Friday, December 19, 2008

Snow Day

Today was a snow day. My son missed a big math test and movie afternoon at school, and my daughter missed pajama-pizza-and holiday party day (but the first grade teachers sent a note home Thursday night reassuring their students that it would be rescheduled after school resumes in January).

Check out the drift on our garage roof. I'm glad we got that new roof in October (and if anyone's looking for a really reasonable recommendation for a roofer, I heartily recommend Tony's Roof Repair in Ann Arbor).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Currently Reading

I should blog about something besides books. Like "actual life" even, imponderable or not.

But not today! There's a snow storm coming tonight and tomorrow morning (the media are beside themselves with excitement. Will it be a snow day? Do you have enough ice melt, bread, milk, beer, and egg nog?) and I have stuff to do before it hits.

I did want to mention one of the books I'm reading now, though.

I'm really enjoying The Trouble Begins at 8: A Life of Mark Twain in the Wild, Wild West, by Sid Fleischman. It's on the short list of books that the "Mock Newbery Committee" is considering for the 2009 Newbery Awards (if you want to know more about that, check out this blurb I wrote on The Newbery Project). It's written for older kids, so its short chapters are the perfect length for reading in bits and pieces, but the vocabulary and syntax are not child-like in the least. I was thrilled to run across "farm sass" again (see the lengthy post I did on "garden sass" a few years ago), as in:

Meanwhile, the tightfisted wife of the publisher provided meals notable for their trifling portions. News of the great potato famine then raging in Ireland could not have escaped backwater Hannibal, and Sam must have felt himself to be a cosufferer. To sustain himself, Sam felt obliged to raid the cellar at night for potatoes and other farm sass taken in barter for subscriptions (p. 28).

I also learned that when he was in his 20's, the young Samuel Clemens planned to travel "to the headwaters of the Amazon and collect coca and trade in it and make a fortune" (p. 34), which is fun to know.

I don't think that Fleischman's biography is going to win the Newbery (only a couple of other biographies have won - one on Abraham Lincoln in 1988, and one of Louisa May Alcott in 1934) - but I'm happy to recommend it for older kids and adults alike. If you want a more critical review of the book, I recommend Wendy B.'s review on, because she said everything I was vaguely thinking but couldn't articulate.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

If You Really Want a Snow Day... should wear your pajamas inside out and flush an ice cube down the toilet. This is what one of the neighborhood kids told my son last Sunday afternoon, anyway, when they were predicting 3-7 inches overnight, and everyone (except for a stay-at-home parent or two :-/) was really wishing for another day tacked on to the end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

I had never heard about this bit of childhood magic, so I went Googling and found an interesting link to an NPR story. An inquiry on the parenting board I frequent also turned up several instances of related rituals for getting a snow day, including licking a spoon and sleeping with it under your pillow, and putting a white crayon under your pillow (along with wearing your pajamas inside out or backwards). I wonder how far back these stories date? It's an interesting anthropological question, and if I had time I would check out something like this book on Rituals and Patterns in Children's Lives and see if it's in there, and what other childhood rituals (May baskets? dandelions under the chin? jump rope songs?) are in there.

My son who struggles with OCD expressed his disbelief in this particular ritual, and laughed about how funny it was, this "normative manifestation of compulsive behaviors found in typical development". Which is interesting - when it comes to real OCD, everyone else's rituals (including many group beliefs) are utterly bizarre. But your own idiosyncratic rituals, avoidances, etc. - no matter how illogical, those are different. You just never can tell with OCD, can you?*

Anyway, we got rain and then maybe an inch of snow, which quickly melted. The photo above is actually from last January.

*pun intended. I know very well it's the "doubting disease".

Thursday, November 20, 2008

And Another "Year" Book!

Strangely enough, I finally got a book I've had wish-listed on for about a year (which is great for all those books you'd like to have, not borrow from the library, but are too cheap to buy right now on or - it's like getting a surprise present when one of these books gets listed.

Anyway, the book is Suburban Safari: A Year on the Lawn, by Hannah Holmes. And it fits right in with all the "year in the non-fiction life" memoirs I posted about last week.

Suburban Safari is an excellent book, by the way, full of the best kind of nature writing, by someone who understands that you don't have to travel to some pristine wilderness (as if ever there was such a thing, except maybe in the New World more than twenty-thousand years ago) to observe nature.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Year of Reading "Year of Something" Memoirs

So I'm reading A.J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically right now. An entertaining book, full of weird bits of knowledge about mixing linen and wool, praying, coveting, and other things I don't think about very much.

And it occurred to me that I've read a number of "I did something for a year" memoirs. And most of them were pretty enjoyable. In the last few years (ok, I fudged the post title a bit), I've read Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages, by Ammon Shea; Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen, by Julie Powell; Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver; Gary Paul Nabhan's Coming Home to Eat: The Pleasures and Politics of Local Foods (note that Nabhan beat Kingsolver to the punch by a few years, and also refrained from the using the word year in his subtitle); and The Scavenger's Guide to Haute Cuisine, by Steve Rinella (what, no subtitle at all?).

And also: A Country Year: Living the Questions, by Sue Hubbell,
and The Outermost House: A Year of Life on the Great Beach of Cape Cod, by Henry Beston (the oldest of this type of book I read, published in 1928). Whew, that's a lot of "year of something or other" books.

Rinella's book is the only one I've read that comes up in an entertaining article from the NYT Book magazine with the title "The Year I Stopped Shopping, Had Lots of Sex, Cooked Street Pigeon...", which I found by Googling "year of doing something memoirs".

Clearly, I need to do something....something different for a year and then write about it. But what?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

From Abluvion to Zyxt (A Book Review of "Reading the OED")

Whenever we come upon one of those intensely right words in a book or a newspaper the resulting effect is physical as well as spiritual, and electrically prompt: it tingles exquisitely around through the walls of the mouth and tastes as tart and crisp and good as the autumn-butter that creams the sumac-berry. One has no time to examine the word and vote upon its rank and standing, the automatic recognition of its supremacy is so immediate.

—Mark Twain, in William Dean Howells, 1906

I love unusual words, especially words that are saturated with history, or words that describe something that I never realized had a word devoted to it (imponderabila, from Bronislaw Malinowski's Argonauts of the Western Pacific fits both criteria for me).

I regularly read Michael Quinion's World Wide Words and WordSpy (adorkable! fauxmosexual!), check wordy books out of the library, and spend far too long rambling through the Internets searching for the origins of phrases like "garden sass" or "fall vs. autumn"- as you can tell if you click on the words label in my righthand sidebar. And I was thrilled when both the Saline District library and the AADL offered access to the Oxford English Dictionary online.

So when I saw Reading the OED: One Man, One Year, 21,730 Pages, by Ammon Shea, I knew it was a book that I should check out. And I wasn't disappointed.

The book is ordered alphabetically (duh), but it's not all words. Well, actually, it is all words, there are no pictures in it, but it isn't all definitions. The essays on dictionaries and reading them are wonderful in their own right:

But what about all the things that you cannot do with the electronic version?

You cannot drop the computer on the floor in a fit of pique, or slam it shut. You cannot leave a bookmark with a note on it in a computer and then come upon it after several years and feel happy you've found something you thought you had lost. You cannot get any sort of tactile pleasure from rubbing the pages of a computer. (Maybe some people do get a tactile pleasure from rubbing their computers, but they are not people I have any interest in knowing anything about.)

....I've never looked across the room at my computer and fondly remembered things that I once read in it. I can while away hours at a time just standing in front of my books and relive my favorite passages merely gazing at their spines. I have never walked into a room full of computers, far from home, and immediately felt a warm familiarity come over me, the way I have with every library I've ever set foot in (p. 56-57).

But on to Shea's favorite words! Here's the first entry in the A's:

Abluvion (n.) Substances or things that are washed away.

Chances are you have never stared at the dirty bathwater washing down the drain and wondered, Is there a word for that? but now you will forever be cursed with the knowledge that indeed there is (p. 5).

My favorite in the A's, though is:

Anonymuncule (n.) An anonymous, small-time writer.

This delightful word is the result of combining anonymous with the Latin word homunculus ("little man"), p. 9.

And constult! Why don't people use this word today? It's perfect:

Constult (v.) To act stupidly together

Taking part in an activity that is inordinately stupid just because one's friends are doing it is not the exclusive province of teenagers - it just seems that way.

Shea has a wry voice, and seeing his opinions come through in the commentary on the definitions and his musings about libraries (public and personal) and the people who use them is just fun. This is one of those books I want to keep on that special shelf devoted to books about books.

My only criticism is that it is too short. Shea mentions that he kept track of many more words than he used in his book. While Reading the OED feels like it is a good length (never a chance to get bored!), I wanted more. More weird words to go look up online, more of his gentle snark, more stories about lexographers past and present.

Besides, where else would I ever have learned that the word fizzle originally meant to fart silently? Unless I read the OED myself, anyway.

Oh, and zyxt is an archaic Kentish word meaning "to see", in case you were wondering about that.

Friday, October 10, 2008


I'm in Saline, on a fairly busy street. Do you think my pumpkin's more likely to get smashed if it has the "Yes We Can" or "No More Lies" design from the Yes We Carve site?

I like the fact that Obama's campaign people ask for a mere $5 contribution and encourage you to carve your pumpkin to show your support, though I'm not generally a fan of co-opting holidays for ideological purposes (see this post from Halloween three years ago, and this one). I'll probably stick with my bumper sticker and t-shirt for political purposes, and let the kids carve the traditional triangle eyed faces on their jack-o-lanterns.

Though I do think Obama's graphic artists' designs are way cooler than the McCain ones.

And if you'd like Tina Fey to come to Michigan (instead of Sarah Palin), check out this petition on the Michigan Democratic Party's website.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Map of Home: Book Review

Since I haven't bothered to blog since last summer (and did so very rarely before that in this last year!), you should realize that if I'm getting on here just to plug a book, it must be really, really good. And it is. It is so very,very, good you should buy it now and find a way to get your copy signed by the author soon.

A Map of Home, by Randa Jarrar, is the best book I've read in ages about being a rebellious teenager. Best book about it forever, maybe. And I've read a lot of books featuring teen angst, teen love, growing of age, the experience of being an immigrant, and dealing with dysfunctional families.

If you read and enjoyed Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow by Faiza Guene, or The Glass Castle, by Jeanette Walls, or Stealing Buddha's Dinner, by Bich Minh Nguyen (hey, she lived in Ann Arbor for a while just like Jarrar!) then I think you'll like A Map of Home. Jarrar's novel reminded me of the best of all of these books in its honesty and in the heroine's ability to find humor and insight in the most unlikely places.

It's funny, it's sweet, it's rude, it's geographically and historically interesting, and it's incredibly easy and just enjoyable to read. A Map of Home is the story of Nidali, who was born in Boston (to a pair of the most loud, stubborn, and memorable parents I think I've ever seen portrayed), who grew up in Kuwait before the first Gulf War, and who matured in Egypt and finally, finished high school in Texas. Check out Nidali's first reactions to Texas:

I looked out of the car's window, mesmerized by the highway. Cars stayed in their lanes. They stopped at the traffic lights: here, these red and yellow and green circles were not mere suggestions or street decorations. The roads were clean. The graffiti on the inside of tunnels was pretty, like a well-tended flower. the air didn't smell of trash. A woman was crossing the street and no one appeared to offer her his luscious love bone. In the distance I saw lights from the city; they hovered over us like the personal illuminations of a hundred tiny angels (p. 215).

I don't think the title A Map of Home was catchy enough, somehow (there seem to be a lot of rather highbrow books out there favor that the use of a map as a literary device, don't you think?), though I did enjoy how Jarrar used maps in the book. Not literally (although that's not a bad idea, maybe she could draw one herself for the paperback cover?), but literarily.

My only regret is that I didn't read this book a few months ago, so I could have gone to her book signing in Ann Arbor a few weeks ago. But since Jarrar lives here, I hope she does another local one sometime. And I hope she is working on another novel right now. I'd love to read her take on marriage and motherhood.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Stupid Things You Get Maudlin About After the Loss of a Dog

We had to put our elderly dog down last Friday. She was born December 21, 1992, so Zoe had a very long (and I think pretty good) life for a golden retriever/black lab mix.

Besides being sad at her death, and missing her almost perfect dog-ness, I find myself getting all teary-eyed about the traces she left behind. These are the reminders of over fifteen years of dog-ownership: treats and plastic bags for picking up poop stuffed in coat pockets, someone that's always happy to see you when get home, the last full vacuum cannister of dog hair (although we'll probably be finding remnants of dog hair as long as we live in this house), thinking we hear a whine or that we see her sprawled gracefully across the living room floor. The whine was my daughter's nose whistling after she crawled in bed with us at 5 am; the glimpse in the living room was a brown towel that my son dumped legos on to expedite pick-up.

Even the bare spot by the refrigerator where her food and water bowl sat reminds me that she'll never again walk up to me at the computer, lay her head on my thigh, and mutely ask to be petted.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Long Overdue Update

I don't really know why I haven't been blogging. There have been plenty of potential topics: the best way to deal with an outbreak of head lice on your children, the worst time to go the University of Michigan emergency room for possible appendicitis (Saturday night at 1 am - I got seen around 6:30 am, turned out to be a ruptured ovarian cyst), books I've read recently, my daughter's horseback riding lessons, and the excitement of replacing screen doors, dishwasher controllers, and sump pumps. A lot of actual life, but not anything I've been inspired to document. I think writing elsewhere has filled the need to write that blogging used to satisfy.

One place I have been able to blog is over at The Newbery Project. Writing about the most recent children's or YA book that I've read is pretty easy. Here's the ones I've done in the last few months:

The Door in the Wall, by Marguerite de Angeli (14th century English boy becomes crippled but still manages to save the castle; 1950 winner. Very old-fashioned story, the kind that Lois Lowry wrote about in the bibliography of The Willoughbys).

Crispin: The Cross of Lead, by Avi (14th century English boy becomes a wolf's head, encounters bad guys and good guys involved in the Peasants' Revolt; 2003 winer).

Kira-Kira, by Cynthia Kadohata (Japanese-American family in Iowa and Georgia in the 60's and 70's - good YA girls' story; 2005 winner).

Jacob Have I Loved, Katherine Paterson (1940's Chesapeake Bay, another YA girls' story full of angst; 1981 winner).

Up a Road Slowly, by Irene Hunt (first half of 1900's, another angsty YA book that will appeal largely to girls; 1967 winner).

Amos Fortune: Free Man, by Elizabeth Yates (late 1700's Africa, Massachusetts, and NH; 1951 winner and one of the most outdated I've read. But not as bad as Daniel Boone).

The Wheel on the School, by Meindert DeJong (turn of the 19th century Holland story about a group of schoolkids who try to get storks to nest on the schoolhouse).

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Spring Snow and Historical Newbery Winners

Ack, it's just wrong to have 8 inches of snow on the ground the day before Easter. Above you see the view from our back yard before we got dumped upon. Yes, it is dark. March really isn't the best month in Michigan.

I'm still reading a lot of children's historical fiction - it is surprisingly good. Here are links to Newbery Project reviews of The Whipping Boy, by Sid Fleischman, The Midwife's Apprentice, by Karen Cushman, and Number the Stars, by Lois Lowry.

We're on a bit of a Lowry kick here - after reading The Giver with my 11-year-old, we went on to Gathering Blue and just started Messenger. I think Number the Stars is my favorite so far, though my son just ordered Gossamer from the latest Scholastic Books flier from school, so we'll have to see how that stacks up. She really is an amazing writer, and one that I missed by not reading much recent children's literature before this.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spring and Books and Stuff

You have to wonder what kind of a person Googles "What is actual life?". And when you use google as a verb, do you capitalize it? Are all the people Googling "imponderabilia" looking for me, or are they just stymied by the word?

My kids played outside for two hours after school today. They drew on the driveway with chalk. Amazingly, my son managed to cover most of his clothes in chalk dust. He had spots of it in the middle of his back. I could tell the splotches lower on his back were from putting his hands on his back, just above his waist, but I'm not quite sure how he managed to get the chalk between his shoulderblades. I don't think he was rolling on his back in the driveway.

And I finally saw a robin. Maybe - just maybe - spring really is coming.

I've been reading all kinds of fun stuff, but nothing that I love or hate enough to blog about. Except for two more Newbery winners: The Giver, the 1994 winner by Lois Lowry (and guess what? I even liked the cover), and Roller Skates, by Ruth Sawyer, which won the award in 1937.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Reviewing Bad Books

Well, I wrote the most scathing review that I've ever given to a children's book today, on a biography of Daniel Boone, written by James Daugherty in 1939. You can read it here at the Newbery Project.

I hated the artwork, I hated the style of the story, I hated its content. I can't believe it was ever given an award, even in 1940.

If I thought that any child would actually voluntarily plod through Daniel Boone, by James Daugherty, I would be more worried about it being on library shelves. It's out-of-print, so kids are unlikely to find it elsewhere. And maybe if they do happen to pick it up (like if they're doing a biography paper, for instance, like my fifth grader just finished), they'll be so mind-dulled by Daugherty's prose that they won't realize what he really says.

Sometimes it feels good to pull out all of the stops when you really hate a piece of literature. I never thought I'd do it for a Newbery Award winner, but I think that James Daugherty belongs right up there with Darla Shine and Linda Hirshman as authors that deserve the all of opprobrium that their heavy-handed propaganda incurs.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Q Road: Book Review

Q Road,* a novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell, was one of my luckier finds from the free paperback swap shelf at my local library. I read the back cover, stuffed it triumphantly into my bag (leaving a trashy mystery in its place), and promptly forgot about it for over a year. I finally got around to reading it this week, and discovered that it wasn't anything like the quirky story that the blurb on the back promised: it was much, much better.

Q Road
is an occasionally dark, thoroughly gritty, and often poignant look at the lives of a handful of people of rural Greenland Township in southwestern Michigan. Much of the story takes place on October, 9, 1999 - and it should be noted that early October is one of the most beautiful times of the year in the Midwest. Historical vignettes featuring some of the characters and their ancestors range back to the 1830's, when the Potawatomi were forced out of the Kalamazoo area; the 1860's, when the big barn that is central to the story was built; and the 1930's, when a tornado destroyed a farmhouse next to the barn.

For me, some of the appeal of Q Road was in Campbell's skillful portrayal of the woods and fields, the river, and the gardens and farmstands of her native Michigan. I grew up in a small town surrounded by farms in northern Illinois, and have lived in southeastern Michigan for over twenty years. My present house on the edge of town backs up onto one of the few remaining farms in the area (luckily it's in a farmland preservation program); in the twenty years I've been here the amount of open area that has become big box stores and subdivisions is staggering. And the conflict between suburbanites and farmers on Q Road could have been taken from our local paper. So her portrayal of similar situations on the western side of the state isn't too surprising. But the insightful way that Campbell describes both the people and the land (and even some plants and animals) itself did surprise me.

There was a lot of fascinating information on birds seamlessly woven into the story, and as a former archaeologist, I was tickled to see that the remains of Native garden beds (see some maps of these ridged fields below, and if you have journal access through an academic library, here's an article on them) played a role in the story. The Indian gardens weren't all hokey and mystical in the book, either, but were part of an unflinching look at the land and its changing uses.

Similarly, the people of Q Road were portrayed with their complications, ambiguities, and flaws, and a refreshing lack of stereotypes. Not every farmer's son was a wholesome son of the soil, and the philandering aluminum window salesman wasn't wholly unlikable. The old women were particularly realistic and entertaining - and when was the last time you read about a little old lady that was anything but sweet and boring? (Apart from Janet Evanovich's Grandma Mazur, anyway). The two retired women on Q Road couldn't be more different from each other, but both were fascinating in their own way.

What I really want right now is a sequel - like one set ten years later, in 2009. I don't see any signs that Campbell is doing this on her website, so I've had to content myself with buying her book of short stories, Women and Other Animals, and hoping it's as good as Q Road.

"Ancient Garden Beds" illustration from MSU's map library, from History of Kalamazoo County, Michigan, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers, by Samuel W. Durant. Philadelphia, Everets, 1880.

*Q Road refers to the name of the township road in southwestern Michigan where most of the story takes place. O Road and P Road are also mentioned, but Q Road and the Kalamazoo River and a handful of other memorable places - George Harland's 160 year old barn, a drafty farmhouse, a houseboat made out of an old trailer, a new manufactured house, and the Barn Grill - form the meaty backbone of this book. I'm not sure that the title helps sell it, though, and I thought the hardcover dust jacket was hideous (the much more attractive paperback cover is shown above).

Strangely enough, put Q Road in its "horror and mystery" section. I guess there is a little horror (though not much of the supernatural kind) there, and there's a little mystery - but really, I think Q Road should go on the bookshelf next to Jane Smiley's books, or Steve Amick's The Lake, the River, and the Other Lake and Meghan Daum's The Quality of Life Report. Although they're non-fiction, Michael Perry's books (like Population: 485 and Truck) could go on the same shelf. If you have any other suggestions that capture the essence of the Midwest with sympathy and without saccharine, I'd love to hear about them in the comments.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Yet More Historical Fiction for Kids

In my reviews of The Witch of Blackbird Pond (17th century Connecticut) and Adam of the Road (13th c. England), over at The Newbery Project. The Newbery Committee likes those historicals, doesn't it.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: Book Review

After my book club read The Glass Castle last month, I described it briefly in the book forum in an online community. A friend there (thanks, Naomi!) suggested I might also like Rachel Manija Brown's All the Fishes Come Home to Roost: An American Misfit in India. The synopsis sounded pretty interesting, and I almost always enjoy reading about different cultures (and this book features both an obscure religious/philosophical group and a very foreign country), so I picked it up from the library.*

I didn't expect this memoir to be so funny. I spent over an hour in the waiting and exam rooms at my local mammogram center this morning (routine yearly exam, all clear), stifling my laughter and snorting and wishing I had a bunch of post-its so I could flag specific passages to share. I looked around the web a bit tonight, and found a perfectly nice interview with Rachel Manija Brown on BookSlut - but little mention of the mind-boggling, eye-popping passages that made this story of a child stranded amongst weirdos in a remote part of India so enjoyable for me.

At the ashram, Baba's name was on everyone's lips at all times. It was used as punctuation, as a greeting, as an exclamation, as a goodbye, and as a prayer. Mom in particular used "Baba" much as some people use "fuck," as an all-purpose conjunction. "Oh, Baba, what a nice sunny day." "Baba, a cockroach in the dal!" "Oh, Baba, the train's late again." She even followed burps and sneezes with a trailing sigh of "Oh, Baba, Baba, Baba, Baba, Baba, Baba, Baba."

When I saw The Brady Bunch episode in which Jan exclaims, "Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" I knew exactly how she felt (p. 86).

From the end of one of my favorite chapters ("Without a Single Marathi Vowel"):

I wondered sometimes if the residents were strange because they lived in Ahmednagar, or if their choice to move to an ashram proved that they'd been oddballs before they left. As the only person in the ashram who wasn't there by choice, I would be the test case. If I turned out like the other residents - if I started writing love poems to Baba, if I volunteered information about my morning dump, if I turned eighteen and decided to stay on as a full-time Baba-lover - it would be because that forge everyone kept talking about had melted me down (p. 128).

Although Brown endured some horrific things, I never felt as outraged and saddened during All the Fishes as I did when reading The Glass Castle. Brown's parents were out-there different, self-absorbed, and sometimes oblivious, but they were never as violent nor as horribly negligent as Jeannette Walls' parents. In fact, much of Rachel's suffering in All the Fishes came from the nuns or the other students at the Holy Wounds of Jesus Christ the Savior Convent school. Her stories of this school beat all of the other "worst thing a teacher ever did to you" stories you've heard, hands down.

Rachel Manija Brown's website
proved to be an unexpected pleasure. As a child who spent the equivalent of several years buried deep inside books, many of them obscure and antiquated, I especially liked the Author's Notes, which describe the many books that play a role in All the Fishes.

There's everything from Robin McKinley's The Blue Sword to Marguerite Henry's King of the Wind (link to my Newbery Project review) to (I kid you not) Biggles Takes It Rough, by W.E. Johns. Plus deleted scenes, just like your favorite dvd, and a FAQ with "Whatever happened to the people in your book?". This was a lot more fun than the advertising/reviews/book club discussion questions I've come to expect on authors' websites. And it's all so pretty. Kudos to Ms. Brown and whomever designed her website.

I can't figure out why this book isn't as well known as The Glass Castle. It's perfect for book clubs - there's absolutely beautiful prose, tons of interesting things to discuss about it, and it's not too tragic (maybe it needs a "not an Oprah pick" sticker on the cover?). I couldn't even find any other reviews searching blogs, which partially prompted me to write this. It deserves much wider recognition, dammit!

I'll leave you with final bit of wisdom from All the Fishes Come Home to Roost:

Parents, if you do not want your children to write tell-all memoirs when they grow up, do not name them KhrYstYll, Pebble, or Shaka Zulu (p. 18).

*If you can afford to buy new hardcovers, this one's worth it. You can also request that your library buy it for you.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Despite My Absence

I haven't given up on blogging altogether. I've been dealing with a very sick, very old dog that needs a lot of help, many pages of fifth grade math homework (quick! What is the prime factorization of 60? Use exponents in your answer), house falling apart stuff, the usual.

I did read this year's Newbery Award winner - Good Masters! Sweet Ladies!, by Laura Amy Schlitz - checked it out of the library hours after the award was announced, read it, blogged about it here, and returned it the next day.

And I'm working on a couple longer book reviews which are almost done.

I hope all of you that I never sent holiday cards to are having a good new year. Please don't feel slighted - no one got cards this year, even my parents. Though they did get presents.