Review: Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS

Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS
Making Masterpiece: 25 Years Behind the Scenes at Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery! on PBS by Rebecca Eaton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is an entertaining and engaging tale of the start of how time and television met at the right moment to foster Masterpiece Theatre. Great fun to hear of who turned down what future classic and who took a chance and made entertainment history. Of course, I am listening to the audiobook in the car and thus will retain nothing. Also, Eaton relates many key players’ stories through what sound like first-person quotes. It is often very difficult to tell whose anecdote is being shared. Small quibbles. I’m in for the atmosphere while I wait for Downton Season 4.

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Review: When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children’s Classic and the Difference It Made

When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children's Classic and the Difference It Made
When We Were Free to Be: Looking Back at a Children’s Classic and the Difference It Made by Lori Rotskoff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Oh, the feels! Only two pages into the introduction and overwhelmed with longing. I immediately went upstairs and put on the record. (The 33 1/3 LP with the original magic marker covered jacket, that is.)

“When we grow up, I’m gonna be happy, and do what I like to do. Like making noise and making faces, and making friends like you.”

The world was wide open, and what a world we thought it was going to be. We thought racial and class and gender inequality were going to be overcome by the time I grew up. There are many days when I am astounded by how little progress we’ve made.

I am beginning to think I better understand our patrons who love to read everything about the Kennedys or need to devour every WW2 tome. 1970s feminist child rearing and the 1980s it shaped — I lived this, I remember this, I utterly groove on reminiscing this.

Essays I especially liked in this collection:
Letty Cottin Pogrebin’s A Thousand Fond Memories and a Few Regrets: Pogrebin reminds us to make a “collective committment” and to organize together to do away with what’s “unfair, inequitable, and intolerable.” To ask ourselves what project we can initiate, what wrongs can we right, if we only just pick one friend and get started.

Here’s a gem for those of us involved in children’s literacy from Gloria Steinem, who experienced kids mouthing the words along with her as she read them stories and poems from Free to Be: “No one can tell children what to remember. It must be what they love.”

I also really enjoyed Rotskoff’s Little Women’s Libbers and Free to be Kids. I love that the editors of Ms. saved and published letters they received from children, and hearing the stories of kids who challenged gender inequalities in their towns and schools and felt supported by this wider national network.

Two notes of things I want to remember: The magazine New Moon Girls was directly inspired by Free to Be, and the Trey MacIntyre project is working on choreography based on the Free to Be concepts. I’ve given several gift subscriptions to NMG, and I want to keep my eyes open and see if that ballet comes anywhere near here!

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Review: The Age of Ice

The Age of Ice
The Age of Ice by J.M. Sidorova
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I still think this is probably a very good book. The writing is rich with detail and emotionally evocative. The story is bleak and desolate and cold and despairing and matches so perfectly the temperatures we have been experiencing this week. We even had a snowstorm here while Alexander was fighting his own escape from bandits through a blizzard. At page 57 after four days, I still haven’t found my rhythm with it. This has more to do with long work hours than Sidorova. To do Age of Ice justice, I am going to lay it aside for now and return to it when I have more free time.

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Review: I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban
I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban by Malala Yousafzai
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I super want to love this book but it is not a great read. I am very interested in Malala’s story, her political growth and her recovery and life post-attack. I wish either she had written the book herself with an explanatory preface or footnotes by Lamb, or if it was written as a series of interviews with her. Instead, it’s a mix-mash of writing that might be hers with some Pakistan-history-lite that is definitely informative but we do not get to know her. It is clear that there was a bit of a hurry to get this on the bookstore shelves while her name was still on people’s minds. It’s too bad. She is incredible. She is brave and smart and a fine example for young people everywhere. She deserves a better book.

The BBC diary that she wrote in 2009 (in Urdu) has been translated and posted here
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7834402.stm

This is the documentary made with Malala (before her shooting) about the closing of schools for girls: http://www.nytimes.com/video/world/asia/100000001835296/class-dismissed.html

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Review: Born Blue

Born Blue
Born Blue by Han Nolan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I first started reading this book, I thought ‘Oh no, it’s written in dialect.’ However, Nolan has created such a real character in Janie/LeShaya that I stopped noticing almost right away.

This is a painful read. I have known kids like her, in my teaching life, in my personal life. When children are not loved and cared for by their parents, when they linger in less than ideal foster homes and age beyond adoptability, something’s broken.

Some reviewers have found LeShaya’s endless bad choices to be unbelievable. They are very true to life. When you have always had a home, it can be hard to imagine what it’s like to be home-less and parent-less and to have never had any reason to learn to trust. How can you be a real friend, how can you love someone well, when no one has ever looked after your needs? How can you accept loving care when experience tells you there are nasty strings attached? How can you make good choices when you’ve had no example?

Every child deserves so much more.

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Review: Candy: A Secret History of Food

Candy: A Secret History of Food
Candy: A Secret History of Food by Samira Kawash
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The perfect topic for the Halloween season. Everything about the beginning of this book is appealing, from the cover to the first anecdotes in the introduction. Candy. Is it a food? Is it evil? Why do we love it so much and why is our culture ashamed of it? Why do I, a vegetarian gardener food co-op board member hiker all-around healthy person also eat so much candy? Kawash delves into the history of candy, candy making, eating, and advertising in America in an engaging and informative way. I’m only reading it so slowly because the print is small and the lines are too close together and my bifocals clearly need replacing.

I took a little break in the middle of this book to devour some YA. It didn’t really take a month to read & that should not be a poor reflection on Kawash or her book. Just saying.

So, I have a job I love that I feel 100% good about. Librarianship is a force for good in the world. Period. What is it like to have a job that is less easy to defend: Say, a person who makes flavor additives that make people eat more of something that is bad for them? Or someone who creates advertising campaigns for candies that claim to be healthful but are not? Or someone who works in a lab devising synthetic alternatives to food ingredients which may or may not be okay for people to consume over the long haul?

Apparently, ever since the turn of last century, with the industrialization of candy production, there have been rafts of people whose job it is to convince us to eat more candy. To be fair, there was a time when food scientists truly believed that a calorie was a calorie and, therefore, candy could be an excellent energy source. It is only with evolving knowledge of what makes good nutrition that we have learned to think differently. So much of what we accept as absolute fact (eating whole grains is better; too much food processing removes the nutrients we need; sugar is bad for your teeth) was utterly unknown 100 years ago. I was shocked (shocked!) to learn that most Americans did not brush their teeth daily until after WW2.
It is fascinating to see how much accepted wisdom and practice have changed and will surely change again.

Favorite bits: An investigation into the Halloween candy sabotage stories (razor blades in apples, etc.) that I grew up with finds that they are not true! Also, of especial interest to my family, the inspiration for the drinking song “Lily the Pink,” (which has been linked on youtube to Hermione Granger’s potions-brewing skills) was Lydia Pinkham, a savvy business woman who touted her highly alcoholic cure for “women’s complaints” in between recipes for home candy making.

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