December 2015

The Monthly E-newsletter of the Smyth Public Library
December, 2015
Volume 9, No.9



richardHappy Holidays Program
Tuesday December 8th, 6:30 PM
Ramblin’ Richard Music will play and sing the songs and tell the stories about their origins, their times, and their significance.

PJ Story Time with Santa!!
Special PJ Story Time with Santa and Mrs. Clause, complete with milk, cookies and gifts for children
Friday, December 11, 6-7 p.m.

gingerbreadGingerbread House Making Party!!
ALL goodies provided!!
Just sign up ahead of time and bring your smiles
December 18, 6-7:30

Second Annual Christmas Cookie Swap
Drop off four dozen cookies on Friday, December 18 and take home a holiday assortment pickup on Saturday 11-1!


Minions and Paper Towns
December 28 and 29
Free pop corn and candy!!


Amelia_EarhartAuthor Michele Albion
January 14, 6:30

“Adventure is worthwhile in itself.” -Amelia Earhart, 1932

A fearless pioneer and a record-breaking pilot, Amelia Earhart engaged the nation and the world when she became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Today people remember her most for her disappearance on the last leg of her round-the-world flight in 1937. But more than a record breaker or a ghost lost over the Pacific, Earhart was ambitious, driven, and strong at a time when all three of these traits were considered unfeminine. Earhart’s words and her example encouraged women to step beyond the narrow confines of their traditional roles.

The Quotable Amelia Earhart brings together statements from a variety of sources and covers a wide range of topics, including Earhart’s flights and her opinions on politics, work, religion, and gender equality. This definitive resource provides a concise, documented collection of Earhart’s quotations so that her words, as well as her achievements, may inspire a new generation.

FlightofRem_Award_120RGBAuthor Marina Lirsch
January 27, 6:00

As World War II recedes into distant memory, great attention is being rightfully focused on the remaining Allied veterans. But what of those who served on the other side? For Rolf, the author’s father and the main protagonist of Flight of Remembrance, a young, Latvian aeronautical engineering student of Baltic German descent, who was forced under the threat of execution to flee his homeland in 1939 before the first Soviet takeover, the only nation that would accept him was Nazi Germany. In 1940 Berlin, he meets a young German woman, Lilo, and a love story begins that will endure more than 70 years and across two continents. Rolf’s worst fear comes to pass when he is drafted into the Luftwaffe in 1941. Despite the immeasurable evil, suffering and desolation of World War II, a synchronistic chain of events enables Rolf and Lilo to see their most cherished dreams materialize out of postwar catastrophe and ruin.

The author will discuss the book’s subject matter, protagonists, inspiration, and special research accompanied by World War II era photographs.


New Fiction

The magic strings of Frankie Presto Albom, Mitch
The heart mender: a story of second chances Andrews, Andy,
A spoonful of sugar: a nanny’s story Ashford, Brenda,
The guilty Baldacci, David
The immortal Nicholas Beck, Glenn
The nesting dolls: a Joanne Kilbourn mystery Bowen, Gail,
Mrs. Jeffries takes a second look Brightwell, Emily
Iron wolf: a novel Brown, Dale
After the Crash Bussi, Michel.
Bohemian Gospel: a novel Carpenter, Dana Chamblee,
All dressed in white: an under suspicion novel Clark, Mary Higgins
Dead Water: a Shetland mystery Cleeves, Ann
The man who fell from the sky Coel, Margaret
The crossing: a novel Connelly, Michael
The promise Crais, Robert
We never asked for wings: a novel Diffenbaugh, Vanessa
Potsdam station Downing, David
Silesian station Downing, David
Zoo Station: a novel Downing, David
Numero zero Eco, Umberto
Tricky twenty-two: a Stephanie Plum novel Evanovich, Janet
The Mistletoe Inn: a novel Evans, Richard Paul
The survivor: a Mitch Rapp novel Mills, Kyle
The cloud collector Freemantle, Brian,
The Japanese lover: a novel Allende, Isabel
Pursuit in Provence: a Jordan Mayfair mystery Gobbell, Phyllis C.
Benefit of the doubt Griffin, Neal C.
Fates and furies Groff, Lauren
Cleopatra’s shadows: a novel Holleman, Emily,
The blood flag Huston, James W
Avenue of mysteries Irving, John
The golem of Paris Kellerman, Jonathan
The bazaar of bad dreams: stories King, Stephen
Tenacity: a thriller Law, J. S.
The wife, the maid, and the mistress Lawhon, Ariel,
The further adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge Lovett, Charles C.
Mrs. Roosevelt’s confidante: a Maggie Hope mystery MacNeal, Susan Elia
The abbey: a story of discovery Martin, James
Point blank Michaels, Fern
A theory of relativity Mitchard, Jacquelyn
The admissions: a novel Moore, Meg Mitchell
Anompolichi: the wordmaster Morgan, Phillip Carroll,
Life for a life: a DCI Gilchrist novel Muir, Frank
Ivory Park, Tony,
Cross justice Patterson, James
The Murder House Patterson, James
Crimson shore Preston, Douglas J.
The Year of Fog: a novel Richmond, Michelle
Stars of fortune Roberts, Nora
Rubicon: a novel of ancient Rome Saylor, Steven
The muralist: a novel Shapiro, Barbara A.,
Seating arrangements Shipstead, Maggie
A Star for Mrs. Blake Smith, April
The Andalucian friend: a novel Soderberg, Alexander
Moonshadows: a Nellie Burns and Moonshine mystery Weston, Julie W.,
Along the infinite sea: a novel Williams, Beatriz
The gold eaters: a novel Wright, Ronald
A knight of the seven kingdoms: being the adventures of Ser Duncan the Tall, and his squire, Egg Martin, George R. R
Slade house: a novel Mitchell, David

New Non-Fiction

Destiny and power: the American odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush Meacham, Jon
The witches: Salem, 1692 Schiff, Stacy
Mindware: tools for smart thinking Nisbett, Richard E
Mindset: the new psychology of success Dweck, Carol S.,
Fail, fail again, fail better: wise advice for leaning in to the unknown
Chodron, Pema
Little victories: perfect rules for imperfect living Gay, Jason
The giving way to happiness: stories and science behind the transformative power of giving Santi, Jenny.
The ark before Noah: decoding the story of the flood Finkel, Irving L.
Women’s letters: America from the Revolutionary War to the present
Strangers on a bridge: the case of Colonel Abel and Francis Gary Powers Donovan, James B.
The Snowden files: the inside story of the world’s most wanted man
Harding, Luke,
Bridge of Spies Whittell, Giles.
Act of Congress: how America’s essential institution works, and how it doesn’t Kaiser, Robert G.,
Just mercy: a story of justice and redemption Stevenson, Bryan
The man who saved the union: Ulysses Grant in war and peace
Brands, H. W
Seventeen fathoms deep: the saga of the Submarine S-4 disaster
Williams, Joseph A.,
Lights out: a cyberattack : a nation unprepared : surviving the aftermath Koppel, Ted
CRACK99: the takedown of a $100 million Chinese software pirate
Hall, David Locke,
Provenance: how a con man and a forger rewrote the history of modern art Salisbury, Laney.
My adventures with your money: George Graham Rice and the golden age of the con artist Thornton, T. D.,
Most likely to succeed: a new vision for education to prepare our kids for today’s innovation economy Wagner, Tony
Circumference: Eratosthenes and the ancient quest to measure the globe Nicastro, Nicholas
The geology of the Mt. Pawtuckaway quadrangle, New Hampshire
Freedman, Jacob.
The patient’s playbook: how to save your life and the lives of those you love Michelson, Leslie D.
100 deadly skills: the SEAL operative’s guide to eluding pursuers, evading capture, and surviving any dangerous situation Emerson, Clint,
Brain storms: the race to unlock the mysteries of Parkinson’s Disease
Palfreman, Jon
The lean farm: how to minimize waste, increase efficiency, and maximize value and profits with less work Hartman, Ben,
Cooking for baby: wholesome, homemade, delicious recipes Barnes, Lisa.
Leap: leaving a job with no Plan B to find the career and life you really want Vigeland, Tess,
Hipster animals: a field guide Moe, Dyna,
Apartment therapy: complete + happy home Gillingham-Ryan, Maxwell,
Celebrate: a year of festivities for families and friends Middleton, Pippa,
My year of running dangerously: a dad, a daughter, and a ridiculous plan Foreman, Tom
The sagas of Icelanders: a selection
A pirate of exquisite mind: explorer, naturalist, and buccaneer : the life of William Dampier Preston, Diana
100 places you will never visit: the world’s most secret locations
Smith, Daniel B.
The longest winter: Scott’s other heroes Hooper, Meredith
Nom de plume: a (secret) history of pseudonyms Ciuraru, Carmela.
The Orpheus Clock: the search for my family’s art treasures stolen by the Nazis Goodman, Simon
Flight of remembrance: a World War II memoir of love and survival
Kirsch, Marina Dutzmann.
Onward we charge: the heroic story of Darby’s Rangers in World War II Jeffers, H. Paul
The last ridge: the epic story of the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division and the assult on Hitler’s Europe Jenkins, McKay,
The Lion of Sabray: the Afghani warrior who defied the Taliban and saved the life of Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell Robinson, Patrick
Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli pirates: the forgotten war that changed American history Kilmeade, Brian
The remarkable rise of Eliza Jumel: a story of marriage and money in the early republic Oppenheimer, Margaret A.,
The War of the nations: portfolio in rotogravure etchings (Reference)
U.S. naval aviation Goodspeed, M. Hill. (Reference)
World War II in cartoons Bryant, Mark, (Reference)
World war II in pictures ..: Volume I Morris, Herman C. (Reference)

New Books on CD…

Talk like Ted: [the 9 public speaking secrets of the world’s top minds] CD (6) Gallo, Carmine.
Report from the interior CD (6) Auster, Paul
Sons of fortune CD (5) Archer, Jeffrey
The guilty CD (10) Baldacci, David
All dressed in white CD (6): [an under suspicion novel] Clark, Mary Higgins
The crossing CD (8) Connelly, Michael
A colder war CD (10) Cumming, Charles
Border War CD (9) Dobbs, Lou.
Tricky twenty-two: [a Stephanie Plum novel] CD (5) Evanovich, Janet
The everyday gourmet: rediscovering the lost art of cooking GC CD (4)
True evil CD (5) Iles, Greg
The laughing monsters: a novel CD (5) Johnson, Denis
The golem of Paris/Jonathan Kellerman and Jesse Kellerman: CD (13)
Kellerman, Jonathan
The bazaar of bad dreams CD (16) King, Stephen
Cross justice CD (8) Patterson, James
Crimson shore CD (9) Preston, Douglas J.
Cross Bones CD (5) Reichs, Kathy
Stars of fortune CD (9) Roberts, Nora
The Cairo affair CD (10) Steinhauer, Olen
Long live the king: a novel CD (8)

New Video…

The magic flute DVD 842 [PG]
My friend Flicka DVD 843 [G]
Duck Commander: Before the dynasty DVD 844 [PG]
Glory road DVD 845 [PG]
Troy DVD 846 [R]
The patriot DVD 847 [R]
Mad Max — Fury road DVD 848 [R]
Bride wars DVD 849 [PG]
Toy story that time forgot DVD 850 [G]
Jurassic world DVD 851 [PG13]
Before we go DVD 852 [PG13]
The sandlot DVD 853 [PG]
4 film favorites: DVD 854 [PG13] — Romance collection
Firewall DVD 855 [PG13]
The bank job DVD 856 [R]
Vacation DVD 857 [R]
Taken 3 DVD 858 [PG13]
Tomorrowland DVD 859 [PG]
Pixels DVD 860 [PG13]
The avengers: DVD 861 [PG13] — Age of Ultron
The age of Adaline DVD 862 [PG13]
Spy DVD 863 [R]
Short circuit DVD 864 [PG]
Shaun the sheep movie DVD 865 [PG]
Ricki and the flash DVD 866 [PG13]
No escape DVD 867 [R]
Ryan’s well DVD NF 177[ [G]
Arctic mission: the great adventure DVD NF 919 [G]

My lunch leaked all over my schoolbooks.
I now have the only geography book where the map of Turkey is covered with gravy.



Coloring Night
For all ages, all supplies provided, every Friday 6-7 pm

Knitting & Crochet Circle
Third Thursday of the month, 7pm

Help with the cap, blanket, and scarf charity project, work on your own items, or just come to learn. Call Lisa 587-0603 for more info.

quill-ink Writers’ Group
Last Friday of every month, 6:30pm

The Smyth Public Library hosts a gathering of writers once or twice a month where we work together on timed writing exercises using prompts and other sources of inspiration. The writing periods will be followed by sharing some of the work with each other.
The goal of the group is to loosen up and get the pen moving on paper. We don’t seek to have a finished work by the end of the session and you don’t need to arrive with a finished piece of writing to share. The writer’s group is a place to meet with other writers and to flex your writing muscles.
Please come ready with a writing medium of your choice: paper and pen/pencil, computer, tablet, etc.

2d5816dfbb533d7355f8e000318a9d28LOVE TO SHARE A GOOD BOOK?
How about sharing your thoughts on a book at the friendly monthly book discussion group?

The Invention of Wings
Sue Monk Kidder
December 17th, 7:30
*Extra titles of this book are available at the front desk

Ongoing Book Sale!
You can browse at your leisure now and bring home a favorite to keep or to give away to a friend. Just look for the bright signs just inside our main doors on the left. Pay at the front desk. Only $1 for hardcover and $.50 for paperbacks. Proceeds go to the Friends of Smyth Library. Come find a treasure or two or more for your very own.

comic 2


Vacation/Holiday Break To Do List:
1. Get in shape for the holidays-(mental and physical)!
2. Go to the Library for materials to get in shape!

TRY IT: Read to learn

“If you don’t challenge your brain to learn new things-helping kids with their homework, say, or assembling IKEA furniture-it gets flabby. In one study, older adults who frequently did stimulating leisure activities were less likely to develop dementia over 21 years compared with those who did so less often. Reading, playing board games, practicing musical instruments, and working on puzzles at least several times a week may encourage the growth of new brain cells and connections between them. Reading can fill your mind with knowledge. This fuels what some brain scientists call cognitive reserve, or a buffer against dementia symptoms. Choose fiction and nonfiction; try new topics. Take you read to better recall details.”

TRY IT: Learn how to draw, paint, or sculpt. (or color)

“People who took up painting, drawing, or sculpting were 73 percent less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment over a period of four years than were people who did not engage in artistic activities, found a recent Mayo Clinic study. These activities encourage you to focus your attention.” (Excerpt from 11-2015)

So, come to Smyth Public Library for books of all kinds, even coloring books, and exercise your brain for a rich, vibrant holiday and life.

~Heidi Deacon, director

legosMonthly Lego Night!
EVERY third Friday 6:30-7:30 for all ages
EVERY THURSDAY, 5:00-6:00 for ages 6-9

Sting wrote the song ‘Every Breath You Take’ at the same desk Ian Fleming used to write his James Bond novels. Specifically, this was at the ‘Fleming Villa’ at Golden Eye on the island of Jamaica.


Art Wanted!!!
Our art gallery is always available for the works of local artists. Just see Heidi at the front desk to display your works

Making Your Life Easy:
By going to our website, you can search our entire catalogue for books, CD’s, DVD’s and movies. Once found, you can check to see if what you want is in. If so, just to our website and reserve the book. The next time you come in, it will be waiting for you at the front desk. WITH OUR NEW WEBSITE YOU CAN DO IT WITH YOUR MOBILE DEVICE!

PLUS!! Check out our website updates and Smyth Library’s new Public Catalog featuring:
– A crawl of new items.
– “What’s Hot” now covers several choices.
-“Most Popular” titles (a combination of checkouts and reserves are used to determine this list).
– “More Search Options” includes Medium that lets members search by DVD or Large Print, etc.

More Research Options:

Full text articles from thousands of magazines, journals and national newspapers, plus NoveList. Call or e-mail us and provide your name and your library card number, and we’ll give you the password.

We’re on Facebook!
Like the Smyth Public Library
Look at our page on Facebook for events and updates about our library!

Downloadable Books!!!!
Ipods and Kindle work
Order right from our new website!
Thanks to the generosity of the Friends of the Smyth Library

Did You Know 2???
As a schoolboy, Roald Dahl was a taste-tester for Cadbury’s chocolate. This may have been the later inspiration for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.


Always hit the “Children” tab on our site for details and to see the newest events and activities for children

Exciting Children’s Programs:
• *CALDECOTT CHALLENGE – read through the award winning titles on your own or with a friend
• *1000 BOOKS before Kindergarten- memory registers will be made available for parents

Pajama Story Night
2nd Friday of the Month, 6:30 pm
Join us monthly for a night of storytelling and treats!
Math Clubs
K-3rd grade
Mondays, 3:00-4:00

Every second Friday of each month from 6:30 to 7:30 we break out our snap circuits! Build exciting projects including computer interfaced experiments and solar cell applications. This event is for ages 8-14 and signups are required.
Check our Facebook page for some cool snap circuit projects

3rd and 4th Grade BOOKCLUBS!!
First Wednesday of the month
3:30-4:30 3rd and 4th graders
5-6th grade 6-7 pm with free pizza!

Takes a break for the holidays, but resumes in January on the First Monday of the month at 6:30. Please sign up ahead of time. Limited class size and $5 material fee.

Read to Simon Now at Regular Times…
Mondays and Thursdays 3-4 p.m.

simonWhy is reading to a dog educational and fun? Because Simon is soft, furry and warm and he loves the attention you give him when you practice your reading out-loud skills! Sign up for a fifteen minute time slot between 3:00 & 4:00. Reading is In the Children’s Library Room and is one-on-one with Ms. Gwen and Simon present. Parents and others must wait outside for their reader. The last two minutes can be for meeting and spending time with Simon. Sign-ups start Thursday, February 12th at the front desk. Simon and Gwen Paprocki are certified through Therapy Dogs International.


Oh, baby! Geran, Chad.
The true story of Christmas Navillus, Nell.
Larry gets lost in prehistoric times: from dinosaurs to the Stone Age Skewes, John,
Green smoothie magic Boutenko, Victoria.
The animals’ Santa Brett, Jan
The turnip Brett, Jan
The steadfast tin soldier Delamare, David.
The day the crayons came home Daywalt, Drew
Talk, listen, connect E DVD 027: deployments and homecomings, changes = Hablen, escuchen, conecten : partidas militares y bienvenidas, cambios
Talk, listen, connect E DVD 028: when families grieve = Hablen, escuchen, conecten : familias en la aflicción
Larry gets lost in Boston Mullin, Michael.
The tree that came to stay Quindlen, Anna
The Berenstain Bears’ family reunion Berenstain, Stan
Driving buddies Jordan, Apple.
Mystery map Dixon, Franklin W
Phineas and Ferb — Big-top bonanza Grace, N. B.
Cycling champion Maddox, Jake.
Gold medal swim Maddox, Jake.
The magic school bus arctic adventure Herman, Gail
Lost in the labyrinth Peacock, L. A.
I am not going to get up today! Seuss, Dr


The keeper Baldacci, David
Mechanica Cornwell, Betsy
Petra K and the Blackhearts: a novel Ellis, M. Henderson.
The curious case of Benjamin Button Fitzgerald, F. Scott
The grownup: a story by the author of Gone girl Flynn, Gillian
Where’s Karl?: a fashion-forward parody Caldwell, Stacey. (Graphic novel)
V for vendetta Moore, Alan
(Graphic novel)
Final crisis Morrison, Grant. (Graphic novel)
Gandhi: my life is my message Quinn, Jason, (Graphic novel)
Autumn’s promise Gray, Shelley Shepard
Another day Levithan, David
Lorie’s heart Lillard, Amy
The fall of five Lore, Pittacus
The fate of ten Lore, Pittacus
The revenge of Seven Lore, Pittacus
The lost summer of Louisa May Alcott Mcnees, Kelly O’Connor
The center of everything Moriarty, Laura
Angel of the cove Robbins, Sandra
Lean in: for graduates Sandberg, Sheryl
The amber photograph: a novel Stokes, Penelope J.


The science of soldiers Raatma, Lucia.
A child’s Christmas in New England Sullivan, Robert
Thing explainer: complicated stuff in simple words Munroe, Randall,
The science of weapons Tougas, Shelley.
Alexander the Great: the conqueror Casati, Giampaolo.
Most wise & valiant ladies Hopkins, Andrea.
World War I: an interactive history adventure Swain, Gwenyth,
The slightly odd United States of America: wacky facts, great country
World War II on the home front: an interactive history adventure
Gitlin, Marty
The Adventures of Shola Atxaga, Bernardo.
Old wolf: a fable Avi
Return to Titanic — 1, — Time voyage / Brezenoff, Steven.
Return to Titanic — 2, — Stowaways / Brezenoff, Steven.
Chasing secrets Choldenko, Gennifer
Charlie’s raven George, Jean Craighead
The good little devil and other tales Gripari, Pierre,
Rush Revere and the star-spangled banner: time-travel adventures with exceptional Americans Limbaugh, Rush H.,
Fast break Lupica, Mike
QB 1 Lupica, Mike
The night tourist Marsh, Katherine
Firefly Hollow McGhee, Alison
Valiant McGuire, Sarah,
Auggie & me: three Wonder stories Palacio, R. J
The Princess bride: a celebration Davidson, Robyn
A house without mirrors Sandén, Mårten,
The Marvels Selznick, Brian
The barefoot farmer of Pawtuckaway, [the story of Pawtuckaway Park]: the story of George Goodrich Wood, Paula Casey.
I survived the attacks of September 11, 2001 Tarshis, Lauren

Every month we will ask the trivia question. If you know the answer, drop it off at the front desk or e-mail it using our website. We will randomly select the winner from the correct answers and the WINNER will win ONE FREE WEEK of OVERDUE FINE AMNESTY ON ONE

August’s Question and Answer Correction:
Q. What is the subtitle of Uncle Tom’s Cabin?
A. Life Among the Lowly

Marlene Ranfros

This Month’s Trivia Question:

What novel begins…”If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth”?


Staff Picks
This month’s picks come from Julia McKenna…

My all-time favorite book is hard, but I’m going to have to go with the Song of the Lark by Willa Cather. Very tragic and definitely a classic!

The last book I read was Fever by Mary Beth Keane, which I also loved. It tells the story of Typhoid Mary from her perspective and creates a unique twist on the story.


We (being I) are always looking for contributors to this reviews section. The editor has a limited range of taste, so any reviews would be more than welcomed. Just e-mail them in reply to this, or to


CRASHThe premise for this mystery is a good one. In After the Crash by Michel Bussi, a plane crashes in the mountains of France. On the plane were two three month old babies and their parents. All on the plane are killed except for one “miracle” baby. Could she be the rich child or the poor? The rich family hires a private detective to figure out which one she is for a fortune of a contract that will pay him until the child’s 18th birthday. The book is told have in the present and half through the notebook account of the private detective. The main present day players are the poor child’s brother, who loves her in a very unbrother-like way and the rich child’s psychotic sister. All the grandparents, who either raise the or want to raise the miracle baby are involved.

The mystery was a good one and, although others have not liked the ending, I thought it was very good.

What brought the book down to me were the characters. Perhaps it was the translation, but they all came through as cold and unsympathetic, which is certainly not how the brother should have been. The private detective was the most complex of the players, but somehow the rendition of him was distant and more analytical than lovable or loathsome.

All-in-all an intriguing premise that carries the book.


THEIVESOne star reduction for Charles Belfoure’s House of Thieves being 50-60 pages too long.

This is the story of an upper crust New York City family who, in 1895, for various reasons all become, separately, intertwined with the lower crust. The patriarch is an architect, the son an inveterate gambler, the ten year old boy is cool, the mother all about coming out balls and the 17 year old daughter the somewhat typical girl of novels who wants to be more than arm candy.

The plot line is a good one. The father needs to repay the son’s gambling debts to protect his family form thugs. Thus begins his trek into the netherworld of the city. The architectural points are extremely interesting. The characters are a bit predictable and stereotypical, but not enough to be insulting. All of the very private bucking of high society is also a bit predictable, but again, it does not ruin the book. Mr. Belfoure captures the flavor of the city at the end of the century well. he captures how it was on the cusp of technological innovation while still dirty, mucky and partly uncivilized.

The book is diminished by the very long, tedious and redundant descriptions of the material assets in the upper class homes and offices. Additionally, Mr. Belfoure must have repeated at least a dozen times that any scandal in one of New York’s finest families would ostracize that entire family for all time. This was just the most glaring or the redundancies. Take out the long-winded and often times superfluous descriptions and the repetition and the book would have been a good taut thriller with an interesting side education in architecture.


Henry Clay, America’s Greatest Statesman
By Harlow Giles Unger

CLAYBorn a few months after the Declaration of Independence announced the beginning of the American Experiment, Henry Clay came of age in an era when the success of that experiment was by no means assured. By nature of his temperament and his unfailing commitment to the unification of the various states and factions and forces competing with the notion of one united nation Henry Clay, later heralded as The Great Pacificator, is one of the forces that guided this nation through its infancy. This book by Harlow Giles Unger is satisfying on many levels: it depicts the early political challenges confronting the nascent federal political structure as well as providing a window into the lives of early 19th century Americans.
Born with no particular advantages to a Virginia slaveholder, Clay’s first job was an errand boy in Richmond, Virginia. By dint of hard work, determination and some luck, Clay studied law and at the age of 20 followed the westward migration to Kentucky where he would marry and father 11 children.
An eloquent speaker, Clay established a successful law practice, gaining notoriety for defending Aaron Burr for his role in the duel with Alexander Hamilton. Political success followed: he was several times appointed to the US Senate (before the 17th Amendment) but also served as Speaker of the House of Representatives; a Commissioner to the US Peace Commission in Ghent, Belgium; Secretary of State; and a three time candidate for the presidency.
This early nation of ours struggled with three seeming irreconcilable issues: slavery, state’s rights, and the political implications of westward expansion, expressed as Manifest Destiny. Add the uncertainty produced by competing economies, fractious inter-state and regional relationships and a federal political structure barely 30 years old and the result was a union constantly tottering on the brink of dissolution. To the preservation of that Union Clay pledged his life, his fortune, his sacred honor.

This is where Henry Clay earned his acclaim as America’s Greatest Statesman. Example: The issue of whether the practice of slavery would be permitted in the territories settled by those westward bound pioneers found compromise and resolution in the Missouri Compromise engineered by Henry Clay. Both sides of the abolition debate were temporarily mollified but the Union was preserved.
Besides protecting the Union from its many challenges, Clay advocated for its promotion through his “American System”, a program designed to develop our infrastructure to enhance commerce and social and cultural integration among the states. This, Clay believed, would promote the stability of the Union as much as any political gesture.

Although beset with many political challenges in the early 19th Century, the foundation for most of them was the practice of slavery and its corrosive influence on the relationship between northern and southern states and its inherent and ongoing violation of the principles enunciated in the Declaration of Independence. The slavery issue permeated the politics involved in determining the composition of the nation as it expanded westward. The Missouri Compromise was but the first of many accommodations that were made to placate both sides of the issue. Both sides of the issue were implacable and Clay’s efforts would merely postpone the issue’s ultimate resolution.

The issue of state’s rights involved conflicting interpretations of the Constitution as a binding political treaty. One side regarded states as sovereign nations unto themselves, bound by a treaty with other states similar to the Articles of Confederation (which the Constitution displaced) while others regarded the nation as the sovereign entity with the states subordinate to it. Henry Clay threaded this needle with the Compromise of 1850 among many other diplomatic and legislative successes.
Fascinating as was the book’s description of the early political challenges in 19th Century America, the glimpse it provided into daily life was just as interesting. Communication, for example, seemed to work just fine even without our modern gadgets. The electorate was informed of the issues and the politicians responded accordingly. How word got around is the mystery. Transportation is another feature that inspires curiosity. Clay travelled freely between Lexington, KY and Washington, DC, across the Appalachian Mountains with nary a complaint or hint of inconvenience. He travelled all over New York and the middle states, all on a horse or in a wagon.
Where the book really inspires respect and awe for our forebears is in the eloquent and formal language attributed to them throughout the book.
That Henry Clay truly earned the book’s subtitle, “America’s Greatest Statesman” any reader will agree upon reading it. And who delivered his eulogy on June 29, 1852? America’s Greatest President whose commitment to the preservation of the Union was inspired by Henry Clay: Abraham Lincoln.

Submitted by Boyd Chivers

Ever want to be one of those know-it-all reviewers?
Got a book to recommend?
Want to write a blurb?
Have a child with a favorite book who would like to contribute to the Smythie?

We welcome contributors (less for us to write!), especially children and teens to review and recommend favorite books. Just drop Heidi Deacon an e-mail at It need not be a new book – it can be a golden oldie, a classic, a trashy beach book or whatever you have enjoyed.

I hope you have enjoyed this edition. Comments, suggestions and, of course, reviews are always welcomed.
~Rick Mitchell