Saturday, February 25, 2012

Why Books?

It was a dark and stormy night...

Most people would find this kind of night perfect for curling up with a book and a cup of tea, a perfect chance to read to your kids, all warm in their fuzzy jammies and slippers, propped up by pillows and stuffed animals, surrounded by a sliding stack of books to choose from. Those kids will grow up literate, able to spell and read more easily than the kids who won't be exposed to books and being read to.

Many children who don't have the opportunity to have books at home to read whenever they want, or to parents who have the energy to read aloud after a long day, will always be at a disadvantage in their schooling. Well, Page Ahead is working to change that.

The night that the Page Ahead Book Awards committee met at the Washington Mutual building featured an absolute downpour, a lot of rain even for Seattle. There were buckets of rain, bouncing knee high as it hit the streets, it was hard to see through the windshield, wind twisting the sheets of water sideways as I drove through the cross streets. The light in the streets was that yellow specifically featured in old movies, the rain glowing as the streetlamps came on all at once. Stormy, while inside the car it was cozy, dimly lit.

The Page Ahead meetings are held on the 48th floor, the Perkins Coie floor, and my ears always pop at 44. The windows in the office where we meet face the Sound and the ferries, West Seattle and the islands, and they shudder when gusts hit. It seems we are often just above jets as they fly in from the north to land at SeaTac. As awful as the weather was outside, it was warm and comfortable being in a room filled with people talking about choosing the best books for children.

Eight pages of books for us to peruse and choose from, we are looking for the single best book for children ages birth to 12: the best multicultural, read-aloud, and science books for at-risk kids. Page Ahead gives new books to kids who may never be able to own their own and studies show that children who own their own books are much better readers and so become much better students, and who knows where they will go from there?

So, we set out to choose books that could change a life, might inspire someone to become a teacher, a scientist, an astronaut, show that books can entertain as well as teach. Giving books to kids helps them to learn skills that will enable them to navigate the big, wide universe, to realize that there are other worlds out there than the ones they're in, that with what they learn they can make a difference in their lives, in others' lives.

I was from a pretty un-wealthy family and I can tell you that a library card and a mom who let us all buy books from the racks at the grocery store with the little bit of leftover money made a huge difference in who I grew up to be. Owning my very own books, books I could go back to over and over whenever I wanted, was like having a map of how to grow up.

I was given two books on my 9th birthday: A Wrinkle in Time was the very first, but not the last, time in my life that books showed me how a plain girl in glasses has power, and To Dance, To Dream showed me that grace and joy can belong to everyone (and that being a strong woman is really cool). Every child should have the chance to see themselves as heroes in their own lives.

So, here we are, feet firmly planted in the twins' broccoli patch, getting ready to send someone off onto an unending adventure, one that starts with the breathless opening of their very own books.

Monday, February 20, 2012

One Door Closes....

Sunrise was at 7:07, Sunset will be at 5:40.

In a time of tumult, it's calming to look at how big things like sunrise and sunset still happen. The world still turns, the ground beneath us still holds tight to the hillside, birds migrate, the waves roll on. It connects us all, this turning of the earth and the rising of the sun, and it's comforting to me to know that, wherever you are, we will still experience it together.

I haven't written in a while: I've been laid off and so am taking the time to do all those laid off things one must do when one is not actually being paid a wage, like updating profiles and sending job requests and signing up for unemployment. It's daunting and uncomfortable most of the time and I look forward to the sun setting (or at least its going down - we haven't had a sunset since last Tuesday; and what a sunset it was on that Valentine's Day: it was raining, the sun was going down and there was a triple rainbow) so I can do those other things not related to a computer like making dinner and doing the laundry; just leave the computer and feel righteous in not looking for a job for awhile.

Sitting in a chair in front of a computer taking online courses isn't particularly hard work, but it's certainly not exciting! Even so, it's amazing how quickly time slips by while sitting here. Eventually, I get antsy, that restless leg thing takes hold, and then I have to get up and go downstairs for a bit, think about doing something else, look out the window and contemplate moving the hummingbird feeder.

It helps to keep me focused when the weather has been uninviting, to say the least: wet, cold, gray. It's misty today and the buildings downtown are only a darker shade of gray than the water in the air. It's cold in the house and the cat's been sitting as close as she can to the computer's heating vent without stepping on the keyboard. Her little paws are radiant.

So send me happy thoughts and job opportunities! Something with books and/or children would be great but everything will be appreciated!

I'll get back to writing about books in the near future; I haven't been reading a lot recently but I'm sure that will change soon...

Friday, February 3, 2012


Sunrise is at 7:34, sunset will be at 5:13

There is something elemental about getting up before most other people, cleansing. My eyes were tired, my brain was wide awake.

I got up long before D's alarm went off at 4:45 (that's a.m.) - just couldn't sleep for the I Could Walk 500 Miles refrain cycling over and over in my head. I've cleaned the meat off a chicken carcass, made (and drank most of) a pot of coffee, made lunch for D., made the bed, folded and put away my clothes, fed the cat, put out the recycle and garbage, got dressed, took D. to work...all before 6:30.

The drive downtown and then back home was gorgeous. I love the stream of headlights into the city, a beautiful ribbon of light in the clear air of this morning, and coming over the hill to Rainier Avenue from Boren is the broad southern vista of the Rainier valley, lights twinkling as people start to get up and out. The sun was coming up and the mountains were silhouetted against the transparent indigo of the lightening sky. Stars everywhere! And now the Olympics are pink, the fog is violet, and the sky is going to be clear. Seagulls, little popcorn birds, it's noisy out here.

The sun is up, orange light bouncing off the windows of the houses facing east and the day feels kind of common now that everyone is's a Friday like the others (except for the clear and warming up part).

I was up late last night finishing Unraveling, by Elizabeth Norris. Janelle is going into her junior year, she has a popular boyfriend, a great family (except for her mom's bipolar disorder which seems to be getting worse), and a best friend named Alex.

Everything is great until she's hit by a truck while walking home. Her brain is shutting down and her life is flashing by when she is ripped back to sensation and vision and sees one of the stoner kids from her school standing over her. She is certain he saved her life but he won't admit it and there's nothing to prove that anything was ever broken or that she actually died.

Janelle's never really noticed Ben before, just that he was a part of a small group of loners and stoners, but now can't stop thinking about his role in her world, especially, since she met him, her life as she knows it is ending.

While sneaking into her father's FBI files to find out about her accident, she finds connections to her case and a count down clock, some sort of weapon, radiation poisonings and these connections may be leading back to Ben.

Fun, funny, great dialogue, interesting discussion about parallel universes and physics. It's got good drama, good romance, smooching, and great friendships. I really want to have the loose strings tied up but that wouldn't happen in real life; I'm not holding out any hope that there will be a sequel but I'd love to see what happens next. Age 13 and up. (Harper and Collins. $17.99. Available April, 2012.)