"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Girl Rising...another nonfiction book review

Several years ago a documentary film was made called "Girl Rising." The producers of the film traveled around the world looking for girls who were eager for education but unable to go to school for a variety of reasons, usually economic. They eventually told the inspiring story of nine of these girls. Tanya Lee Stone, a nonfiction author watched the film with growing excitement. "I had a sense of the enormity of the topic." As she thought about this, she said her "book brain" clicked in. She wondered how many girls the producers interviewed before narrowing down to nine. She started thinking of ways to explain the obstacles to education and to highlight more stories untold my the documentary. With permission from the producers, Stone used their resources, added some of her own research, and wrote this nonfiction narrative inspired by the film.

Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time is divided into three parts: the stakes, the stories, and the solutions.

The stakes: In many impoverished families worldwide girls are not sent to school. If there is a little extra money, families are much more likely to send sons for an education. But if girls are educated:

  • with seven years of schooling, she is likely to delay marriage by 7 years, and will have 2.2 fewer children.
  • and delays child-bearing until after age 19, her babies are more likely to survive.
  • are much less likely to be forced into an early marriage. Girls, aged 10-14, are five times more likely to die in childbirth compared to women in their twenties.
  • have increased earning potential. For every extra year of primary school her earning potential goes up 10-20%.
  • they will make sure that their own children are educated.
"The act of educating girls is the single most powerful tool societies have to make the world a safer, healthier, and more functional place."

The stories: Every girl has a story. Yet often they are not valued as much as boys and not offered the same opportunities and their brothers. There are also lots of obstacles which keep girls out of the classroom: modern day slavery where girls are sold into servitude by their parents, sometimes are very young ages; early marriage; limited access to required fees due to poverty. Over twenty girls have their stories told in this book. All of them have had some sort of assistance to help them get to school.

The solutions: What can we, just regular people do to help? This is a very short section of the book but contains several powerful examples of solutions a few people have found to help. And there are success stories, too. Girls who have been educated, giving back to their communities as nurses, teachers, radio programmers. The book is inspiring and a call to action.

When I retired last June everyone asked me what I planned to do with my time and I didn't know. I knew what I didn't want to do, but I didn't know what I did want to do. I got very excited about this idea proposed in the solution section of this book. Is there something I can do to help make sure that girls around the world have the opportunities they deserve to be educated? The idea is taking hold and I am ready to start my own research process to discover how I can get involved. I want to start by looking into the UN's program, GirlUp; Room To ReadLet Girls Learn, an Obama initiative; and, of course, Girl Rising. Maybe I have found my new vocation. We'll see.

All quotes from----Girl Rising: Changing the World One Girl at a Time by Tanya Lee Stone. Wendy Lamb Books, New York. Print.

My rating: 5 stars


Friday, October 20, 2017

BSD 2018 Mock Printz list

It is with a bit of trepidation that I publish the Bethel School District Mock Printz list for 2018 because it still feels like a work in progress. We have settled on fifteen books so far, and are leaving ourselves open to adding additional books once we get a chance to read them. Our list is static. Once we make our selection we publish it for our students, purchase additional copies of each book, and finally discuss these books only during our workshop. 

This year, as a retired employee of the district, I am butting in on the process because I have loved it so much in the past. I've read most of the books but have deferred to the other librarians if a conflict over a book has arisen. The workshop where the students select their favorite books of the year will be held February 9th at the three participating schools. It is later than usual as the ALA Mid-Winter conference is very late this year.

B.S.D. 2018 Mock Printz list of books.
(In alphabetical order)

1. Allegedly by Tiffany Jackson
With four starred reviews we felt this book with the plot twists had a psychological thriller feel to it. 
We thought the students would enjoy debating it.

2. American Street by Ibi Zoboi
A five starred review book. I haven't read this one but I understand that it brings forward some important thoughts about immigration, family, and racial issues.

3. Bull by David Elliott
Another 5 starred review book. We loved the way that Elliott played with a variety of poetic forms as he retold the story of Theseus and the Minotaur. It is very clever. One student remarked that he could hear the rap in his head as he read some of the poems.

4. City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson
Weighing in at over 400 pages in length this book may not be a favorite of the student readers. But we felt that the mystery and the cultural elements, it is set in Kenya, made this four starred review book worthy of our nod.

5. Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Lantham
Another book which I haven't read yet. The librarian that pushed for it did so on the strength of the historical aspects of the story. 3 starred reviews.

6. The Fashion Committee by Susan Juby
Finally a YA book which doesn't have a romantic aspect to it. All of us thought this book was worthy of consideration due to the strong writing and character development. Another book with three starred reviews. (BTW- We are all in agreement---the cover is unfortunate)

A genre-less book: historical, humorous, LGBT. This was a great favorite of ours and hope our teen readers agree. With four starred reviews, others agree with us.

8. Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart
This is one title I fought for. The story unfolds in backwards time. Another psychological thriller. 4 starred reviews.

9. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
With six or eight (depending what reviewers to count) starred reviews this is not only our favorite but everyone else's, it would seem plus is in an important book. We want to encourage all students to read it.

10. Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson
Another genre-defying book. Is it historical fiction or Sci-Fi. We all liked the historical aspects better than the futuristic bits. 5 starred reviews.

11. The Pearl Thief by Elizabeth Wein
We are wondering if this book may be the sleeper this year. A fabulous book with tons of starred reviews (5) yet it seems like no one is gushing about it as much as it deserves. Wein is an amazing writer and I am over-the-moon about this book. It is a prequel to the award-winning Code Name Verity, but it does stand alone.

12. The Spill Zone by Scott Westerfeld
OK. Maybe not really award-winning stuff but a fun graphic novel, the first of a series by the master Scott Westerfeld. Wonderful Sci-Fi with fun illustrations. (4 stars)

13. Thick as Thieves by Megan Whelan Turner
None of us have read Turner's Queen of Attolia series, of which this book is the 5th, but it also stands alone and we all enjoyed it. Good fantasy takes the reader into its world and lets them move around a bit. This book does this in spades. We are concerned that the it may be targeted at bit lower reading level than for our high school readers but decided to let it in. (4 stars)

14. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
We just finished reading this latest book by a teen-favorite author and LOVED it. It has at least three starred reviews. Not bad for just being published last week.

15. An Uninterrupted View of the Sky by Melanie Crowder
Another book that I pushed. Crowder includes poetry into her prose, which I adore. This story is based on real events set in Bolivia in the 1990s. We want our students to be good global citizens. (3 stars)

A possible additional book: 

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds.
None of us have read it yet. But once one of us does, we will consider it for the list. With five starred reviews, we expect to like it. (5 stars)

Books we seriously considered but decided to leave off the list:

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
We've included her last two books on our past Mock Printz lists and the students didn't get too excited about them. This one seemed like a slow-starter so we left it off the list without any of us actually reading the whole book. Bad us. (5 starred reviews)

Vincent and Theo by Deborah Heiligman
I lost the debate on this one. I really like this biography of the Van Gogh brothers. Others felt its was too long for general teen appeal. I bet this one gets attention from the RealCommittee, though, or at least a good hard look. (6 starred reviews)

You Bring the Distant Near by Mitaki Perkins
The book crammed a lot into one volume: multi-generational immigrants, racial issues, American culture. It is solid book, just not whiz-bang. So we left it off the list. (4 stars)

Note: When I refer to starred reviews I am referring to stars awarded by trade publications: Booklist, Horn Book, Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books; Kirkus Reviews, Publisher's Weekly, and School Library Journal. 

I have hyperlinked titles of the books on the list reviewed by me.

What are your favorite YA titles published in 2017? 
Do you have any favorite books which you hope will win an award this year?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Friday Quotes: Turtles All the Way Down

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

Book Beginning:
At the time I first realized I might be fictional, my weekdays were spent at a publicly funded institution on the North side of Indianapolis called White River High School, where I was required to eat lunch at a particular time---between 12:37 PM and 1:14 PM---by forces so much larger than myself that I couldn't even begin to identify them.
Friday 56: (not sure what page this quote is from because I listened to the audiobook):
It’s a weird phrase in English, in love, like it’s a sea you drown in or a town you live in. You don’t get to be in anything else—in friendship or in anger or in hope. All you can be in is love.
Comment: I have been a John Green fan since I read his first book Looking for Alaska. He is so literate and adds so many quotes and thoughts from literature, this time there is is a lot of Shakespeare included, that I feel refreshed or renewed just reading his books. This book has a very serious topic, though, mental illness and its treatment, hence the first quote where Aza starts thinking of herself as fictional.  It is very well done.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

TTT: Books which mention yummy-sounding books

Top Ten Tuesday: Books which mention yummy-sounding foods.

1. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel---this magical realism novel is chalk-full of recipes since the main character is forced to make the wedding feast for the man she loves as he marries her sister.

2. Harry Potter novels by JK Rowling---though not expressly about food there are many, many references to fun-sounding foods like pumpkin punch, butterbeer, chocolate frogs, and Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans.

3. Fried-Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg---the cafe cooks up all kinds of delicious-sounding food (if you don't think too much about the BBQ). I make fried green tomatoes because of this book.

4. Eat Cake by Jeanne Ray---we read this book for book club years ago and it ignited our imagination about cake, and the value of comfort-foods.

5. Chocolat by Joanne Harris---the book is very much about food, especially chocolate. One can't read the book without drooling.

6. Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber---the main character sets up a cafe to cook up food from her homeland, Lebanon. The food is described in mouth-watering ways.

7. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh---a retelling of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, the king and his bride (the story-teller) eat luscious food prepared with care fore them.

8. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs by Ron and Judi Barrett---Okay, the food goes crazy, but doesn't this children's book make you want pancakes, meatballs, even Gorgonzola cheese?

9. Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss---the most famous food book? I loved this as a child.

10. I realized, as I wrote this, that I can't remember most books which mention good-sounding food. this is very frustrating because I know I've read books which contained great foods. Sigh.

Do you have titles you remember mentions of food?

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Alexander Hamilton, compare and contrast reviews

This past week my daughter, who lives in New York, finally got to see the Broadway musical: Hamilton. She has entered the daily lottery for tickets since her arrival in the NYC last year and finally won the chance to buy two tickets. She and her roommate readjusted their schedules, headed into the city to see the show and loved it. This musical has done more for an interest in US history than just about anything before this time. Alexander Hamilton, the face on the 10 dollar bill, now has come alive in our minds and imaginations. Suddenly we are interested in what happened during those founding days of our country. We knew a little bit about George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Franklin, but not much else. Now we know a whole lot more...or at least those people lucky enough to see the musical know a whole lot more. A person who played a big role in those opening years of our country was Alexander Hamilton. In fact, without this man and his prolific writings we might not even have a country, or a country as we know it today.

While Carly and Jennifer were enjoying the musical, I was home in Washington State reading two different books about Alexander Hamilton. It was just a weird coincidence that we were doing something related to Hamilton at the same time. (Something tells me that Carly had more fun than me, though.) The two books I read were Alexander Hamilton: The Hero Who Helped Shape America by Teri Kanefield and Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough. Both books have been nominated for a possible Cybils award in the JH/SH Nonfiction category for which I am a judge. Since I read two books one right after the other they are a little muddled in my brain. Therefore I thought I'd do one of those school-y activities: a compare/contrast of the two books.

 Compare (Similarities):
  • Both books did a nice job outlining details of Hamilton's early life on St. Kitts/Nevis in the Caribbean. He and his younger brother were illegitimate, which was a much bigger deal in those days compared to today. His mother and father were not married. His father abandoned them and when his mother died, the boys were left on their own. Hamilton distinguished himself working in the office of one of the island's sugar traders. His first published work was an article about a hurricane which devastated the island.  Because of this and his strong work-ethic, Hamilton was offered a scholarship to go to school in New York. Hamilton was always concerned/self-conscious about his lowly beginnings.
  • Each author did a nice job making readers familiar with the time line of Hamilton's life and accomplishments from his early days in school where he finished his program in two years which would normally take a person four years; as a personal assistant to General George Washington during the Revolutionary War; as a prolific interpreter of the US Constitution, writing more than 50 essays compiled today in a document known as The Federalist Papers; his role as the first Secretary of the Treasury; and as a family man and well-regarded lawyer in New York.
  • Both told us about the duel with Aaron Burr which ended Hamilton's life.
  • The Hero Who Helped Shape America and Revolutionary were both very readable and interesting. History was brought to life in these two books.
  • Kanefield's book is marketed to middle grade students, grade 5-8. Brockenbrough's book is targeted at older readers, high school aged students and above.
  • Both books used old illustrations and maps, but Brockenbrough's book had many, many more of them than Kanefield's. I thought that was odd since the latter book is aimed at younger readers so one would think it would use more illustrations than the book designed for older readers.
  • A controversial aspect of Hamilton's life was his affair and attempted cover-up with a Mrs. Reynolds. This problem played a pivotal role in Hamilton's life. Kanefield did not mention it at all in her book for middle school students. Brockenbrough's book was full of it and the consequences that affair had on Hamilton and his reputation. It colored everything up to the end. Can't middle school kids handle this kind of information?
  • Though both books covered the life-ending duel, only in Brockenbrough's book do we learn about why Hamilton would agree to the duel, especially since it was illegal. His motivations to be thought of as an honorable man colored all his decisions.
  • The Hero Who Helped Shape America is 208 pages long; Revolutionary is 372 pages long. Though much longer, the second book has much better end-notes, bibliography, and appendixes on a variety of related topics. These are helpful tools for prospective researchers.
  • Oddly, Brockenbrough's book, Revolutionary, is printed using brown ink. I wonder if the publisher thought that color ink would make readers feel like they were reading an old document. Also, irritatingly, the book did not give attributions to most of the artists of the illustrations. There was a tiny, little note of where most of the illustrations came from, but no particulars of the artists were given, with one or two exceptions. This really irritated me.
  • Kanefield's book about Hamilton wasn't as attractive or as inviting as the other. There were many pages full of text only and the quality of the paper and the illustrations were poor.
Overall: I wouldn't hesitate to recommend either of these books to teen readers. I liked Brockenbrough's book better, but that may be because I tend to think of high school researchers and I think her book is a better research tool. I learned a lot about this famous American from reading these books. Now if I could just score a few tickets to see the musical!

Carly outside the Hamilton theater on Broadway.
Until them I will have to satisfy myself with listening to YouTube videos like this one. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Three interconnected books

Last month I listened to the audiobook of H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald. I had my eyes on the book since 2015 when it was published because it kept showing up on everyone's reading lists and I hate to left out if there is a book everyone is reading. I knew little about the book other than it was a memoir and the obvious, it had something to do with hawks. As I started listening to it I was surprised at how unprepared I was for the subject. And, to be honest, how uninterested I was in any information about obtaining and training a hawk. Any other reader than me would have turned off the audiobook and said, "no, this is not for me", but I have this thing about finishing books and, in this case, I had purchased the book from Audible so I would finish it even if I wasn't interested. I'd paid for it.

As is often the case, things aren't always what they appear in the beginning. That was the case with H is for Hawk. Yes, it was a memoir about a woman who trained a hawk but it was also about a life of passion for birds of prey, about grief and life-changing events, and, surprisingly, it was about T.H. White, the author of The Once and Future King, the most famous Arthurian tale ever written.

I may not have been interested in training hawks but I was fascinated by what I learned about T.H. White and his life. Helen MacDonald remembered reading, as a child, a book written by T.H. White about training a hawk called the Goshawk. Even as a child she recognized that the steps White took to train his goshawk were all wrong. She would not repeat his training steps but she did reveal aspects of his tortured personality brought on by a ghastly childhood throughout her memoir. In Goshawk White said he had read a book on falconry when he ran across this phrase, "the bird reverted to a feral stage."  This phrase caught his imagination. He wrote later, ''A longing came to my mind that I should be able to do this myself. The word 'feral' has a kind of magical potency which allied itself to two other words, 'ferocious' and 'free.' ''  This led White to obtain his own goshawk to train and I think it also led to an idea about a person becoming an animal, ferocious and free. That concept was used later when he wrote The Sword in the Stone, his prequel to The Once and Future King. In that tale, the young protagonist, Wart (King Arthur), is turned into different creatures by Merlin so that he can learn the lessons of life. Among those creatures Wart is turned into a bird of prey who has to contend with a much bigger more aggressive goshawk.

As I listened to H is for Hawk it dawned on me that I have never read anything by T.H. White. I was familiar with The Sword in the Stone because of the Disney animated movie made in 1963 and his further Arthurian tale in the movie Camelot (1967), which I loved. I own an old copy of The Once and Future King so I set to work reading it immediately. But the reading was slowed by the size (small) of the font, so I got a copy of the The Sword in the Stone from the library and have been plodding through it since then. I wouldn't say it was my favorite book. One friend, remarking on my reading choice, told me she read it as a child and laughed her way through the book. I think I gaped at her. Is the book funny? Not until today, as I was nearing the end of it did I find a few passages that struck me as funny. But I have long known that humor is very much glued to a time period. What was funny yesteryear isn't as funny today. I was also struck by how difficult I found the text to be. Did kids really read it and enjoy it. Another thing that has gone by the wayside---kids wanting/choosing to read books which are difficult. Honestly, I would have done better if this book had been the audiobook I listened to.

That being said, I found a delightful quote near the end of the book. Merlin is preparing Wart for another lesson, this one as a badger and he tells Wart that this will be the last time he will change him into another animal. He goes on to say,

The best thing for disturbances of the spirit is to learn. That is the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and trembling in your anatomies, you may lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love and lose your moneys to a monster, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or know your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then--to learn. Learn why the world wags and what wags it. That is the only thing which the poor mind can never exhaust, never alienate, never be tortured by, never fear or distrust, and never dream of regretting.”
Sometimes a great quote makes reading a whole, challenging book worth it!

The third connected book I read this week is titled Yvain by M.T. Anderson. It is not about hawking, though there is a lovely illustration of bird of prey wearing its little mask in it. It is not about T.H. White. It is a graphic novel of a retelling of the Yvain, knight of the Lion, another Arthurian tale. This epic poem was probably written in 1170 by Chr├ętien de Troyes about the same time the Lancelot tale was written. This retelling by M.T. Anderson, beautifully illustrated by Andrea Offermann, was just published this year. I am fairly sure that this tale is not nearly as well-known as the Merlin/King Arthur/Lancelot tales, though I think today's generation may not be very familiar with any of these tales. It is a pity, really. Anyway, Sir Yvain sets out from Arthur's court on his personal quest. Along the way he encounters all kinds of challenges and falls in love. But he is immature and does not fulfill a promise which causes his love to spurn him. In order to win back her love he goes out and finds ways to save many more people and matures within himself. The reader, however, is not quite sure if there is true love awaiting him in the end.

So there you have it. One month. Three books. Connected.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Salon, October 8, 2017

Depoe Bay, Oregon. September 2015. The world's smallest navigable harbor.
Weather: Fall-like, our backyard is littered with leaves from our Mountain Ash tree. Friday was an incredibly windy day.

Daniel Ellsberg: I attended a lecture at the University of Puget Sound on Thursday evening with my friend, Jan. We had hoped to hear him talk about his decision to release the papers, which became known as the Pentagon Papers, and led to end of the Vietnam War. Ellsberg, 86, had other stuff on his mind. He spent nearly the whole evening talking about the H-bomb and the horrible, terrifying impact it will have on the whole world if we engage in a nuclear war. Jan and I sat in stunned silence. Our President is so unstable it is very possible that he thinks a nuclear war with North Korea is a good idea. God help us all.

60 for my 60th: I am nearing the end of my challenge to connect with 60 friends for my 60th year. I will count my evening spent with Jan, I'm sure she won't mind. Thanks for going with me, Jan. As horrifying was the information we learned, I did enjoy the time spent with you! Friday, I spent nearly three hours with a long-time friend and the sister of my best friend from Corvallis, Julie. Julie and I have so much in common so we had lots to talk about. Thanks for the coffee and the delicious banana brownies! Tomorrow I head to Port Hadlock, about two hours from here, to visit a friend, Mary Jo, from high school days. I am really looking forward to seeing her. Thank you, also, Sharon. Even though we've already had our 60 for 60th moment, I sure enjoyed the wine, cheese, and conversation.

Grandson: I only visited with my grandson one day this week and he has already grown so much. If I manage to stay away another week (unlikely) we will be practically grown up when I see him next!

Faith in Action: This is the week our church members participate in any of twelve charity efforts instead of going to church, we are being The church in our community. Don spent yesterday building furniture NW Furniture Bank for an organization that makes furniture available for people coming off of homelessness who have nothing. I spent the day hunched over my old sewing machine making items which will be sent to Days for Girls, an organization which makes reusable hygiene products for girls in Africa where taboos don't allow women to properly care for themselves during their menstrual cycles. I am not a very accomplished seamstress but I was able to make a portion of the little bags which are used to hold all the component pieces given to the girls. See Days for Girls website for more information.

Cybils Judging: I started reading books for my judging job of MS/HS Nonfiction titles this week.
  • The Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg. Interesting compilation of research of our relationship with dogs. Well-written, and wonderful color photographs make this attractive to teen readers. Click the hyperlink for my review.
  • Alexander Hamilton: The Making of America by Teri Kanefield. The target audience is middle grade readers. Chalk-full of interesting information about this famous American, the first Secretary of the Treasury and the prime author of the Federalist Papers. Though well-done, the book is short on illustrations or photos. It is therefore not very visually-appealing.
  • Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough.  73% complete. It has been an interesting contrast reading the two books right next to the other in time. This book is filled with illustrations from historical documents and though it is over 100 pages longer, it is more readable that the first book I read. It also has a tremendous and helpful epilogue. The target audience for this book is high school students.
The only other book I finished this week was a reread of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. The book absolutely cracks me up and I loved the audiobook read by Stephen Fry. What a talent! This time I became aware of quite a few quotes that made me think of President Trump...and not in a good way.
“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.”  (Made me think about Trump's comments about Puerto Rico being in the middle of a big ocean.)
It is a well known fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. (This quote doesn't need an explanation.Ha!) 
Currently reading: 
  • Alexander Hamilton: Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough. See note above. (Print, 73%)
  • The Beatles: All Our Yesterdays by Jason Quinn. Graphic biography. (Print, 27%)
  • The Sword in the Stone by T.H. White. Plodding along. (Print, 73%)
  • Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart. YA psychological thriller. (Audio CDs, 50%)
  • You Bring the Distant Near by Mitali Perkins. Historical, cultural YA. (E-Audio, 20%)

Books in the wings: I have four books in a pile right next to me waiting for their turn, and six on hold at the library waiting for me to pick up. It is obvious that retirement as a librarian does not mean retiring from reading for me.

Don’t Panic.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Friday Quotes: Alexander Hamilton Revolutionary

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: Alexander Hamilton Revolutionary by Martha Brockenbrough

Book Beginning:
Even if you've had the good luck to hold a crisp $10 bill, you've probably never studied the portrait on it or thought much about the man it depicts. HAMILTON, the bill says.
Friday 56:
His courage and drive made him a standout soldier, noticed by many.
Comment: I have been accepted as a judge for The Cybils, evaluating MS/HS Nonfiction titles. (The Cybils are book awards given out yearly by book bloggers.) This book about Alexander Hamilton is one of many nonfiction books I hope to read between now and the end of December in a quest to find the best nonfiction for teens published in 2017. This book, written by Martha Brockenbrough, promises to be a good one, though I am guessing that teens will deem it a bit long at 372 pages. One thing I have noticed, which I think is odd, the print is brown (not the customary black) I suppose that was a publishing decision designed to make it seem old. I'm learning a lot about the early days of our republic and about a man who played an important tole in getting things rolling, Alexander Hamilton. I don't know if the book is a winner, but it is certainly well-written.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg

In 1994 a discovery was made in a cave in Southern France of  fossilized footprints of a prehistoric young boy. Alongside these prints are the prints of a large dog. Evidence points to the dog being a companion to the boy. The astonishing thing about these prints is that they are dated to have been made way before scientists thought that man had domesticated wolves, making them into companions/pets. This set the scientific community on its head and started a flurry of experiments and research projects about man's best friend.  Surprisingly up to that point little research had been on dogs. I guess familiarity indeed  does breed contempt (in terms of research.)

Kay Frydenberg in her aptly named book A Dog in the Cave pulls together all kinds of research from paleontology, biology, and the social sciences on dogs and their relationship to humans. The book is fascinating.

Here are just a few of my takeaways:

  • All dogs descended from wolves, but domesticated wolves are not dogs. Through evolutionary processes they have changed to the wonderful array of creatures we call our best friend. In a recent study in Russia on foxes, a researcher wanted to see what would happen if he mated foxes based only on their "tameness". It took only twenty generations for these foxes to already start taking on very dog-like characteristics, physically and socially. 
  • It is quite possible that dogs were what distinguished Homo Sapiens from Neanderthal man. There is early fossil evidence that Homo Sapiens had dogs but not neanderthal man even though they existed at the same time...and we know what happened to him---he and his kind are extinct. Could dogs have made the difference in the dominance of Homo Sapiens? Researchers think the answer is yes.
  • One fascinating difference between wolves and dogs is that the former makes eye contact with humans, wolves don't or won't. Because of this dogs can infer things just from a look. I think that people anthropomorphize their dogs because of this. They think that their dogs think like a human because they make eye contact. 
These are just a few bits of information I learned from this book. It is chalk full of information.

The target audiences for this book are young adults. It is written in a clear and easy-to-read fashion, yet, and I really appreciated this, it doesn't dumb-down its language or assume that the reader is stupid or unsophisticated. I am not sure what teenagers will read this book but I am sure that some dog lovers will find their way to it and then will learn a whole lot they never knew before.

One quibble I have is the way the book was put together with the little sub-chapters. They are short, four or five pages long, little asides on particular topics. Each chapter had one of these "inserts" within the pages. Sometimes they were inserted right in the middle of some discussion topic, other times they were inserted in the back of the chapter. When they were inserted in the midst of the topic, it broke the flow of the reading and became confusing. I found myself stuffing my thumb into the pages to mark my spot so I could finish reading about the concept before going back and reading the insert. I am positive this will be a point of confusion for young readers. Once I worked out a method for dealing with them, I was fine, but I couldn't help but wonder why publishers do that sort of organization of extra topics.

I do think this book is worthy of a spot on all library shelves, especially those who have a lot of pet lovers and those interested in animal research. The book is nicely produced with lots of color photographs which add to its appeal and readability and there is a nice index and endnotes. That said I still honestly think that more adults will enjoy this book compared to its target teen audience. I know I did.

Frydenborg, Kay. A Dog in the Cave: the Wolves Who Made Us Human. Houghton Mifflin, 2017. Print.

Source: school library.
Pages read: all, 246. 
Rating: 4.5 stars

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

My Beatlemania... 50 years late. Early memories.

Let me catch you up on why I am going through a Beatlemania phase in my life fifty years after the Fab Four were popular with the rest of the world. In May Sirius Radio opened up a Beatles channel and I've been listening to it every time I am in the car. Their music just sweeps over me and reminds me of so much of my childhood, listening to it is like walking down a flower-strewn pathway of memories. The music has led me to books, of course, and to videos and movies. I have been immersing myself in everything Beatles for the past five months and my appetite seems insatiable. I keep thinking that this Beatlemania-phase will pass. But it has not subsided one bit since its inception in May.

Come with me on a yellow submarine full of Beatles memories from my point of view.
Poster similar to one my best
friend's sister has posted in their

Early Memories
I was born in 1957. The Beatles formed up their group in 1960. Obviously I was too young to follow them at the beginning of their career. But you would be surprised how young I was when I became a fan. My first memory of The Beatles involved my best friend Kay and a poster her older sisters or brother had. Kay and I would stand in front of the poster and talk about which one of the Fab Four we liked best. Kay was a Lennon girl, I was partial to McCartney. We would pretend that we were married to our favorite guy and then play house. I'm guessing that this was in 1963 or 1964, making us six or seven. Pretty young for a music fans, huh? Around that time I remember walking around singing the song "I Want to Hold Your Hand". In fact, it may have been the only Beatles song I knew at the time.

Another memory around that same time involved another neighbor. I was on the front porch of Scott's (another friend) house when I learned that his sister Kathy, who was a teenager at the time, had scored some tickets to The Beatles concert in Portland (1965.) I was so jealous. I loved them so much and I thought it would be dreamy to see them in person. I don't remember any follow-up (Hey, I was a little kid!) so I don't know what the experience was like for her.

Fast forward a few years. My parents were missionaries and had moved us to Africa. For Christmas 1967 my aunt sent me a REVOLVER album. It was the first album of my very own. Some of the songs like "Eleanor Rigby",  "Here, There, Everywhere", and "Yellow Submarine" were just seared into my brain while others like "Dr. Robert" I don't recognize at all. It was harder in those days to do than today, but I may have been skipping over certain songs in favor of others by picking up and setting down the needle on certain songs.

While we still lived in Africa, my sister and I obtained a coveted copy of the Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album. I don't remember specifically how we got it since neither of us had any money and our parents never bought stuff like that. I loved every song on it and can probably still sing every single one of them by memory. I was 10 years old when it was published, my sister wasn't quite 12. The Beatles had two young fans in us.

In 1968 The Beatles released the longest single to top the music charts, "Hey Jude". It was over seven minutes long. I was glad for
the length. I would put the record on the player and rush into the kitchen to wash the dishes to "Hey Jude". I would attempt to wash, rinse, and scald the dishes in seven minutes and finish up before the song ended. My whole family remembers this silly competition I would run with myself, but I bet my mom was actually laughing into her sleeves about it because I got the dishes done really fast instead of usual slow-poke, feet-dragging technique.

We got home from Africa during the summer of 1969 in time for Abbey Road to hit the market. I still didn't own very many albums and had no money to speak of but I had to have it and somehow managed to it. Every song is seared into my memory bank as if it were part of my DNA. Then in 1970 tragedy struck. I learned, along with the rest of the world, that The Beatles had broken up. I remember I was by myself at Payless, a variety store in my hometown not far from my house. I was in the record department looking at LET IT BE, thinking sad thoughts and wondering how I was ever going to come up with the money to buy their last album. I never did manage to get it, though I did get the 45 of the single "Let It Be" (with the weird, "You Know My Name" on the B-side.) I can still recall the sorrow I felt that day and for many days/weeks/months afterwards wondering how I would survive in a world without The Beatles singing in the background.

Peter Max, pop art
 Of course, we know today that that is not true, The Beatles didn't end when they broke up. The Beatles have been playing in the background of all our lives since they formed in 1960 and every day I hear, on Sirius radio, another Beatles song I've never heard before. Those four guys were prolific as a musical group and as single artists. My my. They have endured.

One more early memory, partially associated with The Beatles, is related to an artist whose art was included on two (I think) of their albums. The artist was Peter Max and we loved, loved, loved his pop art in the late 1960s, early 1970s. I remember trying to create art posters to look like his stuff.

Expect more Beatlemania from me as I report on the books I've been reading about the Beatles, and the videos I've been watching. "Yea", I bet you are thinking sarcastically, "just what I want to read, a blog post about a music group that broke up nearly fifty years ago." Tee-hee. I hope you'll indulge me.

What early memories do you have related to The Beatles?