This is a book I started and stopped reading midway a few years ago. I decided to give it another chance -- mostly for two reasons: 1--it is electionThis is a book I started and stopped reading midway a few years ago. I decided to give it another chance -- mostly for two reasons: 1--it is election season and so I decided to read more political books and 2-August 4 is Obama's birthday and so I decided to read it in honor of his public service given it is the last birthday he will celebrate as US President.
Part one is Origins ( absorbing and informative on a reread in particular his early Hawaii family story and his Indonesian years), Part 2 is Chicago ( my attention wandered the first time, resulting in my abandoning the book, and the second try still had me skimming frequently) but Part 3 (Kenya) fascinated me immensely and made me realize I'd stopped reading too soon.
I wish one of my own relatives had written a memoir -- and particularly one that contained so much information.
It was a benefit of history that Obama wrote and published this book as a young adult-- long before anyone could imagine the author would eventually become President of the US.
The book has some splendid writing; however, I did notice that the book did not touch my emotional side very often in spite of the facts that are really rather emotional.
Recommended to anyone interested in President Obama as a person....more
Smithsonian Notable Book for Children 1998 Bookbuilders of Boston Best Book Award (in 1998) for the hardcover.
The most recent paperback edition (reprinSmithsonian Notable Book for Children 1998 Bookbuilders of Boston Best Book Award (in 1998) for the hardcover.
The most recent paperback edition (reprinted about 2015) has a new cover, which I personally prefer.
I've lived in multiple regions of the United States, one being New England. Each region's sense of place is influenced by the landscape. In New England where I have lived in 5 of the 6 New England states (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island), stone walls are indisputably part of the sense of place and part of the common cultural heritage.
In one small town where I lived a few decades ago, a truck with a huge sign "WE BUY STONE WALLS" used to travel around the main highway. I also remember seeing a mass mailed post card asking property owners --like me and like Grandpa in STONE WALL SECRETS -- to sell their old stone walls. The ad promised good money!
One day an old stone wall I'd gotten accustomed to seeing along a rural highway (and which I confess I probably had taken for granted) went missing! Not just a few stones (something I'd seen before), but an entire old wall, sadly, gone. Seeing the changed landscape for me felt a bit like seeing a store mannequin without any clothes. Yes, the wall belonged to an individual property owner, but in a sense, that wall belonged to everyone. My hope is that the individual property owner at least paused before he or she decided to disappear that history and that piece of New England heritage.
Grandpa in STONE WALL SECRETS did pause. Grandpa thinks about what it might mean to sell the stone walls; he doesn't tell Adam what decision to make; he shares his elder wisdom and specialized knowledge with his grandson. Grandpa seems to understand that selling the walls is selling heritage and history that belongs as much to Adam and future generations as to Grandpa himself. If Grandpa doesn't sell the walls, the generations that follow might also be able to choose whether to cherish and preserve the heritage stone walls -- or sell or bulldoze them away. The walls may be appreciated more and so survive longer if Grandpa's knowledge and wisdom continue even after he is gone.
In my younger days in New England, I confess I took the old stone walls for granted. Nobody much was talking about them as a precious part of New England's identity-- as a signature landscape for the region. Like Adam, I didn't think much about stone walls being part of the visual commons, about them being historic archeology. Participating in the publication of the 1998 STONE WALL SECRETS by Kristine and Robert Thorson, illustrated by Gustav Moore, I credit with influencing my own thinking about stone walls.
In the last couple decades, there has been an increased public conversation about New England's signature landform, stimulated by the Stone Wall Initiative and its three stone wall books.
STONE WALL SECRETS is the first of three stone wall books connected to the Stone Wall Initiative (at the University of Connecticut) designed so fewer of us take the stone walls for granted. The Stone Wall Initiative encourages the appreciation, investigation, education, and conservation of New England's heritage stone walls. The content is essentially non-fiction apart from the fictional characters of Grandpa and Adam; it's the only one written specifically for children and their teachers. (Note: teaching and curricula materials are available online through the SWI.)
The second book STONE BY STONE by Robert Thorson won the Connecticut Book Award for Non-Fiction in 2003.
The third book EXPLORING STONE WALLS by Robert Thorson is a handbook written in answer to many questions asked of the Stone Wall Initiative after the publication of the first two stone wall books.
The Connecticut State Museum of Natural History houses the STONE WALL INITIATIVE and currently can be reached by the following link:
May future generations continue to learn about New England's historic stone walls and may this help them appreciate how special they really are. I am glad to have been part of this book project that has helped that worthy effort....more