"The Haunting of Potter's Field" by Margaret Shaw Johnson, illustrations by Jared Tuttle; published Aug. 30 by Ravens Point Press
At first glance, this book presents like a children’s book, with illustrations and single-page stories written in verse. However, as it was originally created as a performance piece (and performed a decade ago), it reads more like a musical script.
Based on the stories and newspaper accounts of almost a dozen people buried between 1870 and 1933 in Woodlawn Cemetery’s Potter’s Field in Winona, each verse sheds light on those lives from a century ago.
Reading through this book, it's easy to see it as a live-stage performance. The book concludes with sheet music from Brian Schellinger and Kelly McGuire. If this script was performed locally (again), I would be inclined to attend. Johnson’s choice of diverse stories to tell is greatly appreciated.
Tuttle's illustrations provide great visuals for each story. The charcoal and chalk on paper reflect the poor, simple lives of the people they represent. The choice of black and white adds to the eerie and haunting aura of this book.
Margaret Shaw Johnson has served as a judge in the Minnesota District Court for 21 years. She has also written numerous plays and performance pieces presented at local theaters and other venues. She lives in Winona.
Jared Tuttle is a graduate of Minneapolis College of Art and Design. He is a freelance artist, illustrator and designer based in Minneapolis.
“The Haunting of Potter’s Field” is available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Target.
"Loon Lessons: Uncommon Encounters With the Great Northern Diver" by James D. Paruk; published June 29 by University of Minnesota Press
This book, almost textbook-like with its details, contains a plethora of information about loons, from their paleontological origins and histories to their current behavior and idiosyncrasies.
Paruk shares humorous anecdotes of his encounters with the majestic bird, and imparts his love and vast knowledge to the reader in a palatable way. This book is a fascinating read, and makes me lament even more for missing out on seeing a loon in the wild during my family’s time on the Gunflint Trail this summer. (Other members of our party were fortunate enough to experience this.)
James D. Paruk has studied loons across the continent for almost 30 years. He is one the world’s leading experts on the common loon, Minnesota's state bird. He has served as vice president of the North American Loon Fund. He is a biology professor at St. Joseph College, an adjunct biology professor at the University of Southern Maine, and an adjunct senior research scientist at the Biodiversity Research Institute in Maine.
“Loon Lessons” is available online through Amazon, Barnes & Noble and University of Minnesota Press (www.upress.mn.edu).
Book Nook is a monthly feature that highlights titles from Minnesota authors. Got a recommendation? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org with "Book Nook" in the subject line.