Saturday, May 26, 2012

It's so hard to choose just one

Don't you love the little chicken icon?
Sunrise was at 5:23, Sunset will be at 8:50.  It's been wet for awhile but kind of warm and muggy out.  Unfortunately, we missed the eclipse as a result of the overcastedness of our weather.  Bummer.  I just weeded the yard and swept the patio last weekend and there is rampant greenery coming over the rock wall and up the fence.  Some moss, a lot of ivy and the weeds are fairly popping out of the warm and wet dirt.

There's a nest of birds in our gutter and it poured yesterday.  The young ones aren't ready to fly, yet, so I hope they're safe.

Mervyn Peake and Gormenghast
I'm going through my books.  Again.  After more than three decades of working in bookstores, 4 years of college, and a lifetime of used bookshops, grocery store racks, yard and library sales, I have no more room for books.  Oh, I'm not as bad as some people, I'm sure, but there's no way to take out a seam or let down a hem to find a little more space.  So, I pulled the couch out away from the shelves along the living room wall, sat down on the floor, and started to cull.  Books for sale here, books to keep (and re-shelve at some point) here.  Boxes of all sizes going in and out of the house, stacked precariously in the garage.

I love touching all these books, dust be damned, and I keep finding multiple copies of the same books.  I'm sure my memory of each of those books is what compels me to buy that next copy. I can't bear that it won't be taken home and cared for.  I think I now have 4 copies of Green Grass of Wyoming.  I have two, maybe three, copies of Good-Bye, My Lady.  I have at least three copies of the Gormenghast series, all of them different editions.
The best boy/dog book EVER.  Dingoes!
I have a pretty hefty pile of out of print kid's paperbacks that I keep buying because they are the old Scholastic books, the ones I remember ordering and reading from Weekly Reader or off of the Scholastic order form.  What on earth am I going to do with all of them?  I really want to send them to my nieces and nephews - these particular books were such a big part of my life and they may never get a chance to know them.  Maybe I need to send them a set of bookshelves, first!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Super Books for a Super Moon

In honor of that great moon on the fifth of May, I thought I'd review my shelves of books and find a few volumes dedicated to the orb. 

The Man in the Moon, by William Joyce, is the first picture book in the Guardians of Childhood series.  Complex and absolutely gloriously illustrated, it is the story of how the Man in the Moon and the rest of the Guardians came to be.

When the MiM was a child, his ship, the Moon Clipper, was attacked by the King of Nightmares.  MiM's parents are gone, and his ship is now only a damaged moon circling a small blue and green planet named Earth.

While in orbit around the Earth, our MiM discovers that Earth is filled with children - sometimes their balloons float to him filled with their wishes and dreams.  Sometimes they are filled with fears, of the night, of bullies, of snakes; sometimes a child just needs soothing to relieve them of their nightmares.

MiM finds grand and magical people from all over the world to help in his quest to keep the children at ease:  A toy maker, a rabbit to make them eggs, a fairy to leave prizes under their pillows, a "sleepy little fellow ...who seemed to know all there was to know about dreams", and a lady to tell them stories.  The children, though, are still afraid of the dark!  Ah, but The Man in the Moon has a remedy for that and "the night is never again as dark".

And so it begins.  This is a wonderful beginning to a whole series of books about the Guardians who watch over all the children of Earth.  I'm really looking forward to Mother Goose.  Ages 5 and up.  It's a little scary.  (Atheneum.  $17.99.  Available now.)

I love The Nightgown of the Sullen Moon, by Nancy Willard, illustrated by David McPhail.  It's dreamy and poetic, it's quiet.  His artwork is perfect for dawn and dusk, perfect for designing just the right nightgown for a moon longing for something new and pretty to wear on her special birthday.  Nancy has just the right tone for a night-time book about why the moon is sometimes not in the sky.

It begins, "The nightgown started it all.  It belonged to Ellen Fitzpatrick, who took the clean laundry off the line for her mother and left her own nightgown, blue flannel and stitched with stars, shining, dancing, on the billionth birthnight of the full moon."  Well, it's obvious that the moon simply must have a new nightgown and down she comes, passing a church, a laundry, taverns (with customers being tossed out, passed out, making out), making her way to the nightgown shop where she finds the perfect one.

She loves it so much, she wears it all the time; it covers her light so people can't see the road to walk or the owls to avoid trees.  The sun implores her to take the nightgown back, to shine again.  She promises to do so, but, "the moon's promises, what are they worth?"  So, she takes off the gown and puts it in a drawer at the back of the sky and on the nights when the sky is dark, you know where she is:  trying the gown on, dreaming she is sleeping under the softest quilt on earth.  Ages 5 and up.

This book is out of print, now, and I must have ordered one of the very last ones back in 1983 or so.  Harcourt (back when it was Harcourt Brace Jovanovich) published it.  I hope you can find a copy somewhere.  I have photographed the cover, I'll see about doing one of the pages, too, and Messrs. H B and J, forgive me for sharing such a beautiful book without the proper copyright stuff.

Night of the Moon, by Hena Khan and illustrated by local Julie Paschkis, is a Muslim holiday story about Ramadan.  I always enjoy learning about holidays and the whys and wherefores surrounding them.  I am also pretty intrigued by the adoption of those holidays by the people who aren't born into the culture (like Cinco de Mayo; we never celebrated Cinco de Mayo when I was young, didn't even know it was a holiday except for its being my birthday.  Now, no matter where you go, there's a party happening somewhere on May 5).  Ramadan seems like a particularly good holiday to know about as it seems to be all about doing good in the world and committing charitable acts.

This lovely book is about a young Pakistani-American girl who is celebrating Ramadan with her family and her school. Yasmeen's mother comes to her room to read to her and to show her a very special moon, a tiny little crescent which means it is a new month in the Islamic calendar.  It is also the beginning of the month of Ramadan which will last until the next little crescent of moon shows. 

Without being didactic and using few words to get the concepts across, we watch Yasmeen as her family fasts and remembers to be grateful for the food they have, to share with others, to be thankful for beautiful things, all connected to the changing phases of the moon.

I really like that these lunar holidays, like Easter, connect us to the physical world, gets us back to having to take note of the earth and the skies.

 Ms. Khan and Ms. Paschkis do a wonderful job of connecting the modern practices of Ramadan with its ancient roots.  There are author's notes (my favorite part of a book like this) and a glossary in the back.  Ages 6 and up.  (Chronicle Books.  $16.99.  Available now.)

Moonshot:  The Flight of Apollo 11, by Brian Floca is amazing.  It is a book written in poetry about the crew of Apollo 11's journey to the moon.  The endpages and jacket are packed with information while the innards are a much quieter, sparer, look at what it takes to get to the moon and back.  Clean and spare artwork lends urgency to the flight.  The text, the poetry, is very well done and the way it's written encourages you to read it aloud in a certain way.  I think it's one of the best books for younger readers about the subject, it's simple in a very complicated way.  I love the way Mr. Floca uses every little piece of the book, too, with diagrams of the ship on the front endpages and a lot of information about the Apollo missions on the back endpapages.  Ages 5 and up.  (Atheneum.  $17.99.  Available now.)

A couple of my favorite YA books featuring the moon are Cinder, by Tacoma author Marissa Meyer, and Life as We Knew It, by Susan Beth PfefferCinder features a lunar colony that has some especially interesting skills and Life as We Knew It is about what happens when the moon is knocked closer to the earth by a comet.  Both books are absolutely brilliant and I especially liked the science in LAWKI about what would happen to the earth if the moon wasn't where it's always been.  I know that, when the apocalypse comes, I'll be stocking up on Tampax and Progresso soups.  

So, there you have it, some really great selections for your lunar collection.  Enjoy!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Moon Over Seattle

My birthday was the other day (May 5) and D and I walked up the hill to the big park at the top.  We sat on the benches and waited for the moon to rise.  It was a beautiful evening, a little chilly, a little cloudy, but relatively still.  We could hear birds and people talking on the side streets.  We could hear 4 men and their dog, soon to be our companions on the wait, walking around the periphery of the field below us.

We waited some time for that first glimpse.  The streetlights and the house lights came on, and then the moon finally made its appearance.  It was so amazingly beautiful, orange and brilliantly lit.  Our camera doesn't take the best photos without a tripod but this is the best I could do while holding my breath.

do you see it in the trees?
We later sat out on the porch with the fountain splashing and the fire leaping and waited for the moon to come above the trees so we could watch it from the comfort of our own yard.  We tipped some of the good stuff to the earth to honor the gods and my mom, threw glitter into the air (thanks for passing along that bling gene, Mom.), and then headed in to the warmth of our little home.

(Oh, the book part of the post:  There was a fine stack of books on the bedside table:  Insurgent, Cold Cereal,  Caddy's World, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and a DVD pack of the old Dark Shadows.  It was a Saturday and I could sleep in on Sunday; I wanted so much to read all night long and was asleep before Red Green was over.)

Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage

Sunrise was at 5:41, sunset will be at 8:32.

No hummingbirds, just angels.

Yesterday was just a beautiful day, even if most of it was spent looking at websites and computer screens.  My window faces the hummingbird feeder and the flashes of green as they come and go grabs my attention away from the mechanical world I'm firmly attached to.  I've noticed that when they (who knows, maybe it's only one.  I can't tell.) leave the feeder, they often head to the fountain where they bathe in the bubbler.

One day I noticed that it (they?) flew around the house on all of the trips to the feeder.  It came in from the north, headed out toward the south, and then came back up the sideyard to the feeder from the north, around and around and around, always in the same direction.  The next day, it came from all directions.  I found it interesting, watching it do things one way and then the other and wondered why.  Thanks to science (and NPR) I learned that birds fly into the wind to take off and to stay aloft.  When the air is quiet, birds don't need to worry about which way to fly.

You'd think that living in the flight path to and from SeaTac and with D's experience with Navy aircraft carriers, we'd have figured out why that bird was making loops around the house.  And now I will always know which direction the wind is coming from.  As long as the hummingbirds feed at this feeder.

I am so happy to have read Three Times Lucky, by Sheila Turnage, a middle-grades book about an orphan girl who finds a family.  I like reading books that make me happy to have them in my life. 

Mo LoBeau was found floating on a piece of billboard in a flood after a hurricane.  The Colonel, the man who rescued her, has no memory prior to this moment and the two of them make a home with Miss Lana, working in a little cafe where the whole town of Tupelo Landing, NC, gathers for breakfast and other important events.  Mo is an especially practical and wise little girl.  Maybe having a found family with no attachments to each other but for chance gives her the space to think things through.

Mo's best friend is Dale Earnhardt III (his parents have naming disorders - his older brother's name is Lavender Shade) and the two of them are as close as close can be.  It's summer and it's time to do summery things like fish in the river, hang out with Lavender as he gets ready for the big car race, and make sure the biscuits are hot for breakfast at the Cafe.

Everything is going along just as it should when the town is thrown into a tizzy by murder and a lawman.

This is just a wonderful story.  Mo and Dale really are best friends, there's no romance between them (Mo is going to marry Lavender and she's not shy about sharing that titbit); they protect and love each other deeply and will do almost anything to help each other.  The Colonel and Miss Lana are devoted to one another and to Mo, everyone in town knows almost everything about everyone else, and the story is kept from being overly sweet by quarrels and mean girls and an awful non-secret about Dale's drunken sot of a father.

Three Times Lucky feels very much like a story out of the 40's south even though it takes place now.  I love how Ms. Turnage uses a location like Tupelo Landing to keep an old-fashioned feel about modern day problems. It's a small town with an aging populace, where spotty cell phone reception is a given, people will almost always know what you're up to (and often still love you for it), and gossip and news is exchanged at the cafe counter.  The days are kind of slow, there isn't a lot of mention of media or t.v., parents are busy or gone, and this allows the kids to run around the town all day investigating the murder and getting into all sorts of trouble.

One of the poignant bits, and maybe this could be a spoiler so... stop reading... is when Mo notices the "red smears" on Dale's body when he takes his shirt off.  Kids always seem to know when there's something really wrong with their friends. Mo says, "I used to think Dale was clumsy.  Then I realized he only got clumsy when Mr. Macon took drunk."  Mo doesn't tell and Dale doesn't tell but the whole town knows and everyone keeps their quiet watch on the family.  The respect and support of Dale's family (except for his dad) is tangible.

My copy of the ARC is porcupined with tiny slips of post-it notes marking especially wonderful turns of phrase or potent pieces of wisdom. It is one of those books that I read in bed and kept poking at D. to wake him up to hear the next bit.  Thank god he likes a bit of good writing, too.

Like this one:  (Mo sends notes in bottles to her upstream mom, hoping to get a note back about how her life ended up here.  Over the 11 years that she's been doing it, the notes have morphed into something more like diary entries.) "Miss Retzyl claims my vast experience in discovering where you're not helps me zero in on you.  But frankly, my map can't hold many more pushpins.  Neither can my heart.  Eleven years is a long time to search.  Drop me a line or pick up the phone.  I'm on the verge of puberty.  Mo."

Don't you love it?

It's a book with substance and great language.  The adults are troubled and trying to do the best they can, and the kids are dealing with trying times.  I appreciate a book that stretches readers in that age range of 8-12.  Many of the books for that group are fluffy or too silly or just don't make anyone think about things.  They're just another book on the shelf.  Kids will see aspects of their lives in Three Times Lucky; it'll make them laugh and think and then read it again.  The book will be their friend and they will keep it close.  Ages 10 and up.  (Dial.  $16.99.  Available May, 2012.  The review was based on an uncorrected text, so things may have changed by the publication date.)

(Nothing was exchanged for the review of this book.)

Friday, May 4, 2012

What ONE Book Should Be On Every Child's Shelf?

Trees in the 'hood before the wind and rain.
Sunrise was at 5:47, sunset will be at 8:27.

There will be a Super Moon on Saturday and a meteor shower!  How lucky are we?  Although, after spending a lot of days reading a series of books about a virus contained in a comet's tail sweeping over the earth and killing the adults, leaving 251 teens to head into space to colonize a new planet, maybe my excitement is only a bit misplaced.  Oh, well.  I still hope it will be clear enough to see the moon, if not a couple of meteors! 

What one single book do you think every child should read?

I thought this was a very hard question to answer. Back and forth in front of the shelves in my house, back and forth in my head:  A dictionary?  A Wrinkle in Time?  Where the Wild Things Are? Something all encompassing or specific? How do you choose ONE book when every child is so different?  Do they need a book that will show them how to survive?  How to make good decisions?  How to find the beauty in everyone?  How do you make that decision?

Inspired by the recent World Book Night event, 6 different children's book bloggers share their thinking about the books they'd choose in this month's edition of Ask a Book Blogger from Random Acts of Reading.  I'd say that these books should probably be on everyone's shelves, don't you?

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Wisdom from Books

Sunrise was at 5:50, sunset will be at 8:24.  It's been so windy!  Stuff keeps thumping against the outside walls and I saw a hummingbird get whipped right off the feeder!  The lilacs are so heavy with blossoms and rain that they are all bowed over, much easier to reach.

I've been reading the Galahad series of books this week and I am sure that the best words of wisdom always come from kid's books.  In The Dark Zone, a number of kids are having crises of faith.  Their crises are met with wise words from fathers long gone or friends who can see more clearly what's going on.

I thought this whole book was particularly apt for my situation now (unemployed and absolutely unsure about myself, my skills, and if I even want to do anymore what I have so loved for all these years):

Triana's dad, back before the comet's tail swept across the earth loosing a virus that eventually kills all the adults, is trying to help Triana deal with the things that are out of her control.  She is replaying that endless loop in her head that makes her unable to do anything constructive.  There are things that are in our control and things that aren't.  If you get caught up in trying to change things that aren't in your control, it leads to frustration and despair.

So, when Triana asks what she can do about it, he says, "You stop worrying about things you can't change and divert your energy to the things you can.  One of the most powerful days of your life will be when you learn to tell the difference."

When Channy can't get herself out of the negative loop she's in, she remembers her sister's words about being paralyzed:  "Crying over the past doesn't make it go away and it doesn't fix what has broken.  Instead, focus on where you are now, and what you can do to make things better."

Yeah, it's the Serenity Prayer all over, but for some reason, reading it as prose and as part of a story makes me more able to absorb it, makes me better able to understand it.  So, here I go, off to make the changes I can and leaving all the crap as far behind as I can!  No more endless loops of shame churning in my head.  And just in time for my birthday, a great time to make good decisions and better choices.