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Showing posts from 2012

"Roll On: Rick Hansen Wheels Around the World" by Ainslie Manson

One of the best things about book blogging is the "backstage pass" it can create for tapping into an author's motivation. After reading Roll On: Rick Hansen Wheels Around the World, Daughter #2 and I were impressed. Instead of another sports hero story about the agonies of a champion athlete on an epic journey (though there's just the right dose of that in the mix), Roll On introduced us to what can happen when you're on the road to reaching your dream. And what is remembered afterwards, what matters, is not so much about the aches and pains, but the people met along the way.This made us think, and we came to the conclusion we had a few questions for author Ainslie Manson.

Why did you want to do a sequel to Boy in Motion?
This year is the 25th anniversary of Rick's around the world journey in his wheelchair.  To mark this occasion, Rick requested a second book, carrying on where my earlier book, Boy in
Motion left off, and telling the story of his gruelling, m…

Coming soon, very soon...

Any day now...

I've lived a long time, a very long time, 101 years, and I'm still here. I'm done with the doubts and struggles and insecurities of youth. I'm finished with loss and guilt and regret. I'm very old, and nothing is expected of me. Now, provided good health continues, I can do what I want. I can write my memoirs. I can edit my works for a future eBooks. I can even do nothing--what a luxury that is! I have new priorities and a new appreciation of time. I enjoy my family more than ever, and also a sunny day and a comfortable bed. I keep up my interest in books and theatre and people, and when I'm tired, I rest. My former students write to me and visit me. I had many problems and disasters in my life; fortunately, at my age, I don't remember what they were. I'm glad I am 101.

--Bel Kaufman to Robert Sullivan in "Test of Time", p. 82, VOGUE, August 2012

Reality reading (with a royal flair)

September 30, 2012

Apart from a five-bedroom Georgian home in Surrey (England), a volunteer career in church bell ringing/flower arranging and an easily inflenced parrot named Darcy, Constance Harding has one great gift: the ability to see things as they aren’t.

A husband who neglects her, an incompetent housekeeper whose knickers tend to nest in said-husband’s study, a bell-ringing buddy with a mysterious crush on a very married woman, a son with a secret that Mummy definitely doesn’t want to hear… oh, it’s just so much easier, and funnier to rise above it all. What Constance does see is that there’s nothing wrong with a little well-meant meddling on behalf of those she loves best--until it starts backfire without the back-up of reality.

A Surrey State of Affairs has one eye-opener after another in store for Ceri Radford’s dotty heroine. And Constance, when the chips are down, has a bit more backbone than even she could predict.

There’s no escaping reality for Elizabeth II. In Richar…

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

"Most things in life start small, and get bigger," funeral director and educator Todd Van Beck once said. "Except grief. Grief starts big." And if you don't deal with it, it stays that way. 
The further one travels along The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, the clearer it becomes just how big a grief can be. So big, in fact that it will take something utterly momentous to bring it down to size.
If one were to place bets on the chances that a retiree who never walks further than the car could cross the length of England, by foot, in a pair of deck shoes, one would probably not place all ones chips on Harold Fry. And yet from the moment he passes the first postbox on his way north to the bedside of a long-lost and loyal friend, there's nothing we want more for this gentle, thoughtful man than that he succeed--and buy a good pair of walking boots along the way. One of these he does.
What starts as "unlikely" because Harold is so pitifully ill-prep…

Little Rat Rides

Is there anything worse for a reader than finishing the last book in a beloved series? We wouldn't mind so much, if only more books for young readers showed the same care and attention to words and pictures that Monika Bang-Campbell and Molly Bang do together in Little Rat.

After all the big sighs, Daughter Number Two still had a few questions about our new favourite furry heroine. So, with a little help, she posed them in an email to the author herself. Here is what we heard back. 

Why did Pee Wee chase the cat?
Pee Wee does NOT chase cats, he is scared of cats. All horses are scared of sudden movements they don't understand, because they are "prey" animals - in other words, they don't chase after other animals to eat them but instead are eaten by creatures like wolves and coyotes and jaguars and lions and bears and . . .

So they are scared by things we feel are very safe, like a running little cat or an umbrella suddenly opening  up.

Was Pee Wee a real horse?
Pee Wee…

The Tale of Two Nazanins

June 21, 2012
Never underestimate the power of a pageant promise. Especially when the world is watching.
If you ask Wikipedia the meaning of the name “Nazanin” you will find it cited as a common Persian female first name, meaning “lovely”, “beautiful” and the like. And below this definition are listed, by way of example, three Nazanins: Nazanin Boniadi, an actress and spokesperson for Amnesty International, Nazanin Afshin-Jam, a human rights activist and Miss World Canada in 2003 and Nazanin Mahabad Fatehi a 17 year-old girl sentenced to death for stabbing a man in self-defense. It is the latter two Nazanins who form, in alternating chapters, The Tale of Two Nazanins by Nazanin Afshin-Jam and Susan McLellan.
“Nazanin” is a fitting, perhaps even prophetic, name for a Canadian beauty queen with a close and loving family and a host of freedoms and possibilities before her. But “Nazanin” is a woefully ironic choice for an impoverished, Khurdish–Iranian girl who suffers most of her young…
Like the characters in Helen Simonsen's outstanding first novel, sometimes you have to leave your senses to come to them. I rashly abandoned the 14-day loan to linger over a copy of Major Pettigrew's Last Stand from the library, and am unrepentent. This, and Middlemarch, are the best books I have read all year. I lived in Middlemarch for summer vacation; Pettigrew was with me for the Christmas holidays. For everyone who loves England, a cure-all cup of tea, and believes simple happy endings are as possible as people are complicated.
"I felt a keen sense of responsibility to only use material that I felt was illuminating, but not damaging. As my father always said, be honest, but be kind."
--Kari Herbert, author of Polar Wives
North and South meets A Visit from the Goon Squad
Kindly step aside, Mr. Darcy, for Mr. John Thornton of Middleton.
Sorry, John Who?

If Jane Austen's Darcy marks the measure of romantic hero, Elizabeth Gaskell’s John Thornton may well be his superior: a self-made, socially-conscious business leader with a mind for higher learning and a true, unwavering heart. His lower profile is a little ironic, since Gaskell orginally wrote him into a serial for Charles Dicken's Household Words. But perhaps Darcy is just a little less complex and easier to adore—nobly-born and not caught up in the mess of tensions between working class men, and those who employed them, that is Thornton’s reality in 1855.
“Master” was the word in Gaskell’s day, and is Thornton’s role as a cotton mill owner in the city of Middleton--Gaskell’s fictional interpretation of Manchester at the time.  The romantic tension between Thornton and Miss Margaret Hale, newly arrived in Middleton from the bucolic South, keeps p…
Let's be honest here. There are times, when helping a seven-year-old practice her reading, that you just long for the book to be over. It can be a long, slow ordeal with more than a few mix-ups on the way to the last page, and a sigh of relief when you finally arrive at the end.

Not so with Harley, Star Livingstone's tribute to a llama in eastern Massachusetts with a knack for shepherding and a mind of his own. Livingstone's simple sentences and vocabulary knit together a series of episodes in the life of Harley the guard llama--from chasing off coyotes to making friends with a gristley old ram--that has one wishing for a sequel.

If a Grade Two reader takes her time with Harley, it's for good reason, Molly Bang's illustrations of long-lashed Harley, and the gentle sheep he guards are lovely to look at and breath contentment into a story of a once ornery animal who finds his true calling and his rightful place in the farm field.

There are no Candidos named in Lynne Bowen's historical tribute to the first generations of Italians who helped build Canada. But they are there all the same. In the smelters of Trail, in the dry grasslands of Kamloops, in the burgeoning days of early Vancouver... Whoever Gives Us Bread traces the trails of Italian Canadians and in doing so,  fills in the sketches we have of part of my family's early history in Canada.

"Among the Italians who were offending the sensibilites of middle-class Vancouverites," writes Bowen, "were men from Friuli, a region that had exported over fifty thousand of its people in that one year of 1913." My great grandfather, around about that time, was one of them. Leaving the slow starvation of a country that couldn't afford to feed them, Canada offered opportunity for those willing to get their hands, and their lungs, dirty.

My great grandfather made his first stop in Trail, to work in the smelter. As my father says: "Bu…
In My Heart by Molly Bang
This is the time of year when I recommend to every working mother I know In My Heart by Molly Bang. It sits on our living room shelf year round, but if one has need for the ultimate Valentine, then this would be it. "Hearts abound" wrote one reviewer, and they are all full to bursting.
It must be winter (and raining) if I’m reading memoir. Last year’s great January escape was Keith Richard’s Life and, for a revelry of perfect contrast, the Duchess of Devonshire’s Wait for Me! This year, I spent the dwindling of 2011 reading Debo’s newest book -- All in One Basket, the compilation of two earlier collections of her essays, written over half a century.
Though she can make a gardening book sound enticing to a brown thumb, the Duchess proclaims herself to be not much of a reader. One of her fondest anecdotes of her father is his “review” of Jack London’s White Fang. He read it through and declared himself done with books. So perfect was Fang, in his estimation, that any other book would most certainly fall short.

The Duchess herself famously struggled in a column (revived for readers as part of All in One Basket) to come up with 10 books of recommended reading on Trans Siberian railway adventure. Were her father still of this earth, no doubt he would gladly break his vow t…