Thursday, June 26, 2008

"Stories from Berkeley" chronicles 1960's and 1970's counter culture

According to my Social Studies-teacher-daughter, very little about the counter-culture of the 1960’s and 1970’s is taught in secondary schools in Texas. Nathan Spooner’s new release, Stories from Berkeley: Adventures in the Slow Lane, preserves a part of our history which, unfortunately, is becoming lost.

Spooner chronicles his life as a philosophy student at Berkeley and a street performer in the Bay area including his relationships with Joadie Guthrie, son of Woody Guthrie; renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz; various house-mates in the communal house in which he lived; and fellow musicians. Although Spooner does not emphasize the turbulent political tenor of the times, he does put the anti-Viet Nam war effort in perspective.

After Berkeley, Spooner moved to Alaska for ten years where he and his wife raised their children. Upon returning to Berkeley the Spooners no longer felt at home there and moved to the Central Coast of California. Nathan Spooner is now a special education teacher with grown children and grandchildren.

Spooner successfully captures an era of American life that should be preserved. Stories from Berkeley has a nice rhythm to it and is an interesting read. This book is appropriate for high school students and would make a wonderful adjunct to Social Studies programs in both secondary schools and in college curriculums.

Stories from Berkeley (ISBN 978-0-9701698-1-5, US $16.95) can be ordered from Barnes and Noble online and is also available from the author at

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Rick Riordan's 'Battle of the Labyrinth' a must read for summer

Imagine a vast maze underneath the earth, a labyrinth created by the mythological Greek architect and inventor Daedalus who is rumored to reside in the center of the great maze. This formidable labyrinth, seemingly without beginning or end, constantly shifts its shape and is so tricky to maneuver that is it credited with driving its explorers insane. Now imagine that within this underground web is an infestation of all sorts of nefarious evil-doers such as demons and monsters. The truth is that the vicious Titan Lord Kronos and his wicked army are sequestered in the underground labyrinth and are planning to attack and destroy Camp Half-Blood and all of the half-breed children who reside there during summer vacation.

The Battle of the Labyrinth, Rick Riordan’s fourth installment in his “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series, finds demi-god Percy, son of Poseidon (Greek god of the sea) en route to Camp Half-Blood after a major fiasco at freshman high school orientation.

Percy succinctly puts it this way. “The last thing I wanted to do on my summer break was blow up another school.”

Percy arrives at Camp Half-Blood with his half-breed friend Annabeth in tow only to discover that the camp is in imminent danger of attack and destruction by the evil Kronos. Fearing that the diabolical Titans will make a deal with Daedalus to manufacture an army of automatons, Percy and his friends set out on a quest to find Daedalus before Kronos does and stop the evil-doer before he destroys Camp Half-Blood.

Riordan has once again created an action-packed masterpiece by re-introducing Greek mythology and making it relevant to young adult readers Children and adults alike have embraced the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” series because all of these books are full of action, endearing characters, and humor. Riordan infuses his characters with all kinds of magic: Percy’s ball point pen, Riptide, morphs into a three foot long sword and his friend Annabeth’s baseball cap provides a cloak of invisibility to the wearer. Half-breed children must avoid cell phones as they let monsters know where they are.

Riordan plans to release only one more book in the Percy Jackson series. Battle of the Labyrinth, his fourth in the collection, is a must for summer reading for children and adults alike.

You can find out more about Rick Riordan and his books at his web site