Autumn’s Portal to Great Books

Kenny Brechner - August 29, 2019

The approach to the Glade of Seasons is made by walking into a remote field whose location I have been forced to keep secret. At the edge of this field stands a formidable boulder with a drawing on its side of a wooden door. Those with an appointment may push open the door and then step through it into the Glade. So it has always been during my many visits over the years to interview the seasons as to their forthcoming book picks. Today, as I made my way to our annual interview with Autumn, I found not one but three boulders, and each with two doors drawn on them.
Feeling a bit out to sea I located the original boulder and on it the original drawing of a wooden door. I pushed. It swung open and I walked into the Glade. Autumn stood there waving at me. She had a book in her hand which I recognized as The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.
Autumn: Hoy there Kenny!

Kenny: Greetings Autumn. Umm. It’s nice to see you.

Autumn: Indeed.
Kenny:  Hmmn. I suppose the multiple doorways reflect an inspiration drawn from The Starless Sea?
Autumn: Right in one. What fun!
Kenny: Well then. In The Starless Sea many doors led to one place. If I had chosen a different door, would I be standing in a different Glade and speaking to a different Autumn?
Autumn: Don’t be daft — they all lead here. Most of the time, that is.
Kenny: I see. At this point I can make a guess as to one of your fall book picks.
Autumn: Oh yes. The Starless Sea is sensational and instructive too. To honor its delightful fusion of books and portals, of way finding and world building, I chose the theme of portals for all my other book picks.
Kenny: Right ho then!
Autumn:  Sure. My other two adult picks are Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House and A Hero Born by Jin Yong.
Kenny: Ah the nexuses in the houses of Ninth House. I see! Not to mention that gaping mouth that took Darlington. Ninth House is a book of portals indeed, not to mention being a page turner for the ages. I’m not as clear on A Hero Born, even though I loved it to be sure. What a sensational historical novel and living window into the world of ancient China.
Autumn: Listen to yourself, man. “A window into ancient China.” Is that not a portal?
Kenny:  I see what you mean. What about your kids’ picks?
Autumn: Very well? For picture books I had to go with Grumpy Monkey Party Time! Not only is it a charming, worthy and wonderful sequel but what is more of a portal in time than a child’s birthday party? I also chose Sang-Kuen Kim’s delightful Little Mole’s Wish, as it deals with the fallout of having moved and that most portal-like of things, a wish. For my last pick I went with Guojing’s Stormy: A Story About Finding a Forever Home.
Kenny: Oh I love Stormy, such a fine wordless narrative and what could be more of a portal than finding a forever home?
Autumn: Just so.
Kenny: And what about Middle Grade and Young Adult?
Autumn: Well I couldn’t pas on The Great Brain Robbery since The Train to Impossible Places is literally a portal in its own right and the story is so much fun. I also chose Laura Weymouth’s outstanding second novel, A Treason of Thorns, as it so powerfully captures the transition to true freedom. What a superbly evocative book that is.
Next I picked Nic Stone’s stellar Jackpot. Think of what an intriguing portal a lottery ticket makes, and it is handled with so much depth here. Tremendous character development and so satisfying. A real tour de force.
And finally Julia Drake’s The Last True Poets of the Sea. Just a riveting story of unexpected resilience, transformation, and discovery of the portals we don’t see until we’ve passed through them. Such a moving tale. I was captivated.
Kenny: Absolutely agree. Thanks so much, Autumn! Hmmn. (looking behind suddenly) I note that there are more doors on the Glade Stone than there were when I arrived!
Autumn: Ha ha. Good luck to you!

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