Monday, April 30, 2012

Waiting for the Biblioburro

Picture book
Recently I took a fellow RSU 26 board member and his delightful
children on a tour of the Orono Public Library. They were highly
impressed with all it had to offer: the plethora of books with so
many more available on inter library loan, the CDs and DVDs, the
puppet theater and sunny reading nooks... It saddens me that so many
people in our country take one of their community's greatest treasures
for granted. Guess they haven't read Monica Brown's Waiting for the
Ana, a little girl growing up in Columbia, treasures her one and
only book. She has read it so often she knows it by heart. She tells
her little brother stories to help him fall asleep.
One day Ana awakens to the sound of hoofs. She sees a man with
a sign, Biblioburro, and two burros laden with books. She and other
children run to meet him. He introduces himself as a librarian with a
moving library. He reads to them and helps the youngest with the
alphabet. Ana is able to borrow books and take them home. The next
time her librarian returns she has created a book for him.
Most of us, with ready access to a universe of books, would seem
truly blessed to a child like Ana. Let's be cognizant of our great
good fortune and help people both abroad and at home have more access
to the wonderful world of books.
On a personal note, I adore volunteering at the Orono Public Library
Children's wing. Just recently I did a program on the Titanic.
A great big shout out goes out to my fellow children's wing volunteer,
Laura K. We are, without a doubt, a dynamic duo.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Subway Story

Picture book
Most of us, discovering a bit of fascinating info, may comment
about its coolness, share it with a family member or friend, or turn
on the computer for an Internet search. That's usually the extent of
it. Fortunately for us, Julia Sarcone-Roach took her discovery quite
a bit further. Subway Story is the most exciting recycling tale I've
ever read.
Jessie, the subway car, was born in Missouri and sent to New
York City just in time for the 1964 World's Fair. Strong and fast,
with gleaming paint, large windows, and sturdy seats, she took
passengers all over the city--even in a tunnel under the river. After
awhile parts broke down and had to be replaced. Eventually repairs
weren't enough. For awhile she was left in a yard with other cars.
Then one day she was cleaned up, taken out minus her doors, and
dropped into the ocean where she became an artificial reef to provide
a home to marine creatures great and small. I mean how cool is that?
She's one of many that gained this reincarnation in the Atlantic
Ocean. In other countries old subway cars have become artist studios,
homeless shelters, schools, and restaurants.
Think of the inspiration this book can give to the budding
scientists and engineers in your life!
On a personal note, I'm campaigning for reelection like crazy, going
door to door, talking to my constituents, and loving it. Being
unopposed would be no excuse for complacency.
A great big shout out goes out to my friends who run the Orono Thrift
Shop, keeping so many treasures from ending up in landfills and
raising money for really important causes.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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11 Experiments That Failed

Picture book
Well, it's about time. That's all I can say. We finally have a
sequel to 17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore.
In Jenny Offill and Nancy Carpenter's 11 Experiments That
Failed, our spunky protagonist is back in full scientist mode,
complete with white lab coat and pink rimmed safety glasses. Whether
using her brother's sneakers in an attempt to grow a fungus garden or
trying to clean dishes in a washing machine, she adheres to proper
procedures. The question and hypothesis are followed by methodology
and usually pretty funny results.
If you want a good laugh, share this light-hearted book with the
kids in your life. But keep an eye on them. If they're anything like
my child self, they may find it, shall we say, inspiring.
On a personal note, I still experiment. I have discovered, among
other things, that dishwasing liquid can be substituted for laundry
detergent but not the other way around, pancake recipes can be altered
if the family is kept in the dark, and a grown woman--
or at least this one--can't go a whole day on nothing but pink
A great big shout out goes out to our RSU 26 science teachers and the
hands on learning experiences they offer their students.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Tia Isa Wants A Car

Picture book
If you ever want an empowering book to share with a daughter or
granddaughter you can't do better than Meg Messina's Tia Isa Wants A
The narrator lives with her aunt and uncle who, in addition to
maintaining a household on blue collar incomes, must save enough to
bring the rest of their family to the United States. Tia Isa wants
something more. She misses the ocean she grew up beside and wants a
car to take her loved ones to the beach.
Tio Andres deems the idea ridiculous. They aren't rich. They
can walk anywhere they need to go. Since these thoughts clinch the
deal in his mind, he goes on to ask what's for dinner. Undettered,
Tia Isa sets aside money bit by bit. The niece narrator finds ways
she too can earn money.
What makes this book truly special is its basis in Medina's own
childhood experience. You'll love the photo of her family with that
long ago memorable car.
On a personal note, I am overjoyed that I am running unopposed for
reelection to RSU 26 Board of Directors. My BFF Rose says no one else
wants our jobs. WELL I DO and I am in seventh heaven, over the moon...
A great big shout out goes out to my long ago BFF Denise. Back in the
day we cruised around in her BMW convertible attracting much male
attention. Was it the car? Was it the fine ladies? Probably a
little of both.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Born and Bred in the Great Depression

Picture book
Open the cover of Born and Bred in the Great Depression and
you'll see black and white photographs labelled and dated. They are
of author Jonah Winter's father and his family in the 1930s. They are
the stars of the story. Winter took the stories he probably grew up
hearing and made them into a narrative that provides a portrait not
only of a loving, resilient family, but of a pivotal point in our
nation's history.
In an unusually poignant second person narration, a boy is
talking to his grown up father. He reflects on the stories he's been
told about his dad's depression era childhood. Sometimes he asks the
"did you really" questions a child would ask. The words are set in
free form poetry and perfectly complimented by Kimberly Bulcken Root's
muted pallette.
The love of the son for his father and the gentle and whimsical
details of the pictures give a sense of dignity, joy, and hope that
would be missing in a more detached treatment. The dad as boy is
clearly proud to help his father operate a pump (no indoor plumbing)
while his sister is happily absorbed in washing a doll. He is
thrilled to play checkers with his dad and listen to him play banjo.
And the family always stands ready to help others who have less.
If there ever was perfect timing in a book's publication--this
is it. Many read-to-me age children are in hard times and bombarded
by media bad news. Sharing this book with a loving parent can help a
child articulate his own fears and concerns and maybe gain hope that
(to paraphrase Winter) the storm of hard days can give way to "the
blue skies of better days."
On a personal note, I'm very happy to have my outside swing set up.
It's a perfect place to read or knit and listen to the Veazie Symphony
Orchastra (my wind chime collection).
A great big shout out goes out to my parents and all the other
outstanding men and women who experienced the Great Depression and
came out of it with a determination to give their own children a
better life.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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The Dewey books

Cats and libraries. In my mind that's an irrisistable
combination. So imagine my delight when, shelving picture books at
the Orono Public Library, I discovered Dewey There's a Cat in the
Library and Dewey's Christnas at the Library by Vicki Myron and Brett
Wittner. Dewey, by the way, was a very real cat.
Dewey There's a Cat in the Library looks at the earliest Dewey
days. He was left in the book return box of the Spencer [Iowa] Public
Library on the coldest night of the year. He was given a warm bath,
named Dewey Readmore Books, and adopted. Quickly he made the library
his own and won the hearts of its patrons. There's an adorable part
at the end where he cheers up a sad little girl.
Dewey's Christmas at the Library celebrates his discovery of the
festive season. The tree piques his curiosity. The ornaments become
perfect play things--especially a ball of red yarn. He's disappointed
when his tree disappears and elated when it's put back into place with
a blue ribbon for its Dewey themed decor winning first place in a
Both of these warm picture books are ideal to be read aloud.
And the illustrations perfectly complement the text. Steve James
really knows his cats. Whether curled up asleep or playing with
reckless abandon, Dewey exhibits that feline charm and grace that
turns every stance and move into pure ballet. And that sweet little
face! It would be impossible not to fall in love!
On a personal note, Joey cat is in feline heaven, being able to sit on
his favorite window sill and visually stalk robins through the
screen. He also enjoys the daily brushing to prevent hairballs.
A great big shout out goes out to Joey of course, my friend Jann's
lovely Hannah Marie, and the folks at Veazie Vetinary Clinic and their
dedication to all creatures great and small. And I wish to pay
tribute to the fond memory of Kaspar the bookstore cat.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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what happened to goodbye

Sarah Dessen, in my mind, is one of the bright shining stars of
young adult literature. Pegging her books as romance, although
possibly selling them to teenage girls, ultimately does them a
disservice. Her heroines struggle poignantly with the same deep
issues as their peers. What happened to goodbye is a perfect
example. McLean, the heroine, must deal with perhaps the most
defining issue of adolescence--identity.
McLean was given the name of a winning basketball coach at her
parents' alma mater where they were college sweethearts. Her father
had lived for eventually making the team from kindergarten on.
Following graduation, he had remained an avid fan, indoctrinating
McLean into his passion at a very early age. In a supreme irony
McLean's mother had left him to marry the new basketball coach.
McLean's father then sold his restaurant and took a consulting
job that would require a lot of travel. It was assumed that McLean
would live with her mother and stepfather and soon-to-be-born twins in
an exclusive gated community. Her father would visit when he could.
She, however, had other plans. "She could have her bright and shiny
new life, with a new husband and new kids, but she didn't get to have
me too. I decided I was going with my dad."
McLean and her father moved quite frequently to the point where
she knew by heart the signs of an imminent uprooting. With each new
school she tried out a new persona. Eliza was a popular good girl.
Lizbet was a dancer and drama queen. Beth was an all round joiner.
McLean tossed each personification out with the inevitable next move,
vanishing without a trace. Hence the book title.
When McLean and her father move to Lakeview things change. She
takes her own name. Friends really start to matter to her. She's
becoming involved. There's even a special boy in her life. Then the
people she's come to care about, who have shared their homes and lives
with her, learn about her previous identities...
...Read the book already. You won't be able to put it down.
On a personal note, I am so happy. My favorite thrift shop brought
out their summer clothes. Bargain heaven!
A great big shout out goes out to our courageous RSU 26 finance
subcommittee: Sue, Travis, and Lisa. They had the gruelling task of
figuring out how to budget dwindling funds for five schools in the
ways that would impact students the least. A lot of people didn't
agree with their ideas and pressured them to change them. It took
staunch hearts and true loyalty to continue under those conditions.
Julia Emily Hathaway
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