Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Before and After by Judy Christie and Lisa Wingate

 From the 1920's to 1950, Georgia Tann collected over $500,000.00 buying and selling children through what she called The Tennessee Children's Home Society.  She preyed upon unwed mothers needing to keep secrets, and indigent families unable to care for yet another child in an already too big family.  Tann lied.  If she needed a specific type of child to market to potential parents, she would tell the surrendering parents she would care for their child until they were able.  In reality they were signing over  rights to the child. Tann had many tricks up her nasty sleeve. She also had politicians, lawyers, doctors,  and social workers in her pocket. She changed the children's names, birth dates, nationalities, and religion to suit the wishes of purchasing parents.

Lisa Wingate wrote Before We were Yours, a critical account of Tann's retail business and the children she trained to be ready for sale at a moment's notice.  Shortly after the book's publication  Wingate began receiving emails and letters from those adopted children.  Now in their 70's and 80's, they enthusiastically shared their stories with her.
Before and After recounts the stories of fifteen Tann children.  Most are heartbreaking accounts of how these children became separated from their families.  Most were raised as only children and only a handful were told the fictionalized stories of their adoptions.  Sadly, there was a stigma attached to being an adoptee.  Seldom did these kids have friends.  After all who wanted to be friends with the kid whose mom and dad gave him away?

Eventually, new laws made it possible for the grown adoptees, or their spouses and children to search records for information on their background.  Some simply were curious. others wanted medical histories,  and many longed to fill a void they had felt for a lifetime.
This book is about the importance of connections, personal histories and truth.  Mostly, it is about family - however you define it.

Thanks for stopping by.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay happy.
Only two Mondays until spring.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Dog Blog - Picture Book by Dog

 This book hit the spot.  It hit lots of spots, really. First, like my friend on the front proves, this book is tasty.  I know that tasting things that are not served to me in my special dinnerware is a skill I am told to stop, but books especially taste so darn good. Hard to resist. 

 The second spot it hits is right behind my left earl.  If I flop onto my side and wiggle just right, I can work that nice corner in  behind my ear and give myself a nice little ear rub.  

Third, this book hits a spot in my heart.  My friend on the cover was real sad for a long time.  He didn't have a nice person to hug him, feed him, take him for walks and most of all, to give him a name.  But one day, the prefect person found him and, boy or boy, did my buddy's life change.  There were hugs, crazy runs around the yard, TV time together, places to sniff every day, and lots and lots of paper.  He had fun and he is happy and safe and loved.

That's about it.  Real good book.  You all should find a dog friend. 

 My birthday was January 4th. I am now one year old, and I weigh 10 pounds.  I explore every day.  I am extra quiet when learning new tricks and trying out new spaces.  Here is a picture of me napping on

the dining room table.  I figured that my roommate left that chair out just far enough for me to jump and wiggle on to the table.  I think I was wrong about that because there was some hollering.  Lots of words like blah blah blah and then something about no one ever wanting to come to dinner with Mabel on the table.  Frankly, I don't see a problem with that.  I have plenty of floor space in my dining area for some extra serving dishes.

Enough about me. Read this book and get a dog..

From the boss....

Three Mondays until spring

Thanks for stopping by
Stay safe. stay healthy. Stay happy.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towes

 Moscow.  That single title word has some readers trembling in fear and running in search of the comfort cozy mysteries. Nothing wrong with cozies, but this book is worth a second glance, and a third and.... Certainly, the complex history of Russia in turmoil will consume paragraphs, pages, and even whole chapters  filled with unpronounceable names and accounts of heavy, heavy oppression.  Relax.  This book isn't War and Peace.  In fact, the character of Russia itself acts as an incidental background to skilled writing, diverse characters, and a plot that is both insightful and light hearted.  Stay focused on the Gentleman part of the title and you will wander easily through this book hoping that it might never end.

Count Alexander Rostov has committed a crime he should be executed for; instead he is sentenced to life long confinement in the attic of the Metropol, a once exquisite Moscow hotel. Influenced by the writings of 16th century French philosopher, Montaigne, the Count chooses a practical path.  He will make the best of his circumstances.  He will make a life there, and he does.  Luckily, he is a man of manners and rituals, both of which serve his well as he creates a life that could easily be the emotional undoing of most.  

Towes stylish prose compliment the count's calm, patient demeanor, yet he has fun with language and punctuation.  The narrator, or someone, occasionally interjects something snarky, or offers a bit of advice to the reader.  Example - one footnote tells us not to worry about the odd names and multitude of characters. Most won't be with us for more than a few pages.  There's a juggler, a one-eyed cat, a cantankerous chef, and a precocious child along with a plethora of Oxford commas, and an ellipsis or two.

The elegance of the writing can easily lead readers to view this as a  stuffy book, best studied,  analyzed and digested in university classrooms.  Not so. Yes, the historical passages create tension, allowing the Count to show his steady, knowledgeable self - they are informative and we'll all get smarter reading those sections!

For years I have been asking "Where are the Steinbecks and the Hemingways that I enjoy so much?" I think I have the answer.

Only five Mondays until spring.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay happy.

Thanks for stopping by.

(Mary S. I know you're reading this.  History's your thing - hope this book is working for you.)

Saturday, February 6, 2021

LaDeDa Deep Freeze Chatter

Well, we almost go away with it, didn't we?  Winter, I mean.  Almost a winter without snow and ice.  For those of you who have been offering gifts to the weather gods, hoping to strap on those implements of destruction (stealing phrase from Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant") called skates, skis, or snowshoes, I apologize for not sharing your enthusiasm.  

Today's post is for the rest of us who welcome storm's gift of guilt free hibernation. Admit it, when the wind reaches top speed furiously whipping snow past your windows, you secretly wish it would last for days.  You grab a book and some hot chocolate and cross fingers that the neighbors will blow your snow. 

I have picked out a couple snowy day books, the kind you can finish in one sitting if you're quick, or two if you nap or travel to the fridge with any frequency.  I haven't read them all, but I ordered them for days like this in mind. 

The Chicken Sisters seemed a likely choice since two of our booksellers here at LDD are obsessed  with chickens.  Jenny raises them, and Debbie has always wanted to live somewhere that she could raise chickens...and a goat. (I don't want to forget Brendo, former employee who got married and moved away on us. She has a chicken named Odette living in her house). Well, it turns out this won't be the book for them.  Here's what the back cover tells us -

 "In tiny Merimac, Kansas, Chicken Mimi's and Chicken Frannies's have spent a century vying to serve the best fried chicken in the state - and the legendary feud between their respective owners, the Moores and the Pogociellos, has lasted just as long.  No one feels the impact more than thirty-five-year-old widow Amanda Moore, who grew up working for her mom at Mimi's before scandalously marrying Frank Pogociello and changing sides to work at Frannie's" 

 Has a Fannie Flagg vibe to it, doesn't it?

Miss Benson's Beetle...another oops.  I assumed a VW Beetle would figure somewhere in the story.  Nope.  Instead, a frustrated British schoolteacher quits her job and goes on a worldwide excursion in search of an insect that may or may not exist - the golden beetle of New Caledonia.

In a nod to Patty Jane's House of Curl, we have Vanessa Yu's Magical Paris Teashop. Hate to use this phrase, but yes, this book seems like a delightful romp.  Like Miss Benson, Vanessa goes road tripping, but with less lofty goals.

Last,  The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend is a heart warmer.  Fine storyline. The simple, out of the way setting allows the characters to take center stage, and you will recognize many of them from your own life.  I blogged about this book a while back and, if my limited tech skills allow, I will pull up the post and put it in a side bar if you want more info.

There you have it. four suggestions for snow day, ice days, freezing days, thunder storm days, covid shot side effects days....just for the heck of it days.

...and, speaking of just for the heck of it, LDD is closed on Mondays for the winter, but to be honest, I am liking this new schedule.  Having two days off back to back suits me just fine, so who knows, we may just keep it this way. Anyway, as a result, Fine Print on a Monday may pop up on a Tuesday, or a Saturday, basically randomly but still weekly. I will continue to post a tease on FaceBook so you know when it's up for you.  

Thanks for reading and sending feedback.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay happy. 

Six more Mondays till spring.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Wintering by Kathering May

 In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
― Albert Camus

 That Camus quote nicely sums up what Katherine May discovered as she wintered through some tough times.   Categorizing this book challenges...part memoir, part self-help, part commentary on ritual...and then there's all the history, and quirky details about things we (or at least I) just don't think about.  Winter is May's metaphor for troubling times, no matter when, where or how long.

May takes us along as she winters through a full year filled with doubts, fears and high anxiety.  At times she frustrated me with her Debbie Downer routines, and just like that, a smooth transition would begin.  In the process of allowing herself to drift away from the darkness, she learned, she grew, and she accepted her life in the moment.

You can tell new age thinking took center stage at times, not quite unicorn thinking, but close. New age has never been my genre of choice but,  stepping aside from that, May filled the book with stories past and present.  She offered insights into the Druid religion, the feast of Saint Lucia (that story was a doozie), and took me to the sauna culture of Scandinavia.  Like May, I'd take a fast and hard pass on that one.  No way I am going to sit sweating with a bunch of naked strangers, plunge into icy water, and declare myself renewed.   

Oh, but the wolves stories and the bee keeping - mesmerizing.  Embedded in all her experiences was the warmth and strength we get from ritual.  Weekly coffee with friends, game night, or perhaps something bigger like religious celebrations...rituals keep us close to what is important to us, to what grounds us, and to what brings us together.

This is a book to share.  It will resonate with each reader differently.  My copy will find its way later today to friend's front porch with the hope that, after reading, she will do the same.  Maybe, in a couple years or so, it will find its way back to me, battered, highlighted, written in, and questioned.

For some reason, after reading May's closing words...

"It often seems easier to stay in winter, burrowed down into our hibernation nests, away from the glare of the sun. But we are brave, and the new world awaits us...we have a kind of gospel to tell and a duty to share it. We, who have wintered, have learned some things"

...I wanted to walk to my dog on this cold January day, and the let the bitter cold air surround me...just to see what is has to say.  

Pleasant wintering to you all.

Thanks for stopping by.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay happy.

Only seven Mondays till spring. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Telephone Tales


Every night, at 9 o'clock, wherever he is, Mr. Bianchi, an accountant who often travels for work, calls his daughter, and tells her a bedtime story. but since it's still the 20th century world of pay phones, each story has to be told in the time that a single coin will buy.  Reminiscent of One Thousand and One Arabian Nights, Gianni Rodari's  Telephone Tales is composed of many stories within a story - in fact seventy stories, one for each phone call. 

Each is set in a different time and place, with unconventional characters, mixing reality and fantasy. One night, it's a carousel so loved by children that an old man finally sneaks on to discover why...and as he sails above the world he understands.  Or it's a land filled with butter men, roads paved with chocolate, a young shrimp who has the courage to do things in a different way than expected.

For some reason, books for middle age kiddos seldom have pictures.  Not so here.  This book is filled with full page drawings.  There are even fold out, double page drawings, flaps hiding secrets behind, and sweet postcards tucked between pages. 

A customer with a great love of Italy introduced this book to me.  Rodari is considered Italy's most important 20th century children's author.  If covid hibernation's getting you a little edgy, maybe a fanciful trip to Italy is in order.

Thanks for stopping by.
Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay happy.
Only 8 more weeks until spring.  So very do-able!

Monday, January 18, 2021

Exploring the White House.


What a fun little book...and so right for this week.  Exploring the White House targets middle school readers, but I bet most adult readers would find it fascinating and informative as well.  Several maps give us the layout of the main floors, the grounds, and the gardens.  Looking at those simple maps alone shows how complex it must be to make the day to day needs run smoothly, not to mention the extra efforts that go in state events, or foreign dignitary visits.  Throw in some kids, some presidential pups, and a ghost or two just for good measure.

Too, too much to cover here, each page explodes with information.  I'm going to give you a few fun facts today...

  • The maids avoid Room 328. Hmmm. I wonder why
  • It takes 300 gallons of white paint to cover the exterior of just the residence portion of the White House
  • If there was no formal event going on during a weekend, the Obamas allowed their butlers to wear khakis and polo shirts; the butlers declined.
  • President Johnson was a stickler for turning lights off after leaving a room
  • The President and VP are never alone.  There are armed guards on duty 24/7
  • On inauguration day, outgoing family's belongings are packed and taken out one door, while incoming family's belonging come in through another door.  In and out in about six hours.
  • First families live rent-free in the White House, but each month they get an itemized bill for what they consume - everything from tp to bananas
  • When the president eats outside of the White House, a security person stays in the kitchen being used and watches as the meal is prepared
  • When Jackie Kennedy was asked by an annoying journalist what her dog eats, she replied, "Reporters".

There's more.  You can open any page and start discovering.  I found that - for a while - it helped me forget about...well, you go ahead and finish that.

Thanks for stopping by.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay happy.

9 weeks until spring.  

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The Plague by Albert Camus

The plague begins slowly - noted casually by one doctor.  In time, Dr. Rieux, convinced that Oran is on the cusp of a plague, alerts authorities to the imminent dangers.  "We'll shovel the dead rats off the streets" they tell him, that should take care of it.

With dead rats came fleas, more illness, and multiple deaths.  Households not affected by the illness paid it no mind and went about their lives.  When the rich folks became sick, people took notice.

The evolution of this plague unfolds through the eyes of an objective observer, painting both the big picture of the disease, and also the smaller, human stories that emerge when there is fear, when dealing with the unknown becomes a daily obsession, and when, despite strong evidence, there is denial.

This is a tiny book, and the translation from the original French is stark - annoying to me at times but appropriate for the bleak theme.  Understanding how great plagues in history evolved informed Camus as he structured his narrative.  Surprisingly these epidemics all followed the same pattern.  The parallels to Covid are evident, and I can't help but wonder why these historical references were not heeded by the people who had the power to take action earlier.  Well, we won't go there since I think most of you reading this are of the same mind as I.

Much of what Camus writes is strangely, uncomfortably similar to our lives. Bubbling throughout the novel is Camus' existential philosophy - why act, why choose when there is nothing to be done to change the situation.  What will be will be, I guess.  Thankfully, in the end, his narrator tells us that through all the angst, fear, and waiting for resolution, he learned that there are more good people in the world than bad.  That's a nice thought to be left with in these times when that is exactly what we need - nice thoughts.

Thanks for stopping by

Stay Safe. Stay healthy. Stay happy.

Only 10 more weeks until spring.  We can manage that!

Monday, December 7, 2020

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.

Tis the season for transformation and redemption stories.  The Hallmark channel offers us endless movies about empty hearted souls, who, stumbling upon just the right person at the right time do an about face and lights up the world with goodness.  Those of us who believe that the will always tends toward the good accepts these (sorry) repetitive and mundane storylines because we know that deep down, everyone is really good at heart.

Of course, the most famous bad-to-good holiday story is Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol. That book, although masterfully written, was never high on my Christmas reading list.  Yes, Scrooge is a fine, likeable fellow by the last twenty pages, but the rest of the story is filled with ghosts, cemeteries, sick children, starvation thieving and all around nastiness. so joyful.   The only character with any guts is Mrs. Cratchit and I just know that if she could, she would march into Scrooge's office, throw some coal on the fire,  give the boss a verbal lashing, and tell her husband to grow q pair and quit being such a wimp.  

For a change of pace and a few laughs - which we all can use right about now - take a look at the Herdsman kids in the Best Christmas Pageant Ever.  These kids smoke, they cuss, they drink wine, and they bully anyone in their way.  Really scary people.  They don't attend church, but when they hear that snacks are served at Sunday school, they are in.  Threats and chaos ensue and the Herdmans worm their way into the lead rolls in the annual Christmas pageant.  

On stage, they are clumsy, uncomfortable, unprepared, and totally engaging.  Instead of traditional gifts, they bring Baby Jesus the ham the church charity group has provided for their family dinner.  The audience, at first, stunned and quite put-off by the non-traditional interpretation, eventually witnesses wonderful warmth, recognition, and acceptance on the Herdmans' faces.  A simple Christmas miracle has occurred with not a single ghost floating about.  

OK...,here's a side trip for anyone wanting to read beyond the book chatter. Years ago, when Jim and Mary Mellberg staged their lush production of A Christmas Carol at the Capitol Civic Centre, I played Mrs. Cratchit - probably because the costume fit me.  The Cratchits were a poor, but happy family.  Father, Bob, was hard working, and mom was pretty outspoken when it came to his boss, Ebenezer Scrooge.  In this production, the family sang together every night at supper.  We called them the Molly Cratchit Singers.  I do not sing - again, I got the part because the dress fit, not because I can carry a tune.  Not only did we sing together, mama C. had a solo.  At some point we were tortured with the dreaded solo rehearsal. We had to face the rest of the cast and deliver our solo full voiced and in character.  We had two nasty people in the cast who, each year, would maneuver themselves into direct eye contact with me, and they would smirk at me.  Our musical director knew this was happening and gave me little winks and nods along the way but one year, he decided to take a different approach.  Before I started, he leaned over and quietly said "Just wait."  After all the solos were done, we practiced the group songs.  He began by saying "We have some issues to clean up this year, so, if I look at you, please stop singing.  It means you are off key and ruining the piece." Less than one line in, he stared those two down, and continued to stare them down the rest of the night.  He wrapped up rehearsal saying " We are too close to opening night to fine tune things, so if I caught your eye tonight, please don't sing.,  Just lip sync."  And you know what, the cast applauded.  I feel Scroogy telling you that story.  I will work on transformation and redemption this week...but no singing.