Get to know Star Teacher’s contributors as they share with you what’s on their bookshelves or night stands
Hunting and Gathering by Anna Gavalda
Anyone fascinated by the French—their language, history, culture, and cuisine—will want to visit the Paris depicted by French writer Anna Gavalda. Her book, Hunting and Gathering follows Camille, an anorexic artist, as she opens her tiny little world to new experiences, new friendships, and the possibility of new love in all its incarnations.
The introverted characters—Philibert, a bumbling postcard salesman who is heir to a huge family fortune; Franck, an arrogant chef who spends his days worrying over Paulette, his aging grandmother—are as charming as the Paris and the French countryside Gavalda paints. The storyline is quiet, unpretentious, and absolutely real. What’s most French about it is that it does not put on any airs and simply banks on the beauty of day-to-day details. The French title, Ensmeble c’est tout, literally means “Together, is everything.”
The best part of finishing this book is seeing the story come alive in the 2007 film adaptation starring Amelie’s Audrey Tautou.
Kafka On The Shore by Haruki Murakami
Haruki Murakami’s Kafka On The Shore initially struck me as strange and deeply perplexing. The fi rst few scenes send you into an odd world of fantasy: A teenage boy runs away from home to escape a frightening prophecy from being fulfi lled and to search for his long-missing mother and sister. The other protagonist is a dull-witted old man who cannot understand his incapacity for basic activities. A series of unexplained incidents involving fi sh falling from the sky and talking cats start to occur. The two protagonists’ peculiar experiences lead them to one another.
Although the story takes on a fantastic tone, the illustration of the characters’ distinct personalities and inner struggles are so beautifully told that I found myself becoming fond of their quirks. The tale is very unpredictable and will keep you on the edge of your seat with every page.
Marica Lim Llenado
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
One of the best books for children I’ve read is The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg. It is a book I picked up for my daughter but it quickly became one of my own favorites. It’s a Christmas story without the overdose of holiday spirit that makes other Christmas stories corny.
The narrator is lying in his bed waiting to hear the sound of Santa’s sleigh bells, a sound his friend said he’d never hear. As he’s lying there, waiting, he hears a different sound—that of the Polar Express pulling up to his house. He climbs on board and he, together with a train full of young children, goes all the way to the North Pole. At the town square, amidst a crowd of eager elves, Santa makes his appearance and chooses from among the children one lucky child to whom he will give the first gift of Christmas. Of course he chooses our narrator! But of all the things he could have asked for, the young boy asks for one of Santa’s sleigh bells.
Once at home, he finds that only he and his sister could hear the tinkling of the bell; his parents thought it was broken! Over the years, he found that all of his friends and even his sister could no longer hear the bell, and only he—and those who truly believed—could still hear its beautiful sound.
The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
The first time they meet, Clare is six and Henry is 36. The next time they see each other again and fall in love, Clare is 22 and Henry is 30 and has never met her before. This is an unusual love story between a typical girl and a not so typical boy with a genetic condition called Chronic Displacement Disorder. That is, Henry involuntarily travels back and forth in time.
Author Audrey Niffenegger seamlessly and convincingly tells the story from both Henry’s and Clare’s points of view—the first moving back and forth in time, the latter progressing naturally—without confusing her readers. Witness how Henry and Clare find happiness against their extraordinary circumstance. It is literally a love story that transcends time and space. A testament to comings, goings, and the waiting in between.
While I cannot decide whether the ending is tragic or joyful, I am sure that the story will tug at your heartstrings. It is one of those rare stories you cannot wait to finish and wish would never end.