Warm Weather Reading for All Ages

Summer is the ideal time to go on a fictional journey or share a fantasy with a favorite child through a book. Sitting with a new title can bring fresh insight into local history, and – thanks to rich photography and lively illustration – fresh ways to look at our world.

Double Forté – A Gus LeGarde Mystery
By Aaron Paul Lazar
Publish America

Aaron Paul Lazar of Livingston County presents the first in his Gus LeGarde mystery series set against the backdrop of scenic Genesee Valley.

The suspenseful novel is multilayered. Widower LeGarde, a college professor, becomes embroiled in a frightening series of events surrounding the abduction of a young child who is mute. A romance develops between Gus and Camille, the social worker who cares for the child Gus rescues from a plunge into the snowy Letchworth Gorge. Danger mounts as the mystery’s menacing villain attacks LeGarde and stalks his family as he tries to recover the child.

Author Lazar has a proclivity for alternating dangerous predicaments with family scenarios, which often focus on mealtimes. The result is an engrossing read with homey, wholesome fare. Double Forté is a satisfyingly riveting tale with an appealing hero, whose love of music and gourmet food is as fundamental as courage.

While each Gus LeGarde mystery can stand alone, the author’s two later titles are also available: Upstaged, the second in the series, and Tremolo: Cry of the Loon, a prequel about a youthful Gus in the 1960s. A fourth book Mazurka will be published on June 15th.

Sam Patch: Daredevil Jumper
By Julie Cummins
Holiday House Inc.

Readers ages 8 to 12 years will meet legendary Sam Patch, who jumped off things like the roof of a Rhode Island cotton mill into the Pawtucket River 100 feet below, for the fun of it. By his early 20s he was living in Paterson, New Jersey, and jumping off ever-higher spots like the picturesque Passaic Falls. He began to attract large crowds for his amazing stunts. After Patch survived a leap over Niagara Falls in the fall of 1829, he went to Rochester’s High Falls for his next challenge. It was there that his luck ran out on Friday, November 13.

Cummins, who began her career as a children’s librarian at the Charlotte branch of the Rochester Public Library, was asked about Sam Patch so often she decided his life begged to be told. She carefully researched Patch’s exploits and adapted his short but colorful life into a picture-book biography, where his daring feats come to life through her well-paced and lively narrative. The daredevil literally springs across the pages, thanks to imaginative illustrations by artist Michael Allen Austin.

Ithaca: a Brief History
By Carol Kammen
The History Press

What New Deal cabinet member considered Ithaca “the most isolated place on the Eastern Seaboard?” It was Secretary of Labor Frances Perkins who, during the 1950s, lived there for several years.

Carol Kammen, Tompkins County historian and editorial writer for History News, the journal of the American Association for State and Local History, carefully chronicles the evolution of one of the Finger Lakes Region’s most diverse and standout cities, located at the foot of Cayuga Lake.

Kammen combines a thorough knowledge of the past with an awareness of the city’s contemporary setting and character. To longtime Ithacans, the story of the generosity and vision of Ezra Cornell, who donated money to the city for a free public library and his cow pasture for the university that bears his name, may be familiar. However, the book is ideal for those who want a well-written overview of a city that continues to garner attention.

Butternuts for Rexford
By Tom Adessa
SassyKat Books

New children’s writer Tom Adessa of Auburn weaves a warm tale that demonstrates how fears are conquered. His childhood memory of how he raised a squirrel that fell out of its nest obviously fueled this sympathetic tale.

As amazing as it may seem to observers of squirrels, Rexford the red squirrel has a fear of heights. Traumatized by a fall, he is unable to climb higher than a small rock. His dilemma is made worse by the fact that he is taunted by others, including his siblings, and he cannot reach butternuts, his favorite food.

Tommy the Toad and Ozzie the Owl befriend Rexford and help him literally conquer new heights. Pivotal to the story is his introduction to Grayson, a gray squirrel, who has a fear of his own.

At 5,900 words, the book is aimed at children ages 6 to 12. It promises to be a favorite for reading aloud, and could lead to endless backyard nature explorations. The book’s sepia-toned line drawings by Dan Gaylord are appropriate to the story’s natural setting, and the author has included a helpful list of “Nature Notes” with background details of the creatures and their habitat.

Brewed in Rochester
By Skeeter McDaniels
Mountain Air Books,

Everyone should collect something, say the experts, so why not beer cans? Well, since their introduction in 1935, beer cans have become some of the most popular collectibles. They’re considered “breweriana,” or items that would normally have been discarded shortly after the beer was consumed.

Beer production reportedly started in America “as soon as the Pilgrims arrived in the 1600s.” This new book focuses on Rochester, described as one of the first boomtowns in America due its ready access to the Genesee River and the Erie Canal. There have been as many as 150 different breweries there over the years, and the book provides a helpful list.

Full-color images illustrate ephemera such as labels, coasters, caps and glass bottles for Genesee, Standard, Topper and Jaguar, among other breweries. Dates range from the late 1800s to the 1970s. The images include a listing of a relative value in U.S. dollars that will be especially helpful to collectors.

For those who enjoy local history, there are notes on population growth and several pages of full-color photos and postcards of earlier days.

New York Yesterday & Today
By Meg Schneider

Well worth mentioning is a new pictorial history of New York State spanning 400 years. The book covers regions throughout the state from Manhattan to Niagara Falls, and from the Southern Tier north to the Adirondacks.

There is no denying the power of the images to convey the diversity and rich legacy of New York. The book juxtaposes illustrations of past and present locations, historical photographs and archival material with color photography, making appropriate editorial connections.

Author Meg Schneider hits many of the high points of the Finger Lakes Region including Skaneateles, Seneca Falls, Watkins Glen, Ithaca and Corning among others. Insightful sections cover the Erie Canal, religion, hunting and fishing, orchards and vineyards, sports, farming and agriculture, the Great New York State Fair, and Native Americans. This is a reasonably priced introduction to the variety the state has to offer both visitors and natives alike.

In Search of Norman Rockwell’s America
Photographs by Kevin Rivoli and Artwork by Norman Rockwell
Howard Books, div. of Simon & Schuster

Illustrations by Norman Rockwell are among the most recognizable of those created in the 20th century. His works feature average Americans engaged in a wide range of everyday scenarios.
While Rockwell’s critics found his art too carefully staged, his enduring popularity speaks to his strength as a visual storyteller of American life.

Photojournalist Kevin Rivoli of Auburn matches photographs, many taken around the Finger Lakes region, with a large variety of Rockwell art, much of which has ­appeared as covers for The Saturday Evening Post. They show that Rockwell’s America has not vanished.

Themes include fishing, haircuts, sports, friendship, rites of passage and love, young and old. Added to most pairs are short descriptions written by numerous famous Americans including Rockwell himself, and his son and grandson. Reading these passages about Rockwell’s love of “the commonplaces” adds to the appreciation of what he achieved.

This volume can be appreciated on multiple levels and often. The black-and-white photography ranges from witty to moving. Rivoli, a longtime photographer, has an ability to capture the poignant moments in the lives of average people. “Life – real life – is about looking at, appreciating, and embracing the simple things that are right in front of us,” writes Rivoli.

by Laurel C. Wemett
Laurel C. Wemett lives in Canandaigua where she owns a gift shop, Cats in the Kitchen. She is a correspondent for the Messenger Post Newspapers and a frequent contributor to Life in the Finger Lakes magazine.

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