Blackout Tuesday – time to listen

I live in Philadelphia which, as you know, has had a series of protests, rioting, and looting.

There has been a city-wide curfew for days now. I was working inside a building while it was being boarded up by management and on my way home I saw my bustling city quiet and empty. Many businesses were boarded up either out of protection or because they had windows already busted. Last night I was woken by explosions across the city and the hashtag “phillyexplosions” was trending on Twitter at 2am.

On social media, I am seeing a lot of people sad and/or outraged but their triggers are sometimes different.

People are angry at looters.
People are angry at cops.
People are angry with government.
And some people are frightened as well.

A lot of people are feeling frightened by the looting and rioting. People are afraid their homes will be targeted if they have an American flag. They are fearing for their children who are yound and afraid. They are preparing to protect themselves and their neighbors by any means necessary.

Yes, it’s been an upsetting few days for many who have lost property, been targeted, and felt unsafe in their own homes.

I’m sorry if the looters and rioters have scared you, they scare me too. I’m sorry you feel unsafe in your own home or feel targeted for something like the American Flag. Imagine being targeted for something you can’t take down like say,  oh- the color of your skin.  And not for just a few days, but for a few hundred years. Are you scared? Maybe you should be. I am certainly not condoning rioting or looting, I think it’s terrible, but I think it’s a terrible side effect of something larger.  Here’s what I mean;

Rioting & Looting are very much like vomiting and diarrhea: alone they are stupid and ugly and no one needs to be told how terrible they are.  But oftentimes they are symptoms of a much larger health problem.  And this world is very unhealthy. Keep treating the symptoms if ya want, but I do not recommend ignoring the deeper issues at hand.

And let’s not even get into the part about how these people afraid of looting have every right and government support to protect themselves. That may not feel like a luxury but it is because not every American can protect themselves without getting in trouble. There have been too many videos of authorities allowing people to assemble with weapons to protect merchandise but being violent against people assembling to protest.

So here comes the “not are cops are bad” people”.

Not all cops are bad – sure, but the ones who are, do not receive any reprimanding. They get slapped on the wrist.  However, when there’s a bad black man, he dies.  Black men  who are maybe bad are dead. Black people who some think are bad-ish are dead.  Black people who “look bad” are dead. And black people who catch the wrong cop on the wrong day are dead.

So while I agree that not all cops are bad, I’m not terribly concerned with their well being as a whole. I know cops die in the line of duty and I fear for them and for those I know personally who serve. But they chose that life, that job, that risk, that stigma. God bless them.

Black people did not choose to be hated.

So when people worry about “all cops” being grouped together (not unlike a prejudice against skin color) or about the violence and selfishness of looters instead of the violence of humans against humans- authorities against civilians – I begin to worry.

A part of me is frightened and confused about where the world is right now.  We have a pandemic going on, innocent lives being slaughtered in the streets, and white supremacy seems to be rampant within our own political system. Yes I did just say that because that’s what it seems like and if I’m wrong; prove it to me.

Prove it to me.

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The History Of White Supremacy in America

 

Prove it to me.

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Racial Inequality in American Public Schools

 

Prove it to me with change.

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Breonna Taylor shooting

I also try to remember that right now I am a female who’s currently wearing pants which once upon a time was unheard of. I’m a female who is employed and owns property of her own. So I know the world has made some progress in some areas and that makes me hopeful.

Unfortunately, sometimes you do not see progress unless push really does come to shove.  And when you compare the shove of looters to the shove of that man’s knee on the neck of an innocent man I know which one outrages me more.

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That’s why when people see only the riots and wonder “how will they make a change.” To that I say, “well it got your attention”. And I ask: What will you do now that you’ve been emotionally affected? Will you choose to hate the looters, or try to understand the protesters? Will you be upset about commerce and economy, or will you mourn with the families who have lost loved ones? Will you read the news from today or remember history?

Time is a problem. Humans live in bubbles. And those bubbles are getting smaller. We struggle to understand Darwin’s “theory” (and let’s remember it is just that: a theory) because we cannot grasp the concept of time required for evolution to take place. Our great-grandparents lived through plagues and wars and told us to expect more but we separate ourselves from history and think we are different. People respected the Coronavirus until it became boring, then social distancing lessoned. People see rioters and have already forgotten that days ago an innocent man was killed in public. How do I know he was innocent? I know because this is America and you are “innocent until proven guilty”. That is why the theater killer and the church killer are still alive. Two white boys who were proud of their separate actions and neither was harmed when taken down.  One even tried to booby trap the police, but he’s still alive.

People cannot seem to go beyond the small circle of their own brains. They seem incapable of reaching beyond themselves to see hints of truth, let alone the harsh, blunt, painful truth. Perhaps they are too frightened to search.

So today’s blog is a challenge to listen. Listening is so important and so many people are emotionally and mentally deaf. Listen to history. Listen to the survivors of hate. Listen to the survivors of injustice. Listen to more than just the latest news brief, more than just convenient conspiracy theories. Dive deeper, learn more, try to heal yourself. Because if you are only worried about the looters & do not understand why they exist, you are broken. If you are only worried about supporting or hating the cops, the system has succeeded in creating another blind subject. You are more than today’s news. You are more than your own life. You are a product of generations, of evolution, of humankind. It is a vast and complicated history that plays host to some very ugly, horrific truths. But until we are ALL willing to listen, and learn, we will never be ready to evolve, and change.

And change, is clearly what we need. The old ways have not been successful, today’s methods are not successful, help humanity evolve into a better place, and broaden your mind.

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“Come up with a better way”

If that is too difficult for you, seek some assistance. We all need help sometimes. But do try. Do think. Do evolve.

 

“When we talk about systemic racism, we’re not just talking about Black lives killed by police with no accountability. We’re not just talking about Black lives killed by COVID-19. We’re not just talking about a third of Black children in our country living in poverty, and millions of Black kids going to totally inadequate schools. We’re not just talking about Black women having a maternal death rate three times the rate of white women, and Black families owning 1/10th the wealth of white families. Instead, we are talking about a system of pervasive racism that impacts every aspect of our lives. This has got to end. We need equity for Black people, for Brown people, and for all who are marginalized and made disposable in a system and an economy that treats millions of people as unworthy of the basic decency of human respect.”
-Bernie Sanders

 

Wolf Camp (Book Review)

by Andrea Zuill
Humor – Picture Book

My Synopsis: 
Homer the dog gets an invitation to go to Wolf Camp for a week and he absolutely MUST go!

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Why I Picked This Book:
I was watching Julie Hedlund‘s mini-lessons that she was offering to 12×12 members. (I highly recommend all of her lessons if you’re new to writing picture books.) She talked about this book briefly while teaching, and I quickly wrote it down knowing it was one I had to own.

What Was Disappointing: 
Absolutely nothing. Which is saying a lot since my expectations were pretty high.

Why I Kept Reading:
Ok so maybe this format I use for book reviews doesn’t really fit for Picture Books. But there are picture books that although I finish, it’s only because I know the end is near, not necessarily because I’m intrigued and need to find out what happens. With this book, I was simply enjoying every page, every page turn, every image, and every word.

Take Away: 
This book is certainly a great example of humourous Picture Books, but even more. It has fantastic scene changes, great page turns, and super fun illustrations. The reason Julie used it as an example was to discuss character changes and arcs. The goal of wanting to be a wolf and how he feels about being a wolf at the end are just fantastic.

Final Thoughts:
As a dog trainer and groomer some dog stories make me cringe. I don’t see the humor in most dog books because I tend to take things too seriously. I see issues with some dog behavior and worry owners will think it’s acceptable or even cute. I know picture books are harmless but being submerged in dog behavior and how they learn, I cannot help how I feel. This book however is perfection. I won’t dive into my theories of dogs being dogs or the methodology of the team I work with, but I will say this book could almost be an advertisement for one of our programs: Farm Dog. So kudos to Andrea Zuill for making me laugh and smile and fall in love with this book.  If  I’ve reread it as many times as I have, kids will certainly enjoy this one over and over again.

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Post-Script:
I hope Pixie and Rex stay in touch with Homer. 

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Goodreads Monday – Ronan the Librarian

Goodreads Monday is a great way to talk about a book from your TBR list. Originally started by Lauren’s Page Turners, most people do these weekly, (such as Confessions of a YA Reader who partakes in several fun blog themes) I prefer to do mine monthly and this month I chose something a little different from my norm.

It’s been a while since a picture book was in my Goodreads Monday. This recent 2020 release certainly made me chuckle when I saw the title. It went immediately on my TBR list. Here’s the Goodreads blurb:

Ronan the Librarian by sister duo Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie and illustrator Victoria Maderna

Ronan was a mighty barbarian.
He invaded. He raided. And back home, he traded.
He always found the greatest treasures.
Until one day, Conan found something no barbarian wants:
A BOOK.

This humorous picture book from sister duo Tara Luebbe and Becky Cattie and illustrator Victoria Maderna follows Ronan the Barbarian as he grows from being just a rough-and-tumble warrior to a rough-and-tumble warrior who loves books.

At first, his fellow barbarians are skeptical of his newfound passion for reading, but in the end, even they aren’t immune to the charms of a good book.
Please share any other picture books I should have on my list!! There’s never enough!

Little Bird Flies (book review)

by Karen McCombie
Historical Fiction – Middle Grade (book 1) 

My Synopsis:

12-year-old Bridie lives with her family on a remote island of Scotland in 1861. As much as she loves her island, her family, and her best friend, she fears being “stuck” on the island forever. She’d never admit this to her hardworking family or anyone else for that matter, but when change comes to the island in a bad way, they are all forced to think about options beyond their island home. It’s not exactly the adventure Bridie had hoped for but she must face life’s challenges and make the best of some very difficult situations.

Why I Picked This Book:

This was a no-brainer for me. I love middle-grade books, I love historical fiction, and I love Scotland. I bought this before I traveled to Scotland last year as something to have upon my return to sort of “keep me in Scotland”.

What Was Disappointing: 

Me. I was disappointing. I have such a difficult time committing to books, it’s in almost every book review I write; “slow start”. I know it’s me, but I also know I can’t be the only person out there to have a form of ADD, possible dyslexia, and/or simply be bogged down with so much in life that concentration is difficult. So yes, this book had a very slow start for me. So much so that I’ve started and stopped reading it more times than I’d like to admit. I guess the first chapter didn’t draw me in enough. It was a bit too much internal dialogue from a character I didn’t know enough about or care about yet. But by all means, DO NOT let that stop you if you are a reader like me who struggles with getting attached to books. I IMPLORE you to continue reading!

Why I Kept Reading:

I can’t say I kept reading because the adventure kicked in and the paced quickened. I mean, it picks up and I sped read through the entire second half, but this is definitly more of a “quiet” book. What made me keep reading was how the writer made me fall in love. I fell in love with the island, with Bridie, and fell deeply into the entire isle setting of 1861. Karen McCombie is a time travler and made me one too. She made me fall in love with Bridie’s home as much as her characters did. I became and islander. I was one of them. I was there. When a writer can make me love a character, that’s always great. But when a writer can make me love a place, that’s amazing to me. So when that place is threatened by the new Laird of the island, I was absolutley emotionally invested.

Take Away: 

Admittingly, I don’t believe my younger self would have read this book. It’s a slow book along the lines of “The Secret Garden” or even “Treasure Island”. Stories I loved as a child in movie versions, but could not hold still long enough to read them. There were points in my reading that I thought “how is this a kid’s book?” but had to remember loads of kids (my sister and all four of her children included) who read ferociously without any troubles at all. And beyond taking one to 1861 island life in Scotland, this book deals with family, death, being ‘different’, responsibilities, cultural barriers, class wars, and of course, history.  And all of this is brought to you from a 12-year-old girl’s perspective as she deals with her own grief, guilt, and hopes as she watches her world change in ways she never could imagine. She’s a powerful young character that would do anyone well to get to know.

Final Thoughts:

This book was such a nice surprise. I thought it would be interesting, I didn’t know it would grip me in such a way that I would be crying a bit while writing it’s review. Good tears and sad tears, because that’s just how life is right? The writing in this book does everything I hope to acheive as a writer. Yes, I finished this book last week or so and I am STILL emotional over it. Every synopsis I have read makes it seem as though there isn’t much to it: She lives and an island and you know she gets off because there’s already a sequel that takes place in America so really, what’s left to find out? Do not deprive yourself of reading about Bridie’s adventures. Even if you start slow like me, dive deep into this story because it has much to tell.

Post-Script:

To the author – thank you for Patch the dog!

 

The Serpent’s Secret (book review)

by Sayantani DasGupta
Fantasy – Middle Grade (book 1) 

Before I get started on this review, let me just say a quick personal note. I realize our current state of things as we all deal with the coronavirus presents writers and bloggers with new topics. Perhaps posts about dealing with our isolation, or tips to stay creative, how to make a mask, but that is not me. If I had any answers of any kind in this world, my life would be much different. Suffice it to say that I have my own struggles and this simple easy post about the most recent book I’ve read is my way of getting back into my creative brain. Plus, let’s be honest, this blog is still more for me than any readers. I have yet to have any such “readership” for various reasons which no one cares about. 

So let us begin. Here is my very simple book review format:

My Synopsis:

Kiranmala (or just Kiran) lives in New Jersey with her slightly odd parents. She wishes her parents were more “normal” and wishes they’d stop calling her a princess. Not only does she dislike the idea of helpless princesses, but she also hates the color pink. Unfortunately for her, she is, in fact, a very real Indian Princess from a very real other-dimensional world. This reality crashes in quite literally when a giant (and gross) demon smashes her home and two princes from another world show up to help. She needs help because mostly she is clueless as to why her parents are missing, how the heck she’s supposed to get them back, and how she could possibly be an actual princess.

Why I picked this book: 

Last June I attended the Rutgers Writing Conference (oddly enough in NJ) and it was a fascinating weekend of learning and meeting new people. One of the classes I took was taught by Sayantani DasGupta and she was absolutely amazing in so many ways. I was inspired by her and of course, needed to have a copy of her book (which she kindly signed for me). For no good reason, I hadn’t actually read the book until now. Books I purchase often stay on my shelf as the ones loaned from the library get priority due to the time limit I have with them. So this was the first quarantine book I choose once the library shut down.

What was disappointing: 

Nothing really. I mean, sure it starts out in New Jersey and I live in Philly so nothing exciting there. But New Jersey isn’t meant to be exciting and we certainly do not stay there very long. Maybe a part of me didn’t want to like this character at first because she seemed to try to hard to dislike princesses, but she is unswayed in her opinion and the reader is not forced into predictable clichés that you may expect.

Why I kept reading:

This is usually the part where I explain why I kept reading despite my a) slow start because I always have trouble getting emotionally attached, or b) feeling that things are rather predictable. But this had a very quick start, and I can honestly say I had no idea what was going to happen one page to the next. This was very refreshing in that it really does take you on a new journey.

Takeaway:

The main character is twelve years old and most of the time I felt she was much older. That is not to say that the author did a poor job of depicting a 12-year-old. Actually, this character is very well rounded and has a nice balance of emotions perfect for that age, something I’m not used to seeing in books. There is also a lot of science in this book that was unexpected for me. By no means is this a STEM book and the author’s notes clearly state that this is NOT to be used as a reference for real science in any way. However, using scientific theories and ideas to back up a fantasy world was very interesting. It keeps with the tone the MC has about “magic worlds and princesses” in that she is always looking for some fact in all of the madness. Like if Alice actually questioned her trip down the rabbit hole with a bit more thought process than just “curiouser and curiouser”.  I don’t even need a lot of explanation while I read fantasy as long is it makes sense in that world, but this was a nice new way to be in a made-up realm.

Final Thoughts:

As a white female born in America, this was a very refreshing story. I have pretty much zero knowledge of the folklores and myths used for the basis of the author’s story so I had no idea what to expect from the demons or lands they encountered. Nothing at all was predictable for me and I LOVED that! New customs, new foods, new monsters, new everything – I was so happy to escape from the same familiar fairy tales and mythology so I highly recommend this book.  There are three books in this series and I am so glad for it. All the characters are well fleshed out and believable, the adventure and action is super fun, and yeah, Kiran is a great heroin that is much welcomed in the Middle-Grade Fantasy genre. I’m looking forward to the next two books that I’m sure will be just as endearing, funny, and action-packed!

Post-Script:

I failed at all the riddles and definitely would not have survived.