Amazon Teen Bestsellers: The Mortal Instruments

Slots 5 through 9 on the current list of Amazon teen bestsellers are books from the The Mortal Instruments series. Not a bad showing for author Cassandra Clare. The popularity of her series may be fueled by the August release of the film The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones. The book City of Bones, which sounds exotic and exciting, is described on Amazon: "When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder—much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing—not even a smear of blood—to show that a boy has died . . ."

The Boy Who Could Fly

In 1986, the film The Boy Who Could Fly came out to decent reviews, although it didn’t make much of a splash. But over the years, it has become one of those movies that people remember and want to see again.

Milly and her family move next door to Eric after the recent, tragic suicide of her father. She quickly notices something unusual next door, from something flying by her window to Eric spending lots of time on the roof. Milly becomes intrigued and eventually befriends Eric, who is autistic and lives with his alcoholic uncle. Eric’s parents died in a plane crash, and Eric as been obsessed with flying since the tragedy.

The actors who play Milly and Eric give nuanced and effecting performances. Fred Savage is delightful as a kid whose strategy for coping with his father's death is both grim and comically engaging. The adults in The Boy Who Could Fly add breadth and depth to the story: Bonnie Bedelia as the frazzled mother; Colleen Dewhurst as the understanding Mrs. Sherman; and Fred Gwynne as Uncle Hugo, a loving guardian who is battling his own demons.

Whether Eric can really fly is open to discussion, but this heartwarming and delightful film tells a great story.

National Missing Children's Day

With the recent recovery of Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus, and Michelle Knight, the topic of missing children is just as important as ever. On May 25th, 1979 six year old Etan Patz disappeared in New York while walking to school. Though he still has not been found, his disappearance sparked a larger awareness of growing instances of missing children. In 1983 President Ronald Regan designated May 25th as National Missing Children’s Day in commemoration of Etan and other missing children. Every administration since has used May 25th “to renew efforts to reunite missing children with their families, remember those who are still missing, and make child safety a national priority.”

One of the challenges posed by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children is their Take 25 program. This program encourages parents to take 25 minutes to talk to their children and promote child safety. Wonder how to address such a topic with your child? The NCMEC has a page with some ideas for how to start the conversation.

Another way to promote child safety is to host an event or find and event near you. A Take 25 event is “any opportunity to begin a conversation around the issue of child safety.” If you register your event Take 25 will send you free materials to distribute. Ready to host an event? Click here.

Dr. Joyce Brothers, the "mother of mass media psychology", has died

Dr. Joyce Brothers, whose soft voice, clear explanations, and preference for pastels calmed generations of anxious, questioning Americans, has died.

In 1955, Dr. Brothers was a wife and new mother. Her doctor husband was paid $50 a month as a resident. Looking for a way to pay the bills, Dr. Brothers studied the popular game show The $64,000 Question and realized that the most popular contestants were the ones with the most improbable interests. At 5', with delicate features, Brothers, who had a PhD from Columbia and a near-photographic memory, became a self-taught expert on boxing before becoming a contestant. The result of her astute analysis and hard-charging studying was that, after riveting weeks on the show, she became the first woman to win the big prize.

That national attention led to a multi-pronged media presence as a straight-shooting advice expert. She had several TV shows that bore her name, a call-in radio show, a column in Good Housekeeping magazine, and she enjoyed frequent guest appearances on television. She also authored several books, including the 1981 What Every Woman Should Know about Men.

Dr. Brothers, who was 85, died in Fort Lee, NY of respiratory failure.

Born into Brothels

This is a stirring documentary about “the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art.” Born into Brothels follows several young children who live in the red light district of Calcutta. Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski collaborated on piecing together this beautiful film. Briski formed an interest in the children living in the red light district while living in a brothel and photographing the woman. The interest blossomed into a desire to provide the children of these women with cameras and some basic instruction on photography. The result is a fascinating insight into a life that is foreign to many of us. Many of the children’s photographs are highlighted and are a beautiful depiction of a difficult life. You cannot help but be uplifted by the laughter of these kids as they run through the streets taking pictures. One particularly unforgettable segment of the film is when Briski takes the children to the beach in order to photograph the surroundings. Their excitement is palpable and the resulting photographs are striking.

The beauty of this documentary is not only in the aesthetic appeal of the pictures, but also the impact that photography has on the children’s lives. In an atmosphere of poverty and illegal sex trafficking, the hope that is generated from empowering the children in this environment is inspiring. Art and education are two very powerful things and Born into Brothels chronicles providing access to both.

The film won the 77th Academy Awards for Best Documentary and the film’s website Kids with Cameras (KWC) is definitely worth visiting. You can view the kid’s photographs as well as get updates on what they went on to do after the film. KWC has since completed a merge with another nonprofit organization Kids with Destiny. This merger has resulted in the realization of a KWC project Hope House which is expected to be completed later this year.

If you like Born into Brothels, you may also like Wade in the Water, Children, a documentary on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina told from the perspective of the children who lived through it.

Performance Network: The Mountaintop Opens April 25

The Mountaintop, by Katori Hall, runs April 25 - June 2 at Performance Network in Ann Arbor. As the play opens, the date is April 3, 1968, the night before the assassination of Martin Luther King. A maid in the motel where he is staying shows up dripping wet on his doorstep and they share a powerful conversation. This is the Michigan premiere of a play that enjoyed a run on Broadway. Ticket information is available on the Performance Network website.

Hot New Book Tells How to Get Ahead by Giving

A friend who saw Adam Grant speak recently in Ann Arbor highly recommends his book, Give and Take: A Revolutionary Approach to Success. If you missed Grant's visit here, you can read the New York Times magazine article about him or visit the book's website. This graduate of the University of Michigan apparently believes that the way we relate to other people has a lot to do with the success we achieve. From a book description in the AADL catalog: "Using his own cutting-edge research as a professor at Wharton Business School, Adam Grant shows how helping others can lead to greater personal success. He demonstrates how smart givers avoid becoming doormats, and why this kind of success has the power to transform not just individuals and groups, but entire organizations and communities."

Voyage to Kazohinia


Finally seeing a wider publication, Voyage to Kazohinia by Sandor Szathmari, should be a highly revered classic but has never received its well-deserved due (at least in the English language) until now. It was originally published in Hungary in 1941, then in Esperanto in 1958, and had a very small, limited release in an English translation in the 1970s. But New Europe Books has given it a 4th life and a wider distribution, which I hope brings it more readers. Often compared to Gulliver’s Travels meets Brave New World with a touch of 1984 to boot, Voyage is the story of one, Gulliver, stranded on an island populated by two very different societies. The one he initially finds himself amongst are the Hins who, on the outset, seem to live in a utopia: no politics, no war, no starvation, and no disease. They enjoy a high standard of living for all, and no need for money since production is based on need. But there is a flip side: no art, no casual conversations (they only talk about rational needs), no sense of history (everything is about the here and now), no love, and no individuality (everyone wears the same style of dress for instance). It becomes unbearable as lack of conversation and loneliness take hold, so Gulliver decides to live with the Behins, who he has heard have feelings, in their walled off community. The Hins refer to them as “madmen” and he will soon discover why. This is satirical writing at its best. It will make you think about all the odd societal conventions as well as the political institutions that civilization hath wrought.

Tonight: Race And Religion: Progress And Pitfalls On The Journey To Equality

Tuesday April 9, 2013: 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm -- Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Join us as leaders from different religious, racial, and ethnic groups reflect on the high and low points of how their traditions have dealt with issues of race, racial justice, and racial healing.

This event is inspired by this year's Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti Reads.

This event is co-sponsored by the Interfaith Council For Peace And Justice.

AADL Talks to Kathy Kelley

Kathy Kelly moved into the Hill Street houses when she was very young, but she recalls her life there as a member of the White Panther Party as a positive, life-changing personal experience and social experiment. Kathy talks about daily life in the commune with her friends and colleagues, some of the events she participated in, including the John Sinclair Freedom Rally, as well as her apprenticeship as a graphic artist under legendary rock poster artist, Gary Grimshaw. Kathy's experience with the White Panther Party and Rainbow People's Party led to a successful career in art direction for publishing with magazines such as Chicago, Outside, CREEM, and most especially in educational publishing with Weekly Reader Corporation and Scholastic.

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