Monday, March 31, 2008

Chattanooga Choo Choo ~ The General

"Chattanooga Choo Choo" could mean one of three things:

(1) The General, a locomotive we had on display at the L&N Station, now ensconced in Kennesaw, Georgia. See more photos here. This engine was on display at the L&N Station across from the Read House in Chattanooga until the 1960s, when it was taken back to the factory for an overhaul. We didn't get it back. "The General" was the one captured by Andrews Raiders during the Civil War, an event made into a movie a few decades ago.

ADDED, just for June: The train you probably remember, one now "parked" on the track behind the hotel (see #2), is not The General. Here's a photo of the one at the hotel, taken by someone tracking down the Chattanooga choo choo:

(2) A hotel named the Chattanooga Choo Choo on the site of what was Chattanooga's "other" train station. This one, called the Terminal Station, was where my dad unloaded mail from a train into a semi-trailer truck in the wee hours of a May morning. What happened next can be read here.

(3) The song "Chattanooga Choo-Choo" made famous by Glenn Miller, which I recently posted.

Here's another version of the song, music only. I like it! The lyrics are printed on that page, in case you are interested. "Chattanooga choo choo, won't you choo-choo me home?" Yep, Chattanooga is my hometown. Click to enlarge the photo.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Life as We Knew It ~ by Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title, author, copyright date, and genre?

Life as We Knew It ~ by Susan Beth Pfeffer, 2006, YA fiction

Summarize the book without giving away the ending
We experience a changed world through the journal entries of 16-year-old Miranda, who describes her family's struggle to survive after a meteor hits the moon. Scientists misjudged the impact, which was much worse than expected and caused the moon to move out of its orbit and closer to earth. (See how close the moon appears on the front cover, above.) Since the moon pulls on the earth and regulates our tides, its being closer to earth caused worldwide tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions.

What did you think of the main character?
Miranda (by whom I really mean the author Susan Beth Pfeffer) is a powerful writer! After reading only three chapters, I got online and emailed Dewey, who read the book recently: "Getting online just now, I found this science news: GIANT WAVES BREAK UP CARIBBEAN CORAL. 'Unusually large waves churned by an Atlantic storm system have littered the beaches of Barbados with broken coral in what could be a sign of damage to reefs across the region ... the coral took a heavy pounding ... swells of 15 feet ... flooding ..." I had also received a submission to Weekend Wordsmith from DaisyBug with a poem that mentioned the "crisp white moon." I asked Dewey, "What I want to know ... did an asteroid hit the moon last night? I'm afraid to go outside to find out." Yes, I really really got into the story. Can you tell? I closed the email to Dewey by quoting from page 43 of the book:
Uh-oh. The lights are flickering. I hope we are not about to lose
Which character could you relate to best?
Oh, yeah, the characters. Miranda, because she was the one recording her thoughts and feelings and discoveries. She did some "heroic" things in the book, but I liked that she wrote down what her college-aged brother had said:
One thing Matt did say to me was that no matter what the future is, we're living through a very special time in history. He said that history makes us who we are, but we can make history, also, and that anyone can be a hero, if they just choose to be. (p. 57)
Were there any other especially interesting characters?
Megan was a strong character, but I didn't like her at all. Megan was ostentatiously religious and decided she must "sacrifice" to please God. She was starving herself to death by giving away the meager school lunch provided for students after food became scarce. I felt exactly the way Miranda did during this exchange between the two girls, when Megan says:
"I don't want to be angry at God and seeing you makes me feel that way, just a little bit. So I can't see you again. I have to sacrifice our friendship, because I don't have much left I can sacrifice to prove to God how much I love Him."

"I hate your God," I said. (p. 184)
Were the characters and their problems believable?
Oh, yeah! So much so that I bought a couple of tomato plants to start a container garden, even though I live in a small apartment. Yep, you just never know when the moon may be bumped toward earth and there will be massive food scarcity. What's that? Did I plan a container garden before reading the book? Well, yes, but the book made it seem like an even better idea.

What was the book's central question, and how was it answered?
Could Miranda's family survive this indefinite period of scarcity? Would the world survive? I'm not going to give away the ending! Do you like happy endings? Maybe I should ask, do you like endings that aren't too awful? Go ahead and read it; you're safe.

Did you like the way the book ended?
I was getting an overdose of misery, but I didn't want to stop reading. The book pulled me along and made me feel I was there when "life as we knew it" was lost. Yet the ending felt forced and a bit unlikely. I'm not sure how I would have wrapped it up, though, so I won't complain.

What do you think will be your lasting impression of this book?
It compares in my mind with Jean Hegland's Into the Forest, rated a ten and one of my favorite books. Hegland speculates about what might happen when our unsustainable civilization finally collapses, but the characters in both books must decide what is really important and both books make readers ponder what matters most in the here and now.

How would you rate this book?

UPDATE: Click to read the author's blog Susan Beth Pfeffer: Meteors, Moons, and Me.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Measure of All Things ~ by Ken Alder

Title, author, copyright date, and genre?
The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World ~ by Ken Alder, 2002, history

Summarize the book
Two intrepid astronomers set out from Paris, one north, one south. The French Revolution has started. Alder's history sounds like a novel. The two men are M. Delambre and M. Mechain, both members of the Academy of Sciences. Their measurements will help define the meter. Only after the meter has been announced does one learn that his partner made a mistake and tried to cover it up. The meter in is error. Feeling guilty drives one to the brink of madness, and the other has a decision to make. Which matters more, the truth or the appearance of the truth?

Why did you pick up the book?
Because it looked good and I like history. Because I wondered what transformed the world. Because "hidden error" tantalized me. And then I provided myself with a good "excuse" for getting the book: I could review it for the community's give-away paper which was publishing my book reviews. The summary above is the WHOLE review I was allowed back in March 2006. (Another one I reviewed for them was The Hidden Diary of Marie Antoinette; maybe I'll run across that review one of these days and share it with you, too.)

As a bookstore owner in the community, I was given a limited amount of space and a single column that would show the book cover (pictured above), the words "what people are reading," the book's title, and that teensy-tiny bit of a "review" you just read. Would my "review" make you want to pick up the book? I kind of like the last sentence: "Which matters more, the truth or the appearance of the truth?" You like it? Okay, then, I'll sell you my copy of the book for a mere $9 plus shipping. Oh, wait, I don't sell books anymore, do I? Nope, my used book store went out of business and I was no longer allowed to write (free) reviews for that (free) handout paper because I didn't represent a bookstore. (No, that still doesn't make sense to me. But now you know why I enjoy blogging.)

Was it a good book? Would you recommend it?
Yes, I do recommend it. It was fascinating to follow the two men as they triangulated their way toward each other along the Meridian of Paris, one working north from Barcelona and the other working south from Dunkirk. That triangulation map (left) gives you an idea of all the effort it took for them to do the map work. They would find elevated landmarks, like a building or a mountain station in the Pyrenees, and use those to get triangles in two or three directions. Their goal was to ascertain the exact length of the meter.

What did you like about it?
I love learning about things and how they work. One of the things I learned from reading this book was how the Borda Repeating Circle works. (That's it on the left. No, I'm not going to try to explain that here and, besides, do you think I learned it so well I could explain it to you two years after I read the book? Yes, I know I'm brilliant and all that, but not THAT brilliant!) Ken Alder made the book even more exciting by revealing some of the misery the scientists put up with, things like proving you weren't a threat during the French Revolution when you had been sent on this mission by a government agency! Sometimes that meant being delayed for months (no, that is not a typo). I was pulling for the good guys ... the scientists, I mean. And then came that error mentioned in the sub-title. When measurements must be exact, that's stressful in itself; when you realize you made a mistake, that adds to the stress. Why not just go back and fix the error? It wasn't that easy. And that's what made the book a thriller, even though much of it would seem boring to folks who read bestsellers. I had fun with it, though, and just look at how much of it I remember!

How would you rate it?
Rated 8/10, a very good book.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Omnivore's Dilemma ~ by Michael Pollan

Title, author, copyright date, and genre?
The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals ~ by Michael Pollan, 2006, nonfiction

Why did I choose to read this book?
My newest book club decided to do things a bit differently, choosing a monthly theme instead of all reading the same book. For our first meeting in March we decided to read about food, and I chose this instead of a novel like Chocolat.

Was it a good book? Would you recommend it?
The book was very well researched and well written, but so dense with information that I scribbled page after page of notes to myself and often had to take a break from the intensity of the book. I found myself needing breaks to mull over the what I was discovering. I'm sure I could have skimmed big chunks of the book and gotten the major part of what Pollan was saying, but I didn't want to miss any of it. And thus it was taking forever to read.

What did you like about it?
I like passages like the one I quoted on Wednesday here on this blog about Corn and grass. (Go read it ... I'll wait 'til you get back.) Here are some other good quotes I gathered:
"By replacing solar energy with fossil fuel, by raising millions of food animals in close confinement, by feeding those animals foods they never evolved to eat, and by feeding ourselves foods far more novel than we even realize, we are taking risks with our health and the health of the natural world that are unprecedented" (p. 10).

"The calories we eat, whether in an ear of corn or a steak, represent packets of energy once captured by a plant" (p. 21).

"Government farm programs once designed to limit production and support prices (and therefore farmers) were quietly rejiggered to increase production and drive down prices. Put another way, instead of supporting farmers, during the Nixon administration the government began supporting corn at the expense of farmers. Corn, already the recipient of a biological subsidy in the form of synthetic nitrogen, would now receive an economic subsidy too, ensuring its final triumph over the land and the food system" (p. 48).

"[O]ur food animals found themselves ... leaving widely dispersed farms in places like Iowa to live in densely populated new animal cities. These places are so different from farms and ranches that a new term was needed to denote them: CAFO -- Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation. ... Raising animals on old-fashioned mixed farms ... used to make simple biological sense: You can feed them the waste products of your crops, and you can feed their waste products to your crops. In fact, when animals live on farms the very idea of waste ceases to exist; what you have instead is a closed ecological loop -- what in retrospect you might call a solution. One of the most striking things that animal feedlots do ... is to take this elegant solution and neatly divide it into two new problems: a fertility problem on the farm (which must be remedied with chemical fertilizers) and a pollution problem on the feedlot (which seldom is remedied at all)" (pp. 67-68).
What did you dislike?
That there's just too much of it. That all those quotes above are from only the first 68 pages out of 450 pages! There's so much more I want to tell you about the book, like the grass farmer (yes, grass farmer) who rotates his cattle every day onto new forage so they don't destroy the grass that feeds them. Like his bringing in the chickens a few days later to eat the grubs that are growing on the cow patties, thus cleaning up the area before the cattle are rotated back onto that same plot of grass, thus keeping his cattle healthy without resorting to antibiotics that get into us and our children because "you are what what you eat eats, too" (p. 84). Think about that again: You are what what you eat eats, too. And even so we haven't gotten to part three of the book, where Pollan describes gathering your own food.

Tell us whatever you thought.
I think it's a necessary book, an important book, a long book.

Rated: 7/10, good

Friday, March 21, 2008

My NEW book rating guide

Updated 3-24-14 to add one caveat:  These numbers from 2008 are all based on how much I personally enjoyed the book.  I can't judge for anyone else, so my ratings are completely subjective.  As a matter of fact, if I re-read a book, my opinion may very well change, based on what's going on in my life at that point.

10 ~ Loved it!!  Couldn't put it down!!
9 ~ Excellent!
8 ~ Very Good
7 ~ Good
6 ~ Above Average
5 ~ Average
4 ~ Struggled to finish, but not worth it
3 ~ Annoying ~ a waste of time
2 ~ Poor ~ one I abandoned
1 - Pitiful!
0 ~ Awful!!  Don't bother

* DNF ~ Did Not Finish ~ discarded the book as a total waste of time

Updated 3-29-19:  For a few years I tried eliminating anything below five (5/10) by using "Nah" as a rating.  I tried "Not My Cuppa" (with "tea" implied) a few times.  Now I'm back to my original numbers because I just finished a book that needs that three (3/10) rating.

Climate change

Look at the UPDATE at the bottom of this post...

Dear Bonnie,

Global warming is a problem of unprecedented magnitude and that's why we've launched the largest mobilization campaign ever. Actions by individuals like you will be the driving force behind this campaign and our ultimate victory. We're going to succeed, but I need your help today.

More than 825,000 people have already joined us, but if leaders in business and government are going to make stopping climate change a priority, we need you to urge your friends to get involved today.

We need to grow to 1,000,000 members by April so we can send a loud message that we want action now. Ask all your friends to add their voices.

Thank you,

Al Gore

My response

Climate change is an urgent issue that requires immediate solutions. That's why I've joined with Al Gore and others around the world who want to halt global warming. Let's be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

We need to send a loud message to leaders in business and government that they must make it a priority to stop climate change, now. That's why I'm asking you to get involved today:

Together, we CAN stop global warming.

March 28 UPDATE ~ another email from Al Gore:

Last week I asked you to get your friends involved in our campaign to stop global warming and you responded: more than 70,000 people have joined in the last week alone. That's simply amazing and shows that there is immense support behind our call for solutions to the climate crisis. Today we are just 76,000 short of reaching our goal of 1,000,000 members by April.

You can help put us over the top. Right now I need you to share this with everyone you know and ask them to get involved.

More than 924,000 people have already joined us, but if we are going to succeed we need to reach 1,000,000 by April.

With your help, we'll reach this goal and send a powerful message to the world. Please ask your friends to get involved today:

Thank you,

Al Gore

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why Women Should Rule the World ~ by Dee Dee Myers

I haven't read Why Women Should Rule the World by Dee Dee Myers, but it sounds like a book I would enjoy.

Dee Dee Myers was the first woman ever to be White House Press Secretary, and she was only 31 at the time. She says:
"I wasn't the first woman to be the first woman, of course. I stand on the shoulders of the countless others who stuck their necks out -- and sometimes got their heads knocked off -- for going where no woman had gone before. Not all of them were trying to advance the interests of the sisterhood. Still, because of them, those of us who followed have had more, different, and better opportunities. I know I have."
This book explores the trials woman have faced throughout history to achieve opportunities in places where their presence was once denied. Filled with anecdotes from her tenure in the White House, Myers provides a fresh take on the achievements woman have made in all aspects of public life.

Take a look at BookTV's After Words program with Dee Dee Myers and Dana Perino, the only two women to hold the office of White House press secretary, discussing the new book, Why Women Should Rule the World. You'll have to click on the 3-20-08 "After Words" link.

Do the test

Add one more

Arthur C. Clarke also died yesterday. You probably remember him as the writer of 2001: A Space Odyssey, which was made into the movie directed by Stanley Kubrick. Clarke said, "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." He was 90.

Take a look at Chattanooga

Take a look at A Photography Walk in Chattanooga by Stacy Florer. It has some beautiful photos of the North Shore. Be sure to notice the photo of A Novel Idea, a great little bookstore where I worked part-time for about a year. It sells new, used, out-of-print, and rare books and last month was the featured store on ABA's Bookselling This Week.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Corn and grass

"If the sixteen million acres now being used to grow corn to feed cows in the United States became well-managed pasture, that would remove fourteen billion pounds of carbon from the atmosphere each year, the equivalent of taking four million cars off the road. We seldom focus on farming's role in global warming, but as much as a third of all the greenhouse gases that human activity has added to the atmosphere can be attributed to the saw and the plow."
~~~ p. 198, The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Hugo Claus died today

Hugo Claus died today. Just last month I added his most famous book to our list at Book around the World: The Sorrow of Belgium. Thanks to Amy who let me know about his death: Hugo Claus, 1929-2008. Ah, I hear murmuring among my readers. You've never heard of him, have you? Learn about him in this obituary piece in the Herald Tribune: Author Hugo Claus, writer of 'The Sorrow of Belgium,' dead at 78. And here's an article from the Citizen (South Africa) that deals with euthanasia, which Claus chose. Do you want to talk about it?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Pure blarney!

Just so you know:
I speak fluent blarney!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

God save us from Gertrude's friends

Last year I wrote about my friend Gertrude (name changed to protect the guilty) in a post entitled Moral Mess. After our little exchange, she quit sending emails. Months and months went by with no forwarded junk mail from her. And then it began again: first an occasional email, then several, and now the flood has again become overwhelming. This afternoon I got another one from her, but this time I think I'll leave in all skips and spaces that indicate it's been around cyberspace for quite some time:
> Subject: Please help
> Please help do this... refuse to accept these when they are handed
> back to you. ? I received one from the Post Office as change and I
> asked for a dollar bill instead..the lady just smiled and said way to
> go, so she had read this e-mail. ? Please help out... our world is in
> enough trouble without this too!!!!!
> U.S. Government to Release New Dollar Coins
> >
> You guessed it....' IN GOD WE TRUST '
> IS GONE!!!
> If ever there was a reason to boycott something, THIS IS IT!!!!
> Together we can force them out of circulation.
> Please send to all on your
> mail list !!!
Here's my reply:
Gertrude, I don't know your friends, but you send me so much mis-information that I've begun to sigh when I see email forwarded from you. Here are some FACTS about the new dollar coin you are so concerned about:

Edge-Incused Inscriptions
The edge-incused inscriptions found on Presidential $1 Coins include the year of minting or issuance, "E Pluribus Unum," "In God We Trust" and the mint mark. However, there are two processes for producing the edge-incused lettering and each produces a different result.
See that part in red? That inscription you're so worried about is there, after all. It's inscribed along the edge of the coin. I got my information from the U.S. Mint page, here, where there's even a photo of that edge.

From now on, let's just pretend that if it's a forward from your mis-informed alarmist friends, I'd rather not be bothered with deleting it, okay?

~~~ Bonnie

Friday, March 14, 2008

A, you're a-DOOR-able

Sara Lewis Holmes, one of my (new) favorite YA authors, blogged about Doors, Doors, Doors on Wednesday, though I didn't read that post until today. From her I learned about a "Doors" project that several bloggers took part in this week, showing doors from all over the world. Sara had a link that took me to the post about My Colonial Doors by Jennifer Thermes, a children's book author and illustrator, whose post Doodles and Doors sent me to Tricia's post about Heavenly Doors. Wait, Tricia's on MY bloglist along with Sara! (Hi, Tricia!) Frank Gardner, an oil painter living in Mexico, has photos of ten and a half Puertas (Doors) ... you'll have to see his half door, which is half the usual width and very unlike the colonial half door in Jennifer's house.

Frank has links to many more a-DOOR-able bloggers, including ones in Finland, France, Norway, Austria, Australia, Canada, the USA, and the UK. Constance, who wrote An Open Door, not only shows us doors from Guatemala and Italy and Texas and Taiwan, she also lists others taking part in the "Doors" project.

And everybody is saying, "Don't miss the Doors of Marrakesh!" I went, I saw, I was conquered by the wonderful Doors of Marrakesh photos taken by Elizabeth, who lives in a 500-year-old house in the medina of Marrakesh. She also offers another list of bloggers showing doors.
What's your favorite memory involving a door?
Or your favorite book with a door in it?
I stole these questions from Sara Lewis Holmes, who shared her answer here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Negativity meme ~ do I ever post negative reviews?

Dewey is curious about how other book bloggers handle posting negative reviews. Okay, Dewey, I'll play along.

1. When you dislike a book, do you say so in your blog? Why or why not?

I immediately thought of two reviews I've written in the past year: In a short review I actually wrote: "I wouldn't have picked up the book if I'd known it was a sentimental romance novel with an absurd number of coincidences." Yet I gave the book a rating of 7/10 because I had continued to read it and even finished it. In the other review I didn't finish the book and gave it a contingent rating of 2/10 "for now" because I do expect some day to try it again because I like the author. Maybe I wasn't in the mood for it at that time.

2. Do you temper your feelings about books you didn’t like, so as not to completely slam them? Why or why not?

I think that's exactly what I was doing in the two reviews I already mentioned.

3. What do you think is the best way to respond when you see a negative review about a book you enjoyed? and
4. What is your own most common reaction when you see a negative review of a book you loved or a positive review of a book you hated?

Usually I say nothing, though I do speak up for books that I consider excellent, commenting on what I liked about the book. Or simply saying I liked it and leaving out any reason why. People are different and like different things.

5. What is your own most common reaction when you get a comment that disagrees with your opinion of a book?

Recently I left a comment on Banned Books even though it was mean-spirited and hidden behind the Anonymous label because the poster had defended herself so magnificently. There was no reason for the anonymous commenter to say hurtful things; the poster had given her opinion about the book, which she chose not to finish because she hated the book. No one should be slammed for that!

6. What if you don’t like a book that was a free review copy? What then?

Reading two of those in a row (well, completing one and being so annoyed I couldn't finish the other) sent me into a funk ... and I haven't written those two reviews yet! I really believe publishers like attention, even negative attention, though I would think it would be harder for the writers to accept. There's no way I'll be able to say nice things about the uncompleted book and probably not much I can do about the other one, either. My dilemma is that I'm writing for you, my readers, and I am not on the payroll of the publishers. My obligation is to tell you the truth, and so I shall.
Ha! In a comment on my review of the unfinished book, Marg wrote: "I'm sorry to hear that you didn't like this. I have it out to read from the library at the moment, and will get to it soon." I went to Marg's blogs (plural) and did a search ... only to discover she never has reviewed that book. Marg, you read that I didn't finish it and neither had Dewey, who commented above you, so tell us: Did you decide not to read it because of what we said? Or did you also get bogged down in it? Or did you review it and I didn't find it? I'm curious now.
7. What do you do if you don’t finish a book? Do you review it or not? If you review it, do you mention that you didn’t finish it?

See my first answer. Yes, I reviewed it and, yes, I admitted that I couldn't finish reading the book. Neither of the books mentioned in my first answer above was sent to me for review: both came from my library. Even if I have little to say about the book (which isn't the case in the unfinished one above), I would still tell you about it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Chattanooga Choo Choo ~ by Glenn Miller

If this video quits working, watch it on YouTube.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Other Goose ~ by Barbara Klunder ~ Cady's review

Take a look at the cover of Other Goose, showing a goose wearing high-heeled shoes and glasses. Now, tell me, what age group would you say this is supposed to appeal to? School Library Journal says grade 6 and up, Barnes and Noble says ages 6-9, while says ages 4-8. I consider it right up my alley, and I'm 67.

So I decided to consult an expert, age 7. Cady is the youngest of my seven grandchildren, and she loves to read. One of my fondest memories of her is when she was maybe one-and-a-half years old; she had grabbed about half a dozen picture books under each arm and headed toward the comfy sofa, yelling, "Come on, grandma!" We were in for some serious reading that day. So Cady became my consultant after lunch on Sunday. We sat together on the sofa in her living room, and I pulled out three books I need to review: And Tango Makes Three, Other Goose, and Kersplatypus. Remember that she is seven.

Kersplatypus with its brightly illustrated cover drew her attention as she sounded out the word: "Ker-splat-ee-puss." She read me the first double-page spread, then lost interest. I think she was curious about the other books.

"Other Goose," Cady read. "Barbara Wyn Klunder." And she flipped open the book.

"Wait!" I said. "What about this?"

I pointed to the subtitle, which Cady dutifully read: "Recycled Rhymes for Our Fragile Times." Then she started reading the nursery rhymes. First up were Little Miss Muffet and the spider trying not to choke. Cady looked up at me and said, "I don't get it." I explained that they "tried not to choke" on second-hand smoke. Oh, okay. So we discussed what it was like being around cigarette smoke.

When This Little Piggy couldn't find a parking place and "sold it," Cady explained, "He sold his car and bought a parking place." Hmmm, interesting thought. The idea that Little Bo-Peep left alone is "liable to clone" didn't make any sense to her. And she struggled with "Little Boy Blue/Come blow your horn!/What goes into the ground/Comes out in the corn." She understood it as his horn music going into the ground, but how did it come out in the corn? The Old Woman who lived in a shoe knew what to do with so many kids: start a band. "But why?" Cady wanted to know. The germs in Jack and Jill's water being "a form of urban slaughter" made her screw up her face, and when the dog in Hey, Diddle Diddle sent out his blog, I had to get online to show her my blog. After reading "Baa, baa, black sheep,/Have you any gas?" Cady explained to me it was about gas for cars and planes and "not that other kind of gas!" (Giggle, giggle.)
Jack be nimble
Jack be quick
Jack watch out
For that oil slick!
Cady was interested in the "little ship" below the bird's feet, while I opined that ship may be far away on the horizon and explained why that seagull didn't want oil coating his wings. I guess I'm glad that "Twinkle, twinkle, little starlets/More and more resembling harlots" went right over her head so I didn't have to explain it to her. We read all 22 rhymes, discussing them all the way.

I told Cady about writing book reviews and asked her what she thought of this one. She said, "It's a different kind of rhyming book." I sat down at the computer to capture her words. When she realized I was writing exactly what she said, she dictated carefully, "I have never read a book such ... like that one, so that's why I think it's an unusual book." No, she wanted to try again: "It's a strange book." And that's where she left it.

So who is this book written for? Not 4-8 year olds, not 6-9 year olds, maybe children grades six and up. In my opinion, however, it's for adults. I do have to say, my 7-year-old consultant read the whole book in one sitting, unlike Kersplatypus which seemed to be beneath her. It was time to eat when we finished her review of the book, but she let me know, "Next I want to read And Tango Makes Three."

Other Goose: Recycled Rhymes for Our Fragile Times is a book for environmentalists like me. Cady is getting there; she has the green bag I gave her when I invited all my granddaughters out to lunch one day and gave them green totes. But she'll enjoy this book more when she's a bit older. Since she plans to read this review when she gets home from school today, I want to say, "Thanks, Cady, for reading this book to me and sharing what you think about it. The people who read my blog also thank you."

And now, people, I'll leave you to enjoy an interview with the author-illustrator. I give you Barbara Klunder, speaking for herself:

Other Goose: Recycled Rhymes for Our Fragile Times ~ by Barbara Klunder, 2007, activist rhymes on the environment and culture, 8/10

Before I got this copy of the book, I wrote about it HERE. Since then I HAVE been able to find it for sale here in the States.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Concerto for faces in D major

Thanks to Desert Mom of A Quotidian Life for this connection. Her reason for posting this video is worth perusing, so click on the link and read about her daughter the violinist.

Daylight saving WHOSE time?

June wrote on her blog Spatter: "Twice a year we adjust our clocks to suit our needs and desires. And why not...after all, time is relative."

Why not? Because it's a sneaky plot by folks with October birthdays, that's why not! Back when (that's a time a few decades ago), time changed near the end of April every year. Can you guess whose birthday is near the end of April? Yes! You guessed correctly. And then it happened. The dreaded day of "spring forward" came and devoured an hour of MY day ... MINE. "Spring forward" is a sneaky way of saying "lose an hour of sleep" on that single day of the year. People would be late for church. They'd be cranky from losing an hour of sleep. And it happened on what was supposed to be my joyful day ... MINE.

So I wrote a short article about it. (I'm a wordsmith, so what else would you expect me to do?)

I entitled it "Daylight saving WHOSE time?" I had done my research well and had discovered the guilty party (parties?) who had stolen that hour from me: somebody whose birthday came in October, that's who! It was a revelation I wanted the world to know. It was unfair. Unfair, I tell you! Those folks in October got an extra hour every year ... by stealing it from April. And they already HAD a 31-day month.

Everyone knows that February is the shortest month of the year, but few realized that taking an hour from April (currently it's March who's being victimized) meant that April had become the second shortest month of the year. Short-changed by an hour, we had only 29 days and 23 hours. October, shiny and bright with its orange and red leaves, had become the longest month of the year with its 31 days plus one hour.

Now I ask you, is that fair? No! A resounding "NO"! And I've been campaigning for years to get back that hour of my birthday. Why, I even stayed up until two o'clock on that October Sunday to enjoy MY hour! It was a bit dark, and all that, but by golly I enjoyed every minute of it.

Thanks to June (Spatter) for today's blogging topic. In the United States, the Energy Policy Act of 2005 changed the days of DST to add four more weeks, so DST now starts on the second Sunday in March and lasts until the first Sunday in November. When I wrote my article, DST started on the last Sunday in April and lasted until the last Sunday in October.

"...last ... lasted ... last..." Did I really say that? Edited version: DST started at 2:00 a.m. on the final Sunday in April and continued until 2:00 a.m. on the last Sunday in October.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Books I've read and need to review ~ soon!

Books stacked beside the computer that I've finished reading, but haven't yet reviewed. I'm hoping this post will shame me into getting these reviews written!

Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog ~ by Ted Kerasote ~ nonfiction (coming out in paperback in April)

I Never Saw Paris ~ by Harry I. Freund ~ fiction

Angels of a Lower Flight ~ by S. S. Krabacher

Eleanor vs. Ike ~ by Robin Gerber ~ historical fiction

Forgive Me ~ by Amanda Eyre Ward ~ fiction

Other Goose: Recycled Rhymes for Our Fragile Times ~ by Barbara Wyn Klunder ~ category? (School Library Journal says it's for grade 6 and up; Barnes & Noble thinks the age range is 6 to 9; I say it's for adults who appreciate its humor with a zing!)

Kersplatypus ~ by Susan K. Mitchell ~ children's picture book

Only seven? Goodness, I'm doing better than I thought! I guess I've been mentally including books such as those I've read for online discussions or recommended by friends ... and I can either review those or not. Making this list for myself has helped me see that finishing seven reviews is doable. Hurray!

These are the books I've read for Book Buddies (still reading the most recent one)... which will be reviewed, eventually:
Mar 2008 ~ People of the Book ~ by Geraldine Brooks
Feb 2008 ~ In Lucia's Eyes ~ by Arthur Japin
Jan 2008 ~ Pictures of Hollis Woods ~ by Patricia Reilly Giff
Dec 2007 ~ Cold Comfort Farm ~ by Stella Gibbons
Nov 2007 ~ The Boy in the Striped Pajamas ~ by John Boyne
Oct 2007 ~ The Other Side of the Bridge ~ by Mary Lawson
We discuss one book each month, over there, in case you'd like to join us.


One of the most exciting parts of blogging is the discovery of something you had never heard before. This morning I read Colleen's Thursday Thirteen which included a link to Blogtations -- a site dedicated to notable blog quotes -- where Colleen herself was quoted. As I browsed those quotes, I ventured off into bloggerly by-ways until I stumbled on a new word: unschooling. Correction ... unschooling is a word new to me, but (lo and behold) it is beautifully defined in Wikipedia and illustrated by this photo of an unschooler teaching herself gymnastics. Kinda grabs your attention, doesn't it?

John Holt is credited with coining the word unschooling. Since he died in 1985, I guess I'm a bit behind the learning curve here. But I found the Wikipedia article to be quite interesting.
Unschooling is a form of education in which learning is based on the student's interests, needs, and goals. It may be alternatively referred to as natural learning, child-led learning, discovery learning, delight-led learning, or child-directed learning. ... Students choose how, when, why, and what they pursue. ... Unschooling expands from children's natural curiosity as an extension of their interests, concerns, needs, goals, and plans. ... Unschoolers commonly believe that curiosity is innate and that children want to learn what is necessary for them to become competent adults. Some argue that institutionalizing children in what they term a "one size fits all" or "factory model" school is an inefficient use of their time because it requires every child to learn specific subject matter in a particular manner, at a particular pace, and at a particular time regardless of that individual's present or future needs, interests, goals, or any pre-existing knowledge he or she might have about the topic.
Okay, I've heard this argument against regular schooling and for homeschooling. But that word unschooling still fascinates me.
Unschoolers often contest that learning any specific subject is less important than learning how to learn. They assert, in the words of Alec Bourne, "It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated", and in the words of Holt:
Since we can’t know what knowledge will be most needed in the future, it is senseless to try to teach it in advance. Instead, we should try to turn out people who love learning so much and learn so well that they will be able to learn whatever needs to be learned.
This ability to learn on their own makes it more likely that later, when these children are adults, they can continue to learn what they need to know to meet newly emerging needs, interests, and goals. They can return to any subject that they feel was not sufficiently covered or learn a completely new subject.
One who begs to differ is Bonnie Erbe, who wrote about Unspooling Unschooling way back on November 27, 2006 on her "To the Contrary" blog on the US News and World Report website.

What do you think about this issue of schooling vs. unschooling? Personally, I'm into unlearning, a totally different thing in which I am actively having to unlearn some of what I was taught so that I can actually think new things in new ways. Wanna know more?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Let's censor the censors

I promised an article about Laurie Halse Anderson after hearing her at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga last night. She recounted wonderful stories about her books and her writing life. The two she discussed in most detail were Speak, which I have already reviewed, and Fever 1793, which I bought and got signed after her presentation (review to come).

She mentioned that her YA novel Speak had been challenged, so I went looking for information and found this in her February 4th post:
What a way to start the month. First, John Green's Looking for Alaska is under fire for being "pornographic."

And now, some parents are going after Speak. The teacher involved has asked me not to name the school because she wants the process and policies of the district to unfold away from the glare of any spotlights. I respect that. I am allowed to say that it's a middle school in suburban Detroit. For the record, this has also happened in New Hampshire, Florida, Ohio, Washington, New York, Maine, and California. (As a result of the challenges, the book was embraced, not banned. Which does make an author feel good and a teacher feel even better.)

I sent her a note with teen sexual assault statistics and shared the feedback I've had from readers and their parents, who are grateful for a story that allows them to broach a difficult subject.

This teacher could use some professional support. If you teach Speak, can you please leave a note in the comments section for her? Tell her why you use the book. Tell her about your classroom experiences and your professional opinion about the place of the book in the curriculum. Or just give her a pat on the back. If you are a teen, tell her what the book meant to you.

Thank you very much and spread the word.
Note to Laurie Halse Anderson: I'm spreading the word just as far as I can shout it, not only here, but also on my Banned Books project blog.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

What she said ... is chilling

We had joy, we had fun…
You see a gate, standing in a field. I see history and memories and hear voices all around me, floating through time. What was still is, what is, always was. Then is now, now is then. The unending cycle of incomprehension and arrogance continues. Nothing really changes.
This is Vanilla's most recent post. It's poetry, but it isn't ... it's powerful, it's chilling, but most of all, it is evocative. The words "we had joy, we had fun" brought back the song, which hasn't crossed my mind in years, in decades. Listen to the song; then go feel the words Vanilla wrote today.

If this video quits working, listen to Seasons in the Sun on YouTube.

My visual DNA