"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=========

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

"She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah": Dreaming the Beatles

Hey, Beatles!!! She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah. I love you, yeah, yeah, yeah! We all love you, yeah, yeah, yeah!

Time for another moment in Beatlemania. Having just finished Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield, I have to say this book is way up there on the Beatles geekiness scale. Honestly. If you fancy yourself a Beatles fan, like I do, I challenge you to read this book and you will realize there are fans who are far more geeky about the Beatles than you.

Rob Sheffield is a columnist for Rolling Stone Magazine and an obvious rock-n-roll aficionado. The guy seriously knows what he is talking about, not only about the Beatles but about other rockers and their songs.

From the very first page I knew this was the book for me and yet it was a little over my head. I often found myself reading it with iTunes open so I could listen to excerpts of songs that Sheffield referenced and the Internet open to look up more details about topics he brought up.

The book opens with a quick update about all the key players: John, Paul, George, Ringo, Brian Epstein, George Martin, Liverpool, and Abby Road. Once that business was handled, the book diverted away from the usual biography format. It didn't rehash the old information about the formation of the band, the touring years, the clashes, and the breakup. It started this way:
The Beatles are far more famous and beloved now than they were in their lifespan. when they were merely the four most famous and beloved people on earth...They sincerely tried breaking up---it just didn't work. They've gone from being the world's biggest group to the act that's bigger than all the rest of pop music combined (7).
Sheffield spends the rest of the book reminding us why the Beatles are the best pop/rock group ever. He also lays down his ideas of why the Beatles are more popular today than ever. What a love fest!

The Beatles understood better than any other music group that their music was about the girl. They spoke to her and they spoke for boys to help them understand her. My husband and I were discussing this concept just the other day as I was telling him about the book. I tried to explain the "girl" concept and he countered with, "Yes, but I was challenged by the songs to understand girls better, or to understand what I was up against." Sheffield describes it this way:
And through it all, girls. Screaming girls, in the audience. Worshiping girls, in the songs. Girls, girls, girls. The girl is the whole reason these songs exist, right? (12).
A little myth has grown up about the song "Dear Prudence." John said they sang the song to Prudence, Mia Farrow's sister, who was locked in her room meditating, and they were worried about her so they sang her a song. That isn't really true, but the message is the Beatles knew how to sing to the girl and we are all that girl (even if you are a boy!)

And then there was "the Scream", as Sheffield referred to the fans. The Beatles fans were the most famous screamers in history. In fact, these screamers may have invented the Beatles. "Once you step inside the Scream, you get transformed into a different person. The Beatles spent years there" (72). Listen to clips of any of their live shows and you know what I am talking about. The Screamers are the "lead instrument" in many of the shows. And since the Beatles didn't have fold-back speakers, they couldn't hear themselves sing. Yet, somehow, they still sounded great. I am still jealous of those girls who got to go to a Beatles concert and screamed in ecstasy for a half hour. Ah, to have been in one with those audiences, a part of the whole crowd, a part of the Scream.

A central mystery of this book is trying to understand the John/Paul bond. They are the most prolific songwriting duo of all times. Was it camaraderie or competition or both? They certainly represent different things to different people. Everyone tends to decide at some point whether they are Paul or John people. "If you're the John in any relationship, you wish Paul would lighten up and stop nagging. If you're the Paul, you wish John could take more responsibility" (34). It's funny how we all do it. Ask around and see what I mean. Personally I am a Paul girl and I live my life that way.  Sorry about the nagging, family.

Many of the titles of the book chapters are named for Beatles' albums. I really enjoyed this aspect of the book. Learning what made each album special, new, and exciting for its time, most of this was news to me. For example in the chapter "Rubber Soul" we learn that it was during the making of this album that the Beatles starting taking control of their recordings but the "girl" theme still looms large. They grew up from boys to men on this album and the rest of the musical world took notice.

An odd but delightful chapter in the book is called "Instrumental Break" where Sheffield really shows off his Beatles geekiness. This chapter describes 26 songs about the Beatles by other musicians like Lil Wayne, Aretha Franklin, David Bowie, Prince, and others. This is when I had to break out the iTunes because I wanted to hear these songs for myself. Some weren't even on iTunes, like the Muppets on their "Exit"-themed week. The character does a John Lennon parody. Hmm. I didn't see that one. But if imitation is indeed the sincerest form of flattery, the Beatles win.

The book takes us through all the albums, through the trials that follow the death of Brian Epstein, the group falling apart, and the final breakup. It then follows the boys into their second careers as solo artists.
The Beatles ended their first career, because they felt they didn't have control, then began their second career, where they had no control at all. They tried to break the spell they'd cast and were genuinely surprised whey they failed. When John sang "The Dream is Over" in 1970, he wanted to free his listeners and himself from the dream. But it didn't work, because the group didn't belong to these four men anymore. The dream wasn't theirs to break...The Beatles are what they are because they are the most beloved humans of their lifetimes and mine. They had a unique talent for being loved, though they found it a strain and a puzzle and a trap and something they failed to understand and desperately wished to escape. But the fact that the Beatles were so good at being adored changed a lot of things (19-20).
I loved this book, obviously, but at times I was really overwhelmed by it, too. In fact, I've decided I need my own copy (I read a library copy and need to return it soon) so I can refer back to it and digest it in smaller doses.

The Beatles have remained popular for an astonishing fifty years, much longer than they were an active group. In 2000 their album "1" was released. It was an album of all their number 1 hits. It was the biggest selling album of that year and the next. "1 proved three things never change: (1) people love the Beatles, (2) it's a little weird and scary how much people love the Beatles, and (3) even people who love the Beatles keep underestimating how much people love the Beatles" (307).

I love the Beatles (and I don't care who knows it), yeah, yeah, yeah!

Read the book. I recommend it.

Sheffield, Rob. Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and Whole World.  HarperCollins. New York. 2017. Print.

PS...Just for my own reference. Sheffield identified his favorite and least favorite songs and I wanted the partial list for myself so I can refer to it when I return the library book.

Best songs
Worst song
“Strawberry Fields Forever”
“Your Bird Can Sing”
“A Day in the Life”
“It’s Only Love”
“Here, There, and Everywhere”
“For No One”
“Hey Jude”
“My Love”
“Here Comes the Sun”
“I Want to Tell You”
“Apple Scruffs”
“It Don’t Come Easy”
“Octopus’ Garden”
“Drive My Car”
“Cookin’ (In the Kitchen of Love)”

Monday, January 15, 2018

TTT: Bookish goals and resolutions

Top Ten Tuesday: My 2018 Bookish Goals and Resolutions

(This is the first Top Ten Tuesday hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl.

1. Of the six to eight books I read each month, at least two books, on average, need to be currently on my Goodreads TBR list. (Which has around 130 book titles on it right now.)

2. Read the Pulitzer Prize winning book for 2018 and at least three past winners on my Pulitzer list.

3. Read the Printz Award Winner (will be announced in early February)

4. Write book reviews for at least half of the books I read during the year.

5. Participate in the Classics Club Spins (usually hosted three times a year)

6. Read at least one Jane Austen-ish book in August and participate in the challenge hosted by Roof Beam Reader.

7. Participate in at least one 24-hour-readathon

8. Participate as a Cybils Award Judge again in 2018. I really enjoyed being a round 1 judge this year for high school/junior high nonfiction.

9. Look for ways to update my blog which keep it fresh and pleasant to read.

10. Fulfill my Goodreads Challenge to read 125 books in 2018.

11. Locate some excellent board books for my young grandson.

12. Read all the book club selections for the year. (This past year I missed several books. Sigh.)

13. Re-read the whole Harry Potter series...at the urging from my daughter.

14. Everytime I visit bookstores, select something to buy. I want to make sure that they stay open and that will only happen if people spend money in their businesses. My purchase doesn't have to be a book.

What are your bookish goals for 2018?

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sunday Salon, January 14th

Ian, playing with Grandma on Friday.
Weather: overcast with skies threatening rain.

Sick: I've come down with some wicked cold and sore throat. According to my FitBit I slept 15 hours yesterday and never got out of my pajamas. Today I'm up but still similarly clad. Ugh.

Babysitting: This week I began my new job, babysitting my grandson two or three days a week, sharing duty with his other grandma. What a joy to be greeted by his charming smile when I arrive in the morning and what a lot of work babies are. I'd forgotten.

A friend visits: Wednesday Carly left for New York. Her last term in graduate school. I couldn't be sad and lonely for long because my friend, Anne Marie, dropped in for an overnight visit. I love reconnecting with old friends. Thanks for the visit, AM! Hope all goes well in your last term of college, Carly!

Book of Mormon: Don and I caught the traveling Broadway show of "The Book of Mormon" on Friday night in Seattle. Our daughter predicted that we wouldn't like it because it is so crass. We liked it, but it sure is crass. Ha! (This song is from the Tony Awards and it isn't crass.)

Books read this week:
  • Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of one Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield. I thought I was a Beatles geek until I read this book. Sheffield has be beat by a thousand points, at least. This book is truly for the geekiest of Beatles fans, one who paid attention to the obscure stuff and to rock-n-roll in general because he does a lot of comparison to other groups and numbers (which I didn't necessarily know), but I have to admit that I loved it and I think my Beatles geekiness level has increased because of this book.
Currently reading:
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman...a surprising book club selection. It is classic Gaiman with horror and fantasy elements. (58%, audio)
  • Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House by Michael Wolff. I couldn't resist. But I did have to buy the Kindle version as no print versions are currently available. (10%, e-book)
  • Far From the Tree by Robin Benway. A YA selection which is getting good reviews. It has been pushed off to the side with my other readings but I must get back to it this week. (5%, e-book)
Quote from Dreaming the Beatles:
1 [the Beatles album released in 2000 was a blockbuster selling faster than any Beatles album before it] proved three things never change: (1) people love the Beatles, (2) it's a little weird and scary how much people love the Beatles, and (3) even people who love the Beatles keep underestimating how much people love the Beatles (307).

Monday, January 8, 2018

TTT: Books I Meant to Read But Didn't Get To In 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I really meant to read in 2017, but, unfortunately never got around to it. (All are still on my TBR pile for this year!)

What books did you have to set aside in 2017 but hope to get to this year?

Goldenhand by Garth Nix

Back in 1995 Australian author Garth Nix introduced us to the Old Kingdom and to the Abhorsens who protected the kingdom from the greater and lesser dead. They do this by ushering the dead to the 9th gate of death so they could cross over and not bother people anymore. Sabriel is forced to take over as the Abhorsen because her father dies leaving her as the last hope to save the kingdom.

In 2001 Nix published Lirael, the next installment in the series (called The Old Kingdom Chronicles in other parts of the world, but The Abhorsen Trilogy in the USA.) And in 2003 the final book of the trilogy, Abhorsen where big bad things are brewing and a huge fight occurs to protect the kingdom from the worst dead guy of them all. With its conclusion I was satisfied that the series was done and that it had wrapped up well.

Then in 2014 a prequel to the Old Kingdom Chronicles, Clariel, was published. It is set six hundred years before Sabriel's time. In this book we not only are introduced to the kingdom but to its magic---charter magic and free magic which are often at odds with each other. Clariel comes in contact with free magic which corrupts her ability to tap into the charter. Left on her own she falls under the spell of free magic. We figure out at the end of the book that she is indeed a character in the original trilogy. Once again I felt satisfied that this book was it, but it did fill in some holes that needed to be patched.

I was surprised, therefore, to find that Nix had one more Old Kingdom story in him, Goldenhand, published in 2016. Both of my daughters and I are by this time avowed fans of The Abhorsen Trilogy having read them several years ago all in one fell swoop. We also were delighted with Clariel and read it soon after its publication date. When Goldenhand came out I promptly purchased a copy of the audiobook from Audible.com. I was sure I'd get to it before year's end. Or so I thought. Over a year later I was finally determined that I had to listen to, wanting to escape into a fantasy novel after my months of reading almost exclusively nonfiction.

Goldenhand picks up several months after the exciting events in Abhorsen. Lirael is now the Abhorsen in-waiting, working under Sabriel. She is in charge for  a few weeks while Sabriel and her husband, Touchstone, are on a vacation. Things in the kingdom are quiet so it should be easy to keep things in order. Suddenly a messenger arrives at the Old Kingdom Wall wanting passage in. She has an urgent message for Lirael. When she is not allowed in she jumps aboard a flimsy raft to escape her pursuers. As others come to her rescue they too are now in the cross hairs of her enemies. At the same time that this is happening, Lirael finds herself called to rescue Nick from a free-magic being. Suddenly what looks like a calm period of time is turning into a turbulent one. Is Lirael up to the task? As with earlier books in the series, the action is so tense and the characters in such danger one has to wonder if the good guys will really win this time or not.

As I started listening to Goldenhand I was thrust back into the Old Kingdom and was reminded how much I like this world. Nix has created quite a place for his characters to inhabit. I was back among friends. My only problem, a small one, was I had forgotten a few of the details from Abhorsen since I'd read it several years ago and the plot of this book picked up where that book left off. I should have reread it in preparation for Goldenhand. But I got up to speed fairly quickly and found myself once again rooting for Lirael, Sabriel, Touchstone, Sammath, and even Nick to prevail over the evil trying to undo their kingdom.

There are so many wonderful fantasy series out in the literary world it doesn't surprise me if you aren't aware of this one. But I really do think it is worth your time to read it. Now I am fairly sure that the whole series has finished it is safe to start it. Things tidied up nicely at the conclusion of Goldenhand. As a teen librarian I had a hard time talking my students into starting this series but if they did start it, they were hooked. Hooked in the best way possible---absorbed into another place and time, where magic is real, and friends are friends for life.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Sunday Salon, January 7th

Weather: Rainy. Temperatures in the 40s. I am thinking of my friends in Australia today where we hear there are record high temps today.

Epiphany: Today is another church holiday, Epiphany. It is the day where we celebrate the three kings who visited Jesus and his family. The first Gentiles to visit him and worship him. It is a nice reminder that we, too, should just adore him today, two thousand years later.

Sisters:  this week Carly and I drove to Eugene to spend time with my parents and my sisters. We live in three different states so we don't often get together. It was a no-agenda visit...just visiting. And that is what we did. Love you Grace and Kathy!

Un-Christmasing the house: Yesterday we took down the Christmas decorations. They go down faster than they go up but it is not as much fun. I always think the house looks dull with a lack of color after we take down all the green and red decorations. My parents no longer decorate a tree and put out just a few decorations and I understand why. When there are no young kids around, decorating is less fun than in years past, that is for sure.

Bulletin board: The photo above is of my kitchen bulletin board. Every year I cut out the photos friends and family sent us for a holiday greeting and pin them to the board. Then for the next few months we are reminded of our dear ones every time we pass by. Notice who is front and center: Ian!

Fitbit: Carly and Don got Fitbits for Christmas so I dusted off my old one so I am not left out. We have all been attempting to get those 10,000 steps a day. That means we have taken quite a few walks and played a lot of Wii Fit games. One feature I don't have that C and D have on their next generation Fitbits is a reminder to take a least 250 steps per hour. It is hilarious how all the suddenly both of them will hop up and start walking around the house to make their hourly goals. I join them even though my device is not sophisticated enough to remind me.

Carly heads back to New York this week: I love having her here and will miss her. But she is heading toward her last term of school. Hopefully the weather will imrove so she has a positive experience getting through JFK airport. News reports about the airport are negative right now.

Books Completed:
  • My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin. My Classics Club spin book. It was written in 1902 about a young girl in the Australian outback. Aspects of it I liked, others I didn't so I won't recommend it. Read my review here.
  • Goldenhand by Garth Nix. The 5th book in the Abhorssen (Old Kingdom) series which is a favorite for both me and my girls. The first book in the series, Sabriel, was published in 1995. It is amazing to me that Nix is still willing to complete the story of the Abhorssens in the Old Kingdom. The ending was satisfying so I think this will be the end.
Currently reading:
  • Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Robert Sheffield. This book might even be a bit geeky for me and I fancy myself a huge Beatles fan. I want to read it with iTunes open to the store so I can listen to an excerpt of the songs he mentions that I currently don't own. (Print. 30%)
  • Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. This is my current audiobook and a book club selection for February. (Audio. 5%)
Outlander: I am still obsessed with the TV series set in Scotland in the 1700s. We have watched all of Season 3 and now will have to wait a half a year until the next installment. I may even have to read the next book in the series to feed my current addiction. Here is a fun little tune from Season 1.

 Have a lovely week.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Friday Quotes: January 5, 2018

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

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: Dreaming the Beatles: The Love Story of One Band and the Whole World by Rob Sheffield

Book Beginnings:
The Beatles are far more famous and beloved now than they were in their lifespan. when they were merely the four most famous and beloved people on earth...They sincerely tried breaking up---it just didn't work. They've gone from being the world's biggest group to the act that's bigger than all the rest of pop music combined.
Friday 56: (Referring to George Harrison)
He was a quiet and introspective kid who found himself at the center of a pop explosion, admired around the world but still treated as a little boy by his bandmates. He could have let himself get torn apart by the experience...Instead he decided to keep his wits about him and see what he could learn from the whole ride. Yet you can hear how deeply it wounded him, always following the cool kids around, yearning to be a Beatle, even though as far as the world was concerned, he always was.
Comment: I am an unabashed Beatles fan. You'd think that everything we could ever know about the Beatles has already been written. But Sheffield, a columnist for Rolling Stone magazine, takes an unconventional look at the Beatles' astounding story and the love affair they continue to have with the world, over fifty years after their inception. The writing style, as you see from the samples is fun and easy to read. It makes me want to break out my old albums and play along as he talks about various songs and inspirations for them.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Cybils Finalists are Announced.

Finally the Cybils Finalists are announced so I can reveal the finalists for the Junior/Senior High School Nonfiction category. Click here for the full list of finalists.

It was a fun, reward, and difficult assignment to read and judge 64 nonfiction titles in a little over two months. But I was thrilled to be part of the process and now the round 2 judges take over and decide which of the finalists will be the winners. I like and recommend all of the books listed here. The winners will be announced on Feb. 14th.

CYBILS: 2017 Junior Senior High Non-fiction Finalists
Junior High Non-Fiction
Bound by Ice: A True North Pole Survival Story by Sandra Neil Wallace
Calkins Creek Books
Nominated by: RebeccaGAguilar
A tropical ocean at the North Pole? Lieutenant Commander George De Long, in 1879, agreed to pilot the steamer Jeanette to the Arctic to discover this unusual phenomenon. Sandra and Rich Wallace have penned a thoroughly absorbing account of this ultimately unsuccessful quest. Using primary sources, the whole book leaves readers feeling like they are there on this doomed voyage, battling weather, thirst, hunger, and the fear of never seeing home again. Well-captioned historical photographs and actual etchings cement that you-are-there feeling.
Louise Capizzo, The Nonfiction Detectives
Isaac the Alchemist: Secrets of Isaac Newton, Reveal’d by Mary Losure
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Lackywanna
Isaac Newton, the father of physics, an amazing mathematician, and one of the most brilliant men to ever walk this earth, started off as a young boy, while living with a local apothecary, experimenting with alchemy. He recorded his observations in a small notebook in tiny handwriting. He combined chemicals to see what reactions would do, even experimenting on himself by drinking his own concoctions. It is a wonder he didn’t poison himself. Isaac Newton was the first physicist and the last of the great alchemists. Isaac the Alchemist , Mary Losure’s easy to read narrative, traces Isaac’s young life as a childhood thinker to the scientist he became. The book includes copies of pages from his small notebooks and lots of other reference materials.
Anne Bennett, My Head is Full of Books
Locked Up for Freedom: Civil Rights Protesters at the Leesburg Stockade by Heather E. Schwartz
Millbrook Press
Publisher/ Author Submission
The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s can be difficult to wrap one’s mind around, especially when one considers everything that lead up to it. Many activists during that period were arrested for participating in marches, sit-ins, and freedom rides. A surprising number of these activists were young people. After one such series of marches and protests, a group of thirty plus girls from Americus, Georgia were arrested and secretly taken to an old Civil War stockade outside of Leesburg, Georgia. After interviewing some of the participants, Schwartz recounts the experiences of some of those girls, both leading up to and including the imprisonment in the stockade. Being stuck in a run-down, filthy single room, the girls faced unhealthy food, lack of fresh water, no cleaning facilities and overflowing toilets. The girls’ courage and determination were tested to the limit as exhaustion and sickness took its toll. Amazingly, after their release, many of these girls remained committed to the movement for which they had suffered so much. Beautifully designed and highly readable, the author has clearly documented her sources and photographs making it easy to find additional information about a little known story from an important time in United States history.
Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian
Libraries could use more compelling true stories about capable, independent women who pave the way toward change. Now seems more vital than ever to share those kinds of stories with girls in our lives. Award-winning author Sue Macy delivers with this well-told, well-researched history about inspiring women who drove the first automobiles. Motor Girls will inform and engage readers age 12 and up about how driving came to represent an act of freedom and empowerment for women. With a gorgeous cover and overall design, the book also includes an eloquent foreword from pro racing driver Danica Patrick.
Rebecca Aguilar, Mostly About Nonfiction
Poison: Deadly Deeds, Perilous Professions, and Murderous Medicines by Sarah Albee
Crown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Celebrate Science
There are readers who will be both fascinated and repulsed by Sarah Albee’s expository masterpiece Poison. Librarians will certainly enjoy recommending this wonderful STEM title (which, the author notes, is not a how-to manual). A well-researched book designed for readability, Poison links the history of toxins, the history of medicine and the rise of public health advocacy. Readers age 12 and up will finish the book to the end and find the “Tox Box” and “Freaky Fact” sidebars both fun and informative.
Rebecca Aguilar, Mostly About Nonfiction
The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler
Candlewick Press
Nominated by: Linda Baie
Whether you’re pirate obsessed or pirate ambivalent, there is something in this book that will hook your imagination and not let it go.
Pirate Black Sam Bellamy helms the Whydah in its search for treasure, and he leads a cast of characters that spans continents and
centuries, including both John King, the child pirate, and John F. Kennedy, Jr., deep sea diving summer intern. With a narrative
that encompasses shipwrecks, trials, orchestra concerts, democratic votes and diving for long lost relics, the tale of the Whydah
will make you ask yourself why you don’t read more books about pirates.
Julie Jurgens, Hi, Miss Julie!
Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team by Steve Sheinkin
Roaring Brook Press
Nominated by: Heidi G.
Books like Undefeated clearly illustrate the struggle in writing about America’s past in a way that honors the admirable while not shying from the shameful. While Sheinkin, a white author, has been criticized for what he has omitted in his telling of the story of Jim Thorpe, the facts he does include encompass both the admirable and the reprehensible, and he presents them honestly and without needless sentimentality. Sheinkin clearly lays out the inherently racist origins of the Carlisle Indian Industrial school, and sketches out the larger history of what led up to its creation, but spends more time detailing the deep personal losses Thorpe suffered early in life–the deaths of his twin brother, mother, and eventually father, all before he turned fifteen–and the impact they had on the course of his life, a life that changed the sport of football forever.
Jim Thorpe’s is a story deserving to be told, and Sheinkin’s treatment is a strong first entry in what one hopes will come to be a long list of books celebrating and illuminating the successes and struggles of American Indians.
Julie Jurgens, Hi, Miss Julie!

Senior High Non-Fiction
A Dog in the Cave: The Wolves Who Made Us Human by Kay Frydenborg
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Nominated by: RebeccaGAguilar
Dogs are man’s best friends, right? Maybe that isn’t just a saying, but a reality. In A Dog in a Cave we learn about the intricate history of dogs and men. We have helped shape their evolution, from wolves to the hundreds of dog breeds we have today. And dogs, in return, may have made us in the humans we are today. With a look at fascinating fossil discoveries, current research, biology, and even medical science A Dog in the Cave will open your eyes about the importance of dogs to our evolution and make you want to hug your best friend even harder.
Anne Bennett, My Head is Full of Books
Using archival photos and primary sources, Kops has written an inspiring biography on Alice Paul, a champion of women’s rights. Staging hunger strikes while in jail, Paul worked tirelessly to get women the right to vote. After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment – the Susan B. Anthony Amendment – Paul would go on to write the first draft of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and would spend the rest of her life trying to see it ratified to the Constitution. (To this day, the ERA is still short of being ratified to the Constitution by three States) This book is very well-documented. A captivating narrative about a much overlooked historical figure.
Louise Capizzo, The Nonfiction Detectives
How Dare the Sun Rise: Memoirs of a War Child by Sandra Uwiringiyimana
Katherine Tegen Books
Nominated by: Kelly Jensen
In this powerful memoir, Uwiringlyimana recounts her childhood in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where war was ever present. While staying in a refugee camp in Gatumba, Burundi, on the night of August 13, 2004, armed factions entered the camp and mercilessly slaughtered 166 people, maiming and injuring 116 others. Though Uwiringlyimana and her family escape, her little sister, Deborah was killed. Eventually, the family resettled to the United States. How Dare the Sun Rise speaks honestly about the struggles of being accepted in a racially divided America. Uwiringlyimana hopes her book will help humanize refugees so the world will know that “we have the same goals to succeed and do what’s best for our children.” This is a moving story of survival, loss, and hope.
Louise Capizzo, The Nonfiction Detectives
Queer, There, and Everywhere: 23 People Who Changed the World by Sarah Prager
Nominated by: DLacks
Sarah Prager has taken an incredible amount of meticulous research and distilled into a breezy yet earnest fact- and fun-filled book. Covering multiple aspects of the GLBTQ experience, including transgender and genderqueer figures, Prager’s book lets queer teens know they have a place in history as well as in today’s society, and the breadth and depth of what it means to be queer.
Julie Jurgens, Hi, Miss Julie!
Ann Bausum tells the powerful story of the 1966 March Against Fear, begun by James Meredith and his followers and finished by Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, and other heavyweights of the Civil Rights Era. During the march, Carmichael introduced the term “black power,” which did not go over well with the media and many whites. This book provides not only a look at a specific series of events, including the sometimes violent response, but it also looks at the changes that the Civil Rights Movement was experiencing along the way. The book shows that history is rarely smooth sailing, but full of bumps and storms with a few calm patches mixed in. The detailed notes, bibliography, photo credits, index, and black and white illustrations add to the effectiveness of Bausum’s excellent presentation. The quotes scattered throughout the book are particularly powerful.
Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian
Uprooted: The Japanese American Experience During World War II by Albert Marrin
Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Lackywanna
On February 29, 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066 calling for all necessary measures to protect the country, especially ‘military areas’. The purpose of the order was to justify moving all Japanese American people living on the mainland to what were called internment camps (really concentration camps). Marrin presents a thorough look at what led up to this decision (going back to our encounters with the Japanese in the 1880s), what happened as a result of that decision, and what happened afterward. This compelling narrative holds nothing back, providing a look at blatant racism as a cause of Japanese Americans being uprooted, but also the cause of Japanese aggression and brutality during the war. Some of the stories and photographs included are rather graphic, but necessary in telling what really happened. In addition to telling the stories of those imprisoned by their own government, Marrin tells the stories of some Japanese Americans who played key roles in helping the Allies win the war, as interpreters with military intelligence and also as soldiers in segregated units. Discussion of the legalities of the executive order and how it has been dealt with since are also included. The last chapter compares the events that lead to the unfair imprisonment of the Japanese Americans to the current furor over Muslim extremists after September 11, 2001. Marrin repeats the quote by George Santayana, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” He makes a very strong case.
Heidi Grange, Geo Librarian
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
Henry Holt
Nominated by: Becky L.
We’ve known and loved Vincent Van Gogh’s art our whole lives. But did you know that he had a brother who helped make Vincent into the artist he became? Vincent and Theo is a story of brotherly love. The Van Gogh children were raised to help and look out for each other. Theo, though younger than his brother Vincent, took this advice to heart. He spent his lifetime helping, encouraging, prodding, and saving his brother. It was at Theo’s urging that Vincent became an artist at all. It was Theo’s financial support which kept the artist afloat when no one was buying his art. It was Theo who introduced Vincent’s art to the world. Author Deborah Heiligman meticulously researched the Van Goghs by poring over hundreds of letters written by Vincent to Theo and in the process brought to life this marvelous story of love between brothers.
Anne Bennett, My Head is Full of Books

Monday, January 1, 2018

First review of 2018: My Brilliant Career

In the midst of all the fuss during the holiday season, judging nonfiction books for the Cybils Award, and going on vacation to NYC, I have also been reading My Brilliant Career by Miles Franklin as the Classics Club Spin book challenge.

My Brilliant Career was published in 1901. It was written by Miles Franklin when she was just sixteen-years-old. Considered to be semi-autobiographical about a young girl growing up in the Outback of Australia. And not just your run-of-the-mill girl who is interested in boys, dances, clothes, and marriage, but a girl who dreams of life beyond the mundane, a life she dreamed as her brilliant career. In a NY Times review of the book, Phyllis Rose said the book should be called an "adolescent fantasy." Indeed at times I found myself wanting to knock Sybylla's head because she was behaving so immaturely, then I would have to remind myself that she was only sixteen...not just as a character but as an author. Of course, it was an adolescent fantasy. What teenager doesn't fantasize about what they hope their life will be like? Sybylla thinks of herself as ugly and not worthy of being loved. Yet, she pines for something more than the mundane life she lives.

Phyllis Rose goes on to explain that the publication of My Brilliant Career, which Franklin thought would launch her writing career, ended up being the bane of her existence.
To her horror, people assumed that the novel was totally autobiographical, in detail as well as outline - that the louts of Possum Gully were the louts of her home region, that her father was a drunken incompetent, that the swinish M'Swats and the romantic Harold Beecham really existed. She had expected literary success to bring her love and applause; instead, in her neighborhood and within her beloved family, she inspired only outrage...she felt (she said) like a woman who had had a baby out of wedlock; her joy in the baby was undercut by her sense of disgrace. She wanted to forget My Brilliant Career, to blot it out. Later, she would refer to it contemptuously as a girl's book, tossed off in a matter of weeks (10), written out of 'inexperience and consuming longing.' (Rose, NYT)
For 65 years the book was out-of-print at Franklin's insistence. It was not published again until 15 years after her death. When it was republished it was picked up as some sort of feminist manifesto... a young woman who wants to make her way without a man.

I disliked and liked the book in equal measure. I liked the picture of turn-of-the-century Australia that it painted. Tea parties, horse races, bone-breaking work, hot and dusty wagon rides, and wonderful romps around the piano all seem so foreign today. I disliked the stilted language Franklin used to express Sybylla's thoughts and conversations. I also disliked the seeming lack of plot. Though, to be fair, Franklin warns her readers in the introduction that it was all about her and for her that she wrote the book. Plot be damned, apparently. (No wonder her family thought it was autobiographical. She said as much!)

When I was in my early twenties, a movie was made of "My Brilliant Career" starring Sam Neill and Judy Davis (1979). It won six Australian Academy Awards and caused quite a buzz for the book. My mother and I saw the movie together and she told me she thought I was like Sybylla. Apparently I didn't press her as to what she meant at the time, but the comment has stayed with me since then. I thought that she compared me to Sybylla because the actress playing Sybylla (Davis) and I both have frizzy hair. But now that I've read the book I think she meant something different.  Of her four children, I was always the child who felt out-of-step with the family. In fact at one point as a young child I told my mother I didn't think I was as special as my siblings. My mother listened to my explanations but didn't hear or understand my pain. How do I know this? Because she immediately turned around and sang me the "Nobody Loves Me, Everybody Hates Me, Guess I'll Go Eat Worms" song. Obviously, my mother didn't understand me, nor did Sybylla's mother understand her. I was also a girl who had boys who were friends (not boyfriends) so did Sybylla. My mother could never understand this part of my personality. Lastly, I often compared my looks to my older sister and found myself wanting. I suspect that was what my mother saw a lot of Sybylla in me. Never fear. My mother and I have fully mended our relationship and are great friends now.

I thought I would rewatch the movie after I finished the book, but unfortunately I can't do it without paying money I am not willing to spend. The public library doesn't have it, neither does Netflix. Oh well. I shall have to deal with my memory on that one.

Miles Franklin is remembered as only a mediocre author, having published nearly ten novels, but she did do one really remarkable thing before she died. She established an annual award for the best novel about Australian life, the Miles Franklin Award. Oddly, one of the books on the Miles Franklin 2017 Short List is titled My Brilliant Careers, by Ryan O'Neill. I love it when life offer up coincidences like this.

How do I rate this book? I'd give it 3.5 stars out of 5. The best parts, about life in Australia during the late 1800s, is worth the read, if for no other reason than that.

Source: Print. My own copy.
Franklin, Miles. My Brilliant Career. Angus and Robertson Publisher. Illustrated by Luciana Arrighi. 1980.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater

Argh! There are so many reviews I've wanted write for books read in 2017. I'm out of time. It is time to call UNCLE and admit they will not get written unless I give them less-than-full reviews. Here is the second of three.

The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime that Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater
      Sasha is a white genderqueer teenager who likes to wear skirts and refer to self as "their, while Richard is a black teen who likes to goof around with his pals and has seen more than his fair share of deaths due to gun violence. They both were teens living in Oakland, California but lived very different lives. Then one day, for a mere 8 minutes the two came into the same sphere, on the 57 bus. While Sasha slept, Richard, egged on by his peers, lit Sasha's filmy sweater on fire with a lighter. Sasha sustained severe burns to his legs and had to go through months of agonizing treatments. Richard was arrested and charged with a hate crime and was remanded to be tried as an adult. Richard, who had been in juvenile detention previously, was deeply sorry for what he did. He even wrote several letters to Sasha expressing this. Several people advocated on behalf of Richard, asking the courts to try Richard as a juvenile. The case gained international attention. One thoughtless act changed the lives of two teens forever.
     Dashka Slater initially wrote an article for the NY Times about the crime on the 57 bus. She extended her research and wrote this compelling account of a crime and its victims in book form. She writes in a journalistic style which I found easy to read. Though, as a librarian, I was bothered by the lack of a works cited page/no source notes. After reading as a judge for the Cybils in the Nonfiction category, I was used to scrutinizing books for correct attributions and references that are useful to student researchers. Though she did cite some of her sources within the text of her writing, many specifics were omitted. I expected see notes about this in the professional publication reviews of the book, but found none. I must be the only person bugged by this. Once I figured this out, I relaxed into the book and found it interesting and compelling.
     One more thing. Sasha refers to self and wants to be called by the pronoun "their". Slater used the pronoun "their" when referring to Sasha. I'll tell you the truth, it got me completely confused. I kept thinking the author was talking about plural people. No matter how many times I coached myself, I was confused the whole time I was reading.  This really isn't the correct time to address this but I will just make a comment anyway.--- I empathize with the Sashas of the world who don't feel like they fit within our language. We need gender neutral singular pronouns in English that don't confuse speakers and readers. The use of "their", which is a plural but neutral pronoun, when referring to a single person is confusing and breaks with grammar rules. It can be changed, as evidenced by the change from Mrs./Miss to Ms. Come on language creators. Let's get this done. Enough said.

Source: Print edition, checked out from the public library.
The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater, Garrar Straus Giroux, 2017.