In the last weeks, I've been writing a little bit about traveling. Join me as we go around the world - just for the fun of it..
First, we are off to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland with books and movies from Plymouth Library. Look for old favorites from Jane Austen to PG Wodehouse, Irish folktales, or an exciting story for middle school school readers that is set in Scotland: Running on the Cracks. One of my favoriites is The Owl Service by Alan Garner (J F), a thought provoking fantasy based on Welsh mythology. Over in the audio-visual section, look for movies like the Irish Rory O'Shea Was Here: "An inspiring story of independence that follows two unlikely friends determined to face the world on their own terms. Young Michael is a patient who is resigned to his quiet life within an institution's safe, predictable boundaries. Then, the rebellious Rory O'Shea bursts onto the scene. Now, with the help of the beautiful young Siobhan, who signs on as the boys' live-in aide, Rory will show Michael what it takes to truly be free."
Next, travel to Africa without leaving your armchair. Read Nelson Mandela's favorite African folktales. Marvel at the determination of the survivors of the Rwandan genocide (Hotel Rwanda DVD F HOT, /Erwin, Steve 282.092 ILI, An ordinary man : an autobiography /Rusesabagina, Paul, B RUS, We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families : stories from Rwanda /Gourevitch, Philip, 364.15 GOU) Learn about the Ndebele people in the delightful picture book,
My painted house, my friendly chicken, and me by Maya Angelou.
One of my favorite books is Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. When my book club chose to read this book, I was reluctant. I was sure I wouldn't like it. I was so wrong! Now, if I tell you that much of the novel takes place in an Ethiopian hospital which came to specialize in obstetric fistula, you might not feel compelled to read it either, but give it a try. By the way, when my book club later read Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristoff (362.83 KRI), we were fascinated to read about the real hospital which inspired the one in Cutting for Stone. I love coming across connections like this!
Do you know someone in grades 7-10? They might be interested in Cry of the Giraffe by Judie Oron, although the book reads younger than the subject matter. As Jews in Ethiopia, Wuditu and her family suffered greatly from prejudice. They dreamed of going to Israel and finally set off to walk to Sudan. There they were herded into a refugee camp, a place where thousands died from the unsanitary conditions. After many hardships, Wuditu, now 13 and back in Ethiopia, is separated from her family and forced to survive as a water carrier. She is raped repeatedly by a soldier. She finally finds a job as a servant but is never paid and is barely given enough food to stay alive. When she is 16, a foreigner comes to take her to Israel and her family. The foreigner is a journalist and the author of this book. Wuditu's story is true. It is a harrowing tale of survival and of human cruelty.
Now let's go to China. There is the dvd, "Shower", an award-winning comedy that explores a man's responsibilities to his family and his heritage. The New York Times says: "Sweet serious comedy! Uplifting and witty!" Some of books that take place in China are 'In Search of My Homeland: A Memoir of a Chinese Labor Camp" by Er Tai Gao and "Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress" by Dai Sijie. I also would recommend "Anya's War" by Andrea Alban, a novel that is suitable for readers from 7th grade and up. Anya's family left Odessa for Shanghai in the 1930s to escape Communism more than anti-semitism although that, too, was a sad part of their life. Shanghai offered great opportunities along with tremendous culture shock. When Anya found a discarded baby girl in a sewer on her fourteenth birthday, she discovered just how different Chinese culture was. The reactions of her family were also a shock to her. And in the background was the threat of Japan as it invaded Nanking. Despite a few anachronisms, this story, based on experiences of the author's family, rings true, and the flawed characters are fascinating.
From China, we'll travel to other parts of Asia: Indonesia (The Flamboya Tree is an interesting account of a Dutch family's experience during World War II and Surviving Against the Odds: Village Industry in Indonesia was written by S. Ann Dunham, Barack Obama's mother and a graduate of Mercer Island High School), Mongolia (Beyond the House of the False Lama), Korea (A Single Shard and Year of the Impossible Goodbyes), Cambodia (First They Killed My Father), Tibet (a biography of the Dalai Lama on DVD and The Tibetan Way of Life and Death), Thailand (Fieldwork, an award winning novel, and a beautiful coffe table book, Spiritual Abodes of Thailand), and Vietnam (the DVDs Streamers and Beautiful Country, a new children's book, A Million Shades of Grey, the heart-pounding true story of a conscientious objector, Medic!, by local author, Ben Sherman.)
We're off travelling again! We are heading to Australia. In the last fifty years or so, Australian literature has really blossomed. I have been reviewing young adult books for about twenty years, and some of the most memorable books that have come my way have been by Australian authors. One of them is How to make a bird by Martine Murray: Early morning. Mannie puts on her mother's red evening gown and rides her bike to the train station. She has an address on a scrap of paper, a clue to what happened in the past when her family's life, always fragile, unravelled. In the Australian city that she goes to she meets a rock singer, loses her shoes, visits her grandmother, and discovers that nothing was quite the way she had believed it to be. Sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, this is ultimately a hopeful book. Recommend this book to a high school girl, or read it yourself. Some other Australian authors represented in the Plymouth Library are Mem Fox and Colin Thompson (picture books), Catherine Jinks and Sonya Hartnett (juvenile fiction), and Markus Zusak (adult fiction).
Pack your bags and let's go to Latin America and the Caribbean. We have books by Edwige Danticat (Haiti), Julia Alvarez (Dominican Republic), and Laura Resau (Ecuador). Learn about art and faith in Mexico and one woman's spiritual adventure in the heart of the Andes (Initiation by Elizabeth Jenkins). There are exciting stories for kids and information about Latin American customs and celebrations.
These are just some of the places you can go with books from our library. For more information on any of these books, go to our online catalog by following the directions on the Library's home page.
(Photo taken by my cousin in Italy.)