Book Reviews

Oh, Tom Sawyer! Rascal, liar, ladies-boy, wicked heathen … be still my heart. I can still remember my very first encounter with Tom – from my much loved collection of Great Illustrated Classics (my first personal library, maybe?).

I can still picture the cover – Tom strolling regally down the road, barefooted, fishing pole in hand, behind the gingham-clad, blushing Becky Thatcher, steamboat in the background.

Nothing may have influenced my childhood more than the time spent poring over Tom’s adventures. It may even be the first chapter book I put my mind to. Well, that, or The Baby-sitters Club.

Still. Tom and Becky, Injun Joe, Amy Lawrence, Huck, Aunt Polly – from childhood, my conception of classic Americana owes a great debt to these characters. Every woman in a high collar and bun could be a Polly; every straw-hatted little boy becomes Tom. They inform my perception of everything from the idea of running away from home to roadside attractions (for who but a Tom-like character could conceive of charging $13.50 a carload to see giant cement busts of presidents?).

Having lived in the midwest for more than 10 years, I haven’t given much thought to our country’s borders or the people who reside near them. DiAnn Mills’ new suspense fiction, Sworn to Protect, gives an interesting look into the southernmost areas of the U.S. and the profession that works to keep the borders safe.

Set in McAllen, Texas, this page-turner opens with a dangerous operation that takes place near the Rio Grande, a river that serves as the Mexico-United States border. While on duty preventing illegal human and drug trafficking, U.S. Border Patrol agent Danika Morales recalls a dreadful event that happened two years ago: her husband, Toby, was murdered, and his body was left beside an obscure road. The crime went unresolved.

The unseen offender is now stalking her, aiming to end her life and destroy her family. As a single mother, Danika is concerned about her deaf little girl, Tiana, and Tiana’s nanny and family’s housekeeper, Sandra Rodriguez.

Bring on the blood oaths, the pirates' island, the foul play, mischief, buried treasure, Becky Thatcher, Huckleberry Finn, and Injun Joe. Bring on The Big Read!

Each week here on KC Unbound during this most festive of reading seasons, we'll be posting recaps of four(-ish) chapters of Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, along with insight and commentary. And we want you to join in!

Before we get started, do you have the book? No? Hey, these aren't the CliffsNotes, pal. The Kansas City Public Library has 500 brand-new Penguin Classics editions of Mark Twain’s classic in circulation. Surely you can find one. Or, if you prefer to e-read, you can get a free digital edition through our website. Just follow these instructions.

As we all know, The Big Read is a community-wide reading celebration featuring a diverse range of free public programming aimed at connecting people together over a great book. Be sure to keep up with all the great special events, book discussions, reading podcasts, and get info about KC Ballet’s sure-to-be-amazing production of Tom Sawyer: A Ballet in Three Acts – it’s all at


I confess, I picked up Portia de Rossi’s memoir, Unbearable Lightness, for the title. The blurbs on the back were by some of my favorite authors, a plus. A quick scan of the inside jacket was enough to convince me to give it a try (I don’t like to read the whole blurb because I don’t want to know the ending).

I’m not big into television or celebrity goings-on, so it wasn’t until the last 50 pages of the book that I realized (don’t laugh), that’s where I know Portia from!

Which, for me, made the book that much better.

Portia tells her story in meticulous detail, without any judgment or self-pity. With gut-wrenching honesty, she is able to say: This is who I was. This is who I am. These are the things that make me, me. I am defined only by myself.

Her approach to her life is bold and fierce, but in writing about it, she is gentle. She writes simply and honestly about the people, things and experiences that make her who she is. Her journey is about gaining the ability and the strength to face her vulnerabilities.


Tired of the same old crafts? Feel ho-hum about textiles or beads? Well, how about giving duct tape a try?  In Ductigami: The Art of the Tape, author Joe Wilson shows how to cut, rip, and fold duct tape to make objects such as wallets, aprons, tool belts, lunchboxes, Halloween masks, and more.

And now that duct tape comes in designer colors, as well as a transparent version, you can let your imagination get as sticky as it wants! Not just for NASA missions anymore, duct tape aficionados have formed clubs and sponsored competitions. Red Green, of the PBS syndicated The Red Green Show understands: “Spare the duct tape, spoil the job.” Duct tape crafters might also want to take a look at Stick It!: 99 D.I.Y. Duct Tape Projects, by T.L. Bonaddio. 

Here are some other titles you might want to check out in pursuit of the different: