Sunday, March 26, 2017

Toby

Toby

Picture book
Author-illustrator Hazel Mitchell lost her heart to a dog
rescued from a puppy mill. The temporary foster home she initially
offered turned into a forever family. She undoubtedly discovered that
the road from neglect to loving care is not always easy going for
either critter or humans. In her lovely picture book, Toby, fiction
based on real life, readers, listeners, and parents are privy to the
snags and the wonderful rewards of rescue adoption.
A boy and his dad, moving into a new home, adopt a dog from an
animal shelter. Much to the boy's consternation, Toby is initially
afraid and hard to get close to. The father's patience is tried by
Toby chewing things up. But then a special thing happens and you know
the trio is bonded for keeps.
Toby is a perfect read aloud. I can't imagine anyone, parent or
child, not falling in love with this canine cutie.
On a personal note, my marriage family's first cat, Murray, was given
to Eugene and me after three years of impermanence and possible
neglect. It took her awhile to realize she was part of a forever
family. We moved twice while she was with us. She came to us as an
outdoor/indoor cat. Every time she saw us pack she started bringing
in all kinds of small dead creatures and dropping them at our feet,
probably demonstrating her love and usefulness in hopes we'd keep her.
A great big shout out goes out to rescue animals and their human
companions.
jules hathaway


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Friday, March 24, 2017

Everybody Needs A Hideaway

Everybody Needs A Hideaway

Picture book
"Somewhere hidden in the woods of western Maine there is a very
special pine tree--a hideaway tree--in a secret place where a boy and
his dog like to be."
When you were a child did you have a hideaway--somewhere you
could be alone to read or create or think or just daydream? I know I
had a few: a comfy tree perfect for reading in, a spot beside the
jetty on my favorite beach, the decrepit abandoned house I'd been told
never to go into.
Dean Bennett's gentle story and soft illustrations (mostly
pastels with a few pencil sketches) provide a stirring testimony to
the specialness of such beloved spaces.
A boy climbs into his treehouse hideout. At first there are
birds to watch. Suddenly a huge bull moose is napping under his hide
out. He's supposed to go home soon but is afraid to come down.
Fortunately help is on the way in the form of a very loyal chum.
This is a very special book to share with your own beloved
little people. It can help them and you be more aware of the
creatures big and small with whom we share our world.
On a personal note, in the center of Maine is a special studio a mom
and her cat like to go. It's our dear little studio with our favorite
snow globes, a year round beautifully adorned Christmas tree and mini
tree, our world museum of natural treasures, and other favorite
things. No matter how much I love spending time with friends and
family sometimes I need its ambience to read, write, craft, and
daydream in.
A great big shout goes out to all who treasure their special spaces.
jules hathaway


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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Shame The Stars

Shame The Stars

Mature YA/adult historical fiction
"My father shook his head and said, 'There are no clear lines
anymore, no boundaries, Joaquin. Evil has rooted itself into our
lands, dug itself deep into the souls of mejicanos on both sides of
the border. While most are out for blood, some just want food or the
money to buy it, and a well-maintained herd of cattle is both of those
things.'"
One evening Guadelupe Garcia McCall's older son showed her a
book, Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody
Suppression Turned Mexicans into Americans. It had to do with a
bloody part of that state's history. Mexican Texans were losing farms
and ranches to whites. Attempts to protect themselves or even the
"crime" of being dark skinned was met with cruel vigilante justice
meted out by the Texas Rangers.
"...The insurgence and its punishment became a vicious cycle
that was too horrific to be spoken of, much less documented. Many of
the crimes committed against tejanos and Mexicans in South Texas went
unreported. Most have been forgotten."
McCall kept reading the book, studying the pictures. She felt
sorrow for the innocent victims, many young men like her sons, who
were killed for their skin color at a time Rangers could get away with
it. She was bothered by the fact that this tragic period in American
history is still being left out of school textbooks. She wrote Shame
the Stars to give the forgotten victims a voice in today's world.
Joaquin, a rancher's younger son (his older brother, Tomas, is a
priest) is about to be sent off to Michigan for his college
education. He suspects that his father wants to separate him from his
beloved Dulcena. (Two years earlier his father had kicked Dulcena's
parents off his property, angered by the dangerous content of his
newspaper.) He feels that it would be wrong to abandon her at such a
turbulent and dangerous time.
Now Joaquin no longer sees Dulcena at school. She is being
tutored at home. Her father wants to keep her safe. The Texas
Rangers and the low lives they deputize are killing suspects without a
court trial. Her father speaks up for the victims through his
newspaper. He gets daily death threats.
Joaquin and Dulcena communicate via secret notes delivered by
friends. (Both families are standing in the way of their
relationship.) When she invites him to a friend's masked ball
quincenera he envisages a few sneaked dances with his beloved.
What Joaquin does not expect is for Dulcena to instruct him to
meet him at midnight at their secret place. The rendevous is as
disastrous as he had feared it would be. On their way back to the
party they are accosted by two sheriff's deputies. One of them,
Slater, attempts to rape Dulcena.
When Jaoquin's father tries to report the incident to Captain
Munro, a Texas Ranger, nothing is done to punish the guilty parties.
In fact the next morning on an errand Jaoquin encounters Slater
talking trash about Dulcena.
You know as well as I do things won't end there. Joaquin is
determined to protect Dulcena against those to whom they are
acceptable collateral damage.
This book is for adult readers and mature YAs. Some scenes are
too graphic for sixth graders. The characters really come alive.
(Joaquin is so much like my own son while his mother is a tejano
version of the person I work toward being). Reading it is intense.
It took me two nights and both times I needed a beer to fall asleep.
On a personal note, are the Texas Rangers all that different from
today's police who go unpunished for killing unarmed blacks? Is the
prejuduce against and treatment of Muslims and immigrants today any
less reprehensible than the brutality displayed then toward tejanos?
A great big shout out goes out to all who are brave on the side of
victims of prejudice.
jules hathaway


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Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Douglas, You Need Glasses

Douglas, You Need Glasses

Picture book
There are many things youngsters do not want to hear. It's back
to school shopping time. No dessert until you polish off those
Brussels sprouts. Clean your room. I'm sure "you need glasses" has
to be near the top of the list. Ged Adamson got that news during his
childhood. His Douglas, You Need Glasses can help today's kids cope
with the situation.
Douglas is a cheerful dog who scampers enthusiastically through
his world, oblivious to his vision difficulties. Instead of chasing
squirrels he pursues falling leaves. He trudges through wet cement
and blunders into a no dogs allowed skate park. When a game of fetch
goes terribly wrong his person companion knows what she must do.
At the back of of the book there are two pages of pictures of
real kids wearing glasses and an invitation for youngsters to post
similar pictures on social media. How cool is that?
On a personal note, I did not wear glasses as a child. But my third
grade year I had to wear an eye patch in a futile attempt to correct a
lazy eye. Some of my less than fond memories include struggling to
copy cursive off the blackboard and having the teacher think I was
lazy, hearing strange adults exclaim "the poor little thing" in public
places, and almost getting hit by cars and trucks.
A great big shout out goes out to glasses wearers.
jules hathaway


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Monday, March 20, 2017

Night On Fire

Night On Fire

Juvenile/YA/adult
"What they saw were Negroes and white people together--
traveling, marching, getting beaten up and burned. It started in my
little town of Anniston, and it moved to Birmingham and Selma and
Washington, DC. I watched the flames catch and spread to Montgomery,
where they were fanned and blessed by Martin Luther King. The people
sang, the mob roared, and I glimpsed freedom."
Billie, protagonist of Ronald Kidd's Night On Fire, and her best
friend, Grant are in the local grocery store. A black boy about her
age gets kicked out. The store owner explains: "Personally, I don't
mind them coming. But they might bother some of my customers."
Black students are not allowed to compete in the local spelling
bee. A young woman, Jarmaine, who turns out to be the daughter of
Billie's family's maid, Lavender, speaks up to protest the unfainess.
The audience is angered by her refusal to keep quiet.
There are intimations of overt and covert racism in Billie's
world. But nothing that comes before can prepare for Mother's Day,
1961, the day the Freedom Riders bus arrives in her town and the
parking lot near the grocery store becomes a little bit of Hell on
earth.
Night on Fire is one of the most powerful coming of age novels I
have seen targeted to intermediate grade students. Billie has to face
revelations of racism in her family and community...and possibly in
herself.
"In the parking lot of Forsyth's Grocery I had seen something
awful. Was it here too, in my house, at our table? There were no
angry mobs, no fires or threats, no clubs or chains--just apple pie,
two cups of coffee, and a glass of milk. We weren't burning buses or
beating people up. We weren't doing anything. Maybe that was the
problem."
On a personal note, some people these days are reassuring themselves
that, in the face of all the atrocities we're seeing on the news, at
least they aren't personally shooting unarmed blacks, deporting
immigrants to almost certain death, trashing environmental
protections, or scrapping meals on wheels. Fortunately a lot of us
feel strongly that this can't be enough, that all it takes for evil to
win is for good people to be silent.
A great big shout out goes out to all who speak up for peace and
justice in these treacherous times.
jules hathaway


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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Blue In A Red State

Blue In A Red State

Adult nonfiction
"There may be more liberals, but Lisa is still reminded on a
regular basis that she's in the minority in Waukesha. In 2012, as you
drove into Waukesha, you were greeted by a giant Romney/Ryan sign. On
the highway, churches posted conservative messages on their
billboards. For an atheist like Lisa, it was a frequent reminder that
she wasn't in Madison anymore...Fox News was almost always on the
televisions in local businesses."
News commentators have this nation divided into blue and red
states jigsaw puzzle neatly. The reality, of course, is a lot
messier. In Maine, for example, big city Portland is a lot more
liberal than some of the left behind formerly industrial towns
struggling to survive in a global economy.
It can be really comfortable living among people who share your
political orientation and related values. Maybe you have to deal with
conservative relatives and in-laws at a few yearly get togethers. But
the rest of the time you can feel free to speak your mind, put bumper
stickers on your car, and post what you really think on social media.
For some people that's not an option. Others find other factors
such as lower cost of living or a more rural life style to outweigh
political identities. Others embrace the challenge of being minorities
and getting to know and maybe influence colleagues and neighbors on
the other end of the spectrum. These are the people Justin Krebs has
portrayed in Blue In A Red State: The Survival Guide To Life In The
Real America.
"These liberals keep up the pressure for progress in the most
intimidating of settings. They voice unpopular but necessary views.
They live side by side with many Americans who don't strongly identify
with any political label and are the most potentially persuadable.
And they also put a friendly face on "liberalism"--making it harder
for conservatives to demonize them, just as liberals need not to
demonize those with politics at the other end of the spectrum."
Lisa (mentioned above) has two Facebook accounts: one for her
political views and the other for cat pictures. She doesn't put up
signs that might alienate neighbors or attach bumper stickers to her
car. She and husband Paul feel that they are "strangers in a strange
land."
Diane is a Democratic chair in Sarah Palin country who advises
candidates, "Things can get passionate on the campaign trail. But
after the election, you're still going to run into these people at the
grocery, postal box, the watering hole, your church. It's not worth
blowing up your life and your relationships." She is aware that in
sparsely populated areas with extreme weather it's not wise to burn
bridges with the neighbor whose help you might need in an emergency.
Retirees Rita and Dean love residing on a South Carolina
island. They have friends across the spectrum; they're just careful
who they talk politics with. They have little patience for anyone--
conservative or liberal--who inflicts their views on everyone else,
alienating neighbors.
They are just four of the people profiled in Blue In A Red
State. It's a very thought provoking book. Almost all of us have at
least a few colleagues, neighbors, or family members way across the
aisle. Some of us are even married to them. Anyone who can find even
a few useful ideas will find the book to be a wise investment.
On a personal note, I'm a total misfit in Veazie. I'm a lot more
outspoken and liberal than most people. Also Veazie is very class
snobby and I speak up for the have nots. I am the voice many people
do not want to hear. I'm lucky to be just a few miles away from Orono
with its more liberal and ethnically diverse populace and UMaine. Now
that I am no longer on school committee I get my mail, reside, vote,
and pay taxes in Veazie. My heart is in Orono.
A great big shout out goes out to all who find themselves strangers in
a strange land.



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Saturday, March 18, 2017

Octopuses One To Ten

Octopuses One To Ten

Picture book
We rarely give much thought to those denizens of the deep:
octopuses. And most of us have no idea how interesting and diverse
they are. Ellen Jackson and Robin Page's Octopuses One To Ten helps
children learn their numbers while providing them and the big people
in their lives with fascinating fun facts.
Numbers one to nine give general information. Did you know an
octopus has three hearts? Can you guess what their four clever ways
of evading hungry predators are? Do you know the date World Octopus
Day falls on? How many brains does an octopus have? Hint: more than
one.
When you get to the number ten you get to meet ten distinct
types of Octopus ranging from the blanket octopus whose males are 100
times smaller than their females to the mimic octopus that can make
itself look and act like fifteen different sea creatures. There is
even an octopus named after a Disney character.
At the back of the book you find octopus crafts, some of which
are edible. I'm going to put Oreo cookies and gummy worms on the
shopping list to make myself a yummy snack.
On a personal note, we had ourselves another big old blizzard Tuesday
into Wednesday. Eugene worked a couple of night shifts. When he got
home Thursday he took me to Dennys for breakfast. At his company they
are moving snow to make room for any more we may get. This with
calendar spring just around the corner!
A great big shout out goes out to Eugene and all the others who plow
so we all can get around.
jules hathaway


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