Saturday, June 19, 2021

The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters (Priya Parker)


After more than a year of no gatherings, thanks to Covid, I was really interested in what this author had to say about why we gather. I'm keen to be purposeful, now that things are opening up, in what I spend my time doing, who I get together with and how our time is spent together. This book didn't disappoint! 

Being purposeful about the reason for an event, who should attend, how to communicate those purposes, how to make being together meaningful and ending well are things to think through. This is a book to read (or listen to) annually. It gave me many ideas for ways I could make gatherings better.

Goodreads says:

A transformative exploration of the power, purpose, and benefits of gatherings in our lives: at work, at school, at home and beyond.

Every day we find ourselves in gatherings, Priya Parker says in The Art of Gathering. If we can understand what makes these gatherings effective and memorable, then we can reframe and redirect them to benefit everyone, host and guest alike. Parker defines a gathering as three or more people who come together for a specific purpose. When we understand why we gather, she says -- to acknowledge, to learn, to challenge, to change -- we learn how to organize gatherings that are relevant and memorable: from an effective business meeting to a thought-provoking conference; from a joyful wedding to a unifying family dinner. Drawing on her experience as a strategic facilitator who's worked with such organizations as the World Economic Forum, the Museum of Modern Art, and the retail company Fresh, Parker explains how ordinary people can create remarkable occasions, large and small. In dozens of fascinating examples, she breaks down the alchemy of these experiences to show what goes into the good ones and demonstrates how we can learn to incorporate those elements into all of our gatherings. The result is a book that's both journey and guide, full of big ideas with real-world applications that will change the way you look at a business meeting, a parent-teacher conference, and a backyard barbecue.

Monday, June 14, 2021

Bertha Takes a Drive (Jan Adkins)


I love stories that teach us about history and how we sometimes are slow to accept change. People thought Bertha's car was ridiculous, dangerous and a threat. I loved how she knew all the ins and outs of the engine as well as the brakes. This was a resourceful woman! 

We read this on Epic.

Goodreads says:

In this nonfiction joyride, Bertha Benz and her sons drive across Germany in the world's first automobile.

It's 1888 and Bertha Benz's husband, Karl, has invented the prototype Benz motorwagen. But the German government declares the vehicle illegal, and the church calls it the devil's work. Unbeknownst to her husband, Bertha steals away with her two sons and drives nearly one hundred miles to prove just how amazing the motorwagen is. Bertha's mechanical savvy gets the boys to Grandma's house safely, and the remarkable mother/son road trip reduces global concern about moving vehicles.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Memory Jars (Vera Brosgol)


This would be a great book to read before we start working on our memory books at the end of the school year! 

Goodreads says:

A young girl finds a clever way to keep her favorite things--and people--close to her forever in Memory Jars, from Caldecott Honoree Vera Brosgol.

Freda is devastated when she can't eat all the delicious blueberries she's picked. She has to wait a whole year before they're back, and she doesn't want to lose them! Then Gran reminds her that they can save blueberries in a jar, as jam. So Freda begins to save all her favorite things. But it turns out that saving everything also means she can't enjoy anything, and Freda realizes that some things are best saved as memories.

Upset that she can't eat every bucketful of blueberries she picked with her gran all in the same afternoon ("they were the best right then and they'd never be any better"), a lovably quirky girl takes "preserving" to a whole new level. Add Brosgol's signature big-eyed characters, a touch of dark humor and a mouthwatering jam recipe, and you've got all the ingredients for a sequel. -The New York Times

Leaf Man (Lois Ehlert)


A great story for September/October when leaves are falling from the trees. It's wonderful to imagine the travels and stories of leaves. The pages in this book are cut to reveal beautiful layered images.

I think the grade ones in our school do a project where they make pictures with leaves. I must pass this on to them!

I love the author's note in the back:

Whenever I see a beautiful leaf, I have to pick it up. I can't help myself; it's something I've done all my life. I used to press leaves in my phone book, only to find them later - dull, dry and crumbling. When researching maple leaves for the illustrations in my book Red Leaf, Yellow Leaf, I made color copies of the leaves I'd collected for reference as soon as I found them so I could capture their magnificent colors before they faded. When I began thinking about making Leaf Man, I carried a plastic bag with me, picking up treasures wherever I went  - sweet gum fruit from Kansis City, oak leaves from Ithaca, fig leaves form Washington, DC - and color-copying them as soon as possible. My leaf file became chubby, but I didn't stop collecting until snow finally covered the last Wisconsin maple leaves of fall. Then I created the Leaf Man art with my color copies of leaves, which I believe are among the most beautiful art supplies in the world.

Goodreads says:

Come along on a journey with a man made of leaves in this autumnal classic by Caldecott Honor–winning author-illustrator Lois Ehlert.

Fall has come, the wind is gusting, and Leaf Man is on the move. Is he drifting east, over the marsh and ducks and geese? Or is he heading west, above the orchards, prairie meadows, and spotted cows? No one's quite sure, but this much is certain: A Leaf Man's got to go where the wind blows. Ehlert crafts each illustration out of actual fall leaves and die-cut pages on every spread that reveal gorgeous landscapes. ThIs playful and whimsical book celebrates the natural world and the rich imaginative life of children. Includes facts on how to identify leaves out in the wild!

The Librarian's Stories (Lucy Falcone and Anna Wilson)


This is a powerful book. If I ever have to teach a class on the power of reading and how it can help you through tough times, this would be a great addition. 

Great stories have helped me through many difficult times. The librarian sitting on the bench telling stories amidst a war is a powerful symbol. I just read The Librarian of Basra to my class. This would be a great follow up - but right now. During covid, talk of war is a little too tough. I'll have to keep this one for another day.

Maybe this is why I enjoy scriptures so much as well - much of scripture is really simply stories.

At the back, the author writes:

I was inspired to write The Librarian's Stories after reading The Cellist of Sarajevo, a book based on the true story of a musician who played his cello for 22 days to mark the deaths of 22 innocent people killed after the bombing of a bakery during the Bosnian war.

As a writer, I believe in the power of stories to keep hope alive, to bring healing and light in the darkest of times. And who better to bring stories to families traumatized by war than a courageous librarian.

A second theme in The Librarian's Stories is the burning of libraries. Over centuries, thousands of them have been destroyed. One in particular stood out for me. During the Islamic Golden Age in the 13th century, an invading Mongol army set fire to all the libraries in Baghdad, and the books from the House of Wisdom were thrown into the Tigris River. There were so many of them that they created a bridge for the Mongol army to cross. Legend says that the paged bled ink into the river for seven days, draining them of their knowledge. When the books stopped bleeding, the courageous people of Bagdad started rebuilding their city.

Millions of books have been burned in the senseless violence of war. Many rulers in the past, and the present, feel threatened by stories and ideas and knowledge. They know that books can change people. They know that books can change the world. To them, this is dangerous. They don't want people to learn, to understand, to think for themselves. They don't want people to remember their history.

Goodreads says:
A village is left in ruins after the bombs fall. The beloved library is burned to ash. Food is scarce. Danger is abundant. Every aspect of daily life is changed. How will home ever feel as it once did?

But then one day, the Librarian emerges in the town square. Seated on a bench in front of the library's remains, she opens a book and begins to read aloud. The village children stop to listen. "Foolish woman," Papa says. "Too dangerous," Mama agrees, hurrying the children away. But day after day the librarian returns to her post, her voice carrying stories above the thunder of tanks and to the broken hearts of the people. Little by little, the persistent Librarian's stories seed hope in the people, and their village begins to mend.

Inspired by the bombing of the National Library of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War, and bombing of the library at the University of Mosul in Iraq, The Librarian's Stories is a testament to the enduring connection between stories and hope.

Three (Stephen Michael King)


I love this story! It is about a 3-legged dog who sees everything through his lens: who as four legs, who has 2 legs and what they do best with what they have. Three is grateful and optimistic and inspiring. He sees the best in every situation and doesn't dwell on what he doesn't have.

The past four years have been rough for me. There's the pandemic and covid issues. That has made this school year a challenge in a way I could have never expected. In addition to that, my husband's health has been poor. He's had some major health issues. Because it has dragged on so long, people stop inquiring after a while. It's disappointing to see the people who I thought really cared have no clue about what is going on because they simply seem to not care. It seems like they don't care because they don't inquire, stop by, check in, etc. I try to not complain and don't talk about the challenges a lot - so that doesn't help them to know. Complaining and whining doesn't change things though. I try to always look on the bright side, even with dull grey skies. I have been saddened by people who make assumptions about why we don't attend some events. It isn't something I can change. It simply tells me something about who I can count on and who I cannot. Luckily, I have a number of people in my life who do inquire and do care and have been a great help to us.

This is a great book! It has a good philosophy to live by.

Goodreads says:

The Boy Who Dared (Susan Campbell Bartoletti)


I've been interested in reading this book for a long time and was glad to finally borrow it from the library.  It's well written. It tells his story with flashes forward to him sitting in prison waiting to be executed.

Because politicians have made (uneducated and inflammatory) comments about covid restrictions, a lot of people like to compare covid restrictions to Nazi's and what happened to Jewish people in World War II. I think they haven't quite read enough about what that time was like. It's not the same at all.

There are some amazing people in history. This boy was brave. I was also drawn to it because he was a member of my church. Interestingly, the author is not a member of the church. At the end of the novel, she cites the books she read to learn more about the church and how it might have influenced Helmuth Hubener. 

One moment really stood out to me. That was when his mother (Mutti), who is dating someone (Hugo) that is a Nazi sympathizer and knows of the terrible things he does, but remains silent. 

p. 72 Helmuth wrestles a sudden wave of nausea as he realizes what Hugo did last night. But it's Gerhard who says something when Mutti returns. "How can you?" he whispers to Mutti. "You heard the news. How can you not say anything?"

Mutti bites her lip, doesn't answer for a long time, and when she does, she speakes without looking at her sons. "Silence is how people get on sometimes. I don't expect you to understand."

Helmuth's disgust turns to pain for his mother and disgust for himself. He recognize silence.

It's a sad thing when you realizes the people you have always loved and admired don't have the courage to speak up for what is right, but instead, stay silent to get along.

I'm a little ashamed at church leader's response to Helmuth Hubener. It is another example of leadership Russian roulette that sometimes people come out on the losing end of in the church.  You can read about the church's response in Wikipedia:

Church reaction[edit]

The execution chamber at Plötzensee Prison

In 1937, the president of the LDS Church, Heber J. Grant, had visited Germany and urged the members to remain, get along, and not cause trouble. Consequently, some church members saw Hübener as a troublemaker who made things difficult for other Latter-day Saints in Germany. This recommendation did not change after Kristallnacht, which occurred the year following Grant's visit, after which he evacuated all non-German Latter-day Saint missionaries.

Local Latter-day Saint branch president, Arthur Zander, was a supporter of the Nazi Party, and had affixed a notice to the meetinghouse entrance stating "Jews not welcome". Ten days after the arrest of Hübener, on 15 February 1942, Zander claimed to have excommunicated the young man demonstratively, without consulting his church superiors or holding the church court normally prerequisite for excommunication or other discipline.

The day of his execution, Hübener wrote to a fellow branch member, "I know that God lives and He will be the Just Judge in this matter… I look forward to seeing you in a better world!" (excerpt from a letter written by Hübener, the only one believed to still exist).

In 1946, four years later and after the war, Hübener was posthumously reinstated into the LDS Church by new mission president, Max Zimmer, saying the excommunication was not carried through with the proper procedures. He was also posthumously rebaptized, ordained an elder, and endowed in 1948 to clarify that his membership in the church was never in doubt.

Goodreads says:

A powerful and gripping novel about a youth in Nazi Germany who dares to the truth about Hitler, written by a Newbery Honor Book author.

Susan Campbell Bartoletti has taken one episode from her Newbery Honor Book, Hitler Youth, and fleshed it out into a thought-provoking nonfiction novel. When 16-year-old Helmut Hubner listens to the BBC news on an illegal short-wave radio, he quickly discovers Germany is lying to the people. But when he tries to expose the truth with leaflets, he's tried for treason. Sentenced to death and waiting in a jail cell, Helmut's story emerges in a series of flashbacks that show his growth from a naive child caught up in the patriotism of the times, to a sensitive and mature young man who thinks for himself.