Favorite Children’s Books Plus One

Last week, when leaving work, Jane Ash Scranton Library’s Children’s librarian asked me my favorite children’s books  I didn’t even hesitate:


Benjamin Budge and Barnaby Ball

Several years ago I went on a mission.  I wanted to find this book.  All I remembered about the subject was that a tall man and a small man lived in homes that were inappropriately sized for them.  I asked everyone I knew.  No one had a clue.  As a last resort I turned to the Internet.  I found an online bulletin board that finally discovered the title.


Where Does the Butterfly Go When it Rains
ButterflyRains (1)

Have you ever considered the question the title of this book poses?  Why do these two books resonate with me?  They are the VERY first books I purchased at a Scholastic’s book fair in Farmington, Connecticut at The Noah Wallace School over forty years ago.  I remembered Where Does The Butterfly Go… Because I still owned that original copy.



Benjamin Budge had completely slipped away with the only thing I recalled being the topic.


Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg

Once again, working at a library has given me a huge reward.  Dragon’s Extraordinary Egg returned to the front desk on Saturday afternoon.  It’s one of the huge advantages of working at the library.  I get to see all the books that come across the desk.  What a wonderful book.


This book has everything.  A story about being different.  A story about families.  A story about why things happen for a reason.  It has elements similar to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and for a few pages I expected the book to go that route, however I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome.


This is a book that everyone should read.

Until next time…
Turn the page.



Sherlock Holmes

Hound of the Baskervilles
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


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As with Poe, I’ve read read every story of Sherlock Holmes multiple times and the one story I continue to come back to is The Hound of the Baskervilles.  I love this book and it it might be one of my favorite all time classics.


Holmes is called to investigate the death of Sir Charles Baskerville.  All signs point to a heart attack.  One disturbing clue points to an alternative answer.  A grimace of terror on Charles face.  And dog prints beside the body.


Why did I mention Poe in this column?  It is because, Poe has been given the name:
Inventor of the detective story.


The Hound of the Baskervilles has been called by many in the know as the greatest detective story ever written.  I agree.


Last Sherlock Holmes Story
Michael Dibdin


Michael Dibdin has the language of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle down in this short little book.  I discovered this book through Karl Ryan who used to manage RJ Julia Booksellers when I worked there.


In this story, Holmes pursues Jack the Ripper.  As cases begin to not come in so frequently, Holmes turns his attention to a seamier side of London.  He gets involved in The Ripper Case and it is is nearly his undoing.  I’ve recommended the book to countless people and some like it, some don’t.  But all say once they start, they simply can’t put it down.  Check it out.  Would love to hear your opinion.


Until next time…
…Turn the page.

An Adventure, Law of Attraction and a Lion

Chloe and the Lion
Mac Barnett
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Adam Rex

One of the advantages of working in a public library is the fact that I get to check in books all day.  So a few days ago in the afternoon, Chloe and the Lion came across the desk and while it was a bit slow, I leafed through the book


Chloe and the Lion is a fun little picture book for children.  I laughed throughout.  The author, Mac Barnett and the illustrator, Adam Rex are drawn into the book and they constantly bicker about what should happen.  If you have children or even if you don’t, this is funny little read.


When I fell from the sky:
the true story of one woman’s miraculous survival
Juliane Koepcke

Juliane Koepcke’s parents were scientists in the South American jungle.  Juliane grew up knowing the forest exceptionally well and this served her well when she was just seventeen. While traveling with her mother back to her home in South America by plane, the plane flew into a massive thunderstorm and everyone on board died.  Juliane was the only survivor, but it is how she survived that’s the story.  She fell two miles while still strapped into her plane seat and crashed into the leafy canopy of the very forest she grew up in.


Having lived in that forest helped her survive the days she was lost.  The early segment of this book details her growing up with her parents and the life she lead prior to the ill fated trip she took.  Juliane’s story is an amazing tale of survival.  For those who love adventure and adrenaline spiked tales, this is one book you won’t be able to put down.


E Squared
Pam Grout



If you know about Rhonda Byrne’s The Secret, E Squared is a nice follow up.  Many of the same topics are presented however, E Squared differs in the respect that it gives nine experiments to prove that we can sometimes master control over our thoughts.  We can create things to happen simply by focusing on the thought.


Sound like hooey?  Don’t dismiss this out of hand without first taking a look at the book and going through the first few experiments.  You may well be surprised at the outcomes.


Until next time…
…Turn the page.


Robert McCammon

Robert McCammon is a writer I read during a fantasy phase I went through several years ago.  Boys Life and Gone South are two of my favorites although I’ve read others by McCammon.


Boy’s Life
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Boy's Life

This is likely Robert McCammon’s quintessential book, the novel that put him on the map.  Boy’s life is a fantastic tale of family and loss.  The novel takes place in Zephyr, Alabama.  The protagonist, a young boy named Cory is working with his father delivering milk to area residents when they both see a car plunge into a river.


When Cory’s dad dives in after the car, he finds a dead man handcuffed to the steering wheel.  Their world shifts out of place.  Part mystery, part coming of age story, McCammon has it all in this wonderfully macabre story.  Don’t miss it!  Don’t dismiss it because you don’t read dark fantasy.  This is one book that will hold you in sway.  You won’t be sorry you read it.


Gone South
Gone South

Another novel that takes place in the south, McCammon’s usual writing is on display with Gone South.  The protagonist in this tale is Dan Lambert, a Vietnam Veteran who was poisoned by Agent Orange.  In one fleeting moment, Dan does something that will change the course of his life.  Now being pursued by law enforcement he escapes into the Louisiana Bayou.  Gone South is an amazing tale and although most people who are aware of Robert McCammon point to Boy’s Life as the book they most connect to, I have to be different and say that Gone South is the better of the two novels.


Gone South is a tale of redemption which I feel VERY strongly about.  I think that’s why I feel so connected to the tale.  I’ve read it multiple times which I can’t say for Boy’s Life.  Pick it up.  I think you’ll find you feel the same.


Until next time…
…Turn the page.



Bill Parcells

A Football Life
Bill Parcells and Nunyo Demsio



I’m a huge NFL fan.  It’s one of the sports on television that I can watch any team play and enjoy.  Bill Parcells has long been someone I’ve admired.  Watching him motivate his teams and seeing the results of his actions has been amazing.  Every NFL team he has taken over have been vastly improved by his presence.  Before he arrived at the several teams he has coached, each team underperformed in every area.  In a relatively short time Bill Parcells turned the team from perennial underperformers into winners, taking most of his teams to the Super Bowl.  How many NFL coaches can do that?


I enjoyed reading Parcells for several reasons:
–Bill discussed his youth and not just his NFL experience.  He talked about his middle school years.  He talked about going to high school and college.  I learned several things about Parcells, I didn’t know previously.  For example:
Bill isn’t his given name.
–He played for the NFL for a short time.
–Parcells actually left coaching briefly and sold real estate.


This is why I read so much.  And why I read EVERYTHING:
How would I ever have discovered these things about someone I’ve admired for so long if I didn’t pick this book up?


It’s why I find it it so incomprehensible when I talk to people who say they don’t read. They don’t have time.  There are other things they do.  To quote a favorite Saturday Morning children’s show:
Reading is FUNdamental.


Anyway, back to Parcells:
I enjoy re-experiencing past history and there is a vast amount of that in this book for someone who lived through The Bill Parcells era.  He talks about taking over the Giants as head coach.  I didn’t know that he worked for The New England Patriots BEFORE he signed on with The Giants.


There is so much to learn from reading this book.


As I said above, it is why I read as much as I do.  I’m a sponge when it comes to reading.  I need to keep my mind continually soaking up knowledge and the only way that can be accomplished is by continuing to read.


Even if you’re not an NFL fan, surely, Bill Parcell’s name has become such a part of the American experience that everyone has a passing familiarity with him.  I recommend picking this book up and leafing through the pages.  I imagine you’ll find it enlightening, and if you are a fan of the NFL, like me, I bet you’ll discover some things about Bill Parcells that you didn’t know.


Until next time…
Turn the page.



Creatures of the Night

Moon Dance
SP Somtow


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MoonDance (1)

Moon Dance is a story of a werewolf clan raised in Eastern Europe who escape their homeland for fear of persecution. Does that sound familiar?  This is why I love dark fantasy when done right.  The stories are all merely allegorical.  For those who shun this genre I implore you yet again to read one of my recommends here at Scranton Page Turner and look for the deeper meaning behind the fantastical story the writer is attempting to convey.


Moon Dance is perhaps the best novel I’ve read that deals with werewolves.  There is a huge historical aspect to this story.  Real historical figures people the book. Sigmund Freud appears as himself.  Sweeping vistas of the American West play a role here as well.  Taking place mostly in the 1800s in the Dakota territory, the story pits warring clans against each other.  Again, doesn’t this sound allegorical?


Not only is Moon Dance one of the best stories I’ve read about werewolves, it is also one of the most sweeping.  A definite A+ book and one you’d be foolish to pass up because of it’s subject matter.


Sookie Stackhouse Series
Charlaine Harris

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Something a bit different from Moon Dance in that The Sookie Stackhouse novels are lighter and have some humor infused into the series. There is an HBO television series based on the novels that is quite a bit darker than the books. The books are fun and well worth reading.


Sookie is a waitress at a Louisiana bar close to where she lives in the fictional town of Bon Temps.  Bon Temps is a kind of vortex for creatures of the night and Sookie finds herself in the middle in more ways than one.


Definitely, check these out.  You won’t be disappointed.


Until next time…
Turn the page.


What Dreams May Come

What Dreams May Come
Richard Matheson


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I read Matheson’s What Dreams May Come originally in the early 1990s and the book had such an impact on me that it changed my entire perspective on Life and Death.  There have not been too many books that have had such life altering experiences for me.  What Dreams May Come is on a very short list of such books.  This book should be on EVERYONE’S shortlist of books to read in their lifetime.


A movie of the same name based on the book is available on DVD and though I don’t usually recommend both book and movie, this is that rare exception where both can be viewed separately and neither one takes away anything from the other.


The book is based on years of research by the author.  In fact so much went into this book that there is an extensive bibliography in the back of What Dreams May Come.  Matheson says in his foreword that he doesn’t expect us as readers to read every book that he used, however he DOES say that if we chose to we’d come away with a new perspective just as I did.


The book begins with a knock on the door of someone.  Chris Neilson has passed and he has been communicating with a medium.  It is said medium who knocks on Chris’s brother’s door and insists on giving him the notes from said conversations.


This is where the book begins.  Through this manuscript, Chris attempts to reach out to his brother, doing his best to explain that there is indeed a survival after death, that the soul does carry on, that at some point, we can choose to return to earthly bodies. Yes!  I’m referring to reincarnation.


Ostensibly, in What Dreams May Come is where I first saw this topic and really delved deeply into it.  I’m half way through a second reading of this book and it still carries a huge weight, it still resonates powerfully with me.  There aren’t many books that I re-read that still weigh as heavily on me a second time.


What Dreams May Come is a MUST read!

Until next time…
Turn the Page.

Jonathan Carroll

A new Jonathan Carroll book always warms my literary heart.  Mr Carroll is one of the few authors whose books I will buy sight unseen.  A few weeks ago, on October 21st when I returned from dinner I received an email from Jonathan Carroll’s website telling me his new book Bathing the Lion was out in stores.  On my way back to work at the Scranton Library in Madison I made a detour across the street to RJ Julia Booksellers so I could hope beyond hope that a copy of the book was in.  There were two.

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I grabbed one and was so happy I floated out of the store.

Mr Carroll is one of my favorite writers and each of his books is better than his last book.  He writes esoteric magic realism and as I’ve always said here at Scranton Page Turner, my reason for writing this blog is to do my best to introduce my readers to new writers, writers you may not be aware of because for whatever reason you haven’t been exposed to them.  My intention is not to steer you wrong.  The books I suggest may not always fit in everyone’s perspective, however that shouldn’t scare you away from trying a new author.  How do you know you don’t like something if you’ve never attempted to read it?


My biggest concern, the thing I get most anxious about and it is only because I read EVERYTHING is when someone tells me they don’t read that, whatever THAT may be.  How can you expect to be a well rounded person if you don’t at least try to read something you don’t normally read?  You may discover you ACTUALLY like a new genre.


Jonathan Carroll has a plethora of books to choose from and I’ve read many of them.  With his latest book, Bathing the Lion Chaos returns a pseudo character that first graced the pages of his books with White Apples and its sequel Glass Soup.


I started with White Apples when I worked at RJ Julia Booksellers.  I was given an advanced reader copy of White Apples and I read the book in a week.  As with all of Mr Carroll’s books by 45 pages in I understood that I was in the hands of a master storyteller and I wanted to keep reading the book but I became afraid that I was reading too fast.  In other words I didn’t want the book to end.  And when I FINALLY did finish.  I wanted to read it again for the first time.  As it has been with all of his books.


White Apples and Glass Soup tells the story of Vincent Ettrich and his significant other Isabelle.  Vincent has died, but Isabelle brings him back from death because he needs to teach their unborn child what he’s learned in death because it will help their child defeat Chaos.


There are so many amazing passages in White Apples and Glass Soup.  One in particular in Glass Soup is discussed at one of my other blogs here:
Life is Controlled Chaos  Start reading from:
“This is how it began.


I think another reason I connect so well with Mr Carroll is that he seems to be on the same page with me when it comes to our worldview.  In his latest, Bathing the Lion he writes:

Burnt sienna:
The colors of the greatest love humans can feel for each other. It comes only when all others have burned off or faded away and what remains is a hundred percent pure. Like the color of the earth in direct sun  on a late fall afternoon. It’s the color of the truest human passion.

Bathing the Lion
Page 217


And again:

Dogs know what comes after death. It was not bad. THIS is the primary reason why most dogs are so merry and resilient:

Death is no more frightening than traveling to a distant land where the landscape is lushly tropical or glacially polar or simply unlike anyplace you’ve ever been.  Just the smells alone…

Bathing the Lion


Death and Dying is a topic I feel strongly about and the above passage is my entire belief.  There’s more.  The Burnt Sienna passage above is also another strong belief.  As is the column Life is Controlled Chaos.


Carroll has written other books as well and each one holds something special.  You simply MUST read him to see what type of writer he is.  Don’t miss this guy.  Don’t let him pass you by because you’re afraid to try something new.  I implore you to pick up one of his books.  I’m guessing some of you will come back to me and say the same thing I say:
I want to read him so badly but I don’t want the book to end and when I’ve finally reached the last page I wish I could read his books again for the first time.

The Ghost in Love, Carroll’s previous book turned out better than Glass Soup as Glass Soup turned out better than White Apples.  The Ghost in Love, about a man who goes out in the middle of winter to walk his dog, he falls and cracks his head.  The man was scheduled to die with that fall but doesn’t.  Why?  You’ll have to read the book to discover the answer.


Until next time…
Turn the page.



Lee Child/Personal

Lee Child

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Jack Reacher is maturing as Lee Child’s books increase in number.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however if you are looking for Reacher to continue being Reacher, breaking bones, throwing people out of airplanes as he did in Bad Luck and Trouble and fighting anything that moves you’re in for a bit of a disappointment.  I’ve been kind of prepared for his mellowing as I’ve read each of his books in succession.  I still long to see his violent side come out more again, but I think as with everyone we slow down with age.  Personal was NOT a bad book in the least.  The story starts with Reacher in Washington State in a Bus station.  He leafs through an Army newspaper left behind then finds himself embroiled in an international affair:

Attempted assassination of the French leader.
Then attempted assassination of several world leaders in London.


In London is where most of the action takes place, there are a few scuffles that Child puts Reacher through and of course, Reacher’s usual ubiquitous toothbrush and the fact that he has nothing but the clothes on his back.  These are traits that Reacher will carry with him to his grave.  Personal is the story of an army sniper who Reacher put away several years in the past.  The sniper is now out of prison and appears to be on a mission to take out several world leaders starting with France.  Reacher is called in because he has history with this sniper.  Hence the title.


Another new twist to the Reacher collection is Lee Child’s voice seems to have changed a bit with this novel especially but I noticed it a bit in his last book too:
Never Go Back.


He is becoming more descriptive.  Going into a bit more detail, not necessarily flowery, far from it as a matter of fact; but he is spending more time describing place and events then he has in the past.  I wonder if he is even aware of this?


I will continue reading his books as they publish because I’ve invested so much time in the character, but I do miss the old Jack Reacher.  The Jack Reacher from:
Bad Luck and Trouble and Persuader.


Those are the two quintessential Reacher books that should be on everyone’s reading list if you want to know the old Reacher.


Of the last four Reacher books:
The Affair
A Wanted Man
Never Go Back


I’d have to say that Never Go Back is probably my favorite Reacher of ALL time.  If you haven’t yet read this book, you’re missing out.  From a storytelling point of view you can’t get much better than this book.  If you are looking for typical Reacher then:
Bad Luck and Trouble and Persuader are the books to read.  Personal falls in the middle of the pack.  Not a bad read.  The book certainly held my interest.  As I said above, however, I STILL miss the Old Jack Reacher.


Until next time…
Turn the page.


Dean Koontz

September was a wash.  Didn’t get around to writing my columns for September.  It’s the first time I missed the schedule and I apologize for that.  I’m going to a bi-weekly schedule.  These columns will be publishing now the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month to the best of my ability.


Today let’s talk about an old favorite of mine.


Dean Koontz
is an author I’ve read consistently in the past.  Haven’t read much of his recent fiction but I devoured is old fiction.

The Bad Place
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Each time Frank Pollard awakes from a night’s sleep something odd has happened that he can’t remember. What is happening to Frank?  Where does he go during the night that he can’t recall?




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Two genetically modified animals play a huge role in this thriller, one a collie named Einstein and one a dangerous hybrid must eventually cross paths but until that time arises, you’ll be in for one long day or night of page flipping.  I read this in two days.  Simply couldn’t put it down.  First Koontz book I read.


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Time travel and a young woman who come perilously close to jeopardy time and again if not for her own “guardian angel” who appears during lightning storms.  





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Six strangers are drawn to each by similar terrors they experience that may be linked to a time they all spent together in a Nevada hotel.  What is causing these memories and terrors to surface now?


I’ve read other books by Koontz as well.  These four continue to resonate however, even after over ten years.


Until next time…
Turn the page.