Monday, February 23, 2009

A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Triumph (editied by Colleen Sell)

The book I’d like to review today is called: A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors: Inspiring Stories of Courage and Triumph edited by Colleen Sell

This book was brought to my attention because it includes the story of someone I know and you may know too. Her name is Sally Unrau and she is a fellow Breast Cancer Survivor who I met a number of years ago at a Breast Cancer Support Group at Boundary Trails Hospital. I was struck by her courage and inspiring personality then, and was excited when I heard her article was chosen for this book.

Each year thousands of women across North America are touched with Breast Cancer. It may be a sister, a mother, a grandmother, a daughter…………….and in 2001, it was me. What I wanted to read at that time was a book like this. This book includes 46 stories from women across North America who tell their stories of facing Breast Cancer and surviving. It’s a book that will give hope and courage to women who are facing their own battle with Breast Cancer and will give a window into the experience for those who walk along side.

Everyone’s story is different but everyone tells their first hand experience with Cancer. They are about doctors and nurses, relatives and friends, fellow sufferers who supported and encouraged them; about honesty, courage, strength, humor, hope, grace, and dignity that they didn’t know they had.

I would encourage you to read this book and to pass it on to anyone who has or has had Breast Cancer. It’s called, A Cup of Comfort for Breast Cancer Survivors; and it’s in your local library. If you would like to purchase it, it’s good to know that 50 cents of every copy sold will be contributed to the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

This is a remarkable memoir about the author’s experience of growing up in a deeply dysfunctional family. Much of her story comes as quite a shock since I grew up with parents who always took care of my needs. Jeannette’s family was anything but ordinary. The Glass Castle is the saga of the restless, eccentric Walls family, parented by a brilliant alcoholic father and a frustrated artistic mother.

Time and time again, the children were told in the middle of the night that it was time to ‘skedaddle”. In a few minutes they had to get into the car, sometimes being allowed to only take one possession, and leaving another small Southwest U.S. desert town behind. The sudden exit in the night often came after a stay of only a few months and was necessary in order to escape the debts her father had accumulated. Her mother’s paintings were tied on the roof and off they went, not knowing where they would end up.

Jeanette tells her story in a realistic and appealing style. She recounts many colorful conversations and details. She remembers the poverty, hunger, jokes, and bullying she and her sisters and brother endured in almost every community they moved to. At home with their parents, the children were left largely to their own devices and their mom told them they would learn from hardships and suffering. Their mother’s attitude toward keeping a house was that it just wasn’t worth her time. She could make a meal but it would be gone in a few minutes. But if she painted a picture, it would last forever. She was a free spirit and didn’t want the responsibility of raising a family. So the children had to fend for themselves and often went hungry or took food out of garbage cans at school when no one was looking. They learned to feed, clothe, and protect each other.

Rex Walls, her troubled, brilliant father, had the ability to turn their downward-spiraling circumstances into adventures. His nickname for Jeannette was ‘Mountain Goat’, an appropriate name when you consider the rugged terrain of childhood that she had to climb. When he was sober, they were fed on the dreams of their father who taught them physics, geology and astronomy. As they grew older, they realized that his plans to build them a home he called the Glass Castle and to find gold that would make them rich, would never happen. It should be noted that there is some bad language when the father is quoted and there are also some unpleasant scenes.

In spite of this horrendous and difficult childhood, Jeannette tells her story candidly and with surprising affection. She and two of her siblings escape to New York when they are old enough and make a good life for themselves. What is most amazing is the resilience of the children and their success in overcoming huge odds. It’s a story well worth reading.

Jeannette Walls has survived poverty, fires, and near starvation to triumph. She has written this amazing tale with honesty and love.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Thing-Thing by Carey Fagan

In November, the three branches of the South Central Regional Library were lucky enough to have Canadian author, Cary Fagan visit us. Each branch invited classes of children to hear Cary talk about writing his books. In Morden, he read one of his latest children’s books called Thing-Thing. The Grade 2 children were mesmerized as he read aloud the story of a spoiled little boy who throws a new toy out his hotel window. As poor Thing-Thing falls past each window, he sees people inside who have their own stories to tell. They all see him as he flies past their windows and wonder what he is. As Thing-Thing gets closer and closer to the ground he thinks about how all he ever wanted was to be cuddled and loved by a little child.

The pictures in the book are wonderful and Cary told us how he imagined Thing-Thing to look different than the artist drew him. Now he can’t imagine him looking any other way! It was a wonderful experience to hear the author read his own story. I read Thing-Thing before we had our author visit and enjoyed it very much. Check out a copy of this book from your library and share Thing-Thing by Cary Fagan with your family.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Reading with dad by Richard Jorgensen

Recently all branches of the library celebrated Family Literacy Day at which time we recognized the importance of reading with and to children. That, and the fact that February is I LOVE TO READ MONTH, inspired me to talk about a children’s book today.

I, like many librarians love reading children’s books and find something deeply satisfying about reading a children’s book that pulls at the heartstrings. Let’s face it, often - it is when reading children’s picture books that we allow ourselves to unabashedly show our emotions. How many us still cry when reading Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever.

I recently read Richard Jorgensen’s Reading With Dad and it elicited the same response that I have when I read Love You Forever. In this book a father and child share a lifetime love of reading. But while the book plays on our emotions it also has a wonderful message about the joy of reading together, of sharing our stories, and the importance of a father’s role in the life of his child.

The lyrical, rhyming prose is easy to read, and a little reminiscent of Dr. Seuss. The simple drawings give the book a wonderful poignancy.

I heartily recommend this book for readers of any age.