Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Left on Layout Room Floor

Here are this week's photos that I shot, captioned, and then left out of the final layout for the local print newspaper of the little town of Stover, Mo.

Makayla Byrd, left, Gracie Zepeda, Stephanie Goff and Alexis Byrd buy hot dogs as Albert Byrd watches from behind during the back-to-school open house Monday, Aug. 17 in the Morgan County R-I school cafeteria in Stover. Students and parents such as Taylor Osman and Roberta Fischer, right, served barbecue concession items to raise funds for an educational trip in 2016 to Ireland, England and France. The booth in the background displayed information about the trip.

The first day of school opens with the pledge to the flag Thursday, Aug. 20 in Ms. Talley’s homeroom at Morgan County R-I junior high school in Stover. (composite of two photos)

Students in Ms. Talley’s sixth grade homeroom read instructions for their first assignment of the school year Thursday morning, Aug. 20 at Morgan County R-I junior high school in Stover.

Elementary Principal Molly Roe, left, greets the students at a school assembly the first day of school Thursday, Aug. 20 in the elementary gym at Morgan County R-I in Stover.

Tami Shewmaker’s preschool class takes a walk down the hallway on the first day of school Thursday, Aug. 20 at Morgan County R-I in Stover.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Felicity the Dragon

Felicity the Dragon
by Ruthie Briggs-Greenberg
Recommended Ages: 5+

I read a lot of books aimed at a younger age group, but very seldom do I get down among the very littlest readers or books to be read aloud to even littler kids. This is one of the littlest and lightest books I have read in a long time. But it was also the first book I was allowed to review pre-publication through the NetGalley website. It's also the first time I've successfully downloaded a book into my Kindle for pre-publication review. It feels like I've turned a new page as a book reviewer, only I didn't touch any actual pages. I hope I don't mess this up too badly.

Ruthie Briggs-Greenberg is a painter and sometime book illustrator who both wrote and illustrated this book. Set to be released Sept. 1, 2015, I think this is the first book she authored. In a few rhyming lines decorated with adorable paintings it tells the story of a lonely dragon who doesn't fit in with her kind. One day while watching some children play alongside a castle moat, she sees a boy fall into the water and dives to save him. This act of kindness brings Felicity her first taste of friendship and feelings of belonging.

It is a little, light, gentle story that shows how being nice to others can bring more happiness than being mean. The rhymes aren't perfect and the story isn't a conventional blockbuster, but in its brief and direct way it could become the go-to book for children struggling to fit in, maybe helping steer them away from the path of bullying at an early age.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

The Woodcutter

The Woodcutter
by Kate Danley
Recommended Ages: 14+

My introduction to the books of Kate Danley happened to be her debut novel, though by the time I found it on a truck stop's audiobook sale shelf she had written several more. I happened to be listening to it at the same time as I was reading Tom Holt's The Outsorcerer's Apprentice, so I will probably always remember both books as part of a weird experience in which fractured fairy tales were coming at me from all directions. While Holt decanted his mixed cocktail of multiple folk tales for comedy into a glass garnished with a twist of contemporary social satire and a salting of science fiction, Danley played her medley of magical stories with a totally straight face. This book is a deadly serious, grown-up take on the land of stories that never for an instant winks at the reader or acknowledges a real world outside its own Grimm reality.

The character of the woodcutter stands at the meeting point of twelve magic kingdoms, the balancing point between humans and the fey, the nexus between dangerous wild magic and the tamer sort that makes dreams come true. He carries an axe that has never tasted the sap of an unwilling tree, and he wields it with all the responsibility of the keeper of the balance between two intersecting worlds that would otherwise tear each other apart. He guards the truce between magic and ordinary life. He polices the succession of princes and princesses to kings and queens, watches over their children and tries to ensure that true love finds a way in at least half the royal matches. And he tries to keep regular folk from being swept up in stories or addicted to fairy dust, either of which could destroy them.

Generation after generation of nameless woodcutters have carried this responsibility. But the woodcutter in this tale faces a threat that could end his line and subvert the benign magic of the true-love kingdoms to a will that only cares about power. There is a creature in his woods that stalks people with magical blue blood - the rightful heirs or destined true loves of the twelve kingdoms - and steals their souls. There is an evil queen at large who wants to control all the kingdoms. There is a villain who is separating pixies from the trees they inhabit, causing the trees of the wood to die and unleashing misery into the world. And there is a vile trade in fairy dust going on that is ruining lives and upsetting the balance of the world.

Armed with three enchanted axes besides the one passed down through the woodcutter's line, he leaves his beloved wife and sets out to right all these wrongs, even if it takes the ultimate sacrifice. Along the way he gets tangled up in darker and deadlier versions than you may know of the stories of Snow White, Red Riding Hood, Rumpelstiltskin, Jack and the Beanstalk and more. He crosses paths with Odin and the Wild Hunt, Titania and Oberon, giants and a river god, Baba Yaga and a bridge troll. If you can name a Grimm fairy tale but don't know how grim it can be, you'll find a surprise in this book.

There were moments when I didn't care for it. At times I found the relentlessness of the drama a bit wearing. I've enjoyed many dark versions of fairy tales, though, and in a final overview this one was uplifting compared to some. It has a certain purity and wholesomeness, a very cleancut worldview and an overall theme of sacrifice and resurrection that might be especially appealing to Christian families. But at the same time it reveals some of the nastier things usually hidden on the underside of folklore, with themes such as addiction, pollution, environmental exploitation, child abuse, prostitution, and the damage that can be done by cynical politicians and their blind followers. To her credit, the author pulls together a variety of stories into a seamless whole and communicates in rich, carefully chosen, sensually persuasive language.

Kate Danley hasn't been publishing long but she already has a list of titles bearing witness to a very productive writer. Besides the stand-alone novel Queen Mab there are also five "Maggie MacKay, Magical Tracker" books, four "O'Hare House" mysteries, and two "Twilight Shifters" books so far. They all seem to inhabit the shadowy side of faerie literature or the realm of ghosts and haunted houses. Based on my impression of this debut book, I am open to giving her work another look.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Left on the Layout Room Floor

We had an overabundance of photos for this week's Morgan County Press of Stover, Mo. Here are some that I shot and captioned but didn't end up putting on the printed page:

Superintendent Matt Unger, standing at right, leads the opening of the new teachers’ orientation Thursday, Aug. 13 at the Morgan County R-I school library in Stover. New staff members took turns introducing themselves and discussing a teacher who made a difference in their lives.

Attending a new teacher orientation Thursday, Aug. 13 in the Morgan County R-I school library in Stover are Kelly Beale, front left, Lindsey Talley, Abbey Sander, Lexie Nolting; back row, Lisa Schoen, Amber Yeager, Katy Schlesselman, Tanner Dicus, Stephanie Holsten, Brittney Thompson and Jennifer Lor.

Teachers gathered Friday morning, Aug. 14 in the Morgan County R-I school cafeteria in Stover. Moments later Superintendent Matt Unger, facing away in the background at right, opened the meeting for the first teacher work day of the 2015-16 school year.

Jennifer Berry, left, a Title I math teacher, visits with second grade teacher Amy Smith and student teacher Zach Heimsoth during a teacher work day Monday, Aug. 17 in Smith’s classroom at Morgan County R-I elementary school in Stover. Heimsoth is a student at Central Methodist University in Fayette.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

130. Sunday After New Year Hymn

There isn't a Sunday between New Year and Epiphany every year - only, in fact, when Christmas Day lands on a Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Known in some lectionaries as the Second Sunday after Christmas, it has the same Introit as the First. The Gradual is a catena of Psalm 106:47, the second half of Isaiah 63:16, and Psalm 145:21. The Epistle is 1 Peter 4:12-19 and the Gospel is Matthew 2:13-23.
Lord Jesus, when You test us
With fire and fierce ordeal,
Remind us by what anguish
You set on us Your seal!
From infancy You raised Your heel
Against the wily serpent;
Your wounds all ours will heal.

How Bethlehem's environs
With infant blood flowed red,
While Joseph with Your mother
And You to Egypt fled!
Recall the tears their mothers shed,
O Lord, when Your disciples
Through fiery trials are led!

From folk and country driven
At such a tender age,
In foreign parts You sojourned
Till past was Herod's rage.
As we with evil pow'rs engage
Bide with us, Lord, and in us
Our lonely battle wage!

Whatso by faith we suffer
Is fellowship with You.
Wherever we may wander,
You are our Homeland true.
With gifts of grace refresh, renew
Your cross-bought people, Savior,
Till we Your glory view.
The tune I have in mind for this hymn is WOHL DENEN, DIE DA WANDELN by Heinrich Schütz, 1628.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

129. Sunday After Christmas Hymn

Moving along with my "hymns for every Sunday of the church year" project, here's one for the Sunday after Christmas. One of the historic introits for the day comprises verses 5, 2, and 1 (in that order) of Psalm 95; another option replaces verse 5 and 2 with a non-biblical text. The Gradual is Psalm 45 verses 2 and 1 (in that order) followed by Psalm 95:1. The Epistle is Galatians 4:1-7 and the Gospel is Luke 2:33-40. And this time I'm actually going to go with the tune O CHRISTE, MORGENSOONE that I originally mated with my Advent 4 hymn.
Rejoice, O holy city
Built by the Lord's strong hand;
For now, behold! Redemption
Has come into the land,
So longed-for and long planned.

Lo, in the time perfected
God sent His maid-born Son;
Born under Law, that sinners
Might from its curse be won
And as God's heirs be known.

He came, the Child appointed,
A sign to be opposed:
Raised up and cast down many,
Men's secret thoughts exposed,
Yet richer grace disclosed.

For even His pure mother
Would be pierced by the sword
That judges soul and spirit:
The wounding, healing word
Of Christ, our living Lord.

O Lord, sure is Your witness;
Your throne bestrides the earth.
You are from everlasting,
And glory clothes Your girth;
Can we but praise Your birth?

You, who wear strength and vastness,
Became so weak and small!
When all was still at midnight,
You came down, Light of all,
To cries and rags and stall.

You, Lord, for us descended
Our fortunes to reverse:
Gave over realms of blessing,
Was made for us a curse,
Salvation to disburse.

This confidence had Simeon
When to God's house You came,
O Son of God; and Anna
Believed and saw the same.
With them we praise Your name.

For peace and joy unending
We thank Your infant tears,
For bringing us salvation
From all our foes and fears,
And for the faithful seers.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

What PC Gets You

Three years ago today, I posted a list of ridiculous words in a Facebook comment congratulating a friend on his new job. For some reason it came back on my newsfeed today and I made myself laugh. Here is a list of words that I thought would sound funny if you changed gender-specific suffixes such as "-man," "-maid" or "-boy" to "-person."
  • alderperson
  • backwoodsperson
  • baseperson
  • bellperson
  • boatperson
  • bogeyperson
  • bondsperson
  • bowperson
  • brakeperson
  • caiperson
  • cattleperson
  • countryperson
  • cowperson
  • craftsperson
  • fireperson
  • fisherperson
  • frontiersperson
  • gamesperson
  • Gerperson
  • guardsperson
  • gunperson
  • handyperson
  • hangperson
  • helmsperson
  • henchperson
  • highwayperson
  • horseperson
  • huperson
  • huntsperson
  • iceperson
  • inhuperson
  • journeyperson
  • merperson
  • middleperson
  • midshipperson
  • milkperson
  • minuteperson
  • nonhuperson
  • oilperson
  • ombudsperson
  • outdoorsperson
  • plowperson
  • postperson
  • rifleperson
  • sandperson
  • seaperson
  • selectperson
  • shaperson
  • showperson
  • snowperson
  • sportsperson
  • statesperson
  • strongperson
  • subhuperson
  • superhuperson
  • switchperson
  • talisperson
  • tradesperson
  • tribesperson
  • watchperson
  • wolfperson
  • woperson
  • woodperson
  • workperson
  • yachtsperson
  • yeoperson