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Sunday Book Review

January 10th, 2021

Woof and meow 💜

(“Oh, Puppy” — photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

“Fern and Otto: A Story About Two Best Friends,” by Stephanie Graegin (Schwartz & Wade Books, New York, 2020, $17.99). Introducing a bear and a cat who are friends, and go for a walk in the woods. This is a book within a book within another book, as Fern writes a story, Otto helps, and away they go. They find a tortoise, racing a hare; a cool girl wearing a red cape; a little chicken “hit on her noggin!” and some other friends. Creative and fun, and the art is mesmerizing, with lots of tiny details and big splashes for the kids to study.

It has come to my attention that many of you are still remote distance learning with the big and little kids at home. Bless your hearts. It’s not going to last forever, I promise, but we’re in the weeds for now.

Time to get creative and think outside (or inside, in this case) the box. Random House Children’s Books just released “The Reading House,” a new box set reading program for ages 4-8 ($14.99 apiece). An instruction guide for parents is included. The series starts with letter recognition, moves into phonemics and stretches out into full reading comprehension. Keep them engaged however you can, give yourself some grace, and stay hydrated, people. Don’t forget to get out for some fresh air every day, too.

Here’s a sweet new picture book: “Wonderful You,” written by Lisa Graff, illustrated by Ramona Kaulitzki (Philomel Books, 2020, $17.99). This one made me miss being pregnant, miss my husband playing the guitar for the babies while they were growing inside, miss the love you can only get from a grimy, smiling, sweaty toddler. My goodness. This is why older folks smile at you so wistfully, new parents, and say, “Enjoy every minute, it goes so fast.” And you… you haven’t had a shower or eaten a decent, real meal in days, and you don’t know what you’re doing, and you’re feeling frantic…

It all gets easier, and harder, and better, and scarier. These moments become the sweetest moments ever and will bring you to tears. You’ll have plenty of other beautiful moments, but those early ones? Ahhh… I know. The days go slow/but the years go fast.

Now where was I, with my misty-eyed self? From “Wonderful You”:

“When you were a mango, we worked while you grew — we fixed and we folded and waited for you.”

All of the different stages of a baby’s growth are compared to the sizes of fruits and veggies — peas, lemons, an eggplant — and a variety of different parents and families are represented. Just a sweet book — enjoy.

Stephen Johnson hits it out of the park with “Music Is…” a great big fancy picture book, all about the different genres of music. “Every music has its own soul… It doesn’t matter what style it is, just be true to it.” — Ray Charles

Classical, Latin, jazz, country and heavy metal, hip hop, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, electronica! and pop. You can read this one forwards, backwards, and opened up — the design is really user friendly.

Splash, bang and pop. (Simon & Schuster, 2020, $24.99). Be sure you share this one with the kids, and don’t just keep it for yourself.

Bon appetit, stay safe, wash your hands and wear a mask. Try not to cough or sneeze on people. That’s all I got. :)

Leave a note if you stop by, I’d love to hear from you.

WM

Sunday Book Review

December 6th, 2020

Woof and meow 💜

(photo by my son)

“Revenge of the Living Ted,” by Barry Hutchison, illustrated by Lee Cosgrove (Delacorte Press, 2019, 192 pages, $9.99). Have you ever been to a Build-a-Bear, perhaps for a little kid birthday party? All of those little shoes and boots and fancy bear slippers? The overalls and biker outfits and pink tutus? The accessories and the little red hearts that you jam inside before they blow stuffing into your creation? Kinda creepy but kinda fascinating, am I right? Am I the only one? Nope, I’m not. Because here come those little rascals, step-sibs Lisa Marie and Vernon, in the sequel to “Night of the Living Ted.” Yes, it’s hilarious. Will the kids find it scary? Maybe the little-littles, probably not ages 6 and up. (Book 3 in the series is “Invasion of the Living Ted.”)

“Decoding Boys: New Science Behind the Subtle Art of Raising Sons,” by Cara Natterson, M.D. (Ballantine Books, 2020, 232 pages, $27). Is this even possible, to “decode” boys? Hmm. Alternately: Sure, why not?

“There’s No Manual: Honesty and Gory Wisdom About Having a Baby,” by Beth Newell and Jackie Ann Ruiz (Avery/Penguin Random House, 2020, 262 pages, $18). They lost me at gory. Back labor, 65 hours of it, left me a little twitchy. Looks like an interesting book, though. Pick it up for a preggo girlfriend or relative. Here’s the advice one of our ultrasound techs gave us when we were pregnant with our first kid, and I will now impart it to you:

  1. It’s not the terrible 2’s, it’s the terrible 3’s.
  2. “Would you like the blue sippy cup? Or the yellow one? The red shirt? Or the green shirt?”
  3. After you have your baby, your dog will just be a dog.

Yeah, that’s all I’ve got, still, after 21+ years of motherhood. Ha! And bon appetit.

WM

Sunday Book Review

November 29th, 2020

Pandemic 2020, Corvallis (plus old shots of Beaverton)  💜

“Light Through the Trees” (photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

I received a review copy of an exquisite picture book called “Digging for Words: Jose Alberto Gutierrez and the Library He Built” (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020, $17.99). Angela Burke Kunkel is the author, and Paola Escobar illustrated the book. It’s a beautiful, true story (beautifully true!) about a  garbage collector in Bogota, Colombia, who finds a copy of Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” while he is doing his rounds, and starts collecting books for a public library. Meanwhile, young Jose waits for Saturday to roll around so he can visit big Jose’s library. Cool online resources, if you’re interested…

La Fuerza de las Palabras

“Lord of the Books”

“‘Trashy’ Books: Garbage Collector Rescues Reading Material for Colombian Children”

I found another prize with “Night Walk to the Sea: A Story About Rachel Carson, Earth’s Protector,” by Deborah Wiles and Daniel Miyares (Schwartz & Wade Books/Random House Kids, 2020, $17.99). In this imaginative tale, pioneering environmentalist Rachel Carson and her great-nephew/adopted son, Roger, ride out an ocean storm together in their cabin, then journey down to the beach to explore.

“‘Listen to the voices of the living things,’ said Rachel. 

A screech owl softly called to its mate

from an old woodpecker hole:

tremelo-tremelo-thrum-thrum-thrum”

I’m enamored of this picture book: the fireflies, the storm, the cabin in Maine. Sweet illustrations and a cool story. More resources:

RachelCarson.org

Smithsonian/Ocean Life

NOAA Ocean Exploration Facts

Scientific American/Fireflies

Once upon a time, a singer/songwriter/novelist by the name of Andrew Peterson came up with his own fantasy version of a series something like “Lord of the Rings” or “The Chronicles of Narnia.” He called it “The Wingfeather Saga,” and released the first two books. Now we have in hand “The Monster in the Hollows” (Book 3) and “The Warden and the Wolf King” (Book 4) (Waterbrook/Multnomah, 2020, $13.99 each). New illustrations and hand-drawn maps by Joe Sutphin (who also illustrated the graphic novel “Watership Down” and Sheila Grau’s “Dr. Critchlore’s School for Minions”). For more info, check Peterson’s website.

Friday Book Review: Happy, Happy Holidays!

November 27th, 2020

Pandemic 2020, Corvallis (plus old shots of Beaverton)  💜

Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

 

Here we are, holidays 2020, which are turning out to be different from any holiday season any of us have ever experienced before. It’s brutal, this year. 2020 is brutal and heartless. But I have faith and hope that someday the pandemic will be over. 

I knew we’d start out strong, confused and panicked, but then pulling together, pitching in, “We can all get through this together!” Yay, team. But that before too long (it took a few months, as it turned out), people would start back-biting and snarking, hoarding supplies and circling the wagons. “You can’t tell us what to do!” The bitter politics. Etc.

We’ll get past that, I know. We’ll push right into sorrow and additional devastation, we’ll emerge from it jaded but stronger. We’ll know our neighbors, at the end of it. We’ll be there for our families in a way we maybe haven’t been before. 

I have hope. I have faith. We are going to be OK. We had Halloween, and Thanksgiving was yesterday. Now onto Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine’s Day and St. Patrick’s and then it will be a full year since this hell began.

It will be one year, I am guessing, possibly two, and I mean worldwide, before we get through the woods, the darkness, and out to the other side. It will happen. Don’t give up. Hold onto each other, and if you can’t do that, pick up the phone and call. Someone needs to hear from you. Peace.

And now, books. I have stacks and stacks of them waiting for review. Short shrift for all, but they’re all good. Makes me happy to know that books are still being published, art is still being made, music is still being created. My chickens and my house, my garden and my creek, my kids. Our friends. All doing our best to keep going.

All you a quilter? My friends, paternal grandmother and aunties are (were) and I admire the art. Learning to quilt is on my bucket list. In the meantime I’ll keep knitting scarves, baby snugglies and little scraps for the kittens to play with. Lizzy Rockwell’s new book, “The All-Together Quilt” (Random House Kids/Alfred A. Knopf, 2020, $17.99) is just a blast of beauty during these bleak months.  The author has based it on her real-life quilting group that meets Monday and Friday afternoons at the Senior Court Housing Complex in Norwalk, Connecticut. Neighborhood kids, seniors from the complex, adult volunteers, families from the neighborhood, all kinds of people gather and quilt. 

The simplicity and elegance of their work shines through in Rockwell’s illustrations. So much love, beauty and care. Great book. I appreciated the guide to classic quilt blocks she included in the back, and descriptions of the fabrics that were used. A work of art about works of art. Peace.

“Curtain Call (Babymouse: Tales From the Locker),” by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm (Random House Kids, 2020, 179 pages, $13.99) is the latest installment in the Pink Princess series. (It’s not really called that, but she’s always been a princess to me. I (heart) Babymouse.) The covers are permabound, a librarian’s dream, and the books are just the right combo of novel, fantasy, and graphic novel. Buy a set for the age 7-year-old – middle school chicky in your life.

“Christmas is Every Day,” by Isabel Otter, illustrated by Alicia Mas (An Every Day Together Book, Rodale Kids New York/Random House Books, 2020, $10.99). Don’t save the spirit of Christmas for just once a year, the authors say. Try these ideas: “Embrace happiness,” “pass on a treasured possession,” “share the things you have,” “remember to be kind.” The colors and characters are sweet, the sentiment is pure. This is a cool little book.

Sometimes when a book comes out, you know it was written with you in mind. For me, that book is “A Very Quacky Christmas,” by Frances Watts and Ann James (rhcbooks/Random House Kids, 2020, $17.99). Introducing… Samantha Duck, her tortoise pal Sebastian, the sheep, the hens, the cows, the donkey… many decorations, many presents, many, many big ideas. This is a lovely picture book that will be a welcome addition to any collection.

Bon appetit, babies. Much love and happy 2021.

 

 

Sunday Book Review: “The Little Kitten,” “A Story for Small Bear,” “I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!” “The War with Grandpa” & “Good Morning Zoom”

October 18th, 2020

It’s nearly Halloween, y’all, and just in time, here comes “The Little Kitten,” by Nicola Killen (Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing Division, 2020, $16.99). Little Ollie and her kitten Pumpkin find a lost kitten, and what will they do? Where will they go? Nice illustrations, with a black, orange, white and gray color scheme.

“A Story for Small Bear” is a sweet and lovey picture book, written by Alice B. McGinty (“The Sea Knows,” “The Girl Who Named Pluto,” and many others) illustrated by Richard Jones (whose other work includes “Whale in a Fishbowl”) (Schwartz & Wade Books, 2020, $17.99). It’s hard to believe that so much love and heart can leap out of the pages like they do with this book, about mama bear trying to get her baby bear prepared for a winter rest. The story is dear, the illustrations are beautiful. Try not to get tears in your eyes. Good luck. I think the kids will adore this one for a bedtime story.

Bad timing, alas, for “I’m Feeling School Bus Yellow!” a promotional book by Crayola, starring their colors Blue Violet, Macaroni and Cheese, Scarlet and Jungle Green. It’s a sweet little board book, but made me lonely. Back to school time only it’s not. Will be good, though, for reminding kids that they will, someday, go back to school, and this is what classrooms, buses and school days look like. (Crayola, Simon & Schuster, 2020, for the littles, $6.99.)

I love autumn, but this autumn is kinda breaking all of our hearts. We can get through it together, okay? OK.

Really fun oldie but goodie with Robert Kimmel Smith’s “The War with Grandpa” (Yearling Humor, 1984, ages 8-12, 140 pages, $6.99). Why the re-release? It’s now a moving picture, yep, starring… you know them, you love them, or you might not love them, what do I know? … Robert De Niro, Uma! Thurman, Christopher Walker, Jane Seymour and Cheech Marin… sure. Sounds good already. (If you had told me that Robert “Travis Bickle” DeNiro was eventually going to end up cast as a beloved dad and grandpa, I probably would have said, “Raging Bull, seriously?” But he’s a complex man, De Niro. We know this already.)

Kimmel is probably best known for his book “Chocolate Fever.” (“The War with Grandma” is coming out next summer.)

Last book for today… “Good Morning Zoom,” (modeled after Margaret Wise Brown’s “Goodnight Moon”) which calls itself “a parody,” even though it’s pretty much reality, has words by Lindsay Rechler and pictures by June Park.

Two words: Too soon.

Recommended Books on Grief, Trauma, Race & Healing

September 13th, 2020

I’m back to social work, after a decade of doing library and computer lab work (which is also social work, it turns out) in the K-12 schools. I’ve been in trainings, meetings, and collecting book lists for most of the summer. Here are some picks. I’m going to list out (not review) all but the first title.

“The Big Finish,” a novel by Brooke Fossey (Berkley/Penguin Random House, 2020, 326 pages, $26). Man, I love this book. First of all, I thought it was a young adult book when it arrived for review. Most of the titles I get are geared toward babies through the high school crowd. This one is a novel for the grown-ups, but I think some high schoolers would like it, too.

Duffy Sinclair and Carl Upton are best friends by happenstance — they’re well into in their 80s and both landed at the Centennial assisted living facility. It’s not that great, but it’s not that bad. They live in fear of slipping down — in their health, in their faculties, or just on the floor — and being stuck in a facility that’s not as nice. They’re worried about death, and life, when in through their window comes Josie, less than one-fourth their age. She’s possibly inebriated, she has a black eye, and she’s Carl’s granddaughter. Allegedly.

It’s a buddy story, it’s a family story, it’s about alcoholism and domestic violence and neglect, and how they impact families, individuals and all of us. It’s one of the sweetest books I’ve ever been lucky enough to read. The characters are thoroughly sketched out, the dialogue is great, and most of all, the story and the characters are believable and moving story. Highly recommended.

And now, a few titles, alphabetically by authors’ last name. I’ll keep adding to this list, it’s by no means comprehensive. Please add your suggestions in comments, if you’d like.

Alexander, Michelle, “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”

Connor, Leslie, “Waiting for Normal” (young adult novel about a girl, her mother, and child neglect)

Didion, Joan, “The Year of Magical Thinking”

Giovanni, Nikki, “Collected Poetry — 1968-1998”

Goble, Jillana, “No Sugar-Coating: The Coffee Talk You Need About Foster Parenting”

Harris, Nadine Burke, “The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Adversity”

Maynard, Joyce, “The Best of Us,” a memoir

Oluo, Ijeoma, “So You Want to Talk About Race”

Sanchez, Sonia, “Shake Loose My Skin: New and Selected Poems”

Sapolsky, Robert M., “Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers”

Tatum, Beverly Daniel, “Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? And Other Conversations About Race”

van der Kolk, Bessel (M.D.), “The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma”

West Coast on fire

September 13th, 2020

9/12/2020

Is the world on fire where you are? It’s on fire here in Oregon. Our little zone seems to be okay, for now, but that could change. The truck is packed, our quick bags are ready to go.

Keep us in your prayers.

I’m checking this Air Quality site compulsively. 

In my town, we’ve been hovering between “Unhealthy” and “Hazardous.” (I checked one last time before I fell asleep last night — Salem, Ore., just north of us, was off the charts, and so was Portland, Ore.) The West coast currently has the worst air quality *on the planet.* We had to be best at something, I guess.

Our air quality inside the house is okay for now, smokewise, but it was very smoky earlier in the week. And I have asthma. So there you have it. I have two inhalers next to me, and a big bottle of water.

Millions of acres lost, all along the West Coast, along with homes. The death toll is climbing. My good thoughts, prayers and anything else I’ve got, going out to the families and loved ones who have been lost or are struggling now. And there’s the Pandemic. And the civil unrest. It’s been six months today since my school district shut down and I was furloughed. I’m back to work now. Many, many thousands and millions of others have it worse than my family and friends do, but all of this is taking its toll, in small ways and large, on every single one of us. Peace and healing and rain are needed, stat.

My sister sent me this list that she got from her neighborhood Facebook group. We don’t have an air purifier and needed something. It cuts the smoke, purifies the air, makes you relax. I’m just saying, it’s working. The air is so dry and horrible, my asthma has been rough, and this has helped. Be safe, love you all.

WM

Respiratory Hack- Herbal Crock Pot Steamer

Plants often used to help with breathing/lungs include:

  • Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis
  • Juniper Juniperus
  • Cedar Thuja occidentalis
  • Sage Salvia
  • Mugwort/Sagebrush Artemisia
  • Bee Balm Monarda
  • Thyme
  • Oregano
  • Eucalyptus

My sis and I are using the handy-dandy Crockpots, but you could just as easily use a big pot of (uncovered) water on the stove. Bring to boil and then simmer, uncovered. Turn it off before you go to bed, cover it, then turn it back on again in the morning. Will be good for a couple of three days. Just keep adding more herbs, citrus and oils. I added:

Peppermint tea bags

Tea with lemon balm/chamomile

Lemon slices

And half a bag of awesome herbs from Sweet Mountaintop Farm and my dear Kate.

Any kinds of herbs are going to be nice, oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, whatever’s on hand. Or get the store to deliver some stuff.

Pray for rain pray for rain for everywhere in the world that needs it.

Wednesday Book Review: “Pride 1 2 3,” by Michael Joosten & Wednesday Holmes

June 10th, 2020

Pandemic 2020, Corvallis (plus old shots of Beaverton)  💜

(Photo by moi, Nancy Ellen Row Rawley)

i like book reviews. 

For the month of June, we’re celebrating so much. Black Lives Matter, Father’s Day, someday (not soon, but someday) the Covid-19 pandemic will be over… and summer’s arrival. My birthday. And last but definitely not least, Gay Pride.

“Pride 1 2 3,” written by Michael Joosten and illustrated by Wednesday Holmes (Hey! Happy Wednesday, Wednesday) is a new release. (Little Simon, 2020, unpaged, ages babies and up, $7.99.) This colorful little board book takes us right back to the days of “Free to Be, You and Me,” and there is nothing wrong with that. From the bright pink bubble lettering on the title, to the signs (“Be Kind!”) to the diverse families, this is just a great book at just the right time.

Peace. I’ve said it my entire life and I’ll keep saying it, even after it finally happens. PEACE, BABIES.

 

Tuesday Book Review — prayers & meditation & finding my way: “The Little Book of Prayers,” Santa Biblia/Holy Bible, “Brave Enough,” “Prayers for Hope & Comfort,” “A Year with Rumi” & “Teaching with Fire”

June 9th, 2020

So once upon a time, America was a mess. This has been going on since Christopher Columbus showed up, so let’s start in 1492. That’s a long time, babies. Too long.

I’m not protesting in the streets this time, but I have been lighting my candles at home, talking with family and friends, praying. Meditating. Writing. It’s been intense to see and hear about everyone making changes that people have been trying to make for centuries now. Rest in peace to everyone, all over the world, who has died in the fight, who has died, fighting for justice. Peace and love to everyone out there who is fighting.

It’s long overdue, peace and justice. It should have happened a long time ago, but if it’s finally going to happen… now? I’ll take now.

Here are the books that are getting me through, it’s the usual cast of characters:

“The Little Book of Prayers,” edited by David Schiller. I think this one is just about perfect.

Santa Biblia/Holy Bible — various authors. My kids’ dad gifted me this, many years ago. I like practicing my Spanish. :)

“Brave Enough,” by Cheryl Strayed

“Prayers for Hope and Comfort,” by Maggie Oman Shannon

“A Year with Rumi: Daily Readings”

“Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach,” edited by Sam M. Intrator & Megan Scribner

Book Reviews: “Wreck This Journal,” “In My Heart” and “Human(Kind)”

April 19th, 2020

Woof and meow 💜

Photo by Nancy Ellen Row Rawley

Woof and meow 💜

At home, a couple of years ago — Photo by Steve Rawley/use with permission only

Well, how about some book reviews? We can still read. Books are allowed, even in a pandemic. Even though the libraries are closing. And the bookstores. Rough times. I am not a medical expert, I’m just a worried mom. We’re okay at our house; hope you and yours are as well. Let’s all be well together, apart. I can’t do much about any of this, but I can keep posting recipes, and book reviews. It’s not much but it’s all I’ve got.

Here’s a good bread recipe that I have been baking in our breadmaker a bunch lately. Bon appetit, babies.

Yummy White Bread a la Wacky Mommy

1 1/4 cups warm (not hot) water
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon vegetable oil, butter or shortening
1 package (2 teaspoons) dry yeast

Add to breadmaker in order given; bake on setting for 2-pound loaf, light crust. Enjoy.

And now, book reviews… what’s in the hopper?

“Wreck This Journal,” by Keri Smith (A Penguin Book, 2020, $16). This series is a lot of fun, my kids, their friends and my students have enjoyed the books over the years. This one is in color, which is cool. Pages encourage the user to “work only with colors you hate,” “drip something here” or “mix so many colors they turn to mud.” All of the prompts are pretty fun. 

The author also has a website and some inspiration exploration on Instagram.

“In My Heart,” by Mackenzie Porter, illustrated by Jenny Lovile (Little Simon, 2020, all ages, $7.99). This sweet board book was released on March 10th, just before many of us in America went into quarantine, and before the schools all closed. It’s a tender, beautifully illustrated book about a little girl who is missing her mom, who is busy at work. But she knows she will see her soon, likes that they are eating the same food, just in two different places, and they know that even “though we’re not together, we’re never truly apart, because you’re always on my mind and you’re always in my heart.”

The poignancy of that little refrain takes on a whole new meaning now, and it makes the book even more lovely than it already was.

Me, even though I’m a big girl? Missing mommy. She’s doing fine, and we’re all checking on her. We’ll get to see each other soon. Or eventually. But we will see each other, and I’m looking forward to taking her out for brunch, and having our coffee. Together.

I’m getting some guidance and support from “Human(Kind): How Reclaiming Human Worth and Embracing Radical Kindness Will Bring Us Back Together,” by Ashlee Eiland (WaterBrook, 2020, 224 pages, $15.99). Inspirational book by the formation and preaching pastor at Mars Hills Bible Church. Each personal essay has a title and a theme (curiosity, belonging, expectation). They’re thoughtful. Words can hurt, but with books like Eiland’s? Words help.

Be safe, be well, talk soon.

Nancy  

(PS — disclaimer — my family is employed by Amazon, but we aren’t paid for my book links.)

 

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