Children's Book Alert:

Apparently, Valentine's Day is coming soon. I know this because all of the fixtures and promotions at work declare the holiday with an unnatural fervour. One book we are celebrating this month (that is, it joins the ranks of all the other pink and red books that feature hearts or the word 'love' in the title upon our promotional table at the department's entrance) has caught my particular fancy, and I am posting it here. Observe it's ornate cover illustration. And read it. It is sweetly funny. It will make you smile.


I had entertained the thought that twenty-five (almost) years and a masters degree would finally make me exempt from that most inevitable of female roles: babysitting. But such is not the case. (Please accept apology if you are a babysitting male or unbabysitting female. I admire you both.) Here I am after having just put to bed my recent charges, stealing someone's feeble wireless connection while curled up on a couch clearly chosen by an interior designer sometime before the house was occupied by real humans. If you have never had the pleasure of spending quality time in a Country Club home, let me enlighten you.

Country Club dwellers purchase their homes predecorated. There are many reasons for this. First, it always looks good when company comes. There is no object out of place, because every object was chosen by a professional. But that's the trick, you see. You are not allowed to change anything after you move in. Nevermind that you've bought the thing, that the decorations are now your personal belongings and that you can rearrange or dispose of them as you will. They were, as I said before, selected by a professional. So don't touch them. This way, there's never an object displayed sentimentally but garishly, foolishly and tackily... it's all just right.

In order to maintain this lifestyle, you have to leave all personal belongings - besides food, clothes, and toiletries - somewhere else. In a 'first' home, perhaps. Or in one of the dozens of storage units scattered around the Desert (these particular country clubs are in the desert where I live. I can speak with authority of no others). It is my secret opinion - now no longer secret, of course - that this has a lot to do with the age of the average Country Club dweller. Most of them are older, retired folks. And at this point, personal belongings serve mostly to remind them not of the good times past, but of the number of good times and the distance between those times and this present time. That is, they are reminders of age. This sterile, tidy, predecorated environment ensures both class and forgetfulness. It is like living in a very posh vacation. Not like. It is. I suppose that's what retirement means for the wealthy. Very posh vacation for life.

What is weird is when you introduce children to this environment. Not that the kids really care that the coffee table was selected by a stranger and not their grandmother, but the babysitter notices that the colourful paper airplanes look a bit garish on its sleek mahogany surface. Especially in the shadow of the crisp paper flowers in their matching vase. Those flowers which are dustless, and which have not been moved in the five years the house has been lived in.

It is good to remember that these houses are not lived in during the summers. It would be depressing to thing of this being a year-long home. Because it is not a home. It is a dwelling.

One final observation about these Country Club houses: there is never any real food in the kitchen. Some posh crisps or crackers, granola bars, yogurt cups, and lots of fancy wine, sparkling water and ginger ale. But no chicken breasts, potatoes in brown paper bags, bottles of canola oil... nothing to suggest cookery. One wonders what these people eat. And then one remembers the clubhouse. An institution that deserves its very own blog entry. Perhaps another day... but don't hold your breath.


Not to overwhelm you with new posts after weeks of silence, but I don't want to forget to post this fascinating photo Amanda and I took while at the library a few weeks ago:

Notice anything odd? Look closely.


Heard this on the trailer for 'Peaceful Warrior' many moons ago. Finally found it. Where else but YouTube? 'Breathe Me' by Sia:

I have a feeling this blog is going to turn into a book review site. Not sure how I feel about that. Nevertheless, here's a heads-up that another review is on its way. (How many blogs are given over to personal opinions about books, movies, and music? Am I prepared to enter that horde?) On my breaks at work, those same precious fifteen-minute interludes that brought me through Despereaux, I am now reading Jerry Spinelli's book for teens: Stargirl. If anyone feels like reading it along with me, I've just finished the part about the basketball game. So far, it's a book I think you should read. Despereaux's better, but this is certainly worth one's while. Here's why:

There are a lot of books out for teenagers that are set within the sphere of a high school. Movies too (think Ten Things I Hate About You, Clueless, and other non-adaptation films). These usually address the interactions between social groups, as if these social groups - though perhaps lamentable - are unavoidably fixed institutions. Stargirl, as far as I can tell from the first 10-13 chapters, is a challenge to question such an assumption. It addresses high schoolers as interesting people, and takes advantage of the intimacy of the campus setting to reveal both the best and the worst in people.

If you're interested, here's further fodder for Stargirl fanaticism - a link to a word search that you can print out and play at your leisure. Test that Stargirl word-association power!:


Chatting with my mother, I realise it has been ages since last I updated this forum of Mollinian thought. Mother suggests the following as an entry:

The Christmas rush is over and I have enjoyed my fulfilling job helping people select quality children's literature at Barnes and Noble.

This is true. Would you like a wider offering of thought? Or broader?
How 'bout a book suggestion? (This should probably be posted on my readers' blog, shared with Edinburgh friends):

I have just finished reading The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. It is a book that every one should read - man and beast, woman and bird. It is about a mouse, a rat, a princess, a non-princess, and soup. Yes, the rodents do talk. No, it is not obnoxiously cloying and cute, unreasonable, unbelievable, or silly. Read it. You will feel both loved and known. You will feel enlightened in the real sense of a window opening the morning into a dark room. You will want to praise it to all your friends in similar fashion to my present adulation.

My mother and father recently visited my brother in Connecticut. I sent him a children's book I had not read but that looked interesting. If anyone out there has read Operation Red Jericho, please tell me what you thought of it. I liked it because it had maps and graphs, sketches and travel-logs in it. And as my mother would say, a book with a map must be good.

I started reading Sharon Creech's Castle Corona today. I do not think it is quite as inspired as The Tale of Despereaux, but it may prove to be fabulous as well. I was charmed by her use of the phrase 'spare prince' on the first page. And delighted that she didn't skirt around the fact that hers was a 'once upon a time' story. I love the necessity of that phrase.

I also read the picture book The Chocolate Cat. Not very well written, mostly because a book like that should have your mouth watering with longing for that favoured bean, but the illustrations were fun.

I am now doing a fine job of being in my mother's way as she prepares a feast for our supper, hopefully to be eaten in front of or just prior to my first viewing of the film Once. I've been meaning to watch that film for many months now.

I have just been notified by my mother's laptop that I am running on reserve battery power. Oh dear.
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