Book Review

Reviewed by Rita J. Egan

When three cows embark on an adventure to the beach, things can get a bit tricky, but that doesn’t stop Ms. Brown Cow. Children will discover that when one is determined to achieve a goal, even when obstacles are present, one can accomplish almost anything in the delightful children’s book “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?”

Peter Fowkes

Written and illustrated by Port Jefferson native and St. Anthony’s High School graduate Peter Fowkes, the self-published book features witty yet simple rhymes and vibrantly colored funny illustrations. The story is one that will surely provide little ones with plenty of giggles as Ms. Brown Cow finds a solution to any problem.

In addition to the “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” book, Fowkes, who is a producer and director living in Los Angeles with his wife Nancy and two children Benjamin and Charlotte, has also published “Rainbow Sheep” and “Elmer, The Pet Horse.” All three, recommended for ages 4 to 8, are part of the Beyond the Blue Barn book series.

Fowkes recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions about “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow” via email.

Do you have a favorite memory from your childhood years?

I grew up in the Port Jefferson area, in the village of Belle Terre. I played village Little League coached by my dad, spent my teenage summers lifeguarding on the Suffolk County shoreline, graduated high school from St. Anthony’s in South Huntington, and even though I have since moved, my mother still lives in the family home that I grew up in on Crooked Oak Road. My most vivid childhood memory is going on a third-grade field trip with Scraggy Hill Elementary School and deciding to ignore my teacher’s warnings about not getting too close to the edge of the stream. I fell in. I was fine, but it was embarrassing to spend the rest of the field trip in my tighty-whitey underpants covered up by Mrs. Christman’s oversized jacket. My life has been very much that way ever since.

Tell me a bit about your career?

I have worked in the television industry for 20 years now. I gave the NBC tour as a page in Rockefeller Center after I graduated from Fordham University and continued on the TV path to work as a producer and TV director on comedy shows. I am proud to note, most of them are even funny, but not all of them. A few highlights would include a few years with the “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” and a few years with “Impractical Jokers.” I mostly work freelance, which is fancy speak for stressful employment hunting, but it has given me the opportunity to have a very diversified career taking on many projects and some very rewarding experiences.

How did you get involved with writing children’s books?

For starters, I was terrible at math. My math notebooks would be filled with doodles and cartoon characters as I would spend the entire lesson drawing Batman and Charlie Brown instead of learning fractions. I was a bad math student, but I became a pretty good artist. A few times in my TV career I had the opportunity to do some animation, and I thought I came up with a pretty cool style. I would mix cartoon drawings with real photographs, the result was “a poor man’s Roger Rabbit.” I decided to translate that style to children’s books because I thought kids would love it. In TV, the experience of producing a show is very collaborative. That is all well and good, but I wanted to tell a few stories all on my own. I wanted to pair simple funny stories with silly beautiful illustrations, and I wanted my kids to like them.

How would you describe “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” to someone who hasn’t read it?

“How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” is a simple story, with a simple message that isn’t too preachy, with lots of funny pictures. It is a book for kids that I promise parents will enjoy reading with them.

How did you come up with the idea of cows who are determined to make it to the beach?

I liked the idea of characters that did not know their “place” in society. Like, what could you achieve if you never were told, “You can’t do that”? What if you really believed that you could do anything you set your mind to? Well, these cows clearly do not think of themselves as “just farm animals.” They think they can do whatever they try to do and if that means ride a motorcycle, take a cab, fly an airplane or shoot themselves from a cannon to get to the beach, they’re going to get to that beach.

When did you start the Beyond the Blue Barn book series and why?

I purposely wanted to play around with the children’s book clichés of rhyming stories about farm animals at the old barn etc. I thought that would be a fun place to start the stories and then let the characters go nuts. All the Beyond the Blue Barn books start with a family photo of the old farmer and all of his animals.

I was looking at an old school class photo and was wondering whatever happen to this one, and where did that one wind up going and decided to take that approach with all of these farm animals as the books start with the farmer retiring to Fort Myers and the farm being sold.

Each book then follows a farm animal or group of animals on their adventures after they leave the Blue Barn to start their new lives. All of these animals are infected with a blissful sense of unawareness of what is expected of farm animals; therefore, they can do anything and try to do so. They feel no limitations. The cows may dream of being lifeguards, the sheep astronauts and rock stars, a turkey wants to be a professional tennis player. Why not? So, the goal is to keep it simple, silly and fun.

Do you have another children’s book planned or more adventures for Ms. Brown Cow?

Well, the Blue Barn opening page has plenty of animals in the picture and every one of them has a story. So far, we have followed three groups. “How Now, Ms. Brown Cow?” follows the three cows on a quest of determination to get to the beach. “Elmer, the Pet Horse” follows a horse in his new home where he does not see why he isn’t accepted into the family home like the dog or the cat. “Rainbow Sheep” is a battle for the affections of children at a petting zoo where the sheep continually top each other with more audacious acts thinking it will make them more liked. So, I do plan more adventures for the other animals formally of the Blue Barn.

Tell us about the illustrations.

I think they tell much more of the story than the words do in these books. My books are narrated by the farm animals and the pictures often don’t really match what the animals are saying because they do not know the full story. They are unreliable narrators. I mean in my book “Elmer, The Pet Horse,” before the horse is bought by a new family, he thinks he is getting a corporate job as a foreman at the glue factory. He even imagines himself at some giant corporate office wearing a hard hat being all important.

How do you find the time to write? Any advice for aspiring book writers?

Like everybody else in the world, I really don’t have time to write, but I forced myself. The one piece of advice I would have for aspiring writers is:  just sit down and start your book. I meet people all the time that tell me about an idea they have for a book, but it’s just an idea until you start it. For me it was important to break it down into parts. Doing a whole book is overwhelming, but just trying to finish a page here and a page there is easy and before you know it, it’s done.

For more information on Peter Fowkes and his Beyond the Barn book series, visit his author’s page on www.amazon.com.

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Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Grant Shaffer and Alan Cumming with their current pets, Jerry and Lala. Photo from Jud Newborn

Have you ever wondered what your pets are thinking, or what they’re up to when you’re not around? Actor Alan Cumming and his photographer/illustrator husband, Grant Shaffer, sure have. Constantly entertained by their late beloved dogs, Honey and Leon, the couple decided to share the fun in their new children’s book, “The Adventures of Honey & Leon,” beautifully illustrated with a silly, imaginative story line. Cumming and Shaffer, who have been together for 13 years, recently answered questions about the book via email.

Tell us a little bit about yourselves. Were you always animal lovers?

Alan Cumming: I always had animals around me growing up. I had two little West Highland Terrier dogs when I was a little boy, but as I lived on a country estate there were always sheep and cows and deer and pheasants around.

Grant Shaffer: I’ve always been an animal lover. I grew up with dogs, cats, a rabbit, lizards, snakes, hamsters, fish … I even had a pet rat that I was crazy about.

Is this your first foray into writing/illustrating?

AC: I’ve also written “Tommy’s Tale,” a novel published in 2002; “Not My Father’s Son,” a No. 1 New York Times best-selling memoir; and a book of photographs and stories titled “You Gotta Get Bigger Dreams.” GS: I illustrated a children’s book last year called “Three Magic Balloons,” written by Julianna and Paul Margulies.

How did you come up with the story line?

GS: The idea came up when we’d be traveling and missing our dogs. We would spot people at the airport, on the street or at a beach and say, “There’s Honey” (old lady in a bathrobe and a floppy sun hat), or “There’s Leon” (short little guy wearing big sunglasses and a flat cap), and the story just grew from there. The problem with dogs is that they don’t stick around forever. I think this was our way of trying to immortalize them, and we thought kids would like this tale.

AC: It seemed such a good collaboration considering our respective jobs. I love the idea that we have created something together that celebrates the creatures we loved so much.

What was the process like?

GS: Alan wrote the story first, and then I added the drawings. We mulled the idea of doing a children’s book for years, so it took a long time. It was great, and pretty fluid. I’ve heard of some couples who are barely speaking to each other after a joint project like this, but luckily that’s not us!

How did you come to adopt Honey and Leon?

GS: Before we met, Alan had adopted Honey, and I had adopted Leon, so when we got together, so did they. They were pure love and magic to us, but all dog owners think that about their dogs. Leon would sing (howl) along to Radiohead or if a siren went by, and Honey always crossed her paws like a lady, and she’d actually pose for a camera, looking left, then right.

Did you often wonder what the dogs were thinking at home?

GS: All the time. It usually involved food and dog treats I think. One time we rang up a pet psychic, so she could tell us what the dogs were thinking. She was so off, saying that Leon didn’t like my phone’s ringtone (I never used a ringtone) and that Honey wanted Alan to eat more vegetables (as a vegan, that’s all he eats). It was worth a funny phone call though.

Can you share with the readers a favorite story about Honey and Leon?

GS: We used to play a game: If I walked the dogs, Alan would hide somewhere in the house. Alan’s hiding places became more involved, and the chase would become more frantic each time. I would guide them with “hot” and “cold,” and Alan would clue them in with a whistle. When they’d finally find him, it was like a family reuniting that had been separated for decades — lots of whining and licks!

Do you two hope to adopt pets again someday?

GS: We already did! When Honey died (from old age), Leon was so lonely, so we adopted a Chihuahua mix named Jerry. Then Leon died (from old age) and we adopted Lala (a mini-collie mix, but she looks like a black fox). We are in love all over again.

Is there a particular message you hope to pass on to kids with this book?

GS: I like that the story features two gay dads, but that isn’t the story really. It’s just, “Here is our family on a fun adventure together.” I guess that’s a message in itself.

Who is your target audience?

AC: We recommend the book for kids ages 3 to 7.

Are there any other books we can look forward to from you?

GS: “The Further Adventures of Honey & Leon” comes out in 2019. “The Adventures of Honey & Leon” is available online and in stores wherever books are sold.

Cumming and Shaffer will make a special appearance at the Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington on Sept. 18 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $75, $60 members. The event, hosted by Jud Newborn, includes a rare screening of Cumming’s “The Anniversary Party,” followed by a Q&A and book-signing reception for “The Adventures of Honey & Leon.” Every ticket holder will receive a copy of the book. Call 631-423-7611 for more information.

Bruce Campbell answers questions from the audience.

By Kyle Barr

Bruce Campbell walked from the back room of the Book Revue in Huntington on August 15 to a crowd that had flooded the entire space of the bookstore. Fans had crowded in between shelves stuffed with books and in chairs besieging a small podium to the rear of the store. The line to pick up Campbell’s new book, “Hail to the Chin: Further Confessions of a B Movie Actor,” snaked its way around the store.

The man made famous for starring in B movies, the “Evil Dead” trilogy and television show as well as for his large, clefted chin was rather nonchalant about the turnout.

“Who came the farthest away today?” he asked the crowd. A person in the back shouted “England,” with an English accent. “England?” Campbell said, his mouth twitching. “You’re full of crap.” Another person yelled out California. “California? You didn’t come here just for this, cause I’m going to California.” The audience laughed. “You’re either lying or you’re an idiot.”

The crowd was large enough that Campbell was signing books and memorabilia late into the night. The venue didn’t allow people to spend too much time taking pictures with Campbell, but he was eager to calm people by making a joke of it. “They’ll take pictures, they’re gonna grab your damn camera, click click click click, you’re gonna go, ‘Oh, are we posing?’ nope, click click, the camera’s back in your hand and you don’t know what happened. You’re gonna get pictures tonight, they’re gonna be mostly crappy. Photoshop, reframe them. I’m gonna see all these crappy photos on Twitter tomorrow and I’ll go, ‘Wow, that’s another crappy photo.’”

Campbell is well known for his facial ticks. He always talks with his head tilted to the side and his lips twitch often. It’s part of his persona, the one people have learned to appreciate from childhoods spent watching the “Evil Dead” films and Campbell’s other B movie rolls — people like Dennis Carter Jr. of Lake Ronkonkoma, who that day cosplayed as the chain-saw-toting, ripped shirted main character of the famed “Evil Dead” franchise.

Carter says his friends call him the Long Island Ash, as he has a penchant for dressing up as the main character of the “Evil Dead” franchise and going to conventions. He especially likes to show up wherever Campbell appears. Just the day before Carter traveled to New Jersey to see him at a book signing in that state as well.

“Bruce is really a good guy,” Carter said. “He’s not like other celebrities who get pompous about these sort of things. He’s really humbled by the crowds that he gets. He’s worth it.”

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Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Author Lisa French

Fishing has been a beloved part of Lisa French’s life for many years. The South Setauket mother of three has turned that passion into a fun book for kids with “A Fishing I Will Go!” Follow the children in the book on a fishing adventure as they catch fish commonly found in Long Island’s waters including a fluke, sea robin, crab, squid, eel, blackfish, bass and a tuna. The interactive story, told entirely in rhyme, features a jellyfish, starfish, piece of driftwood and a message in a bottle in every hand-drawn picture.

French, 53, hopes to teach kids about fish and fishing while also raising money for a cause close to her heart. A portion of the profits from the book will go to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation to support multiple sclerosis awareness and research. French lives with the disease, and her mother, to whom the book is dedicated, died from MS-related complications in February of this year.

Were you creative growing up?

I’ve always been the creative person in my family that people would come to for wedding toasts, eulogies and poems. I have a whole book of poems that I’ve written and I love to draw, especially in pencil.

What inspired you to want to write a book?

I spent 26 years running a day care, and I have three children of my own. There was a time when my children and the children I watched wanted a new game to play, and I created one for them. I had a patent pending for it, but the process became too costly. After that, I decided to try writing a book.

The kids love books, and they like catchy phrases. I had a couple different ideas started, but the kids I watched knew that I would go fishing, and they were always excited to hear stories about it. Every Monday when we got back from the weekend they’d ask me, “What’d you catch, what’d you catch?” At first, I just wrote the story and printed out pictures from the Internet to go with it. The kids still loved it, and that inspired me to go forward with it.

How did your family respond?

They definitely took it seriously. In fact, they even helped me to get the money together that I needed.

Tell me a bit about the story.

This is a simple story — my own story — of going out and trying to catch a fish to keep for dinner. It’s about learning what you can keep, what you can’t, and making the perfect catch at the end of the day.

Why did you want to write a fishing book specifically?

Each page of the book has a significant, personal meaning for me. A friend of mine has a boat called The Reel Adventure that we go fishing on. All the fish mentioned in the book I caught on his boat. There’s a page with a lighthouse that’s actually Breezy Point — my nana had a house that overlooked the scenery I drew in that picture. I also used to fish off the pier. I even went in a rowboat with my father and caught an eel with him once. The page with the sea bass that swallowed all the bait but wasn’t (heavy enough) is something that actually happens while fishing.

Did you self-publish or work with a publisher?

I looked at several different publishing companies online and read reviews, and I decided to go with one that’s only been in business for about four years, called Palmetto Publishing Group. They’re based in South Carolina and were a very nice group of people to work with. By working with them, I now have the freedom to get into bookstores and create a hardcover version of the book, which I’m planning on.

What about the illustrations?

I had trouble finding an illustrator to work with, so I did all of the drawings for the book myself using pencil. I did the drawings on paper first, and then I found Adobe Draw, which allows me to copy my drawings onto (the computer) and color them in.

What is the target age for this book?

The kids that I’ve done readings for have been between the ages of 2 and 4. They really enjoy acting out parts of the book with me — we cast our lines together, reel in the fish and throw them back. I also have a fishing game that allows them to catch fish using rods with magnets on them.

Lisa French with her late mother, Joyce, who suffered from chronic progressive multiple sclerosis.

Why did you choose to have some proceeds from this book benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation?

My mom always stood by me and always told me how good I was (at writing). She really pushed me, and it’s for that reason that I dedicated the book to her. She passed away in February from chronic progressive multiple sclerosis (MS), which she got in her late 20s. It wasn’t until her mid-30s that she was diagnosed. She started using a cane, then a walker, then a wheelchair. She ended up paralyzed from the waist down, and in her mid-50s also lost the use of her left side. Doctors told me she wouldn’t live past 60, but she passed away at 74 — she was a miracle case.

I also have MS, but it’s the relapsing-remitting form. They say it’s not hereditary, but I’ve heard of so many people who have MS whose mothers had it, too. I believe there’s more research to be done.

“A Fishing I Will Go!” is available online at www.amazon.com. Find out more about the book on Facebook at www.facebook.com/afishingiwillgo. To make a donation to the MS Foundation, visit www.msfocus.org.

All photos courtesy of Lisa French.

The cover of 'Lone Eagle'

By Rita J. Egan

The cover of ‘Lone Eagle’

Long Island has long been home to many important events in the field of aerospace, particularly during World War II, leading to its iconic nickname as the “cradle of aviation.”

In an effort to help keep the island’s aviation history alive for the next generation, Port Jefferson Station resident John Herman has written a historical fiction book, “Lone Eagle.”

Children will be delighted to join 12-year-old Clementine, the protagonist of “Lone Eagle,” on her adventures during the golden age of aviation. An added bonus for those who live on Long Island is the main character’s hometown of Garden City, a short distance from Curtiss and Roosevelt fields, in a time before the latter became a shopping mall.

While Herman grew up in a different era, just like Clementine, he lived in Garden City as a child and was in close proximity of Mitchel Air Force Base and fascinated with aviation.

The book, which is Herman’s first published work, takes place in 1927 and follows Clementine during her visits to local airfields at a point in time when flying an airplane across the Atlantic Ocean nonstop was just a dream.

The tomboy, whose nickname is Lone Eagle, is determined to be a part of the race to fly across the ocean in her own way by trying to give each pilot a good luck charm, and her quest takes her on an adventure where she meets many interesting characters. The book is historically accurate, which is demonstrated many times, not only with the author’s documentation of historical events such as Charles Lindbergh’s awe-inspiring solo nonstop transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis from Roosevelt Field to Paris in 1927, but also as Clementine and others keep up with the latest news by reading newspapers, listening to the radio in the parlor and making calls from telephones located in hallways.

One of the drawings in the book depicting ‘The Spirit of St. Louis’

Throughout the book, Herman’s pencil drawings depicting airfields, airplanes, as well as other scenes, are a charming addition. At the end of the story, the author lists the Atlantic flight time line to enhance readers learning experience.

In the introduction, Bob Mott, museum director of the Bayport Aerodrome Society, writes “many young people on Long Island today grow up with little knowledge of the aviation history that took place here back during what has become known as the golden age of flight . . . [This is] a must read for any young person who is interested in aviation.”

Recently the author took time out to answer a few questions about his latest venture.

How did you become interested in aviation?

As a youngster, I built models of airplanes and read aviation history. In high school, I built radio-controlled models and then started flight training at Zahn’s Airport [in North Amityville].

What is your day job?

I work for Creative Models and Prototypes, in Hicksville. They are a spin off of the old Grumman model shop. We make prototypes of inventions and models of all types (test, display, volumetric, etc.).

Did you always want to be an author and illustrator of children’s books?

I can’t say I started out wanting to be an author, but when I began reading children’s books to my own children, it began to take on an appeal. I have always been an avid reader. When you combine that with an interest in drawing, eventually an illustrated manuscript was bound to happen.

Author John Herman

What was your favorite book as a child?

As a kid I read the Tom Swift series among others. The Redwall series was a favorite to read with my son, and of course, both of my children enjoyed being read Harry Potter.

Did you base the character Clementine on a child in your life?

Clementine is not based on anyone in particular, although I probably would have been right beside her if I had been 12 years old in 1927. I know we would have shared an interest in all things aviation.

Are there any experiences that Clementine went through in the book that you identify with from your own childhood?

Like Clementine I was always fascinated with aviation. I spent hours exploring the abandoned Mitchel Field Air Force Base. If Roosevelt Field had still been an airfield rather than a shopping mall, I’m sure I would have spent a lot more time there.

How would you sum up the book for someone who hasn’t read it?

“Lone Eagle” is a close-up look from a child’s perspective of what was — at that time — the world’s most challenging technological achievement. Clementine wants to be involved, and in her own unique way, she is.

For what age group is this book best suited?

“Lone Eagle” is a beginning chapter book for readers from 8 to 11.

What is your process when creating a book?

This is a tough one. I usually get the inspiration to write from a specific event or occurrence that triggers an idea for a story. Once the story starts to take shape, it gives me a feeling for the style of illustration that I think will work best.

What advice would you give someone who is interested in writing a children’s book?

I think that, at least for me, the easiest and best subjects for creating a children’s book come from personal experiences, things that I am familiar and comfortable with.

Any upcoming book signings?

I don’t have any signings scheduled right now, but “Lone Eagle” is available through Amazon.

For more information about the book and the author, visit the Lone Eagle Facebook page.

Cindy Sommer

Stony Brook author Cindy Sommer and her debut picture book “Saving Kate’s Flowers” has been recognized with a Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators 2017 Crystal Kite Award for New York.

Each year, 15 books are honored from U.S. and international regions from more than 1,000 nominated books. Members of SCBWI vote to honor the outstanding work of their peers in the genre of children’s books. SCBWI is the only professional organization specifically for those individuals writing and illustrating for children and young adults in the fields of children’s literature, magazines, film, television and multimedia.

Sommer has always been passionate about writing, but it was her daughter’s desire to save the flowers from winter’s fate that inspired her first picture book. She tucked the idea away and years later set out to make the story come to life. The whimsical illustrations by Laurie Allen Klein feel familiar with a nod to Beatrix Potter and her rabbit family that lived in the human world.

To read a book review of “Saving Kate’s Flowers,” visit www.tbrnewsmedia.com.

Sommer will be reading and signing copies of her award-winning book on Monday, June 19, at Harborfields Public Library, 31 Broadway, Greenlawn from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. For more information on this event, call 631-757-4200.

Photo by Joyce Ravid

Former New York Times columnist and best-selling author to come to Huntington

By Melissa Arnold

Growing up, Anna Quindlen’s one and only dream was to write. Her life was flooded with the written word from the very beginning. Quindlen described herself as “a difficult child,” but teachers praised her for her writing skills. That encouragement led her to study English and creative writing at Barnard College in New York City and then on to a career in journalism.

“I always intended to be a novelist,” Quindlen said in a recent interview. “I only went into the newspaper business to pay the rent, but I loved it so much that I just stayed and stayed.”

Anna Quindlen will hold a special book signing at the Cinema Arts Centre on June 8.

Quindlen paved an extensive career as a columnist for the New York Times and Newsweek, even earning a Pulitzer Prize along the way. But then she returned to her first passion — fiction writing — and hasn’t looked back. Her beloved novels, including “One True Thing,” “Blessings” and “Black and Blue,” have amassed a dedicated fan base and time atop the New York Times Best Seller List. Her book, “A Short Guide to a Happy Life,” has sold more than a million copies.

Now, Quindlen is celebrating the paperback release of her latest novel, “Miller’s Valley,” with a stop right here on Long Island.

Long Island LitFest will host Quindlen on Thursday, June 8, at the Cinema Arts Centre in Huntington. The evening will include an intimate reading from “Miller’s Valley,” a meet-and-greet, a signed copy of the book and refreshments.

The LitFest, which launched in 2015 as an annual event bringing lauded authors to the area, has now grown to include occasional Long Island LitFest Presents evenings with a single author.

Claudia Copquin, the festival’s producer and foundress, calls it a labor of love. “My friends and I are avid readers and booklovers, but we’ve had to leave Long Island to go to book festivals and the sort,” she said. “We saw a need for something like this at a local level, and Long Islanders are well-read and very cultured. Authors are usually excited to get involved [with us].”

Copquin and members of the festival’s advisory board work to identify authors that would have an interest in making an appearance here. Many of the selected authors are preparing for or on a promotional tour for a book release, Copquin explained. In past years, they’ve hosted writers including Alan Zweibel, Adam Resnick, Dave Barry and many more.

Quindlen described “Miller’s Valley” as “set in a small farming community threatened by a government plan to dam and flood the valley, and its action stretches from the ’50s to the present. It’s about that period when Americans learned that their government might not have their best interests at heart. It’s also a period when the lives of women changed radically, and those changes are embodied in the book’s protagonist, Mimi Miller.”

Above, the cover jacket of Quindlen’s latest novel.

The book has received much praise. The Washington Post has called it “stunning,” USA Today writes it is “a breathtakingly moving look at family” and The New York Times Book Review calls it “overwhelmingly moving.”

Raj Tawney, director of publicity and promotions at the Cinema Arts Centre, said the venue is thrilled to welcome Quindlen as part of a wide spectrum of events held there.

“While the [center] is more about film, we’re here to service the entire community and deliver them all kinds of opportunities in arts and culture,” Tawney said. “We’re a sanctuary for artistic and creative people, and Anna Quindlen is such a renowned, accomplished creator. She’s an artist in her own right. It’s fitting to have her come out here.”

Long Island LitFest Presents Anna Quindlen will be held at 7:30 p.m. on June 8 at the Cinema Arts Centre, 423 Park Ave., Huntington. Tickets, which must be purchased in advance, are $35 for members and $40 for the public. For more information, call 631-423-7611 or visit www.cinemaartscentre.org. To learn more about Long Island LitFest, visit www.longislandlitfest.com.

Keynote speaker Isabel Vincent. Photo by Zandy Mangold

Readers of all ages can meet the authors and illustrators of thrillers, short stories, poetry, nonfiction and children’s books and hear about their newest books at the Port Jefferson Free Library’s 3rd Annual Friends of the Library Local Author Fair on Saturday, May 13, from 2 to 4 p.m. The event is free and open to all.

The keynote speaker this year will be author Isabel Vincent who will talk about her newest book, “Dinner with Edward,” at 2:30 p.m. The book is scheduled to be produced into a film version by Donald Rosenfeld, the producer behind “Remains of the Day” and, more recently, “The Tree of Life” and “Effie Gray.”

Vincent is an award-winning investigative reporter for The New York Post and the author of four books, including “Gilded Lily: Lily Safra, The Making of One of the World’s Wealthiest Widows.” The book is the unauthorized biography of the international philanthropist, whose fourth husband, the banker Edmond Safra, died in a mysterious fire in Monaco. Vincent spent several years researching her subject in Brazil, where the book has been banned by a local court.

Vincent is also the author of the award-winning “Bodies and Souls,” which tells the story of impoverished Jewish women from the shtetls of Russia and Poland who were forced into prostitution in South America. Vincent won the National Jewish Book Award (Canada) for her work on “Bodies and Souls,” which has become a primer for activists fighting against sex trafficking around the world today.

Her book on Swiss banks and dormant accounts in the Nazi era — “Hitler’s Silent Partners” — was the recipient of the Yad Vashem Award for Holocaust History, and her first book, “See No Evil,” goes behind the scenes in one of Latin America’s biggest kidnapping cases.

Marketing and outreach librarian at the Port Jefferson Free Library Salvatore Filosa said, “The library strives to provide open access to literature in many forms, one being a showcase of local authors whose works inspire so many people. Keynote Speaker Isabel Vincent’s newest book is truly a beautiful story that has a wide appeal to readers of many genres. Now is your chance to meet the author and gain insight into what it took to write the story. Readers of all ages are invited to find their next favorite book.”

The Port Jefferson Free Library is located at 100 Thompson Street in Port Jefferson. For more information, call 631-473-0022.

Reviewed by Beverly C. Tyler

“Between Stony Brook Harbor Tides: The Natural History of a Long Island Pocket Bay” by R. Lawrence Swanson and Malcolm J. Bowman is a recently published book (Nov. 2016) that should be in every school library on Long Island. In addition, for those interested in the history, current conditions and future of our wetlands and waterways, this book is an essential read.

Specifically a book about the Stony Brook Harbor area, it takes a much wider view when considering the factors that have had and continue to have an influence on the harbor. Admirably this is a book that takes a very even-handed approach to the environmental and societal pressures that have contributed to the present state of the harbor and its future.

From left, Malcom J. Bowman and R. Lawrence Swanson. Photo by Heidi Sutton

 

In Chapter 1, “Shaping the Harbor,” the description of the formation of the hills and valleys of our Three Village area with “unsorted debris” left by the glacier is complemented by poetic and descriptive quotes from Setauket resident Benjamin Franklin Thompson who published the first history of Long Island and William Sidney Mount who wrote in his diary about the search for pigments in the banks and steep hills along the shore with his brother, Alonzo Shepard.

Chapter 2, “Physical Oceanography,” is the most technical chapter in the book, filled with tables and charts that detail the events and changes that have occurred in Stony Brook Harbor, as well as projections on the future of the harbor. Looking at the table on page 19, it is evident that the mean low water at the Stony Brook Yacht Club occurs approximately one hour after low water at the entrance buoy in Smithtown Bay. This is also the case for mean high water, an important consideration for boaters entering the channel to go to either the Stony Brook Yacht Club or the Smithtown Boat Basin.

These details are wonderfully enriched by interesting comments, “Boaters are perhaps frustrated by the seemingly excessive period of low stages of tide, while recreational clammers can relish the extensive period over which they can gather their harvest.” The rest of the chapter details currents, storm surges and more, all of it highlighted with salient comments including that sea levels, having risen one foot since 1886, will rise even faster this century and, “the wetlands will very likely shrink considerably.”

Chapter 3, “The Living Harbor,” begins “The splendor of the harbor is largely identified with its living marine plants and animals.” It goes on to describe the huge variety of plants and animals that inhabit the area. In many cases the same is true for all the pocket bays in our area including Mount Sinai and Setauket.

Chapter 4, “Human Impacts on the Harbor,” factually describes the effect that humans and large numbers of water fowl have had on the harbor, especially in relation to pollution and contamination.

The even-handed approach is evident in Chapter 5, titled “Scars upon the Landscape,” which details that “the physical process of dredging destroys shellfish beds…,” but goes on to say that, “dredged material, if toxicant-free and managed properly, can be a valuable resource when used for such purposes as beach nourishment.”

Chapters 6 and 7, “Governance” and “The Harbor’s Future,” tells the story of how the harbor was used and controlled and then paints a picture of what its future can and should be.

With their life’s works, Larry Swanson and Malcolm Bowman have made significant and substantial contributions to our knowledge and understanding of the natural environment. Their research and instruction at Stony Brook University provides students and residents alike with a more concrete knowledge of the effect that we have on our environment as individuals and as a society. Their contributions to our environmental knowledge are also crucial to Long Island’s future.

The book is available online at www.sunypress.edu and www.amazon.com.

Author Beverly C. Tyler is the Three Village Historical Society historian and pens a biweekly History Close at Hand column in the Village Times Herald.

Above, the cover of the author’s latest book
A rescue dog resembling a fox and a beloved lake in Babylon become inspiration for Letourneau’s latest book.

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Marie Letourneau

Marie Letourneau of Farmingdale has always been a creative spirit, illustrating and writing a number of picture books for children. Her latest release, “Argyle Fox,” follows a day in the life of an adorable young fox looking for something fun to quell his boredom. It’s a windy day, however, and Argyle learns plenty about perseverance, trial and error as he searches for the perfect game to play.

Best suited for ages 3 to 7, the story teaches that failure is often a path to success and celebrates perseverance, creative thinking and an old-fashioned springtime activity. Letourneau took time out in preparing for a book launch party at Book Revue in Huntington on March 26 to chat about her latest venture.

Tell me a bit about your childhood. Have you always lived on Long Island?

I was born in Queens Village, but my family moved out to Lindenhurst on Long Island when I was 5. Shortly thereafter, we moved to Babylon village — that’s where I grew up, that’s my hometown.

Were you creative as a child? What were you involved in growing up?

I’ve been interested in art as far back as I can remember. I loved writing stories and drawing pictures. I would make little books out of paper and staples for family members. I was very interested in puppets (thanks, Jim Henson) and just about anything that had to do with art. I was, and I still am, a very visual person. I didn’t always do well in school because I was always too busy doodling in my notebooks.

Did you always want to become an author/illustrator? Who encouraged you to pursue it?

My parents and family were always encouraging of my art pursuits. When we were young, my mom would read to my sister and me at night. I remember looking at “Where the Wild Things Are” and “Winnie the Pooh” and thinking, “WOW! I want to do that! How do these people draw so well? How are books made? How do they get the drawing and words onto paper?” I think I was about 7 or 8 years old at the time. So, yes, I have definitely always wanted to write and illustrate. As an adult, my husband encouraged me to follow my passion to do artwork and create picture books. I couldn’t have done it without his patience.

Above, the cover of the author’s latest book

Did you go to school for this?

I attended Hofstra University’s New College Program where I majored in fine art, but I never studied illustration per se. I didn’t go to art school. I learned how to create picture books pretty much on my own.

Is this your first book?

No, the first book I wrote and illustrated is called “The Mice of Bistrot des Sept Freres.” The very first book I ever illustrated is called “Is a Worry Worrying You?”

What was the publishing process like? Did you go the traditional route, using a publisher, or did you self-publish?

I have never self-published. All of my books are through Tanglewood. Self-publishing has its own merits and value, but I prefer working with a publisher/art director. I enjoy collaborating and bouncing ideas off of another person. A professional “eye” is invaluable. Working with Peggy Tierney (publisher at Tanglewood) has upped my illustration game significantly. She’s amazing. She’s taught me so much. I am forever grateful to her.

What inspired you to write this book?

This is a long, disjointed story that happened over several years. Several years ago, I started writing a story about a child who wants to play outside on a windy day. I worked on it on and off for about a year or two.

Around that same time, we adopted a rescue dog, and we decided she looked very much like a fox. Because of this, my family and I considered naming her “Reynard,” which is French for fox. We ended up naming her Reynie, and, subsequently, I somehow became slightly obsessed with foxes. One night I was sketching foxes, and it dawned on me to change the character from a child to a fox. I named him Argyle after a beautiful little lake in my hometown of Babylon.

Why is Argyle Lake Park so special to you?

I spent a lot of time at Argyle Lake Park with my friends growing up. It’s very picturesque, full of ducks and swans, a waterfall bridge, flowering trees and small park. When I was very young, I would look for turtles there (never caught one) or walk my dog. In the winter, everyone gathered to ice skate. But I think one of my fondest memories of Argyle Lake was through my high school, Babylon Junior-Senior High School. The yearbook club always took the annual “senior year” group photo on the steps of the Argyle Lake waterfall. It was a privilege we always looked forward to as underclassmen.

How would you describe Argyle Fox?

Argyle is strong-willed, a little precocious, and a tad cheeky — but he has a very kind and creative heart.

Do you think kids can relate to Argyle?

I think kids will definitely relate to Argyle. Who hasn’t attempted something, only to find they don’t succeed the first time (or second, or third)? Failure, or “delayed success” as I like to call it, is such a wonderful teacher — it pushes us to look at things differently. It nudges us to reexamine our path to success. Most of all, I think it teaches us to find our patience.

What message do you hope kids take away from your book?

If at first you don’t succeed, creativity and persistence will get you there! But don’t forget to have fun along the way!

Tell me about your book launch party.

It will be at the Book Revue, which is at 313 New York Avenue in Huntington on Sunday, March 26 from 2 to 4 p.m. I will be doing both a reading and signing books (which are for sale at the event). We will have forest-themed cupcakes and everyone is invited to attend!

Where can the book be purchased?

“Argyle Fox” is available at Barnes and Noble stores and online, Amazon, and through many independent bookstores and online sellers.

What’s up next for you?

I’d love to continue publishing books for young readers. Right now, I am just stirring the creative pot in my mind and seeing what floats to the surface. You can learn more about me by visiting my website, www.marieletourneau.com. There you will find my books, illustrations, an events page and more!

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