Beth Solka

One Thousand White Women: the Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus

One Thousand White Women: the Journals of May Dodd

One of my patrons called me to discuss One Thousand White Women: the Journal of May Dodd by Jim Fergus. (RC 47157) This is a fictionalized account of a true incident in which an Indian delegation traveled to Washington, D.C. to negotiate a treaty.

One of the Indians was a Cheyenne leader named Little Wolf. As part of the negotiations, Little Wolf requested that his tribe be supplied with 1,000 white women, in an effort to assist in the assimilation of the Cheyenne peoples with the white man. Predictably, the request was met with derision and horror. 

Dog Man: An Uncommon Life on a Faraway Mountain by Martha Sherrill

Dog Man

Someone once said, “When you finish a book that you love, it is like saying good-bye to a friend.”  I felt sad when I finished Dog Man and for a few seconds thought about turning to the front of the book and starting it all over again.

Martha Sherrill has such a beautiful writing style that it was a joy to read from beginning to end. Morie Sawataishi developed a deep admiration for the rugged mountain hunting dogs of Japan. Before World War II, Japan revered the Akita, partly due to the true story of Hachiko.  He was the loyal Akita who waited every day for his owner to get off of the train.  His owner was a professor who died suddenly at work.  Hachiko continued to wait for him every day for years hoping that he would come back.  Hachiko symbolized the Japanese sense of discipline and loyalty. However, during World War II, people ate the dogs and used their pelts to line uniforms until they were almost extinct.

River Marked by Patricia Briggs

River Marked

I used to have an old Volvo that broke down frequently. The problem was a hose that would fly off of the engine. I always carried a screwdriver which I would use to reattach the hose and go on my way. One morning I was rushing in the door to work after one of these episodes when my supervisor stopped me. “What happened to you?” she asked with concern. I had no idea what she was talking about until I followed her eyes down to my arms and realized that my forearms were covered with black dirt and grease.

I explained about having to fix my car on the way to work, and she just stood and stared at me silently for a very awkward minute. Suddenly she burst into song! “I am woman. Hear me roar. With numbers too big to ignore. And I’ve come too far to turn back and pretend.” She turned to walk away but kept on singing at the top of her lungs. Her song only died away when she turned the corner and went down the other hall. 

Right then and there I decided to get a new car.

The Napping House by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

The Napping House by Audrey Wood, illustrated by Don Wood

The Napping House, by Audrey Wood, is full of beautiful illustrations, and there is wonderful repetition in the wording of the book. The sequencing is great for children because it creates a sense of anticipation and allows them to participate in reading the book. The story is about a grandma who has everyone in the house gently pile on top of her while she is asleep.The pile includes her grandson, the dog, the cat, the mouse and the mouse's flea.The book is charming as well as being calming and would be a great bedtime story for a child who needs help settling down.

Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen

Lucky You

Lucky You by Carl Hiaasen is about a young black woman named JoLayne Lucks who has one of two winning tickets to the Florida lottery--and when she cashes it in she will win $14 million. As a vet assistant, she is very involved with raising the baby turtles that she finds and plans on using her money to buy a section of Florida swampland to create a wildlife refuge.  However, two con men named Chubb and Bodean Gazzer--who have formed a white supremacy militia--own the other winning ticket. When they find out that JoLayne is also a winner, they decide that $28 million would be even better to help them finance the White Clarion Aryans.

Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz

Rose in a Storm by Jon Katz

Trinity, our greyhound mix, was a natural leader. She would break up cat fights by putting her head between the fighting cats.  Whenever there was dissent among our dogs, she would stare them down until they retreated. When our cat was dying and had to sleep in the bathroom the night before she took her final trip to the vet, Trinity slept on the other side of the door. We had no idea what a positive effect she had on the dynamics of our household until she passed away. Now the cats fight right next to one of our dogs' heads and they just lie there looking at them as if to say, “Will you look at that!”

The novel Rose in a Storm is Jon Katz's first fiction in 10 years. Jon Katz usually writes nonfiction books about his farm, Bedlam Farm, an hour outside of Albany, NY, where ironically, his lead farm dog is named Rose. It is a wonderful example of how a little book can be so much more than the reader expects. The book is written from Rose’s perspective. Rose is the best farm dog in the county, and her reputation is so good that other farmers have borrowed Rose when they have had problems on their farms. She and Sam, the farmer, share an excellent non-verbal bond as they work the farm on a daily basis. But their life is turned upside down when a catastrophic blizzard envelops the farm and all of the animals that they have are in danger of freezing to death or being attacked by coyotes.

Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack

Awkward Family Photos by Mike Bender and Doug Chernack

A few weeks ago a friend of mine told me about Awkward Family Photos. This is a collection of photos that I would probably have burned if I had some of these for my family.  However, these families bravely submitted them for the world to see.

Sometimes the reason for the awkward moment hits you in the face, but then there are others that you really have to look carefully at the picture and what is happening in the background to figure out what is funny about the photo. When I realized what is “special” about the photo I felt stupid for not noticing it right away.

Bold Sons of Erin by Owen Parry

Bold Sons of Erin cover

You have to love living in Fredericksburg! I enjoy walking my dogs through the forest paths of the Fredericksburg Battlefields, but you have to be out of the park by sundown because the park police lock the gate.  One evening I was hurrying down the darkening path before sunset when I heard footsteps behind me.  When I turned around to see who was walking behind me, I saw a Confederate soldier coming out of the shadows of the path.  I was being followed by a ghost and I don’t even believe in ghosts!  I made a mental note to talk to my Supervisor at the library about getting some time off for my mental health.  As I came to the edge of the woods and climbed up the hill into the clearing with a little extra daylight I could see that there were Confederate soldiers milling around everywhere.  I had to be smack dab in the middle of a re-enactment.  Whew! That was relief - scratch the request for a mental health day!

If you love mysteries and the Civil War, then you might enjoy Owen Parry books.  The main character is Major Abel Jones, who is an unassuming tiny man who walks with a limp and uses a cane.  He is a Welsh immigrant to America who serves in the United States army, but previously served in the British army in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. Now he is a secret investigator for President Lincoln.  In Bold Sons of Erin, Major Abel is sent by Lincoln to investigate the sudden death of General Stone.  The book begins with Abel arranging to dig up the grave of General Stone.  When it is opened, he finds the body of a young girl who has been stabbed to death buried in the grave of the General. 

Alex & Me: How a Scientist and a Parrot Uncovered a Hidden World of Animal Intelligence--and Formed a Deep Bond in the Process by Irene M. Pepperberg

Alex & Me cover

Years ago when researchers were in heated debates about whether or not animals can think, I could have told them that they do.  When I was first married I had an incredible dog named Doctor. One day when I was young and stupid, I had a knock on my door.  There was a man standing outside my door whom I didn’t recognize, so I locked my screen door to keep my dog in and stepped outside to see what this man wanted.  He began to ask me some very bizarre questions about the neighborhood. He kept stepping back to draw me away from my front door. Suddenly I found that I had gone into my front yard to talk to this strange young man. Red flags were going off in my brain at this point. He was about to ask me another odd question when he suddenly stopped and said, “I have to go.” He turned around and walked quickly away. I thought, “What a strange man that was!”  When I turned around I discovered that Doctor had jumped up, unhooked the screen door, and was sitting behind me with his lips curled back in a silent growl. Evidently, he thought that the man was odd also.

 When my husband bought me Alex & Me, by Irene Pepperberg, last year and gently said, “I think that you would like this," I politely thanked him and stubbornly put it on the shelf.  A year later I picked it up and now I grudgingly have to admit that he was correct.  I do love this book!

Patient Zero by Jonathan Maberry

Patient Zero cover

Recently when I went to the beach I took Patient Zero with me to read.  While I sat in stopped traffic, motorcyclists weaved in and out, roaring past us laughing.  My first thought was, “That is SO illegal! I hate you!” But my next thought was, “They are going to get to the beach long before we do, and they are having more fun doing it this way.”  If Jonathan Maberry's Patient Zero were a vehicle it would be one of those motorcycles roaring past the stopped cars.  The action is fast and furious from the beginning to the very last page of the book.

Chapter One introduces Joe Ledge--a modern day Rambo. 

When you have to kill the same terrorist twice in one week, then there’s either something wrong with your skills or something wrong with your world.

And there’s nothing wrong with my skills.