Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Postcards from Colorado

692.  Boulder, Colorado
Hello from boulder, Colorado.  My name is Kristen.  I work in a local thrift store that benefits a wildlife rehabilitation center.  It is a strange job because of all the interesting donations we receive.  I hope you will have a wonderful Thanksgiving this year!

440.  Vail, Colorado
While much of Vail is based on the winter scene, it is also a world famous summer resort and golfing center.  Summer activities include guided hikes, mountain biking, horseback riding, carriage rides and fishing.
No message, but a couple of stamps form an Atlas Quest swap:

435.  Invesco Field at Mile High
Home of the Denver Broncos, Denver, Colorado
No message other than stamps made by an Atlas Quest participant:

412.  Colorado Springs: Olympic City USA
This was a card received from the Letterbox Tracker Hometown Postcards 2 from The Woodshed

Postcards from South Korea

994.  Gyeonggi Republic of Korea
Hello!  Greetings from Korea!  All the best for you!  Larisa

689.  Hello from Korea!
y name is Eunji and I live in Ilsan, 12 miles from Seoul.  Hope you like this GF Korea card.  The place on the card is an artificial pond called Arapji.  It was constructed in the 7th century.  Happy postcrossing!  Best.  Eunji

932.  South Korea
Hello!  Many greetings from South Korea.  I am Inhye.  It is the entrance to the Korean-traditional style house "Hanok."  The curve eaves are imressive.  The stamps are the paintings of Sin Saimdang.  The topic are "grass and insect"

691.  Korea
Dear Chris, Greetings from Seoul, South Korea!  I'm Arom.  I like to watch movies, listen to music, and travel to other countries.  I watched a movie named "Doctor Strange" last week, and it was great!  I love Marvel movies so much.  Hope your new chapter in Pennsylvania will be full of Joy.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

13. Prodigy by Marie Lu

Legend #2
listened to on Audible
2013 Putnam Juvenile
371 pgs.
YA Dystopia
Finished 1/28/18
Goodreads rating: 4.28 - 168,664 ratings
My rating:  4
Setting:  Denver Colorado in the Future

First line/s:  "Day jolts awake beside me."

My comments: This is definitely a sit-on-the-edge-of-your-seat book.  You never knew what was going to happen next.  It However, I'm still not totally sold about Day and June's relationship.  I wasn't half as upset about the throw-the-book-across-the-room ending as I expected I would be.  I actually think that June and Ander make a better couple...

Goodreads synopsis: Injured and on the run, it has been seven days since June and Day barely escaped Los Angeles and the Republic with their lives. Day is believed dead having lost his own brother to an execution squad who thought they were assassinating him. June is now the Republic's most wanted traitor. Desperate for help, they turn to the Patriots - a vigilante rebel group sworn to bring down the Republic. But can they trust them or have they unwittingly become pawns in the most terrifying of political games?

Amazon:  June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector.
It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long.           
          But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong?

Friday, January 26, 2018

PICTURE BOOK - Always Remember Me: How One Family Survived World War II by Marisabina Russo

Illustrated by the author, I assume
2005 Atheneum Books for Young Readers
HC $19.99
40 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  4.09 - 112 ratings
My rating:  5
Endpapers:  A collage of the actual photographs of the people depicted in the story.

1st line/s:  "Sunday is the most important day of the week in my family, the day we gather for dinner at my Oma's."

My comments:  When should you start sharing information about the Holocaust with kids?  That's a big, tough question.  This picture book is a great way to begin, and is written for mid-elementary school kids.  It's based on a true story of a real family, has lovely illustrations, more-than-usual text (but not too much) and real photographs of the real people.  It's a treasure, and would be wonderful paired with Number the Stars for a fourth grade reading unit.

Goodreads:  Rachel's Oma (her grandmother) has two picture albums. In one the photographs show only happy times -- from after World War II, when she and her daughters had come to America. But the other album includes much sadder times from before -- when their life in Germany was destroyed by the Nazis' rise to power. 
For as long as Rachel can remember, Oma has closed the other album when she's gotten to the sad part. But today Oma will share it all. Today Rachel will hear about what her grandmother, her mother, and her aunts endured. And she'll see how the power of this Jewish family's love for one another gave them the strength to survive. 
Marisabina Russo illuminates a difficult subject for young readers with great sensitivity. Based on the author's own family history, Always Remember Me is a heartbreaking -- and inspiring -- book sure to touch anyone who reads it.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

MOVIE - Hostiles

R (2:15)
Wide release 1/26/18
Viewed 1/25/18
RT Critic: 71   Audience:  73
Critic's Consensus:  Hostiles benefits from stunning visuals and a solid central performance from Christian Bale, both of which help elevate its uneven story.
Cag:  5.5  One helluva movie
Directed by Scott Cooper
Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

Christian Bale, Rosamund Pike

My comments:  I'm pretty sure this is one of those movies that you don't forget.  A tragic story, but one that mesmerized me.  Super performances, Christian Bale just can't be beat.  He lives and breathes his part.  Indigenous people versus those who took them over.  This movie is  about relationships between people, friendships past and present, the ties that bind and those that are fleeting or even meaningless.  I think this was a brilliant movie, a huge piece of US history, and a story that will stay with me for a long, long time.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Set in 1892, Hostiles tells the story of a legendary Army Captain (Christian Bale), who after stern resistance, reluctantly agrees to escort a dying Cheyenne war chief (Wes Studi) and his family back to tribal lands. Making the harrowing and perilous journey from Fort Berringer, an isolated Army outpost in New Mexico, to the grasslands of Montana, the former rivals encounter a young widow (Rosamund Pike), whose family was murdered on the plains. Together, they must join forces to overcome the punishing landscape, hostile Comanche and vicious outliers that they encounter along the way.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Postcards with SNOW

1152.  Lapland, Finland
Hello Chris!  Greetings from Finland.  I hope your year has started well.  My name in Jonna, I'm a graphic deesigner from a small town called Raahe.  I live with five cats, I have two Birman cats, two domestic shorthairs and a ragdoll.  Lots of white cat hair everywhere!  But they ar all so adorable that it's worth it.  I hope you enjoy this postcard I chose for you.  I'm not a fan of viewcards but many snowy landscapes are pretty cool.  Happy Postcrossing!

744.  Biltmore House in the Snow
In the deep of winter, Biltmore House appears mysterious and magnificent, challenging nature's beauty with its own.  While peaceful on the exterior, the inside of Biltmore House is alive with activities as the housekeeping staff commences with annual winter cleaning.  
I am in first grade.  Ciera

729.  Oberbayern (Upper Bavaria)
9 March 2017
Unfortunately I don't have any of your favourite cards.  So here is a single-view card of my community.  From my window I can see the highest mountain of Germany, the Zugspitze.  It's great for skiing, hiking.  Next week I go to USA, exactly NYC.  I can't wait to go.  Wish you a good time.  Doris.

426.  Anichkov Bridge:  The Taming of the Horse Sculpture
by P. Klodt
Hello from Russia, Chris.  Have a nice day, Katye.  21.05.2016

363.  China
Hi Chris!  Many greetings from China.  My name is Nelly and I live in Hangzhou.  Hangzhou is famous for beautiful West Lake.  Nelly

304.  Suomi Finland
I'm 52 yo woman living with my 17 y daughter and 2 cats here in Scandinavia, in Finland.  We have thousands of lakes and forests, nature is beautiful.  Sometimes we see Aurora Borealis in the sky, especially in winter.  We have four seasons.  I listen to music and a famous band Nightwish is from F"inland.  Best Wishes, Ippe & Melissa

12. The Naturalist by Andrew Mayne

The Naturalist #1 (Biologist Prof. Theo Cray)
read on my iPhone/Kindle/Book/Audible
2017, Thomas & Mercer
382 pgs.
Adult Murder Mystery
Finished 1/24/18
Goodreads rating:  4.11 - 12,741 ratings
My rating:   3
Setting: Contemporary Montana

First line/s:  "The woods were wrong."

My comments: Professor Theo Cray is a brilliant scientist.  He's also an incredible bumblefuck.  He really cracks me up.  He does all sorts of illegal digging up and dancing around, but comes out smelling like a rose.  He uses his scientific expertise, ultra-computer savvy, and plain old hutzpa to find a serial killer that no one even realizes exists.  And no matter how many times he is hurt or wounded, he just keeps getting up and going like an energizer bunny.  This was a fun, though unbelievable, book to read.  There's going to be a second one coming out, and I'm sure I'll get a boot out of it, too.

Goodreads synopsis: Professor Theo Cray is trained to see patterns where others see chaos. So when mutilated bodies found deep in the Montana woods leave the cops searching blindly for clues, Theo sees something they missed. Something unnatural. Something only he can stop.
          As a computational biologist, Theo is more familiar with digital code and microbes than the dark arts of forensic sleuthing. But a field trip to Montana suddenly lands him in the middle of an investigation into the bloody killing of one of his former students. As more details, and bodies, come to light, the local cops determine that the killer is either a grizzly gone rogue… or Theo himself. Racing to stay one step ahead of the police, Theo must use his scientific acumen to uncover the killer. Will he be able to become as cunning as the predator he hunts—before he becomes its prey?

Monday, January 22, 2018

MOVIE - The Shape of Water

R (1:59)
Wide release 12/22/18 (again, hard to find locally)
Viewed January 22, 2018
IMBd: 7.4
RT Critic:  92  Audience:  73
Critic's Consensus:  The Shape of Water finds Guillermo del Toro at his visually distinctive best -- and matched by an emotionally absorbing story brought to life by a stellar Sally Hawkins performance.
Cag:  6/Awesome  
Directed by Guillermo del Toro
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer

My comments:  Oh my goodness, I didn't take notes about my thoughts and reactions after seeing this movie other than that it looks like it takes place in the late 50s.  Oh brother!  I loved it, it was wonderful science fiction with a spectacular ending.  Six months later and I still remember many (MANY) parts of it clearly, which is really unusual for me in recent years....

RT/ IMDb Summary:  From master story teller, Guillermo del Toro, comes THE SHAPE OF WATER - an other-worldly fairy tale, set against the backdrop of Cold War era America circa 1962. In the hidden high-security government laboratory where she works, lonely Elisa (Sally Hawkins) is trapped in a life of isolation. Elisa's life is changed forever when she and co-worker Zelda (Octavia Spencer) discover a secret classified experiment. Rounding out the cast are Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Doug Jones and Michael Stuhlbarg.

PICTURE BOOK - My Journey to the Stars by Astronaut Scott Kelly

Illustrated by Andre Ceolin
2017 Crown Books for Young Readers, NY
HC $17.99
Bosler Library
48 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.95 - 115 ratings
My rating: 4.5
Endpapers: Red

1st line/s:  "It's been 340 days since I set foot on Earth.  I've spent almost a full year living and working on the international Space Station.  It's the hardest thing I've ever done.

My comments: 4.5  I've followed Mark Kelly because of his marriage to Gabby Giffords, so I knew a bit about his twin brother, Scott.  This picture book for kids tells a little about Scott's background, including the fact that he had a tough time in school, particularly sitting still and not daydreaming.  It shows his perseverance and ambition, then tells a little about his training and year in space.  The illustrations, by Andre Ceolin, are wonderful, and they're interspersed throughout with lots and lots of actual photographs.   Here's another great 1st or second grade biographical read aloud  (Why a 4.5 and not a five?  That's because I didn't like the way the book started.  It worked okay for my second reading, but put me off a bit for the first.)

Goodreads:  NASA astronaut Scott Kelly was the first to spend an entire year in space! Discover his awe-inspiring journey in this fascinating picture book memoir that takes readers from Scott's childhood as an average student to his record-breaking year among the stars.
     Scott Kelly wasn't sure what he wanted to be when he grew up. He struggled in school and often got in trouble with his twin brother, Mark.
     Then one day Scott discovered a book about test pilots and astronauts that set him on a new path.
     His new focus led him to fly higher and higher, becoming first a pilot and then an astronaut, along with his brother--the first twin astronauts in history. But his greatest accomplishment of all was commanding the International Space Station and spending nearly a year in space, which set the record for the longest spaceflight by an American.
     This story of an ordinary boy who grew up to do extraordinary things is perfect for children, fans of Scott's adult book Endurance: A Year in Space, A Lifetime of Discovery, aspiring astronauts, and anyone who has ever tried to defy the odds. It will amaze and inspire you.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

11. Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein

Mr. Lemoncello's Library #1
listened to on Audible
2013 Random House
304 pgs.
YA Fantasy
Finished 1/21/18
Goodreads rating:  4.33 - 26,546 ratings
My rating:  1.5

First line/s:  "This is how Kyle Keeley got grounded for a week."

My comments:  I was positive I was going to love this book.  Started it twice.  Got through 2/3 of it on the third try, then finally finished it tonight.  I listened to it, probably a big mistake.  I should have read it.  I'll have to get a copy and try reading it because it's not really fair for me to rate it right now, i definitely didn't like it at all as a read aloud.  It's the kinds of book that has lots and lots of clues and i think I needed to SEE them.  Like the Westing Game.  Which I loved.  Every kid I know that has read this book has said they liked it, so I need to read it with my eyeballs.

Goodreads synopsis: A New York Times Bestseller
          Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.
          Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.
          In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters. Old fans and new readers will become enthralled with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

MOVIE - The Greatest Showman

PG (1:45)
Wide release 12/20/18
Viewed 1/20/18 with all the Kilkos!
IMBd: 7.8/10
RT Critic: 55   Audience:  88
Critic's Consensus:  The Greatest Showman tries hard to dazzle the audience with a Barnum-style sense of wonder -- but at the expense of its complex subject's far more intriguing real-life story.
Cag:  3.5
Directed by Michael Gracey
Twentieth Century Fox

Hugh Jackman, Zac Ephron, Michelle Williams

My comments:  The music was wonderful, watching the kids' faces was great fun, the storytelling was OK.  I'm betting/guessing that most of the story was fictionalized, so watching it as a piece of fiction ws way more entertaining than trying to think of this as a biopic.

RT/ IMDb Summary:  Inspired by the imagination of P.T. Barnum, The Greatest Showman is an original musical that celebrates the birth of show business & tells of a visionary who rose from nothing to create a spectacle that became a worldwide sensation.

10. Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Truly Devious #1
listened to on Audible
2018 Harper Collins
432 pgs.
YA CRF/HF Time Flipping back and forth
Finished 1/22/2018
Goodreads rating: 4.16 - 838 ratings
My rating:  4.5
Setting:  Contemporary middle-of-nowhere Vermont

First line/s:  "Fate came for Dottie Epstein a year earlier, in the form of a call to the principal's office."

My comments:  Terribly mixed feelings about this book.  The ending drove me nuts, though I must admit I had a little bit of a clue about one part of it.  Some of the story dragged a bit, but it was a good mystery, and it was time for a good mystery.  At first I wasn't really sure whether I liked the protagonist, Stevie, but she grew on me.  I liked her uncertainty and her quirkiness and her totally obsessive love for crime-solving.  I loved her quick comebacks and her snoopiness - even though she didn't want to be snoopy she felt she had to be and couldn't stop herself.  More and more she felt like a real person to me.  She supposedly had anxiety, but that didn't really work for me.  And the ending did piss me off - I didn't know this was not a standalone.  Note to self:  it'll be awhile before the second book in the series comes out, so I need to make sure I either re-read this or read a really thorough summary of it before I read the next.

Goodreads synopsis: New York Times bestselling author Maureen Johnson weaves a delicate tale of murder and mystery in the first book of a striking new series, perfect for fans of Agatha Christie and E. Lockhart.          
          Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. “A place,” he said, “where learning is a game.”     
          Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym “Truly, Devious.” It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history.
          True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.   
          The two interwoven mysteries of this first book in the Truly Devious series dovetail brilliantly, and Stevie Bell will continue her relentless quest for the murderers in books two and three.

Friday, January 19, 2018

PICTURE BOOK - Imagine That!: How Dr. Seuss Wrote The Cat in the Hat by Judy Sierra

Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes
2017, Random House, NY
HC $17.99
Bos Lib: JB Seuss
40 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 3.91
My rating: 5
Endpapers:  Hats of all sorts, including the famous one that the Cat in the Hat wore.  It would be fun to examine te hats that other characters from some of his other books wore.

1st line/s:  "1954 was a great year to be a kid."  
"In his head, Ted juggled the words on the list.  Then he thought,
     Why not let the cat juggle instead?
     He can juggle the stuff on the list.  Yes he can!
     He can juggle a rake and a book and a fan.
     He can juggle a fish, and the fish won't like that.
     I will draw two nice kids to have fun with th cat,
     And two naughty Things, and a keen cleaner-upper.
     I think I'll get started tonight, after supper.":
          (And no, the whole book isn't in rhyme like this, only a couple of parts.  But it sure is fun!)

My comments:  I love picture book biographies, and even if they aren't the best written, or leave out information I think should be included, I still really like their existence.  Here's a biography that's really good - interesting, fun to read AND look at, and with lots of really interesting information.  After sharing this book with a group of kids, there are so many things that could be done!  Read the book.  Then read Cat in the Hat, and Green Eggs and Ham.  THEN each child could create their own book, easy peasy fold and sew , than includes silly words they've made up, either individually or as a group.  Best, though, was discovering the process that Ted Geisel went through to make his ultra-popular, long-lasting Cat in the Hat.  Bravo!

Goodreads:  A lively new picture-book biography of the most beloved children's book author of all time: Dr. Seuss! 
          Have you ever wondered how the great Dr. Seuss wrote his most famous book? Did you know that for The Cat in the Hat, he wasn't allowed to make up the fun words he was known for--like OOBLECK and IT-KUTCH and HIPPO-NO-HUNGUS? He was only allowed to use words from a very strict list!
          This bouncy account of the early career of Dr. Seuss (a.k.a. Ted Geisel) proves that sometimes limitations can be the best inspiration of all.
          Kid-friendly prose (with Seussian rhyme for Ted's dialogue) and whimsical illustrations by award winner Kevin Hawkes recall the work of Dr. Seuss himself. Writing tips from Dr. Seuss and exclusive letters from the author and illustrator, detailing how they created this book, are included! 

Thursday, January 18, 2018

9. The Promise by Robert Crais

listened to on Audible
Elvis Cole #16, Scott James & Maggie #2
2015, Putnam Adult
408 pgs.
Adult Mystery
Finished 1/18/18
Goodreads rating: 4.19
My rating: 5
Setting: Contemporary LA

First line/s:   "The woman stood in the far corner of the dimly lit room, hiding in the shadows like a fish in gray water."

My comments:  Excellent mystery, written from several points of view.  Of course, the warm and funny Elvis Cole (no p-o-v from Joe Pike in this one, but he is present) in the first person, and then four others in the third person:  the bad guy, "Mr. Rollins,"  a highly secretive government-operative-type-friend-of-Joe-Pike's named Jon Stone (who was a pleasant  surprise), Police officer Scott James (who we met first in his own novel, Suspect), and finally, his German shepherd police dog, Maggie.  I love driving around LA with them, and I gulped down this novel in a day.

Goodreads synopsis: Elvis Cole and Joe Pike are joined by Suspect heroes LAPD K-9 Officer Scott James and his German shepherd, Maggie, in the new heart-stopping thriller from #1 New York Times-bestselling author Robert Crais. 
          Loyalty, commitment, and the fight for justice have always driven Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. If they make a promise, they keep it. Even if it could get them killed.
          When Elvis Cole is secretly hired to find a grief-stricken mother, he’s led to an ordinary house on a rainy night in Echo Park. Only the house isn’t ordinary, and the people hiding inside are a desperate fugitive and a murderous criminal with his own dangerous secrets.
         As helicopters swirl overhead, Scott and Maggie track the fugitive to this same house, coming face-to-face with Mr. Rollins, a killer who leaves behind a brutally murdered body and enough explosives to destroy the neighborhood. Scott is now the only person who can identify him, but Mr. Rollins has a rule: Never leave a witness alive.
          For all of them, the night is only beginning.
          Sworn to secrecy by his client, Elvis finds himself targeted by the police even as Mr. Rollins targets Maggie and Scott. As Mr. Rollins closes in for the kill, Elvis and Joe join forces with Scott and Maggie to follow a trail of lies where no one is who they claim — and the very woman they promised to save might get them all killed.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

PICTURE BOOK - After the Fall: How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again by Dan Santat

Illustrated by the author
2017, Roaring Brook Press
$17.99 HC
32 pgs.
Goodreads rating: 4.52
My rating:  4
Endpapers: Morning view/evening view from the top of the wall

1st line/s:"My name is Humpty Dumpty.
This was my favorite spot, high up on the wall.  I know, it's an odd place for an egg to be., but I loved being close to the birds."

My comments:  Limping around after his horrific fall, Humpty Dumpty has become anxious and especially afraid of heights.  But he overcomes his fears and the climax is even better than he ever imagined.  Great illustrations, and a wonderful moral-based story.

Goodreads:  Everyone knows that when Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. But what happened after?
          Follow Humpty Dumpty, an avid bird watcher whose favorite place to be is high up on the city wall―that is, until after his famous fall. Now terrified of heights, Humpty can longer do many of the things he loves most.
          Will he summon the courage to face his fear?

8. The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor

read on my iPhone/Kindle/Book/Audible
2018 Crown Publishing Group
280 pgs.
Adult Mystery, back & forth in time, 1986 and present
Finished 1/16/18
Goodreads rating:  3.91 - 5066 ratings
My rating:  4.5
Setting:  small touristy town in the Cotswalds, England, 1986 and present

First line/s:  "Start at the beginning.  Problem was, none of us ever agreed on the exact beginning."

My comments:  There were some bits that did drag along a little, but otherwise this book was really difficult to put down.  I listened to it on Audible, and it was narrated with n incredibly wonderful British accent and voice.  Easy to understand.
     Ed Adams was 12 years old in 1986, and spent as much time as he could riding his bike around and playing in the woods and playground with his "gang," his four good friends.  Thirty years later he sets out to come to terms with the mysterious happenings of that time.  Switching between 1986 and 2016, we watch the whole story unfold in a totally fascinating way.  Many of the "surprises" are not so surprising, and Tudor includes one whopper of an ending.

Goodreads synopsis: In 1986, Eddie and his friends are just kids on the verge of adolescence. They spend their days biking around their sleepy English village and looking for any taste of excitement they can get. The chalk men are their secret code: little chalk stick figures they leave for one another as messages only they can understand. But then a mysterious chalk man leads them right to a dismembered body, and nothing is ever the same.
          In 2016, Eddie is fully grown and thinks he's put his past behind him, but then he gets a letter in the mail containing a single chalk stick figure. When it turns out that his friends got the same message, they think it could be a prank--until one of them turns up dead. That's when Eddie realizes that saving himself means finally figuring out what really happened all those years ago.

Monday, January 15, 2018

PICTURE BOOK - Town is by the Sea by Joanne Schwartz

Illustrated by Sydney Smith
2017, Groundwood Books, Toronto
$19.95 HC
52 pgs.
Goodreads rating:  4.2
My rating:  4.5
Endpapers CharCOAL gray (dark)
Illustrations Black, brown & white with slight hints of color here and there.
1st line/s:  "From my house, I can see the sea."

My comments:  This is both a simple story and one that takes a lot to digest.  That might sound like an oxymoron, but It's exactly what this book is.  It's about living in a coal mining town in the 1950s, where all the men work in the mine, all their fathers worked in the mine, and now their sons will work in the mine.  The illustrations are simple...and wonderful.  The sea sparkles.  But it is black under the sea, where the miners work all day....  So much to think about and talk about!  4.5 (I have to lower my personal rating a half point for the depression factor.)

Goodreads:  A young boy wakes up to the sound of the sea, visits his grandfather’s grave after lunch and comes home to a simple family dinner with his family, but all the while his mind strays to his father digging for coal deep down under the sea. Stunning illustrations by Sydney Smith, the award-winning illustrator of Sidewalk Flowers, show the striking contrast between a sparkling seaside day and the darkness underground where the miners dig.
          With curriculum connections to communities and the history of mining, this beautifully understated and haunting story brings a piece of Canadian history to life. The ever-present ocean and inevitable pattern of life in a Cape Breton mining town will enthrall children and move adult readers.

Text for Wangari's Trees of Peace by Jeanette Winter

Wangari’s Trees of Peace: A True Story from Africa by Jeanette Winter

“The earth was naked.
For me the mission was to try
To cover it with green.”
  ~ Wangari Maathai

Wangari lives under an umbrella of green trees in the shadow of Mount Kenya in Africa.

She watches the birds in the forest where she and her mother go to gather firewood for cooking.

And she helps harvest the sweet potatoes, sugarcane, and maize from the rich soil.

Wangari shines in school,
and when she grows tall, like the trees in the forest,
she wins a scholarship to study in America.

Six years later, her studies over, Wangari returns to her Kenya home and sees a change.
What has happened? She wonders.
Where are the trees?

Wangari sees women bent from hauling firewood miles and miles from home.
She sees barren land where no crops grow.
And where are the birds?

Thousands of trees have been cut down to make room for buildings, but no one planted new trees to take their place.
Will all of Kenya become a desert? She wonders as her tears fall.

Wangari things about the barren land.
I can begin to replace some of the lost trees
Here in my own backyard – one tree at a time.
She starts by planting nine seedlings.

Watching the seedlings take root gives Wangari the idea to plant more –
to start a farm for baby trees, a nursery.
In open space, she plants row after row
of the tiny trees.

Next, Wangari convinces the village women
That planting trees is a good thing.
She gives each one a seedling.
“Our lives will be better when we have trees again.  You’ll see.  We are planting the seeds of hope.”

The women spread out over their village, planting tiny trees in long rows,

like a green belt stretching over the land.

The government men laugh.
“Women can’t do this,” they say.
“It takes trained foresters to plant trees.”
The women ignore the laughter and keep planting.

Wangari pays them a small amount
for each seedling still living after three months –
their first earnings ever.

Word travels,like wind rustling through leaves,
about the green returning to Wangari’s village.

Soon other women in other villages and towns and cities in Kenya are planting long rows of seedlings, too.

But the cutting continues.

Wangari stands tall as an oak to protect
the old trees still remaining.
“We need a park more than we need an office tower.”

The government men disagree.
Wangari blocks their way, so they hit her with clubs.
They call her a troublemaker and put her in jail.

And still she stands tall.
Right is right, even if you’re along.

But Wangari is not alone.
Talk of the trees spreads over all of Africa,
like ripples in Lake Victoria.

More women hear the talk
and plant even more seedlings
in longer and longer rows.
The seedlings take root and grow tall –
until there are over 30 million trees
where there where none.

The umbrella of green in Kenya returns.

Women walk tall, their backs straight,
for now they can gather firewood closer to home.

The land is not longer barren.
Sweet potatoes, sugarcane, and maize
Grow again tn the rich, red earth.

The whold world hears of Wangari’s trees
and of her army of women who planted them.

And if you were to climb to the very top
of Mount Kenya today, you would see
the millions of trees growing below you,

and the green Wangari brought back to Africa.

Text for Planting the Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola

Planting the Trees of Kenya: The Story of Wangari Maathai by Claire A. Nivola

     As Wangari Maathai tells it, when she was growing up on a farm in the hills of central Kenya, the earth was clothed in its dress of green.

     Fig trees, olive trees, crotons, and flame trees covered the land, and fish filled the pure waters of the streams. 

     The fig tree was sacred then, and Wangari knew not to disturb it, not even to carry its fallen branches home for firewood.  In the stream near her homestead where she went to collect water for her mother, she played with glistening flogs’ eggs, trying to gather them like beads into necklaces, though they slipped through her fingers back into the clear water.

     Her heart was filled with the beauty of her native Kenya when she left to attend a college run by Benedictine nuns in America, far, far from her home.  There she studied biology, the science of living things.  It was an inspiring time for Wangari.  The students in America in those years dreamed of making the world better.  The nuns, too, taught Wangari to think not just of herself but of the world beyond herself.
     How eagerly she returned to Kenya!  How full of hope and of all that she had learned!

She had been away for five years, only five years, but they might have been twenty – so changed was the landscape of Kenya.
     Wangari found the fig tree cut down, the little stream dried up, and no trace of frogs, tadpoles, or the silvery beads of eggs.  Where once there had been little farms growing what each family needed to live on and large plantations growing tea for import, now almost all the farms were growing crops to sell.  Wangari noticed that the people no longer grew what they ate but bought food from stores.  The store food was expensive, and the little they could afford was not as good for them as what they had grown themselves, so that children, even grownups, were weaker and often sickly.   

     She saw that where once there had been richly wooded hills with grazing cows and goats, now the land was almost treeless, the woods gone.  So many trees had been cut down to clear the way for more farms that women and children had to walk farther and farther in search of firewood to heat a pot or warm the house.  Sometimes they walked for hours before they found a tree or bush to cut down.  There were fewer and fewer trees with each one they cut, and much of the land was as bare as a desert.

     Without trees there were no roots to hold the soil in place.  Without trees there was no shade.  The rich topsoil dried to dust, and the “devil wind” blew it away.  Rain washed the loose earth into the once-clear streams and rivers, dirtying them with silt.

     “We have no clean drinking water,”  The women of the countryside complained, “no firewood to cook with.  Our goats and cows have nothing to graze on, so they make little milk.  Our children are hungry and we are poorer than before.”
     Wangari saw that the people who had once honored fig trees and now cut them down had forgotten to care for the land that fed them.  Now the land, weak and suffering, could no longer take care of the people, and their lives became harder than ever.
     The women blamed others, they blamed the government, but Wangari was not one to complain.  She wanted to do something.  “Think of what we ourselves are doing,” she urged the women.  “We are cutting down the trees of Kenya.
     “When we see that we are part of the problem,” she said, “we can become part of the solution.”
     She had a simple and big idea.

     “Why not plant trees?”  she asked the women.
     She showed them how to collect tree seeds from the trees that remained.  She taught them to prepare the soil, mixing it with manure.  She showed them how to wet that soil, press a hole in it with a stick, and carefully insert a seed.  Most of all she taught them to tend the growing seedlings, as if they were babies, watering them twice a day to make sure they grew strong.

     It wasn’t easy.  Water was always hard to come by.  Often the women had to dig a deep hole by hand and climb into it to haul heavy bucketfuls of water up over their heads and back out of the hole.  An early nursery in Wangari’s backyard failed; almost all the seedlings died.  But Wangari was not one to give up, and she showed others how not to give up.

     Many of the women could not read or write.  They were mothers and farmers, and no one took them seriously.

     But they did not need schooling to plant trees.  They did not have to wait for the government to help them.  They could begin to change their own lives.

     All this was heavy work, but the women felt proud.  Slowly, all around them, they could begin to see the fruit of the work of their hands.  The woods were growing up again.  Now when they cut down a tree, they planted two it its place.  Their families were healthier, eating from the fruit trees they had planted and from the vegetable plots filled again with the yams, cassava, pigeon peas, and sorghum that grew so well.  They had work to do, and the work brought them together as one, like the trees growing together on the newly wooded hills.
     The men saw what their wives, mothers, and daughters were doing and admired them and even joined in. 
     Wangari gave seedlings to the schools and taught the children how to make their own nurseries. 

     She gave seedlings to inmates of prisons and even to soldiers.  “You hold your gun,” she told the soldiers, “but what are you protecting?  The whole country is disappearing with the wind and wter.  You should hold the gun in your right hand and a tree seedling in your left.  That’s when you become a good soldier.”

     And so in the thirty years since Wangari began her movement, tree by tree, person by person, thirty million trees have been planted in Kenya—and the planting has not stopped.

     “When the soil is exposed,”  Wangari tells us,  “it is crying out for help, it is naked and needs to bec clothed in its dress.  That is the nature of the land.  It needs color, it needs its cloth of green.”

Plus Author’s Note

Text for Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees

Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees by Franck Prevot
2015, Charlesbridge

     It’s almost as if Wangari Maathai is still alive, since the trees she planted still grow.  Those who care about the earth as Wangari did can almost hear her speaking the four languages she knew – Kikuyu, Swahili, English, and German – while she carried out her important work with important people.

     Wangari encouraged many village women.  She dug holes with them in the red soil - holes in which to plant hope for today and forests for tomorrow.

     When Wangari planted a large-leafed ebony tree or an African tulip tree, she was reminded of her own roots.  She was born in 1940 in the little village of Ihithe, across from the majestic volcano Mount Kenya, which her people consider holy.  This is her story.

The immense forest around Wangari’s childhood home is populated by bongo antelopes, monkeys, and butterflies.  The leopard, called the ngari by Wangari’s people, lives here, too.  It may be because wa-ngari means “she who belongs to the leopard” that Wangari feels as though she is part of the entire forest.

     Wangari fetches water every day at the foot of the big mugumo, the generous fig tree.  As the eldest sister of five siblings, she is the second lady of the house.  She helps her mother with countless tasks: gathering wood for the fire, cooking, looking after the little children, and doing farm chores.

     Wangari’s mother gives her a little garden.  Wangari learns to dig and plant.  In the shade of the big mugumo, her mother teacher her that a tree is worth more than its wood, and expression that Wangari never forgets. 

     Wangari’s father works for Sir Neylan, one of the ruling British colonists.  The British claim the best land for themselves and insist that Kenyans take Christian names.  As a result, Wangari is called Miriam during her childhood.  The British grow richer by cutting trees to plant more tea.
     Wangari remembers the first tree she saw fall.
     She doesn’t yet know that she can change things with her voice and her hands.

     One evening in their little house made of mud walls and dried dung, Wangari’s big brother Nderitu asks their mother a questions:  “Why doesn’t Wangari go to school?”
     Wangari knows the answer.  Daughters must help their mothers before getting married and having children of their own.
     But without even realizing it, Nderitu changes things by asking his questions.

     A few days later Wangari is running joyfully to school with her brothers and cousins!  She is thankful to Nderitu for daring to ask the right question, and to her mother for making the decision that will change Wangari’s life.
     Wangari wants to know and understand everything, and going to school helps her succeed.  She receives her high-school diploma at a time when very few African women even learn to read.

     Senator John F. Kennedy, the future US president, invites six hundred young Kenyans to come to the United States to pursue their studies.  Wangari is one of the students.
     For the next five years, Wangari discovers snow, forests of skyscrapers, and people who look nothing like her.  Even cornfields in America are different from those at home.
     Wangari also discovers that even in a great, free, independent country, some places are forbidden to black people.  Just like at home, some schools are for white people only.  During the 1960s angry African Americans demand the same rights as white people.
     At the same time, in faraway Kenya, another anger turns into triumph.  For more than ten years, black people have been demanding the right to cultivate their land and govern their own country.  Now they achieve independence from Britain at last. 

     When Wangari returns home, the British colonists are no longer the masters of Kenya.  The country is free, but the trees are not – they still cannot grow in peace.  Kenyans are cutting down trees and selling them as the colonists did.  By using the land where the trees used to grow to cultivate the tea, coffee, and tobacco sought by rich countries, they can make more money.
     Wangari travels through the country to study wildlife and is shocked.  Wild animals are rare now – they fled the chain saws.  Women can no longer feed their children, since plantations for rich people have replaced food-growing farms.  Rivers are muddy – the soil has been washed away by rain because there are no tree roots to hold it back.

       Now Wangari knows how she will make use of her studies and the people she has met.  She will explain to the world’s great leaders and to Kenya’s farmers that a forest is one of the most precious treasures of humanity.  She’ll tell them that planting thousands of trees will help change the lives of men and women – black and white, rich and poor.  In Kenya and elsewhere.
     Wangari knows that a tree is worth much more than its wood, as her mother taught her.  A tree is a treasure that provides shade, fruit, pure air, and nesting places for birds, and that pulses with the vitality of life.  Trees are hideouts for insects and provide inspiration for poets.  A tree is a little bit of the future.

     /Wangari wants to shout to the world, but change happens slowly.  She doesn’t want to wait.  So in 1977 she creates the Green Belt Movement in order to start planting trees immediately.
     Traveling from village to village, she speaks on behalf of trees, animals, and children.  She asks that people think about the future even if the present is harsh and difficult.  She encourages villagers to discuss their problems in their own words – in the language of their tribe.
     Her words travel to villages, into newspapers, and through letters to the Kenyan government and international organizations.  She needs to raise money because replacing hundreds of thousands of missing trees is expensive.

     Wangari creates tree nurseries across Kenya which she entrusts to village women.  She provides the women with a financial bonus for each tree that grows.
     The government officials who built their fortunes by razing forests try to stop Wangari.  Who is this woman who confronts them with a confident voice in a country where women are supposed to listen and lower their eyes in men’s presence?
     Wangari believes confident women have in important role to play in their families.  In their villages, and on the entire African continent.  She can’t be quiet.  With countless sisters to help, “she who belongs to the lepard” doesn’t get discouraged.  She keeps planting forests.

     Wangari is determined not to let one more single tree be curt down.  She doesn’t lover her eyes, even when she faces President Daniel arap Moi, who will rule Kenya for twenty-four years.
     He wants to build a sixty-story building and a statue of himself in the heart of Uhuru Park in Nairobe.  Wangari rallies her friends to fight the bulldozers, and the project is abandoned.
     Moi then plans to launch a huge real-estate project in Karura’s forest, which would threaten endangered species such as the blue monkey and thie river hog.  Wangari stands tall.  She calls the world to the rescue, replants trees, and forces the president to back off.
          After her victories a Kenyan man tells her:  “You are the only man left standing.”

     But standing up against the authoritarian power of Daniel arap Moi is dangerous.  Wangari is now a threat.  She knows that the president will stop at nothing to silence her – he is a powerful man who orders police to shoot at crowds of demonstrators.
     She is humiliated, hit, hurt, and imprisoned several times, but she doesn’t give up.  Each time she is released, she fights to liberate political prisoners and speaks out against torture.  Wangari receives death threats and often must hide outside of Kenya.  But she perseveres. 

    Wangari wants to make democracy grow – like trees.  She knows that if her people work together to decide the laws of her country, it will become stronger.

     She dreams that Kenya’s children will be able to play with tadpoles in clear water under fig trees at the edge of great forests.  She wants them to be able to eat when they are hungry.
     Wangari quickly realizes how many more battles she must fight in order to save the trees.  She runs several times for elected office, creates an environmental party, and rallies the opposition to try to bring down Daniel arap Moi.

     Facing rising protest, President Moi tries to divide the people in order to rule.  He knows that when tribes fight one another, the president can quietly govern the way he wants.
     Wangari and the Green Belt=Movement help foil Moi’s trap.  She suggests ooffering young plants from tree nurseries to neighboring tribes in symbolic gestures of peace.
     Little by little, those peace trees bear their fruits.  Wangari even succeeds in convincing soldiers to help her cultivate friendships among tribes.

  President Daniel arap Moi finally falls in 200d.  The country has a new constitution, which requires him to retire, and his party loses the election.  Wangari is elected to Parliament.  The new president appoints her assistant minister of the environment, natural resources, and wildlife.
     For Wangari, now affectionately called Mama Miti, or “the mother of trees,” a new part of her story begins.  She now holds the power to make decisions.  She can finally work to make Kenya a fair nation – for women, men . . . and trees!

     Today there are more trees in Kenya than there were when Wangari began her work, and democracy has been established.  The Grteen Belt Movement =still protects trees, such as those in the Congo Basin, the second-largest tropical forest in the world.
     Wangari Maathai and her supporters planted more than thirty million trees.  And every day, even now, new ones are planted in Kenya.
     Wangari Maathai was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on October 8, 2004, for the countless seeds of hope she planted and grew over the years.  She was the first African woman to received the prize.  To celebrate, she planted a Nandi flame tree at her home in Nyeri,k at the bas of Mount Kenya.
     The mountain and the inhabitants of the forests around it – lepoards, bongo antelopes, other wild animals, and humans – must have been proud that day.