Friday, July 03, 2015

Thursday, July 02, 2015

June Book List

Favorite Picture Books

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki, illustrated by Quin Leng

Warning: a slightly more sappy review than I typically write is coming. I guess I just really loved this unexpected find.

I found this sitting on a display shelf in the children's section of our small local library. The artwork on the front cover immediately sang out to me and made me prickle with anticipation, hoping the story would match the exquisite illustrations. What a wonderful story told both in words and pictures. Hana may not be able to play Bach and Mozart like her grandfather, but she can listen to what she hears and make her violin sing like he did for her.
There are several tender moments in this story that rippled through my heart and caused me to be thankful that there are still authors and illustrators who know how to create such art for children and their parents.

Nonfiction Books

L'Abri by Edith Schaeffer
Previously I read Edith Schaeffer's The Hidden Art of Homemaking with an online group led by Cindy Rollins and enjoyed it, so when I spotted an older copy of L'Abri at a used book sale, I snapped it up. After spending almost year on my bookshelf waiting its turn to be read, I plucked it off the shelf on a Thursday night on a whim and read it exclusively until I finished it Saturday morning right before lunch. I knew the basics about Edith and Francis Schaeffer's story, had read books and articles by their adult children and have even met people who visited their L'Abri home in Switzerland. But Edith's straightforward recounting and conversational descriptions engaged me entirely and I gobbled up the book. Her writing style and principled lifestyle reminds me very much of Elisabeth Elliot which is not really a surprise. They are both godly women who have left a legacy of faithfulness for others to follow.

On Writing by Stephen King
 I have never read a Stephen King book before nor have I wanted to, but when I saw he had a book about writing, I thought I would check it out. I really enjoyed both parts of the book. The first part which includes bits from his childhood, family life, and early writing moments and the second which offers up very practical writing advice. While I don't know if I will ever write something to be published, I wrote down many helpful ways to think about and do writing. 
Stephen King seems to write like his friends would say he really is, with no pretense, just a guy writing down stories and loving his life and family. I had many moments where I was smiling and chuckling and reminding myself to write this-or-that down. Definitely a good read and I'm glad he didn't just shove it back in the desk drawer. I will add that he does use unsavory language quite casually which I usually don't tolerate, but this time I did. You may decide otherwise.

Everything Bad Is Good For You by Steven Johnson
I requested this book from the library out of curiosity after reading a blog post by Douglas Wilson where he discussed that while people may be smarter today, they are often more ignorant than previous generations in many areas. In this book, Steven Johnson argues that today's television, movies and video games are more complex and involve our brains in different ways than previous media content so we are actually smarter because of what we encounter in this advanced technological age we are in. While I found the discussion about television, movies, and video game content interesting, I did not find myself persuaded that we have been made smarter by the content. And by the end of the book, he was appearing to advocate that since this media makes us smarter, we should be consuming it with little concern for the world views and morality we are imbibing. It did leave me shaking my head in wonder at his conclusions. I can't say I would recommend it, unless you want to hear some commentary on comparisons between older and more current media.

Classics and Other Such Books

Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols
This is the first book in a trilogy written by Nichols about his house and his gardens and his neighbors. It is the second book in the series I have read, already having enjoyed Laughter on the Stairs before I realized I was in the middle of a trilogy. So on to the third and final book, Sunlight on the Lawn. Written for humor, story-telling and garden lore, the line between fact and fiction is very blurry, as in, assume many of the details have been exaggerated or simply created. But no matter, it's fun reading which gives memorable quotes and scenes which is enough.

Friday, June 12, 2015

museum angst

A couple of weeks ago, we took time to go to a Museum of Nature in our city with our best of friends.
Of all the museums in the city that I have gone to, which is about five, this is my favorite museum due to both content and building aesthetics.
While two of my kids were able to join my friend for the special exhibit, I took Kate in a stroller over to the Bird Gallery. I could spend most of the day there, looking at the displays of birds. Kate let me look at about half of the gallery before she started to get restless and needed a change of scenery.

Here are some of the photos I took of the birds on display.

My photos do not do justice to the outstanding displays full of birds I may never actually see in my lifetime, but whose appearances and habits I can study and ponder.
And do you know what bothered me? (Get ready for some authentic indignation.)

The kids, all ages, who were running around this gallery were not looking at these gorgeous displays because their attention had been stolen by interactive displays, many of them with screens and moving images that they were busy grabbing and groping.
In this busy gallery, none of the kids I saw 'using' these displays seemed to be truly studying the content and discussing it in any meaningful way with any of the other children or adults who accompanied them.
In fact, almost every adult I saw was, either chasing after children who were running from one activity to the next or standing stationary staring at their phone, waiting for their charges to be 'done' messing with the equipment or display.
And this repeated itself over and over as each wave of people groups made their way into and around the gallery. I wondered what would happen to my own children and their friends when they finally wandered in and found the frenetic pace that was being set.
Sure enough, my oldest came zooming into the gallery wanting to tell me what he just saw, rushing with both words and feet to share where they wanted to go next. I urged him to follow me so I could show him some of the birds that we have either seen or discussed.
He followed almost reluctantly and above the din, I tried to encourage his interest. He rallied a bit, but the pull of the busyness of the gallery was hard for me to compete with. I didn't even bother with my youngest who was busy playing with her friend in the pretend bird sanctuary room and the pretend vehicle parked alongside.
And this scene was repeated in every exhibit and gallery we went through. Kids mostly engaged in
interactive screen displays, rushing past live animals, and specimens heading for screens to swipe and buttons to push.

After giving Laura some play time in one exhibit hall, I took her by the hand and we went to find this little turtle swimming around his tank. We talked about him and pointed out things to each other. Then we moved onto the still life diorama displays of river life, talking and pointing out things that we noticed and recognized based on our own backyard experiences of river life.

I'm not usually one of those parents who drones on to my children and expects them to hang onto my every word with riveting attention. But we only visit this museum once every couple of years and it isn't free, so I don't enjoy squandering our time and money by running around and missing the excellent displays. I know that much of the appreciation for the exhibits comes with maturity in the art of caring and I am still training young minds to want to care, so I give a measure of grace but I also lead by example.
I am attentive and interested because I truly am. I don't have to fake it or make myself care because of the time, effort and money spent to get us there. God's creation holds my attention because I love the Creator and am astounded by the works of His hands.
If my children can catch this enthusiasm and store it deep within their souls, no new-fangled, button-pushing, screen-pulsating contraption can take it away. They will appear as they are, silly distractions that we simply have no time or interest for.
We sincerely want to be in contact with the true ideas of Creation.