Last week I had the pleasure of witnessing an innovative use for a web cam—book discussion! Spotsylvania school librarians at Chancellor, Freedom, Post Oak, Spotsylvania and Thornburg Middle Schools combined forces, and their own excitement, to virtually bring students together in a way that otherwise would require buses and permission slips. The event, “Cookies and Conversation,” allowed students to discuss books with participants at other schools while eating cookies in the comfort of their home library.
For the past month I have enthusiastically embraced each commute and school pick-up queue because it gives me the opportunity to listen to Lisa See’s amazing novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, narrated by the talented Jodi Long. See’s saga transports the listener to 19th-century rural China, tracing the relationship between Lily, from a peasant family, and Snow Flower, from a wealthier family in a neighboring village.
Upon preparation for binding Lily’s feet at the age of six, a matchmaker takes notice of their exquisite shape. Because of the promise of perfectly beautiful bound feet – in a culture and time where the ideal female foot was three inches long – the matchmaker senses that Lily could make an excellent marriage with a family whose social standing is much higher. To facilitate this, the matchmaker makes a laotong (“old sames”) match between Lily and Snow Flower, a girl from a neighboring village whose upbringing educated her as to all of the etiquette and cultural things that Lily would be expected to know as a married lady of a more wealthy house.
There was once a time when you couldn’t fit every song that ever existed into a small metal box and put it in your pocket. I know that might sound horrible, but it’s true. Before iPods, CDs, and cassettes, there was vinyl. Back then, you could run your fingers along the grooves of a recording and actually feel the music that would soon be blasting through your speakers. I’m not necessarily saying it was better…just different.
This book is another example of why I love reading children's books. The Chiru of High Tibet by Jaqueline Briggs Martin, illustrated by Linda Wingerter, introduced me to an animal I knew nothing about--the chiru. Chiru are unique animals resembling antelopes, but related to wild goats and sheep. Their wool is special also and is considered to be the finest in the world. It is called shahtoosh, the king of wools. In order for this wool to be used, the animal has to be killed.
A man named George B. Schaller was very worried about the chiru and its existence. He was afraid that if something was not done to protect them, they would become extinct. So Schaller decided to do something. He wanted to protect the chiru from the hunters. In order to do that, he had to find the secret place where the female chirus gave birth. After several attempts to locate this elusive spot failed, four mountain climbers offered to help Schaller.
They set out on the journey with no trucks and no camels or donkeys that would need feeding. They pulled their supplies in wheeled carts across the plains of Tibet. When you read this book you will find out how their journey went and how the chiru situation was resolved.
Australian author Kate Morton has made a study of Gothic fiction, and her book, The Distant Hours, is a "Gothic Delight." Her writing, a mixture of Gothic, romance and mystery genres, plus her addition of original fairy tales, has sold millions of novels all over the world.
"The ancient walls sing the distant hours..." at Milderhurst Castle in Kent, home of the literary Blythe family. Only the decaying castle--and the careful reader--know all the secrets hidden within its walls and moat. Kate Morton carefully paces her novel--you don't want to miss a page or you will miss out on the clues to piece together the secrets.
This interview airs beginning February 23.
The Reverend Theresie Houghton’s gentle manner and selfless commitment to the area’s poor, disadvantaged, and terminally ill have earned her the respect and admiration of people throughout our community. She helps and inspires all ages, particularly children. Debby Klein visits her on CRRL Presents, a Central Rappahannock Regional Library production.
In a reverse chronological sequence of events, Julia Alvarez takes her readers through the immigration experience of the four Garcia sisters: Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia in How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Leaving behind a life of privilege surrounded by their large extended family, the four girls move with their Papi and Mami to New York City, and begin the long, never-ending process of assimilating into American culture. The story is as much a coming of age tale as it is a feminist, Latino perspective on American culture, beautifully conveyed with a sprinkling of Spanish vocabulary here and there.
I love reading biographies. Perhaps its sheer nosiness, but I am fascinated by the stories of how someone famous came to be. Unfortunately, finding time to read a 400 page adult biography and keep up with children and teen literature is practically impossible. Luckily, I can combine the two, especially when the biography is a picture book!
Although it captures only one small part of their lives, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up by Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney with illustrations by Brian Pinkney, is a biography of sorts. At a Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, David, Joseph, Franklin and Ezell sat waiting to be served. The law, you see, had a recipe for segregation, but these “kids had a recipe, too. A new brew called integration.” This husband-wife team always does stellar work, but this is one of my favorites from recent years. The lyrical prose flows so well into the movement filled illustrations. You can almost see the teens shaking with fear as they sit waiting and as the protest grows so does the lunch counter in the illustrations. People sit waiting to be acknowledged at a counter curving around the two-page spread and off into the distance. The final counter spans three pages, with one huge difference. This time there’s, “a doughnut and coffee, with cream on the side” for them all.
In 2008, Nya, a young woman who lives in Sudan, walks two hours one way to get water for her family. She does this twice a day. She does not have shoes. In her book A Long Walk to Water, Newbery medalist Linda Sue Park, introduces us to Nya. She also introduces us to Salva, a young man living in Sudan in 1985.
Their stories are told in alternating tales. Salva is a young student in Sudan in 1985. His country has been going through a civil war for decades. One day while Salva is at school, a group of rebels attack his village. The teacher tells all the students to run away to escape the attack by the rebels. Salva does as instructed but soon finds himself alone and far from his home. He certainly does not feel safe. He is lost and disoriented. He meets up with a group of refugees who are leaving Sudan and heading to Kenya. Salva joins the group though they are reluctant to accept him because he is a child and may become a burden. Salva walks with them, hoping to find safety in Kenya and hoping to be reunited with his family.