The Meaning of Names by Karen Gettert Shoemaker (2014) was a nice little book, with a well-done historical setting. Stuart, Nebraska is along the northern border of the state, a bit east of center. At the time of the story, in 1918, it’s a rural farming community and small town with a rail line connecting […]

You have to write the book that wants to be written. And if the book will be too difficult for grown-ups, then you write it for children. — Madeleine L’Engle Clare Vanderpool has this quote on her website, and I’d have to agree–sometimes books for young readers are incredible in their depth, perception, and bravery […]

When most people think of Kansas, we tend to think, “flat.” And, after all, in Dorothy Must Die, author Danielle Paige called the Kansas town Flat Hill. I’ve already talked a bit about the Wizard of Oz movie and book (mis)perceptions of Kansas (including that Baum’s original descriptions were based on his unhappy experiences of […]

Letters Never Sent by Sandra Moran (2013) was a really good book; it was well-written and an engaging story. I very much enjoyed it, and I’m glad I read it. However, the setting wasn’t really that important to the story. I’m reading my way across the USA, with a focus on books that really help […]

The Virgin of Small Plains by Nancy Pickard (2006) was a definite winner, at least in terms of learning about Kansas. While Becky Mandelbaum’s Bad Kansas left me full of bleakness, Nancy Pickard’s Kansas gave me some hope. Not that she was all rosy about the state–there were plenty of descriptions of that bleakness. He […]

“It’s either school, a job, or a girl,” she said. “Or death. Those are the only reasons for coming to Kansas. Unless you’re born here, of course. Then it’s a matter of escaping.” This seems to be the consensus among many of the characters in Becky Mandelbaum’s Bad Kansas: Stories (2017), which won the Flannery […]

As I was putting together the book map for Kansas, I came across an interesting conundrum: where in Kansas was Dorothy from? (Or, more to the point, Amy Gumm?) L. Frank Baum’s books don’t give the name of any towns near where Dorothy lived with her Uncle Henry and Aunt Em on their farm. And […]

I would describe Raintree County by Ross Lockridge, Jr. (1947) as a more accessible Ulysses by James Joyce. It is huge, and sprawling, and poignant, and funny. It is historical, and philosophical, pithy and gritty. It is also written in a style that reminds me a bit of Joyce’s stream of consciousness, but is less […]

Earlier in March 2018, I read Murder In Burnt Orange, the 7th in Jeanne M. Dams’ Hilda Johansson Mystery series, and, while it was an entertaining, quick read, I found that it didn’t really give me much of a feel for its setting of South Bend, Indiana. I also speculated, however, that this might have […]

In terms of my challenge–to read 3-5 books set in each of the United States, with an emphasis on books where the setting becomes an integral part of the story–I have mixed feelings about Bento Box In the Heartland: My Japanese Girlhood in Whitebread America by Linda Furiya. The author grew up as the daughter […]