Just received: a parcel from my father containing
-- The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. Not a children’s book, but selected for Laura (though I can’t wait to read it), was inspired by Marilyn Stasio’s recent review in the Sunday Times Book Review:
Nancy Drew drives her own blue roadster. Harriet the Spy travels in a chauffeured limousine. Emma Graham, Martha Grimes’s 12-year-old sleuth, takes taxis and trains. Flavia de Luce, the 11-year-old heroine of Alan Bradley’s first mystery, THE SWEETNESS AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PIE (Delacorte, $23), goes her way on a beat-up bicycle she calls Gladys, more independent and demonstrably naughtier than her literary sister-sleuths.
The neglected youngest daughter of a widower who never looks up from his precious stamp collection, Flavia takes refuge from her loneliness in the magnificent Victorian chemistry laboratory an ancestor installed at the family’s estate in the English countryside. With “An Elementary Study of Chemistry” as her bible, the precocious child has become an expert in poisons — a nasty skill that gets her in trouble when she melts down a sister’s pearls, but serves her well when a stranger turns up dead in the cucumber patch and her father is arrested for murder. Impressive as a sleuth and enchanting as a mad scientist (“What a jolly poison could be extracted from the jonquil”), Flavia is most endearing as a little girl who has learned how to amuse herself in a big lonely house.
After reading that, Laura said she thought it rather sounded like “The Secret Garden” but with a chemistry set instead of a shovel.
— Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City by Eric W. Sanderson, illustrated by Markley Boyer. Dr. Sanderson, who is Associate Director for Landscape Ecology and Geographic Analysis at the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo, was a participant in the recent World Science Festival in the discussion, “The Hudson Since Henry”. The book caught my attention in May while I was drooling over the planned events. My father has obviously been working on his ESP skills, especially since the box also included
— Biologist Bernd Heinrich’s newest, Summer World: A Season of Bounty, which I’ve been wanting to read since starting The Snoring Bird: My Family’s Journey Through a Century of Biology, a recent purchase from BookCloseouts. But I didn’t mention anything until the other day, well after my father placed his order.
Books do make the best gifts! Thanks, Pop!