Archive for the 'Come Home for the Holidays 2012' Category

Doot Bokelman, Knotties of Ganondagan

Knotties of GanondaganKnotties of Ganondagan, by Doot Bokelman

Modern-day Seneca children, residents of the Ganondagan State Historic Site, repel the forces of evil in this fantasy combining elements of Seneca culture with up-to-date ecological issues.

In the last few summer days before school begins, when the backpacks have already been filled and hung at the kitchen door, the youngsters meet the tiny knotties, creatures perhaps 6” high, who are seldom noticed because their bodies so closely resemble sticks.  It is difficult to win the knotties’ trust, because they have a well-founded fear of mistreatment by humans.  Eventually, the children learn of the knotties’ greatest peril and find a way to help.

Those who have visited Ganondagan will recognize the details of the setting, even to the golf course across the road.  However, this geographic familiarity is not a requirement.  The book includes a hand-drawn map for readers.

The story is illustrated with photographs of the knotties, little sculptures based on gnarled or knotty wood of various kinds with additional heads and hands of a wide variety of skin tones.  Each knottie has a character consonant with the traditional virtues of the wood from which it “grew.”

The author, Dr. Dorothy Bokelman, a sculptor and Associate Professor and Program Director, Art History at Nazareth College, has worked with the staff at Ganondagan for several years and credits them with helping her develop the adventures of the knotties.

 

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Jennifer Sanzo, Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey

Fifty Writers on Fifty Shades of Grey, by Jennifer Sanzo,   

Here’s a continuation of the discussion so many book clubs have held about E. L. James’ bestselling Fifty Shades of Grey series.  Contributors include Jennifer Sanzo, previously a college English professor, writing on the topic of the Gothic hero—Austen’s Mr. Darcy, Bronte’s Heathcliff, and so many other perennial objects of desire.  Other writers include a divorce lawyer (analyzing Christian’s contract with Ana), an editor who regrets that his offer was not high enough to buy the American publishing rights to the James trilogy (and shows that James would be a good fit for his list); novelists Heather Graham and Sylvia Day; Tish Beaty on the phenomenon of fan fiction (the story was originally based on the Twilight series); Andrew Shaffer with comparisons to Peyton Place, and on and on.  The essays are short, thought-provoking, and hard to put down.

Charles Benoit, Fall From Grace

Fall from Grace

Fall from Grace, by Charles Benoit

Sawyer is a senior in high school, and he has always done the right thing.  His parents are behind him every step of the way—right behind him.  His girlfriend is there for him, too.  Even his plans for college are working out.

So—why is Sawyer so ready to listen to Grace, with her plans for stealing a picture?

As Young Adult author Robert Lipsyte said of a previous Benoit title, the decisions are “as harshly real as Hell or high school.”

Charles Benoit continues his theme of observing the choices a teen protagonist makes, choices that mount up to have a meaning all their own.  There are a lot of issues here for discussion, and HarperCollins has provided a provocative online discussion guide, http://files.harpercollins.com/HCChildrens/OMM/Media/FallFromGrace_ERBC_Guide.pdf .

And, by the way, here is Benoit’s answer to the question, Is there any deeper meaning to all this stuff?  Wish I had had it back when I taught high school English!

Ellen Stoll Walsh, Balancing Act

Balancing Act

Balancing Act, by Ellen Stoll Walsh

Besides exploring the mathematical concept of balance or equivalency, Ellen Stoll Walsh offers a beguiling story of two mice, friends who have balanced a stick over a rock to create their own teeter-totter.  One by one, additional friends appear and want to join the fun.  Again and again, the teeter-totter becomes unbalanced and must be re-balanced by adding a friend or moving friends to the other side.  At last, the weight of the friends is too great for the stick, and it breaks.  The friends run off to play something else, all but the two original mice, who hunt up another stick and return to their balancing game.  So this cut paper collage with minimal text also provides for discussion of the values of playing nicely with friends and refusing to give up easily.

But most of all, this is a charming story to read to the little one you put to bed every night.

Fairport children will recognize that the mouse statues outside the library window are cousins to this story.  They come from Walsh’s earlier mouse book, Mouse Paint.

Duane H Cook, By Guess and By God

By Guess and By God, by Duane H. Cook

Starting without family or friends, young George Cash grew up to marry his sweetheart and inherit an Idaho rabbit ranch with valuable government contracts to feed the soldiers in World War I.  When the war ended and with it the rabbit contracts, along came Prohibition and opportunities for evading the Volstead Act.  The family continued to grow and prosper, one way and another, through World War II and the Cold War.  As time went by, the Cash family learned a lot about war and the suffering it brings.

Over the course of his long lifetime, George Cash observed and distilled his own philosophy, which he passed on to his numerous children and grandchildren, several in powerful places.  “Be patient:  Soon we will have our opportunity to change the world.”

This historical novel is strongly based in American history, and offers fascinating factual footnotes for the curious reader.

Bill Self, Customer 3D: A New Dimension for Customers

Customer 3D

Customer 3D: A New Dimension for Customers, by Bill Self

Self describes exceptional customer service and shows how a variety of organizations have focused on the customer’s experience (rather than products or services) in order to achieve business success.  The makers of WD-40 lubricant, for instance, focus on “creating positive, lasting memories for customers.”  The memories involve well-lubricated hinges, perhaps; but the focus is the positive memory, not the product.

A business that answers a customer’s request with, “Because our software doesn’t allow us to do that,” reveals that customers are expected to put up with the status quo.  This is the antithesis to customer service.

Self stresses that good customer service comes from a sense of abundance.  Rather than “giving away the store,” customer-centered generosity involves the “soft” skill of recognizing the customer’s human individuality and providing whatever is necessary.  This, in turn, enables the business to survive changes in technology or in the economy, because its focus is always on customer needs.

Written for business leaders, this book is of interest to entrepreneurs, employees, and civil servants as well as to the CEO.

Jean Keplinger, Windows to the Past: 200 Years of Perinton, New York, History

Windows to the Past

Windows to the Past:  200 Years of Perinton, New York, History, by Jean Keplinger

Because this report on “200 Years of Perinton, New York, History” is a well-organized collection of news paper articles, the book functions as an introduction to local history or as a quick reference providing information on a multitude of subjects.  Chapter headings group early neighborhoods, farms, transportation, business, education, churches, recreation, etc.

The illustrations provide archival photographs and maps from the Town Historian’s collection and also offer current snapshots.  The lengthy index provides a reader’s route to new connections and novel insights, connecting different aspects of the history of a building, institution, or settler.

Old-timers will enjoy reminiscing about the subjects found.  Because each article stands on its own, the information is accessible to students as well as adults.  Like a bowl of peanuts, this well-written collection tempts the reader to take time for “just one more,” and then another, and another.