Baker extraordinaire Olivia Rawlings has been sought after for her mad kitchen skills in major cities all over the U.S. She’s used to working 80-hour weeks and going home to her tiny Boston apartment and her enormous Irish-wolfhound mix. In between creating desserts with names like Flourless Chocolate Torte, Lemon Mousse with Lemon Curd, and Huckleberry Clafoutis, she dyes her hair with colors like Electric Amethyst, Enchanted Forest, and Manic Panic Electric Tiger Lily. In a moment of mood, or perhaps boredom, there was that poorly considered tattoo on her ass of kitchen utensils. Seemed like a good idea at the time.
It’s an existence that doesn’t encourage close ties but, as every workaholic sugar devotee should, Livvy has a BFF who lives in what may be the most charming town in the Vermont countryside. There’s this fantasy that the city dweller dwells on, and it goes a little something like this: life in the country, although picturesque, would be slow, dull, and devoid of fair trade coffee houses housing surly baristas, and music halls where the independently spirited can rock on with all the latest indie bands.
On the flip side, there’s this fantasy that country dwellers dwell on, and it goes a little something like this: life in the city is crowded, noisy, devoid of natural beauty, anonymous, freeing, and stimulating.
They’re both right. But at some point, a person’s got to choose. “Welcome to Guthrie. Where everybody knows everything, but no one says a word,” says one character as a way of explaining the character of the town itself. It’s a place where Livvy, checking out the local bar scene, notes that “It seemed as if everyone knew one another, like at a high school reunion.” You can only find out by reading the book whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.
In her first novel, author Louise Miller, Wellesley High School Class of 1989, takes readers on a tour of the circle of life. Love, birth, marriage, death, (with a dash of betrayal and a pinch of comeuppance thrown in for good measure) combine with running away when that’s what seems easy. What Livvy begins to understand is that staying away can be as difficult as baking a blue-ribbon worthy apple pie.
This one isn’t for book group. You’ll all feel obligated to sniff about how it was a nice story and all, but there wasn’t really much there. The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living doesn’t deserve that kind of mean-girl treatment. Livvy has been through enough, and in the reading, you’ll find that your hopes for her future start to rise as high as one of Livvy’s perfectly crafted loaves of bread.
This one is for you to read this fall sitting in your favorite chair in front of the fire, curled up in an afghan, cup of tea at your elbow, with your golden retriever thumping his tail at your feet. This is one to pass along to your mom and your sisters and your aunts. Go ahead and send a copy to them all with instructions to read it before the holidays. That way you’ll all have the opportunity to chat at Thanksgiving about the nature of true belonging and sense of home. And wouldn’t that be a blessing?
Author and WHS graduate Louise Miller is a pastry chef who lives and works in Boston. She received a scholarship to attend GrubStreet’s Novel Incubator program, a year-long workshop for novelists. She is an art school dropout, an amateur flower gardener, an old-time banjo player, an obsessive moviegoer, and a champion of old dogs. She once won second place at the Topsfield Fair for her apple pie. The City Baker’s Guide to Country Living is her debut novel.
Wellesley’s got three libraries plus independent book store Wellesley Books, and all are spaces frequented and much-loved by the town’s avid readers.
But there’s one more spot that is perhaps the best of them all if you’re interested, strictly from an anthropological perspective of course, in trying to discern the kind of books Wellesley people really read. That spot is the open shelves at the RDF. There, in full view and for the taking (if you’re a Wellesley resident), are books that have likely come directly out of actual Wellesley homes. Some of it is what you’d expect. But not all…
A friend visiting Hull this past weekend caught my attention with a photo he shared on Facebook while stopping by a fine establishment called Jo’s Nautical Bar. It looks like the famous words of Wellesley High English teacher David McCullough, delivered during his 2012 commencement speech, live on..
Not to put a damper on things, but yes, here in Wellesley summer is almost halfway over. School starts on Wednesday, August 31, and that means it’s time for students to get going on their summer reading. As long as you tuck a couple of titles into your overnight campers’ next care package, among the fresh socks and contraband candy, all should be well. Every grade in Wellesley has a list of summer reading books, which you can find at the links below.
So don’t anybody panic, whether they’re at home or away, there’s still plenty of time to get your kids engaged in that most lovely of summer activities, cozying up with a good book. Help them find a nice spot outside in the hammock or sprawled out on a blanket at the beach, make sure a tall glass of lemonade is within easy reach, and before they know it, they’ll be transported.
Generally, at the middle school each student must read two books of their choice, and each grade has an assignment attached to those books. At the high school level the book depends on which class the student is taking, while at the elementary level there is an entire website with pull-down menus for picture books, chapter books, graphic novels, and more.
Summer reading, Wellesley elementary schools
Elementary school students are encouraged to keep a list of some of their summer reading titles and to read approximately 30 minutes per day. You can access the entire elementary schools summer reading list here. Below you can find a few titles on the extensive list that was put together by a dream team of library teachers representing each of the seven elementary schools in town.
If You Ever Want to Bring an Alligator to School, Don’t! Elise Parsley (picture book)
Reminds me of back when I did some volunteering at the Natick Community Organic Farm and I wanted to bring in the piglets to my second-grader’s classroom. Yes! said an enthusiastic teacher. No, the principal gently ruled. Something about Health Department regulations. Right, and those baby chicks under the incubator lights are so sterile.
Bad Kitty, Drawn to Trouble, Nick Bruel (beginning chapter book series)
Bad Kitty is the best. Back when we were immersed in the read-aloud world, there really wasn’t anything a kitty/bunny/doggie could do that could shock us. Until Bad Kitty scratched Grandma in his first book. Now that’s a bad kitty.
Coding Computer Games with Scratch, Doris Kindersley Publishing Staff (non-fiction)
Two Friends: Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass, Dean Robbins (biography)
Summer reading, Wellesley Middle School
All Wellesley Middle School students must read two books they haven’t read before. There’s a list, but the kids can go reading rogue and choose something different if they want.
Here’s the 6th grade list, with a couple pulled from it that looked good to us (below):
Assignment: “You will have to rate the best book you read this summer and talk about what you think the message of the book is. Then, read and rate some other books! This assignment is due on the first day of school.”
Found, Margaret Peterson Haddix
When thirteen-year-olds Jonah and Chip, who are both adopted, learn they were discovered on a plane that appeared out of nowhere, full of babies with no adults on board, they realize that they have uncovered a mystery involving time travel.
Growing Up Gronk, Gordon Gronkowski
Tells the Gronkowskis’ story, revealing how they were raised, how they were motivated, how they trained, how they played, even how their mother kept then fed.
Moxie and the Art of Rule Breaking, Erin Dionne
Instead of spending a carefree summer exploring downtown Bostonwith best friend Ollie, thirteen-year-old Moxie must solve a famous art heist in order to protect those she loves from her ailing grandfather’s gangster past. Includes facts about the 1990 Gardner Museum art theft. [Read more…]
My background doesn’t exactly raise any eyebrows here in Wellesley — I had a suburban New England upbringing, went off to college, graduated, lived in the big city for a while, found me a husband, had a couple of kids, and started blogging. Sure, I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants, but it’s all been terribly exciting. And yet, like many adrenaline junkies who crave even more drama, I’ve harbored a secret ambition, one I will dare share: to run away and fly through the air with the greatest of ease as a circus trapeze artist.
So imagine my excitement when I found out that someone who actually has traveled with a small three-ring circus while photographing it and later writing a book based on her experiences is not only coming to town, but is right now displaying some of her vintage photographs in the Wellesley Library’s Wakelin Room. Not only that, Elizabeth C. Wellington will be be reading from her book Circus Girl on July 16, 3pm – 5pm.
At age 16, an adventurous Wellington left high school to travel around the world alone. She lived in India for a year, and one adventure led to another until the rolling stone had lived in five countries, learning three languages along the way. Eventually, Wellington settled down and gathered some moss by becoming a language professor, and has lived a quiet life as an academic ever since.
Circus Girl, from which she will be reading, is a work of fiction based on Wellington’s experiences on the road and the stories of the circus people she knew. The novel starts off in the summer of 1971, when seventeen-year-old Sarah runs away with a traveling circus. On the road, she falls in love with West, a handsome performer and swamp rat from Florida with a gift for handling wild animals. When she is given a job as a roustabout in order to follow the show, she is privy to the secrets of jailbirds and misfits from the Deep South. Just before the circus reaches the end of its tour, Sarah makes two unwanted discoveries: that her lover is a drug smuggler, and that she is pregnant with his child.
The book is a work of fiction. The photos hanging in the Wakelin Room and their brief accompanying narratives are as real and gritty as it gets. Step right up, folks, the author will be available to answer all questions, sign copies of her book, and tell the stories behind the photographs, all of which are for sale.
From Wellesley Free Library:
The Trial of the Big Bad Wolf gets underway at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, July 20 at Wellesley Free Library
Potential witnesses and jurors may register online at www.WellesleyFreeLibrary.org through the calendar starting on July 13 in order to testify or serve on the jury. To qualify for this live action, role playing event, you must be between three and one-hundred and three years old, willing to play a part of a storybook character and able to tell the truth. No experience is necessary.
One of the charges against Big Bad Wolf is being brought by little Red Riding Hood who alleges, “That nasty old Wolf actually ate my Granny!”
Mr. Wolf is also charged with huffing and puffing and blowing down 2 Little Pigs’ homes.
Ed the Wizard brings his Reading Magic program to Wellesley Free Library on Thursday, July 7 at 2:30 p.m. Be prepared for volunteers, magic, comedy and suspense all to help spell out the importance of building and maintaining reading skills.
Also be prepared to learn how Albus Dumbledore, from Harry Potter, was an inspiration and hero for Ed the Wizard.
This program is supported in part by a grant from the Wellesley Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council.
Wellesley Books has a couple more authors coming to the store this summer:
Carrie H. Johnson debuts her new mystery Hot Flash. Forensic firearms specialist Muriel Mabley sweats every detail. She’s got more responsibilities than she can count, more baggage than she wants to claim, and way too many regrets, but she’ll do whatever it takes to put Philadelphia’s most vicious killer in lockdown for good… Until her troubled younger sister in witness protection receives a terrifying warning—and Muriel’s long-time partner, Laughton, reveals he knows more than he should about her and Muriel’s shattered past.
Come meet Delia Ephron as she shares Siracusa, her electrifying novel about marriage and deceit. New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage.