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
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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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