Dunn, Mary Lois. The Man in the Box: a Story From Vietnam. McGraw Hill, 1968.
Reason read: I read somewhere that March 8th is Hug a G.I. Day. I read this in honor of the thousands of men kept in little boxes from every war.
If you read this book with a child’s intent, it is a story about a young boy who knows the worth of a human life and tries with heroic measures to save it. If you read this book with an adult’s cynicism, it is a book that glorifies American soldiers in the Vietnam War and completely misses the point of the Vietnamese culture. My advice is to read it as Mary Lois Dunn intended: as a story for children. Chau Li witnesses the horrible torture of an American soldier kept cramped prisoner in a small cane box. His own father suffered in same-such box but did not survive the brutality. Determined to somehow save the American, Chau Li risks everything to squirrel “Dah Vid” away in a cave until together they can safely rejoin the Green Barets hidden somewhere in the deep Vietnamese jungle. As they hide out from the Viet Cong Chau Li and Dah Vid grow close, form a friendship and make unrealistic promises. Spoiler alert: the end is ambiguous which is surprising for a book meant for children.
Author fact: Mary Lois Dunn was a librarian.
Book trivia: The Man in the Box won the Oklahoma Sequoyah Children’s Book Award in 1968.
Nancy said: Pearl called The Man in the Box “harrowing and sad” and although it is long out of print, it is “definitely worth tracking down” (Book Lust p 115).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Historical Fiction For Kids Of All Ages” (p 115).
Canales, Viola. The Tequila Worm. New York: Wendy Lamb Books, 2005.
Reason read: another selection for the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge.
I have to admit it was the title of this book that first drew me in. I have never eaten the worm from a tequila bottle, but I have often wondered about it.
Sofia is someone I wish I had known in my own coming of age days. She is joyful, kind, and true to herself. Even at such a young age she knows an opportunity when she sees it and isn’t afraid to be ambitious enough to reach for it. Growing up in a barrio in Texas, Sofia cherishes her family traditions but wants to spread her wings. When she earns the opportunity to go away to a reputable boarding school she jumps at the chance. There she learns more about her culture by being without it. This is a heartwarming story about embracing differences and the power of family.
Read, Miss. Summer at Fairacre. Boston: Houghton, 2001.
Reason read: Miss Read’s birth month is in April.
After a long winter the folks of Fairacre cannot wait for sunshine and roses. No one is more anxious for warmer weather than schoolteacher Miss Read. She is looking forward to a long list of many projects. They do not include the unwanted attentions of Henry Mawne while his wife is out of town. Any woman could relate. If a married man brought another woman flowers, or brought her books, invited her to lectures or a sherry party, or mailed her postcards signed with love, all while his wife was away for whatever reason, people would talk. But Henry Mawne isn’t Miss Read’s only problem. She has issues with the woman who cleans the school and her house. Miss Read spends most of the book fretting about who will clean these places while Mrs. Pringle is ill. I have to admit it is a little curious how Mrs. Pringle can string Miss Read along. One of the best things about Miss Read is how real her character was throughout the story. How fiercely protective she was of her private time. The episode when she had a twitch in her eye that led her to wonder if she was going blind was so apropos. How many of us have felt a pang and instantly wondered if we had an incurable disease? Despite Miss Read’s wonderful personality, I loved friend Amy even more. She was hysterical.
Quote I liked, “What would happen if we all spoke the unvarnished truth?” (p 14) and “Sometimes life seems as contrary as a cat” (p 201).
Author fact: Miss Read’s real name was Dora Jessie Saint.
Book trivia: Summer at Fairacre is number sixteen in a series. My only other book on the Challenge list was Thrush Green.
Nancy said: Scenes of British village life can be found in the novels of Miss Read.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter “Barchester and Beyond” (p 15). As an aside, I have no idea how I ended up reading two books from the same chapter in the same month.
Gagne, Tammy. Exploring the Southwest. North Mankato, Minnesota: Abdo Publishing, 2018.
Reason read: planning a trip to the Southwest for my birthday.
This may be a book written for young children but I found it to be a good starting place for planning my trip to the southwest region of the United States. For starters, it was nice to clear up what states were officially considered “southwest.” Oklahoma and Texas were not part of my travel plans despite being part of the region. The second detail I appreciated was the variety of topics covered by Ms Gagne. According to the index, the major topics were: history, nature (plants, animals, landscape, weather), industry, and people. I focused primarily on plants (chitalpa, desert spoon, prickly pear, sagebrush and tumbleweeds). The third and final detail I appreciated was the photography. The front cover is the most stunning.
Book trivia: this is part of the Exploring America’s Regions series.
Aiken, Joan. Black Hearts in Battersea. New York: Doubleday & Company, 1964.
Reason: July is Kids Month and Pearl lists this as a book best for kids.
The first thing Ms. Aiken wants you to know about Black Hearts in Battersea is that it takes place in the same time period as The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, near the beginning of the nineteenth century. The second thing you should know is that some characters in Wolves are also in Black Hearts. Simon, an orphan who lived in a cave and came to the rescue in Wolves is the main character in Black Hearts. This time Simon is looking for his friend, Dr. Gabriel Field who has mysteriously disappeared after inviting Simon to come study art with him. A mystery ensues when everyone Simon encounters denies even knowing Dr. Field. It is as if the man never existed in Battersea. While waiting for Dr. Field to reappear Simon befriends the Duke of Battersea, gets a job with a blacksmith, and rooms with a suspicious peasant family. It’s a fun tale of adventure, especially after Simon meets bedraggled Dido who gets him in all sorts of trouble.
Author fact: As I mentioned before, Aiken also wrote The Wolves of Willoughby Chase, a book I read in September of 2013. Some are calling this a series so I should have read Black Hearts in Battersea in October of 2013. Bummer.
Book trivia: Black Hearts was illustrated by Robin Jacques.
Nancy said: nothing special.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 21). This book, interesting enough, is good for boys and girls.
A little something about the new year. I have absolutely no expectations of the year to come. No list of things I must pretend to accomplish. No run numbers, real or imagined. There has been an end to so many things. As a result I’m in day-by-day mode. Or, in the case of this entry, book-by-book. Here’s what I finished:
Captain of the Sleepers by Mayra Montero
Any Human Heart: a novel by William Boyd (AB + print)
Italy and the Grand Tour by Jeremy Black
Another Life by Michael Korda
Book of Puka-Puka by Robert Dean Frisbie. (I am now reading An Island to Oneself by Tom Neale as a continuation to Puka.)
Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright (finished the series)
Hyperion by Dan Simmons (started the series). (I’m now reading Fall of Hyperion as a continuation.)
Dirty Work by Gabriel Weston. NOTE: I was supposed to receive this as an Early Review in 2014. When it didn’t arrive I borrowed it from a library two years later.
You Carried Me by Melissa Ohden (December 2016 batch)
Island Voices II by Poets of Monhegan Island ~ a gift from my mother.
Enright, Elizabeth. Spiderweb for Two: a Melendy Maze. New York: Listen & Live Audio, 2004.
Reason read: this is the last book in the series to celebrate Enright’s birth month (started in September). I have grown to really like this family. I will miss them.
Here were are, back with the Melendy family. Only in Spiderweb for Two they are less than half the family they are used to being. Father is still traveling the university circuit as a guest lecturer and Mark, Mona and Rush are away at various schools. Left behind are Randy and her brother, Oliver, with the help, Cuffy and Willy. The rest of the family hasn’t been gone a day before Randy is beside herself with boredom. She doesn’t want to play with Oliver. He’s always been the baby of the family and therefore not worth her time…until she discovers a mystery. It starts with a message in the mailbox that takes them on a winter adventure. Each message is a clue to finding another message until they have received fourteen messages and all and it is summer once again.
It’s a cute story. Oliver getting stuck in the chimney was one of my favorite parts.
Profound quote, “Vigorously running bath water always caused Randy, as it does nearly everyone, to wish to sing” (p 80). This quote made me think of Natalie Merchant’s song, “Verdi Cries” and the lyric, “I fill the bath and climb inside, singing.” Maybe there is some truth to Enright’s words.
Author fact: Oliver was the name of Enright’s youngest boy, as it was in the Melendy series.
Book trivia: the e-audio version spells “Cuffy” as “Kaffi”.
Nancy said: absolutely nothing; just listed the title.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 21).
December did not suck entirely. I was able to run 97 miles out of the 97 promised. The in-law holiday party was a lot of fun and I got to most of the books on my list:
Conquest of the Incas by John Hemming (DNF)
Rainbow’s End by Lauren St. John
Paul Revere and the World He Lived in by Esther Forbes
On the Ocean by Pytheas (translated by Christina Horst Roseman)
Geometry of Love by Margaret Visser
Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre .
River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey by Candice Millard (AB)
Tu by Patricia Grace – I read this in four days because it was due back at a library that didn’t allow renewals.
Spiderweb for Two by Elizabeth Enright. I listened to this on audio on my lunch breaks. It was a good way to escape for a little while each day. Confessional: I didn’t finish the whole thing but since it is a continuation of the series it doesn’t matter.
Yoga for Athletes by Ryanne Cunningham – this was an October book that took me a little time to review because I was too busy using it to run!
Enright, Elizabeth. The Melendy Family: Then There Were Five. Read by Pamela Dillman. New York: Listen and Live Audio, Inc., 2004.
Reason read: to continue the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month. Confessional: I read most of Then There Were Five while I was still on Monhegan but came home to finish it up on audio.
The Melendy family is another year older. This time Mona (15), Rush (14), Randy (12) and Oliver (almost 8) are collecting scraps to aid in the war effort. It’s an interesting concept for a children’s story. At each farmhouse (they still live in the country in that weird house) the children meet people they normally wouldn’t ever encounter otherwise. At one particular house they meet Mark, a boy living in an abusive home. He becomes a fast friend…and the fifth member of the Melendy household.
Like The Saturdays, I felt Enright opened my eyes a little wider. Mark was an interesting character. His description of the Perseids and Leonids evoked memories of watching the sky on Monhegan.
Author fact: Elizabeth Enright wasn’t born in New York or the city, but she spent a lot of time there.
Book trivia: In addition to the violence, Enright includes other sobering subjects in Then There Were Five.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls” (p 21).
If you have been keeping up with me, myself and moi then you know we love Halloween. Odd. Odd because we can’t watch Walking Dead or go to Fright Fest without peeing our pants. What I love about Halloween is the potential for witchcraft, darkness & something intangibly spooky, if that makes sense. I love mysteries and there is no greater mystery than death. Right? Jack-o-Laterns glowing on doorsteps. Ominous crows watching silently from the trees. Candlelight shadows wavering on the wall. Cemeteries shrouded in the fog…I love it all.
In other news, I bailed for the first time ever on a half marathon but made it home-home to put up a ceiling for my mother. And speaking of Monhegan, we almost got caught in Hurricane Matthew! Somehow we managed to get out just in time.
Having said all that, unrelatedly here are the books:
The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright – to continue the series started last month in honor of Enright’s birth month. Took me two days to read.
Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started last May in honor of Rocket Day. Took me two days to read.
Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau – in honor of magical realism month. Took me the entire month and I still didn’t finish it.
A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell – an audio book in honor of Halloween (this was my favorite story).
Drink to Yesterday by Manning Coles – in honor of Octoberfest in Germany. Another really short book.
The Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal – in honor of Gorilla month being in October.
The Aeneid by Virgil – in honor of Poetry month (celebrated in Great Britain).
Hush by Jacqueline Woodsen – an audio book in honor of kids. This was only three discs long.
The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani because I saw it in a running magazine.
Enright, Elizabeth. The Melendy Family: the Saturdays. New York: Rhinehart and Company, Inc., 1941.
Reason read: to continue the series started in honor of Enright’s birth month (September). As mentioned before, I read them a little out of order. I should have started with The Saturdays.
This is such a cute book! Four siblings are bored, bored, bored on a Saturday. While they all receive an allowance, it’s not enough for them to each do something every weekend. They decide to form the Independent Saturday Afternoon Adventure Club. Every Saturday they pool their allowances and one Melendy child gets to spend the entire day doing something adventurous of his or her choosing. Ten and half year old Randy goes to the museum to look at art and meets Mrs. Oliphant on the first Saturday. Twelve year old Rush goes to the opera and finds a dog (who he names Isaac, get it?) on the second Saturday. Mona, the only teenager in the bunch, gets her hair cut. Even young Oliver at six years old sneaks to the circus when it is his turn.
One of the best thing about Enright’s books is that she introduces me to a world I will never meet (unless someone really does invent a time machine that works): the 1950s. Because of her writing I learned about Lucrezia Borgia, Jules Clairon, Jane Cowl, and Katharine Cornell. My only panic was when Enright had Rush feed chocolate to his dog. I was taught to think chocolate is poison for a dog!
Quotes, “Fast, with her feet churning and her arms reaching until she had left the knowledge of her advancing age far behind” (p 169).
Author fact: Enright illustrated all of the Melendy books & they are really, really cute!
Book trivia: The Melendy Family is comprised of three of the quartet. Spiderweb for Two hadn’t been published yet.
BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Best for Boys and Girls (p 21).
October is…another half marathon. Maybe another trip to Monhegan (not sure yet thanks to it being hurricane season) but what I’m sure about is definitely reading more, more, more books!
Texaco by Patrick Chamoiseau – in honor of magical realism month
The Merry Misogynist by Colin Cotterill – to continue the series started in May in honor of Laos Rocket Day
A Blessing on the Moon by Joseph Skibell (AB) – in honor of Halloween
Toast to Tomorrow by Manning Coles – in honor of October being the best time to visit Germany. Note: just found out this is the second Tommy Hambledon book in the series so you will probably see A Drink to Yesterday before A Toast to Tomorrow.
Ape and the Sushi Master by Frans de Waal – in honor of October being Gorilla Month
The Saturdays by Elizabeth Enright – to “continue” the series started in September in honor of Enright’s birth month (yes, another series read slightly out of order).
The Code of the Extraordinary Mind by Vishen Lakhiani. Don’t ask.
If there is time I would like to add Aeneid by Virgil in honor of Great Britain’s poetry month.
Lyon, George Ella. Which Side Are You On: the story of a song. Texas: Cinco Puntos Press, 2011.
Reason read: curiosity piqued after it was mentioned in an Early Review book by the same name.
I first heard the protest song Which Side Are You On? from singer-songwriter Natalie Merchant back in 2000 when she toured the U.S. singing folk songs. Her tour was unique given the fact she wasn’t supporting an album (that came later), the songs were all but forgotten British and American folk tunes, and audiences were treated to a history lesson with almost every song. Florence Reese’s “Which Side Are You On?” became one of my favorite.
Of course, no one knows Ms. Reese’s true story and her lyrics have changed over time, but George Ella Lyon’s book (with illustrations by Christopher Cardinale) is entertaining and informative for children and adults alike. I especially liked the author note and bibliography.