Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Difference Between Quiet and Unspeakable

I just finished two books with distinctly different vibes. The Quiet Book, written by Deborah Underwood and Renata Liwska, is an adorable picture book. Different animals demonstrate the many kinds of quiet. Some of my favorites on this list of activities are "coloring in the lines quiet," "best friends don't need to talk quiet," and "car ride at night quiet." I like this one because young readers will know the difference between "sleeping sister quiet" and "swimming underwater quiet." I will incorporate this into story hour. It would be a good wind down at the end, but it would work equally well in the middle when some kids are getting a little antsy. It would also be a good one in the classroom and could be used with language arts or science. Students could write there own examples of quiet. They could also arrange the list in order from loudest to softest or vice versa.

On the other hand, An Unspeakable Crime: The Prosecution and Persecution of Leo Frank by Elaine Marie Alphin left me feeling the opposite of warm and fuzzy. I am still disturbed by this story. I knew the basic facts before I read the book: a young female employee at a pencil factory in Atlanta was found murdered. The murder was pinned on a supervisor at the plant, Leo Frank, who was both a Yankee and a Jew. Alphin skillfully weaves through the evidence and cast of characters to show the mood of the time. The newspapers fed the frenzy as the angry cry of "Justice for Mary Phagan" led to the lynching of an innocent man. Alphin used primary source documents, and many of the front-page newspaper articles are included in the book. Almost 50 years after the Civil War, there was still lingering bitterness. Comparing this with some of the more sensational trials of today, it was quite disturbing to see how the theatrics of the prosecution and the energy of the crowd swayed the jury and judge more than the logic and facts of the defense. This one is for grade ten and up - during the trial the prosecution tried to demonstrate that Leo Frank had certain sexual proclivities which are mentioned in the book. This one will stay with me, and I feel sorrow for Frank and his family.

The difference between quiet and unspeakable is a big one. Quiet denotes a certain calm or anticipatory state. Unspeakable is actually disquieting and so bizarre it leaves one at a loss for words.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Ranting in the Rain

After a few days of beautiful sunny weather and temperatures in the sixties (this a week after the "snowicane"), it is now gray and rainy. As I went about my errands, there were many opportunities to rant today. After the post office (we won't even get into the oxymoron of "Postal Service"), I did the recycling because I couldn't stand the accumulation of plastic bottles. I guess I could throw them away, but then I would feel guilty because I was not being environmentally responsible. Which goes to show you can never win. A bigger question is why my city can pick up newspapers and glass at the curb, but not plastic bottles and cardboard. We do not put out glass, but it's interesting to drive around on recycling day and see how much alcohol our neighbors are consuming.

After recycling, I went to a Childrenswear Centre in Clifton. People come from all over the area to shop at this place for the prices. I'm thinking we graduated from this store. I used to do really well on clothes size 4T and under. They do have a good selection of uniform stuff, so I got my DD (darling daughter) some new white shirts (Peter Pan collar, no embellishments). I really wanted to get son #2 some pants, but they did not have one pair of size 8 pants in the store. They had tons and tons of size 18, but not size 8. Can you tell this bothered me?! I also wanted to get DD a spring jacket, but they did not have any. I saw a Rothschild fuschia raincoat, but it brought back memories of my mother buying me things she like that I hated, so I passed that one by, even though it was a bargain and very cute. After my annoyance at the store, I went to see my mother in the nursing home. She was doing pretty well, and it was nice to sit for a while and talk with her. Then it was on to Shoprite to pick up a few last minute items for Shabbat.

For Shabbat, I must always serve the same thing or the natives get very restless: chicken soup with vegetables, baked chicken, potato kugel, steamed vegetables. The only thing that can vary is the dessert. This week is "secret recipe pie." The family knows by now that anything with a "secret recipe" is made with a mix and incredibly easy. So I got a shortbread crust and filled it with vanilla pudding, on top of which I added sprinkles. Anything with sprinkles or on a stick is always a big hit, too.

Then onto the bane of my existence: carpool. Dismissal is at 12:45 PM on Friday, so I have to get there by 12:35 PM to get a good spot. I usually bring a book or cross-stitch, or I call friends, so I don't mind the wait. It's the other drivers. People stop in the middle of the street, block you so you cannot pull out, cut you off, park facing the wrong way, park illegally on a corner so you cannot see oncoming traffic, etc. The irony of this situation is that I am picking up from yeshiva. As we pay through the nose so that our children can learn how to be good Jews, we are setting a poor example of consideration and respect for others. We'll leave it at that because I could write a mini-series about the dichotomy between theory and practice here.

My last shopping event was online at This website sells remainders, and I've gotten great bargains, including beautiful journals and autographed copies. I always check out the Jewish books, and I was kind of torn as I spotted these bargains:

Runaway Dreidel by Leslea Newman - $6.99
The Entertainer and the Dybbuk by Sid Fleischman - $6.99
New Year at the Pier by April Halperin Wayland - $6.99
Naming Liberty by Jane Yolen - $6.99
Across the Alley by Rich Michelson - $7.99
Raizel's Riddle (softcover) - $2.99
Hanukkah at Valley Forge by Stephen Krensky - $7.99
Kibitzers and Fools by Simms Taback - $7.99
Letters from Rivka (paperback) - $2.99

Also Goy Crazy, Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa, and Penina Levine Is a Potato Pancake.

As I saw these books, I remembered when I first read them, and how much I enjoyed them. I can't believe that New Year at the Pier is on the list, and I'm very surprised about Hanukkah at Valley Forge and Across the Alley because I think both books have universal themes and great illustrations. So I'm conflicted. I'm not so happy that these books are remaindered or overstocked, but they make excellent gifts and prizes!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

The First Day of the Rest of My Blog

I've been thinking about starting a blog for a long time, but did not start for a few reasons. First, I wanted a catchy title, and they all seemed to be taken. Today's Gift from Hazelden started with this quote, and I thought it was perfect. Besides being a librarian, my life falls into different categories or classifications. Not in a Dewey kind of way, but more like Ranganathan's system, where topics on the same subject are inter-related. For example, as I librarian a look at books in one way, as a mother in another way. I'm hoping to include book reviews, recipes, shopping tips, and my observations as I go about my day, which can be that of a typical suburban housewife or a working mother, or a "trained professional." These contrasts were most evident in my tenure as chairperson of the Sydney Taylor Book Award Committee of the Association of Jewish Libraries. I had the opportunity to meet some amazing authors and publishers like Karen Hesse, Katherine Paterson, and Jean Feiwel. Then I would return home and do the laundry.

Today's thoughts are rather sad. I found out my cousin Harold died on February 19th. He was my second cousin once removed, but he was the only relative I knew on my father's side of the family. Besides the sorrow for his family and friends, it also means I have one less relative in an incredibly small family. It means I have one less connection in the world. Although we were not close, in age or proximity, there was a certain comfort knowing I had a cousin in Virginia, that I could pick up a phone and hear that lovely drawl. As the years progress, there are more addresses in my book that are no longer valid, and although there are new ones being added, they are not exactly replacements. So today life really is like a library. This chapter is finished, and although there are more chapters ahead, as with a good book, I need to pause and reflect before moving on.

I've been trying to edit the MTS Taxi Guide, but technical problems have stymied my progress. I used to think I had some technical and computer savvy, but the pace of technology has passed me by, and I often feel like a Luddite, very content with my "primitive" cell phone and basic computer functions. Anyway, I could not receive the files I needed, so I am going to having to retype a lot of stuff. I finally figured everything out with the printing company, so I have no more excuses (although I could probably find some without too much thought).

Passover preparations are moving along nicely. The small pantry is almost empty, and the dry goods shopping is done. So far, my family will be eating potato chips and hearts of palm and drinking Coke and seltzer. It seems like every year we trim down the menu, which consists mainly of the above and chicken and potatoes, lots of potatoes.