Sunday, February 26, 2017

A Field Guide To Animal Tracks

A Field Guide To Animal Tracks

Adult non fiction
"Olaus Murie reminds us very much of an earlier master, Ernest
Thompson Seton. Like Seton he was not only an eminent naturalist and
an accomplished woodsman but also a fine artist, able to interpret in
pen and ink the things he had witnessed. Dr. Murie's drawings in this
book were made in the field, except where it was impossible; he used
material in museums and zoos only where field specimens were
unobtainable."
By now I imagine a lot of people are tired of snow, particularly
in states like Maine where we don't need Puxatawny Phil to tell us
what to expect weather wise. Perhaps a new activity might add some
renewed allure to the white stuff. What about the chance to play
detective and learn more about the non human critters who may be
dwelling unseen, often nocturnal or very wary of humans, in your
neighborhood? All you need is Olaus J. Murie's A Field Guide To
Animal Tracks and, of course, clothes suitable for outdoor expeditions.
This book, part of the Peterson Field Guide Series, is an oldie
but goodie, the second edition having come out in 1974. It covers
"every mammal for which tracks have been obtained in North America,
Mexico, and Central America--not only the common ones" as well as
birds, insects, and reptiles. A key to tracks gives a general idea of
the critter whose prints (and or scat which means poop) you have
discovered and directs you to the section of the book holding more
detailed information.
Let's say I'm strolling in the woids between the old and new
schools in Veazie. I see prints that are strangely like human hand
prints but a tad too small. I learn that a raccoon has probably
cruised by. Further into the book I can learn about its eating habits
and den locations.
Some animals like bears hibernate, but that's what we have mud
season for.
Tracks can give information that something is not quite right in
Mother Nature's world. I've started seeing skunk tracks quite early
for those hibernators to be out and about. That combined with early
arrival of migratory birds seems to point toward a warming trend.
You don't have to go out in the boonies to look for tracks and
scat. Due to human encroachment on wildlife habitat--that damnable
suburban sprawl--an amazing variety of critters have had to adapt to
life on our turf.
A Field Guide to Animal Tracks is only one of an amazing series
of field guides that covers everything from birds and butterflies to
rocks and stars. What they all have in common is raising awareness of
the amazing natural world we all too often avoid or ignore, stomping
through tethered to electronic devices. This, in my mind, is a very
good thing.
On a personal note, the most recent two Wilson Center programs have
been excellent. The first featured a film on Shirley Chisholm; the
second large and small group discussions on mental health and its
relationship to faith and religious traditions. Of course both
suppers were scrumptious.
A great big shout out goes out to my Wilson Center family.
jules hathaway


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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Let Your Voice Be Heard

Juvenile biography
"Seeger liked to tell a story about two frogs: 'A farmer once
left a tall can of milk with the top off outside his door. Two frogs
hopped into it, and then found that they couldn't hop out. After
thrashing around a bit, one of them says, "There's no hope." With one
last gurgle he sank to the bottom. The other frog refused to give
up. In the morning the farmer came out and found one live frog
sitting on a big cake of butter.' Like the second frog, whose efforts
had churned the milk into butter, Pete Seeger refused to give up."
Even people growing up unaware of Pete Seeger have probably
heard at least one of his songs, many of which are adaptations of folk
tunes. Where Have All The Flowers Gone? was popular at the Girl Scout
campfires of my childhood. A South African folk song he adapted made
in into the movie, The Lion King. We Shall Overcome is as relevant
and needed now as it was in the 60's.
Quite fortunately, Anita Silvey was a huge Pete Seeger fan
during her teen years. One of the best moments of her life was when
Seeger himself gave his blessing to her to write his biography.
Knowing that he would probably die before she finished, he instructed
her to take her time and write a good book.
In my mind, Let Your Voice Be Heard: The Life And Times Of Pete
Seeger is an amazing book. Through a beautiful combination of text
and photographs, the reader gets to see Seeger as:
*a child who learned from his father about the plight of the very poor;
*a young man who tried to become an artist when he couldn't make it as
a reporter and went on to become a musician when he couldn't make it
as an artist;
*a pacifist who enlisted when his hatred of Hitler became stronger
that his wanting to stay out of the war;
*a performer who, after many years of money problems, made it
financially only to be made persona non grata when he was put under
suspicion by the House Un-American Activities Activities Committee...
Pete Seeger is a really relevant role model on the twenty-first
century. His respect for the beauty and validity of the culture of
the poor, his dedication to causes such as the Civil Rights and
environmental movements, and his faith that no matter how strong evils
are, good will win out with a lot of hard work are traits most of us
could stand to cultivate. Let Your Voice Be Heard is an excellent
introduction to his life and work.
On a personal note, I had a wonderful Valentines Day. Eugene gave me
a dear potted plant in a cunning critter pot and a lovely card. He
took me out to Ruby Tuesdays for supper. Neither of us had been there
before. The food and service were really good.
A great big shout out goes out to Eugene.
jules hathaway


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Friday, February 24, 2017

To Stay Alive

To Stay Alive

Mature YA/Adult historical fiction based on historical fact
"It's finished.
The travel dress,
thick and crisp and green,
white buttons in a line,
a bright stiff collar, perched high.
It's a dress for adventure,
a dress ready for
whatever it will face.
Strongly stitched, unspoiled, new,
well made.
It is meant to endure."
Skila Brown's really excellent To Stay Alive is another of those
books that makes me think we should add a category to our library
classification system: Mature YA/Adult. There are a lot of sixth
graders who would not be able to handle it. There are many adults for
whom it would be just fine. Therefore, from this day on my blog will
have this new category: Mature YA/Adult. You can consider any I
simply label YA good for the middle/high school span.
In 1846 Mary Ann Graves and her large family join the westward
migration going on in America. Her father envisions prosperous
farming in a place with fertile soil and a long growing season. At
first travelling by prairie schooner (covered wagon) seems like a
wonderful adventure.
"Nothing could be grander
than a big crackling fire
under a starry sky,
insects humming in the dark all around,
the sound of Jay moving the bow across his fiddle,
the smell of onions and potatoes
in the air--turned cool enough
to draw you closer to the flames,
close enough to see them dance
in the dark eyes of a new boy
who can't stop looking your way."
Of course we know things will not stay tranquil for the whole
1,900 miles--especially where the window of opportunity for crossing
the mountains into California before winter sets in is narrow and
unpredictable. When the family and those with whom they travel pass
through St. Joseph we learn that they are the "last of the stragglers"
for the year. A decision to save time by taking a relatively unused
short cut seems ill considered, especially when they join up with the
Donner party.
Path clearing takes longer than they'd expected. Food is
getting scarce. All including children must walk to lighten the
wagons for the sake of the animals pulling them.
"another day

spent

water's almost gone
night
cold

we continue on

walking in our sleep"
Their troubles have just begun.
To Stay Alive is at the same starkly authentic and
heartbreakingly perceptive. The characters and their relationships
are entirely believable. Mary Ann grows into psychic adulthood in
this combination coming of age/horror narrative. Pulling off this
historical realism in free verse is an achievement few writers are
capable of.
The use of free verse rather than prose is brilliant. In many
of the poems the shape greatly enhances the verbal message.
"Eddy grips the gun
so tight
it shakes.
One bullet,
one shot,
one chance to eat.
Don't miss.

Don't miss.

Don't miss."
"The story of the Donner Party is a powerful one. It's a story
that makes us consider what choices we would make if we were on the
brink of death. This group of families and the trials they faced
became legendary and etched for them a permanent place in our history
tales...We're still captivated by this story, more than a century
later, because it's full of elements we can relate to, even today.
Hard feelings, arguments, murder, thievery, heartbreaking acts of
charity, and yes--romance."
I could not put the book down. I found it fascinating and
scary. Of course that could have something to do with my reading it
on a night Maine was getting slammed with an all out blizzard. All I
could hear was the wind driving blasts of snow--the exact weather
conditions that put the characters in dire and deadly danger.
To Stay Alive is a vivid and well written novel. I'd highly
recommend it to people who can deal with topics like cannibalism.
On a personal note, the blizzard I alluded to was an amazing two day
record breaker (amounts of snow). It started in Sunday the 12th.
That was the night I read the book. Monday I woke up snowed in.
Seriously. I could not open the door until Adam dug me out that
night. Eugene worked from Sunday night straight through Tuesday
morning--32 hours. I was in seventh heaven seeing him home safe
Valentines Day. UMaine was closed Monday and Tuesday. Only I didn't
know it was closed Tuesday until I'd walked almost all the way there,
which was more challenging than my usual walking because of the snow.
Talk about an adventure! I live for adventures!
A great big shout out goes out to all who shared the adventure with
me, especially my husband and his peers who had to plow all that white
gold.
jules hathaway


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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Radiant Child

Radiant Child

Picture book
Woo hoo! It's not every day I can score the latest Caldecott
Medal winner, hot off the library shelf! If there is a book that
deserves that honor, surely it is Javaka Steptoe's Radiant Child.
Steptoe gives readers the story of talented artist Jean-Michel
Basquiat. As a child he drew prolifically in a style of his own.
"His drawings are not neat or clean, nor does he color inside the
lines. They are sloppy, ugly, and sometimes weird, but still
BEAUTIFUL."
He got a lot of encouragement from his mother who would draw
with him. She taught him that life lay as much in city life as in the
museum they would visit. As a teen on his own he went from grafiti to
galleries, staying true to his style.
The illustrations, in my mind, are the best part of the book.
They leap out at you. Steptoe set himself a daunting task. Instead
of giving readers copies of Basquiat's pictures, he created original
interpretations. He hoped readers will seek out originals in museums
and on line.
"Jean-Michel Basquiat went after his dream of becoming a famous
artist with all his heart. There is no doubt he made a mark on the
world and encouraged others to do the same, and that matters--
especially to artists and storytellers like me."
On a personal note, after the record setting snows that have recently
inundated Penobscot County we're now dealing with spring like temps.
Yesterday I was walking around without a coat. I got the cutest
sweatshirt free at Black Bear Exchange. It's grey with three fine
felines. It says insane cat posse. It's the cats' pajamas!!!
A great big shout out goes out to the UMaine students who are eagerly
looking forward to spring break.
jules hathaway


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Comics Confidential

Comics Confidential

YA graphic novel
"The artists and writers we meet in these pages are among the
most talented comics creators working today. While nearly all are
themselves lifelong comics fans, they came to their work by way of a
surprising variety of backgrounds, including biology, computer
science, filmmaking, painting, and acting. Not surprisingly, the
stories they have to tell take off in an abundance of equally
unpredictable directions."
When I was reading Svetlana Chmakova's Awkward, I was intrigued
by a few pages at the end. Chmakova walked readers through all the
steps of creating a graphic novel from design to adding color. Holy
cow! I never knew what an arduous, exacting process it is.
Then, in the serendipity so frequent in my life, I remembered
I'd just borrowed a book that could offer more insight into the
production of graphic novels--Leonard S. Marcus' Comics Confidential:
Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft, And Life Outside The
Box. Marcus asked each artist a fascinating array of questions. He
also had each design and explain a comic having something to do with
the city. Since a lot of peopke see cartooning as male turf, I was
delighted to see a good number of women.
Remember Matt Phelan? We just became acquainted with his work
by reading his Snow White. He came to cartooning as an adult. When
he was in his twenties he taught himself how to draw. He did The
Storm in the Barn as a graphic novel only after he couldn't get it to
come to life as a prose novel. His acting background has him
constantly seeking to understand what his characters are thinking and
feeling.
Danica Novgorodoff drew from the time she could hold a pencil.
She hedged her bets in college, sticking with an art major "unless
something better came up." She created her first graphic novel during
a post graduate trip to South America. Showing it around back in the
states opened doors for her. She finds travel essential for her
research. She goes to the place her story is set in to get a real
feel for it.
And there are eleven others.
Comics Confidential is a great read for kids (and adults) who
enjoy graphic novels, especially those contemplating careers in
cartooning. Listings of the work of the artists at the back of the
book can point to future reads. I've added some titles to my must
read list.
On a personal note, we had a really poignant coffee hour at UMaine
recently. It was put on by people collecting clothes and raising
money to help people stranded in refugee camps. There was a short and
immensely powerful video of a 13-year-old girl talking of her life and
hopes. She dreams of stuff kids here take for granted: a real home
(instead of a tiny tent), having her family together, being able to go
to school... Today 1 out of every 113 people is a refugee. And with
global climate change as well as wars kicking in, the situation will
probably get more dire. It's crucial for America to keep her borders
open and for all who can to help our displaced brothers and sisters.
A great big shout out goes out to refugees and all who help and
advocate for them.
jules hathaway



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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Awkward

Awkward

Juvenile graphic novel
"Hi! Penelope here. Peppi for short. It's my first day at
Berrybrook Middle School, and I just tripped over my feet and dropped
everything...
...Including my dignity...
...And then this boy comes over to help. Which is sweet and
kind of great, right? Except..."
Since I'd been a new kid in not one but five high schools,
Svetlana Chmakova's Awkward had me hooked at the first page. Anyone
who has experienced that walking on thin ice sensation of entering a
new school where the slightest faux pas can doom you to being ignored
or bullied til graduation do you part will probably not be able to put
the book down.
It turns out that the kid who comes to Peppi's rescue is the
target of bullies who jump in with loud comments and laughter.
Peppi's first rule for school survival is to not get noticed by the
mean kids. Mortified, she pushes her would be rescuer, Jaime, away, a
move she regrets, only not quickly enough to make amends.
Peppi's second rule is to join clubs of kids who share her
interests. She quickly joins the art club. She's there in time to
hear their highly eccentric supervising teacher, Mr. Ramirez, deliver
some bad news. Art club will not get a table at the annual school
club fair. Their organizational nemesis, science club, however, will.
Science club is everything art club is not. Their supervising
teacher, Miss Tobins, is the epitome of organization. While art club
members follow their inner muses, science club people cause a lot of
trouble which is excused because they win plenty of awards and make
the school look good.
The only thing the two groups have in common is mutual
animosity. When the administration very unwisely engages them in
rivalry, it's all out warfare.
Oh, yeah, and Jaime is in science club.
As you've probably noticed, I'm becoming increasingly fond of
graphic novels. Awkward is one of my favorites in this genre. I
highly recommend it, especially to kids and adults who have had the
new kid in school experience.
On a personal note, all that snowflake snipping up to Wilson Center
sure must have inspired Mother Nature. The next day late in the
morning it started snowing. The first flakes started falling when I
left Orono Public Library after volunteering. I reached UMaine to
find it all was closing down and the panel I was to speak on being
postponed. Luckily I got a ride home. We'd escalated into full scale
blizzard. We inched along in piss poor visibility. My warm home
looked pretty good.
A great big shout put goes out to all who were in on this unexpected
adventure.
jules hathaway



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Monday, February 20, 2017

Spilled Milk

Spilled Milk

YA/Adult semi fiction
"Kat was a heavier sleeper and Dad knew this. He had spent a
long time on my side of the bed one night. That time it had hurt and
I held my stomach when he got up to walk away, afraid I would throw
up. He crept to the other end of the bed and sat down next to Kat."
There are some books that have me thinking that our age based
library book classification system leaves something to be desired. K.
L. Randis' Spilled Milk is one of these. YA covers a lot of maturity
territory between roughly middle school orientation and high school
graduation. At the lower end of the scale a lot of kids are far from
ready for the book. Many adults, especially those working in
education and social services, and college and graduate students
headed toward those fields, should be required to read it. Most of
them won't run into it in its current classification. But putting it
on adult shelves would deprive the older YA readers, including those
going through similar situations.
No easy answers, huh?
Brooke, Randis' protagonist, reaches a hard realization as a
teen. She's having supper with her boyfriend, Paul's, family for the
first time, amazed that they were actually conversing with each other
in a loving, caring way just like families she'd read about and seen
portrayed on tv. Suddenly Joseph, Paul's little brother, spills a
glass of milk. Instinctually she moves to protect him from his
father's anger...anger that never happens.
In that moment she learns that most families are not like hers.
"Suddenly it was clear.
Families didn't have to be perfect, but the fear and
manipulation that fueled my household was unconventional. Homes could
be safe places after all. I was in disbelief."
Brooke's family is about as far from normal or functional as one
can get. Her father is a sick, controlling man with anger management
issues and unnatural lusts. From Brooke's early childhood on, he
fondles her inappropriately and goes on to raping her. She's afraid
he'll start in on her little sister, Kat. She's also seen him beat
her brothers brutally. As much as she hates what he does to her, she
reasons that by staying and enduring she can protect her siblings.
Her mother is no help whatsoever. Crippled by a work accident and
addicted to pain pills, she is terrified of losing the man of the
house. At one point she tells Brooke they will leave. Then in the
next breath she's describing how they will be homeless and starving.
In one particularly charming incident, Brooke has a gun shoved in her
face. She has been selling her mother's extra Oxycontins illegally.
This is not a usual parental mandate for a high school kid. A
potential customer robs her. When she gets home from that very
frightening experience, Mommy Dearest's reaction:
"You let him get away with my pills? You got nothing? Not one
cent."
Then just as Brooke and her siblings are getting close to
leaving home, her mother is pregnant.
What makes Spilled Milk most scary is that, although it's
fiction, it's based on a true story.
I'd recommend this book to exceptionally mature YA readers and
most adult adults, especially parents and people in or going into
education, law, and social work.
On a personal note, UMaine hosted an excellent presentation by the
NAACP. Officers talked about the organization's history and answered
questions. It was a truly informative and inspiring talk.
A great big shout out goes out to all who participated in it.
jules hathaway



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