"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, August 29, 2022

TTT: Top Twenty Children's Books from the '100 Books Every Kid Should Hear Before Kindergarten' List

School Freebie

Top Ten Tuesday: My favorite books from the '100 Books Every Kid Should Hear Before Kindergarten' list, read with my young grandson this summer.

(My ratings were influenced by Ian, the soon-to-be-kindergartener. He really enjoys humorous books but also likes to read books about nature.)

Moo, Baa, La La La (Boynton)                                Owl Babies (Waddell)
Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus (Willems)            Napping House (Wood)
Not a Box (Portis)                                                        Jamberry (Degen)
No, David! (Shannon)                                                  They All Saw a Cat (Wenzel)
Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site (Rinker)      How Long is a Whale? (Limentani)
Say Hello! (Isadora)                                                      I Stink! (McMullin)
Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes (Litwin)            Lily's Purple Plastic Purse (Henkes)
Red: A Crayon's Story (Hall)                                        Where is the Green Sheep? (Fox)
Go Away, Big Green Monster! (Emberley)                  Strega Nona (DePaolo) 
Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match (Brown)                 Please, Baby, Please (Lee) --Jamie's
                                                                                        favorite, he's Ian's brother, age 2.              

All 100 of the books were good, no clunkers at all. These books just happened to be the books that we enjoyed reading together the most or had positive interactions over.  See my original post about the project here. It became a family project.


Saturday, August 27, 2022

Let's Discuss! Comments

Nearly every week I participate in three discussion posts where I create a list or a blog post and then add my URL to a linky open to other bloggers. The hosts of these weekly groups encourage participants to join in the conversation and to visit many of the other blogs to make comments. It shocks me how few comments my blog posts generate even if I visit and comment on every single participant's blog.

On Tuesdays I create a Top Ten Tuesday list of books following a prompt. Usually over 100 bloggers also link-up to this weekly group and I try to visit at least ten sites. If someone comments on my post, I make a point to go back and find their post and make a comment. As I look at the comments made on others' blogs it seems like it is the same 20 people or so who make comments, leaving 80 others who don't make comments at all.

On Fridays I participate in two groups, Book Beginnings and Friday56 where participants are asked to post the opening line and a quote from page 56 of the book they are currently reading. These two groups are hosted by two different people but most of the participants, myself included, lump them together into one post. These groups usually have 20 or so folks who participate. Since there are fewer participants, I try to visit and comment on everyone's blog each week. What I've noticed is that usually about five people will comment on my blog (25%) if, say, I am busy and don't have a chance to make comments yet. Then, if my comments come in soon enough, another five or so will reply in kind, making it around 50% of the participants as commenter. Some bloggers participate every single week and I don't see their names on the comments of anyone's post ever.

On Sunday I participate in what is called Sunday Salon where bloggers recap their weeks, post pictures, list their books, whatever. One can sign up on a linky hosted by Deb Nance at Reader Buzz and/or on the Sunday Salon Facebook page. Since Sunday is a family day, I will link up only if I know I have time to fully participate. Often on Sundays I'm busy away from my computer so I won't link up to these sites because I know I won't have time to participate in a meaningful way with the other blogs. I link this post up to my own Facebook page and find that a few friends will comment there but hardly anyone makes comments on my blog itself except for a dedicated few. Since I live on the West Coast of the USA I am often aware that Sunday is over in some parts of the planet by the time I hit publish. Friends read this post and often verbally comment on aspects of my Sunday Salon posts.

I participate in these weekly groups as an opportunity to "meet" new blogging friends and to find out what others are reading and are excited about. If a person never makes a comment on my blog, I don't know that they have visited it or not. If a person clearly never comments on my blog, even after I've made several in a row on theirs, then I feel okay not visiting their site and not wasting my time trying to "befriend" them.

An article titled How To Get More Comments on Your Blog (13 easy tips), the fifth tip is to leave comments on other blogs. Obviously, we all want to increase activity on our blogs. Commenting seems like a nice invitation to others to join in.

One more thing before I open up the discussion. I wish people would put hyperlinks in their comments so I can easily return the comment favor. I've noticed, especially on TTT, that people will comment with their name but when they sign up on the linky they use their blog name so I can't always, with confidence, return comment or answer a question they've asked. Blogspot/Blogger doesn't hyperlink links, so it is nice if a person uses the code so I can just click on it, but that isn't necessary. Even if a person just leaves their URL, I can copy that into my browser and find my way back to them easily. To hyperlink a URL you can use this code, which can be copied and stored on your computer for future use: <a href="Insert your specific post URL here copied from your browser">Give your URL a title here</a> This creates a hyperlink to your specific blogpost and easy access.

So let's discuss comments.

How do handle comments yourself? Do you attempt to return comments by visiting their blog and leaving a comment? Or do you usually just answer comments on your own blog or both?

How do you handle it if someone participates in a weekly group and they don't comment on your blog? Do you notice who does and doesn't comment? Do you notice that some people are only commenters if you make a comment first, while some people are up-front ones? Why do you think people even link up their blogs if they don't plan on being a full participant? Am I the only one keeping score? Do you notice when certain bloggers never seem to return the comment favor?

Now it's your turn to comment! (Remember give me a URL so I can return the favor!)


Thursday, August 25, 2022

Review and quotes: LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY


Title: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus 

Book Beginnings quote:

Friday56 quote (from page 23, last page of preview):

Summary: Elizabeth Zott is a chemist. But the 1950s are not kind to women who want to use their brains instead of just looking lovely and staying home as housewives.  When she finally gets a job as a chemist she is relegated to work which doesn't interest her because her boss can't see talent, only her gender. But when Elizabeth meets Calvin Evans, a talented and much-lauded chemist, she finds that he likes her for her brain and everything changes for her. True chemistry occurs. But science, like life has to follow its own rules. That is why, several years later, Elizabeth finds herself as a single mother and the star of a cooking show called Supper at Six. As she teaches others to cook using chemistry is also finds herself challenging other women to go for their dreams.

Review: When I began this book skepticism crept in to my brain. I've had a summer full of bad reading choices and I thought it was just going to be a silly love story or something awkwardly funny like the book Where'd You Go, Bernadette. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that this book had quite a bit of substance. It did have the quirky, funny scenes, but the message was clear -- women deserve to be appreciated for their brains and to have their talents appreciated. The book has a lot to say

In fact, Lessons in Chemistry is one of my favorite books of this summer. I've already suggested that both of my daughters read it, and hope my book club considers it for a future meeting.

In addition to enjoying the book, I also enjoyed the author interview at the end of the audiobook. It made me very curious about the author. Bonnie Garmus is an older first time author but has been a copy editor for years. She once lived in Seattle and likes to swim in open water and loves to row. Her dog is named 99. The last two pieces of information will make their way into Lesson in Chemisty. And that makes me smile.

The book is 400 pages long, which qualifies it for the Big Book Summer Challenge hosted by Sue at Book by Book.

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.  



Monday, August 22, 2022

TTT: Summer book ratings

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer books ratings.

I'm off the board this week with a completely different topic than prescribed. Why? Two reasons. One, I could only think of two book series I wish would go on. Apparently I am easily satisfied with endings. Thinking two wouldn't make for a very exciting post I decided to answer a question I have for myself. Which is-- Why have I been feeling down and grumpy about my summer book selections, thinking I've made bad choices so I have dawdled through a bunch of them? Is it me, the books, or am I having a misconception? 

I decided to share my Goodreads rating for all the books I've read (or are currently reading) this summer. Then I'll do a little math to see if my suspicions are true: that it hasn't been a stellar summer for me and books.

One more note: Goodreads only allows for full number ratings, no 3.5 or 4.25 numbers. I do give books decimals when I rate them on my blog. But for the sake of being straight forward, I am pretending that all books with one number rating are equal. I've also sorted them alphabetically by title per the number ratings, so there is no other ranking happening. 

Lastly, the photos are taken from my Goodreads page. The number you see is the average of all Goodreads reader's reviews. The stars are how many stars I gave the book. Confused yet? I hope not. Stay with me below the photos of all the books for a little analysis.

2 stars. I read the print edition, which I own. Clearly I feel differently about this book than most other readers.

2 stars, so far. I'm only part way through this book. So far I don't like it. It is a book club selection so I will finish it but can't promise I won't resort to skimming.

2 stars. My grandson, aged four, really enjoyed listening to the audiobook when we were together but I found it dated and repetitive.

3 stars. I listened to this audiobook, another book club selection, with my husband. He liked it better than me (and everyone in the club.)

3 stars, so far. I'm mid-book in the audio version. The topic is abortion and this story is very depressing. Maybe my estimation will improve, but I'm doubtful. Another book club selection.

3 stars. I read the print version, which I own. Albom is a favorite author, this is not his best work.

3 stars. Print and audio. I thought this book had a lot to offer but I found too many holes in the plot at the same time. A book club selection.

4 stars. Print. Children's book.


4 stars. Graphic memoir. Impactful.

4 stars. Audio. Both my husband and I enjoyed this.

4 stars, so far. Print and audio. I'm 80% finished. I've plodded through this book all summer, yet I find it quite well-done.

4 stars. Print. My first book read this summer. I liked, not loved it.

4 stars. Print. A re-read.

4 stars. Print. A book club selection. Nonfiction.

4 stars. Print. A re-read.

4 stars. Audio. Pulitzer Prize winner 2022.

4 stars. Audio. I'm afraid this book suffered due to its juxtaposition to the audiobook I listened to right before it.

5 stars. Print. Poetry and analysis of poets.

5 stars. Audio. This book got better and better the further I got in to it.

5 stars. Audio. This may well be my favorite read of the summer.

5 stars. Audio. Or is this my favorite?

5 stars. Audio. Another book club selection. My only 5 star book club choice of the whole summer. Hmm.


  • My average rating out of the 24 books is 3.87 
  • Compared to the average of Goodreads readers which is 4.14. 
  • Compared to my summer 2021 books rating of 24 books: 4.25

Analysis: Looking at straight statistics, my average rating is substantially lower than last year at the same time and for the same number of books. It is also lower than what Goodreads readers think. So my perceptions are correct. But why? As I was noting down information about the books, I noticed something. This summer has been a bad summer for book club choices. My average for those book club selections (six of them) is 3.33. Compare that to last summer when I also read six book club choices and my average rating was 4.0. Since these are the books I discuss and have to form a true opinion about, it doesn't surprise me that my low estimation of these books has tainted how I feel about the whole batch of books this summer.

I confess though that my pessimism has been contagious to each new book. I rarely read books and rate them with 2 stars. This summer I have three. In the past I think I just wouldn't have completed book I felt so poorly about. I'm hoping this negative attitude is coming to an end.


Sunday, August 21, 2022

Sunday Salon --- The "Whew" Edition

Hydrangea days. I love these wonderful bushes.

Warm and sunny after the morning haze burns off. It is also quite humid for the PacNW, which we are not used to here when it's warm.

It all began: Over a year and half ago we had a water leak in an upstairs bathroom. It caused damage to the walls, floors, and ceiling below. Little by little we paid to have everything repaired (remodeling the bathroom in the process) leaving the carpet for last, which needed to be replaced anyway, while our aging cat lived out her days. After she died this spring we stalled a bit longer until Don retired. In June we began the last phase of the project which turned into a really big one.

  • After selecting the carpet and getting an installation date we began the process of sorting and boxing up all the items in each of the upstairs rooms, leaving just the furniture to move from room to room as the install progressed. This was easier to say than do.
    • We've accumulated a lot of "stuff" in the 26 years we've been in this house so the process required sorting not just simply boxing up items. Hopefully we can cull even more items as we move back in. That process has only just begun.
    • Don had been using our bonus room as his office during COVID isolation and beyond which required a level of scrutiny beyond just throwing away papers.
      • At some point we decided to shift the home office to a small bedroom after the carpet install and remake the bonus room into a playroom for our grandsons. 
      • This required dismantling some of our bigger office furniture which wouldn't fit in the smaller room.
      • In fact, we had to saw through the top of our huge old oak desk just to get it out of the room. (See photo.) On a happy note, Don expressed joy at taking a circular saw to the darn thing to cut it into enough pieces that we could haul it out ourselves. Ha!

    • Twenty-six years ago, when we moved into the house, Don and a friend had to remove the door jamb in order to get the big oak desk into the room. This time Don just cut it into three large sections destined for the dump.

  • As the last piece of paper from the office was sorted into it's correct receptacle, we raced to the hardware store to buy paint, deciding "why not paint the walls now, since we don't have to worry about a drop cloth?" When the paint sales clerk tried to talk us into going slow in our paint selection, we assured him we would live with whatever color we chose. We spent the next two days priming and painting the room 'butter up' yellow.
    • Painting prep also requires extra attention to details that carpet-laying didn't, like cleaning the curtains and washing the blinds, removing pictures from the walls, patching holes, taping baseboards and window frames... you know the drill.
  • On Monday of this past week the installer arrived and we were ready. In fact, he commented that our prep work was better than most as we had dismantled the beds and truly de-junked each room. For the three days he was here, Don assisted in furniture shifting but I was able to take a bit of a break from physical labor for a few days.
  • But after he left Wednesday, the process of moving back in began, shifting furniture around, and "decorating."
    • We attacked the bedrooms first: replacing linens onto beds and relocating Jamie's crib to our daughter's old room, making space for the new home office in the room where we had it set up before.
    • Next we arranged furniture and hung pictures in the new playroom. We are both delighted with the outcome, but the process required quite a few squabbles between us. We were getting pretty tired by this point. The room is ready for kids but has not been "tested" yet.
  • "If you give a moose a muffin, you have to give him some blackberry jam to go with it." This old phrase from a children's book was ringing in my ears throughout the project as one thing led to another and that thing led to another, and so on. Here are a few examples of side projects that resulted from our cleanup project:
    • Removal of our wall of family photos in the hallway to be replaced by some framed art prints, which are currently being framed at the store.
      • Searching for art to hang in the new playroom I realized how much art I've been hiding away for years in closets, under beds, and behind doors. Apparently we are art hoarders.
      • We removed the photos from the frames on the hall wall, sorted through all our stashed art, and now have a huge pile of frames for Goodwill. Forty plus. You read that right, 40 frames (some with art in them), out of here.
      • Our hanging clothes needed to be relocated during the carpeting process. As I replaced them I did the 'Marie Kondo process', touching each one and deciding if it still gave me joy. If not, I thanked it while I slid it into a black garbage bag, also destined for the second-hand shop.
      • Next I invited (commanded?) daughter #2 to come over and sort through her old clothes and the few books and trinkets she still had stashed in drawers and cupboards. She also committed quite a few old prom and choir dresses to the giveaway heap. She carried back to her home two rather big boxes of treasures she still wants to save.
      • Daughter #1 is next. But she and her husband are building a house right now. As soon as it is finished, it will be her turn to remove her old clothing, including her wedding dress, and relocate them to her home. It is time.
      • What do all these things have in common? -- A tube of Neosporin, a half-empty can of Altoids, a barrette, a Vis-a-Vis pen, and a collapsible umbrella among other things? I found them all in a bag I used as my school/work bag before I was retired. Apparently I shoved the bag to the back of my closet and forgot about it. I've been retired five years. Sigh. It is cleaned out now.
    • In the midst of all our activity with the carpet, our dryer died. Every time we washed a load of clothes we had to find places to hang the wet things. Sigh. "If you give a moose a muffin..." New dryer purchased on Friday for delivery this week.
  •  We've been working on this project solid for two weeks. We're tired and sore. It's no wonder re-carpeting the house only happens every 26 years. On the bright side, every stick of furniture has been dusted and we have nice, new carpet...even if it's nearly the same color as before!

Saying goodbye:
In the midst of our painting project, we took a day off to drive south for a memorial for my cousin who died this past winter. His wife and only daughter hosted an event at a lovely location on the Sandy River, just east of Portland. The day and the location couldn't have been more perfect. All my siblings and my mother were there, as were Brad's only brother and his family, and many friends, some he knew since grade school. Brad loved to fish and that spot on the Sandy River was a favorite location.

Saying goodbye again and great fellowship:
Today after church we had a fellowship opportunity to say goodbye to Dom Calata, our choir director's husband (and our relative). Dom died in March in the line of duty as a Deputy Sheriff. We worked on a service project together, ate pizza, laughed and cried. It was a chance to welcome his wife back into the fold of our congregation, too. It is so important to celebrate, mourn, and remember TOGETHER.
Memorial bracelets for law enforcement officers to wear in remembrance of Dom's sacrifice. The blue ribbon was part of the display in front of our church on the day of his memorial service.

Books, the past two weeks: 

  • Finished:
    • Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus. Loved it. Haven't completed review yet, watch for it. Audiobook.
    • The Complete Maus by Art Spiegelman. The famous graphic memoir about the Holocaust. It made news this year because a school district decided to ban it. Read why here. Print.
    • The Heart of American Poetry by Edward Hirsch. It reads a little like a college textbook, but I enjoyed it so much. Here is my review. Print.
  • Currently reading:
    • The Grapes of Wrath. I am going to finish this. I am going to finish this. It has taken me all summer but I am at 80% so I see the light at the end of tunnel. Both print and audiobook.
    • Firefly Lane by Kristen Hannah. A book club selection. I generally like this author but I have yet to describe this book as one I "like." But I'm not far into it. Print. 13%.
    • Mercy Street by Jennifer Haigh. Another book club selection. This book is depressing me. It's about abortion, from many angles and perspecitvies. Ugh. Audiobook. 55%.

A reminder of all the things that are getting done by President Biden and his administration.




Thursday, August 18, 2022

Short Reviews -- Catching up on past due reviews with quotes

Summer is a good time for reading, not such a good time for reviewing. Today I shall attempt to catch up on a few past due reviews, in short form.

Beach Reads
by Emily Henry
Berkley Books, 2020. Print book I purchased used. 361 pages.

A romance writer and a a literary writer end up living on the same lake in Michigan right next to each other. Both have a problem -- they are stuck in a rut and cannot make progress on their books. Both are consumed by their own personal issues. They hit upon an idea -- to swap genres and see who can get published first. Naturally love ensues.

It seemed to me that everyone on the Internet was raving about this book and/or this author so I just had to find out what all the fuss was about. As it turns out either I am a big grump or I've lost the desire to read Rom-coms because I found the characters weak, their problems not well developed, and I didn't care if the two writers fell in love or not. To be fair, my reading speed may have been the problem. It took me over a month to consume this book with lots of little nibbles along the way. Something tells me this type of novel is best if gulped down in one or two big bites.

“That was what I'd always loved about reading, what had driven me to write in the first place. That feeling that a new world was being spun like a spiderweb around you and you couldn't move until the whole thing had revealed itself to you.” 

Rating: 2.5 stars

The Cure for Sorrow: a Book of Blessings for Times of Grief by Jan Richardson
Wanton Gospeller Press, 2016. Print copy I own. 184 pages.

When Jan Richardson unexpectedly lost her husband she did what she had long known how to do: she wrote blessings. These were no sugar-coated blessings. They minimized none of the pain and bewilderment that came in the wake of a wrenching death. With these blessings, Jan entered, instead, into the depths of the shock, anger, and sorrow. From those depths, she has brought forth words that, with heartbreaking honesty, offer surprising comfort and stunning grace. (Publisher)
Grasping for emotional comfort after an unexpected and tragic death of a beloved relative, I found my way to this book after an excerpt from it was read by the widow at his service. To say that this book would help bring comfort to a grieving person is putting it mildly. Reading each blessing (poem) is like slathering salve on a deep wound, feeling the warmth of healing as it penetrates ever fiber of the psyche. 
This is the book you want to read if you are lost in a jungle of grief. It is also the book you will want to gift to others as they are lost to grief themselves.

So may we know
the hope
that is not just
for someday
but for this day --
here, now,
in this moment
that opens to us:

hope not made
of wishes
but of substance...
Rating: 5 stars

Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother's Will to Survive by Stephanie Land 
Hatchette Books, 2019. Print version from the library. 270 pages.

When Stephanie Land was 28, her dream of going to college and of a writing career seemed to evaporate into thin air when she discovered she was pregnant. In order to support herself and her child she took any job she could find but often resorted to cleaning houses for the flexibility it provided. As a maid, Stephanie found she had almost become a ghost, invisible to those whom she served. As a single woman with a small child she had to cope with so many insults and hassles just to get by. This is Stephanie's story, but she is not alone. It is a story of many, many people living in poverty today.
My husband and I watched the miniseries, "Maid". The book and the miniseries were equal parts similar and dissimilar. But I was tremendously moved by both. The book did generate a good discussion with my club but I don't think we plumbed the depths of what the book had to offer in terms of really understanding the lives of those living in poverty. This book/miniseries helped open my eyes. One word of caution -- read the book first, especially if you plan on using this as a discussion book. Several members of my club got the details mixed up which led to a confusing discussion.
“We were expected to live off minimum wage, to work several jobs at varying hours, to afford basic needs while fighting for safe places to leave our children. Somehow nobody saw the work; they saw only the results of living a life that constantly crushed you with its impossibility. It seemed like no matter how much I tried to prove otherwise, “poor” was always associated with dirty.” 
Rating: 4 stars
SOTH Gals Book Club, June 2022

The Girl in His Shadow by Audrey Blake
Recorded Books, 2021. Audiobook from Overdrive through public library. 12 hours, 50 min.

When Nora Beady's parents both die of cholera, the doctor who attends them, Dr. Horace Croft, decides to make her his ward but the education he gives her isn't what most young ladies of the day receive. Nora is taught to be his medical assistant. Soon she becomes very good at dissections and anatomical diagramming. She reads medical texts and is very interested in scientific discovery. All of this training has been done on the hush-hush as it is illegal for women to practice medicine in the time period. But when Dr. Croft hires another physician to join the practice, Nora finds she can no longer conceal her skills from the world, even if it mean punishment.
Last month when I was visiting my library's Overdrive page I noticed an event called Big Library Read. The event, a first for Overdrive, involved making one adult book available to e-book and audiobook readers for immediate checkout for a limited time. No standing in line waiting for a turn with the book. The book, The Girl in His Shadow, sounded like something I'd enjoy -- a girl living in the 1800s who is smart and talented and finds she has to stand up to men to get the recognition she deserves -- so I checked out the audiobook and started listening right away. I was right, I did enjoy the story, as did my husband and daughter who joined me mid-story when we spent time together en route to a family vacation. I see that there is a sequel which I hope to get to in the near future. I wish we'd read this book for this month's book club rather than the book we did read, The Immortalists, which no one liked. I think it would make for an excellent discussion.

(BTW- I noticed that Overdrive is hosting a YA Big Library Read in November. The book hasn't been announced yet.)

“He had bits of some of them, floating in jars, and he wrote up their cases to print in his books. In a tattered edition of the Lancet, Nora discovered her own story with Dr. Croft’s prediction that having recovered from cholera, she’d gained immunity to the disease, and realized that she, too, was a specimen.”

Rating: 4.5 stars
Once again I am not following rules by sharing only quotes from page one and or page 56. I hope you get a sense of the writing from the quotes I did provide.

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, August 17, 2022


Back in January 2022 a school board in Tennessee voted to remove Maus from their 8th grade curriculum. It's removal started a firestorm of conservative individuals storming their school boards demanding that a lot of books should be banned, especially those that include anything about racism, sexuality, or LGBTQIA+ issues. Maus, at the head of the storm, is curiously devoid of all these issues yet individuals demanded it be removed from schools. I guess parents (who probably hadn't read the book) didn't want their children to learn about the Holocaust or have to learn anything, for that matter, that makes people feel bad about themselves or about history. According to some sources, the reason this school board banned Maus was because of its depiction of nudity. The exact complaint was: “concerns about profanity and an image of female nudity in its depiction of Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust.”. 

In case you missed this 1991 book, Maus tells the story of Jews fleeing the Holocaust during World War II. Artist and writer Art Spiegelman creatively rendered the Jews in the story as mice and some of the Nazis as cats. Versions of Maus were serialized in 1981 before the entire story was collected in book form in 1991. Because of the hyperbolic technique of rendering characters as animals, the power of Maus is clear from one glance: For tweens and teens, this memoir of the Holocaust is potentially more powerful than a straightforward documentary. By heightening the depiction of people to anthropomorphized caricatures, the evil of the Nazis is unforgettable. (Fatherly)

So the nudity in the book depicts nude mice who are being gassed in concentration camps! And parents complained about that?

An example of the nudity in Maus. The mice are the Jews and the cats are the Germans.

Maus is considered a graphic memoir. Art Spiegelman, the author and artist, collected the information from his father who survived the Holocaust. His mother also survived but later committed suicide. The horrors that happened to her and the death of her first born son just haunted her. Spiegelman found the process of creating the books (which were merged into one complete set in 1991) often very depressing. Maus I became quite popular and a movie was made from it. Spiegelman included himself in the book, since he is the reporter. His relationship with his father was difficult and this is reflected in the book also.
It took years for Spiegelman to create Maus I and II. The story he gleaned from his interviews with his father were terribly depressing. In this frame, we see Spiegelman overwhelmed by knowledge of what happened to so many Jews during the Holocaust -- bodies of dead Jews haunt his waking hours. (See here more nudity.)

As the book banning of Maus was gaining steam among conservatives, a comic book store owner in Knoxville, Tennessee announced he would give away 100 free copies of Maus to any kid who wanted to learn about the Holocaust (10 News). And he successfully raised over $83,000 crowd funding to accomplish this task. I hope a lot of kids were able to get the book and actually read it!

A librarian friend, Sandy, contacted me and suggested that the best way to combat book banning is to actually buy the book(s) in questions or place them on hold at the library which signals the librarians that this is a valued resource. I took her advice and placed a hold on The Complete Maus at my local library. I was 89th in line. It took six months before it was my turn to read this impactful graphic memoir. Even though I had several copies in my high school library I'd never read the complete book before. Whew! It is a heavy one but also an important book which needs to be read widely.

What can you do to help prevent book banning and censorship? Here is a TIP sheet for students (which works for adults, too.)

Now go out there and place a hold on a few banned/challenged books at your public or school library.

Besides Maus, I recommend you start with these teen titles:

  1. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez (YA, mixed race couple)
  2. All Boys Aren't Blue by George M. Johnson (Memoir, LGBTQIA+ issues)
  3. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (YA, Racial issues with the justice system)
  4. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie (YA, Indigenous issues)
  5. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Racism and self-esteem)
  6. Stamped: Racism, Anti-racism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi (YA, nonfiction about topic)
  7. Speak by Laurie Andersen (YA, rape)
  8. Something Happened in Our Town: A Child’s Story About Racial Injustice by Marianne Celano, Marietta Collins, and Ann Hazzard, illustrated by Jennifer Zivoin (Children's picture book about racial injustice)


Tuesday, August 16, 2022


The other day as I tromped through my public library en route to the "holds" section to pick up a book, THE HEART OF AMERICAN POETRY practically jumped into my arms off the "new books" table. I'm pretty sure I picked it up without missing a stride. I became an Edward Hirsch fan after reading his book 100 Poems to Break Your Heart this past April. Hirsch, who has published over ten of his own poetry books is a knowledgeable scholar about poetry in general. In The Heart of American Poetry Hirsch highlights one poem by each of 40 poets who he thinks really placed their fingerprints on American poetry. Starting with Anne Bradstreet (1612-1672), America's first published poet and ending with three living poets: Louise Glück, Garrett Hongo, and Joy Harjo. Along the way there were many familiar names of poets like Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and Langston Hughes. But there were a whole bunch of poets I'd never heard of before, many I hope to explore further. Sixteen of the selected poets were female, not half but better than most lists which are dominated by men. Contributions from many BIPOC poets were recognized starting with Phillis Wheatley (1753-17840 who was captured from her homeland in Africa and brought to America as a slave. Other Black poets in the collection were Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, Lucille Clifton, and Robert Johnson. Several Jewish poets were included: Emma Lazarus, Allan Ginsburg, and Louise Glück. There was at least one Indigenous poet: Joy Harjo, and an Asian-American poet, Garrett Hongo, whose poetry is also influenced by his roots in Hawaii. Several of the poets represented the LGBTQ point-of-view. Julia de Burgos is a Latinx poet and her poem "Farewell in Welfare Island" speaks out strongly. I think Hirsch did a fairly good job selecting poets who not only made important contributions to American poetry but who also represented a variety of points-of-view.

At the end of his introduction to The Heart of American Poetry, Edward Hirsch says,

It may sound strange to say so, but I have found it heartening to write this book about American poetry at a disheartening time in our republic, a time of broken promises. These poems hold us to a standard and remind us of the sacredness of the individual life, the single testamentary. I believe they offer us a healthy antidote, or perhaps forty fiery antidotes, to the moment of our malaise...American poetry is one of the underutilized resources of American culture, and these lyrics are an incitement to our best selves, a gift to the republic.
This paragraph made me stop and think of moments when poetry was the exact salve I needed for an ailment of the soul. I think about how much Amanda Gorman's poem "The Hill We Climb" meant to me and millions of others, as she recited it at the Biden Inauguration, for example. 

The other day I was listening to the radio and an old Bob Dylan song, "Blowin' In the Wind," came on and for some reason the lyrics hit me harder than ever before, especially the third verse: And how many ears must one man have/ Before he can hear people cry? Just that day I'd read Joy Harjo's poem, the last in this collection, "Rabbit Is Up to Tricks". In it rabbit, a stand-in for a creation creature, is bored so he makes a man out of clay and urges the man to do naughty things like steal from others, and man decides he wants it all and no longer wants to share. Rabbit then tries to get the clay man to stop. "But when the clay man wouldn't listen / Rabbit realized he'd made a clay man with no ears." After reading this poem, Hirsch tells his reader, it is impossible not to picture the "mutilated American figure, the embodiment of our dominant culture, 'a clay man with no ears.'" But he goes on to say that poetry can speak to us so we can experience the grief and pain of others when we put on our ears and listen.

That is what poetry does for me. It speaks without sermonizing. It teaches without tests. It touches my heart and makes me want to be a better person.

I highly recommend The Heart of American Poetry, though I confess that it often felt like I was reading a textbook, a good textbook but one nonetheless. I appreciate Edward Hirsch for tackling such a monumental task and narrowing it down into a portions that can be consumed by beginning/intermediate poetry readers like myself.

At 470+ pages this book qualifies for the Big Book Summer Challenge.


Monday, August 15, 2022

TTT: Books I Love Which Were Published Over Ten Years Ago

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Love Which Were Published Over Ten Years Ago (My tweak: I'm only adding books to this list if I haven't or have rarely mentioned this book before on TTT.)

Today's topic makes me laugh since almost all of the books on my top ten favorites were written over ten years ago. For this reason I decided to tweak the list making sure to only name books I love but ones I rarely mention here.

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery, 2006.

The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay, 1989.

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, 1945.

Alas, Babylon by Pat Frank, 1959.

Shakespeare: The World As Stage by Bill Bryson, 2007.

Corelli's Mandolin by Louis de Bernières. 1994.

The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien, 1990.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly, 2006.

Tales from Outer Suburbia by Shaun Tan, 2008.

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann, 2009.

Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. 2009.

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen, 1817.

What books do you like that were published over a decade ago?