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Thursday, Dec. 15, 2005 02:30 pm

Hometown talent under the tree

Books showcase Springfield history

Lost Survivor
By Thomas R. Jones Like Henry Fielding’s famous novel (whose hero shares a name with Lost Survivor’s author), this is a coming-of-age story. But Johnny Douglas isn’t wandering the English countryside. In his world, the jungles of Vietnam, there are no lace cuffs, only flak jackets and the desire that overrides every other, the desire to survive. Johnny — or JD, as his friends call him — is a 25-year-old black man from Springfield who serves as a medic in a recon group near Khe Sanh. He leaves his home, wife, and baby son on Stuart Street and returns a year later with baggage far heavier than the 100-pound pack he carried through combat. Though Jones drew on his own Vietnam experience, this taut page-turner is not a memoir. The book is not for the squeamish — but, then, neither was the war. It gives voice to veterans’ problems that for so many years have gone unacknowledged or ignored. Darkest Hour Press, paperback, 212 pp., $16.95; available at www.pitchblackbooks.com
At Home in the Park: Loving a Neighborhood Back to Life
By Lola L. Lucas I have lived in Springfield all my life, more than 50 years, and that fact gives me a bit of perspective when I say what a pleasure it has been to see the revitalization of the Enos Park neighborhood. In her new collection of short essays, originally written for the Enos Park Banner, the newsletter of the Enos Park Neighborhood Association, Lucas invites readers to experience what it feels like to live in a community where neighbors take the time to get to know each another. Lucas has an uncanny talent, similar to Garrison Keillor’s, for taking the particular and giving it universal appeal. Many of her columns are about Enos Park, but just as many focus on her personal life, which she generously shares with her readers. I don’t live in Enos Park, nor does Lucas anymore, but, thanks to her book, I have a pretty good idea of what it’s like to live in a “real” neighborhood. iUniverse Books, paperback, 166 pp., $14.95; available at www.iuniverse.com
Prairie Grass
Compiled by Bette Franke, Mary Green, and Patty Sullivan for the Iles House Foundation I knew that I would like this cookbook when I saw the first page, a complete list of weights and measures — not that I’ll ever need to know that a hectoliter is equivalent to 2.8375 bushels, but I often forget how many pints there are in a quart. One measure I don’t want to know is how many calories are contained in these 98 pages of mouthwatering recipes from the “heartland immigrant pioneer heritage.” In addition to special sections on German, Swedish, and French dishes, the cookbook offers appetizers, breads, main dishes, and, of course, sweets. Beautifully designed with drawings of prairie grasses and touches of calligraphy, this spiral-bound homage to our local culinary heritage will be a welcome addition to any kitchen. All proceeds go to the Iles House Foundation. Iles House Foundation, 98 pp., $10 plus $2.50 for postage; send checks, payable to the Iles House Foundation, to Bette Franke, 1013 E. Ash St., Springfield, 62703; or call 217-523-2656.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to the Legacy of Lincoln
By Pamela Oldham with Meredith Bean McMath Let’s ’fess up: We locals tend to take our 16th president for granted, and having visited his home and, now, his new museum doesn’t make us experts on the Great Emancipator. I have never liked the “Idiot’s Guide” name because it belies how much really good information the books in this series impart. Sure, we all know that Abe could split a rail, but who knew that he established the Department of Agriculture, or that the reflecting pool outside his monument in Washington, D.C., holds 7 million gallons of water? Reminiscent of a field guide but with a twist of trivia, this well-researched look at Lincoln will please any of the history buffs on your holiday shopping list. Alpha Books, paperback, 368 pp., $16.95; available at Barnes & Noble
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