“If war can ever be said to be just, then this war is so; it is action for a moral cause, with the most rigorous of intellectual underpinnings. And yet everywhere I turn, I see injustice done in the waging of it. “ - March
In Louisa Alcott’s Little Women, Mr. March’s largest role in the narrative is that his daughters are perpetually waiting for his letters home. In March, Geraldine Brooks traces his story as he enlists to become a Union chaplain, experiences many horrors of war, and eventually finds himself tutoring freed slaves (“contraband”) on a destitute cotton plantation. His cheerful letters home to Marmee contrast with the terrible details he confides to the reader but does not write home about: the pervasive racism; cruelty; and suffering that he encounters in a number of different encounters.
In A Life Like Mine: How Children Live Around the World, we are introduced to 18 children from different continents, such as Mahasin and her family, nomadic cattle herders in Sudan. Mahasin is nine years old and attends a traveling school for children. When she’s not learning lessons, she likes to weave baskets and help her mother and sisters cook their staple meal, asida, a dish of vegetables and grains mixed with spices. We also meet Isa, age 10, who lives in Sierra Leone and was taken by fighters in the country’s civil war for two years. Now he is back with his family, attending school, planting a few crops, and playing checkers with his friends. The stories and photographs of these children’s lives are fascinating and will appeal to any child who wonders how the world’s children are alike and different.
So, we all know the fairy tale of the Princess and the Pea, right? She shows up at a castle late one night in the middle of a snowstorm. The prince falls in love with her beauty (evident even under the wet, bedraggled appearance), but the king and queen want to make sure she is a real princess. So, they put a single pea under a pile of 20 feather mattresses and wait to see if she notices. And, sure enough, the real princess emerges in the morning bruised and sore from the tiny pea. The prince and princess get married and live happily ever after. Except...well, did you ever think what it would be like to live with someone like that? Someone who couldn’t even stand a pea under her mattress? What about when she was hot? Disappointed? Challenged by some problem?
The Princess and the Packet of Frozen Peas, by Tony Wilson, takes the traditional Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale and stands it on its head. Prince Henrik doesn’t like the idea of marrying a princess who is sensitive. His brother is married to a very real, very high-maintenance princess who complains day and night about things that don’t suit her. Frankly, it’s a drag being around her, let alone married to her.
After marrying a rancher, former Los Angeles food snob and vegetarian Ree Drummond found herself in the Oklahama countryside as a ranch wife and mom to four kids, all with big, meat-loving appetites. She set out to “create delicious food - food that would allow me to tickle my cooking fancy, but still make the cowboys’ heart go pitter pat.” Drummond started a food blog called The Pioneer Woman, where she posted step-by-step directions to a number of delicious recipes, starting with “How to Cook a Steak.” Drummond’s mouthwatering recipes, combined with her witty comments and lovely photographs, skyrocketed in popularity, which led to her first book, The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl.
When I was in school, we often had to memorize and recite a poem to the class. Some of these poems have stuck with me even as an adult, and I always feel a sense of accomplishment when I can remember one. Memorizing poetry is like a game - you challenge yourself to master the poet’s words and rhythm. Once you do, you are likely to remember it for a long time. One of my kids memorized this short poem from the collection and recited it at dinner the other night when we were having peas:
I eat my peas with honey
I eat my peas with honey
I’ve done it all my life.
It makes the peas taste funny
But it keeps them on the knife.
Yes, we all tried our peas with honey after this...and they do taste funny.
Mary Ann Hoberman, Children’s Poet Laureate from 2008-2010, chose 123 poems to make up Forget-Me-Nots: Poems to Learn by Heart because they are “memorable,” which she points out, has two meanings: “easy to remember” and “worth remembering.” Some are short, like the pea poem above, and some are longer challenges, like Edward Lear’s The Jumblies. There are poems about beasts, families, food, nature, and more. There are poems from famous writers (Roald Dahl), favorite poets (Shel Silverstein), and some I had never heard of. Emberley’s pictures are lively and colorful and make the entire book a pleasure to browse.
Halfway through this spring, during a week of practically living out of our minivan and eating dinners on the run due to a parade of soccer games, drama rehearsals, and tae kwon do practices, I said to myself, “Enough. I want to get off this ride!” I picked up Putting Family First: Successful Strategies for Reclaiming Family Life in a Hurry-Up World, by William Doherty and Barbara Carlson, and devoured it in the next 2 days. Doherty and Carlson first trace the evolution of the overscheduling of today's kids and then provide concrete steps for reclaiming family time. I found myself nodding along to almost every chapter and came away with some great suggestions for how to streamline our outside commitments and reconnect as a family.
Doherty points out there are positive reasons why kids are busier today - like more opportunities to choose from - but also several that are negative, like more intense sports schedules, fear that children will be left behind if they don’t engage from an early age, and parental guilt due to long work schedules. Whatever the reasons, Doherty stresses that the end result is that “the adult world of hypercompetition and marketplace values has invaded the family.” What to do about it? The first step is to slow down and reconnect over family meals, optimally four times a week or more. The second is to reclaim bedtime as a soothing ritual. And the third step is to look critically at the schedule, cut back on outside obligations, and find time to “hang out as a family.”
The library's summer reading clubs mean great books, programs, and prizes for readers of all ages. Sign up for the clubs online or at our library branches starting June 1st!
Find the program that is right for you:
Kids ages 0 - 12 years: "Dream Big: Read"
Teens ages 13-17 years: "Own the Night"
Adults 18 years and up: "Midsummer Madness"
Read what you want, when you want! No meetings to attend - just visit the library any time. Check out the free programs for the summer for all ages.
While you are having fun reading all summer long, share reviews online for a weekly chance to win a free book from a Friends of the Library book sale.
Why Join? Children who are read to from an early age have a larger vocabulary and better language skills when they start school. A recent study by The Dominican University* has shown that children who joined public library summer reading clubs did better on fall standardized tests than their classmates who didn’t! *"Public Library Summer Reading Programs Close the Reading Gap"
Did you know that the Cinderella story is one of the world’s oldest fairy tales? The first version can be traced back to ninth-century China and was written about a heroine named Yeh-shen. Today, more than 1500 versions of the tale exist, many with a unique twist. I recently enjoyed what I consider to be the most singular version of Cinderella that I have ever come upon in Cinder by Marissa Meyer.
Cinder Linh is a cyborg – part human, part robot – who knows nothing of her birth parents or history. She is a ward of her evil stepmother, Adri, who relies on Cinder’s extraordinary talent as a mechanic to support the family all the while vilifying Cinder at every opportunity. Together with two stepsisters, Pearl and Peony, they live in technologically advanced, post-World War IV “New Beijing.” Unfortunately, New Beijing is threatened by an airborn plague called letumosis, which strikes at random and has an almost 100% fatality rate.
In The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson, Princess Elisa is sixteen years old and getting married to a man she has never met – King Alejandro from neighboring country Joya d’Arena. Although plump Elisa often feels commonplace and dowdy, she is widely considered singular because she was chosen to bear the Godstone, a once-in-a-century occurrence. The living stone nestled in her navel marks her as God’s chosen one with a special destiny. Elisa has spent her years in Brisadulce living in her older sister’s shadow and studying the Scriptura Sancta in relative peace. Upon leaving, she is about to be thrust into a world of political intrigue and omnipresent danger for which she is ill prepared.
“Simple living is about living your life with a purpose that aligns with your values. It’s about enjoying the things you love and care about and not stressing over the things that don’t matter.”
I love reading about new systems for meal planning, housekeeping, and productivity….but when it comes time to implement them, I often get lost in the details and quickly return to my previous, imperfect system. Organized Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living by Tsh Oxenreider goes beyond the checklists: “…at the foundation of this book is the idea of redefining simplicity…I want to help you find what simple living looks like for you.” Oxenreider does this by gently guiding the reader through several reflective steps, like creating a family mission statement, evaluating your family’s current commitments, and making a plan to get and stay out of debt. Then she provides concrete, action steps for decluttering, cleaning, and organizing your physical space.