The Story: “The book is on the topic of bullying and specifically how someone who experiences bullying can get through it,” Nochera says. “The main character is a goat named Joey and he’s different because his name is Joey and not Billy. Most kids are bullied because they’re different. A Goat Named Joey promotes the idea to love your neighbor as yourself. When you fight for and speak up for yourself, you can become your own hero.”
Author Inspiration: Nochera is a father of three, ages 7, 5 and 2. He began working on A Goat Named Joey when he heard the news that he would be a father for the first time. “I quickly realized I wanted my child not just to survive, but to thrive as well. I thought, ‘What gifts do I have that could help her on her way?’ I was bullied in my youth. I don’t want her to be bullied, but if she ever is, she’ll have this story that I wrote for her.”
The Story: After her husband, Sean, is killed in a hit-and-run accident, Georgie Brennan discovers he lied to her about where he had been going that day. “The book is about Georgie trying to raise her son after Sean is killed,” Mitchell says. “She is a physicist by profession and she starts asking questions about her husband and his death. She doesn’t stop until she reaches the highest rungs of power in the nation. Along the way, she is led to question everyone she knows and everything that she thought was true.”
NoVA Neighborhoods: In the novel, Mitchell references over a dozen Arlington locations. “MedStar Capitals Iceplex is one that’s mentioned,” she says. “And Northside Social is in the book.” Other Arlington name-drops include Crystal City Shops, Jackson Street during Halloween and Crystal City Water Park.
The New Year is upon us and it seems that everyone and their mother has a book suggestion.
You may be wondering, what books should your kids be reading? Sure, they’ve probably read a good stack for school this year. But if you’re looking for ways to get them more interested, excited or confident in reading, here are 10 local events to attend this month.
Ukulele Storytime Wednesday, Jan. 15, 10:30-11 a.m. What’s better than getting to listen to a story with your kids? Getting to hear music to go along with it, of course! Let your child listen to a few stories while live music is played by the Northern Virginia Ukulele Society musicians. From infants to 5-year-olds, this story time will have them singing, laughing, clapping and learning along at Fairfax County Library. // Burke Centre Library: 5935 Freds Oak Road, Burke; free
Barnes & Noble Story Time: Baby & Me Friday, Jan. 17, 11 a.m. Most little movers or stroller riders aren’t quite old enough to sit for an entire story time, but luckily, this one is designed just for them. Every Friday at the Tysons Corner Center Barnes & Noble, local families can bring their babies to enjoy interactive activities and board books for all. // Barnes & Noble at Tysons Corner Center: 7851 Tysons Corner Center, McLean; free
Barnes & Noble Storytime: Nobody Hugs a Cactus Saturday, Jan. 18, 11 a.m. With hands-on activities and an intimate story time with local residents, even the littlest Northern Virginians can learn from a story about the prickliest cactus in the entire world. With lessons on the reality of loneliness for kids, as well as how to make friends and accept one another, this story will be sure to inspire you and your children while being a fun morning outing in January. // Barnes & Noble at Fair Lakes Promenade: 12193 Fair Lakes Promenade Drive, Fairfax; free
Seniors & Kids Pajama Story Time Jan. 21, 6:30-7 p.m. Everyone loves a good story before bed, and this intergenerational program brings together the love of reading to all ages through read-aloud stories, songs, rhymes and activities. Families are encouraged to participate together, borrow books they want to read and wear their favorite pajamas to the local library. // Arlington Central Library: 1015 N. Quincy St., Arlington; free
Stories to Grow On Wednesday, Jan. 22, 11-11:45 a.m. Meant for children up to age 5, this story time is not to “sit still and listen.” Through language development, large motor skills and social growth, little attendees will get to move, act, sing, dance and play while listening to a chosen story. Plus, yoga and take-home crafts are often themed with the story to help with all-around learning. // Kate Waller Barrett Branch Library: 717 Queen St., Alexandria; free
Paws to Read Wednesday, Jan. 22, 5:30-6:30 p.m. Having open ears to listen while you read, especially when they’re patient while you learn, is priceless. Let your child practice reading out loud to local therapy dogs, and not only will they get in their much-needed practice times, they’ll get puppy hugs and kisses too. This event is meant for children in kindergarten through fifth grade. // Shirlington Branch Library: 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington; free
Reading Buddies in Loudoun County Thursday, Jan. 23, 4:30-5:30 p.m. Learning to read doesn’t always mean your child is going to love to read (It’s a tough process, remember?). Let your child, from preschool through second grade, pair up with a local teen in order to learn to build their reading confidence and develop a better relationship with the activity. This one-on-one reading time will be beneficial to all. // Brambleton Library: 22850 Brambleton Plaza, Bambleton; free
Barnes & Noble Storytime: How to Catch a Dragon Saturday, Jan. 25, 11 a.m. In honor of the Lunar New Year, the Manassas Barnes & Noble location will be hosting a silly story time for kids, where they will learn how the dragon will avoid trap after trap in order to be fully trained, and they will get to try it for themselves! Hear the story and let your little ones get past the paper lanterns, red envelopes, fireworks and more. Plus, color your very own paper lantern to take home in time for the holiday. // Barnes & Noble at Westgate Plaza: 8117 Sudley Road, Manassas; free
Spanish Circle Time / El Circulo de Cuentos en Español Monday, Jan. 27, 11-11:45 a.m. Whether your child’s first language is Spanish or they’re in the process of learning, Spanish Circle Time with Ms. Roxana, also known as Señora Roxana, allows local little ones of all ages to hear story time in Spanish, from beloved classic kids’ books to those that may have never been heard of before. // Bull Run Regional Library: 8051 Ashton Ave., Manassas; free
Reading Tails: Read to Animals at the Fairfax County Animal Shelter Sunday, Feb. 9, 4-5:30 p.m. Help your child learn to love to read and help local shelter pets at this 90-minute program hosted by Fairfax County Animal Shelter. Local children of all reading ages are welcome to participate in Reading Tails, where they will get a tour of the shelter with behind-the-scenes areas and adoption facilities, as well as 30 minutes to read aloud to the shelter dogs and cats before they settle in for bed. Small flashlights and cozy blankets are provided. // Fairfax County Animal Shelter: 4500 W. Ox Road, Fairfax; free
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Grab a copy of Ina Garten’s Cooking for Jeffrey or Make it Ahead and whip up your favorite recipe for Martha Washington Library’s Cook Book Club. Share your success and difficulties surrounding these recipes as you sample treats prepared by the group. // Jan. 7; 7-8:30 p.m.; Martha Washington Library: 6614 Fort Hunt Road, Alexandria; free
Join the African American Book Group of the Potomac Community Library to discuss the latest work of talented author Margaret C. Reynolds, My Journey Through Cancer. In her book, the Virginia resident recounts her experience of being a mother of eight, wife and writer while tackling stage 4 breast cancer. // Jan. 9, 7-8:30 p.m.; Potomac Community Library: 2201 Opitz Blvd., Woodbridge; free
Grab a drink and settle in to discuss this month’s latest book at Samuel Beckett’s Pub. Tommy Orange’s There There follows 12 characters from Native American communities as they travel to the Big Oakland Powwow, all dealing with different struggles and sacrifice surrounding their ancestors’ history. // Jan. 13; 7-8 p.m.; Samuel Beckett’s Pub: 2800 S. Randolph St., Arlington; free
Stop by the James M. Duncan Jr. Branch Library for a special discussion of New Yorker reporter Susan Orlean’s The Library Book. The nonfiction true crime novel investigates the 1986 fire at the Los Angeles Public Library, while showing the importance libraries still have in our lives. // Jan. 15; 7-8 p.m.; James M. Duncan Jr. Branch Library: 2501 Commonwealth Ave., Alexandria; free
Bring your current read over to Amy’s Cafe for a discussion at the Books by the River book group. This weekly group removes the stress of the traditional book club by eliminating a monthly required reading. // Jan. 27; 1-2 p.m.; Amy’s Cafe: 103 W. Cambridge St., Fredericksburg; free
Cooler temperatures and quiet evenings make fall the perfect season to drop back into reading. Even though you can’t stick your toes in the sand while flipping the pages, here are the books local bookstore owners and librarians are recommending, from infants to older adults.
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Miss Maple’s Seeds by Eliza Wheeler – Each year, tiny Miss Maple collects lost seeds and takes care of them all winter, before sending them off in the spring to find places to sprout and grow. –Diana Price, Youth Services Manager, Alexandria Library
Summer Green to Autumn Gold by Mia Posada – Preschool and early elementary-aged children learn why the leaves change color each autumn in this beautifully illustrated nonfiction picture book. –Diana Price, Youth Services Manager, Alexandria Library
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste – In this spooky but hopeful story for middle-grade readers, an 11-year-old girl has to tap into an ancient magic in order to save her village from creepy creatures. With its roots in Caribbean folklore, The Jumbies is a frightening, fun and original tale of courage, friendship and fantasy. —Lelia Nebeker, Book Buyer, One More Page in Arlington
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver – One night changed Ben DeBacker’s life when they come out as nonbinary to their parents, get kicked out and move in with their estranged sister. All Ben has to do is stay under the radar, but a cute boy named Nathan Allen has different plans. —Isaiah West, Teen Services Coordinator, Alexandria Library
Guts by Raina Telgemeier – In Guts, Raina Telgemeier knocks it out of the park yet again. Witty and honest, this graphic memoir from the No. 1 New York Times bestselling author and multiple Eisner award-winner takes on a tough topic: fear. —Ellen Klein (and her staff), owner of Hooray for Books!
Bad Unicorn by Platte Clark –Bad Unicorn follows the hilarious misadventures of Max Spencer, who accidentally became one of the greatest sorcerers ever to live! With his uncooperative spell book and unlikely friends in tow, he must navigate an alternate world with unicorn royalty, Princess the Destroyer, on his tail. —Ellen Klein (and her staff), owner of Hooray for Books!
The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater – On Nov. 4, 2013 on a bus in Oakland, California, a queer teen named Sasha was set on fire by a boy named Richard. It seems clear that Richard is a hateful monster, but as we all know, nothing is as simple as it seems. —Isaiah West, Teen Services Coordinator, Alexandria Library
Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner – Young readers who enjoyed Raina Telgemeier’s books will devour this hilarious graphic novel about a sixth grader who will do whatever it takes to stand out—even if it means pretending to be a vampire in order to impress the slayer-obsessed girl he loves. It turns out, though, that pretending to be a vampire to impress a potential slayer comes with just a couple of complications. Even if the reader in your life isn’t a fan of vampires, they’ll definitely be able to relate to AJ’s desire to fit in. —Lelia Nebeker, Book Buyer, One More Page in Arlington
Cider House Rules by John Irving – Fall in New England. Set in rural Maine in the first half of this century, it tells the story of Dr. Wilbur Larch—saint and obstetrician, founder and director of the orphanage in the town of St. Cloud’s, ether addict and abortionist. It is also the story of Dr. Larch’s favorite orphan, Homer Wells, who is never adopted. –Katie Dow, Adult Services Manager, Alexandria Library
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens – Nothing gets you ready for the holidays like this Christmas Classic. A miser learns the true meaning of Christmas when three ghostly visitors review his past and foretell his future. –Katie Dow, Adult Services Manager, Alexandria Library
The Lady from the Black Lagoon: Hollywood Monsters and the Lost Legacy of Milicent Patrick by Mallory O’Meara – You may not have heard of Milicent Patrick, but you definitely know the classic monster she helped to design: the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Part memoir of O’Meara’s own experiences in movie making, and part biography of a hidden figure, The Lady from the Black Lagoon establishes Milicent Patrick in her rightful place in monster movie history while calling out a Hollywood culture where little has changed since. —Lelia Nebeker, Book Buyer, One More Page in Arlington
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado – Sinuous, sinister and surreal, Carmen Maria Machado’s original debut collection of stories are full of heart, horror and healing in equal measures. Each story is a dark, shimmering cut into the human psyche, exploring the twists and turns of women’s existence, the shadows that haunt their minds, and the damage done unto them over the course of their lives. —Lelia Nebeker, Book Buyer, One More Page in Arlington
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley – A group of 30-something friends from Oxford meet for a holiday on an estate in the Scottish Highlands, and by the end of the trip, one of them ends up dead. If you like Agatha Christie-style murder mysteries, toxic too-close friendships doused with a hefty layer of old money and Dom Perignon, and gorgeous remote settings, The Hunting Party will be a quick and intoxicating read. —Lelia Nebeker, Book Buyer, One More Page in Arlington
Virginia Wine Travel Journal (2019)
By Nancy Bauer
This is an indispensable companion on any trip exploring Virginia’s many wine countries. The spiral-bound book is a primer on grapes, trends, top talent, best bottles, a directory of all the wineries in Virginia and how to tour each region. There’s also some sage advice: Don’t be afraid to spit. “Since almost no one spits, one of the unanticipated benefits is that the staff will assume you’re a wine aficionado.” (Virginia Wine in My Pocket, $15)
The Food Lover’s Guide to Wine
By Karen Page with Andrew Dornenburg
If you’re familiar with this married couple’s encyclopedic tomes of food knowledge (see: The Flavor Bible), then their cunning use of adjective-heavy lists will feel just right when it’s used to help dissect varietals. Regions (there’s a Virginia entry!) and styles are also sliced into tidbits of information ranging from flavors and textures of grapes to food pairings and world-class producers. (Little, Brown & Company, $35)
Windows on the World Complete Wine Course (2018)
By Kevin Zraly
The industry-approved essential reading for beginners learning about wine, Windows on the World’s 400 pages are a compilation of classes Kevin Zraly taught from the wine school inside the restaurant 107 stories in the sky at the top of the World Trade Center. The book has been updated numerous times since its publication in 1985, and remains the final word on wine. (Sterling Epicure, $28)
The New Wine Rules
By Jon Bonné
Wine doesn’t have to be fussy and precious and intimidating. Sure, there are a lot of grapes and grape-growing regions around the world, but mostly, drinking wine should be about pleasure. Jon Bonné, the former wine editor and critic at San Francisco Chronicle wrote a slim, assured guidebook with rules that are just as funny as they are dead-on (“Not every new-wave wine is cool. Not every classic wine is uncool.”) and just plain helpful (“Don’t save a great bottle for anything more than a rainy day.”). (Ten Speed Press, $15)
Grasping the Grape
By Maryse Chevriere
Understanding wine is a mix of two things: the variety of the grape and where the grape grew. Maryse Chevriere takes the importance of grapes to the extreme, filling in a backstory and persona, a parable, really: “There are those who are bright, easy and cheerful; excited and ready to welcome you … And then there are those who are more guarded and reserved … who require time to open up and reveal the complexities of their personality. Nebbiolo is very much the latter.” She completes each lesson on grapes with pairings, flavors and textures and a whimsical illustration of its personification. (Hardie Grant, $15)
Wine Folly: Magnum Edition
By Madeline Puckette and Justin Hammack
Built for the visual age, flush with infographics and bullet points, Wine Folly is a comprehensive guide not just to types of wine, but the entire process from how much water to drink to avoid a headache (a glass of water to match each glass of wine) to winemaking techniques, pairing methodologies and full-page explainers on each grape with illustrations of flavors, scales for body and tannins, growing regions, decanting time and how much money to spend. Besides its use as a teaching tool, Wine Folly is a master class in how good design is just as important as clear writing. (Avery, $35)
“I want people to understand we have cultural offerings here—our community is not just a suburb of DC. Also, I just really like hanging out with writers.”
That’s how Annandale-based mom Lisa Lowry explains the reason for her newest venture arriving in Northern Virginia on Tuesday, Oct. 1, The Writer’s Passage, which offers workshops for aspiring writers and creatives alike.
While Lowry has a Ph.D. in public policy, she recently dove headfirst into creative writing following the birth of her child. Yet after taking several classes at a studio in Bethesda, Maryland, she quickly realized there wasn’t a space for local writers to learn and practice the craft.
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As the concept is brand new, The Writer’s Passage does not have a studio location yet, but workshops will be offered on a regular basis in both Annandale and Arlington, with a cap of 15 students for each class. Plus, the courses will be led by experienced writers from right here in Northern Virginia.
“We have about five or six teachers who I found through word of mouth mostly, and there’s actually a ton of writers around here,” says Lowry. “I think your writing is a lot better with a support system. We are offering poetry, fiction writing, a picture book writing class. Right now we are really just trying to see what people are looking for.”
While the classes are currently geared toward beginner and intermediate writers with a strong focus on the basics of storytelling, Lowry hopes to eventually offer more advanced classes to experienced writers in the region.
The first-ever course offered by The Writer’s Passage is titled, “World Building,” honing in on the importance of setting a scene, and will be held Tuesday, Oct. 1, at 6:30 p.m.
“To me, that’s the most exciting part about writing. You literally get to create your own world for characters to live in,” says Lowry. “I’ll be taking it right along with my students.”
For a complete list of upcoming classes hosted by The Writer’s Passage, click here.
Calling all bookworms, casual readers and those looking to get more into reading: The 19th annual Library of Congress National Book Festival returns on Saturday, Aug. 31, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Being held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the free and open-to-the-public event will feature bestselling authors, novelists, historians, poets, children’s writers and more, including presentations by acclaimed chef José Andrés and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
The National Book Festival will host more than 140 authors, illustrators and poets on stages to present their work. Guests can hear talks on children’s books, fiction, historical writing, biographies, poetry and science. There will be thematic programs and panel discussions, as well.
Other activities include book signings; lessons on what it takes to become a professional librarian; a sneak preview of the film Free for All: Inside the Public Library; a panel on how libraries are adapting storytime for different generations; copyright trivia; and much more.
For the kids, The Washington Post will host animated readings by local children’s book authors every hour from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and The Posts’s mascot, Ned the Newshound, will be there to take photos with festival guests. And for parents, there’s even a panel titled, “How to Raise a Reader,” being held from 5 to 6 p.m.
Christine Carroll, a scientist (neurophsycology) turned chef (French Culinary Institute grad) turned James Beard-nominated cookbook author (Come In, We’re Closed) turned executive director and founder of a nonprofit sending chefs on volunteer service trips (CulinaryCorps) is also a mom of two in Old Town Alexandria who runs an Instagram account curating the top books about food for kids.
Food-themed books, writes Carroll, are “a bridge connecting young readers with other cultures, unfamiliar traditions and new ways of life. It’s amazing to see how food-centric books trigger understanding of how we are all deeply connected. These types of books make incredible conversation starters, especially at the dinner table.”
Working on her own middle-grade fiction book, as she says, “where STEM meets sous vide,” she is deep in the culinary-kid book world. Here are her suggestions:
Chapter Book The Winner Is … By: Charise Mericle Harper
The finale in the Next Best Junior Chef series is the perfect beach read for your budding Gordon Ramsay. // Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $8
Board Book Cook In A Book: Tacos!
By: Lotta Nieminen
An interactive series of books to get your little chefs “cooking” while you read aloud about how to make tacos, pancakes, pizza and cookies. // Phaidon, $17
Picture Book When Grandma Gives You a Lemon Tree By: Jamie L.B. Deenihan
A clever, intergenerational story about turning what you think is sour, into something very sweet. // Sterling Children’s Books, $17
Middle Grade Book A Woman’s Place: The Inventors, Rumrunners, Lawbreakers, Scientists, and Single Moms Who Changed the World with Food
By: Deepi Ahluwalia
A curated group of trailblazing women who changed the world from their kitchens. Innovators, instigators and inventors, A Woman’s Place features stalwarts like Julia Child and Leah Chase, but also unsung heroes, like Georgia Gilmore whose food helped finance the Montgomery Bus Boycott. // Little, Brown and Company, $25
Cookbook United Tastes of America: An Atlas of Food Facts & Recipes from Every State!
By: Gabrielle Langholtz
Some food for thought for that epic summer road trip. // Phaidon, $30
This post was originally published in our August 2019 issue. To get even more food stories to your inbox, subscribe to our weekly Food newsletter.
Northern Virginia is home to a number of high-profile and bestselling authors and, thanks to the region’s thriving independent bookstore scene, there’s no shortage of places to find talented Virginia writers likeRussell Baker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from Loudoun County, and New York Times bestselling author David Baldacci. On Aug. 9, embrace your inner bookworm by heading over to a local bookshop and purchasing a few summer reads in honor of National Book Lovers Day.