Cage of Human Hearts by Wadsworth resident JR Peske is the unsettling story of a group of children forced to live with a brutish mail-order minister at his rural Ohio home.
Set in 1953, the story begins when Joey, a sensitive but scrappy boy, is brought by a social worker to Ollie, who takes in the children for the stipend provided by the state, and also to force them to do “mule work” building his church. Most of the narrative takes place over the chaotic summer, as the children are made to sleep on the floor in the basement, bathing with a cold-water garden hose, while Ollie lives in splendor upstairs.
Joey has some Italian and maybe Native American heritage, which leads Ollie, who’s paranoid about “race wars,” to suspect that he is part African-American. Ollie is paranoid about many other things, and could represent much of what was wrong with the 1950s, like Red scares and fear of the atomic bomb (Ollie puts children in his bomb shelter to punish them). He learns about race wars and the bomb from television, which he watches incessantly, and also begins to ponder the use of television to broadcast his message to generous patrons.
The children get some emotional support from a neighbor, with whom Joey becomes infatuated, but her perky optimism is unrealistic and she is ineffective in helping them. So it falls to the children to take care of themselves, which they do in a fashion, but by midsummer they are half-feral.
Although the book is recommended for young adults, parents should review it first for the language, violence and adult situations. Cage of Human Hearts (385 pages, softcover) costs $15 from online retailers.
Puppies help children cope
It’s difficult explaining tragedies to young children. When plane crashes and school shootings occur, children are confused and frightened, and it doesn’t help when they see news coverage that repeats the same story over and over. Hoover and Honeybunch Find Comfort in a Sometimes Scary World, a storybook by Beacon Journal writer Kim Hone-McMahan and Kent-based counselor Jane Vair Bissler, can help parents deal with trauma.
Hoover and Honeybunch are two puppies who have heard some scary news, and when they turn on the television, it all seems to be happening over again. They are horrified, thinking they are in danger, and their parents must reassure them that they are safe.
The illustrations, by New York artist Rachel Drapkin, show Honeybunch as ultra-girly; her brother, gleeful in his flatulence. Papa is weary in his overalls and Momma is anxious. This family could form a series of books about things kids face in a “sometimes scary world.”
Hoover and Honeybunch (36 pages, softcover) costs $12.99 from online retailers. Jane Vair Bissler operates Counseling for Loss and Life Changes and is an adjunct faculty member at Kent State University.
• Correction: In last week’s item about the book .721: A History of the 1954 Cleveland Indians, Al Lopez’s position was misidentified. He was a catcher.
Ohio Theatre (PlayhouseSquare, 1511 Euclid Ave., Cleveland) — Bob Woodward, whose most recent book is The Price of Politics, concludes the 2013-2014 town hall speaker series at 6 p.m. Monday. $45; call 216-241-1919. Former United States Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky takes part in the William N. Skirball Writers Center Stage series at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. $30; call 216-749-9338.
Barberton Public Library (602 W. Park Ave.) — Irv Korman, author of I Was Jerry Lewis’ Bodyguard for 10 Minutes! and I Was Jackie Mason’s Chauffeur for 5 Minutes, talks about his brushes with fame, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday.
Happy Days Lodge (500 W. Streetsboro St., Peninsula) — Kenneth Bindas, professor of history at Kent State University, talks about the origins of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park and signs his new book The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Construction of the Virginia Kendall Reserve, 1933-1939, followed by a reception, 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Follett Bookstore (Kent State University Student Center) — Retired military surgeon Ron Siwik and Gordon Murray, a Kent State journalism professor and author of Lost in Oscar Hotel: There is Something in the Air, a book about their 2012 project to touch down restored 1946 Piper Cub J3s in every Ohio county in eight days, appear from noon to 2 p.m. Wednesday.
Cuyahoga Falls Library (2015 Third St.) — Mary McClure gives a presentation and signs her new pictorial history Silver Lake Park, about the 19th-century amusement park, 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Cuyahoga County Public Library (Brecksville branch, 9809 Brecksville Road) — Former Beacon Journal columnist David Giffels, author of The Hard Way on Purpose: Essays and Dispatches from the Rust Belt, columnist Connie Schultz and Peter Chakerian, author of Pop Goes Cleveland! The Impact of Cleveland (and Northeast Ohio) on Pop Culture, take part in a panel discussion, 7 to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday. Registration required.
Medina County District Library (Highland branch, 4160 Ridge Road, Medina) — Terry Gordon, author of No Storm Lasts Forever: Transforming Suffering into Insight, discusses and signs his book from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday.
Visible Voice (1023 Kenilworth Ave., Cleveland) — Vince McKee signs Jacobs Field: History and Tradition at the Jake, 7 to 9 p.m. Friday during the Tremont ArtWalk; Sean Dubois Day signs Tales from the Joint, about a veteran convict who talks to three young inmates, 6 to 8 p.m. Saturday.
Learned Owl Book Shop (204 N. Main St., Hudson) — Dixie Frank reads from and signs her storybook I’m So Glad You Saved Me, about a rescued starling, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday; Kathryn Craft, author of The Art of Falling, signs books and meets readers at the shop’s Book Club Open House, 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday. The shop’s spring writing workshop begins April 13 with Marsha McGregor (Creative Nonfiction). Call 330-653-2252 for information.
Mac’s Backs (1820 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights) — Writer Kathy Ewing and Alissa Nutting, author of the controversial novel Tampa, read from their work at 7 p.m. Saturday.
— Barbara McIntyre
Special to the Beacon Journal
Send information about books of local interest to Lynne Sherwin, Features Department, Akron Beacon Journal, P.O. Box 640, Akron, OH 44309 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Event notices should be sent at least two weeks in advance.