Friday, May 29, 2015

Left Behind in France


Hiding Out
by Elizabeth Laird
written for ages 9-12 | recommended
published in 1994 (1993) | Mammoth | 208 pages




The Castles and the Fletchers are driving back through France to Calais and stop for a picnic. They leave in a hurry in their two cars, and Peter Castle is left behind. The parents have traffic problems and get different ferries so they don't realise their mistake until they reach England. Peter, meanwhile, decides to make a go of being stranded, finding things he can eat, lighting a fire and trapping fish, avoiding the local farmers. His father returns to France and mobilises the police who eventually find him.

The point-of-view shifts between the characters to create a nice balance of tensions, heightened by the communication problems of different languages. Peter faces up to his situation, and deals with his fears, mostly by recalling the advice or example of his father and grandfather. There is a subplot of the friendship between Mr. Castle and Mrs. Fletcher whose husband has just run off with his secretary, but this is suitably resolved and is the only thing which comes between the boy and his father when they are reunited.


Tim Golden is a computer programmer in London. This review first appeared on goodtoread.org

See more reviews of juvenile books at Mercatornet.com

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Another Dog Poem!


Letting the Dog In

by Emily Ruppel


Whereas the cat has found her way

along the low roof and through

– a quick and weightless leap –

the open window of the master

room, the dog croons wearily to

an implacable moon, fastened

as he is by gravity and obedience

to the big oak in the midnight yard.



Rain falls faster, fuller, the master

still at large come one a.m. I’m curling

my tongue round the pads of my paws,

attenuating their wetness in

the warmth of the guttering fire.



I hear you, yes, and feel the surge

of what must be pity—a broad,

ambiguous heave of it. Less for you,

perhaps, than for your dimly

imagined ancestors, that they

trustingly and with such buoyance

year after vanishing year made

the selections they did.



This poem was first published in the 2015 God and Nature Magazine, a publication of the American Scientific Affiliation.

Related reading:  A Poem About Dog Sledding; Mickey Blue Eyes



Friday, May 15, 2015

Franz Wright RIP


The American poet Franz Wright died at his home on Thursday, May 14, 2015, after a long battle with lung cancer. He was 62. He and his father James Wright are the only parent/child pair to have won the Pulitzer Prize in the same category. Wright was born in Vienna, Austria. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1977.



Poet Franz Wright, 62, died at his home in Waltham, Mass., on Thursday after a long struggle with lung cancer, his publisher Knopf confirmed. Wright's 2003 collection "Walking to Martha's Vineyard" won the Pulitzer Prize.

Wright was born March 18, 1953, in Austria and as raised in the Bay Area, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. His father was the poet James Wright, also a Pulitzer Prize-winning poet.

Wright's books of poetry include "F" (2013), "Kindertotenwald" (2011), "Wheeling Motel" (2009), "God's Silence" (2006), "Walking to Martha's Vineyard" (2003) and "The Beforelife" (2001), all published by Knopf.

His longtime editor at Knopf, Deborah Garrison, said, "Franz wrote fearlessly about mental illness, addiction and loneliness as well as about faith and the unending beauty of his world, no matter how broken; he never wrote a line that wasn't fiercely important to him, musical, as witty as it was deadly serious. Franz lived for poetry -- at times it seemed it kept him alive -- and he managed to write poems in which the choice to live feels continually renewed, not just an urgent daily requirement for the poet but a call to arms that includes every single reader."

Read more here.


Friday, May 8, 2015

Teens and Dark Fiction


Barbara Kay

Last week Nancy Drew, teen detective, celebrated her series’ 85th anniversary of continuous publication. In the 1950s, Nancy still wore demure dresses, drove a snappy blue convertible and called home from a telephone booth. Today I’m told she wears jeans and t-shirts, drives a hybrid car and carries a smartphone. Nevertheless, I am sure the clever sleuth is still the upright character she always was: cheerful, resourceful, civic-minded, ethical, honourable, courageous and loyal. And non-sexual.

What a sea change fiction for adolescents has undergone since Nancy solved the Mystery of the Old Clock.
In my youth, children read what educators call “window books,” books that focused a child’s attention outward onto character-building adventures abroad — literally or figuratively. Nancy Drew was a humble subset of what one would call literature, and made no special moral or aesthetic claims. But the series nevertheless obeyed the general principle of its era of influence: while unrealistic, the stories mimicked the aspirational thrust of classic literature — that is, its main character strove to prove her merit according to the standards of her (admittedly white-bread) culture.

As we became more and more an identity-obsessed, sexualized “therapy culture,” adolescents gravitated to “mirror books,” me-focused fiction in what became designated the Young Adult category (YA), targeting 12-18 year olds. This fiction is usually narrated by a disaffected adolescent, the plot typically lingering over social pressures involving sex, drugs, divorce and racial or gendered alienation. Adults in these books are often either absent, hostile, abusive or in other ways unsympathetic. The reigning motif is victimhood. The narrator’s only source of self-esteem is pride in remaining “authentic” in a conformist and hypocritical society. The Urtext for mirror books was J.D. Salinger’s 1951 novel, Catcher in the Rye.

The troubled protagonist of Salinger’s novel, Holden Caulfield, is an icon of psychological health, though, when compared to today’s YA protagonists. Holden merely moped about and sneered at people for being “phony.” By contrast, in Jackie Morse Kessler’s 2011 YA novel, Rage, a girl is filled with self-loathing, symbolized by compulsive cutting. Sadistically bullied by her peers as “cutterslut,” she slashes her arm to shreds, “but the badness remained, staining her insides like cancer. She had gouged her belly until it was a mess of meat and meat.…” In Cheryl Rainfield’s 2010 YA novel,Scars, the narrator is a girl who has been raped since she was a toddler by her father, who provides her with knives to cut herself to death as a teenager. In the Canadian YA novel, When Everything Feels Like the Movies, by Raziel Reid — this year’s Governor-General award winner for best fiction in children’s literature — a narcissistic and masochistic gay teenager, whose ambition is to become a cocaine-addicted male prostitute in Hollywood, obsesses over sexual fantasies (some quite deviant) and proudly recounts successful baiting strategies to ensure attention-getting beatings.

Clearly this kind of lurid extremism pays off in the marketplace. Books ostensibly written for adolescents are nowadays increasingly bought by aesthetically lazy adults with simplistic adult appetites. So there is strong motivation in this glutted buyer’s market for writers of YA to gild their festering lilies. They are furthered encouraged in their transgressive impulses by progressive cultural elites (like those who sit on the G-G Awards committee) who naively pride themselves on their belief that the more frankness around sexuality of all kinds young readers encounter, however disturbing, the more helpful it will be in expanding their understanding and sympathy for marginalized youth.

Is that the case? Does adolescent immersion in fictional worlds where characters their age suffer or inflict horrible sex-related abuse on themselves, and where graphic content is — it seems to me — expressly designed, like pornography, to elicit a prurient response, have a salutary effect?

In fact, there is no evidence to show that is the case. But there is evidence to suggest the opposite. In her 2013 book about bullying, Sticks and Stones, journalist Emily Bazelon describes a method some schools use called “social norming” to discourage drinking and driving. She writes, “When [students] find out that [drinking and driving] is less prevalent than they think — outlier behavior rather than the norm — they’re less likely to do it themselves.” The same with cruelty, and by inference, behaviours like cutting, anorexia and grotesque sexual fetishism.

We can’t go home again in children’s literature, nor should we try. But one can at least say with confidence regarding Nancy Drew something one cannot say with confidence about the representative YA examples I have cited above: She did no harm


Barbara Kay is a columnist for Canada’s National Post, where this article was first published.


Thursday, April 16, 2015

Interview with Rayanne Sinclair


Rayanne Sinclair has done it again! Her third novel is well crafted and inspirational. Page Turner came to market earlier than planned due to Rayanne's “semi-retirement” last August. Though she continues with consulting assignments, she appreciates the extra time to write and she has started her fourth book. The four books will be available as a boxed set for the Christmas holiday.



Rayanne Sinclair


What was the inspiration for this book?


I must admit that my stories are “given” to me – from beginning to end.  As you know, I’ve not spent a lifetime dreaming about becoming an author – and certainly not an author of fiction.  I often don’t see the purpose behind these stories until they are completed in first draft. That can be frustrating, but I actually think it forces me to simply trust that the Lord has some intention with the books that I may never know or understand this side of heaven.


As with all my novels (genre: new adult inspirational romance), I’m trying to project role models for today’s young women in my female leads. They are young but they are also clear about who they are, what they want, and what they stand for. I seek to display them as strong and feminine. I also want strong male characters because all too often the romance genre creates paper doll images of men. They are predictable and one-dimensional when they need to be authentic. Finally, my main inspiration for these books is to lift up traditional and covenantal marriage – a theme of “biblical” proportion.


As for Page Turner specifically, I find the greatest inspiration in the statement made by the Methodist pastor when he observes: The pastor then marveled aloud that a Jew could more readily come to Christ than a man raised in the church. “We just don’t know the plans and timing of God, yet we must trust him wholly. For in the end, he only and always does what is just and right.”


Many relationships are presented in this novel. There are father-son relationships: Pastor and his son; Page's father and his son.  In the first case, religious commitment comes between the father and the son, and in the second case, their relationship seems to be stronger because of their faith commitment. Any comments?


As you know, the genre is almost always written from the female POV, but these father/son relationships end up adding texture to the story.


There are mother-daughter relationships: Page and her mother have a good relationship. Page seeks her advice and trusts her.  Any comments about this?


Though it’s clear that Page has been raised with plenty of father-love from which she derives her confidence and drive, it’s also clear that she takes most of her “messages” from her mom. And Mrs. Holden is full of Godly wisdom as she draws Page to the right conclusions without being preachy. 


There are mother–son relationships: Gavi’s mother and her son are estranged and Gavi’s decision to be with Page makes the estrangement worse.  The reader senses that the estrangement extended to the deceased father also, someone who was too harsh with his son.


The reader should have no doubts that Gavi was driven hard by demanding parents who may have been seeking a “prize” rather than a relationship in their son. Despite that, it’s also clear that Gavi tries hard to be a good son to his mother. It was also important to the story line that he be uncompromising about leaving and cleaving – i.e., his declaration of love and intent to marry Page.  Gavi’s heart is changed by Christ such that he ultimately chooses to leave behind the bitterness that his parents (especially mother) held onto.



Religious commitment plays a role in all these relationships. Can you speak about this?


The faith commitment of the first character one meets on the first page in all my books (Anne in Steal Away, Kat in Beso Dulce, and Page in Page Turner) lays down the marker for what will be fundamental in all her choices/decisions. They all take what some might consider to be “risks in relationship,” but they are guided by a faith that God will confirm for them what is right.


At the end of the novel, you pull together many threads by posing the story of widows: Page’s mother and Page herself. If we add in the account of Gavi’s mother, we have a story about three widows. I was reminded of the book of Ruth, which is about three widows facing life decisions. Two decide to follow move on, following their faith. Page’s mother begins a late in life career. Page moves from being a small town girl to a world traveling pianist. Gavi’ mother resists change and decides to “stay in Moab.” Did you have the story of Ruth in mind?


No, but I’m glad you saw that story there!

This novel has an important message for young women who are hoping to find their life partner.


Exactly. That message should be “know who you are in Christ first – and be ready (prepared/decided in advance) to give an answer for the hope that lies within you when that’s tested.” In other words, don’t compromise or settle.


Your experiences of the Vietnam era and Ohio State University lend strong background to this novel. Any thoughts about why you chose this time and setting?


I enjoyed my college years at OSU, but also wanted to frame the female lead in small-town America. I also prefer to write about places I have seen/visited.  Lastly, I love college football! It seemed like a perfect match. (You’ll note on the acknowledgements page that I give a hat tip to the OSU Buckeyes football national championship victory. I wrote that acknowledgement before the game took place because I had a clear sense that despite – or perhaps because of – their challenges this past season, I knew they would prevail.)


As for Page’s brother and his service and ultimate sacrifice in Vietnam, I felt it was simply something that could not be ignored when writing in this era. With more than 50K troops lost over such a long period of time, it had to be memorialized.

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Poem for Holy Week



The Seed Pod


I walked along a quiet lake today,
And found a seed pod along the way.
Long and leathery, it outlined so tight
Tomb-door shapes, darkly out of sight.
Each had a slightly different shape,
Some a Gothic arch, some a rounded cape.
All are bound until sun, soil, and rain
Allow the casings that restrain
To rot or tear away, setting each one free
So they might, in strength, grow the tree
From where they first originated,
And for which they were created.


So we, in some unmeasured season,
Will be released, revealing the reason
Our restricting pods were closed to grow
Us into the likeness of Him we know
Broke from His cave of death
Bringing new life and spirit-breath
To those who lay entrapped by sin.
Indeed we need not strive to win,
Or make the changes we think just,
But only love and know, obey and trust
All God has powerfully given
In Christ who, then and now, has risen!


--Hope Ellen Rapson, Holy Week 2015


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Lady Day 2015


The Annunciation by Leonardo da Vinci (1472–1475) Uffizi Gallery

Alice C. Linsley

Today my 12th grandchild was born: Sebastian Otto! I am so thankful. It seems fortuitous that he should be born on this Lady Day.

In the western liturgical year, Lady Day is the traditional name in some English speaking countries of the Feast of the Annunciation (25 March), known in the 1549 Prayer Book of Edward VI and the 1662 Book of Common Prayer as The Annunciation of the Blessed Virgin Mary.


ANNUNCIATION

That All, which always is All everywhere,
Which cannot sin, and yet all sins must bear,
Which cannot die, yet cannot choose but die,
Loe, faithful Virgin, yields himself to lie
In prison, in thy womb; and though he there
Can take no sin, nor thou give, yet he will wear
Taken from thence, flesh,
which death's force may try.
Ere by the spheres time was created, thou
Wast in his mind, who is thy Son, and Brother,
Whom thou conceiv'st, conceiv'd;
yea thou art now
Thy maker's maker, and thy Father's mother,
Thou hast light in dark; and shutst in little room,
Immensity, cloistered in thy dear womb.

- John Donne (1572-1631)


BLESSED IS SHE WHO BELIEVED

Here is Mary, the woman of prayer, attentive and responsive to God, with hands open and empty before God, not clinging to any conditions. A simple fiat. Yes. Be it done to me according to your word. Indeed, "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord" (Luke 1:45). By faith she permitted the Father to fulfill His plan and welcomed the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. By faith she embraced the Word made flesh in her womb. We know that "without faith it is impossible to please God" (cf. Hebrews 11:6) and that Mary found favor with Him by her faith.

So must we, at this juncture in our lives as individuals and as a movement, kneel before the Father in a radical poverty of spirit and learn to pray with hands open and empty. In the past 30 years we have received great graces, but I'm afraid that too often we've returned to God with our hands full instead of empty. I sense that there are new "annunciations" being given for a new move of the Spirit, but that many of us don't really want God to be God. We still want Him on our own terms... a God who will fit into a prescribed pattern of acting. We don't want the Living God who turned Mary's life upside down. Let's be careful! By her, faith, Mary permitted God to "create a new thing upon the earth' (Jeremiah 31:22). As I've asked Mary to be my mother and teach me to pray with hands open and empty, this is what I am leaning to say to the Father, "With Mary, I want to be for You all YES, only YES, always YES."

- Patti Gallagher Mansfield (from an article in the July-August 1997 issue of the ICCRS Newsletter. ICCRS , Palazzo della Cancelleria, 00120 Vatican City, Europe.)