Monthly Archives: May 2012

Summertime, and the reading is easy…


Where I WISH I was going!!!

So, 5 days and 6 hours and my summer break begins!!!  I’m pretty excited about it…sleeping late, coaching swim team, swimming laps, walking, spending time with family, catching up with friends and, of course, READING.  Our library now has a virtual collection that we can check out on most of our devices, which means that I can check out books without having to take so many home with me!  I travel to VA and have a sleek, cool Honda Accord Coupe (red, of course).  I love my car but the packing space is limited…especially when you have 2 kids (furry, four-legged, and space taker-uppers). My iPad (thanks to my brother and last year’s birthday…not sure how he’s going to top that!), is a wonderful thing.  It’s small, easy to carry and can store tons of books. Anyway…looking forward to all of it so you may or may not hear much from me after today!  Have a fantastic summer and happy reading!





I love Kristen Cashore!!!  She’s the author of Graceling, Fire and now, Bitterblue.  It’s a rare writer who can make you laugh through a list of characters and their traits!  I especially love that, in her book, the writer of the character biographies is a librarian…named Death!  How marvelous!

It’s been 8 long years between Graceling and its sequel, BitterblueFire came in between and quenched my thirst for a bit but 8 years is a very long time to wait for a story to continue.  Katsa and Po figure into this story, though Po more than his fiery partner.

Bitterblue has grown from a frightened 10-year-old into a formidable if insecure young woman of sixteen.  She is now the queen of a country that has barely survived the horrible brutality of her father, King Leck. She is surrounded by advisers left from his reign who seem to support her but, when she sneaks out into her city, she discovers that things are not as they seem from behind her desk in the castle.  That night she finds herself in a pub where there are storytellers.  Some of the stories she knows because she lived them but others intrigue her but nothing mystifies her more than a Graced young man who steals from his fellow listeners.  His grace is not stealing, though, because Bitterblue catches him at it.  Still, he and his friend Teddy come to her rescue later and they develop a cautious friendship.  Unfortunately, it’s a friendship built upon lies.  There’s no way Bitterblue can reveal that she’s their queen. She needs the information that they bring her about her kingdom, things she needs to fix if she’s to become the queen that her mother believed she could be.  The unfathomable horrors that her father inflicted upon his kingdom and his people are not so easy to forget yet that’s exactly what someone seems to be trying to force everyone to do.  There is someone who is killing those who speak the truth about Leck and Bitterblue must not only find the murderer but also find a way to discover exactly what her father did so that she can begin to help her kingdom and herself heal.

If you have not already discovered Kristen Cashore, you absolutely must read Graceling, Fire and Bitterblue!  There is action, adventure, horror, sadness, grief, budding first love, strong, committed love and so very much more!  You will laugh and cry reading the stories of Katsa, Po, and Bitterblue and rail at the terrifying injustices of King Leck.



History Lesson


I doubt many people reading this blog know much about me.  I was adopted as a 6 week old and have had an amazing life, as a result!!!  One afternoon, I ran across one of our library volunteers in the halls who wanted me to return a book for her and she told me a bit about it.  The book is called The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald.  It’s an adult book so I just nodded politely until she got to the part about the main character, Henry, being a “practice baby”.  Turns out that in the early part of the 19th century, colleges had very intense “Domestic Economics” programs that taught eager young women how to run a household and raise a child.  Practice babies were on loan from local orphanages.  The “mothers” would stay for a week in the “practice house”, caring for the child and juggling the house work.  There was always a teacher or house mother to oversee  and instruct the student mothers…it was sort of an on-the-job-training atmosphere.  The children usually stayed for a year, after which they were up for adoption.  Many of these children were in high demand because they had been raised using the latest “scientific” methods.  What I found was that it was a very cold and confusing place.  Back in the late 40s, when Henry was born, the general thought was that mothers should handle their children as little as possible.  They should be fed, changed, and clothed but not coddled. When the baby cried, you let it cry.  If the basic necessities were taken care of, then the baby just needed to learn to comfort itself. By the early sixties, the practice houses and Domestic Economics classes had fallen out of favor and were closed up and Dr. Spock changed the ideology about child rearing…thankfully!!!

Since she couldn’t consult the grown children or read journal articles about them, Gurnwald interviewed experts on child psychology.  They explained what kinds of challenges these children might have faced as teens and adults.  The most common problem was probably “attachment disorder”, which, simply put, is the inability to connect emotionally with others.  Her character Henry learns to be the “perfect” child.  In other words, he learns how to get what he wants through manipulation. He also has trouble making decisions.  As a child, it was deciding who was his best friend or who was his favorite “mother”. Henry loved art and drawing but even determining his favorite color was a difficult challenge.  Later, as an adult, he could not land on a personal artistic style.  He was much better at copying other people’s styles.  By the end of the book, I felt very sorry for Henry because, though we came from similar circumstances, we had completely different experiences.

I think back to my childhood.  I don’t have a fantastic memory but what I do remember was pretty good.  My mom was always there when I needed her, no matter the time of day or night.  Even though I was not blood-kin, she had a sixth sense about my brother (also adopted) and me.  She just KNEW when we needed her or when something important was about to happen.  Even now, as an adult, I can’t think of anyone to whom I am closer. I do have some residual issues possibly stemming from having been adopted.  According to several counselors I’ve seen over the years, my insecurity  with relationships is likely related to my adoption.  I’ve known about it since before I even understood what it was.  My parents always explained that we were special and chosen (a fairly typical explanation to adopted kids).  We knew that, for some reason, we were given up by our birth mothers…this reason was explained as we got older, of course.  I guess that knowing that I was given away, even if for a very good reason, left me wondering if something wasn’t inherently wrong with me.  At 47, I’m still working on this.

I have met my birth mother and enjoy a fairly good relationship with her.  I have 3 half-sisters who are wonderful and interesting women.  I am very grateful to her on so many levels.  I was not put into an orphanage or aborted.  I love both of my families and am grateful for the gift of life given to me by both of my mothers.  Still, I do wonder whatever happened to these “practice babies” and if they were able to find joy or at least contentment.

By the way…the book was great and I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading grown-up books 🙂  The ending of it, while a little abrupt, left me feeling a little bit hopeful for young Henry House.

For more information on these practice houses:

What Was Home Economics?

Home Management Houses

Home Economics: 1900-1950

Practice Babies: NPR

Orphan raised by 8 mothers