Saturday, November 18, 2017

Furbish Family Cemetery

Another installment in my Forgotten Cemeteries  blog series. I began with Death and Espresso, and since then I've written posts on a couple other little graveyards in Milton Mills, NH and Somersworth, NH that seem to have gone by the wayside. This little resting place is on Route 1 in York, Maine.

The cemetery that attracts attention in York is the Old Burying Yard, because the grave of Mary Nasson, a suspected witch is enclosed there. But the little group of headstones that caught my attention is on a small hill as you enter York, and I noticed that all the stones have the same last name, so I suspected it's a family plot.

'The official name of it is Furbish Family Cemetery. It's just a tiny little plot of land, up on a little hill. Like the others, it's easy to miss if you're not looking for it.

It's a sad little cemetery; I know most people probably think that all cemeteries are sad, but this one only has several stones, and at least three of them are young children.  One named Lilian was three years old, and shares a stone with her father, Henry D. Furbish:

And there are also a couple of infants. One named David was two months old, and one named Emily S. (she appears to have been named after her mother) was just one month old.

Little cemeteries like this remind us how high the infant and child mortality rates were in previous centuries; unfortunately, one family losing three young children was not very rare due. 

Furbish Family Cemetery must have someone who cares for it, because the stones are all clean and upright and in good repair, and the grass is not overgrown. I couldn't find much more information on it, other than lots of listings in nearby towns and counties with the same surname, so it must be another old New England name.

I would love to write a book someday about all these little forgotten cemeteries that dot our country's major roadways.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Calling Dr. Laura

Since I've been reading all these middle-grade and YA graphic novels lately, I decided to read one that's actually intended for adults. Nicole Georges finds out from a palm reading that her biological father is (supposedly) still alive. The book is her memoir of growing up with a variety of different father figures, while discovering her sexual identity and navigating relationships with her mother, sisters, and romantic interests.

Although I couldn't relate to some aspects of the story, her struggle to reconcile some events in her past is one that most people can identify with. We all have things in our lives that take time to accept, and when we reflect on them we begin to understand how they have contributed to the people we have become.

Her geek chic style and dry observations are reminiscent of Daria:

But the illustrations are humorous and sophisticated at the same time:

If you're a fan of graphic novels, especially ones that are more artistic and not as mainstream, then this is a pretty good one.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Stranger Girls (who happen to be named Erin!)

I've waited a long time to be a superhero.  Too long. But finally, my day has come!

Meet Erin: the paper delivery girl with a strong throw, a sharp mind, and a smart mouth!

Okay, this character happens to share my name, and my newspaper delivery past-time, but she is actually one of the young heroines of the Paper Girls graphic novel series.

This book suggestion came up again and again as I was researching some books with Stranger Things-esque plots and ideas for a display at work:

This is the display I did for the library- 
notice that all the books are Upside Down!

The Paper Girls story takes place in the 1980's, and it features four friends who stick together despite the supernatural events that begin to overtake their town..   . And the story begins the morning right after Halloween.  .  .

Sound familiar?

There's a time-travel scenario, which is foreshadowed by Erin dreaming about an apple.  .  .

Readers might not understand the significance right away, but they will when they reach this panel:

Just as Stranger Things pays homage to the 80's with allusions to Ghostbusters, ET, Stand by Me and more, Paper Girls also has some recognizable references to the time period, like a kid dressed as Freddy Krueger for Halloween, and a dream meeting with Christa McAuliffe (the New Hampshire teacher who was selected by NASA, and was killed in the Challenger space shuttle disaster): 


And I totally had my own banana-yellow Walkman:

Paper Girls is the feminist comic series for fans of Stranger Things!

Monday, November 13, 2017

All's Faire in Middle School

Another fantastic graphic novel from Victoria Jamieson! Her 2015 book Roller Girl is the story of Astrid, an average middle-schooler who decides to enter to world of roller derby. She struggles to master skating, and maneuver around the rink, she also struggles to navigate old and new friendships.
Her new book, All's Faire in Middle School, contains similar themes about friends, family and pursuing your own interests. 

Imogene and her family work at the Renaissance Faire, so she was home-schooled. The story begins with her decision to enter the local public middle school. Each chapter page is beautifully designed, like it's from a book of Arthurian legends or fairy tales.


When she first gets to know her new classmates, Imogene think that maybe middle school will be easier than she first thought. She seems to have been adopted into the 'cool kids clique' without much trouble. She figures if she doesn't say much about her family, and their unique lifestyle, then she won't stand out, and the kids will have no reason to turn her out. But before long, Imogene begins to understand what it means to belong: it means wearing the right shoes, living in the right kind of house, having the right friends, and basically- NOT having a mind of your own.

She makes some pretty bad decisions- and it kind of breaks the heart of any adult reader because it reminds me of some of the bad decisions I made when I was that age, and the people I hurt, before it occurred to me that I was not the center of the universe.

The study of astronomy, and the heliocentric model, is a running theme in the book.

I think the part that I relate the most to is the character of the hermit. Imogene's family friend Cussie is playing the hermit character at the Renaissance Faire, but after Imogene ends up an outcast in school, she decides to retreat into her own metaphorical cave. "Basically, hermit mode involves not talking to anybody and ignoring dirty looks.  .  .ignoring anything that made me feel bad. Eventually I reached full invisibility levels at school."

This is also a tendency of mine. When I am hurt in some way, I just withdraw into myself, and will myself to become invisible.

The reason I enjoy these types of books so much is because not only do they remind me of what it's like to be a middle-schooler, but they reflect some of my own experiences. They also help me to see that I still have opportunities to grow.

Imogene realizes that being a hermit may insulate her from hurt, but it doesn't solve any problems. She decides to use her LARPing (Live Action Role Playing) skills that she utilizes at the Faire in her daily school life, playing a character that is confident and kind, like she Knight she aspires to become. Like, "fake it 'till you make it" thinking.

Another win for Victoria Jamieson, and for graphic novels, and the people who read them!

Friday, November 10, 2017


I can't say enough good things about this book.

"I'm a girl who studies for tests. I'm a girl who turns in homework on time. I'm a girl who tells her grandparents she'll be over in five minutes and shows up in three. I'm a girl who doesn't cause a fuss. I even shrink into my desk when a teacher calls on me in class. I'm a girl who would prefer to evaporate into the ether rather than draw even positive attention to herself."

Vivian Carter thought she was used to the ways of highschool life in her small Texas town: football, and football players, and pep rallies and cheerleaders. The football players are treated like gods, meanwhile the girls soccer team hasn't had new uniforms in decades. The boys play Bump 'n Grab in the hallways, and when girls complain about it, they're told that it's "just a joke".

Inspired by her mother's Riot Grrl youth, spent in Washington State attending punk shows and publishing feminist zines, Viv decides to take action. She begins her own zine, called Moxie, and anonymously distributes them around the school. When she sees the response, and realizes that she is not the only girl who is fed up with "the way things are" she is inspired to continue, and soon other girls in the school begin adopting Moxie as as a brand name for their own revolution.

This book is a narrative of a teen girl's feminist awakening. "It's not just one type of girl but all kinds. Jocks and loud girls and girls on the yearbook and quiet girls and black girls and white girls and brown girls." In this statement, Vivian is seeing for herself that feminism isn't a word for a punk-ish lifestyle, nor is it an indicator of someone's interests or appearance. Anyone can be a feminist. It also functions as a brief summary of third wave feminism. In case you need a cheat sheet:

-First wave feminism is considered to be the 19th century- early 1900's. This wave concerned itself with issues of its time such as voting rights, and a woman's rights regarding marriage and childbearing. It expanded to include advocacy for other marginalized groups, advancing causes such as abolition, Indian Rights, child welfare, and even animal rights.

-Second wave feminism came about in the 1960's, and focused on issues such as equal pay and labor activism, and women's right to control their reproductive destinies. It functioned on the idea of universal womanhood.

-Third wave feminism is a reaction to second wave feminism, and the assumptions and misconceptions that the "universal womanhood" philosophy operated on. Third wave feminism asserts that women are not the same simply because of biology, but that we are diverse due to our races, heritages, sexual orientations, gender identities and economic classes. We have worlds of differences among us, but rather than divide ourselves, we should use those differences to learn of each other's struggles and unite so that we can all achieve equality not only with men, but with each other.

*technically, we are now in the Fourth Wave, but that's something I'll wait to discuss in another post*

Even though Vivian gains a boyfriend in the story, and he's a really nice guy who supports her beliefs and her subversive efforts to undermine the chauvinist agenda of the school administration, she knows that he'll never truly understand:

"He can't ever know what it feels like to walk down a hallway and know you're getting judged for the size of your ass or how big your boobs are. He'll never understand what it's like to second guess everything you wear and how you sit and walk and stand in case it doesn't attract the right kind of attention, or worse, attracts the wrong kind. He'll never get how scary and crazy-making it is to feel like you belong to some big Boy Monster that decides it can grab you and touch you and rank you whenever and however it wants."

I was inspired to make a playlist, so here are a few songs that came to my mind as I was devouring this book:

Siouxsie and the Banshees "Hong Kong Garden" (1978)

Joan Jett "Bad Reputation" (1981)

Bikini Kill "Rebel Girl" (1993)

No Doubt "I'm Just a Girl" (1995)

Spiderbait "Sunshine on My Window" (1996)

FILI-13 "Mansplain It to Me" (2017)

This is a YA title, but I am 100% for adding this to a middle school collection. In fact, I think that's the perfect age for girls to read a book like this. Middle school is the point where most kids really begin to think about their values, and develop their ethics, and really start figuring out who they are, who they want to be, and what's important to them. It's also the age where we see alot of girls stop participating in class, start comparing their bodies to other girls, and the Mean Girls really begin to rise. They need to start thinking about how they are treated: by males, by other females, by the media.  .  .and compared to how they think they SHOULD be treated.

Moxie is more than a book. It's a call to action.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving

This was fate. I found a DVD of a Louisa May Alcott story for free on the side of the road. 

I'd heard of the story before, but I hadn't read it. Since Halloween is over, and it's a little too early for me to begin my Christmas movie viewings, I've been trying to compile some Thanksgiving themed movies that I can indulge in for this month. Obviously, this was meant to be.

This was a made-for-TV movie that debuted on the Hallmark channel. It did pretty well. I enjoyed the movie for what it is, but it does have ALOT of similarities to Little Women, which made me a little suspicious. I  know that Alcott wrote this story following the success of Little Women, but it seemed a little odd that she would write a short story with so many similar themes and conflicts, when she's proven to be a writer capable of so many different types of literature.

So after I finished the movie, I found my copy of the short story. I noticed that it's only about 30 pages long, and I wondered how such a story could be so short in the book and over an hour and a half on the screen.

It appears that the script for the TV movie stuff had entire storylines added in. The text simply describes how the children in a family try to make Thanksgiving dinner by themselves, after their mother must leave to visit their ailing grandmother.

The movie however has: a widowed mother raising her children, while struggling to pay the rent, and an estranged grandmother, who happens to be very wealthy who comes to visit. 

And just in case you might have forgotten what Little Women is like, this movie includes: a bout with scarlet fever, a father who served in the Civil War, a tomboyish, imaginative girl who enjoys writing stories, and a charming boy who lives next door who is her best friend.  .  .

**awkward silence**

So, the movie is obviously intended to appeal to fans of Little Women, but if I wanted to watch Little Women, I would just.  .  .watch my DVD of Little Women.  .  .makes sense, right?

I'd watch An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving again, especially since I found it for free, now that I've already resigned myself to the fact that it appears to be a slightly different version of the story I already know.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The Wendy Project

Peter Pan. Neverland. Pirates. Mermaids. It's always been one of my favorite stories, and it's constantly being retold and reimagined. I spend more time than most thinking about Peter Pan.

There are so many books that are prequels and sequels and companion stories and alternate versions of JM Barrie's text that it's impossible for me to list them all here. But there are not nearly as many graphic novel adaptations as there are picturebooks and novels, so Melissa Jane Osborne and Veronica Fish's The Wendy Project is already set apart by its format.

The story has a modern setting, but it's not a simple retelling. I'm always a little critical when it seems a classic story is put into a modern setting just for the novelty of it.  The character of Wendy is on a journey of grief; after she crashes a car, her brother Michael is lost. Wendy insists that she saw him fly off in the night with another boy, and her brother John agrees with what she saw. However, just like grown-ups, their parents do not believe them. They decide to send Wendy to psychologist to help her work through her grief and guilt. Her therapist gives her a sketchbook so that she can draw out the things she cannot say, and the story is told through her own illustrations.

Despite the fact that Wendy's car crashed into the water, where it remains, no trace has been found of Michael. Wendy continues to believe that he is not dead, simply lost. In the meantime, she befriends a boy at school named Eben Peters, whose carefree, and careless, manner attracts and frustrates Wendy.

The themes of Barrie's story are well preserved, and quotes from the original text are peppered through the sketchbook.

The portions of the book that depict 'real life' are black and white, with blue highlights. This communicates the harsh realities of everyday life, as well as the grief that Wendy carries with her every day.

The illustrations that relate to Peter Pan and Neverland are brilliantly colored- really, worthy of framing and hanging on your wall.

Through Wendy's eyes, we see the characters she encounters in her life drawn as Barrie's characters. Eben Peters becomes Peter Pan, an unfriendly cop becomes Captain Hook, and a party girl bears a striking resemblance to Tinkerbell. There aren't really any references to the Indians, except that the boys are once shown as having arrows while they're playing. I'm not sure I agree with deleting them altogether, but depictions of Tiger Lily are difficult to navigate sometimes.

This tactic also pays homage to the stage traditions of Peter Pan, with the same actor portraying both Mr. Darling as well as Captain Hook.

Wendy goes on a quest to find her brother Michael.

While in Neverland, Wendy finds many boys who have been Lost, along with Michael. Since he does not have any memory of her (Neverland makes people forget), Wendy tell him stories to try to get him to remember:

"I told him about birthday parties and LEGOS and how music feels.  .  .The way library books smell and that moment when you're sitting in the movie theater and the lights go down.  .  .I told him about Mom and Dad, laughter, peanut butter, school, lightning bugs, the valuer of naps, sledding, the nice guy at the car wash, and what a hug feels like.  .  ."

I'm probably going to end up buying this book for myself; even if it wasn't one of my all-time favorite stories, the illustrations are just too beautiful to not look at, over and over again.


The ending of the book reminded me alot of the movie The Shack, and the encounter that Mack has with Missy after she is 'lost.'