I have trouble packing to go to Toledo. Tomorrow Michael (my partner in life and poetry) and I head to Bangkok, Vietnam and Sumatra. Here it is snowing, there it will be in the 90s. Guess I won’t need those mittens. One day will be lost in transition. Someone will be living that day somewhere, but those of us on the plane will skip over it. I will be taking a laptop for communication, a great improvement over the telephone given the 13 hour time difference. But what else to take? My bedroom looks like hurricane central and my office is in little stacks. How many books do I need for such a long flight? That’s the question most pressing today. I took four with me for an overnight to Toledo, I’ll be gone two weeks. Exponentially, that’s too many books to carry, but what if I run out of reading material? What if I am not in the mood to read the books I chose? I’m moody when it comes to books. Below is a partial list of books I’ve enjoyed reading so far this year:

And If I Perish by Evelyn Monahan, Rosemary Neidel-greenlee. This is the story of WWII nurses sent to the front lines in gingham and saddle shoes, landing on the beaches with soldiers in Africa. I read it with total fascination knowing my father had been tended by such brave women when he was a tank commander in Africa and Europe. The book is fascinating, the only mystery is how come it took so long to come about.

The Known World by Edward P. Jones. This is a work of fiction you would swear is fact, it is so well told with detailed flash forwards where we learn which character will ultimately have a grandchild who becomes a judge, which character will wind up free and living up north. Set in pre-civil war Virginia, it describes a community which was founded and functions on the backs of slaves – a time when even some freed blacks owned slaves, a fictional world so real as to now feel “known” by the reader.

The Center of Everything by Laura Moriarty. Loved the young adult voice in this book. The voice was a careful observer, not terribly judgmental, just watching and muddling through. If there is a female counterpart to Catcher in the Rye, this may be it. Book was given to me by a teacher at Colorado Academy when I was there and it made my trip home on the airplane fly by (did I just say that?). Evelyn’s two best friends fall in love with each other and make a life changing choice that leaves her alone with her dreams. At the end of the book, I wasn’t exactly sure where Evelyn would wind up, but I figured she would get to where she wanted to be. Over the course of 300 or so pages, she had really become somebody.

On the Death of Childhood and the Destruction of Public Schools : The Folly of Today’s Education Policies and Practices by Gerald W. Bracey. This is a book every parent should read. While many of us wonder about the benefits of the recent testing craze, Bracey has the data to back up his belief that these tests (while a reality) are not doing our kids much good at all and in fact are helping to make them more docile and less curious. US students as it turns out read better than kids in other developed nations except Finland (which btw does not support retention as a motivational strategy). He points out that while our math scores may lag behind a few other countries, our scientists win more Nobel Prizes, a fact he accredits to an interactive educational system as opposed to one where kids are just on the receiving end of a fire hose of facts.

That’s it for now – I think I did a pretty good job of putting off the cyclone in the bedroom. Guess I have to face up to it now.

Today, Cleveland. Tomorrow, the inside of an airplane. Saturday missing in space. Sunday, Bangkok.

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