Thursday Book Feature: Wonder

Wonder

by R. J. Palacio

Copyright 2012.

For the first four years of his education, August, who suffers from a rare genetic disorder resulting in severe facial deformity, was home-schooled. As this book opens, he is told that he will be starting fifth grade at a prep school near their home in River Heights, a suburb of Manhattan, New York. Naturally, he is reluctant to go, and as you can imagine, he has a hard time fitting in with other kids. This story is told from several points of view including August’s sister and his best friend, a couple of his sister’s friends, and of course August himself. At the end, there’s a list of sayings August’s teacher writes on the blackboard each month during the school year.

One thing I liked about the Brilliance Audio production of this book was how each of the three narrators portrayed each character from who’s point of view they were reading the story, as well as other minor characters. As I listened, I was taken back to my own school days, especially my experiences with starting junior high in a new school. In the good old days, junior high was similar to middle school now in that students move from one classroom to another every hour and have lockers. The book also helped me put those experiences in perspective. Because of my visual impairment, like August, I wasn’t popular at first, but at least kids weren’t screaming and running away from me or calling me a freak.

Once I got into this book, it was hard to put down. I laughed and got mad and was almost moved to tears by the ending. By telling the story from the first person point of view of each of the major characters, the author writes in a style that identifies with both kids and adults. For this reason, this book should be required reading for students from fifth grade up. Even adults can learn, from this book, lessons about open-mindedness and acceptance of others not like us.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Thursday Book Feature: News of the World

News of the World

By Paulette Jiles

Copyright 2016.

In Texas in 1870 after the Civil War, Captain Kidd travels around the state, presenting world news to paying audiences in rural communities with little or no access to newspapers. In Wichita Falls, he meets Johanna, a ten-year-old girl who was captured by Indians when she was six, then rescued by the Army. He reluctantly agrees to take her 500 miles across the state to her relatives near San Antonio. Along the way, he tries to domesticate her, and as they encounter outlaws and other interesting characters on their journey, they develop a bond, not unlike grandfather and grandchild. After delivering her to her uncle and aunt in a small farming community near San Antonio, he feels compelled to make a decision that affects her life and his.

One thing I didn’t like about this book is Captain Kidd’s back story, inserted smack dab in the middle of the action. By that time, I was more interested in his journey across Texas with Johanna and couldn’t care less about his battle experiences in the 1812 War and the conflict between Texas and Mexico and his marriage and family and printing business. Although this is, in a way, relevant to the story, a few paragraphs would have sufficed. An entire chapter devoted to this was not necessary.

Otherwise, I enjoyed reading about Captain Kid’s and Johanna’s adventures and loved the ending. Sadly, according to an author’s note, many children captured by Indians and later rescued and returned to their families during this time don’t adapt to their original white lifestyles, and no one seems to understand why.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Saturday Song: Claire by Gilbert O. Sullivan

When Bruce Atchison posted Gilbert O. Sullivan’s “Alone Again,” I was reminded of this song. When it starts out, you think that like many others, this singer is extolling the virtues of a woman he loves, but then it turns out to be a child. Of course if you can see the video, that’s obvious from the start. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

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Sins of the Parents

Late last Thursday afternoon, I was in my office, working on my new novel, when I heard a vehicle with a diesel engine pull into my driveway. I live next door to a day care center, and some parents park at the bottom of my driveway momentarily while picking up or dropping off their kids. I paid no attention to this diesel engine’s rumbling until a few minutes later when I heard a crash.

I stepped outside my kitchen door and noticed that a big, black truck had bashed in my garage door. There appeared to be no action around the truck, but because of my limited vision, I couldn’t tell for sure. Not knowing what else to do, I called 911.

As it turned out, a little girl of about four or five was in the back seat of the truck with her seat belt on when the truck crashed into my garage door. Her parents were apparently inside the day care center, having left her alone in the truck. The good news is that the driver’s insurance will no doubt cover the cost of repairing my garage door.

This reminded me of an incident that happened years ago when I was about the same age as this child. We were living in Tucson, Arizona, at the time. My mother and I stopped one evening at a small market on our way home from somewhere.

When we pulled into the store’s parking lot which sloped up to the entrance, my mother turned off the ignition and asked me if I wanted to go in with her or stay in the car. I opted to stay in the car, but after a few minutes, I was bored, so I went inside and found my mother.

When we came out, we discovered that the car had rolled to the edge of the parking lot near the busy street. Naturally, my mother thought I’d been in the car when it rolled, but I assured her I hadn’t. I had only wandered into the store because I was bored.

I’m thankful now that I did. If I’d stayed in the car, and it rolled, it would definitely have been a frightening experience. I’m sure this child was just as scared, especially with a crazy lady, me, running around the truck yelling, opening the driver’s side door to find no one there, closing it, then disappearing.

After I posted about the incident on Facebook, a friend commented that Social Services needed to know about this. I reasoned, though, that if the policeman who responded to my 911 call thought it was necessary to notify Social Services, he would have done so. Besides, if Social Services were called, and the child was removed to a foster home, that would have been more traumatic than being in a rolling vehicle that collided with a garage door. Also, since my mother left me alone in a car when I was a child, I don’t want to be the one to cast the first stone.

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Thursday Book Feature: Recipes for a Beautiful Life

Recipes for a Beautiful Life: A Memoir in Stories

By Rebecca Barry

Copyright 2015.

 

This isn’t a cookbook, although there are recipes throughout. Instead, this #1 New York Times bestselling author explores what it’s like to balance writing with marriage and family in a failing economy. Through an introduction, epilog, and journal entries spanning from 2008 to 2012, she talks about how she and her husband and two small boys started a new life in a small town in upstate New York.

She describes the difficulties of writing while trying to care for a big house and two small children, especially when her husband’s work took him to New York. She discusses how she and her husband struggled to make ends meet after he was laid off from one of his jobs, how they tried and eventually succeeded at producing a magazine, and how, after working on a book for a couple of years, she realized it wasn’t publishable and the sense of failure she had as a result.

She describes her close-knit family, the reason she and her husband settled where they did. She talks about her sister, who wanted a baby and finally adopted one, and her mother’s diagnosis with kidney failure. In the end, she explains how a new book idea and the success of their magazine gave her a new lease on life.

This book frustrated me at times. Like many of today’s parents, Rebecca Barry and her husband Tommy weren’t as authoritative as our parents were when my younger brother and I were growing up. As a result, their little boys walked all over them.

If I had yelled at three in the morning, “Mommy, get up now!” I would have gotten a spanking, which I would have deserved. When my younger brother acted out in a restaurant, Dad took him outside, put him on the hood of the car, gave him a talking to and perhaps a spanking, which he also deserved. Talking back was not an option. Children must learn to respect others, to take responsibility for their actions, and to do things they don’t want to do like putting on their pants and going to school. That’s how I was raised, and I’m proud of it.

That said, this book helped me put my own life in perspective. I’m so thankful I wasn’t trying to write a book with a traditional publisher’s deadline looming while caring for two small children, especially in a society where spanking is taboo. All I had to contend with while getting my novel, We Shall Overcome, ready for publication was my late husband Bill’s partial paralysis as a result of two strokes. Oh, there were interruptions galore, since he could do little for himself, but at least he didn’t throw things or pee in the bathtub.

Then again, the comforting thing about being a parents is that your children will eventually grow up and be able to fend for themselves. However, when you’re caring for a loved one who will probably never walk again, things don’t usually get better. You can learn more about our struggles by reading My Ideal Partner.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

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Thursday Book Feature: Against All Odds

Against All Odds

by Danielle Steel

Copyright 2017

 

From this best-selling author comes a novel about the worries associated with parenting adult children who take foolish risks. Kate, a widow, runs a successful high-end clothing resale shop in New York City. In the course of two years, her four grown children, each in turn, risk their happiness.

Isabel, a lawyer, falls for a former client with no job, no ambition, and a drug habit. Justin, a homosexual writer, along with his partner, have three babies with the help of a surrogate mother and donor eggs.

His twin sister Julie, a clothing designer, finds a man who appears to be perfect in every way but turns out to be abusive after she marries him. Willie, the youngest, an information technology specialist, falls in love with an older woman who is divorced with two children.

To add irony to the story, Kate, the parent who worries about her children’s immorality, becomes involved with a married Frenchman with whom she’s doing business. What happens as a result of all this? Read the book and find out.

Despite Danielle Steel’s annoying habit of doing too much telling and not enough showing, I enjoyed reading this, as I did many of her other books. Once I picked it up, it was hard to put down. The Recorded Books narrator did an excellent job portraying all the characters. This book makes a great point. As a parent, you sometimes have to let your children make mistakes, then be there to help pick up the pieces.

 

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Saturday Song: I Feel the Earth Move by Carole King

In the summer of 1971 when I was ten years old, my father and I traveled from our home in Tucson, Arizona, to Sheridan, Wyoming. Grandpa Johnson passed away the winter before, and Grandma needed Dad to help her with the family business, at least for the summer. Johnson Novelty sold coin-operated machines such as jukeboxes, pool tables, vending machines, and video games to businesses in Sheridan and the surrounding area. We ended up moving to Sheridan a couple of years later.
That summer though, memorable events included a rodeo parade and a picnic in the mountains where an adult family friend and I discovered a cave. There were also numerous trips to bars and other establishments where Dad repaired and serviced machines. Of course I was too young to go into the bars.
I also spent many happy hours in the shop with a couple of girls down the street who were my age. We listened to music on a jukebox and played games. Pinball and bowling were two games where I had marginal success despite my limited vision.
The song below was one of many we played on the jukebox. Although I couldn’t understand what it was saying, I loved the beat. This version has a cool drum rift at the end that my younger brother Andy would have loved playing along with on his drum set when he was a kid. Enjoy, and have a great Saturday.

Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.