FINALLY, another installment in the continuing readeatlive/blog reader interview series. Blog readers, you will enjoy meeting Susie and I think you will be jotting down some of her reading recommendations and hoping to adopt some of her reading habits. I know I intend to.

Tell us about what you are reading?
I have just finished two entirely different selections. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi is the story of the families of two half sisters born in different villages in 18th century Ghana. One is married off to an Englishman and lives in the comfort of a castle. The other is imprisoned beneath her in the castle’s dungeon, sold with thousands of others into the Gold Coast’s slave trade and shipped to America where her children and grandchildren will be raised in slavery. The author weaves her way through the generations and gives us a wonderful ending that reconnects us with the original sisters.

Sharon Guskin, with her first novel The Forgetting Time, tells the story of a psychology professor suffering from early stages of aphasia, a single parent mother, and her four-year-old son who is experiencing life before life. This was a page turner.

Do you have a favorite book of the last year?
I am on a committee that chooses books for a book club and recently, as we plan for next winter, I have read several books that I have enjoyed. Number one on that list would be The Fall of Marigolds by Susan Meissner. This story is about a connection between two women living 90 years apart, in 1911 and 9-11-2001. It is not only a good story line but very informative about Ellis Island at that time.

What book was a disappointment to you and why?
If a book is disappointing to me it is usually because I don’t care for the characters, it drags or it just does not hold my interest. I like a page turner! A recent disappointment was The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson, which I actually listened to rather than read. I spend quite a time in the car and often listen to books on CD’s. That way I can also do two books at one time. This book was 13 CD’s long and by CD 8 I was fast-forwarding through chapters. A friend that also read the book agreed that it could have been 150 pages shorter.

Do you have favorite underappreciated or overlooked authors? Do you have an author you wish to recommend. Feel free to tell us the books of that author you most liked.
JoJo Moyes! I am sure that by now she is not considered overlooked but before I read Me Before You last year I was not at all familiar with her work. I enjoyed how she told that story and have since read many Moyes novels. I would recommend The Last Letter from Your Lover (not really a lovey love story) and The Girl You Left Behind.

Do you have a long-loved book?
Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. I loved the relationship between Morrie and Mitch. I have read this book at least three times. I can only hope that somewhere along my 29-year teaching career I touched someone as deeply as Morrie touched Mitch.

How do you decide what to read?
Most of my choices come from hearing or reading about books. I always check out the Best Seller lists, the library’s most read list and I have friends that know my preferences and recommend titles to me. I normally read fiction of most types but I stay away from science fiction or thriller books. I enjoy learning about something as I read, as well as just enjoying the plot. For instance, before reading Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline I had no clue that such a thing had existed and that caused me to do research and read further on the topic. And now I am looking into the topic of children experiencing life before life.

Where and when are you most comfortable reading?
I love to read in the morning at my kitchen table by the windows that overlook my gardens and a wooded area. The sounds of the birds, a cup of coffee, and a good read is a wonderful way to start a day.

If you could meet any author, who would you like to know?
Patricia Polacco, even though she is an author of children’s books. Her books carry such wonderful lessons for all that read them. Nearly every book includes interaction between the young and the old, the value of reading, the importance of good teachers, the damaging effects of teasing or bullying, or the importance of culture and respecting people’s differences. At one time I had an extensive collection of Polacco books but have passed them on to grandchildren and fellow teachers.

Did you have a favorite children’s book you loved as a child?
A book that I loved as a child is The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Warner. It was read to my fourth grade class and I can still remember a picture that I drew of the boxcar sitting in the woods. I read it to my classes and also used it for a creative writing topic.

What is in your waiting-to-read stack?
I have several books on reserve at the library including Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarity and Sweet Bitter by Stephanie Danler. I also will be listening to Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.

Tell us anything else you would like us to know about your reading habits or your reading philosophy.
I read for enjoyment and relaxation and have always been a reader. My favorite part of my teaching day was the time after lunch when I read to the students.

I feel that reading to children is so very important long before they are school age children. Ask any first grade teacher and they will tell you that within the first days of first grade they can tell who has been read to and who probably had not had that privilege. As an aging adult I hope that reading will help keep my brain exercised.

Note from Paulette: Like Susie I am a Patricia Polacco fan. Susie so beautifully stated some of the reasons why Polacco is a much-loved children’s author. Next time you want a children’s book, or just a good old-fashioned pick-me-up, buy one of her books!

See an early post about Polacco and some of her books in the Archives of this blog. October, 2013.


  1. Bernadette Mainzer

    I, too, Susie, have loved Patricia Polacco – her books and thoughts and lessons. Also being a teacher of 6th graders, we loved reading her books always. Even though they were for younger children. Again, The Orphan Train scenario was new to me as well. How strange for the children at that time to travel and live with strangers. Am looking forward to the The Fall of Marigolds.


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