Sandra Kring and Her Bright Ideas

Wisconsin author Sandra Kring’s new book A Life of Bright Ideas has just been published. It is a sequel to The Book of Bright Ideas with many of the same characters. Kring writes about small town life, family, and friendship in a down-to-earth, humorous, conversational tone. It is best to start with Book of Bright Ideas to understand the characters and so that the ending from the first book is not spoiled.

 The Book of Bright Ideas is set in the summer of 1961 when nine-year-old Winnalee Malone arrives with her unconventional sister Freeda in the tiny town of Dauber in northern Wisconsin. Winnalee is a lively free spirit who is fascinated with fairies and carries around an urn which she says contains the ashes of her dead mother. Nine-year-old Evelyn Mae Peters (Button) has lived in Dauber all her life with her parents and beloved Aunt Verdella and Uncle Rudy. Even though Winnalee is uninhibited and wild and Button is a quiet and shy “good girl”, the two soon become best friends. They have a “book of bright ideas” in which they write down words of wisdom to live by such as Bright Idea #86: “If you’re scared of dead people, then you’re probably scared of live people too. But you don’t got to be scared of either.” Then a secret concerning Winnalee, Freeda, and their home in Minnesota comes to light.

 A Life of Bright Ideas takes place in the summer of 1970. Button’s mother has died, and her father has not been able to cope with taking care of Button’s young brother Robert (Boo-hoo). Button has moved into her deceased grandmother’s house which is across the road from her Aunt Verdella and Uncle Rudy. It is the house that Freeda and Winnalee had lived in. Unexpectedly after 9 years, Winnalee comes back to Dauber, and she and Button resume their friendship. Winnalee is wild. She has been to Woodstock and tried drugs. Once again this unlikely pair become best friends, and once again a secret concerning Winnalee changes life for the Malone and Peters families.

 The cover of A Life of Bright Ideas quotes a Booklist review: “A novel about friendship and sisterhood for readers who like Fannie Flagg and Adriana Trigiani.” If you like books about friendship and family dynamics and you like books with a Wisconsin setting, then you should try these books by Sandra Kring. I enjoyed them!




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