Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Body In The Woods

The Body In The Woods

YA mystery
Young adult suspense lovers are in for a real treat. April
Henry's The Body In The Woods, through a combination of character
development and a masterfully crafted plot, draws the reader in
quickly and doesn't let go til the very surprising ending.
Alexis, Nick, and Ruby are a very unlikely trio involved in a
Search And Rescue team. Alexis has a psychologically challenged
mother who is very unpredictable when she's off her meds. SAR has the
potential to help her escape her situation via college. Nick
desperately wants to be brave like his dad who died in military action
in Iraq. Ruby is painfully aware that she does not fit in with her
peers. Maybe in SAR she will finally find friends who share her
unusual interests.
They are put together on an evening search for an adult male.
Instead they find the dead body of a teen age girl. She's been slain
by a serial killer who puts one of them on his to kill list.
Although the SAR team in the book is fictional, it is based on a
real life counterpart: Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Search and
rescue. This youth led group engages in rescue searches and hunts for
crime scene evidence. (Principals, superintendents, teachers--can you
imagine the real life, motivated STEM experience involved?) When she
was looking for an idea for a real life mystery series, Henry learned
about this group and found the inspiration she was seeking. YOWZA!
On a personal note, tonight's the night! As Jules LaMagnifique I
compete in UMaine's Got Talent, reciting my poem, Silver Foxes. My
first time performing from memory (instead of reading) in front of
such a large audience. Wish me luck.
A great big shout out to all volunteers who spend time, often under
quite adverse conditions, finding lost folks.
Julia Emily Hathaway


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Monday, November 17, 2014

The Last Best Days Of Summer

The Last Best Days Of Summer

Juvenile fiction
I've met people who are losing parents or even spouses to the
long slow fading out of Alzheimers. There may be no harder way to be
parted from a loved one. Now try to imagine being a middle school
child and, on a solo visit to a beloved grandmother, experiencing
frightening changes in her abilities, changes that put both of you in
danger. This situation is covered quite lovingly and poignantly in
Valerie Hobbs' The Last Best Days Of Summer.
For Lucy her artist grandmother's cabin in the woods where she
spends a week each August is a treasured haven. It's not only a
chance to spend one on one time with someone she adores, but an escape
from the pressures of the rest of her year life. The summer she is
twelve it is a much needed escape. Her mother seems way
overprotective, something that is especially frustrating for middle
schoolers. Her best friend, Megan has sent her off with twelve top
tips for popularity to memorize. Lucy is not sure that is the end all
and be all of middle school life. Finally there is Eddie, a boy with
Down syndrome she is sometimes paid to spend time with. He considers
her a friend. She isn't sure what place he occuppies in her life.
This summer feels different. Her grandmother seems not quite
herself. At first it's little things. But when they are stranded on
an island in the middle of a storm with only a cave for overnight
shelter they must both confront the older woman's decline and the
imminent sale of her beloved cabin.
This book would be a godsend for young people in a similar
situation. For other kids it might be a way to gain compassion for
scary looking older people they encounter in their neighborhoods and
communities.
On a personal note, Saturday night was the gardeners dinner for Orono
Community Garden volunteers. There was wonderful soup, rolls, and
desserts (all home made), lively conversation, and perfect background
music. A good time was had by all. I won the most social gardener
award again. Also for the first time I won the longest standing
volunteer award.
A great big shout out goes out to my fellow gardeners for creating
memories as well as awesome veggies and to John and Shelley Jemmison
for recruiting us and making us a team to be reckoned with.
Julia Emily Hathaway



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Fraidyzoo

Fraidyzoo

Picture book
For me it was the basement at night. I bet when you were little
you had a place that you did NOT want to go. Maybe as a parent you
remember trying to persuade a terrified child that nothing terrifying
lurked in a certain place. That's the predicament of Little T's
family. They want very much to go to the zoo. She's afraid.
Rather than downplaying her fears, her parents and very bouncy
sister try to discover just what animal creeps Little T out. They use
household odds and ends to create a variety of animal costumes--a
whole alphabet of costumes to be exact. Kids can have fun guessing
what the various varmints are.
There's a visual treat for younger kids too. The family has a
very handsome tuxedo cat...very much like my own dear Joey. That cat
appears in the pictures, hiding in some pretty clever places.
And if one is ever hard pressed to come up with a costume on
short notice...
On a personal note, the place I am terrified of is what I call retail
hell. I don't even like to shop at first hand stores, especially of
the big box variety. The thought of being doomed to work in that
environment paralyzes me with fear. No kidding.
A great big shout out goes out to the people who will decide if I get
accepted to graduate school with a teaching assistantship. Hopefully
they will decide in the affirmative. Then I won't have to worry as
much about retail hell.
Julia Emily Hathaway


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Lindbergh

Lindbergh

Picture book
Not all tykes want their picture books populated by cute puppies
and talking unicorns and done up in shades of pastel. If you have a
youngster with slightly bolder tastes, Torben Kuhlman's Lindbergh:
The Tale of a Flying Mouse is a must read aloud.
Kuhlman's pint sized hero, Lindbergh, is a mouse who loved
reading human written books so much he would seclude himself for long
periods of time doing just that. One day, returning from a reading
retreat, he discovers that the other mice have vanished. A new
invention, the mouse trap, has caused them to depart. Maybe they've
gone to the fabled country across the ocean--America.
Joining them will be a lot easier said than done. Vigilent cats
guard transatlantic ships. Flight seems the only possibility. But
can a rodent build a flying machine that will get by the amber eyed
owls and manage to cross the mighty Atlantic?
Read the book and see.
On a personal note, Friday the seventh was First Friday free coffee
and bagels at the University of Maine commuter lounge. Free food and
a congenial crowd! Who can ask for more?
A great big shout out goes out to our local Tim Hortons for their
generosity.
Julia Emlly Hathaway



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What's Your Favorite Animal?

What's Your Favorite Animal?

Picture book
Wouldn't it be great if fourteen well known and loved children's
book illustrators drew and wrote about their favorite critters? Admit
it. Even if that concept had never before crossed your mind you're
agreeing with me. You're in luck. That's exactly what you get in
What's Your Favorite Animal? by Eric Carle and friends. In its very
colorful pages you see that:
*Eric Carle shares my favorite. But why in the world would a cat drop
a green bean into a shoe?
*Nick Bruel runs into interference from his seemingly autonomous Bad
Kitty when he professes a fondness for the octopus;
*Steven Kellogg has been enamoured of cows from childhood days when he
believed his morning bedhead stemmed from their nocturnal visits...
This book is a great way for parents and children to look at the
work of illustrators, possibly stumbling on a favorite or two. The
book's royalties go to The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. I
don't know about you, but if I can ever afford to I want to go there.
On a personal note, Friday the 7th was Orono Arts Cafe. I practiced
my Silver Foxes which I will perform at UMaine's Got Talent. I was in
the zone! YOWZA!
A great big shout out goes out to my Orono Arts Cafe family.
Julia Emily Hathaway


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Mary Coin

Mary Coin

Adult fiction
If you've done any studying up on the period in American history
known as the Great Depression, you've come across a famous, iconic
image--an image that in many minds sums up the desperation of the
times for the most neglected and impoverished of America's citizens.
It's a migrant farm worker, book ended by skinny children, sickly baby
in her lap, seeming to gaze off into a precarious future rather than
at the photographer. Marissa Silver saw that picture and did
something truly creative with it. She wove it into a novel told
across seven decades in three voices.
Of course one of the voices is that of the woman. She's
stranded by her broken car, waiting to see if the man travelling with
her family can get the radiator mended. The nearby field holds no
prospect of work due to an early frost that killed off the peas. Her
children are painfully hungry, down to one meal a day. The baby in
her lap is burning up with fever.
Not surprisingly another of the voices is that of the fictitious
photographer. Vera is a woman who feels plain and defective, having
survived polio as a child, only to be left with a pronounced limp and
facing the ignorance and cruelty of schoolmates. The government
contract to photograph migrant workers has been a godsend, a chance to
maybe earn enough money so she and her husband can afford a place big
enough for them and their two sons.
The third voice, that of Walker, a middle age man, starts out as
a mystery. He's a professor of cultural history, happiest when he's
in the field studying the seemingly mundane papers and objects of
other poeple's lives. He is divorced, parenting teens at a distance.
"This is all that I am: a marginally respected academic, a failed
husband, a deserter of children." In the wake of the death of his
father, he must clean out the family home, make sense of the past.
Any of the three main characters would make for a fascinating
narrative. But the braiding together of their lives makes for a story
that is far more than the sum of its pieces.
On a personal note, I learned last week that I passed my UMaine's Got
Talent audition and made the line up. So November 20 I get to recite
my poem Silver Foxes to a larger audience than I'm used to. YOWZA!
A great big shout out goes out to the fraternity guys who are making
this all possible.
Julia Emily Hathaway



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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Shining

The Shining
When I first made the acquaintance of Stephen King's classic The
Shining I had more in common, seemingly, with the living dead than the
living living. With a dear precious baby who had day and night mixed
up and two older girls who required tending to when the sun was up--
not to mention the cooking, dishes, and laundry that needed to be
accomplished on a regular basis and the papers I typed to bring in a
little money--sleep came in tiny fragments, never enough to refresh me
or even remove the sleepy dust from my eyes. Amber was a bright eyed,
curious first grader. The Shining was going to be shown in three
installments on television. She wanted to watch. I videotaped it and
viewed it with her. She was fine, not scared in the least. But her
teacher read me the riot act. How could I let an innocent child watch
such a terrifying movie? I felt a groggy, vague realization that not
all first graders are created equal. Or something like that.
To be fair, Amber did also enjoy The Brave Little Toaster,
American Girls, and Babysitters Club books, Goosebumps, and Scooby
Doo--offerings that teacher would have considered much more age
appropriate. But after that introduction, long after I could claim
sleep deprivation as an excuse for not just saying no, we watched,
read, and discussed the works of that distinctly Maine born master of
horror. The Shining remained one of our favorites.
Fast forward to 2014. Picture winter coming in as a lion, fangs
bared, in the first snow of the year. Wind whipping the snow
relentlessly, making the house creak eerily, seeping in through every
nook and cranny as the electricity goes out, making the furnace
useless. Then darkness falling.
Amber, now a grad student, called to see if I was okay. She
mentioned she was reading The Shining. It was the perfect time, I
realized, to ponder the drama of a family trapped by snow in a haunted
hotel, sharing space with decidedly malevolent entities. So I located
my copy and the leftover Halloween candy and started reading by
flashlight. It was the perfect ambiance for reading the book.
Although Stephen King is considered a horror story writer, I see
him more as a keen observer of the human psyche. His horror comes not
from flashy special effects and over the top gore, but from the
messiness and inconsistency of the human soul and the gap between who
one is inside and what one shows on the surface. A prime example in
The Shining comes when 5-year-old Danny is having either close
encounters of malevolent spirits kinds. His mom, Wendy, says they
have to get him out of the snow bound hotel, away from the danger.
His father, Jack, acquiesces. But in the dark he weighs dangers posed
by "closet boogeyman and jumping shadows" with the dangers of running
from his hotel caretaker job with no replacement. "...A man with his
sterling record of alcoholism, student-beating, and ghost-chasing
would undoubtedly be able to write his own ticket. Anything you
like. Custodial engineer--swamping out Greyhound buses. The
automotive industry--washing cars in a rubber suit..."
The legendary hotel the Overlook draws its horrific power from
human drama. Even in the off season it is inhabited by the dead but
not departed, caught eternally in often brutal enactments. Their
auras charge it with a lethal energy that can be unleashed by those
who have the mixed blessing of the shining--like little Danny.
No wonder, nearly 40 years after its first release, as legions
of genre mates have faded into obscurity, The Shining continues to
fascinate and scare us.
On a personal note, that storm really clobbered Maine. At one point
there were well over 100,000 homes lacking power. A friend of mine
didn't get electricity for 3 days.
A great big shout out goes out to Mr. Stephen King. Long may he write!
Julia Emily Hathaway


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