Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

Title:  Water for Elephants

Author:  Sara Gruen

Paperback:  335 pages

ISBN:  9781565125605

…[Camel] comes to a stop in front of a stock car.  “Joe!  Hey, Joe!”

A head appears in the doorway.

“I got a First of May here.  Fresh from the crate.  Think you can use him?”

The figure steps forward onto the ramp.  He pushes up the brim of a battered hat with a hand missing three of its fingers.  He scrutinizes me, shoots an oyster of dark brown tobacco juice out the side of his mouth, and goes back inside.

Camel pats my arm in a congratulatory fashion.  “You’re in, kid.”

“I am?”

“Yep.  Now go shovel some shit.  I’ll catch up with you later.”

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, page 33

Jacob Jankowski was one week and his final exams away from being a vet.  Then tragedy hits, claiming the lives of his parents, and revealing that they’d mortgaged everything to keep their only child enrolled in Cornell University.  The weight and guilt of this bears down on young Jacob, and he just walks off from school… and keeps on walking.  When he finally stops for the night, he decides to jump aboard a passing train, only to find he’s just joined the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. 

Vividly imaginitive and well-researched, Water for Elephantsby Sara Gruenis a compelling, character-driven tale with the feel of magic and wonder we feel as children going to the circus for the first time.  It has a gritty realism to it and exposes the behind-the-scenes working and stratification of classes of the travelling circus.  Bosses, freaks, an exotic menagerie, performers, clowns and dwarfs, working men and roustabouts… in that order.  Everyone has a history, and a pervasive loneliness binds them all together.

I was enrapt by both the writing and the story in Water for Elephants.  Gruen, a female writer, captures the male perspective amazingly well.  The story takes place in two timelines:  Young Jacob at 23 and joining the circus, and the elderly Jacob, who is either 91 or 93 (he can’t remember anymore), in an assisted living facility, dealing with the emotions of being left behind -by his kids and his deceased wife- in a place where there’s baby food to eat, your neighbor poops his pants, and your desires and opinions are discounted and ignored.  I was carried along through the story, and it was over before I even knew it.

I loved Water for Elephantsby Sara Gruen and give it 5 out of 5 stars 🙂

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Ladies and Gentlemen, children of all ages!  Presenting a video clip of Ringling Brothers Greatest Show on Earth!

🙂

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The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee

Title:  The Tutu Ballet

Author:  Sally O. Lee

Illustrator:  Sally O. Lee

Paperback:  36 pages

Publisher:  BookSurge Publishing

Publish Date:  2008

ISBN:  9781439209165

Ms. Berry had her hands full with this class. She tried very hard to get all her students to plie at the same time, or jump at the same time, but they would all fall back to their favorite dance steps and it would result in mayhem.

Fillippo would bump into Harriett with his jumps and Beminda would accidentally kick Mirabel with her famous left kicks.

Sometimes it looked more like a boxing match rather than a ballet class.

The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee, pages 24-25

Guest Review by Maggie

The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Leeis about the students of Ms. Berry’s ballet class wanting to only do their favorite moves. Belinda the Bear only liked to do kicks, Fellippo the Fox only liked to do jumps, Mirabel the Mouse only plied, and Harriett the Hare like to twirl. This made class clumsy and a big mess with everyone hurting each other.

What I liked about this book is that it’s about ballet. My favorite part was when everyone in the class was going crazy and falling on each other.

The only thing I did not like about this book is the words are hard to read. I wish they had been typed up on the computer instead of hand written. The letters were small and the words sometimes ran together and made it hard for me to read.

I thought the message of this story is friendship and working together. I give The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee 4 out of 5 stars.

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The Kool-Aid Mom’s review 

The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee is a cute little story of a group of ballet students who prefer to do their favorite moves instead of performing the ones their teacher directs them.  I suppose it may have to do with their ages, though that information is never given, or it may just be that this particular group struggles with paying attention as the quote given suggests that not all the classes are this way and that they fall back into doing their favorite steps.  But, for what ever the reason, the class presents a challenge for the former prima ballerina teacher Ms. Berry in creating a recital program.

What I found interesting with this book is that Maggie, age 10, and I, an adult and parent, understood two different messages.  She saw it from the point of view of the children and came away believing the message was friendship and unity.  Whereas I, viewing it from the “gotta get things done” and “we need order” point of view, understood the book to be about creative problem-solving.

As with her previous book, The Rabbit and the Snowman, Lee both wrote and illustrated this book.  The artwork is warm and inviting, not clean and realistic as with some children’s books but rather having that feeling of a child’s imagination.

The Tutu Ballet by Sally O. Lee offers a pleasurable few minutes of togetherness through reading with a child and gives easy-to-pick-out conversation starters and points of discussion. I also give The Tutu Ballet 4 out of 5 stars.

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The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis

Title:  The Last Battle

Author:  C. S. Lewis

Paperback:  767 pages

Publisher:  HarperCollins

Publish Date:  2001

ISBN:  0066238501

Miscellaneous:  The copy I have read is in a complete book.  There aren’t 767 pages in The Last Battle alone.

 

 

 

“Look!  What’s that?”

 “What’s what?” said Puzzle.

 “That yellow thing that’s just come down the waterfall.  Look!  There it is again, it’s floating.  We must find out what it is.”

 “Must we?” said Puzzle.

 “Of course we must,” said Shift.  “It may be something useful.  Just hop into the Pool like a good fellow and fish it out.  Then we can have a proper look at it.”

 … He flung it down in front of Shift and stood dripping and shivering and trying to get his breath back.  But the Ape never looked at him or asked him how he felt.  The Ape was too busy going round and round the thing and spreading it out and patting it and smelling it.  Then a wicked gleam came into his eye and he said:  “It is a lion’s skin…. We’ll make this skin into a fine warm winter coat for you.”

 …As soon as he was alone Shift went… into his little house.  He found needle and thread and a big pair of scissors… Then he came down the tree and shambled across to the lion-skin.  He squatted down and got to work…

 Late in the afternoon Puzzle came back.  He was not trotting but only plodding patiently along, the way donkeys do…  “Come and try on your beautiful new lion-skin coat,” said Shift.

 … The skin was very heavy for him to lift, but in the end… he got it on to the donkey… No one who had ever seen a real lion would have been taken in for a moment.  But if someone who had never seen a lion looked at Puzzle in his lion-skin he just might mistake him for a lion…  “If anyone saw you now, they’d think you were Aslan, the Great Lion, himself.”

 

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, pages 671-673

 

Thus begins the great deception and the beginning of the end of Narnia.  Shift the Ape manipulates and bullies Puzzle the Donkey into believing that Aslan himself wants them to go to the people of Narnia and claim Puzzle is really the Great Lion, and to rule the land through this pretense.  Puzzle has been used by Shift for so long (under the guise of “friendship,” though “servitude” might better describe the Donkey’s side of the relationship), that he is unable to stand up to the damn, dirty Ape (nod to Heston and “Planet of the Apes” hehe).

It is through this false-Aslan that Shift enslaves the land of Narnia, using the Animals as slaves and threatening anyone who dares to question his authority with the Wrath of Aslan.  “He is not a tame lion” is repeated over and over to fill their minds with terror, and, even when they know this new “Aslan” is the opposite of everything they’ve always been taught is the nature of the true Aslan, the Narnians are unable to throw off the Ape’s bonds and fight back.

Even when Shift brings in Calormene soldiers and announces that the Narnian Animals are to be sent to work, and all their wages are to be paid to “Aslan’s” treasury, for only “Aslan” can care for their true needs.  Compounding a lie with a lie, the Calormene Captain and Shift tell the Animals that Tash, the Calormene god to whom men are sacrificed, and Aslan are one in the same; two different names for the same person.  This new god is called “Tashlan,” the meshing of the two names.

When Tirian, the last King of Narnia, calls on Aslan to rescue his country, the Great Lion is silent, so Tirian, remembering how children from another world had saved Narnia in it’s darkest periods of history, calls on the friends of Narnia to come and save his land.  And, after a vision-dream of the seven legendary Friends sitting down to dinner and seeing the phantom of Tirian among them, he is surprised by the appearance of Jill and Eustace.  Along with Jewel the Unicorn, who is Tirian’s best friend, the two children and a Dwarf named Poggin, the stage is set for the last battle of Narnia.

 

In the shadow of the trees on the far side of the clearing something was moving.  It was gliding very slowly Northward.  At a first glance you might have mistaken it for smoke, for it was grey and you could see things through it.  But the deathly smell was not the smell of smoke.  Also, this thing kept its shape instead of billowing and curling as smoke would have done.  It was roughly the shape of a man but it had the head of a bird; some bird of prey with a cruel, curved beak.  It had four arms which it held high above its head, stretching them out Northward as if it wanted to snatch all Narnia in its grip; and its fingers – all twenty of them – were curved like its beak and had long, pointed, bird-like claws instead of nails.  It floated on the grass instead of walking, and the grass seemed to wither beneath it…. [They] watched it… until it streamed away… and disappeared.  Then the sun came out again, and the birds once more began to sing….

“I have seen it once before,” said Tirian. “But that time it was carved in stone and overlaid with gold and had solid diamonds for eyes…. [It was in] the great temple of Tash… carved above the altar.”

“What was it?” said Eustace in a whisper.

 

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 712

 

 The entrance of the Calormene god Tash takes this final fight into the realm of the supernatural, as it becomes the epic battle of the ultimate good, Aslan, and his antithesis Tash:  Life versus Death.

 The message of The Last Battle, I believe, is this:  We are not always meant to win the good fight, only to FIGHT the good fight.  Early on in the book we know this is a lost cause, the side of evil will prevail, and the heroes’ lives  will be forfeit.  But, even then, Aslan will have the final say.

 In The Last Battle, Lewis also addresses two major questions of Christianity.  First, how can a person who has known the goodness and greatness of Christ turn his or her back on Him, choosing, instead, their own will.  Second, what of those people who have never heard the Gospel and therefore had no chance to believe?  Will He condemn them to Hell?

 Missing for the Friends of Narnia is Susan, and somehow I knew this immediate when I counted eight helpers of Narnia, but only seven Friends of Narnia.  Somehow I knew the missing person was Susan.

 

“Sire,” said Tirian… “there should be another… Where is Queen Susan?”

“My sister Susan,” answered Peter shortly and gravely, “is no longer a friend of Narnia.”

“Yes,” said Eustace, “and whenever you’ve tried to get her to come and talk about Narnia or do anything about Narnia, she says ‘What wonderful memories you have!  Fancy your still thinking about all those funny games we used to play when we were children.”

“Oh, Susan!”  said Jill.  “She’s interested in nothing nowadays except nylons and lipstick and invitations.  She always was a jolly sight to keen on being grown-up.”

“Grown-up indeed,” said the Lady Polly.  “I wish she would grow up.  She wasted all her shool time wanting to be the age she is now, and she’ll waste all the rest of her life trying to stay that age.  Her whole idea is to race on to the silliest time of one’s life as quick as she can and then stop there as long as she can.”

 

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 741

 

Susan turned away from Narnia and Aslan and, instead, made vanity and things of the world her focus.  BUT, Lewis did not say she could not become a Friend of Narnia again.  Further, someone had to survive to tell The Chronicles of Narnia.

 As the Seven plus Tirian go “further up, further in,” they meet a Calormene who tells them of his meeting Aslan:

 

“Then I fell at his feet and thought, Surely this is the hour of death, for the Lion (who is worthy of all honour) will know that I have served Tash all my days and not him.  Nevertheless, it is better to see the Lion and die than to be Tisroc of the world and live and not to have seen him.  Both the Glorious One bent down his golden head and touched my fourehead with his tongue and said, ‘Son, thou art welcome.’  But I said, ‘Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.’  He answered, ‘Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service to me.’ Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, ‘Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?’  The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, “It is false.  Not because4 he and I are one, but because we are opposites – I take to me the service which thou hast done to him.  For I and he are such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him.  Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him.  And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.  Dost thou understand, Child?’  I said, ‘Lord, thou knowest how much I understand.’   But I said also (for the truth constrained me), ‘Yet I have been seeking Tash all my days.’  ‘Beloved,’ said the Glorious One, ‘unless thy desire had been for me thou wouldst not have sought so long and so truly.  For all find what they truly seek.’

 

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 757

 

 Honestly, it was impossible to review this book without incorporating the religious aspects of it.  That is not to say it can’t be enjoyed without being religious.  It stands alone as the heart-wrenching finale of a much loved and favorite literary classic series.  I couldn’t help but cry at the end; for the beauty, for the Friends, for all who had been were together again… and for Susan, who, by her folly, missed the train (if you’ve read this, or when you do read this, book you’ll get that reference).

 The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis is beyond words, and I sigh with a bittersweet happiness, as I have come to the end of my journey through Narnia.  I leave you with the last paragraph of the last book of Narnia:

 

“And as He spoke, He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.  And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after.  But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.  All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and title page:  now at last they were beginning Chaper One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read:  which goes on for ever:  in which every chapter is better than the one before.”

 

The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis, page 767

 

5 out of 5 stars.

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Viral Video Wednesday – Has Gone to the Dogs

I’m still kind of lagging behind in sleep and reading (and housekeeping, but that’s always lagging) since my mom’s visit, and THEN I finally checked out an internet thing my friend’s been doing for years and I’ve resisted since first hearing about it: 2nd Life. YEah… no. That’s some life sucking stuff right there. I got on at four in the afternoon, blinked, then it was four in the morning. I just don’t have time for that; if I was on there I’d never get anything read or do any blogging. I think a first life is more than enough.

So on to the VIDEOS!!

This week, v v W is focused on videos about our best friends: our pets. We love our kitties and puppies, and I know there are several bloggers who include their fur-children in their posting. *Waves at Emmy, and all the other bloggy kitties and doggies out there.*

To kick it off, let’s start which a little classic theatre. I found this video about a year or so ago, and emailed it to everyone I knew. It’s hilarious, whether you are a cat lover or not.
Cathead Theatre Presents: William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act II, scene 2:

On October 3, 2008, Disney is releasing a new movie called Beverly Hills Chihauhau, which we will, of course, be seeing. However, I think I may have found the video that inspired Disney’s new movie. The poster has titled the video “Cutest Ever Music Video,” and while I’m not sure about cutest, it is pretty high on the AWWW meter.

Okay, check your glucose levels… I don’t want anyone going into a sugar coma with this next one. Gwen, my middle daughter is an animal lover and she’s always fetching videos with them in it. This one is from her personal favorites collection:

Another one from Gwen’s folder, the following video was found shortly after our Pug-dog Frank, who looked a LOT like the dog in this, died. It took me a while before I’d even look at the video, but I now love watching it… and singing it.

And in the interest of bi-specienship, here are kitties morphing and rocking: Kitty Said What?

And now for one of the most annoying songs, the kind that’s stuck in your brain for days and you find yourself walking around mumbling it unthinkingly, but definately a cute and fun video: Cat, I’m a Kitty Cat!

The YouTube member who posted the following video wrote, “I made this video for my neice who is cat crazy she is only 2 and she loves this” in the vid’s info section. As near as I can tell, this is The original “Cat, I’m a Kitty Cat!” video:

And finally, one of the original virals, and a vid that will cure you of the “Cat, I’m a Kitty Cat!” song stuck in your head…. because this song will be stuck there instead…. Is it a bird? Is it a dog, or a cat? No! It’s a hamster… and he’s dancing:

For a bit of Internet historical trivia, before there were viral videos to spread their way through the ethernet, there were viral emails. The original Hamsterdance email was created by a Canadian art student named “Deidre LaCarte, who was competing with her best friend and sister to see who could generate the most traffic, designed The Hampster Dance in August 1998 as a homage to her pet hamster, named Hampton Hamster. Using four simple animated GIFs of hamsters and other rodents, repeated dozens of times each, and a loop of background music embedded in the HTML, then a fairly new browser feature, she named the site Hampton’s Hampster House and had Hampton declare his intent to become a “web star”…. Until January 1999, only 800 visits were recorded (about 4 per day), but without warning, that jumped to 15,000 per day. The Web site spread by e-mail, early blogs, and bumper stickers, and was eventually even featured in a television commercial for Internet Service Provider Earthlink…. In 2005, CNET named The Hampster Dance the #1 web fad.” -From Wikepedia

Now it’s your turn to scrounge up some videos. Can you pack together a few viral vids with pride? Share some of your favorite animal vids in the comments, or post your own V V W on you blog 😀

The Sunday Salon

The Sunday Salon.com

Let’s see, this week I’ve been friends with a snowman and a rabbit. I’ve b,een to Papau New Guinea, Boston, Czechoslavakia, and the Congo. I’ve lived in Kabul and Pakistan in a time women had no rights. I’ve been enraptured by the stories of a second-grader in Watertower and China. I’ve been out to the county fair, where we ate swamp fries, roas’nears and elephant ears, and drank lemon shake-ups to our hearts content. AND, yesterday morning, I took Maggie for breakfast at her favorite place, The White House.

Okay, the first four sentences were things I did in books, I read and reviewed The Rabbit and the Snowman, The White Mary, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and Gooney Bird Greene.

But we did go to the county fair and we really did eat breakfast at the White House. Of course, when the county fair is open, you have to go more than one day. You have to see the animals and the merchants one night, and do the midway on another night.

So Monday was roosters, rabbits and merchants night, which is my favorite. I love going through the merchants buildings and signing up for every single drawing every business, church or club offers. In the past I’ve one a DirectTV satellite package, Avon baskets, shirts, and other stuff I can’t remember. This year, though, so many were offering gas cards. That kinda sucks, since I don’t drive… but I signed up for them anyway.

On Wednesday, we went for bracelet night at the midway. I even got a bracelet, which is stupid because I have vertigo. Maggie and I rode an up and down kind of ride. It didn’t spin, so I thought I’d be safe… wrong. But I know to focus on one spot to keep from getting sick… Maggie, poor Maggie, did not. She quickly exited the side of the ride and lost her lunch. She was pretty much ready to go home after that. I have a question for any med-savvy people, Maggie has eczema that flared this week, so she’d taken Benadryl, can that make you more prone to motion sickness? I told her that’s why she got sick.

Oh well, we went to look at the horses after that. We scratched several piggie’s backs and made our way back to the midway for our last ride. By then Mag’s stomach was settled, and our tradition is to save the Ferris wheel for our final fair event. The thing creaked and groaned and scared poor Maggie, who thought with certainty we were going to plummet to our deaths. I told her it just needed some WD-40 and we were safe, though I secretly agreed with her and I never get frightened on rides!

We lived.

Breakfast at the White House… I’m sure you’ve been dying to know. Here in Logansport, there is a restaurant called “White House”. It is owned by Lester, who has been cooking at the White House since my momma was a little girl, and that’s saying something! Mags and me, we always order the same thing, eggs over easy, toast with extra butter, smoked sausage and bacon, home fries with onions, chocolate mile for Mags and coffee for me. We always have the same waitress, Karen, so we never actually have to tell her what we want, unless we are adding a pancake with peanut butter like we did yesterday. Mag’s loves Karen, who’s watched her grow since we had our first breakfast there when Maggie was three. Like most places Maggie goes, she gets away with a lot at the White House… she brings flowers and a smile, and all the orneriness she can muster!

Also this week, I found FRED, where Julie shared the Fart in the Duck, Fyrefly asked Where the Hell is Matt and Suey shared her addiction to Vlogbrothers.

My First Ever Giveaway!! is winding down… only 11 days until it closes! Right now, I have 584 entries, and am giving away a $20, a $10, and a $5 Borders gift card. 16 more entries will add another $10 gift card, and at 700 I was going to add another $5, but I’ve been thinking… that’s such a great number, that it might be more. So… if you haven’t entered to win yet, do it now!
Enter to WIN!!