Wednesday, May 23, 2018


I've been plotting a new venture and there's so much to learn; watch this space when I'm ready to share. It's exciting! But I've been simultaneously wanting to share some great books so let me briefly share a few thoughts and pictures. 

Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly is the 2018 Newbery winner! Before her win I didn't know of her books but it's always such a delight to discover a new author. I'd gone to the library immediately after the ALA Awards to see if we had a copy and we didn't but luckily I ran into Tim, the head librarian, and he was just marking all the books he was getting ready to order. So I got my request in record time! And I was sucked into the story immediately because I couldn't have said it any better than Virgil. I share the interior pages because I always love good type-setting and art  that make it such a pleasure to read. There are four points-of-view and all are distinct. My favorite was Valencia--she's smart and funny and has a favorite saint, one whose story I actually know. Oh, and she's also deaf. And some of the bully's observations about her are hilarious. The story unfolded slowly but it was such a pleasure getting to know this cast of characters that when the bully, Chet, tosses Virgil's backpack with his pet guinea pig down an abandoned well, half the book was already over. I'll assure all you pet lovers that the guinea pig does NOT die. So go ahead and enjoy this book! I loved a peek into the Filipino culture, how the characters grew. Virgil is still shy and scared yet this experience has given him the courage to ask to be seen. The bully doesn't magically turn into a saint overnight, and best of all, it's the beginning of a new friendship. A most satisfying book, the gold star completely merited.  

 A Family of Saints: The Martins of Lisieux-Saints Thérèse, Louis, and Zélie by Fr. Stephane-Joseph Piat was such a beautiful book to read that I ended up reading it twice so that I could take notes (with a lot of help from the kitties). Fr. Piat does such a beautiful job of recounting the history of this family through primary sources, mainly letters. What we get is a portrait of an ideal family. It's not easy. There are many difficulties--illnesses, deaths of children, work that is a burden--but throughout we see how the parents support one another and never lose sight of their goal, which is Heaven itself.

Zelie writes on the sorrow of losing children: "I didn't regret the sorrows and the problems that I had endured for them. Several people said to me, "It would be much better never to have had them." I can't bear that kind of talk. I don't think the sorrows and problems could be weighed against the eternal happiness of my children. So they weren't lost forever. Life is short and full of misery. We'll see them again in heaven."

I loved seeing how Christ-centered their lives were, how they abandoned themselves to His will and never, ever lost sight of Heaven. It was their hope, their joy, amidst the cares of the world. They were dutiful about providing for their large family  

Father Piat reminds us that "family is the cornerstone of civil society and marked with the divine seal, it assures the building of a nation of unbreakable strength. Eroded by passions, corroded by cohabitation, civil marriage, divorce, it no longer offers society anything but a precarious foundation doomed to collapse. France reigned in the world when it was a country of stable homes and cradles. Its decline began inexorably, when it allowed the home to disintegrate and the flow of new life to slow. What good is hard work, fiscal courage, or military heroism if the race surrenders its gaiety of heart to the collective suicide constituted by the fear of children?"

Most of us are called to marriage and family life and this is a family to emulate. In today's culture, with marriage under attack and families crumbling, we need examples of holy spouses who are united in purpose and Christian charity. In a Story of a Soul, Thérèse writes, "God gave me a father and a mother more worthy of heaven than of earth."

And so, for the first time in 2,000 years, the liturgical books will add "Spouses" to the different categories of saints recognized. Most are martyrs, confessors, bishops, popes, virgins. It harkens back to what Fr. Piat writes early in the book: "Most spiritual books exude a monastic perfume. They would feel out of place beside the marital bed." Saints Louis and Zélie, Spouses, remind us that marriage and family life is a path to sanctification. has beautiful photos of the family and important places in their lives.

I've enjoyed many books by Malcolm Gladwell and The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference was no exception. Especially with my mind full of Thérèse's Little Way, it made enormous sense to me that all good things, no matter how little, can have mighty results. Much of the book uses research from how epidemics come and go and it was fascinating to see the world of microbes be so applicable to social phenomena, the rise of a particular fashion (like Hush Puppies) or the sudden decrease in crime in NYC (fixing broken windows). Gladwell talks about school shootings, how teenagers are literally being "infected" with this idea. And after reading about the "suicide bug" in Micronesia, I must agree with him. We've always had kids who've been bullied and lonely. We've always had guns. What's different now? Columbine is key. Gladwell writes, "These are epidemics in isolation: they follow a mysterious, internal script that makes sense only in the closed world that teenagers inhabit." I'm afraid that world is nihilism. We must pray for our children.

I discovered Country Diary on Faith's blog. Oh my! I wish I could draw well--we have so much natural beauty on the island but all I can do is just be in awe of all I see. I don't even carry my phone otherwise I'd have more pictures. Must remember to do that. I saw the cutest little baby alligator sunning himself a couple of days ago. In any case, I hope these interiors inspire you to make some of your own observations. Don't you just love the beautiful penmanship as well?


Finally, Two-Moon Journey by Peggy King Anderson just arrived in the mail. Peggy was my very first writing teacher and it's so wonderful to know that this book of her heart finally found a home. The cover is gorgeous and so are the interiors! But I have put it aside so that I can read as many of Max's books as I can this summer. And there's that new venture speaking to we'll see how much I get done. Well, that's all folks and I'm sorry it wasn't brief. Happy reading and writing. And please do share some of your favorites in the comments. 


Mirka Breen said...

*Love* these recommendations, Vijaya.
I, too, remember how happy I was to discover a writer via the Newbery. Lat time for me was Rebecca Stead's WHEN YOU REACH ME. I've read all her subsequent books.
Kitties make the images poignant. They are contemplative creature, after all.

Vijaya said...

Oh, yes, I loved When You Reach Me. I hear she's an agent now. Another author I discovered was Claire Vanderpool. I don't know how she pulled off not one but TWO historical timelines in Moon Over Manifest. Brilliant. I've discovered wonderful books from the Newbery, both silver and gold.