Tuesday, January 22, 2013

The Poppy Lady

Non-fiction Picture Book Review
The Poppy Lady: Moina Belle Michael and Her Tribute to Veterans
By Barbara Elizabeth Walsh, Paintings by Layne Johnson

This is a very different kind of non-fiction picture book that will be appreciated by any parent who is trying to instill in their children a respect for the troops. The story is about Moina Belle Michael, a schoolteacher from Georgia, who wanted to do something for the soldiers fighting in World War I.  Moina worked to establish the red poppy as the symbol to honor and remember soldiers. And she devoted the rest of her life to making sure the symbol would last forever. Thanks to her hard work, that symbol remains strong today. Author Barbara Elizabeth Walsh and artist Layne Johnson worked with experts, primary documents, and Moina’s great-nieces to better understand Moina’s determination to honor the war veterans.

The prologue begins with a biography of Moina.  A dark blue painting of the night-time bombing of an American ship by the German U-boats in March 1917 is followed by a bright green painting of Moira on the European countryside.  Next the countryside is laid waste, showing planes bombing and devastating the land, with troops in the trenches.  In April 1917 Moira is shown receiving the news of war at the University of Georgia.  Another night scene shows Moira at the campus, waiting for news and wondering what she could do.  She is shown leading women in their work for the Red Cross, rolling bandages, visiting the troops at the nearby camps, and seeing them off on the train.  She goes to Columbia University to train for the YMCA; there she serves the troops at Hamilton Hall.  She finds that by brightening the dark room with flowers, the troops are happy to come spend time there.  She is inspired by the brightly colored illustration of a battleground covered with unmarked crosses and red poppies, accompanying a poem called “We Shall Not Sleep” by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae.  It ends with the line, “We shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders fields”.  She starts to give the men poppies and begins a mission to have everyone wear poppies in honor of the troops.  The Epilogue explains how the poppy lives on as a way to thank those who fought to give us freedom.  The paintings are realistic and full of emotion.  The book was well-researched, and provides a Bibliography for further reading.

A portion of the book’s proceeds will support the National Military Family Association’s Operation Purple®, which benefits children of the U.S. military.

Ages: 7-11
Pages: 40
List Price: $16.95
Cover: Hardcover
Published: 9/1/2012
ISBN-13: 978-1-59078-754-0

10 iPhone Apps that Remind You to Pray

Paul Taylor at the Babysitting Jobs blog did a very good post on ten prayer apps that remind you of prayer time,  help track prayer intentions and provide prayers for various intentions.  They are worth checking out.  

Here's what Paul said:

The frenetic pace of today’s hectic world can make it difficult to keep up with even the most important things. Finding time to pray and remembering to do so isn’t always easy, especially when you have so many other things on your plate. Thankfully, the same mobile device that can help you streamline work meetings, arrange outings with friends and coordinate playdates for your kids can also help you to make sure that your spiritual needs aren’t neglected. These 10 iPhone apps are great tools for managing prayers and helping you remember to set aside time each day to dedicate to prayer.

Check them out here: http://www.babysittingjobs.com/blog/10-iphone-apps-that-remind-you-to-pray/  

Movie Review: The Last Stand - R

Arnold is back as Sheriff Ray Owens, a former LAPD Narcotics cop, and the current Sheriff of quiet border town Sommerton Junction.  Not much happens there, until Ray gets a call from the FBI that Drug Kingpin Gabriel Cortez escaped during transport and is headed through Sommerton Junction, to the Mexican border.  Owens and his team must  stop Cortez from crossing the border.  

A good story with lots of action, and a number of entertaining moments. 

  It was good to see Arnold back,  and I think it was written and executed pretty realistically;  his role fit his age, and he didn't pretend to be  younger than he is.  Forest Whitaker is good as FBI Agent John Bannister

  Content warnings include violence, and some blood in scenes.  

A Very entertaining movie.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Review: Etched...Upon My Heart: What We Learn and Why We Never Forget by Jill Kelly

 Jill Kelly shares with the reader the tragedy of learning that her son Hunter had Leukodustrophy, her family's struggle to deal with the disease, and how they turned to God to help them through it.  One of the most remarkable parts is how she uses every aspect of the struggle and, in fact, life,  to lead her closer to the Lord.   She breaks it out into 8 chapters, sharing what they've learned about each, mainly from Hunter's struggle.  Here are some of the lessons she shares, that should be 'etched upon our hearts'. not to forget: 

  Love - God is love - you cannot know what real love is apart from knowing God.  
 Significance - Our failures will eventually lead us into God's faithfulness

 Forgiveness - Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  
Suffering - Everyone will face painful trials - no one is exempt.   Suffering is part of God's plan for his children.  
Faithfulness - But the Lord is faithful, and he will strengthen and protect you from the evil one (Thessalonians 3:3)  

A very touching story which is somehow tragic, hopeful and uplifting at the same time.  Above all, it is inspirational, showing us how to use life's crosses to bring us closer to the Lord. 

About the Author: Jill Kelly is the wife of former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly. In September 1997, months after their infant son, Hunter, was diagnosed with a fatal disease called Krabbe Leukodustrophy, Jim and Jill founded the Hunter’s Hope Foundation. As chairman of the board of Hunter’s Hope, Jill helps children suffering from Leukodystrophy, and their families by raising awareness and research funds to fight this devastating disease. She and Jim live in Buffalo, NY, with their two daughters and three dogs. Hunter’s Hope Foundation can be found online at www.HuntersHope.org. Jill is also the author of Without A Word

The life of St. Barbara hits the Big Screen

It's a life story that's meant to be shared. The life of St. Barbara is hitting the big screen. Famous Italian producer Lux Vide, who has experience with these types of films, is leading the project. 

Justin Bieber’s Mom to Promote Pro-Life Movie “Crescendo”

Pattie Mallette has agreed to take on the role of executive producer of Crescendo.  

In that capacity Mallette will promote Crescendo in Movie To Movement’s initiative to raise $10 million for pregnancy care centers this year by hosting 1,000 screenings across the globe. (The initial goal I reported of $1 mil via 100 screenings is for opening night, February 28.)  

Mallette has videotaped a message to be shown at prc screenings.

  From the press statement:

  “My hope through this involvement is to encourage young women all over the world, just like me, to let them know that there is a place to go, people who will take care of you and a safe home to live in if you are pregnant and think you have nowhere else to turn,” says Mallette



Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review: The 5 Money Personalities by Scott and Bethany Palmer

Money has become the number one cause of divorce in the United States.  This book describes how different people view money.  This can be classified into 5 distinct Money Personalities.  They are:
  1. The Saver
  2.  The Spender
  3. The Security Seeker
  4. The Risk Taker
  5. The Flyer 
These different money types can cause conflict between people, and that's where this book comes in...Scott and Bethany, the "Money Couple", try to help couples work together on money issues by identifying and adapting to their partner's money type and trying to achieve shared goals.  

This book is enjoyable and informative.  it is not just helpful to the money relationship, but to other aspects of a relationship because the same principles apply .  It is a must-read for any couple. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Book Review: Frozen Footprints

Frozen Footprints by Therese Heckenkamp Arcadia, CA: Tumblar House, 2012 Reviewed by Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur "Frozen Footprints" is the latest contribution to Catholic suspense by Therese Heckenkamp, author of "Past Suspicion." I freely admit, suspense is not my genre of choice, but Heckenkamp once again managed to keep me interested and invested in this story.

Charlene and Max Perigard are twins, raised by their grandfather, a wealthy oil tycoon who wants little to do with them. When Max is kidnapped, their grandfather thinks it is all a scam and wants nothing to do with it. Charlene then goes after Max on her own and soon becomes trapped as well.

The vast majority of the story takes place in a cabin in the woods and centers on the relationship among Max, Charlene, their captor Abner and his brother Clay. It also, as one might expect given the Catholic fiction designation, focuses on each of the character's relationship with God. Each struggles with God in his or her own way.

Abner, the evil one, is a former seminarian who has since rejected God and now worships the devil. He is truly terrifying. Clay would like to believe in God but, after he accidentally caused his father's death when he was seven years old, feels that God has abandoned him. Max and Charlene have both been turned off of religion by their grandfather, yet in their hour of need turn to God and ask for help, even when it seems God is ignoring their pleas.

 Interestingly, I found a very minor character in the story - the mother of Abner and Clay - to be the one that intrigued me the most. She is a devout Catholic, and has remained faithful despite a rash of horrible events in her life. She also teaches Charlene an important lesson at a time when she needs it the most. I think that a story from this mother's point of view would be very compelling.

Overall, if one enjoys Catholic suspense, this would be a good read. It is especially well-suited to teens and young adults.

Book Review: THE CHURCH BUILDING AS A SACRED PLACE: Beauty, Transcendence, and the Eternal

Although I admit I really enjoyed the many pictures of beautiful churches, this is so much more than just a picture book.   There is a lot more involved with church design and architecture than I knew, or most readers might know.  Here are few of the chapters included (there are 23 chapters and 3 appendixes):  

The Altar as the Center of the Church:Principles of Design  
The Purpose of a Church Learning from Rome  
Canonical Church Documents  
The Sizes of Churches (the dimensions of the most well-known Basilica's and Cathedrals world-wide)   

The clear emphasis is on the nature and purpose of churches.  Mr. Stroik is a true champion of beauty in churches and indeed, here is one of his predictions for  the future of Catholic Architecture:  

A renaissance of Catholic architecture will ensue, when large numbers of the lay faithful and the Church leadership begin demanding beauty in the house of God An excellint and inspiring book.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Movie Review: Les Miserables - PG13

 Many of you are probably familiar with this story: Ex-prisoner Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is hunted for decades by the ruthless policeman Javert (Russell Crowe) after he runs away from parole. And when Valjean agrees to care for factory worker Fantine's (Anne Hathaway) young daughter, Cosette, the chase continues.  

Jackman, Crowe and Hathaway are all good in their roles.  I was particularly impressed by how well Anne Hathaway sings, as I had not heard her sing before.      

The music is very good, but the story is  very drawn out. 
I  was also disappointed at the amount of violence in the story.

  I think the movie is very overrated, probably because of the success of the Broadway version.  No doubt expectations are high, but the movie falls short of them. Content ..

warnings  include a scene where Fantine sells herself to raise money for her daughter, and several  scenes of violence (i.e. people walking through pools of blood in the street).


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Review of "Les Miserables"

There is something in me which resists popular movies, music, and TV series. That new piece of entertainment which everyone is talking about so often disappoints me by its shallowness or downright offensiveness. “It can’t be good if it’s that popular,” I argue, “we have such abominable collective taste”. A quick view of the cable film offerings for New Year’s Day, including such winners as “The Hangover” and “Knocked Up” confirms this cynical attitude about entertainment.  I was finally convinced by my insistent teenagers that I must see “Les Miserables”.  I had seen the play on Broadway, as well as three earlier film versions, so it wasn’t the story I was resisting, just the fact that the latest version is so popular. There must be some Church bashing, offending of traditional morality, or just plain banalization of Victor Hugo’s eternal themes of repentance, redemption, and sacrifice, I feared. I did not want to see a beautiful story deconstructed by some egotistic director.
I humbly admit I was wrong. From the breathtaking opening scene, the soaring music and ethereal cinematography held my emotions captive, causing me to laugh and even weep.  I was not alone. The theatre was full of seniors and college age kids who stayed behind after the credits engaged in passionate discussions of the film’s themes, the advantages of operatic style, and even the idea of redemptive love. The poignant acting of Anne Hathaway (Fantine), Hugh Jackman (Jean Valjean) Amanda Seyfried (Cosette as an adult) and Russell Crowe (Javert) was the perfect complement to the passionate score. Only Amanda Seyfried and her younger counterpart Isabelle Allen (young Cosette) have the angelic voices required by the demanding songs, but that didn’t diminish the film’s commanding impact. It rather heightened it as I was moved by the raw emotions in voices, not their beauty. Jean Valjean was in agony for much of the film, and if his voice had the range and power of Pavarotti it might have been distracting, even comical. Did it ever bother you that Mimi in “La Boheme” sings a full bodied aria just before succumbing to consumption? Save the operatic voices for the CD, the actors’ singing was sensitive to the story and kept this viewer engrossed more than any previous version.
Les Miserables was beautiful in an even more vital manner. Never in recent films has the Catholic Church's role in the life of an individual been so poetically depicted. The genial bishop who evoked St Jean Vianney, the feminine grace of the wimpled nuns, the splendor of the chapels of Jean Valjean’s conversion and final departure into heaven, the Catholic Church’s important role in the conversion of a bitter convict to a saint is one which is drawing even the cynical to the theatres. We have experienced God’s grace, we know it when we see it, and there is nothing more rewarding than to see a true artist’s depiction of it on screen. The screenwriters, composers, and directors not only didn’t hinder Hugo’s original intent, they magnified it using the best of special effects, cinematography, and orchestration. That is what art is meant to be, raising one’s mind and heart toward heaven, or, in other words, prayer. Les Miserables reaches that height at times and I left the theatre comparing my own attitude towards my loved ones to Jean Valjeans’. In other words, were there more films of the beauty and power of “Les Miserables” there might be more Jean Valjeans in the world.
The moral impact of the film rests upon stark contrast between the noble and ignoble: depictions of sexuality, immodesty, disturbing violence and vulgarity. This is not a film for children or young adolescents. Older teens will find this film inspiring. It’s the must see of the year.