Book Review: Adventure and Mundane Magic

Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic create a world that looks and operates a lot like ours, with one big exception – magic is real and everyone has some level of ability.

Since the world runs on magic, getting into a really good university requires both exceptional magical skill and strong academic ability.

Gooseberry Bluff Community College is not a particularly good school. Yet, there’s very powerful magic located on and around the school grounds; which is why the people who work there aren’t always what they appear.

The novel takes the reader on an adventure where bad guys from another dimension use a magic-wielding cult-like collection of community college professors as the key for entry into the Gooseberry dimension. If the bad guys get through, the very-similar-to-our-own world will be viciously invaded and transformed into something terrible (in a post-apocalyptic kind of way).

While the story is well told, with a plot that provides ample opportunity for adventure and intrigue, the truly unique aspect to this novel is Joy, the main character – a black woman with exceptional magic skills and a life-long struggle with Prosopagnosia, the inability to distinguish or recognize human faces (including her own).

Joy was recruited to work for a secret agency that greatly resembles the FBI or the CIA, despite her handicap, because her magic skills and knowledge are exceptional. She also has the ability to read auras, which she uses in place of reading faces; s system that works just fine, most of the time.

Another interesting element is the description of magic. There are characters who compete in magic martial-arts competitions where laser-light-shows and smoke machines are utilized to show where the magic is flying through the air. In this world, the combatants don’t need to see the magic attacks because they can feel every move. It’s the audience who needs the light show – to make watching the combat easier.

Tossed in here and there are the personalities of characters who cross-over into this world from other dimensions. They provide a fascinating contrast to the personalities of the Gooseberry Bluff natives, many of which are complicated and nicely fleshed out.

All in all, this is a fun read. If you are looking for some vacation-time entertainment, I highly recommend this novel

Gooseberry Bluff Community College of Magic by David J. Schwartz

Quotes from this book can be found HERE.

Seattle is Lumping All its Homeless Children Into One School

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Just plain wrong on so many levels.

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For all of the homeless shelters in metropolitan Seattle, the assigned elementary school is Lowell Elementary, up on Capitol Hill….Absolutely no one likes it there, it seems. Students report violence, bullying, and apathetic staff. And the staff claims they aren’t adequately supported to take care of students with special needs….With more training and a dedicated mental health staff, perhaps this school could be a light for students. But as it is, funneling the city’s growing population of homeless youth into one inadequate school is simply harmful.

Seattle is Lumping All its Homeless Children Into One School, LET’s Blog! ON LITERACY, EDUCATION, AND TECHNOLOGY by Mandy

Safety Police and Dog

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Gloria gave Officer Buckle a big kiss on the nose. Officer Buckle gave Gloria a nice pat on the back. Then, Officer Buckle thought of his best safety tip yet…

Safety Tip #101: Always Stick With your Buddy!

Officer Buckle and Gloria by Peggy Rathmann

Notes of interest:

The School of Tough Learning

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The huge owl blinked in wonder at these young owls. They seemed to know nothing. And yet…He let the thought trail off. Certainly their survival skills must be pretty good if they got out of St. Aggie’s. Still, there was no education like the one he had received. The education of an orphan. The orphan school of tough learning. He had to learn it all himself. How to fly, where to hunt, what creatures to stalk and which to avoid at all costs. No, nothing could compare to figuring out on one’s own the hard rules and schemes of a forest world—a world with uncountable riches and endless perils. It took a tough owl to figure it all out. And that was exactly how Twilight thought of himself. Tough.

The Guardians of Ga’Hoole, Book One: The Capture, by Kathryn N Lasky

Little Wolf Loves School

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“We learned a song and how to count. We made pawprints and played hide-and-seek!” Little Wolf said proudly. “And do you know what else I learned?”
“Tell me,” said his mother.
“I learned that I can hardly wait for a second day of school.”

-Little Wolf Goes To School, written by Mary Packard and illustrated by Lisa McCue

Henry Stays in Superhero School

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All of a sudden, a little boy stands in front of the monster. “Hey horrible monster! I bet you can’t catch me!” It’s Henry! …Only when the monster turns the corner does it see what Henry is up to. The monster tries to stop but it’s too late…Thanks to Henry’s super-prank, the other superheros can tie down the monster…

Superhero School, written by Thierry Robberecht and illustrated by Philippe Goossens

Giggle Book Award: Forest Play

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This month the Giggle Book Award goes to Let’s Play In The Forest While The Wolf Is Not Around by Claudia Rueda, a fun illustration of a traditional French and Spanish children’s play song. The book turns the song into a very cute story about a young wolf who is getting ready for school while his friends play in the forest outside his house.

After the second reading, the children in my life had the words mostly memorized, so each person selects a part and we ‘read’ (perform?) it together. For example:

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Me: Let’s play int he forest while the wolf is not around.
Child: Wolf are you there?
Both: I’m putting on my underpants!

As you can imagine, the mere mention of underpants inspires laughter. Yet, this book’s real appeal is the ability to participate in the reading. While the kids are speaking their lines from memory, they are also pointing out the text being read, (i.e., this is my part and that is your part) so it’s also an excellent learning tool.

Another quote:

“Wolf, are you there?”
“Yes, and I am very hungry! And I am going to eat…Pancakes! My favorite!”

Antisemitism In The Midwest

The following is created from, and inspired by, answers I have posted to questions on Quora.com.

Whether it’s racism or Antisemitism or classism (or sexism or gay bashing or whatever else) Midwesterners need to break the silence and get past the ‘it doesn’t happen here’ mythology. To this end, I am posting some of my own, personal, experiences with these issues. I am not going to post the worst experiences I have had because I’m not ready to go there, but these are a few examples from my own life:

The Name Adora Myers

The reactions people have to my name are frequently tinged with racial and antisemitic undertones. It’s not unusual for perfect strangers to respond to my name with a pregnant pause, an uncomfortably open examination of my physical being (including peering at my face and scanning my entire body like I was a bug or an animal on display at the state fair), and a growled question that is clearly fishing for proof of ethnicity. The most common questions include:

  • Is that a FAMILY name?
  • What kind of name is that?
  • That’s…different. where are you from?

When people see my name written, the reaction is similar, but they’ve already made their own decision about my ethnicity because of the way my last name is spelled. In the Midwest, this surname is most frequently spelled Meyers and Miers. The spelling Myers is both unusual and presumed to be exclusive to Jewish communities (this is not true).

In my case, the name is a modification of Mayotte, bestowed upon my family by United States government employees because my father’s family arrived to the United States (from Canada) illiterate and speaking only French – it’s a classic American story. Unfortunately, it’s a history I did not know until very recently, so I was unable to respond to conjecture with fact.

My first experience with direct antisemitism occurred in the first grade, when a teacher decided to help me along in life by ‘fixing’ my name.

My name is pronounced Adora (uh DOOR uh) Myers (MY ehrs)

The teacher pulled me aside and explained that I needed to spell it like this:

Andora (AN door uh) Meyers (MY ehrs)

This effectively erased the perceived non-white ethnicity and ‘Jewishness’ from my name.

A short time later, my mother was going through my school work, per her usual habit, when she stopped, pointed to the ‘Name’ field and said “Who is this? These aren’t your papers.”

“Yes they are,” I replied.

“This isn’t how you spell your name.”

“I know, but that’s what the teacher said I had to do.”

My mother had to walk down to the school and explain, in person, that her daughter knew how to spell her own name. The teachers stopped making me change my name on school work, but they never (over 12 years of k-12 school) stopped expressing their…opinions…of my ‘weird name.’

Interestingly enough, my school mates (the children) had no problem with it – until high school when adult/teacher/parental opinions had fully seeped into their perceptions.

Religion

I was raised a mish-mash of Christianity but the neighbors were convinced they knew what were ‘really were.’ We had no social connection to a Jewish community, so these perceptions were based on physical appearance and naming conventions. s illustrated in the example above, I had an unusual name by Midwestern standards. However, it was the early 1970s and ‘unusual names’ were something of a fad. My mother liked unusual names and my father didn’t really care, so we all had names that were real, pronounceable, reasonably easy to spell AND just outside the acceptable norm for Midwestern children.

Out of all of my siblings, my physical appearance is the closest to the stereotype of a Jewish person – as defined by people who hate Jewish people.

Children in the neighborhood would call me things like ‘Yid’ and ‘Kike’ and ‘Judas Priest’ (the rock band was big back then) to let me know they knew my family was lying about who and what we were – and they were angry and offended by both the perceived lying and what we ‘really were’.

These anti-Semitic slurs were short lived because people in the Midwest don’t say things like that to your face. Obviously, they were being said behind our backs with consistent regularity because the children knew all about it. However, the ‘we know what you really are’ comments continued with regularity throughout the Midwest and in other regions of the United States (I have done some traveling) for the rest of my life.

My best childhood friend was raised in a family that was ultra extreme far-right Christian. They made a point of aggressively recruiting me for religious events out of ‘concern for my soul.’ This resulted in several…interesting…encounters with the Christian community, but one stands out from the rest:

I agreed to attend a teen retreat. It was an all-day-Saturday thing with meals served, games, movies and prayer sessions (the usual). I attended these things mostly to support my best friend, but I generally tried to suspend judgement and hold on to a small hope that I would make some connections with truly good people. The kind of people religious-types (of ALL religions) are always claiming exist only within the halls of the faithful.

By this point I had started to notice a trend in the prayer sessions and revivals I was dragged into. There was always a point in the service when new people were expected to go up to the front and ‘accept Jesus’ in front of the community. During the first event I attended, I followed protocol (because I was an outsider) and went up to the front and did the whole thing. The next time I was expected to do the same thing, again; and I noticed I was the only person being pushed into doing this multiple times.

The same thing happened during the service at this retreat. This was the third time in a row and (being who I am) I refused to leave my seat. There was no reason for me to be placed on display over and over again, and I did not like this trend, so I decided to test the situation by quietly and pointedly remaining in my seat. I was just like 90% of the teens in attendance who did not ‘feel called’ to go to the front of the church and acted accordingly.

After the service I found myself surrounded by a group of adults and teenagers, all of them were male and my best friend was among them. My friend was angry and started almost-shouting at me about my ‘poor behavior’ during the service. What did I do? Refused to go up in front of the church and ask God for forgiveness.

I remember looking around the group and realizing that these adults had pulled together the teenagers and pressured my friend into fixing ‘the problem.’ I had to be dealt with and it was their responsibility to make sure ‘people like me’ were properly addressed. How did I know this? The teenagers kept looking at the adults for confirmation and/or direction.

My best friend was completely worked up into an emotional tantrum, throwing his finger in my face saying (and I quote): “You! You of all people should be BEGGING God for forgiveness!”

As he walked away, clearly furious with me and the situation he was placed in (I knew him well enough to figure that part out), he growled under his breath “we all know what you really are.”

That was when I stopped associating with any form of Christian-right community. I did not like what it did to my best friend and I refused to be used as proof of the Christian superiority in any from, most particularly through the performance of weekly public-humiliation-of-the Jew ceremonies.

High School

I attended two high schools. I could tell stories from both. This story is from the school I graduated from.

It was the home stretch. I was months…weeks!….away from graduation. I had been planning my escape from Wisconsin farm country for months, including putting great effort into researching colleges. This was during a time before the internet, so researching colleges required an encyclopedia-sized book listing colleges and/or assistance from a school counselor. I pestered my counselor repeatedly, despite his adamant refusal to provide assistance because (and I quote): “the best you can hope for is technical school and marriage.”

My grades were good enough to get into college (despite the odds – but that’s another story) and my ACT scores were actually quite high. I’d managed to secure the contact information for exactly one college and had my acceptance letter tucked away among what little I owned back at the family farm.

In short, life had been tough for a long time but I was finally seeing a small glimmer of light in the form of college.

Then HE entered the picture. My home room teacher was one of many adults who did not approve of my existence (in general) or my presence in their community (specifically).

7 weeks before graduation, he started openly and blatantly handing me detention slips for the actions of other students. On several occasions he actually stood up and announced that I was getting another hour of detention because THAT KID, on the other side of the room, was making noise.

I am an introvert who loves to read and used study hall to finish homework and help my friends study and/or understand assignments. My life as a poverty survivor was difficult and working part-time jobs and the family farm took away a lot time. I needed study hall to complete catch-up work. I was NOT a problem student. If anything, I was entirely to quiet.

Rgardless, I was given detention for things I did not do, EVERY SINGLE DAY for several weeks. This quickly added up and the school had a serve-detention-or-do-not-graduate policy. In other words, anyone who had unserved detention was denied a diploma.

One particular morning, this homeroom teacher handed me yet another pink slip for the actions of others with a sneer, a little reminder of the graduation policy and the words: “We don’t need any more of you people in the colleges.”

Luck came my way in the form of the vice principal. When I was called into his office, I sat in the bad-student-chair looking around at all of the football trophies and though we are not going to get along.

He went over my file, explained the policy to me, tated that I was very close to having so much detention that it would not be possible for me to graduate, even if I spent the rest of the school year serving it out. He was doing the tough-man-talks-to-wayward-teen routine and I’d reached the point of being beyond done with this situation, this town and all of the crap these people insisted on dumping on me and my life. This resulted in my getting uncharacteristically tough in return.

I explained exactly what happened, who committed the acts recorded on those slips and how I had absolutely no intention of serving detention for things I did not do. I fully expected to be expelled and was already beginning to rack my brains for GED resources – maybe I could take the test and continue on with college as planned.

Unexpectedly, the vice principal responded with stunned shock and proceeded to negotiate with me. I had to serve two weeks of detention, because he couldn’t get away with clearing it all out. Thoughts of completing a GED eliminated what fight I had left. I agreed to the deal.

The teacher was replaced in my homeroom for the rest of the semester. To the best of my knowledge, he was never fired or disciplined outside of that one change during that semester.

So, I got lucky and was allowed to graduate.

School For Adults

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A woman of her age and experience could hardly expect to be re-schooled by anyone except herself. But if she had a true community such schooling would be the service her people provided.”

Fire Logic (Elemental Logic) by Laurie J. Marks

 

Familiarity Transforms Monsters

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“Ms. Kirby, it’s REALLY strange seeing you outside of school.”

“…By lunchtime, Bobby and Ms. Kirby were happy they had bumped into each other.”

My Teacher is a Monster, by Peter Brown