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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