Monday, April 23, 2018

Middle Grade Monday: Lucky Broken Girl


Title: Lucky Broken Girl
Author: Ruth Behar
Publisher: Nancy Paulsen Books, 2017. 243 pages.
Source: Library

Publisher's Summary:
Based on the author's childhood in the 1960s, a young Cuban-Jewish immigrant girl is adjusting to her new life in New York City when her American dream is suddenly derailed.

Ruthie Mizrahi and her family recently emigrated from Castro's Cuba to New York City. Just when she's finally beginning to gain confidence in her mastery of English and enjoying her reign as her neighborhood's hopscotch queen, a horrific car accident leaves her in a body cast and confined her to her bed for a long recovery. As Ruthie's world shrinks because of her inability to move, her powers of observation and her heart grow larger. She comes to understand how fragile life is, how vulnerable we all are as human beings, and how friends, neighbors, and the power of the arts can sweeten even the worst of times.

My Review: 
This was a lovely story, and I think the blurb leaves out the biggest part of what it is about: Ruthie learns that she has to be strong and determined if she's going to do anything. Yes, she learns about those things that make her confinement bearable, while she also learns that parents are human and the demands her injuries make on her mother are a strain. But she also learns that she can only recover if she is willing to work hard, bite the bullet, and push herself. The book shows us her journey from sullen resentment of her situation to an embrace of her helplessness, to a place where, finally, she can fully recover because she's willing to try.
It is particularly important, I think, that Ruthie's journey isn't a straight line, and isn't always in the same direction. She gets angry and frustrated and gives up and then tries again, then backslides... In short, she is remarkably human (maybe because the author is writing from her own experience, she seems to have a better than usual grip on the reality of how a person processes something like the accident that changes Ruthie's life). The story is compelling precisely because it's sometimes challenging.

My Recommendation:
This is good for kids from about 8 up. Older children will probably get more out of Ruthie's journey, but younger ones can enjoy her struggles and successes. I have to also say: I had no idea there were Jewish Cubans, families who migrated there as WWII was heating up in Europe (maybe because the US wasn't too open? The author doesn't go into that). It gives Ruthie's family some interesting twists, and makes for a good reminder that people aren't always just what they seem, or what you expect.

FTC Disclosure: I checked Lucky Broken Girl out of my library, and received nothing from the writer or publisher for my honest review.  The opinions expressed are my own and those of no one else.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."  

Saturday, April 21, 2018

#Fi50: Hours of Fun

It's time for the April Fiction in 50 blog hop! I'm posting up early so that it's ready for you Sunday no matter what time zone you're in.

What is #Fi50? In the words of founder Bruce Gargoyle, "Fiction in 50: think of it as the anti-NaNoWriMo experience!" Pack a beginning, middle and end of story into 50 words or less (bonus points for hitting exactly 50 words).

The rules for participation are simple:

1. Create a piece of fictional writing in 50 words or less, ideally using the prompt as title or theme or inspiration. Bonus points for hitting 50 words exactly.
That’s it!  But for those who wish to challenge themselves further, here’s an additional rule:

2. Post your piece of flash fiction on your blog or (for those poor blog-less souls) add it as a comment on the Ninja Librarian’s post for everyone to enjoy. 
And for those thrill-seekers who really like to go the extra mile (ie: perfectionists):

3. Add the nifty little picture above to your post (credit for which goes entirely to ideflex over at or create your own Fi50 meme pic….
and 4. Link back to my post so others can jump on the mini-fic bandwagon.

The April prompt is... 
Hours of Fun

That's it. Pick your 50 words with care and post your link in the comments! 

Hours of Fun

Fluffy gets bored and shreds the furniture. I spent most of Saturday searching for a good toy to distract her while I work.

My son raises lab rats, small furry white scurrying creatures. When I got home, somehow they had gotten out of their cage.

Fluffy found her own entertainment.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Photo Friday: The Hana Highway

Running a little late today! 

Do you have any idea how many photos you can shoot trying to catch the crashing surf at just the right moment? Editing the photos from our trip to Maui last month has been a challenge, to say the least. I'm still working on the crater, but today we'll drive the Hana Highway... in the rain (because it is a rain forest. Which has that word "rain" in the name for a reason).

For those who missed it, the first part of our trip (a day spent biking around West Maui; did I mention that we don't go on vacation to lie on the beach?) is here. The drive to Hana (and actually on beyond to the coastal part of Haleakala National Park at Kipahulu) was meant to be a recovery day.

We got an early start to beat most of the traffic. The narrow, sort-of-two-lane road to Hana has become a tourist destination, which is too bad, because the road would be perfect for biking if there were no cars! We knew starting out that the day would be wet, and while that made for some discomforts, our first waterfall stop, at Twin Falls, showed us one advantage. The falls were running fast and full (of mud).
Nature hard at work turning the smooth slopes of Haleakala into the deep fins of the West Maui mountains.
The rain only picked up from there, so our stop to explore the bamboo forest (and look for another waterfall) required full rain gear.
There's actually a trail there. Right by the pole.
 Our trail soon dead-ended in a swollen stream, but we found other routes through the bamboo (with some part of my mind wondering if we'd find our way back out).
A botanical garden was the next stop, where we were a little disappointed to find the focus was exclusively on plants from *other* parts of the tropics. Still, the Painted Gums (eucalyptus) were beautiful.

Of course, no exploration of the coast would be much good without shooting 1000 photos trying to capture the crashing surf.

Coasts like this are part of why we weren't lying on beaches and swimming in the Pacific. That, and the rain.
The route was also littered with little fruit-and-snack stands, and we had to try some of the fruits we'd never seen before. To our surprise (we are fruit people), we didn't like the star apples we bought here.
It might be the back of beyond, but credit cards are accepted!
After rounding the corner past Hana (the easternmost point of the island), the rain tapered off, and shortly after we got to the Kipahulu campground the sun came out, changing the feel of everything.
It's not easy to dry the footgear in a rainforest.
The next day was another waterfall day, including the 4 mile hike to a series of waterfalls in the park.

Start with the Ohe'o pools, and the falls between.
Still kind of damp and grey, but the rain here was obviously lighter, and the water is running pretty clear.
Up the mountain on a generally well-built trail.
The spouse heads up the trail.
Partway up, you pass the falls of Makahiku. Above those, another series of beautiful pools in the dark volcanic rock entices the hiker, but the signs warn you these are not safe places to wade, since the 200' falls are just below.

This is not a tree we would see at home. I'm not sure what it is, but I'm pretty sure it's sentient.

End of the trail--Waimoku Falls. 400' tall, and a very popular destination. We managed to enjoy it in solitude thanks to a very early start, but as we went down, we met a lot of people sweating their way up in the increasingly warm day.

I can't go anywhere without some flower photos.

Back to the coast, and all packed up, we went looking for one more waterfall. This time it was sunny, warm, and the water--unlike our Sierra streams--was cool, not cold. The route to the falls wasn't completely obvious, but we found it, and were able to get go for a little swim, and even to get dry, not something we'd been much for the last 3 days.
Alelele Falls
Back through Hana--and back into the rain, leading us to buy lunch from a food truck purely because that one had covered tables--and on to Waianapanapa State Park. Camping here felt odd at first--the camping area is sort of in the middle of everything, and during the day, people are everywhere so it felt a bit like setting up camp in Grand Central Station.  But we staked our claim, and I have to say the view was great, especially as the rain gave up and visibility improved some.

The intrepid author prepares dinner.
This was the place to go for mesmerizing surf.

The spouse, the son, and a random stranger try for the perfect surf photo.
Surf sequence.

Finally, it wouldn't be right to go without a photo of the sadly abundant mongoose. The mongoose is an invasive animal, brought (I think) in a misguided attempt to control the destructive rats that the ships had brought. Naturally, they find the native birds an easier target, especially the eggs of those that nest on the ground.
They don't hold still much to get a good shot.

©Rebecca M. Douglass, 2018
As always, please ask permission to use any photos or text. Link-backs appreciated!