Category Archives: Wanderlust

Deep in the Sahara

Deep in the Sahara, by Kelly Cunnane and illustrated by Hoda Hadadi, is the story of a young Mauritanian girl named Lalla. She desperately wants to wear a malafa like her mother, her older sister, and her grandmother. But a malafa is not to be worn until a young girl understands why they are worn.

from the publisher:

Lalla lives in the Muslim country of Mauritania, and more than anything, she wants to wear a malafa, the colorful cloth Mauritanian women, like her mama and big sister, wear to cover their heads and clothes in public. But it is not until Lalla realizes that a malafa is not just worn to show a woman’s beauty and mystery or to honor tradition—a malafa for faith—that Lalla’s mother agrees to slip a long cloth as blue as the ink in the Koran over Lalla’s head, under her arm, and round and round her body. Then together, they pray.

This was such a sweet and interesting story with beautiful illustrations. I didn’t know much about Mauritania, except that it is a West African nation. And I didn’t know much about the practice of Islam there, or the customs of dress, so this was an interesting learning for me. It would be a wonderful addition to a class library or a family’s collection of books on diversity and world cultures. Here is a photo of the author’s notes on writing this story, which I thought were as interesting as the book itself! (Click on the photo to enlarge it.)

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a story from Mauritania.

Ada’s Violin

Ada’s Violin: The Story of the Recycled Orchestra of Paraguay, by Susan Hood and illustrated by Sally Wern Comport, is a true story told in picture book form. It’s a very heartwarming story about the power of music and creativity to bring hope to the slums of Paraguay.

from the publisher:

Ada Ríos grew up in Cateura, a small town in Paraguay built on a landfill. She dreamed of playing the violin, but with little money for anything but the bare essentials, it was never an option…until a music teacher named Favio Chávez arrived. He wanted to give the children of Cateura something special, so he made them instruments out of materials found in the trash. It was a crazy idea, but one that would leave Ada—and her town—forever changed. Now, the Recycled Orchestra plays venues around the world, spreading their message of hope and innovation.

It’s so nice to find a story of inspiration and hope. Ada’s dreams of playing the violin were fulfilled beyond her imagination, thanks to the work of Favio Chávez. Here are some links to more information on both Mr. Chávez and the Recycled Orchestra.

Click here to see a live performance on YouTube of the Recycled Orchestra.

Click here to see an NPR report on the Recycled Orchestra.


I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book based on a true story from Paraguay.

A Tiger for Malgudi

A Tiger for Malgudi, by R. K. Narayan, is an unusual book, a story about humanity from the viewpoint of a captured tiger. It is a compelling story, with much humor, very well written and enjoyable to read. But it is much more than an entertaining read. It is full of insight and wisdom about human beings and the human condition, and I found it refreshing and uplifting.

Summary of the story from the publisher:

A venerable tiger, old and toothless now, looks back over his life from cubhood and early days roaming wild in the Indian jungle. Trapped into a miserable circus career as ‘Raja the magnificent’, he is then sold into films (co-starring with a beefy Tarzan in a leopard skin) until, finding the human world too brutish and bewildering, he makes a dramatic bid for freedom.

R.K. Narayan’s story combines Hindu mysticism with ripe Malgudi comedy, viewing human absurdities through the eyes of a wild animal and revealing how, quite unexpectedly, Raja finds sweet companionship and peace.

To give you a good idea of the wisdom of this little book, here are some of my favorite passages:

  • You are not likely to understand that I am different from the tiger next door, that I possess a soul within this forbidding exterior. I can think, analyse, judge, remember and do everything that you can do, perhaps with greater subtlety and sense. I lack only the faculty of speech.

 

  • For one used to the grand silence of the jungle, the noisy nature of humanity was distressing.

 

  • Tigers attack only when they feel hungry, unlike human beings who slaughter one another without purpose or hunger …’

 

  • All growth takes place in its own time. If you brood on your improvements rather than your shortcomings, you will be happier.’

 

  • We have lost the faculty of appreciating the present living moment. We are always looking forward or backward and waiting for one or sighing for the other, and lose the pleasure of awareness of the moment in which we actually exist.

 

I chose to read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club.

 

 

I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a story from India.

The Upstairs Room

“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.”
― Elie Wiesel

My husband and I started our stay-home/stay-safe time, due to the Covid-19 virus, thirty-seven days ago (yes, I’m keeping track). A little over a month feels like forever, so I understand the growing unrest nation-wide with the lockdown. But I wish all of us would practice more patience (for all our sakes) and try to keep these life-saving measures in perspective. Thirty-seven days isn’t anything compared to the 25 months that Anne Frank spent in hiding, or the author of the book I recently read, who was in hiding with her sister for almost 3 years!

That book was an autobiographical story of a young Jewish girl and her sister who survived the Holocaust by being hidden in the home of some kind villagers! The Upstairs Room, by Johanna Reiss, is a book for young people and was very well written. It won numerous awards, including the Newbery Honor Award, and is an excellent story for children to read and learn about the Holocaust, and perhaps to help them understand self-isolation.

from the publisher:

When the German army occupied Holland in 1940, Annie was only eight years old. Because she was Jewish, the occupation put her in grave danger. Most people thought the war wouldn’t last long, but Annie knew that if she wanted to stay alive, she would have to go into hiding.

Fortunately, a Gentile family, the Oostervelds, offered refuge to Annie and her older sister, Sini. For two years they hid in the cramped upstairs room of the Oostervelds’s remote farmhouse. There, Annie and Sini would struggle to hold on to hope—separated from their family and confined to one tiny room—as a frightful and seemingly endless war raged on outside their window.

 

It was a very moving book to read, and I recommend it highly if you haven’t heard of it.

Honors for The Upstairs Room:

Newbery Honor Book 1973
Outstanding Book of 1972 (New York Times)
Notable Children’s Books of 1971-1975 (American Library Association)
Best Books of 1972 (School Library Journal)
Children’s Books 1972  (Library of Congress)
Jewish Book Council Children’s Book Award
School Library Journal Best Book
Jane Addams Book Award Honor Book
Buxtehuder Bulle  (Outstanding Children’s Book Promoting Peace, Germany)

Johanna Reiss

I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book about Netherlands.

Icelanders

As part of my ongoing project of reading books from different countries of the world, “Wanderlust,” I found a delightful and humorous book about Icelanders. When I was teaching sixth grade many years ago, I had a lovely Icelandic girl in class. She sparked my interest in Iceland and it’s spectacular geological history, but I actually know very little about the people and the culture, so this book was a fun introduction to both!

The book is called:  The Little Book of the Icelanders: 50 miniature essays on the quirks and foibles of the Icelandic people, written by Alda Sigmundsdóttir.

After more than 20 years away, Alda Sigmundsdottir returned to her native Iceland as a foreigner. With a native person’s insight yet an outsider’s perspective, Alda quickly set about dissecting the national psyche of the Icelanders. This second edition, from 2018, contains new and updated chapters from the original edition, reflecting the changes in Icelandic society and among the Icelandic people since the book was first published in 2012.

It was an interesting way to learn about a culture, through humor. Alda Sigmundsdottir has written a whole series of little books about Icelanders, and I’d like to read them all! I laughed a lot while reading this book, not AT the Icelanders, but at ourselves as human beings. By the end of the book, I was totally taken by the quirkiness and warmheartedness of the people, and would love to visit there (but not until after I read her book called The Little Book of Tourists in Iceland: Tips, tricks, and what the Icelanders really think of you.).

Here are some quotes from the book, that give you a glimpse of the people and culture of this country of starkly beautiful landscapes.

“Grasping the national psyche of the Icelandic people is like trying to catch a slippery fish with your bare hands.”

Hláturinn lengir lífið, the Icelanders say – “laughter prolongs your life”. There is no doubt in my mind that laughter has not only prolonged the life of individual Icelanders, but has been a source of formidable strength for the nation as a whole.”

If there is one phrase that captures the Icelanders’ innate sense of optimism better than any other, it is this: Þetta reddast. Þetta reddast should be emblazoned across the nation’s coat of arms, for it is a phrase that captures the essence of the Icelandic national character perhaps better than any other – their optimism, their irreverence, their faith, their tenacity. It also happens to be a phrase that the Icelanders use constantly. Þetta reddast basically means: This will all work out one way or another. Just lost your job? Þetta reddast. No money in the bank? Þetta reddast. Economy just melted down? Þetta reddast. Volcano just spewed ash all over your arable land? Þetta reddast líka. I love the phrase þetta reddast. To me, it incorporates a profound philosophy. Because when things are totally dark and you really can’t see the way out, often the best thing you can do is let go and trust that somehow, some way, things will work out for the best. And the amazing thing is that … they almost always do.”

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book about Iceland.

Wanderlust: Reading the 50 States


I am enjoying my “Wanderlust: Reading the World” ongoing personal reading project so much that I’ve decided to expand it by also reading a book from each of the 50 states. (That inspiration came from my blogging friend, Cath, at Read_Warbler.)  I’ll call it “Wanderlust: Reading the States”.  I’m not a glutton for punishment, I assure you. I’m just interested in and curious about the world around me, and these personal projects are stress-free, motivating, enjoyable, and a way of expanding my horizons. All from my favorite reading chair (on the porch again before too long, I hope!).

I decided that I wanted the two projects to run side-by-side. They are “ongoing” with no time limit and are just meant to be fun reading journeys. I’ll review most of the books I read, but not necessarily every one.  Please do check back here occasionally to see where I’ve been “traveling.”

Red: Read and reviewed
Blue: Read but not reviewed yet

13/50 

  1. Alabama:  Barracoon, by Zora Neale Hurston
  2. Alaska:  The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
  3. Arizona:
  4. Arkansas:
  5. California:  The Red Pony, by John Steinbeck
  6. Colorado:
  7. Connecticut:
  8. Delaware:  
  9. Florida:
  10. Georgia:
  11. Hawaii
  12. Idaho
  13. Illinois:  The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
  14. Indiana
  15. Iowa
  16. Kansas
  17. Kentucky
  18. Louisiana
  19. Maine:  The Country of the Pointed Firs, by Sarah Orne Jewett
  20. Maryland:  Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler
  21. Massachusetts
  22. Michigan
  23. Minnesota
  24. Mississippi
  25. Missouri
  26. Montana:  A River Runs Through It, by Norman Maclean
  27. Nebraska
  28. Nevada
  29. New Hampshire
  30. New Jersey
  31. New Mexico:  Death Comes For The Archbishop, by Willa Cather
  32. New York:  Here is New York, by E.B. White
  33. North Carolina
  34. North Dakota
  35. Ohio:  The Time Garden, by Edward Eager
  36. Oklahoma
  37. Oregon:  The Turning, by Emily Whitman
  38. Pennsylvania
  39. Rhode Island
  40. South Carolina
  41. South Dakota
  42. Tennessee
  43. Texas
  44. Utah
  45. Vermont:  Pollyanna, by Eleanor H. Porter
  46. Virginia
  47. Washington
  48. West Virginia
  49. Wisconsin
  50. Wyoming:  One Day At Teton Marsh, by Sally Carrighar

Manuscript Found in Accra

Manuscript Found in Accra, by Paulo Coehlo, reminded me a lot of The Prophet, by Khalil Gibran, but I liked The Prophet much better. There were some nuggets of wisdom in this one, but it bothered me that it was styled so much after Gibran.

I liked this passage from the book:

“Love appears and says: “You think you’re heading towards a specific point, but the whole justification for the goal’s existence lies in your love for it. Rest a little, but as soon as you can, get up and carry on. Because ever since your goal found out that you were traveling toward it, it has been running to meet you.”

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This book was written by a very popular author from BRAZIL.

Marcovaldo, or The Seasons in the City

Marcovaldo, or The Seasons in the City, by Italo Calvino, is a book that was recommended to me by my Argentine “sister” (my dear friend that I lived with as an exchange student to Argentina many years ago).  It’s one of her favorite books and so I put it on my list for The Classics Club. It’s a fun book to read, 20 short stories that are so very human. It is full of humor and pathos as one recognizes the character, Marcovaldo, as one of us…a bumbling, misguided, well-intentioned, basic human being. He was a country person living in the city, always out of his element and not quite understanding everything going on around him.

from the publisher:

Marcovaldo is an unskilled worker in a drab industrial city in northern Italy. He is an irrepressible dreamer and an inveterate schemer. Much to the puzzlement of his wife, his children, his boss, and his neighbors, he chases his dreams-but the results are never the ones he had expected.

Italo Calvino touches something deep inside us with these stories. With this thin volume and with just the right amount of words, he focuses a light on the human experience.

I read this book as one of my 50-books-in-5-years for The Classics Club. It was the book that was chosen from my list for The Classics Club SPIN #22!

 

 

I also chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book that takes place in Italy.

The Moonspinners

Catching up on some of my reviews at the end of the year here. A few months ago, I read The Moonspinners, by Mary Stewart. I should say I re-read it, because I remember reading it in high school and loving it. I also remember seeing the movie with Hayley Mills in it!

The story takes place on the island of Crete, and Mary Stewart tells a terrific story of intrigue and suspense, with a dash of romance.

from the publisher:

While on a walking holiday through the beautiful, deserted hills of Crete, Nicola Ferris stumbles across a critically injured Englishman, guarded by a fierce Greek. Nicola cannot abandon them and so sets off on a perilous search for their lost companion – all the while being pursued by someone who wants to make sure none of them leave the island . . .

I was caught by the suspense and read through the book very quickly, but not too fast to savor the way that Mary Stewart writes. Here’s an example of the kind of description she includes in her books. I feel like I’m there, in the heat and the dust and the beauty of the area.

But, when the big white bird flew suddenly up among the glossy leaves and the lemon flowers, and wheeled into the mountain, I followed it. What else is there to do when such a thing happens on a brilliant April noonday at the foot of the White Mountains of Crete; when the road is hot and dusty, but the gorge is green, and full of the sound of water, and the white wings, flying ahead, flicker in and out of deep shadow, and the air is full of the scent of lemon blossom?

I’m going to see if I can find the old movie and watch it again. I’ve always liked Hayley Mills, and it would be fun to revisit the film version of this story, too.

 

I chose this book to read for my personal challenge, “Wanderlust,” an effort to read books that are from or take place in each country of the world. This was a book from Greece.

Looking Forward to 2020

With the year 2020 almost here, it’s time to share some of my plans for my reading year. I do love the planning part of a new year! On January 1st, I’ll be ready to launch right into my new year of reading!

For 2020, I’m going to continue reading books by my favorite authors and track them on my Reading Journeys page. Reading about gardens and gardening is something I love to do, so I’m making My Garden Reading a focus for the year.  I will also continue with my international reading by continuing with my Wanderlust self-challenge.

When Autumn arrives, I will welcome the Readers Imbibing Peril challenge once again. And I look forward to Dewey’s 24-Hour Read-a-thons (no link). I know I will enjoy my continuing participation in The Classics Club. I have finished over 1/2 of the books on my list of 50 Books in 5 Years — my goal for 2020 is to read at least 10-12 more of the books on that list. And I mustn’t forget about my GOODREADS reading challenge. I keep track of all my books on Goodreads, and this year have read 143 books. It’s been a long time since I read that many books in one year. We’ll see what happens in 2020.

I’m excited about this upcoming reading year. I hope you are enjoying your planning, too!

Happy 2020 reading, my friends!