An old storyteller roams through the old quarter of Damascus. For only one piaster, he offers to show the children the wonders of the world. The children look through the peepholes of his magic box, which he carries on his back from one neighborhood to the next. There they see and hear the love story of Sami, the shepherd boy, and the beautiful Leyla. But over time, the story changes… pictures inside the wonder box become old and start to fade away, replaced by cutouts from recent advertisements.
If you’re like me and wonder about the lives and histories and culture of Syrian people and refugees, The Storyteller of Damascus is a book for you. Such beautiful illustrations too.
I’ve had the recent honor of being promoted to book club doyenne at the book store where I work (Towne Book Center & Cafe) and our pick for December is Until Tuesday by Luis Carlos Montalvan.
Montalvan is a career Army Captain stationed in the recent war in the Middle East. He’s suffered some debilitating PTSD for which he receives the most darling and helpful golden retriever named Tuesday. Since I’m a dog lover, I thought the book would be the perfect blend of oohing and ahhing over how adorable the pooch is and how helpful he’s made Montalvan’s life. To be sure, Tuesday is helpful and probably kept Montalvan from hurting himself and others.
What’s surprising about the book is how much the author talks about the war effort. War is gruesome stuff and Montalvan describes the atrocities that he and others faced more than I cared to read. it gave me nightmares, this stuff. I cannot even begin to imagine how these heroes live now that they’ve been to war. What else I cannot believe is how it’s only been very recently that vets have been getting accurate treatment. We’ve been fighting war for millenia and vets are only just now getting treatment for PTSD.
Amazingly, Montalvan (and I suspect his ghost writer) added relevant, thought provoking quotes at the beginning of each chapter such as:
I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all the kinds of things you can’t see from the center.
That quote was from the famous writer Kurt Vonnegut, a WWII veteran. You’d be surprised how many famous writers were war veterans.
As a civilian, I have no idea what goes on behind the scenes during war time. Montalvan gives us some insight into the mismanagement and I’ll admit it makes me a bit angry. But you try to stow that anger when you read Tuesday’s goofy personality or his contagious smile or the way he calms Montalvan’s tension, potentially staving off an anxiety attack.
Where would we be without our pets? You know I love my Bailey, and while he’s no service dog, mostly cuz he’s a little neurotic, his daily greetings make me feel like I’m the best person he’s seen all day (at least until someone else comes home).
My hope is that service animals will become more available to those who need them.
World peace wouldn’t be too much to ask for, would it?
Our book club meets at 7pm and I’m sure there will be a great discussion surrounding this book (and prolly a war discussion).
Adventure, intrigue, and precious gems; all items necessary for a good novel, right? Then you’re in luck if you pick up a copy of The Obsidian Mask by Caroline Ludovici!
Allow me to tempt you a little bit with history. What’s that you say? History’s not your thing? Maybe not, but reading this book might change your mind. Ludovici, a charming Brit, has taken the cradle of civilization, ancient Mesopotamia, and turned it into a thriller for middle grade readers.
Imagine ancient Mesopotamia
Look really closely. You’ll see that the Mesopotamia area crosses over a large portion of the world that has been in the news lately: Syria, Iraq, Turkey, and a teeny part of Iran.
So what, you say? Well, here’s what: during the course of the novel, four young friends help uncover ancient secrets and are kidnapped because of a very valuable mask that is found in that area. The mask, belonging to an ancient warrior queen, contains glass known as obsidian, a beautiful, dark, and volcanic glass stone that makes the mask financially priceless.
The glass can look like this:
You’ll accidentally learn about history and the Middle East as you read the book. If you’re like me, you’ll want to know more about the region: what’s the weather like? How did they access water in the desert? What part of London are the teens from? Who is from Italy? What in the heck is cuneiform?
Cuneiform is an form of writing. It’s how ancient people wrote. Wanna see my name in cuneiform?
I”m not sure what it really says but it prolly says “enjoy this book”!
Which I did and you know what? A second book is coming out next year, how fun will that be??