Allison's Book Bag

Archive for the ‘Grades 9-11’ Category

Isn’t Stinkwaves a deliciously fun name for a young people’s magazine? I hold in my hands an 80+ page literary magazine packed with stories, poems, and artwork by contributors of all ages. With its wide range of genres—from adventure and fantasy to scary and silly–the magazine will appeal to young people and adults.

The Spring Issue hosts an eclectic collection of writings. To start, there’s a how-to article on writing and an interview with an author. My favorite story is The Prize to be Won. Think the movie Mission Impossible and mice. That’s all I’m going to tell you! Other top contenders are: The Caterpillar mixes fantasy with reality as it tells the tale of a man whose life would be perfect except he must ride the bus, and then one day he meets a caterpillar who forever changes the course of his life; The Winter of the River is a love story about two young people who discover a new world at the end of the river, but that new world takes them on two different paths; and A Wish for Stolie weaves humor into a tale of a dump ranger who unleashes a genie from a bottle, only to potentially lose his chance a wish when his friend falls into a ravine.

The Spring Issue also boasts a colorful cover and multiple illustrations. The latter are all submitted and, as such, vary in their style and quality. A duck drawing looks computer generated, a robot forms a perfect stencil, a flower drawing resembles those found in adult coloring books, an alligator emerges from a watercolor background, and much of the remaining artwork is either line drawn or painted. The most adorable are the bear sketches accompanying a poem entitled “I’m my own best friend” and the most striking is that of an ink-drawn city landscape. If they don’t already have one, many of the contributors should have a promising art career.

My one concern about the magazine is its hefty price of $20 for two issues. My circle of writing friends immediately put that worry to rest. The ladies (who are also parents) enjoyed the magazine and reassured me that families who want quality reading for their teenagers will not be deterred by the price.

In today’s market, with many print publications folding, relatively young publishing companies need to stand out to compete. The content of Stinkwaves is quirkier than the norm, which should have high appeal to its adolescent audience. In addition, editors have selected submissions from authors of various experience levels and from all around the world, ensuring both a fun and quality read for readers of all ages. Bravo to Henderson Publishing!

Advertisements

Fifty years ago, Joni Eareckson took a dive that left her paralyzed and changed her life forever. Today she runs a non-profit organization called Joni and Friends that offers many ministries to those impacted by disability. In her autobiography, Joni, she shares her journey into faith, and in A Step Further she attempts on a personal level to answer why God allows trials. Fifty years later, these books remain fresh and inspirational.

Joni is a compelling story of an average athletic and church-going adolescent. Growing up, Joni enjoyed riding horses, hiking, tennis, and swimming. While she believed in God and knew scriptures, her spiritual walk was lukewarm. On July 30, 1967, Joni dove into Chesapeake Bay after misjudging the shallowness of the water. She suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels, which for some have meant death but for Joni instead resulted in her becoming a quadriplegic. In writing about her rehabilitation, she holds nothing back of the emotional upheaval she felt—anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubts. Her openness is part of what makes her story such a page-turner. When she writes about at times turning away from but ultimately turning to God, I’m ready to listen because this isn’t just another feel-good conversion story.

As great of testimony as Joni has, I’d be remiss if I don’t point out that the well-crafted writing style is key to my repeat enjoyment. Joni has excellent character portrayal and setting description. People are developed through dialog and succinct sentences such as “His large dark eyes, usually smiling and full of good-natured fun, were clouded with concern.” Places are revealed through perfect word choice such as “The hot July sun was setting low in the west and gave the waters of Chesapeake Bay a warm red glow.” At every point of Joni’s narrative, I feel as if with her no matter where she is or what experiences she’s facing, and so I am pulled into her world.

During her two years of rehabilitation, Joni learned to paint with a brush between her teeth, and began selling her artwork. She also writes this way. To date, she has written over forty books and recorded several musical albums. One book, A Step Further, Joni wrote in response to the thousands of letters she received from people who identified with her depression, despair, and loneliness. The writing of it she says required much study on her part. The result is a well-balanced answer that incorporates additional autobiography while also providing scriptures that address suffering and the destination for every Christian of heaven. Naturally, in being an exposition not a narrative, A Step Further isn’t as suspenseful as Joni. However, it is just as easy to read, and just as honest. There aren’t any pat answers, but rather carefully thought-out encouragement from someone who accepted God’s response of “No” to her prayer for healing.

For me, Joni and A Step Further are treasured religious classics. I read them back in junior high, and Joni was one of the first movies I saw on the big screen. If you’ve yet to discover them, you’re in for a treat.

Laura Moss has been an outdoors lover and cat lady all her life. She has a bachelor’s and master’s degree in journalism, and has written about pets professionally for more than five years. Laura is also the mother of a timid rescue dog and two mischievous rescue kitties whom she’s clicker trained and leash trained. Her latest venture is the Adventure Cats website and accompanying book.

When Moss couldn’t find an online resource for hitting the trail with her cat, she created one with the help of a group of fellow outdoorsy cat lovers. AdventureCats.org is also intended to challenge negative stereotypes about cats and the people who love them in order to increase shelter cat adoptions. As for the book, Adventure Cats, it’s a collection of photographs and stories of real-life cats, combined with and all the how-to information for taking owners and their cats into the great outdoors.

Below is an interview with Moss, and a review of her book will appear in a future post. Get in touch with her on Twitter, or email her if your message has more than 140 characters.

ALLISON: When and how did you become a cat lady?

LAURA: Growing up, there was always a cat in my home, so I guess I’ve sort of been a cat lady since the beginning. When I was 15, my mom finally let me adopt a cat of my own, and that was such a huge deal for me. I adopted a little orange tabby from a local shelter, and she moved with me for college and grad school, and she shared my apartment when I got my first job. She was a huge part of my life, and she inspired me to get involved with local shelters.

ALLISON: You’ve written professionally about pets for more than five years. How did you break into this field?

LAURA: I was an editor for Mother Nature Network for several years, and I became the go-to pet writer. I’ve always had a great love for animals, so it was a very natural fit for me. Through that job, I made a lot of connections with other people who work with animals and write about them, so that’s led to a lot of different pet-related opportunities for me.

ALLISON: There are eleven people on the Adventure Cats team. How did the group of you connect and what has enabled you to work well together?

LAURA: My husband and I do most of the day-to-day work. When we discovered this huge community of people who were enjoying the great outdoors with their pets, we created a website as a way to share their stories. Since then, the website and its social media outlets have gained a bit of a following, so we’ve had to reach out to people for assistance. One thing this venture has taught me is that there are so many people out there who are much smarter than I am, and it’s important to ask them for help when I need it.

ALLISON: What about your background (besides writing) have you used to promote Adventure Cats–the concept, the website, the book?

LAURA: My background in journalism certainly plays an important role. While I’ve learned a lot about cats and their behavior through my work, I’m not a cat expert—but what I am an expert at is gathering information, interviewing people smarter than I am, and telling stories.

ALLISON: For readers who don’t know anything about adventure cats, would you tell about the first adventure cat you met? The most recent?

LAURA: I guess the first adventure cat I ever met was an orange tabby cat at the shelter I was volunteering with in college. He took leashed strolls around the store, and it was the first time I ever realized that some cats can be leash trained and enjoy a walk. The most recent kitty I got to meet up with was Floyd The Lion, who is this very fluffy and friendly cat in Colorado. He’s adorable and will quite literally pull you down the sidewalk on his leash.

ALLISON: What type of adventures have you taken with your cats?

LAURA: My cats love going outside, but they’re definitely close-to-home adventure cats. They’re very comfortable exploring the wilds of the backyard, sticking their paws in the creek and lounging in sun puddles, but they’ve never expressed any interest in venturing much farther than this familiar area.

If you’re going to try taking your cat outside on a leash, I think it’s very important that you don’t force your cat outside his or her comfort zone. While there are definitely some cats who are comfortable in public parks or on trails, I think they’re the minority, and a lot of cats won’t feel safe in such an unpredictable environment.

One thing I always tell people is that just like when you’re indoors, your cat is the one who calls the shots, so if your cat doesn’t want to venture past the porch — or even outside at all — that’s the way it’s going to be. You have to accept that and focus on having indoor adventures instead!

ALLISON: For others who aspire to change stereotypes about cats, what advice would you give?

LAURA: One of the best things you can do is simply to share the positive experiences you’ve had with your own cats. I think often people can have one bad experience with a cat or make assumptions about what cats are like and let that prevent them from bringing a feline into their lives. Stories like the following are some of my favorites: This Adventure Kitty Turned Her Rescuer Into A Cat Person

How does the cat mind work? And how does a cat owner best engage their feline friend? Two books that I recently read tackle those questions. Thomas McNamee explores the secrets of cats in The Inner Life of Cats and Laura Moss proposes a unique way to help cats live to the fullest in Adventure Cats.

She loved us anyway. What choice did she have? Who else was she going to love? Augusta had love inborn. She had to do something with it.–Inner Lives of Cats

The kitten licked snow from her toes and cried for her mom but no answer came. Instead on a cold wintery morning in Montana, she was rescued by McNamee and his wife. After the kitten was given her full of milk and tuna, her first order of business according to McNamee was to make a mental map of her home. The Inner Lives of Cats weaves science with narrative, as McNamee tells of adopting a black kitten named Augusta and uses research to deepen his understanding of what makes her tick.

McNamee’s search for solid information on cats leads him down many paths and the knowledge he imparts to is eclectic. For example, he shares that cats map their territory through scent and hearing, while also explaining that cats can’t focus very well on close objects even though they see in the dark. In addition, McNamee covers the origins of cats, how they different from dogs in their emotional needs, ways they entertain us, their varied interactions with their humans, and much more

These meticulous details would run the risk of boring the most avid cat lover, except for their being adeptly integrated into a heart-warming tale of how one cat changed one couple. Augusta wiggled her way into the hearts of their local barn cats. She respected the unspoken boundaries between her and their horses. She avoided becoming prey to local predators such as coyote and bear. And she brought happiness and love to her owners, the depths of which remained unrealized until age and sickness took her. The Inner Life of Cats is a fascinating and beautiful tribute to our feline companions.

Basically, I wanted to train her to be a dog. I’ve always been a dog person, but when I moved in with my husband, I had to leave my dog with my mom. It’s a void that I’ve been desperate to fill since.–Adventure Cats

Georgia resident Emily Grant was “a bit of a self-professed cat hater”. But after discovering a five-week-old kitten and her three tiny siblings, Emily knew she simply couldn’t leave them. Although she intended to simply find them homes, by the time the Eevee was three months old, Emily was so attached that she decided to keep Eevee if she’d would take to a harness and leash. Not only was Eevee was comfortable walking on a leash, but the two of them were soon embarking on outdoor adventures. Soon Emily loved seeing Eevee’s “curiosity in action,” and she wanted to take Eevee everywhere and show her everything.

The above story is one Laura Moss’s favorites about adventure cats. What are adventure cats? They’re cats that like to join their owners on paddles, climbs, hikes, or simply strolls around the neighborhood. Moss wrote Adventure Cats to serve as resource for people looking for safe ways to explore the great outdoors with their feline friends and to challenge negative stereotypes about cats with the hope of increasing shelter cat adoptions.

In this comprehensive and colorful guide to helping cat live “their nine lives to the fullest,” Moss covers everything anyone might want to know about how to raise an adventure cat. The introductory chapters cover the feline training and safety measures needed before one embarks on outdoor trips, the middle chapters provide tips for traveling in such locations such as the backwoods, the high seas, and the snowy landscapes, and the concluding chapters detail how one can provide a more enriched life to even the most home-bound cat a more enriched life or cats with special needs. Every section contains illustrative stories. When I finished this book, I had a to-buy list in hand.

The authors of each clearly know and love their subject. Their books will expand your perspective on cats. Inner Life of Cats and Adventure Cats are both welcome additions to my growing collection of cat books.

Reyna Grande is the author of The Distance Between Us, a novel about family. Born in Mexico, Reyna was two years old when her father left for the United States to find work.  Her mother followed her father two years later, leaving Reyna and her siblings behind in Mexico. When Reyna was ten, she and her siblings entered the U.S. with their father as undocumented immigrants. Reyna become the first person in her family to graduate from college and today she is well-known speaker and author. To find out more, check out my interview.

ALLISON: Tell readers something about yourself that they won’t learn from reading The Distance Between Us.

REYNA: I love gardening. I especially like creating butterfly gardens. My daughter and I raised monarch butterflies for a while and it was the most amazing experience. I think every child should have a chance to witness the transformation of a butterfly with their own eyes. It’s powerful. One of my favorite quotes, that I actually have framed and hanging on my wall, is: “Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly.” It inspires me.

ALLISON: You were born in Mexico. What is a favorite memory from Mexico?

REYNA: One of my favorite memories that I didn’t write about in the book is the time when I went on a pilgrimage with my grandmother, Abuelita Chinta. We went with the group from our local church. The procession walked to the churches in nine different towns. It was long and tiring to walk there, especially since I was only eight years old, but the people at every town would welcome us with a delicious meal cooked over an open fire. I can still taste those meals–pork in green chile sauce, rice, beans, and hot oatmeal drinks we call atole served with a piece of sweet bread. The pilgrimage was one of those times when we ate very well! I went there to pray for my mother’s return. I don’t think my prayers were answered, but at least I still have the memory of the food I ate.

ALLISON: When you returned to Mexico, you found yourself almost a stranger. Have you taken your children to Mexico? What has been their experience?

REYNA: I take my children almost every year because I want them to know the place where I came from, so that they can have at least a small connection to the place and the family I have there. I hope that by seeing the poverty I came from will help them appreciate what I’ve been able to give them in the U.S. They enjoy going to my hometown but they also complain about the lack of luxuries that they are used to here–like running water!  Over there, they have to boil their bath water on the stove, then put it in a bucket and throw the water on themselves with a small container. On the other hand, they very much love the food that my aunt cooks for them and they like the freedom that children have over there–such as being able to walk around the neighborhood, to go to the store by themselves, to play in the street with other children, things that here in the U.S. children don’t get to do because parents tend to be over-protective and their isn’t as much a sense of community as there is in Mexico.

ALLISON: You concluded in your memoir that despite the strain immigration put on your family, the hardship was worth it. What would you tell young people about overcoming challenges?

REYNA: I would tell them to do everything they can to overcome those challenges because otherwise, their lives would get worse instead of better. If you find yourself in a hole, try to climb out of it–you do that by making the right choices. Focus on school, on your dreams, on your future. If you make bad choices out of desperation, you only dig yourself deeper.  Remember, things don’t always have to be that way–they can get better, they can change. You just have to keep focused, stay strong, and above all, don’t lose hope.

ALLISON: You gave a special tribute to a teacher who changed your life. Have there been other mentors in your life? If so, what has been their influence?

REYNA: I had another teacher at UC, Santa Cruz who was very important to me. Her name is Marta Navarro, a Spanish and Chicano Literature teacher, and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. She–like my former teacher that I write about in the book–also encouraged me to keep writing. She introduced me to more Latino authors, and she was always available to talk whenever I needed someone to listen. I’m still in touch with her too, and she even came to my wedding!

ALLISON: The Distance Between Us is based on your adult memoir. What process was involved in rewriting it for young people?

REYNA: I didn’t want to water down the story for young readers so I did my best to stay true to the original. Mostly what I did was to put the book on a diet–meaning–I trimmed off all the extra stuff, details, backstory, inner thoughts, and only left what was essential. I cut out about 100 pages. I took out my  crazy uncle, and also some details about my love life that was inappropriate for young readers.

But by cutting 100 pages, it gave me some room to expand on things that young readers would find interesting, such as the border crossing. In the original, my border crossing is only one chapter long. In the young reader’s version, it is three chapters. I added more details so that young readers could really have a chance to experience that moment in my life that was very traumatic but also life-changing.

ALLISON: You’re open in your memoir about both the highs and lows of your family’s life. What has been the reaction of your family to your memoir?

REYNA: My siblings have been very supportive of my writing and they really loved the book. My mother didn’t read much of it because she said it was too painful. My father passed away before the book was published. My aunts from the Grande side got mad at me for writing about how mean my evil grandmother had been. But, that is how she was, and I wrote the truth of my experience living under her roof. I don’t feel guilty about what I wrote, and I understand that since she’s dead, my aunts would rather I had honored her memory by writing more positive things–but unfortunately, I had nothing positive to write about because all my memories of her are unpleasant and painful. Writing memoir is very tricky because you are writing about your family and they might never speak to you again if they don’t like what you wrote! Ultimately, if you write memoir, you have write your truth and no one else’s. You aren’t writing to please anyone. You are writing so that you can heal from the wounds of your experience.

ALLISON: You wrote The Distance Between Us to provide an awareness. What would like people who are not immigrants to understand? What books would you recommend a person starting out in their awareness of diversity to read?

REYNA: I would like for non-immigrants to remember where they came from. Everyone here–except for native Americans–came from somewhere. Perhaps it was a great-grandparent or grandparent who immigrated, who went through the trauma and heartbreak that new immigrants go through. If people honor the memories of those who came before them–their ancestors–I think it will make them more compassionate and understanding towards new immigrants. The U.S. has a history of discrimination against specific immigrant groups. Even those who managed to assimilate very well into American culture (like the Irish) at one point or another were heavily discriminated. I think it’s time that we accept that we are a multi-cultural society. We have people from all over the world who live here, and that is a beautiful thing!

Recommended Reading:

1) Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits by Laila Lalami

2) The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka

3) Broken Paradise by Cecilia Samartin

4) Farewell to Manzanar by Jeanne Wakatsuki Houston

5) A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernandez

6) Tell Me How it Ends by Valeria Luiselli


Allisons' Book Bag Logo

Fall 2017

This fall I will be on hiatus except to post family news. Stay tuned!

Categories

Archives

Best Friends Network Partner

Blog Paws

IAABC

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 322 other followers