new england literary news | NINA MACLAUGHLIN

Celebrating Burton’s ‘Little House,’ new titles for Cutlass Press

An illustration from “Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton.’’
An illustration from “Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton.’’Sherri Rinker and John Rocco

‘Big’ tribute to Virginia Lee Burton

Virginia Lee Burton, a dancer, designer, and print maker who lived and worked on Cape Ann, published in 1942 the Caldecott-winning “The Little House,’’ which featured charming illustrations of the passing seasons and a country house eventually caught up in and rescued from urban sprawl. Her books “Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel’’ and “Katy and the Big Snow’’ remain beloved as well. In celebration of the 75th anniversary of “The Little House,’’ children’s book author Sherri Duskey Rinker and illustrator John Rocco, have collaborated on “Big Machines: The Story of Virginia Lee Burton’’ (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), a fresh and sunny look at Burton’s life and career.


Rinker and Rocco show Burton as an enchanting figure, tending to animals, cultivating gardens, dancing, and creating characters out of machines (a train, a steam shovel, a bulldozer) for her young sons. Born in 1909, Burton founded a group called the Folly Cove Designers, a collection of women primarily from the North Shore focused on block printing, whose work can be seen at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester. One of Burton’s iconic prints, of a daisy chain that appears on the cover of “The Little House,’’ appears on almost every page of “Big Machines,’’ on the pattern on Burton’s skirt. The book is a warm and affectionate biography of a talented artist and lively spirit.

First full-length title out on Cutlass

Cutlass Press, the new publishing arm of the bookstore Papercuts J.P., this week launches its first full-length book of fiction with K.L. Pereira’s “A Dream Between Two Rivers: Stories of Liminality,’’ a sharp and unsettling collection of short stories that draw on elements of folk tales, mythology, speculative and experimental fiction. In “Push with All Your Love,” she writes, “Father sat in a corner licking fly paper, picking pests off the tacky strip and grinding them between his broken teeth, ignorant to any hunger but his own.” Pereira lives in Salem and has been teaching and writing around New England for the past decade. The launch event for her full-length debut takes place on Sept. 5 at Papercuts J.P. And next month, Cutlass will publish Christopher Irvin’s crime novel, “Ragged or The Loveliest Lies of All.’’


UMass Press launches Bright Leaf

Bright Leaf Books, a new imprint of the University of Massachusetts Press, will publish four to five books a year focused on New England — its culture, landmarks, history, food, and flora. Their inaugural title, due out this month, is Beth Luey’s “House Stories: The Meanings of Home in a New England Town,’’ which explores notions of home through the histories of a series of historic houses in Fairhaven, Mass. Forthcoming titles include “Bricklayer Bill: The Untold Story of the Workingman’s Boston Marathon’’ by Patrick L. Kennedy and Lawrence W. Kennedy, which tells the story of the two men’s uncle, Bill Kennedy, who won the marathon in 1917, and “Concrete Changes: Architecture, Politics, and the Design of Boston City Hall’’ by Brian Sirman, which looks at the loved-and-loathed building.

Coming out

“Don’t Call Us Dead’’ by Danez Smith (Graywolf)

“The People Are Going To Rise Like the Waters Upon Your Shore: A Story of American Rage’’ by Jared Yates Sexton (Counterpoint)

“Solar Bones’’ by Mike McCormack (Soho)

Pick of the week

Margie Austell at House of Books in Kent, Conn., recommends “Mozart’s Starling’’ by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (Little, Brown): “This is an exceptional combination of biography and personal memoir with engaging investigation into social history, language, and natural science. The author relates her experience with a pet starling to Mozart’s relationship with his pet. Her philosophical musings are delightful segues between the myriad of topics.”


Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.