Friday, May 27, 2011

Save the Whales Bookmarks and Whale Book Speed Reviews

It's time once again for Book Phantom to return her library books, which means another bookmarking caper!  This month, I bought my bookmarks from Save the Whales, and proceeds go to protect these intelligent and graceful giants.  I won't publish the bookmark fronts on my blog due to copyright, but here's the link so you can order some yourselves (the bookmarks are at the bottom of the link page).  There are eight different whale designs to choose from, and at only fifty cents each, you can order them all for less than a cup of Starbucks or a bargain paperback.  Below are the messages I left on the backs of the bookmarks for unsuspecting book borrowers.

Gray Whale Bookmark for Grayson.  It's a memoir, so the quote about time and memory seems proper.

Sperm Whale bookmark for Moby Dick.  I'm placing this in Chapter 32: Cetology, where Melville debates whether a whale is a fish or a mammal.

North Atlantic Right Whale bookmark for Galore.  This mark is just right for a story set in the North Atlantic island of Newfoundland.  The story begins with the removal of a man from a beached whale. 
Although I don't promote my blog by placing bookmarks into children's books I borrow, I'm putting my Save the Whales sticker (a lagnaippe that came with my bookmark purchase) into Nightbirds on Nantucket.  Just a little surprise for one of the younger readers out there.
 Now, to recap my Tales of the Whales selections for May:

  1. My new release pick for the month was Michael Crummey's Galore.  I can't say enough good things about this book.  Read it; it has a wonderful, chowdery flavor you're going to love.  Here's my extended review.
  2. My classic pick was, of course, Moby Dick by Herman Melville.  This novel is a mixed bag.  An experimental tome in its day, it features comedy alongside the darkest tragedy, with pedantic passages interlaced throughout.  I'm not sure if I love it or not, but it's better than I expected.  Melville's way with words is just as mixed - sometimes overwrought, sometimes pure poetry.
  3. My nonfiction pick was a memoir by Lynne Coxe called Grayson.  Coxe is a life-time long-distance swimmer.  During a training swim when she was in high school, Coxe picked up a stray baby gray whale.  Fearing it would follow her to shore and beach itself, she stayed with it for hours in the water until the mother whale showed up.  The writing is unimpressive, and the short synopsis I gave you includes all that's interesting about the story.  Coxe attempts to be inspirational, but her insights sink beneath waves of bad writing.  Here's the review.
  4. For the kiddies, I read Nightbirds on Nantucket by Joan Aiken.  It was written in the mid 1960s about children in the late 19th century.  I'm not sure modern children will have the patience for it, although, on the whole, I enjoyed it.  The story trots along very well for the most part, but the climax was a little off-putting to me.  It seemed like a device to pander to Kennedy-era American readers rather than something that truly belonged in a story about whaling ships and a spunky English girl.  For more explanation of that, read my review.
  5. For writers, I read Steering the Craft by Ursula K. LeGuin.  A short little book developed from a workshop, Steering the Craft includes fun exercises to help writers better steer and craft their work.  LeGuin's conversational and encouraging tone adds to the appeal.  She feels like your own personal mentor.  For more details, read the review.
For more fun with whales, check out these websites:
  • Power Moby Dick: The Online Annotation: This site has the complete text of the novel as well as helpful hints for modern readers struggling with the 19th century jargon.
  • Schmoop's Moby Dick :  This site gives a thorough and entertaining discussion of everything in Moby Dick from symbolism, to point of view, to characters, to plot.  This site guts and fillets the whole novel for you so you won't miss any of Melville's literary goodness.
  • Iron Bound Bucket: A tumblr dedicated to Moby Dick, Melville, and all things "whaley".
  • There's actually an @MobyDick Twitter listing.  Tweets appear to be mostly quotes from the book.
  • Save the Whales: In addition to giving visitors a chance to donate money to Save the Whales, this site features educational information, whale folklore, and heart-warming stories about how whales have helped humans.  There is also a neat Right Whale science activity teachers can do with their classes.
  • There's a book by English author Carol Birch that will be coming to America in June.  It's called Jamrach's Menagerie, and it's generating some buzz across the pond.  It's partly based on the real-life sinking of the whale ship Essex in 1820.  Read these reviews from The Independent and The Guardian.  You will be intrigued. 
My Tales of the Whales module is complete.  Stick a harpoon in it - it's done!

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