STEVE INSKEEP, host:
A superstar librarian - our superstar librarian - okay, one of our superstar librarians, Nancy Pearl has dropped by with some more recommended reading. Her favorite kind and what she describes as under-the-radar books - books that she thinks you should be reading but you're not.
And Nancy, I'm so proud because you've sent us this stack of books and this list of books, and if I go to the bottom of the stack, I can go to an under-the-radar book that I have actually been reading. I've been reading "Gimme Cracked Corn & I Will Share" executed by Kevin O'Malley. What is this book?
NANCY PEARL: Well, Kevin O'Malley is one of - I find the most reliable of children's book writers. And his book "Little Buggy" has always been one of my favorites. But I don't think he's ever done any better work that in "Gimme Cracked Corn & I Will Share," which is the story of Chicken, who has a dream of a barn and a large pig who happens to be sleeping on top of a treasure of cracked corn.
INSKEEP: Happens all the time.
PEARL: So Chicken tells his friend George about the dream, and says I'm going to follow my dream, George, do you want to come with me? And George has been feeling a little cooped up lately.
(Soundbite of laughter)
INSKEEP: You're giving us a sense of this book. Go on. Go on.
PEARL: So he decides he will accompany Chicken. And they have many, many adventures.
INSKEEP: I'm just looking at a page at random here. Just a little bit of a dialogue from this wonderfully illustrated book.
(Reading) You must be yolking? What are you, a comedy-hen?
(Soundbite of laughter)
INSKEEP: It's not chicken feed. Wait, maybe it is chicken feed. On and on like this.
PEARL: It's - this is one of those books that I think is perfect for reading out loud, because not only will children who are just getting interested in language play and - with puns will really absolutely love it. But parents will not get bored reading it because there's so much to laugh about in there.
INSKEEP: Let's stay with the animal theme for a moment. I pull from the bottom of the stack again. There's a book called "Fowl Weather" by - how do you pronounce that - Bob...
INSKEEP: Tarte. T-A-R-T-E. Author of "Enslaved by Ducks." So he's talking about ducks a lot in his work.
PEARL: He is. And we should say that on that the picture of "Fowl Weather," there is the most winsome picture of a duck that I have ever, ever seen.
INSKEEP: Oh, it's a cutie.
PEARL: It does look like it could just waddle off that cover and go into some bathtub and swim around.
There are animal lovers in this world, and then there are Bob and Linda Tarte who lives in western Michigan and take care of animals as their life. It's a book that takes place over - maybe a period of five years - and it's a period in which Bob's dad dies. His mother is kind of sinking into dementia. But mostly it's a book about his love for all the animals that he and his wife have including Birdie the Rabbit, Howard the Dove, Stanley Sue, the grey African parrot, numerous ducks, numerous geese. It's a book that I have to say in many of the places when I was reading this book I was laughing so hard, I could barely breathe because the accounts are so funny.
INSKEEP: I suppose this might be a moment to ask how it is that these books that you described as under-the-radar get on your radar. Do you wander the library stacks?
PEARL: I absolutely. And I think that that's one of the things that people are losing the habit of because you can do so much online. It's just that kind of serendipitous find where you're looking for one book and the title of the book next to it catches your eye and you pick it up and you say, oh, this is just what I was looking for my whole life.
INSKEEP: Well, let's wonder a little bit through this stack. Stella Gibbons' "Cold Comfort Farm," which is described as the comic classic of rural life.
PEARL: And made into actually a wonderful movie, "Cold Comfort Farm" was, but the book is terrific. And the book is about a young woman named Flora Poste who has recently been orphaned, and she has to decide which of her relatives to go live with. And she decides that she will go live with her relatives, the Starkadders, who live on a kind of decaying farm called Cold Comfort Farm. And Flora is one of those determined young women who realizes that if she puts her mind to it, she can change everybody's life for the better. And the Starkadders absolutely need somebody to come in and make their lives better. There's Aunt Ada Doom who's the matriarch.
INSKEEP: D-O-O-M, I assume.
PEARL: Who is the matriarch of the Starkadders and who - something happened in Aunt Ada Doom's background, and mostly what Aunt Ada Doom says is, I saw something nasty in the woodpile.
(Soundbite of laughter)
PEARL: Or the woodshed.
INSKEEP: Well, somebody has to be looking in the woodshed.
PEARL: Yes. And so nothing has happened at Cold Comfort Farm because Aunt Ada Doom keeps such a close tabs on everything. And Flora takes all of this assorted family, and sorts them out and sets them on their way. And it's an absolute delight to read.
INSKEEP: So you've got a couple of books that we might describe as classic chick lit.
INSKEEP: Before that you've got a couple of books that are, I guess, poultry lit. And let's continue right on here. We've got the - well, we're going to stay with animals.
INSKEEP: "The Animal Dialogues: Uncommon Encounters in the Wild" by Craig Childs.
PEARL: Craig Childs is a wilderness guide and a naturalist. And this is a book that is filled with his different encounters with all sorts of animals in the wild. It's a book that I have to say, I read it in such a state of heightened anxiety because the things that he does in search of these animals are things that most of us kind of city-bound folks would find it very, very difficult to do.
But here is a quote - this is what he says about the bear. He says, "Most animals show themselves sparingly. The grizzly bear is six to eight hundred pounds of smugness. It has no need to hide. If it were a person, it would laugh loudly in quiet restaurants, boastfully wear the wrong clothes for special occasions, and probably play hockey."
(Soundbite of laughter)
INSKEEP: It doesn't care that you're there. It doesn't care if it goes fishing himself.
INSKEEP: These are the animals this guy has found.
PEARL: These are the animals. And the scene in this book with the mountain lion and Craig Childs' attempt to keep the mountain lion face to face because the mountain lion really wants to get around to your back so he could snap your neck. That attempt, I think, is - reading about it was as anxiety-building as any thriller could be.
INSKEEP: Nancy Pearl, thanks very much.
PEARL: You're welcome, Steve.
INSKEEP: She's the author of "Book Lust," "More Book Lust," and "Book Crush." You may recognize the last author she recommended. Craig Childs is a MORNING EDITION commentator.
You can read an excerpt from his book and the others on Nancy Pearl's under-the-radar list at npr.org.
It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
And I'm Renee Montagne.
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