There, There

Let’s just say you are looking for a picture book that children will enjoy and the adult who reads aloud will not be sick of after the thirty- fifth reading. I have such a book for you – There, There, written by Tim Bieser and cleverly illustrated by Bill Slavin.

Hare whines and paces, sick to death of all the rain. Other problems ensue. His friend Bear, in an effort to cheer him up, keeps repeating, “There, there.” As you might imagine, Hare fails to be comforted. 

Eventually, Bear gets enough and drags Hare outdoors to teach him a lesson. He shows him the blind earthworm whose only friend is his other end. Hare gets the message that life could be much worse, and they return inside.

The “lesson” loses its moralizing character as the earthworm, left in his own habitat, reacts to being used in such a fashion. The tongue-in cheek ending will delight the adult as well as the child.


Clouds - Again

A long week of rain has made me rash

Sending me to my photo stash.

Sunnier pictures from some time ago

When I needed the world to slow.

The clouds recalled childhood with a friend

When we watched, playing just pretend.

 What do you see in this fluffy stack?

A turtle with cotton balls piled on his back

 What could this scattering mean to you?

Fish in the sea with a shark coming through

 How about this one causing suspense?

Will the dog on the left leap over the fence?

My cries, “Enough water,” are to no avail

And conjure this mermaid set to sail

I hope her farewell comes without fail

As she blows a kiss and waves her tail.


So there you have it. This is what happens when my brain gets waterlogged. Sun is promised for Wednesday. 


The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts

Now and again, I run into a foregone conclusion when looking through the Net Gallery offerings of ARCs to be read and reviewed. I enjoy discovering debut writers, but if Avi is the author, my request is automatic. This master of historical fiction in The Unexpected Life of Oliver Cromwell Pitts evoked another favorite author (Charles Dickens) and another favorite Oliver (Twist). The book begins with a tempest sweeping through his home and gets steadily worse from there.

Oliver, in 1700s England, left to his own devices after his father goes to London to seek his sister, finds his father’s unreadable note sodden from the storm. The note might have had some useful information – not that his father had been much help even when he was present with only repeated promises to be a better father next time.  

In Dickensian tradition, Oliver goes from worse to much worse. As he describes his life about halfway through the book, “If you have followed my story – and I hope you have not skipped a word because I have labored extremely hard on each and every one – you should have noted that every time I move forward, I am thwarted by an adult.”

Avi has never disappointed me with a good read, including this book. The one difference? He’s left an enticing lead to a sequel. Naturally, I had to check and see when it would be coming out. According to Avi's blog, the next book is “pretty much done” although he was talking to the editor about changing a word.

Don’t I hate waiting for the sequel to a book that’s had me turning pages?



Titles on Marvin Kendrick’s photographic art do not exist. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute group gathered for their gallery showing’s opening reception of his works and a Q and A with the artist. He explained that he didn’t want to limit perception with his own ideas since he’d rather leave his photographs for the viewer to interpret the tale told by the picture. As I looked around the room, I liked that idea since I could see room for a story behind each of his pictures.

He is allowing OLLI to choose one for permanent display. That may be the hard part with beauty in each photograph, especially since he has left the door open for personal story interpretations. With the live wires at OLLI, I’m sure there will be strong preferences among the members of the Art Committee.

I’ll jump in right away with my choice, not that it counts for anything, and the story it told me. This photo was taken in New Brunswick, Canada along the shore of the Bay of Fundy. I saw a rock that dared to be different. Of course, it stood out with the background of all the blues that made its orange seem even more intense. Oddly, the orange made the blues more intense as well. (To prove my point, cover the orange rock and just look at the blues.)

Within the range of its influence, a couple of smaller rocks seem to be taking on the hue. Are they gaining courage to become who they really are instead of reflecting the crowd around them? Before we lose interest in the crowd, it’s their very similarity that makes the orange rock pop. And even as their similar color makes them fit together overall, they also have their differences. A bit of time will reward the viewer with the unique that lies even in the members of the crowd who seem so similar at first glance.

When it comes to any form of art, I’m the little dark blue one in the middle bottom. I like to think that my appreciation makes the orange ones like Marvin shine a little brighter.


Salt Houses

In Palestine, Salma reads her daughter’s coffee dregs on the eve of her wedding, but only tells Alia part of what she foresees. The rest she will find out soon enough. Salt Houses, Hala Alyan’s debut novel, covers three family generations.

The first uprooting and loss comes with the Six Day War of 1967. The book follows the family through a series of relatively peaceful times intercepted by war for the next fifty years. Bit by bit and war by war, the family scatters to Kuwait City, Beirut, Paris, and Boston with different levels and approaches to how much they assimilate into their new cultures and how much they hold onto the old values and traditions.  

She describes the war times – electricity cutting out every few hours, adults forbidding children to leave the house or even to go out on the balcony, men yelling at the television when it was on and shaking their heads, news reports with streaks of smoke from the airport, and planes dropping bombs “like eggs from their abdomens.”

In between, life resembles a normal pull and tug as children grow up wanting to stretch their wings and throw off old restrictions, as parents worry and disagree on how to handle the young ones, and as grandmother recalls the old ways or helps the young ones circumvent the rules. Normality lasts only until the next conflict.

The theme of the book is in a paragraph near the end. “What they say never changes. There is a war Alia knows. She understands this intuitively; in fact, it seems to her the only truth she holds immutable. There is a war. It is being fought and people are losing, though she is uncertain who exactly.”

Salt Houses sheds light on a question I’ve often asked when I’ve seen those reports of wars that seem interminable, “How do people live in that kind of atmosphere?” and puts a human face on what seems far away and can be forgotten once the newscast goes off.