Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

I Received My Books!  I am SOOO EXCITED!

       I am still considered to be a board member of the library and evidently have my own out box at the library.  Our board president LOVES to read and has committed to keeping the library open - even if she has to use her own personal books.  We've received a great deal of donations, and she has gone through various books to see which ones will be sold and which could be shelved.  Whenever she finds the word "Mormon" she automatically sets it aside and asks me if it is something I might be interested in.

            I finished a book just over two weeks ago.  She had left it in my box.  It took just two weeks for me to read "Rumors of War" from the Children of Promise series by Dean Hughes.  Though the initial publication of the books are over 20 years, I had never read any of them before, and after reading the first in the five book collection, I had to have more.

            If I was back in Salt Lake, I might be able to order these books through my library, but I don't have that option here.  When our library was part of the county system, I was actually quite limited in all book selections.  Now that we are not a county library anymore, I am even more limited.  So I purchased some used books from ThriftBooks here   I am so excited that they have arrived and I will be able to continue following the lives of the Thomas family and various friends.

             So let me get you started on my wonderful find . . . a book review by LaTiesha Cannon (which you may remember is not my actual name):

            "Children of the Promise" series is historical fiction.  It is said that Dean Hughes did some extensive research on the situations, circumstances  and even weather conditions.   The setting is 1938 and thereafter.  D. Alexander Thomas and wife, Bea have six children: Alex, Bobbi, Wally, Jean, LaRue and Beverly.  They live in Salt Lake. 

            The book starts with Alex (Elder Thomas) on his mission in Germany.  It's Christmas.  He and his companion.  They are visiting a member of the congregation who has not been to church for some time.  Though he has converted to Christianity, he is Jewish by birth and has been treated as an outcast to Germany.

            The missionaries had been told not to visit as it is dangerous - not only for them, but the man they are visiting as well.  The Gestapo have their eye on the American pair that teaches religion.

             We are then introduced to different family members back in Salt Lake.  Bobbi is interested in English literature and attending classes at the University of Utah.  She is dating a man whom her family thinks highly of and await the day that the two families will be joined. 

            When the book starts out, Wally is sixteen  and seems misguided somehow, having a strong desire to venture outside of his family - especially his overly domineering father, President Thomas, who is very devout to his calling - often losing the sight of his own family.  Wally tries to make light of the situation, but Pres. Thomas is never in the mood for Wally's taunting behavior.

            In his attempt to keep  Wally on the straight and narrow, Pres. Thomas arranges for him to gets a job on Mat Nasashima's farm.  Wally is comfortable with the Nasashinmas and develops a respect for them. Thus far the Nasashinmas characters are not well developed but I imagine will be in future books.  We are also introduced to the  Stoltz family while Elder Alex Thomas is there serving his mission, and continue even after Alex had returned home to Salt Lake.

            The Gestapo (well one thug in particular) become interested in Anna Stoltz who is very pretty and express unwholesome intentions toward her.  the missionaries are pulled out of Germany.  The Stoltz family go into hiding shortly after Alex had returned to Salt Lake.

             Eventually Wally graduates from East High School and joins the navy.  He is stationed in the Philippines and fighting with the Japanese.  In the past, whenever I have read a book about World War II, the primary focus seems to be on victims under German ruling or the American Japanese - I don't recall reading a book that has introduced both.  I also find it interesting to read the expectation of the woman's role and Bobbi's unwillingness to give up an opportunity of education and possible career by surrendering herself to that role - at least not yet.

            I am anxious to read more on the different characters and find out how their lives connected (or disconnected) and what strengths and weaknesses each of them have to overcome. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Vacation by Polly Horvath

       I really enjoyed "Everything on a Waffle" by Polly Horvath.  I had read it and posted about it a few years back (here).  Last week I started reading "The Vacation" by same author.  It is hilarious.

       Henry lives with his free-spirited mom and his dad who works for Fuller's Brushes and is away from home a lot as he is making sales.

       His mother gets the notion that she wants to go to Africa and serve as a missionary - which her dad finds odd as they are not even religious.  She looks into Mormonism to see if she can be sent to Africa that way, but when it doesn't work out, she ends up going to Africa anyway to help build a school house and just tells everybody that she is a Mormon missionary. 

       Henry's dad reluctantly heads to Africa with her, but they leave Henry at home with his two middle-aged aunts who don't seem to have a clue about raising children and seem to ignore Henry overall.

       His aunts names are Magnolia and Pigg.  After redecorating the house (where Henry lives - not because they were asked to redecorate, but because they are bored) one of them gets the wild notion that they should go on a road trip and go to the beach. (I think it was Mag who instigated the trip, as she had been sick for so long)

       Henry tells the story about the adventures, places they pass, motels where they stay and mostly what happens in the car or each restaurant where they order food.  No agenda to follow.  I wonder where all these characters came up with so much money to go to Africa and drive aimlessly so far to seven different states - starting in Virginia and going to Kentucky, Arkansas, back track to Florida.  Texas, Oklahoma.  They actually just left Oklahoma and are making their way to the Verde Mountains in Colorado. 

       Mag and Pigg sound like an old married couple disagreeing about practically everything.  And poor Henry just wants to get away and not be a part of them.

       So funny.  Haven't finished.  I think I have two more chapters left. 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

That Awkward Age

          Jenna and I have read together since she was a baby.  After we had moved to West Valley, she researched a program for a Mother/Daughter book club (which I've mentioned in a few past posts) but I think Wonderstruck is the last thing that we read together.

          I have tried to get her to read with me - but she's either too busy, not interested, or just seems to have outgrown us reading anymore.  Too bad.  I've recently read a couple that I think she would like.

           The characters in both books are the same age as Jenna.

          Rebel McKenzie (Candace F. Ransom) wants to be a paleontologist when she grows up (one who works with ice age mammals and not the dinosaurs).  There is an Ice Age Kids' Dig and Safari camp offered twice in the summer. She doesn't have the money, but decides to make her way to the camp - mostly without a plan of fitting in once she arrives - but gosh, darn-it, she scrapes her feet and gets reported as a run-away.

          In order to keep her in line, her mom and sister decide that she will spend the summer watching her seven-year-old nephew.  As if that wasn't bad enough, Rebel also has the responsibility of looking after the huge cat  that's part of the rental agreement for her sister's trailer.  Rebel is not happy.

          Bambi is the girl who lives across the way.  A winner and contestant of several beauty pageants.  Rebel is not at all interested until she learns there is money involved.  If she were to win a pageant, she would still have an opportunity to go to the second dig. Instead of keeping a close eye on her nephew, she drags him and his bully along to learn skills to help her succeed at winning a pageant.  On the road to success, she makes discoveries that aren't ice age related.  She forms friendships and matures faster than I believe is possible. 

          I enjoyed the narration and the humorous  descriptions. I really liked how the story end - though it did take me by surprise.  I found the growth of the character turned out quite fantastic.

          The other book, After All, You're Callie Boone by Winnie Mack, had quite a bit of humor to it also.  I laughed aloud and would read Jenna certain pages that I'd come across.  In this book, Callie is also the same age as Jenna.  Her best friend since the first grade has started hanging around with her nemesis, and she doesn't understand why.  Amy won't even take the time to explain to Callie why they're not friends anymore, and learns the truth through vicious gossip.

          Hoot moves into the house across the street.  He befriends Callie, even though she is less than pleasant to him - and not just once.  How can she possibly be seen around town with a boy?  How would she explain him? 

          Callie is interested in swimming.  After a fiasco at one pool, she is told to never return. she continues training at another with her dad's assistance.

          Normally, I like books with polished endings and not ones that will leave the reader hanging to draw his or her own conclusions.  I did not care for the last two chapters of this book because the ending is not polished.  But then again, neither is life.  Things happen that cannot be helped.  We may not control the outcome or the situations or outcome of other people.  That is life.  And life goes on. 

          I enjoyed  both .books. They both faced devastation and realistic choices of youth.  I laughed more with Callie  than I did with Rebel - though many of her descriptions did put a smile on my face.  The grammar's not perfect - but then again, that really is how a lot of youth talk - especially in that particular area.  I did like the ending of Rebel much better than the ending for Callie. 

          Jenna was the outgoing sponge before we moved to West Valley.  She did try, but felt unsuccessful and I noticed that she had withdrawn.  Slowly she's coming around to being outgoing again.  Last night she had two of her friends over.  We took them to what was supposed to be a pot-luck dinner.  Turned out to be a coleslaw salad, Jell-O salad, coffee cake, cookies and brownies.  Jenna thought it was awesome, though her friends and Roland and I would have preferred some more substantial food. Roland says we're always doing hot dogs from now on.

          We ended up taking the girls to McDonalds before returning them to their homes.  As it turns out, one of Jenna's friends is just as freaked out about bridges as I am.  (see this post)   

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The Emotional Reader

            After finishing "The Rent Collector" by Cameron Wright, I started "Letters for Emily", by the same author.

     While I did not care for the story itself, I did enjoy the message of the letters and the profound metaphors, and even some of the poems that a character in the story leaves as clues for his granddaughter. There is a lot of wisdom given in his advice.  I even found interest in the entire "puzzles" concept - that is a bunch of poems that each contain a password. 

     The characters names are Harry, Laura, Emily, Cara, Bob, Michelle and Greg.  I've formed an opinion on just about each of them which may have damaged my relationship with them.  For much of my attitude (toward the characters themselves) was somewhat cynical.

     The first chapter is written in first person.  We are introduced to Harry - who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's.  Except for his letters, the rest of the book is written in third person.

     Every Friday after school, Laura takes her seven-year-old daughter, Emily, to see her grandpa, Harry.  Cara is the aide who comes to check on Harry and provides a breakfast and lunch.  I was wondering why not all day. 

     Someone had once explained to me that dementia is like a wheel with several spokes - each spoke is a different dimension of dementia.  Alzheimer's is just one spoke of the dementia wheel.  Thus everybody who has Alzheimer's has some form of dementia, but not everyone who has dementia has Alzheimer's. My mom didn't have Alzheimer's but another form of dementia.  There were times that she was alone, but after we noticed mom's mind was being robbed by the disease, we made it a point to always have someone with her.  It was danger to her to leave her alone.  Who looked after Harry when Cara or Laura weren't there?

     I like Cara - though not a main character.  She has a way with people to accept them and make them feel comfortable.  She doesn't put up with nonsense.  She really does care for Harry and wants what's best for him.

     Laura's a bit insecure in her relationship with Bob, and he seems uninterested in permanent commitments as he seems to have given up on Laura and tolerates his father (Harry) at best.  I don't believe he's taken the time to get to know either one of them.

     Michelle is Bob's sister and Greg is her husband.  Greg is portrayed as a jerk who is far more interested in material possessions than he is in the human race or relations.  It's interesting to watch each of these characters as they to work together - or at least pretend to - as they read through Harry's poems and letters. 

     Harry has left a book of poems (well three books, duplicated, but identical in context and appearance) which contain password for opening each letter.  Though some of the poems are silly, some of them seem profound and thoughtful. 

     I was intrigued by a love poem he had written to Kathryn from Harry.  It was tender.  And the result of the password was intriguing:  "Believe in Love at First Sight." Wow.  What a wrap-up to such a tender poem. And his letters are filled with instructions on how to live - not just for Emily, but for each of us.

     It doesn't take much to get me to cry.  I will often I will allow my emotions to break through while reading or watching some movies.  During a few of these times, whenever Roland has happened to see my tear-stained face, has asked me what's wrong.  For this particular book, it's mostly been triggers.

     First off, the tragedy of having to look at assisted living facilities brought some emotions to the surface.  Those emotions will always be there.  It's a tough thing to have to find a place for a parent who cannot care for self.  It's a tough thing to settle for affordable than to place her where one month worth of paychecks wouldn't even keep her in for a week. 

     I remember looking at one thinking, "my mom will never fit in.  She is not old like these people.  They are ancient relics - not a one is even close to her age. We will all feel like we're just leaving her here to die, and that is NOT what we're doing.  The facility that Corey and I liked the best was really inviting.  At the time we saw it, I would have liked to move in.  It was nice.  It was also out of our price range.  BY A LOT!!!

     I do remember a worker showing us around, and what a positive atmosphere was provided.  She had invited us to eat lunch, though we declined.  She said the patients always had a choice for dinner.  I remember she told us there was one patient who always asked what was on the menu.  She asked each day without fail.  And then she would politely say, "Oh, I think I'll just have a grilled cheese sandwich"

     She also told us about another patient who would dress up every morning, find a work desk, sit down and work for a few hours before moving on.  She said no one really knew what he was doing, but it was always a part of his routine.  I thought of that while reading this book as the family members would read various letters and wonder when he found the time to write them or how he was able to remember.

     Some of the letters themselves would cause triggers as his one about "angels".  In the letter he told the story of his late wife who was a streamstress with a generous heart who had made a dress for a girl who couldn't afford to pay her.  And although it was "just a dress" to Kathryn (Harry's late wife) it meant all the world to Andrea (the girl she had made it for) -  I was reminded of a Christmas when I received a sack of potatoes that I'm certain the giver thought of as "just potatoes" but I still cry over the memory of receiving them and how truly blessed I was to have them.  (see this post) 

     Perhaps it was through this book that I decided to send a letter to a cousin who is getting married.  He was in the fifth grade when his mom passed.  He didn't really get to know her - not the way I had known her.  She was diagnosed with MS when she was pregnant with him.  He never knew her prior to the disease.  I don't know what memories he has of her.  Sometimes reading words about someone gone helps others to have a better understanding and deeper appreciation.  At least it has for me.

     One letter tells about how he had made soufflé and one day he found a recipe for pudding.  Both recipes contained the same ingredients.  I loved the comparison:  "Life is very much like gourmet cooking.  The ingredients we are given are often the same as those that others receive.  It is how the ingredients are put together  - the detail, the time and presentation."  I'm probably more of a pudding person.  Often I carelessly throw the ingredients of life together and hope things work out. Roland is an eternal optimist.  He makes soufflé.

       At the end of the book is a loving tribute from the author to his grandfather as there is a small collection of  poems that his grandfather wrote.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Opening Doors Through Literature

          First of all I would really like to thank Ellen and Sunny for their recommendation of the book "The Rent Collector" by Camron Wright.  I have enjoyed it and actually wouldn't mind having the book in my personal collection.

          I'm intrigued by so much of the story and the situation and dreams and literature.  Though the story itself is fictitious, Stung Meanchey was a real place.  A filthy dump in Cambodia. Three sided huts provided housing to those who worked at the dump.  The documentary "River of Victory" says that there are over 600 of this type housing.  Or at least there were.  The author's notes (Camron Wright on the Rent Collector) indicate that Stung Meanchey was shut down in 2009 and there is no housing at the new location of dumping grounds.

           When I look at pictures taken of those who reside in conditions that I can't even begin to understand, I often question if these people in these situations have dreams and wonder how simple their dreams may be compared to mine.

          It seems their lives would consist more of a day-to-day survival and accepting situation at hand.  I wonder if they wonder if there is better - for they do not own cell phones, or have access to TV.  Many of them (if any) don't even read.  I wonder if they have an understanding on what takes place outside of their world.  I wonder if they dream of leaving a certain situation how their circumstances would change or if they even think about it.

          There are many who constantly wish they had a larger house, a faster car, superior phone reception, the latest computer, touch screen, etc.  Yet for those in third world countries (and yes, they do still exist) what are their dreams?  their goals?

          I had heard of a situation with a family in Romania (I think it was) in which the family lived in a more modern house with electricity but had only one light bulb in which they would move from room to room - whichever was most pressing for light at particular time.  Some Americans, who had stayed with said family, were humbled by their act of kindness given despite their poor circumstances. 

          To reward their kindness, the Americans purchased a carton of light bulbs to give to the family.  There were cries of delight and disbelief to receive such a precious gift.  But even so, the family continued with their ways - removing the light bulb and carrying it from room to room - believing  they could get more mileage and perhaps even sharing the light with their neighbors who had electricity.

          In the story of "The Rent Collector" the narrator, Sang Ly, discovers that "the cow" that collects the rent can read.  Sang Ly decides that she wants to read - believing it will provide opportunity for her son to have an opportunity for a life outside of Stung Meanchey - believing that life outside the dump has to be better. She asks the rent collector to teach her.

          Of course there are different opportunities, different circumstances outside the dump.  Some good.  Some bad.  Our decisions always lead us to some things better and some things that are not.  The example that came to my mind was with a group of slaves that Harriett Tubman had taken out of the south. 
          The escape to freedom was not an easy one, and once the slaves had "escaped" they realized that freedom came with a price and though some situations and circumstance had become better for them, some just were not so great and some thought they'd be better off as slaves.

          We each give up things for our dreams or to help others with their dreams and sometimes our dreams don't live up to our expectations.  Sometimes they surpass our expectations.  There are always things about our current situation that we like.  There are always things we'd rather not deal with.  And we need both to grow.

          Camron Wright used his imagination to introduce the gift of literacy to one particular family living in the circumstances described in the River of Victory.  There are thousands of people who are not literate.  Some dream of how literacy might change their circumstances while many remain ignorant - perhaps by choice, but I think for the most part, the desire to read does not even occur to more than half of the illiterate population.  I think for many, they just don't know any better.

            They don't know about people who diet to lose weight.  They don't know about putting on make-up while looking in the rear view mirror as traffic comes to a standstill.  They don't know about the invention of the toilet or the importance of hygiene.  It's not their fault.  It's just how things are.

          Having a dream to own a light bulb or being taught to read or having a reason to look at the clock - those seem like simple dreams.  And yet there are several who might have those dreams.  The cell phone (or any phone for that matter) and the Internet are foreign concepts.  Perhaps even the idea of sending or receiving mail through the post office.  Why would it for someone who isn't even familiar with reading?

          The rent collector, called "the cow" by some, is not the most desirable person.  It isn't until Sang Ly has a book - a children's book- in her possession when she sees the rent collector as an actual human being and later dares to call her friend.

          The rent collector not only teaches Sang Ly to read but teaches her how to find metaphor in literature.  We learns that something as simple as instructions on how to grow rice can become metaphorical because someone has hand-written "and children" in place of rice.
          I love the relationships within the story.  The compassion that Sang Ly has for her son. The concern and love she develops  for a girl who becomes of age.  The remorse she feels for a thief who is killed.  And of course the development of the relationship between Sang Ly and the rent collector. 

          I love the interweaving of the literature and the lessons learned and the symbolic meaning that take place in her own life.  I love the profound statements such as this:  ". . . if every story ended with a handsome prince, there wouldn't be anybody left in the kingdom to stand around and cheer" and I love that it is written in first person.

          This is a book that I will definitely read again.  It's message was quite powerful for me.  I look forward to reading Camron Wright's other works.  It's truly Beautiful!  Thank you Camron Wright for sharing your talents.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Girl in the Torch: Book Review

          I really enjoyed Robert Sharenow’s “The Girl in the Torch”.  The story is about a girl named Sarah who has traveled to North America i(the United States) n early 1900’s.  

          The crime activity is high in the country where they are from.  A relative sends a postcard with the statue of liberty and Sarah's father starts setting money aside hoping that one day they will make the voyage to the promised land.

          When Sarah’s father is killed, she and her mom get on a boat by themselves and leave their country behind – hopefully never to return. 

          The Statue of Liberty is a sign of hope, and they are happy to see it. 


When they arrive in New York, Sarah is forced to part company with her mother who had gotten sick on the boat.  After her mother passes, the authorities tell Sarah that she has to be sent back to her native land where an uncle lives.  Sarah tells she the authorities that she has a relative in Brooklyn, but when the authorities are unable to contact the relative, they put Sarah on a boat to take her back.

As the boat pulls away and Sarah looks again upon the Statue of Liberty, she decides to jump off the boat and swim toward the statue.

The story shares Sarah’s life on Ellis Island and then in New York – where after a time a judgement is brought against her to send her back to her native country.

I really enjoyed following Sarah through her journey and the friendships that were made and the compassion that is shown in this story.  I thought it might be historical fiction, but the author makes note that not all of the facts brought up were true to the situation.

          At the conclusion of the book are his commentaries and then a time line about Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.  There were some things that I had remembered reading about already, but even more that I hadn’t known.  I enjoyed reading about that as well.

It is written in third person and I think geared to 4th to 8th grade reading levels.  Though I’m obviously outside of that range, and I enjoyed it.

I highly recommend this book.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Destiny, Rewritten by Kathryn Fitzmaurice

My latest reading is a book written by Kathryn Fitzmaurice.  One funny thing about the book itself is that the book jacket is on upside down.  Onlookers may think I am truly weird when I laugh out loud and yet I appear to have the book upside down – but really, just the jacket is.  The library taped it down that way.  I don’t know whether mistakenly or as a symbolic gesture.

Destiny, Rewritten takes us on a journey through the eyes of a  sixth grader named Emily Elizabeth Davis.  She was named after Emily Dickinson because her free spirited, English-teaching mom wants the destiny of her daughter to become a poet much like Emily Dickinson.  Only the Emily telling the story doesn’t particularly care for poetry. She does like romance novels though and will often write letters to Danielle Steel.

Her mother had given her a book that she had purchased on the day before her daughter, Emily was born. It is The Complete Works of Emily Dickinson poems which she says contains over 700 pages. Emily's mom has scribbled notes in the margin to let her daughter know that this poem reminds me of the time you were born, this is when you did a certain thing in your life.  A treasured book that Emily will look at, but doesn’t seem to appreciate the way that her mother does - though she does look at it..

One day she asks the question about the identity of her father and is finally told that his name is written in the book with all the poems and notes.  But there are so many pages  that Emily doesn’t know where to begin.  Her mother reminds her that perhaps it isn’t in her destiny to push it. 

As Emily searches through the book, she is told she has a phone call.  While on the phone, her brother donates a box to good will.  It wasn’t even the right box.  Emily’s book hadn’t even been in either box, and suddenly it has been donated.

Much of this story has made me laugh out loud.  There is a chapter on comparing Laura Ingalls to Emily Dickinson and what an exciting life Laura Ingalls read and how boring her sister Mary was.  I thought that was hilarious.

My latest reading is about the search for the accidently-donated book.  Reading about overly organized Emily trying to change her destination has really put a smile on my face.  I highly recommend this book – even if it appears to be upside down.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Who is Grandma Beth?

      The week before we left for Oregon, I had gone to the school to pick up Jenna. I was reading a book from my own collection and not the library as the parking lot started to empty. I wondered if she was dawdling again before I realized it was Thursday and she has an after school program. So my choices were to go home and return or continue reading.  Or hey, I could just go to the library that was near her school.  I chose the latter.

       I looked through a few titles before picking up: “Girl’s Best Friend” from the Maggie Brooklyn Mystery series by Leslie Margolis.  It was interesting enough, but thought it might be fun for Jenna and I to read together.  And so I continued to look for another book before I settled on “A Million Ways Home” by Diana Dorisi Winget.  I ended up reading both at the same time and proceeded to mix up the characters and plots – at least in the beginning.

      Both involved girls in 6th or 7th grade.  Both involved dogs – though Maggie walked dogs in New York while Poppy assisted at a shelter in Washington.

Jenna and I took turns reading aloud from “Girl’s Best Friend” – I often laughed at the wording from story.  When I read “A Million Ways Home” it was to myself.  I often cried.  Not a good book for me personally to read out loud.  I really did enjoy it.  It was the book I was trying to finish up before we went to Oregon.

The story starts out with Priscilla Parker (who goes by Poppy) in a children’s shelter.  She’d been placed there when her grandma had taken ill.  She believed that her grandma would get better.  She believed that she would be able to care for her when she left the hospital.  Her grandma could not return home after the hospital, but was sent to a nursing home to recuperate.  Poppy believed she could care for her grandma every bit as good as the rest home.  There was so much about her current situation that she did not understand.

Her own parents had been killed before Poppy turned one.  She had been left in her grandma’s care for all that time.  She tried to make the best of the situation at the shelter, but that’s NOT where she wanted to be.

In searching for her grandmother, and losing her way, Poppy witnesses a crime and is placed in a protective custody with the detective’s mother.  Poppy visits her grandmother – sometimes without permission and does her best to continue in protective custody so she doesn’t have to return to the shelter.

I feel for the character.  I feel her love.  I feel her pain.  I understand her choices.  I really loved this book.

After we got to Oregon, Jenna asked me, “Who is Grandma Beth?”

The first thing that came to mind was the book “A Million Ways Home” – as the name of Poppy’s grandmother is Beth.  But how would Jenna know that?  It wasn’t the book that we were reading together.  And then it occurred to me that I had mentioned that we’d be visiting “Graham and Beth” and Jenna had heard “Grandma Beth”

We never finished “Girl’s Best Friend” as she seemed to have lost interest and I returned it back to the library two days before it was due.  Perhaps we'll check it out again some other time.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Dear Mr. President

Winslow Press started the creation of a series called “Dear Mr. President” – I think a wonderful introduction.  I love the five books that were made.  I wish there was more.  I don’t know why it was discontinued – or so it seems.  Winslow Press doesn’t seem to offer publication later than 2002 (that I could see) and it doesn’t appear the site has been updated since May 2009.    Perhaps Winslow Press is one of many businesses that has had to file bankruptcy in the last decade and a half.

The three books I will focus on most are:

Though the Letters are fictionalized, information provided in the correspondence is based upon meticulous research.  I like how Winslow press refers reader to “learn more” though I personally did not find the useful, I like the concept of getting readers interest and encouraging research.

Presidents may have opened their mail at one time, but somewhere along the way the mail was handled by the secretary and now an entire team, I would imagine.  I don’t imagine the correspondence would have existed any other way but through our minds.

The poor coal miner wouldn’t have been able to send as many letters to Roosevelt as he did, as he would not have had the means for postage.  Nor would a slave have been able to correspond as they had even less means than did the coal miner.

All letters are start out with the twelve-year-old’s point of view.  Lettie has been taught by her mistress how to read and write.  Her mistress is the only child of a widower who most likely teaches Lettie out of boredom.  She encourages Lettie to write to Abraham Lincoln who responds. 

Knowing that the correspondence will put her in harms way should others learn that a slave has been taught to read and write. The letters are addressed to her mistress.  Correspondence allows the reader to understand the purpose of the Civil War and President Lincoln’s position and a thin view of what some slaves had to go through.

I think I found the miner story the most interesting.  To be certain that he received all of the young miner’s letters and weren’t open by his secretary, Pres. “Teddy” Roosevelt had the young miner address the letters to his son.  I do think I read a small error when Teddy expressed that Kermit was 13 in one letter and then 12 in the next. 

Besides reading about the conditions that the miners had to face, I enjoyed discovering trivial things that took place during Theodore Roosevelt’s reign.  He spoke with affection about all of the animals that belonged to his children – and baby-sitting the guinea pigs – which he really did do. 

And then there was Franklin D. Roosevelt who had some good ideas.  Some did not work out to his expectations.  His correspondence is with a girl of Italian decent.  She talks about different family members having to go on strike and about the hobos jumping freight lines.  That was interesting.

I also like how each of them use big words (which are capped and bolded) to describe things and use of contractions (which are underlined) to peak reader's interest not only in history, but grammar and vocabulary as well.

Winslow Press made it a point to caption each page with the words: “To learn more about specific mines, go to”, “to learn more about unions, go to”,  “to learn more abut Christmas during the civil war, go to”, “to learn more about the Dredge Scott Act, go to”

As previously mentioned, I actually didn’t find the winslowpress site at all useful, but I do like the idea of suggesting to readers to research mentioned subjects.  Wikipedia is always helpful for me, personally. 

Once the correspondence ends, there is a time line and brief history about said president.  A snapshot of a letter in his actual handwriting and then a letter the way it may have appeared by said 12 year- old.

Another interesting thing after the letters and time line is a synopsis of how the mail was delivered at that time and how much postage costs.  For more information on the post office it gives the Winslow site.  But there are so many sources that one can go to for more information.

The “Dear Mr. President” series is beautiful.  I think it needs to be continued.