Day of Dialog 2016: Up Close and Intense

Day of Dialog logo

My colleagues and I flew to Chicago to attend Book Expo America, a huge annual gathering of publishers, authors, booksellers, and, increasingly, librarians. BEA lasted three days, the first of which we spent at the Day of Dialog, presented by School Library Journal (for professionals serving youth) and Library Journal (for professionals serving adults). BEA has been in New York for a number of years, but this year was hosted in Chicago, just to give us a change of scene.

Day of Dialog is a wondrously concentrated dose of information tailored specifically toward librarians and teachers whose work it is to push books on kids. SLJ knows just what we need, and presents individual speakers, panels of authors who address trends and issues in current literature, and panels of publisher representatives who fill us in on the hottest upcoming titles by their respective authors. Except for lunch, the participants stay in one room and just soak it all up.

Richard PeckRichard Peck was our opening speaker. At 82, he is still as sharp and witty as ever, and his remarks applied his seasoned wisdom to the edgiest current topics. Nothing is off the table with Mr. Peck! Years ago, while I was in graduate school, I carpooled with a school librarian who was having a tough time with a class of rowdy fifth-grade boys. She asked me for a title that she could read to them, hoping to get them interested in books. I suggested Peck’s The Teacher’s Funeral. Although the humor was down-home, I thought boys would really appreciate it. A couple of weeks later, she thanked me profusely. She bubbled over with good news about her boys, marveling that you could hear a pin drop in her class now, unless the boys were roaring with laughter in all the right places, and that they couldn’t wait to get to her class to hear the next chapter. We felt much the same way on Wednesday, hanging on his every word. You can get a taste of his speech on YouTube here  and here. His latest book, The Best Man, comes out in September.

There were great discussions on the making of children’s nonfiction, particularly illustrated nonfiction guaranteed to entice young ones into learning. If I may recommend a few, don’t miss Will’s Words, by Jane Sutcliffe, who invites us to explore the words and phrases introduced into our language by the bard’s works, Some Writer!, by Melissa Sweet, a biography of E.B. White of Charlotte’s Web fame, and Around America to Win the Vote, by Mara Rockliff, one of many excellent books on women’s suffrage coming out in this 100th anniversary year.

MG topicThe middle grade author panel was worth the price of admission for me. Middle grade books are the ones that we remember fondly from childhood, and almost all of the great classics fall here, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to The Secret Garden. These new authors discussed the truth that we find in children’s literature and the sometimes overwhelming issues that children deal with, whether the adults in their lives try to shield them or not. Middle Grade PanelAdam Gidwitz described his new medieval novel, The Inquisitor’s Tale, which he researched while in Europe with his historian wife. Quite a leap from his Tale Dark and Grimm and Star Wars retellings! I am looking forward to this one. Jason Reynolds, author of As Brave as You (among others), held us spellbound as he mused on the themes that were common to all of us as we read stories of other cultures. As he said, stories are true when they explore the fundamental touchstones of life, such as family and the universal need to be loved. I had the privilege of hearing Jason again at the AAP Children’s Author Dinner that evening (see photo below) when he went into greater depth about his new book that explores a boy’s discovery that his grandfather, who has always been his hero, is totally blind. It is our response to life’s surprises that makes us grow bitter or grow into heroes ourselves. I have a feeling Jason will be a new favorite author for me.

Betsy Bird
Betsy Bird

During lunch, I was able to speak to Betsy Bird, purveyor of SLJ’s celebrated blog Fuse#8, about the fabulous Children’s Literary Salon that she had hosted a couple of weeks before. Presented with the topic “Death and Theology in Children’s Literature,” Nathan (N.D.) Wilson, of 100 Cupboards fame, and Jeanne Birdsall, author of the beloved “Penderwicks” series, discussed the Christian and post-Christian humanist points of view, respectively. SLJ has made this and other webcasts available here. I highly recommend this webcast, particularly for Christian teachers and parents, and for fans of C.S. Lewis who want to see the author lauded for his children’s and adult works. I confess that I watched it live in my family room, weeping and saying, “Yes! This is why we sacrifice for the children!”

YA PanelAfter lunch, Laini Taylor gave a wry and thoughtful speech about genre fiction, which I love, but which is often not valued as highly as realistic fiction. Her hot pink hair was also on display in the following panel of women writers of young adult fiction. Here’s a new statistic by Bowker: more than half of all YA fiction is read by adults!  I do know a lot of adults who read YA, but I thought my perspective might be skewed by my environment.

The day rounded out with a full panel of picture book authors and illustrators. I must admit that I was flagging by the middle of the afternoon, but certainly not because of the program. Another smashing success! Kudos to School Library Journal.

Jason Reynolds
Jason Reynolds

The Association of American Publishers (AAP) Children’s Author Dinner was held at the opulent Palmer House Hotel that evening, and in addition to another brilliant panel of authors, I was surrounded by terrific children’s librarians from around the country. All kinds of shop talk went on while consuming a scrumptious meal accompanied by generous amounts of wine. After dinner, the authors spoke about their books, which included picture books, graphic novels, middle grade fiction, and young adult fiction.

One of the great advantages of attending events like Day of Dialog and the authors’ dinner is that I learn which books the publishers are featuring this season and next season, and I will be sure to order all of these titles, if I haven’t already! That is their point, of course, but it is also the point for me. As a selector, I have learned over the years that if a publisher is pushing a title, they think it deserves to do well, and, conversely, if they choose to market a title strongly, it will do well as a result! This helps me to spend the taxpayers’ money wisely and get the books that kids will love. All of this is in addition, of course, to being starstruck by meeting the authors of my favorite books—my rock stars! Truth be told, I only geeked out once, and that was on Friday, which will be another post!

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The image of the SLJ Day of Dialog logo was obtained from Google Images, as was the image of Betsy Bird. The other grainy, dreadful photos are my own. Apologies to the photogenic originals!

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This post was originally published on www.EatReadSleep.com on 5-21-16.

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Where Are the Gangsters?

Chicago DuskBefore last week, when I thought of Chicago, it was dirty, dark, and violent. Have I seen too many movies? My trip to Chicago for Book Expo America showed me a completely different side of the town! Granted, our hotel was in the “North River” area, and I never ventured into the South Side to see Leroy Brown, but our visit was spectacular.

Devil in the White CityAs a librarian should, I read some books before getting on the plane. Besides Fodor’s and Lonely Planet’s guides to Chicago, I read The Devil in the White City, by Erik Larson. This nonfiction account of the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893 introduces the reader to the leading names in architecture of the time, the men (and one woman) who built what they considered the first truly American city. If you can stomach the chapters on the serial killer who was quietly causing young women to disappear at the time of the fair, this book reads like an exciting novel. Larson laces in the names of many historical figures who wove in and out of Chicago’s narrative at the turn of the last century.

Chicago Art Institute
The Art Institute of Chicago

David was able to accompany me on the trip, and we caught a morning flight so that we could take in the Art Institute in the afternoon. It was glorious! So many treasures that I had always wanted to see. We did not have time to go to the special Van Gogh exhibit—the museum closes at 5:00!— but they had other works of his in their permanent collection, anyway. Here are some of my favorites.

First Impressionist room
First sight upon walking into the Impressionist Wing
Paris Street on a Rainy Day
They are staring at Paris Street; Rainy Day, by Caillebotte. I could only get close enough to take this crooked picture!
Nighthawks
Nighthawks, by Edward Hopper. As stark and captivating in real life as I’d imagined.
American Gothic
American Gothic, by Grant Wood. The artist’s niece and his dentist.
Mary Cassatt
The Child’s Bath, by Mary Cassatt

Lou Malnati 2That first evening, we crossed another “must” off of our list by sampling Chicago-style deep-dish pizza at Lou Malnati’s, recommended by a friend who is a former Chicagoan. It tasted fresh and delicious, but I have to say that New York pizza is the real thing for this east-coast girl.

Cubs gameI had professional sessions all day and night the next day, which I’ll get to in a later article, but David took advantage of the time by taking in a Cubs game. Since he’s a South Carolina guy, he’s never met a stranger, so he made friends with a Michigan couple in the hotel elevator who were also headed to the game. They taught him all about the train system, and they rode together to Wrigley Field. David took pictures of the houses all around the field that have benches on the roof! The owners rent the space. Clever! David got a ticket for a cheap seat online, but as the game wore on, the ushers wore out, and he was able to wander down to snap a photo this close.

Architecture Foundation boat

The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s river tour of the city was a highlight of our trip. Even though it was a chilly, cloudy morning, this 90-minute cruise featured all three branches of the Chicago River, narrated by a brilliant architect/ docent who knew all of the technical information as well as fascinating anecdotes of Chicago history. I discovered, to my own surprise, that my favorite styles of architecture were Art Deco and Post-Modern. Although it started to rain and the temperature dropped to what would be winter temps in North Carolina by the time we got to the edge of Lake Michigan, this tour was worth every penny. If you go to Chicago, do not miss it. Here are some of my favorite buildings:

Trump
Right in front as we start off, the modernist masterpiece by a man we can’t escape even when we turn off the TV.
Wrigley Building
The Wrigley Building, built for the man who accidentally made a fortune from chewing gum.
Curved green building far
The long view of 333 Wacker Drive, a postmodern building that curves with the riverfront.
Curved green building close up
A close-up of 333 Wacker Drive that shows the rippling, blue-green glass that reflects the river water. This is possibly my favorite building.

Wedge Bottom building

As you can imagine, real estate is at a premium in downtown Chicago, so architects get creative. If you look closely, you will see that the glass building in the center is being built on a wedge-shaped base, as if it were an arrow thrust into the ground. Amazing engineering.

Willis Tower fog
The top of the Willis Tower, formerly the Sears Tower, peeking from the clouds.
Triangle condos
Some postmodern architects love triangles, and…
Curved condos
some like curves.
Bridge Going Up
The many bridges really work!

David Tilt Chicago

After professional workshops that afternoon, our entire group of librarians was invited to the Sourcebooks Publishers cocktail party at the top of the Hancock building, Chicago 360. What a view! The entire room on the 94th floor is surrounded by ceiling to floor windows. David took photos for hours, catching the changing light over the city and the shores of Lake Michigan. The picture at the top of this post was from this vantage point, and my husband was brave enough to do the Tilt! They put you in a little glass box and tilt it out 30 degrees so that you look down on the city. Although the light was behind him, I can attest that he is the person all the way to the right. At the maximum tilt, he let go of the handles and spread out his arms like Superman. A couple of my colleagues also took the dare. I stood a safe distance away and had an extra cocktail in their honor.

IMG_3328We ended the week at Quartino’s Italian Restaurant, where I had a bowl of tentacles. Not what I expected, but the Frutti di Mare featured more octopus than I had anticipated. We shared lots of other goodies, so it was alright. Great food and a lively place filled with locals. An excellent finish to our trip!

But wait! There’s more! The real reason for our journey to the north was the Book Expo America. In the next posts, I’ll let you in on all the book news and views that I learned from authors and publishers in one info-packed week.

 

 

 

 

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This post was originally published on www.EatReadSleep.com on 5-17-16.

 

Abba’s Child, by Brennan Manning

Abba's ChildA few weeks ago, Switchfoot posted a picture of Jon Foreman’s piano on Facebook. There was some saying or other, but what caught my eye was the pile of books on top, all obviously well-read, with worn covers and creased spines. As a librarian and devoted Switchfoot fan, I had to enlarge the photo and read the titles. I put almost all of those I had not already read into an Amazon cart immediately. Abba’s Child is the first one I opened.

The subtitle of this slender book is The Cry of the Heart for Intimate Belonging, and I think we all feel that longing at times. Manning writes here about the search for the True Self, the person created in God’s image, the one we are supposed to be. When I was a teenager, the slogan was, “Who am I?” As the years go by, we add titles to ourselves that describe our circumstances—father, mother, wife, teacher, doctor, Democrat, Republican—but none of these get to the heart of the matter. Who are we supposed to be, and are we even close?

The most famous chapter of this classic work is called, “The Imposter.” At some point in everyone’s life, often when we enter school or even earlier, we find out that other people react negatively to some of our attitudes or actions. Almost without thinking, we change. We hide the parts of ourselves that no one likes, and we pretend to be someone more presentable, more likeable, more popular. If you’re a parent, you may have seen this in your own children. To an extent, it’s peer pressure, but it goes deeper than just changing our behavior. After a while, we forget who we were before The Imposter started taking shape, and depression can set in when we feel an unexplainable self-hatred. In my experience, a new or altered Imposter can come into being at any point in life where we go through major changes: marriage, new job, relocation to another region, and so on. One reason I read this book first is that I’ve recently become aware of a new Imposter in my life, and I’ve been praying about it and trying to kill her off for the past few months. Manning tells us that we have an Imposter because we don’t believe that God loves us for who we really are, but he does. The True Self is who God created; the Imposter is who we think is more acceptable. Manning helps us to believe that God loves our True Selves, but to have sympathy for the pitiful, frightened Imposter as we work to peel her off.

The rest of the book works from this foundation as we desire to move closer to God. In the Gospels, we can see that Jesus responded to everyone with love and compassion, so when we respond to people harshly, it’s because we are not secure in God’s love for us. Manning also teaches us to live in the present risenness of Christ. If we believe in the past earthly life and resurrection of Christ and look forward to the end of our lives (or end of the world) for our reward, but live our daily lives in between these two events as a dry, duty-filled bleakness, we are not experiencing the power of the present risenness of Jesus Christ. I have known so many good Christians who are missing out on this intimate relationship with God, concentrating on following rules and doing good works. The world is a better place because of them, but they are missing out on so much joy.

There is so much more to this rich volume, and I think I could read it once a year with great profit. Some of the theology is probably too liberal to pass an orthodoxy test, but the vast majority is thought-provoking, comforting, and inspiring. There is a discussion guide at the end, but I can’t imagine discussing these topics with any but my closest believing friends. It is very personal. If you want help rekindling a passion for the One Who knows you best and loves you unconditionally, immerse yourself in this contemplative work.

Highly recommended.

Note: Jon Foreman, besides writing the foreword to the latest edition of this book, recorded a song about fighting against The Imposter. You can listen to it here.

Disclaimer: I own a copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.
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This post was originally published on www.EatReadSleep.com on 4-18-16.

Gardenias

GardeniasMy mother loved gardenias. We have a picture of her as a seventeen-year-old bride, standing beside her World War II soldier, holding a cascading bouquet of white mums and gardenias. To the end of her life, they remained her favorite flower.

Last week, I went out on my back porch to water all of the potted plants, and when I ended up with leftover water in the can, I walked to the end of the porch and poured it into the wildly overgrown gardenia in the yard. Leaning forward, I examined the early spring state of the plant: healthy and covered with leaf buds. No flower buds yet. Then suddenly, I found that I was watering the shrub with my tears.

When my father died in 2004, two mourners who knew her well gave my mother potted gardenias at his funeral. She planted one in her yard, and she gave the other to me. This is the plant at the end of my porch. It sits in front of the dryer vent, soaking up the heat, never invaded by pruning shears, thanks to the ignorance of its owners. By now, it is well over my head, and it blesses us with abundant blooms twice a year. The fragrance seeps through the walls and windows into the house. Intoxicating.

Last year, at the very end of May, we went to South Carolina to see my mother in the hospital. She was about to have surgery to remove her pacemaker, since it may have been causing a serious infection. Just before we got in the car, I cut off a double handful of the last spring blooms and buds from my father’s gardenia plant to cheer her. When we arrived, the nurse was entering the room as I asked whether Mom could have flowers, and her official answer was, “No.” But when she saw the homely nature of the bouquet, she relented. “Oh. Alright.” So we stuck our offering into a plastic hospital pitcher, and the room filled with their aroma. I asked Mom if it was too much in the small space, and she said, “Oh, no. I love gardenias.”

We had no idea that night that a few days later, Mom would leave us to go back to her beloved groom, the fragrance of his gardenias in her hair.

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This post was originally published on www.EatReadSleep.com on 4-2-16.

Meanwhile, Back on the Right

Miss Manners might say that it is impolite to talk about politics or religion in public, but since most of what I talk about in private is politics and religion, and since these are such extraordinary times, I’m sure she wouldn’t mind if I let you know what I will be putting in the mail tomorrow morning.

The Republican party establishment and the anarchist group Anonymous seem to be strange bedfellows, but it’s even stranger to watch a slate of seventeen of the best candidates the Republican party has had in years being boiled down to Donald Trump. When I marveled to my son that I had never actually met a Trump supporter, he replied, “Yes, Mother, that’s because you work in a library.” It’s true that probably most of the people I work with are Clinton supporters, and most of the people I go to church with are probably Cruz supporters. Until last week, I continued to be an ardent, though lonely, Rubio supporter, because he was super-smart, honest, and reflected my values better than anyone else.

Now that he is gone, it would seem natural for me to gravitate to Cruz, and while I would hold my nose and vote for him, he is just not my guy, for reasons that I cannot list without offending a lot of my favorite people. Not that it matters, because Trump is almost impossible to beat at this point. The rioters can riot, and the establishment can contest, but without a full-on revolution, he will win the nomination. And here is the story that the media have missed completely: The strongest group of voters opposed to Trump are traditional conservatives. Not liberals, not the Republican Party establishment. Conservatives.

At the very beginning of the primary season, when everyone thought he didn’t even have a chance, those of us who are people of faith listened to his hateful rhetoric and turned away in disgust. I have no problem voting for someone who does not share my faith if I believe that person is the best qualified, has good values, and will protect my right to religious freedom. I will not vote for someone who spreads hatred toward entire ethnic groups, or spews ignorant, misogynist remarks, or would force American soldiers to murder babies because of their fathers’ sins. Furthermore, it is so obvious that he has no particular position on– or even knowledge of– the many issues facing our nation. He was fine with partial-birth abortion not long ago; I can watch him saying so over and over. Now I’m supposed to believe that he’s pro-life? He has fallen flat on his face so often in the debates when trying to explain his positions, but his supporters don’t seem to notice! When asked about Cuba during the last debate, he danced around it, and then listened to Rubio explain the situation and his solution, after which Trump more or less added, “Yeah. What he said.” I texted my sister, “Look! He just evolved in 30 seconds!” None of this moves his supporters. I don’t understand.

Once his nomination began to look inevitable, the Republican Party and its operatives, such as Sean Hannity, began to announce that all good Republicans should rally ’round the nominee and support Donald Trump. Excuse me? I don’t know about you, but I chose a political party by seeing which one reflected my opinions the best, so that they could put people in office who would enact and enforce laws that I believe are just and right. In other words, I expect them to work for me. And what did I get? Weak, establishment candidates like McCain and Romney. Now I am supposed to support a ridiculous bigot for the good of the party. What has the Republican Party ever done for me? My votes are moral choices for me, and voting for this hateful man would be immoral. I will not do it. And as for the line, “But if you don’t vote for Trump, Hillary will win!” I say, “And?” I do not see Trump as the lesser of two evils, either.

The Republican Party and the media believe that the Evangelical vote went to Trump. I think that the church has a lot of soul-searching to do, particularly the parents who are sending their children to a certain large university, but in my mind, Trump got the “God and country” crowd, those who think that being a Christian and being an American are the same thing. Those who think that sending little children “back” to a place they’ve never seen is somehow consistent with Biblical teaching on compassion toward foreigners and sojourners. However, I go to church and know hundreds of other Christians who do not attend my church, and as I said, I’ve never heard any of them say that they support Trump. Most are openly supporting Ted Cruz.

How surprised the Republican establishment and the media will be when Trump secures the nomination and they hear that giant sucking sound as traditional conservatives pull themselves out of the Republican Party, finally acknowledging that it hasn’t been our home for quite a while. We’ve been used.

I had just been ranting about this to my longsuffering husband when I saw Franklin Graham on television talking about his Decision America movement. I listened cautiously, fully aware of other prominent clergymen’s recent sycophantic falls from grace, but when he started out with, “I am here to announce that I have left the Republican Party…,” I knew he was on to something. He is traveling the country, encouraging the church to repent of the sins of the nation, and he did not feel that he could be considered honest if he had a party affiliation. There’s a movement I can get behind.

So, I did it. I called the Board of Elections with my questions, and then downloaded and filled out the form on their website, and I am leaving the Republican Party. I am now an unaffiliated voter. No rallying ’round required. In North Carolina, I can still vote in primary elections, and I will vote in November for the other important races. I may write in a presidential candidate, as well, but I will never vote for Donald Trump.

I feel so free! Still doomed, yes, but free.

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Sorry about the lack of pictures. I considered a picture of Trump, but I just couldn’t bear it.

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This post was originally published on www.EatReadSleep.com on 3-19-16.

Favorite Books of 2015

Newbery MedalThe Children’s Media Awards announcements will be this coming Monday, January 11th, which is amazingly early! I have not been able to read as much as usual this past year for many reasons, but some of the books that I have read are certainly worthy, so I thought I would weigh in with my faves from the past twelve months. Click on the highlighted titles for full reviews.

Hired GirlMy favorite children’s book was The Hired Girl, by Laura Amy Schlitz. This delightful historical fiction novel straddles that annoying fence between the Newbery and Printz age, but I consider it to be more suitable for the Newbery, so I’ll place it there. Other Newbery-age books that I found worthy of the medal are Echo, by Pam Nuñoz Ryan, and The War That Saved My Life, by Kimberley Brubaker Bradley.

Challenger DeepI found three teen books to be excellent this year, perhaps first of all Neal Shusterman’s Challenger Deep, the story of his son’s struggle with schizophrenia. I am shocked to discover that I never reviewed this book! I think that I read it just before my mother passed away last summer. Please check it out. As you can see, it won the National Book Award. The second would be Most Dangerous, by Steve Sheinkin, a nonfiction title concerning Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers. My third would be Mosquitoland, by David Arnold. Any of these would be eligible to win the Printz Award, in my opinion.

Orbiting Jupiter, by Gary Schmidt, is worthy of either award. Most blogs are tending toward Newbery for this title, but I prefer the Printz because of the theme.

WaitingMy two favorite picture books this year were Waiting, by Kevin Henkes, and Lenny and Lucy, by Philip and Erin Stead. The Caldecott Award is given to the artist of the picture book, but these two jewels appeal to me on many levels, not just for the brilliant illustrations.

Boats for PapaUpdate!— How could I leave out the poignant Boats for Papa, by Jessixa Bagley? This thoughtful picture book came into the library the week I returned from my mother’s funeral, so I interpreted the story one way, but the author left the reasons for Papa’s permanent absence open, so that children dealing with a parent’s death, divorce, or other change will be able to find solace and closure here. I passed this book around and brought a whole department to tears. Beautiful.

I enjoyed many other great reads this year, but the quality of writing may not reach to literary award status. No one reads fine literature all the time, and a steady diet of deep and serious books can be wearying, just as a daily regimen of spa food might be thrilling at first, but then the longing for ice cream sets in. I almost never review a book that I couldn’t recommend to someone, so please have fun with all the other books that I reviewed this year, as well.

Looking forward to a 2016 with less pain (of all kinds) and more reading. Let’s see how we do on Monday!

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This post was originally published on www.EatReadSleep.com on 1-10-16.

Freshly-Hatched Music

2015-08-12 20.15.09In mid-August, David and I were wildly extravagant and rented ourselves a cheap hotel room in Florence, South Carolina, for the express purpose of stalking my two favorite bands in the whole wide world: Switchfoot and Needtobreathe. These two bands, each with a pair of brothers in the forefront, decided to tour together for the summer, trailing their warm-up bands with them, namely Colony House and Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors, respectively. So, it was a total blow-out of an evening, with four really good musical acts following one another over four hours. In case you’re keeping track, yes, I did this with my neck and arm still killing me, but hey, I had bought these tickets in February, as soon as my tax return came in, so there was no way I was skipping it.

We got there about an hour early, chatting with our neighbors—because it’s the South and we’ve never met a stranger— and, as you see, buying tour t-shirts before the first band came on. Just to let you know, we were not the oldest ones there, thank you very much. I did wonder how Switchfoot, in particular, felt about having so many old people in the audience, since they are a hard rock band. We gray-haired ones heard Switchfoot fifteen years ago, when our kids were teenagers, and became even bigger fans than they were. As my son says, they are an intellectual’s rock band. Truth. Neither were we the youngest, of course. I had a high-schooler named Elizabeth to my left—very nice, excellent taste in hats—and David had about five high school girls to his right who could go from zero to shriek in no time flat. It was startling.

Colony House Guys
They really aren’t fourteen– at least, not the guitarist, Scott Mills.

Nobody expects much from the first band. Not even all the seats are full until about an hour after a rock concert starts, in order to skip the first band on purpose. When Colony House hit the stage, we all stood politely and tried to look friendly. They left us with our mouths hanging open and people rushing to the table to buy the CD. About the second song, I leaned over and yelled to David, “This drummer is awesome!” As a fellow drummer, David refused to be impressed and replied, “He certainly seems to think so.” (He did, actually.) Every song was excellent, and they finished with “2:20,” which has such deep bass that the air in the civic center was humming. In the last act of the night, Needtobreathe came onstage with two drummers, one of whom was the borrowed drummer from Colony House. I guess he really is good.

Colony House CDWhen we got back home, I gathered up some birthday Amazon gift cards and purchased their CD, When I Was Younger. It is easy to find: it’s their only album to date. They have released EPs in the past, but never a complete album. I’ve been listening to it fairly constantly for the past month, and I can attest that it stands up to repeated playings. It’s on my phone, laptop, and in the car. David also has it on his laptop. You would be correct if you assumed that I knew all the words. One of my first impressions was that they talked a lot about death and guilt for such young guys. After listening to the album several times, I wanted to know more about them and found out that the lead singer and songwriter is Caleb Chapman, and his drummer brother is Will Chapman. Name Chapman ring a bell? They are the sons of Stephen Curtis Chapman, which might explain how they became so talented at such a young age! If you know Will’s tragic story, it also explains the depth of meaning in his songs and his great sorrow. I, for one, rejoice to see him redeem his life so beautifully. He deals with his struggle in the song “I Won’t Give Up.”

As for the sound, it is original and generally upbeat. Caleb has a surprisingly pleasing falsetto in many of the songs, which I usually dislike, but in this case, my favorite song, “Learning How to Love” shows his voice to full advantage. It also has a very complex drum pattern that I can’t quite follow, but I love it! “Silhouettes” hits me right where I live right now, as does “Lose Control.” Their usual pop-rock sound turns to hard rock on that bass-heavy “2:20” My sister and I had recently complained that you could tell a contemporary Christian radio station without hearing any of the words. It’s the same sicky-sweet sound all the time. I guess that’s what you get when your biggest goal is to be inoffensive and “family friendly.” Colony House is signed with Descendant Records, a subsidiary of Sony Music, so they are able to take full advantage of their artistic freedom.

I highly recommend that you get in on this ground-floor opportunity with a new band. You can start now and collect their albums one at a time!

In other news, Switchfoot is home, writing their next album!!! I can’t think about this too much, or I will hop on a plane to San Diego and run into their studio like Veruca Salt, yelling, “I want it now!”

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*If you are unfamiliar with the Chapmans’ tragedy, you can look up Stephen Curtis Chapman on Wikipedia. Sorry, it just doesn’t feel right to provide a link.

* Veruca Salt is the girl in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who was a “bad egg.”

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This post was originally published on www.EatReadSleep.com on 9-19-15.