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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