It has been a long and difficult week for many people. My news feed for the past week has been full of difficult topics–stuff that we don’t often want to talk about. Mental illness, suicide, race relations, violence. A lot of people seem to be feeling raw and angry over these things. I don’t blame them. Parts of me are raw and angry too.
This week I read The Secret Hum of a Daisy by Tracy Holczer. It is a middle grade novel about a girl who is in her own difficult spot. After years of living a here-and-there life with her mother, Grace is grieving her mother’s loss and trying to figure out where she belongs now. It is a lovely story about grief and identity that made me tear up several times. Mostly I felt like the novel was about hope.
Whenever Grace had to start at a new school after yet another move, her mother would tell her, “You can do this. You are brave, and you are loved.” I want to repeat those words to so many people right now.
You are brave.
You are loved.
I can’t change the world with those words, but perhaps if we keep talking and keep changing our own small worlds, things will get better.
We ushered in our summer with a busy weekend that was full of sun. After several days (weeks?) of rain, it was much needed sunshine–at least, it was much needed by me.
We celebrated the solstice on Friday evening at our Unitarian-Univeralist church, caught a puppet show on Saturday morning at the library (highly recommend catching one of the many performances of Molly and the Magic Boot this summer; my daughter is still singing the “hootenanny” song–though perhaps that’s not a selling point. . .), and joined ten thousand other music fans for Rock the Garden on Saturday night.
While Matt and Kim stole the show for me (even though I was not previously familiar with them), Best Coast deserves a mention for singing “Why would you live anywhere else?” Of course, they were referencing California, but on the first day of a Minnesota summer, there is no better place to be. Why would you live anywhere else right now?
Our summer has just begun, of course. In the weeks to come we will be camping, swimming, grilling, and more. What will your summer bring?
If you need some inspiration, try a picture book: Summer Wonders by Bob Raczka is a good place to start. It celebrates summer with simplicity and ice pops. What more could you want?
Perhaps at the end of the summer we will be able to make our own book of wonders.
For many people, May 1st is a day of prayer. For a growing number of others, it is a day of reason. Sometimes it seems that no two groups of people are further apart than these. But no matter our preference for prayer or reason on May 1st, we can agree that action is needed to make our world a better place. The Week of Action (April 24-29) is designed to bring people together to celebrate our ability to make a difference in the here and now.
I plan to engage in small acts of kindness for the next six days. I was inspired by a book, of course. There’s always a book in my plans somewhere. The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days by Michele Weber Hurwitz is a feel-good novel about the power of good deeds. Maybe the idea sounds cheesy to you. But to me, it sounds do-able. It might not seem like you’re saving the world when you’re planting flowers in someone’s yard or leaving small gifts for your neighbors, but you are saving little tiny pieces of the world with every action.
Hopefully this is just the beginning of my own personal sense of action. Let’s all choose to act.
There was a time when I had a whole roomful of books. Shelves lined every wall, and they were packed with books. I looked at my bookshelves, and I saw success. It was what I thought I always wanted. What book lover wouldn’t?
It took a while, but eventually I realized something. Or perhaps something shifted for me. I’m not sure. In any case, I realized that I don’t get much from having books. I do get lots of pleasure or happiness or fulfillment from sharing them, so I decided to share more than I kept. I guess I’m more of a librarian at heart than I thought I was. :)
My home is no longer a repository for books. It’s a way station. They may stay here for a bit, but then they are passed along to a friend or left in a Little Free Library. Now when I look at my bookshelves (not a roomful anymore–just one bookcase in the dining room), I see possibilities. I see connections.
Today I was an official World Book Night giver. I pledged to give away a stack of books to light or non-readers along with thousands of others across the country who want to “spread the love of reading person to person.” It was neat to see people’s skepticism (free? where’s the catch?) melt away as they realized that this was just a book for the love of it.
There’s nothing like an evening of giving away books to remind you that life is pretty great. If you have the opportunity to be a World Book Night Giver next year, I highly recommend the experience.
The office has been quiet over the holidays, and I have been catching up on my podcast listening. Here are a few that I thought worth sharing, along with some books that popped to mind as I listened:
- Radiolab’s latest short episode The Times They are a-Changin’ looks at the Earth’s journey around the sun and reminds us that nothing is as constant as we think it is. I was reminded of the picture book by Debra Frasier that I recently read with my daughter A Birthday Cake is No Ordinary Cake, which is about how each birthday is another trip around the sun. Millions of years ago, the trip just took a little longer.
- The Stuff You Missed in History Class episode about Edward Jenner, the father of vaccines, was fascinating. Among other things, the show mentioned the difficulty of getting the small pox vaccine from Europe to the New World, and the ethically ambiguous way that the task was eventually accomplished, which was a part of the novel Saving the World by Julia Alvarez.
- Lexicon Valley looks at the way kids begin to use language in Learning to Say No. Parents, in particular, are likely to appreciate the opportunity to see what’s behind this pesky little word. To go along with that, Claudia Rueda has a sweet picture book simple titled No that as Booklist said in its review gets “right to the heart of a child’s inner life.”
If you, like me, are staying inside this weekend due to unbearably cold temperatures, these podcasts might be just the thing to ease the boredom. I hope everyone stays warm and safe. Happy listening and reading! :)
If you would have asked me a month ago, I would have looked for the answer in a picture book. It seems like a picture book sort of question, doesn’t it?
“Snow came singing a silent song,” writes Lynne Rae Perkins in Snow Music. In this book, winter is quiet after a snow fall, but there is a whole symphony of sounds if you listen for them. Cars, trucks, and animals all sound different in the winter. There’s a beauty in the whispers of snowfall and the loud scrapes of trucks clearing the way. There’s a beauty in the differences.
For the past several weeks, I have had a different answer to the question. I have had Haley Bonar’s new EP Wntr Snds on repeat, and these six songs are spare and intimate in a way that creates just the warmth that we need in a cold, cold Minnesota winter. “Like Ice and Cold” is my personal favorite. In this song, winter sounds like change, like hope. Maybe it isn’t so different from Snow Music.
If you need a little encouragement to see what winter can offer during this sub-zero week, try one of these and listen closely.
Find Snow Music at your local library or indie bookstore. Or get more wintery picture book suggestions here.
Yesterday was a long day. I was up early for last minute stapling, and then I was off to spend my day asking where people were from. Last year I asked people at the Zinefest to share a book they had read recently. This year I tied my question in to my new zine, Whereverland, which explores my here-and-there roots, with a new question: Where are you from?
For many, it was a straightforward question. They wrote their answers with confidence. Others shared several answers. “I’m not from only one place,” a woman said almost apologetically as she wrote the names of three different cities. By the end of the day, I had collected many, many places. Some came with tidbits of trivia: Did you know that Waseca, WI is the home of Cool Whip? I did not. Some were from far away (three from China, two from Germany, one from Australia), but most were from Minneapolis or very close. I loved the neighborhood pride that popped up occasionally. Powderhorn, Northeast, Bryn Mawr, and Uptown are all represented at least once.
As for me, I like to say that I’m from Minnesota, but you can read more about that in Whereverland. :)
Twenty years ago I might as well have been living in a bunker without access to the outside world for all I knew about music or pop culture. Don’t get me wrong. My family owned a television and lived a generally normal life. We just weren’t tuned in to some things. Mostly I think that was a good thing. But occasionally I find that there are gaps. For example, I would not have recognized a Beatles song until I was an adult. Not kidding.
This weekend I found another gap: Nirvana. I’d always told myself that I was too young. I was only a young teen in the early 90’s after all, but the crowd at the Uptown Cheapo store for the In Utero tribute on Saturday afternoon wasn’t any older than me. Actually many were younger. The musicians on stage spoke of memories of Cheapo, Nirvana, and being a teenager, and I found myself considering my gaps. So I missed it the first time around. This is clearly something worth going back for.
HighTV covering Nirvana at Cheapo
When it comes to books, I live in the future. The nature of my job means I’m reading books before they are released. My desk is stacked with 2014 titles right now, and it’s hard to look back to a previous publishing season to a title I didn’t get around to last year, or even earlier. If I miss something, I’ve missed it. Or so it seems sometimes.
I feel like I should conclude with something profound about balance, but I think I’ll just turn on some music.
Maybe I should start listening to The Current’s Teenage Kicks occasionally? I’ll catch up with the rest of you eventually.
Fall is for dreaming. The leaves haven’t even started to turn yet, but it seems that we have our eyes fixed on what lies ahead.
My daughter’s school sent home a blank cloud for us to share our hopes for the new school year. The new minister at the Unitarian Universalist church I’ve been attending asked the audience at last Sunday’s service to scribble aspirations for the upcoming season of assemblies on scraps of paper, which he collected and read aloud. My partner is already figuring out ways to make his fall as fulfilling as his summer was with music and travel at the forefront. It’s catching, I think. The more everyone talks about their dreams, writes about them, the more I start to imagine my own cloud filled with writing and ideas and opportunities. Thanks for the push, everyone.
Fall is in the air, and it is beautiful.
This week and next are all about zines. The Twin Cities Zine Fest is September 21st at Powderhorn Park. I’ll have new stuff available, and I hope to see you there.
Earlier this week, I sat at the Wood Tick table at Camp Read-a-Lot. Fortunately, there were no actual wood ticks. Just teachers, librarians, and books. Lots of books. I started the morning by standing up in front of everyone and talking about books. I made sure to wiggle my toes and listen for background sounds to calm my nerves as a friend had suggested. I hope it worked. It was all a bit of a blur, to be honest.
The real memorable Camp moments were later when William Alexander took the stage. Here is a writer who knows what stories can do. He spoke of the contradictory way people perceive fantastic fiction–it’s silly or foolish, but it’s also dangerous. Not unlike the way comic books or video games are often perceived. As a culture, we keep fighting over fiction without taking into account that we are wired for storytelling. We need stories–foolish and serious. Kids, especially, need stories of all sorts as they work out the intricacies of their worlds.
At this point in the presentation, I was live tweeting as quickly as I could. Eventually I stopped trying to tweet it all, but not before he thanked librarians and teachers for perpetuating the love of reading aloud. He said, “Read aloud always. Learn what delicious language tastes like.”
I have to admit, I haven’t read Goblin Secrets. Even after it won the National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, I didn’t give it a chance. Frankly, it’s rare that I pick up a fantasy novel. But I have been won over. In this PW interview Alexander said, “The thing about all stories, really, but especially about fantasy, is that they have the potential to throw our basic assumptions about ourselves into question.” Perhaps it’s time I gave the genre another chance.