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Book Review

‘This book is a love affair with seaside eating.’ 
—  from the Foreword by Gael Greene

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Co-author Hillary Davis

Hillary Davis and Stacy Dermont have collaborated on a book that is more than just a collection of recipes. It is an engagingly written celebration of not just seasonal cooking but local sourcing. They have brought together multiple elements of Long Island and channeled them into a guide that is both entertaining and practical. The love for their home is furthered in its citing of neighborhood farms and businesses and the plethora of ingredients that they provide to make magic in the kitchen.

“Over many meals and food-oriented adventures,” writes Davis, “we came to the conclusion that we wanted to share what we love about this very special part of the world. … In the way we have chosen to live, we shop at our local farm stands and farmers’ markets for most or all of our fresh produce, as much to revel in the amazing quality and choice as to feel as if we are taking part in preserving our small-farm heritage.”  

This local-centric ideology is a passion for both writer-chefs and this clearly honest zeal continues throughout the book. Prior to each recipe there is a succinct and informative narrative piece: a personal anecdote or a slice of hyperlocal detail. Both authors pen in a homey narrative, as if they are sharing a bit of themselves as they prepare the plethora of repasts. Whether it’s a history of the ingredients or a “one time when” they enrich the entire reading experience.

In the first part of the book, there is a discussion about the importance of pairings of food to beverages. Their thesis is that they should amplify or contrast to enhance the meal. Davis and Dermont explain each and propose a local drink as complement.  Most often, there is a recommendation of a product from one of the 60 local wineries, 40 craft breweries, or one of the many distilleries or cideries. Sometimes, they simply advise an herbal tea. These details are a wonderful augmentation.

Co-author Stacy Dermont

The book proper is divided by seasons:  spring, low summer, high summer, fall and winter. Presented is a very detailed list of what is in season and when, a list that should be kept nearby throughout the year. There is even a plea for “Nothing Goes to Waste” with ideas for using remnants in making stock or composting.

Each section of the book contains small plates, salads, main courses and desserts. In the hundred recipes, there is  a nice mix of well-loved and new dishes as well as unique takes on popular favorites.

It is a tribute to the clarity of the writing that even the more complicated and challenging recipes are explained in such a way that novice cooks can accomplish them. They are given step by step with just the right amount of detail. There are also instructions on topics ranging from the roasting of garlic to the blanching of fresh bamboo shoots to the selection and cooking of clams. This is a wealth of knowledge, expertly shared. 

It would be impossible to highlight all of the wonderful choices that are on offer:  Potato Cheesecake with Caramel Crust, Kale Poppers, Blue Cheese Chicken with Strawberry Salsa, Long Island Duck Breasts with Duck Walk Vineyards Blueberry Port Sauce, BLT Macaroni Salad with Ham Crisps, So Many Tomatoes Sauce over Spaghetti Squash, Peconic Bay Scallops with Riesling Cream, Roasted Montauk Pearl Oysters, Wine Country Beef Stew, Cider-Poached Apples on a Cloud of Cider-Sweetened Ricotta … there is not just something for everyone — there is a bounty of culinary joys.

Special note should be made of the original photography by Barbara Lassen. Lassen’s keen eye brings the dishes to life in dazzling and vivid colors, further reminding us that there is a special multifaceted aesthetic involved in this entire process. 

Davis and Dermont’s The Hamptons Kitchen: Seasonal Recipes Pairing Land and Sea will make a wonderful addition to culinary libraries throughout the Island. But even more importantly, it will find its best home in kitchens for many years to come.

The cookbook is available online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon and will be in bookstores by April 7. For upcoming book signings, please visit www.thehamptonskitchen.com.

The cover jacket of Cucinello’s latest book

By Melissa Arnold

The author with her grandaughter Lia Paris when she was 5 years old.

Regardless of gender, age or hobbies, just about all kids are surrounded by “stuff” — games, toys, dolls and LEGOs are perennial favorites. Joanne Cucinello’s granddaughter, Lia Paris, was no exception in her younger years, her childhood bed literally overflowing with stuffed animals. It’s a cherished memory for Cucinello, a longtime poet, storyteller and resident of Port Jefferson. In late January, she published “Lia Paris Sleeps in a Zoo,” an adorable book for children that explores little Lia’s vivid imagination and those of her stuffed friends.

Tell me a bit about your upbringing. Were you creative as a child?

I grew up in Brooklyn and Queens, and came from a family of five children. I wound up being the caretaker of my younger brothers and sisters, whom I love very much. I ended up having five children myself!

When I was younger, we didn’t have much money, and we learned how to create things out of nothing. All of us were very resourceful and creative. I loved reading and writing, and I always had a pencil in my hand.  

When did you first start writing? Was it a part of your career?

I have probably 10 children’s stories that I’ve written so far, though this is the second one that I’ve published. I’m also a poet at heart — I’ve published a book of poems, and have a blog called “I See the Bridge” that I’ve been writing on since 2007. 

My husband and I had a few hair salons, first in Queens and then out here in Suffolk County. I also grew up cooking beside my mother, and ended up starting my own small catering business. When my children were grown, I partnered with my daughter Lisa to open up Tiger Lily Cafe in Port Jefferson. We’ve been in business for more than 20 years. 

What made you want to write for children?

I love all stories, but I especially enjoy fairy tales. I think they’re very important for children to listen to. Fairy tales can connect with a child on a very deep level. My first book, “Wanda the Wilopent,” is a fairy tale.

The cover jacket of Cucinello’s latest book.

What inspired you to write this book? Is it based on a true story?

It seems like today children never have just one favorite toy. There’s always more being added. That was the case with my first granddaughter, Lia. She and her parents lived with us for the first year of her life, and so I was able to be closely involved with her as a baby. She was a very sensitive child and very imaginative. She refused to put her stuffed animals in the closet, saying that they would start to miss her and cry. 

For a while, Lia and her younger sister, Simone, shared a bedroom. Eventually, her parents turned an office into a bedroom, allowing both girls to have their own room. It seemed that initially she was feeling lonely being the big sister in her own room. Relatives saw how much she enjoyed animals and her stuffed pig, so they began to bring her additional stuffed animals for her collection. Over time, she kept putting more and more of them on her bed, until there was no more room and she ultimately fell out of bed.

How does Lia Paris feel about having a book written about her? 

Lia is 16 years old now, a wonderful human being. She’s been thrilled about the whole process from the beginning. Her little cousins, my grandchildren, are always asking if I’m going to be writing a story about them, too. I do have plans to bring them into stories in the future.

How did you go about getting published?

My first book was self-published, but this time I was published through Austin Macauley Publishers. They were accepting submissions, and I looked at the kind of books they were printing. While they didn’t have any fairy tales, they did have funny, touching stories about children and their life experiences. I had written “Lia Paris” years ago, when she was around 5 years old, and it was dear to my heart. 

What about the illustrations?

Austin Macauley has its own illustration department. I sent them pictures from when Lia was young, along with sketches my niece helped me with. Lia actually has many of the stuffed animals from the story still in her closet, so she got them all out for us to photograph. It was a lot of work, but they did a great job.

Is there a particular lesson you’re trying to teach with this book?

I think there is a lesson in it for both parents and children, that more isn’t always better. Today, we always have to have the latest, greatest thing. And so much gets thrown out. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Who is the book’s target audience?

I think that it would be best for children ages 4 to 7, though younger children can certainly have their families read it to them.

Any more books on the horizon?

Yes, I have plenty of stories that I hope to publish in the future if this book does well. One story is called “My Name is Rainbow,” about a little girl who has a condition called heterochromia — her eyes are two different colors, and she often gets picked on by other children for it. It’s about learning to love yourself and celebrating the things that make you different.

Meet the author at a Spring Local Author event at BookHampton in East Hampton on April 19 at 10:30 a.m. and at a special Storytime event at Barnes and Noble in Lake Grove on April 25 at noon. “Lia Paris Sleeps in a Zoo” is available for purchase online at www.austinmacauley.com, Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Animalkind is subtitled “Remarkable Discoveries about Animals and Revolutionary New Ways to Show Them Compassion.” This succinctly explains this straight-forward work coauthored by Ingrid Newkirk, founder of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), and Gene Stone, who has done extensive plant-based writing.

The book is divided into two parts.  The first half deals with understanding animals as beings who “move, chat, love, and romp … and how we humans can benefit from our greater understanding of what makes animals tick.”

Co-author and animal activist Ingrid Newkirk with a friend

Section I covers a wide, diverse range of beings from the wonder of worker ants; to Rico, the extraordinary retrieving Border Collie; to “Clever Hans,” the Orlov trotter who was purported to comprehend sentences and solve math problems (but was revealed to be taking cues from his master). These and many more are analyzed alongside organisms as unusual as maze-solving slime mold:

The dog who jumps for joy when you come home. The emperor penguin guarding his child through a subzero blizzard. The dolphin smiling at us from the water. The sleeping cat’s purr of contentment. The manta ray’s intricate underwater ballets. The lark’s exquisite song. Animals delight, fascinate, and enrich human lives and thoughts every day of the year.

Newkirk and Stone carefully base their arguments in science and not solely issues of feelings and morality. Extensive research, siting multiple sources, are the foundation of their thesis. They make the distinction that we cannot compare animals’ minds and emotions to our own; anthropomorphizing is a dead-end in the understanding of animal natures. This is also true in comparing animals to other animals.

Contrary to common thought, animals — even fish — can be self-aware, and, therefore, experience pain and trauma as well as other emotions. There are detailed discussions of homing instincts and complex migrations in everything from snails to elephants. They look at the long-term effects of removing animals from their natural habitats. Quoting Darwin, animals experience “anxiety, grief, dejection, despair, joy love, ‘tender feelings,’ devotion, ill-temper, sulkiness, determination, hatred, anger, disdain, contempt, disgust, guilt, pride, helplessness, patience, surprise, astonishment, fear, horror, shame, shyness, and modesty.”

In a mix of investigation and anecdotes, the writers paint a vivid picture of a world that more than just co-exists with ours.

Section II deals with difficult issues. It focuses on how animals have been exploited for science, clothing, entertainment, and food. Part two alternates between detailed and often graphic accounts, offering a variety of proposed alternatives. Each of these ends with suggested calls to action.

The science portion gives a brutal narrative of the history of experimentation and vivisection. It discusses the problems with what few laws there are and their poor enforcement. It brings up the 3Rs of humane animal research:  replacement (substitutions); reduction (using the fewest number possible); and refinement (techniques that reduce the pain and stress). 

According to their sources, much of the testing on animals is of limited-to-no value given the dissimilarities of humans and animals. In addition, computer simulations are slowly replacing many areas of exploration: “In the future, the math may replace the mouse.” Finally, they encourage people to only use products and brands that are proven to be cruelty-free.

The ensuing sections follow much the same format:  A history of the use of animals, followed by analysis of their abuse, and finally specific changes that people can make in their lives. Everything from the pain of sheep raised for wool to the horrors found in circuses, zoos, and all forms of captivity are recounted. Even the “No Animals Were Harmed in the Making of This Film” is, at best, a half-truth, if not a lie. “Free range,” “free roaming,” and “cage-free” are often misnomers, misrepresenting the reality.  

Dunkirk and Stone also provide a brief  but informative history of the animal protection movement. This segues into the health benefits of a plant-based diet, describing the various meat, dairy, and egg alternatives and echoes the earlier proposals for clothing options that do not involve the harming or slaughter of animals.  

The book is passionate and honest in its goals; it makes its points with clarity and sincerity. Ultimately, people are reluctant to make changes they see as inconvenient and the advocacy here is large one. Whether this book creates converts to the cause remains to be seen. However, for those who do read it, it will certainly make a lasting impression. 

Animalkind is available at Book Revue in Huntington, Barnes & Noble and online through Simon & Schuster (simonandschuster.com) and Amazon. 

Half Hollow Hills senior writes children’s book celebrating local history
Author Jay Nagpal;

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

It’s Jay Nagpal’s senior year at Half Hollow Hills High School in Dix Hills, and like everyone else in his grade, he’s got a lot to do. There’s classwork to finish, college applications to mail, a social life to keep up and the future to consider. But in the midst of all that, he’s also taken up an unexpected task. 

On Nov. 30, Nagpal published his debut book for children, “Miss Kim’s Class Goes to Town.” The 17-year-old wrote the book in hopes of sharing his knowledge and enthusiasm for local historical sites with the next generation. The book plays out just like a real class trip, with questions from students and helpful commentary by “Mr. Robert,” an actual historian in Huntington. 

The informative storyline coupled with cartoonish, fun illustrations will capture the imaginations of local children.

What came first for you, the interest in writing or history?

 It was history. From a young age, I was lucky enough to do quite a bit of traveling with my family, and we would always make a point of going to the historical sites or museums in the places we were visiting. We’ve gone to Rome, Paris, London and many other places in Europe that are rich in history. I think being exposed to that at such a young age is what’s given me such a great interest in history now.  

Do you have a favorite historical time period?

It bounces around, but years ago I was very interested in ancient history like you would see in Rome. Later on, I became more interested in the American Revolution, and last year I spent a lot of time focusing on World War II and postcolonialism.  

Why did you decide to write this book?

Last year, I started to see that while I was really passionate about history, a lot of other people just aren’t. In my history classes, I noticed that many of the other students weren’t engaged in the material, and I started to wonder if there was something I could do to engage kids in a meaningful way. I thought that I could create a platform that focused on local history and stir up interest around that for people my age.

Ultimately, I founded the Dix Hills-Melville Historical Association. It was uncharted territory for me, but I had tremendous support from the Huntington Historical Society and the local school district. Robert Hughes from the Huntington Historical Society supported me from the very beginning. I compiled all the important historical sites, landmarks and archives with their help, and created a website that would provide me with a forum to write features and blog posts about history. For example, we just celebrated Walt Whitman’s 200th birthday in May, so it was important to write about that on the website.

Are any of the children in the book named after people you know?

A lot of the names in the book have meaning to me. Early on, one of the students mentions a teacher named Miss Martin. That’s a reference to Karen Martin, who is the archivist at the Huntington Historical Society. Mr. Robert, the town historian, is directly based off of the real Robert Hughes. Dylan is my friend’s brother, whose parents published the book, and some of the other students are also named after friends of mine.  

What was it like to see the book for the first time?

It was a surreal feeling, for sure. After months of going through the entire process of publishing and putting everything together, it was so rewarding to finally see the finished product. 

How long did writing take?

I started over the summer, and the book was published about six weeks ago. A lot of the research had already been done in founding the historical association, so I already had the information I needed.

How did you go about getting it published?

A close friend’s parents actually run a publishing company called Linus Learning, and they were very open to the idea of publishing my book. 

What about the illustrations? Did you do them, or did you work with someone else?

I’m definitely not an artist, and one of the great challenges of the project was finding the right illustrator. I ended up going online and using a service called Fiverr to connect to a very talented illustrator who lives in Sri Lanka. Her name is Thushari Herath, and she really did a phenomenal job. There are a lot of cultural differences between us, so we had to talk about things like what side of the road the bus would drive on, what classes would look like, how people would dress and so on. It took a bit of extra effort, but it was all worth it because she’s so talented.  

What is the recommended age for this book?

Older elementary school kids will probably get the most out of it, starting at about third or fourth grade. My goal was to be as accessible as possible, though, so people older or younger than that shouldn’t feel discouraged to read it.

What’s next for you? Do you want to write more books?

Right now, I’m focusing on finishing up my college applications. I’m looking to stay somewhere in the Northeast that has a strong history program − I’d like to pursue some kind of research track through graduate school and maybe a Ph.D. down the road. I’m not totally sure about anything yet, but that’s what I’m thinking about lately. 

I hope to do something like this book again in the future, especially if it makes an impact on local students.

Where can we learn more about you?

I share information and thoughts about local history at www.dixhillsmelvillehistory.org. 

“Miss Kim’s Class Goes to Town” is available online at Amazon.com, at Huntington Historical Society events and at the gift shops of historical sites around Huntington.

Above, the St. James author with her latest book. Photo by Heidi Sutton
Family through the prism of stained glass

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Claire Nicolas White shares her family’s journey in the art of stained glass in her very engaging Five Generations Painting With Light.  

The book opens with a crisply written introduction followed by a succinct and informative history of stained glass. White’s eloquent prose defines her connection in a sharp parallel to the compositions that are to be explored: “Mine is a strange inheritance, transparent, ablaze with light in all colors, breakable, but precious.”

Above, the St. James author with her latest book. Photo by Heidi Sutton

The history details the materials, construction and sites of the pieces as well as the fact that the creation of stained glass today is much the same as it was over a thousand years ago. The nobility as well as the dangers of the trade are also touched upon. The intersection of necessity, art, folklore and fantasy are at its heart. It should be remembered that the windows often served as a method of ecclesiastical communication, telling biblical stories and imparting scriptural themes.

From there, White traces her family history, beginning with her Dutch great-grandfather, artist François Nicolas. His son Charles Nicolas then focused on the business aspects and managing the Nicolas glass studio. White’s father, Joep Nicolas, first rebelled from the family business, but, after studying philosophy and art history, he found that “painting with light remained irresistible.” Joep married Suzanne, an artist with similar if complementary tastes. Joep was highly successful and his work could be seen not just in churches but in assorted businesses and educational institutions, — “square miles of glass.”  

White and her sister, Sylvia, were born in northern Holland but, with the advent of Hitler, Joep moved his family to the United States. It was here that White and Sylvia learned their father’s skill: “I won’t leave you a fortune, but I will have taught you a profession.” Sylvia continued in the work while White found a career as a writer and art critic, publishing everything from poetry to fiction to biography. After leaving the world of graphic design, Sylvia’s son, Diego Semprun Nicolas, took up the family mantle, completing the five generations.  

Throughout, White paints a clear picture of her family, plentiful in detail and event. She manages to evoke their personalities in quick, vivid strokes. The descriptions are colorful and entertaining, revealing the highs and lows, the conflicts and the triumphs.

In addition, White has wonderful insight into the history of art and the artistic temperament. She discusses her father’s seeing his work in musical terms, a strong and vivid metaphor. She quotes her sister’s approach to art as a whole: “Glass is great … but I need to tell tales, religious tales, but also legends, myths. The iconography is inspiring. Life is like a tapestry. You’re influenced by what you’re exposed to and use what you need.”

The book is beautifully enhanced by the many photos of stained glass. It is a delight to see the evolution of the artists through their works and from generation to generation. As Joep stated: “Whoever has been given the spirit, the will, the talent, let him tackle this art form; glass is a willing substance that God had not for nothing allowed us to discover.” Claire Nicolas White has given us an absorbing glimpse into this world of unusual masterpieces.

Claire Nicolas White is an acclaimed American poet, novelist and translator of Dutch literature. She is the granddaughter-in-law of architect Stanford White. Her sister, Sylvia Nicolas, designed and installed all the stained glass in Sts. Philip and James R.C. Church in St. James.

Meet the author at a Master Class at the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center, 97P Main St., Stony Brook as she discusses her latest book, ‘Five Generations Painting with Light’ on Oct. 23 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. The event is free and refreshments will be served. Call 631-689-5888 to reserve a spot.

 

 

 

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Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Barbara Lynn Greif

Barbara Lynn Greif has spent her whole life creating art in varying forms and used her skills to launch an award-winning advertising agency here on Long Island. Greif also earned accolades in 2012 when she wrote and illustrated her first children’s book, “Born From the Heart,” about her journey to adopt her first daughter, Victoria, from China. Since then, the Huntington resident has adopted a second daughter, Gianna, whose kind spirit inspired Greif to write “Gianna’s Magical Bows,” an imaginative and sweet rhyming story about helping others.

Were you always artistic?

Yes, my father, who also had artistic talent, taught me how to paint at age 6, and we discovered that I had a real gift for it. From that point on, all that I could think about was painting and drawing, and I was empowered to excel as an artist.

You have a background in fine art. What did you hope to do for a career?

I had a childhood dream of becoming a cartoonist and painter. I even created my own cartoon strips, which I envisioned would someday appear in newspapers across the country.

I carried all of these artistic aspirations from elementary school through high school. It led me to go to one of the best design colleges in the country, the renowned Parsons School of Design in New York City. At Parsons, I was able to explore all of my options for a career in art and design. I chose to study communication design and earned a bachelor’s of fine arts degree.

I had to face the reality that painting would not be a lucrative career direction to take. My studies in communication design helped me to refine my skills and become a graphic designer in the advertising field.

After graduating college, I had a variety of jobs in Manhattan — a graphic designer, a product and package designer, a toy designer and an art director. After gaining all of this experience, I was ready to pursue my dream of opening my own full-service advertising agency on Long Island, which I called The Sketching Pad.

How did writing fit into your life?

Writing played a big role for me working in advertising. I was the copywriter for all of the ads created for my clients at my agency — I wrote the text for all of the print ads and television commercials.

What inspired you to write for children?

I dabbled in the effort to write a children’s book during my time running The Sketching Pad, but I didn’t actually pursue it until after my husband and I adopted our first child, Victoria, from China in 2003. The experience of traveling back and forth to China and the whole adoption process was so heartwarming, and it inspired me to write and illustrate “Born From the Heart.” The process of telling Victoria’s story created a new passion in me for creating children’s books.

When did you decide to write this book?

I decided to write and illustrate “Gianna’s Magical Bows” a few years after my husband and I adopted our second child, Gianna, from China. We adopted her at age 3 in 2012. When Gianna saw that I wrote and illustrated a book for my older daughter, Victoria, she told me that she wanted me to write and illustrate a book about her, too.

Gianna is a very caring and giving person who loves to wear a bow in her hair every day. She loves to help people in need — her kindhearted nature is magical. I wanted to base the story on Gianna’s desire to help people out of the goodness of her heart. If she had magical powers, I know she would help everyone in the world.

What is your creative process like?

First I write the story, then I illustrate the pictures. “Gianna’s Magical Bows” took me three months to write and two years to illustrate. When writing a children’s book, I only write in rhyme. It comes very naturally to me, and once I start the writing process it seems to flow very easily. When I’m done with writing the story, I picture in my mind what illustrations would look best for each page, then do rough drawings before working on the final illustrations. I like my illustrations to be bold and colorful.

What message do you hope to pass on to the reader?

I hope children who read “Gianna’s Magical Bows” will strive to be helpful to others and to get along with people, no matter what race, color or religion that they may be.

Is there an ideal age for this book?

The book is meant for ages 6 and up, but I hope that adult readers will enjoy it, too.

Do you hope to continue writing?

Yes, I hope to continue writing and illustrating children’s books. It is one of my passions. I look forward to getting started on my next book soon.

Where can this book be purchased?

The book can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Xlibris Publishers. It is available in print and as an e-book.

Reviewed by Leah Chiappino

Many Long Islanders have come to think of the former state psychiatric hospitals as mere eyesores, or frankly nuisances, as they are often sites for horror seekers and rebellious teenagers to trespass. However, as told by Joseph M. Galante, a former state hospital worker, in his new book “Long Island State Hospitals,” the mental health facilities were once practically their own metropolis. The book is a part of the Images of America series from Arcadia Publishing.

In the late 1800s, the city of New York transferred a few dozen patients to what was then called the St. Johnland farm colony, in hopes they would benefit from an outdoor experience. Another facility was opened in Central Islip, and in 1931 Pilgrim State was constructed to house the growing population of the mentally ill on Long Island.

Above, common features at all the state hospitals were the ornate stone buildings and neatly manicured grounds. The early 1900s image shows one of the buildings at Kings Park State Hospital in its heyday. 

The intake grew so large that Pilgrim State holds the record for the world’s largest psychiatric facility, with nearly 15,000 patients by 1955. Galante states the hospital’s principles focused on moral therapy, and they are “remembered for their legacy of humility, beneficence and a devotion to the mentally ill.” He assures readers practices like electrotherapy were only used in extreme cases, contrary to the commonly held belief that the patients were treated inhumanely.

This seems to be true from the beginning of its history. The St. Johnland facility had its name changed to Kings Park in 1891 and in 1898 graduated its first class of nurses. By then, each hospital had many independent medical surgical buildings, stores, powerhouses, a full-scale farm and ward buildings. The institutions became so self-sustainable that they produced as much as two-thirds of the food consumed there.

The Kings Park facility even had what they called York Hall, where patients would watch movies, play basketball, perform shows and attend functions. The facility also had its own water tower, railroad station, space for masonry work, independent fire and police force and the Veterans Memorial Hospital, which was a group of 17 buildings used to treat veterans that came home from World War I with mental conditions.

The staff at Kings Park provided 24-hour care to patients and worked 12-hour days, 6 days a week prior to the start of the 20th century. Men earned between $20 and $40 a month, while women earned between $14 and $18. They were granted uniforms, rubber coats and boots, food, laundry services, lodging and “chicken and candy every Sunday.”

Patients were encouraged to work within the facility, but were not forced. When they were not working, they engaged in social and recreational events, as well as attended medical clinics and occupational and psychiatric therapies. Up until the 1940s, there was an emphasis on dance, music, art and cooperative activities as a form of therapy.

Ultimately, the book shows a refreshing portrait of three institutions that were such an instrumental part of Long Island’s history. Pictures range from the 1925 Kings Park Fireman Squad to a heartwarming photo of nurses at Central Islip celebrating the 105th birthday of a woman with no family who received no visitors for decades.

There are also many photos of recreational activities, including a holiday celebration for patients wearing party hats, which masks the ominous bars on the window in the background.

Anyone who has ever driven around the Nissequogue River State Park, and has a feeling of curiosity about what was once there should without fail pick up the book, which provides a productive answer to curiosity, without the reader breaking a trespassing ordinance.

“Long Island State Hospitals” is available locally where books are sold and online at www.arcadiapublishing.com.

Images courtesy of Arcadia Publishing

The cover of Kim Marino's first book.

Reviewed by Melissa Arnold

Above, a little girl enjoys reading ‘Sloths Are Slow.’

As a mother of four busy children and a full-time speech pathologist, Kimberly Marino of Miller Place is constantly thinking about kids. In particular, she’s passionate about engaging children in conversation, interaction and learning. In May, she published her first children’s book, “Sloths Are Slow.” 

Marino has crafted an entertaining and accessible rhyming story about a sloth named Lento (which means “slow” in Spanish) and his rain forest friends. Along the way, readers will learn some interesting facts about sloths while practicing counting, gestures, following directions and more. 

The book is visually stunning as well, featuring artwork by Mariya Stoyanova. It is the perfect pick for sneaking some developmental skills into story time.

Were you a creative child? Did you always want to be a writer?

I never really thought much about writing as a kid, but I was always creative. I liked to draw. My mind is always working and I’m always coming up with ideas. My friend and I actually invented a language game for kids that we were able to sell, so there is definitely a creative spark inside of me.

What did you study in college, and where did you end up working?

I went to school for elementary education at a small school in Pennsylvania called Lock Haven University, and then I got a master’s in speech from Hofstra. I now provide speech services through a company called Metro Therapy. I also work with children from birth through age 3 through Suffolk County Early Intervention.

The cover of Kim Marino’s first book.

What inspired you to write a children’s book?

I’ve had the idea in the back of my head for a long time. Being a speech pathologist means I’m always thinking about language and helping kids develop their language acquisition skills. When my kids were little, they loved a Sesame Street book called “There’s a Monster at the End of This Book.” The main character was [the furry blue Muppet] Grover, and it was very interactive. I knew I wanted to do something like that, to teach parents how to read a book with their kids in an interactive, engaging way. You can learn to be interactive not just with this book, but with any book. There really aren’t a lot of tools out there that teach those skills. I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from parents who tell me their kids are more excited about listening to the story because of its interactive features.

Did you have any reservations about writing the book?

Honestly, no. Once the idea was in my head, I said to myself, “I’m going to do this.” And that was it.

Why sloths?

My daughter, Katie, has always had a deep passion for all creatures, down to the tiniest bugs. She’s really into sloths, and is always sharing random facts about sloths with me. I thought it was interesting and would make for a fun story.

What was the publishing process like for you?

I started by hiring an illustrator to create the pictures that would go along with the text. My sister-in-law is a graphic artist and editor, basically a jack of all trades, so she was able to help me get the book published on Amazon. It was an easy process for me, but only because I had her help — I wouldn’t have known where to start without her! Getting the first copy was super exciting. I couldn’t believe it. When I started to write the story, I didn’t know what Lento would look like. To see him and the story brought to life in such a beautiful way was amazing to me.

What is the target age for this book?

I would encourage parents to introduce the book when their child is 1 year old by reading it to them and performing the interactive parts themselves. That’s how they learn — by watching you model behavior. But the target audience is for kids ages 3 to 6. 

What is GiGi’s Playhouse of Long Island, and what is your connection to the organization? 

Working as a speech pathologist has put me in touch with a lot of people that have Down syndrome, and you’ll often hear their families refer to themselves as “the lucky few.” There’s nothing down about having Down syndrome, and I wanted to be able to support and give back to the local Down syndrome community with this book. 

A few local moms are in the process of forming a Long Island chapter of GiGi’s Playhouse, a free center that provides speech, language, arts and life skills classes to help people with Down syndrome achieve their goals and function as typically as possible. The centers are run by volunteers who are passionate about the Down’s community, and a portion of the proceeds from “Sloths Are Slow” will go to the national GiGi’s Playhouse organization to support the upcoming Long Island center. They’re looking to open in the spring of 2020.

You dedicate this book to Thomas Scully. Tell us about him.

My friend, Debbie Scully, unfortunately, lost her son Thomas to brain cancer several years ago. I never met him, but the Miller Place community has worked so hard to honor his memory and legacy. Mentioning Thomas and the foundation in the back of the book is just my small way of showing my support for the family. You can learn more about Thomas and the foundation at www.thomasscullyfoundation.org.

What’s next for you? 

I actually have another book in the works called “Cows Don’t Belong in Houses,” inspired by a funny conversation with one of my young clients named Jackson. In his honor, I would want proceeds from that book to benefit cleft palate organizations. I’m also thinking about writing stories based on the other characters you meet in “Sloths Are Slow.”

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

“A real failure does not need an excuse. It is an end in itself.”  The Gertrude Stein quote is an epigraph for the novel A Family Failure, August Franza’s story of “an ungrateful son.”

A Family Failure follows Heinz “Hank” Drummer, eldest son of a real estate tycoon.  However, Hank is a perpetual disappointment to his father, “The General,” who preaches one lesson: “Be a killer.”  

Hank has been raised in a world where “The General worked 14 hours a day raising hell and then he’d come home with his pockets filled with gold and raise some more hell and then get on the phone and do the business til midnight, raising more hell.”

The cover of Gus Franza’s latest book.

Hank has no instinct for this life or the drive to find it: “I was number one, ready to take over the business when I was supposed to be ready. But I didn’t want to be ready. I was never ready. I was a dangler.”  

Instead, the empire falls to his aggressively colorful younger brother, Sammy, who becomes the heir apparent. Sammy stumbles into his father’s footsteps and then onto great political heights. Hank has only contempt for “the little squirt.”  

If Sammy resembles a certain person in governmental power, it is by no means a coincidence: “Sammy B. Drummer … turned into Daniel B. Drummer, a disaster of a human being and, following on, through the years and decades, a danger to everyone.”

The book opens with the Village Voice’s announcement of Hank’s death. From there, the majority of the book chronicles Hank’s personal story as he shares it with Gus, bartender at The Purple Mist. 

Forty-three-year-old Hank is many things: an alcoholic whose most reliable friend and “real therapy” is Jim Beam; a self-described failure; a man in search of himself, committing suicide-by-liquor. 

Through his foggy narrative, he shares the fascinatingly ugly family history, beginning with the cutthroat German-born grandfather to his perpetually disappointed parents and finally to his famous sibling.  

A great deal of the narrative focuses on Hank’s banishment to Livonia, a second-rate business college, where he majors in not working, driving a red Corvette and trying to assemble his own niche group: The Fugitives.  

Hank wants to be seen as an outsider and yet find a place to belong. He manages to assemble a handful of disparate souls but the combination is odd and ultimately destructive. Hank attempts to carve out a place as a pseudo-intellectual (knowing The General would despise this) but even fails on this count.

The book is outrageous and crosses many lines. But Franza is a gifted writer who knows how to navigate a strange yet wholly recognizable universe. He is a strong writer with an ear for what is both real and lyrical. When Hank is most inebriated, he is synthesis of poetry and wet brain. It is a unique voice that makes us wonder if these are drunken rants or epiphanous clarity.

The story touches on Hank’s two failed marriages and his current affair with the equally alcoholic Camille. Hank’s relationships, personal and professional, are toxic. There is a gray cloud that has permeated his every choice. His is a brutal story of disconnect that Franza is able to paint in intensely painful shades. 

The final quarter of the book enters the contemporary arena as Hank brings Sammy to the forefront. In an unusual and original shift, the present is seen through the eyes of Hank’s ultra conservative and extremely paranoid dentist. (Dr. Linkoff’s skewed perspective is introduced when Hank is in the chair.)  

It is further explored through the dentist’s posthumous missive that is the close of the book. Here a fascinating take on the current climate. Franza’s wordplay reaches new levels in this bizarre anti-Wonderland.  

With A Family Failure, August Franza has created a postmodern novel bristling with challenging ideas and a wildly insightful core.

About the author: 

August Franza has published 27 novels and is planning to make them an even 30. 

The East Setauket resident has a doctorate in English literature and literary criticism, and his life’s work is held in the archives of the State University of New York at Stony Brook. 

Along with his wife and family, writing is his life’s work. He likes to quote T.S. Eliot who said, “It is necessary for poets to take chances, to go too far and risk complete failure.”

Franza’s latest novel, A Family Failure, is available online from Amazon and Barnes & Noble and through local bookstores. 

Visit the author’s website at www.augustfranza.com.

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Christopher McKittrick’s Can’t Give It Away on Seventh Avenue, subtitled The Rolling Stones and New York City, is an engaging exploration of the connection between the iconic rock band and the city that embraced it like no other.

Author Christopher McKittrick

McKittrick wisely begins by putting into historical context the decaying New York City of the early 1960s to give a clear backdrop of the world into which the band entered. In the early part of the decade, English rock ‘n’ roll bands were rarely globe spanning. The Rolling Stones, the Beatles and a small handful of others would change this.

Any chronicle of the Rolling Stones touches upon a comparison with the Beatles both in style and popularity. McKittrick gives an insightful perspective of the more wholesome and instantly popular Beatles with the rawness of the Rolling Stones, whose first journey to America, while successful, was by no means the lighting bolt of the rival group.  

In a short time, the Rolling Stones would become synonymous with some of the most infamous stories of decadence. They would continue to reinvent themselves over the coming decades, become symbols of both extreme behavior and the power of marketing. The band will forever be connected to the “bad boy” image. “If your parents didn’t like the Beatles, they really wouldn’t like the Rolling Stones.”

The book describes raucous early performances, including borderline rioting at Carnegie Hall, heralding the insanity that would follow them. There is a detailed account of the Oct. 25, 1964, appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.” The word “pandemonium” could easily have been invented to describe the wake that followed the Stones.

McKittrick wends his way through the band’s tours across the country, providing a wealth of details that chronicle its meteoric rise. The book has been meticulous researched: Concerts are dissected, comparing set lists even within the same tour; albums scrutinized; venues described and contrasted; recording sessions reported. Fans will be fascinated by the depth that the author provides in his look at “The World’s Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band.”

The book picks up with the band when it is first establishing itself. We are treated to the intrigue, the late night clubs, the relationships and marriages, the celebrities (everyone from Andy Warhol to Bill Clinton), hotel destructions and, of course, the drugs. The Rolling Stones are almost a history of the changing drug use and drug culture in the 20th century. Wild parties, addictions, police raids and arrests, stints in rehab and recovery were a never-ending cycle.  

At the heart is the conflict between Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, a connection that constantly imploded and exploded for 50 years. These two megastars (with equally mega-egos) would battle and make up endlessly over five decades.  

Throughout the book, McKittrick continually returns to New York City. He mines the Rolling Stones’ lyrics, finding dozens of direct references to New York. There are thumbnail histories of Shea Stadium, Carnegie Hall and other stages where the band played as well as multiple appearances on “Saturday Night Live,” the most New York of New York television shows.  

As New York changes, so does the band. The dark and dangerous “Fun City” of the 1970s gives way to the superficial and capitalist ’80s, turning finally into the sanitized, Disney-fied 1990s and beyond. NYC’s fiscal struggles and strikes, its pop culture events, and its shining moments are all presented in the context of the Rolling Stones’ history.

Eventually, like New York City, the band transitioned to survive — they chose a “corporate face-lift.” The Steel Wheels Tour of 1989-90 represented the band as “a cultural product. The rock ‘n’ roll hell raisers had become an institution. Much like the Some Girls song anticipated, the Stones had become ‘Respectable.’”  

After half a century, the long-standing appeal of the Rolling Stones is summed up by Jim Farber in the Daily News: “However corporate the Stones’ sponsorship, domesticated their fans, and predictable their repertoire, the essence of the band still thrives whenever Keith Richard flicks his riffs, Charlie Watts slaps the snare drum, and Mick Jagger swaggers through the blues.”

McKittrick’s book is not so much a dual history but a striking investigation of a cultural phenomenon reflected in one of the greatest cities in the world.

Published through Post Hill Press, Can’t Give It Away is available at www.posthillpress.com, www.amazon.com and www.barnesandnoble.com.