Maine is home to 65 “Mud” Ponds, and only female black flies bite.
These tidbits come from “John McDonald’s Maine Trivia: A Storyteller’s Useful Guide to Useless Information,” published in March by Yarmouth’s Islandport Press. This delightful mix of facts and amusing stories is an entertaining read for any location, be it the beach, backyard or bed.
As a professional storyteller, McDonald has been performing and entertaining audiences in New England for decades. He’s the author of the classic “A Moose and a Lobster Walk into a Bar.”
McDonald didn’t start out to write a trivia book, it just turned out that way. And now that it’s complete, he assures readers that knowing its contents will make you appear smarter than you really are. For example, while walking through Freeport, you can tell your friends, “The main doors of the L.L. Bean flagship store don’t have any locks.” And if they don’t believe you, bet a Linda Bean lobster roll on it.
“Buy this book, read it, and reap the results. You can thank me later,” McDonald said in the introduction. And while you’re at it, check out these other new New England-centric books.
“BELOVED CAPTAIN: A NANTUCKET LOVE STORY,” by Jo Ann Simon, 2012, Maine Authors Publishing, 301 pages, paperback, $19.95.
Catherine promised to give herself a year on Nantucket Island. The lovely, historied home she inherited from her grandparents seemed a fitting retreat from her busy West Coast life as a interior designer. But she quickly discovers that she’s sharing the old house with Lucien Blythe, a wealthy merchant captain who had lived there a century and a half before and vanished without a trace.
“FAIRY HOUSE HANDBOOK,” by Liza Gardner Walsh, June 2012, Down East Books, 84 pages, hardcover, $14.95.
Fairy houses, tiny shelters constructed of natural materials found in forests and gardens, have a long history in Maine. A children’s librarian from Camden, Liza Gardner Walsh, has experience in building these whimsical dwellings, and she shares this knowledge, along with bits of fairy lore, in her “Fairy House Handbook,” filled with dreamlike photographs.
“CRUSTACEAN VACATION,” written by Brian Benoit and illustrated by Marty Kelley, June 2012, Islandport Press, hardcover, $17.95.
A crab family is headed for the shore to kick back on a boardwalk where a seagull runs the candy store and an octopus acts as lifeguard. Young readers (ages 4-8) will enjoy the clever, rhyming verses of Brian Benoit, who lives in Cavendish, Vt., and thought up his world of sea creatures to entertain his brother during family trips to the Maine coast. Since, they have proven popular with his children. The bright, playful illustrations are the work of New Hampshire artist and author Marty Kelley, who has penned and illustrated several other children’s books.
“SEATING ARRANGEMENTS,” by Maggie Shipstead, June 2012, Knopf, 320 pages, hardcover, $25.95.
In her debut novel, Shipstead navigates the drama of a ritzy event with comedic flair. This social satire, set on an exclusive Nantucket-like island, explores notions of tradition, privilege and entitlement during a wedding weekend. As a fly on the wall, she unravels the complicated relationships of the wedding party and all the problems that lie therein. A California native, Shipstead wrote the first draft of the novel while living on Nantucket for eight months.
“GRANDMA DROVE THE LOBSTERBOAT,” written by Katie Clark, illustrated by Amy Huntington, June 2012, Down East Books, 32 pages, hardcover, $16.95.
The sequel to “Grandma Drove the Garbage Truck” and “Grandma Drove the Snow Plow,” this playful tale is about Grandma’s well-deserved day off enjoying a nice boat ride with her sons and grandson Billy. But when the waves get choppy and the fogs roll in, it’s up to her to get them back to shore safely. The witty dialogue between Grandma and her grandson, accompanied by expressive watercolors, makes this book a treasure for Maine families.
Katie Clark, a former primary school teacher with a master’s degree in literacy education, lives with her family in Brunswick, Maine. Huntington is an artist and illustrator living with her family in Williston, Vt.
“I’M JUST SAYIN’” by George D. Christie, 2012, Maine Authors Publishing, 258 pages, paperback, $17.95.
With much sarcasm and spirit, George D. Christie offers his version of Maine, from the creation of life to the state’s present population of hardy locals, summer people and wandering tourists. Tall tale after tall tale, Christie marries fact and fiction unapologetically.
“THE BASTARD YEAR,” by Richard Lee Zuras, March 2012, Brandylane Publishers, 136 pages, $15.
In this coming-of-age tale, Richard Zuras tells the story of a boy’s final year of childhood. When Zain’s father is fired from the CIA in 1980, the teen takes it upon himself to mend relationships in his family. While this is Zuras’ debut novel, his work is widely published in literary journals and he is a professor of English and creative writing at the University of Maine at Presque Isle.
“THE VIEW FROM HERE,” by Stewart Kestenbaum, April 2012, Brynmorgen Press, paperback, 160 pages, $15.
Director of the prestigious Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle since 1988, Stuart Kestenbaum brings together a series of observations made over the years, offering insights for artists, crafters and makers on creativity in “The View from Here.” A potter and poet, Kestenbaum has been a central figure in the contemporary craft scene for three decades. He is an honorary fellow of the American Craft Council and has published collections of poems “Pilgrimage” (1990), “House of Thanksgiving” (2003) and “Prayers and Run-on Sentences” (2007).
“ISLAND PAINTINGS BY TOM CURRY,” by Terry Tempest Williams, Carl Little and Tom Curry, June 2012, Down East Books, 80 pages, hardcover, $19.95.
When artist Tom Curry first moved to Maine, his house overlooked a small, uninhabited island in Eggemoggin Reach. As a boy, he began painting the island to explore his fear of water head-on, or as Curry put it, “as a way to delve into my own darkness and seek a way back to the surface.” In this beautiful book, the series of paintings is accompanied by essays by award-winning author Terry Tempest Williams and widely recognized New England art critic Carl Little.
“A MOMENT OF WATER: JOURNEY BY MAINE WATERSHED,” by Ann Flewelling, 2012, Threehalf Press, paperback, 120 pages, $22.95.
Maine native Ann Flewelling explores the water’s way from Down East to the Crown of Maine through photography and writing, learning about her attachment to the natural landscape and its “human watershed” in the process. A photographer and psychologist, Flewelling focuses on the environment and the balance in relationships that sustain us.
“GLORIOUS SLOW GOING: MAINE STORIES OF ART, ADVENTURE AND FRIENDSHIP,” by Marguerite Robichaux and Elizabeth Peavey, February 2012, Pucker Gallery, 119 pages, $35.
In this stunning book, renowned painter Marguerite Robichaux and award-winning writer Elizabeth Peavey share their adventures through the woods and towns of Maine, a place they both call home. Through witty words and beautiful watercolors and oil paintings, readers experience Maine’s changing natural landscape and the friendship between the two creators.
“THE LEGEND OF THE RIVER PUMPKINS,” written by Robert Klose and illustrated by Steve Klose, April 2012, CreateSpace, 24 pages, paperback, $11.95.
It’s nearly Halloween when pumpkins start floating down the Penobscot River. How did they get there? “The Legend of the River Pumpkins,” written by Orono resident Robert Klose and illustrated by Steve Klose, is based on a true story. Robert Klose, a professor of biology at the University of Maine, is the author of three previous books and his work has appeared in publications such as Newsweek, The Boston Globe and Reader’s Digest.