Pam Webb

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “authors”

National Read a Book Day


It’s obvious I’m a Book Booster. Reading, reviewing, writing. Celebrating access to books. Promoting reading. A book in hand whenever possible. Today’s national recognition is an everyday celebration for me.

I couldn’t fathom not having a book handy to read.

How about you? Is this a special day or an everyday note of recognition?

Book Birthday Two


Two Years Today!

Two years ago on April 7th, Someday We Will debuted ready to greet the world with its message of the joy that comes with anticipating a visit with those we love, especially visits with grandparents.

Two years ago was also the start of the pandemic. Schools, businesses, transportation, borders, so much shut down as the world learned how to cope with Covid.

Not the most advantageous time to promote a debut picture book. Ironically enough (although one librarian deemed it prescient) the book’s focus is on the joy of coming together after being separated.

Covid was not on my mind when I submitted the book for publication to Beaming Books two years earlier.My thoughts were on the joy experienced whenever I visit my granddaughter.

Separation has taken on deeper meaning with Covid. There is more involved, more considerations when planning a visit. “Someday we will…”and “Someday is here!” has more personal meaning these days.

With libraries and bookstores open once again to in-person events, I look forward to making the rounds and promoting Someday We Will.

In these past two years have you had your someday turn into today? I hope so! That moment of being reunited with a loved one is not just for grandparents and grandchildren.

In the meantime I’ve been busy writing and submitting other stories and look forward to sharing more book birthdays with you.

Looking to order the book?

Looking for reviews? Goodreads

Bard Bits: Shakespeare Is For Everyone? (That is the question…)


As an AP English teacher, Shakespeare is naturally part of the curriculum and it’s expected my students adore the Avon man as much as I do. Not usually the case. As for my regular sophomores? The groans when we approach Julius Caesar can discouraging. Yet, it is often in how Shakespeare is taught that makes a difference. This is a separate topic. The main topic is the assumption that Shakespeare is for everyone and they are going to like it. That’s like saying exercising is for everyone. It should be, but face it, not everyone embraces a push-up or a run around the block. Some like the idea of exercising and others have tried it, and many let others revel in it. So it goes with Shakespeare.

AUSTIN TICHENOR is the creator of The Shakespereance; co-artistic director of the Reduced Shakespeare Company. He contributed a thought-provoking article about Shakespeare. Here is the gist of his rhetorical stance:

Is Shakespeare for everyone? Of course he is! Absolutely!

I just wish people would stop saying it.

In Shakespeare’s day, his plays — and plays by others, and theater generally — really were for everyone. All levels of society congregated to see and hear plays in performance, to share gossip and news, and to rub literal and metaphorical elbows. Not just a source for entertainment, Shakespeare’s theater was the internet of its day.

But beginning in the 19th century, theater (and opera and symphonies) became co-opted by the upper class who wanted to keep socially — often meaning ethnically and economically — “unacceptable” people out of the theater, turning what was originally popular culture into “high” culture and using the arts as a tool of status and exclusion.

Worse, as a by-product of imperialism, Shakespeare was imposed on non-English speakers in different countries, held up as the best playwright in the world with the understanding that only by learning his plays and accepting his greatness — and, by extension, the greatness of the English language and Anglo-European culture — could one become truly civilized.

So I get it: “Shakespeare is for everyone” is an important correction, a reminder that Shakespeare’s plays were written to be popular entertainments, designed to appeal to everyone from the groundlings to the nobility.

But I worry that “Shakespeare is for everyone” nowadays feels less like a promise and more like a threat; the implication being that if you don’t like him, there’s something wrong with you..

Because the truth is, Shakespeare isn’t for everyone, and it’s disingenuous to suggest that it is. Nothing is for everyone: Personally, I don’t like opera, baseball, or video games, and in London at the turn of the 17th century, there were tens of thousands of people who undoubtedly preferred to skip another one of Shakespeare’s epics and head to the bear-baiting pits instead.

So what’s the alternative? I prefer saying “Shakespeare is for anyone who wants him.” For many reasons (i.e., the comedies aren’t funny, the language is incomprehensible, the kings and their nobles are confusing, the references archaic), Shakespeare is demonstrably not for everyone. And that’s okay. But I’ll argue till my dying day that he can and should be made available to anyone who wants him, with many different entry points for people of all levels and interests, whether they be live productions, fascinating lectures, compelling museum exhibitions, excellent films and videos, or even, dare I suggest, pop-up books. One of the first steps in appreciating Shakespeare, it seems to me, is being honest about his output, for we can only truly appreciate his greatness by being discerning enough to recognize the parts that don’t measure up, and understanding that no matter what we do, he still won’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

A Round Up of Good Reads: 2021


My Year in Books
Good Reads of 2021

THE DETAILS:
Pages read: 29,532
Books read: 102
Shortest book read: 40 pages

Ada's Violin by Susan Hood
So inspiring!

Longest book read: 1,008 pages

Shakespeare After All by Marjorie Garber
A bounty for Bardinators

Average book length: 289 pages
Most popular: Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library–over 1 million reads (although I did not favor it)
Least popular: Lucius Adelno Sherman’s What is Shakespeare: An Introduction to the Great Plays (not everyone appreciates Shakespeare)
Average book rating: 4.3 (I must be particular)
Highest rated by Goodreads readers:

Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Captured a 4.51 rating–a likable read, no doubt a movie is in the making

First review of the year: One Hundred Years of Children’s Books in America, Decade by Decade edited by Jane Yolen and Marjorie N. Allen. An underrated and overlooked sampling of books and the history of America from the early 1800s to the 1990s–would like to see a more current edition.
Five star rated books: 11 (I really am particular discerning)

Hitting my reading goal of 101 (the year isn’t over yet) creates a fine sense of accomplishment, especially since it became increasingly more difficult to sit down and focus on reading. After school started I found myself with a certain lassitude that gravitated towards passive viewing of animal shows, Western movies, and of course, my old standby of Dr. Who reruns.

Your Turn:
Did you hit your reading goal for the year?

Any stand out reads? I’m always looking for the next TBR item.

Bard Bits: Being a Bad Be


Be the best you can be

Even if you are not familiar with Hamlet you are probably aware of Hamlet’s anguished soliloquy of questioning his existence. It’s such a well-known speech that it is almost a cliché. It’s ripe for parody.

A “B” by any other name…

However, there is a wee bit of scholarly doubt if the “To Be” speech that is proffered in plays is the “To Be” that Shakespeare intended. The problem being (yes, a bit of play on the play’s speech) is that Shakespeare’s plays were published without him having proofed the final copy, and most of his plays were published after his death. That’s another post.

When his plays were sent to the printer, they might have been copies taken from someone’s memory, such as an actor or an audience member—accuracy wasn’t exactly sound. These manuscripts came in three forms: good (from the theatre company and with permission), bad (someone’s recall), and dubious (another version of recall, but even worse in content).

The printer would create “quartos,” which were pages folded twice to create four leaves, or eight pages. Scholars have divided the available found quartos in “good” and “bad.”

Bad quartos have no authority and the manuscript content is suspect. Here is an example of a “bad” quarto line:

To be, or not to be, Ay, there’s the point,

To Die, to sleepe, is that all? Ay all:

No, to sleep to dreame, I marry there it goes.

Compared with the standard, recognized lines:

To be, or not to be–that is the question:

Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die to sleep–

Some scholarly squabbles exist concerning if “bad” quartos are really all that bad.. The lines might have been rough drafts and since Shakespeare isn’t about for consultation, it’s suggested to leave the matter be.

Storytime Highlights


Debut Appearance
A memorable debut storytime

April 7, 2020 my debut picture book, Someday We Will, arrived and then accessible venues shutdown. It’s definitely challenging trying to promote a book when libraries, schools, and bookstores are closed.

Even though creative promotional endeavors emerged, there is nothing quite like sharing the book with a live audience.

The local library reopened public events with its first storytime held in their new garden area June 19, 2021. Leading off the first storytime in over a year was an honor and an absolute delight.

Kimber, the youth services librarian and several library staff members, worked hard to create the event. Library storytime in a library garden is an ideal venue for a picture book that celebrates the joy of doing outdoor activities together.

After reading the book we blew bubbles, created sidewalk chalk art, jumped rope, and made Someday Jars. All accomplished in an hour!

I look forward to the next public event.

Reader Round Up: Good Night Mr. Tom


One book pops up as the June spotlight read: Good Night, Mr. Tom by Michelle Magorian.

Though it was published in 1986, it has an old-fashioned story cadence to it, being almost a Dickens novel in scope.

A captivating read

The story has so many deep issues that it is surprising it is considered a children’s novel. Child abuse and abandonment are two central issues. There is also the painful experiences of children evacuated from London to billet safely out in the country with strangers during WWII. Magorian weaves these and other issues in with her engaging story of matching a young malnourished boy, William, with a flinty widower, Tom.

Tom’s unhurried persistence to helping William settle in hastens the boy to heal both physically and emotionally, and as a result Tom also begins healing of the grief over losing his wife and child forty years earlier.

The joy of childhood, making friends, trying out new experiences, and the deep bond of friendship comes singing through the expressive prose. A thoughtful perspective of how the London evacuees fared as well as those who took them in during the war.
For those who enjoyed Carrie’s War, Goodnight, Mister Tom is recommended.

Story Time!


After a year of shutting down most public programs, our local library is opening up one of their most popular programs: Story time. The best part is I’m going to lead off a summer’s worth of local author reads. If you are in the neighborhood be sure to drop by!

Someday is here!

Reader Round Up: May


Even though I read seventeen books last month, which keeps me at six books ahead of schedule, May’s five star reads were slim. There were several enjoyable reads, yet only one good read, or in this case a great read.

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton

Published in 1948, Paton’s book became a recognized bestseller that still has relevance today. The story of two fathers, one an umfundisi, a native reverend of a poor district, and the other a white landholder who owns a successful farm, High Place. Each father loses their only son, one by the hand of the other, yet the sons’ death brings these men together during a time when racial tensions are rising to a concerning level. A searing portrayal of the pain of separation–separation of family, separation of traditional values, separation of people inhabiting the land, the country. This was a rereading as I wanted to teach it as a unit to my juniors. So far it’s been well received. Plus, I don’t mind having an excuse to familiarize myself with excellent literature.

Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton | BookDragon

Any of you read at least one really notable book in the month of May?

Reader Round Up: February, March, April


That’s a big oops. My carefully planned blogging schedule has blown up due to malaise. I admittedly got caught up in the Winter Slumps and thought about posting but didn’t. I did read, though, which helped keep me occupied during the looonnng evenings (dark at 4 pm is cruel). Spring is now here and that means sunshine has restored my energy levels.

In order to get caught up I will select the favorites reads from the last three months to review. These are all five star reads.

A Gentleman in Moscow: A Novel: Towles, Amor: 9780670026197: Amazon.com:  Books

Once upon a time, in the land of Russia, lived a charming count by the name of Alexander Rostov. And while it might seem demeaning to compare A Gentleman in Moscow to a fairy tale, Towles has deftly tweaked all the elements of that endearing (and enduring) genre into a sophisticated story that is enthralling, entertaining, enlivening, and quite satisfying. The bonus is once I learned Kenneth Branagh was Rostov in the planned series, the enjoyment became doubled as Branagh fleshed out Rostov’s appearance in my mind’s eye. One of the best reads I’ve experienced in quite a long time

Amazon.com: The Art of X-Ray Reading: How the Secrets of 25 Great Works of  Literature Will Improve Your Writing eBook: Clark, Roy Peter: Kindle Store

The Art of X Ray Reading reminds me of Thomas Foster’s How to Read Literature Like a Professor. Both books prompt me to practice closely reading the book in hand. While Foster provides a magnifying glass, Clark provides a kaleidoscope to better see the rich colors within the writing. His choice of books are hit or miss with me, but he did touch on a couple of favorites that I will absolutely pay more attention to on the next reading. The writing lessons alone are worthwhile and are inspiring. I applied the X Ray lens to an AP Lang lesson and brought new meaning to the piece. I look forward to my next AP Literature class and seeing how students pick up The Great Gatsby clues. Makes me wish I could teach Creative Writing once again.

Miss Fortune (Allie Fortune Mystery Series, Book 1): Mills, Sara:  9780802469267: Amazon.com: Books

Shades of The Maltese Falcon drift through this tribute to the 1940’s detective novel. Instead of a tough private investigator who runs with fast women and drives a faster car, readers contend with the “Princess P.I., a savvy socialite who has earned a reputation for being one of the best in the business. At first the cliche phrases and situations were off-putting, that is until I accepted them as pastiche. A solid plot worthy of a Bogart film, intrigue and humor, and a double storyline create a fast-paced read and an anticipation for the second book.

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An amazingly positive story of how one man turned trash into a treasury of music. The story and colorful illustrations blend and harmonize as the background story of Paraguay’s Recycled Orchestra is told through Ada and her violin. Truly inspirational how beauty was found among the tons of garbage and how a dream became a reality that changed lives.

Henry and Ribsy - Wikipedia

As a tribute to the recent passing of Beverly Cleary I grabbed Henry and Ribsy off the library shelf since she was an author I appreciated growing up. Granted, some of the situations and attitudes are a bit dated; however, kid and dog antics run true and are timeless.

Fahrenheit 451: Ray Bradbury: 9781451673319: Amazon.com: Books

When I first read F451 back in my twenties I no doubt appreciated Bradbury’s lyrical warning of a supposed future. This last read is a revisit due to both curiosity if it’s as good as I remember and because we are studying it as a class in AP Lang. Yes. It’s still as good. Wait–it’s much, much better due to Bradbury’s future coming fast upon us.

The Return of the Twelves: Clarke, Pauline, Bryson, Bernarda:  9781585790210: Amazon.com: Books

Books like The Borrowers, a tiny family in a big world, enthralled me as a child. Somehow, The Return of the Twelves, which echoes believing the unbelievable, escaped my reading attention. As an adult, and a “brontyfan,” I appreciate this story so much more. It’s rather a back door introduction for young readers to the brilliance of Charlotte and her Bronte siblings. The story itself is typical of the sixties, where children are precocious and are possessed of much more independence than their contemporary readers. Parents are presented as absent-minded, patronizing, or clueless of their children’s lives. Clarke’s story presents a likable cast of characters, particularly Max, who becomes protector of the Twelves or Young Men. His responses to their animation have a sense of verisimilitude as he both indeed at their existence while remaining fiercely protective of them. The plot cleverly provides the actions of the Twelves through a combination of the present and through Max’s imaginative efforts. At times the plot wobbles on timeworn, but will suddenly turn the corner with a refreshing twist. A satisfying read for those who like adventure and can still believe at least six impossible things before breakfast.

Amazon.com: Love in Lowercase: A Novel (9780143128212): Miralles, Francesc,  Wark, Julie: Books

A quirky book difficult to place genre-wise. Love story? Quest? Mystery? Not muchly magical realism? In some ways it reminds me of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist in that an ordinary young man begins to discover the extraordinary by stepping out of his comfort zone. Love In Lower-Case explores how it is too easy to fall into a routine, desiring for a change and when change begins to happen, it is difficult to accept. A likable character, odd circumstances, a mysterious cat, an annoying stranger, and a Yoda neighbor all mix together for a satisfying, though not earthshaking weekend read.

The Bronze Bow - Wikipedia

I would like to think as a young reader I would have appreciated the skillfully crafted story of a young Jewish man who discovers that love is stronger than hate, especially when facing such a fearsome enemy as the Romans; however, I doubt that I would have. I am ever so impressed with The Bronze Bow—its plot, setting, details, message. And the ending. The ending is absolutely stunning. As an adult I am absolutely impressed and moved, and I would like think my young reader self might have recognized the value of Speare. Maybe.

So many good reads kept my wits from dullifying totally through this last long winter. I can’t imagine not having a book to read.

Let me know if you’ve read any of these, or if I have tempted you to plump out your TBR list.

Happy reading!

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