"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=========

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Felicity by Mary Oliver

Mary Oliver never fails to deliver just the poem I need when I need it. Just yesterday as I walked the dog outside I thought I felt a touch of impending spring in the air. Maybe I was mistaken. But then last night I heard the frogs in a nearby pond singing their early love song. It must be near. I'm not the only one looking for those early signs of spring.

I'm ready for spring, but it hasn't arrived.
                                   Not yet.
Still I take my walk, looking for any 
          early enhancements.
It's mostly attitude. I'm certain
                                  I'll see something.
                                                         (Excerpt from "Walking to Indian River")

Friday just as school let out for the weekend the sky opened up and it absolutely poured for about 20 minutes. Anyone who thinks they can master the weather has another think coming. Ms. Oliver seems to understand this.

Yesterday the wildest storm
I ever witnessed flew past
west to east, a shaggy
howling sky-beast

flinging hail even as lightning
printed out its sizzling
unreadable language
followed by terrible laughter.
                                             (Excerpt from "The Wildest Storm"

Her poems speak to my head and to my heart. I am a part of the world. I am made up of my memories. She asks,

What is your heart doing now?
     "Remembering. Remembering!"
                                             (Excerpt from "When Did It Happen?")

I don't want to lose a single thread
from the intricate brocade of this happiness,
I want to remember everything.
                                             (Excerpt from "I Don't Want to Lose")

Mary Oliver is my favorite poet, by far. So many of her poems seem to be just for me or speak to this better part which I hope is in me.  My praise here so inadequate in comparison to the wonder of the poems within. Yet Ms Oliver sees herself as just a conduit for the poetry.

Poem arrive ready to begin.
  Poets are only the transportation.

I found myself crying a little as I read a few of these poems not because they were sad but I felt my mortality and the mortality of this wonderful poet.

Pick up this small volume and enjoy every poem within. Who knows maybe you, too, will fall in love (with poems.) At least I know you, too, will be moved.

Sunday Salon, last day of January 2016

Weather: Grey and overcast; looks like it should rain but none so far.

Dear Diary: When my mother was young she kept a diary for a while. Every entry was very similar and quite dry: "Got up. Got dressed. Ate breakfast. Went to school. Came home. Did chores. Ate dinner. Went to bed." Pages and pages of nearly the same thing, over and over. When the family came upon this literary treasure tucked in some of her old boxes we laughed and laughed at it and we've been making fun of it every since. Well, this week could be a repeat of my mother's diary for me. "Got up. Went to work. Did my job. Went to a meeting. Came home. Cooked dinner. Watched some TV. Went to bed." In other words, not a very exciting week. I'll spare you the details.

The Nightingale: My book club discussed The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah at club this week. It is the story of two sisters who became part of the French Resistance during WWII. 
The subject of “The Nightingale” was an outgrowth of research Hannah had done for her earlier novel “Winter Garden,” when she came across information about a Resistance heroine — the 19-year-old Belgian woman Andrée de Jongh. This brave teenager, inspired in turn by the earlier World War I heroine Edith Cavell, established the Comet Escape Line, a secret network of people who risked their lives to help Allied servicemen escape over the Pyrenees to Spain. De Jongh’s story inspired Hannah to conduct further research into the French Resistance, finding stories about women who had put themselves and their children in peril by hiding Jewish families. And de Jongh became the model for Isabelle, the younger sister, who, as “the Nightingale,” personally led downed Allied pilots over the mountains to safety. -Seattle Times.
One day in December as I was listening to the audiobook of The nightingale as I drove home from work I kept thinking how sad these characters lives were. I felt an overwhelming urge to listen to Edith Piaf sing a sad song in French. So here you are, for listening enjoyment, Edith Piaf singing "Non, Je ne regrette rein", which google translator tells me means, "No, I do not regret anything."

Rice pudding: (I told you it was a boring week) Here is a recipe for making rice pudding with cooked rice (most call for uncooked rice, which doesn't help if you have leftover rice on hand): To a saucepan add equal parts cooked rice and milk (or a little extra milk.) Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. When the mixture starts to boil add as much sweetener as you wish. (Honey, sugar, Splenda, etc.) and whatever flavorings and fruits you like. I add cinnamon and raisins. Add a little salt if needed. Simmer on low, stirring often until it is the thickness you desire for about ten minutes. Serve warm or cold. It is a very relaxed recipe and I don't think you can do anything to wreck it unless you burn it.

Books read this week: (Woot-woot, it was a good week for finishing books, as you would guess from my earlier comments.)

  • Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings, a memoir by Margarite Engle---written in verse, this memoir is a time in Margarite's young life. her mother was Cuban and she always so at home when they visited the island then the Cuban Missle Crisis hit and suddenly she could no longer visit her beloved country. This was a Pura Belpre winner this year, an award given to Latino authors.
  • A Bride's Story, Vol 7 by Kaoru Mori---this is the book at the center of my mystery I told you about last week. Yes, the book has nudity (and more than I realized initially) but it about the friendship of women.
  • Felicity by Mary Oliver---poems. Ah, poems! I fall more and more in love with her poems, the more I read. This is this celebrated poet's latest collection. Theme: love.
  • The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick---the audio version of the book. The firt part was pretty slow and not at all like the exciting TV series. But the second half of the book was quite interesting and a bit exciting and I ending up enjoying it quite a lot.
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez---a Printz honor book this year. It is about the circumstances surrounding a tragic school explosion which killed 300 students. Other themes include racism and incest. Not exactly uplifting stuff.
Currently reading:
  • Nice Recovery by Susan Juby---Juby's addiction and recovery story. Progress 50%.
  • The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George---my current audiobook. I am enjoying it so far. Reviews are very mixed. It will be interesting to see which side of the fence I fall on.
  • Printz Challenge---with Out of Darkness I have completed the 2016 Printz Challenge. Now I will challenge myself to go back and read some of the books I missed from past years.
  • Read All the Youth Media Award YA books---with Enchanted Air in the pocket I only have two more books to read for this challenge, The Stonewall Award winner, Porcupine the Truth, and one of the ten Alex Award winners. This is beginning to look like a piece of cake.
  • Goodreads Challenge: I am challenging myself to read or remove books on my "Want to Read" category. Of those I have seven books which I didn't complete year. So my mini-challenge within the challenge is to deal with these books first. Either read or dismiss. Here are the details.
  • Pulitzer Challenge---a personal challenge to read about eleven more of the Pulitzer prize winners 1921 to present. Obviously I will not attempt to read them all. I read two PP winners in January: The Yearling (1939) and The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (2008). Check out the hyperlinks for my reviews. The Yearling was also my Classics Club book for the latest spin. That challenge ends tomorrow and I'm done so good for me!

Quote for the day (this has really made me stop and think):
"Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see." C.S. Lewis

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao...a review of sorts

I've been thinking about the title of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize winning book The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Well, to be honest, I have been thinking about the term "wondrous" in context to the book. "Brief" and "life" speak so plainly to us. Before we even start reading we know that Oscar Wao has a short life or a fleeting existence. We expect his early death. But "wondrous?" Now there is a word not often used. Its placement in the title sets the reader on a mission---to find those moments of wonder and beauty among all the hum-drum, day-to-day doings of life.

  1. 1.
    of short duration.
    "the president made a brief visit to Moscow"
  1. 1.
    inspiring a feeling of wonder or delight; marvelous.
    "this wondrous city"
  1. 1.
    the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.
    "the origins of life"
  2. 2.
    the existence of an individual human being or animal.
    "a disaster that claimed the lives of 266 Americans"

After having my socks knocked off by The Goldfinch (Tartt) and All the Light We Cannot See (Doerr) both recent Pulitzer Prize winners, I decided to embark on a little personal challenge to read more books from this select list of prize winners. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao seemed like a natural book to start with since I had read some of the book at an earlier time and always meant to get get back to it. But as I started it for the second time I realized this was not going to be a reread for me as I could only remember the sketchiest of details. As I started the book from the beginning I opted to listen to the audiobook, read by Jonathan Davis and Staci Snell. I always find it helpful to listen to books which use a lot of foreign words, in this case Spanish words, more specifically Spanish words with a Dominican Republic dialect/accent.

Before The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, the only other published work by Junot Diaz was a collection of short stories titled Drown. Several of those stories were published in literary magazines like the New Yorker, so Diaz wasn't a complete unknown to the literary world. Wao was his first novel which makes winning the Pulitzer Prize all the more remarkable and the fact it took him eleven years to write. I'm pretty sure his publisher was sweating bullets waiting for it. But the wait was worth it because Wao burst on to the scene and pretty much rocked the literary world in 2007.

So what are a few wondrous things about the book? Though the title of the book makes you think it is mainly about a fat, Dominican-American kid, nicknamed Oscar Wao, living in New Jersey. It really is a much more than that. It is a story of a family who emigrated from The Dominican Republic and their assimilation into American society. It is also "explores themes of racial and national identity, while questioning commonly held assumptions about masculinity. It also deals, quite successfully, with the nasty legacy of the dictator Rafeal Trujillo. And it does all this while interweaving the traditional genres of nerfdom-Sci-Fi novels, fantasy comic books, and Japanese anime" (Shmoop). If this wasn't wondrous enough, the reader won't have any idea who the narrator is until well into the second half of the story. Or, I should say, who the narrator is for most of the book, because there are a few narrators interspersed throughout the narration.

Another aspect which weaves its way through the story-line is the notion of fuku, or the Curse or Doom of the New World. "No matter what its name or provenance, it is believed that the arrival of Europeans on Hispaniola unleashed fuku on the world, and we've all been in the shit ever since" (p.1). Everyone in Dominican Republic knows someone whose life has been destroyed by fuku and it was really obvious "that Truijillo and fuku were tight" (p. 3). Oscar and his family had long believed their family was under a fuku curse and they all strived, in their own ways, to survive and lift it.

Reading Wao is a bit tricky. First there are lots of footnotes, which just get incorporated into the story seamlessly in the audio version (another reason to listen to the book rather than read it.) Secondly, as I mentioned before, there are several narrators and it is not always obvious who is speaking. Also Spanish words are sprinkled throughout the narration with no translation provided. This is usually a problem for me but I was able to relax into it and get the general drift of meaning from context. The language is so important to the immigrant story, after all. Isn't our cultural identity wrapped up in the language of our family and our ancestors? In a lot of ways Diaz is asking us through Wao what home means and how do we get back to it once we have left. The term diaspora is often used to describe the experience of leaving one's homeland. And in Wao we find, one can find the way back home.

I went into my reading experience with Wao pretty ignorant. I hadn't read any reviews and only knew the barest of summaries by reading what information was provided on the back of the book (or CD case, as it were.) My expectations were pretty high merely because I knew it had won the Pulitzer but for no other reason. For this reason I felt almost bowled over by the story, or swept away by it. It was as if I was in Dominican Republic during the tortuous days of Tujillo, or sitting in the bedroom in Patterson, New Jersey of a lonely, overweight boy who wanted nothing more than to have a girl friend but couldn't stop himself from speaking and acting like the nerd he was. I tried to imagine what it would be like to live under a curse, real or imagined it would have tremendous power, I am sure. In the end Oscar, his sister, and Yunior, our narrator, all find a way to triumph over fuku. Thank goodness.

Don't be afraid of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. Just jump in and go with it. Read, listen, laugh, cry. Allow yourself to experience it. And like Oscar you may also find your way home. Along the way I promise you will have a wondrous experience.

Note: I wanted to provide you with a link to an audio clip of the book. All I found after a cursory look around the Web, was a YouTube video of a high school teacher reading the first few pages aloud. He cautions his students, and I will caution you, to be prepared for some pretty rough language and lots of sex. You've been warned.

Read as part of a personal challenge to read more Pulitzer Prize-winning books.

Friday, January 29, 2016

A personalized mini-challenge

I was looking over my Goodreads account yesterday and got to the category of books I WANT TO READ. I had already decided to make a dent on that list this calendar year. My goal is to read the books on the list or, if I decide I don't still want to read it, remove them. There are currently 40 books on that list. It is a no-pressure challenge since I am just doing it for myself. But today, on closer inspection, I noticed that seven of the books on the list were books I started but did not actually finish last year. With these seven books I will do a mini-challenge within a challenge: read or dismiss each of these seven books within seven months (one per month.) Here goes...

Book#1- Gulp by Mary Roach
     I listened to about one tenth of this in audiobook format. I enjoyed it very much but it was automatically returned to the library after the due date and I never got around to checking it out again.

Book#2 Laughing at My Nightmare by Shane Burcaw
     This is a memoir in my library. I was only a few chapters into it when a teacher asked if she could read it. I need to place a hold on it so when it comes back I will get it next.

Book#3 Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Happiness by Tal Ben-Shahur
     This may end up being a book I dismiss rather than read. When I started it last year it felt a little like reading a textbook and I wasn't in the mood for that so I set it aside. I will give it one more go first, however.

Book#4 The Book of Aron by Jim Shepherd
     This book came to my attention because another author mentioned how much he enjoyed it. The Book of Aron was also a National Book Award nominee, which earns it points in my book. That said, when I started the book I realized I was in trouble. The book is written in vernacular and I struggled with the language. The audiobook version would probably help overcome those obstacles. I'll look for that, if no audio exists, the book will be dismissed.

Book#5 The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr
     I had the opposite problem with this book. I listened to over half of the audiobook and couldn't take it anymore. I don't know if it was me and my frame of mind, the topic, or the voice actor who did the reading. Something about the audiobook version of this book irritated me.  I abandoned the audiobook last year but will pick up the print edition this year and attempt to finish it up.

Book#6 We Are All Made of Molecules by Susin Nielsen
     I set this short YA novel aside when I determined to my satisfaction it wasn't Printz-worthy. But I fully intended to finish it and set it aside for a short time. Apparently papers were piled on top of it. It was unearthed this week and is back on my pile of books to finish soon.

Book#7 Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey
     Last Fall I purchased this book to use with a class I was teaching at church. I finished the class without finishing the book. I liked his first book on the same topic: Amazing Grace so I want to continue reading this one to see if it is as edifying. However, I am worried this book may not have been written with me in mind. Don't get me wrong, I hope to receive God's grace, it is just the intended audience seems to be folks who attend much more conservative churches than I attend. I'll give it a few more chapters before I decide to finish it or not.

Join me. List the books you started but didn't finish last year. Determine if you still want to finish them and set a date to have them completed. The others may need to be purged or forcefully dismissed off your list. Do it!

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Friday Quotes: January 29

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The 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:

Book Title: Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez

Book Beginning: 
Prologue-New London, Texas: March 18, 1937. From far off, it looks like hundreds of beetles ringed around a single dome of light. Then the shiny black backs resolve into pickups and cars and ambulances.
Friday 56: 
Mr. Mason nodded slowly, and then after counting and recounting, he reached across the counter and dropped some coins into Naomi's hand. "There's always someone looking to make talk."
Comment: This book is based on an actual school explosion that killed 300+ school children. The prologue begins during the rescue efforts after that explosion, then the story turns back to introduce the readers to the main characters, Naomi, a pretty Mexican girl, and Wash, a handsome African-American boy. As they get to know each other they find a very intolerant community in which they live. The relationship, like the children in the school, is doomed.

Monday, January 25, 2016

TTT: Hottest Titles in the GKHS this school year

 Top Ten Tuesday: Today is free choice at TTT.
TTT is hosted at Broke and Bookish. 

Hottest Titles in the GKHS Library
September 2015 to the present day
1. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
This book is hot, hot, hot. Students love it. many tell me the book has caused them to go visit her web comics. she is developing quite a fan base here.
2. I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
This cute little half mystery, half graphic novel is popular with our readers.  A bonus, the book is set in Seattle, near here.
3. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
This is a cry-worthy book.
4. Looking for Alaska by John Green
His author is still very hot in the library. Everyone who read The Fault in Our Stars is now coming in for his other books, especially this one.
5. Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge
One of those genre-bending books which is part historical, paranormal, and thriller. Lots to like.
6. Audacity by Melanie Crowder
This historical fiction novel is written in verse.  I push this book a lot. Can you tell?
7. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
I can't keep my copies of this book in the library. They fly off the shelves.
8.  The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
Another genre bender which is also set in Seattle. Students get really excited about this book.
9. Shadowshaper by Daniel Perez Older
Considered Urban Fantasy
10. The Unlikely Hero of Room 13-B by Teresa Toten
The only reason this book isn't higher on the list is that one of the two copies got eaten by a puppy and I had to replace it. This book is really well-done. Topics: Friendships, Family Dysfunction, OCD and support groups. All of my readers love this book. I do, too.
11. Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Kids either get this book or they don't. The kids you get it, love it. Those who don't, don't. Profound, huh? (It incorporates Greek Mythology.)
12. Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Students love this book but oddly do not attempt to read Rowell's other books in the library. Another super cry-worthy book.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Salon, January 24, 2016

Part of the SOTH crew after the Feed My Starving Children Mobile Pack event. (At least the hair nets are off.)
Weather: Right now the sun is shining but I expect it will soon turn to rain. It is so wet around here our backyard has turned into a new little pond. I expect that ducks will find it soon and start swimming around. Ha!

Windows 10: I upgraded my computer this week to Windows 10 and now, of course, it is acting all clunky and uncooperative. Bummer.

Super storm-Super Cute: We live on the West Coast of the country. On the East Coast a huge snow storm has struck the area. All the pictures on the news are of piles of snow and terrible flooding. All except this one, taken at the Washington, DC zoo. Somebody is happy it snowed. Click the link here.
I have looked at this panda playing in the snow about ten times and I smile each time I see it. Enjoy.
Cyndi and Greg Helle and kids pray over one of the palettes of food ready to ship for FMSC. The Helles are the folks who organized the Mobile Pack in Puyallup once a year.
153: Yesterday the three of us joined others from our church to assist in a mobile pack for Feed My Starving Children, an organization which delivers high quality food packages to children living in impoverished areas. My Honor Society students also joined the pack at another station. The mobile packs are so cool. Eight to ten of us man a station. Two to Four people scoop the dried veggies, soy, rice, vitamin mixture into a funnel where another volunteer holds a bag to collect the contents. Next a person weighs the bag to make sure it is within a weight range. Two people then seal the bag and send the bag down the line to the person who boxes up the sealed food bags. Each bag feeds 6 meals, each box holds 36 bags. Our team boxed up nearly 20 boxes in our two hour shift. When added together with all the other stations, in two hours we bagged up enough food to feed 153 children a healthy meal every day for a year. Talk about feeling good. Check out the Feed My Starving Children website for more details about the organization.

GKHS Honor Society members and officers after the mobile pack at FMSC. Love the hair nets.
A Mystery: Yesterday afternoon, after the FMSC event, I went up to school to help out at the district Technology/Art Fair. Part of my job was to clean up the library station. I decided to store the items I needed to return to other librarians in the district in my library, which wasn't being used for the fair. When I entered the locked library I found a graphic novel propped up against my computer opened to a page with a drawing of a half nude character. Who did this? How did they get into the library? Why did they do it? Did they think I should ban the book? I don't know. It is a mystery. (And it is bugging me.)

Weirdly, half way: I am weirdly exactly at the half way point on the three books I am currently reading. This is very unusual. I am usually at the beginning of one, near the end of another, not 50% on three at one time. The books are:

  • Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings: a memoir by Margarita Engle...this was the Pura Belpre winner in the Youth Media Awards this year for books written by a Latino author. It is a collections of poems which tell a story of the author's young years.
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez...this was just awarded a Printz Honor. It set in Texas in the 1930s about a taboo relationship between a Mexican-American girl and an African-American boy. It is historically based around the events of an explosion at the school which killed many children. It is slow going.
  • The Man in the High Castle by Phillip K. Dick...an alternative history after the Axis powers won WWII. We watched the mini-series on Amazon Prime created from the book. But, and this rarely happens, I like the show much better than the book. This is my current audiobook.

Book finished this week: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. This book won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007 and it really is award-worthy. Look for my review later today.

Quote for the day: ‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito’. African proverb.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Friday Quotes, Jan. 22

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The 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:

Book Title: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

Book Beginnings:
They say it came first from Africa, carried in the screams of the enslaved; that it was the death bane of the Tainos, uttered just as one world perished and another began; that it was a demon drawn into Creation though the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles. Fuku americanus, or more colloquially, fuku---generally a curse of a doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and Doom of the New World.
Friday 56:
But my mother was the worst. It's the last straw, she screamed. The. Last. Straw. But it always was with her.
Comment: I just finished this 2007 Pulitzer prize winning book yesterday. Admittedly it is a tough book to completely understand. The opening paragraph sets up the reader to understand that the book may appear to be about Oscar but it is really about a fuku, or a curse, put on his family and the things they do to try and escape this curse. The Friday 56 quote isn't the best quote in the book (but it WAS from page 56.) The narrator of that chapter was Lola, Oscar's sister, who was acting out and in the process was irritating her mother. I ended up really liking the book but admit it isn't for everyone.

Monday, January 18, 2016

TTT: Books I've recently added to my TBR pile

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I've recently added to my ever-growing to-be-read (TBR) pile of books.
TTT is hosted by The Broke and Bookish

1. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
This won a Printz Honor last week. With its win, it instantly went on my TBR pile as I try to read all the Printz winners each year. I have actually already started this book.
2. The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Koningsberg
This book won the Stonewall Teen Book Award last week. I sponsor a Challenge to read all the Youth Media Award winners each year. The Stonewall Award goes to the best book with a LGBT theme. 
3. Enchanted Air by Margarite Engle
This book was another YMA winner. This book won the Pura Belpre Award for YA books written by Latino authors.
4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
The winner of the National Book Award for Nonfiction and an Alex Award winner, another YMA category. Everyone is talking about this book. I need to read it, too.
5. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
I just embarked on my own Pulitzer Challenge. This book won the Pulitzer in 2005. I just finished reading her first book, Housekeeping, which was a Pulitzer finalist in 1980. Now I want to read Gilead.
6. Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
I decided to read a Bellwether Award winner this year. This award is unpublished manuscripts which are socially engaged and ethical. The manuscripts are then published for the winners. Running the Rift won in 2010.
7. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
I've seen this book on several best of 2015 lists. Now I want to read it.
8. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
I really enjoyed McLain's book The Paris Wife.
9. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Another book which everyone but me seems to have read. I actually had this book on my TBR list last year but I am adding it here for emphasis so I will REALLY get to it soon.
10. H is for Hawk by Helen MacDonald
A Kirkus Prize finalist for nonfiction. It sounds really good.

....and one for good measure
11. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
This sounds so, so good.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Sunday Salon, January 17th

Clear Lake, Oregon. Photo by Anne Parr, used with permission.

Weather: Clear night (Saturday); Rainy (Sunday)

Mock Printz Workshop: Thirty Five students joined me Monday afternoon for an exhilarating time debating the merits of twenty YA books. The team of reading teenagers attempted to get into the mind of the Real Printz committee to select the best YA novels of the year. It was a wild event with lots of opinions shared and several voting sessions before the slate was selected. They selected Challenger Deep as their favorite book of the year, and four honor books: Nimona, All the Bright Places, The Truth Commission, and The Game of Love and Death. None of these titles actually won an honor when the real awards were announced but the kids had fun selecting them.

Poetry Out Loud: The National Endowment for the Arts sponsors a recitation competition which has levels of winners which start in the classrooms, move through the school, to regional, state, and finally National finals. I am the coordinator for our school. Our school Poetry Out Loud contest was held on Thursday after school. Ten class winners came together to recite two poems each. Our winner, Katie T. will represent us at Regionals in February. Check out the POL website to understand more about the program. If you are a high school teacher you, too, can bring this poetry contest to your school.

Busy week: With two big after-school events in one week I was ready for bed at 8 PM Thursday night. How do coaches and drama teachers do it night after night? I was pooped after two late afternoon events! Ha!

Nine down, one to go. My daughter has been a busy girl applying to graduate schools. She has completed nine applications so far and we are so proud of her diligence and determination. Send your positive thoughts and prayers her way that she will find a slot in Grad School this coming Fall.

Puzzlemania: Between Grad School Apps and work, Carly and I have been busy putting together jigsaw puzzles. Normally each holiday season we will put together one puzzle. We just finished our 4th, a puzzle purchased after Obama was just elected the first time, YES WE CAN.

Reading this week:
  • The Yearling by Marjorie Rawling---I just finished this classic novel which won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939. It was my Classics Club Spin book. Check out my review here.
  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junet Diaz---as part of my Pulitzer Challenge I decided to finish this novel but couldn't remember much so ended up starting over. I am listening to the audiobook. Progress: 40%.
  • Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez---this was one of two Printz Honor books announced this past week, the only one on the list I haven't read, yet. Progress: 10%.
  • Nice Recovery by Susan Juby---a memoir about Juby, a newly discovered author about being a teenage alcoholic.
12th Minuteman: We are all a little Seahawks crazy around here, considering ourselves to be the 12th man on the football team. Even the Minuteman statue on Camp Murray is a fan. 
Don and the 12th Minuteman, both fans of the Seahawks!

Rest in Peace Alan Rickman. My favorite movie where Rickman played a role was Galaxy Quest (other than Harry Potter movies, of course.). In it he plays an actor who had been part of a TV show like Star Trek and he had the Spock-like role.  We enter the scene when the actors, now has-beens, are living on their former glory. The Rickman character is sick of it. Enjoy the 2 minute clip.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Classics Club Spin: The Yearling, a review.

The Yearling by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings won the Pulitzer Prize in 1939. Since that date school children everywhere have read and loved the book, or struggled through it, I imagine.

The summary of this classic novel on Shmoop is tongue-in-cheek, "The Yearling is nothing more than your classic 'Boy Meets Deer, Deer Eats Boy's Family's Corn, Boy Shoots Deer' story. What more is there to say?" There actually is a lot more to say, as Shmoop admits in their next paragraph. It is the story of a young, lonely boy, Jody Baxter, who lives with his parents in the scrub land of Florida some time after the Civil War. His family is impossibly poor and they are eking out an existence on what they can grow and hunt. Jody is very lonely even though he and his father work together every day on most tasks. If only he could have a bear cub, a baby raccoon, or a deer for a pet, he thinks he won't be so lonely. The odd thing is he never wishes for a puppy or a dog. A dog makes sense to me as a pet, not a wild animal. The book covers the themes of coming-of-age, adventure (bear hunts), survival (poisonous snakes, storms), death, and family loyalty.

The author, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, referred to her book as a "brief and tragic idyll of boyhood." It certainly was a year when Jody Baxter moved from boyhood to manhood. In the first chapter of the book Jody builds himself a little toy flutter by the creek and lays in the dirt to watch it spin. This scene sets the stage for the reader's understanding of what a boy Jody was at the time. playing alone, When he should have been working by hoeing the field, he was enjoying a moment of childish reverie. In the last chapter, after the difficult year, Jody once again stops by the creek and makes a toy flutter but this time it has lost all its magic for him. Rawlings acknowledged her book was about a common literary theme, man adjusting to his physical environment. In her character Jody we find such wide-eyed awe and wonder. We see nature through the eyes of a twelve year old boy who is just waking up to its beauty. But nature isn't always beautiful and kind. It is often harsh and unrelenting and Jody learns this as the year progresses.

The setting in The Yearling, the scrub land of Florida is described beautifully by Rawlings. It is impossible to read this book and not to be able to picture the setting. Every blade of grass, pine tree, and swamp is so vivid through Rawlings' words. Rawlings, who lived in this part of Florida at the time, spent lots of time listening to the dialect of her neighbors also and included it in her novel as the speech patterns of the characters. I imagine children reading The Yearling today having difficulty with the language, which would be helped if portions were read aloud so they could hear the dialect.

Before Rawlings began writing The Yearling, her editor at Scribner, the legendary Maxwell Perkins, who was editor for Hemingway and Fitzgerald, proposed that she write a book that would appeal to readers young and old. "Measuring his words carefully, Rawlings replied, 'Do you realize how calmly you sit in your office and tell me to write a classic?' No doubt Perkins knew what he was looking for. What is remarkable is that Rawling delivered on his request" (from the book's Afterward). She did indeed write a classic. A book which has stood the test of time, in addition to winning all the accolades of its day by winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and having a movie made from its pages.

Lois Lowry, the author of The Giver, remembered her first experience with The Yearling as "the first time I slid so effortlessly into the landscape of a novel." She has returned to the book time and again even as she became a celebrated author herself. Many other authors identify The Yearling as their favorite novel from their childhood (NEA). I am not sure I would consider this book a personal favorite but I certainly recognize its brilliance. Parts of it really bugged me, the killing of predator animals especially, but I had to remind myself when this book was written and the abject poverty of the characters. The ending is so sad and poignant. Jody is forced to kill his pet and in the process he is forced to grow up. Sadly, all of us have to pass through childhood and have to confront our lives as adults. "Somewhere beyond the sinkhole, past the magnolia, under the live oaks, a boy and his yearling ran side by side, and were gone forever." Doesn't that just make you want to weep? Not for Jody, but for yourself by remembering the carefree days of your own childhood replaced by the responsibilities of adulthood?

Brilliant, simply brilliant.
A Women's Classic Literature selection

A Classics Club Spin selection

Edition: Rawlings, Majorie Kinnan. The Yearling. Reader's Digest: Pleasantville, N.Y., 1993.