Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day celebrations at Arlington cemetery on TV while I write this. Seems strange to think that I will never hear another one of my Dad's war stories from his time in the South Pacific. Some of them were funny - like the bug crawling in his ear - but others were very sad. Now Dad is with his childhood and war time buddies again, telling stories and playing cards.

Grieving for those we love is not easy. This reality is starkly, but beautifully portrayed in Ellen Wittlinger's upcoming novel Blind Faith. All the stages of grief are present in this novel, from absolute denial to acceptance. Liz's grandmother Bunny has died and her mother is grieving like a daughter, a daughter who is not able to be a mother and help her own daughter grieve for the grandmother who was more a mother to her than her own. Liz wants to believe in the readings she hears at the spiritualist church her mother has sought out in her grief. She wants to believe like her mother does. She wants to accept the "mistakes" in the readings, such as the cat in her grandmother's hands is really a bunny, since her name is Bunny. But she also understands her father's anger at her mother for believing in what he considers bunk. As the son of a fundamentalist father who proved to be both an adulterer and embezzler he had turned his back on all organized religion and his God is nature. When Nathan, Courtney and their dying mother move in at Crabby's house across the street, Liz's family sees another kind of grief - that of children knowing their mother is dying and the realization of a bitter old woman that her daughter is dying and she will be raising the grandchildren she never knew. Nathan's anger is so intense it radiates off the pages and Courtney's anger at not being told until the last minute that her mother is dying brings tears to the eyes. Wittlinger handles the issues of belief beautifully - never suggesting that there are any right answers in who or what God is and/or how one should believe or worship. The conversations between the teenagers about their beliefs are realistic as are the often less than mature reactions of the adults to death. I can't say enough wonderful things about this novel. Wittlinger is a gifted YA author and she has, yet again, taken a controversial but every present issue relevant to teens and given it a voice via a character who both makes you laugh and cry. I want to know Liz and listen to her play Mozart! Ellen, I applaud your skill and heart as a writer to speaks to teens as no one else can.

We are off to Iggy's for a burger for lunch. Been cooped up in this apartment working on the first draft of TT for HS, vol. II to send in tomorrow. Need to sit outside and watch the ocean for a bit.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The birds are chirping like crazy this a.m., which results in Sophie's tail flicking back and forth at about as rapid a pace as the chirps. I think they like to taunt her as they know she can't get them. :-) Of course, Saturday morning - I could have slept in, but, no, I wake up at 7:30! What a bite. But, I did curl up with Sophie, a diet coke, and a Luna bar. Yahoo - my order finally came in. What a joke to see the priority shipping marks on the box. It took over 2 months to get here. Thursday I was gnashing my teeth as I drove across town to the mail box place and, of course, he wasn't there. Just a note on the door saying he had gone to get something to eat. These are the kind of things that drive me crazy down here. Earlier that day I walked by an insurance office in Red Hook during my lunch hour. And there was a sign on the door saying they had gone to lunch - well, what is the time of day people who work have time to run in and drop off a payment or ask a question? Lunch time of course! I just shake my head in wonder at how people stay in business down here.

Since I was up so early I finished reading Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl, a tween/teen level retelling of the Grimm fairy tale. What I love about this retelling is that the princess works hard to get her prince, and to help save her kingdom. This is no accidental Cinderella type story - this is a tale of a girl whose talents are controlled by her manipulative mother until she is running for her life in the forest. Slowly Ani/Isi's talents for communicating with animals, and eventually the wind, strengthen as she grows into a determined young woman, a woman who will stand her ground and demand that her identity as the Princess be acknowledged and accepted. This is also a tale of a friendship between two girls from different backgrounds, who become friends during the Princess's time in hiding as the goose girl. I was enchanted by the story and delighted by Hale's skill as a writer. This is the perfect book to give to a MS age girl who wants to read an exciting tale with a touch of romance. The perfect summer read. Now to find a copy of Enna Burning, where the story continues, with Enna, the Forest girl who befriended the Princess, as the main character. I had already read Hale's The Princess Academy and really liked it, but it did not draw me in as The Goose Girl did. Can't wait to see how I react to the next book by Hale. But, it will have to wait as I just received a galley for Ellen Wittlinger's Blind Faith, which is most certainly my next read. My favorites of Wittlinger's so far are Hard Love, The Long Night of Leo and Bree, and Sandpiper.

Time for another diet coke and work on some booktalks before the Herschnner's online auction opens. Not like I need anymore needlework kits, Christmas or otherwise, but it doesn't hurt to look, does it? I'll leave my charge card in the other room! :-)

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Not enough sleep! Groan!! Up at 6 a.m. after watching the season finale of Lost last night. We haven't been as regular with watching it as I would like, but this is my favorite show at the moment. The last scene had my mind whirling away at what role Penny plays in the island so I was up half the night. Oh well, I'll catch up on my sleep this weekend.

Two more boxes of books in the car headed for ECU. There are only two more on the floor near my desk so I will have to find more boxes. Steve brought home a couple from work but they are too big for book boxes. Still haven't figured out whether or not to have my car shipped back or try to sell it here. So many things to do before August. Steve has a meeting in DC in June so I made reservations to fly to DC and we will drive down to NC to get a storage place set up and look at apartments, etc. I have not seen that part of the country so it should be an enjoyable drive down. Only a day and 1/2 back on island before I leave for ALA in New Orleans so June is going to be a busy month.

I finally read Helicopter Man by Elizabeth Fensham. It has been on my bookcase waiting for me. I was totally wrong about the content based on the cover art of helicopters, but that was fine. I thought it would be about a guy still reliving whatever war he fought in, but instead it is a heartbreaking story of a young teen's life with his mentally ill father, who is sure his wife was taken away from them by a secret organization that is after them as well. She couldn't have left on her own volition, now could she? Of course not, so that is why Pete goes along with his father's hiding out in strange places - the last one being the storage shed hidden away on the back of a family's property. That is, until they get chased away by the owner and they turn up on the doorstep of the only friends who will let them in. Eventually, his father is hospitalized and Pete is able to piece together the events that led up to their homelessness and his father's illness. Although set in Australia, this is journal style novel is a one gulp read.

Off to Montessori for the day - lots of diet coke to keep me awake today!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Two boxes of books in the car already this a.m. I have been sending two at a time on T and TH to ECU so I can get them out of the livingroom. For every box I have to fill out Customs Declaration Forms which are a pain as they are multipart and my hand gets tired from pushing down so hard to get through all the copies. Since it took over 2 months for a couple of boxes of books to get to my sister-in-law in Florida I imagine they will get to NC about the time I do in August! The mail has been awful since Christmas - guess they never caught up. I have been waiting for an order from since March and I am not a happy camper as I am out of Luna bars - my typical breakfast, with a diet coke, of course. I figure the vitamins and calcium in the healthy bar counteracts the 2, sometimes 3, diet cokes I have before lunch!

I actually woke up before Steve this morning. I guess my own dream-bearer was busy last night so I slept well. Lois Lowry's Gossamer gives the reader a whole new slant on the idea of why we dream. The dream-bearers are tiny creatures who visit us at night and by touching things in our homes they are able to bring out the memories and insert dreams, the act of bestowal, into us, often via our ears. Littlest is the smallest of the dream-bearers and is learning her craft, but has so many questions about what she is and what they do that she is driving her teacher crazy, but Thin Elder takes over and together they bring dreams to an old woman who is foster mother to a very angry little boy named John. John is about to be visited by the Sinisteed, the nightmares, and it it Littlest's task to give him enough good memories in his dreams to help him be strong enough to fight off the nightmares. This is one of the loveliest books I have read in a very long time. It is such a feel good book and so well written that the words flow into you, just like a dream bestowal. I can close my eyes and see Littlest, in her almost transparent form - little wings aflutter and eyes big with wonder. Keep this one to read aloud to your own children and add it to all elementary school collections.

Off to Montessori for the day. It is going to be another hot one.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

What a lovely breezy day it is outside, with several sailboats going by, sails taunt in the wind. Whenever people hear I live in the Virgin Islands they say it must be wonderful. Well, it is - but only to a degree. When you live down here you aren't out on the sailboat outings to Buck Island to go snorkeling. You are working. And you aren't staying in a gorgeous beach front room at one of the local resorts - you are living in an apartment and worrying about if the water will run out in the cistern. The islands are the place to go on vacation or retire on, which is what Steve and I have in mind. The fun of the next several years will be visiting more islands to decide which one we not only like, but can afford to retire on. Then it won't matter to me that the Internet is down again and I have grading to do, or that the mail hasn't come in over two weeks - heck, nothing would be coming in the mail I would be worried about. But, at the moment the Internet is up and I have no grading due for the semester yet. And, to top it off I not only got a catalog and a magazine in the mail yesterday - I received a box from B&N as well. Life is good! :-)

The school year is coming to an end and the dreaded summer reading lists are being prepared. It isn't that there aren't great books on most of these lists - it is just the idea that the kids are then expected to choose their summer leisure reading materials from these lists. What happened to the lazy days of summer when kids/teens could go to the library and spend hours browsing the shelves, finding their books serendipitously? That's how we find some of the greatest reads of our lives - not from a list, but because we pulled the book from a shelf in a library or at a bookstore and started flipping through it - reading a snippet here and there. I love all the summer reading programs, but again we are "paying" kids to read. I know, I know - the kids/teens today are not like many of us were - we read for the sheer pleasure of reading and no one had to bribe us with a Pizza Hut coupon or any other prize to read. If someone had offered me something I would have wanted another book, just like the one by a favorite author, or another fantasy title with dragons, etc. I wish we could just immerse kids/teens in books via booktalks and other ways of introducing books to them and let them choose their own, from a myriad of choices. Not, read 5 from the list and you get this, etc. We are taking away the much needed skill of self selection of reading materials. Kids/teens assume someone is going to tell them what to read next - how about giving them a variety of books and letting them make their own choices? Why does that seem like such an odd idea today? Oh, yeah - may have something to do with the focus on standardized tests, where kids aren't expected to actually think. Okay I am getting off my soap box now!

For a fun reading experience for teenage girls who love the Sonya Sones books - offer Kristen Smith's The Geography of Girlhood, which takes Penny from 14-18. In verse format Penny responds to her sister's reputation in school, their father's somewhat controlling behavior, the lack of a mother role model, and her eventual ride on the wild side when she runs away, but just for a little while, with a bad boy. Each of the poems is titled - some of which certainly bring a smile to the reader's face. Smith writes screenplays, including Legally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Ella Enchanted, all of which would be movies of interest to the girls as well.

It is only 10 a.m. and I have already drank two Diet Cokes and eaten more Hot Tamales than I would like to admit to. I keep telling myself that cinnamon is good for the digestion - overrides the # of calories in the candy! Now to find the top of my desk, which is covered with class folders from semesters present, past, and future!

Monday, May 15, 2006

How weird is this - I woke up wide awake at 6:15 a.m. and wasn't even in a grumpy mood! Steve was grumpier than me for a change. So I got into one of my Mother's Day presents from Steve - The Heidi Chronicles & Other Plays by Wendy Wasserstein. They are wonderfully witty and sarcastic and just right for this woman who refused to let "obey" be used in our wedding vows. Steve still teases me about that. He had heard about her last book Elements of Style (which he also gave me) on NPR and knew I would like her writing. He is so right! Can't wait to read this too. Not sure I would give The Heidi Chronicle to most teens, but the older girls going on to college might enjoy the plays, especially "Uncommon Women and Others".

Yesterday was a wonderful Mother's Day. We had gone out the night before for dinner at Molly Malone's with friends so I was happy to sleep in and stay at home. Actually we did go out to get pizza, as I was craving it, but both of our favorite places were closed so we picked up the ingredients (which cost more than 2 pizzas would have) and I made them myself. I wanted pecan pie for desert and Steve wanted brownies so we bought the first and I made the second. What a delicious mix on the same plate, but Steve says it needs ice cream too. I need to find a chocolate pecan pie recipe!

On Saturday, after our 1/2 burger at Shipwreck we went down to Main Street (jewelry row) to visit Harriet and Gene, who own the 19th Hole - a wonderful little bar with about 10 bar stools that Gene runs. This is a favorite hang out of the men who come to the row - they chat with Gene while their wives are shopping in the myriad of jewelry shops. They also make and bring drinks to the jewelry shops. When there are "big spenders" in the shops the owners offer free beer and tropical drinks. I have sat in traffic on Main Street during a busy day and seen Harriet go by with a tray full of bushwackers. Harriet also has a knock-off sunglass shop right next to the bar. I love the sunglasses I bought from her - 2 for $25. Had to hide them from Anne as she kept borrowing them while they were here. :-) Gene is a wealth of knowledge about the island as they have lived here for a long time and on Tortola before that. While we were there a West Indian young man won $2500 on the slots - he would have won close to $7000 if he had bet $4 instead of $2. Heck - I'd be just as happy as he was with the $2500. But, like Steve said - who knows how much he has put in the darn machines before this win. I want to go back to Sint Maarten and play the nickel slots!

That's all for now. I am trying to enjoy my quiet day as tomorrow I am back at Montessori and summer school starts at ECU on Weds. so I am sure my in box will be full of questions from students. It rained this morning (yahoo!!) but the sun has come out so I may even walk down to the beach after lunch.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Yahoo! We got some rain last night. It poured buckets out on the East End yesterday while I was at Montessori but it didn't look like we had gotten much on the South side. So I hurried up and got my shower in last night before someone else used up the rain water in the cistern! And then it rained some more last night so I even washed a sink full of dishes today while I talked to Mary on the phone. I loved hearing the sound of the thunder last night. It reminded me of when I was a kid in Upper Michigan and we would get huge thunder and lightening storms. My Gramma said it was Thor making new shoes for his horses using his hammer and anvil. I still can close my eyes and see Thor in all his bare-chested glory, striking the anvil! :-) Oh wait a minute - that might have been a cover from one of those bodice ripper romances I read back in my 20s. :-) Either way, the image makes me smile.

While packing book to ship to North Carolina I came across the paperback reprint of Avi's City of Light, City of Dark - a graphic novel that was initially published back in 1993 and made PW 1993 Best Book of the Year list. Not sure I would go so far as to call this a best book, perhaps not even a better book, but a good book for upper elementary, early MS, yes. It took me awhile to even pick it up to read it as I find the cover very unattractive - it looks like the end of a bullet on the cover rather than the subway token it is supposed to be. This is not Avi at his best, but I give him credit for experimenting with this format back in the early 90s. The b/w illustrations, heavy on the black, by Brian Floca are not appealing to me, but then again I am a big fan of the Pini Elfquest series, which have beautiful elaborate illustrations. The story line of a young woman having to find a magical subway token every 6 months to keep the Kurbs, who supposedly are only allowing the humans to use their island, from deep freezing NYC is a stretch, but I do think boys who are not big readers will enjoy this book. This is certainly the testament of a mother in the reader's reviews on Amazon. I am more in agreement with the Kirkus review, but will certainly share this book with graphic novel readers. Also share this with the bilingual kids as one of the characters is Hispanic and the dialog boxes are in both Spanish and English.

That is it for today. I am going to take the laptop and go sit outside and work for a bit so I can catch some of the ocean breezes that cooled off our muggy weather a bit.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

This overcast weather is really getting to me. And I have the end of spring semester, beginning of summer semester, working on a book grumpies! Too many things to do and feeling the need to procrastinate because of it. I can't wait for ALA Annual in New Orleans the end of next month to get the shot of professional enthusiasm I need. Getting to see everyone and catch up on each other's lives, personal and professional, is the best part of conference. Really looking forward to the YALSA Preconference on Audio Books. I have become addicted to them - they keep me sane is the craziness of island traffic and erratic driving behavior.

Maybe I need to get away on a houseboat like the Harrisong family in Deliver Us from Normal by Kate Klise. I related to 12 year old Charles who worries about everything, especially what people in their small town think of his eccentric Catholic family. Little things like the sticker on his cello case that make it evident he is the only kid in band who doesn't own his instrument, shopping for underwear at the discount store, and the bath bubbles his mother brings in as a gift for his teacher. Charles knows what the town thinks about his family, but so do his little brothers and sisters when a group of kids write Poor White Trash on Clara's posters. They will never know if Clara had a chance at the 7th grade presidency or not - the Harrisong family hit the road, headed toward a dream, that turns out to initially be a nightmare, and then perhaps their salvation - in the form of a dilapidated houseboat. Like so many "anal" kids Charles writes lists, but he is even afraid someone will find them. The realization that maybe he is the embarrassing one in the family is more than he can handle. A great addition to an upper elementary/MS collection.

Grumpy or not, my goal is to get a Reader's Advisory column writen from LMC today.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Another overcast and humid day down here. I just wish it would rain and get it over with! We were up in Tutu having dinner at Jack's last night when it actually drizzled a bit. Nothing here on the south side of the island, of course. We ended up eating out as right after Steve got home from work yesterday, and thank goodness after I got out of the shower, the power went out. So we headed to Iggy's for a burger but they were closed for a private party. I had my heart set on a burger so we went to Jack's. Big mistake - I got really sick from the buffalo burger again. Guess it is time I give up on them, but they do taste good. The power was back on when we got home but I was feeling too crummy to deal with flipping channels. I laughed out loud them a.m. when I read one of the top 5 things you will never hear from your husband is: "Here honey, you take the remote." No kidding! I try not to get too upset as I am never just watching TV - I am also checking email, working on crafts, or other projects while I watch, but when you are involved in a movie and just at the point when you might find out what is going on, like in Ronin, the other night Steve turns the channel to another movie 1/2 way through that I had no idea what was going on. And, of course, he mutes it or goes to the NFL channel during commercials. He does know better than to mess with my dorky horror movies on the SF channel on Sunday afternoons when I am into them, like the alligator one with Betty White. :-) I can only watch them on TV as they cut out all the gory parts. Wish they had cut more out of The Gangs of New York, which we actually did watch all the way through the other night. What a violent movie!

On the reading front, I am enchanted with Lois Lowry's Gossamer. It is a Houghton Mifflin title that came out last month. I can't wait to read this one aloud to my granddaughter Allyson when she is older. It is so beautifully written that I could see Littlest One, the tiny dream-giver, as I read, even though she is practically transparent to start out. Fastidious, Littlest's teacher, gets very frustrated with all the questions she asks about human and animals and what exactly they are, but Ancient One finds her playfulness and questioning manner appealing. Littlest and Thin Elderly, her new companion in transferring memories, which become dreams, to humans while they sleep are up against the Horde, which will bring terrible nightmares to their charges, a little boy and his elderly foster caregiver. Littlest is intent on finding the most wonderful memories in the limited items in the house that she can touch to gather memories so she can help build John's defenses against the Sinisteed. Lowry has done it again - enchanted me with a story of a wonderful fantasy character who has to be shared with elementary and younger MS age students.

All for today.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Football on TV already! Having the NFL channel gives Steve 24/7 access to football stuff. I'd rather watch racing or most anything else during the off season. Yesterday we were watching a road rally that took place in Labrador, Newfoundland. Why someone would road race some of the old cars in that race is beyond me, especially since it was raining. But, I did enjoy drooling over the cars. Or I might have been drooling over the smell of French fries since Steve and I somehow "lost" each other in Havensight. He went across the street to get his hair cut and I went to buy Mother's Day cards. Since the post office was open I decided to stand in line for stamps to mail them. Big mistake - one of the elderly West Indian women in front of me had a stack of bills and was slowly pulling out each one and asking for money orders. So while I stood in line for what seemed like forever Steve had already finished getting his haircut and went to look for me at Dockside Books, where we agreed to meet. I headed there after the PO but he wasn't there so I checked out all the new YA on the shelves and the mysteries. Still no Steve so I bought a diet coke at Gourmet Gallery (closing my eyes to all the delicious varieties of European dark chocolate). Still no Steve, so I went and sat in the car and listened to a bit of McGuire's Wicked, which I am loving. How can you not love a sharp toothed little green girl, daughter of a promiscuous mother and a minister father who does not know she isn't his. How she becomes the Wicked Witch of the West is going to be one long delicious listen! But, it was wickedly hot in the car so I headed across the street to see what the heck was keeping him. There he was, having a drink, reading the Daily News, and chatting with the other locals at The Rum Shack. He said he assumed I would know where to find him! Oh well, by then we were starving so the Shipwreck burger was devoured, as were the fries. YUM!!

The mail situation is getting more interesting by the day. I would say humorous, but I am long past thinking it is funny. One, I always end up parking by the dumpster because the parking situation is horrible - people park any which where they want to. Two, the owner has taken over the counter, which he doesn't do well. There he was, sitting on the outside steps in the sun, sleeping, when we got there yesterday. He said he was bored as only 4 customers had come in so far that day. Oh yes, and the mail had just come in but he hadn't gotten around to putting it up yet. GRRR!!!

I curled up with a children's book this a.m. and read Kate DiCamillo's The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane. What a beautifully written gentle toy fantasy about a part china and part fur 3' tall rabbit, who starts out as the beloved friend of Abilene, a rich little girl who dresses him up in various costumes, hats and shoes included. Edward has his own bed and silk pajamas. He is one conceited rabbit who just accepts that Abilene loves him - he has no concept what that could be. But his journey begins when a couple of rowdy boys grab him while Abilene's family is sailing on the Queen Mary and he gets thrown overboard. It is a long time before an old sailor catches Edward in his net and he is dressed up as a girl rabbit, but this is so much better than the ocean floor he accepts the dress. Edward's learns, through a variety of owners what love is all about. A very touching story that reminds me of The Velveteen Rabbit by Williams. A wonderful bedtime read aloud for a little girl.

That is it for me today.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Another dreary humid day. It got so dark yesterday afternoon I was sure it was going to rain, but no such luck. Just so muggy that the air was heavy with moisture, but that won't fill the cistern. Figured I had better write in the morning as all my good intentions to do so at the end of the day are useless. After grading and other end of the semester projects I am brain dead. I said last night I would work until Steve got home and since he stopped to get pizza I was still grading at 7 p.m. It is so interesting to read the results of the students' evaluations of the different styles of booktalks. I am seeing a trend with the first person booktalks. The upper level HS students aren't as receptive to them as the 7th - 9th graders. They seem to be a real hit with this age group and enjoyed by the older teens only if it is a real intense book, like Graham's Acceleration.

Wish we could take off for another long weekend at Nail Bay on Virgin Gorda, but that won't happen until I can get caught up on some of the work piled on my desk. Steve sent me an email with a digital picture of the towel girl that the maid had created on our bed. I was having a great time checking out her daily creations - bunnies with floppy ears out of the hand towels, turtles on the bed, but my favorite with the doll made from towels, seashells for eyes and mouth and yellow flowers for her hair. I had Steve take pictures of all of them. :-) Thought I would share the cost of the "essentials" we bought at the local grocery store on Virgin Gorda. St. Thomas is expensive, but nothing compared to what we paid over there. And this is the grocery store the local people shop in. How do they afford to live there is beyond me. A 12 pack of Diet Coke was $10, a 10 oz bag of honey wheat pretzels was $4.25, a package of Chips Ahoy cookies was $6.95, and a 6 pack of cans of Amstel Light was $9.00. Next time I am going to take my Diet Coke and pretzels with me!

Speaking of intense books, I stayed up and finished Jack Gantos' The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs last night. It was not the best thing to have in my mind as I was trying to relax and fall asleep. One creepy, get under you skin and won't let your mind rest with wondering about it kind of book. No blood and and guts, but truly one of the most horrific books I have read in a long time. This is the kind of horror that messes with your head! I fell asleep thinking about the nature vs. nurture issue brought to light by this book. Do we truly have free will or it is hogwash as the Twins suggest in this book? The curse of the Rumbaughs is genetic and there is nothing they can do about it. So they had no control over themselves when they matter of factly used their taxidermy skills to stuff and mount their mother after she died of a natural death. She had always controlled their lives and she still did, after death. They were obsessed with mother love. And to think that these Twins seemed common place, though certainly a bit odd, to the inhabitants of the small Pennsylvania town they lived in. No one knew Ab from Dolph, even they thought they were part of one person. And no one knew about their mother except for Lily and her never-been-married mother, who had started working in the Twins' pharmacy when she was a teenager and became as much a part of the Rumbaugh family as if she were a blood relative. After all, she did keep their secrets and even had a plot in the Rumbaugh cemetery. Lily is about to find out about who she is and what role the Twins play in her life when she turns 16. Her mother tells Lily she isn't ready for the whole truth until then. Not sure I was ready for it either and I am a lot older than 16! Older teens will revel in the creepiness of this book and may even learn a bit of history in the process. Gantos includes wonderful thought provoking tidbits about early eugenics research, the Nazi medical experimentation, and research on twins to help you suspend your disbelief that people like Ab and Dolph could exist.

All for today.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Overcast skies this a.m. but no rain. I need to do a rain dance or something to get it to rain and fill up the cisterns. I am tired of hauling in bags of laundry to be done. Three big bags full to go in today. They charge by the pound so this bunch of beach towels is going to cost a bundle. Also need to switch out empties for full 5 gallon water bottles. We thought we had it being delivered like the people downstairs but the empties were never picked up. Island service is not like what we are accustomed to on the Mainland. Actually the locals call it "the States," but after living in Hawaii I am used to calling it the Mainland. From Alaska it was the Lower 48.

There was a young couple on the ferries with us back from Virgin Gorda on Sunday and they ended up taking the same cab as us when we went to pick up our car at the airport where Nicke and Anne left it when they left island. The guy was saying he would never stay on Tortolla again as the people were so rude. He was very unhappy with Sebastians, which is a resort we haven't stayed at so I can't attest for that staff. The staff at Lambert's on Tortolla weren't rude, just not very efficient. We really haven't had any major problems with rudeness on Tortolla except for this last trip at the ferry terminals. We were waiting for our luggage so we could catch the ferry to Virgin Gorda and when I told the guy which bag was ours he made sure it was the LAST one he took off the cart of luggage. His intentional rudeness cost him a tip. On the way back there was some confusion as to which ferry was which as two left about the same time and the guy taking tickets for the first one leaving would not answer any of the people's questions about which tickets were for which ferry. If one of the tourists had gotten on the wrong boat they would not know it until 1/2 way into the trip when they collected tickets and then they would have to pay for another fare and their luggage would be on the other ferry! We continue to be polite and say thank you, etc. but my jaws hurt from gritting my teeth. I want to ask, "Didn't your Mama teach you any manners? Mine sure did!" The people on Virgin Gorda were a quiet group - they weren't in the least bit rude, and were friendly is you initiated conversation with them, but otherwise quiet. I did love that island. No loud vulgar rap music blaring from car stereos or people beeping their horns or shouting at you if you paused for even a second when the light turned green.

After reading some very cool comments about Jack Gantos' The Love Curse of the Rumbaughs on the adbooks listserv, where I mostly lurk because I don't have the time to talk about books online as much as I would like, but I love to read other people's comments, I started reading it last night. Was going to take it to Virgin Gorda with me and I wish I had. It is one weird, delicious creepy read so far. I was hoping I wouldn't dream about the Twins' stuffed mother in the basement! As an adult I would freak finding an old woman stuffed and on a wheeling base that looks like a throw rug, but the girl in the book is as much intrigued as she is scared by it. So she decided taxidermy is going to be her new hobby. She is already practicing in the bathroom on dolls! Then she can do the same thing to her own mom when she dies. Jack has me in his clutches with this one, just like he did with Hole in My Life, which is partially set down here in the USVI. Jack Gantos is a delightfully funny person, both in real life and in the pages of his books!

Okay, time to get the bags of laundry and water bottles out to the car so we can head out for the day. No breeze - it is going to be hot and the mosquitoes plentiful at Montessori today!

Monday, May 01, 2006

Back to grind. What a wonderful long weekend we had on Virgin Gorda. The name means fat virgin, as that is what the sailors called it - guess it looked to them like a fat virgin laying on her back. They must have been at sea a very long time as I can't see any resemblance to a woman of any size in the outline of the island!

Our last evening on Virgin Gorda was spend strolling along Savannah Beach. There were a few other people there for an evening swim, but it was basically deserted. I was picking shells when Steve called to me to come look at a ray. And what a beauty it was - beautiful tannish gray and about 7 " across the "wing" span. The interesting part was the black barb at the end of his tail. It was longers than he was and he was swishing it about above the water level quite frequently. Small rays like this one are why you should shuffle your feet when wading into the ocean. He was swimming around just a little deeper than ankle deep. Once he saw us he got curious and came closer. He was clearly looking right at us and then swam along about 4 feet away from us as we walked down the beach. I didn't want to leave but once the sun set we couldn't see much of him anymore. I was so enchanted with that ray - what a personality! He was a delight. The sea life in the waters around Virgin Gorda is incredible. Can't wait to go back and do more snorkling and just wandering along the basically deserted beaches. Lots of sailboats in the bays as this is a sailor's paradise but not so many tourists go on land based vacations here. We will definitely go back to Nail Bay Resort. It was so quiet and peaceful and what a view from the Mystic Suite. We could lay in bed and watch the boats sail past!

I don't know if I mentioned this book before, but it has been sitting on my desk since I read it. I have such second thoughts about whether I like these books or not as I really did not care much for Patterson's The Lake House when I listened to it. I had already read Maximum Ride: The Angel Experiment when I listened to the book so I had trouble not getting the story lines mixed up. Then with Maximum Ride: School's Out-Forever I was losing my interest in the bad guys who keep hunting these winged wonders. But, I do realize how popular these books will be with MS/JH age teens and tweens. The whole idea of genetically altering a human so that they are part bird is fascinating and who hasn't had the wonderful dream of being able to fly? Max is a feisty female protagonist that will keep even the most reluctant reader up at night to find out what happens to her flock next. And how can you not laugh at, and love, Total, the dog that can talk, and what a feisty personality he has! And Ari - the poor "wolf boy" who wants nothing more than to have his "father" and Max love him. Okay - I change my mind - I do like these books. Wish I hadn't listened to The Lake House - it messed with my enjoyment of the YA novels about Max and her flock.

All for now.