"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=========

Friday, February 28, 2020

Review: Motherless Brooklyn

Back in early 2000s I read Jonathan Letham's Motherless Brooklyn for the first time. I can't remember how it found its way to me, but I read it and loved it. I even recommended it to my rather sweet but old church book club members. I can't remember the reactions to it but after this re-read I can only imagine that the reactions were those of shock and horror. How could one read a book with so much foul language and enjoy it? Well, I could and I did enjoy it a second time, too. This re-read involved my husband as captive audience as we listened to it during a long road trip together this past week.

In case you aren't familiar with the plot, I will attempt to summarize it succinctly. Lionel Essrog is an orphan. He also has Tourette Syndrome which manifests itself in the form of verbal outbursts of a very colorful and often humorous nature. He and three other orphans are chosen to work with a small-time mobster, Frank Minna, and to do his bidding which usually involves moving stolen goods from one location to another. Later, when they are grown, all four of the boys continue working for Frank and call themselves the Minna Men. Everyone thinks that Lionel is stupid because of his tics. But when Frank is murdered, only Lionel has the wherewithal to investigate it.

So Motherless Brooklyn is your classic who-dun-it with a big twist...Tourette's. I don't even know how to describe how different and delightful this makes the story. So I've decided to get help from other reviewers...
In Motherless Brooklyn solving the crime is beside the point. If you're a mystery maven, this might bother you. Instead, this is a novel about the mysteries of consciousness ... Unlike the stock detective novel it shadows, the thriller in which clarity emerges on the final page, Motherless Brooklyn immerses us in the mind's dense thicket, a place where words split and twine in an ever-deepening tangle. (Albert Mobilio, New York Times Review of Books)
A detective with Tourette's syndrome narrates a hard-boiled crime novel. Sounds like a gimmick, right? Another in the endless line of diversity dicks ... But Lionel Essrog, the twitching, barking, gabbling narrator is no movie-of-the-week novelty grafted onto a noir mystery. Maybe his Tourette's is a gimmick, but it's a gimmick with depth, with soul. Lethem, after all, walks the serious-fiction beat, and in his hands the compulsions of Tourette's become a kind of kaleidoscopic metaphor, ultimately (and somewhat paradoxically) reflecting the fundamental ethos of the mystery genre itself: the compulsion to restore order and rightness to a world thrown temporarily out of joint. (Gary Krist, Salon)
Author Jonathan Lethem...has created, from what sounds like a ludicrous gimmick, one of fiction's most memorable narrators. Through Lionel - nickname Freakshow - he explores the relationship between what makes us tic and what makes us tick ... The results are playfully poetic...The effect is gleefully absurd, even if the formulaic gumshoe plot pales next to the twinkle-toed narrative footwork ... At points, Lethem's conception of Lionel's syndrome is brilliantly vivid ... In Motherless Brooklyn, Tourette's is a microcosm of the human condition. Lionel describes it as something outside himself, like an invisible friend. It reminds us of the duality of human consciousness, how we all make war with our own gibbering interior monologues, because the brain has a mind, if you will, of its own. (Brian Logan, The Guardian)
I love that line, "he [Letham] explores the relationship between what makes us tic and what makes us tick." If the reader gets stuck on the tics they miss the point of the whole book.

To add to the madcap feeling of Motherless Brooklyn we got to experience it through the audio format. Since we were alone together in a moving vehicle we often found ourselves laughing out loud at the narration, sometimes bursting out from someplace unexpected. I'm guessing that our experience with the book was very different than those who read the print version. Having the benefit of the verbal tics read out to us was very funny. Was it that way for the print readers? I don't know. The voice actor, Frank Muller, did a fantastic job with a difficult voice assignment.
Frank Muller’s narration is nothing short of astounding; to say this would be a challenging piece to perform would be an understatement, and Muller has never been in better form. He gives Lionel’s Tourette’s persona a distinctly different voice and makes the lightning transitions from voice to voice with never a slip. Somehow he manages to make Lionel not a sentimental sideshow, but a fully human character you like right away. In less capable hands this might have been a disaster, but with the consummate skill of this audio superstar it becomes an achievement unlikely to be equaled--by him or anyone else. (AudioFile)
I just realized, as I was preparing to write this review, that I missed the book club where we would discuss it. Drats. I was looking forward to doing mental battle with my friends over a controversial yet remarkable piece of literature.

RHS Book Club Feb. 2020

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Friday quotes and review: RED AT THE BONE

Title: Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson

Book Beginnings quote: 
But that afternoon there was an orchestra playing.
Friday56 quote:
In the photo, Melody was holding an orange balloon and grinning into the camera--her hair neatly cornrowed, her eyes dark and clear.
Summary: In the opening line we know that something has happened before this moment since it begins with "But." The music is playing for Melody's 16-year-old coming-out party. As she descends the stairs to join the party, her friends and relatives look on with love and  fond hope for her future. She is wearing the dress her mother, Iris, was going to wear for her own coming-out party sixteen years earlier but she never wore it because she became pregnant before the event. The story, told by a host of narrators, chronicles all the moments leading up to and after this moment. "As it explores sexual desire and identity, ambition, gentrification, education, class and status, and the life-altering facts of parenthood, Red at the Bone most strikingly looks at the ways in which young people must so often make long-lasting decisions about their lives--even before they have begun to figure out who they are and what they want to be" (from the publisher). I'm guessing that the title of the book is a picturesque way of describing how ready these teens were for parenting--underdone; not ready.

Review: The lives of two families are changed forever by the decision (or lack of a decision) that two teens make to not use contraception when having sex. Iris has no thoughts about the responsibilities and commitments required of parenting, she only thinks about the pregnancy. Her parents are so embarrassed by the unplanned event that they move from their beloved community and church so as to avoid the gossip that is sure to ensue. Aubrey is in love with Iris and envisions a life together with their small family but Iris wants college and a career, not home and family. Fortunately Aubrey's mother and Iris's parents help out with the raising of young Melody. The second quote is about a time at college when a new friend sees Iris looking at a photo of her daughter and assumes it is her sister.

The book makes a lot of good points and is well written, though I was often confused as to who was the narrator but I didn't find myself connecting with any of the characters. The book provides a counterpoint to another book I just read about teen pregnancy, With the Fire on High, where the teen mother loves her daughter ferociously and still has goals and plans for her future. It is a tough topic and is handled beautifully in both books.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.


Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Nonfiction reviews.

Over the past eleven days I have posted the reviews I wrote for all the Cybils finalist books reviewed for the JH/SH Nonfiction category. I liked all of the books this year and felt very lucky to be part of the process.

In case you missed one or two of them, the titles are hyperlinked. Which of the books appeal to you the most? Be sure to visit the Cybils website to see which of the books won is each of the categories and then start reading. Check out the amazing winners at this link!

Senior finalists and winner:
Junior High finalists and winner:

Nonfiction review: A THOUSAND SISTERS

A THOUSAND SISTERS: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II by Elizabeth Wein is the true story of the only women to fly in combat, for any country, during war.
In the early years of World War II, Josef Stalin issued an order that made the Soviet Union the first country in the world to allow female pilots to fly in combat. Led by Marina Raskova, these three regiments, including the 588th Night Bomber Regiment—nicknamed the “night witches”—faced intense pressure and obstacles both in the sky and on the ground. Some of these young women perished in flames. Many of them were in their teens when they went to war.This is the story of Raskova’s three regiments, women who enlisted and were deployed on the front lines of battle as navigators, pilots, and mechanics (from the publisher).
A Thousand Sisters is Wein's first nonfiction work for teens. I've read several of her YA novels, Code Name Verity being the most well-known, and a few of them have had aviation themes. So Wein has the pedigree and knowledge required to write about aviation and flying in general. I am wondering if she is pilot herself. Hmm?

I hadn't even heard of the "Night Witches" prior to reading A Thousand Sisters and it is really an amazing and inspiring story of heroism. It is hard for me to imagine how primitive airplanes were in the 1940s. Some of the women had to fly in open cockpits, dropping the bombs overboard by hand. Most of the planes didn't start the war with radar or any kind of navigation instruments making flying at night especially dangerous because one cannot see landmarks to navigate by in the dark. Several of the Soviet female pilots died in crashes caused by not knowing where the ground was due to fog or the dark.

As surprising as it was for the Soviet Union to allow women fighter pilots, once the country reverted back to Russia less women are pilots now than in the 1930s. Even with their heroic history during WWII male dominance in the field has returned with a vengeance.

What I liked best about the book:
  • I learned about a topic I knew nothing about before reading A Thousand Sisters.
  • Wein gave a lot of political and economic context to the story.
  • Several of the pilot's stories were very personal with lots of primary documents, interviews, letters, and photographs to enhance understanding.
What I didn't like about it:
  • I honestly should have, but didn't, get out a map of the Soviet Union during WWII so I could identify the locations that were mentioned. After the Russian Revolution my knowledge of Soviet history is very limited so I had a steep learning curve. When we study WWII in American schools, little about the Russian experience is explored. This is odd since they were an ally at the time.
  • I was a little overwhelmed by the number of names of pilots and mechanics we were supposed to keep track of.  It was so hard to keep track of everyone I eventually just gave up and read for the battle, not who was the flyer.
 A THOUSAND SISTERS: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II earned a YALSA NONFICTION Honor in January 2020. It certainly deserved it.


Sunday, February 23, 2020

Sunday Salon: February 23, 2020

After 80 days of cloudy weather, Seattle finally had it's first sunny day of 2020. Photo Credit: KOMO News
Weather: rainy and windy. I was awakened by hail hitting the bedroom window this morning.

Birthday week: Thank you to everyone who recognized my birthday. From my daughter who took us out for homemade pasta in S.F., a sister and mom who made a special dinner of Parmesan chicken and apple pie, to my husband, daughter and her family, who helped me enjoy a dinner of Mexican food and cake from a favorite bakery, it was truly a week of sweet celebrations.

Books whispering to me: "But those books have begun to whisper to him in the darkness, and as he takes refuge in his imagination, he finds that reality and fantasy have begun to meld" (The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly). When I was a librarian for a big high school library I could barely stand it, all the books whispering out to me that they wanted to be read. Now I am retired and have accepted a volunteer position as a church librarian. The library is small, contained on one wall of the room, but once again I hear the books whispering my name, asking to be read.

San Francisco: Last weekend Don and I drove to S.F. with a pickup truck load of things left behind by our daughter when she moved there a year and a half ago. She was moving into a new apartment and needed her cookware, TV stand, and art which she'd left at our house. We enjoyed our roadtrip and loved helping her make her new apartment into her new home. (Plus, she hired movers, so we didn't have to kill ourselves moving furniture up three flights of stairs.)

East of Eden: Nearly a year ago I started reading this classic. This week I made it to the half-way point. Ridiculous, I know, to keep reading a book one clearly doesn't like, but I have finally made it to the point with the Biblical allusions. I must admit they are so good and thought-provoking it makes the it worth the struggle. "Thou mayest."

Gardening glory: Earlier this week we experienced the first sunny day of 2020. The sunny day and the President's Day holiday were both good reminders to go outside and prune the roses. Here's our list and what we got done in a few hours of yard work:
  • Prune all 20 rose bushes✔ 
  • Prune blueberry bushes  ✔ 
  • Prune / deadhead hydrangea bushes
  • Prune apple tree ✔ 
  • Reseed lawn on bald spots
  • Marvel at the bulbs which are blooming or preparing to bloom  ✔ 
Upcoming musical week: This week, after not attending a music concert for over a year, we are going to two, maybe three concerts: Lyle Lovett on Tuesday, Beatles vs Stones on Wednesday (possible), and Leslie Odom, Junior on Saturday. La-la-la.

Books read since Feb. 9th (my last Sunday Salon):
  • Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater---YA audiobook. A spin-off series from the Raven Boys. Dark and thrilling. I look forward to reading the second book when it is published.
  • Motherless Brooklyn by Jonathan Letham---audiobook, a re-read. Don and I listened as we drove to California to this interesting and funny take on a detective story where the protagonist has Tourette's Syndrome. A book club selection.
  • Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart---audiobook, a re-read. Don and I listened to this one as we returned from Cali. This is a book club selection as well as the Pierce Reads! book of the year.
  • Great Poems for Grandchildren edited by Celeste Frost. Print. Loved it.
  • Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson. Print. A teen pregnancy changed the life trajectory for a whole family. The story is told from a variety of narrators.
  • Give a Goat by Jan West Shrock. Children's book, print. A new selection for the church library about the vlue of giving living gifts through the organization of Heifer Project.
Currently reading:
  • East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Print and audio. 50%. 
  • The Yellow House by Sarah Broom. Audiobook. 10%.
  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid. Print. A Reece Witherspoon book. 17%
  • A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (Movie Tie-In): Neighborly Words of Wisdom from Mister Rogers by Fred Rogers. Print. 10%
Hot Wheels fun: Don and Ian are currently building a Hot Wheels track, saved from Don's childhood, to play with a new red and yellow race-car from friend Jill. Such fun. Pure joy.

Have a lovely week.  -Anne

Nonfiction Review: TORPEDOED: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of the Children's Ship

It is hard to believe that stories about the horrors of WWII are still emerging, but here we are:  TORPEDOED: The True Story of the World War II Sinking of the Children's Ship. In 1940, as German bombs were exploding over London and other cities in Great Britain, parents were desperate to get their children out of harms way. A government program called the Children's Overseas Reception Board (CORB) worked with parents to transport children aged from five to fifteen to Canada. There was a long waiting list to secure a spot on ships leaving Liverpool. The parents considered themselves lucky to have their children leave Great Britain for safe Canada.

In September 1940, a passenger liner SS City of Benares set sail with 406 people on board. 100 of them were children, 90 of them CORB children with adult escorts. On September 17th, not long after the British Royal Navy warship, which had been escorting the Benares, a German U-Boat submarine shot a torpedo at the passenger ship. So began a struggle for survival that would ultimately kill 258 people. Of the CORB children only thirteen of them survived. In TORPEDOED author Deborah Heiliegman tells the survival and fatal stories of many of the CORB children and their escorts. Several heroes emerge out of the tragedy.

Heiligman has made a name for herself as a YA nonfiction writer. Two of her previous books, Charles and Emma (2009 ) was a National Book Award finalist and Vincent and Theo (2017) was a YALSA Nonfiction Award winner. It also won a Printz Honor and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award. Her writing is clear and concise, very accessible for teen readers.

What I liked about the book:
  • I always like reading books where I learn something new. I had never heard of the Children's ship sinking before. As horrifying as the details were, it was still interesting to learn about.
  • The writing was clear and concise with short paragraphs.
  • The last chapter honors those who died by listing all of the passengers/crew members names who died and are now in a watery grave.
  • It also gives a short bio of several of the survivors, many were interviewed by Heiligman, for first hand material.
  • A selected bibliography and end notes would be helpful tools for student researchers.
What I didn't like about the book:
  • Heiligman overuses several repetitive phrases. They started to annoy me.
  • Black and white illustrations of the children aboard the ship after it was torpedoed but before it sunk were supposed to show the confusion and action, but they were not well-drawn and actually detracted from the story, in my opinion.
  • I can't tell who the target audience is. I'd say by the illustrations and short paragraphing the book would appeal to younger teens in middle or junior high school or older elementary students.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Nonfiction review: POISON EATERS: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs

POISON EATERS: Fighting Danger and Fraud in Our Food and Drugs by Gail Jarrow is a middle grade/junior high nonfiction selection that should have crossover appeal to all teens and adults alike.
Formaldehyde, borax, salicylic acid. Today, these chemicals are used in embalming fluids, cleaning supplies, and acne medications. But in 1900, they were routinely added to food that Americans ate from cans and jars. Often products weren't safe because unregulated, unethical companies added these and other chemicals to trick consumers into buying spoiled food or harmful medicines. Chemist Harvey Washington Wiley recognized these dangers and began a relentless thirty-year campaign to ensure that consumers could purchase safe food and drugs, eventually leading to the creation of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, or FDA. Acclaimed nonfiction and Sibert Honor winning author Gail Jarrow uncovers this intriguing history in her trademark style that makes the past enthrallingly relevant for today's young readers (from the publisher).
About this book, the reviewer from Kirkus Reviews said, "Revolting and riveting in turns, Jarrow's masterfully crafted narrative will fundamentally alter how readers view their food."

Revolting is right. Someone told me to never ask what was in a sausage. Well, Jarrow tells us what was in them in the early 1900s and it is disgusting: pieces of meat and fat, some which has fallen to the ground to be swept up with dead rats and rat poison, cut up together and made into a sausage. There were no laws and few enforcers to make sure that food was safe to consume. If a chemical, say formaldehyde, preserved meat, why not add it to fresh meat so it wouldn't spoil as quickly? There was no thought about what the chemical might be doing to the insides of a person who eats it. Thank goodness Dr. Harvey Wiley came along and doggedly sounded the alarm about the need to legislate safety measures for food standards, drugs, and cosmetics. Though it took him thirty years of trying finally the legislature did the right thing and founded the Food and Drug Administration. Whenever anyone says they are pining for the "good-ole-days" I'll point them to this book and tell them to read it before they get to be too nostalgic. It was the wild-west out there. Who knew what was really in the food we ate and the medicine we took. Egads.

Today when you listen to the news about the Trump Administration attempting to "drain the swamp" by getting rid of bureaucrats. Ask yourself what job to those people do? Are they testing foods, medicines, and cosmetics to make sure they are safe to use or eat? Do we really want to go back in time to the days before regulations? No.

What I liked about the book:
  •  As per usual, Gail Jarrow has created not only an important book, but also an attractive one, full of photographs and illustrations. In this volume there are lots of examples of old advertisements for horrifying products, such as a cough syrup for children which contained morphine. Another for Lash Lure which was advertised to improve eye lashes and brows. What ever was in it could blind a person and actually did.
  • There were plenty of horrifying and informative stories. Enough to keep even the most squirrely teenager interested.
  • The book is less than 160 pages long and the last 25 of the pages are made up of resources for those writing reports. There is a glossary, a timeline, chapter notes, a bibliography, and an index.
 What I didn't like about the book:
  • I wish it included a little bit about what is happening today in politics surrounding deregulation. I think that would be helpful for students to connect the dots to the days before regulation and what might happen again.
By the way, the Poison Eaters were a group of a dozen men who volunteered to test the chemicals companies were putting into foods on themselves. For months, maybe years, they allowed themselves to be human guinea pigs for science.


Friday, February 21, 2020

Nonfiction review: MUMMIES EXPOSED!

Well, here is the title of a book I never thought I'd read, much less review: MUMMIES EXPOSED! CREEPY AND TRUE by Kerrie Logan Hollihan. Though not my type of book, it is surprisingly well-written, interesting, and, dare I say, I like it!

We've all heard of mummies from Egypt. For goodness sake, King Tut is a mummy. But did you know that with the right conditions, mummies have been found in lots of other places in the world, usually dry and cold, but not necessarily?

Before I go further I guess I should define 'mummy' and distinguish it from skeletons and other aspects of the dead. "A mummy is a dead human or an animal whose skin and organs have been preserved by either intentional or accidental exposure to chemicals, extreme cold, very low humidity, or lack of air, so that the recovered body does not decay further if kept in cool and dry conditions" (Wikipedia). Often we think of mummies as purposely preserved, as done in ancient Egypt, where the internal organs are removed and the body is wrapped in cloth. But, as this book explains, most of the found mummies in the world were unintentionally preserved. It was just luck that caused them to be preserved and then found for archaeologists to study.

The weirdest mummies, in my estimation, are the bog mummies. Whether people died and fell into a bog, or were sacrificed or murdered, no one knows, but bogs do a real interesting number on a person as it preserves them. Because the bog is acidic, bacteria can't grow to cause decay, but the bones often become decalcified. The skin turns a silvery brown color. Wrinkles, hair, and fingernails are often perfectly preserved.

The saddest examples are the mummies of children found high in the Andes. They were sacrificed as part of a religious ritual and left to freeze to death in a fetal position. Archeologists were even able to study their blood and the contents of their stomachs , they were so perfectly preserved.

What I liked about the book:
  • The color photographs of the mummies were enlightening.
  • The text is clear and concise
  • The topic, though creepy, is fascinating. I'm sure certain junior kids will find it so, too.
  • There is a useful glossary, a selected bibliography on each type of mummy described, end notes, and an index. All these could be useful for future researchers.
What I didn't like:
  • Two or three times the author makes mention of a topic and then says "Stay tuned", implying that she would make mention of the topic later in the book. I am not sure if I ever found the answers to those little teases. Perhaps I didn't look hard enough.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Nonfiction quotes and review: ONE PERSON, NO VOTE: How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally

Title: ONE PERSON, NO VOTE: How Not All Voters Are Treated Equally by Carol Anderson with Tonya Bolden

Book Beginnings quote: (Prologue)
Hmm...It was a mystery worthy of master crime writer Raymond Chandler. And the mystery was this: On November 8, 2016, black Americans did not show up at the polls. It was like a day of absence.
Friday56 quote:
This was not the first time that the Supreme Court had dealt with the redrawing of a city's boundaries designed to dilute the voting strength of a town's black population.
In One Person, No Vote, Anderson chronicles the rollbacks to African American participation in the vote since the 2013 Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Known as the Shelby ruling, this decision effectively allowed districts with a demonstrated history of racial discrimination to change voting requirements without approval from the Department of Justice. Focusing on the aftermath of Shelby, Anderson follows the astonishing story of government-dictated racial discrimination unfolding before our very eyes as more and more states adopt voter suppression laws. In gripping, enlightening detail she explains how voter suppression works, from photo ID requirements to gerrymandering to poll closures. And with vivid characters, she explores the resistance: the organizing, activism, and court battles to restore the basic right to vote to all Americans as the nation gears up for the 2020 presidential election season ( from the publisher).
Review: I have never in my whole life wanted to fling a book away from me because it made me so angry as when I read this book. Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions of people were not able to vote in 2016 because of the efforts of their legislatures to disenfranchise them. Some were removed from the polls because they hadn't voted for a few years. Others couldn't vote because they didn't have the "right" ID. Some couldn't get to the polling station because their usual spot was closed and the new location wasn't on a bus route. Many were not informed of the changes until after they showed up to vote and stood in line for hours. I simmered and stewed as I read each chapter. How could this happen in America where we are supposed to prize democracy? Gr.r.r.r

Needless to say I had a hard time finishing the book since I would snap it shut about every other page just to try and get my blood pressure to go back down. Nevertheless, I want to encourage everyone who cares at all about fairness and equal right to read this book and then to act to make sure voting rights are fair in your corner of the country.

What I liked about the book:
  • It opened my eyes to the efforts made by mostly Republican legislatures to ensure that people of color not be allowed to vote or vote as easily as everyone else. I'm a pretty "woke" person about these issues but I still learned a lot.
  • The book includes a discussion guide and a "how to get involved in your community" page to encourage activism on voting rights. It also has good chapter notes, a bibliography and an index---all helpful tools to those who want to do more research on their own.
  • EVERY library needs to stock several copies of this book.
What I didn't like about this book:
  • I don't like it that this problem exists at all. But as distressing as it is, at least there is a book to wake up the masses, in hopes that changes can be made.
 "We know that if given the opportunity to vote, voters vote." -Scott Ross, One Wisconsin Now
Help make sure that everyone in your state can vote. Everyone. Even those you disagree with.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.


Wednesday, February 19, 2020


Last year was the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots in Greenwich Village, New York City. Many people have never heard of these riots and others, like me, only have a cursory knowledge of them. THE STONEWALL RIOTS: COMING OUT IN THE STREETS is a new middle grade title that does such a good job of explaining the rioting that happened over the course of several days and some of the background information that lead to the Stonewall riots in the first place.
Though LGBTQ+ individuals still face prejudice and unequal protection under the law today this book takes a look at how much harsher and unfair things were in previous decades of American history. School children today probably do not realize how truly harsh the treatment has been in the past. The book gives a clear overview of this history with the use of photos of objects. Using/showing objects from history is a good way to tell a story that is complicated. And this is a complicated story to tell.
Starting with the first object, a photo of the Livery Stable from the 1840s which eventually became the Stonewall Inn, the location of the riots in 1969 readers get a sense of the history of the location and significance of the location. With each object the story unfolds more and more so readers understand that LGBTQ+ individuals were not allowed to drink and dance in regular bars, so they had to congregate in Mafia-run places where they were supposed to be safer from police raids because of the payoffs that were made. But that didn't necessarily prevent raids completely.
For years, if police raided 'gay bars' the individuals within, who had likely given a fake name on entry, would not fight back and would either allow themselves to be arrested, or would attempt to just slip away. But for some reason on the night of June 28, 1969 when the police arrived to raid the Stonewall Inn, patrons fought back, breaking windows, trapping the outnumbered police inside until backups could arrive, and causing quite a ruckus. For the next two of three nights the same thing happened with more and more people getting involved in the rioting.
LGBTQ+ individuals were finally fed up with quietly going along with societies mores and discriminatory laws. This was the first surprise for me. In the 1960s groups like the Mattachine Society and the Daughters of Bilitis, gay and lesbian groups aimed at self-acceptance and societal aceptance urged gays to dress modestly and behave in a polite manner so as not to offend anyone. Those tactics weren't working very well. On that warm June evening, tactics shifted.

Pitman's choices of the fifty objects helped bring history to life of what happened leading up to the riots, during them, and beyond. Oddly the riots were barely covered by the press of the day. Even the Villiage Voice, a more progressive publication used insensitive wording to explain the participants of the riots. Few people were interviewed after the riots so little first hand knowledge is known about what happened. Once people started to discuss this event more openly, years later, many of the participants known to be there had passed away. If for no other reason, the importance of recording historical events makes this book worth reading.
Is a book about the history of  LGBTQ+ issues appropriate for middle grade students? Yes, indeed, however I often wonder what students will actually pick up a book like this and read it. That is probably more a condemnation of our society and how we are raising a generation of students who read very little and when doing research will go to the Internet, not even thinking of a book as a resource. Sigh. but as an adult, I was very happen to read this book. I learned a lot and found the use of objects to make a dissonant story coalesce nicely in my brain.
What I liked about the book:
  • The use of 50 objects to tell the story. Photos of people, places, objects, clothing, cars, tickets, posters all came together to make a cohesive story of the history of the Stonewall Riots and LGBTQ+ history.
  • I appreciated the insights provided by Fred Sargeant in the Foreward. He was a young teenager and was present for many of the events that happened in the riots.
  • A timeline, notes, photo credits, bibliography, and index make the book very useful for student researchers.
What I didn't like about the book:
  • The quality of many of the photos was pretty poor. Black and white and grainy, I don't think students will be attracted to them, nor will they entice students to dig deeper into the book. What a pity. The cover, on the other hand, is very attractive and inviting.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020


Back in 2015 Sam Quinones published Dreamland and it's revelations shocked the country. In 2019 the book was republished for young adult readers opening up the material to teen readers who desperately need to know the truth about opiate use and addiction. They they also need to know that everyone who says they have the best intentions, aren't always truthful. In this case the officials who were elected to protect them, dropped the ball, and let corporate greed reign for over a decade allowing millions of people to fall victim to the horrors associated with opioid use.

Back in 1929 a blue-collar Ohio city named Portsmouth, built a swimming pool the size of a football field and named it Dreamland. Dreamland was the place where towns folk hung out, where teens met their friends, where people were able to their spend leisure time in a wholesome and friendly way. Years later when manufacturing had abandoned the town and the swimming pool was closed, the only place where people had a chance of seeing a friend was at the local WalMart. The town was a shell of its old self and so, perhaps it is not surprising that Portsmouth, Ohio became the center of the OxyContin epidemic.

OxyContin was touted as a safe pain killer, with a low possibility for addiction. Pharmaceutical companies sent out squadrons of drug reps to meet with doctors to make sure they knew about this new, miraculous drug that could safely eliminate pain for their patients. Doctors who were trained to be careful with narcotics were duped and some, like David Proctor were unscrupulous. He would prescribe OxyContin to his patients after a 3-minute consult as long as they paid cash for the appointment. Soon his patients would stand in line for hours to get their moment with him, to get more drugs. A whole drug mill industry sprung up. When a new, cheaper source of the drugs was identified, entrepreneurs would take advantage, selling some and feeding their own addiction.

Oddly at the same time, runners of black tar heroin from a certain county in Mexico were setting up
businesses in small towns across the US. They were using a new selling model which involved young men from Mexico who would be set up with an apartment and car. They would text a meeting place to users who would jump into the car to make the drug deal, buying a small balloon filled with the heroin. Soon teens addicted to Oxy were switching to heroin because it was cheaper and easier to get. If the driver was arrested and deported back to Mexico, within days he would be replaced. The police felt like they were playing whack-a-mole. When the first fifteen-year-old arrived at the emergency room from a heroin overdose, doctors didn't know how to treat her because heroin addiction was so rare at that time, and not a young person's drug. Not anymore. White teenagers were flocking to use heroin after first getting addicted to OxyContin.

It took years, years before legislators started finally addressing the issues which led to such rampant drug use---the drug mills, the unscrupulous doctors, rehab centers that didn't begin to address the problem. Now Portsmouth is finally turning the page on their recent past and are leading the country in addressing the problems caused by addiction. It is not exactly Dreamland but they are a lot closer than they've been for a long time.

What I liked about the book:
  • The history of the opioid epidemic is laid out clearly and chronologically. Individual "villains"  are identified and their drug-selling techniques analyzed. 
  • The writing is clear and concise. Sam Quinones is journalist and a storyteller, writing often about Mexico.
  • As a past health teacher, I appreciate that this book is made accessible for teens. I hope and pray it makes a difference.
  • It offers discussion questions, source notes, recommended resources for teens, and photos with credits.
What I didn't like about the book:
  • I am not sure that the few photos were very effective. All are black and white and just show pictures of people in healthier days.
I highly recommend this book. If you want more details I'm sure the adult version has more to offer but this version was enough to get my blood really boiling. Every single legislator should be required to read this book before they are elected or re-elected. Every doctor who ever prescribes narcotics should also check out this book first!


Monday, February 17, 2020


The First Dinosaur: When Science Solved the Greatest Mystery by Ian Lendler is a surprisingly excellent book. I say surprisingly because I had no idea what I didn't know about the discovery of dinosaurs. It brought to mind the old saying, "the student doesn't know enough to ask a question." That was me. I didn't even know enough to form questions in my head about the process. As I read The First Dinosaur I realized that people had been seeing bone fragments and other fossils for thousands of years and had no idea what they were looking at and had no way to check further. Until the 1600s up through the Scientific Age when men, usually gentlemen who had money and time to dabble and investigate, started to question the shape of some of the fragments, deciding that they looked like bones. One man's enthusiasm to know more led to another man's enthusiasm and so forth.

Back in the 1770s a remarkable bunch of men came together to dream up a new nation founded on democratic principles: Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin, Adams, Jay, and Washington. The same thing happened in geology. "When the student is ready the teacher appears." The world was finally ready for geology and what else this science had to offer. This book highlights the lives of the remarkable men who uncovered the truth of age of the earth and found evidence in bone and fossils to identify the first dinosaurs: Steno (1680s) who made pioneering advances in geology and paleontology; Robert Hooke (1700s); William "Strata" Smith (1800s) who identified fossils in particular levels of strata; Georges Cuvier (France, 1800s) could read the strata and fossils records; Mary Anning (1800s) discovered and dug two of the first three dinosaur skeletons, as a woman she did not get credit for her discoveries; Gideon Mantell (1850s) was a fossil collector who became known as one of the two most renown dinosaur experts of his day; Richard Owen (1850s) became the British Cuvier and one of the most renown dinosaur experts of his day; William Buckland (1850s) an Oxford professor who did much to advance scientific advances in geology and paleontology.

Many men came together in the Royal Society to advance their thoughts and to finally identify and name the first dinosaur: Megalosaurus from bone fragments found near Oxford in a rock quarry.

I found this book not only fascinating but fun to read. There was enough about the personalities involved in all the discoveries to keep me interested. It is hard to imagine a world without the knowledge of dinosaurs. This book explains not only the discoveries made by these scientists, but also how the world found out about their discoveries, which was not an easy feat in the mid-1800s! I hope that young teen researchers find their way to this book and that they find it as compelling as I did.

What I liked about the book:
  • The careful and chronological analysis of the steps taken to prepared to discover dinosaurs. First a whole new science or two had to be invented: geology and paleontology.
  • The book wasn't just about fossils and old bones, it was also about the fascinating lives of the early scientists.
  • Several women were identified and commended for their contributions. 
  • Though written for middle school children, strong readers of any age will find something to like in this book, including the many illustrations and photographs. Even adults will like this one!
  • It has an epilogue which tells about the lives of all the scientists highlighted in the book and where they ended up . It also has a bibliography, which I think is so important for young researchers, and an index.
What I didn't like:
  • The cover. It is childish and will put off  older readers who like dinosaurs and want to learn more but may not pick it because of the cover.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Nonfiction Review: 1919: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED AMERICA

This National Book Award winner, 1919: THE YEAR THAT CHANGED AMERICA, shines a spotlight on several events, all happening in 1919, which changed the course of American society: Women getting the vote, The Volsted Act (Prohibition); the 1919 Race Riots; Labor movement and strikes; the Palmer Raids (Red Scare) and oddly, the Molasses Flood (Building standards and safety.)

Home from the Great War society could once again look inward to see if they liked what they had fought for. In many cases, they didn't. Black men, who fought valiantly in the war, returned to racism at home. For the first time, really, blacks decided to fight back. Some people think that 1919 was the great awakening of black America, even though the Civil rights movement was still several decades away.

Women and some men, saw what alcohol was doing to their husbands and families and fought for the temperance movement to eliminate this scourge on society. When the 18th Amendment passed many of the same women shifted their efforts toward gaining the right to vote for women. The 19th Amendment also passed in 1919 granting women the right to vote.

With the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918 in Russia, many Americans were afraid that the same thing would happen here. This led to a Red Scare long before the McCarthy era. The Palmer Raids, which rounded up immigrants without any due process became quite popular. The formation of the ACLU came about because of these clearly illegal roundups and deplorable treatment of innocent people. Labor unions were also suspected as being communists so strikes were met with big opposition from city, county, and state governments. But to this date there has never been more strikes, or larger strikes all in one year: 1919.

Prohibition brought on a new form of lawlessness in our country with bootlegging and mobsters becoming very common. The grand/noble experiment lasted for fifteen years before, in 1933, the 21st Amendment was passed which ended prohibition. The lawlessness it brought on is partially blamed for the Black Sox Scandal where the Chicago White Sox intentionally lost the series due to gambling incentives.

And what about the Molasses Flood? Well, that is a weird story from history I've never heard about. In Boston a huge tank, poorly constructed, held millions of gallons of molasses. When it exploded, the river of molasses wrecked houses, the train trestle, and killed many people and animals. What came out of it was stricter housing/building codes and standards.

At the end of each chapter author Martin Sandler compares what was happening the to what is happening today, 100 years later. In a lot of ways what happened in 1919 led to improvements for society but in other ways we are still fighting the same fights, like those related to racism, labor, and voting rights.

What I liked about the book:
  • Each chapter contained some new information to me but not too much to overwhelm. If one wanted to know more some topic there are suggested books to read listed at the back of the book. This book was not intended to give full details on every topic it touched upon.
  • The photographs were great, many live-action shots of whatever was being discussed. All were black and white but that is correct since color film hadn't been invented yet. Photo credits were listed at the back of the book.
  • My favorite part of the book were located at the end of each chapter in sections called "One Hundred Years Later" where Sandler looks at what is happening today on the related topic. He mentions recent legislation, movements, like the #MeTooMovement, even the Muslim Ban enacted by Trump.
What I didn't like about the book:
  • As an adult reading and reviewing a children's book, I wanted more. I wanted more details on all the topics and found my curiosity piqued. I also wondered why this book was chosen for the National Book Award this year. Surely there were better books written for kids, ones they would like to read. Let's see the what the National Book Award committee said...
Martin W. Sandler’s riveting work of nonfiction, 1919 The Year That Changed America, focuses on one year of turbulence and its far-reaching aftermath. Sandler’s evocative language brings 1919 to life for young readers, showing us the impact of that crucial year on major issues like race relations, women’s rights, and climate change. This carefully researched and curated work strikingly demonstrates the interconnected nature of history–as it happens and its rippling consequences for years to come.
  • Well, I guess that explains it. When describes a work as riveting is it any wonder that it won?

Saturday, February 15, 2020


Scrupulously researched and written in a very accessible way, DISASTER STRIKES! THE MOST DANGEROUS SPACE MISSIONS OF ALL TIME by Jeffrey Kluger is not only easy to read but fascinating.

I grew up during the years of the Space Race, though I was young and mostly unaware of what was going on with our space program. I do remember watching, on our old black and white TV, several of the launches and being completely thrilled.

What I wasn't aware of was how many accidents occurred and even how deaths were caused by our race to the moon. After the Apollo program ended, I pretty much stopped paying attention until that fateful day in 1986 when the Challenger, with a teacher on board, blew up. I wasn't watching the launch, I was teaching that day and giving a test. My classroom that year was an old portable which was cold that day so I had my students come in to the school building to take a test in the library. As the students were hunched over their tests, an announcement came over the intercom system about the explosion of the Challenger. We all sat in stunned silence. And then, because there was nothing to be done about it from our angle, we resumed taking the test. That is one of the biggest regrets of my whole teaching career. Those poor kids were stunned and grieving and I made them continue taking a test. What a terrible decision.

Jeffrey Kluger is the science editor and senior writer for TIME magazine and he clearly knows how to write about complicated topics in a clear and interesting way. He not only writes about each disaster, thirteen of them, and what happened from a technical angle, but he includes what the astronauts were thinking and doing at the same time, making the information very personal. Often he included the astronauts last words, like those of the crew of the Challenger, letting us know that they were doing their jobs even in the face of disaster.

I learned so much, too. Before reading this book I knew about the Apollo 1 explosion and fire that killed all three on board. I had watched the film on Apollo 13 about the near-fatal problems aboard that vessel and the miraculous return to earth. Of course, I was aware of the Challenger and the Columbia's explosions which killed all seven astronauts on board. But I knew nothing about all the problems with the Gemini program, or those that the Russian space program experienced. And I was only vaguely aware, because I wasn't paying attention, to all the near crises aboard the space station.

What I liked best about the book:
  • Each "disaster" was handled in a fairly short chapter of 15-20 pages, making the task of reading short and doable even for a slower reader.
  • Personal information about each astronaut, even the Russians, was given. I cared much more about what happened because I cared about the person involved.
  • If a lot of information on one of the disasters was already well-known, then Kluger took a different angle on it. For example, the chapter on Apollo 13 focused more on what the engineers on earth were doing while the astronauts were struggling to stay alive on their mission.
  • A helpful glossary of terms, a table of contents, and an index are included to help student researchers.
What I didn't like:
  • The quality of the photos was very poor. They were all small and black and white. 
I am tremendously glad that I read the book and hope that all secondary libraries get a copy of it and make their science teachers aware of it. Though the book is written for teens, I know adults will get a lot out of it, too.


Friday, February 14, 2020


PLAYLIST: THE REBELS AND REVOLUTIONARIES OF SOUND by James Rhodes is one of the most fun books I've read in a long time.

James Rhodes, now a classical pianist, was an abused child. He credits classical music with saving his life. With his book, Playlist, he introduces us to the original rock stars: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel. He wants to help us "discover how their music changed history, inspired millions, and continues to enthrall throughout the world today." And he does it with a visually exquisite volume including the avant-garde designs by artist Martin O'Neill. After a short introduction by Rhodes, readers are directed to open up Spotify to cue up a playlist created specifically for readers of Playlist. Each classical musician superstar has two pieces of music on the playlist. Each piece reflects some aspect of the musicians genius.

This is what the reading/listening experience of Playlist was like for me---
Starting with Bach, I would read two pages of fun information about Bach and how his music has influenced current musicians. The double page looked like this:
The Facts of Life on Bach
Next I would turn the page and cue up the music for the piece that was highlighted on this double page. While I listened to the song, I would read facts about the song or about the artist as he was writing it. For example, 'The Marriage of Figaro' takes 3-4 hours to perform. In order for the audience to stay alert, Mozart would incorporate really lively tunes at points throughout the opera to make sure no one fell asleep.
The Marriage of Figaro Overture by Mozart
If I was still reading when the song ended, I would pause Spotify because I didn't want to start the next song until I was ready. Some of the songs were very short, just a few minutes, while others were quite long. Often Rhodes would give suggested times in the songs to pay special attention. It was a very interactive reading experience. My favorite song was also the longest: Bolero at 15 minutes. Rhodes gives the reader a list of all the instruments that are playing on each verse. I've loved this song for years and I had no idea that the melody of the song is passed from instrument to instrument seventeen times! I not only listened to it once by myself, but again with my husband. I had to share the listening experience with him.

What I liked about this book:
  • Well, I liked practically everything about it. I enjoyed the interactive component best.
  • Rhodes was brilliant for choosing just seven musicians to highlight, making the book short. It was not overwhelming at all to consume both the book and the music.
  • I think every music teacher should have their own copy of this book and get ready with the Spotify playlist. I can just picture them reading a short section to their students and then playing the song asking probing questions at the end to help cement learning.
  • Rhodes talked about why no women or minorities were chosen. It helped me accept their absence. Now I want him to create another volume of Playlist, this one including pieces by women or non-European men.
  • Interspersed throughout the book are more facts about classical music and how orchestras are organized by instruments. The back of the book has a helpful glossary of musical terms. 
What I didn't like about the book:
  •  The size of the book. It is unusually large so it was cumbersome to hold. It is nearly the size of old vinyl record covers, which are 12" by 12". (The book is a bit smaller at 11 1/2" by 11 1/2".) It is larger than most children's books. My experience with teenagers is they don't want to check out a book that will be viewed as a children's book by their peers. But this is a small quibble.
When my children were young, I made a point of playing classical music for them to listen to when we traveled in the car together. Both of my daughters still love classical music. My eldest is exposing her young son to it now. It is never to early to start exposing kids to the music of the very first rock stars!

I highly recommend this book and hope that every secondary librarian includes it in their library collection. It provides a wonderful reading/listening experience.


Monday, February 10, 2020

TTT: Books with LOVE in the title

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with LOVE in the title

Books I've read:  (I should say for full disclosure, I don't necessarily recommend all of these books. Some I didn't even like. One I didn't even finish.)

Adult titles:
  • Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton
  • Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
  • Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World 
  • You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl
  • Dear Fahrenheit 451: Love and Heartbreak in the Stacks by Annie Spence
  • The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
YA/MG titles:
  • The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough
  • Love, Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli
  • The Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
  • Love and Leftovers by Sarah Tregay 
  • The Statistical Possibility of Love At First Sight by Jennifer Smith
  • Love is the Drug by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Children's titles:
  • Mama, Do You Love Me? by Barbara Joosse
  • God's Great Love For You by Rick Warren
  • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
Poetry Books:
  • Love Found: 50 Classic Poems of Desire, Longing and Devotion edited by Jennifer Orkin Lewis
  • The Ordering of Love: New and Collected Poems of Madeleine L'Engle
  • The Best Loved Poems of Jacqueline Kennedy-Onassis by Caroline Kennedy
  • Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation edited by Roger Housdon
Books I want to read:
  • The Love Letters by Madeleine L'Engle
  • Geek Love by Katherine Dunn
  • Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
  • Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  • The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth Church
  • Of Love and Other Demons by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • For the Love of Books by Graham Tarrant
Surprisingly, even though I eventually found several books with LOVE in the title, there were not as many as I thought there would be (and several titles were pretty obscure.)


Sunday, February 9, 2020

Sunday Salon, Feb. 9th

My constant companion on these rainy days.
Weather: Sunny and chilly. We have had record-breaking rains this past week, with flooding in nearby communities and mudslides, etc. So this sunny day is a nice respite from the wet.

GaNa: Our wonderful, smart, enchanting grandson (who's biased?) renamed us. I'm Na and Don is Ga, but when we are together we are now GaNa. Hs is such a delight.

Cybils: My work as a Round 2 judge for the JH/SH Nonfiction genre is done. Our team spent the weekend discussing our favorites and we came to consensus fairly easily, though all eleven of the finalists were so good. Now we wait until the world knows the winners when they are announced on February 14th. Stay tuned.

Found space: Both of our daughters are moving from one home to another so their stuff which has been stored at our house is trickling away, too. We are recovering space we haven't had in a long time, if ever. Don and I will drive later this week to San Fran with a pickup full of stuff for Carly. Can't wait to see her new place. Rita and her family dropped by to pick up Ian's bookshelf. Boxes of toys couldn't fit in the car so she'll retrieve them next time.

Disgusted and frightened: My reaction to the results of this past week with the "acquittal" of Trump in the Senate "trial." I'm sick. Just sick.

2020 Reading resolution: I was reading the new issue of Book Page (free from my library) and came upon a page where five of the magazine's editors made their one reading resolution for the year. (See photo above.) I decided right then and there to make one, just one, too. And here it is....drum roll, please...LONESOME DOVE. Years ago I binged watched the whole mini-series in one day. Now I will read the whole book in one year! (No excuses. Here I go!)

Books I've read since January 19th (the last time I posted a Sunday Salon). I know, I've been reading a lot lately:
  • A Thousand Sisters: The Heroic Airwomen of the Soviet Union in World War II by Elizabeth Wein. E-Book. A Cybils selection.
  • The Stonewall Riots: Coming Out In the Streets by Gayle E. Pitman. Print. A Cybils selection.
  • The Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor. Audiobook. Part of the 'Strange the Dreamer' series. 
  • Torpedoed: The True Story of the WWII Sinking of the "Children's Ship" by Deborah Heiligman. Print. A Cybils selection. 
  • Mummies Exposed: Creepy and True by Kerrie Logan Hollihan. Print. A Cybils selection.
  • Elizabeth Warren: Nevertheless, She Persisted by Susan Wood. Print. A children's book about a US Senator and a woman running for president. 
  • One Person, No Vote: How All Voters Are Not Created Equally by Carol Anderson. Print. A Cybils selection.
  • God Got a Dog by Cynthia Rylant. Print. A children's poetry book. Part of the new collection for our church library. A reread. 
  • The Poison Eaters by Gail Jarrow. Print. A Cybils selection, the last I read of the batch.
  • When God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner. Print. A children's book which is part of the new collection for our church library.
  • Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes. Print. A 2020 Printz Honor winner, written in verse.
Currently reading:
  • Call Down the Hawk by Maggie Stiefvater. The first book in a new series, a side series from the Raven Cycle books. Audiobook. 34%.
Upcoming audiobooks cued up for our road trip:
  • Motherless in Brooklyn by Jonathan Letham
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  • Lady Cop Makes Trouble by Amy Stewart
  • The Yellow House by Sarah Broom
A new (old) role: I have accepted to be the volunteer librarian at my church. A friend, Jane, and I weeded the collection and removed four boxes of books and old videos. Then I had a small budget to buy some new books. I was in my element. Fun!


Friday, February 7, 2020

Friday quotes and review: Ordinary Hazards

Title: Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

Book Beginnings quote:


I read somewhere that names
penetrate the core of our being,
and I suppose, this is
as good a time as any to confess
my name is not the only lie
I've ever lived with, but Nikki is
the first invention for which
I accept full responsibility.

Friday56 quote:

Lilacs blooming
outside my window.
Never knew purple
could smell so good.

Comments: Ordinary Hazards is a memoir written by YA author Nikki Grimes. It is mostly written in verse. She had a traumatic childhood but knew that she finally had to expose her good and bad memories to the air. In her author's note, Grimes writes, "A memoir is tricky business. Unlike an autobiography, a memoir's focus is on truth, not facts." Ever talk to a sibling about a shared event? They will remember things differently than you. No one is wrong. Both know a truth about the situation from their own point of view. Though the story is fairly heartbreaking, I am still loving the poetry and it is a fast read. "The Naming" quote is just the first stanza of a longer poem. "The Scent of Purple" is a complete poem and the only thing on page 56. Hence, the quick read.

Review: Ordinary Hazards won a Printz Honor last month when the ALA Youth Media Awards were handed out. It hadn't really been on my radar but it should have been. Nikki Grimes grew up in New York City. Her mother, who battled with schizophrenia and alcoholism, was an unreliable parent. Her father, a musician, was out of her life for several years. Fortunately for Grimes she was assigned a very loving, supportive foster situation. It was while she lived in this foster home that she wrote her first poem, at age six, and has been writing every since. She has published many books for children and young adults. She has also won lots of awards. Of her many titles the one she likes best is "Poet".

When she decided to write a memoir of her early years she knew it would be tough because her childhood was so traumatic. She had many holes in her memory because of this trauma but with the help of her sister and a childhood friend she was able to piece together her story, written in a series of poems.  The book is achingly lovely and heartbreaking, hopeful and frustrating. For any teen who is afraid to reach for their dreams because of their life situations, this is a must-read. Nikki may not have had a supportive mother, but she found adults and friends in other quarters to help her reach her goal of becoming a writer.

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from current book.
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56 to share. 

Visit these two websites to participate. Click on links to read quotes from books other people are reading. It is a great way to make blog friends and to get suggestions for new reading material.