2012 Morris Seminar – “How Book Discussion Works”

The second session of the 2012 William Morris Seminar was a talk given by Nina Lindsay, a moderator of the Heavy Medal blog, and a past committee chair. She was talking about the actual book discussion process.

She assured us that you will need to take notes, maybe as simple as the one she uses the first time through a book: A dog ear on the top if there was something good on that page; a dog ear on the bottom if something negative. Then she looks back later to see if she can still find it.

Some book discussion groups you’ll be in are more about getting to know one another, but in award committees, it’s about the book.

It’s expected that you’ll wander off-track, but the committee chair will bring you back to the book. (We then paused to tell each other some personal story about one of the books – like how we met the author’s brother’s cousin, or how something said in the book reminded you of your ex-husband. This kept these things out of the book discussion time.)

*Look at each book for what it is, not for what it isn’t.

We always go over positive comments first. Small things that are good about it are still important to bring up.

When you bring up difficulties, use questions. Would she really feel that way in that situation?

Book discussion is not the time for a summary.

No personal anecdotes!

Compare with other books on the discussion list, but only those books.

There’s no single correct response.

Talk with each other, don’t just give a speech.

When you’re on an award committee, it helps the Midwinter discussion to go well if you’ve practiced book discussion all year long.

Also practice writing about books.

Overused words that don’t tell anything: love, cute, nice, good, sweet, lovely, perfect, unique, incredible, beautiful, wonderful, delightful, powerful, thoughtful, charming, appealing, fascinating, compelling.

(Then we practiced discussing a book without using any of those words. It was not easy!)

Commonly misused words: Simplistic, random, impressionistic, expressionistic.

No book is random. It may seem haphazard.

Impressionistic and expressionistic refer to a specific type of art.

When discussing a book, use the criteria for the award at hand. This doesn’t devalue other ways of looking at the book, but it is different.

The voting process only works if the discussion has worked.

Listen to others as even-handedly as possible.

The hope is that you only have to vote once.

You need to trust other committee members.

Enter the discussion knowing what you think, but be ready to be persuaded.

A final quote from Connie Rockman: We’re all in this because it’s FUN!

Review of Sex, Mom, & God, by Frank Schaeffer

Sex, Mom, & God

How the Bible’s Strange Take on Sex Led to Crazy Politics — and How I Learned to Love Women (and Jesus) Anyway

by Frank Schaeffer

Da Capo Press, 2011. 298 pages.
Starred Review
2011 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Biography

Sex, Mom & God continues along the lines of Frank Schaeffer’s earlier book, Crazy for God. Frank’s parents, Edith and Francis Schaeffer, were my own parents’ heroes, and in these books, Frank Schaeffer reveals that his upbringing was even more extreme than my own. Much more, in fact.

Frank Schaeffer has ended up with a theology much more liberal than my own, but I still appreciate his words in this book. Be careful when you revere Scripture so much, you don’t stop to think if the God you worship would really be behind what you think Scripture is saying.

I do have a very high respect for the Bible. But I still think we would all do well to listen to Frank Schaeffer’s words about any holy Scripture:

‘There is another choice: To admit that the best of any religious tradition depends on the choices its adherents make on how to live despite what their holy books “say,” not because of them. “But where would that leave me?” my former self would have asked. “I’d be adrift in an ocean of uncertainty.” Yes, and perhaps that’s the only honest place to be. Another name for uncertainty is humility. No one ever blew up a mosque, church, or abortion clinic after yelling, “I could be wrong.”’

The book is also entertaining, though I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it. He tells what his mother told him about sex, her take on what the Bible says about sex, and what he learned for himself. The stories about what his Evangelical culture said about sex still give me a fascinated horror. But what can I say? I really like the perspective he has ended up with in writing this book, somehow laughing at the crazy ideas we humans come up with, yet as his subtitle says, managing to love women and Jesus anyway.

I also love it that he shows so much love and respect toward his Mom, who now has Alzheimer’s. He makes it clear that, no matter what her theology, her heart was kind and loving.

A very interesting book, especially for those who grew up Evangelical. I suspect it would also be interesting for those who think that Christians are narrow-minded. Frank Schaeffer definitely does not take a narrow-minded approach himself.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/sex_mom_and_god.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Sonderling Sunday – Chapter One, Part Two

It’s Sonderling Sunday again! Roughly translated, that means “Nerd Sonntag.” So do something nerdy to celebrate!

My own choice is using The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy, along with Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, the German translation of the same, to make a sort of phrase book with translations of bizarre phrases and sentences into German.

We left off last week on page 6 of The Order of Odd-Fish and Seite 13 of Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge.

The first paragraph of the next section is:
“The inside of Lily Larouche’s palace was all red and gold. Crimson velvet curtains with gold embroidery hung in the windows, ancient and frayed; far above, hundreds of scarlet candles burned in gold chandeliers, dripping wax onto the shaggy carpet.”

Auf Deutsch:
“Das Innere von Lily Larouches Palast war vollständig in Rot und Gold gehalten. Vor den Fenstern hingen rote Samtvorhänge mit goldenen Stickereien. Sie waren uralt und verschlissen. Hoch oben unter der Decke brannten Hunderte roter Kerzen in goldenen Lüstern, von denen das Wachs auf die schäbigen Teppiche herabtropfte.”

Some fun ones there. “Frayed” = “verschlissen” “Embroidery” = “Stickereien” “dripping on” = “herabtropfte” I find it rather amusing that “Lüstern” seems much less descriptive than “chandeliers.”

Oh! The next paragraph has some fun ones! Remember, a costume party is going on. See if you can spot the German word for “squid.” (It’s as good as “Raccoon” = “Waschbär.”)

German first:
“Mittlerweile hatte sich die Party nach drinnen verlagert und man hatten begonnen zu tanzen. Ein Tintenfisch glitt über den Tanzboden und umschlang mit seinen Tentakeln eine zierliche Geisha. An einem Tisch spielten in Smokings gekleidete Tausendfü?ler Whist, während ein Rudel Hexen und Affen über Politik debattierte. Ein Pinguin, der auf einer dicken Zigarre herumkaute, marschierte durch den Saal, schüttelte Hände und schlug den Leuten auf den Rücken. In einer Ecke kicherte obszön ein Vampir.”

In English:
“The party had moved inside and the dancing had begun. A squid glided across the dance floor, its tentacles wrapped around a dainty geisha. A table of centipedes in tuxedos played whist as a pack of witches and monkeys argued politics. A cigar-chomping penguin worked his way around the room, shaking hands and slapping people on the back. A vampire giggled obscenely in the corner.”

That’s right. “squid” = “Tintenfisch” (“inkfish”)! And did you catch the translation of “centipede”? “Tausendfü?ler”! (Yes, that means “thousand-footer”!) Some others I like are “wrapped” = “umschlang,” and “dainty” = “zierliche.”

So, I’ve gotten through two paragraphs….

Here’s another good one, a page down:
“Jo climbed up onto the organ, a baroque machine with five keyboards, fifty pedals, and hundreds of little dials and switches. As she started to play, she saw Colonel Korsakov shouldering his way through the crowd, the daffodil bouncing on his head, asking everyone for Worcestershire sauce. “You can’t mix a proper Flaming Khrushchev without Worcestershire sauce!” he insisted to a skeptical bear. Jo waved at Korsakov and pointed him toward Aunt Lily; maybe she knew where the Worcestershire sauce was.”

This translates to:
“Sie stieg die kleine Treppe zur Orgel hinauf, einer barocken Apparatur mit fünf Tastaturen, fünfzig Pedalen und Hunderten von kleinen Schaltern und Schiebereglern. Als sie anfing zu spielen, sah sie, wie sich Oberst Korsakov durch die Menge drängte. Die Glockenblume wippte auf seinem Kopf, während er jeden, an dem er vorbeikam, nach Worcesterso?e fragte. ‘Ohne Worcesterso?e kann man keinen ordentliche Flammenden Chruschtschow mixen!’, versicherte er einem skeptischen Bären. Jo winkte dem Russen zu und deutete dann auf Tante Lily; vielleicht wusste sie ja, wo die Worcesterso?e war.”

Interesting. Jo doesn’t just climb up onto the organ in German, she climbs up the little steps to the organ. (I wonder how it got little steps?) Say the phrase for “dials and switches” three times fast: “Schaltern und Schiebereglern. Schaltern und Schiebereglern. Schaltern und Schiebereglern.” I confess, I can’t do it very fast at all. Must practice. It’s much longer than “dials and switches,” but a lot more fun to say.

And did you notice the Glockenblume is back? Yay for bell flowers! (I wonder. Was the town of Bellflower in the Los Angeles area founded by Germans?)

Also fun: “bouncing” = “wippte.”

I wonder. Does “waved” really translate to “winkte,” or in German did Jo wink at him instead of waving?

This brings us to the section I quoted heavily in my review, where we learn about Jo’s mysterious beginnings and Lily Larouche’s scandalous headlines.

“The story of Lily Larouche was well known.
She had been a famous actress long ago, with a reputation for strange behavior. The tabloids knew she was good for at least one sensational rumor per week:




The rumors usually proved true. Lily Larouche had hurled a live rat at another actress who had insulted her. For many years, her red hot-air balloon had been a nuisance over Los Angeles, regularly disrupting air traffic. And Lily Larouche still had on her desk, floating in a jar of formaldehyde, the lonely eyebrows of President Eisenhower.”

This becomes:
“Der Geschichte von Lily Larouche war allgemein bekannt.
Vor langer Zeit war sie eine berühmte Schauspielerin gewesen, stand jetzt jedoch in dem Ruf, sich vor allem merkwürdig zu benehmen. Die Boulevardpresse wusste, dass sie wenigstens für einen sensationellen Skandal pro Woche gut war.




Diese Gerüchte stellten sich normalerweise als zutreffend heraus. Lily Larouche hatte tatsächlich einer anderen Schauspielerin, die sie beleidigt hatte, eine lebendige Ratte an den Kopf geworfen. Und viele Jahre lang war ihr roter Hei?tluftballon ein Ärgernis gewesen, weil er regelmä?ig den Luftverkehr über Los Angeles störte. Und in ihrer Schreibtischschublade verwahrte Lily Larouche noch immer in einem mit Formaldehyd gefüllten Glas die Augenbrauen von Präsident Eisenhower auf.”

Now, some phrases from this so interesting passage:

“actress” = “Schauspielerin” (“show-player”)

“strange” = “merkwürdig” (“mark-worthy”)

“tabloids” = “Boulevardpresse”

“rodent” = “Nagetier”

“reckless” = “rücksichtslosen” (“without hindsight”) (Kind of makes you wonder if our English word came from the German.)

and of course: “hot-air balloon” = “Hei?tluftballon”

“heartsick” = “liebeskranker”

“desperate” = “verzweifeltem”

“eyebrows” = “Augenbrauen”

“nuisance” = “Ärgernis”

“disrupting air traffic over Los Angeles” = “regelmä?ig den Luftverkehr über Los Angeles störte” (störte means “destroy” and regel means “rules” and Luftverkehr is air traffic, so I think this is saying that she destroys the rule-following air traffic over Los Angeles.)

Hmm. They don’t actually call the eyebrows “lonely” in German.

Well, I’m tuckered out. I still haven’t finished the first chapter. But I am definitely having lots of fun, so what’s the rush?

Tune in for next week’s Sonderling Sunday, when I will attempt to finish Chapter One!

Review of Page by Paige, by Laura Lee Gulledge

Page by Paige

by Laura Lee Gulledge

Amulet Books, New York, 2011.
Starred Review
2011 Cybils Finalist
2011 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Other Teen Fiction

I’m not usually a big graphic novel fan, but I loved this one enough to list it as my #3 Sonderbooks Stand-out in Other Teen Fiction.

Page by Paige tells that old story of a high school girl in a new town — in this case, New York City — but Paige Turner (Her parents are both writers.) is an artist. This book is Paige’s sketchbook, and she draws about her experiences.

Paige’s art is what makes the book outstanding. She draws expressionistic abstract images that beautifully express how it feels to be an outsider in a new place, or feeling at odds with your parents, or afraid to show anyone your sketchbook.

I also really love the part where Paige falls for someone. Now this is first love how I remember it — feeling thrilled when your knees touch under the table, for example. It’s innocent and beautiful and joyous.

Paige and her friends also conduct some performance art as “Agents of Whimsy.” This reminded me of the story in The Plain Janes. In Page by Paige, there are no negative repercussions, though; it just adds to Paige’s experience of art.

Another thing I love about this book is that it fully uses the graphic novel form. I’m not a big graphic novel fan, but this book could not be written any other way, and the drawings add so much to the experience of the book. Laura Lee Gulledge so perfectly captures feelings with her expressionist drawings.

This is a happy book, and an uplifting one, but it’s definitely not fluff.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/page_by_paige.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of The Snow Queen, by Mercedes Lackey

The Snow Queen

by Mercedes Lackey

Luna, 2008. 331 pages.
Starred Review
2011 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Fantasy Fiction

Mercedes Lackey’s Tales of the Five Hundred Kingdoms are exactly the sort of books I thoroughly enjoy. I don’t think it’s necessary to have read the earlier books to enjoy the current one, but characters from previous books are mentioned, and if you’ve read them you already understand the key to that world: The Tradition.

The Tradition is a powerful magic woven through that world, molding people’s lives into fairy tale format. It falls to a league of Godmothers to bend the Tradition to good results and avert tragedy.

I never really liked the story of the Snow Queen. I love the way Mercedes Lackey twists it. In this version, the Snow Queen is the heroine. She’s a Godmother who saves selfish and spoiled boys from ruining their lives completely.

Here’s the Snow Queen, Aleksia, thinking about Kay, the latest boy to come to her Ice Palace:

“He could be redeemed — he would not be here, in the Palace of Ever-Winter, the home of the Ice Fairy, if he was not capable of redemption. The Tradition had made that part clear enough by building such an enormous store of magic about him that, if Aleksia had waited until Winter to fetch him, he would have found his initials written in frost on the windowpane, snowmen having taken on his features when he passed, and the cold having grown so bitter that wildlife would have been found frozen in place. Even so, things had gotten to the point that Ravens had taken to following him, which was a very ominous sign had he but known it. Presumably if Aleksia had done nothing, and no other wicked magician had discovered him and virtually eaten him alive for the sake of that power, he would have gone to the bad all by himself. He was too self-centered and arrogant to have escaped that particular fate — and most likely, given his turn of mind, he would have become a Clockwork Artificer, one of those repellant individuals who tried to reduce everything to a matter of gears and levers, and tried to imprison life itself inside metal simulacrums. While not usually dangerous to the public at large the way, say, the average necromancer was, Clockwork Artificers could cause a great deal of unhappiness — and in their zeal to recreate life itself, sometimes resorted to murder.

“Judging by the Ravens, Kay would have become one of that sort.

“The only cure for this affliction was a shock, a great shock to the system. One that forced the youngster to confront himself, one that isolated him from the rest of the world immediately, rather than gradually. He had to lose those he still cared for, at least marginally, all at once. He had to learn that people meant something to him, before they ceased to.”

And I love the lesson Aleksia has for the other character in the story:

“It took two to make this dance, and Kay’s little friend Gerda, the girl who loved him with all her heart, who was currently trudging toward the next episode in her own little drama, was the coconspirator in The Traditional Path that ended in a Clockwork Artificer. Her nature was as sweet as her face, her will as pliant as a grass-stem and her devotion to Kay unswerving, no matter how much he neglected her. She needed redemption almost as much as Kay did. Such women married their coldhearted beloveds, made every excuse for them, smoothed their paths to perdition, turned a blind eye to horrors and even, sometimes, participated in the horrors themselves on the assumption that the Beloved One knew best. Gerda required a spine, in short, and an outlook rather less myopic than the one she currently possessed. And this little quest she was on was about to give her one.”

But Kay and Gerda’s story is on the beginning of this book about Aleksia, the Snow Queen. Because someone else is impersonating her. Someone else is calling herself the Snow Queen and abducting promising young men. Aleksia needs to find out what is going on. She’s not used to having adventures of her own, living alone in the Ice Palace. But this time, setting things right means Aleksia has to get involved herself.

Mercedes Lackey spins a good tale! I love her cleverness in weaving in all the ways the Tradition works. I read lots and lots of fairy tales when I was a little girl, and Mercedes Lackey brings up themes and tropes I’d all but forgotten. I love the whole concept of godmothers bending the Tradition to go the way they want it to — having to know what sorts of things work. That amounts to a vast knowledge of fairy tales.

And as well as inventive use of fairy tale themes, since there are five hundred kingdoms, each book presents a different culture and heritage. This one deals with the Sammi, a people of the far North. We also get new characters in each book (with some mentions of previous characters), and I love looking at the aspect of what life would be like for a powerful Ice Fairy. It would indeed most likely get lonely. There’s always a touch of romance in these books, too.

This book was one that simply made me smile. It was precisely the type of light-hearted reading I was looking for at the time. I had actually purchased the book when it first came out, but then never got it read because it didn’t have a due date. Well, I recently made myself a rule to alternate between library books and books I own. Then I heard that Mercedes Lackey’s next book was coming out, so I thought I really should read this one I bought some time ago. I was so glad I did!

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/snow_queen.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Naked Spirituality, by Brian D. McLaren

Naked Spirituality

A Life with God in 12 Simple Words

by Brian D. McLaren

HarperOne, 2011. 280 pages.
Starred Review
2011 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Other Nonfiction

I would love to go through this book with a small group Bible study. The subtitle tells us what the book is about. Brian McLaren uses 12 simple words to focus on what’s most important in our life with God. Though coming from a Christian perspective, he tries to transcend religion and talk about what is important in a relationship with God.

He talks about four seasons in our spiritual lives, seasons that we cycle through more than once. For each season, he chooses three words that represent our relationship with God. I think you’ll get an idea of the content of his message if I present the four seasons and the words he looks at for each season, with the practices they represent:

Simplicity: The Springlike Season of Spiritual Awakening

Here: The practice of invocation and presentation, awakening to the presence of God
Thanks: The practice of gratitude and appreciation, awakening to the goodness of God
O: The practice of worship and awe, awakening to the beauty and joy of God

Complexity: The Summerlike Season of Spiritual Strengthening

Sorry: The practice of self-examination and confession, strengthening through failure
Help: The practice of expansion and petition, strengthening through weakness
Please: The practice of compassion and intercession, strengthening through empathy

Perplexity: The Autumnlike Season of Spiritual Surviving

When: The practice of aspiration, exasperation, and desperation, surviving through delay
No: The practice of rage and refusal, surviving through disillusionment
Why: The practice of lament and agony, surviving through abandonment

Harmony: The Winterlike Season of Spiritual Deepening

Behold: The practice of meditation and wonder, deepening by seeing
Yes: The practice of consecration and surrender, deepening by joining
[. . . ]: The practice of contemplation and rest, deepening by being with

Here are some words from the Preface:

“This is a book about getting naked — not physically, but spiritually. It’s about stripping away the symbols and status of public religion — the Sunday-dress version people often call ‘organized religion.’ And it’s about attending to the well-being of the soul clothed only in naked human skin. As a result, it must be a vulnerable book, tender in tone, gentle in touch. You won’t find much in the way of aggressive arguments here, but rather shy experience daring to step into the light. It’s an honest book, and I hope a practical one too, perhaps with some awkward spiritual parallels to what they used to call a ‘marital manual.’

“You won’t need to agree with all the planks of my theological platform. I am a Christian, and all I write flows from my experience in that rich tradition, but you may be of another tradition entirely or of no known tradition at all. Instead of seeking theological agreement, this book invites you to experiment with the naked experience of God that provides the raw material from which all worthwhile theology derives.”

Here’s what he says about developing the spiritual practices:

“In the coming chapters, I would like to introduce you to twelve spiritual practices that have passed the simple, doable, and durable test for me. They are part of our ancient traditions, and they can provide twenty-first people like you and me with a basic curriculum for our spiritual novitiate. You can think of them as twelve stretches for runners, twelve moves in martial arts, twelve basic positions in yoga, or twelve warm-up exercises a musician might employ. You can do them in groups, and I hope you will, but you can begin on your own, in private, today. Like learning your first few chords on a guitar, you’ll find it amazingly easy to begin to play with these practices. But like expanding on those basic chords in order to become a guitar virtuoso, you’ll also find these twelve practices endlessly engaging and challenging.”

This is a book I’m going to want to read again, and I’d love to go through with a small group. Because it’s about practices — about living out your life with God.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/naked_spirituality.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown

The Gifts of Imperfection

Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are

Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life

by Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW

Hazelden, 2010. 135 pages.
Starred Review
2011 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 Other Nonfiction

This is a lovely inspirational book, especially for people like me who are learning to outgrow perfectionism. It’s a book about owning our own stories and loving ourselves, even though we are imperfect. I savored it slowly, and lots of quotes from the book ended up on Sonderquotes, because they really spoke to me and the life I want to live.

The author was doing studies on negative emotions like shame, fear and vulnerability. As she was studying shame resilience, she noticed patterns in people who live wholehearted lives.

“I heard stories about the power of embracing imperfection and vulnerability. I learned about the inextricable connection between joy and gratitude, and how things that I take for granted, like rest and play, are as vital to our health as nutrition and exercise. These research participants trusted themselves, and they talked about authenticity and love and belonging in a way that was completely new to me.”

This book covers what she found, in nice, practical tips. It’s a personal book, because she tried to put the principles she learned into her own life and family. After she did, she says:

“I was healthier, more joyful, and more grateful than I had ever felt. I felt calmer and grounded, and significantly less anxious. I had rekindled my creative life, reconnected with my family and friends in a new way, and most important, felt truly comfortable in my own skin for the first time in my life.”

She explains Wholehearted living in the first paragraph of the main text:

“Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.

There is lots and lots of good stuff in this book. Here’s a section I particularly liked:

“Love and belonging are essential to the human experience. As I conducted my interviews, I realized that only one thing separated the men and women who felt a deep sense of love and belonging from the people who seem to be struggling for it. That one thing is the belief in their worthiness. It’s as simple and complicated as this: If we want to fully experience love and belonging, we must believe that we are worthy of love and belonging.

“When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness — the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness — that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging — lives inside of our story.”

At the start of the book, the author talks about the concepts of love and belonging, and what she learned when she researched shame, which we all have. Then she goes on to chapters that cover Guideposts of Wholehearted Living, complete with ideas for cultivating them and building them into our lives. These Guideposts are:

1. Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think
2. Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism
3. Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness
4. Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark
5. Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty
6. Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison
7. Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth
8. Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle
9. Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”
10. Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

If this sounds as lovely to you as it did to me, I promise that you will find inspiring and helpful words in this book.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/gifts_of_imperfection.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Sonderling Sunday – Chapter One

Okay, last Fall, when James Kennedy sent me a copy of Der Orden der Seltsamer Sonderlinge, I was super excited and promised to blog about reading it. Then last night, when I was thinking about how I’d finally get my review of The Order of Odd-Fish posted today, I wondered when I would start blogging about the German version.

I’ve been following Liz Burns’ reading of Frankenstein, reading along and enjoying her blog posts for “Frankenstein Friday.” That’s when it hit me: I’ve got the perfect title with “Sonderling Sunday.” So that means I simply have to start tonight!

You know, I’d love to have others join me. Since one translation of “Sonderling” is Nerd, maybe some members of the Nerdy Book Club would like to celebrate Sonderling Sundays in their own special way? Maybe it’s something Nerdfighters should celebrate? Then again, it’s going to be about the fun of words and translating a story between languages, so maybe my sister, a self-proclaimed Word Lover, would like to take part? Anyone who thinks of a way to celebrate Sonderling Sundays with me, please let me know in the comments! Meanwhile, let me begin with Chapter One.

The Order of Odd-Fish, Chapter One: 12 pages
Der Orden der Seltsamer Sonderlinge, 1. Kapitel: 14 pages.

With this first chapter, I don’t have to worry about spoilers. With all the chapters, I think it would be nice to give the first sentence in each language (where that won’t cause a spoiler, anyway).

“The desert was empty, as though a great drain had sucked the world underground.”
“Die Wuste war leer, als hätte ein gro?er Abfluss die Welt weggesaugt.”

Weggesaugt. That’s a good word. (Vay-ga-sowgt) You can almost hear the giant sucking sound.

The paragraph about the costume party has some good words:
“A man dressed as an astronaut chatted with a devil.”
“Ein Mann, der wie ein Astronaut gekleidet war, plauderte mit einem Teufel.”

“A gang of cavemen sipped fizzing cocktails.”
“Eine Rotte Höhlenmenschen nippte an sprudelnden Cocktails.”

“A Chinese emperor flirted with a robot, a pirate arm-wrestled a dinosaur, a giant worm danced with a refrigerator — it was Lily Larouche’s Christmas party, and all her old friends had come.”
“Ein chinesischer Kaiser flirtete mit einem Arbeiter, ein Pirat spielte mit einem Dinosaurier Armdrücken und ein gigantischer Wurm tanzte mit einem Kühlschrank. Es war Lily Larouches Weihnachtsmaskenball und all ihre alten Freunde waren gekommen.”

I don’t know about you, but doesn’t a “Weihnachtsmaskenball” sound more fun than a simple Christmas party? And it includes that it’s a masked ball. I don’t think it was a stretch for the translators to include that detail, given the characters we’ve already seen.

Interesting. When they translate the sentences where we meet Jo Larouche, they don’t include the final phrase:
“It was a thirteen-year-old girl, small and thin, with brown skin and black bobbed hair. Her name was Jo Larouche. She was Lily Larouche’s niece. She also lived at the ruby palace, and she was spying.”
“Es war ein dreizehnjähriges Mädchen, ein kleines, dünnes Ding mit brauner Haut und schwarzen, zu einem Bob gestutzten Haaren. Sein Name war Jo Larouche. Es war Lily Larouches Nichte, die ebenfalls im Rubinpalast wohnte.”

You see? Nothing at all about her spying. You think they decided the earlier information that she was hiding in a bush was enough?

They do translate a sentence in the next paragraph:
“Jo never talked to Aunt Lily’s friends, but she loved spying on them.”
“Sie sprach zwar nie mit Tante Lilys Freunden, liebte es jedoch, ihnen nachzuspionieren.”

There’s another word I can’t help but love: “nachzuspionieren.” something like “to spy upon” but so much cooler sounding!

Here’s another sentence for which I just have to check the translation:
“A couple of feet away, a woman disguised as an enormous eggplant was talking to a man dressed like a UFO.”
This becomes:
“Ein Stück neben ihr redete eine als gewaltige Aubergine verkleidete Frau mit einem Mann, der wie ein UFO ausschaute.”

There you have it. Who wouldn’t want to know the German words for “an enormous eggplant”? “Eine gewaltige Aubergine.” That’s got to be useful knowledge.

Oh, and an even more useful phrase comes up in the very next paragraph:
“‘Did you see?’ whispered the eggplant. ‘Lily’s gone nuts again.'”
“‘Hast du das gesehen?’, flüsterte die Aubergine. ‘Lily is wieder mal völlig durchgeknallt.'”

Okay, I think that “gone nuts” is easier to say than “völlig durchgeknallt.” But maybe that’s just me.

The man’s response is definitely not as good as the English one “Cracked as a crawdad.” In German, he says, “Sie ist verrückt wie ein Flusskrebs.” No, sorry, not as good. It’s charming in English because it’s alliterative. Take that away, and I don’t think it really works.

Here’s a good paragraph, where the fat Russian Jo noticed earlier turns up again:

“Es war der fette Russe. Wo war er blo? so plötzlich hergekommen? Er war ein schwerfälliges, schäbiges, gewichtiges und auf absurde Weise würdevolles Mammut von einem Mann, mit einem zuckenden wei?en Backenbart in einer glänzenden Uniform, und schwang einen gro?en schwarzen Gehstock.”

Oh, and what that means is:
“It was the fat Russian again — where had he come from? — a lumbering, shaggy, harrumphing, absurdly dignified mastodon of a man, with twitching white whiskers and a gleaming uniform, swinging a great black cane.”

I could be wrong, but I don’t think the translator even made an attempt at translating “harrumphing.” What a shame!

Okay, here’s another exquisite English paragraph. How will this translate?

“‘Do you understand what it means to disturb my digestion, sir?’ said the Russian. ‘That even now, my stomach rumbles with contempt? That my kidneys flood with excruciating acids? That my entire gastrointestinal tract revolts at your ungentlemanly conduct?'”

I don’t know. That’s an awfully high standard to hit. Here’s the translated version:

“‘Ist Euch klar, was es bedeutet, meine Verdauung zu stören, Sir?’, erkundigte sich der Russe. ‘Was es hei?t, dass in diesem Moment mein Bauch vor Verachtung brodelt? Dass meine Nieren in unerträglichen Säuren schwimmen? Mein gesamter Gastrointestinaltrakt angesichts Eures unhöflichen Verhaltens revoltiert?'”

(I don’t know how to get German quotation marks on my computer, so I’m just substituting English ones.)

I kind of like the way the kidneys sentence turned out: “Dass meine Nieren in unerträglichen Säuren schwimmen?”

I like this one:
“‘I am a daffodil,’ he murmured uncomfortably.”
This translates to
“‘Ich gehe als Glockenblume’, erklärte er murmelnd, fühlte sich jedoch sichtlich unwohl dabei.”

A few more words than the English version this time! But what I like about it is the translation of “daffodil,” which I hadn’t seen before. “Glockenblume” is a portmanteau word (like so many German words) meaning “bell flower.” Isn’t that nice?

Well, I’ve taken far too long on this, and Sunday is over, so I won’t finish the first chapter tonight. But what a fun way to increase my German vocabulary, don’t you think? Forgive me if this is boring for those who don’t have a smattering of German, but I’m afraid I’m enjoying it very much. So tune in next week for the next Sonderling Sunday!

Review of The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy

The Order of Odd-Fish

by James Kennedy

Laurel-Leaf Books, 2008. 403 pages.
Starred Review
2011 Sonderbooks Standout: #7, Fantasy for Teens

It’s high time I reviewed this book. I first decided I had to read it when I met the author, James Kennedy, at the 2010 ALA Annual Conference when I attended the YA Author Coffee Klatch. It sounded very much like a book my sons would enjoy, since they are big fans of Douglas Adams, so I purchased a copy to give my younger son for his upcoming 16th birthday. (And the next March, I sent a copy to my older son for his 23rd birthday.)

Then 2011 ALA Annual Conference was coming up, and I saw James Kennedy’s name on the schedule. I still hadn’t read his book! So I tucked my son’s copy into my carry-on and began reading it on the plane. Sure enough, I saw James at the Newbery Banquet, and it was fun to be able to tell him where I was in the book and talk about it. On the way home from New Orleans, I tweeted my progress, and that was fun, too. I was impressed with how he pulled off an excellent ending, which I was wondering about along the way.

Then I could have sworn I had reviewed the book when I finally caught up on writing reviews last Fall. But it turned out it got out of my to-be-reviewed pile when my son decided to finally read it and took it to his room.

I highly recommend the book for fans of Douglas Adams or Jasper Fforde. Only, Douglas Adams and Jasper Fforde have adult protagonists (not that that deters teen readers), but The Order of Odd-Fish has a teen protagonist. So this might be a good choice for teens whom you suspect will enjoy Douglas Adams or Jasper Fforde.

The first word that comes to mind every time I attempt to describe The Order of Odd-Fish is “bizarre.” Like the Hitchhiker’s Guide books, it’s got its own twisted and very funny logic that plays on traditional fantasy tropes.

Take our protagonist, Jo Larouche. She’s got a prophecy about her and is a “chosen” child, but it’s quite different than the Chosen One in more traditional fantasy novels. Make that very different.

Probably the simplest way to capture the spirit of this novel is to give you the description of Jo’s Aunt Lily, including the part where she found Jo:

“The story of Lily Larouche was well known.

“She had been a famous actress long ago, with a reputation for strange behavior. The tabloids knew she was good for at least one sensational rumour per week:




“The rumors usually proved true. Lily Larouche had hurled a live rat at another actress who had insulted her. For many years, her hot-air balloon had been a nuisance over Los Angeles, regularly disrupting air traffic. And Lily Larouche still had on her desk, floating in a jar of formaldehyde, the lonely eyebrows of President Eisenhower.

“Then came the most mysterious headline:


“She had vanished. Her notorious ruby palace, which for years had hosted the wildest parties in Hollywood, was empty. Nobody knew where she had gone.

“Then, forty years later, there was a new headline:


“Lily Larouche had awakened in her dusty bed, in her ruby palace. But she had no idea how she had got there. And she had no idea what she had been doing for the past forty years.

“Then she heard a distant crying. She followed the sound to her laundry room — and there, inside the washing machine, she found a baby.

“She also found a note:

“This is Jo. Please take care of her.
But beware.
This is a DANGEROUS baby.”

As the book opens, Jo Larouche is now thirteen years old. Unbeknownst to her, she is about to travel to Eldritch City, meet the Order of Odd-Fish, see Aunt Lily regain her memory, and learn why she herself is so DANGEROUS.

And the story has only begun to be bizarre.

I’ll definitely be blogging more about this book. When James Kennedy noted that his book had been translated into German with the title Der Orden der Seltsamer Sonderlinge, I was so delighted, he promised me a copy. As all my readers surely know by now, Sonder is a German prefix meaning “special.” What I don’t proclaim so frequently is that I’d already known that a Sonderling is someone who’s “special” in the less flattering sense of the term — more recent translations include “nerd” and, well, “odd-fish.” But however you want to look at it, I maintain this proves that The Order of Odd-fish is a Sonderbook indeed! James Kennedy did send me a copy of the German edition, and I’m planning to blog about reading it — as soon as I get caught up on posting Sonderbooks Standouts.

Meanwhile, this is definitely a great choice for people who enjoy books that are bizarre, clever, and very funny.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/order_of_odd_fish.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a book I purchased at ALA Annual Conference for my son, and had signed by the author.

Review of I Want My Hat Back, by Jon Klassen

I Want My Hat Back

by Jon Klassen

Candlewick Press, 2011. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Geisel Honor Book
2011 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Picture Books

This book is brilliant. I was happy it won a Geisel Honor for a book for beginning readers, because it’s written in a way that makes it easy for beginning readers and tells a story that will delight them when they understand what’s happened.

I have a co-worker whose favorite picture books are ones where someone gets eaten. I made sure to bring this book straight to her when I checked it out. I also handed it to my teenage son to read. It’s the kind of book everyone enjoys.

The illustrations are simple and flat, with the eyes looking straight at the reader. The text is color coded for the speaker, with a bear walking through the pages looking for his hat. He wants his hat. He loves his hat. Each animal he meets, he asks, “Have you seen my hat?” After their various responses, he says, “OK. Thank you anyway.”

Eventually, after he’s lying down in despair, a deer asks him what his hat looks like. When he describes it, the bear — and the reader — suddenly remember where he’s seen it before. This moment of realization is portrayed so cleverly with a red page and wide open eyes.

Describing this book takes more words than are in the book — and reading the book is so much better. The ending is left ambiguous for the tender-hearted, but most kids will be proud to figure out what really happened. And you have to admit, the bear is repeating what was said to him.

I promise all ages will enjoy this book! Check it out and read it yourself.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/i_want_my_hat_back.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.