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Moon by Ashe ArterberryWhat the Moon Saw-Third Evening

The third evening the moon came to the artist he didn’t have such a nice tale to tell.

The third evening the moon came to the artist and said he had looked down a narrow alleyway. He could just shine into it. There he saw a woman he had known as a child and later as a woman. She was now sick and lay on her deathbed, but her landlord wanted to rent. Even though the woman was about to die, the landlord told her to make money anyway.

He sat her up in a chair looking out the window. The wind blew harshly and shattered a pane in the window. The curtains caught fire as the woman looked on, but she was already dead. The moon said she was preaching a sermon on sin by sitting there looking out dead upon all those who would pass by.

Observations

This story is rather harsh. The woman dies, which is sad. It does leave the reader questioning what happened in her life for her to get to this point. She had not been overly wealthy at any point in her life, but she had enough money at one point to have her wedding in a ballroom. That’s not exactly cheap. By her death we find that she lives in poverty owing the landlord rent. There is no mention of the husband she had married previously or any children. What tragedy and misfortune had already befallen this woman? Did her husband die? Did he leave her for another woman? Was he lost at sea? What was this woman’s profession if the landlord thought he could set her up in the window so that she could make money. I have a guess.

We’re looking at a woman who has had a harsh life for one reason or another. The moon sees it as yet another tragedy in how life works. I’m sure this isn’t very cheerful to the man he’s speaking to though.

Themes

The moon says this woman is preaching a sermon on sin by her deathly presence in the flaming house. Whose sin? Her sin? The sin of the landlord? Society’s sin? We could argue that the landlord was sinful for being unchristlike, unmerciful, and generally a jerk. At the same time we could also argue that the woman had been sinful and that had led to her death sitting there in the window. Was she a hooker? Did she leave her husband for a lover who later ran away? What’s the deal? Is the dead woman simply an example of sin and what could happen to you for your sinful ways?

Everybody has sin. Everybody commits sins. The woman probably isn’t a comment on any one person. Something sinful led her to where she is now whether it was her sin or the landlord’s, but if you want to think about it, we’re all led by sin. It may not be your sin, but someone else’s sin could definitely put you in a tight spot. We all affect each other with our sins. It’s not a pleasant thought, but it’s true. The terrible things you do could affect someone else and be detrimental in their lives with them being completely innocent of the whole thing.

Overall

Way to be such a Debbie Downer, Moon.

Weigh In

What do you think happened to lead the woman to where she ended up?

Why do you think the moon told such a sad story to the artist?

What the Moon Saw-First Evening

My Apologies. I accidentally skipped over the Moon’s first evening yesterday.

What the Moon Saw-First Evening

Ah, on with the moon and its travels.

The artist was lonely in his apartment, but the moon had promised that he would come and tell the artist the things he had seen so he would not be lonely. On the first evening the moon had been in India shining upon the Ganges. There upon the shore of the Ganges was a young woman. She brought with her a lamp. She set the lamp upon the river and watched it float away. She knew that if it stayed lit her love was alive. If the flame was suddenly extinguished then her love was dead. She watched on. The flame stayed lit. She was happy and overjoyed that her love was still alive, even though there was a snake near her feet.

That was the first night.

What the Moon Saw-First EveningObservations

I’ve never heard of this superstition that the young woman performs. Believe it or not, there is an Indian tradition to set lit lanterns upon the rivers, but it doesn’t quite match up with what the girl does in this story. The festival is called Diwali and it lasts five days in India. How you would practice Diwali is determined by where you’re at in India and what religion you are. The third day of Diwali is known as Lakshmi Puja. One of the things people do on Lakshmi Puja is lights lanterns everywhere, often in rows, but they will also light lanterns, called Diyas, and set them afloat on rivers and other waters. This is the day of Diwali where people think about and celebrate important relationships and friendships.

The girl in this story is performing more of a fortune-telling superstition. It sounds very similar to the practice by which a young woman would look over her shoulder into a mirror down into a well to see her future husband. This ritual she performs sounds more like a silly superstition rather than any actual cultural or religious ritual, but I could be wrong. India is a big place; it’s known as a sub-continent after all. People in India have all kinds of traditions depending on where in the country they live. This may actually be a little backwoodsy tradition that people practice in India, but it honestly sounds more like a European import, much like looking down a well with a mirror.

You have to remember that India is a country that largely practiced arranged marriage. There would have been young women who fell in love and hoped for a relationship with their chosen man, but was it common? Was it likely? It probably wasn’t as likely as we would think it would be, but we also have to take into consideration that India was colonized at one point by the British and British ideas and ways of living were carried to India. Things were changing. Was it probable that there was a young woman sneaking out at night to set a lantern upon the water to see if her love was alive? No, it wasn’t probable, but it wasn’t impossible.

What the Moon Saw-First EveningThemes

I think the moon showed the artist that he wasn’t alone in his loneliness when he told him of the first night. There were people other places who were just as lonely as he was. This young woman was alone waiting for her love to return. She didn’t know whether he was alive or dead. She just waited. She hung onto a silly superstition in hopes that he might still be alive. The world around, no matter your race or country of origin, you can be lonely; you can feel the same emotions everywhere else feels. In the fact that others are lonely as well, you’re not quite as lonely as you originally thought.

Overall

Why mention the snake?

Weigh In

What other superstitions akin to the superstition the girl performs in this story do you know?

Do you think the artist felt less lonely after hearing this story?

What the Moon Saw-Second EveningWhat the Moon Saw-Second Evening

…and the moon goes on.

The second evening the moon came to the artist the moon told him of looking out into a courtyard. There he saw a young girl scattering the hen and her chicks. The hen was scared and made lots of noise. The father came and got onto the little girl. A few minutes later the little girl crept back out and into the hen-house. At first the father was mad when he found out, but the little girl simply told him that she wanted to beg forgiveness of the hen for frightening her.

“And the father kissed the innocent child’s forehead, and I [the moon] kissed her on the mouth and eyes.”

screenshot-books google com 2015-02-28 16-53-06Observations

This isn’t a story of loneliness as the first story the moon told was. This is a story of simple humanity. This girl was acting as a child does, by causing a ruckus, and she was chastised for it. She realized her wrong and wanted to ask forgiveness, even if chickens don’t really forgive people.

Chickens aren’t really friendly animals. I know there are exceptions. Chickens have been known to be quite friendly at points, especially to children. My uncle used to have a chicken that followed him around everywhere outside. In general though, chickens aren’t friendly like mammals can be. They don’t cuddle, generally. They’re probably not going to respond highly to you trying to pet them or play with them. Birds kind of speak a different language than mammals do.

For example, you’re really not supposed to pet a bird’s back. They see it as foreplay. I’m not making this up. The reaction from probably varies from bird type to bird type, but it is recommended that you only pet your bird on the head. My point in mentioning this is that this little girl could try all she wanted to, but that chicken wasn’t going to see her intrusion as anything but a threat, or at the very least a bother. There was no way this chicken was going to be like, “Hey, Cindy, I accept your apology for scaring me earlier. We can cuddle now.”

KidsThemes

This little girl, besides being something of a terror, is like all children are…innocent and naive. She doesn’t understand that this chicken isn’t going to talk reasonably with her about this. This chicken isn’t going to let this little girl hug her. This chicken isn’t going to cuddle. This little girl doesn’t really see it that way though. Children don’t really understand differences between lifeforms for a while. To them a person and a dog might as well be on the same level. Drink water out of the dog’s bowl, drink water out of your father’s cup, what’s the difference? They eventually do grow to understand that people are people and animals are animals, but it takes a few years.

While illustrating that children are kind of stupid in the differentiating animal behavior from human behavior department, this story also illustrates that children can be very sweet and very Godlike in their actions. They haven’t yet developed that guile and skepticism of the world that would prevent them from feeling that the chicken should be apologized to. As adults we can fall into these bogs of thinking that we don’t have to be careful of how our actions affect other people. We do have to be careful about that, but we often get too wrapped up in ourselves that we don’t think we do. If children take the time to think about it, they believe that they should apologize for their actions to everyone and everything. Of course, children don’t act like that all the time, otherwise they wouldn’t even consider waking us up in the middle of the night, but every once in a while, we can see this amazing action shine through this little person who is otherwise a pain in the butt.

It’s just an example of how sometimes we need to take our cues from the little slobber and mess factories that are children.

Overall

One time I did see a video where a chicken let a little boy hug it.

Weigh In

What’s something your child has done that seems silly and you want to be mad about it, but you really can’t because it was too sweet in its own way?

Do you think the moon is trying to teach the artist anything with this particular story?

 Sh*t my Dad Says by Justin Halpern Sh*t my Dad Says by Justin Halpern

This is the first book in which Justin’s father says lots of things, most of them laced with profanity.

Justin moves back home after living on his own. He feels kind of awkward about it, but even though his father gives him a profanity laced explanation of him staying there, Justin can tell his father is glad to see him. Justin’s father is a doctor, although, I’m not entirely sure I would want Justin’s father for my doctor. I don’t think it would be very calming to go to the doctor for some ailment and then have the doctor be like, “Well, your @#*$##$ white blood cell count is @#(*$*$ high. I’ll have to prescribe a #$#(*$ antibiotic for you.” Of course, Justin’s father isn’t that kind of doctor. He works in nuclear medicine. It’s probably a good thing too.

Justin details his life with his father and the various advice, profanity laced of course, that he has received from his father. While being full of profanity, Justin’s father generally knows what he’s talking about.

What I liked

Justin’s dad is pretty funny, rude, but funny. He dispenses actual knowledge peppered with various curse words. While probably not the most grandmother friendly way to dispense knowledge, it does get the point across. Justin is lucky to have a father like his dad, even if it is a bit weird at times.

I really did like a lot of the advice Justin’s dad gives Justin. He’s a smart guy. It just goes to show you that you don’t necessarily have to be all lovey and positive reinforcement for your child to end up as a decent human being.

What I didn’t like

Justin’s dad is funny, but I’m not sure about Justin, maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, at least he figured out how to string all of this together into a book. Justin does write. He is a screen writer. He knows how to write. I’m just not sure he’s as funny as all of that. Justin’s dad is funny. Justin just observes his father and writes things down. I don’t feel as if this book is a display of Justin’s writing skills. I have read Justin’s book I Suck at Girls, and that book seems to display Justin’s writing skills better than this book.

Overall

If you want a laugh, this book is a good place to turn to.

Weigh In

Would the advice from your parents have been better with more profanity?

Do you think going to the doctor would be an easier experience with more profanity?

Stone Fox by John Reynolds GardinerStone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner

Everyone loves a good dog, but nobody loves when the good dog dies.

Willy lives with his grandfather in Wyoming. They farm potatoes. One day Grandfather takes to his bed. He doesn’t get up and he doesn’t talk. Willy gets the doctor who tells Willy that maybe Grandpa will get better, but maybe he won’t. There must be something terrible on his mind.

First Willy manages to harvest the potatoes all by himself with the help of Searchlight his dog. Then Willy finds out that Grandpa owes back taxes on the farm. If Willy doesn’t come up with $500 the government can take the farm. Willy uses his fifty dollars saved for college tuition to enter a local sledding race. The winner gets $500. Willy is determined to win, but that may not be so easy because the legendary Stone Fox is also entering the race with his pack of dogs.

The big race comes. Willy is ahead of everyone, but before he can cross the finish line the most terrible thing imaginable happens. Stone Fox surprises everyone by what he does next.

What I liked

Stone Fox is a surprising guy. He’s got a good heart. He has integrity. I like him. He may seem a little rough, but he’s a good human being when it comes down to it.

What I didn’t like

First of all, Grandpa needs to get out of bed. The doctor comes by and says nothing is wrong with him. He’s depressed. Yeah, ok. I get it, Grandpa is depressed and worried. He didn’t have a stroke. He didn’t have a heart attack. He’s just depressed. Being depressed isn’t easy. I’ve been there, but despite the fact that you may be depressed, you kind of have to go on with life. You can’t just sit down in the middle of what you’re doing and stay there. Depressed or not, you’ve got to live. Grandpa needs to get his butt out of bed and help keep the farm. This is a lot of worry to put on a boy Willy’s age. I’m sorry Grandpa feels sad, but Grandpa has Willy to take care of and he needs to get out of bed and take care of his responsibilities.

Second, this is such a sad story. I don’t know why I re-read it. I’ve read it several times. Supposedly it’s based on a local legend of the area. It’s probably a rural myth, but it’s still kind of a neat story, despite the fact that it is sad. Oh that poor dog. Oh poor Willy. If you’ve never read this book, have some tissues nearby when you do read it.

There is a movie based on this book and the story is a bit different. In the movie Grandpa actually has a stroke, he’s not just staying in bed. Grandpa also has a cattle farm in the movie. Stone Fox also gifts Willy with a puppy at the end of the movie. None of that happened in this book. I think the movie took a more realistic and feelings friendly approach to this story. After all, I haven’t really heard of too many people having potato farms in Wyoming. It’s cattle country.

Overall

Poor Searchlight.

Weigh In

What’s your opinion of Grandpa?

How many ten-year olds do you know that could harvest an entire farm’s worth of potatoes?

Moon by Ashe ArterberryWhat the Moon Saw-Introduction

I have always enjoyed the moon. There is something mysterious and beautiful about this silvery disk that comes out at night. In addition to being the ruling light of the night, the moon changes and transforms. Sometimes it’s orange. Sometimes it’s a crescent. Sometimes there’s only half of it there. The sun can’t do nearly as many interesting things as the moon can.

Once upon a time there was a man who was lonely because he had moved to a new town. The man is an artist and was used to seeing green hill and trees outside of his window, but now he sees only chimneys and soot. There was not a familiar face there, but the artist was surprised to find the moon. A familiar face at last!

The moon and the artist spoke. The Moon told the artist that he would come and visit the artist. If the artist painted the scenes the moon told to him, he would have a wonderful book full of paintings. The moon did not come every night, sometimes it was obscured by the clouds, but on the nights the moon did come it told the man of wonderful things. The artist will relay the things the moon saw in following tales.

Observations

I honestly really like the moon. It’s a very neat piece of our existence. It’s there at night. It shines silver. It may change colors. It may loom large and heavy in the Autumn. It may disappear all together. Because I like the moon, I like stories about the moon.

This man, this artist, is an example of a person moving to an unfamiliar place. Think of his scenario, which is still common today. He’s a gifted person, a talented artist, in order to make a living doing what he’s talented at he has to leave his home in the country and move to the city. Any artist living in the country will tell you that it’s difficult to make a living in a small town. People just don’t appreciate art in the same manner and to the same dollar extent that people in the city would appreciate it. He’s left his home with everything familiar and moved to a city. He’s not used to the crowds. He’s not used to people being so close. It’s hard to imagine how someone could be lonely surrounded by so many people, but it’s entirely possible, especially considering someone who is an artist. Artists generally fall more on the introverted side than the extroverted side. Being around so many people is probably exhausting for him. He’s probably really lonely. Seeing the moon was probably just what he needed.

Themes

Even though this artist may not realize it at the beginning of the story, there are familiar things wherever you go. The moon will always be the same moon. The sun will always be the same sun. It will still rain. It will still get light and get dark. There will be people there with two legs and two arms. There will still be kindness. There will still be smiles. There will still be meanness. There will still be evil. No matter where you go, some things are always going to be the same.

It can still be tough though when you go to a new place. This artist found that out. He wasn’t familiar with much of anything, but he finally saw the moon, which was something he knew. He will recognize more familiar things as his life in the city goes on, but at first it’s overwhelming. It would be this way for any of us.

There is a universal truth in this story. We feel strange when we go to a new place, until we recognize things that seem familiar to us.

Overall

I’m looking forward to reading about what the moon saw. Probably nothing to salacious as this is a fairy tale, but you never know.

Weigh In

Do you like the moon?

Do you think you would feel equally as overwhelmed by moving to an unfamiliar place?

The Silent Boy by Lois LowryThe Silent Boy by Lois Lowry

A story told through pictures and words has the ability to reach out and grab you a little harder than a story with just words. The pictures bring life to something that would have just been in your head before.

The Silent Boy is a story told through old photographs and words. The boy who is silent is named Jacob Stoltz and Katy first met him when she was a little girl. Her father was the local doctor. He traveled all over the countryside in a buggy pulled by horses. Katy later grew up to be a doctor herself, but Jacob was an important part of her life for a while.

When Katy is young her family hires a girl from out in the country to help around the house. The girl is named Peggy. She belongs to the Stoltz family. She has a brother named Jacob. Peggy says Jacob is touched. This means that Jacob is not as mentally developed as other children might be. He can make noises, but he never speaks. He takes care of the animals on the farm very well. He’s quite responsible for someone who is deemed less by people.

Katy is fascinated by Jacob to a degree, but still has her own life to live. She learns more about the medical field from her father and her mother welcomes a new baby into the family. Katy is fascinated by all of this, but a tragedy strikes involving Jacob and an asylum. Katy later grows up and becomes quite the doctor, but she’ll always remember Jacob.

What I liked

Lois used old photographs to tell this story. She picked photographs from her past, but also from the pasts of other people to make this story up. She strung the photographs together in an order and then used words to fill in the rest. It’s an interesting approach to writing a book. It’s definitely an exercise in creativity. How do these people fit together? What about this building? What about this car? Where does it all fit in? I’m definitely intrigued by how Lois set out to write this story.

Katy has some spunk to her. I like that she’s not this total girly-girl. She’s interested in girlish things, but she’s also interested in medicine. Good for Katy.

What I didn’t like

This story is sad, but name me one Lois Lowry story that isn’t sad in some way. Lois has a fascination with sadness. It’s probably one of her signature things, if she has signature things. It makes me wonder if there was some tragedy that shook Lois’ life or she’s just attracted to story lines with sadness in them. I don’t know a ton about Lois, so I’m just guessing.

The sadness that is in this story is a rough kind of sadness. All sadness is not pleasant, but the sadness contained in this story is the kind that makes you think and makes you feel perhaps more strongly than other sadnesses. A terrible tragedy occurs and someone is punished for it. This character didn’t deserve the punishment. The characters who put this sadness in motion didn’t deserve what happened to them either. The world isn’t fair and sometimes sadness comes to people who don’t deserve it, but the sadness here really tugs at you. It makes you feel sorry for just about everyone involved.

Overall

I feel bad for everyone in this story.

Weigh In

Do you think profound sadness makes a story better?

If you are related to someone with mental or developmental disabilities, do you find that other people do not understand how your relative acts? Do these other people show something akin to fear when being around your relative?

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