February Reflections 2019

The month of February turned out to be our real winter this year. January was mild and spring-like. February brought arctic air, snow and ice, many snow days, and dark gray days. Just the thing for staying inside and reading! So I did, and I read a lot this month.

I spent time with a couple of new-to-me mystery series, thanks to recommendations from friends. I’ve been captured by the Ruth Galloway series, by Elly Griffiths, and by the D.I. Nikki Galena series by Joy Ellis. I also revisited an older series that I read many years ago: the Mrs. Pollifax series by Dorothy Gilman. I listened to the first of that series on audiobook, The Unexpected Mrs. Pollifax, and loved it all over again. There’s nothing better than having a good mystery series to enjoy!

For my own celebration of Black History Month, I finished reading Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche, and read Zora Neale Hurston’s Barracoon. Both were beautifully written, powerful and moving stories.

My favorite audiobook of the month was Ken Follett’s Eye of the Needle. My favorite children’s book read this month was Ordinary, Extraordinary Jane Austen, by Deborah Hopkinson.

Quite a varied month for me. The only problem is…I’ve fallen way behind on my review posts! But I will just keep plugging away, one review at a time, and eventually I will catch up, right? Or not!  So many books, so little time!

WOMEN, by Annie Leibovitz

The photography of Annie Leibovitz is always fascinating to me. She is a brilliant artist and her photographs are amazing and profound. Her book, WOMEN, a collaborative work with Susan Sontag, who wrote a powerful essay on women for the book, is an incredibly thought-provoking study of the diversity of women.

 

from the publisher:

The photographs by Annie Leibovitz in Women, taken especially for the book, encompass a broad spectrum of subjects: a rap artist, an astronaut, two Supreme Court justices, farmers, coal miners, movie stars, showgirls, rodeo riders, socialites, reporters, dancers, a maid, a general, a surgeon, the First Lady of the United States, the secretary of state, a senator, rock stars, prostitutes, teachers, singers, athletes, poets, writers, painters, musicians, theater directors, political activists, performance artists, and businesswomen. “Each of these pictures must stand on its own,” Susan Sontag writes in the essay that accompanies the portraits. “But the ensemble says, So this what women are now — as different, as varied, as heroic, as forlorn, as conventional, as unconventional as this.”

Susan Sontag’s essay on women and photography was just as powerful as the photographs in the book.

“Women are judged by their appearance as men are not, and women are punished more than men are by the changes brought about by aging.”

“One of the tasks of photography is to disclose, and shape our sense of, the variety of the world. It is not to present ideals. There is no agenda except diversity and interestingness. There are no judgments, which of course is itself a judgment.”

I have used the words “powerful” and “profound” to describe this book, and the collaboration of these two women certainly achieved that! It is not a light-weight book. It is not one to just skim through. Their exploration of the lives of women is illuminating, disturbing, uplifting, fascinating. Take your time with this book.

This book was published in 1999 and Ms. Leibovitz considered that “the project was never done.” She continued to work on it,  and in collaboration with her friend, Gloria Steinem, created a 2016 international traveling exhibit called WOMEN: New Portraits

Self-portrait with daughters…

I read this book and celebrate this artist as part of my year-long celebration of turning 70 years old. Annie Leibovitz was born in the same year as me, 1949!

Read Local

The Oregon Book Awards are “named to honor Oregon’s literary community.” There are eight categories of awards, each named after a prominent Oregonian, and with a new category for graphic literature. Click here to read about each category.

  • Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry
  • Ken Kesey Award for Fiction
  • Frances Fuller Victor Award for General Nonfiction
  • Sarah Winnemucca Award for Creative Nonfiction
  • Angus L. Bowmer Award for Drama
  • Graphic Literature Award
  • Eloise Jarvis McGraw Award for Children’s Literature
  • Leslie Bradshaw Award for Young Adult Literature

This month I read all the books (except one which is still on hold at my library) in the Eloise Jarvis McGraw Award for Children’s Literature category. I love reading books for children, so this little project was a very enjoyable one for me. There are five nominees for this award, and the winner will be announced on April 22, 2019.

The five books nominated for this award are:

As I read each one, I could easily understand why each was nominated. They are all award-winners in my estimation — such a nice selection of books! I recommend all five of these books to anyone who loves children’s literature!

Although I liked each one, there was one that completely won my heart. A Boy, a Mouse, and a Spider: The Story of E.B. White, by Barbara Herkert and illustrated by Lauren Castillo, is a very special book that introduces children to the life of the author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. It is beautifully written with lovely illustrations, and for all of us who dearly love Charlotte’s Web, it shows that the ideas for that special book came right out of E.B. White’s own childhood experiences.

The Book of Dragons

The Book of Dragons, by Edith Nesbit, is a series of nine dragon stories. Each dragon is a different color or made of different stuff, and each one causes different problems. These stories for children are fun. I didn’t enjoy this book as much as some of her others — I loved The Psammead Trilogy and The Railway Children. But if you enjoy dragon stories, or know a young one who does, I definitely recommend books by Edith Nesbit. She’s terrific.

From the Back Cover:

Dragons — of all sorts — make for marvelous fun, and this collection of madcap tales is filled with them. Some of the legendary monsters are funny and mischievous, others are downright frightening, and a number of them are wild and unpredictable. There’s a dragon made of ice, another that takes refuge in the General Post Office, a scaly creature that carries off the largest elephant in a zoo, and even a dragon whose gentle purring comforts a tiny tot. And who challenges these amazing creatures? Why, daring heroes, of course, as well as a wicked prince, and even an entire soccer team — which, unfortunately, meets its fate with a fire-breathing brute that flies out of the pages of an enchanted book.

H.R. Millar, E. Nesbit’s The Book of Dragons, North-South Books, 1900

Currently Reading: The Eye of the Needle

Actually, I’m listening to the audiobook version of Ken Follett’s, Eye of the Needle, and I can’t stop listening! I would say that the author was wildly successful with this goal he shared in an interview:

I want to tell a story that makes the reader always want to see what will happen next.

 

I am reading this book as part of my year-long celebration of turning 70 years old. Ken Follett was born in the same year as me, 1949!  Happy Birthday this year, too, Mr. Follett!

A Poem by Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman at seventy

Queries to My Seventieth Year
~ by Walt Whitman

Approaching, nearing, curious,
Thou dim, uncertain spectre–bringest thou life or death?
Or placid skies and sun? Wilt stir the waters yet?
Or haply cut me short for good? Or leave me here as now,
Dull, parrot-like and old, with crack’d voice harping, screeching?

Sharing this poem is part of my year-long celebration of turning 70 years old.

Gardenlust

This last week I have been immersed in garden dreaming, garden planning, and garden reading!  This is clearly a reaction to the cold and snowy weather here in the Pacific Northwest!  My current book from the online digital section of my library has an appropriate name for my state of mind: Gardenlust!  Written by Christopher Woods, Gardenlust, A Botanical Tour of the World’s Best New Gardens, is a “A beautiful tour through some of the loveliest gardens in the world!” ~ Peter H. Raven, President Emeritus at Missouri Botanical Garden. It was published by one of my favorite publishing companies, Timber Press, and is really an interesting book to read, especially in the middle of a cold February!

The photography is gorgeous and the information about each of these botanical gardens is very interesting to read. I haven’t finished the book yet, but I will be giving it a very good rating on Goodreads. What a pleasure to read on this snowy/icy weekend!