grades 4-6 was 5th grader Suryavir Jaisinhji Nallari-Jhala of Cambridge, who wrote to Michael Dorris about “Morning Girl.” In grades 7-8, Bryn Rufo of Grafton was honored for her letter to James Patterson about “Jacky Ha-Ha.” And in grades 9-12, eleventh grader Sophie Cutrer won for her letter to Ned Vizzini about “It’s Kind of a Funny Story.” Sharon Shaloo, founding director of Mass Center for the Book, started the Letters About Literature program, as well as Mass Book Awards, and a number of other literary initiatives across the state in her 23 years running the organization. She’ll be retiring this summer, and Courtney Andree, formerly the marketing and sales director at UMass Press, will take over the role.
“Ice: From Mixed Drinks to Skating Rinks — A Cool History of a Hot Commodity” by Amy Brady (Putnam)
“August Blue” by Deborah Levy (FSG)
“The Forbidden Territory of a Terrifying Woman” by Molly Lynch (Catapult)
Pick of the week
Annie Philbrick of Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut, recommends “The Rain Heron” by Robbie Arnott (FSG Originals): “Magical reality sets this lovely novel apart. The rain heron is a mythical bird, perhaps, who can change the weather, but at the heart of this novel is resilience, female friendship, and so much more. This is a very special gem of a book.”