Friday, November 18, 2016

Stella & Turtle: 2 Historical Fictions

I recently read two books called Stella by Starlight and Turtle in Paradise.

Stella by Starlight by Sharon M. Draper is about a girl living in the all-black section of Bumblebee, North Carolina in the strictly segregated south in 1932. She battles her fears about the rising threat of the KKK, and her struggles with expressing herself. There were many things to fear in her day. Imagine never being allowed to go out at night, seeing men in white hoods burning crosses in your backyard, or watching your friend being beaten for buying a bag of candy. These were all the things Stella and others like her experienced in the story. I learned quite a bit about what people would have felt during this time period - fear, oppression, anger, injustice, hopelessness.

Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer L. Holm is set during the Great Depression in Key West, Florida. A girl, Turtle, tries to find her true family and, in the end, comes to realize what real treasure is. From this book I learned about the Great Depression and how things we take for granted today were practically unavailable then, such as shoes, food, work and a dry place to sleep. One of the things that got me sucked into this book was the colourful set of characters.  Conchs, as Key West natives are called, have a very unique and diverse culture with a blend of Cuban, Bahamian and other influences. Back in Turtle's day, and probably even now, Conchs had a custom of giving people odd nicknames, such as Beans, Slowpoke, Killy the Horse, and Pork Chop to name just a few characters from the story.

Where did the name "Conch" come from?  One theory is that during the American revolution the English officials heavily taxed the food in Florida like they taxed tea in Boston. Legend has it that the locals said they'd rather eat conch than pay taxes. They did just that, creating 27 different ways of cooking it. I find this shows quite clearly the sense of humour and indomitable spirit of the Conchs. A group of rambunctious boys in the story who call themselves the "Diaper Gang" is a good example of this.  If you want to find out why they are called the "Diaper Gang", read the book!

These two stories have many similarities. They are both set in roughly the same time period, narrated by female protagonists of similar age both living in tight knit communities, resulting in strong family bonds and deep friendships. They share a similar message: home is where family is, be yourself, and hardships don't last forever!  Both of these were very enjoyable reads and I definitely recommend them.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

The Great Climate Race

Calling themselves the Crazy Socks, Serena & Daddy did a 10K run along the Stanley Park Seawall as they participated in The Great Climate Race on a beautiful fall day. We recently read an article about the Paris Agreement, an international treaty designed to slow global warming that was recently adopted at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. We also watched Before the Flood, a National Geographic documentary on the threat of climate change. Serena will now share her thoughts of what she's learnt:

"I have learnt that climate change is much more urgent than I could have imagined. There is actually a hidden force of corrupt government officials and corporations trying to confuse the public in order to keep their profits in polluting industries especially those based in crude oil.

I also learned that palm oil, the cheapest kind of cooking oil on the market, is being harvested in shocking & unsustainable ways, deforesting area equivalent to 300 football fields in a single hour and pushing animals like orangutans to extinction while creating giant amounts of carbon. 40 to 50 percent of our household goods contain palm oil, from shampoo to Nutella. The problem is especially dire in Sumatra, Indonesia because of corrupt government officials.

Another surprising fact the documentary revealed is that cows are incredibly costly in every sense, taking up enormous amounts of land and food (as feeds) while producing huge amounts of methane.

But there's a message of hope! Change can be as simple as trying to use as little electricity as possible, eating less red meat, taking shorter showers, and making smart purchasing decisions.  The important thing is for us to act now, the planet won't accept more procrastination."