Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Can Man

Picture book
Tim would love to get a skate board for his birthday. He knows
exactly the one he wants. He also knows his chances of getting it are
slim to nonexistant. His dad has too many bills to pay.
The can man used to have a job and an apartment in Tim's
building. He's been down on his luck. He'd like to get a jacket to
replace his old torn one before winter sets in.
Tim decides to collect cans and cash them in to get his skate
board. He does quite well, but when he learns of the can man's plight
his skate board doesn't seem quite so important. When he and his
friends cash in his returnables he sees snow start to fall.
Laura E. Williams' warm, beautifully illustrated book (where in
the end both Tim and the can man get what they want by helping each
other) can be the spring board for so many talks about caring and
helping one another. It's worth its weight in gold.
On a personal note, my son, my baby just turned 16.
A great big shout out goes out to the wonderful young man I am so
proud of.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, January 25, 2013

My Name Is Not...

Picture book
Just how big can a little kid dream. Jennifer Fosberry's my name
is not Isabella and my name is not Alexander hint that the sky is the
Aided by understanding parents, imaginative youngsters go
through a day trying on new identities. Isabella becomes Sally Ride,
Annie Oakley, Rosa Parks, Marie Curie, Elizabeth Blackwell, and
Mommy. Alexander changes into Theodore Roosevelt, Thomas Edison,
Chief Joseph, Fred Astaire, Jackie Robinson, and Daddy. At the end of
the book you find biographies of all the heroes including Mommy and
As they go through the day the identities the children try on
are clearly tied to their activities. The parents enter into the
spirit of adventure. When Marie Curie arrives home from school her
mother invites her to discover the answers to her homework. When
Jackie Robinson is about to help do dishes his father advises him to
clear home plate and admits, "You stole my heart." Don't you just love
Interestingly, shelving in Orono Public Library, I've heard my
name is not Isabella read out loud quite often by moms. I have never
heard my name is not Alexander. Dads, what are you waiting for? Our
sons need to dream big too.
On a personal note, I was dismayed recently to read that a 5-year-old
kindergarten student was suspended from school for talking to a
classmate about a Hello Kitty Bubble Gun. How anyone could see a
child that young as a potential terrorist (that's right, folks) is
beyond me. When are we going to admit that zero tolerance has gone
way too far and often does more harm than good?
A great big shout out goes out to the school boards and administrators
who remember to exercise common sense.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Night of the Pumpkinheads

One of the best Halloween books I've read in years, Michael
Rosen's Night of the Pumpkinheads, combines a wonderful read aloud,
spooktacular illustrations, and an always relevant social message.
One October residents of a pumpkin patch are getting restless
and bored. They decide they'll get dressed ip and go out. They'll
show those kids how to do scary! The one who creeps out the most
children will becom head of Jack-O-Ween.
A saber tooth tiger, a cobra, dinosaurs, spiders from outer
space, a skeleton... All sorts of frightful visions come to life.
Even the littlest pumpkins become killer bees. Sadly when the other
garden veggies try to join in the fun the pumpkins ostracize them.
Fortunately they don't take no for an answer.
Wanna guess which veggies totally terrify the kidlets?
At the back of the book you'll find ways to carve a scaredy-cat
jack-o-lantern and roast pumpkin seeds. I proclaim this colorful book
to be in very good taste.
On a personal note, Joey Cat's stitches are out. His little velvety
ear continues to heal ever so nicely!
A great big shout out goes out to Joey and all our dear companion
animals who give so much love and devotion and ask for so little in
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, January 18, 2013

Ocean Sunlight

Picture book
Bravo! In Ocean Sunlight: How Tiny Plants Feed The Seas writer/
illustrator, Molly Bang, and college professor, Penny Chisholm do what
they did for photosynthesis (Living Sunlight, 2009) and Bang did for
electricity (My Light, 2004). They take a complex topic, the ocean
food chain, and through poetic language and dazzling illustrations,
illuminate it for young readers.
The book's narrator is none other than the Sun. We are told
that the ocean food chain starts with solar light reaching plants. We
are swept from the shoreline to the ocean's surface and down to the
abysmal depths. The pictures are amazing--especially those of the
phytoplankton and luminescent deep sea creatures. Six pictures at the
end give more in depth information.
At the end of the book the authors answer the question: why
should we care so much about understanding our oceans? Humans are
changing the oceans, on which our lives depend. In order to make good
stewardship of this vital resource, we need to understand its most
fundamental dynamics. They hope their writing will inspire readers to
learn more about the subject.
I do too!
On a personal note, we had the RSU 26 Board of Directors yearbook
picture taken for the last time. Next time this time we will have
reverted back to three isolated one town school units. It's so not
A great big shout out goes out to my Glenburn and Orono colleagues who
I will miss working with so much! Just the thought of this upcoming
loss brings tears to my eyes.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Nora's Ark

Picture book.
Natalie Kinsey-Warnock's Nora's Ark is a real gem of a story
that perfectly combines a universal truth with the richness of time
and place. It's based on a flood that happened in Vermont in 1927.
Wren, the narrator, lives contentedly with her grandparents in
the home where they raised their own children. They aren't rich by
any stretch of the imagination. But they have plenty to eat.
Wren's grandfather is building a new house on a hill that will
have indoor plumbing and electricity. Her grandmother is happy where
she is. In her mind the new house is gravy--a nice addition but not
necessary to make potatoes delicious and filling.
In November a pouring rain and the flooding it causes send the
family to the new house. They are gradually joined by neighbors. By
nightfall they're hosting 23 people and a legion of critters great and
small including one hundred chickens. And the rain and flooding show
no signs of letting up.
After the flood Wren lives in that house for decades, never
sanding away hoofprints in the floor, "...because they remind me of
what's important: family and friends and neighbors helping neighbors.
Like Grandma said, everything else is just gravy."
If that message resonates with you, read Nora's Ark and share it
with those you love. It's a beacon of hope in a nation where so many
people seem focussed on gravy rather than potatoes.
On a personal note, my daughters, Katie and Amber, and my future son-
in-law, Brian, are starting what I hope will be a sensational semester.
Joey cat continues to recover from surgery.
A great big shout out goes out to Katie, Amber, Brian, and their peers
returnng from vaca to the classroom. May the force be with you!
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Marisol McDonald

My younger daughter goes to work and school looking like she
just stepped off the cover of Vogue. She's a beautiful girl and
totally stylish. My look is more...whimsical. Often my outfit du
jour is met with a sigh and, "Mom, that doesn't match." Therefore,
when I saw Monica Brown's Marisol McDonald Doesn't Match (told in
English and Spanish) it was love at first sight.
Marisol loves her brown skin and fire colored hair. She combines
her favorite clothes creatively. She takes peanut butter and jelly
burritos to school for lunch. One day a classmate tells her she
couldn't match if she wanted to. The results are... the book and see. It is a wonderful assertion of the
beauty of the many kids who don't match or really want to. OK, not
just kids as I'm living proof.
On a personal note, here are the FAQs as promised:
1) Did you read all those books?
Well yeah.
2) Where did you find them? Publishers send some. I discover others
when the library acquires them. Then there are the gems I read about
in magazines, the newspaper, or other books or discover on covert ops
at other libraries. Joyce is great at acquiring them through inter
library loan.
3) Would you put down a book that didn't capture your interest?
In a heartbeat.
4) Do you have biases in book selection?
Joey cat continues to recover beautifully from his surgery.
A great big shout out goes out to my inter library loan superstar,
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

All Things Bright And Beautiful

Picture book
Ashley Bryan has to be one of the most wonderful people in the
whole state of Maine. He is a very talented artist. Using colored
papers and his beloved mother's embroidery scissors (I love that
detail) he creates breathtaking collages. He's given us over 35
books, each of which is a treasure.
In person he's amazing. On stage he's like a hummingbird. Even
standing still he's in motion. He's always observing. Maybe that's
one reason his art is so wonderfully detailed. If you get to talk to
him as I did, his enthusiastic attention is a precious gift.
Imagine my joy when I saw that he had illustrated the hymn, All
Things Bright And Beautiful. It in itself is wonderful and timely.
In a decade when kids (and adults, truth be told) too often spend more
time interacting with electronic media than outside and the disconnect
between human and non human life has grown exponentially, the natural
world is too often neglected. Whether we believe in God, evolution,
or, like me, both, the same Being/process that brought us into being
gave birth to cats, butterflies, frogs...all things bright and
beautiful. We ignore this at our own peril.
The marriage of hymn and collage is truly transformative. Each
page is worthy of careful study. "all creatures great and small"
features an underwater scene in which a whale swims among multicolored
smaller fish, a blue eyed octopus, a dancing crab, and other
delightful creatures. "all things wise and wonderful" brings us back
to dry land. Birds soar over a book open to pages of terrestrial
animals with a tree rooted in the book and branching upward, bridging
both spheres. Interpretations of the wind and sun are delightfully
I advise you to read All Things Bright And Beautiful and then
head to your local library to check out Bryan's earlier books. It's a
destination well worth the journey.
On a personal note, this is, can you believe it?, my 100th blog
post!!! In about a year and a half I have read and encouraged you to
try 100 books. Quite the mile stone we're sharing! For me this has
been a labor of love. I can think of few things I would rather do
than read and write about books! (Next post I'll include FAQs.)
Oh, yeah, Joey cat's surgery went fine!
He is very happy to be home. He's even purring in his sleep. :)
A great big shout out goes to you, my readers, of course! Here's to
100 more posts!
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Thursday, January 3, 2013

Making Supper Safe

Ben Hewitt, author of Making Supper Safe: One Man's Quest To
Learn About Food Safety, claims that eating in America is an act of
faith. He explains in great depth the dangers of making this blind
faith. One thing for sure: he gives us plenty of food for thought.
In light of the increasing numbers of recalls following highly
publicized food poisoning outbreaks we are understandably concerned
about pathogens, particularly of the ecoli kind. The increased
industrialization of food production not only makes outbreaks
exponentially larger but makes sources harder and slower to trace.
Your burger may have meat from cows from several abatoires (OK,
slaughterhouses. Pardon my fondness for SAT vocabulary words.).
In Hewitt's world this is only the tip of the iceberg and we
have a lot more to fear from what's under the water line. Folks like
Earl Butz, my own private Freddy Kruger, are changing government
incentives to reward growers of componants of factory foods.
Processed foods are less likely to harbor the bacteria we fear but are
worst for us in terms of long term chronic disease (think heart
disease, diabetes.) Keep this in perspective. In any given year
295,000 more people die of obesity related than pathogen related
"For the literally hundreds of thousands of Americans who suffer
and die from diet-related afflictions, E. coli and salmonella are not
the most palpable threats in our food. No, the most palpable threat
in our food is the policy behind it, a policy that has given rise to a
system of abundance that, even as it fills our stomachs to bursting,
offering a false promise of wellness and short-term satisfaction,
starves us of our long-term health.
This is the unspoken truth about food safety in the United
States: our food doesn't need pathogenic bacteria to sicken. It does
just fine on its own."
Can you read that quote and not go running out to get a copy of
Making Supper Safe? I sure hope not!
On a personal note, it is some cold outside!!! I was quite happy to
run my errands (by walking and budding) without incurring frostbite.
The secret of my success: layers. Dress defensively.
A great big shout out goes out to the hubby and all the others who
labor out in all kinds of weather earning money to keep their families
fed and sheltered.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Wimpy Kid

It was Halloween day. I'd discovered Jeff Kinney's Diary of a
Wimpy Kid Cabin Fever. My favorite big soft chair in the Orono
Library was free. Louise and Joyce weren't being vigilant in guarding
their candy. Louise had dark chocolate peanut butter cups. Heavenly!
This is the sixth book in Kinney's series and, in my mind, his
finest so far. There is the perfect blend of plot, humor, and good
natured satire. Parents who think their children spend entirely too
much time (and money) on video games will chuckle over Greg's Net
Kritterz obsession. His virtual chihuahua has more possessions than
most people. Once he plays sixteen hours without a bathroom break.
Kids will find the ineptitude and scammish nature of Greg's school
fund raiders interesting and be quite amused when an anti-bullying
slogan contest results is a massive fist fight.
The time leading up to Christmas is not a source of joy for
Greg. His Mom has Santa's scout keeping watch on his behavior. Then
not only Father Christmas, but the police may have him under
surveillance. Of course just when it looks like things couldn't
possibly get worse... gotta read the book to find out. :)
On a personal note, Santa, family, and friends were good to me! My
favorite gifts were made by hand: lotsa cookies and candy and an
exquisite snowflake ornament Leah crocheted for me. The money will
help with Joey's operation. I'm also partial to a lovely musical snow
globe engraved "Our Town 2012" (a pivotal event in my life) and a gift
card that enabled me to build a bear, Christine Leah. Yes, I did the
heart ceremony.
A great big shout out goes out to the loved ones who were so generous
and kind.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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In my capacity as RSU 26 vice chair I attended the Maine School
Management Association conference. In one clinic a lawyer and a
policy consultant discussed how school districts could meet new legal
requirements on antibullying policies (and prevent costly lawsuits).
Definitions and disciplinary procedures were spelled out precisely.
Still something was missing.
Most thinking adults have been horrified by recent examples of
young people driven to suicide by peer cruelty. Understandably we
want to do something to keep kids safe. However, as Carrie Goldman
points out in Bullied: What Every Parent, Teacher, and Kid Needs To
Know About Ending The Cycle of Fear, the simplistic, punishment
oriented ways often used to correct a very complex problem can, at
best, offer an illusion of safety for kids (and ways to fight those
costly lawsuits) and frequently are counterproductive. Zero tolerance
and harsh penalties, for example, can alienate and worsen the behavior
of students who run afoul of the rigid rules.
Let's make it perfectly clear. As a parent, former child, and
potential grammie, I am not in favor of looking the other way when it
comes to bullying. What I do want to see is school environments where
from preK to high school graduation there is safety for all students
and kindness is cultivated. I also want to see us intervening in ways
that don't make a child's aggression a label for life or let that
child be a scapegoat for all the family and societal problems that can
lurk in the background. That's what I love about Goldman. She takes
it all on with honesty, clarity, and optimism for real change.
Let's take cyberbullying. A typical adult reaction is a
horrified comment about kids today. Goldman tells us it's not just
kids. In two fictional scenarios a boy sees that his father has
alluded to a basketball player as. "fucking faggot" in a comment to a
sports blog and a girl reads a text from her mom to a friend saying
that a third mother has a "fat ass and dresses like a slut." Adults
are not immune to the distancing effect of technology that enables
sending messages that probably would not be said face to face. Some
of us are setting horrible examples for the next generation. (I know
that when my school board takes on a controversial topic what gets
posted on the listserve makes me feel that we should send some
parenting adults to the principal's office).
Another facet is the sexualization of bullying these days.
Goldman advises us to look at larger forces at work before we think
that kids today are a lot more evil than our generation. Gender based
toys make children engage in stereotypical behaviors (and penalize
those who cross the line). Make up and sexy clothes objectify girls
at earlier and earlier ages. Children's beauty pageants with toddlers
dancing and dressing provocatively can be quite the barometer for our
society's view of kids barely put of diapers. It's very dangerous for
kids to equate self worth with sex appeal.
Throughout the book Goldman reminds us that all is not lost. If
we don't limit ourselves to knee jerk, litigation stifling responses
we can do so much to prevent and remediate bullying. From help for
individual children to creating communities of caring in schools and
even using the Internet as a means of cybersupport, she discusses so
many ways in which we can all make a difference. I recommend her book
to teachers, school administrators and boards, guidance counselors and
school social workers, parents, grandparents, community leaders such
as pastors, and savvy college and high school students.
On a personal note, the Saturday before Christmas I was chatting with
a woman ahead of me in line at Goodwill. When she got to the register
she said she was paying for my purchases. She also gave me the lovely
angel earrings she was wearing that I'd admired. She did so in memory
of the children who were killed.
A great big shout out goes out to all who did acts of kindness as a
response to the tragic Comnecticut shootings.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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My friend, Sharon, heads up the RSU 26 special education
program. My chum, Christine, is her second-in-command. What makes
them most suited to this challenging profession is attitude. Where
many would see a problem running around in a child's body, they would
perceive a unique young person with potential and the need of some
help. Not surprisingly, their size extra large hearts have room for
canine companions. I'm sure they would be able to see the potential
not only in picture perfect pooches, but in thise critters who may
need a little, or more than a little, help...
...which is the premise behind Stefan Bechtel's Dogtown: tales
of rescue, rehabilitation, and redemption. It tells the stories of
wonderful dogs saved from horrendous situations. They would have been
euthanized if not for Best Friends Animal Society because of physical
defects and psychological scars incurred under conditions of neglect,
abuse, or heartbreaking loss. With patience, training, love, and
safe, clean quarters they were finally able to flourish and be happy.
You'll meet Georgia, a pit bull who was rescued in a raid on a
dog fighting operation. The Humane Society and People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals felt that the critters caught up in the sweep
were so damaged they should be put down. Selective breeding and
sadistic training reinforce fighting qualities one doesn't want in a
family pet. Lack of even the most basic human-dog or dog-dog
socializing can leave a canine far behind.
Then there's Rush, a shell shocked dog from Lebanon. One of his
legs was so badly damaged it had to be amputated. The terrifying
experiences he had endured had left him understandably fearful of
stimuli that wouldn't faze an untraumatized dog. In a war zone such
alertness inducing fears would be useful. In the American survival-of-
the-cuddliest millieu it would have the exact opposite effect.
Georgia, Rush, and their many canine companions have poignant
and uplifting stories. They will capture your heart. Do not try to
read Dogtown without a hankie on hand. If you love dogs or enjoy
stories that make you feel really good to be alive, don't deprive
yourself of this truly heartwarming book.
On a personal note, dear Joey Cat will start this year off with
surgery. He will be fine and I'll find the money. Somehow.
A great big shout out goes out to the Veazie Vet crew who go all out
to give their clients a knowledgeable and kind medical home and their
colleagues around the nation and world.
Julia Emily Hathaway

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Recently we had a grey rainy day. Packing a new umbrella, I
found myself feeling a little sad. It's adorable with purple
triangles alternating with pink and white plaid ones. No matter how
carefully I tend to it, though, it won't last like the umbrellas of my
childhood. Its little ribs are just too flimsy.
This really brought to mind the message behind Elizabeth Cline's
Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion. They just
don't make clothes and accessories like they used to. In the past
garments were meant to last more than one season, and quite often to
be passed down. They were well crafted and capable of being altered.
People actually knew how to mend and alter. (In my childhood moms
worked on hems and seams to accomodate growth spurts and sibling
passing downs. You could go back to school with a perfectly adequate
wardrobe and only sneakers and underwear being new).
These days in much of the garment industry planned obsolescence
is the name of the game. (The wealthy are still able to get quality
at quite the price.) The consumer behavioral mandate is to be
continually revamping our wardrobes with this season's must have looks
that will be totally passé this time next year. But retailers are not
totally to blame. Consumers have come to expect ridiculously prices.
This puts pressure on manufacturers to continuously cut corners.
Basically all parties are complicit in this spiral to the bottom.
There are so many costs to this cheap fashion addiction that go
way beyond shoddy garment construction. Many of the American jobs
that made middle class life possible for families have disappeared as
factories are sent overseas. Workers in third world countries are
exploited by subminimum wages and unsafe work conditions. Just
recently over 100 garment workers making clothes for WalMart died in a
blaze horribly reminiscent of the 1911 Triangle Shirt Waist factory
fire. When clothes are seen as disposable they clog landfills all too
quickly. Don't even get me started on the environmental harm caused
by the stepped up usage of frankenfibers.
Cline believes, fortunately, that these changes can be reversed
if enough people rethink their relationship with clothes in the same
way slow food advocates change their eating habits. Put quality ahead
of quantity. Discover what styles and colors work for you and start
wearing what makes you look your best. This book has so many ways of
doing so that can be undertaken even by people of modest means like
your humble reviewer. I believe Overdressed is a must read for anyone
who wants to look great without helping to trash the planet.
On a personal note, when I saw the dress at a yard sale it was love at
first sight. It looked like something from a classic sitcom with a
timeless black and white pattern and a cut that emphasized my slim
waist while minimizing my veteran-of-three-pregnancies hips. We're
talking real retro. It was worn by the grandmother of the woman who
sold it to me. At both church and play rehearsal people loved it. I
will keep it around a long time and combine it with sweaters and
accessories to rock a wide range of looks. I believe Elizabeth Cline
would approve.
A great big shout out goes out to those who produce clothes ethically,
paying decent wages and using ecofriendly fabrics.
Julia Emily Hathaway
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