Wednesday, September 29, 2010

66. No Talking - Andrew Clements

Audio read by Keith Nobbs
Recorded Books, 2007
3 unabridged cds
3 hrs.
160 pages
Rating: 4

This ended up being a delightful story. As I first listened, I didn’t think I’d proceed, but it kept getting more and more interesting. Great premise – that an extremely talkative group of fifth graders would challenge each other (boys vs. girls) to not talk for 48 hours. They were smart enough to realize that it wouldn’t be able to work unless they could speak, in some way, to their parents and teachers, so they added a caveat – you could respond to someone as long as you used three words or less. Thank you Mahatma Ghandi (and thank you to the teacher who had these fifth graders present an oral report on India).

This experimental challenge changed the kids and even some of the teachers. Clements shows some of the kids’ thought processes, especially the two protagonists, both clever kids but real loudmouths, Dave Packer and Lynsey Burgess. Interesting concept. Cleverly put together. I’ve started reading it to my particularly talkative fourth grade. Yup, they’re extreme yackahoolas. Real loudmouths. They think out loud, they blurt out without raising their hands, they hoot, they holler, they sing, thye dance! ! ! Well, at least they’re happy…….

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Jackson and Bud's Bumpy Ride - Elizabeth Koehler-Pentacoff

America's First Cross-Country Automobile Trip
Illustrated by Wes Hargis
Millbrook Press, 2009
32 pages
Rating: 3.5
Endpapers: Map of their journey across the US
2011 Grand Canyon Reader Award Nominee

Read at the Copper Queen Library, Bisbee, AZ on 9-25-10
The Afterword gives photos, dates, and interesting related information.

May 19, 1903 - a $50 bet that no one could ride a "horseless buggy" across the U. S. Horatio Jackson, visiting San Francisco from his native Vermont, takes it on!

No maps, poor all-dirt roads that were not used to cars, tires that look like bicycle tires needing quite a bit of repair, and a vehicle that appears to have no roof, all thwart them. But Horatio Jackson and Bud, the bulldog he acquires on the way, make it.

The story is told in diary form with very brief entries. The illustrations tell more of the story than the words. Fun!

Lawn to Lawn - Dan Yaccarino

Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
32 pgs.
Rating: 2 (The endpapers might make the rating higher - I see LOTS of stories here...)
Endpapers: Boxes with different "ornaments" - decorated mailboxes to totems, whirligigs to weather vanes...

I felt this story had a very clever edge to it but just didn't follow through. There were some cute, funny parts, but all-in-all it was disappointing.

When Pearl's family moves away, they leave their lawn ornaments - a jocky, a pink flamingo, a gnome, and a deer - behind. Knowing they will end up in a trash truck if they don't try to find Pearl, they set out on an arduous journer to find her.

The illustrations remind me of many of the Golden Book illustrations I loved as a kid - simple, colorful, very two-dimensional.

Benno and the Night of Broken Glass - Meg Wiviott

Illustrated by Josee Bisaillon
Kar-Ben Publishers, 2010
"ages 7-11"
32 pages
Rating: 5
Endpapers: The legs and feet of people pre-11/10/38 and post-11/10/38

Told from the point-of-view of a neighborhood cat in 1938 Berlin, we learn of life in a small, friendly neighborhood before and after Kristallnacht (the Night of Broken Glass) which most consider the beginning of the Holocaust in November of 1938. It's a particularly powerful story. Although it's hard to say at what age the concept of the Holocaust should be discussed, this would be an excellent book with which to begin, I think.

The illustrations seem to be a combination of cut paper, stenciled painting, line drawing, and coloring. Pages are covered from edge-to-edge and get darker as the story progresses.

The 2-page Afterword and 2-page Bibliography are just right for my 4th graders, and include a couple of actual photos.

Super book.

The 3 Little Dassies - Jan Brett

G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2010
32 pages
Rating: 4
Endpapers: woven basketweave with bugs, butterflies, moths...

Yes, it's a cute fractured fairy tale. Instead of three pigs it's three cute creatures native to the Namib Desert in southern Africa. Excellent for comparing and contrasting, retelling. But it's Jan Brett's signature illustrations that really captivate. How does she draw like this?

Incorporating native fabrics, flora, and fauna, one barely needs the words at all. The clever illustrations tell the whole story. make sure to examine them carefully!

65. Yarn Bombing - Mandy Moore & Leanne Prain

The Art of Crochet and Knit Graffiti
Arsenal Pulp Press, Vancouver, 2009
paper, $19.95
(TPPL 746.43 M7851y)
230 pages

I stumbled across this book last Sunday as I wandered through the Valdez/Main Library in downtown Tucson. I don't go there much, you have to park underneath in this huge echoing parking garage. But I do love, on an occasional Sunday, to drive up and down the uncrowded-Sunday-downtown-Tucson streets, not worrying if you make a wrong turn, and watching the oneway signs with a little more ease since it's not as busy as other times.

That being said, this book fit perfectly with my mood. And I've taken all week to read through it and check it out. This is all new to me. And newS to me. I want to see this myself! How could I possible have been missing it? I KNOW I would notice knit or crocheted pieces decorating a lamp pole, or car antenna, or chain-link fence. And sure, I've never been to Sweden (where it appears a lot of this takes place), but I have been all over the U.S., where it looks like it's been happening, too. I think it's time for me to begin a Tucson trend.....

What is yarn bombing? What is crochet and knit graffiti? Just what it sounds like! The easiest way to explain is to quote directly from the book:

On city street corners all over the world, yarn graffiti artists snake their work around telephone poles, wrap it through barbed wire, and flip cozies onto car antennas. Originally started in Houston, Texas by a crew named Knitta Please (a.k.a. Knitta), there is now an international guerrilla knitting movement embraced by artists of all ages and nationalities. Knit and crochet graffiti has been seen in countries from Canada to Chile to China. This book has been written to inspire you to take up the needles (or hooks) and join us in world yarn domination!

Merging the disciplines of installation art, needlework, and street art, yarn bombing takes many forms. It generally involves the act of attaching a handmade item to a street fixture or leaving it in the landscape; however, this varies from artist to artist. Yarn graffiti can be aw complex as a sweater that has been created to cover a statue or as simple as a crocheted rectangle wrapped around a lamp post. Some artists tag items as tiny as door handles, others create works large enough to cover a public monument.

Yarn Bombing blog (written by the authors of this book).
An austratlian fiber artists "bombs" a VW bug!
The Knitted Mile - installed in Dallas, Texas this very weekend, 9/25 & 26, I think....

Saturday, September 25, 2010

64. Ghost Towns - Betsy Thornton

No. 3 in the Chloe Newcomb series/Dudley (Bisbee), Arizona
for: Adults
Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's/Minotaur, 2002
260 pgs.
Rating: 5

I found quite a few places where editing was needed - words were added or out of order. Not off-putting, but surprising....

Chloe is called to deliver the news to his family that local Judge Cal Thomas has been murdered. Found dead in the ghost town of Windy City, near Tombstone, with no clues and no leads, the Judge's dysfunctional family aren't coping well. She discovers clues that perhaps two of her own friends may be involved....her good friend Nate, a local reporter, and her boyfriend Craig, both disappear. She travels all over Cochise County and up to Tucson, to discover clues and follow trails and dead ends. Thornton fleshes out the setting as well as she might a good character. I couldn't put this down. It was a quick read, and I headed off for Bisbee when I finished it, to get a feel for the setting myself. (Tombstone, Windy City (perhaps Gleeson?) Bisbee, St. David, Naco)

There's a sixth, brand new title just I hope to plunge into four and five asap. Great read.

Coronado National Memorial

I spent this year's anniversary exploring in far south eastern Arizona. After spending the morning in Bisbee I traveled west on 92, seemingly inches from Mexico. When the road looped northward toward Sierra Vista, I decided to take the 5 mile ride in to Coronado. I visited there when I first moved to Arizona, in 2003, but it's so down and out-of-the way that I hadn't returned. And this time, after stopping in the visitor's center, I continued on up the winding, well-maintained dirt road to the summit of Montezuma Pass. And I'm so glad I did! It was gorgeous.

Location: South of Sierra Vista, take route 92 for 16 miles. A right-hand turn is marked by a sign - the Visitor's Center is about 5 miles down a lovely road. If you're coming from Bisbee, take 92 west for about 20 miles and the turn will be on the left.

Visitor's Center: You really feel like you're in the middle of nowhere (you are), and there was only one other car there - the Park Ranger's. There are really clean restrooms, a picnic table, and a picnic area across the street (I could hear voices coming through the trees). The center has some paintings as an exhibit and a 9-minute film telling of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado's expedition up from Mexico, through what is now Arizona, and over to Kansas before giving up looking for gold and treasures. A beautiful, large picture window showcases a shaded area where you can sit and watch animals and birds. Very quiet. They need music playing, or some sort of white noise for when the film is over.

Bookstore: Small and intimate, with a few Arizona books, a few that apply to Coronado, hiking sticks, hats, tee shirts. Nothing major or out-of-the-ordinary.

I especially enjoyed: The ride up to the top. I didn't do this the first time I came. It was really beautiful. A little scary in places, because it's only wide enough most of the time for just a little more than one car, and there might be someone coming....around the corner....the other way. There were no railings, so to see you HAD to stop...or risk going over the edge. There were three big white vans and a mess of people at the top....bird watchers? I didn't get to explore up there too much. I was in a solitary mood. I was told there's an accessible hike to even cooler views, with benches along the way as you ascend. Next time.

There's also a cave - unlit, so you need a flashlight, that's a 1.5 mile round-trip hike. Wow. That would be pretty cool, too!

AUTHOR Betsy Thornton

Betsy Thornton writes the Chloe Newcombe series, set in Dudley (Bisbee), Arizona. Chloe is a Victim Advocate, which means that she works for Cochise County to help notify next-of-kin, to be a liaison between crime victims and the courts, to help victims in any way she can. The Cochise County setting (primarily the Bisbee area, with jaunts to Sierra Vista, Tombstone, St. David, and Tucson) is almost like a character in the stories. I love local settings…especially in mysteries….and as soon as I begin one of these I just gobble it up. And it seems that Thornton writes with first-hand knowledge...since the jacket flaps of her books say that she, too, is a Victim Advocate for the Cochise Country Attorney Victim's Witness program.

1. The Cowboy Rides Away (1996)
2. High Lonesome Road (2001)
3. Ghost Towns (2002)
4. Dead for the Winter (2004)
5. A Song for You
6. Dream Queen (just published in August, 2010, a prequel to the first five!)

It also appears that she’s written one stand-alone mystery: A Whole New Life.

She's done some local author signings, but they seem few and far between....once or twice at Clues Unlimited, here in Tucson, once in Scottsdale's Poisoned Pen Bookstore, and a couple at Atalanta, an interesting, incense-filled, used bookstore/art supply store on the main street in Bisbee.

Her website is

Friday, September 24, 2010

Movie - Secret in Their Eyes (El Secreto de Sus Ojos)

Amazing movie-an Argentinian murder mystery
Released in Argentina 8-13-09, in US 4-16-10
Rating: R (2:09)
9-23-10 at Crossroads, by myself
RT: 92 cag:
Director: Juan Jose Campanella
2010 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film

In Spanish with English subtitles

Ricardo Darin plays Benjamin Esposito, a man who works as an investigator for lawyers and judges in Buenes Aires. He has recently retired and is writing a novel about one of his cases, a case that started 25 years before and has never been truly solved. It still iggles at him. Also iggling at him is the love he feels, and has always felt, for his boss, a beautiful woman who is also his friend.

The time period switches from the past, telling its part of the story, and to the present, watching as they put more clues together. The cast is superb. Fantastic. I didn't even realize I was reading their words. (Though I was speaking with the owner of Clues Unlimited the very next day. She can speak Spanish and says that they did not translate much of the foul language that was being used. She says it was outrageous, and sometimes really funny. The translated words worked perfectly for me!)

As more and more is revealed, the story becomes more and more engrossing. What a splendid piece of storytelling! I can understand why it received an academy award. It was brilliant!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

MOVIE - Easy A

Delightful. Fun. Clever Released 9-17-10 PG-13 (1:33) 9-22-10 at El Con (with Marlene & dau. sitting behind me!) RT: 85 cag: 90 Director: Will Gluck Emma Stone, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci, Thomas Haden-Church, Olive Penderghast Sone, who is WONDERFUL in this part) gets the reputation of being hard and fast because of one overheard lie. Before she knows it, she's becomes the easiest girl in school - by reputation only. What happened to her might drive other girls to suicide, but because of her keen sense of humor and her ability to laugh at and with herself, she more than survives. Her parents, played by Clarkson and Tucci, are wonderful, totally unreal, and so much fun to watch. Thomas Haden-Church plays her high school English teacher....and he's great, too. There are so many reference to literature - from the Scarlet Letter to Huck Finn to Judy Blume - and many reasons to laugh and chortle. Set inj Ojai, California (which has a much smaller actual high school), it was filmed there, too. I've driven through there, just outside of Santa Barbara. I could tell. You can't take this movie seriously, it's not meant to be serious. If you do, then you're an old fart (even if you're 12). It's meant to be funny, silly, and give you a chance to roll your eyes a half dozen or so times. It's just plain fun....and quite well done.

63. Where I'd Like to Be - Frances O'Roark Dowell

Audio read by Denise Wilbanks (in a great southern accent)
Listening Library, 2003
4 unabridged cds
4 hrs. 3 min.
240 pages
Rating: 4.5

I listened to this story. At first I was just a tiny bit put off by the very southern accent, but Denise Wilbanks did a superior job. The story is set in rural Tennessee, and that accent really accentuated the setting. (ha - good one, right?)

Maddie lives in the East Tennesse Children's Home. She has been in a number of foster homes since her birth, and she's a great, philosophical kid. Her best friend is a six-year old named Ricky Ray, another great kid who she cares about a lot. Then one day a new girl arrives. Murphy is different, and Maddie is mesmerized by her. Murphy has been places, has seen things, and has magical ideas and dreams.

Throughout her life, Maddie has been creating a "book of houses" and a "book of people." It sounds like they're created from those black-marble-ized journals. She has cut-out pictures of houses and people lovingly glued in. She and Ricky Ray create story after story of happy times in loving homes.

So five good friends decide to create a "house" of their own. With help, they build a fort in the woods that becomes their haven. But naturally, the course of life is not always smooth. Bumps appear. Foster homes, real parents coming out of rehab, possible adoption.....and decisions. Tough decisions for 11 and 12 year olds.

Great story. Almost a five....there are a few places that might have had a bit more detail. I loved it.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Junkyard Wonders - Patricia Polacco

Philomel Books, 2010
48 pages
Rating: 5
Endpapers Aqua-azure

Patricia Polacco does it again - and of all her books - I do love 'em all - this is at the very top of my list. Why? It's about a very special teacher, which I think (as a teacher) is very cool. It's about a group of kids who are who they are -- they've had no choice in the matter. Whether the've got diabetes, tourettes, visual and/or physical handicaps, learning difficulties, they are all put into the same class. And they bond. They shine. They care about each other. And they're smart and special.

On the first day of school, Mrs. Peterson shares with them the following definition of GENIUS:

"Genius is neither learned nor acquired.
It is knowing without experience.
It is risking without fear of failure.
It is perception without touch.
It is understanding without research.
It is certainty without proof.
It is ability without practice.
It is invention without limitations
It is imagination without contstraints.
It is ... extraordinary intelligence!"

This story is about how five kids - our author; Patricia Polacco, Thom, Gibbie, Jody, and Ravanna, prove the genius definition. It applies to all of them.

At the end - as an afterward - PP tells what became of her "tribe."

Simply wonderful storytelling.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Calvin Can't Fly - Jennifer Berns

The Story of a Bookworm Birdie
Illustrated by Keith Bendis
Sterling, 2010
32 pages
ages 4-8
Rating: 4
Endpapers: 12 starlings perched on a wire in the sky with others flopping about-above fields and forest

Calvin, a starling, never learned to fly with his seven siblings and 67,432 cousings because he loved to read. He spent most of his time in the library, devouring book after book after book. So when the summer passed and fall arrived, his family had to tie him up and haul him behind them as they traveled south.

Seeing monstrous black clouds in the distance, Calvin remembers reading about hurricanes. he saves them all! Reading is a darn good thing!

I love the way Keith Bendis drew these whimsical starlings. They're full of personality and expression.

The Odious Ogre - Norton Juster

Illustrated by Jules Feiffer
Michael DiCapua Bks/Scholastic, 2010
32 pages
Rating: 4
for older kids
Endpapers: Easter yellow

Lots and lots.....and lots......of high-level , fancy, wonderful words. There once was a horrendous ogre. "He was, it was widely believed, extraordinarily large, exceedingly ugly, unusually angry, constantly hungry, and absolutely merciless." He terrified one and all - until he met his match in a friendly, happy, positive-thinking young lady.

Talk with kids about the ending: "She also understood that the terrible things that can happen when you come face to face with an Ogre can sometimes happen to the Ogre and not to you."

I'm not usually a Jules Feiffer fan - but these watercolor illustrations, framed with a thicker line of paint, work perfectly.

Ling Cho and His Three Friends - V. J. Pacilio

Illustrated by Scott Cook
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2000
Looks like it's out-of-print
Library: picture book section
32 pages
Rating: 3.5
Endpapers: 4

This is a longish story told in couplets. The couplets are wonderfully rhythmic, use great words (fertile, entrusted, summon, reap, grueling, resolution, poverty, annual, depart, meager, transport, envision, destined, ...) and is full of alliteration. It's a tale of friendship and honesty. The illustrations are great at close examination, but would look blurry and washed out if read aloud and a listener was even a short distance away.

This would make a great reader's theater or choral reading for an older class.

Note: I took it from the library to read because i thought it might apply to my unit on China. And although the illustrations are about Chinese people, it could apply to any group of farmers that celebrate the harvest.

"In the wondrous land of China, many years ago,
There lived a wise and kindly man, a farmer names Ling Cho.
Together with his wife and sons, in fertile fields he'd toil;
Their lives entrusted to the land, true servants of the soil."

Busing Brewster - Richard Michelson

Illustrated by R. G. Roth
Alfred A. Knopf, 2010
24 pgs.
Rating: 5 (Yup, this is a good one)
Endpapers: covered with stick-like figures playing on a school playground (pale, pale sage green)

Set in the 1970's, when schools were segretated and busing students far across town was used to begin to desegrate the schools. Brewster and his slightly-older brother Bryan are not as excited as their mom when they discover that they will be bused to a previously-all-white school, having to get up an hour earlier in the morning to go the distance. And when they get there, they are greeted by protestors, rocks being thrown, and nasty white classmates. Before school even begins on the first day, the brothers are put into detention in the library with "freckle-face", a white kid who'd heckled them and precipitated them getting caught arguing.

Well. By the time they leave the library they've made friends with the librarian (who then initiantes Brewster into the wonderful world of books and reading) and also with Freckle-face. When they leave school, however, a friendly wave goodbye to their new friend is ignored, because he's being picked up by his father, who is saying something derogatory about the desegreation - so young readers can see where the bigotry and hatred are coming from, and how it keeps gathering speed.

Great history lesson for kids - my kids - who, luckily, have no clue about the bigotry and racism so prevalent in the 60s and 70s. I only wish I could say it's gone....but it has to be better than it was. The Author's Note at the end gives additional information on the history and background of the story.

The illustrations are great. It's somewhat difficult to describe them. Cut paper. Sponged stencils. Tiny, tiny repetetive patterns. Pale watercolor-brushed lines. I'm only guessing at all this, but I love the mixed media look. The colors are muted, lots of grays and muddied greens, mustards, clays.

Great book. The more I think about it the more I like it. Storytelling in a positive way. Great protagonist. Kids doing real things, especially at the playground. Super illustrations. Yippee!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Art & Max - David Wiesner

Clarion Book, 2010
40 pages
Rating: 5
Endpapers: Desert sand brown
Setting: the desert, mountains in the background and saguaro here and there....and lotsa lizards.

Art (Arthur, if you please) is an artist, and his friend Max wants to try. Not the best idea....

This begins a series of events that will change them both - physically and artistically! I read it through twice. It's so much fun and so darn clever! Art is an iguana and Max and his cohorts are lizards. I'm not going to say another word. You have to read it and see what's going on for yourself.

The art is -- well -- it's David Weisner. Magical. Special. Talk about giving a lizard personality! The faces alone show enough expresion that barely any words are needed.

OH! When you take the book jacket off you're greeted with quite a surprise - a colorful Jackson Pollock-like spatter/splatter that represents a part of the story. Big smile. Cool book.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Call the Horse Lucky - Juanita Havill

Illustrated by Nancy Lane
The Gryphon Press, 2010
24 pages
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers - Lucky and Flicker trotting in a green field

Lovely, lovely edge-to-edge illustrations, particularly the first one.

Mel and her grandmother, while riding their bikes through the countryside, see a tired, skinny, sick horse. They call the Humane Society and the hrose, Mel has named him Lucky, is taken to a horse rescue ranch. Once Lucky recovers, he's taken to a horse therapy ranch.

The book ends with info on how kids can help abused horses in many different ways - including volunteering at a horse therapy ranch like T.R.O.T. right here in of the kids featured this organization in our school's Passport to Peace a couple of years ago, and T.R.O.T. is mentioned in the book.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beautiful Yetta, the Yiddish Chicken - Daniel Pinkwater

Illustrated by Jill Pinkwater
Feiwel and Friends (McMillan), 2010
32 pages
Rating: 4.5
Endpapers: azure

Mr. Flegelman is taking his organic chickens to the city (which happens to be Brooklyn) to be sold. "The truck pulls up in front of Phil's Poultry World, and with a tear in his eye, Mr. Flegelman begins to unload the crates."

And now, the fun starts. When Mr. F. speaks, his words, "Good-bye, my dear chickens," appears in a talking cloud above his head. Then we see the line written in Hebrew and then the phonetic pronounciations of the Hebrew words. COOL!

Well, Yetta the chicken breaks free and takes off into the streets of Brooklyn. Freedom! Each time she speaks to herself, we can see the translations and pronounciation. Of course the pigeons she meet can only speak English...and they're mean. But when Yetta saves a bright green parrot from a cat, she is adopted by a flock of Brooklyn's wild parrots - and they speak Spanish! So everything they say is translated from Spanish, including the pronounciations!

Happy, happy ending to a very clever story. And there's an explanation of the Hebrew alphabet at the end of the book.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

MOVIE: Winter's Bone

"Bleak"... sad, and depressing....but wonderfully put together.
Released June 11, 2010
R (1:40)
Saturday 9/11/10 at Crossroads, after returning from Chicago
RT: 95 cag: great movie, but sooo bleak...... 86
Director: Debra Granik
Winner of the 2010 Sundance Best Picture Grand Jury Prize

Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree Dolly, the 17 year old daughter of a n'er do well dad and an almost-catatonic mom living in the Ozark mountains of Missouri. When her dad disappears, and then fails to appear at his hearing, the bail bondsman says Ree has a week before her home and land are taken. She is raising her younger sister and brother...and caring for her mother....alone. She cooks the little food she can obtain for them all, makes sure the kids get to school and do their homework (she's unable to go), cares for her mother, splits the wood, and does much of the worrying. Jennifer Lawrence does a SPECTACULAR acting job in this movie.

John Hawkes plays her father's brother, Teardrop. What a magnificent job he does, too.

The setting is dark and bleak, too. It's just about winter. Everything is gray. Houses are falling apart, built in the early part of the century. Garbage, junk, old cars are everywhere. Everything looks grimy and shoddy. There is very little color at all. And Ree must find out what has happened to her father.

She is hampered at every turn by the strick code of silence that have been the "laws" and "rules" of these closely-related people since their beginnings here. Most of her neighbors are relations. They watch out for each other in a very weird way, but violence, meanness, and silence is their way of life.

One scene is of a gathering of a group of friends/family. Some are playing instruments, a woman is singing a ballad. The music is beautfiul, folky. Ree's father, we discover, has played the banjo, and played it quite well, apparently. This way-of-life is so at odds with the way-of-life of which I am accustomed.

Ree does find her father. It's not a happy story. There's a tiny (very tiny) ray of hope at the end, but the story couldn't have ended in a different way.

The book begins well - I read the first pages of it and wished there were more. Great descriptive background, nice writing style.

And the trailer is really good - you can find it here.

Put on Your Travelin' Shoes: CHICAGO

Chicago, Chicago......Sunday through Saturday at the beginning of September. Perfect weather. Sunshine. 70's and low 80's. Greeness and plantings everywhere. Close friends. What more could I ask for?

What were my favorite things?

The architecture. The skyline. The views. The history of the buildings and the city. We took an architecture boat cruise down the Chicago River, which was superlative. We craned our heads looking up. We viewed the city from the Hancock Observatory (somewhere on the 94th (or so) floor. We saw two models of the downtown area - one at the fantastic Museum of Science and Industry and one at the Chicago Architecture Foundation on Madison Avenue.

The art.
I could move into the Chicago Institute of Art. It is immense, it is lovely, it has more art - the kind I personally love - than anywhere I've ever been. Kandinskys and Van Goghs and O'Keeffes and Matisses and Picassos and on and on.
There's also the public art - by famous and not-so-famous artists. We saw refrigerator art and a brand new installation in Pritzker Park, just beside the library, of a 30 foot tall eyeball!

The food.
We only had one meal that wasn't great - but we were compensated by the best table in the house - front corner, with the windows open to the street - with the occupants of Lincoln Park jogging, walking, rushing by after work. We loved Harry Carays (we split a number of different, incredible dishes), the Original Pancake House (thanks, Emily, for suggesting the 49ers Flapjacks) the deep dish pizza at Gino's East, where the tables, booths, walls are all covered with grafitti. We loved the margaritas, beer, and pub fries at Bennigans, which revived our aching legs more than once. We even found the perfect breakfast spot at a nearby Marriott, where I enjoyed one egg (broken and over hard), bacon, toast and home fries for $3.50! We stumbled onto Nookies Too and had a coupon for Bijan's Bistro - we either lucked out all week or there's nothing but great food in Chicago!

The Entertainment
We laughted until we were crying at Second City. We saw "Spoiler Alert: Everybody Dies."
We saw "Billy Elliot, the Musical" at the Oriental Theater Ford Center (we got half price tickets at HotTix at the Water Tower Visitor Center).
We saw the Hubble mjovie at the IMax theater at the Museum of Science and Industry.
NOTE: The city itself would have been enough entertainment!

My five favorite places (in no particular order):
The 9-story Harold Washington Library in downtown. I spent quite awhile riding up and down the escalators, sitting in the 9th floor Winter Garden, and checking out the new books in the 2nd floor children's room. Room? It could have been 20 rooms! And the librarians (and the security guards) were really, really nice.

The observation deck at the John Hancock Observatory. The views of the city and downtown were breathtaking.

The Art Institute of Chicago. Enough said above, I guess. Even the cafe --- we sat (and ate) there twice, outside beside the fountain. I could have sat there with a book and/or journal all day.

The Wendella Boat Cruise down the Chicago River was definitely a fave. When we got off, we walked through and around the Wrigley buidling and over to the Tribune building, where, imbedded all around its outside walls, are pieces from other famous buildings all over the world....
The Amalfi Hotel, at 20 W. Kinzie Street, was the perfect location for us. Accomodations were wonderful, free drinks and lavish appetizers served every evening on the 6th floor. Rooms were spotless and housekeeping was extra-good, making us feel like our room had been thoroughly cleaned upon every return. One block north of downtown, one block to the buses, two blocks to the red line, right across the street from Harry Caray's.....a real delight.

The only downers, we decided, were the constant horns blaring and the multitude of beggars. You couldn't seem to avoid either.
And the Adler Planetarium was a bit of a disappointment. We were glad that we went on free admission day (although we had to pay for the two extra shows we saw). Aching legs for me and knees for Fran. And we left on 9/11, which is such a sad day anyways. Other than that primo, primo, primo!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

62. Chill of Fear - Kay Hooper

#8 Bishop/Special Crime Unit series
Audio read by Dick Hill
Brilliance Audio, 2005
8 unabridged cds
9 hrs.
368 pages
Rating: 2

This is a mystery solved by two psychics - one of them, Quentin Hayes, is an FBI agent. Psychics make up the Special Crime Unit. Apparently every psychic has different abilities, and with Quentin's help, Diana Brisco discovers that she hasn't been crazy her whole life, she is actually a medium that can go into the freezing cold "gray" world and talk to the spirits of the dead.

The setting for this story is at a fancy-schmansy resort in the boonies of Tennessee. Murder after murder has taken place ever since the place had been built, and it's time to solve them. Of course they do, though it takes forever to get to the end, and then it's done.

I won't say I don't believe in the paranormal (actually, I don't think I do), but I guess I really like mysteries of reality, gritty reality. And I wanted more characterization. It certainly passed the time back and forth between school and home, but I can't say this sort of story is my cup of tea. Maybe if Iwere a believer....

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cloud Dance - Thomas Locker

Voyager Books, Harcourt, 2000
Paper $7.00
32 pages
Rating: 5
Oils on canvas

On one page a gorgeous oil painting of sky and foreground. On the facing page, one beautifully-written sentence of explanation

"Nighttime clouds/with silver edges/shimmer in the moonlight."
"High, wispy clouds/race/in the autumn wind."
Mmmmmmmm, mmmmm. Love it all.

The paintings and the writing are equally gorgeous. The book ends with an information page about clouds.

Check out Mountain Dance and Water Dance, too!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

61. Linger - Maggie Stiefvater

2nd in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series (more to come??)
for: YA
HC $17.99
360 pgs.
Rating: 4

I've had so much going on in my life that it took waaaaay too long to finish this book. It was an interesting mesh of peoples' inner (hidden) and outer (who-cares-what-anyone thinks) feelings. And the science of possibility.

Told from four points-of-view, Grace, who was bitten by a wolf as child and is just now suffering the repurcussions, her boyfriend - and soulmate - Sam, who has been "cured" of shifting from human to wolf when it gets cold and the return to humanity as summer approaches - Isabel, the seemingly cold-hearted rich-girl sister of a brother who died trying to change is fate, and Cole, famous musician, newly changed to werewolf, by choice, to flee a life he'd created, but hated.

It's a bit slow in places, but this is more of a think-about-it book than action thriller. Lots of think-about-it, actually. Full of music and poetry and sadness, I don't know whether to sigh loudly, knowing this is the way the story ends and wondering...wondering.... or waiting for a sequel. Research time.