What’s New in the Library, Mid-October 2016

Here are some new books added to my private subscription library, Meriadoc Homeschool Library:

Adventures of Morris the Moose by B. Wiseman. An I Can Read book. This book includes three Morris the Moose books: Morris the Moose, Morris Goes to School, and Morris and Boris at the Circus. For some reason, maybe because Morris’s friend is named Boris or because the illustrations are kind of goofy and cartoonish, this series always reminds me of the old cartoon of Rocky and Bullwinkle. I’m going to have to get those out and watch sometime. In the meantime early readers should enjoy the antics of Morris the Moose and Boris the Bear.

Veronica on Petunia’s Farm by Roger Duvoisin. More of my favorite animal picture book characters. Veronica the Hippopotamus visits Mr. Pumpkin’s farm where Petunia the Goose and her friends give her a not-so-warm welcome.

Geraldine Belinda by Marguerite Henry. This picture book/easy reader by Ms. Henry, the author of all those horse book including King of the Wind and Misty of Chincoteague, is not about horses, but rather about a little with twenty-five whole pennies to spend. Published in 1942, the adventures of Geraldine Belinda Marybel Scott include a trip to the store all on her own, an adventure in acquisition and loss, and a resolution that teaches a lesson. One of Geraldine’s purchases is a little “colored doll”, cute as can be, but if the appellation “colored” bothers you, you should discuss with your young reader or listener.

Dan Frontier Goes Exploring by William Hurley. Dan Frontier stars in a series of books for young readers. This one is about second grade reading level. In it, our hero fights with the Indians and rescues a kidnapped girl, White Dove, from them. If that’s problematic, find another series, but this one is well-loved, especially with boys.

The Hundred Penny Box by Sharon Bell Mathis. Michael’s great-great aunt Dew is a hundred years old, and she has a penny in her box for every single year of her life. Michael’s mother wants to throw away the old broken box and buy a new container for the pennies, but Michael and Aunt Dew are horrified by the idea. Newbery Honor book.

If You Lived in Colonial Times by Ann McGovern. Answers to a series of questions about colonial America, such as: Where did people buy their clothes? What did people eat? What did people do on Sunday? How did people get the news? Where did people take baths? What games did boys like? What did girls like to do?

If Your Name Was Changed at Ellis Island by Ellen Levine. Another question and answer history book, this time about immigrants through Ellis Island in 1892 and following. “Why did people come to America? How long would the ocean trip take? How did people learn English? What was the Staircase of Separation?”

The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, adapted by Clarissa Hutton. Illustrated by Brett Helquist. I had to get this one because I love Brett Helquist’s pictures. And I think middle grade readers could enjoy an abridged version of The Three Musketeers. It’s one of my favorite adventure stories. Did you know that this book opens in the year 1625? It’s contemporary with the Pilgrims!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle. My copy of this wonder-filled Newbery classic disappeared somehow, so I was happy to find another one.

The Willow Whistle by Cornelia Meigs. About Mary Anne, a girl growing up on a frontier trading post, her friend Eric, a Norwegian immigrant who teaches her make a willow whistle, and their friend Gray Eagle, who becomes their mentor and rescuer. Some people won’t like the portrayal of Native Americans in this book, superstitious and quick to take offense, but I thought it was good story by a talented author.

For more information on Meriadoc Homeschool Library hours, days, and policies, see the MHSL webpage.

Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier

“The most priceless possession of the human race is the wonder of the world. Yet, latterly, the utmost endeavors of mankind have been directed towards the dissipation of that wonder . . . Nobody, any longer, may hope to entertain an angel unawares, or to meet Sir Lancelot in shining armor on a moonlit road. But what is the use of living in a world devoid of wonderment?” ~Kenneth Grahame, epigraph at the beginning of Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier.

What indeed? Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard, a sort of companion novel to Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, is full of wonderment and adventure and storytelling and friendship and bravery and magic. The antagonists in the book either want squash nonsense (stories, magic, wonder) or to use the magic for nefarious and selfish purposes. Sophie, a twelve year old book mender and reader of all sorts of stories, wants to preserve and guard the stories, which brings me to my only quibble with this book itself. Sophie finds out fairly early in the story that she is the Last Storyguard, so I’m not sure why the book is called Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard. I guess the symmetry with Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes was too much to resist.

Peter Nimble does return to play a major role in this novel. He is Sophie’s rescuer, even when she doesn’t want to be rescued, her helper, especially when the skills of a Master Thief are called for, and her admirer, although the admiration is abashed and from afar. Peter Nimble is accompanied by the intrepid Sir Tode, part cat, part horse, part human, and Sophie picks up her own sidekick along the way, an enormous silver tigress named Akrasia. Together these friends adventure across the Grimmwald and through the city of Bustleburgh to stop the villains who are planning to stop, destroy and immolate all nonsense (stories, magic, wonder, books!).

I found this book to be thoroughly enjoyable and thought-provoking. The themes, implied in the Grahame epigraph, and demonstrated throughout the story, have to do with the power of stories and the need for magic, good and bad, and wonder, in a life that is worth the living. The book never comes out and says so, but one of the ideas that I gleaned was that it is necessary to have choices and villains to fight and goodness to aspire to for our stories to make sense. For reasons we do not, perhaps cannot, fully understand, it is God’s plan for the wheat and the tares to grow together until the judgment day (see Matthew 13:24-30). Maybe I’m getting too philosophical in response to a children’s fantasy book, but that’s the way my mind works.

Enjoy the story. Guard the stories. After all, what is the use of living in a world devoid of wonderment?


Sherry Early, Bookmender, Preservationist, Librarian, Storyguard.

Saturday Review of Books: October 15, 2016

“Worlds and everything in them are made real by the stories that inhabit them. . . Stories are not mere diversions to occupy us on rainy days. They are a type of magic spell—perhaps the most powerful in existence—and their effect is to summon possibilities. . . Every time the spell is cast, the impossible becomes a little more possible.” ~Sophie Quire and the Last Storyguard by Jonathan Auxier


Welcome to the Saturday Review of Books at Semicolon. Here’s how it usually works. Find a book review on your blog posted sometime during the previous week. The review doesn’t have to be a formal sort of thing. You can link to your thoughts on a particular book, a few ideas inspired by reading the book, your evaluation, quotations, whatever.

Then on Friday night/Saturday, you post a link here at Semicolon in Mr. Linky to the specific post where you’ve written your book review. Don’t link to your main blog page because this kind of link makes it hard to find the book review, especially when people drop in later after you’ve added new content to your blog. In parentheses after your name, add the title of the book you’re reviewing. This addition will help people to find the reviews they’re most interested in reading.

After linking to your own reviews, you can spend as long as you want reading the reviews of other bloggers for the week and adding to your wishlist of books to read.

The Eye of Midnight by Andrew Brumbach

I read this book for my Cybils speculative fiction panel, but it’s really fairly straightforward, if unbelievable, adventure fiction set in 1929 New York City. There is a jinni and a magic mirror, but it’s never clear in the story whether these things are actually magical or whether the mirror in particular is just a Macguffin that some of the characters believe contains magical power while others use it to deceive the superstitious masses.

They peered at the package in the sickly light of the corner streetlamp. Nura lifted the lid with trembling fingers, and the cousins gazed at last upon the strange object for which they had risked their lives.
“What is it?” William asked.
“The Eye of Midnight,” replied Nura. “The Key to Paradise.”

On a stormy May day William and Maxine, cousins who hardly know each other, meet at the home of their mutual grandfather, Colonel Battersea. Soon after their arrival, Grandpa receives a telegram which takes the three of them to New York City to meet up with a courier who is bringing a special, secret package to Colonel Battersea. From there, the story rapidly becomes more and more frenzied, dangerous, and desperate as the children try to rescue Grandpa, find the lost package, decide whether or not to trust the courier, a girl named Nura, and work out their own new-found friendship. Along the way they encounter a gang of assassins, murderous gangsters, a helpful motorcyclist, and a cemetery full of secrets.

There were things I liked about this story, and things I didn’t. I liked the Indiana Jones feel to the story and the references to Sir Richard Burton and Lawrence of Arabia. I liked the three cousins working together to defeat the bad guys and rescue Grandpa. And I especially liked this scene toward the end of the novel:

On this evening, however, four pairs of eyes watched, transfixed, as the spider went about her work.
She moved with grace and dexterity, never hesitating, never perplexed by any riddle of engineering or architecture, as she crossed and recrossed her handiwork, tracing a memory.
“Who taught you how, little one?” murmured Grandpa as he watched. “When did God whisper the steps in your ear?”
Beside him Maxine stirred. Balling her fists, she snatched a napkin from the table and swept the web away.
“Hey, what’d you do that for?” said William.

The discussion of the spider and about God goes on from there. It’s a good vignette.

The parts I didn’t like involve the writing itself and the choice of villains. I’m not sure it’s the right time in history to present a story about evil, murderous Arabic Hashashin (assassins) who are tying to destroy New York City and take over the world. I know that the Old Man of the Mountain and his servants were a staple of European bogey-man tales of medieval Islamic enemies, but just now when there are actual murderous jihadist terrorists who are trying to infiltrate the United States, perhaps through New York City, and when prejudices and fears are high, it might not be best to present it all in story form for middle grade readers. Also Mr. Brumbach’s writing is sometimes good, but sometimes clunky and awkward, often cliched. (Like mine, but I’m not writing a book.) Example: “Maxine shrank back inexplicably. The thing was not pleasant to her sight.”

You get the idea. Read it for a Raiders of the Lost Ark-type adventure story, ignore the modern day parallels between the Hashashin and ISIS, and skip over the occasional lack of elegance. Not bad for a debut.

School of the Dead by Avi

I’ve read and enjoyed other books by prolific children’s author Avi, but none were remotely like this horror story of a boy named Tony who sees ghosts or maybe zombies (although they are never called that), lots of them. It’s certainly not for everyone. If you don’t like horror and occultic elements, you’ll want to skip this story. But if you’re a fan of Hitchcock movies and paranormal fantasy, School of the Dead fits right into the Halloween genre and the Halloween season.

Twelve year old Tony has a weird uncle, Great Uncle Charlie, the kind of guy everyone asks about, saying, “What’s the deal with him anyway? How come Uncle Charlie is so weird?” The answer: “Every family has a weird uncle.” When Uncle Charlie moves in with Tony and his parents, however, Tony finds out that Uncle Charlie is really a great guy, lots of fun. And when Uncle Charlie dies, Tony is devastated. The only thing that Tony looks forward to is his transfer to Penda School, the school in San Francisco that Uncle Charlie graduated from and recommended to Tony.

From the time that Tony enters Penda School, things get really weird. No spoilers, but the plot involves voodoo, haunted corridors, secret rooms, zombie-like creatures, and soul-snatching. And it all takes place on and around Halloween. Again, it’s pretty creepy, and Tony has a hard time deciding whom to trust—or whether there’s anyone he can trust. His parents are suitably, for a scary story, useless and oblivious. In fact, all of the adults in the story are either part of the evil weirdness or else ineffectual and unhelpful.

The story is well written, as would be expected in the hands of such a veteran author, and Tony is a frustrating but understandable character who does all the things the reader would tell him not to do in a horror novel. He opens the door he shouldn’t open, drops the flashlight, shuts himself up in dark places, listens to the bad guys, fails to trust the good guys, etc. etc. But as the narrative progresses, he seems less stupid and more just trapped in an overwhelmingly evil place with an entire contingent of soul-sucking monsters.

Read it only if you’re immune to horror-induced nightmares.

Other Categories for Cybils

Not yet nominated for Cybils:

Board Books
Animals Are Delicious by Sarah Hutt.
Jane Foster’s Colors by Jane Foster.
Little Honeybee by Katie Haworth.
Night Night, Farm by Amy Parker.
Shapes by Shanti Sparrow.
Shh! This Book Is Sleeping by Cedric Ramadier.
God Bless This Starry Night by Rebecca Elliott.

Fiction Picture Books
A Year of Borrowed Men by Michelle Barker.

Nonfiction Picture Books
Creation by Cynthia Rylant.
Ada Lovelace, Poet of Science: The First Computer Programmer by Diane Stanley.
Mother Teresa: The Smile of Calcutta by Charlotte Grossetete.
A Voyage in the Clouds: The (Mostly) True Story of the First International Flight by Balloon in 1785 by Matthew Olshan.
Around America to Win the Vote: Two Suffragists, a Kitten, and 10,000 Miles by Mara Rockliff.
Circle by Jeannie Baker.
The Wildest Race Ever: The Story of the 1904 Olympic Marathon by Meghan MCCarthy
Flying Frogs and Walking Fish: Leaping Lemurs, Tumbling Toads, Jet-Propelled Jellyfish and More Surprising Ways That Animals Move by Steve Jenkins.
Green City: How One Community Survived a Tornado and Rebuilt for a Sustainable Future by Allan Drummond.
Lift Your Light a Little Higher: The Story of Stephen Bishop, Slave-Explorer by Heather Henson.
Plants Can’t Sit Still by Rebecca Hirsch.
Whoosh! Lonnie Johnson’s Super-Soaking Stream of Inventions by Chris Barton.

Middle Grade Fiction
The Mystery of the Clockwork Sparrow by Katherine Woodfine.
The Mystery of the Jeweled Moth by Katherine Woodfine.
A Patron Saint for Junior Bridesmaids by Shelley Tougas.
The Worst Night Ever by Dave Barry.
That’s Not Hay in my Hair by Juliette Turner.
As Brave As You by Jason Reynolds.
Bandit’s Tale: The Muddled Misadventures of a Pickpocket by Deborah Hopkinson.
The Gallery by Laura Marx Fitzgerald.
To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson.
Just Like Me by Nancy Cavanaugh.
The Skeleton Tree by Iain Lawrence.

Middle Grade/Elementary Nonfiction
Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Key Taught the World about Kindness by Donna Janell Bowman.
Willa: The Story of Willa Cather, an American Writer by Amy Ehrlich.
America’s Tea Parties: Not One but Four! Boston, Charleston, New York, Philadelphia by Marissa Moss.
A Girl Called Vincent: The Life of Poet Edna St. Vincent Millay by Krystyna Goddu.
The Mummy Makers of Egypt by Tamara Bower.
Rise of the Lioness: Restoring a Habitat and Its Pride on the Liuwa Plains by Bradley Hague.

Young Adult Fiction
A Daring Sacrifice by Jody Hedlund.

Young Adult Speculative Fiction
Forever Doon by Carey Corp and Laurie Langdon.
Guile by Constance Cooper.
Remnants: Season Of Glory by Lisa Tawn Bergren.
Below: Broken Sky Chronicles, Book 1 by Jason Chabot.
Assassin’s Heart by Sarah Ahiers.
Julia Vanishes by Catherine Egan

Young Adult Nonfiction
Blood Brother: Jonathan Daniels and His Sacrifice for Civil Rights by Rich Wallace.
Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft, and Life Outside the Box by Leonard Marcus.
In the Shadow of Liberty: The Hidden History of Slavery, Four Presidents, and Five Black Lives by Kenneth C. Davis.
Lost in the Pacific, 1942: Not a Drop to Drink by Tod Olson.
Vietnam: A History of the War by Russell Freedman.

Are You an Echo?: The Lost Poetry of Misuzu Kaneko by Misuzu Kaneko.
Unbound: A Novel in Verse by Ann E. Burg.
The Wonderful Habits of Rabbits by Douglas Florian.

Here’s the link again to nominate. Nominations are open through Saturday, October 15th. If you don’t nominate, theses books can’t be considered.

The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson

I read Ms. Johnson’s The Mark of the Dragonfly, the first book set in the World of Solace, and I enjoyed it. I called it “techno-steampunk fantasy science fiction.” This book fits into the same genre and is set in the same world, but it’s a companion novel, not really a sequel. Either book could be read on its own terms and appreciated with or without the other.

The Mark of the Dragonfly features a super-cool train, and this new Solace book has a sentient airship. Both books feature feisty, adventurous female protagonists with kind and supportive male friends. In The Secrets of Solace, Lina Winterbock is an archivist apprentice in the Archivist stronghold of Ortana. The war between the Merrow Kingdom and the Dragonfly Territories is bringing many refugees and difficult decisions to the mountain strongholds of the Archivists, who are trying to remain neutral in the war.

Lina herself must make some hard decisions about whom to trust when she discovers a valuable artifact in the depths of a secret cavern in the mountain. Can she trust Ozben, a refugee boy with his own secrets? What about her teacher and mentor, Zara, who has been too busy to pay much attention to Lina for a long time now? Can anyone other than Lina herself be trusted with a secret that might change the course of the war?

Although the pacing and the balance between action and explication felt “off” to me as I read, children who are really interested in this sort of thing might not mind or even notice. It takes a long time to get to the climax of the plot, and then all the political stuff is hurriedly explained and within two chapters, resolved. Lina and Ozben develop a good strong friendship, but Lina’s mentor has a rather lame excuse for her neglect of her ward. If this sort of book interests you, I would suggest The Mark of the Dragonfly first because I think it’s the better book. Then, if you like that one, you might like this one, too.

Cybils 2016, Middle Grade Speculative Fiction

What is Middle Grade Speculative Fiction?
This Cybils award category includes books with “talking animals, time-travel, ghosts, and paranormal abilities, and all the other books that might not have obvious magic on every page, and which are set here on Earth, but which push past the boundaries of daily life into what is almost certainly impossible.” Science fiction and fantasy books are speculative fiction. Books nominated in this category should have been published between October 16, 2015 and October 15, 2016 and should be appropriate for children ages eight to twelve, or from third to seventh grades.

Who can nominate books for this award?
Anyone. ONE book per CATEGORY per PERSON.

What hasn’t been nominated yet?
Lots of great science fiction and fantasy books for middle grade children haven’t been nominated so far. If any of the following are on your favorites list, rush over to nominate your pick at the Official Cybils Nomination Page. Not picked yet (and feeling blue):

A Little Taste of Poison by R.J. Anderson. Sequel to A Pocketful of Murder.
Fuzzy by Tom Angleberger and Paul Dellinger. Robots. NOMINATED
Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DeMartino. NOMINATED
The Girl Who Could Not Dream by Sarah Beth Durst. NOMINATED
This Is Not a Werewolf Story by Sandra Evans. Shapeshifting. NOMINATED
The Voyage to Magical North by Claire Fayers.
The Imagination Box by Martin Ford.
A Most Magical Girl by Karen Foxlee.
Fortune Falls by Jenny Goebbels. A town where superstitions are real. NOMINATED
A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff.
The Dastardly Deed by Holly Grant. The League of Beastly Dreadfuls, Book Two.
The Crimson Skew by S.E. Grove. The Mapmakers Trilogy, Book 3. NOMINATED
Lucky by Chris Hill.
The Secrets of Solace by Jaleigh Johnson. Sequel to The Mark of the Dragonfly.
Time Stopped by Carrie Jones.
Shadow Magic by Joshua Khan. NOMINATED
Armstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlman.
Foxheart by Claire LeGrand.
Vault of Shadows by Jonathan Maberry. The Nightsiders, Book 2.
Missy Piggle-Wiggle and the Whatever Cure by Ann Martin.
27 Magic Words by Sharelle Moranville.
A Bird, a Girl, and a Rescue by J.A. Myhre.
Wishing Day by Lauren Myracle. NOMINATED
The Secret of Goldenrod by Jane O’Reilly. A doll story.
The Doorway and the Deep by K.E. Ormsbee. Sequel to The Water and the Wild.
Forest of Wonders by Linda Sue Park. Wing and Claw, Book 1.
The Gathering by Dan Poblocki. Shadow House, Book 1.
The Glass Castle by Trisha Priebe and Jerry Jenkins.
Railhead by Phillip Reeve. Sentient trains. NOMINATED in YA.
The Lost Compass by Joel Ross. Sequel to The Fog Diver. NOMINATED
Curse of the Chocolate Phoenix by Kate Saunders.
Five Children on the Western Front by Kate Saunders. Inspired by E. Nesbit’s Five Children and It stories. I’m unclear about the publication date on this one but if it’s eligible, it’s a good book.
Gears of Revolution by J. Scott Savage. Mysteries of Cove, Book 2. NOMINATED
The Evil Wizard Smallbone by Delia Sherman. NOMINATED
Red by Liesl Shurtliff. Little Red Riding Hood.
Hawking’s Hallway by Neil Shusterman and Eric Elfman. Accelerati Trilogy, Book 3.
Rip Van Winkle and the Pumpkin Lantern by Seth Adam Smith.
Ember Falls by S.D. Smith. Green Ember series, Book 2. Rabbits with swords. NOMINATED
The Storyteller by Aaron Starmer. The Riverman trilogy, Book 3.
Sunker’s Deep by Lina Tanner. The Icebreaker Trilogy, Book 2.
Behind the Canvas by Alexander Vance.
The Midnight War of Mateo Martinez by Robin Yardi. Thieving skunks? NOMINATED
The Haunting of Falcon House by Eugene Yelchin. An historical fiction/mystery/ghost story set in 1891 Russia.

That’s a LOT of books that haven’t been nominated. I am on the judging panel to choose a shortlist of recommended titles in this category from the long list of books nominated. We want to choose the best books from this year’s books with the finest literary quality and kid appeal. SO if any of those are likely to combine good writing and an engaging story, please nominate it. If it’s not nominated, it can’t be considered.

When do nominations close?
Saturday, October 15th, is the last day to nominate your favorite books in this and other categories for the Cybils awards. Get your nominations in now.

An Open Letter to Fellow Christians Who Plan to Vote for Donald Trump

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

First of all, as I have made clear on this blog and on Facebook, I will not be voting for Hillary Clinton or for Donald Trump. Neither candidate is even minimally qualified to be President of the United States of America, a country I love and pray for in spite of our collective descent into gross indecency and rationalization of sin.

I will not vote for a woman who advocates for abortion under any circumstances and up until the baby is full term. I cannot vote for someone who has committed crimes by playing fast and loose with classified information that might have endangered American lives and interests. She believes that she is above the law, and voters act recklessly by placing her in a position of power. Nonetheless, I also will not vote for a man who disrespects, degrades, and dishonors women, Muslims, African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and yes, even Christians, all citizens of the very country he is supposed to represent and serve. I know about his negative opinions in regard to all of these groups of people. What is his position on doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God? He has no understanding of any of these basic Christian virtues.

People ask me how I will vote since I cannot bring myself to vote for either of the two major party candidates: I will vote for a third party or write-in candidate. I’m not sure which one, but it doesn’t really matter much. I am sure that my candidate will not win, and I am almost sure that Hillary Clinton will be the next president of this nation, even though she is a person of abhorrent personal and public morals and policy positions.

I understand that many of you have come to a different conclusion. You believe that you have only two choices and that you must vote for Donald Trump no matter what he says or does or has done in the past (because Hillary). I do not agree, but I can respect that decision. Many of you are voting for Mr. Trump privately and with grief in your hearts, and like me, you are waiting and hoping for this election to be done with and for us as a nation to return, if not to status quo or to normal, at least to a more decent and gracious public dialogue.

However, I am writing now to those of you who are Christian brothers and sisters of mine and who have been vocal supporters of Donald Trump. If your family and friends and those that you influence know that you are planning to vote for Donald Trump and if these most recent revelations about his actions and his character have not dissuaded you from that decision to vote for him, then I believe you owe an explanation, not to me, but to all of those people who look to you for guidance or encouragement. Your daughters and sons, your wives, your students, maybe even your parents are looking at you and perhaps asking themselves, “Why is this person, whom I love and respect, planning to vote for a man who said that he has attempted to assault women, attempted to coerce a married woman into committing adultery, and used his powerful status as a wealthy man to commit sex crimes?” If they are not asking that question, they should be. I am sorry that you have to address these issues, especially with your children and with young people who look up to you, but please, please, know that you do.

You may know that voting for Donald Trump does not mean that you endorse or agree with his words and his actions. But your children and other young people don’t necessarily understand that distinction. Please have the conversation with them. Please tell them that grabbing a girl’s or a woman’s private parts is not acceptable behavior, that talking about women as sexual objects is not okay, that adultery and sex outside of marriage are not right and are dishonoring to God and to the persons who are participants in that act. It may be awkward and embarrassing to talk about these things with your sons and other young men, and it may be even more uncomfortable for you to have to tell your daughters that you support and love them and would never allow anyone to denigrate and insult them the way Donald Trump did a woman in those infamous tapes. Do it anyway.

You need to tell them. You look them in the eyes and you explain to them why you are voting for Mr. Trump, but also tell them why his behavior is, at best, arrogant, boastful, and lewd and at worst, criminal and wicked. Tell your daughters especially that if anyone ever behaves to them in the way that Mr. Trump says he acted toward numerous women, to be precise if anyone ever touches them inappropriately or refuses to leave them alone physically and sexually or tries to seduce them, they need to tell you or someone else who can help them. Assure them that you will believe them and protect them and stand your ground in defending them. Clarify to the young women you know and love that it’s not just “locker room talk” and that they don’t have to put up with obscene, abusive words or acts. Tell them they should never listen to anyone who counsels them to just look the other way or to pretend it didn’t happen.

Tell your sons the same. Not all men talk the way Mr. Trump talks on those tapes. Christian men do not speak about or act toward women in the ways that Mr. Trump advocates and boasts about. If Donald Trump was just “talking big” and if he did not grab women and seduce women, then he bragged about doing something evil and vile. If he did do the things he talks about on that tape, he committed sexual assault, which is both a sinful act and a crime. Either way his talk and his actions were hurtful and harmful to the woman involved and to other women he may have assaulted. If he were a redeemed Christian man, he should be placed in no position of leadership either within or outside the church. He needs all of the time he has left on this earth to repent and to learn to walk in a way that honors Christ and honors other people, people that he has grievously harmed.

Beyond the election in November, beyond Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton, this disaster of a campaign season will have an effect on the moral perceptions and the worldview of a generation of young people. If we do not instruct them explicitly and clearly in the truth, they will draw their own conclusions. Maybe they will decide that the Bible and its instructions are just “church talk”, that real men, even those who call themselves Christians, expect and accept lecherous talk and contemptuous treatment of women, as long as you can get away with it. Maybe they will decide that Jesus was just speaking empty words when he said that impure thoughts lead to impure words which lead to violent and impure actions. (See Matthew 5:21-30) And no one really cares, anyway, certainly not a holy God. It’s just “locker room talk.”

That’s what Donald Trump says. That’s what his supporters will be understood to be saying. If you are voting for the man, and if you don’t believe sexual assault is okay, you need to say so. Loudly, clearly, and repeatedly.


A Concerned Evangelical Christian

A Clatter of Jars by Lisa Graff

Lisa Graff’s A Tangle of Knots was a National Book Award nominee in 2014, and it was highly recommended by many people I trust. However, I never did manage to read it. If 2016’s sequel, A Clatter of Jars, is any measure, then I missed out and need to go back and pick up a copy of A Tangle of Knots.

A Clatter of Jars is an intricate, multi-layered story of giftedness and ordinariness and sibling jealousy, the suffering it can cause, apology, reconciliation, and forgiveness. The story, told from six different viewpoints of the campers in Cabin Eight at Camp Atropos for Talented Children, weaves in and out of the lives and magical talents of these campers to produce a sometimes confusing, always fascinating, tale of how family and community can grow strong if only we give up our place in the spotlight for the sake of others and ask forgiveness for our selfish and impulsive misdeeds.

I did like the characters and the complexity of this fantastical story. Lily can levitate objects by concentrating her mind on them. Chuck and Ellie, the Frog Twins, can identify the species of any frog within croaking distance. Renny is famous for reading minds, and his brother Miles may have his own secret Talent. All of the other children at the camp have Talents, too, and the way the talented children learn to work with, and sometimes against, one another makes for a wild ride of a story.

BUT. I was repeatedly thrown out of the story by two plot issues, one major and another minor. Am I behind the times? I know things are changing fast, but does any summer camp for middle schoolers—ages eleven, twelve and thirteen—house boys and girls together in the same cabin? Really? Lily, Renny, Miles, Chuck, and Ellie are assigned to Cabin Eight at Camp Atropos–two boys, brothers, and three girls. Really? This cabin assignment was just weird. There’s no boy-girl attraction, no crushes, in the story; it’s all about sibling rivalry and brothers and sisters trying to work out their sibling relationships. BUT. I kept wondering whether the author had any specific camp in mind when she wrote the book. I even looked it up. Coed camps for this age group are a thing, fine, but all of the ones I found on the internet separated boys and girls into different cabins. I can only begin to imagine the possible problems a camp would run into if boys and girls this age were assigned to share cabins. (The minor problem was the swimming policy. I don’t think camp administrators would allow children, even talented children, to just jump into the lake, anytime, and go for a swim by themselves, either.)

If you can ignore those two mistakes(?) or plot decisions(?), then you might just enjoy A Clatter of Jars quite a lot. You don’t have to read A Tangle of Knots to understand the sequel, but it might work better if you read the first book first. Or you can read them as I will be doing, backwards.