Friday, August 17, 2012

Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns by Hena Khan

Looking for a beautiful book that focuses on colors and culture of Islam? Accomplished author Hena Khan offers us another insightful and centering book here.  A new author to me, I picked this book off the shelf at the library because of the subtitle, A Muslim Book of Colors, and the lovely cover. Engaged from the start, I read slowly, allowing my eyes to lead me from illustrations to words to illustrations. As I read, I felt this calm settle over me.

Centering on colors, Khan's book introduces her readers to the religious world of the family in the text. The young girl begins the day  kneeling next to her father as he faces toward Mecca and prays. Mom's hijab offers us another entrance into objects and colors of their lives. Gold, orange, black, brown, purple, yellow, and more shower the reader with gentle yet powerful examples of the gorgeous purpose of these objects and practices in the life of one girl's family.

I can imagine using this text as a wonderful diverse welcome to the millions of books focused on color. I often shy away from using color-themed books because I find they often dumb down the issues. Golden Domes and Silver Lanterns presents a completely different way of looking into the lives of people in our world. I am well aware of the power of texts that touch purposefully on cultural practices; this book might just welcome in a young person who has been waiting to see themselves somewhere on the pages of the books in your classroom or home.

Friday, August 10, 2012

The Case Of The Deadly Desperados by Caroline Lawrence

Looking for a kid-sized western.mystery with tons of voice, a young male character who finds his way, some treacherous suspense just right for a pre-teen reader who would much rather be living in the 1800's than now? Add in the high likelihood of the main character being labeled these days on the autism spectrum, some dirty scoundrels trying to steal everything away from him, and some good adults to help support him in a very round-a-bout way, and you come up winning. This one swallowed me whole, and it was just the summer read I needed to disappear into a book. No stress, just a good solid story line, some fabulous character development, a collection of interesting details involving playing poker and reading body language, and some crazy old West .... all that and a cold drink were all I needed to simply be consumed by this book.

Pinky Pinkerton has had a tough go of it recently. His foster parents die a gruesome death, Pinky walks in right as his mother is dying, hears his mother's dying last words and figures it all out: the killers are actually out to find him and a certain "make you a millionaire" paper that PK has in his medicine bag. Yea, PK is part Lakota and part white. So the chase begins. The story wanders and races the killers' chasing him, with PK only occasionally choosing the right people to trust. The paper that is so important (seems it is a deed to a mine of silver-rich land!) changes hands several times, but PK never gives up. A card shark kindly takes PK under his wing, and ends up being a good guy in the midst of his cheatin' ways. True to pre-teen form, it all ends well in this one, but PK had to do some fancy footwork to make it happen.

This is a keeper, for sure!  A western mystery: who knew?

Friday, August 3, 2012

Open by Andre Agassi

Our family watches the Olympics every chance we get these early days of August. The stories, the action, we love it all. The sound of the theme music initiates a memory line in me that fires open when I hear it; I can remember as a child watching the few televised hours each night of action and just loving it. I can hear Jim McKay’s voice right now: that’s the power of memory and emotion I think, glued to that action, to what was going on at the Olympics.

I am totally into reading memoirs these days, and when a friend suggested reading Open, I jumped on it. Andre Agassi has always been an amazing athlete to me, and I figured his autobiography (I know, I know: not memoir!) would be rich. And it is. A solid read telling the story of his hating tennis, his coaches, his constant desire to quit tennis, and his staying power to continue to seek perfection and personal satisfaction. I found the read a pretty clear example of the humanity of life from an professional athlete’s perspective.

He aptly tells the story of his life in Open. Agassi is a surprisingly good writer, even though he never got engaged in schooling and escaped from it as soon as he could. He writes about developing lasting friendships and maneuvering the challenges he experienced within his family. Some of the stories will likely make you cringe but I have to say I would like to see what this “monster” his dad created looks like. Sounds like quite the nightmare-inducing machine. That being said, I way more want to see his trainer Gil’s idea of a good workout. Agassi entertains the reader with stories of resilience, of finding his way from despair and decisions of quitting to hope and trying new training techniques. Much of his book explores his ongoing need for trusted friends supporting his quest for internal greatness: it is from his finding the proper supports that he ends up becoming the great tennis player he was. Mostly I think I liked how his story sounds so familiar, common, like living through the trials of life hit all of us, and how we have to find our way, alone and with others.

I really enjoyed this read. If you are looking for a calm, engaging sports story, wanting to know a little more about Stefanie Graf and Andre Agassi (or even Brooke Shields), this might be a good summer read for you! Particularly before the closing of the Olympics.