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Sunday, December 25, 2016

#88 - The Reluctant Dragon - Kenneth Grahme

Title:  The Reluctant Dragon
Author:  Kenneth Grahame
Read by:  Stephen McLaughlin
Genre:  Children
Category:  Fiction
Rating:  B
Originally Published:  1898
Date:  12/25/16
CDs/Hours:  1/1

Although for ages five and up, I wanted to “read” another book by author Grahame, having listened to The Wind in the Willows last year.  This is an endearing story of the son of a shepherd who lives with his parents by the Downs in England.  The son spends much time reading big books.  His parents are very proud of his ability to read and they treat him as an equal.  They know that book learning can come in handy.  One evening the shepherd journeys home all atremble.  He was afraid to go “up on them there Downs.”  Seems he knows about a cave that he and the sheep don’t like.  Faint noises come from the cave, like snoring and sighing, he shares with his wife.  He cannot keep away and goes back and sees a scaly thing, half in, half out of the hole.  
The boy tells his father not to worry about the dragon and that he’ll have a talk to the beast.  The folks are convinced the son knows about book beasts and the mother agrees to what the son wants to do.  The boy indeed goes the next day and sees the critter napping peacefully, in fact the animal is purring!  Something the boy had never read about in books.
To make a short story even shorter, after a conversation with the dragon, the boy introduces Saint George of swordsman fame to the dragon who doesn’t really want to fight and concocts an event where the two should duel.   If you aren’t familiar with the outcome, this is a must read or re-read, or listen to.  Oh that all our wars and battles are fought in this manner!

#87 - Kill 'Em and Leave: Searching for James Brown - James McBride

Title:  Kill ‘Em and Leave:  Searching for James Brown
Author:   James McBride
Genre:  Biography
Category:  Non-Fiction
Rating:  A
Published:  2016
Dates:  12/15/16 – 12/25/16
CDs/Hours:  8/9

Ten years ago today, December 25, 2006, James Brown passed away.  His biographer, James McBride, a noted, professional musician himself, is a natural to tell Brown’s story and has handled a complicated man well.   James Brown, the Godfather of Soul, was the role model for musicians like Michael Jackson, himself the King of Pop.
Other players in Brown’s life and death -- Reverend Al Sharpton, Brown’s adopted son; Reed, the undertaker; William Orlando Brown, James Brown’s grandson; and Terry Brown, James Brown’s son. 
Brown’s rough and tumble life, as seen through McBride’s lens, is unsettling.  The tragedy is that Brown’s estate was meant to fund educations for poor schoolchildren in Georgia and South Carolina.  Brown was generous and at the end of many of his performances gave out bicycles to under-privileged kids.  He always enforced in youngsters the importance of getting an education and that’s what he wanted more than anything for them to have.  Yet, upon his death, some family members and would-be-heirs came out of the woodwork, demanding a share.  As a result, the lawyers that James Brown hired early on in his career fought a brilliant battle with the courts and IRS to secure his estate.  Like the back-cover comment indicates, McBride “lays bare the Dickensian legal contest over Brown’s estate, a fight that has consumed careers … and cost Brown’s estate millions in legal fees.”
This review does not do justice to the story.   There is so much more about a man people remember as passionate about music, who spent time in prison, was unkind to women and regretted his hard-heartedness.  “Kill ‘Em and Leave is a song unearthing and celebrating James Brown’s great legacy.” 
I'm hoping to see some awards for this saga in the future.