Sunday, August 31, 2008

Sunday Salon August 31st

Back to School Time

According to the equinox summer is not over, according to my district figuratively speaking it is. Summer fun and lazy days reading in my comfy chair surrounded by four hounds has come to a close and with it a sense of sadness. Truthfully, when the end of
August comes my thoughts shift to the classroom and planning for the year begins. My summers are spent resting, relaxing and reflecting and I do that by reading and always have. Rekindling the flame of passion to teach for another year is critical for the students and the teacher. On Thursday when the students arrived this past week, I was hyper with happiness. Judging from the students enthusiastic faces they felt about the same. First days of school are always very special, as are the last days. The time in between can be arduous, can be frustrating, can be stressful, can be hilarious, can be fulfilling and can be the most rewarding of many careers. As the library/media specialist I get to know all the students pretty well. This past week my students returned and there was nothing better than getting big hugs from an overwhelming number of returning students. To use the ubiquitous phrase in advertising...PRICELESS!

Sharon Creech:
Hate That Cat
,sequel to Love That Dog

My Back to School Review
Creech makes writing look so easy as Jack returns in the sequel to Love That Dog. This time he must contend with a dreaded fat cat. In Hate That Cat, the reluctant poet becomes a wonderful storyteller as he models poems in the spirit of famous poets. After receiving a tiny black kitten as a gift, despite his aversion to the big black cat, he comes to love that kitten. He uses his little kitten as the subject of his poetry as he creates sounds with words to help his deaf mother hear. I can’t think of a better book to use when teaching elements of poetry with each page being a potential lesson. Creech proves once again that a story or novel can be told using poetry. Teachers may want to use this as a read aloud or for shared reading. This book had me laughing, smiling, crying, and chuckling with joy. Hate That Cat is utterly entertaining.

Heretic's Daughter

Heretic's Daughter,is now available in stores getting rave reviews. I have re-linked the review I did on Heretic's Daughter this week. Some of you may have missed it before the release. Please check it out.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sunday Salon August 24th, 2008

Learning about the Amistad...

on board The Quinnipiac

As many of my saloner friends know, this week I attended an intensive graduate course in African American History. Even though we attended from early morning till afternoon, the days flew by and I'm sorry the end had to come. On Tuesday we attended Yale for lectures and discussions with noted historians who outlined Connecticut's and the North's involvement in the slave trade. If not slave owners they were part of the slave society. Later in the evening we were escorted to the pier to hop aboard the Quinnipiac schooner to learn about the Amistad. Donald George, a descendent of the Mende tribe from Sierra Leone is shown in this video clip teaching our class a Mende song. His message to us and the message he takes to all ports while teaching on the Amistad is friendship and peace. The Amistad is in Maine and a great many thanks go to Mr. George for traveling to Connecticut to be with us on the Quinnipiac.

He says that we must confront our past if we want to move forward and make peace. It was a beautiful day to sail, to learn and to sing.

Mr. George was a master at getting us involved in the lives of the slaves, their blight, the trial, the politics and the overall picture of how there came to be a mutiny on the Amistad.

Other book sources for those who are curious:
1.The Middle Passage: White Ships/ Black Cargo (1995),Tom Feelings
2.Africa and Africans in the Making of the Atlantic World, 1400-1800,(1998)by John Thornton
3.Prince Among Slaves, by Terry Arnold
4.The Slave Trade, by Hugh Thomas
5.Before the Mayflower, A History of Black America, by Lerone Bennett
6.The Atlantic Slave Trade, by David Northrup
7.Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler
8.In Search of Billie Holiday, by Farah Jasmine Griffin


Reading this week...

was primarily the books required for my AAH course. I had listed these for you on an earlier post.
By the way if you have never read The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B.DuBois, you must!!!

I was able to finish...

The Heretic's Daughter (see review)

I'm finishing up...

The Toss of a Lemon.
Have a great week everyone.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Heretic's Daughter, by Kathleen Kent

The Heretic's Daughter
by Kathleen Kent
Publ:Hatchette Book Group

The Salem witch trials that took place beginning in 1692 couldn’t have been staged any better if it were being filmed by Dreamworks. There was drama, suspicion, suspense, victims, accusers, liars, friendship, good versus evil and many other elements we see in successful movies. Looking back over this period of history, it is difficult to accept that the words of a few small children running to parents was enough to set the ball rolling down the slippery slope. Times were different then people didn’t have the the benefit of the centuries ahead of them. The society was patriarchal and women were expected to serve men. They were not valued. Did it really matter if a few women were accused of witchcraft? The trials, drew large crowds of people to the galleries to watch the wicked evil spawns of Satan face their accused. Nineteen women and men were hung on Gallows Hill. Among them was Martha Carrier from Andover, Massachusetts.

Heretic’s Daughter
is a fictional account of the author’s relatives. The author is the tenth generation descendant of Martha Carrier. You will read in the beginning of the book a letter with with a sens e of realism from Sarah Carrier to her granddaughter. This letter, though fictionalized immediately puts you in Sarah’s life and you are hooked. You can’t stop reading. The story begins to flow and like water on a river the path takes on a life of its own. Sarah’s mom will be going to trial for witchcraft. Later in the story, Kent cleverly places Sarah inside the jail, since it is her voice that provides our first person point of view. Sarah has dark penetrating eyes and not only can tell a story with them, she sees all and will not lie even to save the person she loves the most. Kent is a wonderful storyteller and descriptive details, through Sarah’s eyes make the jail scenes come alive.

Kathleen Kent has a natural storytelling instinct and knows how to keep you engaged at every page turn. Martha is not your typical Puritan country wife, a helpless silent, supplicant. For those looking to read about a strong female this would be an excellent choice. History buffs will like reading about a familiar yet fresh story of Salem’s madness in the late 17th century. Heretic’s Daughter is a little bit history with a story of great courage and haunting hysteria. Highly recommended.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sunday Salon, August 16th 2008

Hi Saloners

This has been a busy week for me, but I did manage to get a little reading in. I'm actually in the middle of reading several books. Call me crazy!!

I'm finishing The Heretic's Daughter and I thought I would have that review for you, but you will will see that next week...sorry. I can't wait for the ending..although we all know what happened in Salem Village.

The Toss of a Lemon, a long epic novel spanning the years of 1896-1962 is the story of an Indian woman, her family and the life she leads as a Brahmin. Fabulous!!!

The Winds of Tara, remember the unauthorized sequel to Gone With the Wind? I love this book!!! I want to savor each page. Thanks to Katherine Pinotti for breathing spirit and life back into Scarlett O'Hara. We are fortunate to have this writer who has recreated Scarlett's character in every aspect. It is a treat to hear her infamous sassy Southern conversations and witty banter again. GWTW fans should jump up and down that they have to send to Australia for this book. It is worth every penny though.

Alive in Necropolis is nearly finished, I really like this book, I just put it on the back burner for a while. Too many fish to fry.

Lots of new books arrived this week and I'll probably talk about one or two of them this coming week. Another trip to Good Will was somewhat successful. My course will start on Monday full time for the entire week and all my reading will be African American History. Tuesday we set sail and learn all about the Amistad, but we'll be on a different boat. For those of you who were interested, I did post a listing of the required reading.

A couple of my reviews posted this week.

The Glimmer Palace, by Beatrice Colin
The Dog Who Belongs to No One, by Amy Hest

Great news!!! My sleeping disorder has been identified, so no more falling asleep while driving. I say that's an awesome week. Yippee!!! Happy reading to all!!!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Glimmer Palace, By Beatrice Colin

The Glimmer Palace
By Beatrice Colin

Lilly Nelly Aphrodite is an orphan, never knowing a parents’ love. What a beautiful name, not dull, not common, suitable for a rising star. Just her name alone made me want to read on. She lives in a Catholic orphanage, and one day befriends a girl named Hanne who arrives with three brothers in tow. Where Hanne is adventurous, Lilly is not, and each night after midnight, Lilly listens in the quiet as a pin drop night, as her friend sneaks over the wall. Hanne goes to town to make money selling flowers. Lilly, eagerly wants love, friendship and acceptance and looks to Sister August and Hanne give her it.

Knowing it is wrong to jump over the wall with Hanne, she is curious. She also fears that she may lose Hanne as a friend. This makes it easy for Lilly to become the follower. Lilly and Hanne become a duo and set out to the tingle tangle. A tingle-tangle, is a bar where working girls often hand out postcards of themselves while men drank and watched tawdry shows. Hanne introduces Lilly to the seedier side of Berlin’s cabaret lifestyle that existed in the early 1900s. Think of the famous Cabaret musical and the image will be clearer. Hanne aspires to become a famous performer. Ironically, it is Lilly who during one of Hanne’s auditions, is discovered and the rest as they say is history.

Conflicts and parallel stories abound in this novel. Without giving away too much, Lilly becomes rich and rises above her earlier impoverished beginnings, while Hanne, sinks deeply into despair and poverty. The German film industry is highly lucrative and successful while millions of people are starving and being killed in the country.

Lilly becomes so famous she is asked to work for MGM in America. Enthusiasm is quickly suppressed when the papers label her a Nazi. Also at this time the transition from silent movies to talkies made voice quality essential. There was question whether Lilly could hold her own in a talking film. Because of these two obstacles, when Hitler, sends word thru Joseph Goebbels asking Lilly to come back to Germany to make films, her decision is monumental.

The German film industry was very important during this interlude between wars. According to Colin who writes that her inspiration for the story came from her great aunt Nina, who was appalled that she knew nothing about the importance of the film industry in Germany during that time. Her aunt worked in the film business in the press office and was able to give her first hand information about the rise and demise of this once thriving industry.

Chapters begin with real historical images and a short text selection that adds historical credibility to the story. This also makes the book read more like nonfiction history than historical fiction. I believed in the characters created by Colin because they were not perfect. They had flaws and made mistakes and moved on. I had to keep reminding myself it was a novel, fiction and reality are marbleized. Love is a central theme in the book as the characters are all trying to find and hold on to love. These characters will make you love this book. The Glimmer Palace presents a passionate peak at Berlin’s people as they lived during the long period leading up to the Holocaust.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Dog Who Belonged to No One by Amy Hest

The Dog Who Belonged to No One
By Amy Hest
Illustrated by Amy Bates

This is a perfect read-a-loud story. Illustrator and author have collaborated brilliantly to create a composition on paper that could be a musical on film. The words are fluid and flow easily as you read, while old time pictures move to keep up with the text. When I look at the faces in the pictures done with pencil and watercolor, they are detailed and expressive. Together with the text, Hest and Bates create mood that will capture your heart.

A little dog with crooked ears and a little girl named Lia, who lives in a crooked house are both looking for a friend. They both travel everywhere looking but have no luck. You feel sympathy for the dog when he runs from the night, or a storm. At the same time, in the same town, Lia tries to out run the storm and the night to get to the safety of her crooked house.

I would use this book for readers workshop when discussing authors’ craft.
Hest uses repetition of words, “Run, run, run,” to show motion. She also uses repetition with entire phrases and sentences as they get closer to discovering each other at Lia’s crooked house. Descriptive language makes this a perfect choice for teaching elaboration.

What a wonderful story about loneliness and finding friendship when you least expect it. This would be an appropriate read aloud for K-4 and read alone at any age. An adorable and touching story of loneliness and finding a friend. I strongly recommend The Dog Who Belonged to No One.

Monday, August 11, 2008

African American History August 11, 2008

Required Reading List

As promised here is the list of required reading for my grad course.
I read on the syllabus that there will be supplemental reading and they usually provide an annotated bibliography. If this is the case I will make sure I post that list as well. Enjoy the readings.

1.The Classic Slave Narratives by Gates, Henry Louis
2.Slavery and the Making of America by Horton, James & Horton, Lois
3.The Souls of Black Folk by Dubois, W.E.B.
4.Strange Fruit, The Biography of a Song, by Margolick, David
5.Africa Remembered, Curtin, Philip

Picture on right from (public domain)
Picture on left from flickr commons "Pickin' Cotton" by Christina Buffons

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Sunday Salon Go Team!!!! Summer Olympics 2008

Hi Sunday Saloners,

What a busy week its been for me. Doctors, dentists, vets and classroom prep.(NOT) No, I'm not going to do any classroom work for at least another week. Famous last words. The Olympics just served as a reminder that the start of school is fast approaching. It's a little shorter for me by one week this year because I'm taking a grad course in African American History. I'm very excited about the course and the program. The reading requirement is intensive so I might be blogging about some of the fiction and maybe non-fiction during that time. One book we are reading is Strange Fruit, a book that was required reading for me in high school. It should be interesting to read it again after so many years and a new perspective.

I finished the Southern Challenge this week and I have three reviews, one from last week and two new ones this week.

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan

Outside Child by Alice Wilson-Fried
Sweetsmoke by David Fuller

I'm finishing up The Glimmer Palace, The Winds of Tara, The Heretic's Daughter and Alive in Necropolis. I'm reading them all at once so I'm half finished. Hope everyone enjoys some of the Olympic Games. Wasn't the opening ceremony over the top?
Enjoy your week everyone. Wisteria

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan

Mudbound by Hillary Jordan a Bellwether Prize winner for fiction is a disturbing novel of racial hatred and historical importance. This award is given to a novel that addresses social justice and after reading her book, it is obvious why she deserves this prestigious prize.

Henry McAllan moves his wife and children to Mississippi, where he has bought a cotton farm on the fertile Delta to fulfill a lifelong dream. The time is late 1940s and the rules of white and black society are clearly delineated. Everyone knows their social places and gender roles, segregation is assumed and seemingly second nature as blacks and whites coexist in the community as long as the unwritten law is followed. This is the southern lifestyle as it was during the Jim Crow pre-civil rights south. Segregation is as mudbound as the land itself. It is deeply rooted in the culture of anyone born into the southern landscape. Laura follows her husband to Mississippi from the civilized world she is accustomed with no questions asked. Florence and Hap accept the sub human treatment given them as a natural part of life.

Jordan’s craft is to tell the story from the point of view of the characters. In this way you become intimate with the souls of each family member, knowing how they think and feel. The McAllans, Henry, Laura and Jamie and the Jacksons, Hap, Florence and Ronsel.

We cringe when we hear the language used by Pappy, Henry’s father the vile hateful white supremacist bigot. We wiggle uncomfortably when the man, Ronsel Jackson is called boy or Florence is called a nigger or any other racially derogatory moniker. It is hard to understand the thinking behind Laura’s hesitation of allowing Florence to nurse her very sick children because of her color.

Mudbound is the story of Jamie and Ronsel, both soldiers who are back from WWII. For the time being they are helping out on their family’s farms. Ronsel served in an all black unit in Germany and while there has a relationship with a white woman. This is considered taboo in his native Mississippi, but in Europe, he feels like a man, not a black man, color is not noticed. When he returns home, he is treated as a boy again, because in the white world he is not a man, he is a black boy again.

Jamie and Ronsel become friends, but must face the racist rules society imposes on them. Ronsel can’t ride in the cab of Jamie’s pickup truck because of the color of his skin. One day while driving together they are spotted by Pappy who is wrought with disgust and disbelief. Jamie and Ronsel are warned to stop riding together and threatened with consequences by Pappy and Henry. When they continue to break the racial rules the penalties are unrelenting, horrifically unfathomable and life threatening.

Before Civil Rights Laws, this is how life was. As difficult and hard as it is to face our past, it is disturbing and offensive to read now. This book captivated my attention from the very beginning and the momentum never stopped. Jordan has captured the spirit of the time and brings you there. You feel the precarious tolerance of life that existed between whites and blacks, always leery of the next incident. Mudbound had me on the edge and will be etched in my memory for sometime, perhaps forever.
Hillary Jordan's Website
Mule Contest: The mule is mentioned on page 130 when Henry tells Hap to have one of his boys come fetch it.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sweetsmoke by David Fuller, August 6, 2008

Sweetsmoke, is the name of a fictitious southern plantation owned by Hoke Howard. The story takes place sometime during the Civil War when the roles of owner and master are hanging in the balance. Slaves are running to taste freedom and owners are desperate to maintain the status quo by creating horrific examples of those who dare to flee. Both master and slave are afraid, for the future is precarious and unknown.

Hoke Howard is the owner of Sweetsmoke consisting of the land, tobacco crop, livestock and most important of all his slave chattel. Cassius is one of Hoke’s favored slaves and for some unexplained reason he is treated differently. Their unique relationship is noticed by the slave community as they perceive freedom given to him that others do not have.

Emoline Justice is a freed slave living in town who was once owned by Hoke. She lives in town and is a conjurer, a healer, who nurses Hoke back from a serious injury. During the time he spends with her he learns to read, a punishable offense, often by death. This being Cassuis’ weapon, he keeps his secret from everyone. One day, Emoline is found dead, murdered by a crushing blow to her head from behind. Cassius becomes enraged with anger when he is told and has no choice but to seek vengeance for the death of his friend and teacher. To search for the killer, Cassius must leave the plantation requiring all his wit and skills to survive. He has never had so much freedom, but will he run given the chance?

Fuller’s storytelling is mesmerizing as he unveils hidden secrets of the Sweetsmoke Plantation that intertwine between the slave quarters and the big house. His book is destined to be a major classic of American literature. It should be included on any reading list choice in high schools where there is an American History curriculum and also included in the study of US History in college.

David Fuller’s writing is beautifully poetic, written with lyrical verse and deep passion.
He is an accomplished storyteller whose years of screenwriting experience shows in this debut novel. As in any great movie, I couldn’t wait to find out what happens. At the same time I wanted to savor the story and prolong the ending. Let’s hope his next book is not too far in the future.

PS....I received an email from David Fuller and he has posted this review on his website. What a thrill. Check out his sight for Sweetsmoke it is really phenomenal.

David Fuller's Website

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Sunday Salon-Breaking Dawn @ Midnight

It was another major book release reminiscent of the days of Harry Potter. Being the aunt of a teenage niece entering her sophomore year of school has it's advantages. One of which was attending a party and subsequent trip to the a bookstore for the midnight sale of Breaking Dawn, by Stephenie Meyer.

My niece had invited six friends. They spent time decorating T-shirts using colored markers, that they intended wearing that night. When I got there they were in the midst of painting pictures and transferring their favorite quotes from the stories onto their shirts. Some had trouble deciding which passage to choose. These teenagers could quote Meyers like an evangelist preacher and locate passages like it was scripture. They would challenge each other to see who could find it first.

They all agreed that Twilight is by far their favorite. The copies I saw around the room were tattered, covers missing and worn out like a high school copy of Romeo and Juliet that needed to be replaced. The reason for the wear was that they all had read the books at least four times. This was so surprising to me, but you should see these books. Each was like their own special teddy bear, worn and loved.

The kids were pumped, loud and ready to burst like a overfilled balloon. This was so much fun for me, as you know I only have fur kids. Seeing the group of seven interact and hang together talking about Bella, Edward and Jacob was a hoot. My sister had candlelight globes, black tablecloths, vampire cheesecake(to die for..made from scratch)and finger sandwiches. It was so much fun especially seeing their enthusiasm for the new book.

Later we left to go to our venue for the evening. We arrived at a major bookstore in a central Connecticut city. I must admit, I expected a larger crowd of people, but was nevertheless overjoyed that it wasn't. In comparison to a Harry Potter release, this was not too crazy. In spite of the smaller numbers, the enthusiasm and noise levels were not diminished in the least. The typical wrist bands were doled out depending on your reservation order in one of two colors.

All that was left was the waiting. For the kids, patience is a challenge in self-discipline, definitely easier for some. What better place to be, waiting for a book release, than to be surrounded by books? Their group began to bounce about with unbridled enthusiasm, looking at magazines, skimming through books, chatting and talking about Breaking Dawn, not knowing what to do next.

I was with my sister but we separated to browse the book stacks. After meeting up and making a purchase,(naturally) we headed to the cafe for a late night latte.

An announcement was made that they would be calling people with red wrist bands, starting with those numbered one-twenty just before midnight. The booksellers also asked that no one be the spoiler and give away any plot. I was happy they made this caveat prior to sales. It proved to be a prescient warning for one member of our group.

Another announcement was made to clarify the store's obligation to hold sales until 12:01. Shortly after that, a collective countdown began, as if all were watching a crystal ball drop on New Year's Eve. As the count ran out, a deafening cacophony of cheers erupted and arms pumped to the ceiling as you saw kids mouth, "YES!". I just love when kids get excited about books. Don't you?

My niece and her friends had a low number with several copies reserved, so we were out of the store before too long. This picture is from the event and my niece is in the middle.

Did anyone else attend a Breaking Dawn release at a bookstore at midnight? What was it like?

Stephenie Meyer's Website