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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Sunday, October 5, 2014

Starbird Murphy And The World Outside

Starbird Murphy And The World Outside

YA fiction
I think most of us have not so positive associations with the
word cult--anything from charasmatic leader mandated mass suicide to
relinquishing material possessions and being brainwashed. Cults and
their danger are probably closer to home for me than most. They can
be very appealing to people with disabilities like my sister, Harriet,
offering the acceptance the "normal" world often withholds, providing
the sense of family, of a cogent world view. But what exactly is a
cult? This is a question posed beautifully in Karen Finneyfrock's
Starbird Murphy and the World Outside.
Starbird, Finneyfrock's protagonist, lives with her mother, at
the communal Free Family Farm, a group run by three principles:
"One: The Free Family is chosen by the cosmos.
Two: The cosmos provides for us and we share what is given equally.
Three: Everyone in the Free Family gets a calling."
Members of the group, the saved, are kept safely out of the
reach of the outside world and its denizens. Children are home
schooled. At the age of 13 they receive their Callings from Earth,
the charasmatic leader who translates the messages of the cosmos to
his followers and pretty much runs the show. As the book begins,
however, he has been gone on missions and people are having a hard
time managing without him.
Starbird imagines she'll live her life out at the farm.
However, when a restaurant owned by the family is in dire need of a
waitress, she ends up in Seattle doing stuff like handling money and
attending public high school for the first time. Some of the
outsiders she comes in contact with don't seem so bad. At the same
time the people from her group she trusts the most, including Earth,
may be involved in illegal or at least unethical activities that have
the potential to bankrupt the organization.
Through this insightful book you'll experience a young woman's
transition from the sheltered world she's spent most of her life in to
more traditional society. It's quite memorable and thought provoking.
On a personal note, Penobscot County recently experienced an amazing
weekend. Saturday was more like July than early fall. Eugene and I
drove around leaf peeping and stopping at funky thrift shops and yard
sales. Then Sunday Bangor at 84 degrees broke the record set back in
1948. Those days were a precious gift.
A great big shout out goes out to my fellow Mainers getting ready to
cope with upcoming colder weather.
Julia Emily Hathaway



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We Were Liars

We Were Liars

YA fiction
Under normal circumstances I don't read fiction featuring rich
and privileged families. When I'm under the weather, employing my old
school remedy of bed rest and fluids, I'm surprised by what books
circumvent my usual biases. Yesterday, felled by a miserable virus, I
curled up with Joey cat and e. lockhart's We Were Liars. I am
profoundly glad I did.
Cadence, lockhart's protagonist, is a member of the Sinclair
clan, "a beautiful and distinguished family". It's a family that, if
they existed in real life, most of us would never get near unless we
worked as their hired help. They look enviably perfect in the public
eye because they keep their secrets well. Divorce, desertation, and
even death are not to elicit grief. Youngsters are told to be
"normal" and, no matter what happens, show up where they're supposed
to with smiles on their faces. "It doesn't matter if divorce shreds
the muscles of our hearts so they will hardly beat without a
struggle. It doesn't matter if trust-fund money is running out; if
credit card bills go unpaid on the kitchen table. It doesn't matter
if there's a cluster of pill bottles on the bedside table."
The Sinclair clan even has their own island where they spend
their summers. Patriarch Harris Sinclair has had cottages erected for
his three daughters and their families in addition to his own oppulant
retreat. To Cadence it has seemed to be an enchanted escape from the
everyday world, a chance for reinvention, a space apart to be a part
of the Liars, a quartet of same age cousins and a friend with whom she
is in love.
Her summer 17 things are different. Cadence had spent summer 16
on a forced tour of Europe with her estranged father. The summer
before that some kind of accident had prematurely ended her time on
Beechwood Island--a traumatic event that had left her with serious
memory loss and severe frequent migraines. The family remembers what
she can't. They have been told by doctors to let her recover memories
on her own. She has four weeks--less actually since the only meds
that render her headaches tolerable take out chunks of time. As
familiar loved places prompt recall and the drastically different
behaviors of family members proved puzzling, Cadence is on a rapidly
accelerating path to reexperiencing an event of true evil and tragedy.
We Were Liars drew me out of a day of viral misery into an
enchanted created fictional realm. If it could do that, imagine where
it could take you. Read it for the sheer pleasure of a well written
story.
On a personal note, after a day of rest, I was healed up enough to get
out and run errands in the fresh air and sunshine. I was delighted
when my every other month op ed page came out in the Bangor Daily News
and enjoyed all the compliments I got.
A great big shout out goes out to the Bangor Daily News readership.
Julia Emily Hathaway



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