To Lola, with love

I’ve been away for a spell as the whole family flew to Bacolod to pay our last respects to my paternal grandmother, Lola Binyang, who passed away last week.

I was too young to remember the death of my paternal grandfather or my maternal grandmother, so losing both remaining grandparents in under two years is painful. Growing up with grandparents make you feel they’ll last forever (because to you they’ve always been old), and no matter how old you get, they still make you feel like a kid again, so losing a grandparent is a bit like a death toll on your own mortality.

Lola always spent part of the year with us when I was younger and she was still mobile. I remember endless summer afternoons playing cards on the bed with her — she was quite the cardshark — paris-paris (“pairs” in Ilonggo), blackjack, and even solitaire, as she’d leave a pack of cards behind to tide me over until she returned to our house the following year.

Continue reading “To Lola, with love”


I’m back! Pardon the unexpected hiatus — it’s been a busy, busy week month year and I’m still catching up on my blogging.

And I thought the holiday stress was bad! I could barely read last December (at least until after Christmas), so aside from finishing all my trivia books for the year end, my December reads were mostly short kidlit that I unearthed from the annals of my TBR: Pippi Longstocking, A House of Tailors, The Key Collection, Granny Torrelli Makes Soup, Catwings, The Cybil War, and The Great Mom Swap. These make books 199-205 for 2010, and after this I owe you one more (for a total of 206; apparently I overlooked one book), and then will proceed to my 2011 reviews.

Continue reading “Shorts.”

Fables and more

Saturday was the Flips Flipping Pages Book Discussion on Bill Willingham’s Fables: Legends in Exile, led by our youngest-ever moderator, 13-year old Paolo.

I read my Fables deluxe edition back in March (I had it signed by James Jean in December) and I enjoyed it a lot, so I was looking forward to discussing it with the Flippers.

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All the world’s a stage

I’ve read most of Sharon Creech’s books, and each one has always revealed her excellent insight into the young mind, especially as it grapples with growing up, family, friends, and even heavier issues such as grief and abandonment.
Replay is another feather in Creech’s cap, a touching family story seen through the eyes of Leo, the middle child in a loud Italian family.
Leo often feels like a sardine, squashed in between his moody sister, two gregarious younger brothers, a pair of frazzled parents, and a wild assortment of Italian relatives. There is so much going on in their household that he fantasizes about doing extraordinary deeds to get his family’s attention.
As he prepares for a small role (old crone) in a school production, Leo can’t help but compare the play to his life, and in the process discovers more about himself and the good old family that he loves and loves him back.
While relatively lighter in subject matter than Creech’s other books (my favorites are Walk Two Moons, Absolutely Normal Chaos, and Ruby Holler) Replay is a fresh addition to the collection as the structure of the book plays with the metaphor of the play: it presents the story in scenes and introduces the characters via a cast listing.
Leo makes a great lead: candid and engaging, observant and expressive — a real Sharon Creech trademark. Leo writes in a dramatic exercise in preparation for a play:

“It was like everyone else was in a play and I was the audience. I couldn’t see myself, but maybe everyone feels this way. You never see yourself (unless you look in the mirror). You only see everyone else. I still feel that way.”

The last section of the book also includes a special surprise, a script of the play they did in the book: “Rumpopo’s Porch,” for kids who might want to act it out. I was amused to find the script because I remember how I loved play scripts when I was younger — I would act them out, playing all the characters and giving them different voices while forcing my little brother to sit through all of my performances, haha.
I still have a couple of Sharon Creech books in my TBR — Granny Torelli Makes Soup, and Chasing Redbird; I look forward to reading them this year.
My copy: hardcover in dustjacket, from the NBS bargain bin, P50
My rating: 4/5 stars

Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech

Thirteen year old Salamanca Tree Hiddle is on the trip of a lifetime — a trip that will reunite her with her mother after a whole year of separation. Together with her grandparents, she retraces her mother’s steps to Lewiston, Idaho, where her mother is.

On the road, Sal entertains her grandparents with tales of her new friend, Phoebe Winterbottom. And as she tells them about Phoebe, her own story unfolds.

I first read this 1995 Newberry winner when I was in high school. Many years later, I finally found a copy of the book and I remembered why I loved it so well.

The book mainly deals with loss, a feeling everyone is familiar with, and how different people cope and come to terms with it. Sal is so candid at telling her story that you can feel the truth in what she’s saying, whether they’re hilarious observations about the things happening around her, or her deepest emotions that she tries hard to conceal.

Here are some favorite lines from the book:

“Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked two moons in his moccasins.” – the lunatic

“Everyone has his own agenda.” – the lunatic

“Everybody is just walking along concerned with his own problems, his own life, his own worries. And we’re all expecting other people to tune into our own agenda. ‘Look at my worry. Worry with me. Step into my life. Care about my problems. Care about me.” – Gram

“In a course of a lifetime, what does it matter?” – the lunatic

“…I wished that my father was not such a good man, so there would be someone to blame for my mother’s leaving. I didn’t want to blame her. She was my mother, and she was part of me.” – Sal

“I had brought a chicken in from the coop: ‘Would Mom leave her favorite chicken?’ I demanded. ‘She loves this chicken.’ What I really meant to say was. ‘How can she not come back to me? She loves me.’ “- Sal

“Sometimes you know in your heart you love someone, but you have to go away before your head can figure it out.” – Gram

“You can’t keep the birds of sadness from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair.” – the lunatic

” I knew that sometimes you had to be alone with the birds of sadness. Sometimes you had to cry by yourself.” – Sal

“I tried to picture what the room was like and what room we were in and what she was wearing and what precisely she had said. This was not a game. It was a necessary, crucial thing to do. If I did not have these things, and remember these occasions, then she might disappear forever. She might never have been.” – Sal

“Our heads moved together and our lips landed in the right place, which was on the other person’s lips. It was a real kiss, and it did not taste like chicken… I felt like the newlY born horse who knows nothing but feels everything. Ben touched his lips. ‘Did it taste a little like blackberries to you?’ ” – Sal

“Ben was sitting on the front steps when I got home. He said, ‘I brought you something.’ There, strutting across the grass, was a chicken. I had never been so happy to see a chicken. When I asked him what its name was, he leaned forward and I leaned forward, and another kiss happened, a spectacular kiss, a perfect kiss, and Ben said, ‘Its name is Blackberry.’ ” – Sal

The book keeps you guessing until the end, and you realize Creech has successfully passed on some wisdom beyond Sal’s age and understanding, without making it contrived and artificial.

By the final chapters, I was crying buckets. It’s like finding an old friend, one who knows exactly how you feel. It’s beautifully written, wise, funny, and poignant, all at the same time.

My copy: originally a tattered paperback (got lost), replaced with another paperback from Book Sale, upgraded into a hardcover (library binding) with a tear on the front cover, also from Book Sale

My rating: 5/5 stars