Monday, May 22, 2017

Mondo Barbie

Barbie - an icon.  A confusing, contradictory, silly, important and remarkable icon.  In fact, Mondo means something that is remarkable.  (I had to look up the definition). Over the past weeks, this book migrated several times from my purge pile back to the to-be-read pile.  I believe it made the journey without my help because I don't recall any significant contact with it since the select and purge process began last week.  Yet, there it obnoxiously rested on the save pile again last Saturday, so I gave in and began reading.

For starters,  all the poems and short stories in the bizarre and insightful collection are printed  on super-girly, hot pink paper. Like Barbie herself, pink has always been a problem for me.  Both are too showy, silly, and weird.  These works are anything but.  

When adult fantasies collide with childhood dreams, sparks fly.  The nine inches of shapely plastic come to life both as protagonist and antagonist, often as first person narrator.  Of course, we see Barbie as an unrealistic model placed in the hands of young girls who grow up feeling "less than" because of an inanimate object with a perfect figure, perfect friends, a perfect boyfriend,  the perfect pink convertible and the inviting Malibu beach house. 

If you developed a complex due to the near mystical power of Barbie which could literally suck hours out of your life each day, then these stories and poems are for you.  You'll see the behind the scenes world, the life with Ken who did not always respect her...the frustration of the couple as they discover they don't  have the proper anatomy to do the boom boom wompa wompa.....and the pathetic young woman who, only in death finally looks like the doll she so admired.

These pages hold a lot of grit, and a lot of anger.  But there is also humor.  My favorite poem title is "Barbie Hunts Through Medical Books for What is Wrong with Her When She Sees Her Birth Date in a Book, Knows She is Over 30".  Too funny.  The age crisis makes her feel unaccomplished and, as the poet tells us "hollow."  Maybe, as happened in one story,  if she traded heads with stewardess Barbie, or tennis champ Barbie, or maybe with Ken, she would feel worthy.. 

Sadly, this offbeat, irreverent little book is out of print, but you never know when  it might make it's way from someone's discard pile to a resale shop near you.

Memorial day next week.  No post.  Take some time to remember and respect those who have fought for our freedom.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Need a WONDER-ful Grad gift...or a "just because" surprise?

Millions of readers have fallen in love with Augie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face. Wonder tells his story from six different perspectives.  Wonder's message of kindness and tolerance inspired the "choose kind" movement which has been adopted by schools across the country.

This follow up picture book is based conceptually on the themes of Palacio's young adult novel.  Tapping into the magic of differences, We are all Wonders encourages us to see each person for  they truly are and not what our preconceived notions tell us they might be.  It is a celebration of uniqueness.

Two other Palacio books in the Wonder collection merit comment, also.  Augie and Me features stories of three characters we meet in the original novel. Like We're all Wonders, these stores provide gentle reminders for us all....good friendships are worth a little extra effort, being friendly isn't the same as being a friend....

Then there's 365 Days of Wonder...a collection of quotes, old and new, offering wisdom from famous and not so famous voices.  

I remember searching out inspirational quotation books in high school, copying favorite quotes into a journal and attempting to illustrate each one.  Some of the quotes stuck with me -Emerson for example - "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds".  If I didn't fear needles as much as I fear rats, those words would be tattooed on my inner arm.  Someday I'll just grab a Sharpie and do the job myself.

Happy warm weather, pleasant gardening, biking, getting reacquainted with neighborhood walkers and dogs...celebrate thinking and wondering as much as doing.  The Lakeshore has plenty of choices to fill warm weather days...and when those choices overwhelm you escape into a book.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, May 8, 2017

13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Considering the recent media blast about this book and the HBO series, I thought it wise to take a second look.  Admittedly, I flew through the alternating voice, young adult novel, interested but not fully anticipating the impact it would and could have.

Usually I can give a confident thumbs upor thumbs down for a book, but this subject - teen suicide - demands more.  First of all, read with caution.  This is not book to put in the hands of a pre-teen, unless that boy or girl has an adult in his/her life for some follow up conversation.  Actually, I hope that every single person who reads this book has an opportunity to discuss it with someone.  The challenge to discuss makes this a valuable book.  13 Reasons Why is a starting point.

When the book opens, we learn that Hannah has committed suicide.  This was not a spur of the moment decision, but rather one that came after a series of events she found impossible to overcome.  Hannah made a set of carefully planned recordings which she mailed with the intent of them being routed to a list of thirteen people.  It's hard to tell if her intentions were to place blame, to create awareness, or to affect change.  

On the simplest of levels, this book reminds us how impactful our actions can be.  We all know that we should be nice.  Honesty, disagreement, challenge and other human interaction can all be handled nicely, but we often forget that.  Personal stress, time constraints and yes, just bad vibes from the other person can get in the way of how we know productive interaction should take place.  Many of the reasons Hannah gives us for her suicide could be considered superficial, but the aggregate of those actions was clearly  powerful.  

We don't know too much about Hannah before we hear her post mortem voice sharing taped messages with people who entered her life, and whose actions contributed to her suicide.  We don't know if mental health issues entered into the picture, and that's the other point that makes this a powerful piece.  We just don't know, do we?  Cultivating empathy in today's society, especially in light of our current administration's acceptance of crude, raunchy behavior, is essential.  We are all vulnerable in some way, but some of us are just more stubborn and more resilient than others.  Who knows what can happen when mentally unhealthy individuals find themselves the target of bullying and other insensitive behaviors?  

Many people have spoken up against this book saying that it glorifies suicide.  I can't agree with that - not glorifying anyway.  But I can see how, in the mind of a teen would may be troubled, unhealthy, or emotionally battered, suicide could be viewed as a statement.  The concepts of reality and long term consequences don't always resonate in young people's minds, and for that reason, I believe this book should be read with caution and guidance.  

Monday, April 24, 2017

The Lost City of Z International Trailer #1 (2017) | Movieclips Trailers

It's Heart-A-Rama time so I'm being lazy, sort of.  Even though this movie is produced by the evil empire whose name shall not be written, I have been looking forward to a film adaptation for a long time. .  I've posted an older look at this book from a few years back.

Monday, April 17, 2017

A Giraffe and a Half by Shel Silverstein - Celebrate National Poetry Month

 Like so many people, I have sacrificed many, many hours waiting for April, the giraffe, to have her baby.  And of course, I missed it.  

To celebrate the birth, I am sharing this adorable girl's reading of Shel Silverstein's A Giraffe and a Half.

Silverstein, affectionately called Uncle Shelby, is best known for his funny, absurd and sometimes sinister children's poetry.  Sinister?  Yes!  

The googies are coming the old people say
To buy little children and take them away!

Do you know that Uncle Shelby also wrote for adults?  Oh yes he did.  His adult works entertain - and  they shock.  How could the same pen that wrote The Giving Tree possibly create Polly in a Porny with a Pony..."and the pony looked a little bit bored."  or the tale of Stacy Brown who had two (Two what? Is Stacy Brown male or female?  I'll let you do the research on that one.)

You can find those and other gems on albums such as Freakin" at the Freakers Ball. Of course, he gave us many commercial songs as well including "A Boy Named Sue" and "The Unicorn," that magical little Irish number.  

April in National Poetry Month. Pull up a chair and celebrate April the month, and April the Giraffe with Shel Silverstein and our little reader friend.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Easter Hours

We will be closed 
Saturday, April 15
Sunday, April 16.

Easter joy to all!

Monday, April 10, 2017

Born a Crime

Just imagine knowing that you should never have been born.  What a horrifying thought.  That is exactly what Trevor Noah came too understand about his birth to a white Swiss father and Xhosa mother under apartheid rule.  Because of his "criminal" birth, Trevor spend much of his childhood hidden indoors; when he did venture out he stayed far away from his mother, often masquerading as the son of a family friend. 

Noah gives context to each of eighteen essays by preceding it with appropriate explanation of how apartheid governed. Hearing it first hand from someone who lived it, hid from it, and eventually was freed from it,  gives life to the subject in ways that are haunting, frightening and hard to comprehend, especially since this is an in-our-lifetime atrocity. 

Noah was not a model child but because he was seen as a white child, within his family, his deeds often went unpunished.  That, however, was the only place he was safe from harm.  On the streets, his whiteness made him a target for gangs and for police.  Noah learned to be fearless from his mother who spent her life outwitting the law in fear that the government would come and steal Trevor from her.  And they had every right to do so.  

Noah skillfully balances these essays.  One will be filled with pathetic tales of a child subsisting on caterpillars followed by an hilarious essay about an unfortunate indoor bathroom scenario involving a rainy day, a newspaper and a blind grandmother with a keen sense of smell.

All told, these are survival stories shared by a likeable writer - eye-opening and generously honest.  I am so grateful my book group selected this title.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Mysterious Benedict Society - 10th Anniversary

Has it really been eleven years since I first stumbled across this middle grade series?  As Willie Nelson sang, "Funny how time slips away."  One of the perks of bookstore ownership is receiving advance copies of books and getting to smugly tempt readers with info about the "best book ever" that has yet to hit the shelves. 

So, what's it about?

When a peculiar ad appears in the newspaper, dozens of children enroll to take a series of mysterious, mind-bending tests. But in the end just four very special children will succeed.  Each child who passes the test has an extraordinary and singular talent.  Reynard "Reynie" Muldoon can read people's emotions as well as solve the most complex logic puzzles.  George "Sticky" Washington has a photographic memory; Kate Weatherall displays near Ninja skills although she is only twelve years old, and Constance Contraire is super intelligent - and annoying.   Their challenge: to go on a secret mission that only the most intelligent and resourceful children could complete. To accomplish it they will have to go undercover at the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened.

The four soon discover that every minute of their day relies on illusion and is governed by an astonishing nothingness and lack of rules.  Who are the good guys and who are the bad?  Is truth always reality or just a perception of something deeper?  As the kids delve into the mystery of exactly who runs the Benedict Society, they find themselves confronted with the most terrifying question of all - is there a sinister motive at hand that could endanger their safety?

This fun book moves at 100 miles a minute, packed with tension and lots of laughs.  The 10 anniversary edition is filled bonus material.  Don't fret, however, if you have an early edition.  The Mysterious Benedict Society website offers gaming options and info on the author and all major characters.  

I sure hope the murmurings about a movie version are true.  For dedicated Beneditine-ers, there are two sequels, and a beyond challenging puzzle book.  Trenton Lee Stewart has also started a new series. Watch for it.

Thanks for stopping by.

Oh, here's a little silliness for today: MSN news reports that Doris Day is 95 today, two years older than she thought she was.  She's fine by me at either age.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Just a Couple Questions

Currently, I'm sifting through books and scripts, trying to decide what to read next, and with Heart-A-Rama getting closer I confess there has been little significant reading going on, so I decided to borrow from Shelf Awareness, the daily missive I receive from one of my trade organization.  

Once a week (or so) the editors post a list of questions to a featured writer.  Their answers are often surprising, always insightful, and add to the books on my "want to read" list.  While I don't fancy my answers having an impact, this exercise will serve as a sort of mental jog; maybe you'll try it, too.

So....let's get going...............................

On your nightstand right now.....
Well, I don't read in bed, but I do have a book pile on a chest near a window.  That's where my favorite reading chair is - a cushy chair perfect for long afternoons with the sun warming my back or the rain splashing on the pane.  (No more snow, please).  Among others on that pile I have a Patricia Cornwell mystery, and a book about decluttering my life.  

Favorite book as a child....
Once I figured out how to read and moved past Flicka, Ricka and Dicka, and the Snipp, Snapp and Snurr series, I turned to books with strong or strange girls characters - Trixie Beldon and Donna Parker.  I gave Nancy Drew a whirl when a friend gave me the second book in the series as a birthday gift.  I think it was one of her discards, but that's OK.  Nancy was brave.

Top five authors.....
Steinbeck, A.A. Milne, Hawthorne (short stories only), Jennifer Chevalier...and an evolving  list of contemporary authors, usually whomever I am currently reading.

Books I've faked reading.....
Oedipus, twice.  Once in high school and once in college.  Wouldn't you know that when I began teaching it showed up on the curriculum guide for a class I was teaching in Theatre history.  What a rich play filled with archetypes.  My students loved to play the connect it to Oedipus game.  No matter what play we read,they were able to find connections to Oed - some solid, some silly.

Book bought for the cover
Right.  I've been burned so many times doing this I can't begin to list them all.

Book that changed my life....
Can't think of one but I do have a sort of funny story about this concept.  Way back in the 90's, I was at a meeting, and after business was done and informal chatter began, someone  enthusiastically told us about a book that had done just as the question posed - he claimed it changed his life.  He carried on for a long time, never revealing too much about the content, but speaking with passion.  The next day I went out and bought the book, as did several other people.  I read it.  I read it again.  And again.  Nothing.  Dull.  Boring. Where, I wondered, was all the magic?   And when I next ran into the individual, I asked him what impacted him so much.  He laughed an obnoxiously huge  belly laugh and said that it was honestly the worst book he had ever read;  he then confessed that he was trying out some marketing skills he had learned recently in a business class. Yup.  He's now one of two millionaires who sometimes let me rub shoulders with them.

Five favorite books from the past year....
Well, the year is still pretty new so I might cheat and include a couple from last year....

At the Edge of the Orchard
Little Women
Father Bruce
Scents and Sensibility
...and I know I will enjoy Born a Crime by Trevor Noah which is my book group selection for May.

Have some fun with this.  Other questions include books you hid from your parents, books you're an advocate for, book you'd like to read again for the first time......

Posts might be random for a while....Heart-A-Rama season has begun!

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The Stranger in the Woods

Just like many of the residents who lived and summered around North Lake, Maine, I kept asking myself if this story is real or is it one of the really fine hoaxes similar to the story of drug addiction fed to us several years ago by James Frey in A Million Little Pieces .

Come on, who can survive in the woods for nearly 30 years, undetected, living off necessities stolen from nearby homes and cottages, illness free, and speaking only once in all that time to hikers on a secluded road?  I knew that if I were to make it to the end of this book I would have to suspend disbelief, and accept the bizarre as reality.

Watch for him. His name is Christopher Knight and it isn't a huge leap to say that soon his story will be everywhere - 20/20, 60 Minutes...Rolling Stone....and certainly a movie akin to Into the Wild. Dr. Phil, I am sure, will do his best to arrange a prison interview. Spoiler alert, Knight is caught (early in the book), psychoanalyzed up the wazoo and imprisoned.

Little did I know that between the lines would be a philosophical subtext with mini-courses on everyone from Socrates to Thomas Merton.  Of particular interest was the chapter detailing the sociological characteristics of a hermits.  They have been categorized into three groups.  "Protesters" are hermits whose primary reason for leaving is to escape what the world has become.  "Pilgrims", the largest sector of those defined as hermits, leave the world believing there is a connection between seclusion and spiritual actualization.  Most of us probably know a "pursuer".  They leave society in search of artistic freedom, scientific endeavors, or simply to find themselves.  

For me, the most interesting sections are those in which Finkel references worldly figures who throughout history have withdrawn, and despite their alonensss have made far reaching impacts.  During extensive interviews, Knight intimated that these people are not pure hermits.  If they were, the would not have written and shared manifestos.  You decide. At the very least ,or best depending on your vantage point, the ideas asserted in this book made me more comfortable with my discomfort with crowds. I'm not so abnormal after all!  

Thanks for stopping by.