A Bear, a Boat, a Reunion, Oh MY!

by Tim Ehrenberg
Marketing Director for Nantucket Book Partners,
Nantucket Book Festival, and creator of Tim Talks Books

What do a bear, sailing, and a family reunion all have in common? This may sound like the beginning of a bad joke between co-workers, but they are actually all subjects of new Nantucket books by local authors available this spring at your island indie bookstores, Mitchell’s + Bookworks. All are available as autographed copies in stores or online at nantucketbookpartners.com.

The first needs no introduction, especially if you’re a kid on Nantucket: Where, Oh Where is Barnaby Bear?

Well, he is in a brand-new edition available now by author and illustrator Wendy Rouillard (published by Andrews McMeel). The book follows Barnaby and friends on a rhyming adventure with colorful illustrations. The story has an appealing sing-song cadence that children will want to repeat each night before bed. It made the perfect gift for all of the kids in my life earlier this Spring. Even actress Drew Barrymore exclaimed that “Barnaby Bear is a true treasure!”

I chatted with Barnaby’s creator, Wendy Rouillard, and I just had to know where the idea of Barnaby originally came from.

“Barnaby the Bear is real,” she said. “Barnaby was a stuffed bear that first belonged to my grandmother, and then, a generation later, to my mother. He was well-loved and tattered with a few little holes by the time my mother gave him to me. I held his hand on the first day of school, and he was a frequent visitor at “show and tell.”

Years later, while Wendy was a student at Parsons School of Design in New York City, she discovered Nantucket and fell in love with our little island 30 miles out to sea. “I decided to combine my love of writing and drawing and create a book about Barnaby, a Nantucket Bear. That is how it all began! Twenty years later, I am still living on the island, creating new adventures about Barnaby and raising two young girls, Annecy and Ondine.”

Wendy has self-published the Barnaby book series for years and now is thrilled to be with Andrews McMeel, making Barnaby a household name across the country. Her perseverance, creativity, and energy is one for the books and an inspiration to all. This new edition of Where, Oh Where is Barnaby Bear is sure to attract a whole new generation of young readers searching for a new friend.

“This book encourages children to step out into the world, to be brave, and to enjoy the simple things in life – a story that I told my daughter when she was three. It has been my dream to have my books on shelves across the country. I could never have achieved this without the constant help, love, and encouragement from my parents. Thank you, Mom and Dad!” Wendy graciously proclaims.

Wooden Boats for Blue Water Sailing sailed right into the stores this year and is perfect for boat lovers everywhere. Islander and author Alfred Sanford writes, “My father started taking me sailing in Nantucket harbor before I can remember. I awoke into this world of sailing. I discover, occasionally, an instinctive knowledge of sailing that will surprise me when, finding myself in a novel, unusual situation, I seem to know just what to do—without knowing how I know it. Maybe from a previous life?”

Alfie’s new book is the result of his lifetime (the current one) quest to build a really good ocean sailing boat. Alfie explains, “This quest turned to wooden construction with the Alerion Class Sloop project done here on Nantucket in 1977. With it, my brother and I pioneered epoxy-bonded, cold-molded wood construction. We adapted that technology to ocean-going sailboats with the FANCY project in California in 1983 and I continued it with the STARRY NIGHT project in Chatham in 2009. It takes three projects to perfect an idea, and, rather than physically build the third boat, I verbally described the building of it in WB for BWS. This both saved a lot of cash, it also created a form (book) to widely disseminate the ideas involved. Wood is good—we know that—but you can learn why by reading Wooden Boats for Blue Water Sailing.”

The book is not only a technical guide to boatbuilding, it is also a philosophical, at times poetical, book on sailing. It discusses the history, development, and purpose of this beloved water sport. “Exploring the world’s mysteries from the deck of a small sailboat propelled by the wind under the influence of your own wits and skills, is the most magnificent of personal accomplishments. Amateur ocean sailing developed during the first half of the 20th century and reached its peak during the two decades after WWII.

Then, mass-marketed boats subtly undercut the bond between the sailor and his boat.

The sport lost its meaning.” Alfie’s book is sure to put some wind back into the sport’s sails. Roger C. Taylor, former president of International Marine Publishing Co., blurbs, “Alfie’s been out there and knows what is needed in a boat. Reading about his cruises and his philosophy of seamanship is not only vitally educational, but also most enjoyable.”

Alfie philosophically writes, “His sailboat is a sailor’s magic carpet, carrying him into the wilderness of the sea. F rom wilderness, he seeks to learn about home. His vessel needs to be in sympathy with the sea, else it blind him to the wisdom the wilderness offers.”

Nancy Thayer, New York Times best-selling author, is back in your beach bags and in our hearts with a new book—her 34th novel—on shelves May 4 entitled Family Reunion. Sounds juicy right? Imagine all of the drama that could come out of a family gathering on Nantucket Island. Nancy Thayer reflects, “Nantucket is abundant with drama. Gorgeous beaches, gorgeous summer people, gorgeous storms. And gorgeous year-rounders who love to read.”

Family Reunion is my #1 recommendation for a Mother’s Day gift this year, or at least I know what my mom is getting. Nancy tells me, “In Family Reunion, Eleanor, a widow with a large house on a cliff in ‘Sconset, invites Ari, her adored granddaughter, to stay with her during the summer while Ari and her disappointed parents recover from Ari’s broken engagement. Eleanor and Ari find themselves having much more fun than they’d anticipated, and the other members of the family—Eleanor’s bachelor son, Ari’s money-mad mother, Ari’s unfaithful father—complicate the family in unexpected ways.”

This novel, like all of Nancy’s novels, is about family and interpersonal relationships, something that was difficult to nurture during social distancing and the pandemic this past year. “Oddly, this pandemic brought me much closer to my family,” Nancy explained. “My sister Martha lives in Kansas City and we’ve never been so close, although Patrick Mahomes is part of the reason, too. We talked by phone every day. Martha and I, (not Mahomes.)

She set up a message cluster with my son, Josh and his husband, David. They live in Arizona, and we four had some absolutely hilarious times together. My daughter and her husband and Tommy knew Charley and I missed spending Christmas at their house, so last spring they started a tradition of Thursday night dinners, where we all Facetimed while we ate dinner, so Charley and I could have a sense of life as normal for them. My sister, to whom Family Reunion is dedicated, fell in love with the family’s new baby, Winnie, and sent them 1,500 live ladybugs and a ladybug house. But nothing over technology can replace a real live hug.”

Nancy is not only a prolific writer, she also is an avid reader. She recommends her friend Brenda Novak’s new book The Bookstore on the Beach for “a page-turner with a deep heart. A grandmother, mother, daughter combo, and a sparkling plot.”

Saturday, April 24 marks the official celebration of Independent Bookstore Day. Indie Bookstore Day is a one-day national party that takes place at indie bookstores across the country. Stop into Mitchell’s and Bookworks for free bookmarks, special merchandise, information on free audio books with Libro.fm, exclusive books, and much more. Independent bookstores, like all businesses, have struggled during this pandemic, but indie bookstores have been struggling long before COVID-19. Competition with Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other big chain stores as well as the advent of e-books and e-readers, makes it almost impossible for two small stores 30 miles out to sea to keep up. Bookstores are a cornerstone of any community. These bookstores are two of the only businesses that truly stay open year-round on Nantucket to be able to fulfill this responsibility. We believe books give people the chance to travel when they can’t leave their home, spend time with others (albeit in a book) when they can’t see people, and help them feel a little less alone and afraid during these unknown times.