Glitter (v.) to add sparkle, excitement, and vitality to that which is dull and unimaginative

Jot (v.) to quickly pen a line before the thought flits away, perhaps never to be recaptured


Sacredness in North Dakota

On June 26, my family had the opportunity to salvage windows from a rural North Dakota church that had been closed for awhile and was going to be torn down on the 27th.  While it seemed like we were defiling the church (my husband is a pastor after all), I placed the act into a new category.  The same windows that we were pulling down had seen some very special and private memories: weddings, baptisms, funerals, first communions, times of happiness, times of solace, and times of great grief.  We were allowing these windows to see many more years of memories....  At the same time, I was reminded of a wonderful book by a North Dakota author, Kathleen Norris.  She's sometimes referred to as a "prophetess of the Plains,"  and her book Dakota: A Spiritual Geography* reverently speaks to the spirit of the plains and its people.  Give it a read.

~In memory of Hofva Lutheran Church, 1888-2013

*Norris, Kathleen.  (2001).  Dakota: A Spiritual Geography.  New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin.  


Zoo Sanctuary

I just finished an enlightening book by Diane Ackerman, The Zookeeper's Wife. It shouldn't be a surprise that it covers WWII and the treatment of Polish Jews. What I found most striking was the author's obvious scholarly devotion to background research - - I sat in awe and a bit of jealousy at her ability to read primary sources, to interview actual survivors, and to visit the true settings. Ackerman paints portraits no only of private lives, but she portrays the very sensory experiences of the natural landscape and the animal life in the zoo. I felt like I walked away from this book with an almost summer school crash course knowledge of biology and zoology. Yes, it is that amazing! Of course, I also found myself deep in thought or experiencing harsh emotions as she describes the psychology and brutal actions of people in a wartorn country. This is most certainly a book that begs to be reread with an archaeological precision - - such a wealth of knowledge certainly was bypassed. Just a side note: it really doesn't belong in the world of fiction as its historical realism creates an eerie nonfictitious experience.  I now need to read The Life of Pi.

*  Ackerman, D.  (2008).  The Zookeeper's Wife.  New York, NY: W.W. & Company.

Khaled Hosseini ~ The Kite Runner

I know I've been teaching a spectacular book when... juniors are texting each other about the chapter's outcome: "Can you believe...?!"; they refuse a free reading day because "we have to talk about what happened!"; or in the same breath they say, "Make it a quick discussion...we need to know what happens next!"

* Hosseini, K.  (2003).  The Kite Runner.  New York: Riverhead Books.

Summer Dilemmas

Summer dilemmas (already!)  So not including two summer graduate classes, whatever shall I do for the summer? Read, of course! I have been keeping track of books I'd like to try and that have received positive reviews. Last week I went to Barnes and Noble's website and found all but one of my books at used (but new books) prices. Not too bad - - seven books for around $30! Now I just hope they're as good as all the reviews...I guess I'm a sucker since I also liked the book covers and took that as a good omen for the inside content...Yeah, I know: Never judge a book by its cover. What can I say?  That's how I have been choosing books since I was a little girl wandering up and down the old, musty aisles of our community's library. Since I was an avid reader and would check out 10-12 books at least once a week, I had read most of the books. The new additions would have shiny covers and that's how I found them amongst the older ones!
Anyhow, since money is usually tight over the summer (on a teacher's salary), I'll have to resort to the public library at some point...probably around the second week of July! Maybe the thrift store will have good ones, too? It's times like this that I really wish for a big city library (or libraries!) or at least my dream job: working at a Barnes and Noble bookstore where I would have free coffee and advanced copies of any or all books!

Whirlwinds & World War II

Any type of literature about World War II, especially that dealing with the Holocaust, has always captured my fascination. I feel some sort of bonding with the entire time period, although I certainly am not of an age to have been even a twinkle in someone's eye then. Maybe it's an emotional bonding or some form of humanitarian link? I often feel guilty that I was not there to experience any of it, and yet what would that prove? Anyhow...this is just something that I grapple with and something that tears at my heart. So what do I do??? I gravitate towards more books of this time period!

Hence, I simply must recommend the film American Pasttime , which is a 2007 release about Japanese internment camps and the love of baseball. Wow! Dignity captures this film. I won't say any more about the film...just watch it! Ironically, right after I rented this from Netflix, I was rambling through Barnes and Noble and my eyes lit on a paperback titled Tallgrass by Sandra Dallas. It's a phenomenal book about a small American town, which "hosts" a Japanese internment camp. The main character or "heroine" is a young girl named Rennie Stroud. Throughout the entire book, I kept having to remind myself of what book I was reading: Rennie distictly reminds me of Scout in Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, and Rennie's father even resonates of Atticus with his widsom and life lessons. It would be interesting to see if author Sandra Dallas holds an affinity for Harper Lee or if this is just my uncanny observation. At any rate, this historical piece of fiction (and it has a murder mystery, too!) is well worth a late night reading session.

Dallas, S.  (2008).  Tallgrass.  New York: St. Martin's Press.
Lee, H.  (2010).  To Kill a Mockingbird.  (50th ed.).  New York, NY: Harper Collins.
Nakano, D. (Director), & Gorai, T. (Producer).  (2007).  American Pasttime (DVD).  United States:
Rosy Bushes Productions.

Dante's Inferno meets the DaVinci Code

A colleague recommended a book, which he promptly brought in to me on the last day of school. His cautionary words were that the first few pages are trying, but to keep plodding through and the work would be worth the effort. Alas, I didn't have time then to read it, but once I sat down, it was a keeper. As for the "trying first few pages," they didn't exist. I loved each and every word in Mark Mills' The Savage Garden. There is romance, sizzling unchaste scenes, mystery, travel, murder, literary revelations, and so much more! I found myself wondering "where, oh where?" is my copy of Dante's Inferno...I have not read it in over ten years and the details have deteriorated since graduate school. Fortunately, author Mark Mills patiently unwinds the threads of each clue and I was not forced to sift through boxes upon boxes of books in my garage. Mills' book is set in Tuscany and is similar to a DaVinci Code in the ways that iconography holds deeper meaning than first assumed. This is definitely a summer read, or actually, it's an all-season read. Just don't start it if you don't have the time to sit and finish! Yes, it's that intense!  And even better, Dan Brown has just published his new book about Dante's Inferno.  

Aligheiri, Dante.  (n.d.).  Inferno.  
Brown, D.  (2003).  The DaVinci Code.  New York, NY:  Doubleday.
Mills, M.  (2008).  The Savage Garden.  New York, NY: Penguin Books.

To Err with Eragon

Give me historical fiction and I will consume it, every last morsel of it! Give me fantasy...well, then like a young child, I will push it around on my plate and then probably hide it under the napkin. Yeah, if it's not Harry Potter then I really don't give fantasy much of a try. But I've heard that mature people try new since many of my students absolutely rave about Eragon, I figured it was time to see what was so "woo hoo" about this dragon. Well, "my bad" because I thought Eragon was the name of the dragon on the cover. No. Her name is Saphira, and I'm in love with her! Eragon really shouldn't be in the youth section of bookstores because it can entrance any reader...even me.

I can usually read through a 300-page book in a day, but Eragon was a slowly savored book and it consumed about three days and some very late nights. 

Paolini, C.  (2002).  Eragon.  New York, NY:  Alfred Knofp.

Picture the accent....

Again, I am in love with the countryside, foreign accents, and somehow or other, I've stumbled onto another WWII book. Peter Ho Davies graced my reading with his novel The Welsh Girl. In this historical fiction, young Esther faces the turbulence of war, love, and morals. Her life faces upheavals due to rationing of food, the loss of a mother, the need to be loved by a soldier, the various unfortunate outcomes of relationships with nationals, and her own personal convictions. For example, does love question if a man is Welsh, English, or German? And what if he's Jewish? What if anyone is Welsh, English, German, or Jewish?  Do these labels make one any less human?

Yes, this novel took a bit longer to read and was not quite as intense as some others, but I would recommend it and I would reread it. (That says a lot - - I'm not a "re-reader"). If nothing else, I wish I could run through the hills of Wales, smell the salty ocean, and hear the bleating of newborn lambs...

*Davies, P.  (2008).  The Welsh Girl.  New York, NY:  Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Sarah's Keys

I stumbled upon Sarah's Keys by Tatiana de Rosnay, and I must now add another book to my Holocaust readings. This profoundly moving story has two main characters, one a young Jewish girl living in Paris during World War II, and the other a beautiful French American whose family has unexplained connections to the past. Heartache wells up as our young character is forced to leave her home, and in so doing, leaves a piece of her heart - - something that will haunt her until she dies. The two women's stories are interwoven as Rosnay weaves the past with the present, although the two stories are never far apart. The tragedy is set against a little known round up of French Jews by French police - - the Vel'd'Hiv'. Beautifully told...

*De Rosnay, T.  (2007).  Sarah's Key.  New York, NY: St. Martin's Griffin.