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By: sketched out
Blog: sketched out
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, HoHoDooDa (Holiday Doodle a Day)
, anise cookies
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Aunt Anna’s Anise Cookies
I made anise cookies last night. I made them to share at my Illustrator monthly meeting’s holiday cookie exchange extravaganza today.
I chose to make anise cookies and this sketch (from last year), in memory of my sweet Aunt Anna who passed away last year, at this time and who’s recipe this is.
It was passed down to her from her mother-in-law of German decent. So they’ve been a family tradition for ions and my family became part of that tradition somewhere in the 50′s, I believe.
I suppose they are an acquired taste, what with that licorice taste from the anise and all. In fact my husband and niece both called them poison cookies until those lovely, seductive, little holiday shaped biscuits finally grew on them. But to say my family loves them is an understatement and now they’ve become an even more important part of our holiday tradition.
Anna’s anise cookies.
Aunt Anna’s anise cookies.
Thank you auntie, for being such a wonderful, loving person, my godmother and for leaving us with such a lovely, sweet tasting tradition. You’re always in my heart.
The creative minds in Memphis took advantage of one of the most teen popular book collections to create a fundraising event so good we had to share it!
First Book supporters in Memphis recently held a fundraiser at the Autozone Challenge Center, located within the Salvation Army Kroc Center, to help put new books in the hands of children in need. Teams competed in a series of mental and physical challenges in theme of the ‘Hunger Games’ books.
“This event challenged students intellectually and physically, and gave them a fun opportunity to give back to their community,” said Lolly Easley. “We chose the theme because the ‘Hunger Games’ trilogy is a favorite series for the younger generation. Teens celebrated their love of this series, while helping children in need and supporting literacy in Memphis.”
The event raised $1205, enough money to purchase over 480 new books for Memphis area children who need them.
The post Hunger ‘For Books’ Games appeared first on First Book Blog.
...or is James Stevenson's The Night After Christmas, like, one of the weirdest, most semi-depressing Christmas stories ever?
(I just looked up The Little Match Girl, and even though she has that vision of a Christmas tree, apparently it's set on New Year's. So I'm not counting it.)
ANYWAY. The Night After Christmas.
A couple of toys get abandoned in the snow WITH THE GARBAGE, because they've been replaced by newer, shinier toys.
A dog named Chauncey rescues them and brings them to the boiler room where he appears to (<--I'll get back to that in a sec.) live.
Annie and Teddy hang out there for a few days, getting progressively more and more depressed (at first, Teddy is somewhat optimistic, but eventually he ends up down in the emotional abyss with Annie), and there is dialogue that will inspire EITHER laughter OR chest-stabbing OR maybe both? Example:
"What are you supposed to be?" said Annie.
"I am a toy computer," said Teddy.
"Ask me a question."
"How can you be so stupid?" said Annie.
BRUTAL, RIGHT?? Because, A) Teddy is so determined to not give up, B) WOW, MEAN on Annie's part, but C) also SO UNDERSTANDABLE on her part.
Anyway, eventually, Chauncey brings them to a school and leaves them outside just as the day is ending, and when the kids have scattered, Annie and Teddy are gone. So, happy ending for them.
And then, the last picture is of Chauncey sleeping in front of a food bowl with a red ribbon on it. So I guess he got adopted? Or he already had a family, and he was slumming it in the boiler room? Or something?
BUT SINCE HE'S SLEEPING, I'M CONCERNED THAT HE'S JUST DREAMING ABOUT THE BOWL, AND THAT HE'S STILL LIVING IN THE BOILER ROOM ALL ALONE.
I realize I have problems.
What about you, though? Depressing/disturbing Christmas stories: GO!
THE BOOK CONCIERGE:
So, in November we reached out to our book critics and staff to ask which books they absolutely loved in 2013. We got more than a total of 200 titles in response from trusted names such as NPR's go-to librarian Nancy Pearl, Fresh Air book critic Maureen Corrigan, Morning Edition host David Greene, and even Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me! limericist Philipp Goedicke. Then the members of the NPR Books team locked ourselves in a small room for several hours to hash out how exactly to categorize titles ranging from Mr. Wuffles! and Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great to an 832-page biography of Woodrow Wilson.
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth we emerged with a taxonomy that allowed users to filter the list of our 200-plus favorite 2013 books in ways that felt both functional (i.e., or ) and fun (i.e., and ). Meanwhile, the NewsApps team was busy figuring out how this whole thing should look and work. After a couple of weeks of designing and coding and testing and editing, our books concierge was born.
And even though they aren't doing the list thing, THAT WON'T STOP ME. Here are the titles in their app-thingie that are tagged 'young adult':
Eleanor & Park, by Rainbow Rowell
The Summer Prince, by Alaya Dawn Johnson
Gorgeous, by Paul Rudnick
A Corner of White, by Jaclyn Moriarty
The Madness Underneath, by Maureen Johnson
Brilliance, by Marcus Sakey
The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, by Holly Black
Scarlet, by Marissa Meyer
Rose Under Fire, by Elizabeth Wein
Paper Valentine, by Brenna Yovanoff
Constructive Play is a valuable experience for child development and for the acquisition of early literacy skills. When children play with blocks they are engaged in the use of fine and gross motor skills, developing problem solving skills, hand eye coordination and visual/spatial awareness. Beyond these developmental skills needed for growth and school success block play also allow children to develop social/ emotional skills. Children can learn conflict resolution, build self-confidence and engage in open ended play with free expression. By creating new worlds, designing imaginary stories, engaging in identifying shapes and relationships between them while playing with blocks, children are developing early literacy skills.
Block come in all shapes and sizes!
Including Blocks in your Library
- Select the blocks that work for your branch. Think about the space you have to allocate and the noise level you prefer to keep.
- Plan a way for blocks to be stored. Will you use a block cabinet, baskets, bins or shelves? Whatever you choose make sure you have a plan in place for your customers to know where to put away the blocks when their play time is over. This keeps your blocks nice as well as saves on staff time.
- Encourage Customers to put away their blocks after playing. When kids clean up blocks and put them into your planed storage system they have to sort them which is a math skill! Offer a stamp or sticker for kids who clean up their mess. We post signs around some of our more messy centers that encourage kids to clean up. After they clean up what they played with they can show the Librarian and get a stamp. Most children will do anything for a stamp or sticker. They are low cost and will save you and your staff a lot of cleaning.
- Sanitize Your Blocks! All you need to sanitize these items is water, bleach and a spray bottle. Mix 1 teaspoon of bleach with 1 gallon of water and fill the spray bottle. This mixture is good enough to kill germs but will not damage items, clothes, carpet or furniture. Spray your items liberally at night and leave them to dry overnight.
- Know that all children will play with blocks differently depending on their developmental stages.
- Carrying (blocks carried, not used for construction; young children around age 2)
- Stacking (horizontal or vertical stacking; beginning around age 3)
- Bridging (children create a bridge using two blocks to support a third; also around age 3)
- Enclosure (blocks enclose a space; around age 4)
- Patterns and Symmetry (balanced structures, decorative or symmetrical patterns; ages 4 & 5)
- Early Representational (name structure during or after construction; age 4 ½)
- Later Representational (announce name before building begins, often use props for dramatic play;age 5
- Watch the Magic Happen! Observe the great creations and learning opportunities happen before your very eyes!
This video is about a specific situation in Toronto, but much of what it says could be applied to pretty much any other public library, anywhere:
(via Book Patrol)
By: Colleen Mondor,
Blog: Chasing Ray
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With winter break looming large, it's time to get a stack of books together for a nice long afternoon of escapist fiction. Go ahead and indulge yourself with these adventures -- I'm sure you deserve them!
Gwenda Bond provides readers with a rousing drama that is firmly grounded in a classic coming-of-age story with her mash-up of myths and secret societies, The Woken Gods. Washington, D.C. is now home to embassies housing the physical manifestations of legends from around the world and throughout history, including the Greeks, Egyptians, Sumerians, American Southwest and even New Orleans. Just as global politics has always involved uneasy detentes between nations, the gods and man are gripped in a peace forged in death that is maintained by the mysterious Society of the Sun. Society members keep the gods from killing mankind through brute strength and hundreds of "relics" that have been gathered and guarded through the ages and now are the only effective weapons against immortal power. That Raiders of the Lost Ark warehouse is very real, only it involves the relic-gathering skills of a ton of Indy-like archaeologists and is in a way cooler location.
Kyra Locke knows all about the Society and the gods because her father works there and her mother lost her mind when the gods were "awakened." Now an angry high school student, she spends a lot of time failing to get her father's attention and hanging out with ex-boyfriend Tam and best friend Bree. Then Kyra's dad giver her a vague "if I don't come home you must run away" lecture and a god tries to kill her in the middle of the street. The Society saves her butt and hauls her and her friends away to tell them what has really been going on. Except they don't really and the teens must figure it out on their own. But the fun here is all the twists and turns and lies and revelations, and careful world building and nonstop action (with bonus romance) that make anyone looking for a bunch of smart tough characters to hang out with very, very happy.
What Bond gives readers here is a whole bunch of adults who have not done the right thing in ways big and small. She also gives us adults who can't seem to wrap their heads around the fact that teenagers are not stupid or silly and thus can actually be trusted with the truth. There is some research à la Giles, some breaking and entering (more than once) and some running for your life that is not always successful. Also a few serious ceremonies, the frustration of secret justice, the "I didn't know you liked me but I'm so glad I know now" kind of conversation and the requirement of putting your hand into an open wound to stop a deadly infection. Clearly, the squeamish need not apply to save the world in this case.
The Woken Gods is a fast-paced tonic for curious readers who seek multi-layered mysteries and a salute to smart under-appreciated kids everywhere. The cool part is when it all comes together at the end and some very delightful parents do step up to the plate because they trust their kids. Bond has her characters growing up in a strange new world, in a bold brave way. The Woken Gods is one mighty fun read, and thus a perfect respite from holiday madness. Smart equals good in any adventure, and this is a very good read.
Jasper Fforde follows up The Last Dragonslayer with the second book in his "Chronicles of Kazam" series: The Song of the Quarkbeast. These books (and they really should be read in order) are set in a funny world where magic is used for fixing construction projects, large-scale landscaping and speedy delivery via flying carpet. There are also pointless foreign policy squabbles, foolish bureaucrats, a despotic king and all number of recognizable societal silliness. Our heroine, sixteen-year old Jennifer Strange, lives in the Kingdom of Snodd where she runs the show for a bunch of "underemployed magicians" at Kazam Mystical Arts Management and nothing ever seems to go the way she wants it to.
In The Song of the Quarkbeast, Jennifer has a lot on her plate. Kazam's founder is still missing in an enchantment that went wrong (although reappearing unannounced in various points in the kingdom on occasion), her most powerful magicians have fallen victim to a spell, Kazam is under attack from a power-mad professional rival and there are trolls. She is also missing her late lamented pet quarkbeast very much, which becomes that much more difficult when she meets a rather demented quarkbeast hunter. All in all, Jennifer's life is as complicated as ever and keeping a cool head is especially critical if she wants to save the kingdom again.
Fforde knows exactly what he is doing with these books, and while they are a bit lightweight, they are also a lot of fun. Jennifer possesses a wry sense of humor that serves her well and her friends and coworkers continue to balance quirkiness and kindness in equal parts. Fforde fits all of their idiosyncrasies into this tightly crafted plot with ease and the addition of a hint of romance this time around is welcome but not a distraction from the continued unfolding of life around Kazam. There is also more than one mystery but every last bit is solved, sorted, and dealt with by the final paragraphs. There is no villain in these books, Fforde prefers to give his readers the sort of political messiness we are all too familiar with in the twenty-first century. The politics are so funny, teen readers will enjoy their addition to the plot. The Song of the Quarkbeast is pure fantasy comfort food: an excellent choice for decompressing in the midst of your own family political upheavals this month.
The adventure in The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence hits much closer to home but also involves leaps of faith and a strong heart for the title character. As the story opens, seventeen-year-old Alex is stopped at a border crossing and herded off by the police on drug charges. He is apparently the center of a national news story and facing multiple personal crisis. Plus his closest friend is dead, and he's the only one who can explain what happened. That's the setup, and the chapters that follow bring readers back several years to explain how Alex got there.
First and foremost, he is the boy who got hit by a meteorite and lived. The one-in-a-million accident made him famous and left him with a unique perspective that has colored every choice he makes in life. Raised by a mother who runs a wiccan-type shop and gives tarot card readings, he is used to being an easy target for bullies. Now with a wicked scar on the side of his head, a crazy story and avid interests in astronomy and neurology (for obvious reasons), keeping himself from being a target is nearly a full time job. It is while on the run one day that he meets a reclusive neighbor, the gruff widower Mr. Peterson, and finds the friend who changes his life.
Alex is a complex and endearing character, intrigued by science and literature and especially, through his friendship with Peterson, drawn to the works of Kurt Vonnegut. Extence makes sure to explain these interests, allowing Alex to have deep considerations of writing and astronomy that carefully add layers of meaning to the story. Most importantly he is a very likable kid whose curiosity will appeal to many readers. Consider this revealing passage:
I think if I could just spend the whole six hours of the school day solving algebra problems, then I'd be extremely happy. But, of course, that's not exactly normal. That's the part everybody hates. Most of the other boys can't wait for the break so they can go outside and play football. And to me, that really is baffling. It seems like such a waste of time and energy. It doesn't tell you anything about the world. It doesn't add or change anything. I don't get the appeal.
Extence takes Alex far beyond the point of traditional bullying and places him in an adult situation that calls for problem solving and sincerity of the highest order. He must make decisions that rattle not only his family but also ultimately spark a national dialogue, and he does it all for the most basic of reasons: it's the right thing to do. Light years from the traditional "problem of the week" novel and a brilliant look at the creative mind of an intelligent teen who willfully challenges the adults around him, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is thought provoking and intense. Fans of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian or Tales of the Madman Underground by John Barnes should especially give this one a look.
Joanna Nadin's Paradise combines family drama and secrets in the best gothic tradition, while still firmly set in contemporary England with nary a moor in sight. Sixteen-year-old Billie should be happy, the grandmother she never knew has left her a house in her will, and as Billie and her mother and little brother are barely hanging onto their crappy London apartment, this refuge sounds like a godsend. The problem is that her mother, who has always exhibited unpredictable behavior, is determined to leave without telling her boyfriend and Billie isn't too excited about being in a place she doesn't know with a mother who is starting to unravel again. She is sorely tempted to just walk away from it all, but her brother needs her and she loves her mother and the house does offer a possibility of... something else. In the grand scheme of things, that is enough to tip the scales and so off the little family goes to Cornwall where, of course, everything comes apart.
As you would expect, there is a big house where everything is mysteriously undisturbed, as if it has been waiting for the new occupants. Billie's uncle died years before in an accident as a teenager and his room is just as he left it, whereas her mother's childhood room bears no hint that she ever lived there. The town seems to know more about the family then Billie does and while a small group of teens seems welcoming, Billie's mother becomes more and more unhinged making it difficult to pay bills, let alone invite friends over. All too soon everything goes to hell in a hand basket in the most spectacular fashion but not before Billie learns just enough about her mother's past to demand more answers, which entails visiting a graveyard, nearly drowning in a dangerous sea, and finally figuring out who her father was and why he left her before she was born. The secrets are revealed so quickly in the end that your head spins a bit, but as someone who hung on every word of Victoria Holt when I was fourteen, I think the rhythm is just fine and readers will be delighted. Consider this one a modern twist on a classic narrative and a true page-turner.
For those seeking a bit more of a cautionary tale for their vacation reading à la Jennifer Jason Leigh and Bridget Fonda's roommate-from-hell classic Single White Female, I recommend Jenny Davidson's subtle novel, The Magic Circle. The story starts out with one of those uniquely cerebral bar discussions favored by grad students, albeit on an unexpected topic. The plot centers around the groundwork that goes into developing a game to be played on the street level that realistically incorporates the architecture and history of the environment around it. For Columbia University students Ruth and Lucy, this means figuring out what to include in their game about the Victorian era in New York City, "Trapped in the Asylum."
The game is set in the Morningside Heights neighborhood, and is based on the real history of the Bloomingdale Insane Asylum. Using the game's app as a guide, players move through the streets portraying someone voluntarily committed to the asylum à la Nellie Bly. They will also gain experiences and answer questions that uncover clues about the asylum's creepy past. The goal is to make an educational game interactive and fun, part of what Ruth is researching in school, and it all seems quite interesting but relatively innocuous. The inclusion of neighbor Anna, a visiting scholar from Denmark, turns Ruth and Lucy's careful game planning on its ear however and brings a level of uncontrollable chaos into their lives.
On the surface, The Magic Circle is very much about game theory and the work that goes into creating a successful manufactured environment. The women work hard at making their games work in a logical way, both Ruth's "Trapped in the Asylum" and Anna's brainchild, "Places of Power", the latter of which incorporates Greek myth, the occult, and architecture into the mix. (Ghostbusters is appropriately name-dropped here, though Anna's vision has a much more adult form.) Through email excerpts and online journal entries, Davidson shows Ruth and Anna working through the details of their separate games while alternately arguing against and supporting each other's visions. Lucy, who is called away for several chapters due to a family crisis, serves to show the readers just how much the games change and overwhelm their creators' original visions when she returns and is shocked to discover how far her friends have moved from their original theories. Lucy cannot resist being drawn into the debauchery presented by Anna's game however, changing her view of what the games are supposed to be about. (So much for education.) Anna shows the appeal of game playing can be more than just leaving reality behind; it is about embracing a fantasy that is as close to real as it gets and presents potential consequences that are unpredictable and thus extremely exciting. It should come as no surprise that all of this takes a serious turn for the worse very quickly.
Anna's brother arrives and romances the reserved Ruth. "Places of Power" rapidly gains in popularity as word spreads through online message boards and forums and groups converge to play the game in a wild weekend that finds all the players engaging in dangerously indulgent behavior in Morningside Park after dark. The intoxication of playing the game infuses every aspects of Ruth and Lucy's lives and pitted against each other by their roles, they find themselves less inclined to question their conduct and suspicious of ulterior motives. Through it all, the Danish siblings weave a web that threatens to overwhelm the other two women, and lures them deeper into a game they never intended to play, let alone expected to threaten their lives.
The Magic Circle is a subtle thriller that effectively introduces the appeal of urban exploration and game playing into the freedom presented by the college environment. The dark turn that the plot takes is a warning call to any older teen who feels the lure of leaving the rules behind. Davidson shows how easy it is to lose your way and come unmoored from the person you thought you were when tempted by others. Teens about to leave for college will find a lot to consider in Ruth and Lucy's adventures and many questions to answer about how they would respond to all the possibilities that these games present. (Some sexual content makes this one a crossover for older teens only.)
Finally, as this is the holiday season, I couldn't resist a couple of unusual ideas that would certainly have appealed to me as a teenager. (And frankly still do.) Beth Kephart's recent title on writing memoir, Handling the Truth, has been receiving accolades all over the place for its thoughtful consideration of the good and bad in the genre, as well as providing examples from many wonderful books. Kephart is a National Book Award finalist who teaches writing; she pulls from her own experience and classroom discussion to illustrate many points. For the teen writer, Handling the Truth offers some valuable insight into many facets of the writing life, especially finding the truth in a story. Packaging Handing the Truth along with a couple of the dozens of memoirs Kephart lists in her detailed bibliography would be a great way to tell the teen in your life that your take his or her writing dreams seriously.
Another idea is to purchase a book subscription for YA lovers that will extend the gift-giving season into their mailboxes all year long. After filling out a questionnaire to help narrow down the gift recipient's interest, Oblong Books and Music in New York State will mail recipients"...a brand-new hardcover YA book specially chosen for them each month, along with swag and info about the books and authors we love, and whatever's hottest in the YA world. We'll help you discover the books that will be your new favorites." The service is available for three, six, or twelve month installments and all information can be found on the store's website.
COOL READ: Oyvin Torseter's The Hole is certainly one of the most simple yet innovative picture books I have come across in ages and an absolute treat for young children. Nicely designed by Enchanted Lion Books with heavy cardboard covers and sturdy pages, Torseter's story is beguiling in its simplicity. An animal-man (who stands upright but looks like a dog) has just moved into a new apartment. As he wordlessly unpacks, he is shocked to discover a hole in the wall. The hole appears and disappears at random as he tracks it around the rooms until finally capturing it in a box. He then goes off into the city (full of all manner of other "people" plus, great buildings and cars), boards a bus, and travels to a large facility where the hole is unpacked and studied until the techs tell him "that's all we can do for now" and packs the hole away for future study. He returns home, goes to bed and, of course, the hole is still there. (Fortunately for our hero's sanity, he doesn't notice.)
This subversive little story is laugh out loud funny, witty as hell, even with its very few words, and, as the hole is physically present through an actual hole in the page, also a very active book for the reader to engage with. The spare use of color and the line drawings give the pages plenty of white space for the hole to stand out, and the diversity of the characters gives the book a broad appeal. The Hole is an ageless read, as it will be enjoyed by everyone who picks it up. (And trust me, everyone will want to pick it up.) This is one of those titles that from conception to final product is just utterly and completely original. It's as good as it gets, and I can't recommend it enough.
I am so looking forward to reading this one.
Click on over to Scribd for the sneak peek.
By: Colleen Mondor,
Blog: Chasing Ray
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Earlier this year, a friend and I discussed the viability of a drinking game involving HGTV, where every mention of the words "granite countertops" or "double sinks" or "perfect for entertaining," would result in a shot. We figured it would only take a single thirty-minute episode of House Hunters to intoxicate the average person; if it was a showing of Property Virgins, the person wouldn't get through the first house. (As my friend put it, "No one ever talks about a room that's perfect for eating ice cream alone in front of the TV.")
Howard Mansfield has written several books that discuss different facets of history, architecture, and preservation, often with an eye toward his New England roots, including The Same Ax Twice, and Bones of the Earth. His most recent title, Dwelling in Possibility, is an exploration of the nature of home and more specifically, how we have distanced ourselves from the concept of dwelling. "We have shelter from the rain and snow and sun," he writes, "but our houses aren't sheltering our souls."
For a population of rabid HGTV watchers, Mansfield's conclusions about clutter, space, and useful design will be both familiar and reassuring (and often quite funny as well). But there is much more to this title then wryly noting our national designer addictions. Dwelling in Possibility exhorts readers to consider why building houses, as opposed to building homes, has become a national past time.
In three separate sections Mansfield considers "Dwelling in the Ordinary," "Dwelling in Destruction," and "Dwelling in Possibility." In the early chapters his witty sense of humor is on full display, most especially when considering the power of clutter to control our daily lives. It's hard not to laugh (and agree) when reading a rant like this one:
We have poured our concerns about clutter into almost every shape we know: self-help, recovery support groups (Messies Anonymous, Clutter Diet), meet-up groups, Let Go of Clutter Retreats, Feng Shui, vague Zen aspirations ("Do More With Less in Your Zen Bathroom"), decluttering online in the Second Life world, and television shows where you can watch people throw out junk. There's Clutter Awareness Week (the third week in March), a Clutter Hoarding Scale, newspaper stories ready to pronounce a national epidemic ("Stuff Robbed Dee Wallace of Love"), and a tsunami of books soon to be at a flea market near you. "I own several organizing books and this is my favorite," said one reader at Amazon. Another woman, who had surrendered to a professional organizer, confessed to squirreling away boxes of her favorite "decluttering" magazine articles.
Fair enough. Mansfield has us on our endless desire to remove stuff from our lives and our acute inability to apparently accomplish that without buying more stuff to "do it right." What the author does that is unexpected, however, is take all this humor about modern living and pivot in a wholly different direction in the book's stark second section. In these chapters, he writes of the twentieth-century cities, towns, and villages that have suffered "de-housing" through the tactics of war, and shows how our inherent yearning for home has all too often been used as way to destroy civilian populations.
Sadly, there are all too many examples of military destruction that Mansfield can point to, but as he takes readers on this grim historical tour he cannot resist teasing out the many complicated stories that linger behind the factual records. While recalling the infamous initial report of U.S. Marines torching huts in Vietnam as a way to punish the populace, he shares the powerful threats brought against reporter Morley Safer for revealing the dark side of the American occupation to the public.
In Vietnam, like everywhere else in Asia, property, a home, is everything. A man lives with his family on ancestral land. His parents are buried nearby. These spirits are part of his holdings," says Safer.
The images of the Zippo lighters setting fire to a grass roof while families huddled nearby was deemed so damaging to the war effort that the Pentagon tried to ruin Safer's reputation; President Johnson was certain Safer had bribed a Marine to set a fire.
"Burning down a house is a transgression," writes Mansfield, "It's an obvious sin..."
Through the bombings of London, Tokyo, and Hamburg, the author pores over the words of the men who ordered the attacks and those who dutifully followed through, while also considering their ultimate failure. The houses were destroyed, but the people, without exception, remained determined to rebuild, and no one surrendered because a city was lost. In the end he notes how house destruction became a policy that stubbornly held on in the face of all evidence, suggesting it was not a worthwhile use of money or men. "These things develop their own momentum," he writes. We bombed cities day in and day out simply because we kept getting better at hitting them.
It seems impossible that a title could include discussions of the significance of useful footpaths to a community, the allure of California Closets to cure what ails us, and also the profound despair left in the wake of Tokyo's burning. Yet Mansfield's light touch, whether engaged in humor or sympathy, never wavers from his intent to fully understand his overall subject. He is fascinated by what we need from a home and how confusing our relationship with that concept has become. As he always does, Mansfield quotes from all manner of writers, architects, and historians throughout the text, but mostly it is his own voice that shines through. As he writes of house hunting with his wife in the earliest pages, you can imagine him walking through countless doors, his curiosity endlessly piqued as he surveys the rooms around him. He can't stop looking; he can't stop noticing:
Houses that smell of feet, or vaguely like diapers, even though the children are in high school.
Houses that are worn and comfortable, like an old fielder's mitt, like the sweatshirt and jeans the commuting executive wears on Saturdays.
Houses that are walled in with photos of children, grandchildren, nieces, and grandnieces. The walls of diplomas like battle ribbons.
Houses in which nothing has happened, and that seems terrible...where boredom sticks to the walls, yellows the walls like grease from ten thousand meals.
Howard Mansfield has seen it all, stood there, collected his thoughts, and now shares his conclusions. In elegant, careful prose he ushers readers far beyond the peeks we are accustomed to having through our television shows and shelter magazines. This is an author who is endlessly patient while pursuing his subjects, and delightfully capable of sharing his journeys with the rest of us. As a cultural historian, there can be few more determined to understand the modern human condition. Dwelling in Possibility is thus quite extraordinary in its quiet message about how we live, and certainly a triumph for this brilliant author.
Dwelling in Possibility by Howard Mansfield
Where did December come from? What happened to May? July? September? Did I do a Rip Van Winkle? The year can’t be almost done already!
So far setting monthly reading priorities has gone pretty well. I thought when I sat down to write this that November had gone terribly but looking back there is only one book I didn’t read, The Bridge of Beyond by Simone Schwarz-Bart. My excuse? A library book I had on hold came my way. That’s valid, right?
I am usually up to date with writing about books I have finished but there are two books from November I haven’t written about yet: Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse and MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood. The Atwood was fantastic. The Hesse, I am still trying to puzzle it out. I think I should have read it while under the influence of mind-altering drugs and it would have made more sense. Write ups about each of the books are forthcoming.
Books for December. I am having trouble putting together my priorities. I have the week of Christmas and the week of New Year’s off from work, that’s two full weeks, and I am inclined to cram it full with books. But I know I have a tendency to cram it too full so I back off and then worry that I haven’t planned enough. What the heck. Let’s cram!
So while others binge on food this month, I’ll binge on books. Here’s the meal plan:
- Bicycles: Love Poems by Nikki Giovanni. She will be giving a reading at the public library on December 12th and I am planning to go. While I know who she is a search through my reading history revealed I have never read her. I began the book the other day and what a delight! I look forward to hearing her speak.
- Burning the Midnight Oil edited by Phil Cousineau. The publisher offered this to me and I couldn’t refuse. It’s a little anthology of prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction about the night. The book is being published on the winter solstice. It is one of those perfect dipping books that has so far been very enjoyable.
- Vital Signs, this is a book of essays on psychological responses to ecological crisis. I am not planning on rushing my way through this and finishing by the end of the month. I am taking my time and plan on finishing in January so this one is a more long-term book.
- Singing School by Robert Pinsky. This is a book about poetry. I am next up in the hold queue at the library and it looks like my turn will come around the 17th.
- To the Letter by Simon Garfield is another book I am waiting for at the library. The library just purchased it and as soon as they have it cataloged a copy will be mine.
- The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke. This is the book that came in from the library that kept me from reading The Bridge of Beyond last month. It is a chunkster but so far so good. It is a science fiction novel that involves time travel and climate change. Bookman decided to read it too. One book, two readers. Watch us juggle and negotiate!
- Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett. I started this on my Kindle a week or so ago and am enjoying it very much. A nice antidote to the Hesse.
- The Stupidest Angel by Christopher Moore. Another book of comedy, this time Christmas comedy. Bookman read it last year and laughed all the way through and then foisted it on me. Seems like a good time to read it.
And if I manage all of that, there will also be The Bridge of Beyond and Trojan Women to dive into. Also on the back burner is Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot and a biography about him by Peter Ackroyd.
It’s a good thing reading binges are calorie-free!
Filed under: Books
, In Progress
Last day for Cyber Sale on Empath School & Fairy Online School. Take advantage of great rates now on January classes!
Okay, Picture Book Month is over. Now it is time for...zombies!
Not to worry. I'm not doing a month on them. I'm not even all that enthused about zombies. I've read a couple of good books, seen a few movies, and that's about all I need. Especially since many zombie books are also apocalyptic novels. And, as Garrison Keillor once said about pumpkin pie, the best apocalyptic novel you've ever read isn't that much better than the worst.
That's why I ignored Rot & Ruin
by Jonathan Maberry for a long time when it was on my library's new YA shelf. It wasn't until I saw a review for one of its follow-up books that I gave the first book in the Rot & Ruin
series a second thought and made a point of finding it.
What makes this book so intriguing is that while it is set in a vague American future, it has a western vibe. The characters in this book are fourteen years into zombie world and the little group we're interested in are living in a small town they've created to keep themselves safe from the zombie horde. One character goes so far as to compare the people living there to western townspeople protecting themselves from Native Americans. Horses figure in the story because society has fallen and power for machinery is limited.
Our protagonist's older brother fills the roll of the lone gunslinger with his own code, making him noirish, too. There's no law in these parts, so you've got outlaw types who are far worse than the zombies, just as you had outlaws in westerns. Our heroes head out of town to save their woman from said outlaws. There is even a scene that calls to mind the cavalry coming over the rise to save the day.
For those of us who grew up with parents who watched westerns on TV every night of the week, it's fun to pick up all the western, well, cliches. (I didn't enjoy doing this anywhere near as much while watching Defiance
.) It's been a long time since television was populated by cowboys, though. The western connection won't be an issue one way or the other for younger readers.Rot & Ruin
is an apocalyptic novel that works for me because the society in it isn't stagnant. So often in these books the world goes to pieces and stays that way for generations. No one shows any interest in technology or even changing the height of a hemline. Given the last 500 years or so of human existence, that seems unrealistic to me. Cultures evolve.
And there are suggestions that the culture portrayed in Rot & Ruin
is going to. It's only been 14 years since the world fell to zombies, and already the young people who are growing up there are thinking that they'd like something better. If the zombies come, it seems likely to me that before long people are going to get sick of them and start thinking of ways to make a better life. Trying to make a better life is what we do.
By: Linda S. Wingerter,
Blog: Blue Rose Girls
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I'll be selling books and prints once again at the RISD Alumni Holiday Art Sale (as will Grace!), this Saturday at the Rhode Island Convention Center. As always, the sale is a great place to do your holiday shopping- I love to stroll the aisles and pick out handmade goodies for my xmas list. Come join us! The sale is from 10:00-5:00.
I managed to sketch every day in November and posted it to my Instagram account
, but not always on the blog. I also completed PiBoIdMo.
Now I'm sketching for Linda Silvestri's HoHoDooDa
I wouldn't call this one a milestone, but my daughter and I came up with a little literacy-themed game earlier this week. I was working on the computer in my office. My daughter came in, climbed up into my lap, and asked if she could "use the letters" on the computer. So I opened up a notepad application, and she started typing words.
She would suggest a word (generally the name of someone important in her life), I would tell her how to spell it, and she would find and press each letter on the keyboard. She was able to type "Mom" (see previous post) and her own name without any spelling help, though she required a bit of help in finding the letters. Where possible, I would sound out the word, and let her figure out what the corresponding letter. Had it not been bath time, I think that this game could have continued for quite some time.
So we have:
- Practice at spelling;
- Practice at recognizing which letters go with certain sounds;
- Practive at memorization, as she worked to remember where each letter was located on the keyboard (something that is hardly intuitive); and
- Fun with Mom.
Item #3 is extra-challenging on my computer, because some of the letters have been worn off due to repeated use (the "n" is completely gone, presumably because I have several in my name).
It's not that I'm eager to have my child spending more time on electronic devices. But it does please me that she enjoys making words, whatever the format. And the seek/find/remember aspects of doing this on the keyboard are a learning bonus. I won't be pushing this activity, but I will be receptive to it when she asks for it. Because really, work can usually wait a few more minutes...
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The list, from Quill & Quire:
Namesake, by Sue MacLeod
Sorrow's Knot, by Erin Bow
The Night Before Christmas, written by Clement C. Moore, illustrated by Barbara Reid
Lasso the Wind: Aurelia’s Verses and other Poems, written by George Elliott Clarke, illustrated by Susan Tooke
The Great Bear Sea—Exploring the Marine Life of a Pacific Paradise, by Ian McAllister and Nicholas Read
At the Guardian:
I am so glad that first-rate children's literature was there for my own children. I would not have wanted them – at 11, 12 or 13 – to confront the complexity and banality of evil. It's quite right that they wanted to read about worlds where evil was uniformly evil and good people were constantly good. In contrast, adulthood means learning that SS officers or drone pilots do go home and kiss their wives, without a thought of belonging to the "dark side".
Wow. If this essayist truly thinks—as opposed to deliberately writing clickbait, which is certainly possible—that children's and YA fiction depicts the world in black-and-white, then he can't be particularly well-versed in either category.
While a lot of attention deservedly goes to the pilots who first developed Alaska's aviation industry, less is known about those who thrived in the post-war era. In the 1950s and 1960s the fledgling air carriers that had struggled for decades truly began to soar and at the front of the pack was the territory's oldest airline, (the second in the U.S.), Wien Air Alaska.
In 1948 pilot James "Andy" Anderson was hired by Wien to establish and operate the company's Bettles base. A World War II Navy veteran, Anderson had arrived in the small village a year prior to work for the Civil Aeronautics Authority (CAA). Over the next 20 years he flew all over Interior Alaska for Wien and also built and operated the company's roadhouse, the present-day Bettles Lodge.
Anderson accumulated 32,000 hours by the time he left Alaska. Thirty years later he told his story to writer Jim Rearden, who had flown with Anderson many times. The result is "Arctic Bush Pilot," a fascinating look at mid-century commercial flying in Alaska.
With over 50 photographs to illustrate his experiences, "Arctic Bush Pilot" takes readers from Anderson's military years flying the Curtiss Helldiver to his employment as a radio operator with the CAA in Bettles where he first met Sig Wien. His recollections of flying for Wien Air include multiple aircraft such as the Cessna 180, Republic Seabee Amphibian and a military surplus Noorduyn Norseman from Canada. He also details his close relationship with the company, especially Sig Wien and how he came to be one of the largest stockholders in Wien by the time he left.
For modern pilots, "Arctic Bush Pilot" will likely be appealing because so many of the situations Anderson describes are remarkably similar to their own. Consider this excerpt on the subject of pressure:
The aerial mail routes I established in the Koyukuk Valley were flown with no radio or navigation aids. Weather was often lousy. Regardless, after a time the villagers not only expected, but demanded, that mail be delivered as scheduled and on time.
Sometimes weather was bad at Bettles Field at the same time it was good at one or more of my stops. Often villagers weren't aware of this and scolded me when I missed a mail run due to bad weather they didn't experience. I had to be careful to not allow this pressure to push me into unsafe flying.
One of the more gripping episodes Anderson recalls is an emergency flight in 1955 for Sydney Huntington, who had a splinter embedded in his right eye and was suffering tremendous pain. After waiting through steadily decreasing temperatures, Anderson finally chose to depart for Huslia at 60 below. He first flew Huntington to the small hospital in Tanana where the doctor determined he could not be adequately treated and must go onto Fairbanks. The temperature there was 52 below zero and ice fog, which still shuts down the airport every winter, cloaked the city. Anderson recalled:
As we neared the town I could see it was mostly obscured by dense ice fog. I dropped to 1,000 feet, used flaps, and crawled along at about a hundred miles an hour, following the railroad tracks toward the airport as visibility decreased.
I called the control tower. They were expecting me, having been informed by the CAA of my medivac [sic] flight. Visibility was down to a few hundred yards when I landed at Fairbanks International Airport.
Huntington was immediately transported to the hospital and the splinter removed. Six months later, after suffering continuous pain, the injured eye was replaced with a glass one. When "Arctic Bush Pilot" was published, he credited Anderson with saving his life.
There are many stories of flying in bad weather or carrying awkward loads in "Arctic Bush Pilot" as well as insight into the burgeoning Wien operation. Anderson writes of the company building landing fields at Venetie, Kobuk, Arctic Village and Anaktuvuk Pass and establishing a radio network throughout the Interior. He recalls being stuck in Anaktuvuk until local residents used caribou fat to patch a hole in a torn wing float and serving as the only lifeline for miners in the remote Chandalar country. At times humorous and witty and at others wistful and nostalgic, Anderson's reminiscences always show a deep affection for the people he worked with and flew.
But what comes through strongest from "Arctic Bush Pilot" is that once upon a time, in a place where the maps were still being drawn, Andy Anderson considered himself lucky to be part of the Alaska story. His contribution to the state's aviation history is undeniable to anyone who uses the airports he developed or frequents the many villages that depended upon his single aircraft for air service. Most importantly though, he took the time to share his experiences with Rearden and together they produced a thoroughly engaging and highly readable book.
"Arctic Bush Pilot" is available at libraries and bookstores across Alaska. It can also be ordered online from numerous booksellers. Learn more at the publisher's website.
By: Emily Smith Pearce,
Blog: Emily Smith Pearce
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Sorry for being away so long! I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving. Ours was nice and low-key, and featured some gluten-free apple pie. There was a big to-do about who got the last pieces, and not just among the GF folks. It’s that good.
The hubs and I also took a trip just before Thanksgiving, which I’ll have to tell you more about in another post.
Here I wanted to show you a little holiday craft we did. Last year I made gift cloths with Christmas fabric and existing Christmas linens, but this year I decided to add to the collection by decorating and sewing up scraps of fabric I already had in my stash.
The red and green stripe in the back left corner was made with watercolor-type fabric paints by Deka. I’ve had that paint forEVER. I tried to find a link to a place you can buy it, but it’s looking like it’s not sold in the US anymore. Bummer. It’s good stuff.
We decorated the fabric for the center red-ribboned present with Target brand “slick” fabric paints (you squeeze the bottles to draw with them). My least favorite fabric paint ever. Really poor quality, but we made the best of it.
The blue-ribboned gift cloth is pale pink, and we drew on it with Tee Juice markers, which are great for quick and easy projects, especially with kids. They are totally permanent, though, so, as with all of these supplies, dress accordingly.
Lastly, on the red-spotted cloth with the dark green ribbon, we used stamps with cheap acrylic paints from Michaels mixed with textile medium. This is one of my favorite ways to paint on fabric, because mixing it yourself gives you a wide range of choices. And in the end you aren’t left with a bunch of fabric paint you may never use again.
Below are some pre-decorated and hemmed gift cloths: a thrifted plaid tablecloth and two tea towels from Target marked down to 88¢!
The kids loved trying to guess what all these fake presents were, the favorite by far being the pink one below that’s wrapped like candy. It’s a sack of corn meal.
Loving this free printable nativity the kids can color themselves at Made by Joel.
Hope to be back soon with some details of our trip.
As of November 20, 2012 (that is, Midnight Eastern Time tonight) I am closed to queries. I will reopen to queries January 7, 2013.
If I already have your work, you should hear from me by January 7. (That's the point of taking the break, I have to catch up!)
I'm sorry to say that I cannot respond to new queries sent during this time.
The exceptions will be: work that I've requested -- conference material -- client or editor referrals -- and people I actually know in real life. If this is you, please be sure you've said so, along with the word Query, IN THE SUBJECT LINE of your email. Otherwise, your query will be deleted.
For all other regular queries, please feel free to try any of my colleagues at Andrea Brown Lit, or else try me again in January.
Thanks again for thinking of me in regard to your work.
Wishing you all the best, and Happy Holidays,
Andrea Brown Literary Agency
...have been announced, and they are:
Charm & Strange, by Stephanie Kuehn
Sex & Violence, by Carrie Mesrobian
Dr. Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets, by Evan Roskos
Belle Epoque, by Elizabeth Ross
In the Shadow of Blackbirds, by Cat Winters
I've read Belle Epoque and In the Shadow of Blackbirds, but (surprise!) haven't written about either (that seems to be the Name of My Game this year, sigh).
Belle Epoque, I enjoyed very much—it's an atmospheric historical about the rather hideous practice of hiring "ugly" girls to stand around and make their patrons look more attractive by comparison. Blackbirds, though, I... just didn't get the hoopla. The book has a lovely design, and the story has lots of cool factors—it's set during the Spanish influenza pandemic, and deals with WWI, shell shock and Spiritualism—but the mystery wasn't remotely mysterious, and most of the character interactions just fell flat for me. But maybe I read it on an off day.
Anyway! I shall have to read the other three!
In 2012, I listed 102 YA books written by authors of color. This year, 81. I’m certain I’ve missed some.
For example, in September I missed Antigoddess by Kendare Blake.
Old Gods never die…
Or so Athena thought. But then the feathers started sprouting beneath her skin, invading her lungs like a strange cancer, and Hermes showed up with a fever eating away his flesh. So much for living a quiet eternity in perpetual health. Desperately seeking the cause of their slow, miserable deaths, Athena and Hermes travel the world, gathering allies and discovering enemies both new and old. Their search leads them to Cassandra—an ordinary girl who was once an extraordinary prophetess, protected and loved by a god.
These days, Cassandra doesn’t involve herself in the business of gods—in fact, she doesn’t even know they exist. But she could be the key in a war that is only just beginning. Because Hera, the queen of the gods, has aligned herself with other of the ancient Olympians, who are killing off rivals in an attempt to prolong their own lives. But these anti-gods have become corrupted in their desperation to survive, horrific caricatures of their former glory. Athena will need every advantage she can get, because immortals don’t just flicker out. Every one of them dies in their own way. Some choke on feathers. Others become monsters. All of them rage against their last breath.
The Goddess War is about to begin.
But still, Why are the numbers of books written by authors of color continuing to decrease? Why is it still difficult for parents, librarians and teens to find YA books that feature teens of color?
Cy in Chains by David Dudley; Clarion Books, 17 Dec Cy Williams, thirteen, has always known that he and the other black folks on Strong’s plantation have to obey white men, no question. Sure, he’s free, as black people have been since his grandfather’s day, but in rural Georgia, that means they’re free to be whipped, abused, even killed. Almost four years later, Cy yearns for that freedom, such as it was. Now he’s a chain gang laborer, forced to do backbreaking work, penned in and shackled like an animal, brutalized, beaten, and humiliated by the boss of the camp and his hired overseers. For Cy and the boys he’s chained to, there’s no way out, no way back.
And then hope begins to grow in him, along with strength and courage he didn’t know he had. Cy is sure that a chance at freedom is worth any risk, any sacrifice. This powerful, moving story opens a window on a painful chapter in the history of race relations. (Amazon)
Control by Lydia King; Dial Books; 26 Dec Set in 2150 — in a world of automatic cars, nightclubs with auditory ecstasy drugs, and guys with four arms — this is about the human genetic “mistakes” that society wants to forget, and the way that outcasts can turn out to be heroes.
When their overprotective father is killed in a terrible accident, Zel and her younger sister, Dylia, are lost in grief. But it’s not until strangers appear, using bizarre sensory weapons, that the life they had is truly eviscerated. Zel ends up in a safe house for teens that aren’t like any she’s ever seen — teens who, by law, shouldn’t even exist. One of them — an angry tattooed boy haunted by tragedy — can help Zel reunite with her sister. (Amazon)
Filed under: New Books
Tagged: new releases
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...in the 2014 RITAs due to lack of entries:
Due to the failure to obtain the minimum number of entries (5 percent of total contest entries) required by the contest entry deadline, the Young Adult Romance category of the 2014 RITA® Contest has been canceled.
Other than a LOT of chatter on Twitter and FB, that's the only link I've seen so far that directly quoted the RWA letter that broke the news.
I have no doubt there will be more information forthcoming.
In the meantime, though: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. The idea that there somehow weren't enough YA romances to fill the category* is rife with ridiculousity, and fills me with sadnosity as well as a bit of indignosity.
*Category criteria: "Novels that focus primarily on the romantic relationship between two adolescents. These novels are marketed to adolescents and young adults." So is the issue that if a book is a combination of multiple genres—say, Dark Triumph, which is a historical-fantasy-adventure-romance—it doesn't count? I'm rather at a loss here, because in that example, sure, there's a lot going on... but the romance is TOTALLY INTEGRAL to the main character's growth, healing, and happiness. I dunno. Thoughts and/or insight?