Book Review: Blue

Blue

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019

The more I read this book, the more I liked it. The keyhole cutouts in the delightful thickness of these pages seemed unnecessary, but my daughter enjoyed locating them; the book’s square shape and the large, simple, bold font is perfection. The lush, sumptuous color—bright but not unnaturally so—so beautifully textured, is stunning. Most of these pages, given the panoramic treatment in double-page spreads that bleed into the spine, would make perfect nursery art: the deep, twilight blue butterflies were like something out of a Technicolor fairy tale, the water shooting out of the garden hose captured the summertime magic of childhood, the granular texture of the snow against the smooth, sable brown of the tree was striking, and the brushstrokes depicting the frothy whitecaps looked so real, I almost expected to feel seafoam.

Simply titled, Blue has a very organic feel—a certain spirituality and harmony with nature (including human nature). It is a childlike, coming-of-age tale.

The concept is rather interesting, for how many unexpected ways can we describe blue using the word blue (i.e. besides light, dark, powder, navy, etc.)? It’s almost like a series of paintings turned into a poem. Everything that was described as blue was connected with an emotion, a state of being, or something gifted to us by the Creator; Laura Vaccaro Seeger totally nailed midnight blue.

Though few words, it tells a story. Each two-word set “maybe blue,” “true blue,” etc., I treated as the title of the story that the pictures painted. Blue is open-ended enough where you can add to the story, but not so open-ended that there is no story. I’m not a fan of wordless picture books (and this was close to it), but the way I felt while “reading” this timeless tale of friendship—the boy growing up while his dog grew old—resonated with me. No preaching, no message—just life—distilled into the most poignant parts.

It was sweet that the boy (now a young man who had yet to befriend another dog) met his true love through their love of dogs—her dog actually seems to choose him first, as if it sensed another dog lover, leading (or rather, dragging) her to her destiny.

My daughter liked this one, and I enjoyed reading it to her. Blue is the kind of book I read when I want not just to make a memory but a connection. If there was a complete set on all the colors, I would buy everyone one of these books.

Suggested activity: Numbers, letters, shapes, and colors are some of the earliest building blocks of learning. When I was a child, getting Crayola’s 64-count with the built-in sharpener was something quite magical. Try having your child come up with naming their own colors (they don’t have to be blue; I was always intrigued by names like periwinkle and lavender; if your child is older, you can come up with double adjectives, like mascarpone-white or tiramisu-tan. Someone has to come up with all of those names, after all. For a field trip, go to a paint store and get a handful of paint sample cards (which I’ve used to make Christmas cards: https://onelittleproject.com/paint-chip-christmas-cards/). And take time out to visit the author’s website. It’s gorgeous! https://studiolvs.com/

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/37534395-blue

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Book Review: Night Job

Night Job

As part of my Post-K Summer Reading Boot Camp:
https://sarahleastories.com/2019/06/08/post-k-summer-reading-boot-camp-2019 

Night Job is the touching story of a little boy who accompanies his dad to work the third shift, cleaning up a middle school on Friday nights.  The idea of “take your child to work day” is a cool concept–it’s good for children to see how hard their parents work to provide for them, though I was surprised that the dad was able to bring his son because of liability issues, but that’s another lesson for another age.

Books that highlight the special relationship between fathers and sons touch my heart, for it is from dads that boys learn how to be men, including how to treat women.  No mother is shown in this, so I assumed the dad was single. I also inferred that this little family is impoverished–from the dad’s vocation as a custodian, eating egg salad sandwiches, and living in what looked like an extended stay facility–but the author does a splendid job of showing that their poverty is only limited to material things, not in adventure or love.  

However, this book was much too short; we see the gymnasium, the cafeteria, and the library, but not the classrooms and not enough of the exhilarating ride on the motorcycle, capturing the city when it’s sleeping.  There weren’t enough background details in the book–I couldn’t make out the name of the middle school or the particulars of the newspaper they were reading (much more detail was given with the baseball game). Details such as these would’ve added interest to the pages; a few more sensory details (touch, taste, smell) would’ve made it shine like a full moon.

I didn’t care for the building sighing and the chair whispering, Come–it didn’t fit in with the rest of the story, which is very Point A to Point B in its storytelling style.  This was realism, not escapism. There is also some odd wording, such as “a ring of keys as big as the rising moon” (moons don’t rise) and “from stem to stern,” which is nautical terminology.  

On recursive readings, I realized there was no dialogue–just the little boy telling a story–but it worked.  There is no conversation between the dad and his son when they’re having lunch; though the fact that there was conversation is probably understood (i.e. they didn’t just sit in the courtyard eating in complete silence), it would’ve been nice to mention what they talked about (e.g. baseball, cafeteria food, etc.) 

Though the dad is often busy working, the boy is always with him, not wandering off by himself–shooting baskets in the gym, listening to the radio in the cafeteria (rather than half-watching a television), reading his dad a story before falling asleep in the library, and even pitching in by helping clean the hallway floors.  

I also liked that it showed them doing lots of reading–the boy with the books, the dad with the newspaper, and not vegging out in front of a TV after a long night’s work.  (It was also nice to see an apple core instead of a snack cake wrapper in the lunch box.) It doesn’t show the dad playing with his son but just being there for him and with him, which is what a lot of parenthood is actually like.  Kids like to entertain themselves more than adults realize.  

Other goodreads reviewers mentioned that the language was too advanced for the boy’s age, such as “dusky highway” and “rising swell of dreams”; I agree.  I love the imagery these words evoke, but it must fit the character. To make such language more believable, the author would’ve had to tell the story in the third-person, and it would’ve lost so much.

The illustrations aren’t beautiful, but they tell the story beautifully.  The fact that most of them are gray-hued to fit the nocturnal atmosphere makes them perfect.

Overall, Night Job is a sweet book about a simple life–a life a lot of kids could probably relate to.

Suggested activity:  If your job offers a “Take your Child to Work Day,” take them up on it.  If this isn’t a possibility, find books about your profession or trade.  Even if your job is considered an “unskilled job,” reiterate to your child that all jobs are important and detail their purposes.  This will teach them to respect all those who put in an honest day’s work.  In relation to this book, tell them what the school would look like without someone to clean it.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/38256476-night-job

#Micropoetry Monday: The Writer’s Life

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She was criticized for writing puff pieces
as light & airy as meringue,
but only those who knew her best
knew that she had many thoughts beyond
food & entertainment & all the little extras
that connected people of all kinds–
she just didn’t have the time
nor the energy
to deal with hate mail.

Blackie & Blondie had journalists for parents,
& so they grew up being asked
Who, What, Where, When, & so forth.
They learned how to remember
the important things,
so that they could tell the stories
that were true.
These stories they told of others
inspired them to live the kind of lives
worth writing about.
Because their parents had asked them questions,
they had learned to do the same
with everyone they met.
Though they’d been called inquisitive at best
& intrusive at worst,
they did learn something most valuable,
& that was how to take an interest
(& a very human one at that)
in other people.

She wrote the life she wanted,
only to realize that as she mirrored her life
after her own creations,
she was writing her future.

#Fiction Friday: #Micropoetry from the Book

mormoni

Mother spoke differently, saying things like “Bless you,” rather than “Thank you,” but Mormons never went around saying, “Jesus loves you.”

Out of love for me, my family had been brought together, & out of love for my mother, the Church had come for me.

When I heard David thank God, I saw it not only as an act of gratitude, but an act of humility. My mother had brought God into the house, made Him comfortable there.

David brought his spirit with him, & I luxuriated in the essence that was his. He was like a wise man, bearing gifts of comfort & joy, but those were the mere gifts—the true gift was the man himself.

Though I’d always been awed at the beauty of the ceremony & tradition, I was looking forward to the sweet simplicity of a LDS Christmas program that I was to be a part of.

I’d never had an extended family, but in its place, I’d been given a Church family. My mother had chosen them, & by default, they had chosen me.

I accepted that Elder Roberts & I weren’t meant to be, simply because the Church said so. I found it was easier to live without questioning everything, even though I felt a little part of me die each time I did not.

I wanted to believe so much that in a way I almost did, yet at the time, I had thought that good feeling was the Spirit telling me that what I was seeing, hearing & feeling was true.

For one night, my mother & I were more alike than me & David. We wanted to be a forever family, not because we loved one another but because we both loved David.

Those days leading up to Christmas in the year of 1999 were the happiest of my life. Though I hadn’t been “born in the covenant,” I felt I had found the Church that I had been made for.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #490: Comics Character

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Comic strips are the most conservative medium–virtually unchanged from the 1920’s— Scott Dikkers, founder of The Onion, January 24, 2019

Children of the Corny

There were Saturday morning Looney Tunes
& Sunday color comic strips–
where you could be blown up in one scene
& put back together the next,
where Blondie never aged,
Beetle never wised up,
& Dolly, Billy, Jeffy, & P.J. remained children forever.
She traveled from The Twilight Zone
to The Far Side,
living in an alternate reality
where the spaciest (both outer & inner) scenarios
made perfect sense.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 490

#Fiction Friday: #Novelines from the Book

mormoni

Ethics came from man,
morals from God.
One set of rules changed as humans progressed,
but the other had been written in stone by the finger of the Lord.

The only 2 lovers I would ever have
would become my husbands;
the other 2 men in my life
would be lifelong friends–
the former, my brother,
the latter,
my confessor.

The Mormons liked to lay claim
to any celebrity as being one of them–
as if they were a piece of uranium.
They wore the cloak of victimhood,
of perceived persecution,
like the robe of royalty.
They saw themselves as “The Other”.
They wanted the world to liken them to the Jews,
the Irish,
the Africans,
but they were no more persecuted than any other Christian;
they may have been told to “Go to hell,”
but no one in the Deep South had ever threatened to send them there.
It wasn’t persecution to have been driven out of a territory
when you were breaking the laws of the land
by marrying numerous women.
That’s what affairs were for.

My virginity would make me worthy
of a returned missionary,
my motherhood, of eternal life.
Sainthood would be mine.

David loved the natural world,
just as Mother & Caitlin loved the spiritual,
except that Caitlin’s was through the prism of Catholicism
& Mother’s, Mormonism.
I was caught somewhere between the 2,
for I could not imagine a world more beautiful than the one we lived in.
The only reason our world wasn’t so was because of man,
who’d been given dominion over all earthly creations,
unlike God,
who had dominion over the heavenly ones.

Writer’s Digest Wednesday Poetry Prompt #484: Summer

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Summer is Longer Here

She is the interlude who dances between the equinoxes,
her breath hot,
humid,
floral.
She is the intermission between grades–
not an interruption of education
but a continuance of all that is learned
beyond the glossy walls covered with old tape and dirty fingerprints,
of thin carpet pebbled with dried glue and freckled with chalkboard dust–
all of which make up the little factories that teach every child
like he or she was the same child.
She is the time for sleeping till not sleepy,
of standing in the rain without catching a cold,
and making messes outside that don’t have to be cleaned up.
She is the time for playing in the sun and sitting in the shade,
of lemon icebox pie on little saucers
and raspberry mint lemonade in tall glasses,
with more ice cubes than ade.
Then it is time to grow up,
and life is no longer measured in spring breaks
or summer vacations,
passing grades
or failing semesters.
Times such as summers gone by no longer come in huge swaths
but in moments strung together.
These former children find themselves wishing
they had enjoyed those summers even more,
but they did not know what they could not see
and now,
those moments stolen from themselves are spent
making their children’s summers everything they will remember
and one day long for.

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 485