Friday, April 1, 2022


I discovered an amazing author/illustrator: Lauren Redniss. Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: a Tale of Love and Fallout is the story of the Curies told in a completely unique manner. Part history, part science, part love-story, part art-book, Redniss stitches together their story, their passion, the political climate, and the fallout at the end. The book is so beautifully designed with notes on how the art was made, why she chose the font she did, etc.  I loved how she captured the glow of radioactive elements. I remember my brother having one of those glow-in-the-dark watches. We had no idea that it was dangerous. The Curies didn't either. 

Her book on Thunder and Lightning: Weather, Past, Present, and Future is another gorgeous book. It is like no other weather book. I learned so many interesting bits of history I knew nothing about. I think this is the way all subjects should be taught--the science, literature, folklore, with beautiful art to set your imagination soaring. I had to restrain myself from sharing more pages of both these books. Go get a copy for yourself like I did.  

Our Lady's Bug by Michelle Shahid is an original retelling of the Legend of the Ladybug. In the Middle Ages, crops were being ravaged by aphids. When the farmers prayed to our Lady to intercede, she did and so this beautiful little beetle is named for her. Beautifully written and accompanied with classic artwork, this is a story children will enjoy for many years. I am so proud of Michelle for sticking with this project because finding art in the public domain was no easy task, especially to fit the story. I share some of my favorite pages and Michelle's storytelling voice fits perfectly with the art. This was a family project as well with two of Michelle's children making some of the art. Gabriel made the cover and Eva some of the interior spot art. One talented family! 

Remarkably You by Pat Zietlow Miller and Patrice Barton is a joyful book celebrating the uniqueness of each child. This is something we all know, yet I find it amazing that there are still people who continue to promote abortion and even infanticide. I wish all those people could read this book and lament over all the unique children that never got to live. 

Watercress by Andrea Wang and Jason Chin was such a lovely story about children born of immigrant parents. It's never easy being different than everybody else but with acceptance comes new appreciation of their heritage. I especially appreciated having a couple of scenes showing the painful parts that caused the parents to leave their homeland. And we say, never again, in this beautiful land. God bless America!

The Fox and Chick books by Sergio Ruzzier are such a delight. They reminded me of myself as a child and my very patient older friends. So were the picture books by Corey Tabor. Mel Fell occurs in the space of a few seconds, whereas Snail Crossing, as you can imagine, takes forever. I loved the layout of Mel Fell (sometimes you might fall down, down, down before you learn to fly up, up, up...) but in both these books, the illustrations capture so much humor. 

The Secret Code Inside You: All About Your DNA by Rajani LaRocca and Steven Salerno is such a jaunty little book with rhyming text, beautiful illustrations, and excellent backmatter. You can learn to extract DNA from a banana :) Again, the issue of how unique each of us is comes up. 

Force of Habit: the complete series by James Scott Bell was highly entertaining. We sure could use Sister Justicia in the Vatican. That last story totally showed how ridiculous the govt. mandates were during Covid.  

The Prophetic Voice of God: Learning to recognize the language of the Holy Spirit by Lana Vawser was a beautiful meditation on her own journey into prophecy and how to be more open and recognize His Voice and not be afraid to act upon it. I've always had a strong intuition and gut feelings about situations and over the years I've been able to recognize what's from God, what's just my own ego, and what's from the evil one. By the way, a wonderful companion to this book is Discernment of Spirits: An Ignatian Guide for Everyday Living by Fr. Timothy Gallagher. 

4000 Weeks: Time Management for Mortals by Oliver Burkeman was quite different than any other book on productivity because it asks you to recognize and accept your limitations. It was really a beautiful meditation on time itself and our relationship with it. It dovetailed beautifully with my faith, because how much I want to spend the remainder of my life doing God's will. I love "wasting" time with our dear Lord Jesus the same way I used to waste time with Michael when we were getting to know one another. When you love someone, time disappears. Anyway, since I'm pushing 60, I probably only have a thousand weeks left, if that. Life is short. It's a reminder to stay in a state of grace. Here's a quote from St. Augustine: If you pray well, you live well. If you live well, you die well. If you die well, all is well. And that's my goal. 

What About the Baby? Some Thoughts on the Art of Fiction by Alice McDermott was a master class on writing. You must write what compels you with sincerity and honesty. Put your whole heart into it. There was advice on the mechanics but more importantly, examples from her own work and that of others to show what makes a compelling story. She recounts a little story about an old man and a dog, and how I want to tell it to everybody too! 

Art and Faith: A Theology of Making by Makoto Fujimura is a meditation on why we have a need to create, to make. It is because we are made in the image and likeness of God, who is wildly creative. His thoughts on "Jesus wept" is so powerful along with His Body broken for our sake--to save us, redeem us, renew us. It fits so well with the Japanese concept of Kintsugi, where broken pottery is made even more beautiful repaired with gold. Christ's Tears are like that gold. His meditation on Mary anointing Jesus with the precious and fragrant nard is so rich. Consider that it is the only earthly thing our Lord took with Him to the Cross. What a gift! It's been a perfect little book for this Lenten journey.  

And that's all folks. What are some of the good books you've been reading?


Mirka Breen said...

You read all these books in the last month?
I'm not ashamed to say I read only two books in March, and one of them was a novella-length, and I for some reason feel accomplished. :0

Vijaya said...

I lied, Mirka. I just checked my notebook and I read a couple of them in Feb. I am a glutton when it comes to books and sometimes I wonder if it isn't a bit excessive. I am so grateful that I have the time to read as much as I do, so of course, I have to share the best ones--I cannot keep good things to myself. I am sure you feel more than accomplished for reading--richer for it!