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.

Like me on Facebook.

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Things I’ll Never Tell You

Thanks to Ascerblog for inspiring me to post the poem below. It appears in How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver. Please click below to hear me read it.

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Things I’ll Never Tell You

 

 

 

I’ll never  tell
you
you’re stupid

when you forget something or don’t understand.

I’ll never tell you you’re lazy

when you sit at the kitchen table in your
wheelchair

while I fix dinner, clean up.

I’ll never tell you you’re a baby

when I must do most things for you.

I’ll never tell you I don’t understand

why you can’t walk and do more for yourself

when I know the reason.

I’ll never tell you I hate you

or that I was a fool to marry you.

You can’t help being the way you are.

I’ll always love you–although the vow was
never spoken,

I’ll be with you for better or worse.

 

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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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Thursday Book Feature: A Christmas Embrace

I know it’s a little late, but maybe you can put this on your reading list for next year.

A Christmas Embrace

By Ellen T. Marsh

Copyright 1994

In California, Alex and Rose have been married for almost ten years. He is an accountant, and she is a veterinarian. Their careers have kept them busy over the years, and as a result, Rose feels they’re drifting apart. In an attempt to save their marriage, she books a surprise weekend for them both in Pennsylvania Dutch country. Meanwhile, Alex, by a stroke of luck, ends up with a pair of tickets to a football game in San Diego and a weekend’s stay at a posh hotel there. He plans to surprise Rose with this, but when she reveals her surprise first, although he’s angry, he reluctantly agrees to accompany her. After landing in Baltimore, Maryland, during a snowstorm, Alex and Rose get more than they bargained for.

When I read this book, I was depressed because my Internet was down, and a technician wasn’t scheduled to repair my service until the day after Christmas. I soon realized that there are worse things than being without Internet. Although I knew that all along, I needed to be reminded of the important things in life: food, clothing, and shelter. These I had. I’m also thankful that my own marriage with Bill, though short, was never strained, despite the fact that I had to care for him during the last six years of his life. This feel-good book helped me escape from my woes and retrieve my attitude of gratitude.

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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.

**

Thursday Book Feature: Follow Your Dog

Follow Your Dog: A Story of Love and Trust

by Ann Chiappetta

Copyright 2017.

The author, blind as a result of retinitis pigmentosa, shares her experiences with a succession of dogs that influenced her life, focusing on her first guide dog, Verona. She describes her turbulent childhood: her parents’ divorce, her father berating her when she broke or lost her glasses, and how she found a way to escape through nature and books.

She talks about the dogs she and her husband and children had as pets before Verona came along. She explains the process of applying for a dog through Guiding Eyes for the Blind in Yorktown Heights, New York, about a forty-minute drive from her home in New Rochelle: why she was rejected the first time, how she applied to other schools and was eventually accepted by Guiding Eyes for the Blind and started training in January of 2008.

She then describes the arduous twenty-six day process of learning to work with Verona: her apprehension and excitement on the day she first met her, the full days of walking routes in bitter winter weather, the exhilaration upon graduation. She explains the adjustments her family had to make since Verona wasn’t a pet.

She then describes reactions of others to her dog and how Verona impacted her life until 2015 when she was compelled to retire her. She explains how she returned to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and obtained Bailey, her second dog, describing how Verona adjusted to Bailey doing the work she once did. She then talks about how Verona became a certified therapy dog. Inserted at strategic points throughout the book are essays, poems, and blog posts, and at the end, a list of resources for those interested in applying for a guide dog.

I met Ann over a year ago through Behind Our Eyes, a group of writers with disabilities. I’ve always enjoyed reading her material.

I like dogs but am not interested in getting a guide dog. For one thing, I do really well with a cane, so I don’t think it’s necessary for me to have one. For another, they’re a lot of work, as illustrated in the book, whereas with a cane, when you arrive at your destination, you just fold it up, put it somewhere out of the way, and forget about it until you need it again. It’s a matter of personal choice.

Since November is National Adopt a Senior Pet Month, after reading this book, you might want to think about adopting a retired guide dog. Verona was lucky that Ann and her family were willing and able to keep her after she was retired, but other former guide dogs aren’t as fortunate. In any case, this book would make a great gift for a dog lover or someone with a visual impairment interested in getting a guide dog. It would also be a good educational tool for anyone training in a disability-related field.

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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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Tuesday Book Feature: Love Letters in the Grand

Note: Since Thanksgiving falls on the day I normally review books here, I’m changing things around a bit. I’ll have a special treat for you on Thanksgiving Day, so stay tuned.

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Love Letters in the Grand: The Adventures and Misadventures of a Big City Piano Tuner

By John Justice

Copyright 2017

In this collection of stories, the author, totally blind, relates his experiences tuning pianos in New York City and Philadelphia during the 1960’s and 70’s. Some tales are humorous like “It Won’t Play If You Don’t Pay,” in which he describes his underhanded way of dealing with a customer who refused to pay for his services. Others showcase how unfairly he was treated by some customers, e.g. “Unintended Disaster,” in which he was blamed for breaking a music lamp on a piano top after being told it was clear.

Some stories don’t have much to do with piano tuning like “Star’s Rippingly Good Solution,” in which he explains how his guide dog handled a mugger on a New York City subway. In the title story, he relates how he found a packet of love letters inside a grand piano. At the end, he explains how he met his second wife at a rehabilitation facility for the blind in Little Rock, Arkansas, and eventually married her and found other employment while still tuning pianos on the side.

Since I play the piano, I was fascinated by his explanation of the inner workings of the instrument, as he related his various experiences. I liked his descriptions of Madison Square Garden and the Lincoln Center where he was sent to tune pianos. As a registered music therapist, my favorite piece was “Song for Adrienne,” in which his playing of a familiar Christmas carol touched the heart of a young woman in a psychiatric hospital. I loved his quote at the end. “Life is like a piano. It has highs and lows, but when all is said and done, it is an instrument on which we all must play our tunes.”

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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.

Thursday Book Feature: Any Day Now by Robyn Carr

Any Day Now

By Robyn Carr

Copyright 2017.

This is the sequel to What We Find, which I reviewed here recently. Sierra, a recovering alcoholic looking for a new start, moves to Sullivan’s Crossing, a campground in the Colorado mountains, to be near her brother Cal, a lawyer who is in the process of making an old barn into a home for his new family. She finds a job and Alcoholics Anonymous sponsor, makes friends, and becomes romantically involved with Connie, a fireman with his own emotional baggage. Then, her troubled past comes back to haunt her. Other characters have their own romantic experiences. The book has a satisfactory ending.

Since my late husband Bill grew up in Colorado, I enjoyed reading a book set in an area with which I’m somewhat familiar. It was a great way to escape to the Colorado mountains without leaving my recliner. I also liked the fact that it’s not necessary to have read What We Find first, since plots from the previous book are briefly summarized throughout this book.

I can also appreciate the message Robyn Carr delivers in this book about rape. I’ve never been a victim of such a crime, but I know someone who has. I recommend this book especially to anyone in this situation in the hope they might gain insight from Sierra’s fictional story of survival.

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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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LIBRARY Days

Thanks to blogger Alice Massa for inspiring this. In her post, she shares fond memories of visiting a public library as a child. Reading it brought back reminiscences of my own.

In the fall of 1973 after we moved here to Sheridan, Wyoming, from Tucson, Arizona, my younger brother Andy took an interest in library science. He’d started kindergarten, and I was in the sixth grade. Since Mother had taken us to a public library in Tucson on a regular basis, it was only natural that we would continue to do this once we were settled here.

The Sheridan library was an old building with a children’s section in the basement. Once a week or so, we would descend a creaking stairway to a world of wonder. The aroma in the large room reminded me of the library at the school for the blind in Arizona, where I’d enjoyed browsing shelves of Braille books. I couldn’t do that here, but there were records and cassettes containing stories and sometimes just plain music. Mother encouraged me to check out such books as Understood Betsy and Ann of Green Gables, which she read to me. Eventually, a librarian came to our home once a week and brought books on records that were issued by a library in Utah that specialized in recorded books for those with visual and other impairments that made reading difficult or impossible.

The check-out process at the Sheridan library was what fascinated Andy. He watched, wide-eyed, as the librarian stamped each of our selections with that day’s date. One day after we got home, we discovered that Andy had walked away with the librarian’s stamp.

Nonchalant, Mother told Andy he could keep the stamp for now, but the next day after school, he would have to return it and apologize for taking it. The librarian must have had extra stamps on hand for when we showed up the next day, and Andy handed her the stamp and told her he was sorry for stealing it, she only smiled and said it wasn’t a problem. At Christmas that year, Santa Claus gave Andy his own stamp and ink pad. For the next few months, he enjoyed playing “library” until he took an interest in something else.

A couple of years ago, Andy, now living in Florida, sent me, for my birthday, a t-shirt emblazoned with library stampings. He’d forgotten about his petty theft until I brought it up after receiving the shirt. It was apparently a coincidence that he, knowing I appreciated books as a writer, thought I would like the shirt, and he was right.

Today, the Sheridan library is located in a modern building with books and other items for both children and adults on the ground floor and an art gallery and meeting rooms on the second floor. With an elevator, it’s no longer necessary to ascend or descend any stairs. Instead of a card catalog, there are computers, and records and cassettes have been replaced by CD’s and devices called playaways, which contain one recorded book each. However, I download books from other sources, so I only visit the library to attend monthly Range Writers meetings and other programs. As for Andy, with a P.H.D. in physics, a family, and a full-time teaching job at a private high school in Jupiter, I imagine he has little time to visit a library, but we can still remember.

What do you remember about visiting your public library as a child? What kinds of books did you like to check out? Did you ever bring food or drink into the library, as Alice and her cousin did?

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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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