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Wonder by RJ Palacio: A Story of Acceptance March 25, 2013

Posted by CCLD in Recommendations.
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tinablogphotoNow here is my secret. It is very simple. It is only with one’s heart that one can see clearly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.

-Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince

My son, Benjamin, and I recently finished reading Wonder by RJ Palacio together. The story follows 5th grader August Pullman as he begins his journey to Beecher Prep School after many years of home schooling. August is funny, smart, and kind, but his parents are concerned that he will not fit in. In fact, his father feels Auggie’s mother is being overly protective, but deep down he is also afraid for his son. Dad says, “It’s like taking a lamb to slaughter.” Why?  Because August is different.

Ben: My interpretation of “taking a lamb to slaughter” is taking something good and killing it. In the book, Auggie is the lamb and middle school is the “slaughter.”

Despite all of his great qualities, August doesn’t look like other kids. He has a rare genetic disorder that caused a “craniofacial abnormality.” Even though Auggie has been through many surgeries, his eyes aren’t where they should be, he has trouble talking and eating, and he has almost no visible ears. When he was little, kids on the playground would recoil in fear. As he works his way through the acceptance process in middle school, he overhears the word “alien” more than once. He feels the pain of their stares or of quick glances and avoidance.

In Wonder, the kids are afraid to touch Auggie and school-wide they say he has “The Plague.”  At a recent Human Relations Commission meeting, a new member shared a story of her five year old daughter who had a classmate who was afraid to touch her because her skin might turn brown too. Especially in communities that lack diversity, acceptance is impeded by lack of familiarity and understanding.

Ben: Kids in middle school do this all the time. For example, if a kid is a “dork,” and he touches you, then you have to pass “it” along to someone else so you don’t have “it” anymore.

Palacio narrates her story not only with Auggie’s poignant words and feelings, but she includes other voices to tell Auggie’s story. His older sister, Via, tells what it is like to be the sibling in a family with a child who requires so much extra care and attention. While she is jealous of August’s special bond with their parents, she also vehemently defends him when people are cruel. She demonstrates the struggle of sibling rivalry where you genuinely wish the best for your siblings, but you don’t want them to have preferential treatment.

Ben: That’s like my friend and his sister. He gets annoyed with her, but he never really wants anything bad to happen to her. When kids pick on her because she has special needs, he protects her.

Although the author never tells the story through the parents’ eyes, I might have a clue to their point of view. My nephew has a three year old child with special needs. Andrew lived the first year of his life at the Boston Children’s Hospital, he had a heart transplant before he was one year old, a curvature of his spine impedes his mobility, and he still receives most of his nutrition and medications through a feeding tube. The doctors had predicted a life of pain for Andrew. When I see his smiling photos on Facebook or hear him laugh as he plays, I know they were wrong. A recent Youtube video shows him at his third birthday party racing through the kitchen with a mobility device as family and friends cheer him on. It hasn’t been easy for his parents, but they show great spirit and determination. If Andrew never gave up the struggle, why should they give up on him? A new, healthy baby came into their house about a year ago. His mother says, “Compared to Andrew, he’s easy.”

For Auggie, and for most middle schoolers, the hardest part of the first day of school is lunch. Who will they sit with at lunch? When Auggie sits down, no one sits with him. Finally, a girl named Summer sits with him because she feels sorry for him. Through the story, we see the friendship with Summer grows because she opens herself up to accept him. The reader learns that people who are different don’t want your pity. They want inclusion and acceptance, and, like Andrew’s parents, they have a better quality of life if they focus on what they can do rather than what they can’t.

Ben: The first day of middle school, I was worried about who I would sit with at lunch. I found a table with someone I knew from my elementary school. In January, I switched tables because I had made some new friends that I liked better.

Wonder focuses on Auggie’s journey to acceptance by his peers.  As events unfold, Auggie’s parents offer that he may quit school at any time, but he doesn’t. He plods through the school year, meeting each academic and social challenge. Recently I read a newspaper article that Cornell University  researchers have found a way to “grow” customized ears using a 3-D printer and injections of living cells. I thought of Auggie. Because most of his stigma stems from his looks, he wishes he could have ears. He is disappointed when his parents make him get hearing aids, but discovers that the long time underwater feeling finally disappears!  At this point in the story, students in the school have come to accept Auggie, and no one says a thing about his new hearing aids. The reader comes to see that the story is not only about family, friends, and peers accepting Auggie for who he is. It is also about Auggie accepting himself.

Ben: If I were Auggie, I would not really want to go to middle school.  Middle school students can be very mean.  Auggie continued school even when his parents offered to allow him to quit. Auggie had a lot of courage.

Tina Hager
Chemung County Library District Board
Chemung County Human Relations Commission

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed. A book listed on the Oprah Winfrey Book Club 2.0 March 19, 2013

Posted by CCLD in Recommendations.
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Wild by Cheryl StrayedWild is a story of a 26 year old woman who after the loss of her mother, a divorce and distancing of her siblings decides to walk the Pacific Crest Trail…alone!

In 1995, a novice backpacker, Cheryl Strayed, begins her 1,000 mile 100 day trek from Mojave California to Bridge of Gods at the border of Oregon and Washington State.  Along the way she encounters other hikers, record snow fall, small black frogs, a bull, a lecherous man and the loss of her toe nails.

Her grit and determination does not allow her to give up, though she wanted to, many times.  Monster, her backpack which she had initially overloaded, contained all of the things she would need; tarp, tent, flashlight, change of clothes, an anorak, camp stove and utensils, first aid kit, her beloved books and a 200 page sketchbook which she would use as a journal.  Most evenings, in the quietness of her tent, she would read from one of the books she had packed.  Unfortunately, in the morning, to lighten her load, she would burn the pages she had read the night before.  Along the way there would be outposts where she would stop and pick up the needed supplies, especially cash, which her friend would mail.

This story is one that Strayed wrote fifteen years later. She writes, “It wasn’t until 2008 that I felt my experience on the PCT made for a better book. I gained perspective that I wouldn’t have had if I’d written about it immediately.”

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail is a story that will make you laugh, cringe, cry, and want to know the outcome.

Carol Lincoln
Guest Reviewer

Backhoes, Buses, Bulldozers, and Bookmobiles March 13, 2013

Posted by corterc in Bookmobile.
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Arnot-Ogden-Daycare-2013To many children, nothing is more exciting than getting to see large vehicles live and up close.  Being able to climb up into one is even more exciting.  That’s part of why children who visit the Chemung County Library District Bookmobile love it.  Kim Jones and Sue Schoeffler, Bookmobile staff, see many wide eyed faces with large smiles stepping up into the vehicle each and every day.  It’s alone the best part of their day.

Kids love the bookmobile which visits approximately 25 schools and daycare centers within a 2 week period.  Staff present stories and songs to classes then allow them time to choose and checkout books of their choice. Teachers enjoy the same enthusiasm. By having their students exposed to the wonderful big book vehicle, they’re opening up the world of libraries to some who are not otherwise given the opportunity.

Arnot-Daycare-Class-2013Besides following the regular 2 week schedule, the Bookmobile participates in many annual community events.  They recently attended the Family Reading Partnership’s Book Fest on March 9th.  Watch for them again this year at the EOP Head Start Carnival, Horseheads Family Days and Strong Kids Safe Kids.

If you’re a parent with children who have not visited the CCLD Bookmobile, come aboard the next time you see it at an event or check the online schedule to see where it will be stopping soon.   It will be the highlight of your day.

Women’s History Month March 11, 2013

Posted by roganp in Recommendations.
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americanheroinesMarch is Women’s History Month and we usually do a display about women’s suffrage. This year a few of us in the reference department were talking about how work has changed for women since the 1960s and how few working women nowadays know what it was like.

Owen Frank, Head of Adult Services at the library, said my stories remind him of the TV series Mad Men, that the library has on DVD.  That was the time when most women were still limited to being secretaries, teachers, or nurses and those who do genealogy know that even obituaries listed a woman as Mrs. John Smith with no first name. So I wanted to find biographies of women who had achieved greatness in “a man’s world”. I didn’t find as many as I would have liked until I looked in the collected biographies section (Number 920 in the Dewey Decimal System).  There I found : The Book of Women’s Firsts by Phyllis J. Read ; American Heroines by Kay Hutchison; Encyclopedia of Women in Aviation and Space by Rosanne Welch; Who’s Who of Women in the Twentieth Century by Jean Martin; Adventurous Women by Penny Colman and the Norton Book of Women’s Lives by Phyllis Rose.

There isn’t a woman president of the United States yet but we have come a long way.

Phyllis Rogan, Reference Librarian
Chemung County Library District

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