The Bookworm: Political disorder; girl tech power

Terri Schlichenmeyer

“The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations”

  • By John McCain and Mark Salter
  • c. 2018, Simon & Schuster 
  • $30, $39.99 Canada; 403 pages

Sometimes, it’s good to take account. You’ll know where you stand when you do. You’ll see achievements clearly, and re-hash disappointments. You can plan the future by taking stock of the past and, in the case of John McCain in his new book “The Restless Wave” (with Mark Salter), you’ll know yours was a life well-lived.

In the twilight of his life, John McCain has many “accumulated memories.”

“The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations” author John McCain.

He begins with a list of loss: fellow politicians, adversaries, admired men, family, and some who served with him in Vietnam. On that latter subject as a whole, McCain is relatively mute; his war years are left for a different book.

Mostly, in fact, the major focuses of “The Restless Wave” are the 2008 campaign, issues of human rights and, in a bit of a whirlwind narrative, McCain’s diplomatic visits to the Middle East.

On the campaign, there are a lot of coulda-shoulda-woulda moments: in his decision to run in the first place, in his campaign’s finances, in some of the things said off-the-cuff, and in McCain’s stances on issues he knew to be unpopular. He still regards Sarah Palin with warmth, and no regrets but he says that when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, he saw where things were heading and he tried “to live completely in the moment, not thinking ahead to when it will be over.”

“The Restless Wave: Good Times, Just Causes, Great Fights, and Other Appreciations” by John McCain and Mark Salter.

Readers will understand why McCain holds the opinions on torture that he does, and why he’s outspoken against the possibility that the U.S. would use torture against captured enemies. He also admits to knowing that his positions were occasionally controversial and that he sometimes ignored others’ political ideologies but “… I don’t need any more approval than a quiet conscience.”

Toward the end of his book, he writes of “shocking allegations” of Russian interference in the 2016 election, and of his “minor role” in the dossier controversy; to say that McCain is no fan of Putin is an understatement. He writes of his deep friendship and “fights” with adversary Ted Kennedy; about his role in the healthcare debate; and of his consternation with President Trump.

Like nearly every political biography ever released, there’s a lot of chest-thumping and assertions of correctness inside “The Restless Wave,” and astute readers will note more than just a little repetition. Moreover, though, this book fairly rings with a sense of leave-taking that, despite what we know, imparts an oddly-faint feeling of surprised disbelief not unlike losing a distant relative you barely knew. In his final chapter, author McCain (with Mark Salter) sums this memoir up in the most bittersweet of ways, acknowledging that cancer may take his life, the same as it took that of Kennedy, and he begs readers to “return to regular order” for the America he loves.

There have been many political books released this calendar year but this one is different, in that there’s a lot here you haven’t heard. Overall, and despite that it’s sometimes not the smoothest read on the shelves, “The Restless Wave” is a good account.

“Doll-E 1.0”

  • By Shanda McCloskey
  • c. 2018, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
  • $17.99, $23.49 Canada; 40 pages

Something’s just not right. As much as you love your toys, there are times when they need a few changes: a snip here, a new color there, and … perfect! Oops, once in a while, you make a mistake and you feel pretty sad. And sometimes, as in the new book “Doll-E 1.0” by Shanda McCloskey, you make an old toy very, very new.

Charlotte ’s mind was always online. Every spare moment she had, she clicked and downloaded, mouse-hovered and scanned. Cut, paste, plug, double-click. When it came to computers, Charlotte was “mama’s little genius” and she could fix anything that broke. She even taught her parents a thing or two about computers and being wired.

“Doll-E 1.0” author Shanda McCloskey.

That was nice, but it bothered Charlotte ’s parents a bit, so they bought her a surprise. Charlotte hoped it might be a device to better understand her dog, Blutooth, but no. Was it a new app, or a new accessory? No, it was a doll, a plain old doll with a sewn-on face and floppy arms, looking like a “human-shaped pillow.”

Charlotte couldn’t imagine how she could possibly play with such a thing. It didn’t seem to want to share Charlotte ’s tools. It didn’t want to build anything. It didn’t want to play video games with her or dance. Mostly, the doll just sat there with its sewn-on smile. Every once in a while, it said, “mama!” but there was no way that Charlotte was that thing’s mama. It was so frustrating.

But wait. If the doll talked, then that meant it had batteries. And if it had batteries, it had a power supply. And if it had a power supply, then …

“Doll-E 1.0” by Shanda McCloskey.

Charlotte was excited. The doll couldn’t say many words, but it probably could be made to say a lot, and wouldn’t that be fun? It would be the coolest toy ever, then, so Charlotte got to work, clickety-click-click, and nothing else mattered.

She was very happy, but someone else was not happy at all. And when Blutooth took things into his own, um, paws, it almost deleted Charlotte ’s plans.

Science, technology, electronics, math. For years now, little girls have been encouraged to learn these things because girls need to know them and besides, they’re fun to do. But how much fun? Let “Doll-E 1.0” show you.

With her pearls and her ever-present safety goggles, author Shanda McCloskey’s main character is as charming as it gets, and as confident. Charlotte exudes a can-do attitude that kids will find appealing, and that can only lead them to want to know more about building and coding. Parents may want to watch that such creativity doesn’t extend to disassembling every toy in the toybox, but this book will show children that everything old can be new again and that even the worst toy can become the best.

For 3-to-7-year-olds who’ve never known a world without technology, “Doll-E 1.0” will be a delight – especially if they’re the take-things-apart type. And if they’re not, but they like a funny story, this book will be just right.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.