Sunday, July 26, 2009

Four generations

I'd like to introduce you to my bright-eyed great-granddaughter Raegan Danielle. I was holding her before the church service started this morning, when Raegan was dedicated.

And here's a photo taken about an hour ago at the restaurant where we ate after church. Our four generations, from left to right: me, my daughter Sandra (I'm the mother of a grandmother!), my granddaughter Kenzie, and baby Raegan.

Friday, July 24, 2009

The View from Thursday

This was the view out my bedroom window yesterday. The sun was just right and the crepe myrtles won't stay in bloom forever, so I took this shot so I can enjoy it even on gray days.

The title of this post is an allusion to one of my favorite YA novels, The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg, 1996.

The four sixth graders Mrs. Olinski chose for the Academic Bowl became a team by doing such things as having tea together. Yes, tea, as in tea party (see the book cover). As they prepare for the big day, the reader learns about a variety of things, such as the difference between diversity and multiculturalism, taking risks, being resourceful, saving threatened sea turtles, and calligraphy. One character retired from education because students stopped asking "Now what?" and began asking "So what?" Oh, and did I mention that their teacher is paraplegic and in a wheelchair? Because Konigsburg is such a masterful writer, I learn from this story as I enjoy being in the company of such enterprising children. One reviewer, a teacher, had this P.S. for teachers: "Excellent book to use for voice, point of view, and repetition in a story."

I seem to be reading lots more than I manage to write about, though I've started several book reviews that aren't yet complete. And here I am writing about a book I have read several times, but not recently. Oh, well, this Newbery Medal winner is worth mentioning because it's that good.

Rated: 9 of 10, an excellent book

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Death and traveling ~ theme of two novels

Whirligig ~ by Paul Fleischman, 1998, YA fiction

Brent, a high school boy who feels humiliated by a girl at a party, tries to end it all in a car crash and, instead, ends up killing Lea, an innocent teenage girl. Lea's mother sets him on what seems to me a "hero's journey" by asking him to create four whirligigs from a picture of Lea and set them up at the four corners of the United States. Off he goes with an unlimited bus ticket and a backpack full of wood and tools. I especially loved this fantastic image:
He tried out the words in his head: "I'm a traveling whirligig maker." It was an interim identity, tied to his previous life. He would cast it off soon, but in favor of what? He was lodged in his own chrysalis but had no idea what he was turning into" (p. 43).
The exceptional images of this novel for young adults (YA) will stay with me. Brent travels alone, having to spend time with his thoughts, very aware of his guilty feelings about taking the life of another teenager. During the time it takes to ride north, east, south, and west across the country, Brent matures noticeably. I highly recommend the book, both for YAs and for adults, who are more aware that one slip in judgment can make a life-changing difference in the lives of all sorts of people, not just within the circle of friends and family.

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral ~ by Kris Radish, 2006, fiction

Just as Brent's journey starts after the death of Lea, Annie G. Freeman's death initiates a journey for a select group of her friends -- because Annie, a free spirit, planned something audacious even as she was dying of cancer. The story begins when the doorbell rings just when Katherine has discovered her favorite bra is disintegrating, and a UPS woman delivers a box Katherine isn't expecting. It's a shoe box with Annie's ashes in a red high-topped sneaker. Along with the box are instructions for Katherine and several other of Annie's women friends. Her idea of scattering ashes sends them on a tour to various places, thus a "traveling funeral."

While reading this book, I asked myself, if I were planning my own traveling funeral, which friends would I choose and where would I want them to go together? Annie had to supply airline tickets for her friends to travel all over the place, but my friends could mostly get by with "traveling" around my town -- even if I sent them to Atlanta or Knoxville or Nashville, all three are within a couple of hours of Chattanooga -- and because I'm so open about sharing, I can't think of any "untold chapters" my friends would need to discover. Following Annie's friends was lots of fun, however.

I highly recommend both of these books, giving each of them a rating of 9 out of 10, excellent reading.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Would you bite?

The tree must have done it.  Last night I was reading in bed, with my cat Kiki curled up at my feet, when a book jumped off the shelf onto the floor ... loudly.  Kiki was startled and stared hard at the offending book, but neither she nor I could see any reason for it to "fall."  Granted, it was standing at the end of a row of books with nothing helping it to stand upright -- but it was in the middle of the shelf.  And it was a mere three feet to my left.   I think the tree had something to do with it.

Which book was it, you ask?  Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen that I had finished reading a few days ago.  Those of you who have read the book will understand why I'm trying to figure out how the tree threw the book at me.   I mean, it IS a book about casting spells.  And the tree in question has been known to throw apples at people.  Personally, I think the tree wants me to know I am taking far too much time getting around to writing it (the tree, I mean) into a book review.  (Aside to the tree:  "Okay, I get it!   I'm writing as fast as my little fingers can type, so don't throw any more books at me, okay?")

Claire and Sydney Waverley react very differently to being part of a curious family, which has a certain reputation in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina.  Their feisty apple tree is known to bear prophetic fruit, and edible flowers from their garden have special powers.   Claire became a successful caterer, dishing out her mystical plants, but Sydney fled their town as soon as she could.  Their elderly cousin, Evanelle, distributes unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear within days or hours.  These three, plus Sydney's young daughter Bay, are the last of the Waverleys.  The story picks up when Sydney comes home to North Carolina with her daughter and turns Claire's quiet life upside down.  The two must learn to live with each other, and there's a man involved, of course.  He's a neighbor who caused one of the sisters to ... well, let me quote the author's excellent way of showing what a kiss could do:
"She got in the van and sped away, jumping curbs and running stop signs all the way home" (p. 168).
And there's the tree.   Yes, the apple tree that throws apples to get people's attention.  Eating a bite from one of its apples foretold something about the future that caused Claire and Sydney's mother to flee from Bascom, and that profoundly influenced the course of her daughters' lives.
"The garden was quiet and damp, the temperamental apple tree at the back of the lot shivering slightly as if dreaming" (p. 5).
Taking a bite of the fruit of that tree is something to ponder.  If you knew that biting into a Waverley  apple would reveal part of your future, would you bite?  Tell us why or why not in the comments. Me?  Nah, I don't think I'd want to know.   Frankly, I think it's odd enough that THIS is the book that flew off the shelf last night in my direction, and not some other book.   (Yes, it really did happen.)  How would you explain it, if not that the book was somehow influenced by the apple tree in the story?

Garden Spells ~ by Sarah Addison Allen, magical realism, 2007
Rating: 9 of 10, excellent!