The One and Only Ivan

ImageOne good thing about being laid up with a bad back is that I am able to read, read, read.  One good thing about being able to read is that once in a while you come upon a gem of a book, a story that is deserving of a little extra attention.  I was lucky enough to stumble upon just such a book this week…it’s called The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate.  According to the book jacket at the back of the book, Katherine was inspired to write The One and Only Ivan after reading a story about the real Ivan.  The real Ivan is a western lowland gorilla who lived alone in a tiny cage for twenty-seven years before being moved to a zoo in Atlanta after a public outcry.  The special thing about Ivan is that he’s an artist.  He is well known for his paintings, which he “signs” with his thumbprint.

In the story of The One and Only Ivan, “Ivan is an easygoing gorilla.  Living at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade, he has grown accustomed to humans watching him through the glass walls of his domain.  He rarely misses his life in the jungle.  In fact, he hardly ever thinks about it at all.  Instead, Ivan thinks about TV shows he’s seen and about his friends Stella, an elderly elephant, and Bob, a stray dog.  But mostly Ivan thinks about art and how to capture the taste of a mango or the sound of leaves with color and a well-placed line.  Then he meets Ruby, a baby elephant taken from her family, and she makes Ivan see their home–and his own art–through new eyes.  When Ruby arrives, change comes with her, and it’s up to Ivan to make it a change for the better.

This story made me laugh, weep, think and most importantly feel.  I know I am going to recommend it to as many children as possible at the library…that will be my way of giving it a little “extra” attention.  The world of children’s literature has given this book a lot of “extra” attention too…this past Monday, The One and Only Ivan was honored by being awarded the “one and only” Newbery Medal!  It doesn’t get any better than that!

ImageHere are a few quotes from the book that I absolutely loved…

Pg. 23  “My visitors are often surprised when they see the TV Mack put in my domain.  They seem to find it odd, the sight of a gorilla staring at tiny humans in a box.  Sometimes I wonder, though: Isn’t the way they stare at me, sitting in my tiny box, just as strange?”—Ivan.

Pg. 51  “Gorillas are not complainers.  We’re dreamers, poets, philosophers, nap takers.”—Ivan.

Pg. 114  “Before Mack, before Bob, even before Ruby, I know Stella is gone.  I know it the way you know that summer is over and winter is on the way.  I just know.  Stella once teased me that elephants are superior because they feel more joy and more grief than apes.  ‘Your gorilla hearts are made of ice, Ivan,’ she said, her eyes glittering.  ‘Ours are made of fire.’  Right now I would give all the yogurt raisins in all the world for a heart made of ice.”—Ivan.

Pg. 131  “Every weekend, Mack and Helen took me in their convertible to a fast-food restaurant, where they ordered me french fries and a strawberry shake.  Mack loved to see the expression on the cashier’s face when he drove up and said, ‘could I have some extra ketchup for my kid?’—Ivan.

Pg. 287  “Is there anything sweeter than the touch of another as she pulls a dead bug from your fur?”—Ivan.


Reading Memories

So I was thinking…about my reading memories.  My niece, Ashley, asked me to answer a few questions about reading for a project she has to do before the start of school.  I have to say that the questions really got me thinking.  So please indulge me for a little bit as I think “out loud” about my reading memories.

What are your reading memories?  My first concrete reading memory happened in first grade.  My teacher, Sr. Eileen, read the book The Three Billy Goats Gruff by Paul Galdone to the class.  I am not kidding you when I say I was hooked! (You might say she had me with “trip-trap.”)  I came home from school that night and talked non-stop about that book.  My Dad told me he’d take me to the library and we would see if we could check it out and bring it home so he could read it to me.  I remember it as if it were yesterday…the stone steps leading into the big, musty smelling building, and the tall, wooden card catalog filled with endless book titles and possibility.  He showed me how to look up the title and how to find the book among the shelves…and lucky for me it was on the shelf.  We took it home and I got to keep it and read it for two whole weeks!  Heaven I tell you, Heaven!

What are some of your memories about learning how to read?  I’m sure I learned to read in school, but one of my most vivid memories of learning to read is by watching a television show called The Electric Company.  They used to do this bit about putting word sounds together like b-at…bat, sh-ip…ship, b-ook…book, you get the idea.  I swear that is one of the ways that I was able to catch on to sounding out words.  Then, like the dutiful sister I was, I would drag my sister and brother into my room and teach them how to sound out words…yes, I would play school.  Are you surprised at all?

What questions do you ask yourself to help you remember while reading?  Hmmm…this is a hard one.  I can’t say I ask myself any specific questions.  I do try to make “mental bookmarks” if you will about specific characters, places, sequence of events, etc.  I will admit though, I am always going back to reread certain passages and such.  I do keep a notebook of all the my favorite quotes from books I read.  And I do keep a running list of the books I read each year both in a notebook and online at .

What kind of reader are you now?  Well, I am what I would call a voracious, all-around reader.  I read picture books aloud all the time at work, I read children’s novels for programs at work, I read adult novels of all genres at home for pleasure, I read magazines every month, I read news articles online, I even read cereal boxes just to read!  Usually I have three books going at a time…one in paper form, one in CD form for my rides to work, and one online at .

Truth be known I would die if I couldn’t read.  Reading has saved me so many times.  I love being able to be transported to another place or time, and literally getting lost in the pages of a book.  I feel a deep sadness for those who find no joy in reading.  I love reading so much that my mission in life is to put children on the road to a life-long love of books and reading.  I am lucky enough be a Children’s Librarian which enables me to do just that every day…Reading Rocks!

Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

I just finished a wonderful book called Saving CeeCee Honeycutt by Beth Hoffman.  It’s the story of twelve-year-old CeeCee Honeycutt.   “For years, she has been the caretaker of her psychotic mother, Camille–the tiara-toting, lipstick-smeared laughingstock of an entire town–a woman trapped in her long-ago moment of glory as the 1951 Vidalia Onion Queen.  But when tragedy strikes, CeeCee is left to fend for herself…until, out of nowhere,  comes her previously unknown great-aunt, Tootie Caldwell.

In her vintage Packard convertible, Tootie whisks CeeCee away to Savannah’s perfumed world of prosperity and Southern eccentricity, a world that seems to be run entirely by women.  From the exotic Miz Thelma Rae Goodpepper, who skinny-dips in her backyard bathtub and uses garden slugs as her secret weapon, to Tootie’s all-knowing housekeeper, Oletta Jones, to Violene Hobbs, who entertains a local police officer in her canary-yellow peignoir, the women of Gaston Street keep CeeCee entertained and enthralled for an entire summer.”

These women will keep you entertained and enthralled too.  At times this book will have you laughing out loud, and at other times you’ll catch yourself wiping away tears.    It’s a perfect book to pick up for a light summer read, and yet you may find yourself remembering its characters and their feminine wisdom for many summers to come.

Pg. 41
Life is full of change, honey.  That’s how we learn and grow.  When we’re born, the Good Lord gives each of us a Life Book.  Chapter by chapter, we live and learn…When a chapter of your Life Book is complete, your spirit knows it’s time to turn the page so a new chapter can begin.  Even when you’re scared or think you’re not ready, your spirit knows you are.“—Mrs. O’Dell

Pg. 101
As we headed to the car, I looked up at her.  “You sure do love saving old houses.”
“Oh, yes, I do.  It’s my fire.”
“Your fire?”
She glanced over her shoulder at the house, which was now bathed in a warm tint of yellow from the sun.  “Yes.  Everyone needs to find the one thing that brings our her passion.  It’s what we do and share with the world that matters.”—Aunt Tootie.

Pg. 242
Before leaving the room, Oletta told me she loved me.  Well, not the exact words I love you, but what she said was, “Ain’t no sun in the kitchen without your face lookin’ up at me.”–CeeCee

Pg. 249
Aunt Tootie sat down next to me.  “Cecelia Rose.  People are, by nature, curious.  And as you go through life, many people will ask questions about your past.  And when they do, you just say the truth, plain and simple–your mother passed away and your father travels for his work, so you came to live with me.  That’s all you ever have to say, honey.  Everything will be just fine, as long as you make it fine.  Now, there’s something I want you to think about.  Something important.  And I promise you, it will serve you well throughout your life.  I’m going to tell you something that my mother said to me a long time ago.”
My aunt’s face was so serious I couldn’t imagine what she was going to say.  She took hold of my hand and looked into my eyes.  “It’s what we believe about ourselves that determines how others see us.”—Aunt Tootie

Pg. 290
Oletta patted the bed, and when I sat down beside her, she took hold of my hand.  “Take the gift Miz Tootie is givin’ you and hold it tight.  Don’t go wastin’ all them bright tomorrows you ain’t even seen by hangin’ on to what happened yesterday.  Let go, child.  Just breathe out and let go.”—Oletta

Moon Over Manifest

I put my hand on his shoulder.  “That was a good service, Shady.”
“It was,” he agreed, but didn’t say more.
“Seems like everyone in this town’s got a story to tell.”
Shady nodded.  “I believe you’re right about that.  The Lord himself knew the power of a good story.  How it can reach out and wrap around a person like a warm blanket.”

And that is just what Clare Vanderpool’s story, Moon Over Manifest, does.  It wraps around you like a warm blanket.  The characters, the town, and most of all the writing just keeps you wanting more.  You are literally transported back to those lazy summer days when the heat and sun just forced you to move slower…do more thinking.  I really loved this book!  It is definitely worthy of the 2011 Newbery Award, and I am looking forward to more from this new author.  Here is a quick synopsis of the book…

“Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.

Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”

Abilene throws caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters–and long held secrets. And as those secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.”


Wow…time does fly.  I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve written anything on this blog!  I wanted to share another wonderful book with you all that I finished about a week or so ago.  It’s called Juliet.  It is the debut novel of author Anne Fortier.  It was fabulous!

“Twenty-five-year-old Julie Jacobs is heartbroken over the death of her beloved aunt Rose. But the shock goes even deeper when she learns that Rose has left her entire estate to Julie’s twin sister. The only thing Julie receives is a key to a safety deposit box in Siena, Italy.

This key sends Julie on a journey that will change her life forever—a journey into the troubled past of her ancestor Giulietta Tolomei. In 1340, still reeling from the slaughter of her parents, Giulietta was smuggled into Siena, where she met a young man named Romeo. Their ill-fated love turned medieval Siena upside-down and went on to inspire generations of poets and artists.

Julie discovers that in this ancient city the past and present are hard to tell apart. As she crosses paths with the descendants of the families involved in the unforgettable blood fued, she begins to fear that she is destined to be its next target. Only someone like Romeo could save her from this dreaded fate, but his story ended long ago. Or did it?”

I really enjoyed this book. It skipped from past to present throughout, but it was not hard to follow the storyline in both places. The author did a great job of making you want to return to each of them. This was a fun take on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, and I loved how each chapter began with a quote from his play. The mystery part of the story really kept you guessing. It was a quick and exciting read. Perfect for a snowy weekend curled up by a warm fire. (See, I’m still in a dreamy state from the book…I’m a hockey Mom there’s no such thing as a snowy weekend curled up by a fire…lol)  One thing for sure, however, is that I am looking forward to Fortier’s next book.

Here are some of the quotes that I really enjoyed…

“Was I insane? Maybe. But then, there are many different kinds of insanity. Aunt Rose had always taken for granted that the whole world was in a state of constantly fluctuating madness, and that a neurosis was not an illness, but a fact of life, like pimples. Some have more, some have less, but only truly abnormal people have none at all.”

“As a bird swoops down on it’s prey, and assumes this land bound wretch into heaven, so did romeo steal her lips before they fled him again. Suspended somewhere between cherubs and devils, his quarry ceased to buck, and he spread his wings wide and let the rising wind carry them off across the sky, until even the predator himself had lost every hope of returning home. Within that one embrace, [he] became aware of a feeling of certainty he had not thought possible for anyone – even the virtuous. With her in his arms, all other women, past, present, and future, simply ceased to exist.”

To Kill a Mockingbird

It’s hard to believe that I have never read this book…before now.   Michael had to read it for his 10th grade English class, so I told him I would read it along with him.  Needless to say, I’ve been having some great discussions with him along the way.  To Kill a Mockingbird it is a “gem” of a book, and I will treasure it for always.  So many great characters and so many great quotes.  Atticus Finch has a permanent spot on my list of the best characters in literature of all time.

“A timeless story of a young girl growing up in a sleepy Southern town while learning the true meaning of human dignity and justice.  Scout Finch, daughter of the town lawyer Atticus, has just started school.  She’s known how to read and write, though, ever since she and her older brother Jem can remember.  Bored with school, Scout and Jem decide on a project: to make Boo Radley, the town’s notorious recluse, come out.  But Scout’s carefree days come to an end when a black man in town is accused of raping a white woman–and Atticus is the only man willing to defend him.”

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”—Atticus

“I’d rather you shot at tin cans in the back yard, but I know you’ll  go after birds.   Shoot all the Blue Jays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”—Atticus

“Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”—Maudie Atkinson

“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.”—Atticus


Top 10 of 2010!

So I was thinking…about the books I read or listened to this past year.  And I thought it was about time that I posted my Top Ten list for 2010.  I hope you all had a wonderful reading year, and that you find great joy in books this upcoming year!  Here’s the list…feel free to comment on any of the titles if you’ve  read them (or even if you haven’t)!

The Help by Kathryn Stockett.
Remarkable Creatures by Tracy Chevalier.
South of Broad by Pat Conroy.
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See.
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.
Confessions of Catherine de Medici by C.W. Gortner.
Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt.
Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
Dexter is Delicious by Jeff Lindsay.
The Handmaid and the Carpenter by Elizabeth Berg.

Also, I thought you’d enjoy this quick poem to close out this post…it pretty much sums up my life…minus the beard (I hope!)
Books to the ceiling, books to the sky.
My piles of books are a mile high.
How I love them!
How I need them!
I’ll have a long beard by the time I read them.

≈ Arnold Lobel