Sunday, May 15, 2016

Paper Wishes

Paper Wishes

Some of the loudest voices in the current political "dialogue"
are calling for excluding from our nation large groups of people in
peril on the basis of nationality and religion. I wonder if we are so
immune to learning from the past that we will repeat its injustices in
the present and future. An example we should take to heart from our
nation's recent history is what we did to Japanese Americans during
World War II. When the West Coast was declared a military zone in
1942 over 100,000 law abiding citizens, half of whom were children,
non of whom were ever charged with espionage, were basically
imprisoned in relocation camps. Their homes and the businesses they
had created through hard work were taken from them.
Lois Sepahban's Paper Wishes is the story of a child's
experience of this confusing and frightening journey. Manami lives
with her parents, grandfather, and dog on a peaceful Washington State
island. An older sister and brother are away at college. When we
first meet her she and her grandfather are walking on their beloved
beach with their dog, Yujiin.
Times have become scary. Soldiers who fear that America will be
betrayed by people with Japanese faces and names have arrived. One
day Manami and several classmates are told not to return to school.
Soon she and her family, with only the possessions they can carry in
four suitcases, are taken to a bare basics relocation camp in the
desert called Manzinar.
Manami has lost more than her home, school, friends, community,
and the part of the world that feels like home to her. The family had
planned to leave Yujiin with a pastor. Manami tries to smuggle him to
their new home. Unfortunately he is discovered. The last she sees of
their beloved family pet is him pushing his nose through a gap in a
crate.
This poignant and powerful coming of age novel serves up complex
issues within a manageable for young readers context. It can help
students gain understanding of not only history, but, unfortunately,
current events.
In her author's note Sepahban tells us how, nearly fifty years
after its detainees left, Manzaner was reincarnated as a National
Historic Site. "...Today, visitors can walk the grounds, look at
photos, and read first person accounts of those who lived there. Many
of the relocation camps were torn down, but according to the National
Park Service, the mission of the site is, 'to serve as a reminder to
this and future of the fragilities of American civil liberties.'"
Like I said, we are not good at learning from the past. Right
now, when those who wish to lead us are outdoing each other in
eagerness to shred those already endangered civil liberties, Paper
Wishes and other books like it should be required reading for all
Americans age 8 to 108.
On a personal note, recently I had the wonderful opportunity to
represent Veazie Community School (as School Committee chair) at a day
long conference held at UMaine on advocating for LGBTQ youth in schools.
I learned so much! It was a delight to be with so many other people
who recognize the importance of protecting and gaining civil rights
for this increasingly precarious segment of our society.
A great big shout out goes out to the presenters and my fellow
attendees at this conference!
jules hathaway


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In Our Mothers' House

In Our Mothers' House

Picture book
It takes a very wise and sensitive writer to create a picture
book on a hot button topic that doesn't end up being didactic or
having the issue overwhelm plot and characters. Patricia Polacco is
one such author. Her In Our Mothers' House is a gem in this genre.
The narrator of this lovely story is the oldest of three children
adopted by two mothers. She leads us through the family life from her
arrival on the scene to the death of her parents within a year of each
other.
The family is very lively and well liked by most of their
neighbors. Many pitch in to help build a tree house. Almost all
participate when the family initiates a block party that goes on to
become a tradition.
There is one woman, Mrs. Lockner, who never lets her children
join in on the fun. Usually she just looks crabby. At one point she
tells the mothers, "I don't appreciate what you two are." Fortunately
she is not allowed to steal the show.
The heart of the narrative is the traditions that strengthen the
glue that holds the familiy together (telling stories in front of the
fireplace, creating Halloween costumes, celebrating holidays with
extended family) and the stand out experiences (involving the
neighborhood in building a tree house, adopting two puppies to cheer
up all three children who are getting over the flu) that will be
passed down over the years...
...in other words, what you or I would put in our family
narratives. Which is the point this delightful book shows rather than
telling.
Polacco's dynamic artwork is perfect for her story. The
expressions on people's (and dogs') faces and their postures convey
their emotions and relationships with each other in a way more
conventional artwork wouldn't.
No matter how your family is made up I believe you will find the
celebration of love embodied in In Our Mothers' House to be joyous and
uplifting.
On a personal note, my writing class that meets at the Orono Public
Library is going really well. The highlight (at least for me) is that
my friend Erin Rhoda joined us to talk about a special project she had
done for the Bangor Daily News. Everyone was fascinated by what she
had to say. It was the most attentive I have ever seen the group.
Erin had a good time too. I was especially pleased because I had come
up with this idea and instigated it's being carried out.
A great big shout out goes out to Erin and the inspiration and ethics
that go into her writing and to my writing classmates and our teacher,
Barbara, for our lively and unpredictable learning from one another
sessions.
jules hathaway



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Saturday, May 14, 2016

Good Night Truck

Good Night Truck

Picture book
Young children are not always eager to settle down to sleep when
parents want to tuck them in. I know from experience. Maybe you do
too. Sometimes the just right night time story makes a world of
difference. Sally Odgers' Good Night Truck would be an excellent
choice for youngsters enamoured of big machines.
In the first part of the book the cast is introduced: a truck
hauling a load, a digger making a hole for a swimming pool, a boat
sailing in the harbor, and a rocket zooming through space. After a
day of work they all retire contentedly for a well earned rest...
...the truck tucked in beside a sleeping child. Text and
pictures combine to form a lovely tribute to that time of day right
between wakefulness and slumber.
On a personal note, the Veazie Community School just had its spring
buy one/get one free Scholastic book sale. I have such precious
memories from all the years I had kids in the school...like the year
my son won a contest and bought me a cat poster. The sale was going
on the night of school committee. I bought a couple of sweet angel
cat journals which I will surely be able to put to good use.
A great big shout out goes out to Gail Harrison, Veazie Community
School's very talented librarian, year book advisor, and book sale
hostess with the mostest. You go, Girl!
jules hathaway



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Strongheart

Strongheart

Picture book
Recently I stopped by Veazie Vet. We were out of coffee.
YIKES! Lucky for me, they are very generous with their java. I was
fixing my cup I realized I was under surveillance. A large black lab
that bore a striking resemblance to a black bear was eyeing me
solomnly. Then he was cuddled up to me, seeming quite happy to be
scratched behind the ears.
Dogs! Gotta love them!
If you love a good true dog story, Emily Arnold McCully's
Strongheart: The World's First Movie Star Dog will be just your cup
of tea.
Strongheart was born Etzel von Oeringen during World War I in
Germany. His life was all work no play. After the war he was sent to
an uncertain future in America.
By a lucky coincidence Larry Trimble, a silent movie director,
had decided to try a new concept: a film with a canine hero. He saw
the clever canine's excellent training. And the rest is history.
Strongheart is purrrfect for clans with canine companions...or
even feline's families...basically all who love the creatures who add
so much to our lives.
On a personal note, Joey cat seems to be enjoying the warmer weather.
He engages me in play with his balls and other interactive toys. It's
like he's waking up from semi hibernation. And he gets a great kick
out of watching the birds through his favorite window.
A great big shout out goes out to the Veazie Vet folks who know how to
treat dogs, cats, and their caffeine craving human companions.
jules hathaway


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Fort

Fort

Juvenile fiction
"I felt bad about Gerard not having any friends. I would never
torture and tease him, like J.R. and Morrie, or call him rotten
names. But did I want to be his friend? I had a sudden fear, not of
him, exactly, but of being responsible for him, even for a night..."
Wyatt, narrator of Cynthia DeFlice's Fort, and his chum, Augie,
have realized that their summer is rapidly drawing to a close. In two
weeks Wyatt and his dad are going home. They'd better build the fort
they've been talking about.
A friend of Augie's great uncle gives the boys materials. They
end up with a decent structure and start spending nights there.
Supplementing provisions from home with sling shot slain squirrel and
fresh caught fish, the boys are having the time of their lives.
Trouble arrives in paradise. Two bullies who make a habit of
harassing Wyatt and Augie partially trash the place while they're
away. It turns out the older boys also torment Gerard, a
developmentally delayed boy who desperately wants to be like his peers
and have friends.
Wyatt and Auggie make a pact. The mean boys are going down.
They are the ones who will make this happen.
Fort is a perfect summer read, especially for anyone who enjoys
the kids take down bumbling bad guys genre exemplified by the Home
Alone movies.
On a personal note, my poem, Black Lives Matter, was published in the
Maine Peace Action Committee Newsletter. I was quite pleased and
proud that it was included.
A great big shout out goes out to Antonia and her crew for putting out
this most excellent publication.
jules hathaway



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Dimestore

Dimestore

Adult biography
"...I was my daddy's girl through and through, a mountain girl,
a born tomboy who loved Grundy and everything about it, especially in
the summertime when I was part of a wild gang of neighborhood children
who roamed from house to house, ran the mountains as we pleased, and
generally enjoyed a degree of freedom that is almost impossible now to
imagine. Summer spread out all around us like another country, ours
to plunder and explore. Aside from chores and one week of compulsory
Bible School (red Kool-Aid, Lorna Doone cookies, lanyards) we were on
our own."
Place can be as much of a character in a novel as any of the two
and four legged beings that inhabit it. I think that's especially
true for that genre known as Southern literature. The Appalachian
South in which Lee Smith grew up really comes to life in her novels.
In Dimestore: A Writer's Life she lets the reader look at her sources
of inspiration through a series of 15 essays including:
*Lady Lessons (source of the above quote) which dilineates Smith's
mother's futile efforts to teach her wild child proper etiquette;
*Kindly Nervous, a very candid exploration of the mental illnesses
which required regular hospitalizations for both Smith's parents and
the many ways neighbors and kin took up the slack during their absences;
*and Dimestore, a exploration of the geography of Smith's childhood
years.
Whether you, like Smith, grew up in a world of dimestores in
downtowns not deserted in favor of malls, summer days punctuated only
by meals and bath and bedtimes, drive in movies where parents combined
meals and entertainment and children wore pajamas, porches and front
steps where people sat out on pleasant evenings, and treasured files
of recipe cards, many in the fancy script of long gone kin or came
along too late, you will find Dimestore an excellent read...
...especially if you are a writer trying to define for her/
himself what home is.
On a personal note, the last spring semester Wednesday night at Wilson
Center was more personal than usual. Instead of a formal program,
after our scrumptious supper we told each other stuff like what we'd
do over the summer and what we wanted to take with us from the
center. We blessed each other with green glitter. It did get all
over my pillow. But I wasn't about to wash my hair and then stay up
to let it dry.
A great big shout out goes out to all the members of my Wilson Center
family. Wilson Center surely is part of the geography of my heart.
jules hathaway




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Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

Adult fiction
"Momma started wearing those tattered old prom dresses several
days a week. The more she wore them, the more of a spectacle she
became in our town. Even the nicest of our neighbors couldn't stop
themselves from standing in their front yards bug-eyed and slack-jawed
whenever she'd parade down the sidewalk in a rustle of taffeta. And
who could blame them? With a neighbor like Mamma, who needed TV?"
CeeCee, the protagonist of Beth Hoffman's Saving CeeCee
Honeycutt, spent the first twelve years of her life in the kind of
hellish existence that these days would culminate in a Children's
Protective Services intervention. Her mother's defining life moment
was being crowned the 1951 Vidalia Onion King. (The book is set in
the 60's). She's always trying to reclaim her former glory, usually,
in the process making herself the laughingstock of the neighborhood.
CeeCee's father, frustrated by his wife's refusal to take her meds,
has distanced himself from his little family with beer and working
away from home, not to mention another woman. Basically he's been
leaving an underage child to take care of a perpetually teetering on
the edge psychotic adult.
This all comes to an end when a policeman arrives at CeeCee's
home with bad news. Her mom, clad in tiara and party dress, ran out
in front of a truck and was struck and killed instantly. The day
after the funeral a mysterious woman driving a fabulous convertible
arrives. She turns out to be CeeCee's great-aunt Tallulah who is
going to take CeeCee back to Georgia with her for good, not just a
vacation.
Now you might imagine a woman old enough to be a great aunt
would lead a pretty bland life for a preteen. If so, you couldn't be
more wrong. Tootie (Tallulah) and her girls are as joyous and
eccentric as it's possible to be. They may be just what CeeCee needs
to come fully alive for the first time in her existence.
This brilliant debut novel is impossible to put down from the
very first sentences: "Mama left her red satin shoes in the middle of
the road. That's what three eyewitnesses told the police..." Reading
it cover to cover is like devouring a quart of your favorite flavor
ice cream right out of the container with a plastic spoon, a practice
I'm sure Tootie and her chums would highly approve of.
On a personal note, there are three people running for two positions
on school committee. Aaarrrggghhh! Just when, by being chair, I can
get my ideas implemented.
A great big shout out goes out to the Veazie voters whom I surely hope
will vote for me.
jules hathaway




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