Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Ten Books That Changed My Life

Voyeur (M.A. Reilly, 2010)

I was tagged in a post on facebook by Chris Kenny a year ago to post ten books that changed my life across the next ten days.  I took a look at the books he had posted and was reminded how much I love books and people who share and also deeply love all kinds of books.  I then let the idea settle in.

Sometimes I am slow.

Ten is hard. Here's the imperfect list, a year late.

Day 1 (Christmas Day)

Dylan Thomas's A Child's Christmas in Wales

I did not know language could slip and slide and sing until I first heard Dylan Thomas read A Child's Christmas in Wales. I wanted to write like him. I wanted to make sound impressions. I wanted language to fill my mouth. I still do. I still try.

Day 2 

 Seamus Heaney's The Spirit Level.

Rob gave me a copy of the book a Christmas morning far too long ago to remember fully. I read it in a sitting and have spent the last twenty years or so rereading it.  I have gifted this book more times than I can count.

Day 3

Henry David Thoreau's Walden.

This book shaped and continues to shape me, especially as I age. I read it first in high school. I read it out of obligation and would return to it a few years later--somewhat unfettered and was surprised at how much I could hear as I had so much space opening inside.

I blogged about the book here: We Are Too Full of Knowing 

Day 4

Toni Morrison's Beloved

This was the last book I taught to more than 100 senior high school students six months after it had been published.  I remember what my students thought as we all struggled together to make sense of Morrison’s story, of America’s story.  I recall feeling deep shame as we uncovered what was not in the history books that filled classrooms no more than a few feet away.

Day 5

Rumi's The Essential Rumi


This year Rob and I would have been married 30 years. Perhaps then a book about love seems all the more appropriate.  No one in my life has ever loved me as he did. Through and with him I learned to want to become a better person.  That's the heart of marriage: to compose better selves.

Is there nothing as grand as love?  It would be a few weeks after Rob had died that I would open this book and find a page folded and a slip of paper in it on which Rob had left me a note.

Some gifts move in and out of time.
They form us.
It's not always the book that makes the book matter.

Day 6

Kate Chopin's The Awakening


I can still recall the sting of wind and the hours snow fell. It was January and school was called off due to snow. I cannot remember why I happen to have a copy of Chopin's The Awakening, but I did. I had recently turned 27 and would divorce a year later. It  would be this book that would set that course in action.  As I read the story of Edna Pontellier I grew short of breath, recognizing a possible future on those pages. Edna and I were of a similar age. I did not want to drown myself, but did feel stymied, lost, limited, too certain. Surely, life with all its fullness and uncertainty waited just around a bend and staying put would be akin to walking into that bay of water alongside Edna.

Leaving the known, the overly familiar, is always hard and takes courage.
Staying though is like death.

Day 7

James Joyce's Ulysses
Ordinary Angels (M.A. Reilly, 2009)
I really tried to read this. I tried several times and it would not be until I met Rob who had read the novel and studied it that I read it from start to end. Years later, Rob, Devon and I would spend a day where this novel opens. The same place Joyce wrote parts of the story. The stairs that wind up Martello   Tower  are worn and narrow. Instead of the book, I placed an image I made later that day as the swimming hole nearby. It was late September and we were bundled up. The locals less so as they swam.

Day 8

David Whyte's Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words

I return to this text often. It is ingenious: a poetic dictionary and then some.  Whyte provides an essay for 52 words.  Here is the opening fro the word, solace.

SOLACE is the art of asking the beautiful question, of ourselves, of our world or of one another, in fiercely difficult and un-beautiful moments. Solace is what we must look for when the mind cannot bear the pain, the loss or the suffering that eventually touches every life and every endeavor; when longing does not come to fruition in a form we can recognize, when people we know and love disappear, when hope must take a different form than the one we have shaped for it.

I have read and reread this book so many times. Each time feels new.

Day 9

Kevin Young's Brown 

I don't remember how I first heard of Kevin Young's book of poetry, Brown, but I do remember reading it from cover to cover and being moved so much that staying in my skin was a challenge. His poems took me back to college (decades ago) and brought me to the present moment.

It's the way h sees and sounds that I most admire, want to emulate.

Here's the closing poem: "Hive."

Day 10

Mary Oliver's Dream Work

When Rob died I selected the poem, "Wild Geese," to be printed on the Remembrance Card.  It fit. The poem's large sense of belonging to the world conveyed what I could not say at the time. Rob was all about the generosity of living.

I read this book the year I met Rob in graduate school. It was fairly new at the time and I marveled at the way Oliver's poems were so simple and yet, profound. I return to this volume often.

What books move you? What books help you to see differently?  What books have changed your life?

Merry Christmas

Branch Brook Park (Newark, NJ, December 2019)

Before the ice is in the pools,
      Before the skaters go,
Or any cheek at nightfall
      Is tarnished by the snow,

Before the fields have finished,
      Before the Christmas tree,
Wonder upon wonder
      Will arrive to me!

What we touch the hems of
      On a summer’s day;
What is only walking
      Just a bridge away;

That which sings so, speaks so,
      When there’s no one here,—
Will the frock I wept in
      Answer me to wear?

Saturday, December 14, 2019

50+ Children's Picture Books from 2019-2020

from Julie Flett's Birdsong (2019)
These books simply caught and held my interest.

1.    Albee, Sarah. (2019). North America: A Fold-out Graphic History. Greenbelt, MD: What on Earth Books.
2.    Barnes, Derrick. (2019). The King of Kindergarten. Illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books.
3.    Beaty, Andrea. (2019). Sofia Valdez, Future Prez (The Questioneers) Illustrated by David Roberts. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
4.    Beaty, Andrea. (2019). Sofía Valdez, presidenta tal vez / Sofia Valdez, Future Prez. Illustrated by David Roberts. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
5.    Bryant, Jen. (2019). Feed Your Mind: A Story of August Wilson. Illustrated by Cannaday Chapman. New York: Harry N. Abrams.
6.    Charles, Tami. (2020). Freedom Soup. Illustrated by Jacqueline Alcántara. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
7.    Cline-Ransome, Lesa. (2020). The Power of Her Pen: The Story of Groundbreaking Journalist Ethel L. Payne. Illustrated by John Parra. New York: Simon & Schuster.
8.    Cooper, Elisha. (2019). River. New York: Orchard Books.
9.    Copper, Susan. (2019). The Shortest Day. Illustrated by Carson Ellis. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
10.DiCicco, Joan. (2019). The Unstoppable Garrett Morgan: Inventor, Entrepreneur, HeroIllustrated by Ebony Glenn. New York: Lee & Low Books.
11.Engle, Margarita. (2019). Dancing Hands: How Teresa Carreño Played the Piano for President Lincoln. Illustrated by Rafael López. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
12.Flett, Julie. (Cree-Métis). (2019). Birdsong. Vancouver, BC: Greystone Kids.
13.Gonzalez, Maya Christina. (2019). They, She, He easy as ABC. Illustrated by Matthew SG.  San Francisco, CA: Reflection Press.
14.Gravel, Lisa. (2019). What is a Refugee? New York: Random House.
15.Gray, Caitlin. (2019). Serena: The Littlest Sister. Illustrated by Monica Ahanonu. New York: Page Street Kids.
16.Greenfield, Eloise. (2019). The Women Who Caught The Babies: A Story of African American Midwives. Illustrated by Daniel Minter.  Carrboro, NC: Alazar Press. (For middle school and older).
17.Hale, Christy. (2019). Todos Iguales / All Equal: Un Corrido De Lemon Grove/A Ballad of Lemon Grove. New York: Chidlren’s Book Press/Lee & Low Books.
18.Hegedus, Bethany. (2019). Rise!: From Caged Bird to Poet of the People, Maya Angelou. Illustrated by Tonya Engle. New York: Lee & Low Books.  (For middle school and older).
19.Hopkins, Lee Bennet (2019). I Remember: Poems and Pictures of Heritage. New York: Lee & Low Books.
20.Leung, Julie. (2019). Paper Son: The Inspiring Story of Tyrus Wong, Immigrant and Artist. Illustrated by Chris Sasaki. New Yoirk: Schwartz & Wade.
21.Lukoff, Kyle. (2019). When Aidan Became a Brother. Illustrated by Kaylani Juanita. New York: Lee & Low Books.
22.Lyons, Kelly Starling. (2020). Dream Builder: The Story of Architect Philip Freelon. Illustrated by Laura Freeman. New York: Lee & Low Books.
23.Maclear, Kyo. (2019). It Began with a Page: How Gyo Fujikawa Drew the Way. Illustrated by Julie Morstad. New York: HarperCollins.
24.Maillard, Kevin Noble. (Seminole Nation). (2019). Fry Bread: A Native American Family Story. Illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal.  New York: Roaring Brook Books.
25.Méndez, Yamile Saied. (2019). Where Are You From? Illustrated by Jaime Kim. New York: HarperCollins.
26.Méndez, Yamile Saied. (2019). ¿De dónde eres?: Where Are You From? Illustrated by Jaime Kim. New York: HarperCollins.
27.Mora, Oge. (2019). Saturday. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
28.Muhammad, Ibtihaj. (2019). The Proudest Blue: The Story of Hijab and Family. Illustrated by  S. K. Ali Hatem Aly. New York: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers .
29.Paul, Miranda and Paul Baptiste. (2019). I Am Farmer: Growing an Environmental Movement in Cameroon. Illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. Minneapolis, MN: Millbrook Press.
30.Perkins, Mitali. (2019). Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story from the Border.  Illustrated by Sara Palacios. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
31.Quintero, Isabel. (2019). My Papi Has a Motorcycle. Illustrated by  Zeke Peña.  New York: Kokila.
32.Quintero, Isabel. (2019). Mi papi tiene una moto.  Illustrated by  Zeke Peña.  New York: Kokila.
33.Ransome, James E. (2019). The Bell Rang. New York:  Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books.
34.Robeson, Susan. (2019).  Grandpa Stops a War. Illustrated by Rob Brown. New York: Triangle Square.
35.Robeson, Theresa. (2019). Queen of Physics: How Wu Chien Shiung Helped Unlock the Secrets of the Atom. Illustrated by Rebecca Huang. New York: Sterling Children’s Books.
36.Robertson, Joanne (Atikameksheng Anishnawbek). (2019). The Water Walker / Nibi Emosaawdang. Translated by Shirley Williams and Isadore Toulous. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press.
37.Robinson, Christian. (2019). Another. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
38.Rogers, Lisa. (2019). 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and "The Red Wheelbarrow.” Illustrated by Chuck Groenink. New York: Random House.
39.Rosenstock, Barb. (2019). Prairie Boy: Frank Lloyd Wright Turns the Heartland into a Home. Illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal. Honesdale, PA: Calkins Creek
40.Russell-Brown, Katheryn. (2020). Voice Named Aretha. Illustrated by Laura Freeman,. New York: Bloomsbury Children's Books.
41.Smith, Sydney. (2019). Small in the City. New York: Holiday House.
42.Sotomayor, Sonia. (2019). Just Ask! Be Different, Be Brave, Be You. Illustrated by Rafael López. New York: Philomel Books 
43.Sotomayor, Sonia. (2019). ¡Solo pregunta!: Sé Diferente, Sé Valiente, Sé Tú. Illustrated by Rafael López. New York: Philomel Books.  
44.Thorn, Theresa. (2019). It Feels Good to Be Yourself: A Book About Gender Identity. Illustrated by Noah Grigni. New York: Henry Holt and Co.
45.Tucker, Zoë. (2019). Greta and the Giants: inspired by Greta Thunberg's stand to save the world. Illustrated by Zoe Persico. London: Frances Lincoln Children's Books.
46.Wilson, Janet. (2019). Our Future: How Kids Are Taking Action. Toronto, ON: Second Story Press.
47.Winter, Jeanette. (2019). Our House Is on Fire: Greta Thunberg's Call to Save the Planet. New York: Beach Lane Books.
48.Winter, Jonah. (2019). Thurgood. Illustrated by Bryan Collier.  New York: Random House.
49.Wittenstein, Barry. (2019). A Place to Land: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Speech that Inspired a Nation. Illustrated by Jerry Pinkney. New York: Neal Porter Books.
50.Yang, Kao Kalia. (2019). A Map into the World. Illustrated by Seo Kim. Minneapolis, MN: Carolrhoda Books.
51.Zunon, Elisabeth. (2019). Grandpa Cacao: A Tale of Chocolate, from Farm to Family. Illustrated by New York: Bloomsbury Children's Books.