Where Did the Time Go?

Time flies when you’re having fun.

That overworked cliche was my first reaction when I realized I have not written a post in nearly six months. This half year has been an intense one. Between

  • the enjoyable: our Florida daughter, her husband, and grandkids extended their summer stay into autumn
  • the inspiring: the holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Succos, and Chanukah were uplifting, as usual
  • the mundane: although that’s not the right word to describe a job in which I interact with young people, share my love of books, broaden their horizons, and encourage creativity
  • the unexpected: some freelance writing jobs seemed to have materialized from thin air when I was wondering if I’d ever make a financial go of the venture
  • the challenging: finding specialists who accept our new health insurance and saying goodbye (in person or mentally) to doctors who have been part of my health care team for up to fifteen years

Suddenly, it’s no longer summer but in the middle of one of the most intense winters I can remember. (Or is it a sign of my age?)

Yet even in the frigid, snowy reality that is this winter, there is a bright spot on the horizon–and it has nothing to do with whether the groundhog saw his shadow. For Jews the world over, the beginning of the month of Adar (Thursday, February 19 this year) is a happy reminder of good times to come. On this day, we are enjoined to increase in joy in anticipation of the holiday of Purim, the happiest festive day on the Jewish calendar. As kids (and adults) acquire costumes, we prepare attractive gifts of food to give friends and family, and people from preschoolers to senior citizens learn about the particulars of holiday observance, the feeling of happy anticipation grows.

So take a moment every day to think about the reasons there are to rejoice. And then: Be happy. It’s Adar!

As Summer Winds Down…

This summer has been one for the books. We’ve been privileged to have all our grandchildren here for part of the season, and the Floridians are spending the entire summer in the old homestead. I’m not sure I want to think about how it will feel when they return south. It’s one more reason to feel my usual letdown as summer begins to fade into autumn. (Although, with Accuweather predicting highs topping 90 over the Labor Day weekend, we’re definitely not bidding summer 2014 goodbye quite yet.)

Speaking of a summer for the books, there are some written works I’ve encountered that have provided hours of delight. (There were even some mornings that I waited for the sky to lighten enough for me to read without needing to get up to turn on the light.) Allow me to share a few of these wonderful books with you.

15-year-old Penelope Lumley is a graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. The school’s star pupil is offered a position as governess to three unusual children at Ashton Place, owned by one of the wealthiest landowners in England. It appears her students have had an unusual upbringing: they were raised by wolves and discovered in the estate’s forest. It takes all of Penelope’s ingenuity, determination, and talent to transform these wild young people into proper members of society. Readers are sure to delight in the adventures and misadventures of the governess and her pupils as they uncover and endeavor to solve mysterious occurrences in this entertaining series.

A magical tale by a debut novelist. Star Wars meets traditional fairy tales in this mesmerizing series.The first volume introduces the reader to Cinder, an unusual teen who is both a renowned mechanic and a denigrated member of society. As the heroine learns more of her past, she realizes that thwarting a major threat to her homeland (and the world) is a responsibility resting on her shoulders. When Cinder’s story joins that of Scarlet and Cress, the reader meets people who are not what they seem and becomes involved with the growing group of heroes as they make discoveries and face decisions that affect the future of their world. Can a group of teenagers, with the help of a renowned doctor and some fascinating droids, save the day? Stay tuned for the next installments in the saga of Cinder and her friends as they appear in 2015.

If summer has brought such literary treasures to light, imagine what autumn can bring.


Out of the Box

This has to be one of my favorite times of year. The icy grip of winter’s hand is only a memory, days are delightfully long, we are privileged to see the Creator’s work in the awesome beauty of a thunderstorm and the multi-colored blossoms that are springing up everywhere, and the pleasures that summer brings are upon us.

Yet, I have another reason for delighting in this season. It’s at this time that boxes of books I’ve carefully chosen arrive. Even though there are many duties awaiting me: class sessions, notifying students, teachers, and support staff that it’s time to return library materials before the end of the school year, and so on, I cannot resist the pull of new books. It’s fortunate that I have a good excuse: when compiling my annual Recommended Reading List, it’s important to peruse the recent arrivals for titles that should be included.

This year’s acquisitions definitely do not disappoint. Every book I’ve completed thus far is a worthy addition to our collection. Here’s a sample.

When many think of author Joseph Bruchac, his Native American heritage comes to mind. The versatile storyteller’s long list of books reflect this: from picture books such as Raccoon’s Race with Beaver, to thrillers like Whisper in the Dark and The Dark Pond, to March Toward the Thunder and other historical fiction, his pride in his background shows through. Now Joe Bruchac turns to the other side of his heritage with Dragon Castle, a fantasy that is so much more. This tribute to the Slovakian side of the author’s family tree earns a place with Bruchac’s best. The author’s trademark sensitivity, humor, and ability to tell a good story are all present here. From the moment we meet Rashko, a young man who feels the weight of preserving all he loves on his shoulders, we know we are in for a literary treat.

Sharon Creech outdoes herself with every book she writes, and this novel is no exception. When a farmer and his wife discover a young boy sleeping on their porch, they are baffled. The child bears no clue to his identity except a note stating that his name is Jacob and the writer will return for him. When the youngster awakens, he can offer no clues, as he does not speak. Stymied, the good-hearted John and Marta welcome Jacob into their home and their lives, all the while looking for reports about a missing boy. A warm, humorous, satisfying tale.

Stay tuned for more gems.




I’m suffering from withdrawal. It’s not the first time, and it probably won’t be the last. No, I haven’t decided to eliminate caffeine or sugar from my diet and my body is staging a protest. This withdrawal is of a different sort, one that any avid reader can understand. For this morning (for the second time in as many weeks), I finished a trilogy that I can only describe as blockbuster.

When I reluctantly turned the last page of The Shadow Throne, the finale of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s beyond wonderful Ascendance Trilogy, there was some consolation. The third novel of the 13 Treasures Trilogy by Michelle Harrison awaited me. And even though a reader may wonder about the probability of completing two unforgettable series one after the other, 13 Secrets did not disappoint. So, after observing Sage’s metamorphosis from streetwise orphan to dedicated monarch, and cheering for the young royal and those dear to him every step of the way, I was privileged to continue the saga of another set of beloved characters. Rowan, a heroine in every sense of the word, takes her place among the most memorable young people in contemporary fiction. Her journey of discovery and acceptance, undertaken with courage and devotion (with a little help from her friends), wins her a favored place on many a bookshelf.

There is now a pleasant task awaiting me: penning reviews of all these unforgettable stories. Those that are not already on my site, http://bookandagarden.com, will be there soon.

Goodbye to the Bookmobile

It is with mixed feelings that I write this post. ReadersĀ  may remember my enthusiasm for this new venture. I was excited to be part of such a valuable service to the community in which I live and raised our family. Even the physical difficulties of working on the bookmobile did not lessen my determination to make this a success. The lack of order and consistence in the books’ arrangement (with many titles misclassified) and the resultant difficulty in quickly fulfilling requests, insufficient time to reshelve and perform other necessary tasks, the pressure to put new arrivals into the system at a rapid pace, and having to fly from office to bookmobile were challenges that I was ready and willing to face. And, even though exhaustion set in as the run ended, I was exhilarated by the experience.

However, there was not the opportunity to improve the accessibility of books, reclassify titles, and make other changes to improve the (mostly) young patrons’ experience on the “bus.” While the mobile library team was supportive of my ideas, the administration was less enthusiastic. After several weeks, I received a call from a supervisor. It wasn’t working out; I was not meeting expectations; too few books were being readied for circulation. Even though I defended my position, and the supervisor said they would reopen the discussion, I determined (with the help of my wonderful husband) that it was not meant to be. So, with a twinge of sadness, I informed the boss that my expectations as well were not met, and there was no reason to pursue the matter.

Since then, I have been hoping I would not see the bookmobile as it makes its rounds. In time, the negative feelings will surely fade. I harbor no ill will towards the entire project and wish it continued success. Now I must look to the future. A new door has been opened a crack. It may soon be time to see what’s on the other side.

Barbados’ North Point: Beyond Description

About a month ago, my husband and I took a trip to his birthplace. The visit was not for the purpose of a vacation, despite the incredible beauty and charm of this magical place. This is the second time in a row that we traveled to Barbados for something other than pleasure. Each time, I felt that we were the only ones on the plane who were flying there for neither vacation nor a return home. Last year’s visit, for my mother-in-law’s funeral, was marked by only sadness. This one had a sense of the bittersweet. Words cannot describe the emotions that flooded through me when we visited the historic cemetery.

However, even though I knew from the day we booked our flight that this was not going to be a vacation (although we were happy for a respite from the coldest and snowiest winter in recent memory), Barbados’ loveliness cannot be ignored. So, in the midst of doing what we came to do, my husband and I made the trek to one part of the island I had not yet seen: the wild and wonderful North Point.

Driving up the west coast, we had a close-up view of the gentle waves of the Caribbean. After a while, the most direct route to our destination took us away from the shoreline. When we reached the North Point, a very different sight greeted us. For at both the northern and southern tips of the island, the calm Caribbean meets the thunderous Atlantic. Parts of the eastern shore are a surfer’s delight, but not so the North Point. Waves pouring over the rocky formations and into caves that dot the cliff are a wonder to behold from a safe distance.Barbados5For hardier types, there is a chance to get up close and personal. The Animal Flower Cave, home to sea anemones, is an incredible spot. Even though we had considered descending into the Cave, one look at the steep steps made us content to walk along the path and take in the magnificence of the ocean–and stop for a memorable picnic lunch.

Barbados2When we finally left this magnificent place, both of us knew we had experienced something that is the stuff of beautiful memories. I’m not sure how many visitors make their way to the North Point, but it should be a part of every itinerary. I know that it’s going to be on mine on a future trip to this small island of tremendous wonders.


My First Bookmobile Experience

I got off the bookmobile not three hours ago. For the three and a half hours before being deposited near our house, I was in an amazing world. It was heartwarming to see kids from babies to teens (and their parents) braving the rain that started coming down hard as we began our route. Between shelving as many newly returned books as possible to make them available for the next contingent of eager readers, directing visitors to “their” sections, fielding questions and requests, and learning the routine, the time flew by–and suddenly there were no more stops. All that remained was to reshelve returnees so the bookmobile will once again be ready to roll. I can’t wait to get back on board.

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