Saturday, May 23, 2009

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson & David Oliver Relin ****

My sister loaned me this book, she’s in a book club that reads non-fiction books from & about different cultures. Basically, it has to do with a man who tried to climb K2 & failed, but in the process found his true calling—building schools for the people of the Karakoram Mountains of northern Pakistan. I have to say that this is a very inspirational story, where one person actually did make a difference. Greg Mortenson now heads an organization called the Central Asia Institute that’s responsible for building 55 schools in Pakistan & Afghanistan.
Musing on how important education is to those who don’t get to have it, it makes me think about how much me take for granted in our country. The US has a lot of problems, that’s true. But they’re the kind of problems born out of plenty. We’re fat, depressed, & stressed, all because we get to have too much. When seeing how other people live, in countries where food is scarce, let alone education, it makes me feel like our country needs to do more. And when I say do more, I don’t mean exporting & imposing our way of life onto others. I mean just giving them a fair chance, like all of us have.
Dog & I got to see President Obama about a month ago when he came to town to give his first 100 days speech. It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I’ll never forget. I particularly liked his take on giving aide to other countries. He pointed out how little of our budget is spent on foreign aid—it’s a pittance. By reaching out a hand to help other countries make their own dreams come true, we do good for others. When we retroactively wage war against people who don’t even know who we are, & who we certainly haven’t taken the time to know, all it does in set the human race back. I hope we’re getting back on the right track. I know I feel much better about the direction of our country now than I did a year ago.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Rules by Cynthia Lord ****

Alrighty, after this one I'm almost caught up with blogging about what I've read lately! I'll just need to write about a book I've almost totally forgotten about, then I'm clear!

Rules is another very good book by a first time author. It's about tween Catherine, who happens to have a younger brother with autism. There's a new girl moving in next door that she's sure she'll be best friends with, but the book is very good partly because what is expected just doesn't happen. Like real life. She's met a boy her age at the therapy center her brother goes to, who happens to communicate with a communication book (pictures that he points at). By making him a few new pictures to help him express his teen aged angst, they get closer. Meanwhile, the stress & embarrassment (both real & imagined) of having a younger brother with autism is portrayed very vividly--I never realized how extremely frustrating that must be for siblings. And her frustration with her parents' necessary neglect of her in favor of her brother is heartbreaking.

Great book!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

A Small White Scar by K.A. Nuzum ****

This is another book for ages 10 & up that was nominated for the Mark Twain book award. I picked this one because it & 2 other books (see Finest Kind) all had to do with kids with developmental disabilities of one kind or another. It's fascinating that 3 books are written with DD heavily imbuing the story this year for kids--maybe it's a sign of the times.
Basically the story is about twin brothers Will & Denny. 15 year old Will is determined to leave behind his father's ranch in 1940 & make his way being a rodeo rider & ranch hand. The problem is that he's chief caretaker for his brother Denny, who happens to have Down's Syndrome. Their mother died when they were about 7, & their father has placed the burden of looking after Denny squarely on Will's shoulders. Will is tired of being treated like a child by his father, & tired of being tied to the ranch by Denny. He decides to run away to the rodeo in La Junta, the biggest one around, & seek his own fortune.
It's funny how I underestimate how well a first time writer can write. Finest Kind was the 5th or 6th book by that author, but it just didn't ring true. In contrast, K.A. Nuzum writes a remarkable book by dealing with the feelings that overwhelm the sibling of a child with DD. Torn between caring & irritation, you can feel the frustration in Will. Other issues regarding how DD were dealt with back when the story takes place are eye opening & very important also.
A very good book, well written & beautifully peopled.