Monday, April 21, 2008

And Tango Makes Three ~ Cady's review

Grandma Bonnie,
I liked your books. Here are my book reviews.


Cady wanted to do this review herself. None of that dictating her words to me, as we did with our most recent review. So she kept this book and one other and sent me her own reviews in her very own words. As you can see, she didn't have a lot to say about this one, except that it was very good. That's interesting ... because this is a challenged book, one that some people think should be banned. Yes, this is a very dangerous book to be giving our children to read. Cady is seven, at least until tomorrow when she turns eight, and the book didn't bother her. She didn't even notice the "salient" points that alarm some folks. Aroused your curiosity, didn't I? Okay, here's the "problem" some folks see: Tango has two daddies.

New York City's Central Park Zoo has all sorts of animal families, but there's one that's different. Roy and Silo, both male penguins, "did everything together. They bowed to each other.... They sang to each other. And swam together. Wherever Roy went, Silo went too." The two noticed other penguins had eggs, so one found a rock the right size and they took turns sitting on it. That's what penguin fathers do, after all. No big deal, right? Cady must not have thought so, not even when their keeper thought to himself, "They must be in love." The keeper discovers an egg that needs tending and gives the egg -- which will otherwise die -- to Roy and Silo, who have been trying so hard to hatch their rock. As one B&N reviewer said, "It's an adorable book with a great message: families come in all shapes and sizes, but they're still families."

Title, author, copyright date, and genre?
And Tango Makes Three ~ by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell and illustrated by Henry Cole (ah, but Cady already told you that, didn't she?), 2005, children's book (ages 4-8)

For banned books: Why was this book challenged?
For "homosexuality, anti-family, and unsuited to age group"; or, more accurately, for presumed penguin homosexuality, which my reviewer didn't notice (and neither did I)

How would you rate this book?
Rated 8/10, a very good book, according to Cady

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Respecting other faiths

What has been your experience speaking with others of different faiths? Barbara Brown Taylor gives useful tips on healthy dialogue between neighbors of different traditions in a 3-minute video on Respecting Other Faiths.

Barbara Brown Taylor is a professor of religion at Piedmont College in northeast Georgia. For fifteen years she served in parish ministry as an Episcopal priest, and Newsweek named her as one of the country's leading preachers. Her book Leaving Church, which I reviewed last year, tells the story of her decision to depart parish ministry and enter into full-time academic work. She remains a priest in good standing in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Thursday, I met yet another author

I'm on a roll, here! I met a novelist ten days ago, a theologian a week ago, and a historian day before yesterday.

Theda Perdue, a professor of history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, spoke at UTC (University of Tennessee at Chattanooga) on Thursday evening. One of my face-to-face book clubs chooses a theme for each month, rather than each of us reading the same book, and for April we had chosen "local Native Americans." The "coincidences" mounted when we learned that Dr. Perdue would be speaking at UTC:
1. Her subject was the Cherokees, and "local Native Americans" was the theme we had chosen for April.
2. The book mentioned in the announcement was Cherokee Women: Gender and Culture Change, 1700-1835, which "just happened" to be the book I had chosen to read.
3. She would be speaking on Thursday, April 17th, the same evening we were scheduled to meet.
Obviously, we were supposed to be there, right? We met at the university to hear her lecture, I got my book signed (plus photos with her), and we re-convened at the Stone Cup across the river for our discussion that followed. I was especially interested in the many photos Perdue used during her lecture, along with comments from some of her Indian friends from Cherokee, North Carolina, who had come to town for her presentation (and who were sitting directly in front of me).

I had read Perdue's recent book The Cherokee Nation and the Trail of Tears as well as Cherokee Women, which three of us had ordered. (I'll review both of these books soon, but for now you are welcome to see quotes and notes from my online reading journal by clicking on the titles.)

We sat outside on the restaurant's deck overlooking the Tennessee River, within sight of the John Ross Bridge, and discussed John Ross, chief of the Cherokee Nation at the time of their removal from here to Oklahoma. When I say "here," I mean Chattanooga, originally known as Ross's Landing. Of the 17,000 Cherokees who left on the Trail of Tears, at least 4,000 died. Why? So "we" whites could have their land, on which, incidentally, gold had recently been discovered. Our Alternative Book Club had a very lively couple of hours, as we talked about ethnic cleansing, stomp dancing, and the reconciliation involved in the annual Green Corn Ceremony.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Saturday, I met another author

John Dominic Crossan is a theologian, so he may not be as familiar to some of you as a (say) a novelist. But he's one of the luminaries in my reading world, along with Marcus Borg, with whom he is writing a series of books. I met Borg in March 2006 when he lectured in Chattanooga on The Heart of Christianity, and I met Crossan on Saturday when he lectured on empires and the moral and ethical call to oppose unjust superpowers, whether they are Babylon, Rome, or even America. Crossan's book God & Empire came out in paperback in February.

The first-century Pax Romana, Crossan points out, was in fact a "peace" won through violent military action. Jesus preached a different kind of peace — a peace that surpasses all understanding — and a kingdom not of Caesar but of God. Crossan says peace cannot be won the Roman way, through military victory, but only through justice and fair and equal treatment of all people.

How would you like to read this "author"?

"Philip Parker says he has computers do the substantial amount of repetitive work that is required in the writing of so many books."

This is from today's New York Times: He Wrote 200,000 Books (but Computers Did Some of the Work)

Do you consider this man an author? Would the word "compiler" satisfy you? Maybe we need to back up and ask ourselves: What constitutes a book?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Wednesday, I met the author

I'll do a "real" book review this weekend, but for now I want to tell you my exciting news. I met Masha Hamilton, author of three novels. Early in the week, I finished reading The Camel Bookmobile, which was published in 2007 and came out in paperback on April 1st.

Masha's book is fiction, but there really is a camel bookmobile in Kenya. During her presentation on Wednesday, Masha showed us this two-and-a-half minute video of the real thing. Notice how intent the people are, once they have books in their hands. It certainly doesn't look like YOUR library, does it? But the anticipation among patrons may not be as palpable in your town, either.

I highly recommend the book to you. To learn more about Masha Hamilton, her book, and the book drive which sends English and Swahili books to Kenya, visit her web site.

The Book Buddies are reading and discussing The Camel Bookmobile during April, and my face-to-face book club will discuss it on April 29th. I'm writing about my visit with Masha on the Book Buddies blog, and you are welcome to read more about it there.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Secret Scroll ~ by Ronald Cutler

Have you read my poem posted earlier today? The poet sounds brave, doesn't she? It's a lie. Oh, that I could that easily review a terrible book! I've been struggling to know what to say about The Secret Scroll by Ronald Cutler. No, it doesn't have "a tragic flaw" and it isn't "made of nothing more than straw." It really has the potential to be a fairly good book, but it really ... really ... really needs an editor. Let me just flat-out say the things I have to say:
The timing is clumsy; it lacks the feel of a well-edited novel; it doesn't flow smoothly; an editor should have picked up on problems like having Christians (plural), Jews (plural), and agnostics (plural) in a group of five people (in chapter 6). Oops! Much later in the book there's suddenly a fellow named Jonathan (chapter 24) who was probably meant to be in that bunch of folks in chapter 6, because he's officially part of that work group. However, he wasn't (isn't) there. Nope, only the other five. Other inconsistencies include someone being either escorted or dragged ... and that's the same person on the same page. Which was it? There's a lot of telling how Josh (the protagonist) feels, and not enough showing ... with no explanation, we're told he feels it. And most confusing were their names, the A's and the J's: Andre, Alon, Alu, Avner, Alexander, and Avraham; Josh, Joel, and Jonathan. Give me a break ... come up with names I can distinguish, please. And please stick with one or the other: one character is sometimes Andre, sometimes Father Andre, sometimes Father Billet. One last major grip: in trying too hard to be a thriller, the author kills off everybody. Well, no, two or three are left, but the characters are dying right and left. Do so many really have to die? And lots of little gripes: Muslims or Moslems? ... both are used in this book ... "out on a line" is probably supposed to be "out on a limb" ... Josh questioning the security people who have come to question HIM ... and hey, there are way too many coincidental discoveries because of Josh's "intuition." As I said, this books cries out for an editor. Somebody left it in rough draft form.
*Take a deep breath, Bonnie, and let's say something nice here.*

Title, author, copyright date, and genre?
The Secret Scroll ~ by Ronald Cutler, 2008, fiction

What did you like most about the book?
The author has a great imagination, and if he'd quit killing everybody for the thrill factor, it could be a good story. (Okay, you know I'm exaggerating when I say "everybody," right?)

How would you rate the book?
I'd have to say "nah, don't bother." And I really wanted to like this book.

For the Love of Books

The unofficial leader of my Thursday writers group has assigned us homework ... to write a poem using the rhyming pattern of Robert Frost's

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

It rhymes like this:
I don't consider myself a poet, so feel free to have at it and beat my writer friends to the punch (don't punch TOO hard, though). They won't tell me their opinions until Thursday, so you get to go first.

For the Love of Books

A book arrived in Monday’s mail;
It’s still a manuscript, this tale,
Which comes to me from friend, not foe.
She did not ask me to curtail
My thinking pow’r nor wit, although
I don’t think she’ll be all aglow
To hear the things I must disclose
About the lacks that we both know
It has. Ah, yes, I must compose
With care – or else our friendship goes.
I cannot simply hem and haw.
"Go burn this thing’s what I propose
Because it has a tragic flaw:
It’s made of nothing more than straw.
A publisher would just guffaw.
Yes, publishers would all guffaw."

Sunday, April 6, 2008

A porch-skirted grandmother

Sara Lewis Holmes wrote:
My house creaks in the rain,
a porch-skirted grandmother
shifting her lap.
Read her whole poem here:

When I read that, I was back in my grandmother's neighborhood, where the houses wore such skirts. We would sit in the creaking porch swing on a rainy day, my brother and I, snug in the lap of grandmother's house.

Thanks for the memories, Sara, and for writing such evocative words!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sing along with me

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Memories evoked by smells

Watermelon's smell takes me back to childhood, under the plum tree eating watermelon. We sat beside a water faucet, on a small, slatted-wood platform hugging the ground, presumably to keep people from getting muddy when the water splashed onto the ground.

Another smell memory is of my grandmother's hyacinths growing along the side of the garage (on the coalbin side). Those flowers grew next to my sandbox, installed there by my daddy when we moved into Grandma's house after she died. Smelling a hyacinth transports me back to the sandbox, and I can still feel the gritty sand sticking to my legs. When the sand was damp, my brother and I would pack it around our feet and then carefully slide our feet out to leave mounded sand houses, ready for occupancy.

(Response to Goldendaze-Ginnie's post: "The Power of Smell - My First Memory.")