White Fur Flying, by Patricia MacLachlan
Zoe's father is a vet, and her mom has a passion for rescuing dogs in need, especially Great Pyrenees. The family provides a loving home for them until new owners can be found. With the dogs, a talking parrot and a family which enjoys animals, Zoe's house in the country is a lively, happy home. Next door is a home which is silent and sad. An unhappy young boy, Philip, is staying there for a time with his aunt and uncle while his parents "work on some difficulties". His aunt and uncle are well-meaning but awkward with children, and Philip has stopped speaking. Zoe, her sister, Alice, and Philip become friends. Gradually Philip comes out of his shell. A special rapport is established between the boy and Jack, the youngest and newest dog to be rescued by Zoe's family. Perhaps each senses the other's need for love and acceptance in the temporary homes in which they have been placed.
Zoe knows that saving dogs and saving boys are different jobs, but she learns that some parts are the same. Both take attention and care, understanding and time. And maybe just a bit of white fur flying.
White Fur Flying, by Patricia MacLachlan
Pee-Wee's Tale, by Johanna Hurwitz
A guinea pig in Central Park? Pee-Wee, once a boy's dear pet, has been secretly released into the wilds of Central Park. But instead of relishing his freedom, Pee-Wee is at first a stranger in a strange land--until he meets Lexi, a city-wise squirrel who gives his new stubby-tailed friend some tips as well as some confidence. A series of eye-opening adventures--from the search for Pee-Wee's former owner to his discovery of the power of reading--turns a timid rodent into an endearing hero.
Father of Invention
If you're looking for some subtle humor, then you should probably take a look at the movie Father of Invention starring Kevin Spacey. He plays a "fabricator" - someone who promotes unusual products such as a crunch machine that has a tv remote built in. A freak accident lands him in prison for several years, and when he comes out, he finds all his money is gone and his wife has remarried. His daughter is mad at him since he brought dishonor to his family. He comes up with a new idea to get him back in the game, but his family is less than enthusiastic. The daughter's roommates are hysterical!
This is a very funny movie. The acting is superb. Spacey displays such range in all the roles he plays. You won't regret watching it.
Until Tuesday: A Wounded Warrior and the Golden Retriever Who Saved Him, by Luis Carlos Montalvan
An extremely powerful memoir of a soldier returning from Middle Eastern combat, Until Tuesday captures the physical and mental trials of a decorated veteran who tries valiantly to recover from the horrors of Iraqi combat. Montalvan is an extremely honest writer and gives the reader a vivid account of the traumas he experienced as he attempts to re-enter civilian life. He does study and eventually receives a masters in journalism from Columbia University. It is obvious he benefitted greatly from his education as his writing is clear, well-crafted and very readable. His story gets a totally warm and loving development as he finally realizes that his life would be greatly enriched by getting a service dog to aid in his recuperation. Thus, Tuesday, a gorgeous golden retriever, enters his life. The effect Tuesday, specifically trained to aid injured war veterans to regain a normal life, has on Montalvan makes for terrifically interesting and touching reading. This is a wonderful book - moving, informative, and perhaps most of all a great testament to how one human being faced terrible odds and, with the help of a dog, learns how to create a positive life after living through horrible experiences.
Caught By The Sea: My Life on Boats, by Gary Paulsen
Gary Paulsen, author of many award-winning young adult books, writes about his relationship with the sea in Caught By The Sea: My Life on Boats. He explains his naivete when he buys his first boat, and heads out to sea alone - with no experience. A sudden storm comes up, and he is blown further out into the ocean. Although the waves threaten to sink his boat, he hangs on and somehow survives the storm. Rather than being discouraged, he develops a new respect and love for the sea. Paulsen believes the boat "owns" the man, not the other way around. He's admitting that one can become obsessed with sailing a boat, and meeting the challenges of the sea can become addictive. By trial and error, he learns how to sail and get himself out of some pretty tricky situations.
This downloadable book is exciting and entertaining. His descriptions of Nature are masterful. Sometimes you may get lost in the terminology, but this isn't a big problem. The message is more important. Another man may have given up pursuit of the sea, but Paulsen was attracted to it.
Winter of the World, by Ken Follett
Continuing the story Follett began so well in Fall of Giants, Winter of the World, the second installment of his Twentieth Century Trilogy, resumes the saga of the families he created in his first part of the trilogy. The English, Welsh, German, American and Russian characters find themselves involved in challenging and tumultuous events as Europe struggles to recover from the devastation caused by World War I. Major developments such as the world-wide Depression, rise of Hitler and Nazism, the beginning of the Stalinist era in Russia, and the events that caused Europe and the world to dissolve into more world-wide catastrophic years of brutal fighting are the backdrop as his wonderfully-crafted characters experience these historical happenings. In particular, the Pearl Harbor attack is vividly brought to life as the Dewar family, members of the American military, are stationed in Honolulu on that fateful day. Follett also creates gripping depiction of life in Germany both under the Nazis and the terrible humiliations the Russians dealt to the Germans after they had defeated the German Army. As with Fall of Giants, Follett has written an extremely readable story in Winter of the World that captures so well the explosive years of 1933 through the Second World War. His third installment of this trilogy, Edge of Eternity will let readers follow these families during the last decades of the Twentieth Century. Winter of the World is highly recommended after reading Fall of Giants.
Who Was King Tut?, by Roberta Edwards
Ever since Howard Carter uncovered King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922, the young pharaoh has become a symbol of the wealth and mystery of ancient Egypt. Now, a two-and-a-half-year-long museum exhibit of Tut's treasures is touring major cities in the U.S., drawing record crowds. This Who Was . . . ? is complete with 100 black-and white illustrations and explains the life and times of this ancient Egyptian ruler, covering the story of the tomb's discovery, as well as myths and so-called mummy curses.
Walls Within Walls, by Maureen Sherry
After their father, a video-game inventor, strikes it rich, the Smithfork kids find they hate their new life. They move from their cozy Brooklyn neighborhood to a swanky apartment on Manhattan's Fifth Avenue. They have no friends, a nanny who takes the place of their parents, and a school year looming ahead that promises to be miserable.
And then, one day, Brid, CJ, and Patrick discover an astonishing secret about their apartment: The original owner, the deceased multimillionaire Mr. Post, long ago turned the apartment itself into a giant puzzle containing a mysterious book and hidden panels--a puzzle that, with some luck, courage, and brainpower, will lead to discovering the Post family fortune. Unraveling the mystery causes them to race through today's New York City--and to uncover some long-hidden secrets of the past.
Jonathan Livingston Seagull, by Richard Bach
When Jonathan Livingston Seagull first came out in the early nineteen-seventies, it was very popular on my college campus. Some English professors required their students to read it, and I remember seeing a lot of copies in the bookstore. As it so happened, I didn't have an opportunity to read it in undergraduate school. Fortunately, while retrieving some books for a book display recently, I spotted a copy and decided to check it out.
Rather than limiting his time to fishing for food, Jonathan Livingston Seagull decides to pursue his passion of flying. He "pushes the envelope", and tries to fly higher and faster than any gull in history. Despite warnings from his peers to conform to ordinary gull life, he pursues his dream, and is soon ostracized for trying something new. Although he is forced into exile, he is happy and peaceful.
One day, two gulls (Angels?) appear and take him to a higher plane (Heaven?). He meets the Wisest Gull - Chiang - who teaches him how to "astro travel" (move instantly from one place to another in the Universe). He is told he can advance from level to level until he reaches the highest level through the Perfection of Knowledge. Jonathan is already ahead of his peers because of his efforts to fly on Earth. Chiang mentions the Greatest Gull (God?) who resides in the highest levels. Jonathan is given the opportunity to return to Earth to teach other "outkasts", who were exiled because they did not conform.
The beauty of this book is that it uses the simple life of a gull to teach us several relevant lessons of life. One should be true to himself, and pursue newly discovered abilities and skills. Conformity is not necessarily good since "pressing the envelope" can lead to new discoveries. Everyone should work on Love, and exercise Forgiveness in order to free the spirit. No one should be ostracized for being different. This is true in our own lives as well as Nature. The book was very relevant for the times (The Vietnam War Era). I felt very happy and peaceful after reading this classic.
American Experience: The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer
One of the most interesting movies I've ever seen is the PBS American Experience feature The Trials of J. Robert Oppenheimer. Oppenheimer was a brilliant scientist, who was put in charge of the Manhattan Project during World War II. He helped develop the atomic bomb, which helped shorten the war. Yet, he was stigmatized as a Communist since his wife, friends and associate were members. It almost derailed his ability to get security clearance for the project, and after the success of the Project, he was unceremoniously stripped of his clearance. This DVD raises many questions about privacy, loyalty and individual rights. I highly recommend it for its historical narration and social commentary.
Liar and Spy, by Rebecca Stead
Seventh grader Georges moves into a Brooklyn apartment building and meets Safer, a twelve-year-old self-appointed spy. Georges becomes Safer's first spy recruit. His assignment? Tracking the mysterious Mr. X, who lives in the apartment upstairs. But as Safer becomes more demanding, Georges starts to wonder: what is a lie and what is a game? How far is too far to go for your only friend?
This story about secrets, spies, and friendship will keep readers guessing until the end.
Nathaniel Fludd: Beastologist, by R. L. LaFevers
Nathaniel Fludd's life has taken a turn for the worst. With his parents lost at sea, he lands on the doorstep of a distant cousin, the world's last remaining beastologist. Soon Nate is whisked off on his first expedition, to Arabia, where the world's only phoenix prepares to lay its new egg. When disaster strikes, Nate quickly finds himself all alone.
Will he be able to see the phoenix safely hatched, keep his accidental pet gremlin out of trouble, and rescue his guardian from the Bedouin? If he fails, nothing will stand between the world's mythical creatures and extinction. Too bad Nate's not the sort of boy who enjoys adventure . . .yet.