Month: April 2018

Check It Out Blog

Book Discussion Questions: News of the World by Paulette Jiles

Title:  News of the World
Author:  Paulette Jiles
Page Count: 213 pages
Genre:  Historical Fiction
Tone:  Compelling, Lyrical, Character-driven

Summary:
In the aftermath of the Civil War, Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd, an elderly widower and itinerant news reader, is offered fifty dollars to bring an orphan girl, who was kidnapped and raised by Kiowa raiders, from Wichita Falls back to her family in San Antonio.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement:  2018 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

1. What might the experience of coming to hear a news reader be like? Did the author’s choice of having a news-reading scene be our first moments of the book help you move into the world of the story?

2. What was your initial impression of Captain Kidd? What details contributed to that impression?

3. Several commentaries offer the observation that News of the World is deceptively simple. What might this mean? Is it a compliment, or is it a neutral observation? Do you agree?

4. Which elements of a traditional Western are evident in News of the World?

5. What do we learn of Kidd’s youth? How does this inform the story? Were you glad to know more about his past?

6. From the first scene in which Johanna is introduced, we are treated to brief moments of her perceptions. How do these glimpses enhance the story? What do we learn?

7. How would you characterize Johanna’s behavior? Is it believable?

8. In what ways does Kidd try to help Johanna become ready for re-assimilation into her new life?

9. Conversely, what does Johanna teach Kidd?

10. Jiles did a great deal of research on captives. Does it show? Does her work make this a better story in any way, or would it not have been much different to either make it up or leave in the background?

11. From what we learn around the edges and from Johanna’s thoughts, would you say the Kiowa are depicted sympathetically?

12. What were some of the memorable encounters along the journey?

13. Describe the reunion between Johanna and her people. How does the Captain try to help? How is he treated?

14. After he left her with family, was the Captain right to intervene?

15. What was your reaction to the lives they created for themselves? Were you surprised? Satisfied?

16. Was John Calley a good man? How would you describe him? What were the three circumstances in which they encountered him?

17. What purpose did the talk Captain and Johanna have on her wedding day serve?

18. Several of the characters, including Britt Johnson and Captain Kidd, are based on true historical figures. Is this surprising? Does this change your perception of them at all?

19. Would you describe this as a realistic story?

20. Where in the novel does the title appear? Does it have significance beyond the literal?

21. What is the primary draw for you about this story: the setting, the bond of characters, the journey?

22. Would you describe this as a quiet novel? Why or why not?

23. What will you take away with you from this novel? What will you remember?

24. What is the significance of the line, “The bones of the Kiowa warriors did not lie in the earth but in the stories of their lives, told and retold – their bravery and daring, the death of Britt Johnson and his men, and Cicada, the little girl taken from the by the Indian Agent, Three Spotted’s little blue-eyed girl”?

25. Jiles asserts that, “using quote marks is like surrounding human speech with barbed wire.” Was the omission of quotation marks distracting or confusing?

26. Does it surprise you to learn Jiles is also a poet? Why or why not?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

Paulette Jiles Rides the Dangerous Trails of 1870s Texas” via The Sacramento Bee
Can a 10-year-old Girl Ever Recover from Years in Captivity?” via The Washington Post
interview with The Dallas News: “Paulette Jiles Explains the Apocalyptic Influence on Her Acclaimed Texas Frontier Novel
National Book Award Finalist content, including author reading, interview, and judges’ citation
New York Times book review
Paulette Jiles official author website
LitLovers discussion guide

READALIKES:

Bohemian Girl book coverBohemian Girl
by Terese Svoboda

True Grit book coverTrue Grit
by Charles Portis

Far as the Eye Can See book coverFar As the Eye Can See
by Robert Bausch

Books: Take Me Out to the Ballgame

The 2018 home opener for the Chicago Cubs didn’t go as expected. Too much snow on the field April 9 caused a one-day game postponement. Just a few miles south, the Chicago White Sox home opener didn’t go as hoped. Having a bit less snow to content with, they went ahead with their game on the very same day, but lost. Inclement weather, scandals, and rivalries may come and go, but America’s national pastime is here to stay.

If you just can’t get enough baseball, there are plenty of books to keep you in a baseball state of mind. Check out this selection of nonfiction and fiction classics.

Sox Fan? Try:
Sox and the City by Richard Roeper

In this account of what it was like to grow up a White Sox fan in a Cubs nation, Roeper covers the recent history of the organization, from the heartbreak of 1967 and the South-Side Hit Men to the disco demolition and the magical 2005 season when they became world champions. Encapsulating what it means to be a baseball fan, root for the same sorry team no matter what, and find vindication, this history of the White Sox is flavored with trivia; anecdotes about players, owners, and broadcasters; plus Roeper’s own humorous and personal reminiscences.

 

 

Cubs Fan? Try:
Try Not to Suck by Bill Chastain

With his irreverent personality, laid-back approach, and penchant for the unexpected, Joe Maddon is a singular presence among Major League Baseball managers. In Try Not to Suck, ESPN’s Jesse Rogers and MLB.com’s Bill Chastain fully explore Maddon’s life and career, delving behind the scenes and dissecting that mystique which makes Maddon so popular with players and analysts alike. Packed with insight, anecdotes, and little-known facts, this is the definitive account of the curse-breaker and trailblazer at the helm of the Cubs’ new era.

 

Just love a good baseball book? Then you might like:

The Great American Novel by Philip Roth

Gil Gamesh, the only pitcher who ever literally tried to kill the umpire. The ex-con first baseman, John Baal, “The Babe Ruth of the Big House,” who never hit a home run sober. If you’ve never heard of them—or of the Ruppert Mundys, the only homeless big-league ball team in American history—it’s because of the Communist plot, and the capitalist scandal, that expunged the entire Patriot League from baseball memory.

 

The Art of Fielding by Chard Harbach

At Westish College, a small school on the shore of Lake Michigan, baseball star Henry Skrimshander seems destined for big league stardom. But when a routine throw goes disastrously off course, the fates of five people are upended. Henry’s fight against self-doubt threatens to ruin his future.

 

The Natural by Bernard Malamud

The Natural, Bernard Malamud’s first novel, published in 1952, is also the first—and some would say still the best—novel ever written about baseball. In it Malamud, usually appreciated for his unerring portrayals of postwar Jewish life, took on very different material—the story of a superbly gifted “natural” at play in the fields of the old daylight baseball era—and invested it with the hardscrabble poetry, at once grand and altogether believable, that runs through all his best work. Four decades later, Alfred Kazin’s comment still holds true: “Malamud has done something which—now that he has done it!—looks as if we have been waiting for it all our lives. He has really raised the whole passion and craziness and fanaticism of baseball as a popular spectacle to its ordained place in mythology.”

Poetry: The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

Princess Saves Herself in This One book coverfiction:
the ocean
i dive
headfirst
into
when i
can
no longer
breathe
in
reality.

– a mermaid escapist II

People come to poetry with all sorts of preconceptions: it has to be complicated, it has to rhyme, or it is just not for me. A crop of up-and-coming writers has helped new audiences find appeal in playing with expression, and Amanda Lovelace’s Women Are Magic series sparks strong reaction. The Princess Saves Herself in This One taps into feeling and thought and trauma and joy in a way that speaks to those who struggle to feel seen or understood. It faces hard things without giving them additional power, and it clings stubbornly to youthful hope. With forewarnings both for sensitive topics and for happy endings, this inaugural collection offers energy and accessibility. Welcome to National Poetry Month!