Sunday Morning For the Kids #AWarmFriendship #TempleGrandin

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Good Morning! Each Sunday Morning, okay some Sunday mornings, I like to share with you some wonderful kids’ books that I’ve read the previous weeks. These are books that meet my very high standards. Naaahh, I like books with pretty pictures, that teach a lesson or don’t put me to sleep. I share them with a kid or two and if they agree then I share them with you. I don’t get overly picky because kids aren’t – or shouldn’t be – overly picky about what makes them happy.

A WARM FRIENDSHIP – by EllenDeLange, Illustrations by Jacqueline Molnar

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The creatures in the forest have made a friend with Mr. Snowman but he is very cold and shivering. They decide to bring him scarves to keep him warm but, of course, soon he is too warm and begins to melt. The animals are so sad that that they have lost their friend but they are reminded that they always will have the joy and memory of their friend with them forever.

This is a very short story, brilliantly illustrated and beautifully written about friendship, caring, empathy and, ultimately, loss. These are emotions that young children often struggle with understanding and to see it illustrated in this book so basically is just wonderful. I shared it with two children who were 5 years old and it was perfect for them. They easily grasped the concept of losing a loved one but holding on the joy you are left with. I think this book is perfect for a family bookshelf.

TEMPLE GRANDIN by Rachel Castro

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This is part of a new series of STEM Superstars. Hopefully you are aware that the STEM program is one that is in the US public schools to encourage Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics. The fact that they began the series with one of the greatest human minds in recent history is amazing – Temple Grandin. You see, Grandin is profoundly autistic. Her mother never gave up hope that her child could learn, was brilliant and would be able to contribute to society and, wow, was she ever correct! Temple Grandin revolutionized the way in which modern agriculture operated. She now is a THE leading spokesperson on Autism, teaching children with Autism, and an expert on all that we now refer to as “the spectrum.” As a mother of an adult son who is on the spectrum who is a leading performer with Cirque du Soleil, Temple Grandin is my hero!

Yes, as critics have pointed out, there are other books that offer more information about Temple Grandin, including her own. This book is for younger students, most likely Middle School students, who are interested in the STEM program. Hopefully it will interest students who are on the spectrum themselves and GIRLS who will be interested in the STEM program. Sadly my town’s STEM program is all male – not what it was meant to be.

If you have a younger, middle school aged child or are the parent of a child who has been diagnosed on the spectrum, I highly recommend this book. If you are a teacher in these fields or a homeschool teacher, please get this STEM series in the hands of your students.

 

My Favorite Books of this Decade…

I’ve loved reading all of the blogs that have listed the “best books of the decade.” Everyone is so different and unique and the included books say as much about the person as they do about the decade of reading and publishing. I’ve decided to go with my favorites that were actually published from 2010 to the present. I also debated the number I would include finally ended up at plus/minus THIRTY. Choosing a favorite book is much like choosing a favorite child, it cannot be done. These, from various genres, resonated with me for one reason or another. I’ve included links to Amazon for each if you’d like to read one or two of them. Also, because there are so many, I’m dividing them up into two posts. LOL. My attention span is small this time of year and I assume that’s the same for most of you as well.

2010-2019 Favorite Published Works:

1. Little Darlings by Melanie Golding. This was a somewhat controversial book with many readers either loving or hating it. I, however, cannot stop thinking about this little bit of horror. A tale of a woman who truly believes her newborn has been taken and switched with another baby, a changeling. She has proof but it all can be explained away with logical reasoning – or can it. When she ultimately tries to drown “the changeling,” she is institutionalized. It’s a profound story either full of horror and paranormal activity OR one of the best books I’ve read about postnatal depression.

2. Night Film by Marisha Pessel. Wow! Before Night Film I read very light reading such as women’s lit, mild crime-fi like Kathy Reichs. This book was my first foray into the darkness, the noir that lies in the world of fiction. After this there was no turning back. I was a noir reader forever.

3. The Good Detective  by John McMahon (see my review HERE)

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The Good Detective was a book I expected to NOT like. Instead, it has become the high bar against which all other Crime-Fi books that I read are judged. An extremely flawed detective, a great sidekick who is a strong woman of color, exposing the horrors of the southern US and crimes based on true stories. Put all of those together in an amazingly well written thriller and you have a winner.

4. The Fourth Monkey by J D Barker  – I was going to include a link to my review and realized it was published before I had my blog. Geesh, time really does pass quickly. To say that I loved The Fourth Monkey is a huge understatement. I told everyone I know about this book, bought it for friends and family and still think about it all of the time. Yes, there was a lot of gruesome material. No, I didn’t care for the sequels nearly as much as this one but this one was at the top of its game and one of the very best pieces of crime fiction I’ve ever read.

5. I read a lot more historical fiction over the past years, more than I have since my university days in fact. There are some terrific books in this genre and the authors go above and beyond when it comes to research, research and more research. I tend to fact check a lot of books as I read and I’m always stunned by how much I learn from historical fiction. To that end, I have a few favorites from this decade beginning with House of Gold by Natasha Solomons (MY REVIEW) This is a sweeping saga that follows the story an Austrian heiress leading up to and during WWII. She is an Austrian who marries an Englishman and ultimately has to choose between her new family and her old. Generally I don’t read books set during WWII because they are very one sided. History is told from the winner’s perspective but House of Gold includes minor story lines from all of the Gold family which is scattered throughout the various countries involved in the war from England to Germany to Austria and across Europe. Most importantly, not since books about the Vietnam War have I read such realistic, horrific descriptions of the war itself. There were places where brother literally was fighting against brother to the death. This is a book that I will not forget for a long time, if ever.

6. Sold on a Monday by Kristina McMorris. Oh My. This was one highly emotional read based on a photograph that the author discovered of children with a “for sale” on them. You know already that it’s going to be heart-wrenching. Set in the Great Depression, a reporter/photographer snaps a photo of these children and then sets out to find out who they were and what led to the circumstances of their being sold. I read the author’s notes on the selling of children and then did my own background research and was so dismayed to discover that this was not a unique occurrence. Single women, particularly, who could not afford to take care of their children often sold them to families who wanted work hands. These were kids, not teens or young adults, but kids. It’s a horrible time in our history and a story that I encourage you all to read so that, perhaps, we can learn from our past sins.

7. Coptown by Karin Slaughter, a stand alone historical fiction novel. Karin Slaughter is one of “must read” authors. I love both of the series that she wrote and is writing but, a huge but, of everything she has written Coptown is the book that has stayed with me, made me really think about our racial divide, especially in the south and, most importantly, how far women’s rights have come just since the 70s. Although I came of age in the 70s, it never occurred to me the rights that I take for granted like having a checking account in my own name. This book, while fiction, is one of the best portrayals of women, especially women of color, in an era that seems like it was only yesterday. In reviews I often write the sentence, “yeah, but have you read Coptown….” because it was one of those books that set the standard for historical fiction.

8. Fast Falls the Night by Julia Keller – This is the book I talk about the most to anyone who will listen. While I adore Julia Keller and her characters, part of the reason that I feel like they are “family,” is because of this book. Set in a period of 24 hours – exactly – this is the story of a struggling town in West Virginia that broke the record for most the overdose deaths of the opioid crisis we are facing today. Based on true facts, in this story we watched as characters we have come to know either die or watch their loved ones die in a harsh, realistic look at just how pervasive this epidemic truly is in the US. Doctors, politicians, addicts, politicians, church family, ALL are affected. We often live in a sheltered world assuming that this epidemic does not affect us. Fast Falls the Night changes this town forever and we get a glimpse of how it would affect each and everyone of us should it happen in our own towns – if it hasn’t already happened in yours.

9/10. Because I’m a historian, I like to read the occasional historical biography. Over this decade there two that really stood out for me: Hoover and Grant. Grant by Ron Chernow was an eye-opening read about one of the most misunderstood and chronically lied about men in US History. Cast as a loser, a drunk, a bad general, this biography sets the story straight. The research is impeccable and tells the story of a recovered alcoholic, a devout man who hated war, hated fighting and yet, along with Gen. Sherman, conducted a military campaign that is still taught at West Point. Generals world wide have come to the US to study the genius of these two men. The civil war is over and it’s time to recognize the brilliance of the men who bravely fought to keep the US Union together as one.

Likewise, Hoover has been blamed for “the Great Depression,” as if one man could be responsible for worldwide famine, poverty and circumstances beyond anyone’s control. The entire world was in a depression, one NOT caused by Herbert Hoover. More importantly, the work Hoover did after the war is phenomenal. The airlifts from Poland where the survivors literally were starving in the streets are a result of Herbert Hoover’s work. He was an amazing man who should be admired and not vilified. Herbert Hoover by Glen Jeansonne a must-read for anyone who enjoys American history.

In the FANTASY category, or perhaps they are more paranormal and magical realism, I honestly never know. For me, fiction is just fiction.

11. Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman – okay, seriously, I loved this book from start to finish but it really didn’t occur to me until nearly the end that this was fantasy and not reality. I think that should tell you something about me and my love of the fictional world. This is a beautiful book, a fairy tale of sorts, about survival, the magic all around us and of believing in the impossible. It is, by far, my favorite book by Gaiman

12. Where the Forest Meets the Sky by Glendy Vanderlah – This is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The story of a child who wanders into the lives of two people who need this child the most. They are broken, faced with debilitating illnesses and this child, who claims to be from another planet, brings these adults back to life, figuratively, as they care for him and try to unravel the child’s story. A stunningly written book that I’m so glad found its way into my world.

13.The Cottingley Secret by Hazel Gaynor – simply put, it is based on a true story, one that will have you believing in fairies by the end of the book. If you haven’t read The Cottingly Secret, which is part paranormal, part historical fiction, then I truly encourage you to do so. The magic is real. 51wvP7ALclL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Thirteen is my lucky number so I will stop here for this post. Stay tuned for PART 2 tomorrow…. In the meantime, tell me which ones you’ve read. Were any of these on your favorites list for the decade? What was your favorite book this decade OR this year? Can you name just one?

 

 

Permanent Record by Edward Snowden

Like many others I had read Glenn Greenwald’s articles regarding Edward Snowden, the CIA analyst and whistle-blower. I did my own research regarding the plight of whistle blowers in the US and the content that Snowden allegedly released. To say that I was thrilled to read Permanent Record by Snowden is an understatement. His story in his own words. It was everything I anticipated. Snowden is brilliant and his book is brilliantly written.Edward_Snowden_-_Permanent_Record_(cover)

The fact is there are those who are going to love or hate this book without ever cracking the cover. That’s fine, except theirs isn’t a review of the book. The book is well written and very necessary especially given that, bowing to political pressure, Greenwald and the Intercept have deleted the Snowden events and articles from their archives in a very Orwellian manner no less. When we cannot count on news sources to keep important records in their files then we have lost any hope of a free and open press or democratic government. So, this book has been read, reviewed and it will stay on my shelf along with other “deleted” texts and permanent records that our government and our press have chosen to erase from our history!

The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America #MattKracht

It’s SPRING and if you live above the equator that means that the weather should be getting warmer and the dumb birds are hopping around and making their usual incessant noise and pooping on your cars and waking you at ungodly hours. I say “should’ because it is supposed to snow across most of North America this week and dumb because, hello? Who wakes up before the sun rises on purpose!?! 🙂  Yes, I love birds. I adore them. I feed them and attract them and I really do have a backyard wildlife habitat. Like the book, The Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America, I’m just being cheeky.

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Matt Kracht has written a very funny, tongue in cheek guide to some of the most common birds found in North America. He has humorously renamed them so that we might easily remember them. For example, there is the White Breasted Butt Nugget, the Western Meadow Jerk or, simply, the damn crows. He tends to feel about crows the same way I do. The entire page is filled with Caw, Caw, Caw, Caw, Caw….. Yes, that really is all that you need to know about the damn crow, isn’t it?

iu0UIMXQJMKracht also accompanies each delightful paragraph of information with his own personal illustrations. Okay, some are better than others depending on how well he likes the bird. I won’t even show you the illustration of the crow which resembles something a two year old with a black marker might draw in a fit of rage. Again, very aptly done when considering the caw-caw-caw of the crow. Most, however, are beautifully rendered as you can see below:
black capped prickadeeDespite the irreverence, the information throughout the book, the details, the drawings – with a few noted exceptions – the maps, and the highlights are very informative. If I were teaching children about birds…. okay, well, there is some mild cursing but aside from that, I can assure you that kids definitely would remember these birds better than they would a regular field guide. Absolutely! I know that I will! It also makes for a terrific coffee table book and conversation piece. Guests have adored it! I adore it! I haven’t laughed this hard or this much in a very long time!!

Thank you to #netgalley, #ChronicleBooks and @MattKracht for my copy of #TheFieldGuidetoDumbBirdsofNorthAmerica and to Christopher @Plucked From the Stacks for recommending this book to his readers. Also, if you’ve never seen The Big Year  starring Jack Black and Steve Martin, also about birding, I highly recommend it. It is one hilarious movie!

Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary- Banned Book Week

It’s banned book week – a week in the US where we celebrate the beauty and truth in the books that others found controversial. There are few American authors, in recent years, who has been questioned and banned more often in our schools than Howard Zinn.

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Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary is a compilation of entries from Zinn’s journal  that he wrote while he was teaching at Spelman College in Georgia during the winter/spring of 1963-64. This is, of course, during the rising strength of the Civil Rights Movement with Georgia being at the hub of the student activism. Being an activist himself, his years at the college allowed him a closeness to the student activists across Georgia and, ultimately, the south. While Zinn wrote about his time at Spelman in a previous publication, it was only after his death when his papers were opened and released that his journal was discovered. Through his writings, one can see how Zinn was instrumental in bringing about legal social change that he had hoped would lead to a different mindset regarding racial interaction and racism as a whole.

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In truth, Howard Zinn is one of my favorite authors. There are few of his works that I haven’t read. His book, A People’s History of US, was and still is a mainstay in our home and was used to teach US history in our homeschool. It is often banned in schools when parents discover that it is a truthful account of this nation’s very sordid history rather than simply perpetuating the  myths with which Americans have been indoctrinated by the white elite. His writings always are an unvarnished, well documented commentary on our nation and its people and this diary certainly is no different. It is a tough, truthful look at the deep south and the struggle for African Americans to gain the freedoms that all Americans should enjoy without question. It is a personal account of the protests, marches and sit-ins that were occurring during this time. Having lived through this period and later as a protestor who has campaigned for equal rights for all, it was especially interesting to see our experiences retold. However, the message throughout his book is this: the struggle has not ended, racism in America still is rampant and, sadly, it is growing in fervor once again.

If there is one point that I want to convey in this review it is this: this is not your average non-fiction book, none of Zinn’s books are that. They are written with the average person in mind, they are readable and always they are eye opening and enlightening.

I highly encourage you to read Howard Zinn’s Southern Diary and afterward to pick up a copy of A People’s History of the US. I guarantee you that you will be shocked and will understand why educators are fighting to have it taught in their schools and, conversely, whey the anti-intellectuals do not want it there at all. It is a great read for Banned Book Week 2018.

Huge appreciation to the University of Georgia Press, #RobertCohen and #Edelweiss for my review copy of this amazing book!

The Assassination of Robert F Kennedy: Crime, Conspiracy and Cover-Up by Tim Tate and Brad Johnson

In 1968, Robert F Kennedy was elected as the Democratic party’s presidential candidate. Immediately afterward, he was shot and killed in the kitchen of the California hotel in which he was staying. Sirhan Sirhan, a Syrian, was arrested and convicted – but the story doesn’t end there. 

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Tim Tate, an investigative journalist and documentarian, along with Brad Johnson, an award winning writer and producer, could not accept the government’s account of the events of that fateful day, a day which transformed the very fabric of our nation.

1968 was a volatile time in American history: civil rights marches, feminist marches, the murder of Martin Luther King; the nation was being torn apart at the seams. The calm in this storm, often, was Robert Kennedy – Bobby – the younger brother to JFK, former Attorney General and darling of the Democratic Party. His murder and the subsequent government inquiries shocked the American people to their core. Sirhan Sirhan, a Syrian nationalist, immediately was taken into custody, charged and convicted of the crime. He has not, however, waivered through the years regarding his innocence.

Before this book was written, RFK, Jr, Bobby’s son, met with Sirhan Sirhan – alone – for hours, just the two of them talking.  Attorney RFK, Jr. asked pertinent questions as any attorney would do. RFK, Jr. came away convinced, without doubt, that Sirhan Sirhan did not fire the fatal shot into his father’s head. He is asking for a re-opening of the case.

As an historian and an admirer of the Kennedy family, I have read extensively about the family, each son, a few of the daughters and both assassinations – RFK and JFK. I know that while John was the flashier of the two brothers, Bobby was the reasonable, thoughtful, quiet one. I also have read Bobby’s journals during a mid-east visit that he and John took before JFK was elected. While JFK was “squishy” on mid-east matters, particularly on the Israel-Palestine issue, Bobby was steadfast in his support of Palestinian and Muslim rights. He wrote extensively regarding his doubts and questions pertaining to Israel’s policies against Palestine and Syria – and no, the Syrian problem is not a new thing, but rather was exacerbated during this time. Bobby supported Syria and the people there. Which begs the question, why would a Syrian kill the only presidential candidate who publicly supported their cause?

Aside from the political fall out that such an act would cause, the forensic evidence never has matched Sirhan Sirhan. In all of the photographs taken, Sirhan is standing in front of RFK when the shot was fired. This is well documented. Yet the bullet fired was to the back of Kennedy’s head. This alone should have raised doubts into the government inquiry, and for many it did. However, no amount of questioning would alter the government’s findings: Lone shooter, Sirhan Sirhan.

Tate and Johnson have conducted extensive research into all of the areas of this assassination and they have presented a well laid out, thoughtful review of the murder, arrest and subsequent inquiry. They concluded, as did RFK, Jr., that Sirhan Sirhan might have been complicit in the murder, but he was not the actual murderer. This does, of course, imply a conspiracy. While I don’t actually believe in conspiracies, as such, I do believe in government machinations and cover-ups. The US has thousands of government cover-ups on record now that once were considered “conspiracies” to the lay American. When governments lie in order to create war against innocent people, an inquiry into the death of a “bothersome” political candidate isn’t far-fetched at all. Remember, too, who ultimately went on to win that election and ask yourself, in retrospect, if he was a trustworthy man. Hardly.

In an interview with The Washington Post, as well as many other venues since, Robert Kennedy, Jr. has pointedly stated that Sirhan did not kill his father, that there had to been another gunman in the room and that a new investigation must be opened. I cannot think of a greater endorsement for this cause than his statement.

I already have admitted to being a Kennedy fanatic and, most likely, would have read this book regardless. It is, however, an excellent book, thoroughly researched and expertly written. The writing is so engrossing that I could not put it down until I turned the very last page – and then I went online to read more! It covers not only the assassination, but the tumultuous times surrounding it. It has been fifty years since this tragedy and it is past time that, as Americans, we address this issue.

I never have been more grateful to receive a book to review than I was this one! My appreciation to @TimTate and @BradJohnson, not only for the book but for their time spent on its research. Thank you, also, to Thistle Publishing Co. and #Netgalley for this opportunity.

 

To End a Presidency: The Power of Impeachment

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Like a true political junkie, I devoured Laurence Tribe’s books when I was at University. God Save This Honorable Court still is one of my favorite go-to books when I am castigating the current Supreme Court. Tribe’s knowledge on the US Constitution is without rival and it is exactly for that reason that I wanted to read this book. No one knows more than Tribe about the US Constitution, the role of the Supremes and the constitutionality of our government.

From the beginning of To End A Presidency, Tribe sets out his agenda: not to convince you of the need for impeachment or to dissuade you from desiring one, but rather to inform you of the constitutionality of an impeachment against the current office holder, the history of past impeachments and why they seldom, ever, are successful.

For those Americans who are calling for impeachment, and I definitely fall into this group, this is very good resource. Tribe explains exactly what would happen, how the framers of the Constitution knew this would happen and made a guideline for it and also cautions on the timing – it is a long arduous process.

The most chilling aspect of the book is the chapter on consequences. Not since the mid-1800s, prior to the US Civil War, has America been so sharply divided. Even then, the sheer hate for our fellow Americans was not as pronounced as it is now, nor was it daily exacerbated by the media. Should there be an impeachment of a president about whom the nation feels so strongly, there will be upheaval. Tribe cautions that, unlike in the past, this is a decision that should not be made lightly nor should Americans think that their troubles will be over once the current president is impeached. Given the current heightened emotional state of Americans, there will be riots and, quite possibly, another civil war/revolution. That is not to say that impeachment should not happen. America currently is nose-diving, hurling itself, toward Fascism and the loss of our Democratic-Republic form of government. Tribe earnestly suggests that Americans take long hard look at both sides: Fascism vs Revolution/War within our own borders. As for me, I know which side I’m on. Fascism is not an option – it never has been. It never will be – no matter what the cost.

Tribe is an excellent writer who does so in much the same way that he lectures. He is easy to understand and very engaging. I highly encourage ALL Americans to read To End a Presidency, be informed, know and understand what is at stake and, above all, to stop sticking your head in the sand, refusing to see what is happening in this country – on both sides.