Shiloh: A Boy and a Beagle

“The reason I don’t like Judd Travers is a whole lot of reasons, not the least is that I was in the corner store once … and saw Judd cheat Mr. Wallace at the cash register.  Judd gives the man a ten and gets him to talking, then–when Mr. Wallace gives him change–says he gave him a twenty.”

Worse yet, Judd kicks his dogs.

Marty will do anything to rescue Shiloh, the beagle who follows Marty home from the “rattly bridge where the road curves by the old Shiloh schoolhouse and follows the river.”  Trouble is, not only does “anything” includes lying, but it risks Shiloh’s life.

It’s Judd who unintentionally hands Marty a solution.  Then Marty, when he’s forced to spend time with Judd, learns that right and wrong aren’t always as simple as the difference between the truth and a lie.

Shiloh is a Newberry Medal book; even better, there are three sequels:  Shiloh Season, Saving Shiloh, and Shiloh Christmas.

Heat, by Mike Lupica

Heat has it all: Baseball at Yankee Stadium–the dream of Little Leaguers who practice within sight of it; Michael and Carlos, determined to keep “Official People” from finding out why Papi isn’t home; Ellie, a girl with a secret; Mrs. Cora who knows something about angels; the Little League coach who doesn’t like kids who pitch better than his son; and Michael’s best buddy, Manny.

Manny told Michael he’d meet him at Macombs…around three o’clock. …that could mean anywhere between three and four.  He operated on Manny Standard Time, and there was no getting around it if you were Manny Cabrera’s friend.   He was loyal, funny, smarter than he let on, loved baseball as much as Michael.  There were so many good points with Manny that Michael couldn’t keep track of them all.

But none of Manny’s good points, not a single one, involved him showing up on time for anything but a real game.

When Michael is barred from Little League and Carlos no longer has a job, it’s looking bad, and suddenly, walking across the field, come the Official People:

It wasn’t just El Grande and Ellie.

Carlos was a couple of steps behind, walking with Mr. Gibbs of ACS.  And another man Michael didn’t recognize, but one who had Official Person written all over him.

Has Michael’s dream become a nightmare?

Like baseball, basketball, and football stories with real-life type characters?  Try Mike Lupica’s The Only Game, and Last Man Out, Lone Stars, Long Shotand others–some of them New York Times Best Sellers.

Hey–I said I’m not into sports.  But I am into  Lupica’s characters.  Just give me a cozy chair and a mug of hot chocolate.

Twenty-One Balloons

The Twenty-One Balloons is a curious mixture of fantasy and fact.

“The best way of travel…, if you aren’t going in any hurry at all, if you don’t care where you are going, if you don’t like to use your legs, if you want to see everything quite clearly, if you don’t want to be annoyed at all by any choice of directions, is in a balloon…you can decide only when to start, and usually when to stop.  The rest is left entirely to nature.  How fast you will go and where is left to the winds.”

“A balloon is a wonderful way to travel, particularly if you want to travel from home to school.  On your way, many delightful things can happen, such as:

  1. the wind will be calm and you’ll never get to school.
  2. The wind will blow you in the wrong direction and take you fifty miles out into the country away from school, and
  3. You might decide to play hookey, just once, and nobody can bother you in a balloon.

So Professor William Waterman Sherman constructs a balloon, suspends a basket cabin from it, and takes off—

Part of the fun of this book  is solving the riddle of what’s true, what’s fiction.  The happy colonists using diamonds as foundations for their homes and children racing around the living room on electrified chairs are, as you would guess, fiction.  The French balloonist Gaspar Felix Tournachon, known as “Nadar,” was a real person.  In 1858 he took the first aerial photograph.  He did fly an enormous balloon named Le Géant.

With history (and added fantasy), the plot of The Twenty-One Balloons blows up on an island named Krakatoa.  Google that!

Albert Einstein Didn’t Wear Socks!

Harry Cauley’s claim to fame (one of them) is that he mowed Albert Einstein’s lawn.

Actually, Harry Cauley can claim a great deal more.   He has not only written plays, but directed and produced them.  He has written and produced for popular TV shows.  He writes novels.

The book he wrote that I like best is Speaking of Cats, but that’s another post.

Harry Cauley was a special guest at my writers’ club.  We could have listened to him talk for hours!  He told us about growing up on the street where Albert Einstein lived, a close enough neighbor so he was the boy who mowed the Einstein’s lawn.  As far as Harry was concerned, Mr. Einstein was not a famous man—he was a neighbor.

Harry’s mother said Mr. Einstein didn’t dress properly.  (But it was still okay for Harry to earn pocket money mowing his lawn.)  She was shocked because “Mr. Einstein doesn’t wear socks!”

You can see for yourself in a photo by the National Geographic. I don’t have the right to use photo, but you can see it at: https://news.nationalgeographic.com/content/dam/news/photos/000/866/86633.jpg

Do YOU ever wear sandals without socks?  Don’t we usually wear sandals when we don’t want to wear socks?  Do mothers ever fuss about little stuff?

The Sugihara Story

I was five years old.

In 1940 my father was a diplomat, representing the country of Japan.  Our family lived in a small town in the small country called Lithuania…one early morning in late July, my life changed forever…

“There are a lot of people outside,” my mother said.  ‘We don’t know what is going to happen…They have come to ask for your father’s help…Unless we help, they may be killed or taken away by some bad men.”

My father said to my mother, “I have to do something.  I may have to disobey my government, but if I don’t, I will be disobeying God.”

Back then, I did not fully understand what [my father] had done, or why it was so important.

I do now.

Hiroki Sugihara tells about the weeks when his father wrote permits for several thousand Jews to travel across Russia to Japan.  That was the only direction these people could go to escape from the Nazis who wanted to kill them.  If they could take a train all the way across Russia, and a ship to Japan, they could go on to other countries and live safely.

The Japanese government ordered Mr. Sugihara not to write the travel permits.  Mr. Sugihara knew he could be punished, but he wrote permit after permit, day after day, until he was sent away from Lithuania.

Hiroki Sugihara, who wrote Passage to Freedom, was that five-year-old boy.