Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up

by Marie Kondo
Ten Speed Press     2014
224 pages     Self-help
Audio Book

My daughter's best friend is a house organizer and cleaner. My daughter is not. Besides that, she has two pre-schoolers. One evening her house organizer friend was trying to help her tidy up, and my daughter told her: "Really I never learned how to clean. We were all taught how to clean up for the cleaning lady." Ouch!

Everyone has been talking about The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. You've heard about it, haven't you. I decided to give it a try.

I listened to The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up in the car on a long car ride Tuesday. Like many people of my age bracket, there is a huge accumulation of stuff that comes from having lived as long as I have. I have been trying to start the process of "tidying up" by working to get rid of 3 things every day. Well, listening to Marie Kondo, I realized that my method was not the appropriate way to do the job. Kondo has a very specific method and works to advise people about their tidying up habits. She teaches a method that she assures the reader is foolproof.

As I drove, I thought about where I would begin putting this book into practice. I thought about my messy office, my messy sewing room, my messy closet. I mused that Kondo's method might work for me.  It was when she started to tell me the precise fashion in which to fold t-shirts in order to make them happy that I turned off the book in disgust. As one Goodreads reviewer said, "She is 'batshit' crazy."

 I do need to start liberating the things in my house, but these are things—inanimate objects—they do not have feelings!!! At the same time, I realize that this is a system that works well for a lot of people. And Kondo guarantees that if you use her system, you will get control of your house and your stuff.

Oh—and one more thing. Kondo began tidying up when she was 5-years-old. Wait a minute! This is the only child I have ever known that tidies up at age 5. If she had been my kid, I would have taken her to the psychologist for treatment for OCD! As it is, she has made a whole career of tidying up.

Meena Duerson from the Today show tried the method. Here is her report on what happened in her life.    

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Manitou Canyon

by William Kent Kruger
Atria Books    2016
336 pages     Mystery

Cork O'Connor is the former sheriff of Tamarack County, Minnesota. Now he owns a burger joint/detective agency at the edge of Iron Lake, and as Manitou Canyon opens, he is closing the restaurant and dreading November. Even though his daughter Jennifer is going to be married later in the month, many ghosts of Novembers past haunt Cork even more than the prospect of the harsh winter ahead. He thinks of November as the "shoulder season, right on the cusp of winter."

Cork is drawn into the search for a missing civil engineer, John Harris. Harris designed some of the largest dams and bridges in the world, and he and Cork were childhood friends. Harris went into the Boundary Waters area with his two adult grandchildren, Trevor and Lindsay, and disappeared while he was out fishing. Although a search doesn't find his body, Trevor and Lindsay believe that he is out in the wilderness somewhere, and they know that Cork knows the territory well and can help them.

The mystery evolves slowly and builds to a page-turning, breathtaking finish. There is a tremendous interplay between the ancient and the modern in the plot. While it begins with a search for a missing person, it becomes a life and death battle for Cork to save himself and others during an evolving fight to save tribal lands from an environmental disaster. Militant natives fighting the mining industry. Interestingly enough, when I looked at the news this morning, I read about a current Native American protest over a pipeline being built in North Dakota. Protesters are saying that the pipeline is damaging a native burial grounds. Read about it in Time. In most of the Cork O'Connor books, the tension between the Native Americans and the modern culture is palpable.

Cork O'Connor is a thoroughly conflicted man. He has one foot firmly in the modern world and one foot in the ancient traditions of his Ojibwa heritage. He long ago came to believe that his heritage influenced his every movement and everything that happened to him. "It was who he was, something which had been passed down to him and from which he couldn't turn away, something that would always threaten him and those who loved him and were loved by him." In many ways, the race to save John Harris is a spiritual journey as well as a physical journey. Cork must work through his demons and lead from his heart rather than just his head. 

Native spirituality and native practices play a very large role in Manitou Canyon (and I would suppose all the Cork O'Connor books). Krueger's respect for native culture plays heavily in the character development and the plot. Henry, one of Cork's closest friends, is a "mide," a traditional healer and spiritual mentor. His influence permeates the book as do the other spiritual practices of the native peoples in the book. Besides being a thrilling mystery, the reader is imbued with spirituality and spiritual practices.

The very best part of Manitou Canyon is the setting with all its beauty, danger, and elusiveness. Cork knows the Boundary Waters very well, and has navigated its lakes and portages many times. He knows the dangerous weather signs of November and the constant threat of cold, rain, and snow. The Minneapolis Star Tribune reviewer uses this example: " Cork thinks of the 'thousand moments when a man’s breath is taken away by some sudden, unexpected beauty … [then with] no warnings of the dangers — severe storms that blew out of nowhere, high waves that could founder a canoe, falling trees, forest fires.'” The setting and its weather is as much a part of the thriller as is the thriller itself.

This is the 15th book in the Cork O'Connor series. I read the first few of them years ago, but had not read one for several years. I love reading about Duluth, the North Shore, and the Boundary Waters because this is my home turf. One of my favorite North Shore books is The Long Shining Water by Dannielle Sosin. Another mystery series based in the north woods of Minnesota is Vidar Sundstol's Minnesota Trilogy. I read the satisfying first book of that series, The Land of Dreams

Finally, I want to mention that my niece, Cory Dack, spent the summer guiding youth voyages in the Boundary Waters. She told me that she has seen marvelous growth in the teenagers who venture on those journeys and that she finds her soul there as well. Manitou Canyon explores those waters and those soul experiences in ways that are just as satisfying as the mystery the book exposes. 

Thursday, September 1, 2016

New Books for Children from Flying Eye Books

 Flying Eye Books is the children's division of Nobrow Publishing. They sent me several books to look at, so I was able to put on my children's librarian hat. The books from this company have a unique look and feel. My grandchildren really enjoy them. Here are three that have just recently been published.

 Archie Snufflekins Oliver Valentine Cupcake Tiberius
by Katie Harnett
Flying Eye Books     2016    Picture Books

Both of my grandchildren liked this tale of a roving cat that visits all the houses in the neighborhood and then unites all the neighbors to help a lonely neighbor woman make some friends. The title comes from the fact that each of the neighbors have a different name for the cat. The drawings are excellent, and the book has a vaguely 1960s cast to it, which is utterly appealing. Both children were eager to tell me the story about when their cat strayed to their old house about a month after they had moved to their new house. He apparently had gone there for a visit.

Archie etc. reminded me of the book Six-Dinner Sid by Inga Moore that always engendered a lot of discussion when I read it in my library. Children who have cats understand the imperious nature of cats—and Archie etc. definitely is imperious, if not downright snooty.  

Do You See What I See
by Helen Borten
Flying Eye Books     2016    Picture Books

Helen Borten's books were originally published in the late 1950s and early 1960s. This particular series of books includes 5 volumes, all part of the Do You Hear What I Hear series. They are returning to print following extensive enhancements to the printing process, including an authentic reproduction of the colors. 

Do You See What I See introduces children to the process of combining lines, shapes, and colors to form pictures. Basically, it is an introduction to art. Adela, age 5, was very interested in the concept of the book and drew a picture using shapes and lines. Davick, 3, was too young to appreciate the book's intricacies and soon wandered off. I can see this book used very successfully in a beginning art class for early elementary children. 

Here is an extremely interesting article in Publisher's Weekly about how Flying Eye Books, the children's imprint of Nobrow Press, found Borten and her series and returned them to print.  

 Smart About Sharks
by Owen Davey
Flying eye Books     2016    38 pages     Children's Nonfiction

What I learned from reading Smart About Sharks to my 3-year-old grandson is that he wants to interact with the books that we are reading together. This is different from his sister who wants to know the story. Davick really liked the pictures in this book—all the different types of sharks, their size and shape, and most importantly the size of their teeth. He wasn't particularly interesting in having me read all the interesting facts the book has, he just wanted to talk with me about the pictures.

 I learned a great deal that I didn't know about sharks, and I think that a 7 or 8-year-old would have a great time with this book. I can even see Davick transitioning from his fascination with dinosaurs to a fascination with sharks if I present this book to him again in a year or so. More importantly, this book is a great introduction to nonfiction reading for children. It has a table of contents and an index.