Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Night of the Spadefoot Toads by Bill Harley

I’ve been a fan of singer/poet/storyteller Bill Harley for nearly 20 years. Bill Harley delivers his material with energy and passion and his performances on the stage at the International Storytelling Festivals in Jonesboro, Tennessee have always brought audiences to their feet with wild applause.
Although the subject of his material has often been his own childhood, adults eat it up with even more enthusiasm than the kids because they resonate with the layers of truth nestled in his “children’s” stories.
Lately, I have also purchased and read Bill Harley’s books – another forum for this man’s genius. I just finished reading Night of the Spadefoot Toads, the story of a fifth grade boy who is highly interested in the outdoor environment but is floundering with his family’s move from Arizona to Massachusetts. The story’s subjects include environmental protection, the difficulties of moving, and teacher-student relationships (the kid is blessed with a sensitive, seasoned science teacher). This book would be a great read-aloud. I hope that Bill Harley comes out with an audio version of this book because his storytelling talent would certainly make it another worthwhile venue for this noteworthy title.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Have a Little Faith by Mitch Albom was the book that has kept me ‘reading’ through the past few days while commuting to work. It is the tale of Mitch’s discussions with two men of God – his own rabbi and an inner-city black pastor. Both men provide insights that nurture Mitch’s faith journey. In the final analysis Mitch comes to realize that everyone’s exploration of faith and the discussions of the meaning of life are the journey that leads us closer to God (or Allah or whatever we might call the Divine)… and that is what God wants for us: to explore, question, and bless all others with caring no matter what their religion or beliefs.
The audiobook is very ably narrated by the author. Two thumbs up!

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The tragedy this week in Haiti is like a page out of the book “Life as we Knew It” by Susan Beth Pfeffer.

Over the past few days I’ve been compelled to read the diary entries of 16-year-old Miranda as she chronicles the way life on earth changes following a natural disaster. This is the ultimate natural disaster story: the moon alters its course after being struck by an asteroid and the change in gravitational pull results in tsunamis, volcanoes, earthquakes, and drastic climate change.

Through months of decreasing resources Miranda, her mother and two brothers pull closer together to help each other survive. Without electricity or ability to buy more food, gas, etc. the family rations their supplies and voluntarily fast to allow each other to survive. Despite blizzards and freezing temperatures as early as August, the family chops wood every day to burn in their wood stove. When a flu epidemic decimates a majority of the world’s population Miranda nurses her family back to health, but when starvation seems imminent, Miranda leaves her home so that her death might not grieve them so badly. The situation seems grim, but the outcome is actually hopeful. Read it for a chance to vicariously experience the fight for daily survival if all our modern conveniences were suddenly to disappear.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Isabel Dalhousie is a 40-year -old Scottish unwed mother of a 3-month old baby boy. She is also a millionaire and a philosopher. Her boyfriend (father of the child) is an attractive, young professional musician. They live and work in Edinburgh. This fun, contemporary book is The Careful Use of Compliments by Alexander McCall Smith.
Isabel's thoughts propel the story as the author blends lovely and intriguing ideas with "odd remembered lines that keep popping out like corks". Although religion and faith were never really mentioned, I found it quite interesting that the character uses several biblical quotes in terms of her philosophy.
Isabel is the editor of The Review of Applied Ethics and as such she wields a great deal of self-righteous judgement in my opinion. She jumps to conclusions quite quickly on issues of morality and feels that it is her duty to right wrongs or at least confront those who have done wrong. The fact that she uses her considerable wealth to get revenge on those (of meager means) who have mistreated her does not, however, seem to cause her much moral anguish.
Although the story left me feeling that something was missing, I did enjoy reading this book. Since finishing it, I've learned that it is book 4 of a series featuring Isabel Dalhousie. Perhaps I'll try starting on the first in the series and find some of the missing pieces to round out Isabel's story.

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