Friday, December 30, 2005

Woke up to what sounds like ping pong balls dropping onto the floor above our bedroom ceiling. Been hearing this off and on since we moved here but have yet been able to figure it out. The owner is out of town and we still hear it. Reminds me of Captain Kangaroo, bunny, and moose and ping pong balls that would fall from the ceiling. Boy am I old!

No yachts out in the bay today. Jimmy Buffett was here on one of his boats a couple of weeks ago. A friend of Steve's who works at a marina told him, but we never saw Buffett or his boat/yacht. We stopped at Sop Choppies about the same time and the bartender said Kenny Chesney and Kid Rock had been in for drinks that past weekend. We old folks are long in bed before the celebrities hit the bars. Lots of celebrities visit the VI but I have yet to see one. Even John Travolta has come through with his private jet. Now he is a celebrity I wouldn't mind meeting. :-)

Was going through my book shelves and found a copy of Connie May Fowler's Before Women Had Wings, that I bought several years ago, but never got around to reading. Fowler is a gifted writer and her use of innocent 8-year-old Bird as the narrator of this tale of family suicide and abuse makes this novel so raw and painful that a couple of times I closed it and walked away for a bit before I went back to it. Bird tries so hard to be as perfect and quiet as she can, but as a bright young child that isn't always possible and she bears the physical and emotional scars from the lashings she receives from both the belts and tongues of her alcoholic parents. Bird begs the Jesus in the dime store picture her Catholic mother put on the wall to help her family but to no avail. After her father has her mother beaten up to "keep her at home" and then shoots himself, Bird and her older sister find themselves living in a travel trailer with their bitter and angry mother. Bird's savior comes in the form of Miss Zora, an eccentric black woman. My heart still hurts for Bird, even though my head knows she is a fictional character. However, her life is all too real for many children.

Before Women Had Wings is the perfect example of the adult novel with a child protagonist, that certainly is not meant for a child reader. The themes are adult and the language is strong. It reminds me a bit of This is Graceanne's Book by P.L. Whitney in which the narrator is young Charlie, who adores his 12 year old sister GraceAnne. She is the target of abuse by her alcoholic mother, but Graceanne is one strong willed girl and her love for life is stronger than the belt. Whitney's descriptive writing is so beautiful that the Mississippi river stands out as a character itself. I would recommend both of these books to older teens, but they are certainly not YA novels.

On a brighter note - I also read Michael Dooling's delightful picture book biography, Young Thomas Edison. After hard-of-hearing Edison was called addled by his teacher, his mother - once a teacher herself- homeschooled Edison, where he read widely and experimented in his home lab for hours. Always looking for money for his lab equipment, Edison began selling newspapers on a train - that is until he set fire to the baggage car, where he had a mobile lab set up. Biographies can often be quite boring to children, but this one is interesting and funny. Dooling visited the locations he writes about and this is clear in the detail and authenticity of the high quality illustrations. A top notch addition to any children's biography section.

Back to working on Spring course syllabi.