Monday, July 30, 2012

Somnium means Dream in Latin

I just read a fun book called Kepler's Dream by Juliet Bell. It grabbed me right from the get-go, mostly because I knew it was a book I wanted to share with V (I'll be sending it to her at camp today). It's a wonderful story filled with interesting inside information and great sayings. 

Here are some of my favorite great sayings:
Expletive Deleted (I should explain "expletive deleted".  An expletive is a swear word. I got the phrase from Mom, who used to say it instead of swearing. And she got it from Richard Nixon, who left the presidency in a cloud of shame and cusswords when Mom was a kid. Nixon, I guess, had a pretty dirty mouth - something he had in common with my dad - and when they wrote down what he use to say in meetings, they kept substituting "expletive deleted" for all the bad words. Like an earlier version of bleep.
Meanagers I explained to Rosie about "expletive deleted" and how handy it was around foul mouthed people. She thought that was funny. We started walking along the back tangle together with Lou, talking about teens - how when some people turn sixteen they suddenly seem to stop doing anything but swearing and texting. I told Rosie about the day in Santa Rosa when there was an obnoxious bunch of high schoolers on our bus ride home and Abbie had made up a new word: meanagers.
I plan on using "expletive deleted" in place of swear words, and "meanagers" when referring to mean teenagers on a more regular basis.

Here are some more of my favorite bits:

She made it clear in some lecture or other - maybe the time she told me I must never go into her room without asking; or the time she said, with her trademark sarcasm, how delightful it would be if people would sound less like a herd of elephants stampeding through the hallways - well, anyway, it was clear that if I ever woke my grandmother up by mistake, I would regret it. I'd always been confused about the difference between corporal and capital punishment, but I was pretty sure the GM believed in both. 
(FYI - capital punishment is the death penalty and corporal punishment is the infliction of physical injury - like spanking. I love this bit; especially the amount of punctuation it takes to pull off that first sentence!)

It wasn't my idea to spend that summer at my grandmother's house. I hardly even knew my grandmother had a house - made out of mud or anything else. I'd heard that she and my dad didn't get along, and that she was maybe mean, or crazy, or both, but I never met the woman before. She was like a made-up character, Cruella de Ville or Darth Vader, someone you've heard stories about but don't believe actually exists. 

I don't know where you want to draw the line between being "nosy" and being "curious". Or whether "curious" is even always a good thing. When we were doing our science fair projects, Ms. Nelson told us that curiosity was an important quality for a scientist; on the other hand, look how much trouble that famous monkey George gets into, even if things usually work out for him in the end. As for nosiness, I never appreciated it when my mom occasionally went investigating in my room and found my secret stash of Halloween candy, or some dumb teen magazine I was embarrassed for her to see. "That's private!" I'd protest, and she'd just give me a look, like, Not anymore, it isn't.

And finally:

So here's a piece of advice I will give you free of charge. Don't, if you can help it, lie to horse people about how much riding experience you have. It isn't worth it.

And yet I haven't said a thing about what Kepler's Dream is about; in a nutshell...

Eleven-year-old Ella's mother is hospitalized to undergo a dangerous cancer treatment and Ella is forced to spend the summer with her estranged grandmother. Through a rare and beloved book called Kepler's Dream of the Moon comes mystery and forgiveness and the enduring bond of family and friendship.

A book about a book is always a favorite of mine.

Some things you might want to reference 
if you read Kepler's Dream:
This is the crew of Apollo 11
Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, & Michael Collins (center)

Johannes Kepler

GM's House of Mud Map

The Big Dipper pattern
The Big Dipper is made up of seven brightest Ursa Major stars. The Dipper is significant because the North Star (Polaris) can be found using it ... maybe now I've given too much away!?

Friday, July 27, 2012

graced with...

I'm reading a book called Graceling by Kristin Cashore.
It's a land of seven kingdoms and seven thoroughly unpredictable kings. It's a world where certain people are 'Graced' with miraculous abilities. No one can tell you what your Grace is... but when it emerges, you will know.

"In a world where people born with an extreme skill - called a Grace - are feared and exploited, Katsa carries the burden of the skill even she despises: the Grace of killing. She lives under the command of her uncle Randa, King of the Middluns, and is expected to execute his dirty work, punishing and torturing anyone who displeases him."  -GoodReads

Kasta sees her Grace as a curse. She hates how her skill defines her.

But then... Spoiler Alert...

Kasta has a shift in awareness or perspective... she discovers that her Grace isn't killing; her Grace is survival. It's a subtle shift, but with it she is liberated. From this new perspective on her life & her talents she is able to begin life anew.

This book has left me questioning...
What is my Grace? And... am I sure?

Maybe you think your talent is music or writing or soccer or painting or cooking...
But maybe your talent isn't what it appears to be; maybe it is something deeper.

Maybe your talent isn't just writing (limited to the page or the screen); maybe it's self-expression, or persuasion, or inspiration, or...

Like Kasta, dig a little deeper. What is your true Grace... what's behind what defines you?

* Something I love...
In the dedication of Graceling, Krisin Cashore writes:
For my mother, Nedda Previtera Cashore, who has a meatball Grace,
and my father, J. Michael Cashore, who is Graced with losing (and finding) his glasses.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

yearning to breathe free

"The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images that might seem to come from a long forgotten time. A man leaves his wife and child in an impoverished town, seeking better prospects in an unknown country on the other side of a vast ocean. He eventually finds himself in a bewildering city of foreign customs, peculiar animals, curious floating objects and indecipherable languages. With nothing more than a suitcase and a handful of currency, the immigrant must find a place to live, food to eat and some kind of gainful employment. He is helped along the way by sympathetic strangers, each carrying their own unspoken history: stories of struggle and survival in a world of incomprehensible violence, upheaval and hope."

I loved The Lost Thing & knew I needed to get my hands on Shaun Tan's newest book The Arrival.

It's a fantastical, abstract, surreal immigrant story. Everyone has struggled with the idea of belonging... whether it is a new school or team or job or country. At one time or another, everyone becomes a stranger in a strange land.

There is the innate desire in all of us to create a better, safer, freer life for our family. And often that requires relying on the kindness of others who have come before.

The Arrival is a beauty ... more to be looked at than read.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

in my heart forever

“Tell me a fact and I’ll learn. 
Tell me a truth and I’ll believe.
But tell me a story and it will live in my heart forever.”

— Indian proverb

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Quill prevails when the strong survive

V is away at camp :(

As a way to stay connected, we are both reading the same book while she is gone: The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann. 

If you liked The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Harry Potter... then this is the summer read for you!

In a place called Quill, children are sorted into three categories when they turn 13: the Wanteds, the Necessaries, and the Unwanteds. The Wanteds get to be educated. The Necessaries perform manual labor, and the Unwanteds (those who are creative and artistic) are ... sentenced to death!

This is an exciting book, full of magic and action. Luckily book 2 Island of Silence comes out in September.

Monday, July 16, 2012

my fingers on the switch

Today in 1951,The Catcher in the Rye was published.
Holden Caulfield is the ultimate alienated teenager.

So, it seems appropriate that I just finished the book, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King. Vera Dietz, like Holden, is a sullen teen trying to figure out the adult world.

“I'd rather feel something for real than pretend it's not what it is. Which Zen guy said "If you want to drown, do not torture yourself with shallow water"?”  ~ Vera Deitz

The story of Vera and her dead best friend Charlie is revealed slowly. The primary narrator is Vera, but Charlie and Vera's dad and even the pagoda get a few chapters. Very clever, indeed. The alternating points of view help you to understand how the characters see themselves and how they are viewed by others.

Please Ignore Vera Deitz was a dark, humorous, and tragic young adult novel that older teens and adults will love.
“Today I am in control because I want to be. I have my fingers on the switch, but have lived a lifetime ignoring the control I have over my own world. Today is different.” ~ Vera Deitz 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

All will be well.

I was away for a few days and read See You at Harry's by Jo Knowles. It's a wonderful story narrated by an amazing 12-year-old girl, Fern. 
Mom got into bed with me and read Charlotte's Web. It took all day, and at the end, we both cried and shared a tissue.
When we finished sniffling, my mom adjusted herself in the bed so she could look at me. "Fern," she said softly. "Do you know why I named you Fern?"
I nodded, looking at the drawing of the girl on the cover of the book.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because Fern is one of your favorite characters?"
"And why is that?"
I shrugged.
"Because Fern cares," she said. "From the moment you were born, I could tell you had a special soul. I knew you'd be a good friend. A hero."
I looked at my chest and tried to feel my soul buried in there, deep in my heart. 

This is a great book about family and siblings and relationships. It will open a dialog for discussions on bullying, sexuality, grief, faith, and forgiveness.

Here are some of my favorite bits to start you thinking:
... I wonder what that must be like. To know you're different. To know some people are going to hate you because of it.
... my eyes fill with tears. I feel like a big baby for being so upset, but it really does hurt to be wronged. It hurts so much. 
... why is it that when people are nice to you, it makes you have to cry?

If you've ever felt unsupported or invisible, you should get to know Fern. If you love books filled with endearing characters that stay with you long after the story is over, See You at Harry's is the book for you. 

So, when all that's left of me
Is love,
Give me away.
~ Merritt Malloy

Sunday, July 8, 2012

'May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound, be free.'

Right from the cover... a young boy, a baby elephant in chains... I knew this book would require tears.

Yesterday I read Chained by Lynne Kelly. It is a book that asks you to be brave, and above all... kind.

I loved the references to Ganesh. He's my favorite Hindu god. He's a boy with an elephant's head... maybe you've seen him before? Ganesh is my favorite because he is known as the Remover of Obstacles, which is why he is always great to have around.

From Chained:
From my hammock I peek through the spaces between the stable logs. Even though I can't see anything but the night sky, I pretend to see all the way to my house. I picture my mother as I last saw her, when I looked out the back window of the truck to see her standing in the road. 
Just before I fall asleep, Ne Min comes into the stable. When I sit up I see that he's holding a palm leaf and a hammer.
He holds up the leaf. "I meant for you to keep this," he says.
"Why? What does it say?"
"It is from a prayer." Ne Min holds holds the leaf on the wall in front of me and places the end of a nail against it. "It says, 'May those frightened cease to be afraid, and may those bound, be free.'"
With one strike he pounds the nail into the wall. 

Saturday, July 7, 2012

In a small town, murder is always more than a paragraph in the local paper.

"It is, after all, these small-town tragedies that truly bring a community closer together. That separate the outsiders from the ones who belong. That keep the gates closed, and the doors locked, and the evil of the wider world safely outside.
We don't trust you if we don't know you, and sometimes, we don't trust you if we do. We band together; we circle the wagons; we peer out of our shuttered windows with weapons in hand and loved ones at our side.
When the blinds are drawn and the stakes are high, only the lucky few are allowed to come in."
I just finished a great YA book, Amelia Anne Is Dead And Gone by Kat Rosenfield. It's beautifully written and completely mesmerizing. The Kirkus review called the book "utterly compelling".

I couldn't put it down; it was an absolutely brutal page-turner!

It's unlike any murder mystery I've ever read. The chapters are intercut between Amelia Anne Richardson's life and Rebecca, the town of Bridgeton's high school salutatorian.

However, there is violence and sex and bad language... still, it was all perfectly placed and necessary... yet, maybe you should be 13 or 14 years old to read it... or have your parent read it first and see what they think.

Chapter 12 was so lyrical and atmospheric and evocative and positively lovely:
"The day that Brendan Brooks died was the hottest in anyone's memory, so hot that cats lay down in the shade and panted, elderly women fainted under the weight of their support hose, and the newly paved parking lot behind the grocery bubbled and churned and turned into a viscous black pudding. The sun, silvery-bright and hot, so hot, blazed arrogantly down from a blanched and cloudless sky. It baked small bits of gravel into the soft asphalt roads, it melted popsicles off their sticks and over the grubby hands of porch-sitting toddlers, and it pounded relentlessly against the supple skin of the local kids who gathered at the south shore bridge to cool off."
If you want to see what gorgeous writing looks like, sounds like, feels like... you need to read Amelia Anne Is Dead And Gone.

* with your parents permission, of course.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

from beyond

Small Medium at Large by Joanne Levy 
is a book I know I would have loved when I was 11 or 12.

It's about 12 year-old Lilah Bloom, who right in chapter one gets struck by lightning. By chapter two, she realizes that because of this, she can hear dead people; she can talk to ghosts.

Lilah isn't so sure about this. She thought it was very weird. She asked her dead grandmother:
"What's it like to be dead?...
There was a long pause. So long, I began to think she was gone, when she suddenly said, "I'm sorry but I can't tell you."
This book made me think... What would I do if I could hear dead people? What would you do? What would you ask them? Who would come looking for you to give you a message from 'beyond'?

Sunday, July 1, 2012

LoBeau (emphasis on the second syllable because it classes it up)

I just finished a fun to read mystery called 
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

If you judge a book by it's first sentence, this one is a beauty:
Trouble cruised into Tupelo Landing at exactly seven minutes past noon on Wednesday, the third of June, flashing a gold badge and driving a Chevy Impala the color of dirt.
... and this is just the beginning. 

Mo LoBeau and her best friend Dale set out to solve a mystery, a murder, and a kidnapping all in the course of the summer.

Eleven years ago, Mo washed ashore in Tupelo Landing, North Carolina, tied to a makeshift raft after one of the biggest hurricanes in history. She lives with the Colonel and Miss Lana at their cafe.

The action is fast, the characters are wonderfully quirky, the villains are fierce, and the writing is beautiful.

I know I said that the first sentence was a beauty, but here are a few others that I found quite pretty too:

  • Miss Lana's voice is the color of sunlight in maple syrup.
  • No one's on their own in the eternal sense of things.
  • Miss Lana reads my voice like tea leaves.
  • Do you have hair like mine? If so, I offer my condolences.
  • I slept restless and dreamed thin. My universe didn't fit together. My world spun wobbly, like a worn out top.
  • There's nothing like camping to restore a sense of size, Soldier, remember that. When you lose your way, wait under the stars.
  • Listen to me. We are born over and over, day by day. When you feel lost, let the stars sing you to sleep. You'll always wake up new.
  • To the east, the clouds gathered like an invading army.
  • As I watched them together, my earth found its axis and my stars found their sky.
(without giving any of the mystery away... like Mo is a goddess of free enterprise, Sheila Turnage is a goddess of the simile)