Sunday, December 28, 2014

The Port Chicago 50 (final)

I don't know about you, but I felt like I had a front row seat at the trial of the Port Chicago 50. I liked how the author used excerpts from the trial transcript to give us a primary source narrative.

The Port Chicago 50 were tried and convicted of the outrageous charge of mutiny.

Our legal rights have so many layers: there are civil rights, political rights, and social rights. 

  • Can you name some groups of people who have had to fight for equal protection under the law?

This book began with a hero and ended with the emerging Civil Rights movement and its heroes. 

  • Can you think of anyone who you consider a Civil Rights hero today?
  • Can you think of any time recently where you have seen people marching or protesting for their civil rights?
  • What stories are unfolding in your community, or in the U.S., or around the world regarding civil rights?

After reading this story, the word that keeps coming to my mind is... unfinished.  This was an account of a time in history, but I feel that we are still living parts of this story. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Port Chicago 50 (The Fifty)

"Man it was awful," Jack Crittenden remembered. "You'd see a head floating across the water - just the head - or an arm."

For several days after the explosion, men with only minor injuries were given the task of clean up and body recovery. There were no living witnesses of the blast. No one who was on the boats or pier that night survived.

There is a great podcast of This American Life entitled 'The Job That Takes Over Your Life.' Listen to Act Three: The Port Chicago 50.

If you were a survivor of such a horrific night, would you return to work in the same unsafe conditions? 

Of the 328 surviving black enlistees, fifty men refused to return to work without a change in Navy procedures. Those fifty men were charged and convicted of mutiny. Mutiny, they were told, was punishable by death. It was the largest mutiny trial in the Navy's history.

From The History Channel:
"Six weeks of hearings followed in which the prosecution alleged that the men had “conspired each with the other to mutiny against the lawful authority of their superior naval officers.” The case caught the attention of future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, who was then working as a legal counsel for the NAACP. Marshall sat in on the last few days of the proceedings, and later argued, “This is not 50 men on trial for mutiny. This is the Navy on trial for its whole vicious policy toward negroes.” But despite the protests of Marshall and others, it took only 80 minutes of deliberation for the court to find the 50 black sailors guilty. Each man was sentenced to between eight and 15 years hard labor and a dishonorable discharge from the Navy."

These chapters have been a fascinating and painful look into the birth of the civil rights movement. How would you compare the racism and segregation experienced by The Port Chicago 50 to racism and segregation today? What about institutionalized racism and segregation?

Also, what, in your opinion, constitutes a "mutiny"?

And… When is doing something wrong right?

Let's read these chapters: Treasure Island, Prosecution, Joe Small, The Verdict, and Hard Labor. Check back here on December 28th.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The Port Chicago 50 (the explosion)

Work and Liberty

The Work...

The men at Port Chicago described the scene on the loading pier as frantic, stressful, loud, chaotic - bombs rolling and clanking together, winch engines chugging and smoking, nets swinging through the air, sailors shouting and cursing, officers urging the men on.
"We were all afraid of an explosion," Small later said. "But there was very little that you could do about it. I mean, you had a day's work to do." 

The Liberty…

"It was just a one-street place," Robert Routh remembered; a few restaurants, a movie theater. "They didn't want blacks there at all. The townspeople didn't care for blacks."
"We're suppose to be fighting the same enemy," he (the black sailor) thought. "I don't know who my enemy is."
When he'd joined the Navy, people told him, "You're fighting for your freedom!"
Now he wondered: "Where's the freedom?" 

Have you ever been put into a situation that you felt was unsafe? If so, what did you do?

The Lawyer

There were an enormous amount of rights abuses reported by African American soldiers and sailors, but Thurgood Marshall did his best to demand that the country did more to protect black men in uniform.

In the Constitution, all Americans, regardless of race, are afforded the same basic rights. The Fourteenth Amendment specifically forbids states from denying any citizen "equal protection of the laws." Segregation and discrimination were unconstitutional, and Thurgood Marshall became a lawyer in order to prove it in court.

The segregation and discrimination in the Armed Forces were a mirror of American society at the time. For many people, the explosion on July 17th and the mutiny proceedings that followed became a symbol of what was wrong with American society as a whole. The consequences of the explosion would begin to reshape the way the Navy and society thought about civil rights and social standards.

Hot Cargo

The working conditions grew increasingly dangerous. The men were being pushed too hard. And, on July 17th, rather than loading one ship, two ships were docked at the pier. It was a recipe for disaster.

The Explosion
"Oh my God, we're being bombed!" someone shouted.

At 10:18pm a massive blast was felt all over the Bay Area in California. Seismographs recorded the explosion as a small earthquake.

The pier was gone. Both ships were gone. Buildings were destroyed. Smoke and fire rose nearly two miles into the air. 320 people were killed and 390 others were injured, nearly all were African American sailors.

Let's continue…

Read the chapters entitled The Inquiry, Column Left, Prison Barge, and The Fifty by December 13th.

When is doing something wrong right?

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Port Chicago 50 (first three chapters)

Who are some historical figures who have contributed to society?
What are a list of qualities that heroic figures share?

Dorie Miller was an African-American mess attendant in the Navy. He received the Navy Cross, the highest honor given by the United States Navy, for heroically saving his fellow sailors during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The first chapter ends with Admiral Chester Nimitz's anticipatory remarks, "I'm sure that the future will see others similarly honored for brave acts." and Dorie Miller returning to his duties as a mess attendant, collecting laundry.

What impact did this opening chapter have on you as a reader? 

How is Steve Sheinkin setting the stage for his story?

The Policy

According to the United States Department of Defense website
When African Americans were allowed into the Navy again in 1932, it was as stewards and mess attendants.
The Navy began rethinking its policies when the nation entered World War II in December 1941. Navy officials had to deal with a shortage of manpower and well- focused political activities. But thousands of patriotic black men also clamored to join, inspired by the heroics of black sailors like Doris "Dorie" Miller and Leonard Roy Harmon.
One of the first American heroes of the war, Miller had been a mess attendant on the battleship USS West Virginia during the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Though he had no gunnery training, Miller took charge of an anti- aircraft machine gun when its crew was disabled. Popular legend has it that he shot down several of the 29 enemy planes claimed that day. Ship's officers also cited him for his part in rescuing sailors who had jumped or been thrown overboard. Miller received the Navy Cross.  
Harmon, also a mess attendant, received the Navy Cross posthumously for valor during naval combat off Guadalcanal on Nov. 13, 1942.
The Navy would remain racially segregated in training and in most service units, but enlisted ratings opened to all qualified personnel in 1942.
The first African American officers in naval history were commissioned in 1944. The 12 commissioned officers and one warrant officer became known as the "Golden Thirteen."

If you'd like to read more about the influence of African American-owned newspapers, check out 
Black America's Double War and The Navy: Where do we stand

What is your first impression of Secretary of the Navy, Frank Knox?

What is your first impression of Joe Small?


Present day Port Chicago is called the Concord Naval Weapons Station. It is home to the Port Chicago Naval Magazine National Memorial and part of the National Park Service.

Let's continue…

Read the chapters entitled Work And Liberty, The Lawyer, Hot Cargo, and The Explosion by December 6th

I want to leave you with a question to keep in your mind as you read through this book:

When is doing something wrong right?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Befriend a turkey and it’s easy to have a totally different perspective.

This Thanksgiving, open a copy of Shel Silverstein's Where The Sidewalk Ends and flip to one of my favorite poems: Point of View. I read a quick blurb about this poem once…

It helps recharge my patience and prepare myself for the questions my genuinely curious distant friends and family may ask. The answers are usually something like this: “Yes, I have eaten meat before.” “No, I don’t miss it.” “How do I do it? Well, my desire to end animal suffering is much stronger than taste. Befriend a turkey and it’s easy to have a totally different perspective. Here, try this delicious vegan dish that I made — you’ll love it!”. It works every time.

There's always another way to look at things this holiday season.

Point of View
By Shel Silverstein

Thanksgiving dinner's sad and thankless 
Christmas dinner's dark and blue 
When you stop and try to see it
From the dinner's point of view.

Sunday dinner isn't sunny
Easter feasts are just bad luck
When you see it from the view point
of a chicken or a duck.

Oh how I once loved tuna salad,
Pork, lobsters, lamb chops too
'Til I stopped and looked at dinner
From the dinner's point of view.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

discover, read, write, share

Are you on Wattpad?

Wattpad is a social reading app that lets authors share their stories with a community of readers. It has recently attracted interest from investors and has seen impressive user engagement - the company says that 27 million of its 30 million users are active each month.

How did I learn about Wattpad? One of those 30 million users is my daughter.

Wattpad users are able to share and discuss stories, follow their favorite authors, and comment on specific words sentences and paragraphs of a story. It's like reading along with friends where you can commiserate and react as the story unfolds. Many of the stories my daughter is reading are serialized and the comments can drive the direction of the plot.

In addition to reading, Wattpad allows for easy self publishing. (Many of the authors are teens.)  There's also a "Fan Funding" area for authors to raise capital to fund their work.

What's more, there's a cool Wattpad Cover App for creating your own cover art.

Here's the thing about Wattpad... It's the easy, fun way to read across all your mobile devices. It's social and interactive. It's a great place to discover, share and create unlimited stories. Wattpad is a global sensation; teens love it.

I have fallen for it hard :)

call me Ishmael

Have you heard of Call Me Ishmael? And I'm not talking about the first line of Moby Dick by Herman Melville.

Call Me Ishmael is an awesome collection of anonymous voicemails from readers about books they love. The voicemails are cleverly transcribed on an old-fashioned typewriter.

Here are three examples of the many voicemails you might enjoy...

 Will you be the next person to leave Ishmael a message?


Saturday, November 22, 2014

our wordless stories

“A memory is only a Prince Charming 

who stays just long enough to awaken 

the Sleeping Beauties of our wordless stories.” 

― Michel de Certeau

A short story of loneliness, adventure, and self sacrifice.

SOLUS from Identity Visuals on Vimeo.

From the cool cats at the Identity Visuals website:

The most challenging part of the film was the User Interface design. I had two key elements to communicate to the audience: 1) scanning each planet, and 2) a battery/fuel indicator. Each represented something vital to the film, one represents the search for life and a home, while the other is a reminder of our hero’s mortality. I’m always tempted to go way over the top when designing on screen UI elements, but for this short I wanted to communicate each idea as simply as possible. Through the films repetitive nature I hoped to slowly teach the audience the meaning of both UI elements over time. The planet scanning design came together quickly, but the battery life indicator proved to be very difficult. I probably went through a dozen iterations before finding a sweet spot, somewhere between hit-them-over-the-head-obvious and outright confusion.

At Identity Visuals we have a strong desire to tell beautiful, meaningful stories. I hope you enjoy SOLUS, because we had blast creating it!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Rain Reign

I was at a board (bored) meeting (meting) on Tuesday and my friend, Patti, gave me this great (grate) book recommendation...

Rain Reign by Ann M. Martin

I loved this book.

From the very first chapter: Who I Am - A Girl Named Rose (Rows), I knew this book would be cleverly amazing.

Rose has an "official diagnosis" of high-functioning autism, Asperger's syndrome. She is obsessed with homophones, prime numbers, and rules.

I don't think there will be a middle grade book list that won't include Rain Reign this year.

The wordplay is unique and would make this book a fun read aloud.

But, be warned: this book will require an accompanying box of tissues!

Get this book for the middle grade readers you know. Get it for the animal lovers in your life. Get this book for anyone who loves to have their spirit soar (sore) as their heart breaks (brakes).

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Let's Read

You have probably read the amazing book BOMB by Steve Sheinkin. It's that captivating nonfiction book about the race to build - and steal - the world's most dangerous weapon.

Well, Steve Sheinkin and his new book The Port Chicago 50 were at the YALSA Symposium in Austin last weekend, and I was lucky enough to meet Steve and get a copy of his new book.

The Port Chicago 50 is the story of World War II's worst stateside disaster: on July 17th, 1944 ammunition being loaded onto two ships bound for the Pacific exploded in Port Chicago, in Contra Costa County in California. The explosions killed 320 servicemen and injured 390 others. Most of the dead were African-American. The surviving black sailors were ordered to return to the exact same unsafe and unfair working conditions. More than 200 of the men refused, saying they were standing up for justice. The Navy called it mutiny and threatened that anyone not returning to work would face the firing squad. Fifty men did not back down; they became known as The Port Chicago 50.

From the New York Times review:
Young adult readers are likely to be shocked by Sheinkin’s portrayal of institutional racism in 1940s America. So often Americans think of the war years as a time when the nation pulled together in a democratizing common effort. That myth clearly leaves out the African-American experience. Thurgood Marshall, then the chief special counsel for the N.A.A.C.P., went to California to observe the Chicago 50 trial. “This is not an individual case,” he said. “This is not 50 men on trial for mutiny. This is the Navy on trial for its whole vicious policy toward Negroes.”
Marshall’s appeal of the guilty verdict was rejected. The trial, however, succeeded in bringing to light the unfairness of segregation in the military, and in February 1946 the Navy became the first branch to allow African-Americans to participate equally in all assignments and activities. The Chicago 50 were never officially exonerated, but were released from hard labor after 16 months and, with no fanfare, allowed to return to service.
Sheinkin tells this shameful history with the deft, efficient pacing of a novelist. And while photographs, double-spaced type and sunburst graphics at the start of each chapter make the book visually appealing to young readers, “The Port Chicago 50” is just as suitable for adults. The seriousness and breadth of Sheinkin’s research can be seen in his footnotes and lists of sources, which include oral histories, documentaries and Navy documents. It’s an impressive work and an inspiring one. These men stood up for themselves despite great personal risk. As Martin Bordenave, one of the 50, said of the ordeal, “Everything we’ve gotten, we’ve fought and suffered for.” He concluded, “You gotta holler loud, you know.”
Like we did with the book BOMB, I think we should all read The Port Chicago 50  togetherWe'll read a few chapters each week, discuss what we read in 'comments', watch a few cool videos (posted on the blog), learn some new vocabulary, and read some related articles.

If you are interested, read the first four chapters (First Hero, The Policy, Port Chicago, Work and Liberty) over Thanksgiving break, and check back here on December 1st.

If you're game for this, enter your email address in the 'Follow by Email ' box on this blog... this way you'll know what we're up to and you won't miss a thing.

My first thought as I began reading this book: I can't believe that I have never heard the story of The Port Chicago 50!

Thursday, November 13, 2014


"Telling stories is not just a way of passing time. It is the way the wisdom gets passed along. The stuff that helps us to live a life worth remembering."
— Rachel Naomi Remen

Funny Animated Short Film from Vago Tanulo on Vimeo.

Friday, October 17, 2014

to change the world for the better

This graphic novel arrived in the mail yesterday: In Real Life, written by Cory Doctorow and illustrated by Jen Wang. On the car ride to school today, V couldn't stop talking about it.

So, today, I read it…  and it knocked me over. The book is worth its weight in gold for the introduction alone. Here's a taste...
In Real Life is a book about games and economics.
When you put economics and games together, you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a bunch of sticky, tough questions about politics and labor. In Real Life connects the dots between the way we shop, the way we organize, and the way we play, and why some people are rich, some are poor, and how they seem to get stuck there.
I hope that readers of this book will be inspired to dig deeper into the subject of behavioral economics and to start asking hard questions about how we end up with the stuff we own, what it costs our human brothers and sisters to make those goods, and why we think we need them.

This short graphic novel takes on gold-farming in online games, from an economic and social perspective. It also explores the concept of having a separate online identity, specifically for teenagers who may still be forming a “real life” identity; and feminism and the myriad ways it ties into those first two items.

This is a great book for teens and tweens who want to start thinking big about injustice, our rights, organizing, and changing the world for the better.
All that is sweet was paid for, once upon a time, by principled people who risked everything to change the world for the better.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Our differences are our superpowers.

"I love El Deafo! It's everything you could
want in a book: funny and touching and oh so smart."
- R.J. Palacio, author of Wonder

I had to wait behind both of my kids to read El Deafo by Cece Bell, but it was worth the wait. It's a graphic novel memoir, full of universal emotions and unique perspectives.

Cece suffers an illness at age four that results in a hearing loss. And, as only a graphic novel can illustrate, we get to see what that feels like:

It's brilliantly clever.

El Deafo deals with being different beautifully, honestly, and lovingly. It's no wonder that R.J. Palacio loves it. This book, like Wonder, is for anyone who wants help turning their difference into a superpower. So, really, it's a book for everyone.

Be sure to read the Author's Note at the end of the book. It is wonderfully profound and honest.

Here's a sample:
Today, I view my deafness as more of an occasional nuisance, and oddly enough, as a gift: I can turn off the sound of the world any time I want, and retreat into peaceful silence.
And being different? That turned out to be the best part of all. I found that with a little creativity, and a lot of dedication, any difference can be turned into something amazing. Our differences are our superpowers

Friday, September 12, 2014

we should be brave

The Meaning of Maggie by Megan Jean Sovern

Maggie Mayfield is eleven years old, future president of the United States, and fifth grade science fair champion. Maggie is a super smart achiever who loves school. This smart, compassionate story is written as a flashback when Maggie turns twelve.

It is a beautiful story of a family. Maggie's father faces a diagnosis of MS (multiple sclerosis), and we see how it affects the family as a whole.

All that was happening wasn't just happening to me. It was happening to all five of us. And all of us were scared. All of us were confused. And none of us knew what was going to happen next. 
"Should we be scared?"Mom knelt in front of me. "We shouldn't be scared, honey. Not even a little." She took my hand and squeezed. "We should be brave."

This book is for all tweens who are trying to have a 'normal' life while dealing with something BIG.  You'll laugh at the footnotes and cry at the heartbreak. If you are faced with a great challenge, you'll find hope in Maggie's journey.
"And while there wasn't any scientific evidence, I believed with all my heart that the world progressed one wish at a time."
This story is inspired by the author's real family experiences with MS. In the Acknowledgements Megan writes:
Thank you to my family for letting me tell our story. Thank you to my mom. You're terrible at cutting bangs but you're an incredibly cool, strong, courageous, and beautiful woman. I hope I'm just like you when I grow up. Thank you to my sister Rayna for answering my desperate phone calls. You're always so encouraging and helpful even when your children are screaming in the background. I totally get why you were Dad's favorite. Thank you to my sister Alison for paying me ten dollars every time you skipped school. We could not be more different. And not just in bra size. But I love you. No matter how many times you lock me out of your room.
How could you not want to read a story based on this family?

Tuesday, September 9, 2014


I love novels written in verse.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson is a beautiful memoir written in magnificent verse. It is poetic and engrossing; I lingered over every page.

I highly recommend this gorgeous book. Get it into the hands of a reader.

You'll read it, and re-read it, and read pages aloud to anyone near by.

"Listen to this…" you'll say, and begin reading:

My fingers curl into fists, automatically
This is the way, my mother said,
of every baby's hand.
I do not know if these hands will become
Malcolm's - raised and fisted
or Martin's - open and asking
or Jame's - curled around a pen.
I do not know if these hands will be
or Ruby's
gently gloved
and fiercely folded
calmly in a lap,
on a desk,
around a book,
to change the world...

Or you will read a page over and over again, wondering once more about the times you have been the only one like you in a room...

William Woodson
the only brown boy in an all-white school.

You'll face this in your life someday,
my mother will tell us
over and over again.
A moment when you walk into a room and

no one there is like you.

It'll be scary sometimes. But think of William Woodson
and you'll be all right.

An author's Note and photos follow the text… they are a lovely gift from the author.

Monday, September 8, 2014

believe in the possible

Over the weekend I read The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L Holm.

It's a middle grade book that is funny and clever and fascinating. But, I loved it most because it is about science. It asks big questions, introduces technical details, names famous scientists, and discusses controversial issues. And… it may have the best first chapter ever in a middle grade novel. 

It's the story of eleven-year-old Ellie and, among many things, she is starting middle school. Ellie leads readers into the wonders of science, the big questions about life and death, the idea of family, the conviction of friendship, the perception of immortality… and possibility.

Be sure to read the Author's Note at the end of the book:
All the scientists mentioned in this book were real people. The discoveries of Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Louis Pasteur, Marie Curie, Robert Oppenheimer, and Jonas Salk changed the world in ways that still echo today.
You, too, can be a scientist. Observe the world around you. Ask questions. Talk to your teachers. Don't give up.
Be inspired by the scientists who came before you, and fall in love with discovery.
Most of all, believe in the possible.

Also, at the end of the book, there's a wonderful section called: Recommended Resources for Continuing the Conversation. Thank you, Jennifer Holm, for keeping our curiosity going.

Here is my favorite bit:
"Scientists never give up. They keep trying because they believe in the possible"
"The possible?" 
"That it's possible to create a cure for polio. That it's possible to sequence the human genome. That it's possible to find a way to reverse aging. That science can change the world." 

Well, and then there's this, too:
"Science is powerful. There are always consequences - wonderful and terrible. I suppose I lost my way for a moment in all the excitement and forgot what Salk said."
"What did he say?"
His eyes meet mine. "Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors." 

If you know a middle grade reader, get 'The Fourteenth Goldfish' by Jennifer Holm. Read it along with them or read it aloud to them. Ask questions. Observe the world. Be inspired by scientists. But most of all, believe in the possible. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

but I'm in love

I am setting up some new bookshelves after a remodel. Unpacking loads of books; it's always enjoyable for me to remember what I've read and think back on when I read it.

So many of my books are dogeared and scribbled in. It is a wonderful way to record a history of learning, of new ideas, and beliefs freshly formed.

It made me remember a Billy Collins poem I adore:

By Billy Collins
Sometimes the notes are ferocious,
skirmishes against the author
raging along the borders of every page
in tiny black script.
If I could just get my hands on you,
Kierkegaard, or Conor Cruise O’Brien,
they seem to say,
I would bolt the door and beat some logic into your head.
Other comments are more offhand, dismissive -
“Nonsense.” “Please!” “HA!!” -
that kind of thing.
I remember once looking up from my reading,
my thumb as a bookmark,
trying to imagine what the person must look like
who wrote “Don’t be a ninny”
alongside a paragraph in The Life of Emily Dickinson.
Students are more modest
needing to leave only their splayed footprints
along the shore of the page.
One scrawls “Metaphor” next to a stanza of Eliot’s.
Another notes the presence of “Irony”
fifty times outside the paragraphs of A Modest Proposal.
Or they are fans who cheer from the empty bleachers,
hands cupped around their mouths.
“Absolutely,” they shout
to Duns Scotus and James Baldwin.
“Yes.” “Bull’s-eye.” “My man!”
Check marks, asterisks, and exclamation points
rain down along the sidelines.
And if you have managed to graduate from college
without ever having written “Man vs. Nature”
in a margin, perhaps now
is the time to take one step forward.
We have all seized the white perimeter as our own
and reached for a pen if only to show
we did not just laze in an armchair turning pages;
we pressed a thought into the wayside,
planted an impression along the verge.
Even Irish monks in their cold scriptoria
jotted along the borders of the Gospels
brief asides about the pains of copying,
a bird singing near their window,
or the sunlight that illuminated their page–
anonymous men catching a ride into the future
on a vessel more lasting than themselves.
And you have not read Joshua Reynolds,
they say, until you have read him
enwreathed with Blake’s furious scribbling.
Yet the one I think of most often,
the one that dangles from me like a locket,
was written in the copy of Catcher in the Rye
I borrowed from the local library
one slow, hot summer.
I was just beginning high school then,
reading books on a davenport in my parents’ living room,
and I cannot tell you
how vastly my loneliness was deepened,
how poignant and amplified the world before me seemed,
when I found on one page
a few greasy looking smears
and next to them, written in soft pencil–
by a beautiful girl, I could tell,
whom I would never meet–
“Pardon the egg salad stains, but I’m in love.”

If you'd like to hear Billy Collins read Marginalia, just click HERE.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Did you just call me Gandhi?

Last week I read the third Justin Case book, Justin Case: Rules, Tools, and Maybe a Bully. I absolutely love the Justin Case books written by Rachel Vail and illustrated by Matthew Cordell.

Maybe I love these books so much because I adore the character Justin Case and everything he teaches me about parenting…   or maybe I love them because I have my very own Justin Case:

In this new book, Justin begins fourth grade and there are new friends, new teachers, new rules, and playing the recorder. It's a lot for one "worried kid" to manage. 

The books are written in 'diary style' or journal format.

December 13, Monday is one of my absolute favorite entries! Here's a little sample:
"Plus," I said, "wouldn't it just be wrong? To say I would hurt him, and especially to then actually hurt him? Because, remember? Violence solves nothing. Right?"
"Sure, Gandhi," Mom answered. "But meanwhile, here you sit, my baby, with a black eye, so …"
"Never mind."
"Did you just call me Gandhi?"
She sighed.
"My name is Justin."
"I know," Mom said. She kissed my cheek. "You're a good boy, Justin."

And December 26, Sunday:
Mom was standing at the back door, holding her coffee mug, looking out into the yard, where everything was glittery white. The snow was falling in fist-size flakes.
I stood next to her and watched too. First snow of the whole year.
She put her arm around me, so I leaned against her. She didn't ask, How's everything going? or Did anything weird happen at school this week? We just stood there in the quiet and watched the snow come down together.
If you are a fan of the Justin Case books, this third book is not to be missed.

If you haven't met Justin Case yet, be sure to begin at book one: Justin Case: School, Drool, and Other Daily Disasters.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

a story helps folks

I just read The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier. You may have already read his amazing debut novel, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes.

The Night Gardener has just the right mix of spooky tale, intriguing mystery, and moral fable all rolled into one story. 

I loved it.

Have you ever been brave? Have you ever had to face your fears, or deal with grief? 

Have you ever wondered about the difference between getting what you want and getting what you need? Have you ever been tempted by greed?

Have you ever thought about the affects of lies vs the effects stories have on us?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, then this book is for you.

Here are some of my favorite parts:
"Stories come in all different kinds." Hester scooted closer, clearly enjoying the subject at hand. "There's tales, which are light and fluffy. Good for a smile on a sad day. Then you got yarns, which are showy - yarns reveal more about the teller than the story. After that there's myths, which are stories made up by whole groups of people. And last of all, there's legends." She raised a mysterious eyebrow. Legends are different from the rest on account no one knows where they start. Folks don't tell legends; they repeat them. Over and again through history. And the story I have for you" - she sat back on her stool - "why, that one's a legend."

"What's a storyteller but someone who asks folks to believe in impossible things? And for one perfect moment, I saw something impossible. And that's enough for me."

"A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens 'em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide."

Be sure not to miss the Author's Note at the end of the book. It is a wonderful example of how creativity and ideas are a mashup, or a collage of influences. It begins…
Writing this story was a story in and of itself. Nine years and countless drafts stand between the original idea and the book you now hold.
Also, be sure to read the author's Nerdy Book Club post

This is a fantastic book for readers of all ages.