Sunday, December 30, 2012

Slummy Mummy

It was my younger daughter's fourth birthday. I was about to
pop a cake in the oven when I got a call from the school nurse
explaining that head lice had gone viral in my older daughter's
classroom. Parents were being called to claim their children. Unable
to drive, I had to walk Katie and her fresh-from-the-hospital baby
brother over a mile in frigid weather, realizing that trips to the
laundromat, bagging stuffed animals, extensive additional vacuuming,
and intensive child hair care were about to be added to my already
packed (I also ran a home typing service to supplement the hubby's
income) and totally sleep deprived life style.
If you have memories like that, whether from years ago or last
week, you will love Fiona Neill's Slummy Mummy. Lucy is the mother
and primary caretaker of three young sons. The chores are never
ending. Emergencies big and small crop up with alarming frequency.
Even when she plans carefully, a small unexpected glitch such as milk
spilled on a school uniform can throw her system into pandemonium.
Lucy can't understand why her life has devolved into near
chaos. As she muses in the first chapter, "It is utterly baffling to
me that I used to be able to put together the lead package on
Newsnight in less than an hour but am so singularly unable to meet the
challenge of getting my children ready for school each morning. It
seems unbelievable that I could persuade cabinet ministers to come to
the studio late at night to be grilled by Jeremy Paxman but cannot
convince my toddler to keep on his clothes." Sound familiar to anyone
beside me?
Her husband is clueless, unable to see why she doesn't have life
reduced to a formula or why the element of chaos appeals to her,
adding excitement to her life. At her children's school the other
mothers seem in a whole different league, especially Yummy Mummy
Number 1 and Alpha Mom. Sexy Domesticated Dad could be a candidate
for an extramarital affair. Only she isn't sure if she's interested
in what he may or may not be offering.
Neill had me hooked from the first page where Lucy is without
contact lenses because she left them soaking in a coffee mug and her
hubby has drunk them. Again. The book is funny at times, poignant at
times, never boring. You don't have to be a parent to enjoy it.
After I finish this review I'm passing it on to my teen age daughter.
Of course I'll insist that my book club include it in our line up.
On a personal note, after a brown Christmas central Maine has been hit
with two snow storms in a row. This is gonna make for GOOD SLEDDING!
A great big shout out goes out to all the other moms who, like Lucy
and me, don't run picture perfect households.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, December 14, 2012

More sweets

For the most part I'm good about nutrition. I've been a
vegetarian almost six years. I have a great fondness for local fruits
and veggies, a preference for bread from artisans who bake small
batches over mass produced bland stuff, and a vehement distrust of
convenience foods with ingredient lists a fourth grader can't read. I
do, however, have my Achiles heel. I'm sure, dear Reader, you know
what it is by now: sweets.
Very few of us can totally resist sweets. If we're going to
enjoy them, far better to go the DIY route than trust Big Food! For
the precious people in our lives, baking can be an act of love. This
is especially true of our peeps with food allergies or sensitivities.
Creating treats they can enjoy is very special indeed!
If you're a fan of scrumptious desserts take a look through
Trish Boyle's The Cake Book. Even the cover picture--a perfect slice
of chocolate cake--bespeaks elegance. The recipes are grouped by
type. Fruit based cakes is the category that caught my eye right
away. I love the idea of a rum based fruitcake for Christmas. There
are even exotic chapters like mousse and ice cream cakes. A really
nice touch is the quotes scattered through the book, ranging from
Isiah to Oscar Wilde.
Looking for a slightly smaller treat? Better Homes and Gardens
The Ultimate Cookie Book boasts over 500 recipes. Oh my! Just the
dozen delights pictured on the cover had visions dancing in my head.
Many of the confections inside come with tempting photographs. Even
though my attempts would never look anywhere near as perfect I'm
inspired. The scope and variety are amazing. There are eleven kinds
of biscotti alone. The cherry rum looks tasty with its drizzle of
icing. There's a whole chapter for Christmas followed by one on
candy. The candy-box caramels would be so much fun to create as a
Enough already! I can't begin to do this book justice. You
just have to check it out yourself!
On a personal note, I can't imagine how anyone could shoot little
A great big shout out goes out to all our loved ones. May we take
every opportunity to show them they are cherished, not just when
tragedy raises this awareness, but every day we are privileged to have
them in our lives. Like maybe baking a treat for them now and then.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Sock knitting

I see them plying their craft--even on a moving bus! They use
ultra thin needles--sometimes three or four at a time, fine yarn,
intricate patterns. They're creating socks. They make it look easy.
It's anything but. As a much more primitive fiber artist with no more
ambition than turning out scarves from random yarns, I respect them
highly and harbor no desire whatsoever to follow in their elegantly
clad footsteps.
If you are one of them you will enjoy Ann Budd's Sock Knitting
Master Class. The seventeen featured patterns are astounding.
Bulgarian blooms have flowers knit right in. Rose ribs are light and
airy. Thigh-high stripes are eclectic creations worthy of Pippi
Longstocking. Budd had fifteen top designers assist her with this
collection. It is truly impressive.
Pictures are beautiful. A DVD is included. I'm sure those
talented enough to number themselves in the master class of sock
knitters will find this volume inspirational and indispensable.
On a personal note, I made matching holiday scarves out of red and
green varigated eyelash yarn for the Kindred Spirits girlz (Darcie,
Paula, Christine, Leah, and me). How cool is that?
A great big shout out goes out to our Leah who has become a crocheter
extraordinaire. That girl has a Midas touch. Any time she gets her
hands on yarn she comes up with a work of beauty.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

American Girls encore

One of my vices as a library volunteer is checking for juvenile
wing new books. I stick little pieces of paper in interesting
acquisitions, reserving my chance to read them first after they are
catelogued. I was very lucky to catch three new American Girls
mysteries. They came in very handy when an inner ear virus had me on
bed rest.
In The Crystal Ball by Jacqueline Green, Rebecca (whom I have
introduced you to in an earlier review) must find out if she and her
neighbors are just having bad luck or if something more sinister is
afoot. People's treasured possessions disappear. An unusually
colored pigeon is found in a friend's cage. Her beloved cousin is
seen frequenting a pawn shop where stolen objects turn up. How can
she prove his innocence and find out what's really going on?
In The Cameo Necklace (Evelyn Coleman) and The Hidden Gold
(Sarah Buckey) best friends growing up in 1854 New Orleans must search
for lost objects against great odds.
Cecile has lost a beloved cameo necklace. It was her aunt's
last gift from her dead husband. Cecile has borrowed it without
permission to wear it to a circus. Now anyone could have it. Two of
the suspects live in a hidden colony in the alligator infested swamps.
Marie-Grace is travelling with her father on the Mississippi
River. A girl, Wilhemina, who has just lost her father (a prospector)
becomes a passenger. The girls must find Willhemina's father's gold
so she can be reunited with her little brothers. They may not be the
only ones seeking the treasure. Time is running out.
These three volumes are must reads for youngsters who enjoy good
On a personal note, I survived the inner ear virus. A doctor tried to
get me to take a corticosteroid (really!) to surpress symptoms so I
could keep going even though she had no idea how my body would react
to it. I chose instead bed rest. No long list of side effects plus I
knew how my body would react. Very nicely thank you.
A great big out shout out goes out to Karen and Shelley and the other
school nurses who work dilligently to meet the health needs of
students and families.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, November 30, 2012

Weird But True

The day I brought National Geographic Kids Ultimate Weird But
True home I also had more serious books in my backpack: an analysis
of Islam, a volume on the fine details of composting, the true story
of a penguin rescue... So guess which one I took out the minute
supper was over. I read it all in one night and probably stepped all
over my family's last nerve, filling them on a fascinating fact every
few minutes.
Kids, even ones who don't read an awful lot, love this kind of
compodium. This is doubly true if it's packed with great
photographs. This book has over 1,000 facts and pictures to inform,
amuse, and sometimes astound.
For instance, there's a two page spread featuring 28,433 rubber
duckies. The text informs you that's the number of showers you'll
take in your life time. On one side there are other similar
statistics. A page on very odd sports contains...are you ready for
this...extreme ironing. Yes, there is such a thing as a solid gold
toilet. At $37 million it's a little too pricey for me. There's a
cat who won't be seen without a rhinestone studded collar. A page on
freaky foods has everything from a 1" cheeseburger to a 4 1/2'
cupcake. I bet one of those could provide lunch dessert for all of
RSU 26!
I could ramble on all night. Lucky you. I won't. Shakespeare
it's not. But if you want a highly enjoyable reading experience for
self and kids, go for it.
On a personal note, I'm getting the living room ready for a lovely
Christmas tree.
A great big shout out goes out to my church's kitchen ministry for
having the coffee ready Sunday mornings, putting fabulous lunches out
every week, and not getting annoyed when I sneak in before the service
to snatch choice tidbits like a mischievous kitten.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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The Dump Man's Treasure

Picture book
My all time favorite children's book authors are a formidable
trinity of women, all with last names that begin with the letter P.
There's the late and greatly missed Ethel Pochocki whose keen powers
of observation gave dignity and beauty to what other people would
overlook. A book she wrote with a red flannel union suit as hero
brought tears to my eyes. Then there's Patricia Polacco, staunch
advocate for kids with disabilities and the keeping alive of old world
Last but not least there's my old friend, Lynn Plourde. Holy
Hannah, do I love that woman's writing! Ever since she put those Pigs
in the Mud in the Mud in the Middle of the Rud she's been serving up
stories that are truly something special.
Ethel and Lynn had some of their books illustrated by a
wonderful artist not too far from them alphabetically--
Mary Beth Owens. Her backgrounds are detailed and evocative. But
it's her sentient beings who really stand out. Her people's faces are
ever so expressive. She can get the fur perfect on a cat or dog.
Lynn and Mary Beth have teamed up on a gem called The Dump Man's
Treasures. Set back in the days before dumps were called landfills or
recycling centers, it's a celebration of the beauty and worth of
books, the power of community, and the fact that kids can be far
smarter than adults.
Mr. Pottle, the dump man, epitomizes the saying that one man's
trash is another man's treasure. He has a special fondness for books,
feeling that they should never be thrown out. He builds shelves out
of salvaged wood to create his own dump library.
The adults disapprove. There aren't enough rules. It might
distract people from the town library. Dump books might spread
disease. The kids answer these concerns with, "Who cares?" They check
out the books when their parents drop off the household trash.
Soon there are more books than the library can hold. Mr. Pottle
starts delivering them around town in a beat up grocery cart. The
adults think he's crazy. The children accompany him on bicycles.
One Saturday Mr. Pottle doesn't show up for work. The adults
whine about the inconvenience he's causing. But the children are
worried about their good friend. They know what to do.
This wonderful, heart warming story has the potential to enhance
children's appreciation of illustration. Little kids will enjoy
finding the dump man's white and orange cat in the two page spreads.
Older children will like the challenge of finding the covers of
classics (i.e., Cat in the Hat) in the arrays of books.
On a personal note, last night was opening night for Orono Community
Theater's production of Our Town. The magic was there that makes a
production so much more than the sum of its individual parts. I just
hope that the audience loved it as much of those of us on the stage
did. I hope we all will remember to treasure the "small" things that
make life precious.
A great big shout out goes out to our director, Sandy, our stage
manager, Donna, our costume wizard, Rebecca, and my wonderful,
amazing, talented cast mates. Love you, love you, LOVE YOU!!! It's a
joy and privilege to be part of the Our Town family.
Julia Hathaway

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Friday, November 23, 2012

Eco Amazons

I was sort of drowsy when I started reading Dorka Keehn's Eco
Amazons: 20 Women Who Are Transforming the World. But when I'd
gotten past the forward and introduction and met the first women I had
an energy shot buzz without benefit of beverage. This is not your
typical bio and props. Each chapter gets to the heart of a woman who
has taken on a cause and draws the links between her life, her
passion, and her impact on the larger world. There is a wonderful
variety of women. Not all are learned or well connected. They let
their concern and anger move them powerfully rather than waiting for
someone else to do something.
"I never imagined that I'd live in a place that would hurt my
babies.". Cheryl Johnson was raising seven children in a Chicago
housing project when she read about the high rates of cancer in her
neighborhood. She mobilized other women to help her document the many
health problems there. "The men didn't help; they didn't have the
same instinct mothers have to protect their young ones." She found a
lot to protect young ones from: high levels of lead and asbestos in
the projects and landfills and toxin emitting factories surrounding it.
Alice Waters studied in Paris during her junior year in
college. She fell in love with a way of cooking and eating involving
fresh ingredients and a welcoming atmosphere. Back in the United
States she was inspired to start a restaurant that would be a
political and social place and serve responsibly produced, fresh
foods. The birth of her daughter made food politics become more
urgent to her. She visited a middle school and was shocked to see
only a microwave--not a kitchen. She wrote about her discovery in a
newspaper article. The principal asked her for help.
If you want to read about strong women, if you care about our
earth and those we share it with, or if you want to feel inspired and
empowered read the book. I will close this review with the words of
Annie Leonard, a critic of overconsumption, "Scientists in the field
of happiness have proven over and over that once our basic needs are
met (i.e., a roof and food and other necessities), what provides
happiness is not things. Number one on the list is the quality of our
social relationships, the second is having a sense of meaning beyond
yourself, and number three is coming together with others toward a
shared goal. How lucky we are that the very things we need to get
this country on a sustainable, fair, and healthy path contribute most
to our happiness." Scribbling this review in adult Sunday school, I
must respond with a heart felt Amen!!!
On a personal note, I'm so excited and a little nervous that there are
just four more rehearsals before we go into production mode.
A great big shout out goes out to my
Our Town acting family, not only for their talent and hard work, but
for the kindness and openheartedness with which they took in a
newcomer. Reminds me of the song "Consider Yourself" (well in, part
of the family...) from the musical Oliver.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Bedtime for Boo

Picture book
You know what Halloween is. That enchanted night when magic is
in the air and anything is possible. OK, we already established that
this reviewer never completely grew up.
You know what Halloween is perfect for? Reading picture books
out loud. Whether you're entertaining the crowd at a kindergarten
party or spending a few precious sleepy moments with your own little
one, you'd do well to share Mickie Matheis' Bedtime for Boo.
Boo is the littlest spooklet in a family of ghosts. One night
he gets to join the clan haunting for the first time. As I'm sure
you'd guess, after all that excitement, Boo is not at all ready for
bed when his mom says it's time. Resourceful Mama Ghost has him
listen for the many sounds of his house.
This is a book for every read alouder. If, like me, you like to
ham it up, go right ahead. If you're a little shyer or less secure in
your talents, the well written narrative and darling pictures will
scaffold you to a bootiful performance. Every parent will find the
last picture of his mother tenderly kissing a sleeping boo evocative
and satisfying.
On a personal note, I had a wonderful Halloween. I was a butterfly.
I handed out candy, watched X Files episodes with Joey cat, and
feasted on candy and popcorn. Pure unadulterated bliss!
A great big shout out goes out to our children. May their Halloweens
be enchanting and safe! May the candy be abundant and delish! May
the weather hold out so they don't have to hide their wonderful
costumes under parkas!
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Monday, October 8, 2012

I Like Old Clothes

Picture book
The other day, shelving books at the Orono Public Library, I was
delighted with the conversation of three young mothers. They were
discussing how they pass down clothes among children in their group of
families. I tell you, they aren't only saving money and keeping
garments with wear still in them out of landfills, as worthy as both
goals are. Their children will get the stories of their previous use
along with the jeans and dresses.
I grew up wearing clothes with stories. I decked my children in
clothes with stories. I still feel happier and more comfortable in
clothes with stories: the soft as a kitten grey sweater I inherited
from Katie, the shirt Amber decorated with fabric paint to let the
world know I'm easier to get along with after my coffee...or the
mystery and allure of thrift shop finds.
I was delighted to discover Mary Ann Hoberman's I Like Old
Clothes. The curly haired protagonist, who looks very much like my
child self, accompanied by her agreeable younger brother, extols the
virtues of used garments. Some from friends have histories; others
have mysteries. It's fun to guess where they've been or who wore
them. Even if they aren't new or in style a kid with enough
confidence can rock the look. Once good clothes can be creatively
worn for play. Outgrown clothes can be passed on to someone else.
You know something great about the story? It actually was
recycled. Originally published in 1976, it was made current for
today's kids by wonderful new illustrations. The way the narrator is
depicted, she has flair and confidence. In one picture she poses like
a model in sneakers, patched overalls, striped shirt, and opera
gloves. In a two page spread, she shortens a flowered dress and tries
it on, draping her cat in leftover material.
You and your family can use this book as a springboard to
creativity. Start telling the stories of your clothes. If you draw,
scrapbook, or quilt, capture them for the future. If you and yours
aren't rocking clothes with stories...geez...What are you waiting for?
On a personal note, this kid is my alter ego. Swear to goodness.
Here's something that happened days before I read the book. In Orono
Thrift Shop I saw a perfect little plaid suit with a flippy skirt and
a sash and bow at the accentuated waist. I felt so lovely in it I
left the dressing room and struck a pose. Friends and total strangers
stopped browsing to say, "Wow!" (the next week people on the street
were stopping me on the street to ask if I bought it.) The next day I
wore it to church with tights. Right before I walked out of my door I
remembered my cream felt cloche with the flower on one side. Voilà!
1940's movie star!
A great big shout out goes out to my Girlz who run Orono Thrift Shop
so amazingly and the many generous folks who bring in treasures! The
raspberry dancing hippo pajamas I'm wearing while I post this feel
heavenly--like wearing soft, puffy clouds.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Saturday, October 6, 2012

Middle School

After a heavy weight like Desert Angel, I'm sure you won't blame
me for reviewing a more humerous book. I really enjoyed reading
Middle School The Worst Years of My Life by James Patterson and Chris
Tebbets. From kids who find this promotion from primary grades to be
a change for the worse to their peers who soar through the transition,
I think most young scholars will find something to relate to.
The cover gives you a pretty big clue. Rafe, the hero, is
surrounded by inanimate objects with attitude: a clock declaring him
tardy, a school bus snarling, "outta my way"... The drawings
scattered throughout the book perfectly compliment the text and are a
delight in their own right. There's one where an unseen teacher
(Dinatello the Dragon Lady) is represented as a word bubble of blah,
blah... and Rafe has morphed into a bobble head. A cafeteria scene
where three cackling lunch ladies stir something in a cauldron reminds
me of MacBeth. Rafe dressed as a giant orange falcon with a super
hero cape...ya gotta read the book to get that one.
Anyhow, Rafe starts out by offering friendship to you, the
reader. He hopes he can trust you. His life is full of untrustworthy
characters: his dragon lady English teacher, his controlling vice
principal, his bratty tattletale kid sister... The only one he can
count on is his best friend, Leonardo the Silent.
On Rafe's first day in middle school the student code of conduct
has him in despair. He'll be getting in trouble all year. Leonardo
sees this as a chance for Rafe to become a legend by breaking every
rule in the book. They turn it into a video game like challenge with
a points system and extra lives. Rafe embarks on this journey by
pulling a fire alarm.
There are surprises. When Rafe tries to convert to goodness,
much to his surprise, it's not all smooth sailing. Leonardo is not
who he would seem to be. Even kids not exactly drawn to reading will
give this amusing and, in the end, surprisingly poignant book a chance.
On a personal note, I have more than enough poems for a first book.
Now it's a matter of selecting which ones to include, getting them in
order, naming the baby, and raising the money to start publishing on
Amazon. Like Rafe, I'm about to take the scary step of trusting the
readers with my creation.
A great big shout out goes out to my literary co pilot, Leah, whose
graphics take my poetry to a whole new level. You go, Girl!
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Desert Angel

YA/adult fiction
If you like a good suspenseful story you'll find Charlie Price's
Desert Angel right up your alley. The riveting plot and authentic
characters alone would make this book an excellent reading choice.
But it also subtly suggests that not all is right in America,
especially for those people our society relegates to the margins of
it's consciousness.
Angel's mother has had a bad habit of drifting from one abusive
relationship to another, bringing her young daughter. As the story
opens they have been living in an isolated trailer with a deranged
criminal, Scotty. Angel had fled the trailer to escape a meth and
alcohol fueled fight. She wakes up the next morning and finds her
newly killed mom.
When Angel returns to the trailer to get supplies to escape,
Scotty captures her. She feigns death when he attempts to suffocate
her, refusing to react when he burns her with a lighter. He leaves,
setting the trailer on fire. She escapes, knowing she has only bought
time. He's a gun dealer and professional hunter. It's only a matter
of time before he discovers she's still alive and sets out to finish
what he's started.
Angel's life now centers around staying ahead of a vicious and
sly predator. At first she's totally alone in her struggle to
survive. Then she is taken in by kind people. They protect her, even
knowing they are placing themselves in grave danger. Scotty will show
no more mercy to those who help Angel than he did to her. He has
criminal contacts who spy for him, increasing the scope of his power.
His victims are in no position to report him to the police. Some of
the tightly knit group are illegal aliens who would be deported.
Angel's struggle for physical survival is complicated by the
struggle going on in her heart and mind. Having only a mom incapable
of even self care, never mind motherhood, and a series of abusive
males in her life, she has come to rely only on herself. Now her very
survival requires her to trust and be honest with relative strangers.
Unaccustomed kindness make her start to care about them, creating a
new dilemma. Leaving to protect them will doom her. But staying so
that she can live may hold dire consequences for the only kind and
loving people in her life.
In addition to providing an excellent reading experience, Desert
Angel raises important issues. I guess the biggest one is Scotty's
power. He knows he can kill and terrorize with impunity. His victims
are the powerless. Society is more willing to not see a thing than if
he were after well off suburban matrons. In my mind we all, rich and
poor, deserve protection and safety. There is also the plight of
Angel's protectors. If they do the government the enormous favor of
helping catch a dangerous, demented criminal, those without the proper
papers would be deported. Somehow this doesn't seem just or right.
On a personal note, after quite a few years with no denominational
affeliation, I have chosen Orono Methodist Church as my spiritual
home. The congregation is very welcoming. Questions are encouraged.
Pastor Steve is, I believe, a trustworthy shepherd. I am very happy.
A great big shout out goes out to my new church family.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

It's Snowing

Did you know Helsinki, Finland gets about 101 days of snow a
year? Did you know there's a mountain within sight of the Equator
that always has snow or ice on top of it? Can you believe that
Antarctica is the continent that gets the least amount of snow? I got
those cool (oops--bad pun) facts from Gail Gibbons' It's Snowing.
Yes, I'm talking snow. For me the word conjures up delightful
prospects: sledding, snow sculptures, hot cocoa with whipped cream on
a crisp, cold evening, unexpected no school days, seeing if I can
ambush Darcie or Christine with a few snowballs... The hubby takes a
dimmer view, anticipating bad driving conditions and all that stuff to
shovel. (He plays Oscar to my Elmo on a lot of stuff).
Whatever side you fall on on this precip issue, you can't deny
that the white stuff is on the way. This means it's the perfect time
to share It's Snowing with your favorite young people. You can learn
the science behind the formation of those beautiful flakes, the
subtleties of meteorological conditions ranging from flurry to
blizzard, ways to prepare for snow and enjoy it, and more of those
fascinating facts. Can you wrap your mind around a 15" snowflake, a
50' snow drift, or 6'4" of the white stuff falling in one day--in
April no less? Of course the well organized and engaging text is
complimented by lively, colorful illustrations.
In the world of juvenile non fiction my girl, Gail (first
reviewed her books in the 1990's) is nothing less than a goddess. Her
topics range from frogs to bicycles to stars and beyond. I can't
imagine a subject she couldn't make fascinating for the younger
readers in our lives.
On a personal note, I used some of my birthday money to buy a
beautiful snow globe with a carousel horse. I had it inscribed
"kindred spirits" to honor the best friends a girl could have who care
about me unconditionally.
A great big shout out goes out to the best friends a girl could have.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Temple Grandin

I first learned of Temple Grandin because of her powerful
advocacy work for animals and her autism. The little bit I read made
me want to know more. I was thrilled to discover Sy Montgomery's
Temple Grandin: How The Girl Who Loved Cows Embraced Autism and
Changed The World.
Temple was born when autism was not the household word it is
today. The name had just been coined seven years before her
diagnosis. Even though today we still understand this condition very
poorly, we know a lot more now than we did back then.
Although Temple was brilliant she was different. Sensations
that were ordinairy for other people (the sound of a bell ringing, the
scratchiness of a garment, the smell of perfume) were magnified to the
point of torture for her. She didn't cuddle or laugh or play in a way
similar to other children. Her speech was delayed. Her father
thought she was retarded and should be institutionalized. Back then
that was the fate of too many children considered too different to
live in the real world.
Fortunately for Temple, her mother would have no part of that.
She became an advocate for her daughter. Schools were carefully chosen
for their potential as havens. Classmates were taught about her
differences. Unlike many kids then who were shut off in rooms for
"retards," usually in school basements, or bullied and ostracized in
regular classes, she was able to fit in, belong, and achieve.
As an adult, Temple was able to put unique insights to use to
improve conditions for animals. For example, she designed cattle
chutes that hurt or terrify cows. Half the cattle in the United
States now benefit from her research. The woman whose own father
considered her retarded and wanted to surrender her custody to an
institution has awards from institutions ranging from the Beef Council
to the Humane Society. How cool is that? Her story is well worth
On a personal note, I tried out for and got a part in Orono Community
Theater's production of Our Town. Other than the church Christmas
pageant I was drafted into I hadn't acted since before kids. (RSU
doesn't count.) As much as I love acting, if it wasn't for Darcie's
intervention, I wouldn't have had the self confidence to go for it.
Thanks, Darcie!
A great big shout out goes out to the people who are wired
"differently" who, despite the prejudices of other people they must
overcome, make important contributions to our world.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Still My Grandma

Picture book
It's very heartbreaking and confusing for an adult to deal with
the gradual loss of a loved one to Alzheimers. Can you imagine what
it must be like for a child? Fortunately Veronique Van dan Abeele's
Still My Grandma handles this plight poignantly and sensitively.
Camille and her beloved grandmother have their own treasured
rituals: sleepovers, looking at treasures from the past, family
stories, feeding ducks, baking chocolate cupcakes... Then one day her
grandmother starts acting differently-- forgetting Camille's name,
putting her shoes in the refrigerator, and putting orange juice on
cereal. Even though life changes and Grandma must live in a nursing
home, Camille learns they can still treasure their time together.
Still My Grandma can be a great ice breaker for a family
confronting am Alzheimers diagnosis for a beloved member. Adults,
overwhelmed with added responsibilities and strong feelings, can find
it difficult to explain what's happening to their children. Kids may
not feel comfortable asking about the changes they see or even be able
to put their questions into words. This beautiful book with it's
tender message that even though Grandma has changed she's still the
person Camille loves can be just the thing to get much needed inter
generational conversations started.
On a personal note, we're into a long rainy patch in Central Maine.
Not long now until our precip changes over to the white stuff. Some
will love it. Some will hate it. None will escape it. Bwa ha ha!!!
A great big shout goes out to all who care for folks with Alzheimers
and to Ken Nye who, in Clouds of Glory, has shared some amazing poems
conveying the love of a son losing his mother gradually to this cruel
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Mad Science

I've had three kids take part in science fairs. I'm sure they
weren't the only ones to view the process with anything but
unmitigated joy and indulge in, shall we say, a little
procrastination. At least they didn't outsource. Some of their peers
came in with projects so professional looking they practically
screamed "Mom/Dad took over." Excuse me but isn't this supposed to be
like a learning experience?
So how do we get our children motivated by curiosity and
learning that science is a means of answering interesting and relevant
The Time For Kids Big Book of Science Experiments might be a
good place to start. Under the categories of earth science, life
science, physical science, and technology and engineering are over 100
potential projects. Here are just a few:
Which foods get the moldiest?
What's the difference between organic and genetically modified foods?
What is similar about people's fingerprints?
What's so weird about Ivory Soap?
Let's look at the one I gravitated to: which foods get the
moldiest? It's introduced by a discussion of decomposers and their
role in breaking down organic matter. Some neat gross facts are
included like how dog vomit slime mold got its name. Students are
told how to prepare and store specimins. They are encouraged to bring
photographs rather than the actual end product to the science fair.
Variations on the basic theme are offered. Safety precautions are
spelled out. My favorite is to keep the project away from pets and
younger siblings.
So if you get up to science fair time this book can bail your
child out. But why wait until science becomes a subject with
homework? When kids are younger and have intrinsic drives to learn
how things work--that's your curiosity prime time. Yes, discrete
supervision is a good idea. You might want to nix a few suggested
improvisations. But not to worry! My parents gave me a chemistry set
early on and I didn't burn down the house.
On a personal note, in college I took plant kingdom. A non required
activity (with a candy prize) was the my favorite fungus contest. The
student with the most luxurious growth would win. Most entries were
last minute slap dash affairs. With my RA's nervous approval, I
started the day I got the syllabus and created a truly spectacular
work of decay. I remember the prof saying it was the best ever!
A great big shout out goes out to the RSU 26 middle school teachers
and curriculum coordinator who are offering our students amazing
science learning experiences!
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, September 28, 2012

Middle School/Eighth Grade

I've been pondering something lately. Why are we so set on
divorcing word from image--insisting that "adult" books be totally
bereft of pictures unless they're non fiction. Maybe well done
illustration of some sort makes words more meaningful for the visual
learner and the reading experience richer for all. I know that Leah's
graphics take my poems to a whole new level.
I had a totally no holds barred, out and out fun reading
experience recently. Writer Jennifer Holm and illustrator Elisha
Castaldi have collaborated on two scrapbook style books: Middle
School Is Worse Than Meatloaf and Eighth Grade Is Making Me Sick.
Each tells of a school year in the life of Ginny Davis through the
medium of her stuff. These books are the ultimate in show, don't
tell--the writer's mandate--pulled off brilliantly.
Ginny starts seventh grade as the middle child of a single
parent. Her mom is dating, and she's hopeful. Her older brother,
Henry, gets in serious (as in police involvement) trouble. Little
brother, Timmy, starting in kindergarten, is in need of sisterly
protection and babysitting. Finally her mom gets married. In eighth
grade her step dad loses his job, causing the family to move, Henry
has not yet reformed, and a new baby arrives--a boy, of course.
All is told through pages of realistically drawn stuff. Beyond
what you'd expect (notes passed in class, report cards, greeting
cards) there's some pretty creative stuff. A tray of cafeteria food
doesn't look that much more appetizing than a lab page featuring an
about to be dissected worm. A collage of a five ways to look cool
clipping, a hair color box, nail polish, and a drug store receipt is
followed by hefty bills for undoing damage to Ginny's hair and the
plumbing. A cast list shows that Ginny did not get a ballet role she
had her heart set on while her former best friend did.
Ginny starts each year with a to do list. Life has a way of
creating, shall we say, complications: many amusing, some poignant,
all interesting. Through her stuff, you get to know her a lot more
intimately than the protagonists of many more verbose novels.
On a personal note, I let Leah see the books. They might give us some
inspiration for when we finish our first poetry book.
A great big shout out goes out to Leah, whose images pair up perfectly
with my words.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Dog Tips From Dog Town

They accompany their people in Orono Public Library. A seeing
eye dog takes vigilent care of a man. A puffy tailed black and white
puppy greets friends with excited yips and slurpy kisses. They are
secure critters, in sync with their two leggeds.
Not all dogs are this lucky. People sometimes adopt man's best
friend without much thought. Kids get tired of pet care, leaving the
chore to mom and dad. A tiny puppy grows into awkward adulthood. Do
you know how many chihuahuas were neglected or abandoned when
pocketbook pets became passé?
I believe any would be dog owner should read Dog Tips From Dog
Town: A Relationship Manual For You And Your Dog. The key word in
the title is relationship. Ideally a bond of commitment is built
between a unique human and an equally unique canine to the benefit of
Dog Tips From Dog Town takes would be dog owners through the
step by step process. Before they even decide to adopt they are urged
to examine their motives and situation carefully. Dogs must be
carefully matched to prospective households. The house must be pooch
proofed. Ground rules should be decided on in advance and
consistently enforced. Then there's training. No matter how well
that goes there are bound to be accidents.
If this seems like a lot of work, remember thevreward it can
lead to: a treasured companion who will adore you even when the rest
of the world lets you down!
On a personal note, I had the most amazing birthday possible. Some of
my dearest friends gave me a party. The hubby took the family out for
supper. So many cards, phone calls, emails, gifts! I love birthdays
A great big shout out goes out to the treasured companions--both
canine and feline--who add so much to our lives.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Wednesday, September 26, 2012


One summer Katie volunteered with me at Orono Community Garden.
Sometimes she brought her best friend. Oh, my, didn't our senior
citizens perk up in the company of lively, gregarious teens! Talk
about quality time all around!
Whether marching for peace in Washington DC or cleaning the
river near our home, some of my best family times have involved
volunteering. I was delighted to discover Jenny Friedman's The Busy
Family's Guide to Volunteering. At a time when so many forces push
toward isolation and rampant consumerism, it's good to see that there
are ways families can counter these threats by caring together for the
earth and its inhabitants.
This is an amazingly rich guidebook. Volunteer opportunities
are divided into categories: people to people ties, healing the
earth, fighting poverty, building community, social action, and
volunteer vacations. Locales range from one's own neighborhood to
third world countries. Time commitments can be anything from one shot
events to years. Great advice is given on locating the perfect fit
for your own unique family.
Let's say your clan is good with pets. You have the space and
motivation to train a companion animal for someone with a disability.
You look in the chapter on healing the earth under support the rights
of animals. Contact information for two organizations is listed. A
resource list at the end of the chapter contains books, websites, and
contact information for other groups.
Whether you're parenting toddlers, teens, or any age in between,
if you want to nurture children who really care and have fun doing so,
The Busy Family's Guide to Volunteering is an investment guaranteed to
yield dividends.
On a personal note, the 2012 Orono Community Garden season ended
well. We danced around the raindrops, as our beloved leader, John, is
fond of saying, and delivered huge bags of veggies.
A great big shout out goes out to everyone who contributed to the
success of our beloved garden.
Julia Emily Hathaway
Sent from my iPod

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

No Whine With Dinner

Are you properly horrified by the rising rates of obesity and
formerly adult onset diseases in even our youngest children? Does it
seem like every time the TV goes on there are ads designed to whet
your kids' appetites for foods full of sugar, salt, and fats? Do you
want to give your sons and daughters the sound nutrition essential for
a healthy life?
No Whine With Dinner may be just what you're looking for.
Authors Liz Weiss and Janice Newell Bissex, nutritionists, aim to show
parents that even busy families can prepare healthy foods kids will
enjoy. They're far from newbies. In addition to a previous cookbook,
The Moms' Guide to Meal Make Overs, they have a website (
), a weekly podcast (Cooking With the Moms), and a recipe blog (Meal
Makeover Moms' Kitchen).
When almost 600 mothers surveyed rated "picky eaters who whine
and complain" as their biggest child feeding problem the moms set to
work gleaning the best from a myriad of recipes, many healthy
adaptations of popular family foods. The 150 offerings that made the
cut were field tested by families. Judging from the ones I tried out
(Can we say due dilligence?) they are easy, time efficient, and
absolutely delicious. The pictures are enticing.
Kids are more likely to eat meals when they're invested in the
process of getting them on the table. Depending on their ages,
children can help prepare many of the foods or go solo. Each chapter
starts with pictures of a happy family doing just that.
This is one of the few cookbooks that is as interesting to read
as it is useful for reference. The authors carry on a convivial line
of coffee clatch chat, much like one of your (hopefully) favorite
reviewers. Mothers comment on each recipe. An appendix in the back
contains fifty creative ways to get picky eaters to try new foods.
On a personal note, I'm wishing a sequel could address the feeding of
hubbies who whine if you try anything more nutritious and heart
healthy than the meat and potatoes and fried stuff they grew up eating.
A great big shout out goes out to my kids who enlightened me to become
a vegetarian by modeling that life style.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Princess Recovery

I remember an incident that happened over a decade ago as if it
was yesterday. Katie came home with a permission slip for me to
sign. Her Girl Scout troop had been selected for a mall sleepover--
the ultimate princess experience. Of all the organizations I'd
expected to sell out to the concept of "I am girl. Watch me shop,"
Girl Scouts wasn't on the list. Other moms weren't thrilled. But
they wearily shrugged. Nothing they could do. I felt empowered and
refused to sign.
I think Jennifer L. Hartstein would have backed me on that. Her
Princess Recovery is, in my mind, a must read for parents of
daughters. She analyzes some very real dangers posed by our media
obsessed society that jeopardize girls' healthy physical and psychic
One danger is the idea that appearances are everything. I'm
sure we all know how that can lead to eating disorders. I've had a
four-year-old girl tell me she needed to go on a diet. There's also
the tragic lowering of the age at which girls are supposed to look and
act sexy. In beauty pageants you have girls barely out of diapers
acting suggestive. Other facets of what Hartstein calls Princess
Syndrome are also alarming: materialism, an entitlement mentality,
brains seen as inferior to beauty and something to hide, the promise
of rescue by someone else..,
With all the pressures our kids are under from the media, peers,
and even well-meaning adults, raising healthy, confident daughters can
seem quite the daunting task. Hartstein acknowledges this. She
reminds us that we have singularly important roles in our daughters'
lives. She believes that with consistency, determination, and love we
can take on the outside world and win.
After the introduction each chapter describes not only a symptom
of Princess Syndrome and its perils, but a heroine value that is its
healthy and empowering polar opposite. Chapter three has "Appearances
Are Everything" replaced by "Smarts Pay Off.". Chapter four has
daughters pursuing their passions instead of becoming material girls.
Many helpful strategies are discussed.
It won't be easy. Sometimes you have to put your foot down, say
no with an age-appropriate explanation, and deal with a melt-down.
Sometimes you have to politely explain to other adults (as I did to
the scout leader) where you're coming from. Sometimes you have to
examine your own behavior to make sure you're walking the walk as well
as talking the talk. My biggest parent regret is that I let anorexia
prevent me from being a good body image role model.
But, heck, if raising a daughter to be a healthy, happy,
empowered and empowering woman isn't worth the ultimate effort, I
don't know what is.
On a personal note, I never wanted to be a princess. "Lie around
until some boy kisses you? Boring!" I was the knight who rescued
princesses from other perils. In school I rescued peers from
bullies. I held out to be a hero, not for a hero. I still believe
I'm a knight with a mandate to speak up for others who can't speak for
themselves. That's why I'm a trailer park resident school board vice
chair. That's also where grad school comes in. A Ph.D. In
educational advocacy will give me more weapons in the fight to make
sure all kids get educations that help them fulfill their dreams and
A great big shout out goes out to all the kids and adults for whom
today is the first day of school.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Monday, September 3, 2012


YA/adult nonfiction
"More than ever, we have big houses and broken homes, high
incomes and low morale, secured rights and diminished civility. We
excel at making a living but often fail at making a life. We
celebrate our prosperity but yearn for purpose. We cherish our
freedoms but long for connection. In an age of plenty we feel
spiritual hunger."
Affluenza (John de Graaf, David Wann, Thomas H. Naylor) is one
of those rare books I can read more than once and gain valuable new
insights each time. I just perused it for the third or fourth time
since it was published in
2001. If, dear readers, you suspect that we're on an oldies but
goodies trek couldn't be more correct.
The above quote seems to sum the book up perfectly. In America
in the twenty-first century we are participating in our own
objectification. Big business, media, and government are herding us
from active identities as citizen, neighbor, family member, and friend
to the passive one of consumer. Not only does this nearly guarantee
spiritual starvation by denying our real human needs in the pursuit of
artificial ones, it puts our species and every other on earth in
danger of extinction.
Affluenza compares our society's frenzied pursuit of material
wealth to the dreaded flu. The first chapters cover symptoms,
followed by sections on causes and treatment. We are given many ways
we can take meaningful actions on a personal and family level. We are
also mandated to be catalysts in our larger communities since such a
pervasive, contagious, and dangerous malaise needs to be combatted at
every level of society.
One of the worst aspects of affluenza is the widening gap
between the haves and have nots. This is cruel on so many levels.
Those legions here and abroad who are sacrificed in the pursuit of
wealth are not only condemned to live in poverty, but deprived of
intangible treasures. Let's say you have a vibrant working
neighborhood. A developer decides it's prime condo material. Those
who are displaced lose connections to community, extended family, and
often meaningful labor.
I recommend Affluenza to everyone who is a member of the human
On a personal note, on the affluenza self diagnosis test I scored a
quite respectable 6 (out of a possible 100). I was lucky enough to
gain immunity by both nature and nurture. Genetically I'm an
introvert. Our minority--prone to creative self-expression,
intellectual curiosity, and the need for meaning in life--is a hard
sell for Madison Avenue. I was also brought up by parents who
actively rejected keeping up with the Jonses (although Dad had his
weaknesses). We read, spent time at the beach, played checkers,
belonged to Audobon Society, baked Christmas cookies for friends and
family... That and living in a close knit working class community
growing up constituted my salvation.
A great big shout out goes out to my parents who gave me such a
priceless legacy. I wish, dear reader, you could have met them. I
guess in a way you do. I carry them with me in my heart and writing.
Also, since it's Labor Day, a shout out to the heroes who took huge
risks to abolish child labor, make working conditions safer... Sadly
big business Big Business and the pols they're in bed with are
striving to undo all they've achieved.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Sunday, September 2, 2012

Welcoming Home Baby

Tricia Drake decided she wanted to knit hats for her children.
The prospect did not fill her with joy. She then had six kids and
felt it would be a laborious process she wouldn't have time for using
fine yarn and small needles.
A question from her sister made Tricia realize there was no
reason (other than convention) that she couldn't use the larger
needles she was more comfortable with. It wasn't long before she was
selling her creations. Welcoming Home Baby The Handcrafted Way: 20
Quick & Creative Knitted Hats, Wraps, & Cozy Coccoons For Your Newborn
gives instructions for her most popular designs.
What I like best is the boldness of Tricia's creations. Babies
are exuberant little beings who deserve more than the traditional pink
and blue or an ambiguous yellow. A lovely little coccoon is done in
ocean shades. A dear blanket is created in watermelon pink and
green. All kinds of fancy yarn and even ribbon are incorporated. A
very novel shawl coccoon creates privacy for a nursing mother and her
The instructions are accompanied by friendly narrative. A
knitter with some background could whip up a lovely little treasure in
a matter of hours to bring to a shower or garb a brand new baby or
grandbaby in style. If you're a craftsperson with the prospect of
welcoming a little one into your world you can't do better.
On a personal note, Labor Day weekend I was very lucky to go to a
church giveaway. People in that congregation had collected and
attractively displayed a wealth of treasures: clothes, books,
furniture, housewares... Whether offering bags and boxes or serving
coffee and yummy cookies, they were friendly, enthusiastic, and
helpful. That is what I call Christianity in action.
A great big shout out (with wishes for a year of abundant blessings)
goes out to Community Church of the Open Door.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Saturday, September 1, 2012

Amelia Lost

Intermediate/YA nonfiction
I'm sure it will come as no surprise to my readers that when I
was a child Amelia Earhart was one of my inspirations. While my peers
were being steered toward traditional occupations, I was being told
the sky was the limit, aspiration wise. Until an uncorrectable vision
defect grounded my physical self I was sure some day I'd be piloting
planes across the Atlantic, carrying people to exotic locales like
Paris, France.
I was thrilled when Orono Public Library acquired Amelia Lost:
The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart. Much of what is "known"
about this pioneering aviator is basically urban legend. The author
has done extensive research to separate fact from fantasy. Her
portrait captures as well as possible a very complex and fascinating
individual, all the more endearing for her unpublicized human
The text alternates two strands of narrative. One covers the
search for Amelia from the time people began to worry to the
abandonment of a military search that covered 250,000 square miles and
cost $4,900,000. The other covers her life story from her birth
through her education and career. There are a lot of surprises and
wonderful pictures.
As amazing as her flights were, Amelia Earhart was also a
pioneer in women's rights. Born 21 years before my mother, she
actively resisted being pushed into the narrow life styles society
reserved for women. At one point she taught at Purdue University,
giving college girls advice like, "Study whatever you want. Don't let
the world push you around."
On a personal note, if you are clever, as I hope my readers are, you
will notice that I said my vision grounded my physical self rather
than me. This year, with the encouragement of Rose, I've discovered
another way to fly. It's nothing like what Tim Leary recommended back
in the day. (Turn on, tune in, drop out.) There are no vision tests
for the imagination. If you write well, you can take passengers to
locales so exotic Paris, France pales in comparison.
I have big news, dear readers, and I want you to rejoice with
me. I have a good co-pilot. I waited for just the perfect review to
make this announcement. In addition to writing my blog, I'm working
on a book of poetry which I've found can touch people's hearts and
souls. I made a friend, Christine, on a principal search committee.
When I lent her my poetry notebook, unbeknownst to me, she showed it
to her coworker, Leah, who combined some of my work with her digital
art. The result was amazing. Seeing the words and images combined so
beautifully, I felt the sense of amazement I experienced the moments I
first held each of my babies.
A great big shout out goes out to my writing catalysts, Rose and
Christine, and my co-pilot, Leah. How far will we go? The sky is the
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, August 31, 2012

We've Got A Job

Intermediate/YA nonfiction
Most of my readers were probably very young during or born after
1963. In a world that can seem light years away, it can be hard to
imagine a nine-year-old-child volunteering to go to jail and her
parents allowing it. It can also be hard to imagine society mandating
segregation in every aspect of life and allowing cross burning and
other acts of terrorism to prevent change. Fortunately Cynthia
Levinson's We've Got A Job: The 1963 Birmingham Children's March
leaves very little to the imagination!
There was a lot of discrimination going on in Birmingham in
1963. Schools were separate and anything but equal. Job access was
limited for even the brightest and best blacks [term used in the
book]. They couldn't try on clothes in stores, sit on the main floor
in movie theaters, eat at lunch counters... It really disturbed me to
read about parents having to carry glass jars for children who
couldn't "hold it" all the way home on shopping trips.
Blacks knew that things had to change. They were, however,
sharply divided on how this was to happen. Some espoused a cautious,
incrementalist approach, encouraged by efforts to remove hard core
segregationists like Bull Connor from office. Others felt that
confrontation was needed to achieve justice.
Children and teens realized that, unlike their parents, they
could go to jail without losing hard to replace jobs and income. They
were trained in roles that would be very hard for most adults. As
they protested nonviolently, no matter what abuse they experienced,
they had to refuse to retaliate. We've Got A Job follows four of the
youngsters: Audrey Faye Hendricks, Washington Booker III, James W.
Stewart, and Atnetta Streeter on their quest for justice.
We now interrupt this book review to bring you a touch of
irony. I checked my email. I read about a church that is refusing to
marry a couple because the bride and groom are black. The minister
has been told that he'll lose his job if he performs the ceremony.
Yes, now, in 2012. No, I'm not making this up.
In my mind that constitutes all the more reason to read the
book. The text maintains a great balance between individual narrative
and larger picture. Each photograph is worth the proverbial thousand
On a personal note, I just want to wish my readers a happy and safe
Labor Day weekend.
A great big shout out goes out to the courageous people I read about
in this book and those in this day who carry on the fight for racial
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Lunch Thief

Picture book
As Anne C. Bromley's The Lunch Thief starts out, it's
protagonist, Rafeal, is hungry. The new kid, Kevin, has taken his
lunch. The next two days the same thing happens to other kids.
Fortunately Rafael is able to reflect rather than fighting or
reporting the theft. On a ride with his mother he sees something that
gives him a whole different perspective.
Many of our kids go to school with kids who are homeless,
chronically hungry, or in other precarious situations. Seeing only
actions can make them perceive these children as "mean" or "not nice,"
leading to reactions that further marginalize them. This wonderful
book can help even very young children empathize better and reflect
rather than reacting in haste.
A special note to teachers: some long standing assignments
carry assumptions that aren't always true. The diorama project is a
classic. Shoes come in shoe boxes if you can afford to shop at the
Mall or KMart, but not if you buy at Goidwill or Salvation Army.
On a personal note, my girls, Paula and Darcie, had good first days in
their new principalships. This pleases me no end.
A great big shout out goes out to my dear Christine who works hard to
help homeless kids stay in school and get them what they need.
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Without Tess

YA Fiction
When Lizzie and Tess are little girls they complete each other's
worlds so well they have no need of other friends. Tess lives in a
world of magic, believing she can become a winged horse or a selkie.
Lizzie, although more reality oriented, loves Tess' created fantasies,
even though she must take real risks sometimes. Tess, herself, is in
terrible danger. Believing that food is for mortals, she starves
Life gets more complicated when a family with twins near
Lizzie's age moves into the neighborhood. Tess urges Lizzie to become
chums with devoutly Catholic Isabella and then resents their
friendship. Her actions become more extreme. Lizzie ends up in the
hospital. Tess is put on pills that she knows will make her leave the
world of magic.
Six years after Tess' death, Lizzie and her parents are isolated
from each other, unable to come to terms with their loss. Lizzie
submits her sister's poetry in class, trying in that way to keep Tess
alive, to not face the tragedy that has come to define her life.
Isabella's quiter twin, Niccolo, can see what's happening and wants to
Marcella Pixley, author of Without Tess, has done what few can
do convincingly. Lizzie's voice as teen and child is consistant
enough to feel like the same person. But both ages seem authentic.
Child Lizzie has a terrible secret. As much as she loves Tess, there
are times she sees how much her family's life revolves around her
sister and her problems and wishes she would go ahead and die and get
it over with. Teen Lizzie, in contrast, can't bear to say goodbye.
On a personal note, I'm waiting to see how Darcie and Paula do their
first day of their new principalships. I'm so proud of them.
A great big shout out goes out to Paula and Darcie and Maine's other
excellent principals with wishes for a super year!
Julia Emily Hathaway

Sent from my iPod

Monday, August 27, 2012

The Running Dream

YA/adult novel
If you decide to read Wendelin Van Draanan's The Running Dream
make sure you have hankies or tissues nearby. From the first three
"My life is over.
Behind the morphine dreams is the nightmare of reality.
A reality I can't face."--
you're drawn into the reality of Jessica, the young protagonist, as
inexorably as succumbing to an ocean undertow. Only you want to
surrender. She's a really good kid about whom I feel it would be
impossible not to care and want to know how her story turns out.
Jessica wakes up in the hospital. An out of control truck had
hit the school bus she was riding home from a track meet in. A
teammate was killed. One of Jessica's legs was so badly damaged it
had to be amputated below the knee. For a girl who lives to run, this
is devastating.
There is so much Jessica has to adjust to. There's physical
therapy and getting ready for a prosthetic limb. Many acts that were
simple before, such as taking a shower, require forethought and
effort. Going back to school demands a great deal of social and
psychological as well as physical adjustment.
Jessica's teammates haven't given up on her. They've discovered
a specially designed artificial leg that would allow her to run
again. If they can raise $20,000 she can be on the team for her
senior year. I won't give away the ending. But I'll tell you I
couldn't put the book down.
One very adult reality is not glossed over. As Jessica's
medical bills pile up the insurance companies squabble over which one
has to pay. Her dad has to work fourteen hour days. Her parents have
had to take out a second mortgage. Only in America!
On a personal note, I really could relate to Jessica. I don't mean
the running. It gives me shin splints. I mean not knowing if you
have to give up on something that makes you feel alive. I want so
badly to go to grad school to get my phd in educational advocacy. But
having a significant disability that precludes the valid drivers
license requirement of so many jobs and having been out of the work
force to raise kids...even meaningful work seems so far out of reach.
I'll be better in a few weeks. But right now every back to school ad
feels like a shot to the heart.
[Two days elapsed at this point.]
A great big shout goes out to our new Asa Adams principal, Darcie, for
telling me how other people see me and reminding me that even if I'm
not where I want to be career wise I'm not, in her opinion, I'm not
what I was calling myself which was loser. I left her office feeling
that if I try hard and don't give up maybe a miracle can yet happen.
Back to school talk doesn't hurt a bit. I guess that girl told me a
thing or two.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Keep Holding On

YA fiction
For Susane Colasanti, author of Keep Holding On, junior high and
high school constituted the worst years of her life. It wasn't until
college that she found a milleau where it was not only acceptable, but
awesome to be unique. Memories of those painful times and the
strength she developed surviving them motivated her to reach out to
others in similar plights as an teacher and as an author.
Noelle, protagonist of the book, has what you'd call a very
dysfunctional family. Her mom has made it clear that having a child
ruined her future. She's basically checked out of the parenting bit,
not even keeping the kitchen stocked with food or buying basic hygiene
supplies for her daughter. She's a bitter woman, constantly
complaining about her plight, never taking a real look at the young
woman she's supposed to be raising.
Before, when her mom had a boyfriend, Lewis, and her family
enjoyed a good standard of living, Noelle felt like she fit in. There
was always enough food. She could invite friends home. She had
friends to invite. Then Lewis died.
Now all Noelle's friends except one have deserted her. Bullies
regularly torment her. The other kids for the most part go along with
it. The boyfriend she makes out with in private will not be seen with
In one chapter Noelle is trapped in a school bathroom with her
prime bully, Carly, and her former best friend, Audrey. They steal a
bracelet she loves, given to her as a birthday present, and sling it
into a stall. It lands in a toilet.
There are, however, changes on the horizen. You'll want to read
the book to see what they are.
At the end of the book there's a list of groups to help students
in crises. There is also a deeply touching letter from the author.
I'd like to end the review by quoting from it.
"On your worst days, the days when it seems like everything is going
wrong, when you want to hide from the world and never come out, please
know this: I was in that dark place, too. And I made it to the other
On a personal note, back in the day I had just started a new boarding
high school as a junior. For some reason the prevailing mean girls
wanted me to join them. They told me to talk to a girl they
tormented. I could hear them snicker in anticipation of a real
zinger. I asked her if she'd like to sit with me at supper. That
dear, kind girl urged me to reject her to protect myself. She was
used to it. I had the chance to be popular. If I had to be mean to
be popular I wanted no part of it. Needless to say, I had a friend.
Amazingly, considering my very small size, the pack, instead of
tormenting us both, went in search of other prey.
A great big shout out goes out to people who try to help instead of
looking the other way.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Junk Food

Forget Cujo. Never mind Nightmare on Elm Street. Say whatever
to Friday the 13th. I have just read a book that makes all the above
look like something you'd see on Sesame Street. The scariest thing
about it is it's on a non fiction shelf.
Eat meat or eggs? Got milk? Take a regimen of meds prescribed
by a doctor? If you answer yes to any of those questions (or drink
water or breathe air for that matter) it will be in your best
interests to read Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks,
Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health. Martha Rosenberg carefully
delineates the ways Big Pharma and Big Food are sacrificing our health
and lives in pursuit of big bucks. Even those who are supposed to
protect us are too often in cahoots. The Mafia, if there is such an
entity, would be green with envy.
Have you ever wondered why so many children (and now adults) are
being diagnosed with and medicated for ADHD, never mind the whole
alphabet soup of psychiatric maladies we never heard of back in the
day? Does it seem slightly bizarre that suicide can be a side effect
of anti depression meds? Does there appear to be any reason why
hormone replacement is still being pushed after ample documentation of
its lethat side effects? Why would anyone need a female Viagara?
There's lots of money to be had in those pill bottles. As you will
read in the first six chapters, drug companies, with a little help
from their friends, maximize profits by getting doctors to peddle
their products to as many people as possible, even if they are not
needed or safe.
I was especially interested in the bone chapter. I went through
menopause hormone free. I haven't had an antibiotic since a freebie
from a doctor proved far worse than the illness it cured. I think in
2004. I've been described, however, as the poster adult for
osteoporosis. I'm white, female, and small boned with a BMI of 20 and
a family history. I'd actually considered taking something. Can you
imagine my outrage when I read that stuff caused osteomecrosis,
cancers, fatal infections, and even the bone fractures it was taken to
prevent?I think I'll stick with calcium, vitamin D, weight bearing
exercises, and not smoking.
If these chapters don't upset you, read the rest of the book to
see what's being done to what passes for food these days.
Think hormones and antibiotics should be given to food and dairy
animals to speed up weight gain and enhance milk production when they
can lead to health hazards to consumers and increases in antibiotic
resistant bacteria? Think the above mentioned animals (and people who
tend to them) should have to live in conditions that can only be
described as barbaric? Think big companies should be able to sell
genetically engineered foods without labelling them as such, taking
away our right to be informed consumers? Those and other atrocities
fill the last seven chapters.
On a personal note, my family and I deserve safe food and medicine.
You and yours do too.
A great big shout out goes out to all people who are working to
protect us from the ills this book documents.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Girls Don't Fly

YA fction
High school Myra has a life that resembles those of single
parents. In addition to school and work, she spends a lot of time in
charge of her four rambunctious younger brothers. Her parents are
absorbed with the drama of her older sister who has gotten pregnant
and left college.
The bright spot in Myra's life is her future dentist boyfriend
Erik...that is until he breaks up so he can have some space. Her
sister claims she's a doormat, trying to keep everyone happy and being
taken for granted. She wants to get out of the town and life she
feels stuck in. But how?
Well, there's a program that will enable two students from
Myra's high school to go to the Gallapagos Islands for a research
project. She'd have to attend a ten week Saturday class, submit a
winning proposal, and pay $1000. What can go wrong other than...
*Her 4.0 ex boyfriend is also competing. She's been the average
student teachers tend to overlook.
*The money will be quite hard to come by.
*Her parents count on her to care for her brothers and her sister who
is facing life threatenng pregnancy complications.
One of the most endearing and unique features of Girls Don't Fly
is that each chapter starts with the definition of a bird related
word. Not only does this show Myra has a serious scientific interest
and realm of knowledge she doesn't give herself credit for, but each
gives a subtle hint of the chapter's content. The chapter in which
she quits her job after Erik, who also works there, refuses to admit a
mistake and the boss makes an offensive comment about "those Morgan
girls" is preceeded by a definition of molting.
If you want to read about a protagonist you can really get to
care about and root for, you can't do better than Girls Don't Fly.
On a personal note, sadly, my treasured friend and mentor, Paula, Asa
Adams principal, is going on to be a principal in Dexter. Fortunately
that's Dexter, Maine, not Alaska.
A great big shout out goes out to Paula and soon to be interim
principal, Darcie. My girlz are simply the best. And they do fly! :)
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

A Titanic Twosome

Adult nonfiction
"The sum and triumph of civilization, guaranteed to be safe and
perfect, our greatest achievement, sinks at a touch, and drowns us,
while nature jeers at us for our folly."
I found this amazing quote in Richard Davenport-Hines' Voyages
of the Titanic: Passengers, Sailors, Shipbuildres, Aristocrats, and
the Worlds They Came From. I read that and Building The Titanic: The
Creation of History's Most Famous Ocean Liner by Rod Green the weekend
of my 23rd wedding anniversary (no icebergs in sight on the marriage--
thank Goodness). It was a wealth of information--even for an
affecianado like myself.
Voyages of the Titanic is a veritable Who's Who of the rich and
famous and the anything but--the cast of characters of the tragedy and
its aftermath. A lot of the information is contextualized into a
larger picture. I had always wondered why the Titanic had so few
lifeboats for its number of passengers and crew and why she continued
full speed ahead despite ice warnings. I learned that regulations for
lifeboats had not changed since days when liners were exponentially
smaller. Also Captain Smith was following standard operating
procedure. Although from a 21st century perspective these decisions
would seem to constitute gross negligence, they were due dilligence
for that time in history. Another wonderful insight considers the
officers of the steam powered liner being described as sailors. It
turns out that the technology sea change from wind to steam power had
occurred so recently these men had been trained in the old ways.
There is a wonderful photographic midsection.
Building The Titanic goes into much deeper design and
engineering detail than any other book I've seen. Chapter three, for
example, contains detailed diagrams of every deck. Many photographs
from the actual construction are included. But even the reader like
me whose eyes would glaze over with a recitation of statistics will
find this book captivating. It has an easy reading narrative format,
enlightened by the ample inclusion of anecdotes. The photograps and
other visuals alone are worth the price of the book.
For an unsinkable reading experience try this wonderful non
fiction twosome--especially if you think that you know the Titanic.
On a personal note, we had another wonderful community garden day--
good fun and camaraderie and wonderful veggies to give our seniors.
A great big shout out goes out to the farmers market folks who
contribute generously to our veggie bags.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hidden Gifts

When I was in grad school (that unsuccessful first Ph.D.
attempt) I taught at a university preschool. I became quite impressed
by a special subset of students. Creative and articulate, they were
content to bond with a close friend or two or play solo. They were
wary with new experiences or people, but once familiarity set in they
did just fine. I didn't understand why their parents were so often
ashamed that they weren't mini party animals. In my mind they just
marched to a different drummer to what I perceived as beautiful music.
I was very pleased to read Marti Olsen Laney's The Hidden Gifts
of the Introverted Child. Introverts are a definite minority in
countries like ours. Society tends to value traits extroverts bring
to the table. Laney contends that when introverted children are
allowed to be themselves they have something wonderful and special to
Laney starts by debunking commonly held myths about introverts
such as that they are shy, antisocial, or egotistical. She cites a
wealth of research to show that introverted and extroverted children
are wired differently. Blends of neural transmitters and preferred
neurotransmitter pathways predispose kids to a "give it the gas" or a
"put on the brakes" mode of interacting with the world. Part I ends
with a wonderful description of twelve precious gifts of innie
Part II goes from theoretical to practical parenting, matching
traits of introverted children with ways to work with them rather than
forcing these kids to behave like extroverts like all too many people
do. For instance innies need to be able to recharge in privacy and
quiet. Personal space and ready access to it are crucial. Innies may
have trouble switching off their active minds and need special
precautions to ensure a restful sleep. The rest of the book covers
beyond nuclear family situations such as visits to grandparents,
school, and the playing field.
I would recommend this book to parents, grandparents, teachers,
scout leaders, pediatricians...anyone who works with children.
Actually I think anyone who isn't a hermit in a cave could stand to
read it. If you're an extrovert it may help you to understand some
people who perplex you or seem aloof or snobby. If you're an
introvert you may feel validated for the first time ever.
On a personal note, that is what I experienced. I always thought I
was an extrovert. Wasn't I an elected school board member? Didn't
public speaking and media interviews come easy for me? Still there
were things I didn't understand.
*often managing day to day seems exhausting, but I feel tired or burnt
out, not depressed.
*Living in a densely populated neighborhood, I feel isolated.
*Actions that seem just natural to me are considered very thoughtful
to others.
*People describe me in introverted seeming ways. Our special
education director said I observe much more than most people. Lots of
people comment that I don't say a lot in school board meetings, but
when I do it's very insightful or right on.
The book was a real eye opener. When I read the list of introvert
advantages I felt like Dr. Laney had sent me a picture of myself.
What a relief! Now I don't have to wonder what's wrong with me.
Nothing is. OK, dear readers, this humble reviewer is coming out of a
closet I never knew I was in. I am introvert; hear me whisper.
A great big shout out goes out to my fellow introverts and the people
who understand us. :)
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Guys Read

One of the most common complaints of reading and English
teachers is that boys do not read or at least read enough. Especially
in the preteen and teen years, it can be hard for books to compete
with sports, girls, and the omnipresent electronic media. Popular and
prolific children's book author Jon Scieszksa decided to create books
boys would really want to read. There's a Guys Read website (
). It contains the work of well known writers and illustrators. Boys
choose their favorites which are put into anthologies. Royalties from
these books are used to support the website.
I was able to score two of the volumes at the Orono Public
Library. One contained vignettes of guy defining moments, both
fictitious and autobiographical. There were really neat drawings from
contributers' childhood and current work. The other consisted of
longer funny stories. Both, in my mind, are well worth reading.
On a personal note, I've been seeing some lovely butterflies and moths
A great big shout out goes out to writers who understand what our sons
want to read.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Sunday, August 12, 2012

Clouds of Glory

For a poet I read very little poetry. Unless a fellow poet
really captures my heart and mind I have a short attention span. Go
figure. When I saw Ken Nye's Clouds of Glory: Poetic Thoughts from
Maine with its iconic lighthouse I thought I'd skim a few pages.
Wrong. I ended up reading it cover to cover.
What I did NOT expect to see in the works of a male poet who
puts a lighthouse on his book cover is soul touching sensitivity. His
most amazing writings, in my mind, concern his mother's last years.
She had alzheimers at the end. In "Prelude to Goodbye" he talks about
the gradual process of loss and the preciousness of her increasingly
rare moments of being with her family again. In "Everyday Courage" he
talks about the strength of her finding joy, beauty, and love in a
progressively confusing and frustrating world.
Like me, Nye is a major league Wordsworth fan. He shares the
belief that infants arrive trailing clouds of glory from a heavenly
home to which the deceased return, a far more comforting view than
birth and death as abrupt beginning and end. This trust is epitomized
by "Eternity in a Ring" in which he describes being home with his
brand new grandson and dying mother.
The poems aren't all bittersweet. There is some great nature
observation. His memories of his boyhood are also terrific. My
favorite is "Birthday". Turning eleven, he hopes for a new bike but
remembers that the last time his parents promised him a surprise he
got a baby sister.
On a personal note, I'm back to knitting scarves for the first time in
months, seeing what I can create from my random yarn collection.
A great big shout out goes out to Leo and Willie because they're good
sports when I include them--in not always the most flattering light--
in my poems.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

The iConnected Parent

Journalist Abigail Moore Sullivan had written an article on the
really risky things people do to get cell phone reception when they're
in dead zones. She noticed also that teens and parents seem a lot
more connected than they did in even the recent past. Middlebury
College professor, Dr. Barbara Hofer noticed more students whipping
out cell phones to call home. She wondered how this would effect
their growth and development. Fortunately for us they met and
embarked on the mutual inquiry that resulted in The iConnected
Parent: Staying Close to Your Kids in College (And Beyond) While
Letting Them Grow Up.
Back when I was a student (Gordon College Class of '83--1983
that is) typically students called home about once a week. Today's
students can chat with Mom several times a day. Why the change?
Sullivan and Hofer say it's largely driven by technology. In my day
we had land lines and high long distance rates. Now there's cell
phones, Skype, Facebook...
However, the authors note other factors. One is described as
peer pressure. Today's parents have been bombarded with messages that
their constant involvement is the only way to protect their kids and
get them on the road to success in life. This major league
involvement can now extend to college and beyond. Not only can
parents have a hard time switching out of this mode, particularly if
they find it fulfilling, but failing to live up to it can bring
ostracism and negative judgements on the part of the "good" parents.
Additionally, people tend to become parents later in life than older
generations and have fewer children on whom to lavish their love and
Hofer and Sullivan say the results of this change in
communication patterns are decidedly mixed. On the positive side,
many families are closer, to the enjoyment of both students and
parents. However, there are a number of substantial dangers. The
developmental tasks of the college years include becoming more
disciplined in study skills, more able to make decisions autonomously,
and more skilled in negotiating interpersonal relationships. This
important progress may not happen for kids if Mom and Dad write or
edit papers, choose classes, and intervene with roommates.
Too tightly connected kids may also not get as much out of
college as previous generations did. When Mom is best friend there is
not as much motivation to bond with those more problematic peers.
Parent chosen majors and classes often don't inspire the passion and
dedication of self chosen ones. Long distance nagging doesn't give a
son or daughter the motivation or chance to take ownership of his/her
college experience.
Frankly I'd recommend this book to anyone who has a child in or
headed toward college. I know I learned a lot from it.
On a personal note, I had the most fun morning volunteering at Orono
Public Library. A gentle rain (which also benefitted the garden)
brought in a lovely congregation of readers. I also finally located
an electric ice cream maker I could afford at the Orono Thrift Shop. :)
A great big shout out goes put to my three wonderful children who
continue to survive my parenting.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, August 10, 2012

How They Croaked

Juvenile non fiction
In the Orono Public Library's children's wing we display new
books on higher shelves. One day I found myself eyeball to eyeball
with a grinning skeleton in doctor's attire. The title of the book in
question, as well as the gruesome vissage, startled me.
A proper reviewer most likely would have passed on Georgia
Bragg's How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous. She
probably would have commented primly on the quality (lack of that is)
of today's children's lit. But we have never confused me with her,
have we?
Although in a morbid sort of way, the book is very interesting.
Kids go through phases where they will find it fascinating. The
deaths of a veritable who's who from King Tut to Einstein are examined
in vivid detail. Each chapter has a two page appendix of useful
additional information.
A lot of what we "know" on this topic can be considered urban
legend. Cleopatra, for instance, did not meet her end at the fangs of
an asp. The tell tale pricks were made by a poisoned hair pin.
Garfield, the president, not the cat, was felled not by a bullet, but
by infection caused by the unwashed hands of his doctors. Forget
everything you've learned about Pocohantas courtesy of Disney films.
In addition to their last moments, there is information on the
lives and times of the famous subjects. This book may not be a parent
or teacher's cup of tea. But for a child at the stage where "Eew,
gross!" is a term of endearment it can provide a fascinating glimpse
into history.
On a personal note, in America in the twenty-first century tens, if
not hundreds, of thousands of non famous citizens like me are in
danger of dying early for lack of health insurance.
A great big shout out goes out to the people who are working so hard
to get the United States to join the civilized world in this regard.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Black Gold

YA non fiction
Iraqui religious leaders declared jihad (holy war) against
foreign infidels occupying their country. There were demonstrations
in major cities. Occupiers struck back with violence that took the
lives of civilians (including women and children) as well as rebels.
Nope, this was not something orchastrated by President Bush. He
hadn't been born. I'm not even sure his dad had been. The year was
Wow! Invading the Middle East for oil goes back a lot further
than I imagined. I learned that and a whole lot more when I read
Albert Marrin's Black Gold: The Story of Oil in Our Lives. It is a
truly comprehensive study covering the formation of fossil fuels, the
history of their production and usage, their role in recent major
world conflicts, and moral and ethical issues.
One might fear that the scope of information covered in 158
pages with liberal use of relevant photographs would allow only for
recitation of the facts. No way, Jose! Marrin's writing style really
makes the subject come to life. Consider these sentences concerning
WWI aerial combat: "To burn alive was the most horrible fate a pilot
could imagine. The pilots' nicknames for gasoline captured their
fears: 'Orange Death,' 'Hell-brew,' 'Witches' Water,' 'Infernal
Liquid.' "
If there's a theme to this book, it is oil as the richest prize
and greatest problem of our time. The final chapter covers the need
to transition to a new energy order-if for no other reason than fossil
fuels being finite and rapidly depleted. A wide range of options is
covered. I'd call Black Gold a great read to gain insight into one of
the most critical issues facing humankind.
On a personal note, the hubby took me to the Bangor State Fair despite
his dislike of fairs. We went to the shows, many of which had good
environmental information. We rode the rides, especially my favorite,
the carosel. We brought supper home to the family. I didn't have to
A great big shout out goes put to the hubby. If that isn't romantic,
I don't know what is.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

1001 Cupcakes

The cover of 1001 Cupcakes, Cookies, and Other Tempting Treats
looks like a page from what I hope Heaven will be like. The promise
it makes is kept beautifully in its 299 pages. The range of recipes
is amazing and inspiring. Novice and kitchen will find sweets at the
perfect level of difficulty.
The only problem is deciding what to make first. Rum and raisin
cookies with orange filling look super. But so do mocha cupcakes with
whipped cream, brandied peach galettes, chocolate florentines,
tropical fruit cookie sandwiches, mocha biscotti, black forest
brownies, chocolate eclairs, strawberry tartlets, baklava, Italian
chocolate truffles...
I highly recommend this book which I find to be in excellent
On a personal note, the hubby and I recently celebrated our 23rd
wedding anniversary. We went out with the kids for breakfast (Dennys)
and supper (99). In between we went for a drive in the Moosehead Lake
region and had wild blueberry ice cream.
A great big shout out and thank you go out to Eugene for 23 amazing
years and 3 awesome children,
Julia Emily Hathaway

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