life

I am a Scholastic Mom

While I do joke about over-volunteering and still say ‘yes’ too often for my own good, I am never unappreciative of the time that teachers and parents give to their schools and community (some day I will share the story of the toxic volunteer, not today, though).

Before I knew what I was doing yesterday, A million years ago, when I had a child in kindergarten, I handled the Scholastic book order for the class. It was even my idea to do it (rookie). It sounded pretty basic, no heavy lifting (although you realize quickly that even parents make mistakes in basic addition).  I loved Scholastic and the sweet catalogs were a wonderful way of choosing new books for my children. It was a fun activity to circle the books (then cut the list in half) and to make it a math activity, just have your child add up the cost of the books (use the number of books for younger children). Hey, not bad for a non-mathy mom!  Scholastic has a great system for organizing books by age and reading level which makes this a pleasure. As Scholastic Mom, I totaled the orders and sent it in (at first back to the teacher but then online). They also have great activity ideas like this one called Autumn in Action.

Now, yes, other digital immigrants, everything is online and so so easy. I have had the pleasure of buying Scholastic books for my children for over 15 years and the selection of titles continues to impress. So, I say I am shy but I have become emboldened in the world of the blogging and I asked Scholastic if I could review some of their books and they said yes! So when I received a package from them, I immediately immersed myself in a Young Adult fiction read-a-thon…what a joy. I also became immediately popular with my children’s friends who I let borrow some of the books before I even read them all.

My first read was Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (yes, the Suzanne Collins who wrote The Hunger Games trilogy) and I can’t wait to read the rest of the books in the series. Engaging, funny, sweet and exciting – a regular boy (Gregor) gets drawn into (okay falls into after his sister, Boots) another world and realizes he is not as ordinary as he thinks. A great family story, I am completely hooked on this series.
Next in line was This Girl isn’t Shy, She’s Spectacular

by Nina Beck

Definitely for the older teen, references to drinking, sexual situations but very well written and wonderful characters. Our heroine, a want-to-be writer, Sam decides she has been a rule-follower for far too long and breaks out…what she finds is a surprise and that changing to a bad girl isn’t as easy as she thought it would be.

Life After

by Sarah Darer Littman is a stunning and award winning book. For Grades 12 and up. After a terrorist attack kills Dani’s aunt and unborn cousin, life in Argentina–private school, a boyfriend, a loving family–crumbles quickly and Dani’s family moves to the United States which is not the fresh new beginning that they think it should be and Dani misses her life before the attack. Find out how she makes life work in a a new country.

From Publisher’s Weekly: Life, After explores the generalities of teenagers with some of the specifics of today’s hardest events. It also harkens to immigrant experiences of the past generations (not to mention the relevance of the topic today), Littman puts human faces and characters to iconic tragedy, providing human response, hope and renewal through the story’s arc.

Forever by Maggie Steifvater

The much anticipated third book in the series which started with Shiver and Linger is a fast paced read that showcases the strength of the love between Grace and Sam. Here is the author, Maggie Stiefvater (who looks so young) reading from Forever.

 

Hiroshima in the Morning – A blog tour book review

I  just finished reading a beautifully written book that I received as part of a blog book review tour from Feminist Press. Did you know that some younger women do not like to be called feminists? What is up with that? But I digress.

Hiroshima in the Morning – a video from the author. Hiroshima in the Morning (click on the title for the video which is really well-done – I spent way too much time trying to get the Youtube video box to embed. I quit – just click on it.)

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto is the author and she is truly a writer. She is able to share her world in such beautiful language that I even dog-eared some pages so I would not lose the parts that I just had to re-read.

Here is an excerpt:

I can tell you the story but it won’t be true.
It won’t be the facts as they happened exactly, each day, each footstep, each breath. Time elides, events shift; sometimes we shift them on purpose and forget that we did. Memory is just how we choose to remember.

We choose. It begins in our house, on the top floors of a 19th century brownstone. I’m sitting at our long dining room table across from my husband Brian, my two, brightly-pajamaed sons asleep – finally – after slipping downstairs for water, and then just one more kiss between the banisters. The year is 2001, the place New York City, and in the quiet of the last, warming days of May, I am making a list.

I am a list maker, a super-organizer who measures her success in life by how many of the items she’s checked off. This is who I’ve always been, and it’s never occurred to me to question it. It occurs to me only that I have a goodbye party to throw for myself, which will involve a 25-pound pork butt, Hawaiian rock salt, and ten yards of purple plumeria-patterned fabric that I’ve ordered on the internet but has yet to arrive. If I think about plates, about feeding fifty of my dearest friends who will come to wish me well, I will not have to think of this trip of mine – my first trip away, my first trip alone, my six-month long “trip” to the other side of the world. Brian watches me busy myself. And then the question: “Why are you going to Japan?”

…In Brooklyn, in 2001, I was making a list. I knew I was leaving, but if I had known how thoroughly my life would shatter over the next six months, into gains just as astonishing as the losses; if I knew I was saying goodbye to the person I was that night, that decade, that lifetime; if I understood I was about to become someone new, too new, someone I was proud of, who I loved, but who was too different to fit here, in this particular, invisible narrative that I was sitting in but couldn’t feel, would I still have gotten on the airplane?

This is the question people will ask me. The question that curls, now, in the dark of the night. How do any of us decide to leave the people we love?

She shares her fears and doubts in a open honest account of her relationships that is rarely found even in our over-sharing world today. But I do have to confess that when I first read Ayelet Waldman‘s book blurb*, I took note – that is to say I was on high alert. Ms. Waldman has proven to be controversial (but never dull) and her own take on Motherhood has raised more than a few eyebrows…feminist or otherwise.  I feared at first that this would be an anti-mothering screed that would make me uncomfortable. It is and it isn’t, it does and it doesn’t.

Ostensibly, it is the author’s journey to Japan to interview the surviving victims of Hiroshima and how her experience getting them to share is altered by 9/11 in that the people she is interviewing are suddenly more emotionally accessible after America also suffered a tragedy. The stories of the people who were in Hiroshima are heartbreaking and painful and raw. The stories are faithfully re-told and this part of the book I found moving and jarring and true.

While it isn’t a screed (a : a lengthy discourse b : an informal piece of writing (as a personal letter) c : a ranting piece of writing) – no wait, it kind of is one. It is a memoir of a woman who is searching for herself and her history and her relationships – past and present – and who is trying to see where she actually begins and ends…if that is at all possible.

While the writing is lovely, I got a little impatient with the author, a privileged person not unlike the heroine of Eat, Pray, Love.  Oh, shut up. Julia Roberts is lovely and I am sure it was a nice movie (I read the book) but show me a real person (yes, you – the ones who bought the book or a ticket to the movie) who gets a major cash book advance, leaves her stultifying marriage and then pulls herself together by managing to finally (!) gain weight in Italy, meditate and hang out with some yogic cowboy in India and find love (I had something else here but this is a family blog) in an island paradise. But again, I digress.

The author, Rizzuto, has lots of time for self-reflection but isn’t very good at it. She comes across as the adolescent she refers to in her subway memory (only with a good vocabulary and a poetic way of writing about the world) and she is a pretty petulant one at that. I guess my biggest problem with the book is that after 9/11 and with her children and husband in New York City…the author didn’t go home. Okay? Really? How do you not go to your family? So there is some restriction that if she were out of the country for more than seven days it meant she would lose her grant. So…go home. The flight does not take seven days. That is why her husband was pissed – okay, that’s why I would have been pissed – Sorry for projecting.

I am not immune to wondering “Are you anything else when you are a mother or is that your defining role/characteristic/fate?” I get it. I don’t get making your child wait for the bathroom (he was three years old) until you eat the rest of your noodles because this would be the chance for you to come back to them emotionally . Huh? Total and complete disconnect for me. Take the kid to the G-D bathroom when he has to go.

Here is a nice review of her first book, Why She Left Us which I will read at some point but not just yet. I sense, ahem, a theme.

I liked the book enough to send it to my mother-in-law as a gift but I did have the furrowed brow thing going for parts of the book.

*”This searing and redemptive memoir is an explosive account of motherhood reconstructed. Pulling from the wreckage of two wars, as well as the loss of her own mother to Alzheimer’s, Rahna Reiko Rizzuto recasts her identity as a mother and a daughter, and finds a truer connection to her family.” — Ayelet Waldman

I updated this post today because it has been getting quite a bit of traffic and I wanted to make it easier to find. Also I figured out the you tube plug-in.

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