Monday, April 24, 2017

Dresses For All

Dresses For All

Picture books
For a long time girls and women have been able to wear garments
like pants that have typically been considered male attire. A lot
less latitude has been given to boys and men yearning for dresses.
Fortunately the times are a changing. Two lively picture books I
recently picked up at the Orono Public Library celebrate this progress.
When Jacob, protagonist of Sarah and Ian Hoffman's Jacob's New
Dress, dresses as a princess a classmate tells him boys can't wear
dresses. His mom helps him make a dress like garment that the peer
pulls off. Finally with the help of his mom he makes a real dress.
The peer is predictably snarky. But Jacob has found the strength to
assert himself.
Morris of Christine Baldacchino's Morris Micklewhite and the
Tangerine Dress is another fan of dressing up. His favorite garment
is a dress the hue of "tigers, the sun, and his mother's hair.". The
other kids tease him. The kids who ride a cardboard spaceship tell
him astronauts don't wear dresses.
When the meanness gets to be too much for him, Morris fakes a
tummy ache so he can stay home from school. The time off and a
wonderful dream help him come up with a solution to his problem.
Both books can serve as wonderful affirmations for the many boys
who enjoy wearing dresses, particularly if peers (and sadly sometimes
adults) give them attitude.
On a personal note, the grand finale of UMaine Pride Week was the Drag
Show. It was amazing. The place was packed with very vocally
appreciative drag affecianados. Professional queens Step Mother and
Chery Lemonade really knew how to work the crowd as emcees. Our local
talent was pretty impressive too. I dressed as a 50s greaser and did
Greased Lightning from Grease. I was on fire busting out my moves,
playing to the crowd, and soaking up the love. I got a standing
ovation and was one of the finalists.
A great big shout out goes out to all people who participated in the
event, especially the people who worked behind the scenes to make it
happen.
jules hathaway



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Sunday, April 23, 2017

I Wanna New Room

I Wanna New Room

Picture book
"Dear Mom,
I know you think I should share a room with Ethan now that we have
Baby Annie, but here's why I shouldn't. When Ethan sleeps, he sounds
like the cat coughing up fur balls. Why can't you move Annie in with
you and give me my room back?
Signed,
Your very tired son,
Alex"
Alex, protagonist of Karen Kaufman Orloff's I Wanna New Room is
some fed up. Just because his parents had a baby girl, he, the oldest
and, therefore, most important kid on the family, must share his space
with the four-year-old brother who snorts, sticks crayons up his nose,
snores like their grandfather, and breaks and loses prized
possessions. Through the course of the book he attempts to negotiate
with his father through a series of very imaginative letters. Only
just after he gets his own space...
...something strange happens.
Orloff's over the top narrative and David Catrow's equally outre
pictures take a situation that could be whiny or soppy and create a
celebration of zaniness that will leave both parents and children
laughing. It's the best kind of book for repeated read alouds.
I guess I'm gonna have to get my hands on the prequel: I Wanna
Iguana. You readers deserve no less than due diligence.
On a personal note, after day after day after day after day of grey,
cold drizzle, the sun broke out today after church. People's spirits
have for sure lifted. I am putting winter clothes up and looking for
my wind chimes.
A great big shout goes out to all my fellow sun soakers: human,
feline, and canine.
jules hathaway


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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Dining With Dinosaurs

Dining With Dinosaurs

Picture book
"Let's dive in! It's lunchtime and We're in China in the
Cretaceous period. This is where I'm from. The carnivores are busy
chasing the herbivores, the herbivores, both big and small, are
munching on plants, and the plants are chowing down on sunshine, air,
water, and minerals--not your idea of a great meal, perhaps, but for a
plant, it's better than ice cream."
As years go by kids continue to be fascinated by dinosaurs.
When I shelf read (make sure all the books are in their proper place)
at the Orono Public Library the dinosaur section is nearly always the
one that needs the most straightening out. Hannah Bonner's Dining
With Dinosaurs: A Tasty Guide to Mesozoic Munching will be greatly
relished as an addition to a public or school library or part of a
child's private collection.
Hannah joins her prehistoric pal Microraptor, a small feathered
dinosaur, for a trip way, way back in time. Through lively narrative
and colorful, detailed illustrations, the reader will learn what
creatures great and miniscule chowed down on. In the course of the
book Hannah interviews a number of specialized scientists. My
favorite is Karen Chin, the coprolite (fossil poop) expert. It's
amazing what can be learned from the study of preserved poop.
Your dino loving kids will adore the book. You may learn a
thing or two. I'm guessing that coprolite was not in your working
vocabulary. It was published by a source we can trust: National
Geographic Kids. What's not to like?
On a personal note, Friday of Pride Week those of us who had the
patience to wait in line about an hour got to stuff 18" tall rainbow
bears. They are so adorable and velvety soft! I named mine Jules
Olivia Hathaway after me and a good chum.
A great big shout out goes out to those who stuffed their bears with
me and the fine folks who provided us with this wonderful opportunity.
jules hathaway


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Master of Mindfulness

Master of Mindfulness

Picture book
"When someone cut in front of me in line at the cafeteria, I
used mindfulness to settle myself down and just let it be. Before I
would get mad, push back, or hit someone. Sometimes we'd end up
fighting and get in trouble. It's not worth it. It's easier to take a
few breaths and calm down."
Unless you are a hermit you have probably heard of mindfulness.
I find its current popularity to be a double edged sword. On one
hand, I am glad that so many people are learning about it. However, I
cringe when I see it hyped as panacea. Americans have a cycle of
latching onto a solve all, expecting too much, and rejecting it in
favor of the next magic bullet.
It's time for us to realize that to fully live we need whole
tool kits that will vary from person to person. We need to value
mindfulness for what it can be: a major tool in many people's boxes.
It doesn't require expensive equipment or lessons. It can be
practiced by people at any stage on life. There is no one way to do
it. (I balk at mindful dish washing.)
Mindfulness can be very useful for children because they tend to
feel strongly about and react quickly to the hurts and slights in
their lives. In today's high stakes environment kids can be taken
from school in handcuffs for doing stuff that would have been handled
more safely by a principal or guidance counselor in earlier days.
Master of Mindfulness: How to Be Your Own Superhero in Times of
Stress (Gotta love the title) by Laurie Grossman, Angelina Alverez,
and Mr. Musameci's 5th grade class is a wise teacher investment.
The beauty of the book is its unusual blend of theory and down
to earth. There are instructions for a number of techniques that a
child, family, or class can use and adapt to "stay grounded in
calmness during the moment to moment chaos of life" (Mesumeci). In my
mind, though, the biggest strength of the book is the artwork and
narratives of the 5th graders. They are very candid about the reasons
they use mindfulness: to not fight when provoked (see lead quote), to
not leave a game when hit on the face by a ball, to stay calm when
being picked up late, to handle sadness when a relative moves away, to
not procrastinate when faced with a difficult assignment...
A copy of Master of Mindfulness would be a wise investment for
classroom teacher or camp counselor. There are many ways to make its
contents hands on. A class could make their own booklet and print it
with a copy for each family. This could help the parents understand
what stresses and challenges the kids experience. And what about
older kids, say middle schoolers, working with younger kids? We learn
best the lessons we also teach. The possibilities are numerous.
On a personal note, the Thursday of Pride Week we had an LGBTQ tea
party. We talked about Pride Week history and drag shows. The place
was packed; the conversations were lively. Then Dean Robert Q. Dana
threw a Pride Week reception in the Deanery. The food was
fabulous. I especially liked the meatballs, the cranberry fizz punch,
and the cookies with frosting rainbows. Dean Dana himself circulated
through the crowd, meeting and greeting. He sure does know how to
throw a shindig!
A great big shout out goes out to all who participated.
jules hathaway


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More Than Anything Else

More Than Anything Else

Picture book
"Before light--while the stars still twinkle--Papa, my brother John,
and I leave our cabin and take the main road out of town, headed to
work.
The road hugs the ridge between the Kanawha River and the mountain.
We travel it by lantern. My stomach rumbles, for we had no morning
meal. But it isn't really a meal I want, though I would not turn one
down.
More than anything else, I want to learn to read."
In today's society we're swamped with reading matter. Apart
from the obvious books, magazines, and newspapers, there are fliers in
our mailboxes, the computer pop up ads many of us are vexed by, and
more advertising on anything from the sides of buses to sports score
boards. Most of us have achieved at least a fourth grade level of
literacy. Can you imagine what it would be like to not even recognize
your own name in print?
Marie Bradby's More Than Anything Else can give kids, parents,
and teachers a good idea of what this would feel like. Young Booker
works long days shoveling salt into barrels. The abrasive crystals
cut his exposed skin including the soles of his feet. His muscles
ache from heavy lifting.
Booker has one thing to take his mind off the pain. He has seen
people read. He knows those books contain a secret--one he's
determined to discover. One day he sees a man as brown as him reading
a newspaper.
"I see myself the man. And as I watch his eyes move across the paper,
it is as if I know what the black marks mean, as if I am reading. As
if everyone is listening to me. And I hold that thought in my hands."
Chris Soentpiet's illustrations capture the poignant and
powerful narrative perfectly: the glaring shine of the endless salt
heaps, the exhaustion on the faces of homeward bound workers, the
warmth and love in the fireplace lit cabin...and the joy and pride in
Booker's grin when he finally recognizes his name.
More Than Anything Else is sadly very relevant today when there
are still too many people around the world, especially girls, who are
denied the fundamentals of literacy. Many families can't afford
school fees. If there is not enough money for all the children in a
family to attend school usually the boys will be educated while the
girls work. Slavery and child marriage are other cruel ways in which
girls are cheated out of learning. I think it's time for us to be
grateful for this privilege we have and work to extend it to others.
On a personal note, we had a special craft at Wilson Center. We made
Pysanky eggs. Those are the eggs that use layers of dyes and wax.
They come out so pretty!!! Such fun craft companionship and
camaraderie!
A great big shout out goes out to all who participated.
jules hathaway



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Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Blizzard

Blizzard

Picture book
The Blizzard of '78 is an event I'll never forget. I was
working as a mother's helper in East Boston. It was the job that had
rescued me from being homeless in Boston which is never a good idea.
(My family was way down south, North Carolina to be exact.) The snow
rose up chest high on me, whipped by hurricane force winds. You
should have seen the drifts. Snow plows and other vehicles didn't
stand a chance. A little girl in the scout troop I was assistant
leader of needed an antibiotic. I made the trek to pick it up very
slowly, feeling like a Saint Bernard coming to the rescue. The very
surprised (to see me) pharmacist gave me a bag of all kinds of food to
sustain my strength on the trip back. The rest of that snowed in time
was party. I spent several nights sleeping over with a friend and her
three sisters.
So when I saw a book about John Rocco's childhood experiences of
that same blizzard in Rhode Island (Blizzard) I was over the moon.
His lively narrative and pictures give today's kids a good feel for
that amazing adventure we were fortunate to live through.
Rocco's adventure started on Monday when schools were let out
early. Snow was over his boots by the time he got home. The next
morning he could only get out through a window. The first days were
fun. But food started running out before the plows could get through.
Luckily for his family and neighbors, Rocco had read an Arctic
survival guide and knew just what to do.
Hmmm, I wonder if someday there will be a market for my story of
the Ice Storm of '98 which I wrote from my older daughter's
perspective. Maybe the 25th anniversary? It's just six years away.
On a personal note, the first day of Pride Week at UMaine was
amazing. The weather was picture perfect. The flag raising was a
real contrast to the raising of the Black Lives Matter flag in
February in the midst of a snow storm. Dean Robert Q. Dana gave a
very inspiring speech. We had a parade around the mall. The free ice
cream truck was there. Then we had the pride carnival with games and
prizes. It was a mighty fine day.
A great big shout out goes out to all who participated.
jules hathaway


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Knock, Knock

Knock, Knock

Picture book
Some of us groaned inwardly when our children went through
addiction to knock knock joke phases. Many people consider this humor
genre to be the lowest. So what could lift this book above the rest?
How about the fact that it's an ensemble act of fourteen of the
stars of the children's lit illustration world? Tomie DePaola brings
us gorillas in love. Yumi Heo serves up a humungous ice cream cone.
Chris Rascha shows us "Verdi vild tings are."
At the back of the book the artists tell us who they want
knocking at their doors.
On a personal note, Orono Public Library writing class has restarted.
Spring session will run through early June. I scheduled my
presentations for later May after UMaine gets out. I feel at sea and
unsure what I want to present because I really miss my Chum, Paul
Lucey, who died during our fall session. It's not the same without him.
A great big shout out goes out Paul and also Ethel Pochocki, a
fabulous Maine children's book writer who we lost in 2010. Gone but
not forgotten. Sure hope I meet up with both of you on the other side.
jules hathaway



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