No one saying “You can’t” or “You won’t” Or “You know you’re not anything cause you’re a girl”

From Come From Away, the Broadway musical about the 38 aircraft diverted to Gander, Newfoundland, on 9/11. If you’re late in picking out a present for your mom or your wife or your daughter or any woman you know, get her the soundtrack. She’ll love you for it.

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Good Books to Give Kids This Christmas

Dana-tested, Stabenow-approved, all guaranteed good reads as well as good read-alouders. I’ve been known to read at least parts of them out loud when I’m alone in the room myself.

gorillaFor the toddlers, try Peggy Rathmann’s Good Night, Gorilla. At the end of the day the zookeeper goes home, and he doesn’t go home alone. The illustrations are delightful, I’m smiling now just thinking about the mouse with the banana on a string. See also Where Are You Going, Manyoni?, Mama, Do You Love Me?, and I Want My Hat Back.

paperbagFor storybooks for beginning readers, my personal favorite is Robert Munsch’s The Paperbag Princess. (Hey, dragon!)
(Too soon to say if I’m thrilled about this.)

henryI also love D.B. Johnson’s Henry Hikes to Fitchburg, wherein Henry David Thoreau morphs into a bear (there are five books in the Henry series now). Also the The Jolly Postman, or Other People’s Letters by Janet & Allan Ahlberg, the tale of a postman on his bicycle delivering the mail to the occupants of an enchanted forest, but this is mail you get to take out of its envelopes (and check out the postmarks and the stamps) like you’d just taken it out of your own mailbox.

harrisFor middle schoolers, Harris and Me by Gary Paulsen will make them laugh (just make sure they don’t try any of that at home), Tony Johnston’s Any Small Goodness will make them cry, and E.L. Konigsburg’s The View from Saturday will make them want to have tea on Saturday afternoons.

hunger-gamesEveryone knows the story of Katniss Everdeen now, but new readers are growing up as we speak. Read the books with them–you’ll be astonished by how much more they give you than the films do of this tale of a post-apocalyptic America where there is very little bread and only one–and fatal–circus. See also The Smell of Other People’s Houses and Property of the State.

lions-pawAnd for those of you poor deprived readers who have never come across this book before, I am delighted, nay, ecstatic to announce the return to print of The Lion’s Paw by Robb White, including the original illustrations by Ralph Ray. It’s about damn time. In World War II Florida, Penny and Nick run away from the orphanage and hide out on the sloop Hard-a-Lee, owned by sixteen-year old Ben, whose father is missing in the South Pacific. Uncle Pete is going to sell the Hard-a-Lee, but instead Ben, Penny and Nick light out for the territory, and that’s just the beginning of their adventures.

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Remedial womens’ studies with a vengeance.

Gail Collins’ America’s Women (400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines) reads like the women studies class I was never offered at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. It should be required reading for every US high school student today. Listen to some of this stuff:

tubmanThe most famous runaway slave…was [Harriet Tubman]…In 1849, when she was about thirty years old, she heard rumors that she was about to be sold and escaped. Making her way to Philadelphia, she cleaned houses until she had enough saved to finance a return trip…she made as many as 19 trips over the border. In one, using a hired wagon, she retrieved her elderly parents. In another, she led eleven slaves to freedom…She was expert at disguises, appearing as an old woman or a vagabond, or a mental disturbed man. She carried paregoric to quiet crying babies, and if anyone showed signs of panicking, she ominously fingers the revolver she always carried. Maryland slaveholders offered a bounty of $40,000 for her capture.

and

rankinThe great story about Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, who four days later voted against the US going into WWI. Two years later the voters invited her home, but she wasn’t done, not by a long shot. In 1940 she was re-elected, just in time to vote against the US going into WWII.
Not sure this was exactly what Anthony and Stanton had in mind at Seneca Falls.

One of the recurring themes that Collins delights in is the instruction women received from the media on their behavior and place in society. Some of the crap women’s magazines were pitching in the 1950s could have been lifted whole right out of publications in the 1750s.
collinsThis is remedial womens’ studies with a vengeance, told with wit and style and a gift for picking exactly the right anecdote to illustrate an entire historical event. All the usual suspects are present and accounted for, from Prudence Crandall to Abigail Adams to Margaret Sanger (Thanks for the pill, Margaret!) to Elizabeth Eckford to Eleanor Roosevelt (Thanks for marrying Eleanor, Franklin!). A must read.

Take something to write on. Paper is good. In a pinch, pieces of wood or your arm will do.

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All ten here. My favorite:

7. You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

[bwo Brain Pickings]


What dragon on the spine?

I was down at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore yesterday, signing the next load of Silk and Song, and Julie said how much she liked the dragon on the spine. I said what dragon on the spine?

dragon on spine

This dragon on the spine!

No one has ever built me a book like this before so it never occurred to me to remove the cover and look at what might be on the actual book. My mistake.

Although the cover is gorgeous, too, like this gold leaf image of North Wind on the cover spine.

North Wind on spine

Not quite all of these books are sold yet.

Dana w:S&S

But all of them are signed.

S&S signed

Click here to order a signed copy today for yourself
or for that special reader in your life.
It would make a great Christmas gift. She whispered seductively…

“Hey, are you the plane people?”

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Okay, let me give the consumer warning up front–do not attempt to read this book without a box of Kleenex on standby. There. Got it? Good.

I saw Come From Away in NYC last month, the musical about the 38 planes that were diverted to Gander, Newfoundland on 9/11, and I immediately googled to see if there was a book about it. There is, this one, although it’s missing some of the stories the playwrights found in their series of interviews on which they based the play (in particular the story of Captain Beverley Bass who is mentioned only in passing here. Bet DeFede was mad at himself for missing that.). It is still an amazing story, and you end it hoping that if your community is ever called upon in such a crisis that you and it will respond even half as well.

The gist is this: The US instituted a full ground stop after the 9/11 attacks and refused to let any aircraft into the U.S. This meant that literally hundreds of airplanes already en route have to land somewhere else. Thirty-eight aircraft landed in Gander with almost 7,000 people from 97 countries on board. Gander has a population of 10,000, and it sounds like every single citizen, along with the people of all the surrounding, much smaller towns as well, threw open the doors to the strandees.

When I say doors I mean not only the emergency shelters put together at local churches and Salvation Army buildings and schools, I mean their own homes. The “plane people,” as they were called by the locals (“Hey, are you the plane people?” Ganderites would shout out from their cars, and would immediately offer the walkers a ride to wherever they were going, Walmart, the pub, the Arrow Air memorial, which image is on the cover of this book) were offered the use of showers and shelters and beds and the kids got toys and the ones with birthdays while they were on the ground got parties and presents. Schools in every community were shut down so the plane people could use the showers and the kitchens and the computers and phones to call and email loved ones, most of whom had no idea where they were. Of course, some of the plane people didn’t know where they were, either.

A volunteer had taped a large map of the world to the wall and with a crude red marker drew an arrow pointing to Gander. YOU ARE HERE, the volunteer wrote on the map. Exhausted passengers would stop and stare at the map for several minutes, trying to regain their bearings.

It wasn’t just the people, it was the businesses, too.

The local Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway sandwich outlets, as well as the local pizza joints, sent carloads of food to the airport on Tuesday and Wednesday to help feed the passengers stranded on the planes…Newtel, the telephone company for Newfoundland, set u a long bank of tables on the sidewalk in front of its offices and filled them with telephones so passengers could make free long-distance phone calls to their families…Rogers Communications, which provides cable-television service to Gander and the surrounding area, made sure every shelter had cable television so the passengers could watch CNN and the other round-the-clock news stations.

Not forgetting that the local hockey rink did duty as a walk-in refrigerator. The local pharmacies banded together and

In the first twenty-four hours…filled more than a thousand prescriptions. All at no cost to the passengers.

More stories like this one are on every single page. One stranded passenger told one of the Canadians ‘how wonderful everyone in town had been. It made her feel part of a family.’

We’re all Americans tonight,” replied McKeage.

Kleenex. Lots of it.

And if you get a chance, see Come From Away. You will laugh and yep, you will cry, and it will have been so worth it.


More of my Goodreads reviews here.