"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 20, 2017

TTT: Books I am Thankful for

Top Ten Tuesday: My gratefulness extends to books this week. Here is a list of books I am thankful for:

1. The Bible. I thought I'd get that out of the way "in the beginning" (yes, that is a pun!) This book is a life-changer.

2. Pride and Prejudice. I know. Everyone loves this book (and movie) but honestly this book and all of Austen's novels have really helped me as a reader...to not be afraid of reading classics; to ;understand that there is a good feeling of accomplishment when one finishes a challenging book; and recognizing that it is OK to love a book and reread it when I need  it.

3. Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden. When I discovered the Ten Poems series by Housden suddenly poetry was revealed to me. In his books Housden highlights ten poems and explains aspects in each against modern life. I read and reread these books for inspiration and I am no longer afraid to read poetry, in fact I crave it.

4. To Kill a Mockingbird. No book speaks to me more about being ethical as a person as TKAM. Atticus Finch is not only a good lawyer but an excellent parent, someone I try to emulate in my life. Plus, I love Scout and Jem.

5. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds, Western Edition. Bet you weren't expecting this, huh? I consult my bird book often as I sit and look out at the backyard when birds visit it. I love identifying a bird I haven't seen before.

6. The Chronicles of Narnia. I loved this series as a child. I read them to my children when they were little. We read them together after they grew up. I am grateful for all the positive moments spent with these books.

7. The Worst Best Christmas Pageant Ever. My mother read this book to us when my sibs and I were kids (actually the book was just a short story from a magazine at that time) and I have read it aloud for my family every Christmas since I had a family. I am grateful for special moments spent with family and special books.

8. Looking for Alaska. Before I became a teen librarian I hadn't been reading YA lit as a practice. I remember my first year of torturous book talks since I basically had no books to talk about. Then I read LFA by John Green. I was blown away by it and realized that YA lit had a lot to offer. The book also won the Printz Award that year, so I became aware of other fantastic books through that gateway.

9.  Cold Sassy Tree. If you have read my blog for years, you will notice that I list this book often because it is the book which brought me back to reading. I read a lot as a child and a young teen then basically abandoned reading (except books for classes) until I was around 30. Then I read this book. It blew me away and whet my appetite for reading good books.

10. The Book of Dust: La Belle of Sauvage, or my current read. This book represents my gratefulness for the book I am currently reading. There are so many great books and when I start a new one, I am always grateful for authors who think up the stories and write them down,  for publishers who make them available for readers, and for libraries where I can get them for free.

What books are you grateful for?

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Sunday Salon, Nov. 19

Part of the Summer Palace in Beijing. Photo Credit: Don Bennett
Weather: Novemberish

This week: I practically did nothing and hardly even left the house. First I think I was a little time warped after returning from China, then I came down with a humdinger of a cold and didn't want to go anywhere or see anyone. I'm home right now instead of at church for that very reason. Ugh.

Don and I on the Great Wall. Notice the poor air quality. 
Read. Read. Read: Because I was essentially house-bound I did a lot of reading, mostly as part of my role as judge for Cybils nonfiction. I didn't necessarily read all of each book but enough to judge the book properly for its award-worthiness

       Cybils candidates
  1. Earth Hates Me: Confessions of a Teenage Girl by Ruby Karp---written when Ruby was 16 years old. Fun and lighthearted, Ruby dishes out advise and wisdom for teens from a teen. (Read 50%)
  2. The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power by Ann Bausum. As the title suggests this book is about the last march of the Civil Rights era and about how Black P0wer emerged. It is a sad note on the inspiring movement and is not a remembered moment during it. Read my review by clicking the hyperlink on the title. (Read all)
  3. A Soldier's Sketchbook: The Illustrated First World War Diary of R.H. Rabjohn by John Wilson. Wilson was speaking at an event about WWI. Afterwards a woman approached and showed him her grandfather's diary which he wrote during his experiences as a soldier in WWI for Canada. This book has entries from that diary and the illustrations Rabjohn, who was a good artist, made of his experiences. (Read most)
  4. Geoengineering Earth's Climate: Resetting the Thermostat by Jennifer Swanson. Interesting and inventive ideas of ways that scientists are considering trying in an attempt to offset the effects of global warming. one idea is to launch little mirrors into the stratosphere to reflect back some of earth's rays. (Read 25%)
  5.  Game On! by Dustin Hansen. The history of gaming, starting with Pong. One could really geek out on this book. (Read 50 pages.)
  6. Far From the Tree, Young Adult Edition: How Children and Their Parents Learn to Accept One Another... by Andrew Solomon and Laurie Calkhoven. A rewrite of the National Book Award nominee by the same name. At 450 pages it is hard to see how this one qualifies as young adult, but the original is over 900 pages long! Topic: how we view ourselves and how to accept our children looking through the lens of deaf culture, dwarfism, homosexuality, etc. (Read 75 pages)
  7. To Look a Nazi in the Eyes: A Teens Account of a War Criminal's Trial by Kathy Kacer. A true account of a teen's experience attending the trial of Oskar Groening, the bookkeeper of Auschwitz. (Read 25%)
  8. How Dare the Sun Rise: A Memoir of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiymana. Sandra and her family were living in a refugee camp in Burundi when rebels came into the camp and slaughtered over 100 people, including her sister. After Sandra and her family relocated to the USA, she became an advocate for refugees worldwide. (Audio. Listened to all)
      Other books:
  1. Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds. A boy hops onto an elevator on his way to kill the person he think killed his brother, an honor killing, when he is met by ghosts of those people he has known in the past who were also killed by guns. Written in verse. Very impactful.
  2. The Book of Dust, Vol.1: La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman. A prequel to The Dark Materials series. I am about 45% complete and racing to finish, as it is due back at the library in three days.
Outside the Forbidden City in Beijing with Ken and Carol. Mao was watching. 
Prayers for:
  • Mary, who lost her mother this week
  • Louise, who was hospitalized due to complications from shingles
  • Susan, who is receiving treatment for breast cancer and it is taking a toll on her energy
  • My father, he fell last week and is having trouble with dizziness and energy
  • Janet, who lost her father two weeks ago
  • For Bethel High School staff and students. Their principal died suddenly last week.
My China Update: I  published my last Sunday Salon on Tuesday and many of my friends didn't appear to see it. So I am trying again. Please click the hyperlink to read about our China trip. Thank you.
Statue guarding the Sacred Way, near the Ming tombs, China. Photo credit: D. Bennett

Terracotta Warriors in the Shaanxi Province museum. Photo credit: Don Bennett
Another cute Chinese kid. This guy was fascinated by Don.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

The March Against Fear by Ann Bausum, a review and a call to action

My nonfiction reading for the Cybils Award is progressing nicely. So far I have read 35 of the 64 books nominated. There are so many good books on a variety of topics. I am just blown away by the quality of writing and the topics which are covered. Today I want to talk about one of those books which has percolated toward the top of the list for me due to strong writing and the coverage of the topic.

The March Against Fear: The Last Great Walk of the Civil Rights Movement and the Emergence of Black Power by Ann Bausum.

The year was 1966. The setting was Mississippi. In the beginning the march started out as a walk. James Meredith, the black student who integrated Ole' Miss University a few years earlier, decided he wanted to walk from the Tennessee border to Jackson, Mississippi in support of voter registration and to prove that he was not afraid. But by the end of the second day things turned around after Meredith was shot at point-blank range by a man with a shot gun. He survived but had to spend a long time in the hospital and recuperating afterwards. When members of the Big 5 of the Civil Rights Movement found out about Meredith's situation, they picked up the goal and turned it into a march.

Often called the March Against Fear, King, Carmichael, and many others started toward Jackson, stopping off to register black folks to vote in the towns along the way. The march took over 20 days and the marchers met lots of opposition along the way. In Greenwood, Carmichael was arrested for attempting to set up the tent where the marchers slept. When he was released, he spoke to the assembled crowd about the need for black power. His words became a chant. With these words the Civil Rights Movement seemed to turn, from nonviolence to something else. Suddenly supportive whites from the North turned their backs on the movement.

Thus this march was historic on many sides: it was the longest and most expensive march of the movement; it was the first time that revolutionary words of Black Power were spoken; and the movement never again held a march of any magnitude. In a lot of ways people want to forget it.  There was no happy ending to it, like Selma or the March on Washington.

A year after the march Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, "It is necessary to understand that Black Power is a cry of disappointment. For 12 years I, and others like me, had held out radiant promises of progress. I had preached to them about my dream...I had urged them to have faith in America and white society. Their hopes had soared...They were now hostile because they were watching the dream that they had so readily accepted turn into a frustrating nightmare" (Bausum).

I read this book with my mouth agape. I had never heard of this event from the Civil Rights Movement and how things dissolved from here out. I know from my history lessons how things continued to degrade to the point of the race riots of 1968 and beyond. In fact, today we are still seeing the ugliness of racism in our country with the resurgence of the white supremacists movement and the negative reaction to the slogan "Black Lives Matter." It makes me feel sick.

I am so grateful for authors like Ann Bausum who continue to write about events from our past so that we can hold them up to examine and, hopefully, make some needed changes. After the election of 2016 when Trump was elected and the events that have followed it is very obvious that we cannot ever take out eyes off the prize. We must all hold voting as dear and not abdicate our responsibility to vote and allow others to do so, too.

I don't think this will be everyone's favorite book, but it is good to read books to educate ourselves and to make us squirm. Maybe that will cause us to get up out of our chairs and do something to better mankind! Read it! And, I want to point out if you are a teacher, Ann Bausum has a whole lot of resources on her webpage that you can use with your classes on this topic. Check it out.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Classics Club Spin Number is ...

The 16th Classics Club Spin Number is...


If you joined the game last week, find number 4 on your Spin List! That’s the title you are challenged to read by December 31, 2017
As always, the prize is the reading experience. 
My book is: My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin.

Initial thoughts: About time! I've wanted to read this book since I saw the film back in the late 1970s. My mother thought I was like the main character: I guess because we both are headstrong with frizzy hair. 
What’s your #4 title? Are you glad, hesitant, excited about your title? Do tell!
Twitter hashtag: #ccspin

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Friday Quotes: Long 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: Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Book Beginning:

Believe nothing
these days
which is why I haven't
told nobody the story
I'm about to tell you
And truth is,
you probably ain't
gon' believe it either
gon' think I'm lying
or I'm losing it...

Friday 56: (56% on e-book)

I said,
The Rules are
the rules.

Comment: If you haven't heard of this book, it is about a boy who is considering killing the person he thinks killed his brother. While he is on the elevator heading out to do the deed he is visited by six "ghosts" of people killed by guns. It is very distressing to think that this book is reporting a truth, that a lot of killings in the inner city are considered honor killings...you killed my brother, so I will kill you. When will it stop? The whole book is written in verse. On occasion I had a hard time telling who was speaking and what was being discussed, but I got the gist of the message. Very powerful.

Lists! 'Tis the Season

It may not be December yet but the Best books of the Year lists are starting to show up. I shall attempt to keep a list for you here of as many as I find them. As per usual, my focus shall be on Young Adults but many of these lists are attached to best adult list. All you need to do is trail back on the lists I link.

1. Publisher's Weekly- Best Children's and Young Adult books.
     The list is divided into Picture Books, Middle Grades, and Young Adults. There are 16 YA books identified, only two are nonfiction.

2. School Library Journal. Best Books of 2017.
     Lots of books are listed, they are divided among five categories: Picture books; Chapter books; Middle Grade books; Young Adult books; Nonfiction books.  Eighteen YA titles were listed.

3. National Book Award.
     Young People's Literature division winner: Far From the Tree by Robin Benway.

4. Kirkus Prize.
     Coming soon.

5. Audible (Audiobooks). Best YA audiobooks of the year.
     Coming soon

6. New York Times 100 Notable books of 2017. 
     Coming soon

7. The Washington Post. Best Children's and Young Adult books of the year.
     Coming soon 

8. Best of 2017 Goodreads. Vote now on final round nominees in many categories.

9. 2018 Morris Award finalists.  .

10. 2018 YALSA Nonfiction finalists. 

11. Horn Book Fanfare. 
     Coming mid December

12. NPR Best Books of 2017. 
     Coming soon

13. New York Times Notable Children's Books .

This list will be updated as more Best of lists are published.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Sunday Salon (on Tuesday)---China edition

Temple of Heaven, Beijing, China. Photo credit: Carol Wenk
  • Home---wet and windy. A storm went through our area yesterday with lots of water and wind, more is predicted for today.
  • China--- the weather in China was unseasonably warm while we were there last week. The air quality was poor, too.  Anyone thinking it is a good idea to reduce regulations on air standards should travel to China first before changing them. Ugh.
Don and I standing on the Sacred Way
China:  Yes. We just got back from China where we had the trip of our lives. This Tuesday edition of Sunday Salon is dedicated to our China trip.

Ken and Carol on the Great Wall. Photo credit: Carol Wenk
Invited: Our friends Ken and Carol invited us to go on the trip, as Carol could take a week off work in November. I'd been wanting to take a big trip, my first of retirement, so we jumped at the chance. We've been friends for over forty years and traveled easily together.

Kevin, our Beijing guide, and Ken in the Forbidden City
Tourists: We paid for guides to take us around Beijing and Xi'an, the two cities we visited in China. They were worth every penny we paid for them. We went to most of the famous tourist sites: The Summer Palace, Tienanmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Great Wall, The Terracotta Warriors, The Temple of Heaven. We saw the tomb of the last emperor of the Ming Dynasty, the Lama Temple, and walked on the city wall of Xi'an. We saw the pandas at the zoo.We rode in a rickshaw, and ate Peking Duck. We also squeezed in some not so touristy things like a visit to the 798 Art Zone, and witness to a spontaneous dance in the park in Xi'an, and a ride on the bullet train. What a trip!

We were all obsessed with the lines and colors of the architecture. Here is a building on the grounds of the Summer Palace.
A  roof detail from the Forbidden City
We were surprised by the lines of people waiting to see the tomb of Mao in Tienanmen Square. Our guide estimated 250,000 people were in line at 8:30 AM, some would be waiting in line four hours (at least).

All the pandas we saw (there were eight in the zoo) were asleep. This one at least was facing forward.
The Red Panda, or lesser panda, is also a native of China and he was active.
We spent an hour away from the crowds at a tea tasting. Fun.
The terracotta warriors blew us away. 
We weren't expecting: There were some things about China that we expected: fabulous historic sites, The Great Wall, pollution. But there were other things we didn't expect: the vast number of bicycles, squater toilets (my least favorite part of the trip), and the darling children. DRIVING in traffic (I'm still in recovery from this harrowing experience.)
We stumbled upon this huge pile of bikes in the 798 Art Zone. We don't know if it was intended to be art or just a pile of bikes waiting to be redistributed around the city
Our guide service also provided a driver. In Xi'an our driver had a little shrine in his car.
Food vendors sold roasted corn and sweet potatoes everywhere. Here I am tasting haw, a candied fruit. Obviously I bit off more than I could easily chew.
Darling children in cute outfits were everywhere with proud parents. Photo credit: A. Bennett
Quiet moments: There are at least 22 million people living in Beijing and another 9 million in Xi'an. It is hard to get away from the crowds but we managed to have a few moments while in China. When we walked down the Sacred Way we were about the only people there. While visiting the Forbidden City, Kevin took us down a side alley to a small courtyard which at one time was the home of the Emperor's favorite concubine, few other people were there. And who doesn't love a serene moment with swans (at the zoo.)
Quiet courtyard in the Forbidden City. Ken is exiting a small museum.
The four of us on the Sacred Way, near the Ming tombs
A brief serene moment among the chaos at the zoo.
Look what we stumbled upon: We came upon a film project in the Art Zone and a spontaneous dance in the park across from the hotel in Xi'an.
Don and I make weird art.
Dancing in the park in Xi'an with the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in the background. A delight.
Books read during the long flights and train trips:
  • Girl Code: Gaming, Going Viral, and Getting It Done by Andrea Gonzales (e-book)
  • Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During WWII by Albert Marrin (e-book)
  • Brooklyn by Colm Toibin (print)
  • Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager (e-book)
International Dateline: I've heard about it but finally experienced it first hand. Heading west we lost a day. We left Seattle on Friday afternoon and arrived in China on Saturday night. That was strange but heading east was weirder. We left China on Sunday around noon and arrived in Seattle at 6:30 AM Sunday...the longest day of our lives.

Trip of a lifetime: one more image from China, a place of mysteries and delights.
A view from the Forbidden City. So lovely.
Home: We are home. There is no place like home. Thank you to our neighbor Susie for taking care of the cats. We had to visit Ian and his parents right away. Ian is growing so fast. At two months he is still the great delight of our lives.
An artsy rendition of our little guy. Photo credit: R. Adams
Unless otherwise noted, photo credits belong to Don Bennett.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Classics Club Spin is back! Sign up by Friday, Nov. 17th to join in.

It is Classics Club Spin #16. Time to read another classic book!

For details on how to join in a #CCSpin, click on the link here.
The main thing you need to know though, is to compile your list of 20 books by this Friday, November 17th.

On that day a number will be randomly selected.
That's the book you read.

You have until the 31st of December to finish your book and review it (or just read it and enjoy it!)

Join in the fun by visiting the other players and commenting on their lists.

Here is my list. Feel free to read along with me or create your own list.  This time I am selecting books I own, books I have had on my shelves for years (some since junior high school), and I am excited to have a good excuse to finally read one of these classics:

  1. Dracula
  2. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
  3. Silas Marner
  4. My Brilliant Career
  5. Jane Eyre
  6. Anne of Avonlee
  7. Anna Karenina
  8. David Copperfeld
  9. Go Tell It On the Mountain
  10. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  11. Where the Bluebird Sings to the Lemonade Springs
  12. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  13.  Classic American Short Stories
  14.  The Autobiography of an X-Colored Man
  15.  Suite Francais
  16.  Murder on the Orient Express
  17.  Tess of the D'Urbervilles
  18.  Robinson Crusoe
  19.  The Jungle Book
  20.  Grapes of Wrath 

Nonfiction November, Week Three: Be an Expert

Nonfiction November, Week 3: (Nov. 13 to 17) — Kim @ Sophisticated Dorkiness — Be The Expert/Ask the Expert/Become the Expert: Three ways to join in this week! You can either share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend (be the expert), you can put the call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read (ask the expert), or you can create your own list of books on a topic that you’d like to read (become the expert).

Be the expert: Years ago in an effort to create an assignment for a high school psychology class, I did a lot of reading on mental illness and abnormal psych. Here are a few of my favorite titles that I thought were especially helpful for teen readers as they were exploring mental illness/abnormal psych topics in their classes:


  • The Day the Voices Stopped by Ken Steele, (2002)--- For thirty-two years Steele fought the voices in his head which commanded him to kill himself. None of the drugs he tried helped him until finally a doctor was able to find a combination which turned off the voices. Steele then goes on to live a life of advocacy for those haunted by mental illnesses. This book really turned my thinking around about the horrors of untreated mental illness.
Bi-Polar Disorder:

  • An Unquiet Mind: A Memoir of Moods and Madness by Kay Redfield Jamison (1997)---Jamison is a psychologist who also lives with manic-depression (her preferred term for the disorder.) She is very insightful in her descriptions of what it is like to give up the manic periods in order to avoid the depressive ones. Now twenty years old, I am sure there are updated books on this topic that would provide more information on current treatments.
  • All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness by Sheila Hamilton (2015)---Hamilton's husband killed himself six months after his diagnosis with bi-polar disorder. This book takes a look at mental illness through the eyes of a loved one.
Munchausen-by-proxy Syndrome:
  • Sickened: A True Story of a Lost Childhood by Julie Gregory (2004)---Gregory's mother subjected her to years and years of medical exams, surgeries, treatments not because Julie was sick but because the mother was mentally ill. Munchausen syndrome is considered to be a rare, often deadly, form of child abuse.
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder: 
  • Passing for Normal: a Memoir of Compulsion by Amy Wilensky (2000): Wilensky not only gives insight of what it is like to live with OCD but also Tourette's Syndrome. I found this book very helpful in my thinking about both these conditions.
  • Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (2017) and The Unlikely Hero of Room 13-B by Teresa Toten (2015) are two fiction books which are very good about what it is like to live with OCD and how the treatments don't always work.
Ask an expert: as you see, many of these titles are getting dated. Can you suggest any books on mental illness, appropriate for teen readers published in the last five years or so?

Thursday, November 9, 2017

The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found

I am having so much fun a a Cybils Award, Round 1 judge. I have read over twenty books so far in this capacity and have learned so much along the way.

This book, The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin Sandler is one that provided me with tons of new knowledge. This book, aimed at young teens, is enlightening on many levels.

During the years of 1650 to 1730 piracy was a big problem on the seas. Everything of any weight or volume had to be transported by water which included gold and gems. It didn't take long before unscrupulous men realized that there was a treasure to be got with fairly easy pickings.  We think of pirates taking their treasures and burying them on some island in the Caribbean, thanks to books and movies we read/watched in childhood. And because of these we also have an idealized idea about pirates as handsome and daring or as a drunk with a parrot. This book about the Whydah sets the record straight.

The Whydah was a slaving ship which would travel on the Trading Triangle (West Africa, Caribbean, England) in the early 1700s. After it had disgorged its despicable cargo of human beings in the Caribbean, and was loaded with money and goods it was commandeered by Black Sam Bellamy. Bellamy was the greediest pirate who ever sailed the open seas. He not only took treasures but encouraged crew members from the ships he commandeered to join him and would often take the ships themselves, always looking for bigger, faster vessels.

In 1717 loaded down with treasure the Whydah and the other ships in its flotilla were heading up the Eastern Seaboard toward Maine when they got caught in a Nor'Easter off Cape Cod. The Whydah sunk and Bellamy drowned. For almost three hundred years people have been looking for the wreck, knowing it was laden with treasures. Then in 1984 some marine archaeologists found it and have been bringing up items from the Whydah ever since then...enough to fill a whole museum. Along with the items they have been discovering aspects of piracy unknown to historians until now. It is fascinating what they have discovered from the wreckage.

This book is a treasure in its self. It is perfect for the young teen boy or girl who likes to read about real life adventures or who is obsessed with pirates. But it is also fascinating for anyone, adults included, who likes to read to find out new information about topics which they thought they already knew plenty.

Since I read The Whydah as part of my quest to discover an award book, I should spend a minute talking about the author. Martin Sandler is an award-winning author for a YA history series, he has been nominated for a Pulitzer Prize twice, and has won five Emmy awards for his writings for television. This guy can write! As I was reading The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found I turned to my husband and exclaimed, "Finally, a well-written YA nonfiction books. Just what I've been looking for."

So I guess you can tell that I like this one and highly recommend it for you and your family.  And if you live in or are traveling in Massachusetts, stop at the Whydah Pirate Museum in Cape Cod and see for yourself the treasures from the Whydah, the only pirate wreck ever found and recovered. I know I will visit it myself if I am ever in that part of the country.