Monday, September 24, 2012

The Absolutist

It didn't take me long to read The Absolutist, by John Boyne. The author is very skilled at building tension and suspense, so I flipped pages fairly fast. Just when I thought I had things fairly figured out, he threw a bit of a curve ball. I've not read a book about WWI yet that hasn't brought me to tears. But this is one of the saddest. It's heartbreaking, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't read it. There is much to think about and discuss, so it would make a great book club choice. The characters are complex enough that I'm not entirely sure which one I sympathized with the most, but I like that in a book. These folks are flawed, just like the rest of us. As for the book, I think it's almost flawless.

Friday, September 14, 2012


In 1951 Samuel Baldwin, an important government employee, was found dead in the family’s rental property in Wichita Hills by his twelve-year-old daughter Lucy.
For several years afterwards, Lucy and her mother lived in Santa Fe where they escaped after the scandal.   These events would follow them the rest of their lives.   One day Lucy, who was now a well-known children's book author, left New York with her two children and moved into their family home; thus their lives would never be the same.
 In this small town, neighbors walked into your home for your door was never closed or locked.  They wanted to know your innermost thoughts and if you didn’t share you were labeled “different” and “uncool.”  For the neighbors wanted to know everything  about each other, and Lucy’s secret life would separate her from her neighbors and into someone who they whispered about.  Lucy’s daughter, Maggie, wondered about the secrets her mother never shared with her. Maggie and others wanted to know who the father of Lucy’s two children Maggie and Felix was; why did Lucy tell so many lies; what really happened to Lucy’s father; and why was her mother not like the others?  These unanswered questions would cause a riff between Maggie and her mother and lead Maggie to make some very bad, unsafe choices.
This book is reminder of what can happen when secrets and lies are part of who you are and when protective boundaries do not exist.

By Susan Richard Shreves

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

My name is Ivan. I'm a gorilla. It's not as easy as it looks...

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate tells the story of Ivan, a silverback gorilla who has lived 27 years in the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade.  Ivan does not think of the jungle home he left as a baby gorilla.  He does think of art and how he could capture the way a banana looks.  His friend, Julia, the janitor's daughter brings Ivan paper and crayons.  Ivan's pictures are so good that Mack, the owner of the Big Top Mall, frames them and sells them in the gift shop for $25.00.
Ivan's world consists of his cell with its thick glass walls; his friends the elderly elephant, Stella, and the stray dog, Bob. One day their world changes drastically when a new baby elephant is brought to live at the Big Top Mall.  Ruby is small and afraid.  Stella protects her and comforts her but realizes that Ruby should be living in a real zoo with other elephants and trees and grassy open spaces. Stella makes Ivan promise to help Ruby get to a real zoo, someday.  It is the last thing that Stella asks of Ivan before she dies.  Ivan does not know how he will ever keep his promise.  
One day, after thinking about this problem for a very long time, Ivan looks out his window at the billboard outside the mall.  He is inspired to create a message in art that will lead, not only to Ruby's freedom but his own as well.
Katherine Applegate was inspired to write this touching story when she read a true story about a captive gorilla known as Ivan, the Shopping Mall Gorilla.   The real Ivan lived alone in a tiny cage at a shopping mall before being moved to the Zoo Atlanta after a public outcry.  He became a celebrity at the zoo which houses the largest collection of western lowland gorillas in the United States.  Ivan was well known for his paintings which he signed with his  "thumbprint" signature.  The real Ivan lived to be 50 years old and just recently died peacefully in the Zoo Atlanta.
The One and Only Ivan is a wonderful story that has Ivan save Ruby with his art and is saved himself by the brave efforts of Julia to put his art up where the world would see it and respond.  This is a warm, wonderful story that young and old will want to read again and again.