Archive for April, 2011

Not sure if my kids will like this since they go more for urban lit and books with ‘drama’, but I found this to be an excellent book and will push it out there in hopes some will pick it up. I found it a moving book, not only due to how Hannah must deal with her father who has been injured in Iraq, but also moving because of the stories behind the horses Hannah helps take care of.

The Outside of the Horse is the story of Hannah Gale.  When she was little, she’d been fascinated by the stories her father told of his time in Nevada breaking wild horses.  Just thirteen, she tries to get a job at a nearby stable and succeeds except she doesn’t earn any money.  The experience is worth it all for Hannah.

When Jeff Gale comes home, he’s not the father Hannah knew from before.  He’s still fighting what happened in Iraq when his leg was injured.  His memories and missing leg drive his wife, Hannah’s stepmother, away.  Hannah, herself, escapes to the horses even though their stories are just as heartbreaking as her father’s.  Gradually, thought things change and the change starts with the horses.


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Dear Hamish,

Thank you for the get well card.  I am sorry to hear that the twins attacked you and tried to beat money out of you.  If you don’t get the money back, let me know and I’ll write me Grandmum to give you what they stole.   I left some money with her.  Fortunately (or unfortunately for you) you were the only one they mugged.  According to me Da, they wanted money for a ticket to America.  As if we sheep have that much.  They’ll be better off to look for money at the school the farmer’s children attend.

I am much better thank you.  Me wool is getting springier every day.  I hope it makes a full recovery.  Pawnee Kitty thought I had the plague and that I would die.  She wanted me new mobile if I ‘keeled over’.  I made a quick recovery after that.  Still, I have to say, she was nice to me and even made me soup with only vegetation and vegetables.  I can’t say it was the best I ever had, but it was tasty.  She wore gloves when she made it too so she wouldna contaminate it.

The weather is bonny.  I am out playing football whenever I can.  I work on me crofts too.  I have a big one to build.  The frame is done and Pawnee Kitty is chipping bark for the roof.  She wants money for her buffalo fund in case there’s a spring sale on bison.  Or maybe it’s for the land they’ll be needing for the herd.  I am vague on the whole concept, but dearly wish to see the bison before she and her kind eat them all.  Och, that pesky Pawnee.  She read over me shoulder and said the herd needs to be built up before a single one can be eaten.  They want a fine herd first.

Until next time,

your friend,

 Angus.  McSheep.

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Angus started wheezing and coughing and sneezing the other day.  His eyes and nose leaked.  It was pretty gross.  I had to throw hankies at him.  Hankies are very hard to throw because they float around and they don’t land where I want them.

“Do you have the plague?”

“Silly kitty.  I have the flu!”  He tries to glare at me.  It doesn’t work.  His eyes water too much.

“Is it contagious?”

“Nae.”  He sneezes.  “I have the sheep flu.  Only sheep get it.”

“You haven’t been around any sheep.”  I think it’s the plague.  I better call the doctor.

“I still have it.  Go away.  You make me head hurt.”  With that his head thumps down on his blanket and he wheezes a few times.  It got quiet.

“Are you dead?”

His hooves thump about.  I decide to be quiet and observe from a distance.  It’s interesting how miniature sheep sleep.  They sleep like real sheep.  Big sheep.  They go down on their bellies with their hooves under them.  After awhile they plop over onto their side and their hooves stick out perpendicular to their bodies.  Every now and then Angus rolls over on his back and his fore hooves fold over on his chest and his hind hooves stick down.  Right now he’s on his tummy, but his hooves are sticking out every which way and when he’s about to sneeze or sometimes, right before he answers one of my questions, they jerk around and all go cloppity clop and tappity tap on the ground.

“Are you dead?”

“GO AWAY!”  He sneezes and his hooves flail.

Maybe I better call his mommy.  Except I can’t.  Angus hasn’t told his family he’s living in a house with a me in it.  Apparently miniature sheep are very afraid of cats and the feline kind.  It’d be a mass faint if they found out.  I’ll have to ask the person to call.  Or someone else.  I wonder if they’d mind a call from the hawk that’s hanging around.  After a bit I think not.  They might think that’s just as frightening.

I decide to make some get better stuff.  I have a recipe that clears up one’s nostrils and it’s all from herbs and natural, non animal items.  That clears my nose always up.

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Ah, the early days of spring.  Warmer weather.  Dogwoods blooming.  Students testing. 

Yep, it’s that time of year where the whole school is centered around state tests, getting students motivated, keeping their spirits up.  It consumes the entire school even if only one grade is taking the test.   Everywhere you turn, it’s THE TEST!  Thank goodness it’s only three days (four if you count make up days.)

Before THE TEST, they had to take other tests.  Tests, tests tests.  They’re complaining.  I can’t remember much of my state testing years in school.  I remember taking them, but I can’t remember being anxious about them or that a big deal was made of them.  I know I didn’t get tested all the time and I’m glad I didn’t.  I’m glad my sister didn’t.  She’s a perfectionist, the kind of student who almost needs hospitalization when they get a B.   I think the tests would have driven her crazy.  Me, being laxidasical, try to do well, but not obsessively so.

Next week is the week before Spring break.  I know the kids are looking forward to it as much as the teachers.  I’m glad they won’t have the test to stress over their vacation.  

So, here’s to the tests and the test takers and the test administrators and the test monitors and anyone in school.   Take care and be glad it’s soon over.

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Over the years, I’ve been in countless libraries.  The first library I can remember was in Fort Monmouth, NJ.  I don’t ever recall going inside, but I do remember the tree shaded parking lot where my father waited with my sister and I for my mom to emerge.

My first schools didn’t seem to have libraries.  If they did, I can’t remember, which means they weren’t much.  At the end of first grade I went to a school that had a rack in the lobby and I chose books from that.  From second grade on, there were school libraries and while I do recall having my friends wait for me as I perused the shelves after school, they don’t stick out as much as the ‘public’ library in Heidelberg, Wilson Barracks. 

Wilson Barracks was located several blocks from where we lived in Mark Twain Village.  We walked from our apartment along Romerstrasse and into Rhorbach, a suburb of Heidelberg.  Once inside Wilson Barracks, we passed the hospital buildings and made our way deeper into the post.

On hindsight, the room it’d been stuck in had not been designed for library use.  It sat next to the recreation room where chairs and ping pong tables reigned supreme.  Copies of Sad Sack comics lay on the coffee tables. 

The library itself could have fit several times over in the rec room.  It was a long, rectangular room filled with books.  Walking in, you had the circulation desk filling the area dead ahead and slightly to the left.  Shelves lined the walls and ran outward into the room.  Turning right, you passed the reference section, the children’s section, and past that the adult section.  On a windowsill they had a row of paperbacks for trade.  Bring one and take one away. 

I spent most of my time in the children’s section only rarely entering the adult section.  I checked out a variety of books from picture books (my mom was horrified) to chapter books.  There was no teen section, you went straight from the children’s section to the adult.  I loved the Bobbsey Twins, Trixie Belden, Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Investigators (BEST hideout ever!).  I probably read every major book from the fifties and sixties there.  Some of them I remember so fondly, that I try to search for them on-line.  Not an easy task since I hardly remember the titles.

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Unusual Names

I suppose one of my aversions to high fantasy are the names.  A glance at a character’s name can make me close a book in a second.  I’m talking about names like Hootletoot, Mistytrane, Laleelapec, and so on.  Why I let that bother me, I don’t know, because at my school I have a Delante, a Qawmona, an Orlandrea, a Tiawan, a Sharmyra and so on.  I suppose the fact that I’ve learned how to pronounce them and I hear the names weekly, I’m okay with them.  We had a student here whose name started with Zm.  I forgot the rest because I couldn’t even begin to pronounce it.  I asked her several times and when she said it, it didn’t sound anything what it looked like and I’d forget again how to say it again.

I use unusual names as well, names I’ve dug out of the history pages – old Norse, Sumarian, and so on.  Again, if I do that why do I mind when other authors have ‘odd’ names.  Have I become an old fogey needing to read about Janes, Jills, Bills, Bobs, and Torys?  Something for me to think about.

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I do not like books on vampires.  I do not like romance books with vampires.  Or werewolves.  I will admit (warning: the next words may cause harm to some sensitive souls) that I do not like the Twilight series.  I managed to get through the first book and that was that.  I only read it because other librarians were making a big deal of it.  My kids like it.  I don’t.  I have to be really careful when I order books because my aversion to vampire romances can cause me not to order certain titles.  Think of the students, I tell myself.  They like this stuff.

I used to like vampires.  I liked the 80’s version of ‘Dark Shadows’.  I love Buffy the Vampire Slayer.  After that it all went downhill.  Handsome, broody, tragic vampires fell out of my favor.  I started to like zombies more and even wrote a story with zombie like people (things?) in it.  Now zombies are becoming a big topic so I’ve moved on.  Of course that may because I scared myself with my own story.  Won’t be writing another one like that anytime soon.

Going through the lists of new books I find a number of vampire stories and romance stories with vampires or related mythical characters.  I’m always looking for the book that’s different. Then again, the students like this, so I must get over my prejudices.   I did get the zombie books (Zombie Blonde and Never Slow Dance with a Zombie).  The latter has checked out once while a student won’t return Twilight. 

Why don’t I like these books?  I suppose it goes back to the fact I’m not fond of that type of fantasy.  I like urban fantasy (superheroes!)  I love fairy tales.  I can’t get much into other fantasy books unless they’re humorous.  I’m also not big on romance books so if you put fantasy and romance together, my mind starts to shut down.

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