Category Archives: Reading

A Words Look: Linda Sue Park

“In order to find yourself in a book, you have to lose yourself in a book.” – Linda Sue Park

I kind of came to a Linda Sue Park fandom through a roundabout way. I didn’t read her books first. The way I came about it was through hearing her Ted X talk, Can A Children’s Book Change the World?. I highly recommend this video if you haven’t seen it yet. She hits it dead center in the middle of the target. Reading is magic. Libraries are the magic castle.

If I were a rich man, I’d buy every middle school kid in the country a copy of her book A LONG WALK TO WATER. All I can say is that it is great in a riveting, dramatic, true-life story kind of a way. Everyone NEEDS to read this book!

Empathy is another of the superpowers that grow from being a reader.

Empathy —> Engagement

A LONG WALK TO WATER is one of the three middle reader selections for the 2017 Global Read Aloud starting October 2, 2017. The other two books are Victoria Coe’s excellent FENWAY AND HATTIE and the completely awesome out-of-left-field book, THE WILD ROBOT from Peter Brown. These three authors (and possibly GRA Founder Pernille Ripp) have agreed to participate in a #MGLitChat Pro Chat I am hosting on September 21, 2017, to spotlight the 2017 Global Read Aloud program, the three middle reader selections, and these authors. This is your invitation to join us at 9:00 PM Eastern on the #MGLitChat Twitter feed.

And to let you in on a little secret…

Linda Sue Park, Victoria Coe, Peter Brown, and Pernille Ripp are just about the nicest people you’d ever “meet”.

Keep reading people! Read out of your comfort zone. Read about the “other” and develop an empathetic eye and mind. We need diverse books in each of our lives. Diversity = difference. Empathy allows you to accept the differences and build relationships.

Build a better world, one book at a time. Right, Linda Sue Park?

 

Early North American Culture Clash

One of the great powers of the 16th Century northeastern woodlands were the nations of the Wendat Confederacy. They were a highly successful, highly organized confederation populating the Lake Huron region.

The Wendat were a maternal society, meaning that women played a meaningful role in the politics and economics of the tribe. All property was held down the maternal lineage and marriages had to be outside the maternal clan. Women were even in charge of selecting the tribal chiefs.

This strong maternal influence on the tribe caused more than a few riffs with the French Jesuit missionaries who were the first whites to establish contact with the Wendats in the 1600’s. There is a story told of complaints by the Jesuits to the men of a village about several outspoken women. The Jesuits convinced the men they were being led away from the path of salvation by these outspoken women. To force them to change their ways, the Jesuits threatened to bind the ankles of the women and tether them to a stake in the ground.

Needless to say, this philosophy did not go well and soon the Jesuits found a way to look past the maternal leadership and influence.

Culture clash…early North American style.

The American Dream

Almost 230 years ago, a group of men gathered as part of a convention in Philadelphia and dreamed. What came out of that convention was the United States Constitution. Flawed men (some more flawed than others) produced a document for a nation which did not exist, which could not exist under their current leadership limitations, and could only someday be realized when the United States of America could and would live under the credo that “All men are created equal”.

The Founding Fathers, most of whom had as many character and moral flaws as patriotic and leadership attributes, possessed a vision of the potential in their young nation. They set the groundwork and, most importantly, made the constitution an open-ended document. The created a constitution which could be amended, or added to, as problems arose. For their part, they addressed the pending issues of their time in their first ten amendments, collectively called The Bill of Rights. They allowed for change. They allowed the people of the near and far future to move the country forward as issues, new and unimaginable in 1787, threatened the potential of what the United States of America could be.

We still aren’t there in 2017 as witnessed by the divisions of race, economy, philosophy, and policy. But this is not a complete failure of the dream. It is the fight between moving forward toward the dream and staying firmly planted and looking back. These are the growing pains of a diverse nation that dreams of greater things. Two steps forward and one step back.

The Civil War was the first hammer of change after 1782. It changed the nation. Not completely, not permanently, but it changed who and what the United States was forever. It recreated the shift of the young nation as being a single nation and not a collection of separate entities. Historian Barbara Fields and Shelby Foote perhaps said it best at the opening of the final episode of Ken Burns’ classic documentary, The Civil War.

Dr. Barbara Fields, professor of history at Columbia University, on the American Civil War:

“It is the event in American history in that, it is the moment that made the United States as a nation. And I mean that in different ways. The United States was obviously a nation when it adopted a constitution. But it adopted a constitution that required the war to be sorted out and therefore, require the war to make a real nation out of what was a theoretical nation as it was designed at the Constitutional Convention.”

Author-historian Shelby Foote:

“Before the war, it was said the United States are, grammatically it was spoken that way and thought of as a collection of independent states. And after the war, it was always the United States is, as we say today without being self-conscious at all. And that pretty much sums up what the war accomplished. It made us and is.”

In my humble opinion, our responsibility as Americans—the job devised and written into this dream document called the United States Constitution—is to keep pushing toward the goals set by the Founding Fathers. Two steps forward and make sure we fight and scratch and claw to limit any step back to one, preferably short, step backward. We need to push toward an American vision and dream to which we have pledged our allegiance to virtually every day of our lives.

“…one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Let’s be the people the writers of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence hoped we would become. Let’s acknowledge our horrific deeds and flaws of our past in order to make this a better place for everyone today. Let’s leave this country today a little closer to the dream for those of tomorrow.

Live the American Dream.

  • Sacrifice
  • Respect
  • Hard work
  • Compassion
  • Honesty.

These are the attributes that make America great (as always).

A Words Look: Hamlet, 4.5

I received a daily quote from my Shakespeare app which is usually the first thing I see on my phone in the morning and often the last things I see in the evening on my iPad. There are worse ways to start and finish a day than with The Bard.

“Lord, we know what we are, but know not what we may be. ”                                      -Ophelia, Hamlet, 4.5

Reading and contemplating on this quote by Ophelia from Hamlet, I wonder if this is the perfect description of who we are as a nation. The United States of America is struggling with itself right now in 2017. We are a nation that has entered into its adolescent years. We’ve survived infancy, Independence and setting up a tremendous framework, called the Constitution, and struggled through our terrible two’s during the American Civil War.

Now that we are firmly in the adolescent period, we are struggling internally as a middle school or early high school kid might do. We may think we know  100% more than 99% of everyone else, especially the adults/parents and we often fly off the handle emotionally and physically. With a lack of disregard for the opinions and viewpoints of others, we continue to sludge through the muck, making mistakes, and moving further to opposite ends of the spectrum.

Things may seem crazy now, but we will work through this. We will grow as a nation into the fine young adult stage and maybe figure out a thing or two about ourselves as a nation along the way. The opposing forces in the U.S. currently driving at breakneck speeds away from each other will eventually realize it’s time to turn around and address each other because nobody likes running full speed into a wall.

Have hope America! As we mature as a nation, we may actually find out “what we may be”.

Thanks, Bill Shakespeare! You would have been a great American.

Boom! Boys are reading influencers!

Great news from the 2017 Digital Book World Conference via Jane Friedman and Porter Anderson in their January bonus issue of The Hot Sheet.

According to Nielsen Book Research director, Jo Henry, boys ages 9-12 have grabbed an increased market share of the juvenile book market! Boys are influencing more book purchases so (hopefully) we can infer boys are reading more. That is fantastic news!

Several very interesting points from Jo Henry’s presentation were highlighted in The Hot Sheet about this current upward development in the boy reader.

  • This trend shows up when comparing 2010 to 2016 figures, with an increase in books being bought for boys aged 9 to 12.

  • What books are being bought for boys? Fantasy and adventure.

  • Authors represented in this realm include J.K. Rowling, of course, as well as Rick Riordan, Suzanne Collins, R.L. Stine, James Dashner, and Kathryn Lasky.

  • Interestingly, 64 percent of these books aren’t being bought for boys as gifts; in many cases, they’re being asked for by the boys and offered by their parents.

  • The main discovery method of these books by boys is in-person, usually through spotting a store display or TV ad.

                                                     (Source The Hot Sheet, January 2017)

Boy readers, I applaud you! You are awesome. You are readers, despite what we are continually fed about your lack of desire to read. Keep it up. Keep seeing books or hearing about books you are interested in and asking for them. Your action in regard to finding the reading material you like is impressive. It gives me hope.

Reading builds empathy. Empathy builds great human beings. Great human beings build great societies.

Boy readers, keep searching for books that interest you. Keep struggling until you find your fit. It is out there. Don’t give up. Ask your librarian, your friends, or your teachers for recommendations. Check out http://www.guysread.com or send me a message if you are struggling to find your reading niche. Find your place in the world of literature. You are never bored with a book around.

But most importantly, keep reading, boys!

lincoln-as-a-boy-reading-at-night

Eastman Johnson [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

A Words Look: The Call To Wisdom

Fun fact about me: I’m an Old Testament kind of a guy. Recently, I ran across an impressive Bible quote in the Refusal of the Call chapter from Joseph Campbell’s THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES. The intensity of the Old Testament language may be what draws me to the OT. Also, the stories! Man alive, there are so many great stories in the Bible. Even if you don’t read the Bible from a religious foundation, the stories are well worth your time.

Well anyway, here is the passage from Proverbs on The Call of Wisdom. It truly fits the form of classic Old Testament.

Proverbs 1:20-33
The Call of Wisdom
20 Wisdom cries out in the street; in the squares she raises her voice.
21 At the busiest corner she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:
22 “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?
23 Give heed to my reproof; I will pour out my thoughts to you; I will make my words known to you.
24 Because I have called and you refused, have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,
25 and because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,
26 I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when panic strikes you,
27 when panic strikes you like a storm, and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.
28 Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.
29 Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord,
30 would have none of my counsel, and despised all my reproof,
31 therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way and be sated with their own devices.
32 For waywardness kills the simple, and the complacency of fools destroys them;
33 but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.”

New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE)

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A Words Look: Gun by Uncle Tupelo

Although picking a favorite song by Uncle Tupelo is like picking one of your own children over the others, I have to say Gun, from the 1991 album, Still Feel Gone, sits slightly higher than the rest of their fantastic musical library. This song just rocks it. And that “Crawling back to you…” verse just rips a hole in your soul. Plus, it was written as a collaboration between the original members and perhaps a sign of the more harmonious days of the band.

250px-Uncle_Tupelo

I was sad and a little pissed off when Uncle Tupelo called it quits after their masterpiece 1993 album, Anodyne. Then you understand when you listen to Anodyne and hear the tension between Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar. You see the split in the songwriting and the sound of the songs. That tension was probably what made Anodyne so special. Almost beyond the realm of belief, Anodyne was recorded in two weeks and each song only took one take. Jay Farrar’s title song is beautiful and sad and haunting. I still listen to Anodyne from start to finish at least once a month. It is that good.

Out of the Uncle Tupelo ashes came two great bands as Farrar went his way with Son Volt and Tweedy started Wilco. Both debut albums, Trace and A.M., are fantastic records and Wilco continues to be one of my favorite bands. Jay Farrar’s song, Sultana, was the first I’d heard of the Civil War-era steamboat disaster and the song inspired me to find out more about the event, which led me to write my middle-grade historical fiction, Sultana Sinking.

Gun

Falling out the window
Tripping on a wrinkle in the rug
Falling out of love, dear
It hurt much worse when you gave up

Just don’t tell me which way I oughta run
Or what good I could do anyone
‘Cause my heart, it was a gun
But it’s unloaded now so don’t bother

Climbing up the ladder
Breaking my shin on the very first rung
Waking up the neighbors
It’s all right, they understand they’re just as dumb

And they don’t tell me which way I oughta run
Or what good I could do anyone
‘Cause my heart, it was a gun
But it’s unloaded now, so don’t bother me now, don’t bother

Crawling back to you now
I sold my guitar to the girl next door
She asked me if I knew how
I told her “I don’t think so anymore”

Don’t tell me which way I oughta run
What good could I do anyone
‘Cause my heart, it was a gun
But it’s unloaded now so don’t bother

Songwriters
JEFF TWEEDY, JAY FARRAR, MICHAEL HEIDORN
Published by
Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC