Here's another look into the rich trove of Chicago literature that makes its way regularly to my desk.
Txtng Mama Txtng Baby by Esther Hershenhorn, Sleeping Bear Press, 16 pages, $8.99
"I have the heart of a Luddite," says Esther Hershenhorn, a highly respected children's book author, editor and writing coach. "Technology and I don't play well together." Well, they get along just fine in this charming new board book. It is a 16-board "opus" consisting of a text conversation between a mother and her baby, colorfully illustrated by a couple of surprisingly expressive bright yellow faces.
This is such an original and clever idea that a lot of people will surely fall into I-should-have-thought-of-that regret. But they are just as sure to smile at such exchanges as:
I, too, have the heart of a Luddite. I still have a typewriter on my desk. But I understand how fast the world is moving; the new ways we have to communicate, with newer ways to come. Do not for a moment believe that this book is some sort of anti-literature "tome"; rather, it's a playful take on these modern times. K?
Loving Andrew: A Fifty-Two-Year Story of Down Syndrome by Romy Wyllie, self-published, 306 pages, $18.95
Published in 2012, this book recently won second place in the 2013 nonfiction category of the IndieReader Discovery Awards, giving it the attention it deserved the first time around. Deeply personal, sometimes heartbreaking but ultimately uplifting, this is a love story between author Romy Wyllie and her son Andrew. Much of it is set in Hyde Park, where Andrew starts his life, school and work, and at Lambs Farm in Libertyville, where he was "one of the first residents of (the) new supportive living arrangement opened" at that pioneering and visionary institution, which has been empowering people with developmental disabilities for more than 50 years.
There are triumphs and there are tears, and it is a credit to Wyllie's gifts as a writer that she tells this story without artifice and embellishes it with all manner of important and revelatory tales of society's changing attitudes about the disabled. Andrew died in 2011. He lives on here.
Bridgeport by JoAnne Gazarek Bloom, Maureen F. Sullivan and Daniel Pogorzelski, Arcadia, 127 pages, $21.99
When Bill Daley pulled out of the race for Illinois governor last month, I immediately reached for this book, published last year as part of the "Images of America" series from Arcadia. I immediately found what I was looking for: an entire chapter devoted to the many mayors who have sprung from this South Side area, what the authors call "Chicago's oldest neighborhood." Those authors, JoAnne Gazarek Bloom and Maureen F. Sullivan (both from Bridegport), and Daniel Pogorzelski (from some other patch), do a fine job of detailing the neighborhood's colorful and fascinating past.
You'll see Bill Daley smiling with his siblings on a 1955 campaign poster for his father Richard J.'s first campaign for mayor. Richard J. and Richard M. made it to the fifth floor at City Hall, and so did Ed Kelly, Martin Kennelly and Michael Bilandic. One fictional resident of the neighborhood, you'll learn here, was Martin Dooley, a tavern keeper/philosopher created by newspaper columnist Finley Peter Dunne, who got it right when he said, "All politics is local."
Triptych by Margit Liesche, Poisoned Pen, 320 pages, $24.95
Sweeping through time and set compellingly against the backdrop of real events — among them some that took place during the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and in China during World War II — Margit Liesche's third novel is at once mystery, family drama, tangled romance and sweeping historical saga. Its main female character, a teacher and librarian named Ildiko, is both accomplished and haunted. Her efforts to discover the secrets of the past lead her to a greater understanding of her particular place in the world and how she got there.
Liesche is the daughter of Hungarian refugees and grew up in Chicago, where portions of the novel are set to good effect. Now living near San Francisco, she will be here this month. She is scheduled to be interviewed Oct. 22 at The Book Stall at Chestnut Court in Winnetka (see margitliesche.com) by novelist Libby "Havana Lost" Fischer Hellmann, who has called this book "a beautifully penned, lyrical blend of past and present." She's right about that.
Rick Kogan is a Tribune senior writer and columnist.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun