Archive | July, 2014

A Mad Dash to the Finish

30 Jul

I am going out of town today. I’ve spent the last few days finishing up the library books I could not renew, renewing the ones I could, and finishing those that I could. One of these was The Glass Sentence by S. E Grove.


 S. E. Grove might have written this book with me in mind. It is a tale of exploration and cartography in world in which Time has been Disrupted.  Each of the continents has been flung into a different time period; some are broken onto many time periods. Sophia Tims, our heroine comes from a line of cartologers and explorers. Her parents disappeared on a journey of exploration when she was small and Sophia was raised by her Uncle Shadrack, the foremost cartologer in Boston, if not in the entire world.

The book opens with a call from certain elements within society to expel all foreigners and close the border to them. And to keep the citizens of New Occident safe within New Occident. I sort of wondered if the author was reflecting a little on the current immigration situation. In anticipation of this, Shadrack begins to prepare Sophia for a journey they will take together, by beginning her cartological training. This is cut short when Shadrack is abducted and Sophia, naturally,  sets out to find him. As she journeys, she encounters bad guys, new friends and all sorts of adventures.

I love a book with a map in it..and this book has three! And the maps Grove cannot show, but only describe are marvelous.The maps in The Glass Sentence are more than two-dimensional diagrams in the Cartesian coordinate system. Maps can be compilations of memory; and maps made of different materials might be layered one upon the other. In fact, the whole book is really about a race to fin the carta mayor, the map to end all maps which shows the world as it is, as it was and as it could be.


This is the first book in a series, but ends without a frustrating cliffhanger, which I appreciate. I am all for cliffhangers, but not when one has to wait months or years for the next installment.

Leader of the pack

29 Jul


Tomorrow, I go on vacation. Today I am in a flurry of packing. First I will pack for the girls. They are staying in separate locations this trip. Lucy will stay at Sniff Dog Hotel, where she will have rooftop strolls. Fiona was going to stay there, then we had a little health scare. She will stay at the vet’s office instead. It wont be quite as exciting. She sleeps most of the time anyway, but I think she will get a lot of attention.

I will pack their bags first. They each get their blankie and enough food for the week I will be gone. Lucy’s bag will contain the training treats I use when she sees another dog and a nylabone. She likes a good chew from time to time. Fiona’s will include her ear drops and an am/pm pill container for her old lady meds. I will also send along baby wipes because she’s prone to UTIs and keeping her downstairs clean seems to help.

Later today, I will pack my bag. I will take my larger suitcase and will pay the $25.00 to check it. I could probably fit it all in a smaller case I could carry into the cabin, but I am rather short and I hate getting things into and out of the overhead bins. The really important things will go in my carry-on, just in case the suitcase doesn’t arrive. This includes my asthma meds, camera, knitting and reading material.

What essentials can you not live without, and are so important you’d  put them in your carry on?

Progress on my summer reading goal

28 Jul

One of my summer reading goals was to work my way through the “Jacky Faber” audiobooks. I’m not as far along as I’d like to be. There are 11 books so far.

  • Bloody Jack: Being an Account of the Curious Adventures of Mary Jacky Faber, Ship’s Boy (2002)
  • The Curse of the Blue Tattoo: Being an Account of the Misadventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman and Fine Lady (2004)
  • Under the Jolly Roger: Being an Account of the Further Nautical Adventures of Jacky Faber (2005)
  • In the Belly of the Bloodhound: Being an Account of a Particularly Peculiar Adventure in the Life of Jacky Faber (2006)
  • Mississippi Jack: Being an Account of the Further Waterborne Adventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman, Fine Lady, and the Lily of the West (2007)
  • My Bonny Light Horseman: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, in Love and War (2008)
  • Rapture of the Deep: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Soldier, Sailor, Mermaid, Spy (2009)
  • The Wake of the Lorelei Lee: Being an Account of the Adventures of Jacky Faber, on her Way to Botany Bay (2010)
  • The Mark of the Golden Dragon: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Jewel of the East, Vexation of the West, and Pearl of the South China Sea (2011)
  • Viva Jacquelina! Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber Over the Hills and Far Away (2012)
  • Boston Jacky: Being an Account of the Further Adventures of Jacky Faber, Taking Care of Business (2013)



“Wild Rover No More: Being the Last Recorded Account of the Life & Times of Jacky Faber”  will be release in November 2014. I already have it on hold at the library and it is a bittersweet prospect because the author vows this will be the last Jacky Faber book. . I have some work to do because yesterday, I finished #3. I read # 10 for the HUB reading Challenge, which is the event that precipitated my summer reading goal. I like Viva Jacquelina so much, I needed to know the back story. Today, I will start #4, which I have downloaded to my computer.


One reason I am a little behind is that I’ve been listening to them in the car and I don’t drive as much in summer. In fact, I impose “no driving days” on myself. These are days when I can leave the house to walk the dogs or do errands on foot, but I only go as far as I can by foot. It certainly changes the pace of a day.

Why I like this series: It is fun, historical fiction. Jacky Faber is the Forrest Gump of the Napoleonic Wars. Jacky is charming and funny, musically talented and adventurous. She does have a naughty and risqué side, but she is just naughty and risqué enough to make me smile.

Why I like this audiobooks: Two words: Katherine Kellgren. WOW! She totally captures Jacky’s spirit and has a beautiful singing voice. She has won several awards for her reading of the Jacky books and she is the reason why I choose to listen to the books rather than read them on the more traditional manner.

If you live locally, the Multnomah County Library has all the audiobooks, so you can get started on this wonderful series.

Feathers and ferris wheels

25 Jul


I always like to support local authors and I recently discovered a new one, Robin Herrera, who has published her first book, Hope is a Ferris Wheel. 

The main character, Star, is a quirky kid. She has recently moved to California from Oregon, lives in a trailer park and has layered blue hair that her classmates call a mullet. To make friends she starts a club. It starts as a Trailer Park Club, but turns into an Emily Dickinson club. I wasn’t sure if I was going to enjoy this books at first. Star is an odd duck and her life situation is a little depressing. Thank goodness the book is about HOPE because I don;t think I could have finished to without hope. Hope in a happy ending, ope that Star will make friends. One of the real strengths of the book is Star’s relationship with her older sister Winter. Winter has her own set of issues, but she is so supportive of Star I could almost get weepy talking about it.

 The book talks about some tough family issues, so I’m not sure if I would recommend it as a read aloud. There are tough issues, but Star is in 5th grade, making it a tough sell to older kids and a bit mature for some upper elementary readers. However, I believe there are a lot of ways it could be used to encourage kids to write, especially if someone were to read it during a poetry unit. There is the obvious inspiration of Emily Dickinson and specifically her “Hope is the thing with feathers” poem, which really get the club rolling. I had the idea that it would be fun to run an after school  poetry club for kids. Or maybe for teachers. We could all use a little more poetry in our lives.

Hope” is the thing with feathers
by Emily Dickinson
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Hidden Children

24 Jul

When I watched the movie adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars, I was surprised by the visit to the Anne Frank House; I’d forgotten about that part. I visited the museum in 1983, when I was an exchange student in Denmark. I was sort of distracted during the movie because the entrance has changed significantly since I was there 31 years ago. The annex itself was the same, and is a sobering place to visit.

Anne wasn’t the only Jewish child to hide during the war, but her story has certainly captured the hearts of those who have read her diary. In 2011, Marcel Prins and Peter Henk Steenhuis published  Ondergedoken als Anne Frank, which was published in English this year as  Hidden Like Anne Frank: 14 True Stories of Survival.


As I read this, I was thinking about all the dystopian novels I’ve read and that have been written. These kids were certainly living their own dystopian nightmare.

This is a collection of 14 personal memories. Not all have happy endings. Not all were treated well. No two stories are alike, and each has its own message, giving glimpses in to the various ways people survived the war. The book also has a website that gives more, factual information bout each child’s story. For readers not yet ready to tackle the entirety of Anne’s diary, this book provides an excellent alternative.

The book opens with the story of Marcel Prins’ own mother Rita Degen, who went into hiding in 1942 when she was only 6 ears old. It was his mother’s story that led Prins, an award-winning Dutch filmmaker and cameraman, to tell the stories of other children.

Some of these stories are hard and you might not want to read it all in one sitting, but I highly recommend that you read it.

The Power of a Story

23 Jul


The cover looked scary, so I almost rejected The Night Gardener  by Jonathan Auxier without opening it. When I did, I looked at the subject headings:

1. Ghosts – Fiction

2. Household employees – Fiction

3. Brothers and sisters  – Fiction

4, Orphans  – Fiction

5. Storytelling  – Fiction

6. Blessing and cursing  – Fiction

7. Dwellings  – Fiction

8. Horror stories

Number eight was worrisome because, if you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know I have an aversion to scary stories. I have learned over time, however, many are not as scary as I fear. If you think of this list as you would an ingredients list on a food package, horror is only the 8th ingredient. Ghosts are first, but the things in between are not so bad.

So, I decided to give it a try, and like Mikey, I liked it. Do you remember Mikey?

Back to  The Night Gardener.

Molly and Kip, unaccompanied minors are driving their fish cart, pulled by their horse, Galileo, to a house everyone warns them not to go to. They feel they have no option. They are alone, unskilled, in a foreign country, and are willing to work for room and board. Molly does possess a very useful soil, aside from her willingness to work hard. She is a story-teller. The house they arrive isn’t what it seems. Something mysterious is happening and the family seems to be wasting away. The children encounter a mysterious stranger and an ancient curse. along the way, Molly tells stories and Kip wonders how a story differs from a lie. Molly thinks, “Both lies and stories involved saying things that weren’t true, but somehow the lies inside the stories felt true.” As the story unfolds, and Molly and Kip realize that they must end the curse and save the family, she elaborates:“A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens ‘em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide.”

I had a little trouble getting into the story at first. The drama unfolds slowly, but it is worth persevering. By the middle of the book, I was hooked and wanted to see how it would end. I don;t think this is a book I would read aloud in class, but I’d definitely recommend it to some of my students who love middle grade fiction. The book feels as old as a fairy tale and is very well written, aside from the Irish Brogue, which I think Auxier could have left out.


Oregon Basset Hound Games 2014

22 Jul

I needed two naps yesterday to recover from the fun I had at the 2014 Oregon Basset Hound Games.

After a week of HOT weather, the morning dawned with clouds and RAIN. It was raining almost the entire 45 minute drive to Woodburn, OR. It was misting while we set up the canopies, maze, ring and registration table. Registration opened at 8:30 and a few regulars were there at that time. People slowly trickled in. By 9:45 the rain had stopped but we didn’t have many people. But they came eventually. I think they were waiting to see if the rain was really over. We started the Games off with the LIMBO contest and by the time it was over, we had a full house.

There were tricks. Bassets are always cooperative, so the fact that any of them do anything on command, is always fun.



The maze, which includes a water feature, is a challenge to some, but a joy to others.

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The costume contest is always a delight. Little Bo Peep showed up, as did the chain gang.

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And a real live circus complete with a lion.

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Lots of butterflies appeared, some more willingly than others.

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About halfway through we release biodegradable memorial balloons. I got a little teary eyed.


Although sleeping is one of a basset’s best skills, the Napping contest was over quickly.

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Have you ever noticed how some people look like their dogs?


There was a puppy dash and a Senior Prom, a race for dogs over 10. As always we ended with synchronized swimming.  Bassets don’t like water, so the owner has to run with their dog up to a kiddie pool and convince them to get into the pool with all four feet, then get out the other side and run across the finish line. The crowd roars with laughter watching people trying to convince their dog to get in the pool. They use snacks, chess and even two-legged siblings,


All in all it was a great time. Basset owners are a special breed and love their dogs.

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Thanks to everyone who came out to support us. This is OBHR”s big fundraising event of the year and we thank everyone who supports us. If you are on Facebook, you can see more pictures on the Oregon Basset Hound Games page. Just type “Oregon Basset Hound Games” in the search bar. That site also has videos.

Madness & Wickedness

21 Jul

As much as I love historical fiction, I am glad I didn’t live when girls had few options. I was reminded of this fact while reading A Mad, Wicked Folly by Sharon Biggs Waller .


It is the first decade of the 20th century and all Victoria Darling wants to be is an artist. But London society of 1909 is no place for a young woman who wants to do something other than follow the proscribed path for a girl of her socio-economic status. She is expected to marry well. When it is discovered that Vicky posed nude while secretly studying art, she is given an ultimatum: marry a young man of her parents’ choosing or be banished to live with an ancient aunt.

Thinking the marriage will be a means for her to apply to the Royal College of Art, Vicky agrees to the marriage. As he plan progresses, we watch Vicky bloom from a naive girl into an independent young woman. Some of her decisions along the way seem foolish and self-centered, but which of us didn’t make some poor decisions growing up? In her quest for independence, Vicky encounters the world of women’s suffrage and realizes her quest for the  freedom to make decisions on her own behalf is part of a larger quest for women’s rights.

I really enjoyed this book, and was especially pleased that Sharon Biggs Waller managed to include so much infer nation about the women;s suffrage movement in such a compelling way. It is an excellent example of “show not tell”.

Fans of historical fiction will love this book!

Loss of innocence

18 Jul

By the time I got to the University of Toronto, in 1984, Yonge Street had been cleaned up a bit. There were still skanky places, but, for the most part, the sex shops and  “massage parlors” had moved away. My friends and I felt safe enough walking up and down Yonge on  a friday night, just to watch all the people out for a night on the town.

In 1977, things were seedier and our summer was shattered by the murder of Emanuel Jaques, a 12-year old shoe shine boy from a Portuguese family. It brought to light the dark side of “Toronto the Good”. I was also 12 that summer my eyes were opened to a world from which my sheltered small town life had protected me.


In Kicking the Sky, Anthony De Sa takes us back to the summer of 1977 and shows us how the events affected the Portuguese community of Toronto and how another boy, Antonio Rebelo, had his eyes opened as he tries to make sense of Emanuel’s death while navigating the complicated road to manhood.

I listened to this story on CDs provided by Audiobook Jukebox. The eight CDs (9.75 hours)  are narrated by Tomas Marsh, who does a much better  job capturing the fragility of a boy on the cusp of adolescence that the narrator of the trailer does. His intonation manages to create a world of Portuguese immigrants in a culturally sensitive manner.

The story unfolds slowly, like a hot summer day, the tension building. The story does a great job balancing Antonio’s innocence against the backdrop of lies, danger, secrets and cruelty that surround him in the adult world.  Ultimately, this is a coming of age story. It is a difficult, sad, beautiful story, and yet, remains hopeful.




A medical mystery

17 Jul


Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed What We Eat by Gail Jarrow

At the turn of the 20th century, a disease was creeping through the impoverished South. Victims developed a patterned red rash, intestinal distress, dementia, and eventually death. It had been a scourge in Europe for hundreds of years, but, suddenly, it arrived in North America. It turns out that this disease had a simple solution, but it took a dedicated physician and epidemiologist, Joseph Goldberger, to realize that pellagra was caused by extreme nutritional deficiencies.

There are many reasons to praise this book. First, it is an excellent narrative. Gail Jarrow peppers her prose with real life stories of people afflicted by the disease. The black & white photos give enough of a hint of the horrors of pellagra, without being too graphic. The story is presented as a medical mystery and Jarrow shows how Goldberger follow the scientific method to solve the mystery. There are twists, turns and rd herrings. even after Goldberger solved the mystery, doctors refused to believe him. Fortunately, over time, people came to realize he was right. In fact, we are still living with the consequences of his discover: foods enriched with vitamins.

Pair this with one or more of these works of fiction

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