Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Saving Lucas Biggs

Saving Lucas Biggs

Juvenile fiction
Margaret O'Malley, one of the narrator/protagonists of Marisa de
los Santos and David Teague's Saving Lucas Biggs, has an intriguing
genetic trait. Members of her family can time travel. However, each
generation is strongly admonished not to. In fact they must take a
solemn pledge:
"There is one Now: the spot where I stand,
And one way the road goes: onward, onward."
Time strongly resists revisionists attempts. In fact a time traveler
begins to weaken the moment she lands in another time and could end up
dying in both.
So why would Margaret even consider taking these risks?
Love, pure and simple. Her father is a whistleblower in a fuel
company owned and run town. He's been framed for arson and murder.
The judge has sentenced him to death.
Margaret would do anything to save her dad--even going back on
her sacred vow to travel to a time when the sentencing judge was an
idealistic boy rather than a cynical old man and prevent the incident
that hardened his heart.
Youngsters who choose to go with her will find it a fascinating
journey.
On a personal note, my benefit dinner/silent auction to raise money
for girls' education in Tanzania is only two days away. Two major
complications have arisen. I've been elected official Veazie School
Committee delegate to the annual Maine School Management Conference.
I'll be in Augusta the two days I can least afford to, getting back
hours before the event. Also I have a pesky urinary tract infection
which has me constantly needing to pee. Suffice it to say it's been a
week since I've slept even two hours in one block. I may be a few
fries short of a happy meal. Will the event succeed? This story may
be as fascinating as the books I review.
A great big shout out goes out to the fine folks who are putting time,
effort, and energy into this cause which is so dear to my heart.
Julia Emily Hathaway


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Don't Tell

Don't Tell

YA fiction
A lot of the books for older teen girls that don't involve
glittery vampires or other elements of the supernatural are painfully
superficial and materialistic. She lands a fabulous internship, meets
the perfect boy, only he hasn't gotten the memo that they're meant to
be together. Puhleeze. Nothing has changed in decades other than she
being a cheerleader and he being football team captain.
Lava Mueller's Don't Tell is a striking exception. Told in four
voices, set in 1979, it follows four girls, best friends seemingly
forever, as they navigate the end of their anything but ordinairy
senior year of high school. There's:
*Mary who starts the book off by ingesting toxic substances and hoping
she won't be found too soon. Only what looks like a suicide attempt
may be a much more complex plan;
*Zana, daughter of famous psychiatrists who thinks her parents are as
crazy as their patients. She knows they have a major league secret
housed at the local psychiatric hospital and resents their refusal to
acknowledge the truth;
*Berrie, who has her own secrets. She pretends the family dog has
just wandered off rather than tell her parents she ran over and buried
it. Her choices of boys for intimate relations could get her in deep
trouble;
*and innocent Lili, track athlete and school play lead, who must carry
Mary's secret even believing that her best friend's plans are not in
her best interests.
The story is set in a small town in Maine. But it could be anywhere
young women come of age.
On a personal note, I played detective while reading it. For some
reason I was sure it was set it Orono. I kept finding these clues--
steam plant, College Avenue, University--than confirmed my intuition.
Still don't know, but it was fun.
A great big shout out goes out to our daughters as they navigate their
complex and compelling worlds.
Julia Emily Hathaway



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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Volunteer Vacations

Volunteer Vacations

Adult travel
I've never been all that interested in the kinds of vacations
most people seem to covet. A trip to the "magic kingdom" would having
me thinking on all the workers ironically pulling down decidedly
family unfriendly wages and benefits. Put me on a luxury cruise and
I'd be wondering exactly what ills we were inflicting on the
environment. And tours seem a huge waste of money, going to tourist
spots with a gang of other tourists.
It's not that I dislike travel. I very much want to see other
cultures and get to know the people without leaving a humungous carbon
footprint. That's why I was OVERJOYED to see the Eleventh Edition of
Bill McMillon et al's Volunteer Vacations. For people like me who
would be thrilled to do good while learning and exploring this volume
is a treasure trove. One hundred fifty agencies are profiled in its
pages. There are locations all over the world that need people with
passions for agriculture, community and economic development,
education and children, health, women's issues... Some require
specialized training; some require little more than a caring heart and
willing hands. You can skim through the book as I did or use the
index to customize your search. The pages give enough information to
help you decide which adventure is best for you; contacts are listed
to help you pursue it in more depth.
So if you're seeking an extraordinary travel adventure and the
chance to pursue your passions...good luck and bon voyage!
On a personal note, I want to eventually do some of the vacations in
the book. I want to start out on an organic farming one. Someday
when I can afford it. Actually when I'm in grad school maybe I can
chaperone alternate spring breaks.
A great big shout out goes out to people who spend their vacations
helping others and folks and organizations that make this possible.
Julia Emily Hathaway


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Wild Things

Wild Things

Juvenile fiction
The back stories behind published books are sometimes as
interesting as the novels they inspire. Clay Carmichael claims that
Wild Things entered her life on four paws. "A big, wild, mustachioed
black-and-white cat lumbered into my yard and heart and became my
shadow and soul mate for ten extraordinary years," she reveals in her
acknowledgements. "He and I were pals like Lassie and Timmy or Rascal
and Sterling North. Our years together included a genuine miracle,
and maybe I'll get to write that story one day. Until then, I hope
this book begins to thank Mr. C'mere for all he gave me." He must
have been SOME CAT. That's all I can say. Wild Things, told on two
richly integrated levels, is one of the most vibrant, richly nuanced,
novels for young readers I have ever had the great good fortune to
discover.
To start with there's the experience of 11-year-old Zoe, born to
a very psychologically challenged mother who was in and out of mental
hospitals and cycling through a series of loser boyfriends. Her
biological father took off before she was born. In the absence of
reliable adults, she's had to pretty much take care of herself.
Things change when Zoe's mother dies and social services enters
the picture. She is given over to Henry, a half uncle on her father's
side. He's a former doctor turned famous sculptor. Although he's
reclusive and slightly eccentric, he seems to offer what Zoe wants
most in the world. Contrasting his house to the series of decripit
places she's dwelt in before, she finds herself thinking, "I imagined
having my very own room instead of a sleeping bag or a made-up sofa, a
book I could keep longer than two weeks if I wanted, and a grown-up
smarter than I was in the house. I imagined having all that for a
whole minute before I remembered what it felt like to hope for things
I'd never get. I pushed the wanting away as hard as I could."
As Zoe discovers the fascinating individuals who make up her
community it's impossible to not hope that for once she's wrong. Once
is all it would take to change her life forever for the better.
The second perspective is that of a feral cat who hesitantly
starts to trust. Through his narration you learn much of the back
story of the family and community. His pictures, done in black and
white, are quite beguiling.
Oh, yeah, there's an elusive boy and his albino deer who are in
an even more precarious situation than Zoe.
In my mind Wild Things is a must read for perceptive young
readers.
On a personal note, at the University I got the chance to paint a
pumpkin. Wild Things must have been on my mind. I painted a cat face
on the front and a lovely striped tail on the back. I dropped it off
at the Orono Public Library children's wing. Turns out we'll have
pumpkin painting at the children's Halloween party. Louise needed a
sample. Talk about serindipity! I am surely looking forward to that
party. I get to dress like a butterfly and be paparazzi.
A great big shout out goes out to cat lovers...OK dog lovers too.
Julia Emily Hathaway



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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Secret Box

The Secret Box

Juvenile fiction
If you have a youngster in your life who would much rather play
video games than read, Whitaker Ringwald's The Secret Box is a sweet
enticement you can offer for going old school. Told from the
alternating viewpoints of two cousins (feisty, impetuous Jax and shy
bookworm Ethan) it's a fast paced narrative with plenty of allusions
to virtual worlds and the mythology that underlies some of them.
On Jax's twelth birthday she receives a mysterious package from
someone named Juniper. Her mom immediately grabs the box and sets off
to return it to the mystery sender with no explanation for her strange
behavior other than that she knows what's best for her.
What 12-year-old will accept that? Certainly not adventurous
Jax. She enlists her trusty sidekick cousin Ethan in her quest,
promising him they won't get in any trouble. They end up in bigger
peril than they've ever been in. Juniper, who turns out to be Jax and
Ethan's great aunt is not a sweet old cookie baking lady.
International thieves are hot on the trail of the box. And its
contents hold very strong, almost hypnotic powers.
A young student with a book report due will find The Secret Box
an excellent choice for fun reading as well as class credit.
On a personal note, I was thrilled yesterday to find a pair of my
favorite brand skinny leg jeans that fit like they were made just for
me. Don't you love finding the perfect jeans? Also jewelery,
diaries, and wind chimes featuring ceramic bees and flowers. Life is
good.
A great big shout out goes out to mystery book lovers.
Julia Emily Hathaway



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So Much For Democracy

So Much For Democracy

Juvenile Fiction
We hear a lot about political coups in other countries on the
news. They may seem quite removed from our experience of life, quite
hard to relate to. Kari Jones' So Much For Democracy helps bridge the
gap by introducing the experience of a girl and her family caught up
in the turmoil.
Canadian Astrid has a list of 35 things she hates about Ghana,
where she and her family are living while her father helps with that
country's elections. They range from the constant presence of
soldiers through snakes and spiders to the medicine she must take to
prevent maleria.
There are also drastic changes in her mother's behavior. Astrid
is used to the great degree of freedom she had in Canada. In Ghana
she must follow a long list of rules. Her mother is in constant panic
mode, always in her children's business. It seems to Astrid that
she's blamed for everything that goes wrong.
Why is Astrid's seemingly indomitable teacher afraid of the
soldiers? How does a man go from being imprisoned to taking over a
government? Will her mother ever get back to being herself?
Young people who read So Much For Democracy will learn a lot
while enjoying a suspenseful plot and a likeable, feisty protagonist.
On a personal note, I am working on organizing a benefit supper and
silent auction to raise money for education for girls in Tanzania.
That will be my very belated birthday celebration. It will be October
24 at Orono United Methodist. I have mixed feelings. I'm excited
because I think it will be fun and raise money (and consciousness) for
a very important cause. I'm also nervous because I've never run
anything like that before. I want to make it an annual event.
A great big shout out goes out to the fine people who go into nations
to deal with humungous challenges like war and Ebola.
Julia Emily Hathaway


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Uncertain Glory

Uncertain Glory

Juvenile historical fiction
My mother was a young woman when the unthinkable happened. In a
day that would live in infamy, according to President Roosevelt, Japan
attacked Pearl Harbor, plunging America into World War II. Until her
death she remembered those dark days of fear and uncertainty when the
world probably seemed to be going to Hell in a handbasket. In her
Uncertain Glory, Lea Wait brings readers to an earlier historical
crisis--the brink of the Civil War. Many of her characters, including
narrator Joe, were real people back in the day.
Wait gives us a real sense of who Joe is in her first
paragraph: "Reverend Merrill, up to the congregational church, says
God has our lives all planned out for us. And I'll tell you: I'm
just Joe Wood, from a little town in Maine. I figger I'm not exactly
in a position to question what God has in mind. But between you and
me, sometimes those plans of his are pretty hard to make sense of."
Joe may consider himself insignificant. These days we'd
consider him anything but. He has more responsibility, at the age of
fourteen, than many adults do now. He publishes his own newspaper. A
debt he took on when he started his operation is coming due with no
guarantee he can make it. He also must help his mom with her store
since his dad, grief stricken over his older son's death, isn't always
up to it. His two workers pose challenges of their own.
Oh, yeah, there's also a very ypung spiritualist in town. Her
uncle who claims custody claims she can contact deceased loved ones.
Some folks devoutly and desperately believe; some claim she's nothing
but a fraud. Joe is caught right in the middle.
Joe is far from the only one finding God's will hard to
determine. As news slowly travels from the South by telegraph, people
wonder how this will effect their lives, their families, their
community, and even their very young country. For a book about a teen
at an important turning point in his country's history, you can't do
better than Uncertain Glory.
On a personal note, I am enjoying my own personal snow day. Nope,
there is not a flake of snow coming down. But I have so many things
to catch up on (including this blog) that when my ride to church
couldn't happen I had this giddy, exhilirating, anything is possible
feeling. Breathing space. It is so sunny out I am doing most of my
catch up work outside on my glider. Heavenly.
A great big shout out goes out to all Mainers taking advantage of
these Indian summer days.
Julia Emily Hathaway


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