"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=========

Monday, November 12, 2018

Nonfiction Review: We Say #NeverAgain

We Say #NeverAgain: Reporting by the Parkland Student Journalists is an important book for today's students and anyone interested in how to resist in a positive way. The editors of the book are Melissa Falkowski and Eric Garner, the MSD journalism and broadcasting teachers. Aside from an essay or two as introduction to this book project written by the teachers, all the other essays in the book are from student contributors.

On February 14, 2017 the unthinkable happened at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida. A shooter, familiar with the school, came into the building and killed seventeen students and staff and wounding many, many more. Within days of the tragedy, students had decided to do something to put an end to gun violence and started a movement called #NeverAgain. Many of the most impactful voices for this movement came from the school's journalism and broadcasting programs. These students have credited their teachers and the training they received at school for allowing them to think critically and communicate clearly---enabling them to launch a movement that has inspired a nation (Book blurb).

The book is divided into three parts: 1. Activism, 2. MSD Strong, 3. What Comes Next. It is not designed to give a play-by-play of the day's shooting and the aftermath. In fact, nothing was said in the whole book about the shooter, including his name. That was an intentional decision by the students. They did not want to give the shooter any attention, which he desired.

Part 1: Activism---from the Parkland March and Rally, the bus full of students lobbying the Florida Legislature in Tallahassee, to the Washington, D.C. March for Our Lives, student's essays touched on what it was like to be suddenly thrust into national limelight.

Many of the students talked about how their role as a student journalist at MSDHS helped them to deal with their grief and trauma because even as the tragedy was unfolding they recognized they would need to report on it, so they put on their journalist hat and took the victim hat off. Either way, all the students wished that the tragedy had never happened, even with all the national attention they received for their activism. Dalaney Tarr's opening sentence of her essay, "Pushed Into the Spotlight", echoed what many others reported. "To me, the worst thing anyone can say to hurt us is that we're 'just doing this for fame'...Every day, I long for the life I once lived" (21).

The students also had to deal with their disillusionment with politicians and certain media representatives. When the students met with their Florida senators Nelson and Rubio, they learned very quickly that constituent concerns may not top their priorities, as Ryan Deitsch, in his essay "Holding Politicians to Account", discovered.
"We researched the candidates and learned that Marco Rubio had taken over $600,000 from the NRA. I couldn't wait to ask him a question during our town hall: Why do we as children or young adults have to march on Washington, DC to save our lives? That is when I learned what political dancing was...when a politician is asked a question and he/she doesn't answer but hijacks the interview to get out their own agenda. This happened on stage right in front of me, and I was powerless to stop it" ( p. 77).
Many of the students showed wisdom beyond their years and expressed themselves very eloquently as exampled by Richard Doan in "Shining a Light on Gun Violence". He says, "I believe that this nation needs not a heated political argument, but a respectful discussion about guns and mental health. Each side must be willing to listen to the opinions of the other side" (87).

Many of the essays were about the experience of planning, putting on, and participating in The March For Our Lives. Some were speakers while others worked behind the scenes to coordinate the program while others were journalists in the field. One such person was Josh Riemer ("Photographing Revolution") a MSD photographer at the March. He talked not only about his craft but how being involved made him feel hope for the future:
"For the first time in a long time, I felt that we as a people, young and old, were making a difference. I felt that finally, after all these years, the gears of democracy and bureaucracy were grinding, and the world change for the better...Photos are how I express myself. These photos are my contribution to the revolution. A new day is coming, and until then, we're not going to stop documenting change, and we are certainly not going to stop to marching" (111).
 Suzanna Barna ("Bird's-Eye View") talked about how awful events were leading up to the march and how much anxiety she had leading up to the day until the "moment I realized that no matter what happened during the march lineup, the real hope lay with the crowds below me, full of individuals and groups from all over the country---not just Florida---who had decided that they'd had enough of gun violence and were ready to speak up" (118).

This sentiment was reiterated over and over by these student journalists. Nikhita Nookala ("Backstage at the March") was hopeful for the legacy of her school. "Not the shooting, not the blood in the hallways, but the march. The voices. The memories. Is this the legacy of my alma mater? I can only hope." (122)

Part 2: MSD Strong---Stories from the home front. Heroes on the day of the shooting. Celebrating the lives of the seventeen students who lost their lives to the shooter. Figuring out how to live in the face of deep grief and the new reality.

Seemingly small acts which are viewed as heroic when looked through the lens of the day. Teachers who kept doors open to catch as many students as possible. Students performing first aid. Students helping teachers who were clearly suffering and upset. One boy's act of shutting the classroom door saved the lives of nearly everyone in the room.

Carly Novell in her well-written essay "Balancing Guilt with Opportunities", talks about the opportunities she has had as a journalist juxtaposed to the horror of the event.
"When we were given the opportunity to write the book, I struggled with the idea---like every opportunity I have been given in the aftermath of my school's shooting---because seventeen people had to die for us to have this platform. It feels unfair that seventeen voices were taken away for ours to be amplified" (161).
Part 3: What Comes Next?---After the days following the event and the march when the media goes home and pays attention to other issues plaguing our country. What are these students left with? What will they do with their newly-found activism?

David Hogg, a student activist who received so much critism by conservatives, talks about the effect of social media in "Leveraging Social Media". He understands, better than many adults, how to use social media to effect change. He also was surprisingly thoughtful toward those who attacked him personally for his activism.
"And let me add a word of compassion to the people online who have said some shockingly hateful things to me and my friends. That hate didn't occur spontaneously on the day we decided to speak out in favor of sanity in our gun policies. That hate comes from a place of deep unhappiness, and even trauma...Hate loves company. And hate always goes in search of somebody to blame. That is the downside of social media---groups can organize like never before for positive change, but mobs can also form to do bad things. in any case, a human response to someone who shows you hatred can disarm the hate, and might even lead to actual understanding" (218).
David Hogg and several of his classmates embarked upon a tour across America to take their message of #NeverAgain and have seen firsthand how divided our country is. He has seen how our politicians and leaders exploit these differences rather than trying to work for positive change. Into this world, the students are moving, trying to make the world safer due to sane gun laws. ("Road to Change" 237).

The last essay of the book, "Independent Student-Run Newsrooms"  was written by the journalism teacher, Melissa Falkowski. She urges all high schools to support a vibrant, student-led journalism program. This article should be required reading for teachers, administrators, and school board members who constantly want to squash student efforts to write and produce news as they see it. Besides, shes says, "student newsrooms are the ultimate exercise in project-based learning" (244). That sentence alone should motivate school boards and administrators to give journalism more room in their schools!

I became aware of We Say #NeverAgain because it was a nominated book for the Cybils Award this year. (Are you paying attention MSD journalism and broadcasting students? Your book has been nominated for an award!) Though I was often aware that I was reading essays written by students, taken as a whole the book is very good. I am a fan of recognizing works which reflect what is happening in our country and in the news. No event of 2017 captured more of the country's heart and soul as the events at MSDHS on February 14, 2017 and the subsequent March for Our Lives and the #NeverAgain movement. For this reason, I will be recommending that this book move on to round two of the judging. Be mindful that I am one of many but I will do my best to make my voice be heard. Thank you for this book. It is an important piece of information for students of today. I have several friends who teach journalism and I will certainly recommend that they read it and share the contents with their students. Librarians, make sure you have at least one copy in your library and then suggest that your student journalists read it.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Friday Quotes and Nonfiction review: Votes for Women

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.

This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: Votes for Women: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling

Book Beginning: (Preface)---
Everyone expected Harry T. Burn to vote against the Nineteenth Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. The twenty-four-year-old first-term member of the Tennessee House of Representatives was from Niota, Tennessee, a conservative area in the mountains. It was August 1920. Burn was running for reelection in the fall, and most of his constituents were opposed to female suffrage. If he wanted to win, surely, they thought, he would vote against the bill. But Burn hadn't made up his mind.
Friday 56:
It was at the meeting there that Anthony organized a new group, the Woman's State Temperance Society. Anthony wrote hundreds of letters of invitation to prospective members, and almost single-handedly raised the money, hired the hall, and organized the speakers for the group's first meeting. One of the people she contacted was her new friend Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whom she recruited to serve as president and to write a speech for Anthony to present. "I will gladly do all in my power to aid you," Stanton responded. 
Review: Starting with Elizabeth Cady Stanton, whose father wished aloud that she was a boy, Votes for Women takes a deep dive into the lives of the suffragists and their struggles to eventually see to the passage of the 19th amendment to the US Constitution, securing the right for women to vote.
     It was a long struggle. When Stanton held the first meeting on women's rights in 1848 in Seneca Falls, New York, no one knew it would take 72 years to secure voting rights for women. Only one woman, Charlotte Woodward Pierce, who attended that first meeting was even alive in 1920 and she was too old and sick to vote. Along the way so many women dedicated their lives to the women's rights concept, which not only asked for the right to vote but also the right to own property, to attend college, to keep their own wages---not just hand them over to their husbands, and if they divorced, to keep their children.
     The path of suffrage was not a straight one. Most of the early advocates met because of their activities related to abolition or temperance. The Friday 56 quote talks about Susan B. Anthony's early work on temperance. She formed a women's temperance branch because she was not allowed to speak at the general meeting, even though she had so good ideas, because she was a woman. Just when things seemed to be going in the right direction, the Civil War broke out and the leaders of the suffrage movement decided to leave it alone as the country focused on more pressing needs. After the war, the woman were ready to pick up the cause again but now the issue of voting for black men came up and legislators didn't want the women to sink the men. Oddly, though Stanton and Anthony were good friends with Frederick Douglass, their talk about the vote for black men sounded very racist. It is such a common thing for factions to fall apart when one feels that the other is stepping on their toes.
     By the late 1800s other women had to step up to the leadership as the initial members were aging though Anthony continued to lobby Congress right up to her death in 1906. By the time that Alice Paul got involved with the legislative branch of the Women's Suffrage Organization in 1913, women were tired of waiting for their turn. Alice decided that they needed to be more active and more militant like their sisters in Great Britain. She organized marches and the Silent Sentinels---women holding banners in front of the White House with messages for the President . (Look at the cover photo, the Silent Sentinels stand in the background.) As these silent protests went on, the police started arresting the women. Several of the women, Paul included, were sent to a prison with such deplorable conditions that they went on a hunger strike. Paul asked to treated like a murderer on death row who had sanitary living conditions and good food to eat. After several weeks of this the President relented. He didn't want to have the death of any suffragists on his hands.
     This time when war came started (WWI), the women did not relent and eventually both the US House and the Senate passed the 19th Amendment in 1919. Now it was time for the states to act. It took another year for the ratification process to take place. It was hard work finding the states willing to sign on. They needed 35 states to ratify. When the vote passed the Tennessee Senate, the 35th state, the women needed the Tennessee House to vote yes, but their prospects didn't look good. On the first try the vote was a tie. Harry T. Burn had voted no (from the Book Beginnings quote.) But on the final vote, he switched his vote to a yes. What people didn't know at the time, his mother had written urging him to vote yes. The 19th amendment was finally ratified in 1920. Women could finally vote.
     Sometimes book reviews make books sound so boring, one would be crazy to want to read it. That is the case with this review. I know the book sounds boring but it is actually quite fascinating. I thought I knew a lot about the suffrage movement and about the key advocates, but I really had no idea. I learned so much and am in awe of the courageous women who fought for my right to vote. I highly recommend this book to you.
     In addition to the wonderful narrative nonfiction writing, author Winifred Conkling (with her suffragist-sounding name) has put together a very credible book to use for research. There is a timeline of events and individuals. There is a an exhaustive bibliography and helpful source notes. This book should be purchased for every high school and public library.


Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Nonfiction November Weekly Update, Oct. 29-Nov. 5th (U)

I had a good week reading nonfiction books, most as part of my Cybils Award judging assignment.

Books read:
  • Votes for Women: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling...an excellent book that shows the whole history of the Suffragists movement in the USA. I learned a lot and enjoyed it. Well done. Watch for my review tomorrow. Cybils.
  • 1968: Today's Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change edited by Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti...I was young in 1968 but I remember the year for all its upheaval. This is a great book by the way it is put together by various authors who experienced different things in their lives in 1968. Very well done. Review hyperlinked. Cybils
  • Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice by Veronica Chambers. Inspiring look at people who made a difference in their country or for other people. Review hyperlinked. Cybils.
  • The Soul for America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham. I wish I could get my book review up before the election tomorrow but I am sorry that will not happen. I loved this book about Presidents and the presidency. It felt important and healing at the same time. Audio.
  • Whale Quest: Working Together to Save Endangered Species by Karen Romano Young...interesting but not narrative nonfiction which I think disqualifies it for the Cybils.
  • The Space Race by Matthew Brenden Wood---an interesting book which could easily be used by a teacher working with middle grade students to teach about all aspects of the Cold War, especially the space program. I like the book a lot but don't consider it narrative nonfiction. Disqualified for the Cybils? We'll see.
  • Putting Peace First: Seven Commitments to Change the World by Eric Dawson---I think this book would world well as a guide to use in a middle school or high school leadership class to help the students work through steps to make the school a safer, healthier place for everyone. Production quality was pretty low and I'm not sure it would qualify as narrative nonfiction. Cybils.

Currently on my reading pile:
  • The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator Mary Shelley by Catherine Reef [2nd week; Cybils]
  • Blacklisted: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner [2nd week; Cybils]
  • Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage [2nd week; Cybils]
  • (Don't) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health edited by Kelly Jensen [2nd week; Cybils]
  • Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett Krosoczka [Graphic memoir; Mock Printz]
  • We Say #Never Again reporting by Parkland Student Journalists [1st week, Cybils]
  • Google It: A History of Google: How Two Students' Mission to Organize the Internet Changed the World by Anna Crowley Redding.[First week, Cybils]
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson---a young reader's edition of the much lauded adult book by the same title. [First week, Cybils]
I was out of town for the weekend so I am amazed I was almost able to read my goal of a Cybils book a day. It feels impossible to digest seven a week. Maybe I will just shoot for 5 Cybils book a week and pat myself on the back for that accomplishment.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Friday Quotes and Short Review: 1968

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.

This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: 1968: Today's Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change edited by Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti

Book Beginning, from first contribution in the form of a prose poem by Elizabeth Partridge---

Friday 56, from the essay "The Wrong Side of History" by Laban Carrick Hill

Review: I was a kid in 1968, just eleven years old. And my family didn't live in the States at the time. We lived in Africa where my dad was a missionary for three years, 1966-69. I, like Laban Hill, hadn't heard of Martin Luther King, Jr. but I remember the day he died very clearly because my parents were so distraught. In fact, it was his death that made me start paying attention, at least a little bit, to the politics at home in the USA. By 1969 when we were slated to come home, I was terrified. What would I be going home to? Fights in the streets? Assassinations here and there? Demonstrations and anger over Vietnam everywhere? I decided as a twelve-year-old kid that I'd rather stay in Africa and deal with the bugs than go home to the political mess that awaited us. But I was overruled and we returned home during the summer of 1969. We were in Norway, on our return trip, when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. My, my the world HAD changed a lot while we were "gone".

Now, with the perspective of age, I can really see what a pivotal year 1968 was.
[The year] grew more intense with each day. As thousands of Vietnamese and Americans were killed in war, students across four continents took over colleges and city streets. Assassins murdered Dr. King and Robert F. Kennedy. Demonstrators turned out in Prague and Chicago, and in Mexico City, young people and Olympic athletes protested. In those intense months, generations battled and the world wobbled on the edge of some vast change that was exhilarating one day and terrifying the next. (Book blurb)
The book is comprised of  fourteen essays and a long prose poem interspersed throughout the book by authors who usually write for young adults. Each essay is personal in nature in that the author remembers living through some event in 1968 and so was able to personalize on some level that which they researched and wrote about. All of the essays were not about what was happening in the USA in 1968 because it wasn't just a year of turmoil in one country but in many places around the globe. France, Czechoslovakia, China, and Mexico also experienced tumult in 1968. In fact the essays about these events were some of my favorites because I learned something as I read them. And because the essays were at least a bit personal in nature, one received information from a unique point of view, as the Friday 56 quote shows. Laban Carrick Hill talks about what it like living in a family of racists who were glad when Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed. Now that is not a point of view one often reads about in the history books. His immediate family, however, did come around to see the error of their views, so we was able to talk about that evolution, too.  

A few of my favorite essays weren't even about the Vietnam war or the Civil Rights movement, but about life in the late 1960s. Paul Fleischman remembers 1968 in his essay "Biker's Ed" as the year he took his first long bicycle trek with a friend leaving Santa Monica heading north to San Francisco or Vancouver, BC, points north. The trip ended when his friend's sleeping bag was stolen in Santa Barbara. He saw that event, not the stabbing of a concert-goer at a Rolling Stone concert by a Hell's Angel, as the beginning of the end of the 1960s culture. David Lubar's essay "Running with Sharp Schticks", about the comedy of the 1960s, is must reading if anyone wants to understand how much the world has changed since that time. And "Running Into History" by Jim Murphy reminded me about the 1968 Summer Olympics and how three brave men, two Americans and one Australian, attempted to make a statement about the unfair treatment of blacks in the world. All three were punished or ostracized for their efforts. Remind you of something today with the NFL?

In fact, this book is a nice reminder for us today. When one is embroiled in a world on the precipice of big change, one where everything is very unsettled, it is good to look back on another year where everything seemed to hang in the balance. We lived through 1968, we shall survive 2018, too.

The book is not only expertly written, it is also nicely sourced. It has notes about each of the authors who contributed to the project, source notes, and a limited bibliography for further research. Do I think that teenagers of today will flock to this book? Unlikely. But I hope that every library, both public and school, will make sure to have it available for those readers and researchers who are curious about what it was like in 1968, a truly pivotal year in world history.

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Nonfiction Review: Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice

It is a theme this year in YA/MG publishing of nonfiction to compile collections of essays/authors on topics related to resistance, hope, persistence, and mental illness or the books highlight particular people who have stood up and stood out to make a difference in this world. I know this is a theme because I have already read five of the books so far this year and I have another seven on my Cybils reading list. In my mind twelve out of 89 books makes up a theme.

At any rate, Resist by Veronica Chambers is an easy to read book targeted at younger teens or tweens highlighting the lives of 35 people who stood up and did something for the betterment of mankind or to draw attention to something that needed to be corrected. I suppose that the goal is for a teen reader to pick this book and decide that if these 35 people could do XYZ, they, too, should have the courage to do the same. Each section covers a very brief biography of the person and their accomplishment as viewed through the lens of the trials they had to endure along the way. At end of each section there is a bolded resist lesson. For example, the chapter on the Lalai Lama ends with, Resist Lesson---The People who want to do good are the real majority. Troublemakers make up just a handful of all the people in the world.

The book begins with an inspiring forward introduction by Senator Cory Booker. He tells the story of a young lawyer, Arthur Lessman, who was inspired to help the civil rights movement but couldn't afford to go down to the south to march and protest. Instead he stayed home in New Jersey and volunteered his services to assist the Fair Housing Council. Years later, because of his services, Booker's family was able to buy a home in an area which up to that point had not been open to black families. Because of Lessman, Booker was able to grow up in his beloved neighborhood which would not have happened without the Fair Housing Council's help.

I zoomed through this book, out of interest and because of it's easy to read format. It took me less than an hour to read. Many of the highlighted persons I was familiar with their stories, so I didn't need to linger long to get the point of what they did to make the world a better place. Younger readers may not be as familiar with many of the included persons. It started with Joan of Arc, Galileo, and Susan B. Anthony and included many names one expected to see---Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Oskar Schindler. And finished up with individuals who are still living like Rev. Dr. William Barber, the founders of Black Lives Matter, ending with a note from the activists from Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School about gun safety. I liked that the book had a historical and a current feel about it.

One hero, who I'd never heard about was Chinune Sugihara. He taught us that sometimes you break the rules to do what is right. He was a Japanese man living in Lithuania at the consulate at the time WWII broke out. When he learned about the atrocities concerning the Jews, he started writing visas for Jews who wanted out of the country. Even when Japan recalled him, he kept writing as many as her could, as fast as he could until he ran out of paper. He was later punished by his government for what he did but he learned later that his actions saved 6,000 Jews from the Nazis!

Inspiring stuff.

I liked the book, though I often felt that the five or six pages dedicated to each of the thirty-five people was far too few to really explain everything they did and stood for, but I had to think back to the target audience... young teens not cynical adults!

Look for this one at your nearby library. If they don't have it in their collection, encouraging them to get it.

You may only be one person, but you have the power to change the world.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Nonfiction November Starts Today---October 29-November 30

It almost seems like I am cheating by signing up for Nonfiction November since I am judging the JH/SH Nonfiction books for the Cybils Award right now through December. So far 89 books have been nominated and I should be reading a book a day (or more) to finish the list, but I am poking along. Today, however, is a new day and I already have a pile of books ready for reading and/or perusing. Judges are allowed to read enough of each book to make a judgement on it which is probably somewhere over 50 pages but more likely 100 pages. Other books beg to be finished and I set them aside for later or ask pardon from the other books in the queue and finish them right away.

Here are my upcoming titles, in no particular order:

  • Votes for Women: American Suffragists and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling
  • Nevertheless, We Persisted: 48 Voices of Defiance, Strength, and Courage
  • (Don't) Call Me Crazy: 33 Voices Start the Conversation About Mental Health edited by Kelly Jensen
  • 1968: Today's Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change edited by Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti
  • Blacklisted: Hollywood, the Cold War, and the First Amendment by Larry Dane Brimner
  • Resist: 35 Profiles of Ordinary People Who Rose Up Against Tyranny and Injustice by Veronica Chambers
  • The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein's Creator Mary Shelley by Catherine Reef
  • Whale Quest: Working Together to Save Endangered Species by Karen Romano Young
Stay tuned for my updates as I will be writing reviews of all the books.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Sunday Salon, October 28

Don and Bingley at the Oregon Coast. Chasing birds.
Weather: Raining. We had a lovely Saturday morning which allowed us to work in the yard for a few hours, then the clouds moved in and so did we.

Vote Forward: I've hosted two parties of friends willing to write letters to encourage unlikely voters to vote this midterm. This is not a partisan effort, just one that helps people recognize just how important voting is every election, not just during presidential elections. My message to these low-frequency voters: I vote every election because I want to influence the outcome. I care about healthcare, gun safety, and saving our environment. If I don't vote, then others' votes will determine the outcome. So far we've done 250 letters between the two parties and the others Don and I have written ourselves. Hoping for a good outcome on Nov. 6th.

Cybils: I am a judge again this year for the Cybils Awards for the JH/SH Nonfiction titles. As a first round judge I am expected to read as many of the nominated books as I can before December 31st. The only problem is that so far there are 89 nonfiction books nominated. I will give it an all-American try but I doubt I will be able to read more than 50 of them. (I know that is still a lot.) The good news is that I don't have to read every page of every book, but enough over 50 pages to be able to adequately judge the book. Right now I have a pile of eight of them sitting here and three waiting for me at the library. My weekly goal is to touch each of those books this week and move on to the next batch.

Ian: This past week Ian's parents were in Florida so he split his time between our house and his other grandparents' house. I loved having him with me so much. He is such a love. All day was a joy, even when he would get kind of clingy. Who could blame him? Being shuttled between two different homes and not knowing where his parents were.

Tulips: This past spring we made a trek up to the Skagit Valley, a few hours north of our home, to see the tulip fields. We hit the fields perfectly so most of the bulbs were in bloom. We decided to order several sets of 10 bulbs so we could have the beautiful color in our yard next spring. It seemed like a good idea at the time. But a month ago when the box of arrived from Tulip Town, it didn't seem so grand because we knew were going to have to plant them ourselves. Today, finally, we went out in the morning and spent several hours digging and planting. Bingley, our puppy, thought the holes (loosened dirt) were for him. We all were tired and dirty but we got the bulbs in the ground! Yay!

Oregon Coast:  we went to the coast for a night before driving in to Eugene for a Duck football game Oct. 12-13th. Bingley was with us and everything was his favorite---the sea foam, the birds, the shells, the other people on the beach, etc. The dog stayed with my Mom and Dad while we were at the game on Saturday. We are happy to report that the dog hasn't had any potty accidents for over a week.  We are hopeful that we are done with that phase.

Update on Dad: his health seems to be improving and I could really see improvement since the last time we were together in September. Mom has arranged for Visiting Angels to come in three times a week. Not sure they are doing much work, but at least she has a chance to go shopping, visiting, or taking a nap herself without leaving Dad alone.

Book Clubs: I hosted my SOTH book club this month where we discussed An Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett. It was an excellent meeting with a great discussion mainly focused on reading/readers, which we all do/are. My second club, RHS Gals, met this week and we consumed pumpkin bars before discussing An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. The author wanted to write a book about the impact that incarceration has on marriages and society in general. I wasn't a huge fan of the book but the discussion was excellent.

Books read in October:
  • Drama by Raina Telgemeier--- a graphic novel that I selected to read because of its placement on the ten most banned/challenged books of 2017. Print.
  • Sea Prayer by Khaled Hosseini---a children's book written in poetry. It is a father's prayer for safety for his child when they are escaping Syria via the Mediterranean Sea hoping to find safety on another shore. Very moving and sweet. Print.
  • Goodbye, Brecken by David Lupton---another children's book. This one is about the death of a beloved pet. Print.
  • Rebound by Kwame Alexander---the prequel to the author's award-winning book, The Crossover. It is also written in verse. Print.
  • The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett---click on the hyperlink for my review and discussion questions used for book club. Print.
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones---the writing was excellent but the story was very depressing and most of the characters were not likable. Audiobook.
  • Voices from the Second World War: Stories of War as Told to Children of Today by the editors of Candlewick---a Cybils JH nonfiction book. Lots of stories told by people who lived through some aspect of WWII. Honestly I felt that most of them were a little too superficial to make an impact on me but the idea is excellent. I didn't read the whole book. Print.
  • Proud: Living My American Dream by Ibthihaj Muhammad---a memoir by the first American Muslim woman to win a medal at the Olympics while wearing her hijab. Very inspiring. Another Cybils book. Print.
  • Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moments of Inspiration edited by Rose Brock--- some of my favorite YA authors share some incredible stories to give hope to teenagers who are struggling with issues related to mental heath, sexual identity, not knowing how to get started on dreams, LGBTQ, racism, political activism, etc. Another Cybils book. I liked this a lot. Print.
  • The Wisdom of Sundays: Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations by Oprah Winfrey---this is the companion audiobook to go with her book which highlights her video series. I was very inspired by the conversations she held with ten of her guests. Audiobook.
  • The Faithful Spy: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix---a graphic biographic of the German theologian who because a German Spy and helped plot Hitler's assassination. He was killed right before the end of WWII. Another
    Cybils book. Very well-done. Print.
  • And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness---a twist on the Moby Dick story from the point of view of warring whales. One is left with the feeling that war, all wars are futile and one is often fighting for some reason they don't know or understand. Print.
  • Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram---a coming-of-age story about a bullied boy who struggles with clinical depression who goes to Iran to meet his maternal grandparents the first time. The time spent in Iran is life-changing for him. I want to visit the city in Iran, Yazd, where the story was set. It sounds beautiful. Audiobook.
Currently reading:
  • Votes for Women: American Suffragist and the Battle for the Ballot by Winifred Conkling---a Cybils selection for the SH level. Excellent so far. 8% complete, print.
  • The Soul of America: The Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham---a nonfiction book about the presidency throughout history in America. Meacham is an excellent and authoritative writer. Very interesting and inspiring. 65% complete, audiobook.
After the events that happened this past week in our country: I say to the president:
Words Matter!

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Review: Hope Nation edited by Rose Brock

Hope Nation: YA Authors Share Personal Moment on Inspiration is one of those cool collections of essays and, in this case, one short story. Hidden within its cover is a personal message of hope for everyone who is struggling with something. Ha! How is that generalizing? The book blurb describes the book this way,
Hope is a decision... but it is a hard one to make---or even recognize---in the face of oppression, belittlement, alienation, and defeat. We all experience moments when we struggle to understand the state of the world, when we feel powerless and---in some cases---even hopeless. But in trying times, words have power. Some of today's most popular YA authors come together in this revealing, personal collection of essays, each a flame that offers light in the darkness. Together, just like us people, these hard-earned words of wisdom become even stronger when united.
Hope is the uniting theme of the collection of essays but each deals with different topics: reacting to the current political climate; disfigurement; self-esteem; LGBTQ issues; rejection; abuse; racism; and finding one's voice are all included. As with most collections of this type the writing isn't completely consistent. How could it be? And my interest or need to hear words of hope of the various topics varied. But overall the whole was very good and I didn't find myself feeling impatient to move on or be done with the book, as has happened before when I "got" to the purpose and message and didn't need to be beat over the head with it.

My two favorites from the collection happened to be the first two. The first was a short story written by David Levithan, an author I am fairly familiar with. He attended the Women's March in January after the inauguration of Donald Trump. He, like I, was hurting but found hope and peace in the process of marching with others. His short story was written after he had time to reflect on the day's events after the march. There was a lot to love in the story but here is one of my favorite lines:
"We strangers are all smiling at one another. We are so much louder together than we are on our own. I knew I was here to protest; I knew I was here to unite. But what I didn't know was that I was here to remember why I am so in love with this world" (28).
My second favorite essay was written by Libba Bray, another favorite author. If you haven't read anything by her most of her books are very funny or contain a lot of humor mixed in with the poignant bits. What I didn't know about her was she was in a serious, nearly life-threatening, disfiguring accident right out of high school. She had a really hard time with her recovery and learning to love herself again. Writing/journeling saved her. What a powerful message to teens struggling with self-acceptance. The last line, repeated three times, "You are not alone" (58).

Some other gems were found dispersed throughout the other essays. Jeff Zentner says he is hopeful about the future because of "book people." He goes on to describe that Book People have empathy brought about by reading about other people, people different than self. He goes on to encourage Book People to stand up for the rights of others when they see discrimination happening. James Dashner tells teens, "If life is rotten, then go and find those people who will accept you and love you and join your quest to change the world. I promise you they are out there" (268). Both of these authors are speaking directly to bookish students. These students often feel like misfits in their high schools. But here they are reminding these teens that there are like-minded folks who will understand them and LIKE them. Once again very hopeful words.

All together twenty-four authors have messages of hope to share with the readers of this book. It is a very good collection and I hope it finds its way into the hands of the readers who need it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

TTT: Top Literary Heroes/Heroines

Top Ten Tuesday: Today's topic is supposed to best top literary villains, but I've created that list twice before. (See list here.)

So I am opting to list some of my favorite literary heroes and heroines.

1. Atticus Finch---Scout's father in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I wish I could be as ethical as Atticus and as good a parent.

2.Katniss Everdean---She is just so kick-ass in The Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.

3. Celie---She is the original #MeToo character. She stands up for herself and brings others along with her in The Color Purple by Toni Morrison Alice Walker.

4. Jean Valjean---imprisoned for stealing bread to feed his sibling who is starving. He spends his whole life making up for any misdeeds in Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.

5. Harry Potter/Hermione Granger/Ron Weasley---one couldn't have been the hero without the others. What a team in The Harry Potter books by JK Rowling.

6. Charlotte---She may be a spider but she saves Wilbur's life in Charlotte's Web by EB White

7. Sabriel---She becomes the Abhorsen after the death of her father and she saves not only her kingdom but a neighboring one as well. After Sabriel come Lireal who picks up where the latter leaves off. Both are wonderful literaary heroines from the Abhorsen Trilogy (which ended up with five books in it!) by Garth Nix. If you aren't familiar with this series, what are you waiting for?

8. Elinor Dashwood---I wouldn't be much of a Jane Austen fan if I didn't honor a few of her heroes and heroines. Elinor really saves her family from despair and abject poverty after the death of her father. She is very selfless. (From Sense and Sensibility.)

9. Henry Tilney---is a lesser known hero from Northanger Abbey. Tilney is an all-around good guy who is willing to stand up to his father when the elder treats Catherine Moreland abominably.

10. Eragon and his dragon, Saphira---together they save Alaga√ęsia and make the land safe for dragons and riders again. (Inheritance series by Christopher Paolini.)

11. Aslan---the huge lion who saves all Narnia from the White Witch. (Chronicles of Nania series by CS Lewis.)

Monday, October 22, 2018

The Faithful Spy: A True Story: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler

Some of you may not be aware that my father is a Methodist minister. I am not only a Christian, but one of those dreaded "preacher's kids" you've heard so much about. I tell you this as a sort of confession because I thought I knew about Dietrich Bonhoeffer because of my upbringing but I really had no idea what he did until I read this book, The Faithful Spy: A True Story: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler by John Hendrix. As I was growing up I would hear about Bonhoeffer in sentences similar to those I'd hear about Martin Luther, or John Wesley, or Calvin Knox. I just figured he was just another theologian who had insightful things to say about a life in Christ. Later I came to understand that he also was a published author and that his books were very deep and theological. I attempted to read his The Cost of Discipleship once but gave up quite quickly. I thought it was his theology that got him in trouble with the Nazis. I had no idea he was killed by them, just weeks before the end of the war, because he was a spy conspiring with others to assassinate Hitler!

So The Faithful Spy: A True Story: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Plot to Kill Hitler cleared up my misconceptions of the famous German theologian and it delivered the information in a remarkable way---through a graphic (illustrated) biography written and illustrated by John Hendrix. however, unlike most graphic novels, this book is quite heavy in its text to illustration quotient. The illustrations were usually to make a point about what the text said, not to replace the text. And most speech wasn't delivered in text bubbles. I say this because it was decided that this book should be judged for a potential Cybils award in the JH/SH nonfiction category, not the graphic novel category.

This page is more illustrated than most. Before Bonhoeffer became involved as a double agent spy, he tried to sway the German people to beware of Hitler and his special brand of hatred. His broadcast was cut off mid-program, probably by the Nazis. The bottom right corner shows Hitler delivering his hate-filled speeches, getting people all fired up with anger through his rhetoric and delivery method.

On this page, more typical for the book, one big illustration makes two points about Hitler (He is an Omnipresent dictator and he liked to think of himself as a wolf, even encouraging others to call him Herr Wolf.)

On this page we find Dietrich and other conspirators waiting for news that the plane Hitler was on blew up from the bomb they placed on it. It didn't. Plot #1 was a dud.

So what is new about this book compared to others about Dietrich Bonhoeffer except that it was illustrated? Well, for one thing it is marketed to children and teens, not adults. As I read it I kept thinking that older teens or adults would get more out of it (or actually read it) compared to younger teens or children since it is so text-rich and full of complex issues. Elizabeth Bird, reviewing the book for School Library Journal, has this to say about that argument:
No doubt you will hear people argue about its age range. They will say that the book should never have been marketed to children and that due to the complexity of the ideas inside, to say nothing of the presence of Hitler himself, this should be purchased only for young adult collections. But to say that denies that children and middle-schoolers are capable of reading, comprehending, and processing moral complexity. Let’s put it another way. Few historical works for children will proffer the idea that all German Christians during WWII weren’t dyed-in-the-wool Nazis. In an era when nationalism is on the rise in countries across the globe, it is a great good to teach kids about a time when blind and displaced loyalty to a country led to unspeakable evil. Hendrix doesn’t have to spell out the parallels to the times in which we live. Have faith in the kids. They’re going to be able to get there on their own. The author is just laying the facts out before them. He trusts their intelligence. We, the adults, would be wise to do the same.
 We should trust kids to "get it": to read and enjoy the book on one level, and to understand the meaning for today's children on another level. In the author's notes, Hendix said he wanted to do this book because he is afraid we have not all been permanently vaccinated against tyrants. He wonders, "how a majestic nation can willingly become a puppet for evil... and how quickly a good and noble people can become infatuated with hated." This is not just an issue for Germany of the past. Hendrix, a Christian himself, challenges his readers, no matter how young, to consider that sometimes our faith forces us to stand up in the face of this evil and speak out, or maybe even act out in opposition. Dietrich Bonhoeffer did this and it cost him his life. What is his legacy? It is an "unswerving belief in sacrificing for the good of  'the other', which is exactly the opposite of the Nazi ideology" (169). 

I highly recommend this book even though Hendrix admits that he is and artists not a historical researcher. It was a joy to read.

I read a print copy of The Faithful Spy from my public library.