Book Review

Karen Joy Fowler’s Booth

A Civil War historical fiction about Lincoln’s assassination told through a family saga lens, outlining the many Booth actors in the generation that made one brother infamous while resonating without naming the divides of our current political culture. Junius Brutus Booth was a Shakespearean actor who moved his family into the countryside. The large family lived a farming life when they were not in the very busy cities, learning Shakespeare and growing strong-headed to a one. Many of the brothers took to the stage, traveling the huge country from Maryland to San Francisco and spending time on the London scene.

The story does not start or end with the fateful bullet, it’s told through letters and impressions gathered from those around the family. We knew that Edwin, Jun, and Johnny Booth were all actors, but the lives they lived with their alcoholic father and Asia and Rosalind with strong opinions and small stages in the home as women.

Booth by Karen Joy Fowler

The people involved are given depth and motive as we see their mother who dotes on some children and is emotionally scarred by the loss of so many others; the father who drank himself senseless plays a large role in their lives and memories expressed through letters and their interactions and concerns.

The unironic declarations of the plays as being low entertainment by Asia when it’s discovered Lincoln died at a theater and John’s feeling of being bound due to the restrictions of the Union are noted and apt. Small vignettes of Lincoln’s life concurrent with the lives of the Booths.


Montessori is a Social Justice Curriculum

With everything happening in the classroom and in the world, I’m reminded of the words of Maria Montessori: Averting war is the work of politicians; establishing peace is the work of education (Educaiton For Peace, p. 24). History starts from a couple standpoints in our curriculum: everything is made of atoms shared in the world over time, and that every living creature has fundamental needs that must be met for successful continuation. Some fundamental needs are easy to see: food and water. But when we talk about the early humanoids of our planet we see that some of our human fundamental needs are ones that we may not recognize: needs like art, spirituality, and community. This time of year we celebrate so many different holidays that help fill those needs. From Bodhi Day on December 8th through New Year’s Day, my class counted 19 days that are special to different communities in our world. That’s not including National Horse Day and Bathtub day – which some in our community chose to recognize. Again, to paraphrase Montessori, “The work of education is peace.”

Much of our day is spent in recognizing the needs of others and establishing responsible actions in ourselves. From peace education and understanding our own emotions to recognizing inequity and standing up to help change it, Montessori brings peace large and small. In the Lower Elementary ages, we recognize that dignity, safety, peaceful interactions, fresh air and good food are all part of human needs, human peace, and human “justice.” We practice every day to ensure everyone in our community has physical space and an opportunity to use all the materials in class. We take time to ensure everyone has dignity as they move through their day. We also take the time to point out when someone needs to have their dignity or peace restored. We take the time to talk through how to do it and to try different, meaningful, ways to solve the problem as we see it or as it is presented. In Upper El, the children have a chance to move outside the community we are in to look at the world outside our classrooms.

Maria Montessori was a reformer. She was Italy’s first female doctor and provided this beautiful education environment to low-income children exclusively and proved it worked by observing the children for years before the Montessori Method was recognized as the exemplary learning experience it provides. She was a social reform advocate for women and children, and she rooted her peace education on those foundations. I’m proud to share her peace and spread our recognition of the dignity in meeting the fundamental needs of those around us.

mystery Science Fiction

Cat Rambo, Helene Tursten

A search for cozy mysteries became a week of crime with retirees.

TLDR: So funny! Read this serial killer novel.

An octogenarian, hard of hearing and often stooped over, finally has the life she wanted. She lives in a large apartment rent-free, travels public transportation on a pensioner’s permit, and eats the meals that make her most happy. Maud travels Europe alone now that her sister has passed, and she spends her days quietly. Maud is a picture of quiet retirement. And so she would remain, except when she is interrupted.

Maud is a serial killer. Don’t get between her and that sweet retirement life.

This series of vignettes follows the troubles that Maude encounters, how she solves them by getting the offending person out of the way, and in one case, the officers trying to solve mysterious murders that happen around her. The tongue-in-cheek writing style keeps the mayhem fun.

TLDR: Shockingly good space story: cooks, sentient ships, and conscription.

Niko was the organizer in her mind-hive conscription military outfit. Niko and her lieutenant got out by becoming artists: the elite and respected level of society. they took most of their crew with them. Their art? Food Prep.They run into a princess and Niko’s history with a scary mob/pirate king type character and have to find their way back to their normal lives.

Cat Rambo's Book Cover: You Sexy thing

The title is the name of a ship. Think over-the-top-pleasure vessel names like Rocky’s Retirement or the Cindy Lou Who.

If you like heist novels and Becky Chambers space romps, this is a book for you. Cat Rambo has always moved between genres, but this foray into a new space opera series is a perfect novel to jump into. I can’t express how right this book is for this moment in our collective space opera reading, not-really Post Covid society. Do yourself a favor and read this book.

December Reads: Cat Rambo's You Sexy Thing, Helene Tursten's An Eldery Lady is up to No Good, Martha Well's All Systems Red, and The Little old Lady Who Broke All the Rules all in audiobook cover

I don’t review eveyrthign I listen to in the week, but here’s the run-down if you want to get in touch to talk about them. I’ll come back when I have time to talk about the books that really struck me as fun.