Brooke Gladstone is the award winning co-host and editor of the public radio show On the Media. In this short (90 pages!) book she succinctly and persuasively lays out why people have such difficulty agreeing on even the most basic facts. “Reality. It used to seem so simple — reality just was, like the weather. Why question it, let alone disagree about it? And then came the assault, and unending stream of ‘fake news,’ ‘alternative facts,’ and lies disguised as truths, all of it overwhelming our notions of reality. Now we can’t even agree on what a fact is, let alone what is real. How on earth did we get here? Here’s how.” She also provides some guidance on how we can begin to escape this situation. An interesting read!
The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine by Mark Twain and Philip Stead, with illustrations by Erin Stead
Johnny is a boy whose life has consisted of nothing but hunger and misfortune (which, unfortunately, is the way of it There, but, thankfully, not Here). With only a chicken, called Pestilence and Famine, for a companion, his journey takes a turn for the interesting when his rather horrible grandfather orders him to sell the bird at market. With great reluctance, Johnny sets off on the road. Along the way, he meets a great many people and animals that change his life in most surprising ways, including the venerable king and his son, Prince Oleomargarine. And all, with the exception of a very few, will make you gather yourself up, stand tall, and say, “Book, I am glad to know you.”
This marvelous tale is a product of the imaginations of the great American legend, Mark Twain (but he’s dead, you say! how can there be new things?), and the ever-incredible Caldecott Award-winning team of Philip and Erin Stead (oh, that’s how!). Based on a story that Twain told to his daughters, Clara and Susy, made 16 pages of notes on, but never published, author Philip Stead writes The Purloining of Prince Oleomargarine as a conversation between himself and Twain over cups of tea and coffee – one that is abruptly left off at a most inconvenient place by Twain, but finished most delightfully by Stead. With beautiful illustrations that will make you want to step right through the page and into Twain and the Steads’ world of There, you’ll spend hours poring over the details in this lovely book – weasels eating cookies, untrustworthy tigers, parades with cannons, vertically challenged kings, argumentative dragons, and a skunk that is most noble of heart. Long after you’ve arrived at the conclusion of the tale of Johnny and his intrepid chicken, you’ll find that his story stays with you. After all, it is the small things and small kindnesses that we take with us into the greatness of our own stories. This is not a large book, but it is a great one – don’t leave it out of your holiday season this year!
“The way I see it, I’ve lost my mom, eaten myself nearly to death, been cut out of my house while the whole county watched, endured exercise regimes and diets and the nation’s disappointment, and I’ve received hate mail from total strangers. So I ask you, What can high school do to me that hasn’t already been done?” After 5 years of hard work, Libby Stroud is finally ready to return to the world and all the wonderful possibilities it has to offer… high school, new friends, boys, EVERYTHING! She refuses to let her weight and her past define her. But WILL the world see her for who she is? Jack Masselin, on the other hand, has the world by the tail (or so it seems). He is charming and popular and fits seamlessly into the roll of superficial high school boy. Jack has a secret, though. He has prosopagnosia, a cognitive disorder that means he can’t recognize faces – not even his family’s or his own. He has become an expert at fitting in and hiding his disorder. One slip, one mistake, and his entire world could blow apart. “Be charming. Be hilarious. Don’t get too close to anyone.”
On the surface, Jack and Libby seem to be polar opposites – not two people you would ever envision as friends, much less a couple. But a cruel high school game throws them together in group counseling – both of them angry and frustrated with their lives. As they spend time together, a connection grows. If they can trust each other, if they can be their true selves with one another, they may find the confidence to finally live their lives the way they really want to.
I loved this book! It is an honest, sometimes raw, account of teenage life and the struggle to be accepted for who you truly are. Libby Stroud is courageous, resilient and hopeful. I could not help but love her. Jack appeared to be that guy who has it made… the life of the party that isn’t exactly likeable. His true character, however, is so much more than that. The two take turns telling us their story with honest voices, confronting both their own personal issues and those of the people they are closest to. Holding Up the Universe reminds us that we all have a need to be understood, accepted and ultimately – true to ourselves.