Category Archives: Books

“Winston Churchill” by Katie Daynes

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I loved to read the book my kid picked last week from the school library. Actually, she read it. And I re-readed with her.

The author did a very good job with explaining in plain language the life of one of the most fascinating personalities of the last century. The pages with the story of Churchil’s life from age five to his last days are filled with pictures of his life’s events.

Kids and adults alike can learn lessons of resilience from the man who hold jobs which required decisions that impacted millions of lives. Next time I would get bugged by a trivial matter at work, I’ll gently remind myself about it.

We also learned that Churchil’s hobby was painting. Another take away from the book: balance your professional/school demands with something which makes you happy. Balance your brain hyperactivity with works of hand, as my grandmother would say.

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“The secret agent and other spy kids” by Allan Zullo

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This book made me realise that the fairytales readings are a stage we moved through. It is the true stories now that fascinate my kid. She chose from her Scholastic offer “The secret agent and other spy kids”. The book tells 10 true stories of spy kids from the times of the 1781 Revolutionary War to the two world wars and the war in Korea in 1951. It is a good introduction into certain stages of American history through the stories of real-life teenagers who “left their mark in the shadowy world of espionage” who took risks for their country.

The reading will require an adult help with understanding some of the history and military concepts new at this age. So it can be a nice book reading time spent together.

“Shantaram” by Gregory David Roberts

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I loved the story. It is a story of a human, filled with his life’s joys and tragedies and many in-betweens. The author tells his own story of an armed robber and fugitive who found escape in Mumbai, India. He opens his soul to judgement in a vulnerable yet self-accepting way. Lin, the name of the main character, gives his best to the city which adopted him, curing slam dwellers in a free clinique he set up and serving mafia with skill and devotion.

To me, it is story of unmet childhood needs and choices as an adult. His longing for a father’s love, he never had as a child, makes him loyal to a mafia boss, up to the point of joining him on a deadly mission to Afghanistan. His love of a woman he meets in Mumbai – Karla – is unshared, as his heart is filled by regret and broken by so many wars he fought with heroin, addiction and violence he brought and suffered.

The author’s depiction of simple Indian men and women is heartwarming. He pays tribute to their traditions and customs with a delicacy and tact of a respectful guest in a country, which adopted him without a question about his past. It is the place which baptized him Shantaram – “man of peace”. “…they saw something in me that I didn’t know was there.”, said Roberts in an interview to BBC.

The author finishes the novel with the start of a new adventure, softly inviting the reader to open the sequel ” The Mountain Shadow”.

“Stories of Dinosaurs” by Russel Punter

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The Usborne Young Reader collection has some good and funny books. My kid picked the “Stories of Dinosaurs” from the School library. The book has three stories. In one, a brave Kriposaurus fights a Megalosaurus. In the second, two carnivore Raptor brothers save their restaurant opening by successfully improvising with a vegetarian dinner. And the third story…..I’ll let you discover it together with your young reader.

The Giving Tree

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I was looking to upgrade our bedtime stories. With Jessica Joelle Alexander’s recommendation http://www.jessicajoellealexander.com I found “The Giving Tree” by Shel Silverstein.

The book was first published more that 50 years ago.

The book teaches the value of nurturing relations in a mutually beneficial way. It helps to explain to children that a balanced give-and-take is a good foundation for friendships they begin to develop.

It is a heartfelt story of a relationship between boy and a tree. At first, their relationship is loving and mutually nurturing.

It is a story about faithfulness and borderless generosity: As the boy grows, so do his demands for entertainment and support. The tree is a constant supplier and satisfies all his needs with all it has until it becomes a stump. The tree demands nothing in return. It is just happy to be there for the boy.

A beautiful story for bedtime reading. For both children and adults.

“Jubilee” by Margaret Walker

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The novel is a true story of a girl born to a white plantation owner and his black mistress reflecting the times of the southern Civil War and the years of the promised Reconstruction. The author is the grandchild of the main character -Vyry. She heard the story in the family and researched the history of those ¬† times for thirty years to write what is known as the “first truly historical black American novel”. New York Times called Margaret Walker “one of most memorable women of contemporary fiction”.

The ¬†novel has 3 chapters marking the stages of Vyry’s life interlinked with historical events of the Civil War, slavery abolishment and beginning of reconstruction. Vyry is a survivor who get through pain and devastation again and again to keep her family well and to live to see her dream of having her children go to school to learn to write and read. Through hurdles and horrors she kept her faith and the love in her heart. And this to me is the main message of the book.

Her message to her son in preparation of his separation from her to go to school is worth a Nobel prize for peace, by me: “I wants you to be good and try to git along. Mind your manners and make friends with people. Friends and good manners will carry you where money won’t go. You is born lucky and it is better to be born lucky than born rich cause if you is lucky you can git rich, but if you is born rich and ain’t lucky you is liables to lose all you got. But you gotta use mother-wit long with education else you won’t be nothing but a fool. Get up in the morning early and say your prayers. Early bird catches the worm. And don’t you be mean and ugly in your heart toward nobody. Remember, sweet ways is just like sugar candy, and they catches more flies than vinegar. I wants you to be good and make a real man out of yourself”.

Wonderful encounters

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Sometimes all you have to do is open a door. 

Last week, I opened the door into the world of a French artist. His name is Rachid Madani. His studio is in Strasbourg. I often passed by his studio and admired the pastel, warm colours of his creations. I wanted to buy some of his wonderful cards. I love to have a stock to give them to friends to say thank you or just mark a moment. 

I pushed the door and was greeted with a warm pastel voice. My daugher joined me so he spoke to us about the book he wrote "Le turban du sultan" and about his culture. 

I did not have cash with me so had to borrow some from my kid's pocket money. "I did the same this morning", he told us in a moment of complicity.  He offered her one of his cards "Le jour se leve". 

If you are in Strasbourg, open the door to l'atelier d'Art MADANI, 16, rue Sleidan. 

More info on the artist, in French https://www.petitfute.com/v458-strasbourg-67000/c1168-shopping-mode-cadeaux/c408-galerie-d-art/242980-l-atelier-d-art-madani.html