Quantcast

The Art of Revision: The Last Word by Peter Ho Davies

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 175 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Art of Revision: The Last Word by Peter Ho Davies examines revision holistically through examples from published literature and revised stories over time from writers like Raymond Carver and his editor Gordon Lish, Frank O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, and others, as well as a look at popular cinema, such as Terminator, and its revisions.

The crux of this craft book is: “The truth is that while our own ability to make new stories, and remake old ones, ends with us, life continues to revise us. Life in some sense is revision, and revision a measure of how alive a story continues to be. (pg. 171) Throughout, Davies examines his own work on The Welsh Girl and a story from his own past in which his father intervenes to save a Sikh boy from being beaten.

While this reference book is focused on short stories and novels, it’s takeaways regarding revision and our “darlings” can be applied to poetry. “Revision is very much a process of close reading ourselves and our work,” he says. (pg. 14) In a way it is not about the cutting or the reduction of the text all of the time, but the expansion and contraction of text to find the meat of the story and the truth of it. “I suspect a guiding principle of early drafts might be better phrased as ‘Write to know,‘ and of revision, ‘Revise to know more,” and of a final draft, ‘I’ve written what I now know.'” (pg. 36)

I’ve always loved the possibility of revision, but I’ve also cut poems down into enigmas and missed the points the poems were making entirely. I’ve played with words, phrasing, line breaks, and more to a point where the poem is even confused about itself. This book has helped me see that revision needs to be a little more focused, not targeted, but shining a light on the meaning/truth of the poem.

The Art of Revision: The Last Word by Peter Ho Davies is a nonfiction craft book I would highly recommend for poets, short story writers, novelists, and others. Davies is frank in his advice and his own limitations, but he also demonstrates that revision is a skill that can be learned, enjoyed, and even provide us with our own truth about ourselves and the stories that we are drawn to and must write on the page.

***Thanks to Melanie Figg for the recommendation.***

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Peter Ho Davies‘s most recent books are the novel A Lie Someone Told You About Yourself, long-listed for the Aspen Words Literary Prize, and The Art of Revision: The Last Word, his first work of non-fiction. His previous novel, The Fortunes, a New York Times Notable Book, won the Anisfield-Wolf Award and the Chautauqua Prize, and was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. His first novel, The Welsh Girl, a London Times Best Seller, was long-listed for the Booker Prize. He has also published two short story collections, The Ugliest House in the World (winner of the John Llewelyn Rhys Prize, and the Oregon Book Award) and Equal Love (finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and a New York Times Notable Book).

Davies’ work has appeared in Harpers, The Atlantic, The Paris Review, The Guardian, The Washington Post and TLS among others, and been anthologized in Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards and Best American Short Stories. In 2003 Granta magazine named him among its “Best of Young British Novelists.”

Davies is a recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts and a winner of the PEN/Malamud and PEN/Macmillan Awards.

Born in Britain to Welsh and Chinese parents, he now makes his home in the US. He has taught at the University of Oregon, Northwestern and Emory University, and is currently on faculty at the University of Michigan.

A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Andre Ceolin

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Andre Ceolin is a book for ages 4-8, but I bet there are some adults who could use this lesson in empathy and compassion. I loved that this picture book opens with a discussion of what it means to be human. It also explains what family means and that it doesn’t necessarily have to mean you are only related by blood. This opens the door to children, allowing them to see that adopted children and more are families, too.

Esenwine offers “pro tips” throughout the book to help kids navigate their emotions and social situations in which they normally would just react on instinct. He demonstrates how sometimes situations arise because of emotion and that we have to be able to recognize it and adapt to help others when we can. This ability to empathize will enable kids to show compassion for others. Compassion is something every child should learn at a young age, and some adults should be re-taught the concept.

The illustrations show a diverse group of students, which is another fantastic way to bring home the diversity of humanity. The Golden Rule is mentioned about mid-way through the book, but it does seem to come out of nowhere. So a little more contest or a child talking to a family member or a teacher about it, might have been less awkward in the narrative.

Overall, the illustrations where the kids are working out differences or situations themselves after learning these terms are the most effective. A Beginner’s Guide to Being Human by Matt Forrest Esenwine, illustrated by Andre Ceolin, definitely provides young kids, their parents, and teachers with tools they will need to help children navigate social interactions and other situations.

RATING: Quatrain

**Be sure to enter the author’s giveaway***

About the Author:

Matt Forrest Esenwine is an author and poet from Warner, New Hampshire. His debut picture book, Flashlight Night (Boyds Mills Press, 2017) was selected by the New York Public Library as one of the Best Books for Kids of 2017. His picture book Once Upon Another Time (Beaming Books, 2021), co-authored with Charles Ghigna, was deemed “a necessary addition to picture book collections” by ALA’s Booklist. His poetry can be found in numerous anthologies including The National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry (National Geographic Children’s Books, 2015) and Construction People (Wordsong, 2020).

About the Illustrator:
André Ceolin studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has illustrated over twenty books for children. André lives in Brazil with his family.

Run (Book One) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, L. Fury, and Nate Powell

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 160 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

RUN (Book One) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, L. Fury, and Nate Powell, the Eisner Award-Winner for Best Graphic Memoir, is the continuation of Rep. John Lewis‘ (D-Ga.) life after the Selma voting rights campaign and the signing of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. It was clear that even after the law was passed, segregation was not going to vanish, people were going to still kill Blacks with impunity, and Lewis’ work and that of other activists was far from finished.

“But we knew Sammy would not be the last innocent Black person murdered for trying to live his life with a sense of dignity.” (pg. 59)

Lewis was the chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and wholeheartedly believed in Dr. King’s philosophy of non-violence and was against war of any kind. However, not all of the members of the group felt the same, and this eventually caused a huge rift and the creation of the Black Panther party.

Lewis is taking it back to the use of comics by the Black Panther party to help readers visualize and feel the emotional tension and injustice of this time in history. It is clear that these books are still needed and can communicate events and movements to readers in a more visceral way than history books or courses could.

If you are unaware of the systemic racism in government institutions, you really need to read this book. It is clear from these stories, that the system was stacked against Black people even after civil rights were passed. One prime example is the refusal to seat an elected official who was voted into office.

“‘The moral ARC of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice,’ Dr. King said.

And sometimes it begins and ends int he same place.” (pg. 73)

RUN (Book One) by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, L. Fury, and Nate Powell should be essential reading for students and adults alike. If you’ve read the March series, you will love this graphic novel. This book was excellent from cover-to-cover from the story to the illustrations. I read it in one day, including the additional information about the people in the movement.

RATING: Cinquain

I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 96 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin takes a brief look at the amazing life of an independent woman, Gabrielle Chanel, a young girl left at an orphanage by a wandering father after her mother’s death. Chanel’s life took a positive turn in the convent when she learned how to sew.

In the section on her life in the orphanage, we found the gray background a little too dark for the black type to show well. We struggled to read that section in a dimmer lit room. Overall, the illustrations are fun, colorful, and characteristic of an artist finding her way in the world as an independent woman at a time when women were not necessarily encouraged to be businesswomen.

When Chanel worked in Moulins and joined the cabaret, one of her songs about a missing dog became her signature and ultimately led to her name change from Gabrielle to Coco. Chanel received a lot of support from men in her life but it was her innovative ideas and focus on comfort for women that really made her fashion work popular.

I Am Coco: The Life of Coco Chanel by Isabel Pin is a quick look at her fashion evolution and the growth of her business. I wanted a little more about her WWII years, but the focus of the book was on fashion and its evolution. Pin definitely provides children with enough information to get them intrigued about Chanel and her life, possibly leading to further interest in her life.

RATING: Quatrain

The Power of Architecture by Annette Roeder, illustrated by Pamela Baron

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 64 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Power of Architecture: 25 Modern Buildings from Around the World by Annette Roeder, illustrated by Pamela Baron, offers a taste of what modern architecture looks like and can do. From a small city contained in a beehive-shaped apartment building to airport terminals shaped like birds, Roeder wants to explore the oddities and beauty of modern architecture.

The book opens with a map and key depicting where here 25 selected buildings are located, and she says right in the introduction that it was hard to choose just 25, but reminds readers that they are in no particular order of importance or favoritism. Surprisingly, my dad picked up this book first and leafed through it, which means it will likely appeal to more than one level of reader.

One thing I wish had been included in the book is a pronunciation key for some of the terms and building names because they are from different parts of the world and I would like to know how to pronounce them correctly.

I do love that Roeder provides information on what the architect was inspired by or thinking about when they created their structures, and each of them is beautifully rendered in water color. It would have have interesting to see a side-by-side of the water color depiction and an actual photo of each building or even just photos in the back of the book to provide readers with a sense of them being in a real place.

The Power of Architecture: 25 Modern Buildings from Around the World by Annette Roeder, illustrated by Pamela Baron, definitely showcases the infinite possibilities of architecture and the ability of the human mind to create something with a purpose in mind — whether that is reducing carbon emissions or incorporating the land or paying homage to a culture.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Annette Roeder, born in Munich in 1968, is an author, illustrator and architect. She has been writing picture books and children’s books, as well as novels for adults for over 20 years. Her 10-book series Die Krumpflinge (‘The Crumplings’) is much loved by children aged 6+, and she won the Kalbacher Klapperschlange prize for her book Vacations in the Closet.

About the Illustrator:

Pamela Baron is a watercolor illustrator who has a special love of architecture. She lives in a breezy town outside of San Francisco with her husband and twenty-one miniature fruit trees.

HAIR: From Moptops to Mohicans, Afros to Cornrows by Katja Spitzer

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Hardcover, 40 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

HAIR: From Moptops to Mohicans, Afros to Cornrows by Katja Spitzer is a look at hairstyle from as long ago as 300 years or more. In the opening pages, there are images that look like noodles, but they also could be clipped pieces of hair before you get to the title page. What’s clear from the start of the book is that humanity has been obsessed with self-expression through hair since the dawn of time.

I loved that the book started with information about why hair grows and what cells make up the color of our hair and why our hair grows gray as we age. From the tall hairstyles of the Rococo period to the Ancient Egyptians, readers will learn about hair and why certain styles became fashionable. The background about the Afro, however, focuses too much on why Blacks straightened their hair, which is important, but doesn’t really explain the hairstyle itself. Some sections are more detailed about how the style is created than this one.  One of the best parts of the book is that there’s a final page that kids can use to draw their own favorite hairstyle.

For a quick history lesson on hair styles, HAIR: From Moptops to Mohicans, Afros to Cornrows by Katja Spitzer can help young kids learn about the past, present, and future of hair, including beards and man-buns.

RATING: Tercet

Kill It With Fire by Marianne Bellotti (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 7+ hrs.
I am an Amazon affiliate

Kill It With Fire: Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones) by Marianne Bellotti, narrated by Katie Koster, is an audiobook I read to prepare for an interview with the author for work. So this review will be a bit unusual. Bellotti’s book is about modernizing technology, but not for the sake of getting the latest and greatest. Her book is about enterprises taking a careful look at their current operational systems, which are the backbones of many businesses today, and determining how best to maintain, upgrade, or modernize them for current business needs and the future of the business.

I found this audio to be at times engaging and circular. There are arguments made early on that are reiterated later in the book, which makes sense when you consider this is a business focused book making an argument for interdisciplinary teamwork in the world of technology that focuses on ensuring technology is not only maintained but evolved over time to meet future business needs.

Bellotti offers a lot of wonderful advice on how to work to modernize systems without burning down the entire place and starting over from scratch. Like she says, technology that is doing the job most effectively is the best option for the business, but for that technology to be at its best, it also needs to be updated and maintained.

Kill It With Fire: Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones) by Marianne Bellotti, narrated by Katie Koster, is a good resource for businesses trying to get a handle on the latest systems and options out there while still ensuring their business hums along as effectively as it can.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Marianne Bellotti is a software engineer and relapsed anthropologist. Her work focuses on how culture influences the implementation and development of software. She runs engineering teams and teaches other people how to tackle complex systems. Most of her work has focused on restoring old systems to operational excellence, but she also works on the safety of cutting edge systems and artificial intelligence. 

Finding Me by Viola Davis (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 9+ hrs.
I am am Amazon Affiliate

***trigger warnings for those who have suffered sexual abuse or child abuse***

Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis, narrated by the author, is what I want in a memoir every time – not simply name dropping or a recounting of events, but an in-depth look at one’s life and all its dark corners and bright lights. I want it to be reflective, and I want it to ring true. I want to hear everything that a person believes makes them who they are today. Davis brings that and much more.

I have loved Davis as an actor for so many years. When I see her name on the list, I’m watching that movie. She is that powerful and phenomenal, and now I can see why. She’s one of those actors who has the innate ability to channel the past and mold it into her roles and provide her characters with motivation, but she’s also a keen observer of people around her and their emotional and physical struggles.

I did not know that Davis grew up in Rhode Island! I lived in Massachusetts, but like 20 min. from the border of Rhode Island as a girl. When she talked about places, I knew where she was. That made this a not-so-great treat because I was completely unaware of the horrors there, but I was a kid…most of us don’t notice those things.

What I loved is that she stays true to the woman I believe her to be, pulling no punches about discrimination or racism or even sexism in the Hollywood business. Her story is a story for all Black women who struggle with perceptions of others and who they are. I want all women to feel loved for who they are, not who we perceive them to be.

She is very candid about the abuse, molestation, and more that occurred in her childhood and the effects that it had on her as an adult. Finding Me: A Memoir by Viola Davis is one of the best memoirs I’ve listened to in a while, and I highly recommend this one. I cannot tell you how riveting this was, you need to experience this for yourself.

About the Author:

Viola Davis is an American actress. The recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards.

National Geographic Readers: Kamala Harris (Level 2) by Tonya K. Grant

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

National Geographic Readers: Kamala Harris (Level 2) by Tonya K. Grant provides early readers with some background on our current vice president and her background. My daughter read this one on her own, but she was interested in how Kamala and her sister protested the rules at their apartment building as children and successfully helped change the rules, allowing kids to play soccer on the law.

We talked about how individuals can come together to make change when things seem unfair. She learned about the different jobs that lawyers can hold from district attorney to attorney general and senator, as well as vice president of the United States. She found it amusing that Harris used a portable ironing board as a desk.

The book includes some firsts for Harris, as well as some fun facts, and kids will learn new words dealing with government and democracy. There’s also a short quiz at the end to help kids see how much they learned while reading this short book. The photos are high quality, as expected and really round out the story.

National Geographic Readers: Kamala Harris (Level 2) by Tonya K. Grant is another short, early reader book that can help kids learn more about our modern heroes and activists, among others who are making history today.

RATING: Quatrain

National Geographic Readers: Stacey Abrams (Level 2) by Melissa H. Mwai

Source: Media Masters Publicity
Paperback, 32 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

National Geographic Readers: Stacey Abrams (Level 2) by Melissa H. Mwai is a wonderful introduction to a modern activist that provides information on her formative years, her college years, and her ambitions. We loved that this was easy to read for my daughter and the glossary in the back for terms like “district” and “election.” These will help kids who struggle with large, unfamiliar terms and those who want to learn more than the context clues provide. This book also has a short quiz to help kids and teachers review what readers have learned.

Readers will “meet” Stacey Abrams in the first pages, and learn how to phonetically say “election.” This introductory page sets the stage for why Abrams actively fought to improve voting in Georgia and allows children to see how elections are integral to democracy and how voices can be quieted through discrimination. There also are a set of “firsts” for Abrams and a fun story about how she selected the college she eventually attended.

National Geographic Readers: Stacey Abrams (Level 2) by Melissa H. Mwai is a great introduction to the election process, Stacey Abrams’ advocacy to improve voting access, and the role we all can play in ensuring democracy continues throughout the country. My daughter was not that interested when she started reading, but as she read more, she realized that things are not equal for everyone and she said that is unfair.

RATING: Quatrain

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 10+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl, narrated by the author, is a delight by itself. If you want to here Grohl talk about his life as written in the book with some riffs and musical interludes, you should pick up this audio.

There’s a lot of unbelievable moments in his life, and I think his ability to just “go for it” and say “yes” to any opportunity really helped him become as successful as he is. I do think some will be disappointed about the lack of gossip about Nirvana and Courtney Love, etc., but most will have to recall that Nirvana was already a band for three years when Grohl joined. He’s spent a very small amount of his career with that band. This is a memoir about Grohl’s life in music and life.

I don’t need to say much else, because I already reviewed the book.

RATING: Cinquain

Woodrow on the Bench by Jenna Blum

While I didn’t officially sign up for Book Journey‘s event, First Book of the Year, here it is:

Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog by Jenna Blum is a love letter to a beloved companion who provided Blum with not only companionship and love, but also with lessons in patience, humility, and so much more. Woodrow, named after the former Texas Ranger in Lonesome Dove, was a black lab full of mischief, a lover of food (esp. carrots), and energy.

Woodrow is much like our husky and her love of carrots and the outside, but he’s also like my keeshond who loved food so much, you’d often find him in the fridge, stealing pork chops from tables, and so on. Blum’s memoir also brought me back to my college days in Boston. I knew exactly where she was at all times, and the struggles of crossing Commonwealth Ave. are real, and I miss the old Ritz, now the Taj. It has been a very long time since I’ve been back, and during these pandemic years, it allowed me to revisit some places along the way. And for some reason, winter always reminds me of Boston and it’s bone-chilling cold … and the snow! Hence, this became my first read of 2022.

“If I try to cross Commonwealth Avenue at the wrong time or emerge from between parked cars instead of using the crosswalk, there’s an excellent chance I’ll be mowed over. Usually by somebody in a BMW, which I have long since decided — forgive me, Beamer drivers — is an acronym for asshole.”

Blum’s narrative carries the reader on an emotional journey with highs and lows, and most of us know that Woodrow is on the decline at his advanced age. While she does characterize his breathing at one point as “more Darth Vader than usual,” we know that these moments are scary. Woodrow is endearing and he becomes like our own pet through these pages, as we laugh and cry alongside Blum. She’s losing one of her most important anchors, not to be outdone by the equally devastating losses of both her parents.

I found so much of myself in these pages — I’m stubborn like Blum and want to do things the more you tell me they cannot be done. (I’m not sure who I inherited this trait from, honestly, because both my parents shy away from action and conflict. It’s in the genes somewhere.) But when it comes to saving a beloved family member (yes, pets are family), the impossible is just that.

Woodrow on the Bench: Life Lessons from a Wise Old Dog by Jenna Blum is not only about the loss of a family pet or the lessons Blum learned along the way, it is a microcosm of what we’ve forgotten about humanity – that people can be good and do good. It’s shown time and again when strangers help Blum with her dog as he struggles to walk or when she’s struggling to cross one of the busiest thoroughfares in Boston with her old dog. And she, like us, is “stunned” every time by this compassion. There is something ultimately beautiful that comes from all the sadness in these pages, and we, as readers, are better for it.

RATING: Cinquain