27 September 2008


This isn't a new site, but I always get a chuckle out of it:


Are You My Mother? By P. D. Eastman
Ultra-Condensed by David J. Parker

Little Bird:
Are you my mother?
A Bunch of Animals That Aren't His Mother:
His Mother:

24 September 2008

What's on My Desk October 2008

Neighbors: The Destruction of the Jewish Community in Jedwabne, Poland by Jan Gross. Adult Nonfiction. DONE.

Part of the Nextbook Jewish literature series at University of Dayton.

"Until the outbreak of the war," writes Jan Gross, "Jedwabne was a quiet town, and Jewish lives there differed little from those of their fellows elsewhere in Poland." Then, on a summer evening in 1941, just weeks after Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Polish residents took up axes, clubs, and torches and massacred all but seven of the town's 1,600 Jews. The perpetrators, who were brought to trial in 1949, never received official blame for the massacre, which instead went to the Nazis. Piecing together eyewitness testimony and trial records with a deft historical imagination, Gross details the "potent, devilish mixture" that led Poles to turn on their Jewish neighbors. Originally published in Poland in 2000, the book sparked a national controversy and led to a public reconsideration of the Polish role in the Holocaust.

This book is kind of boring. You can read any one chapter of this book at random and get the point of the book. The author says the same thing over and over again in each chapter:

"In this case the Poles killed their neighborhood Jews. It wasn't the Germans and the Germans didn't make them do it. The Poles did it because they hated Jews".

I think there is enough material for a long article, but not an entire book. If this person was writing for a master's thesis or doctoral dissertation I would give him his degree, but it doesn't have enough to say for wide appeal.

Winter Birds by Jamie Turner. Adult Fiction. DONE.

A bitter old woman comes to live with her Christian nephew and niece. Will she soften up under their care?

This was a fairly good book, but a bit long-winded. The ending was satisfactory and believable.

Big Orange Splot by Daniel Pinkwater. Children's Fiction, ages K-3 or for adults who practice civil disobedience as well. DONE.

This is about the 15th time this year I have read this book. See previous blogs.

Greatest Gift: The Courageous Life and Martyrdom of Sister Dorothy Stang by Binka Le Breton. Adult Nonfiction. DONE.

Dayton native. Sister of Notre Dame de Namur. Eco-warrior. Advocate for the Poor.

The world of Amazonian Brazil is in many ways still a wild west that is hard to patrol and justice may be in short supply, especially for the poorest of the poor who are continually trying to eke out an existance.
page 106:
I don't deny that she was a bit of a Samaritan, but deep down the was more of a prophet. Prophets are those who tell forth the will of God - God's deepest desire. The prophet doesn't have a voice of her own. The prophet is the spokeswoman. She speaks for God. She feels this as her mission, feels called to do this. So when we think of Doroty, this is the starting point...
She turns up in Altamira. Tells me her name is Dorothy Stang, she's and American from Ohio, a sister of Notre Dame de Namur, and she wants to work in the Xingu among the poorest of the poor. Wants to give her life for people living in abject poverty.
pages 166-7:
As far as Dorothy was concerned, the sun rose and set around her people. Anyone who came anywhere near got roped in to help. ..They thought of nothing but cutting the forest. They'd never dream of planting a tree! And this sustainable development project had been dreamed up by INCRA, but they'd never got it to work. It was Dorothy who really pushed for it. She truly thought it could be done. Nature became her gospel, you might say. Loving nature, preserving nature, because nature is life...She never rejected anyone, because she always said there was room for everyone, no matter who they were.
You can read many articles on Dorothy Stang in the Dayton Daily News
Flashing Fire Engines by Tony Mitton and Ant Parker. Children's fiction. Preschool-grade 2. DONE. General reminder to self: A book about a loud fire engine and the sounds it makes is not a good choice for a bedtime story.
Skipping Village by Lois Lenski. Children's Fiction. Grades 3-6.
This is a really old one (1927). I interlibrary loaned it from the Cleveland Public Library. In the back I can see the initials of the persons who checked it out from 1955 to 1984.
I read that it is based on the author's childhood in Anna, Shelby County, Ohio. It is a happy-go-lucky book about a comfortable childhood in the early 20th century. Sure, everyone in the family had to do chores, but overall the family was fairly well off and did not suffer from poverty or disease other than common childhood diseases. This would be good for Laura Ingalls Wilder fans. It also has happy little verses at the beginning and end of each chapter. She put in some of her own line-drawing illustrations, too. Some of these illustrations have been colored on thicker one-sided pages. If you need a daily supply of sunshine, the characters in this book, like Pollyanna and Mary Poppins can give you a boost. I think this book is overlooked, but would fit in to many library collections very well. If a teacher is looking for examples of everyday life in the early 1900's, selections would be good to read.

19 September 2008

Summer of Superman Part VIII

Save Superman's house!

Saving the house where Superman was born
By Brad Meltzer
For the past two years, while researching Jerry Siegel's life for my new novel, I asked my friend Mike San Giacomo to take me to the actual house in Cleveland where Superman was created. I wanted to see the exact spot where young Jerry Siegel sat in his bed on that rainy summer night...where a seventeen(!) year old kid stared at his bedroom ceiling and gave birth to the idea of Superman. And so we went. (You can read that whole adventure here and watch the video here).
But the one thing I quickly realized was that this house was in...well...it was in bad shape. The house where Google was created is saved. The farm where Hewlett Packard was founded is preserved. And Richard Nixon’s house is a museum. But the house where Superman — one of the world’s most recognized heroes — was created? It’s a wreck. It's actually a great old house -- painted bright red and blue (really) -- and owned by one of the kindest elderly couples in the world. But as the neighborhood sank, so did the house. When you walk inside, you feel like your foot might go through the floor. The roof is flawed. The paint is a mess. When you look up at the ceiling, you see the exposed rafters overhead. It's a mess. Worst of all, the city of Cleveland let it happen. As the owner told me, “They won’t even give us a plaque. Not even a plaque to say, ‘This is where Superman was created.’” Exactly.Just heartbreaking.And that’s why Mike and I started calling our friends. He called the city of Glenville. I called my fellow comic book writers and artists. Then I called Jerry Siegel’s wife and daughter, Joanne and Laura, who came on as our honorary chairpeople. One thing became clear: if we don't save this place soon, the house will soon go the way of Superman artist Joe Shuster's, which was torn down. Soon after, thanks to the hard work of many, The Siegel & Shuster Society was born.With a name like that, peole keep asking me, “Is that the secret superhero clubhouse?” You better believe it’s the secret superhero clubhouse.And this charitable 501(c)(3) is dedicated to making sure the Siegel House will be saved, and restored, and there so you can take your kids one day.Will we succeed? That depends on you. Really. You. If we want to repair the exterior, and fix the roof, and clear out the rotted wood, we have to raise the cash. Cleveland won’t pay. The big corporations won’t pay. They’re the ones who ignored it. But like the site says, I believe ordinary people change the world. I believe that we — the true fans — can do what Cleveland and everyone else couldn’t

Summer of Superman Part VII

Zap! Pow! Bam! Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage hosts comic-book exhibit
by Michael Sangiacomo / Plain Dealer Reporter
Monday September 15, 2008, 11:59 PM

The single, framed piece of yellowed paper from the early 1940s is unique and priceless in the truest sense of the words. The page has Joe Shuster's story pencil drawings of Superman with an inscription by Jerry Siegel to Batman artist Jerry Robinson. Siegel quips that if he had seen Robinson's art first, he might have hired him to draw Superman. The creators of Superman sharing a moment with the guy who created The Joker.
A comic fan's dream.
That's just one of more than 100 pieces on display at The Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, where Zap! Pow! Bam! The Super Hero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938-1950 exhibit begins Tuesday.
What do comic books have to do with Jews?
Don't be a shmendrik; most of the guys who created comics were Jewish.
Starting with young Siegel and Shuster, there were Bob Kane, who created Batman; Joe Simon, who co-created Captain America; Jack Kirby, who co-created Captain America, Fantastic Four and the Hulk; Joe Kubert (Sgt. Rock) and on and on.
Anybody who was anybody in the comic world of the 1930s and '40s was Jewish, as artfully portrayed in the novel "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" by Michael Chabon.
In "Golden Age" most of the art studios were owned by and employed mostly Jewish artists, since those jobs were easier to get and lacked the prestige of higher-paying art careers.
One of those artists, Jerry Robinson, is the force behind the touring comic-book exhibit that originated at the Breman Museum in Atlanta. Most of the exhibits are from Robinson's private collection. Robinson, at 91, is still a comic fan.
Before you go smashing exhibit cases for the rare Batman, Superman and Captain Marvel comics, know this: Few contain full comics. Most are covers with a few pages; some are even well-done duplicates.
"The color covers fade in the light, so we're careful with them," said Judi Feniger, executive director. "We hope that the exhibit will appeal to everyone, especially the boomer generation. Half are audience here is Jewish, so they will appreciate the Jewish aspect of the exhibit."

But the priceless pieces of original art are real, as are the signatures of artists like Will Eisner (Spirit); Simon and Kirby (Captain America) and Robinson (Batman.)
There is a subtle rack of superhero costumes standing next to a wooden phone booth.
The display also includes a tiny theater showing the rarely seen serial "Atom Man vs. Superman." Another theater loops interviews with great creators like Stan Lee (co-creator of the Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, X-Men and hundreds of other characters for Marvel Comics) and Julius Schwartz, editor at DC Comics throughout the 1960s and '70s and a guiding force behind Superman.
While there, check out the exhibit on Siegel and Shuster, who created Superman while they were students at Glenville High School. This year marks the 70th anniversary of the 1938 release of Action Comics No. 1, the first appearance of Superman.

Sometimes, words -- not only vivid images -- seem to leap off the page in comic books.
Comic-related events scheduled at the Maltz
• Oct. 22: Jordan Gorfinkel (former Batman writer, editor) and Michael Sangiacomo (Plain Dealer comics columnist and author of "Tales of the Starlight Drive-In") will talk about the impact of Jewish comics creators.
• Oct. 26: Harvey Pekar, creator of "American Splendor" comics, talks about his unique brand of comic storytelling.
• Nov. 5: Marc Tyler Nobleman talks about his children's book "Boys of Steel: The Creators of Superman," which spotlights Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.
• Dec. 7: Terry Stewart, president of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, talks about his days as president of Marvel Comics.

05 September 2008

What's on My Desk September 2008

Red Cavalry by Isaac Babel. Adult Short Stories and Novellas.
Part of the ALA book discussion series, Next Book. In this case, the University of Dayton and local temples are sponsoring it.
These are quite gruesome and show the autrocities of war. In this case, Russia versus Poland shortly after WWI and the Russian Revolution, but the autrocities have been and will be committed in just about any war.
True to Soviet culture, the author was exalted, then executed. You just can't win in Stalin's U.S.S.R. , and if you are a Jew, then you know that the religion has been almost eradicated more than once.

Shack by William Young. Adult Christian Fiction. Realistic Fiction. Metaphorical Theology. DONE.
Bi-monthly MOPS book discussion book. http://www.mops.org/
The cover has a number of favorable reviews from people in different occupations, such as Wynnona Judd and a number of pastors. I didn't realize it was popular until I saw that I was something like number 159 on the library holds list. I had to buy a paperback copy to read this in time for my discussion group.
This is a powerful book and worth a read. It has very cerebral religious discussion, but brings it down to a layperson's level. Not all Christians will embrace this book, but it has some very wonderful insights into the vastness of the love of God for humanity. One reviewer called it a Pilgrim's Progress for today's world. You have to be careful labelling a new book an instant classic, but I think this will be on many reading lists for years to come because of the depth, yet accessibility of the message.
Personally, I put it down for a few days to let some of the thoughts sink in. The reader shouldn't try to rush through this book, but maybe plan to read a chapter a day to savor it. Of course, I waited until right before my book discussion and didn't do this, but if possible, I recommend reading it more slowly. Maybe I will pick it up again in 6 months or so and re-read a chapter or two. Reading this shouldn't replace devotional time, but might make good lunchtime reading or bedtime reading.
I would say go ahead an buy this book instead of getting it from the library, because you probably want to give it to a friend or relative to read after you are done with it. You could donate it to your local church library, too. This way you can discuss it with others after they have read it.

Snow Spider by Jenny Nimo. Children's Fiction. Maybe a 4th or 5th grade reading level.
This fantasy book is set in Wales, so there are plenty of names that I have no idea how to pronounce, but I can still enjoy the book without sounding out the names. I am not sure when this is set, as the family uses some electricity, but also candles, and they live in a rural area with farm animals.

Why Things Don't Work: Plane by David West. 4th grade - adult reading level. DONE.
This series would work well as adult literacy books, too. I have read these aloud to 4 and 5 year olds who don't understand everything, but love the concept of people fixing vehicles and they want to help in the garage, too.
Look for the Wright Flyer reference in this book, then head to Huffman Prairie near Wright Patterson Air Force Base to show children where the Wright Brothers did their flying.
Biscuit Goes to School by Alyssa Satin Capucilli. Children's Fiction - early reader. DONE.
This is a basic reader with large type for easy readability. Booklist calls it sweet, and it is.
Picking Apples & Pumpkins by Amy and Richard Hutchings. Children's Non-fiction. First or second grade reading level. DONE.
The name says it all. A girl goes to a farm to get apples and pumpkins. It uses photography to show the farm.
Pumpkin Town by Katie McKy and Pablo Bernasconi. Children's Fiction. Grades K-3. DONE.
This silly book shows the consequences of spreading seeds wantonly. Be careful where you spit those watermelon seeds!
Happiness and the Human Spirit by Abraham Twerski, rabbi and medical doctor (psychiatrist). Adult Nonfiction.
The rabbi calls on his years of counselling his flock and patients, in particular the drug-addicted, but people of all walks and his years of studying religion, philosophy, and psychiatry to give examples of how to live a happier, more spiritual life through generosity and appreciation.
I had forgotten how upbeat of a person this author is. I used to listen to his radio show on an a.m. station in Sioux City, Iowa back in 1990. It broadcast out of Pittsburgh.
The Story about Ping by Marjorie Flack and Kurt Wiese. Children's Fiction K-3. DONE.
I didn't think there was anything very remarkable about this story about a duck in China, but my audience of 4 and 5 year olds really liked it. I guess in 1933 books were more bound to show a spanking than today's books. Now the 4 and 5 year old are saying that the last one in line gets a spank and are calling "La-la-la-la-lei!" to each other like in the book. This book was featured on Reading Rainbow.
I Spy A Pumpkin by Jean Marzollo and Walter Wick. Children's Fiction age 2-grade 1. DONE.
I didn't know that they had a junior version of this set. Actually I don't think they needed to make it easier. It was pretty easy for the 4 year old audience to find items, so I guess it is geared for children less than 4.
Measuring Puppies and Kittens and Subtracting Puppies and Kittens. Children's Nonfiction, grades 1-3.
These are cute and educational. I am not a teacher so I am guessing that some things were phrased like a teacher would have phrased them. I guess I haven't thought about how we subtract in, like, 30 years... I think teachers and home schoolers might use these more than librarians and parents.
Lost and Found by Mark Teague. Children's Fiction K-3.
A creative book about what might be in the lost and found box at school.
The Foolish Tortoise and the Greedy Python by Richard Buckley and Eric Carle. Children's Fiction, Preschool.
These are copyright 20th century, but with a timeless folk story feel.
Why Things Don't Work: Helicopter by David West. Children's How-To Books. Grades 3-6. Graphic Novel.
Now I have read all 6 in the series and I do recommend these for school and public libraries. Adults and children can learn about fixing vehicles in this great series. The helicopter book didn't seem quite as great as the others, but hey, no author/illustrator is perfect.