Friday, March 25, 2011

Clara and Mr. Tiffany

I have always loved historical fiction, particularly those that focus on the role of women in history.  In Susan Vreeland's Clara and Mr. Tiffany, we are introduced to Clara Driscoll, artist, head of the women's department at Tiffany's art studios, and creator and designer of Tiffany's most famous lamps.  Vreeland came across an exhibit at the New York Historical Society entitled A New Light on Tiffany: Clara Driscoll and the Tiffany Girls and discovered a rich correspondence record from Clara Driscoll detailing her role in the history of the Tiffany Company. 

I think this quote from the back cover best sums up the book, "Clara and Mr. Tiffany is a noble and necessary book for us to read, lest we allow ourselves to be ignorant of the struggle, courage, and vision of women who have come before us.  Readers will never look at a Tiffany lamp or window the same way again."  - Sena Jeter Naslund

I saw a truly beautiful Tiffany window at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and would love to visit the Morse Museum in Winter Park, Florida, that houses the largest collection of Tiffany works. 

Books every child advocate should read

There are two books I believe should be required reading for anyone interested in serving as a child advocate or current CASA volunteers - One Small Boat by Kathy Harrison and Three Little Words by Ashley Rhodes-Courter. 

Kathy Harrison and her husband served as foster parents for many years.  In her second book, One Small Boat, she tells the story of Daisy, one of their most challenging foster children who came to them in a voluntary placement.  The view of the lives of foster children along with the challenges faced by good foster parents makes this book worth reading.  This will be our summer book club selection for CASA book club. 

Ashley Rhodes-Courter spent most of her childhood in foster care, until she was adopted by CASA volunteer and author Gay Courter and her husband (Gay wrote another excellent book, I Speak for this Child about her experiences as a CASA).  Ashley's book, Three Little Words, describes her childhood experiences along with the ambivelience she felt about adoption (her three little words were, "I guess so," when asked by a judge if she wanted to be adopted).  The one person who made the biggest difference in Ashley's life was her CASA volunteer, who was with her for the duration of her case and helped find her an adoptive home with the Courters. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Just finished my first "5" book of the year! Moon over Manifest

The latest Newbery Award winner, Moon Over Manifest, alternates between events in the town of Manifest, Kansas in 1918 and 1936.  The book begins with 12-year-old Abilene Tucker hopping off a train in Manifest, Kansas (modeled on Frontenac, Kansas in southeast Kansas) having been sent by her single father to live with a preacher her father had lived with as a child.  Abilene is on a mission to find out more about her father's childhood in Manifest and in the process, discovers the history of the town. 

The author, Clare Vanderpool, lives in Wichita and based the book on stories she heard from her grandparents.

Some of my favorite books are young adult literature, and some are former Newbery Award winners.  Here's a list of my favorite young adult books:
1) Harry Potter (of course, this series would be number one on my list of favorite books of any genre, too!)
2) The Hunger Games trilogy, but particularly the first book
3) The Chronicles of Narnia
4) Meet the Austins by Madeleine L'Engle (author of A Wrinkle in Time)
5) Homecoming and Dicey's Song (Newbery Award winner in 1983) by Cynthia Voigt
6) Sarah, Plain and Tall (Newbery Award winner in 1986) by Patricia MacLachlan
7) The Westing Game (Newbery Award winner in 1979) by Ellen Raskin

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Left Neglected

Author Lisa Genova holds a PhD in neuroscience from Harvard.  In her second book. she tells the story of Sarah, a Harvard Business School graduate with a thriving career and a neglected family.  On her way to work on a rainy day, she takes her attention away from the road to make a call on her cell phone, resulting in a tragic one-car crash and a traumatic brain injury.  Sarah wakes up eight days later in the hospital with Left Neglect, a neurological condition where the body does not recognize the existance of the left side of objects (or their own bodies).  Sarah must come to grips with her condition and her priorities in life. 

I had enjoyed Genova's first book, Still Alice, about a Harvard psychology professor who develops early onset Alzheimer's disease, so looked forward to reading her latest.  Left Neglected is the best book I've read in a while!