IS IT OK TO QUIT A BOOK?

May 31, 2013 in Book Reviews

There are only a handful of books in my life that I did not finish. One was Pet Sematary by Stephen King, a book so scary I knew I had to put it down almost as soon as I started or risk never sleeping through the night again. (With a cover like that, it’s a wonder I even picked up the book in the first place.)

Another was Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  I was introduced to it by John Cusack’s character Jonathan in the romantic movie Serendipity. In a movie driven by the idea that fate will unite two people who are meant to be together no matter what, I thought the fact that this book was a key plot point meant I would be swept away by it. Unfortunately, that was not the case. I could not get through it, no matter how hard I tried, and even more importantly, I did not want to get through it.

A third book I didn’t finish was a chick lit novel (I love that genre!) that was so poorly written with a female protagonist that was so unlikable that my only regret is that I didn’t stop reading it sooner.

For me, not finishing a book is a rare event brought on by extreme circumstances.

So when someone recently suggested that I stopped reading Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (read my review here) because I was struggling with it, I was flabbergasted.

Not finish Cold Mountain? But it was a good book, albeit slow, and I did want to see what happened in the end. Besides…I started it, didn’t I? What other possible outcome could there be after starting a book than to finish it?

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, recently posted a link to this list of the Ten Rights of Readers (see below), and there, listed as #3 was the right not finish a book. (Click here to see the illustrated version.)

I thought I felt the earth shift a little beneath my feet. I had the right to not finish a book I wasn’t enjoying 100%? That just felt…weird.

I’m glad I finished Cold Mountain. It was a quality read and I’m a better person for it. What if I had just given up because it was slow? I would have missed out on a beautifully written journey of love in the face of every obstacle imaginable. What if Inman, the main character in Cold Mountain, had given up on his journey to happiness? Or worse: what if my kids start thinking it’s ok to set books down because they don’t immediately grab their attention in the first two pages? I’m horrified just imagining what they’ll miss out on.

How many fantastic books have I had the privilege to read after recommendations that went like this: “Just get through the first 100 pages, and then it really gets good.”

I do think it’s ok not to finish a book, but it shouldn’t become a habit, and there should be a concrete reason why you stopped. For example, “too scary” is a valid reason. This is not:

ME: Why aren’t you reading this?

MY CHILD: It’s boring.

ME: (picking up the book) You’re on page 2!

MY CHILD: I can already tell.

ME: Keep reading. This is one of the best books ever.

MY CHILD: That’s your opinion.

ME: That’s everyone’s opinion! It’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, for heaven’s sake. Keep reading!

Now, about Rule # 1 on the list,  the right not to read…I have a problem with that!

The Rights of the Reader

by Daniel Pennac

1) The right not to read.

2) The right to skip.

3) The right not to finish a book.

4) The right to read it again.

5) The right to read anything.

6) The right to mistake a book for real life.

7) The right to read anywhere.

8) The right to dip in.

9) The right to read out loud.

10) The right to be quiet.

GREAT VS GREAT: THE AGE-OLD BATTLE

May 29, 2013 in Book Reviews

When I was young, I read a book called Visions of Terror by William Katz that I had ordered from one of those Scholastic Book Clubs flyers. It was a page-turner with demonic cults, a psychic, and a young girl having visions of people dying—I’m surprised my parents let me read it. I read it over and over, until the paperback cover fell off and some of the pages in the middle slipped from the binding.

It was suspenseful, so that even though I knew exactly what was going to happen after the first read, I still had to keep turning the pages when I’d hit a certain point in the book. It had an interesting plot (at least to the young girl that I was), and it kept me so engaged that every time I had to put the book down, the only thing I could think about was when I’d have time to pick it up again. From a literary standpoint, it wasn’t anything worth noticing. It wasn’t beautifully written with groundbreaking themes that made you think; it was simply a good story, and it was great read. (Back then, at least. Now that I’m an adult, I wonder how it would hold up?)

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier is great too. I picked it up on vacation in early April, and fell into it as I would into an inner tube on a lazy river. The language he uses to tell his tale of a Civil War deserter journeying home to his love is lush and beautiful, and it demands to be read languidly, so that every word is savored:

“A grouse drummed off in the woods, a deep violent sound like the beat of Inman’s own heart in the moment before it shattered within his chest. He cocked his head up off the ground and listened, thinking that if this was his last day on earth he might at least be alert. But in a moment, wingbeats burst and spluttered and faded off into the woods. Inman looked down his length, and it was with mixed feelings that he found himself mostly there.”

His prose is poetry set against the backdrop of the violence of the Civil War and the sadistic band of men roaming the land seeking out deserters and taking whatever they want from people who have next to nothing. Frazier takes his time rolling out descriptions of the characters, the landscape, the season, and the wildlife. His research is meticulous, down to the food, the music, the clothing, the weapons, and how the characters lived off the land during that era. Without question, Cold Mountain is a literary achievement.

Except…I started it in early April and I finally finished it this weekend: it took me a month and a half to get through it. Not because I didn’t enjoy it, but because when I put it down, there was no overwhelming compulsion to pick it up again. I could appreciate the excellence of the writing, but I was not emotionally involved.

Which was the better book?

Easy question: Cold Mountain, by a long shot.

Which book would I rather read right now?

Another easy question: Visions of Terror.

I think it is discrepancies like these that make the rare book that does both—tells an emotionally compelling story that achieves literary greatness—such a find. In the meantime, I’ll keep reading both, some purely for enjoyment, and some as a clinic on the use of language in writing.

Either way, if I’m reading, I’ll be perfectly content.

 

THE INNOCENT

May 27, 2013 in Random Thoughts

When my oldest son was born, I was blown away by how perfectly tiny, adorable, and helpless he was. I couldn’t bear the thought that there were infants in the world that weren’t snugly encased in footie pajamas covered with miniature trains or dinosaurs. In my mind, all infants deserved nothing less than to be rocked to sleep with full bellies nestled in the arms of someone who loved them and would do anything to protect them. I wasn’t naïve: I knew that neglect, abuse, poverty, and abandonment were things that some babies were all too familiar with, but I simply couldn’t think about it too much without wanting to curl up in a ball in the corner of the room and weep for the young innocents.

I donated a lot of footie pajamas when my children were young.

My kids are older now, but they are no less innocent. They still deserve to be loved and kept safe in warm homes filled with healthy food, and they need to be surrounded by good friends and family. I still don’t like to think about the horrific circumstances some young children have to live in because it breaks my heart.

These days, I donate my share of food and supplies to children in need.

I know I’m not the only one who feels this way and does what they can to help, but is it my imagination, or have our children been unfairly targeted recently?

What happened at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012 was devastating to all of us. The Boston Marathon bombings on April 15, 2013 that took the life of an 8-year-old boy and injured many other children were beyond senseless. And the Oklahoma tornado that slammed into not one, but two elementary schools in Moore on May 20, 2013, killed 20 elementary-school-aged children. I have to turn my mind off before I start imagining the circumstances of the end of their lives: how they must have huddled in fear next to teachers doing everything they could to comfort and protect, all in the wake of an unbelievably powerful monstrosity of nature that they just could not escape.

My heart goes out to everyone in Oklahoma affected by the recent tragedy, especially to the children, both those who survived and those who didn’t.

I wish I could pull them all into my arms and give them a warm meal they could eat wrapped up in a cozy blanket. I’d love to surround them with their favorite books and toys, the ones they lost in the storm, and show them that hope still does exist.

I know I can’t do that, but the Red Cross can. I just added them to my donation list.

On this Memorial Day and every day, I am grateful to every single person who has ever given their life to protect our country, its citizens, and our children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A TALE OF TWO RACES

May 20, 2013 in Random Thoughts

A couple of weeks ago,  I ran a 10K in my own small neighborhood. For the 7:30am start, I left my home at 7:00am, walked to race headquarters, picked up my bib number (no line!) and still had 15 minutes to spare.

Just before the race was about to start, we lined up two across on the narrow sidewalk: there was plenty of room. When the starting gun sounded, I began the route I had run on my own many times: around the duck pond, past the middle school, up the hill by the pool, up another, more brutal hill to our local library, through the park where we watch the 4th of July fireworks, and then through a series of neighborhoods where the homes of several of our friends are.

I ran alone, but I knew some of the volunteers along the route so I didn’t feel alone.

With only 73 participants in the 10K (there were a lot more running the 5K!), I managed to finish 4th in my age group and 15th overall: I was thrilled! I walked home afterwards and plopped down on my couch by 8:45am.

It was a small, quiet race on a sleepy Sunday morning: bliss!

The 31st annual Beat the Bridge 8K my son and I ran yesterday could not have been more different.

Beat the Bridge is a fundraiser for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. My son’s friend has Type 1 diabetes and we were invited to join their team.

For an 8:30am start, we left the house at 6:30am and drove to the fabulous University of Washington Husky Stadium. We sat in a traffic jam just to get into the parking lot and I waited in line for 10 minutes to use a Porta-Potty.

Despite the huge number of cars in the parking lot, we managed to hook up with Team Nater for a little pre-race tailgating party—think orange juice instead of beer. It was a joy to see my son and his friends all jazzed up to Beat the Bridge, and us parents were just as ready to take up the challenge.

At least we were until we tried to get into the starting line. There were so many people that the entire street was filled hip-to-hip with racers, and still they spilled over onto the sidewalks. We managed to sneak our way into the throng, but trying to stay together as a team was impossible.

The kids were told to pair up and run with a buddy, and then in the writhing mass of 5,000 runners, they were gone. The starting gun sounded: nobody moved. A second starting gun sounded: nobody moved. I still have no idea what was going up at the front of the line, but the third starting gun finally did the trick.

We were off, and with a sense of urgency: we only had 20 minutes to run the 2 miles to the drawbridge and cross it before it was raised up. If you made it across, you Beat the Bridge! If you didn’t, well, you got to stand around and listen to the band play while waiting for the bridge to lower back down before you could cross it. In other words, you got no bragging rights.

As a Husky alumni, I knew the route like the back of my hand. It was with a wonderful sense of nostalgia that I ran the familiar roads elbow-to-elbow with thousands of my fellow runners: across the Montlake bridge where I used to take the stone steps down to the water on the Montlake cut, across the University Bridge—in time!—and down along the roads that paralleled the Burke-Gilman trail that I had run on thousands of times.

I placed 16th in my age division and 738th overall…not quite the same results as before! My son ran the 8K at a 8:21 pace: I could not be more proud!

It took 20 minutes alone to exit Husky Stadium after the race, trapped in a human funnel trying to squeeze through an opening in the fence much too small for the amount of people trying to get out. We finally made it home by 11:00am.

It was a large, crowded, high-energy race: bliss!

Which race did I like better? I liked both! I liked the ease of having a race in my own backyard, but there’s no denying the electricity of a big-city event.

I hope to do both again next year. In the meantime, I’m on the hunt for my next race…perhaps a Mud & Chocolate Trail Run? Sounds like it would be right up my alley!

 

CHIHULY GARDEN AND GLASS

May 15, 2013 in Random Thoughts

If you are not familiar with Dale Chihuly and his glasswork, you are missing out. He is one of the premier glass artists in the world, and he got his start right here in the Pacific Northwest.

Chihuly describes himself like this: “I’m an artist, a designer, a craftsman, interior designer, half-architect. There’s no one name that fits me very well.” He began with a degree in Interior Design from the University of Washington and then achieved a Master of Science in Sculpture from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. From there, he turned his attention to glass, studying in Venice and receiving a second Master from the Rhode Island School of Design in Fine Arts.

Coming back home to Washington, he co-founded the Pilchuck Glass School. Several years later, he was involved in a car accident that left him blind in his left eye. Several years after that, he dislocated his shoulder bodysurfing, leaving him no longer able to hold the glass blowing pipe. From then on, he became the designer and his team executes his visions.

Growing up with a glass artist in our backyard has its advantages. The art of glass is alive and well here, and accessible. When our children were young, they had the opportunity to blow their own ornaments and pumpkins.

When my dad was here on a visit, I dragged him with me to a glass blowing class where we made our own ornaments and floats.

Fused glass classes are abundant, so much so that we are able to include fused glass projects in our elementary school’s art curriculum. And if we want to see Chihuly’s gorgeous designs, we don’t have to go any further than downtown Seattle.

On a recent LEAP day (when the teachers have to stay and work but the kids get the day off), my kids and I made the trip to the recently opened Chihuly Garden and Glass museum. Nestled at the base of the Space Needle, it is surrounded by a high fence fronted with shrubs that can’t quite hide the tantalizing glimpses of some larger-than-life glass installations that rise above the fence.

The museum is divided into ten different rooms of glass, nine of which are completely dark save for the lighting on the glass, which makes for spectacular displays. Each room has a theme: Sealife Room, Persian Ceiling, Mille Fiori and Chandeliers, for example.

You don’t need to know a thing about glass to appreciate the vibrancy of the colors and the enormity of his displays, made up of so many individually blown pieces of glass that it’s hard to imagine how long it takes to put together a single display, let alone the many he has showcased here and around the world.

I could have spent hours just gazing at his pieces, finding new shapes amongst the others that I missed on the first go round, but I will admit to a certain amount of anxiety with my three boys around all that expensive glass…especially when one would start poking the other in a familiar precursor to a UFC re-enactment. So we moved fairly quickly to the 9th and 10th areas of the museum: the Glasshouse and the Garden outside.

As a bonus, there are photographers on site that will take your picture…for free!

 

Yes, that is made entirely out of glass!

On this beautiful sunny day in Seattle, the sun shining on glass structures built to resemble plants and trees found in nature was breathtaking.

As Chihuly says, “I’m obsessed with color—never saw one I didn’t like,” and it shows in his work. This piece alone, The Float Boat, is overflowing with brilliant colors, all so shiny and vibrant that it’s like candy for your eyes.

If you’re ever in Seattle, I highly recommend a visit to the Chihuly Glass and Garden!

 

WALK OFF THE EARTH: MY NEW FAVORITE BAND

May 10, 2013 in Reflections on Pop Culture

One day, my oldest son called me over to check out a YouTube video on his iDevice. I sat down beside him on the couch, prepared for anything. At 12-years old, I’m sometimes afraid of what he tracks down on YouTube, although I’m thankful he still wants to show me!

But the video was fabulous: a cover of Taylor Swift’s I Knew You Were Trouble sung entirely a capella with guest beatboxer KRNFX (aka Terry). It was good: simple, clever, well sung, and funny. Whew!

A couple of weeks later, I happened to catch a new song on the radio and I fell in love with it. It was catchy with a good beat and I couldn’t stop tapping my fingers against the steering wheel. I gave my son the task of finding out who sang the song when it scrolled across the little window on my radio while I kept my eyes on the road. “It’s Walk Off The Earth,” he told me.

“Is that the name of the song or the name of the band?” I asked.

“It’s the band. You know them.”

“I do?”

“They’re from the YouTube video I showed you.”

“That’s them?”

“Yep.”

“But…that was a homemade YouTube video in front of some potted plants. This is a huge new song!”

“It’s them.”

He was right, of course.

The five-member Canadian band Walk Off The Earth got together in 2006, but they really took off on YouTube this January when their cover of Gotye’s Somebody That I Used To Know exploded with 35 million hits in two weeks. It’s a simple video with a huge concept: all five band members play the same guitar at the same time during the entire song.

Their successful YouTube video led the indie band to a signing with Columbia Records and a release of their debut album R.E.V.O. (Realize Every Victory Outright), featuring their cover of Somebody That I Used To Know and their original song Red Hands, the one I heard on the radio.

I love that Gianni Luminati, one of the band members, also films the videos and produces their albums. Everything’s in house, just like it should be with an indie band. They are creative, inventive, quirky, and talented, and now, thanks to the beauty of social media, we are Facebook friends!

Go ahead…give them a try. You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

 

 

LES INTOUCHABLES: A MOVIE REVIEW

May 8, 2013 in Reflections on Pop Culture

I’m not opposed to watching movies with subtitles; they’re just not my favorite. I love to study the nuances on the characters’ faces: the flickers in the eyes of the protagonist signifying longing, anger, or betrayal, the twitch of the mouth into the tiniest of smiles or frowns, the clenching of the jaw before a significant decision is made. It’s hard to do that when your eyes are otherwise occupied with reading.

But I was willing to overlook the inconvenience after the glowing recommendation from my cousin, and am I ever glad I did.

I fell in love with Les Intouchables from the very first frame.

How could you not? It’s the tale of Driss, played by Omay Sy, fresh off a six month prison stay for robbery, looking for jobs he won’t take just to collect his Social Security benefits. He lives with a myriad of cousins, one of whom is falling into serious trouble, and his aunt, who has just kicked him out in an act of tough love.

One of his job interviews is for the care of a wealthy quadriplegic. Driss doesn’t want the job and he doesn’t have the training. But Philippe, played by Francois Cluzet, is tired of the sterile, pitying caregivers that have cared for him previously. He wants something different, and he sees something in Driss that Driss can’t see in himself. On a bet, Driss takes the job, and one of Philippe’s Faberge eggs: he still has some bad habits.

The relationship between Driss and Philippe develops slowly and beautifully. Philippe believes in Driss’s potential, and Driss, for his part, can’t seem to see the limitations Philippe lives with on a daily basis. He flat-out refuses to load Philippe into the boxy van “like a horse”; instead, he lifts him bodily out of his wheelchair and sets him in the passenger seat of Philippe’s Maserati.

Driss is a breath of fresh air in the somber mansion, with his easy smiles and hearty laughter. He is pure charm (and not bad to look at—just saying) and his fellow employees feel it too. He begins to take responsibility for himself and his younger cousin, and even returns the stolen Faberge egg to his employer, who has now become his friend.

For his part, Francois Cluzet is a master with his eyes, and as he is also a man of few words, I had plenty of time to study them. I saw depression, sorrow, pain, frustration, humor, intelligence, fear, respect, and joy all pass across his eyes, one of his few body parts still capable of movement. There is a scene in the movie where Philippe unexpectedly finds himself happy. There is no jumping up and down or throwing his arms up in the air for Philippe; instead, his eyes vacillate between happiness and disbelief that he’s still capable of feeling that happy. It’s a moving scene (tissues are necessary) and quite a clinic on acting.

This movie is based on a true story, and the person Driss is based on, Abdel Sellou, wrote a memoir of his experiences with Philippe Pozzo di Borgo entitled You Changed My Life.

The movie is a gem: quiet, honest, moving, sincere, heartbreaking and uplifting all at once. I can’t wait to watch it again, and I can’t wait to read the book.

 

 

 

HOME RUN

May 6, 2013 in Adventures in Parenting

For a baseball player at the plate, you can do no better than a home run. A walk, a single, a double, a triple, even the rare inside-the-park home run does not quite match the status of a ball hit perfectly, cracking against the bat before it is sent back in the direction it came from, arcing up and up, over the pitcher on the mound, over the shortstop, soaring even over the outfielder, and finally, into unreachable territory over the fence, the ball carried by cheers from the crowd that has risen to their feet in acknowledgement of the single best result a batter can achieve at the plate.

It doesn’t begin that way. It begins with T-ball, where my oldest son smiled in victory simply because he made contact with the stationary ball on a rubber T. He progressed, in age and skill, to being able to hit a ball pitched so carefully to him by his coach that as long as he swung level, he couldn’t miss. Then came the young pitchers, fresh to the mound, where my son became an expert at where the strike zone was by process of elimination: the pitches landed everywhere but where he could actually hit it.

Still, he grew, and so did his own personal goals. When he hit a single, he started aiming for a double. When he hit a double, he wanted to achieve a triple. When he hit a periodic batting slump, he adjusted his sights: just make contact with the ball, even if it results in nothing more than a foul tip.

Last year, my son entered his first of two years at the highest level of our Little League: Majors. He watched and studied the “big” kids, seventh graders who had him beat in height, weight, and power. He watched them execute mighty swings that sailed the ball well over the fence on a consistent basis, and he created a new goal for himself: to hit a home run of his own.

Last year, it didn’t happen.

This year, he was one of the “big” kids. He had grown in size and  skill and was able to bring an element of power to his swing. He was hitting consistently off pitchers that could bring the heat.

“I want to hit a home run this season,” he said.

“I think you can do it,” I told him.

“I know you can do it,” his coach told him. “You’re a good hitter.”

On a beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon, my son came up to the plate. The pitcher threw; it was a ball. My son got back into his stance, his eyes focused on the pitcher. The pitcher released the ball again. My son coiled and struck. The crack of his bat echoed throughout the park while we watched the ball begin to sail up and over the players on the opposing team. We watched, and still it soared. I heard someone in the bleachers behind me say “That could make it out.”

On the edge of my seat, my eyes never left that ball. I didn’t move until it had sailed over the fence and landed on the ground on the other side, so I knew it was a home run: my son’s first.

My son began T-ball when he was 4; he was now 12. It had taken him 8 years to achieve this milestone.

He was thrilled: you could tell by the slightest of smiles he couldn’t quite hide as he jogged around the bases. I was thrilled: I leapt to my feet and whooped and hollered like a crazy person. His team was thrilled, for they recognized his achievement. The dugout emptied and his teammates, every one, met him at home plate to pat his back, slap him on the helmet, and give him high fives. They surrounded him as they walked en masse back to the dugout, making room only to allow the coach in for his own congratulatory words. And still that little smile shone from his face: he had set a goal, he had practiced, and he had achieved it.

This was not my moment. This was all his, and I am beyond grateful that I was there to witness it. Watching my son’s dream come true on his own merit…I believe I have just received my Mother’s Day gift.

 

 

 

 

CHILDREN’S BOOK WEEK: ILLUSTRATOR OF THE YEAR

May 3, 2013 in Book Reviews

What is Children’s Book Week and what am I doing about it? Click here.

When I told my oldest son it was time to vote for the “Illustrator of the Year” category in this year’s Children’s Book Week, he immediately selected Nighttime Ninjas. My sentiments exactly. With illustrations like this one from Ed Young, it was an easy decision.

Except…Nighttime Ninjas wasn’t even nominated! That’s hard for me to believe, and yet, considering it was children who selected the nominees, it was all too easy to believe. Ed Young’s illustrations are strikingly beautiful, but perhaps they are a bit too sophisticated for young children?

Speaking of sophisticated, I’d like to introduce you to the genius of Ian Falconer, author and illustrator of the nominated Olivia and the Fairy Princesses. His illustrations are done in charcoal and gouache and run the gamut from simple black-and-white with mere highlights of red for Olivia to muted, minimalistic colors with splashes of bold highlights for contrast. He is a master of shadows and shading, and alternates between simplistic and complex page spreads. He also manages to throw in a few real-life photographs as backdrops, such as this one of modern dancer Martha Graham.

Talk about sophisticated! He dedicates a full spread to Olivia trying to dance like Martha Graham, which I wouldn’t have gotten at all had my middle son not just read about Martha Graham for a school assignment.

If that’s not sophisticated enough for you, Falconer manages to work in the phrase “corporate malfeasance” into his text. That’s pretty heady stuff for a book nominated in the Grades K-2 category.

Nevertheless, I gave this one my vote. There’s no questioning Falconer’s artistic talent, and as an adult, I appreciated the cleverness of the reference to Martha Graham.

I am a huge fan of The Duckling Gets a Cookie!? and love how the simplicity of the illustrations perfectly offset the simplicity of the text. Mo Willems is a gifted artist: just check out how he combines illustrations with photographs in his Knuffle Bunny series!

The illustrations in Pete the Cat and His Four Groovy Buttons are also fittingly simple: bold, bright, primary colors that accent the text perfectly. From a purely illustrative standpoint, it’s hard to believe this got nominated over Nighttime Ninjas (I may never get over that slight!), but there’s no arguing with its appeal. My 10-year-old gave this one his vote.

I loved the illustrations in Llama Llama Time to Share by Anna Dewdney. Using a combination of oil paint, colored pencil, and oil pastel on canvas, she has created a world of texture and warmth with bold use of color and lighting. Her illustrations are cozy and inviting, making me want to crawl right in. This was my second place winner, and my almost-13-year-old’s selection.

Maybe it’s no surprise that with three boys, this was my first Fancy Nancy. I had serious misgivings, considering the title was Fancy Nancy and the Mermaid Ballet. But Jane O’Connor has created a charming protagonist in Nancy, who likes to sprinkle her speech with elevated vocabulary: “JoJo’s kiddie pool is our lagoon—a lagoon is a fancy kind of lake.” If there was any “corporate malfeasance” here, you can bet Nancy would explain it in words a younger audience could understand!

The charming illustrations are done by Robin Preiss Glasser in pen and ink and watercolor.  They are colorful, detailed, graceful, and girly, as well they should be when you consider the title of the book. I love her imaginings of the pivotal mermaid ballet, especially how she threw a boy in there creeping around the back of the stage in a shark costume. Then again, Glasser  used to be a professional ballet dancer, which explains how she was able to capture the fluidity and grace of the characters’ movements so well.

My 1st grader loved this particular spread too, and spent quite some time getting a handle on who were the oysters and what happened to the girl with the sprained ankle. This was his vote (age 7) and I can hardly fault him. From an illustrative standpoint, he has good taste!

It’s easy to knock out five children’s books in the “Book of the Year” category and another five in the “Illustrator of the Year” category when you consider the grade level is K-2. We’re now working our way through the nominees for the “Book of the Year” Grades 3-4 category, but it’s a much slower process. I hope we can make it in time for the May 13 deadline. Our 1st selection is a big hit, though:

It’s going to be hard to top learning how to say “poop” in ten different ways.

If you’d like to participate in Children’s Book Week too, click here.

THE BLACK HOLE OF HOME IMPROVEMENT

May 1, 2013 in Random Thoughts

After months of just barely hanging on, my shower door died in a spectacular crash of metal tracts and a heavy glass door on my slippery, naked foot. I decided the time had come to finally fix the shower door, so I trekked on over to my friendly Home Depot and discovered that a) my shower door was not a common size so I would have to custom order it, and b) it would take a week to come in.

Seriously? They expected me to shower in the same bathroom as my three young sons for a week? But they’re…disgusting.

This was a huge inconvenience, made even more so by the fact that when the shower door finally came in, it was missing some parts that had to be re-ordered. By the time those came in, my handyman was busy with another job.  I finally had my beautiful shower door installed after about three weeks.

Even as I write this, I can’t believe it. How is it possible that I had to go without a working shower for three weeks in this day and age?

Are home improvement projects always so fraught with problems?

Apparently they are, because every person I complained to was not only unsurprised, but had a worse horror story than mine about a home improvement project going awry.

Perhaps that’s why I waited so long to get the shower door repaired in the first place. I must have known deep down inside that the alternative—a repair—would only be worse.

I do love my new shower door, and I think it has clouded my judgment. How else can you explain the fact that I thought it was a good idea to upgrade my partially defective, electric stove to a brand-new gas one?

Today, after weeks of pulling gas lines from the furnace and preparing an outlet for the new stove, it was finally installation day. The crew prepped the stove opening, dropped my shiny stainless steel stovetop in, and pulled it right back out. “It’s cracked,” said one.

“That’s really rare,” said the other.

“B…b…but…” I called after them as they packed up the stovetop and prepared to leave. “I have no stove!”

“They’ll call you,” they promised.

“B…b…but…I don’t have a stove!”

They did call, and the nice lady assured me that I’d have my new stove installed in a week. “A week? You want me to live without a stove for a week?”

Luckily, the woman realized I was about to become unhinged, so she pulled a few strings and promised me a new stove in two days. (It makes me wonder why she didn’t offer me the 2-day option in the first place.)

But I’ve learned my lesson, and am fully prepared to be stoveless for a month. There could be a mix-up in the paperwork and no one will show on my designated day. Or they will show, but the stovetop will have some other defect. Or the power will go out so they can’t install it after all, or the company workers will go on strike, or any other of a hundred things can go wrong in the next two days.

That’s what pizza delivery is for, right?