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A little vacation drama of my own creation

20 Aug

A month before my trip to Ottawa and Montreal, I was informed my outbound flight had been cancelled and I’d need to reschedule. The rescheduling meant I would fly all night, then wait in the airport for my sister and brother-in-law to pick me up. The down side would be that I’d be tired (and potentially cranky) until I woke up the next morning.

Everything went off without a hitch, and after a nap in the Ottawa airport, waiting for my pickup with my feet on my suitcase, I was picked up as planned. We checked in early to the hotel. I took a shower and felt refreshed enough to carry on through the rest of the day, uncranky, as we wandered around Canada’s capital.

The next morning, I noticed the backs of both ankles were sunburned. Ottawa had been hot, but it was a weird place for a sunburn. We took the train to Montreal and walked all over the place. By the next morning the “sunburn” was redder and had grown, almost circling both ankles. I started to worry.

I have bad skin and have had problems with eczema, MRSA, and cellulitis in the past. In case you’ve never heard of it, cellulitis is a common, potentially serious bacterial skin infection.  As an expert self-diagnoser, I was certain I had it. Thinking it over, I blamed resting my feet on my suitcase, a soft-sided case, that surely irritated my skin as I napped, making me susceptible to an infection. I worried that day, and started doing some investigating. Where could I go to see a doctor? After an online search, I found a walk-in clinic near the Musée des Beaux-Arts that we were going to visit the next day, a Monday. I prepared by looking up the antibiotic my doctor usually prescribes and the one I am allergic to. There was a time in my youth when I wanted to be a doctor, so I really get into this stuff.

We dropped my brother-in-law and niece at the museum, and my sister accompanied me to the clinic. Surprise, it was busy! I was given an scheduled appointment for 9 a.m. the next morning and told it would cost $200. I took the appointment card and, as we walked to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, my heart felt a little lighter knowing I was on the way to something.

Of course, my ankles looked better the next day.

I went to the appointment and was in and out quickly. As I rode the Metro, I knew what the doctor was going to say, and I was not disappointed. It wasn’t cellulitis, just an irritation, probably caused by the rough surface of my soft-sided luggage. As he examined my legs, one comment almost made me laugh out loud: “Your skin is very thin.” Yup.

I was back to our Airbnb before 10, out 200 bucks and feeling a little silly. The sense of relief I felt, having my worry alleviated, made it all worthwhile.

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Reading towards home

19 Aug

When I packed to leave Canada and return home to Portland, books were the heaviest thing in my backpack.

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I only managed to read a bit of The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez while we were in Montreal. With a three hour layover in Toronto and a five hour flight to Portland, I managed to finish it and loved it. Having a personal connection to the time and place made it very powerful, but I think even people with no knowledge of what happened in Colombia in the 80s and 90s would enjoy the lyrical writing in this book.

 

 

In my pre-vacation post, I mentioned having a list of books I wanted to look for in Canada. We popped into a couple of bookstores while travelling, but both times, I didn’t have the list with me. Great planning! I tried to remember titles, but couldn’t so just browsed, looking for a Canadian title I could bring back to my classroom library. I like to bring back something that local libraries and bookstores won’t carry. I found The Magpie’s Library by Kate Blair, who was born in the UK, but now lives in Canada. The setting of the book is British, but it still fits my criteria.

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Publisher’s Summary: Silva and her family visit her grandfather, only to find his health has taken a bad turn. As they struggle with this news, Silva seeks escape in books – at the local library.

But she gets more than she bargained for when a magpie guides her to a secret, magical room containing books that she can not only read, but that she can live. Silva finds herself in the worlds of the characters … who all turn out to be real people. People she knows.

There’s a catch, though: she soon discovers that the magpie has lured her to these books for selfish and dark reasons. Going back to the books could mean losing her soul …

 

 

Reading on a jet plane

8 Aug

I’ve been waiting all summer, and tonight, I am finally leaving for  Montreal, by way of Ottawa. I’d originally planned to fly out tomorrow morning and booked a ticket to do so, but Fate and Air Canada decided to cancel my original flight and now I am flying all night.

Because I am impatient, I like to travel in the morning. Since Fate has determined that is not to be this time around, I will need to find ways to pass the time today. I will drop Lucy off a little earlier than I planned and come home to pack. Before that happens, though, I am going to reread my favorite DEAR CANADA book,  Alone in an Untamed Land: The Filles du Roi Diary of Hélène St. Onge by Maxine Trottier.

 

51dpNw2HvPL._SX353_BO1,204,203,200_Publisher’s Summary: Young Hélène St. Onge and her older sister Catherine are orphans. When King Louis XVI orders all men in New France to marry, Catherine becomes a “fille du roi,” one of the many young women sent to the new world as brides. Hélène will accompany her on the long sea voyage and live with her sister’s new family. But Catherine dies during the gruelling journey, and Hélène finds herself alone in a strange new country. New France is a far harsher place than she imagined, with bitter winters and threat of attack from the Iroquois. Will the few friendships she has made on her long voyage enable her to survive?

Because I am flying at night and hope to sleep (at least a little) I am only bringing one slim book in my carry on: The First Part Last by Angela Johnson.

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Publisher’s Summary: Bobby is your classic urban teenaged boy — impulsive, eager, restless. On his sixteenth birthday he gets some news from his girlfriend, Nia, that changes his life forever. She’s pregnant. Bobby’s going to be a father. Suddenly things like school and house parties and hanging with friends no longer seem important as they’re replaced by visits to Nia’s obstetrician and a social worker who says that the only way for Nia and Bobby to lead a normal life is to put their baby up for adoption.
With powerful language and keen insight, Johnson looks at the male side of teen pregnancy as she delves into one young man’s struggle to figure out what “the right thing” is and then to do it. No matter what the cost.

This book won the Printz Award in 2004. The title came up at my book club last week – our first meeting after the ALA Conference where the 2019 Printz Awards were handed out and speeches made.

One of my book club friends was on the 2019 Printz committee and several other book club members were in attendance when Elizabeth Acevedo gave her speech. She referenced The First Part Last and her personal connection to the book. If I recall correctly, Angela Johnson visited Elizabeth Acevedo’s sixth grade class. They – and Elizabeth in particular – gave some suggestions to Angela Johnson, which she accepted and acknowledged in the book. It gave me goose bumps to see this.

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I am also packing an adult book, The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez.

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Publisher’s Summary:  In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above. Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.

I am also travelling with a list of Canadian books I’d like to get, but more on that if I actually get them.

Happy Canada Day 2019!

1 Jul

It’s Canada Day!

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Here are some books I have enjoyed recently by Canadian writers.

The Girl and the Wolf,  written by Katherena Vermette and illustrated by Julie Flett is a sort of Blueberries For Sal  with a First Nations twist.

The-Girl-and-the-Wolf_theytustitlemainPublisher’s Summary: While picking berries with her mother, a little girl wanders too far into the woods leaving the safety of her mother behind. Noticing that she has wandered far enough on her own to get lost, the little girl begins to panic. Adding to her perceived fear, a large grey wolf makes a sudden appearance between some
distant trees. The wolf sniffs her and tells the little girl that he can help her find her way home, but she should eat something first. He asks the little girl if she can hunt, to which she replies “no”. The wolf replies by asking the girl to look at her surroundings and tell him what she sees. The little girl notices some edible berries on a nearby bush and states that she can eat them. It’s through these realizations that the wolf helps the little girl find her own way home. She has the knowledge and the skill to survive and navigate herself, she just needed to remember that those abilities were there.

As always with E. K. Johnston’s books, The Afterward is unlike any of her previous novels. This one tells what happens after a quest, and the story fo the quest is revealed in bits as we see how the questers are coping.

 

Love from A to Z,  by S. K. Ali is an endearing YA novel.

love-from-a-to-z-9781534442726_lgPublisher’s Summary: A marvel: something you find amazing. Even ordinary-amazing. Like potatoes—because they make French fries happen. Like the perfect fries Adam and his mom used to make together.

An oddity: whatever gives you pause. Like the fact that there are hateful people in the world. Like Zayneb’s teacher, who won’t stop reminding the class how “bad” Muslims are.

But Zayneb, the only Muslim in class, isn’t bad. She’s angry.

When she gets suspended for confronting her teacher, and he begins investigating her activist friends, Zayneb heads to her aunt’s house in Doha, Qatar, for an early start to spring break.

Fueled by the guilt of getting her friends in trouble, she resolves to try out a newer, “nicer” version of herself in a place where no one knows her.

Then her path crosses with Adam’s.

Since he got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, Adam’s stopped going to classes, intent, instead, on perfecting the making of things. Intent on keeping the memory of his mom alive for his little sister.

Adam’s also intent on keeping his diagnosis a secret from his grieving father.

Alone, Adam and Zayneb are playing roles for others, keeping their real thoughts locked away in their journals.

Until a marvel and an oddity occurs…

Marvel: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

Oddity: Adam and Zayneb meeting.

 

The Dam

5 Nov

I used to play on a dam.

Dad worked for Ontario Hydro and when I was in grade 2, we moved to Fraserdale. It was an isolated community. Before there was a Polar Express,  we had the Polar Bear Express that ran through our railroad station on its way to Moosonee. We were the last town before you got here.

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Ours was a hydroelectric dam, tapping the power of the Little Abitibi River. As youngsters we ran all over town and into the woods. There was an old boat docked on the dam and we played on it, using our imaginations to fuel our play. Near it was a plaque, on which was written Rudyard Kipling’s poem “The Sons of Martha”, in celebration of the care and dedication of workers–engineers, mechanics, and builders–to provide for the safety and comfort of others.

I got all sentimental about these halcyon days of my youth after reading David Almond’s new picture book The Dam.

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A father and daughter go out with a fiddle to sing in the abandoned buildings soon to be covered with water. The language is beautifully poetic and the illustrations, by Levi Pinfold, are exquisite.

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Publisher’s Summary: Kielder Water is a wild and beautiful place, rich in folk music and legend. Years ago, before a great dam was built to fill the valley with water, there were farms and homesteads in that valley and musicians who livened their rooms with song. After the village was abandoned and before the waters rushed in, a father and daughter returned there. The girl began to play her fiddle, bringing her tune to one empty house after another — for this was the last time that music would be heard in that place. With exquisite artwork by Levi Pinfold, David Almond’s lyrical narrative — inspired by a true tale — pays homage to his friends Mike and Kathryn Tickell and all the musicians of Northumberland, to show that music is ancient and unstoppable, and that dams and lakes cannot overwhelm it.

Although the dam is still there, the town where I lived is gone. They moved everyone out  and tore down the houses. Workers now commute in and, as I understand it, stay in a bunkhouse. It is sad to think this town of my youth no longer exists.

Despite the initial sepia tones of The Dam, the book ends more happily than my own tale. Although the residents of the Northumberland community no longer live in their homes, the area has been reclaimed by nature and the people still come.

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Reading my way home

16 Jul

I went to Canada with a list of new Canadian  books I thought might be hard to find at home, and that I could add to my classroom library. One of the beauties of flying is the time to sit and read without interruption. I read two of my new books as I waited at the gate, then flew home.

I started A World Below by Wesley King while I waited at the Gate.

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Publisher’s Summary: A class field trips turns into an underground quest for survival in the latest middle grade novel from the author of Edgar Award winner OCDaniel.

Mr. Baker’s eighth grade class thought they were in for a normal field trip to Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico. But when an earthquake hits, their field trip takes a terrifying turn. The students are plunged into an underground lake…and their teacher goes missing.

They have no choice but to try and make their way back above ground, even though no one can agree on the best course of action. The darkness brings out everyone’s true self. Supplies dwindle and tensions mount. Pretty and popular Silvia does everything she can to hide her panic attacks, even as she tries to step up and be a leader. But the longer she’s underground, the more frequent and debilitating they become. Meanwhile, Eric has always been a social no one, preferring to sit at the back of the class and spend evenings alone. Now, he finds himself separated from his class, totally by himself underground. That is, until he meets an unexpected stranger.

Told from three different points of view, this fast-paced adventure novel explores how group dynamics change under dire circumstances. Do the students of Mr. Baker’s class really know each other at all? Or do they just think they do? It turns out, it’s hard to hide in the dark.

This was an interesting book to read mere days after the rescue of the soccer team in Thailand. Each chapter ends with a bit of a cliff hanger and that certainly kept me reading. I had arrived at the airport early so I finished the book early in the flight and had time to read a second. The second book was My Deal With the Universe  by Deborah Kerbel.

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Publisher’s Summary: Daisy Fisher just wants to be normal, but growing up in a house known as the “Jungle” makes that impossible. It doesn’t help when the neighbours declare your family public enemy number one. Or when your best friend leaves for camp and forgets you exist. Or when your twin brother may be getting sick again….

Just when it feels like Daisy’s deal with the universe is unravelling, she finds out that love and strength can come from surprising places… and that maybe “normal” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Most people have made a deal of some sort with the universe, promising to do something if only the Universe will make something turn out the way we want it to. Daisy’s deal has to do with her brother’s illness. Many kids have been embarrassed by their parents and Daisy is trying to walk the line between her love and embarrassment for hers. There is a lot for middle grade readers to connect with here.

Flight Plan

6 Jul

As You read this, I am on my way to Canada for my mother’s memorial service.

One of the most important things to think about when packing for any trip  is “What books should I bring?” I have a nonstop flight from Portland to Toronto. It takes just a bit over 4 hours, so I can easily finish a book.

I am checking a bag, in which I have packed my knitting because my current project uses double-pointed needles which, unlike circular needles, are considered a threat. Really TSA, don’t you have more serious things to worry about!  I am also too short to comfortable put a bag in the overhead compartment.  I only packed one book in my carry-on, an ARC I picked up in New Orleans that I am excited to read.

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Publisher’s Summary: In a United States in which half the population has been silenced, Vox is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

Sounds terrifyingly possible, doesn’t it!
This book was written for adults, so I plan to leave it behind for my sister when I leave.
Randy Ribay

YA author, teacher, nerd

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