Monthly Archives: May 2019

The Book Whisperer Recommends a Humorous Memoir

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Zarqa Nawaz was born in London of Pakistani heritage, but has lived most of her life in Canada. Laughing All the Way to the Mosque is her memoir and it is laugh-out-loud funny through much of it.

Nawaz’s parents dreamed of her becoming a doctor, but her grades in science classes kept her out of medical school. This note she wrote on her final physics exam will give a clue about her feelings toward science:

“Dear Physics People, I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable mathematical formula for solving this question. Here’s the thing: I don’t remember learning it. Don’t take this personally. I’m sure you taught it. It’s just that I have trouble absorbing things that make no sense. Don’t you want to stare up at the stars and just enjoy them for what they truly are? I know they’re just balls of burning gas to you, but they’re also poetic and can cause people to fall in love and contemplate life. So I’m wondering if there’s a way to make the calculation of the surface of a rotating cube more romantic. I think then I would be able to solve this problem. Yours truly, Zarqa Nawaz.”

The professor gave her a zero on the exam and suggested that she become a writer instead of pursuing medicine as a career.

Nawaz’s parents are not happy about her decision, well, it’s not her decision to ditch medicine. The decision has been made because of her grades in science. So she persuades her mother to allow her to put off marriage so she can go to journalism school. Her younger brother wishes to marry a non-Muslim, but their mother tells him it is a rule that an older sister must marry first. Perhaps she thinks her son will change his mind about his wife-to-be.

Then Nawaz’s mother becomes insistent about finding her daughter a husband and parades an ever-growing number of young men through the house in an effort to find the man for her daughter to marry. These meetings become more fodder for Nawaz’s humor.

Eventually, Nawaz finds a good Muslim husband, and he is a doctor. Nawaz’s mother has to be satisfied.

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Nawaz wrote the popular Canadian TV series Little Mosque on the Prairie. She frequently speaks to groups on Islam with her customary humor. At her Web site, http://www.zarqanawaz.com/, readers can discover more about Zarqa Nawaz.

The Book Whisperer Reads a Middle-Grade Book: Ivan the One and Only

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I was unaware of Katherine Applegate until a few weeks ago when I discovered Wishtree and purchased it on an impulse. I thoroughly enjoyed the story and thought it would be a good choice for one of my book clubs that includes some friends who speak English as a second language. Then I was looking for a book to give a friend’s six-year-old daughter and saw The One and Only Ivan, so I purchased it.

The One and Only Ivan won a Newberry Award in 2013, so I knew it had to have substance and be worthy of reading. Still, I wanted to read the book before giving it to my friend’s daughter. It will be made into a motion picture soon, so that was another draw because my friend’s daughter might enjoy the movie after she has read the book.

Ivan is a silverback gorilla who is sometimes called “the Freeway Gorilla. The Ape at Exit 8. The One and Only Ivan. Mighty Silverback.” Ivan lives “in a human habitat called the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.” Mack, the proprietor, conducts shows at two, four, and seven every day of the year.

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In addition to Ivan, Mack also has Stella, an elephant, Ivan’s dearest friend. Bob, the homeless dog is also Ivan’s dearest friend; he is not part of the show. Mack does have a dog who performs in the show. Thelma, the blue and yellow macaw, is another member of the cast.

Ivan tells readers right away that he can understand human words, but he cannot speak to humans. He also says that “understanding human speech is not the same as understanding humans.” How true.

Mack’s business is waning. People are not coming often or in large groups as they used to do. In fact, the attractions have lost some of their luster after 9,855 days. In addition, Stella hurt her foot and it is not healing properly. She rarely complains, but Ivan knows she is often in pain. That sore foot does not stop Mack from demanding a show out of Stella, even to the point of using the sharp stick to prod her.

Then Mack brings Ruby, a baby elephant, into the existing group. He thinks Ruby’s presence will draw the crowds once again. Stella is happy to mother Ruby, but she is saddened by Ruby’s imprisonment and Stella understands what is in store for Ruby.

Julia accompanies her father George as he cleans the mall every day. She is supposed to work on her homework while her father works. She prefers to draw pictures. She slips crayons and paper into Ivan’s enclosure and he imitates her in drawing what he sees, mostly banana peels and apple cores. He says he usually eats his subjects before he can draw them.

Mack discovers the drawings and takes them from Ivan to sell in the gift shop for $25 each, $35 with frame. The drawings give Ivan an idea of how he can save Ruby and send her to a zoo to live with other elephants and to have open, fresh air. What he doesn’t realize is that he will also be saving himself when his idea takes wings with a little help from Julia and her dad.

Readers will have to read the full story to see Ivan’s idea come to fruition and learn about friendship and love for one’s fellow creatures.

Katherine Applegate has written a number of books middle-grade readers. Some of those titles include Home of the Brave, The Buffalo Storm, and Sometimes You Fly. On her Web site, readers can discover where Applegate will be signing books across the US: http://katherineapplegate.com/.

 

 

The Book Whisperer Recommends a MUST Read: The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek

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The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson troubled me a great deal, but, at the same time, it brought hope. Cussy Mary Carter, 19, becomes a part of the WPA’s Kentucky Pack Horse Library Project in 1936, over her pa’s objections. Richardson’s story depicts the hardships folks faced living in the hills of KY during the heart of the Great Depression.

Babies born sickly died almost without taking a breath; those who did live clung to life precariously, continuously starved. Whole families perished from starvation. If the people managed to keep body and soul together, illnesses and accidents occurred. Hill remedies were sometimes more harmful than the illness or accident itself.  Honey was a much-prized commodity, used not only for cooking or on biscuits, but also put onto wounds to help with healing. Mothers sometimes rubbed chicken guts onto babies’ gums when they were teething to ease the pain.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek tackles all those issues of starvation, lack of opportunity, and prejudice. There is also the issue of the coal mine owners’ treatment of the miners and the miners’ attempts to organize a union, leading to deaths among those miners brave enough to risk their lives to help themselves and their brother miners to a better life.  I read the book in two days because I had to know what happened.

Cussy Mary can read and write, but she is starved to know more. Earning $28 monthly as a Pack Horse Librarian, Cussy Mary can help her and her pa, a coal miner, survive. But young women are supposed to marry, have children, and take care of a home. Cussy Mary rejects those notions despite her father’s wish that she marry.

Cussy Mary is named for Cussy, France, her great-grandfather’s birthplace. When she was born, Doc gave Cussy Mary the name Bluet because of the color of her skin. Later, readers discover Cussy Mary suffers from a hereditary disorder called congenital methemoglobinemia which “is due to an enzyme deficiency, leading to higher-than-normal levels of methemoglobin in the blood – a form of hemoglobin—that overwhelms the normal hemoglobin, which reduces oxygen capacity. Less oxygen in the blood makes it a chocolate-brown color instead of red, causing the skin to appear blue instead of white.”

As a result of this hereditary disorder, to the folks of Troublesome Creek, Cussy Mary is Colored and therefore to be feared, for touching her could turn the one who touches her blue as well. The people are ignorant and prejudiced. Fortunately, not all of the people on Cussy Mary’s book route fear her; in fact, they look forward to her weekly visits because they too are starved for books.

Eula Foster and Harriet Hardin, the two librarians in the town who run the Pack Horse Library Project, are two of the most vicious people Cussy Mary encounters. All of the pack librarians must pick up and return their books and magazines to the office Foster and Hardin run. Once a month, the pack librarians also help uncrate the new shipment of materials and box up the previous shipment for return.

In addition to the general prejudice Cussy Mary experiences, Preacher Vester Frazier presents a constant fear. Though he calls himself a preacher, he is nothing more than a lecherous, drunken lout. He wishes to find Cussy Mary alone on one of her trails and rape her in the misguided belief that making her pregnant with his child will cure her of her blueness. Or perhaps he has no misguided beliefs, but is simply a predator, a more likely assumption.

Richardson gives readers a clear picture of life for the people of the hills. Readers learn to look forward to Cussy Mary’s visits to the individuals on the route as much as Cussy Mary herself. Cussy Mary’s self-effacing ways lead people to trust her. Even moonshiner Devil John, who tells Cussy Mary to stop bringing reading materials because his family is behind on chores and his wife is not getting food on the table on time, gives in when Cussy Mary quietly shows him Boys’ Life and a scrapbook she has prepared that has recipes and homemaking hints in it. She convinces Devil John when she shows him “Mrs. Hamilton’s husband also has a dandy tip on picking the best witch sticks in there? Real good diviner tips, sir.” Finally, Devil John concedes that Cussy Mary can bring “the canning and recipe books after planting and harvest. Only that. Only then.

That exchange is one that Richardson must have read about in journals of some of the pack librarians. Here’s an excerpt from Josephine’s Journal: “Despite its problems, and the ongoing shortage of materials, the Pack Horse Library Project was considered a rousing success story. But success sometimes carried with it other problems. For instance, one family complained that their son’s new nightly reading habits meant they had to purchase more lamp oil. Another parent grew irate over the fact that he could not get his children to do their chores because all they wanted to do was sit and read.”

The picture below is from the WPA Pack Horse Library Project:

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Richardson’s research into the Pack Horse Librarian Project is evident throughout the book. She takes the history and brings it alive through her characters. Richardson lives in KY. She is “advocate for the prevention of child abuse and domestic violence.” The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is her fourth novel. Published in May 2019, The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek is already an Oprah’s Buzziest Book Picks for May, an Indie Next Pick, a LibraryReads Pick, and Southern Independent Book Alliance Pick.

At Richardson’s Web site, https://www.kimmichelerichardson.com/, readers can learn more about the author and her books. She also has “built a tiny home in the wilds of Kentucky to create a writers’/artists’ residency, named Shy Rabbit.” See her site for the complete information on applying.

From Kirkus Reviews: “A unique story about Appalachia and the healing power of the written word.” Richardson prefaces The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek with a quotation from T.S. Eliot: “The very existence of libraries affords the best evidence that we may yet have hope for the future of man.”

Read more about the Pack Horse Librarian Project at this link: http://www.kywcrh.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/WPA-Project-pack-horse-librarians-in-kentucky-1936-43.pdf.

 

 

 

 

The Book Whisperer Discovers a Literary Bent to The Last Detective

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Peter Lovesey is a prolific author with more than fifty published books that include mysteries and short stories as well as nonfiction. In addition, he has edited anthologies of short stories. Lovesey has written eighteen books featuring Detective Superintendent Peter Diamond.

The Last Detective, the first book in the Diamond series, almost becomes the last since DS Diamond resigns from the force—only to be reinstated, of course, but after a delving into and solving the murder that takes him off the force in the first place.

Set in Bath, The Last Detective opens with the finding of the nude body of a beautiful woman floating in Chew Valley Lake. Since the body has been in the water an indeterminate time, the medical examiner has a difficult time identifying the cause of death. Some speculation includes suicide, but the police can find no clothes along the shore anywhere. Finally, the ME decides that the woman has been murdered, likely by asphyxiation.

Chew Valley Lake where the body is found is pictured below:

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Although DS Diamond is only in his forties, he sees himself as the last detective using legwork, questions of anyone who might be involved, and avoiding computers. At times, he must give in to the pressure to use computers to research crimes, but he assigns those duties to John Wigfull, his new assistant detective.

Like many other brilliant detectives in fiction, DS Diamond faces an uphill battle with the administration. He is of size and has been accused in a previous investigation of pressuring a man into confessing for a crime he did not commit. By the time readers meet Diamond, he has been exonerated, but not to the extent he hoped: complete exoneration, leaving no mark on his record. Diamond also believes Wigfull has been assigned to him as a spy for the brass, so he is distrustful of Wigfull.

He explains to Assistant Chief Constable Tott that in the Missendale affair, Hedley Missendale had confessed because he had been threatened by organized crime bosses to take the fall. Missendale knew he would be safer in prison than disobeying orders. Diamond is accused of racial prejudice, however, in pursuing Missendale, a known criminal. Of course, the official report makes no mention of the threats Missendale endured. The verdict was overturned and Missendale freed.

After some time, the woman is identified as Geraldine, Gerry, Snoo, a former actress who played Candace Milner on The Milners, a soap opera. Her husband is Gregory Jackman, professor of English at the University of Bath.

Complications to the story arise along with subplots. Jackman identifies Gerry’s body for the police. DS Diamond immediately interrogates Jackman, thinking he must have committed the murder, especially since he has not reported his wife missing in the four weeks since he has last seen her.

Jackman is having a coffee and watching three young teenage boys playing near the river. He sees one of the boys dodge a stick thrown by his friend, lose his footing, and fall into the river. Jackman runs to the river’s edge, removing his shoes and suit coat. He manages to grab the boy and drag him ashore, giving him “the kiss of life” to revive him. In the hubbub after the rescue, Jackman slips away unnoticed and no one knows who has saved Mat Didrikson. The mystery man becomes another subplot that takes on significance as the story progresses.

Molly Abershaw, a determined newspaper reporter, takes pictures and statements from Dana and Mat Didrikson, publishing a story in her newspaper. She asks for people to identify the man who rescued Mat or for the man himself to come forward. Then Mat sees a documentary on TV about the Jane Austen exhibit at the University of Bath. Jackman is the curator, so he is showing the reporter around the exhibit when Mat recognizes him. In an effort to thank Jackman, Mrs. Didrikson gives him two letters written by Jane Austen to her Aunt Jane Leigh Perrot. Mrs. Didrikson by researching Jane Austen discovers the letters belong to a man who wanted them only for the stamps. He does not know the value of the letters and Mrs. Didrikson offers him thirty pounds for them which he accepts.

Along with Gerry’s death, the Jane Austen letters go missing. Thus, the complications surrounding the case mount up. Diamond clears Jackman of the murder, but then he questions Mrs. Didrikson who has tried to evade him.

In a particularly nasty exchange between DS Diamond and his boss who accuses Diamond of assaulting Mat Didrikson in trying to apprehend Mrs. Didrikson, Diamond resigns. Diamond takes several menial jobs, including one as a bartender. Shortly before Mrs. Didrikson’s trial is to begin, Jackman tracks Diamond down and enlists his help in trying to prove Mrs. Didrikson’s innocence, another uphill battle.

So, readers, the real killer is…. No spoilers here. Read The Last Detective to discover if Mrs. Didrikson is the killer or someone else is responsible for Gerry’s death. And where are the missing Jane Austen letters?

Peter Lovesey maintains an extensive Web site: https://peterlovesey.com/. There readers can discover a list of all his works and information about Peter Livesey himself.

Below is a picture of the Jane Austen Centre located on Gay Street in Bath. Austen lived on the street, but in another home. She actually lived in several locations in Bath.

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Lovesey sets the Diamond stories in Bath where he lived for a number of years. Lovesey has won a number of awards including the Cartier Diamond Dagger in 2000, the Grand Prix de Litterature Policiere, and the Ellery Queen Readers’ Award.

I enjoy reading books in a series because I can become better acquainted with the main character and learn about other characters in his/her life. The series allows the author to continue to develop characters, thus creating a sense of family.

 

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The Book Whisperer Reviews a Cornish Mystery

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Carola Dunn, https://caroladunn.weebly.com/home.html, lives in the US now, but she grew up in England. She has written over sixty books, primarily set in her native land. I discovered Manna from Hades: A Cornish Mystery when I visited Cornwall last year. The information on the back of the book made me wish to read the story, especially having visited Cornwall. Port Maybn, the setting for the story, is, according to Ms. Dunn, very like Port Isaac. The day we spent in Port Isaac was magical (as was most of the trip!); it is the setting for the mythical Port Wen, home of Doc Martin.

Eleanor Trewynn, a widow, has returned to live in Port Mabyn, Cornwall, after living all over the world with her husband. These days, she has retired and has funded a charity shop, LonStar, in the village. She leaves the running of the shop to Jocelyn Stearns, the vicar’s bossy, but very efficient, wife. Eleanor collects donations across the area using her little Morris Minor she has named the Incorrigible. Eleanor and Teazle live above the charity shop in an apartment created when Eleanor had the shop built.

Of course, Teazle, Eleanor’s West Highland Terrier, is her constant companion on the road, on walks, and at home. After a very successful day of collecting donations for LonStar, Eleanor and Teazle return home to unload the car. Eleanor discovers a leather attaché case that she has no memory of collecting, but there it is.

After unloading the car and putting all the donations into the stockroom, Eleanor opens the attaché case to discover it full of jewelry. She thinks it must be paste, or costume jewelry, but she cannot be sure, so she takes the jewelry out of the case and puts it away in the small safe she had secreted into the wall in her apartment. She plans to have the jewelry evaluated to see if it is valuable.

Now, readers must learn some particular quirks about Eleanor: she tends to forget where she has put her keys, forgets to lock up the LonStar shop, forgets to lock her car, and forgets to lock the door to her apartment which is upstairs from the LonStar charity shop. Since her car was unlocked while she was inside a home picking up donations, someone unknown to her put the attaché case full of jewels into her car. This forgetfulness will also be a hallmark in the story.

The next day after finding the jewelry, Eleanor discovers the body of a young man in the storeroom and the attaché case is missing. The young man has apparently hit his head on a rather odd coffee table donation; the coffee table looks like a dolphin.

Is the young man the victim of an accident or is he a murder victim? Eleanor must call the local police to investigate. As it happens, Eleanor’s niece Megan Pencarrow is a junior detective on the police force. DI Scumble will be the officer in charge of the investigation. DI Scumble is a rather impatient, misogynistic man who is not too happy to discover that Megan is Aunt Nell’s niece, but he needs Megan on the case, despite his mistreatment of her and his impatience with everyone.

Artist Nick Gresham has a small apartment, studio, and shop near LonStar. He often helps Eleanor unload her car when she returns from her donation gatherings. Eleanor would like to see Nick and her niece Megan form a relationship, but she keeps that wish to herself.

The jewelry turns out to be real and expensive. The young man appears to have been murdered, so the police must interrogate everyone in the area, especially those involved with the charity shop. The suspects continue to mount up as the investigation continues. Then Megan breaks the case open by discovering the dead man’s identity and also finds some people who had been living in squats with him in a nearby town.

Manna from Hades is a story to keep the reader guessing. It also introduces delightful characters whom the readers will enjoy getting to know. Other books in the series include A Colourful Death, Valley of the Shadow, and Buried in the Country.

 

 

 

The Book Whisperer Previews One Book, One Tulsa 2019

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Nicole Chung’s memoir All You Can Ever Know has been chosen for One Book, One Tulsa. Chung will appear at Tulsa’s Central Library 27 September 2019, delivering a keynote speech and signing books.

Nicole Chung was adopted by a white, Catholic family in a closed adoption when she was an infant. She was born prematurely and her adoptive parents told her “your birth parents were very sad they couldn’t keep you, but they thought adoption was the best thing for you.”

Chung’s adoptive parents loved her and gave her an excellent home. Her parents continued to tell her the story that her birth family had loved her but were unable to care for her and that “my parents, in turn, were meant to adopt me.”

One of Chung’s young elementary classmates makes fun of her, pulling the skin around his eyes up and taunting her with racial slurs. She is stunned by his actions. Then she realizes she is often the only Asian person in a group in her school, her church, her town.

As an adult, married and expecting her first child, Chung begins to dig into her birth family. She discovers she has a half-sister, Jessica, and a full sister, Cindy. Her parents are divorced and living in different cities. Her father has remarried and his wife has treated both Jessica and Cindy with love and kindness.

Nicole and Cindy begin by exchanging letters and emails. Cindy tells Nicole their mother is abusive and Cindy had a very unhappy childhood except for the time when she lived with her father and step-mother. The two sisters do meet and Nicole talks with her mother on the phone. Eventually, Nicole meets her father and his wife.

Over the course of the letters, emails, and meetings, Nicole learns about her birth family.

My family has recently discovered a cousin who was given up for adoption. In our case, the white child was adopted by a white family, so the cultural differences were never an issue. Still, only the birth mother and her parents knew about the baby and the adoption. Now, we are getting to know one another and sharing family stories with our newly-found cousin. A cousins’ reunion will take place soon.

Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere, describes her reaction to All You Can Ever Know: “This book moved me to my very core. . . . [All You Can Ever Know] should be required reading for anyone who has ever had, wanted, or found a family—which is to say, everyone.”

Nicole Chung, https://nicolechung.net/,  has written articles for The New York Times, The Guardian, Slate, and Real Simple. Currently, she is editor-in-chief of Catapult magazine, https://catapult.co/.

 

The Book Whisperer Likes One Crazy Summer

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Rita Williams-Garcia received the Tulsa Library Trust’s 2019 Anne V. Zarrow Award for Young Readers’ of Literature. She came to Tulsa May 3 to receive the award and to present awards to the 2019 Young People’s Creative Writing Contest winners. Williams-Garcia has received many other awards over the writing career including the Newbery award for One Crazy Summer.

Garcia-Williams writes “bestselling novels for young adults that inspire imaginations, dreams and pride in all ages. Her books encourage cultural awareness and the importance of believing in yourself.”

One Crazy Summer gives readers the story of Delphine, 11, Vonetta, 9, and Fern, 7, three sisters, who visit their mother in Oakland, CA. The sisters live in Brooklyn with their dad, Pa, and his parents, Big Ma and Papa. Cecile, their mother has left them shortly after Fern’s birth, so the girls do not know her at all. Only Delphine has vague memories of their mother, and she is uncertain about those.

Pa feels his girls need to know their mother, so he puts them on an airplane from NYC to Oakland. Cecile is less than enthusiastic about having her daughters spend 28 days with her. The girls have visions of warm hugs from their mother and at least one visit to Disneyland. Their dreams are dashed almost as soon as they arrive.

Cecile is not a hugger, not even of her own young daughters whom she has not seen since Fern was an infant. She also demands that Delphine give her the money Pa has given Delphine for the trip, money the girls think will take them to Disneyland.

Cecile begins issuing orders. The girls may not go into the kitchen and they are to spend all weekdays at the nearby People’s Center, run by Black Panthers. That’s where the girls must go for breakfast if they wish to eat. They also spend the day there, out of Cecile’s way.

Cecile allows Delphine to keep $10 of the money Pa gave her before they left Brooklyn and directs the girls to Ming’s to get “four egg rolls, and a big bottle of Pepsi” along with a large shrimp lo mein. Delphine is astounded that Cecile expects the three girls to navigate the strange streets and to buy food for dinner. Cecile gives one more order: “And tell Ming to give you four plates, four forks, four napkins, and four paper cups. No sense dirtying dishes. And you’re not coming inside my kitchen!”

While they wait for the food, Delphine says “I made up my mind about Oakland. There was nothing and no one in all of Oakland to like. I would get on a plane and fly back to New York if Big Ma showed up wanting her grandbabies. I wouldn’t even tell Cecile ‘Thanks for the visit’.”

Once they have the food, Delphine has coins so she uses the pay phone to place a collect call back home. Big Ma answers the phone and berates Delphine for calling collect since it will certainly be a big charge.

As a result of Big Ma’s anger over the collect call, Delphine cannot tell her that Cecile is no mother and the girls are mostly on their own. Cecile has no telephone and no TV. The girls are to sleep on a bed with a trundle.

The next morning, instead of preparing breakfast for the girls, Cecile reminds them they can get free breakfast at the People’s Center. When the girls arrive at the Center, they see “a line of hungry kids” waiting for breakfast, “except they weren’t all black.” Inside, the girls eat breakfast and then meet Sister Mukumbu who directs the activities each day.

Delphine acts as a mother to her younger sisters, watching over them, keeping them from fighting, and making sure they are fed. Realizing they are stuck for twenty-eight days, Delphine figures out how to make the best of the situation. After eating the take-out food from Ming’s for many nights, Delphine saves the money and the girls go to the Safeway store on their way home from the Center one evening.

Delphine buys chicken pieces, potatoes, and onions. Back at Cecile’s, she persuades Cecile to allow her into the kitchen to “cook real food” and assures Cecile she will clean up the kitchen, leaving no mess at all.

The story told through Delphine’s eyes is funny, a big poignant, and ultimately uplifting. The girls do learn a bit about their mother. They have adventures on their own in Oakland with Delphine saving money from the grocery trips and then asking Cecile for more so the three girls can take a trip to Chinatown. Delphine has the whole adventure planned from what they will eat to riding a cable car.

Delphine, Vonetta, and Fern do learn about their mother and about their own heritage. One Crazy Summer is a story well worth reading for adults and children.

Learn more about Rita Williams-Garcia at her site: https://rita-williamsgarcia.squarespace.com/.

The Book Whisperer Examines Two Juvenile Books

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I enjoy reading books for readers of all ages. Recently, I read an article about books for young readers featuring immigrant children. Intrigued, I requested two of the books from the library: The Name Jar by Yansook Choi and One Green Apple by Eve Bunting a illustrated by Ted Lewin.

In The Name Jar, Unhei has just moved to the US from Korea. She is uncertain about her first day in a new country and a new school. How will the other children react to her and will they be able to pronounce her name?

Unhei decides she will take an American name, but she needs to decide. Her classmates put a jar on her desk and begin putting suggested names into the jar. Unhei tried saying some of the names as she stood before the mirror: Amanda, Laura, Suzy. They didn’t sound quite right.

Unhei and her mother are shopping at Kim’s Market when Mr. Kim asks her name. When she tells him Unhei, he replies, “Ahh, what a beautiful name. Doesn’t it mean grace?”

In class the next day, Joey, one of Unhei’s classmates, sees Unhei with a stamp. She explains her grandmother had the stamp made with Unhei’s name on it. Unhei pressed the stamp onto a piece of paper to show Joey. Unhei goes on to tell Joey that in Korea she can use the stamp “as a signature when I open a bank account or write a letter.”

Joey takes the time to learn how to pronounce Unhei’s name: Yoon-Hey. When Unhei returns to class, the name jar is missing and no one can find it. After school, Joey visits Unhei at her home. He confesses he hid the name jar because he wants Unhei to use her own Korean name, not choose an American name. Joey says, too, that he has visited Mr. Kim who helped him choose a Korean name. He pulls a “small silver felt pouch from his pocket.” It contains “a dark wooden stamp with beautiful Korean characters carved sharply in it. Joey stamps Chinku onto the paper, and Unhei smiles! Chinku means friend.

My favorite picture from the story appears below; it is Unhei and Joey, Chinku, together.

Choi

Yansook Choi grew up in Seoul and now lives in NYC. She earned an MFA in illustration from the School of Visual Arts in NYC.

She received an MFA in Illustration from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.  She divides her time between New York and Seoul. On her Web site, https://www.yangsookchoi.com/, readers can see examples of Choi’s artwork as well as watch a TED Talk about her early life in Seoul.

One Green Apple by Eve Bunting, illustrated by Ted Lewin, tells Farah’s story of feeling alone in a new country where people speak a language she does not know—yet. Farah and her classmates are taking a field trip to an apple orchard Once the children leave the bus, they get on a wagon filled with hay bales which will take them to the orchard.

At first, Farah feels alone and apart from the other children. She explains, “I am different, too, in other ways. My jeans and T-shirt look like theirs, but my dupatta covers my head and shoulders. I have not seen anyone else wearing a dupatta, though all the girls and women in my home country do.”

Farah’s father has told Farah “it will be good for us here [in the US] in time.” Farah at first feels uncertain, but the trip to the apple orchard shows her that she is part of the class too and that she has friends. She will work on learning her new language. On the field trip, Farah finds things that sound the same in her new world as they did in her village: dogs crunching food and friendly laughter.

Eve Bunting was born in Maghera, Ireland. She said that “there used to be Shanachies in Ireland of long ago. The Shanache was a storyteller who went from house to house telling his tales of ghosts and faires, of old Irish heroes and battles still to be won.” She thinks she is part Shanachie herself. See more about Eve Bunting at this site: http://evebuntingstudy.weebly.com/eb-bio.html.

Lewin

Illustrator, Ted Lewin has received a number of awards, including a Caldecott Medal for Peppe The Lamplighter. On his Web site, https://www.tedlewin.com/, readers will find more about Lewin.

 

The Book Whisperer Reviews an OK Story

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Floyd

This spring, I have participated in Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma, a book club sponsored by the Oklahoma Humanities. The book club meets at the Museum Broken Arrow in the Rose District. The books for this series titled The Oklahoma Experience: The Thirties include Will Rogers: His Wife’s Story by Betty Rogers, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Roughneck by Jim Thompson, and The Silver DeSoto by Patty Lou Floyd.

Because of a change in Museum Broken Arrow’s leadership, the interim director chose a series of books that members had read only two years ago. Since I was not in the group until last year, I had not participated in those discussions. The number of people attending the discussions has been severely limited since the people who had just read and discussed the books two years ago did not wish to re-read them so soon. However, those who are attending have found the discussions to be lively and informative.

The books include a mixture of fiction and nonfiction. For some reason, when I began reading The Silver Desoto by Patty Lou Floyd, I thought it was a memoir. That assumption left me a bit confused when Ethel, the woman who always appears to help the family when a death is near, keeps calling the narrator Betty when her name on the book is clearly Patty.

After reading a bit further, I realized Patty Floyd has fictionalized her story by changing the names of people and the town where she grew up. She grew up in Duncan, OK, but she calls the city Dixter in The Silver Desoto.

Floyd tells the story through a series of vignettes. They are not in chronological order either, but mixing the order did not interfere with the reading of the book. The first story opens with Ethel showing up at the door. Eighteen-year-old Betty is ready to graduate from high school and go to college. Nana, her maternal grandmother, is her last near relative still living.

Little Auntie, Betty’s mother’s only sibling, dies when Betty is five. She does not understand what has happened and blames herself for Little Auntie’s death—or disappearance. Betty thinks she has misbehaved once too often and now the punishment is the loss of her beloved Little Auntie. Her mother and grandmother do not do well in telling Betty about death and loss; thus, the little girl is left to figure it out on her own.

Little Auntie’s death is only one of the secrets in the household. Mother has divorced and returned home to live with Betty, much to Nana’s chagrin. Divorced women are restricted in what they can do, were, and say, according to Nana.

Grandfather is the next family member to die, leaving the house of women: Nana, Mother, and Betty. Then Mother develops breast cancer. After Mother’s death, Nana and Betty live in their two bedrooms and the kitchen while Nana keeps the rest of the house locked and unused.

Betty does write about funny moments. She describes town characters. Those who have grown up in small towns will recognize the people in Betty’s stories.

Finding information about Patty Lou Floyd is difficult. She is not listed in the Oklahoma Historical Society’s encyclopedia about Oklahoma. A search on Google yields only where her two books can be purchased, all used bookstores online. On the book jacket, readers learn that Patty Floyd “is a Phi Beta Kappa with a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Oklahoma and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Tulsa. She is a trustee of Grinnell College in Iowa. She lives and works in Tulsa, Oklahoma.”

 

 

 

The Book Whisperer Looks at Lost Restaurants of Tulsa

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Photographer and writer Rhys Martin published Lost Restaurants of Tulsa. The book provides stories and photographs of restaurants “from the Great Depression to the days of ‘Liquor by the Wink’ and the Oil Bust of the 1980s.”

After traveling through Southeast Asia and Europe, Martin returned to Tulsa, taking a new look at Oklahoma. With a renewed interest in his home state, Martin examined Route 66 and Tulsa. Learn more about his photography at his site: http://www.cloudlesslens.com. There, visitors can purchase photographs from Martin’s travels, including a large number of photographs of Tulsa locations.

Martin also maintains a Facebook page on the Lost Restaurants of Tulsa: https://www.facebook.com/losttulsarestaurants/.

While Martin covers many of the lost restaurants of Tulsa, he could not capture all in one book. He laments that there are many more he could not include in Lost Restaurants of Tulsa: Borden’s Cafeteria, Sleepy Hollow, Martin’s BBQ, and Cardo’s Cadillac.

Martin gives his readers history to go along with the stories of those restaurants now lost in time. He explains “the booming community [Tulsa] was not immune to the Great Depression; however, the area wasn’t as hard-hit as the rest of the Midwest.”

The tremendous wealth brought by the oil industry brought many people to Tulsa. With the growing population and the number of people from a wide variety of places, the options in food grew. In addition, it became easier to ship more varieties of fruits and vegetables into the area.

Lost Restaurants of Tulsa is full of vintage photographs of the restaurants which range from mom and pop cafes to fine dining establishments. As one who arrived in Oklahoma as an adult, I don’t look upon these lost restaurants with the same fondness as someone who grew up in OK and watched the places disappear. Lost Restaurants of Tulsa does interest me in terms of what has been in Tulsa.

Readers will enjoy the history and photographs in Lost Restaurants of Tulsa.