Monday, May 24, 2010

Library Lion: Michelle Knudsen

My darling little friend, Miss E, got a new book for her Birthday. I spotted the exquisitely illustrated hardback as soon as I stepped into her room. Library Lion is, on top of being a wonderful story, one of the most beautifully illustrated picture books I’ve seen in awhile. Written by Michelle Knudsen and illustrated by Kevin Hawkes, it is not just a story, but a work of art.

As we all know, libraries have Rules. You know the sort—no running, no being loud, and certainly, No Roaring. However, there is no rule about lions in the library. So when a lion casually enters the library one day and wanders into the story corner to await story time, there is nothing to be done about it. Soon enough, the lion becomes an institution in the library. He assists the head librarian and the small children. He participates in story time. In short, he makes himself at home in the library. All goes well enough until an Occasion arises that requires he Run and ROAR! But it was an emergency! So, you know, sometimes there are good reasons for breaking the rules.

I am a sucker for stories about animals and I am a sucker for stories about libraries. Put them together and I’m plumb giddy. Library Lion is one of those wonderful, timeless stories that has entertaining characters, adult-themed nuances, and of course, those beautiful illustrations. If you are fortunate enough to have a child in your life, buy them this book! You will love reading it together.

Rating: $$$

Ten Things Your Minister Wants To Tell You: Rev Oliver Buzz Thomas

Ten Things Your Minister Wants To Tell You was reviewed by my friend over at This Week At The Library some time ago, but I must admit, I didn’t pay much attention. He’s always reading theological books and those don’t generally interest me. However, this little volume found itself in my hands after an interesting conversation with a devout believer friend of mine who said that Rev Buzz had really got her thinking about some things. I zoomed through it in about an hour and a half, which illustrates just how conversational the writing is.

Rev Oliver “Buzz” Thomas is a Southern Baptist minister who faces ten big fundamental questions people have about Christianity and the bible including topics like other religions and homosexuality. Rev Thomas is able to knowledgably cite scripture to support his arguments. He essentially brings the bible into the present by pointing out that the books of the bible are not meant to be read literally. I think my favorite reference was to the many laws in Leviticus that would now be ridiculous—selling one’s daughter, for example.

My feeling about this slim read is that fundamentalists will detest it and liberals will love it. Being a spiritualist myself, I found it interesting and engaging. I have read many reviews that state Rev Thomas is a blasphemer and that his word is not gospel. Well, it certainly isn’t, and I don’t think he ever intended it to be so. Thomas is simply a man educated in the bible who has made a valiant attempt at communicating Christian principles to folks who are on the fence about their beliefs.

Rating: $$

Monday, May 17, 2010

Hit By A Farm: Catherine Friend

Almost as an afterthought, at the very end of a book sale spree, I picked up Hit By A Farm by Catherine Friend. The back cover mentioned something about a modern woman and her partner deciding to become farmers, and the numerous boundaries she faced down while handling ram testicles and assisting in lambing. As a backyard farmer myself, I found immediate humor in Friend’s casual assumptions that farming would be fun and easy. I remember having those same thoughts!

Catherine is a self professed “guppy”—gay urban yuppie. She writes children’s books and teaches some writing classes. When she met and fell in love with Melissa, she had no idea that it would result in a Minnesota farm. It turns out that Melissa’s lifelong dream has been to be a farmer. When faced with this new fact, Catherine thinks it sounds like a good time! Living off the land and all that jazz. So they buy 50 acres of land in Minnesota and become farmers. Except it’s not quite that easy. There is a lot to learn about farming and shepherding. There are a lot of personal boundaries that have to be crossed. There are a whole lot of expectations that have to be considered and subsequently shattered. What starts out as a sweet, countrified dream soon becomes a rural nightmare.

There are so many wonderful, memorable tidbits in this book and I wish I could remember more of them to share with you. I particularly enjoyed any of the scenes involving the llama they purchase to protect the sheep. Because after all, who wouldn’t think to buy a llama to watch over a herd of sheep?! There are also some hilarious scenes involving the chickens—or more specifically, the roosters who compete for the role of top cock.

The beauty of Friend’s memoir is that it is realistic. Amidst the humor there is tragedy, and with every unexpected turn, her relationship with Melissa suffers a little more, causing her to question their future together. Their relationship is tested, as are Catherine's boundaries. Eventually, Catherine must decide what is important to her and what she needs to do for herself to make herself successful in life and love. I laughed out loud, I sighed with complete sympathy regarding farming boundaries (because you see, there are no boundaries on a farm), and my heart beamed for the obvious love Catherine and Melissa share. I think this book is totally enjoyable for everyone, even if you’re not a lesbian farmer in Minnesota.

Rating: $$$