Monday, April 26, 2010

In which I give you a poem in lieu of a book recommendation

Walking to our Saturday School Fair this weekend, my oldest son, who has never failed to notice every bit of nature God puts in his path, looked at a weed pushing up through some broken pavement and said, "Look, Mom, nature and God always win."

His observation reminded me of an old journal I'd found earlier in the week, and of one poem in particular, by Mary Oliver.

It doesn't have to be
the blue iris, it could be
weeds in a vacant lot, or a few
small stones
just pay attention, then patch
a few words together and don't try
to make them elaborate,
this isn't a contest but a doorway
into thanks, and a
silence in which another voice can speak

-Mary Oliver

Ann Lamott says that all writers should have a copy of Mary Oliver's poem, Wild Geese, taped to their computer monitor. I'm not sure if my flat screen is considered a monitor? I like a clean uncluttered computer screen, but Wild Geese does rock, as does Anne Lamott. Maybe I'll try it, just for a bit.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Westing Game Treasure Trove

For all you Westing Game junkies (the 1979 Newbery Medal winner), this post is for you!

Ellen Raskin, author of The Westing Game, very graciously donated all her early writings, thoughts, editor's notes and musings about her wonderful book for all the world to enjoy.They are housed in Wisconsin, but nearly everything is available online.

If you haven't yet read The Westing Game, pick up a copy and settle in. It's an amazing ride. For me, it was the bridge that connected the incessant playing of the board game *Clue* with my brothers to reading the wonderful world of mystery-genre novels.

The nutshell version with no spoilers goes like this: The sixteen heirs of magnate Sam Westing were all called upon at the reading of his will to unravel the secret of his death. They all lived together at the Sunset Tower and were given $10,000 just to play the game, with the hopes of solving the mystery and ultimately winning $2 million dollars.

I haven't read this wonderful book for several decades, but I remember loving young teenage Turtle and her skillful ability to deduce logical conclusions from the evidence.There was a lot to love (and hate) about the other 15 players too, but young Turtle sticks out in my mind.

When you visit this site you will see the extravaganza of fun:  copies of early drafts,  later copies of final manuscripts, working notes, book design and even an audio-tape of Ellen herself talking you through all her stuff. A treasure trove for book-nerds and writers alike! Awesome!

Monday, April 5, 2010

Freshly-Brewed Monday Book Recommendation !

Love, Aubrey by Suzanne LaFleur

I just have to warn you from the get-go, this book is sad. Sad, sad, sad. But I beg you, give it a chance. The writing is so beautiful, Aubrey's voice is so sweet and ultimately, it is a book of hope, resiliency and triumph.

Amazon has a good summary that doesn't give anything important away so I'll start with that: Something terrible has happened. 11 yr old Aubrey is on her own. She's determined to hide away, and take care of herself because facing the the truth is too much to bear. But will the love of her Grandma and the letters she writes to her family help Aubrey to see that even though she has lost everything not all is lost?

Suzanne LaFleur writes about loss and grief brilliantly. I was reduced to tears more than a few times and I'm not sappy like that. The shattered innocence of Aubrey really takes your breath away and even though its so sad (I mentioned that right?), it feels so authentic you want to keep reading to see how this precious little girl fares. I've heard a few people say this book is more of a YA, I really don't get that at all. Aubrey is 11 and LaFleur has written her perfectly there. There are no issues or storylines that would take this into a YA subject matter, it all feels very middle grade to me. I think because it is, let's all say it together now, sad- some people may think it is more suited to an older audience. I disagree. I know a few fourth grade girls who would appreciate and enjoy this book.

**if you are considering this as an audio book, I know someone who both read it and listened to it on a trip with their children, she thought the "audio book Aubrey" had an overly-depressed tone to her voice that took away from the writing. I haven't heard the audio book, but I can imagine that would be annoying. Aubrey is a resilient optimistic girl by nature who was thrown into awful circumstances, I don't think the tone of her voice would bring you down. She's not that girl.