Sunday, May 1, 2016

Inside Out & Back Again

Inside Out & Back Again

Juvenile fiction
Today's politically turbulant world is the scene of massive
immigration. Looking at the sheer numbers can overwhelm us and blind
us to the reality that these crowds are composed of individuals as
distinct as we are, often frightened and bewildered young people who
travel from native lands in turmoil to hugely different host
countries. Thanhha Lai's Inside Out & Back Again, based on the
author's own childhood experiences, told in sparse and evocative free
verse, helps personalize the kids we see on tv and the challenges they
face.
Ha lives with her mother and three aggravating brothers in
Saigon. Her Navy father vanished nine years ago when she was a baby.
Soldiers are everywhere. She can't play outside at night. Alarm
sirens require her to hide under her bed. The war is getting very
close to home.
School closes early. There is never enough to eat. People who
can manage to do so flee, convinced that the end of the South Vietnam
they call home is at hand. Ha's mother decides they too must leave.
"I've lived in the North.
At first, not much will happen,
then suddenly Quang
will be asked to leave college.
Ha will come home
chanting the slogans
of Ho Chi Minh,
and Khoi will be rewarded
for reporting to his teacher
everything we say in the house."
In very poignant moment as they prepare a meager supper, with tears in
her eyes, she tells her daughter:
"You deserve to grow up
where you don't worry about
saving half a bite
of sweet potatoe."
After a dangerous and arduous boat voyage and a layover at a
tent city in Guam a new life in Alabama presents its own challenges.
American food is very strange. English is a challenging language to
learn. There are bullies at school and in the community. Ha has
moments when she would choose to be in war time Saigon rather than
peace time Alabama.
This poignant coming of age story is a great read for
intermediate grade students, especially those in schools that receive
new immigrants.
On a personal note, this week UMaine has been celebrating Pride Week.
From the flag raising and tee shirt tie dying Monday through the tea
party and open mic and all the other activities it has been nothing
short of amazing.
A great big shout out goes out to all the fine folks who made this
year's pride week such a success.
jules hathaway






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The Grand Mosque of Paris

The Grand Mosque of Paris

Picture book
These days when powerful politicians stir up prejudice against
Muslims and work hard to keep families in dire peril in their nations
from entering our country by playing the terrorist card Karen Grey
Ruelle's The Grand Mosque of Paris: A Story of How Muslims Rescued
Jews During the Holocaust is a book whose time has come.
In 1940 Nazi Germans brought their antisemetic, genocidal agenda
to France. Collaborating with the Vichy government, they began
sending Jews (including 11,402 children and babies) to death camps.
Not all French citizens cooperated. In the countryside Jewish
children were hidden in places like convents and farms. In thickly
occuppied Paris, however, the situation was a lot more dire.
Smuggling Jews to safety would require a place of refuge viewed as
above suspicion...
...The Grand Mosque was such a place. Built in 1926 on land
donated by France in gratitude for the 500,000 Muslim solidiers who
had aided France in WWI, it served the spiritual and community needs
of its congregants. During WWII, at serious risk to those who worked
and worshipped there, it became a hub for rescuing Jews and delivering
them to safer locales. The Grand Modque of Paris tells this amazing
and largely forgotten story.
Deborah Durland DeSaix's illustrations are spell binding.
Street scenes starkly show a very scary place and time. Nazi soldiers
march grimly past the Arc de Triomphe. A yellow star wearing woman
tries to shield her baby and young son from a police officer. In
contrast those in and around the mosque are rich in calm and beauty.
The Grand Mosque of Paris is one of the new nonfiction books
useful to children much older than the toddler and preschool set.
Looking at this historical event can give older children and even
adults a fresh way of looking at the dangerous religious prejudices of
our own time.
On a personal note, Penobscot County is experience some pretty strange
weather. We have bright sunshine combined with unseasonable chill.
Still the flowers, including my front yard daffodils, are bursting out
all over and the returning robins are fascinating Joey cat by their
food seeking antics.
A great big shout out goes out to all who work on behalf of persecuted
and endangered minorities.
jules hathaway





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Saturday, April 30, 2016

Mama Says

Mama Says

Picture book
With Mothers Day just around the corner I want to share one of
my all time favorite seasonal books. Rob D. Walker's Mama Says: A
Book of Love for Mothers and Sons, beautifully illustrated by Leo and
Diane Dillon, is a heart warming multicultural celebtration of a truly
special relationship.
Each two page spread focuses on a mother-son pair. On the first
page they are shown above the mother's advice in their native language
and English. The second full page painting portrays the son following
the mother's advice.
A Russian baker teaches her son how to bake.
"Mama says
Be loving
Mama says
Be caring
Mama says
You've done God's will
Every time you're sharing"
The son passes a loaf through a window to a fragile elderly mam as his
mother smiled proudly in the background.
Readers of Mama Says would do well to take the time to study the
pictures. They really extend the information available in the text.
Perhaps this is most evident in the American pages. A mother helps a
son with his tie.
Mama says
To be on time
Mama says
Be neat
Mama says
To be on time
And never drag my feet
In the second picture she must stand aside, visibly pained, as he
walks with determination past screaming, sign carrying segregationists.
On a personal note, I'm really excited because my younger daughter has
promised me that my Mothers Day gift will be a trip to Santa's Village
with her and her boyfriend! It's where her dad would take the family
for special summer visits. My children know the gifts I treasure are
time with them and the precious memories thus created.
A great big shout out goes out to my wonderful children, their
significant others, and my grandcat, Archie.
jules hathaway



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Basketball Belles

Basketball Belles

Picture book
Here in Penobscot County, Maine, where the Brewer Witches of
both genders clash vigorously with rival Bangor Rams and it's hard to
imagine a year the UMaine women Black Bears don't seriously outperform
their male hoopster counterparts, it seems like women have played
basketball forever or at least as long as the sport has been around.
Of course we know that's very much not true. The sport was designed
for men in 1891. Conventional wisdom back then saw it as too
strenuous for women.
Fortunately women didn't take this sitting down. In 1896 there
was the first women's intercollegiate basketball game played between
Stanford and Berkeley. Sue Macy's Basketball Belles: How Two Teams
and One Scrappy Player Put Women's Hoops on the Map is the story of
this historic event.
The narrator has been sent to Stanford University to become more
ladylike. (Back in those days that probably also meant more
marriageable.) Her opening paragraph shows why a traditional 19th
century mother might have cause for concern.
"Nobody can ever accuse me of being a girly-girl. Sure, I can
sashay around in a ruffled skirt if I have to. But I'm more
comfortable in breeches and spurs. My name is Agnes Morley. I grew up
working on my family's ranch in New Mexico. Getting dirty came with
the territory."
The audience for this first game consisted of over five hundred
women. (The only men in the building are the janitor and his
assistant who, when called on to fix a basket, saw who is playing and
were properly horrified). The Berkeley team had questioned the
propriety of men seeing women perspire.
Neither the players nor the fans (whose cheering Morley compares
to a cattle stampede) are at all "ladylike". Matt Collins'
wonderfully detailed illustrations show the intensity of the
competition and the determination of the players. Other than
differences in uniforms and hair style they could have been painted
from this year's Bangor Daily News--particularly my two favorites. In
one one of Morley's team mates, about to make a shot, is a study in
concentration. A two page spread shows the unbridled joy of the
winning team.
Basketball Belles is a fun must read for sports fans and
feminists. I think I'll try to track down
On a personal note, I have never been all that fond of watching
sports. But gender equity is a big concern of mine. When I started
Gordon College in 1979 I quickly saw that, in relation to men's
athletics, women's sports were very much neglected. How could I
remedy that? My first work study job was in the cafeteria where I
made a wonderful discovery--a locked closet containing an unused
public address system. I tracked down the keys Nancy Drew style and
startled the diners by making an enthusiastic publicity message on
behalf of our women's teams. It was the first of many. I also went
to their games. Before the first trimester was over I would hear
chants of "Win one for the Big E" (my middle name being Emily).
A great big shout out goes out to pioneering girls and women in sports
and STEM and all other arenas of human endeavor.
jules hathaway





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Wednesday, April 27, 2016

I'm Trying To Love Spiders

I'm Trying To Love Spiders

Picture book
Once when I was a lot younger I went to visit my father. His
roommate had a pet tarantula. For some reason Dad decided to put it
on my arm, hoping for a stereotypical scream. I thought it was so
cool and was happy to let it walk on me.
A lot of my friends are very much afraid of spiders. All of
them, adult and child, would do well to read Bethany Barton's I'm
Trying To Love Spiders. A wealth of really cool arachnid facts are
interwoven into the narrative of someone trying very hard to overcome
a phobia.
Come to think of it even an arachnophile (if there isn't such a
word there should be) like me can learn a thing or two. Bet you can't
guess the poundage of bugs a single spider can chow down on in a year...
...You'll have to read the book and see.
On a personal note, spiders and all the other creatures were
celebrated recently at the HOPE festival up to UMaine. About 60
organizations had booths. I was volunteering at the Wilson Center
table. There was great music and awesome food. I had some of the
best coconut ice cream ever. I saw a lot of people I rarely see. It
was a really awesome day.
A great big shout out goes out to all the people who work hard every
year to make the HOPE Festival a great success.
jules hathaway


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Blackbird Fly

Blackbird Fly

Juvenile fiction
"'She may not be Chinese, but I guarantee you don't wanna go to
her house and ask her mom for hot dogs,' Jake said. He put his
fingers on the corners of his eyes and pulled them to make slits.
'Would you-ah like-ah Chinese tea with-ah you-ah hot-
dahg?'"
Like many other immigrant youngsters, Apple Yengko, narrator of
Erin Entrada Kelly's Blackbird Fly, is caught between two worlds:
those of school and home. At school she is ridiculed for her Filipino
looks and accused of stuff like eating dogs. She hasn't had anyone
over to visit since, back in third grade, when a sleepover guest
critiqued her home and mother to all their peers. Her best friends
seem only lukewarmly supportive, more interested in getting in with
the popular crowd.
Apple's escape is Beatles music. She longs to become a musician
and start a new life. Maybe she could become a New Orleans street
performer. She has to figure out how to earn enough money to buy a
guitar...
...because her mother won't buy her one. Mom won't even let her
be in her school's swing choir. In her mind music is a waste of time
that will get Apple nowhere. Academics are all that counts in America
where they came to for a better life.
Apple isn't sold on her mother's beliefs. "...I don't
understand how our life in America is any better. In the Philippines,
I would be just another face in the crowd. No one would call me a dog-
eater or a dog. Maybe I would even be pretty."
On a personal note, Earth Day up to UMaine was the cat's pajamas. We
celebrated on the quad. There was nonstop music. People threw
frisbees. A few people painted themselves green and biked around
campus. (It's a tradition. It sure doesn't look fun.) At lunch time
free pizza appeared. (A tradition I can understand a whole lot
better). A bunch of us tabled for different causes. I was with Real
Food Challenge. We used fabric paint to make a cool new banner. And
we had a food quiz. Everyone who entered it was eligible for a prize
drawing.
A great big shout out goes out to all who participated in Earth Day
activities. Can you believe it's been 46 years since the first Earth
Day?
jules hathaway



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Fire Engine No. 9

Fire Engine No. 9

Picture book
About a few weeks ago a neighborhood youngster told another boy,
probably a visiting school chum, that my big boy (son) is a REAL LIVE
FIREMAN. "For real?," the other boy said, "Wow! That is AMAZING." I
don't think I could have gotten more respect if I'd raised the
president. Children are still fascinated by fire fighters, as anyone
who has chaperoned a fire station field trip can attest. Mike
Austin's Fire Engine No. 9 is a perfect read aloud for today's kids.
Fire fighters and their dalmatian are cleaning a fire engine
when an alarm goes off and they leap into action. The multicultural,
two gender team puts out the blaze and rescues a baby, reuniting it
with its family, before a most satisfying surprise ending.
Whether in a home, library, or school, Fire Engine No. 9 will be
a frequently requested read aloud. The collage like illustrations are
vibrant and dynamic. Text is perfectly sparse and full of words
(weooo, honk, whoosh, smash) that bring out the dramatic in adults and
help emergent readers to enjoy success.
On a personal note, I just looked out and...NOOOOO....it's
snowing...with my daffodils flowering!!! I got plastic sleds and a
bin out the my shed and put them up for a little protection. I hope
this frigid precip doesn't amount to anything.
A great big shout out goes out to my son and all his fellow fire
fighters.
jules hathaway



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