"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Monday, November 30, 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish gift ideas

Top Ten Tuesday: The question of the day is to list ten debut authors I am looking forward to reading in the coming year. Well, folks, I have no idea about any unpublished, debut authors or novels. So I am going off the grid and listing a bunch of cool bookish things that bookish people might like for a gift this holiday season.  Happy Shopping!

Carpe Librum Seize the Book Earrings Bookish Jewelry
Need something small for your favorite reader? Can't go wrong with earrings.

A Clockwork Orange Typewriter Book Earrings
But these little gems would be good for your friends who also like to write (and would recognize an old typewriter.)

This site has the WHOLE book on one poster or T-shirt. Shop for your favorite titles.

This one is the Banned Book Morph Mug. When hot beverages are added, the redacted words reappear. There are lots of other choices on this BuzzFeed list, each one has a BUY HERE button.

These plush dolls are called Little Thinkers. The one I've shown here is Jane Austen (of course.) There is a whole collection of these little thinkers and many of them are authors.

Cassic Book Covers knit scarf
Some literary scarves show book covers while others are quotes from favorite books or authors. Sure to be a hit with readers, especially those who love the classics.

Help the readers in our life out.  Give them a tool which allows them to have their book open without having to hold the book open the whole time. These little jewels are very helpful.

Bird Eyeglasses Holder
This particular bird just makes me happy and makes me want to laugh. I like a lot of the bookish things on Uncommon Goods site.

I Read Banned Books - Button Pinback Badge 1 1/2 inch
Need something inexpensive as a stocking-stuffer? How about a bookish button?

Cheryl Sorg will create a personalized poster for you if you give her a list of your favorite titles.  My husband ordered one for me and I love it. The other gifts on my list are fairly inexpensive. This one is expensive, but worth it. Visit her website and look around.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at Broke and Bookish.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Salon, Nov. 29th

Weather: Cold. We have an unusual cold snap here in the Pacific NW with the nighttime temperatures in the 20 degrees (-4C). Br.r.r.r

Thanksgiving: Carly, Don, Muffy (the dog), and I drove down to Eugene on Wednesday evening, leaving here around 6 PM. We got in to my folks house around 11:30 PM. The next day we gathered at my sister's house for a huge traditional Thanksgiving meal and delightful fellowship. My favorite dish is the cheesy/spicy green beans my sister makes every year, and, of course, having a choice of several different types of pie.

Civil War Game: Friday Don and I joined our son-in-law, my mom, sister, cousin, and his wife for the Civil War Football game, University of Oregon v Oregon State. The temperatures were low but since it was dry we were able to layer on enough clothes to handle to cold. UO won, but barely. OSU did a great job and made it an exciting game. We walked back to mom's house in the waning afternoon light, happy, tired, and cold.

Saturday: we left Eugene around 6 AM and raced up north in hopes of getting home in time for Carly to make it to her volunteering position on time. We made great time. Apparently folks returning from a holiday away don't drive that early in the morning!

Audiobooks: Last week I reported the astonishing and laughable number of audiobooks I currently have checked out, six. This week I got started on two of them, both are book club selections:
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah---another WWII story, this one set in France, it is the story of sisters. I suspect one (both) will become involved in resistance efforts but I am not sure. I love the way the voice actress handles the French accent and pronunciation of words. Progress: 20%
  • The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks---Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions all come from the same place: Father Abraham. This story is about a Jewish prayer book and it's possible history, which is wrapped up in all three traditions. We listened to this book on our way to Oregon and back. Now three people will have to share the CD set to finish it separately. Progress 60%.
Today is the first day of advent: let us prepare our hearts for the true meaning of Christmas!

Thanksgiving funny from SNL (Thanks Adele!)

Monday, November 23, 2015

TTT: I am so thankful for these people for bookish reasons

My daughters are great literary fans. Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by Broke and Bookish.
Top Ten Tuesday: I am so thankful for these folks for bookish reasons....

1. My mother---my mom loves to talk about books and about her book club. Her favorite gifts are books. She is very good about returning borrowed books, too.

2. My sisters and sister-in-law---both of my sisters are elementary teachers and over the years have shared their love of kid-lit with me. Now we often read the same books and share audio books. My sister-in-law, who used to think of herself as a non-reader, now reads a lot and makes great book recommendations.

3. My daughters---both love books and audiobooks. They will even read books for me when I need help selecting reading lists or advice on which books I should buy for the library, and often go to literary events with me happily (or at least willingly.)

4. My husband---who will listen to audiobooks with me when we go on car trips and seems to enjoy discussing them, also. He also is a pal and will accompany me when I attend literary events. One favorite memory is when we attended a book talk by Frank McCourt together. When it was over everyone else just got up and left the room, Don and I went up and introduced ourselves to this favorite author and had a little chat with him. Don also read the Pierce County READS book each year and attends the finale event with me. We have formed lots of happy memories this way.

5. My SOTH Book Club members---this church book club has been operating for twenty years. We always have so much fun chatting before and after we talk about the book of the month. It's a large group, so please forgive me if I forget someone. Thank you Bev, Val, Gayle, Theo, Sandy, Louise, Betty, Cindy, Jane, Jane Ann, Ruth, Helen, Barb, Susan, Dorothy, Fran, Roxanne, Adele, and Jan. I have just one question to ask you gals--- Who is the Christ figure?

6. My RHS Book Club friends---this book club made up of gals who, at least at one time, worked at Rogers High School has been meeting for nearly ten years. I always look forward to the group to not only discuss a book, but the ways we have supported each other over the years has been amazing. Thank you Becky, Margaret, Carol, Diane, Tanya, Diane, Eileen, and Debbie, I may disagree with you guys most of the time on books I love verses books you love but I never disagree on what we all mean to each other.

7. The English teachers at my school who still support the library by bringing your kids in and finding ways to get literature into their hands: Stacey, Christine, Victoria, Jonathan, Amy, Dianna, Rhonda, JoLeigh, Deb, and Marilee. I know you all have a lot on your plates and a lot of responsibility as far as testing goes, so I really appreciate you taking the time to bring your kids in to the library to get books.

8. Other teachers who drop by the library to check out books with classes, or just for themselves, past and present.  Also those teachers who love to discuss good books with me: Seth, Jessica, Brian, Steve, Michael, Joannie, Robyn, Denise, Meghan, Stephanie, Kristin, Jamie, Lia, Tanya, Karl, Kim, Tim, Ryan, Sheri (R.I.P), Kelly, Tina, Rain, Scott, Kari, and Jani. You guys make the tough days doable. Thank you!

9. Other district librarians, especially the other secondary librarians. You guys KNOW what I go through every day and can truly SPEAK my language.  Thank you for your friendship and your support Sandy, Sandy, Jeanne, Wendy, Corina, Mary Ann, Diane, and Carrie (I miss you.) I am also grateful for the district support Michael, Suzie, and Laura.

10. My library clerk, Sharon! Thank you so much. I couldn't do my job without you! You are such a hard worker and so dedicated. I appreciate all you do!

11. My friend Rita who has always loved books and shared her love with me over many, many years.

12. All my book blogging friends.  Thanks for reading my blog and for your great book reviews which give me tons of ideas for what to read (or buy) next.

13. Judy Moomaugh (R.I.P.) Judy was the librarian at RHS when I was a classroom teacher and it was her encouragement which helped me make the decision to get my endorsement in Library Science and to move over to the library as a career move.

Thank you so much for all your bookish support everyone. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Salon, Nov. 22, 2015

Weather:  Cold, but clear, with blue skies. It was a very stormy week, however. We had a windy, rainy storm on Tuesday that brought down trees and power lines, took out power to homes and businesses. It was a mess around here for a day. Apparently, some homes are still without power.

How Great Thou Art: My favorite hymn for the Thanksgiving season. Cue the music (The Piano Guys) and listen while you read this blog post today.

Thought for the day: "Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it." -William Arthur Ward

The Withing Project: We attended the most profound musical/theater/dance experience last night: The Withing Project, described as theater of entanglement. My second cousin was in the choir and expressly invited us to attend because she knew we would be touched by it, and we were.  "A one-of-a-kind theatrical collage about quantum consciousness. A cancer patient, her palliative care physician, and a neuroscientist - played by three actors, three dancers and three singers, accompanied by a 20-voice choir and a quartet of violin, cello, piano and saxophone."
UW researchers and scientists across the country are exploring how stimuli experienced by one human subject appear echoed in the brain responses of others at a distance, indicating some kind of “with-ing” or shared quantum consciousness. “This hybrid of theatre, new music, contemporary dance and science celebrates our growing understanding of how we’re entangled with one another,” says Hope Wechkin, MD. “The longer I practice medicine and make music, the more I find that our experience of connecting with one another is greater than either art or science can express by itself. That’s why The Withing Project explores an artistic dialogue between researchers, performance artists and medical providers to share a deeper understanding of something both familiar and mysterious.”---From the website.
Induction: Monday night GK Honor Society inducted 62 new members in a lovely service at the high school. The work leading up to the evening, the event, and recovery from the event seemed to take all my energy. Apparently I have a finite amount of energy and if I expend a lot at once I am left with very little afterwards.  I dragged around for the rest of the week. Ha!

Adventures in getting to book club: This past Tuesday was the day of the storm AND the date of our monthly book club. Because of the rain, many streets were closed due to water. Other roads were closed due to downed trees and power lines. Some of the traffic lights were dark, making traffic back up behind them.  What should have been a short 15 minute trip to the hostess' house took us over 45 minutes. Everyone was late and wanted to leave early. That was a pity because we were discussing a favorite book, The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd.

Hilarious number of audiobooks currently checked out: Right now I have six audiobooks on loan from the library and Overdrive. That is a ridiculous number since the circulation period for all of them is three weeks and it usually takes me at least two weeks to finish one book. I seem to have this happen to me more often than not. I order a bunch of audiobooks, all somewhere on the spectrum of no waiting to months of waiting and then they all arrive at once.  I have decided to focus on the two book club selections first, The People of the Book and The Nightingale. One nonfiction selection, Dead Wake by Erik Larson, has been on my listening list all year so I will request it again from the library in a month or so. The other three may or may not get listened to. Oh well.

Books read this week:
  • I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached---a graphic biography by illustrator Abirached and translated into English. I read it as part of Nonfiction November, week three had an emphasis on alternative types of nonfiction.
  • The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow---a YA dystopian title and quite a good little story.
Currently reading:
  • The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones---I didn't make much progress on this book this week. Progress 33%.
  • The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks---audiobook, a book club selection. Progress 10%.
Travelling south: This year we travel south to Oregon to spend Thanksgiving with family. I am focusing on a spirit of gratitude and thankfulness this week.

I am thankful for you, dear readers. I appreciate that you have taken the time out of your busy schedule to read my blog and to make comments, which keep me going! Have a wonderful week.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow

We may be likened to two scorpions in a bottle, each capable of killing the other, but only at the risk of his own life.” Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb

Epigraph for the Scorpion Rules, setting the stage for the theme.

Finally a Sci-Fi/Fantasy book I can get behind for the Printz Award. I didn't expect to like this book as much as I did. Let me explain.

Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow is a dystopian tale but not in the high action, intensity of a Hunger Games or a Maze Runner. If anything the book is a bit sedate and calm, at least the first half is that way.
In the future, the UN has brought back an ancient way to keep the peace. The children of world leaders are held hostage—if a war begins, they pay with their lives. Greta is the Crown Princess of the Pan Polar Confederacy, a superpower formed of modern-day Canada. She is also a Child of Peace, a hostage held by the de facto ruler of the world, the great Artificial Intelligence, Talis. The hostages are Talis's strategy to keep the peace: if her country enters a war, Greta dies. The system has worked for centuries. Parents don't want to see their children murdered. -The publisher
Greta has know for years that her live hangs on a very thin wire. When a new hostage/Child of Peace, Elian, arrives at the Precepture School, where the hostage children are all sequestered in quiet Saskatchewan, suddenly and dramatically the quiet life shifts. Elian is from a neighboring confederacy to Greta. If war breaks out between the two confederacies then both children will be killed. And war seems likely. Suddenly the quiet, low-octane book gets a turbo shot and the action heats up.
Bow's writing never falters, from the vivid descriptions of the Precepture goats to the ways in which her characters must grapple with impossible decisions, and she is equally at home with violence and first kisses. Slyly humorous, starkly thought-provoking, passionate, and compassionate--and impeccably written to boot: not to be missed. ---Kirkus Reviews.
I understand the book will have a sequel which in my mind is a deterrent for it to be a potential award winner, but none-the-less I decided to add this book as a late entrant to our 2016 Mock Printz list. I ordered two copies and hope to get it in student's hands soon.

Edition: Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow, Audioworks, Sept, 2015.

Friday, November 20, 2015

I did it AGAIN!

I've done it again.

I have ordered too many audiobooks from the library and they have all arrived at the same time in either the CD format or the e-audiobook format, which I have to download in Overdrive. Egads! Why do I keep doing the same thing over and over again? I never seem to learn.  Here is the list. Which should I listen to first and which should I ditch for now?

  • The People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks---a book club selection for December so this is a top priority but I also have the print edition so I could read it and listen to something else. (CD)
  • Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen---YA. I am still frantically trying to consume potential Printz contenders. This book has been getting a bit of love from that quarter this year so I do want to give it a try. (CD)
  • Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson---I had hoped to listen to this with the family en route to Thanksgiving in Oregon but it may come due before we are home from our trip. (E-Audiobook)
  • Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell---This would be an option in lieu of the Erik Larson audiobook. Plus Vowell is funnier than Larson. (CD)
  • The Shepherd's Crown: A Tiffany Aching Adventure by Sir Terry Pratchett---YA. Of all the books on the list, this is the one I want to listen to the most. This is Terry Pratchett's last book, published posthumously.
Any thoughts you have which can help me prioritize these books for listening would be greatly appreciated.

11/21/15- OMG! I got a notice from the library that another audiobook is available for download. I have been waiting for this book for three months. This one just went to the top of the list:

  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah...when it rains, it pours.  Six, count 'em, six audiobooks all due back within a three week window of time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Nonfiction November, Week 3

Nonfiction November
Nonfiction November:
Nontraditional Nonfiction: This week we will be focusing on the nontraditional side of reading nonfiction. Nonfiction comes in many forms. There are the traditional hardcover or paperback print books, of course, but then you also have e-books, audiobooks, illustrated and graphic nonfiction, oversized folios, miniatures, internet publishing, and enhanced books complete with artifacts. So many choices! Do you find yourself drawn to or away from nontraditional nonfiction? Do you enjoy some nontraditional formats, but not others? Perhaps you have recommendations for readers who want to dive into nontraditional formats.  We want to hear all about it this week!  

Nonfiction Audiobooks.
If you are a reader of my blog, you know I prefer to consume books in the audio format. Here are a few nonfiction audiobooks I've listened to lately which I can highly recommend:

  • Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin, read by Ray Porter, who did an excellent job reading the story and helping build the tension with his voice. He even did a good Nixon voice. (YA)
  • Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege on Leningrad by M.T.Anderson, read by the author. Complicated Russian names and words were handled with ease and tiny little musical interludes of Shostakvich's music were additional benefits. (YA)
  • Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town by Jon Krakauer, read by Mozhan Marno and Scott Brick. This is a tough topic. My husband and I listened to it together which helped me digest the uncomfortable information through talking to him about it.
  • The Wright Brothers by David McCullough, read by the author. I would listen to a grocery list if David McCullough reads it. I love his voice and what a good book, too.
  • Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices by Walter Dean Myers. Poetry is meant to spoken aloud, so it is lovely to hear good poems recited by talented voice actors.
Graphic Biographies or Memoirs
I haven't read too many of these but have enjoyed the ones I have
  • Stitches by David Small---when David was fourteen he had a vocal cord removed without being told he had cancer. He learns later that the cancer was caused by all the x-rays given him by his father over the years. Gut wrenching.
  • Persepolis I and II by Marjane Satrapi---growing up in pre-revolution Iran and then following the author/artists and her experiences being female in Iran during the revolution.
  • Blankets by Craig Thompson---a coming-of-age story about a boy growing up in a religiously repressive home.
  • March and March II by John Lewis---about the civil rights activist and American hero, John Lewis.
Enhanced books with samples of artifacts (all are part of my library collection):

It's an architectural pop-up book. How clever.

Samples of documents and maps used by Washington and his army in 1776.

Samples of manuscripts in Zora Neale Hurston's handwriting

A CD set of poets reading their own poetry including Walt Whitman!
John Lithgow and other actors read favorite poems
Nonfiction books completed this week:
  • Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin
 Click for more information on this title
  • I Remember Beirut by Zeina Abirached
Click for more information on this title

Monday, November 16, 2015

TTT: Favorite quotes from books read this year

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Quotes from Books I Read This Year...

“So how, children, does the brain, which lives without a spark of light, build for us a world full of light?” 
― Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See

“His voice is low and soft, a piece of silk you might keep in a drawer and pull out only on rare occasions, just to feel it between your fingers.” 
― Anthony DoerrAll the Light We Cannot See

“In the end, people don't view their life as merely the average of all its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people's minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life maybe empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves.” 
― Atul GawandeBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

“You may not control life's circumstances, but getting to be the author of your life means getting to control what you do with them.” 
― Atul GawandeBeing Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

“If I were giving a young man advice as to how he might succeed in life, I would say to him, pick out a good father and mother, and begin life in Ohio." (WILBUR WRIGHT)
― David McCulloughThe Wright Brothers
“Autumn was her happiest season.”
― Harper LeeGo Set a Watchman
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view... Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
― Harper LeeTo Kill a Mockingbird
“And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince
“It is such a mysterious place, the land of tears.”
― Antoine de Saint-ExupéryThe Little Prince
“Everybody that went away suffered a broken heart. "I'm coming back some day," they all wrote. But never did. The old life was too small to fit anymore.”
― Annie ProulxThe Shipping News
“Childhood is the one story that stands by itself in every soul.”
― Ivan DoigThe Whistling Season

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Sunday Salon, Nov. 15th

Sunrise over Mt. Rainier this past week. Photo by Nancy Nelson, used with permission.
Weather today: it was surprisingly blue skied after days of heavy rain. Our backyard has developed two "ponds" that weren't there before. Ha!

Quote for the people of France (and for all of us): "All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming." -Helen Keller

Thoughts for the day (and week), from the book of Job in the Old Testament as paraphrased by our pastor today: God is present in pain and suffering when we don't have answers. He says, "I'm right here in this dung heap with you." We weep with those who suffer. God weeps, too. God has not left us alone, he is with us right here and now, even in our suffering.

Prayers for: the families who lost loved ones in Paris; prayers for my friend Jill who is currently on vacation in Paris; prayers for the young college student from our church who is in Paris and is staying very near the site of one of the explosions. Prayers for us all, that we can learn to live in peace. "Lord, in this suffering, plant seeds of hope, and let us not stray so far into despair that we forget you love us."

Today: Don and I went to see Spectre, the new James Bond movie. Don said he wanted to have an imaginary experience where he knows the good guys will win. This is why I am posting so late today.

Tomorrow: The National Honor Society chapter I am co-advisor for will be inducting 61 new members. Wow!

Yesterday: It was a good football day at our house---The GKHS Eagles won their playoff game, 31-13; The Univ. of Oregon Ducks beat Stanford University 38-36; and our daughter was thrilled the WSU Cougars beat UCLA 37-30. The only team that was predicted to win was the high school team!

Author event: Tuesday night fellow librarians Sandy, Jeanne, and I attended a Lunar Ball together commemorating the launch of the 4th book in The Lunar Chronicles series, Winter, by Marissa Meyer. It was all sparkly and fun. There were so many young girls dressed in ball gowns. It was really a special event.  Now to dig in to the 800 page finale of this wonderful series.

Book finished this week:
  • Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin. An excellent, excellent account of the circumstances that led to the US involvement in the Vietnam war and the events that led to Daniel Ellsberg releasing the Dept. of Defense papers to the NYT which ended up undoing Richard Nixon and ultimately the war. I highly recommend it.
Currently reading:
  • Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow---audiobook, a post-apocalypse, dystopian novel. Progress 37%.
  • The Next Big Thing: The History of Boom-or-Bust Moments Which Shaped the Modern World by Richard Faulk--- short chapters about all kind ofevents or inventions. I am really enjoying it. Progress: 34%
  • The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones---it has good reviews but hasn't caught on for me, yet. Progress 22%
The world stands with you, France! I thought the song from the anniversary of Les Miserables which has 17 different Jean Valjeans was good symbolism of the world standing with France:

Six degrees of separation: All the Light We Cannot See

Six Degrees of Separation with Anthony Doerr's book All the Light We Cannot See

We begin here.

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
is set in France during WWII. It has a sophisticated plot and very smart characters who are forced to make tough choices.

Sarah's Key by Tatiana de Rosnay
also set in France during WWII. Sarah is haunted by a decision she makes. She contemplates suicide because she is so distraught

The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery
a young French girl and the apartment concierge, an older woman, become unlikely friends. Before the friendship forms the girl considers suicide because she feels all alone in the world. Translated into English from French.

Astrid and Veronika by Linda Olsson
Another unlikely friendship between two women, Veronika, 32, and Astrid, 81, in a Swedish village after Veronika moves home from New Zealand. Translated into English from Swedish.

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
Two women separated by time and space. Nao is an extremely lonely Japanese girl who writes a journal. Ruth, living in Canada, finds the journal in tsunami debris. The writing and reading of the journal is healing for both women. This exquisitely written book was shortlisted for the prestigious Booker Prize.

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Another impeccably written book, the Goldfinch won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for literature.

That brings us back to the beginning...

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The 2014 Pulitzer Prize recipient for literature.

In addition to these six degrees of separation, I read all of these books for one my book clubs at some point in the past. Give it a try. It is fun.

Sign up to participate at AnnabelSmith

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War

In 1971 I was in 8th grade. The Vietnam War was raging and it was an extremely unpopular war. Demonstrations against the war were held all across the nation. Four demonstrators at Kent State in Ohio were killed by the National Guard in May 1970. My best friend Rita's dad, a pilot in the US Air Force, was missing in action (MIA) somewhere in Vietnam. The draft was in effect and a lottery system, based on birthdays, was used to determine who would be called up to service first. My twin cousins had a low lottery number and the family feared they might be forced to enlist and fight in Vietnam. Two other cousins did serve in Vietnam with the US Navy and one came home seriously disturbed. He brought the war home with him and has never completely recovered to this day. Nixon and his administration were super unpopular as they led our country deeper and deeper into the war in Vietnam and even started bombing in Cambodia and Laos.

Suddenly, in this atmosphere of national anger and despair, Daniel Ellsberg is in the news because he leaked to the NY Times the top secret 47-volumes of the secret history of the Vietnam War, documents collected by the Department of Defense. People learned what they had suspected all along--- the administrations of four Presidents, back as far as Eisenhower, had been lying to the American people about Vietnam and our involvement there. The breaking of these documents, known as the Pentagon Papers, eventually led to Watergate and the downfall of Richard Nixon. Watergate, Daniel Ellsberg, the Pentagon Papers were big news for days, weeks, months. I was a kid so I paid attention, sort of. Or more correctly, I thought I paid attention to the details of the case. But apparently not well.

I learned or relearned so much from reading Most Dangerous. Sheinkin put all the pieces together in a succinct yet informative format. As Greg Grandin, writing for the NYT, says:
Sheinkin’s book is a remarkably effective synthesis not just of Ellsberg’s life but of America’s long history in Vietnam. The author has a perfect ear for what might hold the attention of young readers, while at the same time gently educating them about war and governance. “Most Dangerous” balances drama, human interest (including Ellsberg’s romance with the radio journalist Patricia Marx) and analysis; it’s fast-paced, starting with a prologue in which Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy break into Ellsberg’s psychiatrist’s office in search of discrediting information.---(NY Times, Sunday Book Reviews, Nov. 6, 2015)
The last half of the book reads like the best spy novel with all the intrigue and action one would expect from a fiction thriller, but this stuff really happened. The National Book Award has listed Most Dangerous to its short list of best books in the young people category, Publisher's Weekly named it as a top fifteen best books for middle grade readers. I disagree with that delineation. I think Most Dangerous would appeal to high school age students and should be marketed that way.

This year the Printz Award may very well go to the a nonfiction book. In my mind this book, Most Dangerous by Steve Sheinkin and Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege on Leningrad by M.T. Anderson are tied for the best YA books written this year. Both were impeccably researched and super well-written. I highly recommend them both.

Rating: 5 out of 5

Source: Audiobook, checked out from the public library and listened to on Overdrive.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Friday Quotes: Most Dangerous

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now:

Book Title: Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of Vietnam by Steve Sheinkin

Book Beginnings:
Prologue: They came to California to ruin a man. Not kill him, not literally. But the next best thing.
Friday 56:
When the marines first arrived at Da Nang, the orders had been clear: 'The U.S. Marine Force will not, repeat, will not, engage in day-to-day actions against the Viet Cong.' That lasted three weeks.
Comments: I was in high school when President Nixon had to resign due to Watergate. I remember hearing something about Daniel Ellsberg but didn't really pay attention to what he had to do with Nixon, the Vietnam war, or the Pentagon Papers. This book is fascinating and infuriating as it tells about how Daniel Ellsberg leaked the papers, The Secret History of Vietnam, now known as the Pentagon Papers which helped bring about the end of the war and the end of Nixon. The book is excellent. I learned a lot about information I should have known much more about.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

A literary tribute to my friend, Sheri Story

Sheri Story
I met my friend Sheri Story in August 2007 when she joined the staff at Graham-Kapowsin High School where I work as the school librarian. She was hired as an English, Reading, and Leadership teacher. Two weeks ago my friend died of breast cancer and I helped lay her to rest on a rainy October day. Since that day I keep thinking about Sheri and how much she loved literature. This is a literary tribute to a friend.

Before the 2007 school year even started, Sheri came to the library to meet me and to pick up her teaching supplies and also to find something to read for herself. We must have talked about books, though I don't remember the conversation, because she checked out a book I liked to recommend to my friends, Big Stone Gap, and its sequel, Big Cherry Holler, by Adriana Trigiani. She also checked out a book by John Grisham and another by Jodi Piccoult at the same time. Sheri loved to read. When other teachers were too exhausted to do much more than set up their classrooms, Sheri was checking out four books to read after she got home.

Within days of the start of school Sheri was back checking out story collections for her reluctant readers to peruse. Sheri believed in the power of the written word and she used and promoted the library with her students. She often brought her classes to the library to check out books, to look through poetry volumes, or to find theme-related books. She also requested carts full of library books to use in her classroom. She was very busy sharing her love of literature with her students.

That first September Sheri and I each read the book, This I Believe: the personal philosophies of remarkable people edited by Allison and Gediman, promoted by NPR. We both wrote a personal philosophy in the style of those in the book, then Sheri had her students do the same thing. It was so fun and stimulating working with Sheri on literary projects.  She was so enthusiastic about every project she encountered. She had a gift and she shared it so willingly with her students and friends.

During the summer of 2007 I read a book called Poemcrazy: freeing your life with words by Susan Wooldridge. The book presents ideas how to channel your inner poet. I was so excited by Wooldridge's ideas I came back to school and created lesson plans to share with the English teachers. Sheri took me up on my ideas and used them for her poetry unit. Afterwards she shared with me some of the poetry booklets her students created using the ideas from Poemcrazy. Poems from their inner coyotes were my favorite.  I still remember the day when Sheri brought the student work to show me. We laughed and celebrated together over her students' creativity.

A few years later, Sheri continued her support for poetry by having all her students participate in class recitation contests for the Poetry Out Loud contest.  Poetry Out Loud is a National recitation contest which starts in the classrooms, moves on to contests at the school, region, state before one person from each state competes in the national final in Washington, D.C. Participating students have to memorize two or three poems and recite them by memory. It is a lot of work to host such a contest in a class because students today do not believe they are capable of memorization.  Sheri persevered and her students did well at the school level competition, which I coordinated.

Sheri was an omnivore when it came to digesting books. She loved them all and read from all genres. One day she came asking me for a book on dragons, another she wanted a mystery. Sheri would also finish series she started. I would recommend the first book of a series then, not long afterwards, she's drop by to see what I thought of the fifth or sixth book in that same series, a book I hadn't read.  I rarely read more than a few books in any series before I'd move on. The #1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith and Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley were two series where Sheri quickly eclipsed my reading of them. She was such a voracious reader it was hard to keep up. She also wasn't a very picky reader. Once she told me she was reading a lot of books she had got for free on her Kindle. They weren't very good, she confessed, but the price was right. This memory makes me smile today.

Sheri and I worked on a project to introduce literature circles to the English classes. She and I and another English teacher friend, Christine, read and compiled groups of books on various topics for classes to use. With the library budget I would purchase four or five books of each title then teachers could assign small literature circles in their classes. Some of the books were deemed controversial so the three of us had to go before the district controversial preview committee to get them approved. On that horrifying day Sheri, Christine, and I sat holding hands under the table as we read the controversial passages aloud to the assembled committee. Taken out of context controversial passages really DO sound awful. We laughed about it later, but at the time it was a mortifying experience. Out of the process we got some really wonderful pieces of literature approved for small groups of students to read: The Kite Runner, Poisonwood Bible, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Things They Carried, among them.

One of my favorite teaching moments was shared with Sheri. In 2012 Sheri came to me for help brainstorming ideas how to help her 4th period class. The class members, as a whole, were completely unmotivated and lacked any enthusiasm for reading or literature. She wanted to do something to help ignite them. We hit upon an idea. Each of her students would read a book by the same author, Paul Volponi.  All of his books are short and cover topics of interest to teens. I was able to purchase, or round up from other schools in the district, enough books for each of her students to read. One of her students, a real troubled boy, got excited about his book and wanted to know some more information about it. Sheri encouraged the boy to write Mr. Volponi and ask him. Through this process, we were able to set up a Skype interview with Volponi and Sheri's whole 4th period class. On the day of the Skype interview we assembled in Sheri's classroom and Paul Volpoini talked to the students as if he were in the room with them guiding them to think about lots of things, encouraging them to read deeply, and to be the best persons they could be.  It was a magical moment for all of us. When the bell for the end of the period rang, no one got up to leave. That is proof of how mesmerizing the moment was. Through literature Sheri was able to impact her students' lives, and often it took creativity to do it.

At Sheri's funeral I learned a lot of things about her that I didn't know before. I learned that she retired from the US Air Force as a Chief Master Sergeant, the highest enlisted rank. I learned that she had a bunch of friends from her elementary and middle school years with whom she still kept in touch. They liked to go out and shop and always drank lemon drops (a lemony vodka drink) together. I found out she was a good cook, which shouldn't have surprised me since she did check out The Book Club Cook Book from my library. Isn't that perfect? I may not have shared any of these things with Sheri but I did share books with her. One of the last books Sheri checked out of my library was Pink and Say by Patricia Polacco, a picture book about an unlikely friendship. That was us. We may not have known each other in other ways but we were literary best friends. I will miss talking about books and poetry with her.

On one wall of the library I have this word-art quote: "I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library."-Jorge Luis Borge. I sure hope there is a big library in heaven. If there is, I am sure Sheri is exploring it right now, finding some new author or series to read and enjoy.

Thank you, my friend, for sharing your love of literature with me. You will be greatly missed. Rest in peace, my friend, rest in peace.
"If ever there comes a day when we can't be together, keep me in your heart- I'll stay there forever."- AA Milne