Mother Nature’s Poto Mitan

Now that our first annual Watch Read Listen program has officially come to a close we would like to reflect on the Artist of the Summer series.

Artist of the Summer is a 5 week series that takes place within the annual Watch Read Listen program. It is a collaborative art project meant to engage the Waltham community both through the creation of and viewing of an art project. The intention is to create and use communal art as a means to begin a thoughtful dialogue.

Artists Sarah Leon and Molly MacKenzie teamed up this year and designed 5 interactive workshops to create a single display. Inspired by The Jungle Book we focused largely on Indian culture and environmental conservation. We used recycled materials to create the display while listening to traditional Indian music. The five programs in order were:

“Letters to the Sky” – creation of the backdrop
“Roots, Rocks and Rattlesnakes” – creation of the jungle floor
“I Speak for the Trees” – creation of the tree trunks
“Money Grows on Trees” – creation of the branches and leaves
“The Secret Life of Beasts” – creation of the animals

Thank you to all who participated in the creation of the display and to all who viewed and commented on it. Reduce, reuse, recycle. Use your art and voice to create a positive dialogue in your community.

There is no community without unity.
Together look at what we can do.
Keep on creating!

Molly MacKenzie

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Staff Reads — September 16, 2016



  • I’m currently streaming the new Descendants’ album: Hypercaffium Spazzinate
  • Downloaded a few songs off the new toyGuitar album, Move Like a Ghost, from Freegal.
  • Reading the new Joe Hill book, The Fireman. It’s not my favorite Joe Hill book, but I am really enjoying it. Like his other books, it’s a horror book with many elements of fantasy. Of all his books, this one has some of the scariest and most intense scenes.
  • I’ve watched too many movies recently: Krampus – A a great horror film. It’s rare that I enjoy a new horror film almost as much as the films from the 80s. ; Keanu – This was a great fun, dumb (but smartly made) comedy; Triple 9 – Not a bad action film, but the story line has a lot of holes; The Gallows – A decent horror film; Me and Earl and the Dying Girl – Not the type of movie I normally watch, but it was sort of sweet and sad.


Pat A:


  • Too Close to Home by Susan Lewis. Jenna and Jack Moore have moved their family to Wales for a fresh start. They run a publishing company together and have managed to blend their business and marriage into a good working partnership. But a year into the move Jenna suspects things are not what they seem. This story has many sub plots involving bullying (cyber, physically, and mentally), victims, infidelity, fraud, abuse, and suicide. Jenna discovers that all families have issues to deal with, including her own. It has twists and turns that keep you engaged.
  • Nine Women, One Dress by Jane L. Rosen. Morris Siegel is an almost 90-year old dress pattern-maker for a famous designer and he is ready to retire and wants to go out on top. His last design is the perfect little black dress that makes it onto the cover of a popular women’s magazine and it becomes THE dress of the season. It really is a delightful story, as the narrative progresses, Morris’s dress brings happiness and good luck to nine different, unrelated women who wear it.This was a really fun read with a great cast of characters.
  • I’m currently reading The Book that Matters Most by Ann Hood. Ava is dealing with the loss of her 25 year marriage, she is completely blind-sided, having thought their marriage was stable and secure. Her grown children are currently living abroad. Ava is trying to find some meaning in her life since her husband has moved onto another woman. Her friend runs a book group and a spot has opened up and Ava joins. Each year the book group has a theme and this year it’s” the book that matters most” to them in their life. Most of the members have picked classics but Ava remembers a book from her childhood that helped her cope with her young sister’s death and her mother’s suicide. As each member of the book group talks about how their book had an impact on their life, it makes you think about what book you might choose as the book that matters most in your life??

Mary V.

  • Deadly Medicine by Margaret Truman; Since Margaret died more than eight years ago, she did not really write this. My brother Charles would always say that she did not write any of them. Maybe he was right. This was entertaining and I enjoyed. If you like the Capitol murder series, you may enjoy this.
  • Among the Wicked by Linda Castillo; This is the latest in the Kate Burkholder mystery series. Kate goes undercover in an Upstate New York Amish community. It is a page turner. I had trouble putting it down and read it in two days.
  • Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French: This is the second in the Freida Klein mystery series. A social worker checks on a mentally disabled woman and finds her entertaining a corpse that is long dead and covered with flies.
  • Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr: The first in the Anna Pigeon mystery series. Anna is a park ranger in the National Forest Service. My sister recommended it because all of the murders happen in different National Parks. I’m not sure that I will read all of these. I have the second one in case it is better, so I will let you know.
  • Are You Smart Enough To Work At Google? by William Poundstone; No, I am not, but this is a book of trick questions, riddles and puzzles to test a prospective employee’s creativity.



  • I recently listened to and enjoyed His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik. I had picked up “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik first (an unusual fantasy book with Polish influences), and when I liked that I realized that she had written the Temeraire series! “His Majesty’s Dragon” is an alternate history fantasy book where dragons exist and are used in their own branch of the military, and they are fighting in the Napoleonic Wars.
  • I also listened to As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of the Princess Bride which was very great since it’s written and read by Cary Elwes but also includes quotes and excerpts from other people involved in the film, so it really wouldn’t be the same if you read the book instead of the audiobook! If you love the movie The Princess Bride I would definitely recommend giving this a listen!

Janice: I read Shakespeare’s Gardens by Jackie Bennett. The photographer Andrew Lawson deserves just as much credit for his luscious photos in this new book which is as much travelogue as literary remembrance. It’s based on the four houses most closely associated with William Shakespeare and his family: his birthplace at Stratford-Upon-Avon; his mother’s home at Wilmcote; his wife Anne Hathaway’s cottage; and his own home, New Place. The detailed descriptions and stories of these landmarks are interspersed with quotes from various plays and poems. Do you remember this one? “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other word would smell as sweet” from Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, scene 1.


  • I’m reading Arrowood by Laura McHugh author of The Weight of Blood. Arrowood is a fantastic southern gothic mystery set in a creepy old house in Mississippi. Arden’s twin sisters were kidnapped twenty years ago while she (only 8 years old) was supposed to be watching them. After inheriting her childhood home, she returns to the old memories and mystery of what really happened.
  • I’m rewatching Gilmore Girls while waiting for the revival on Netflix!

Louise: Freud’s Mistress by Karen Mack and Jennifer Kaufman. This is a delicious piece of romantic historical fiction. Mack and Kaufman are going on the assumption that Sigmund Freud had an affair with his wife’s sister, Minna Bernays. There has been speculation that this occurred.
This novel is gripping from start to finish. One is horrified to see the limited options for unmarried women in 1895 Vienna. The Anti-Semitism of the time is also portrayed in this novel. Minna is in a difficult situation with no position and no job. She accepts her sister Martha’s offer to help her out in a chaotic household with six children. Martha enjoys her elixir (which is made from opium) which helps with her ailments but puts her rather out of commission.
Sigmund works on his theories of human development, dream interpretation and human sexuality in his study, working until all hours. Minna, who is very well read and intellectually curious, spends hours talking with Freud in his private study. Children and spouses are forbidden to enter his study and interrupt his work. Minna is fortunate to be invited in and an attraction develops between the two. Freud offers her some of his coca which they both insert into their noses….
The rest as they say, is history!


  • All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. (E-book). This book, the choice for the 2016 Waltham High School One School/One Book Program, is extremely timely and thought provoking. Rashad, an African-American high school student, is severely beaten by a police officer, who wrongly believes that Rashad is shoplifting, prompting much discussion and acts of protest from Rashad’s fellow students. Quinn, who witnesses the event and is friends with the police officer’s brother, finds himself questioning what he believes is right and wrong. Told in alternating points of view with each author taking on each protagonist’s voice, this is a thought provoking novel sure to start a discussion. As a woman, I have to admit that I loved the fact that all of the female characters were great characters who provided intelligent voices of reason in both narratives.
  • Carry On: The Rise and Fall of Simon Snow by Rainbow Rowell. In Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl, main character, Cath, spends much of her time working on her fan fiction, Carry On based on the Simon Snow series, a thinly disguised Harry Potter. Readers and Rowell were curious enough to want to know more about Cath’s work, and the world of Simon Snow, that Rowell decided to expand the world and publish an original novel. As a Harry Potter fan, I was initially reluctant to read this, but having enjoyed Rowell’s other books and revisiting Harry Potter after reading the latest play, I decided to give this a chance. I’m very glad I did. The novel gently parodies not only Harry Potter but many fantasy properties and other series featuring a so-called “chosen one”, in such a clever and original way. I dare say the characters, including Simon, his nemesis turned ally, Baz, Simon’s best friend, Penelope, are not only well drawn but are even more dimensional than most of the Harry Potter characters. It even addresses some of the issues with the more well known series, such as why a school’s headmaster would knowingly put a young person in danger in order to fulfill a prophecy. The book is certainly a treat if you are already fans of Fangirl and Harry Potter, but it is not necessarily to be familiar with either property to enjoy this.
  • Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty (Downloadable audiobook). Childhood friends, Erika and Clementine, and their families were at a barbecue at Erika’s neighbor’s house when something horrible happened. What that something is, we don’t find out until very late in the novel, as we get bits and pieces from different characters’ points of view of that fateful day. I have enjoyed Liane Moriarty very much, but this was my least favorite of her titles. I didn’t understand why Erika and Clementine were friends, and I finished the novel still not understanding. While I was drawn in to the story, immediately, with previous titles of hers, I didn’t take to this very quickly. However, patience did pay off, and, while I did not love it, I did end up enjoying it more than I did, in the beginning. Supporting characters, Tiffany and Vid (the barbecue hosts) were extremely compelling and fleshed out, and made for the most interesting parts of the novel. Regular Moriarty narrator, Caroline Lee, is a gem, as usual! I can’t imagine listening or reading a Liane Moriarty novel without hearing Lee’s voice.
  • Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson. At the risk of sounding a little too fangirlish, I have a bit of a girl crush on Jacqueline Woodson. We were very lucky to host Ms. Woodson last year, and she was incredibly kind and gracious to the young fans who asked her about writing. I admire her advocacy, including her efforts with #We Need Diverse Books, addressing a very serious problem regarding the lack of diverse characters in children’s and young adult literature. And, of course, this is all in addition to her writing, which is lyrical and amazing. Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming, written in verse, is one of the best memoirs I’ve read. I was very excited to hear that Woodson was writing her first adult novel in over 20 years with Another Brooklyn, a novel about coming of age in a black neighborhood in 1970’s Brooklyn. I was not disappointed. Woodson’s writing shines through and is as beautiful as ever. My only complaint is that the book is so short, quickly ending my time with her writing.
  • Shem Creek by Dorothea Benton Frank. Dorothea Benton Frank is a very funny writer, who truly loves her native South Carolina, and often makes that alive with her rich characters and mouth watering descriptions of food. This, however, was not one of her best novels. The two main characters, who fall in love, don’t have great chemistry. Years old tension between the main character and her daughter is resolved much too quickly, and an incident involving the daughter’s teacher and eco terrorism seems to be lifted out of a different novel. The only character that was well drawn is the second wife of the main character’s ex-husband, a character that was only in one scene. If you want to try Frank, start with another one of her titles.
  • Yes, Please by Amy Poehler. (Downloadable Audiobook). This collection of essays, narrated by Poehler, is a mixed bag. Many of the essays were nothing more than literal bullet lists of anecdotes, and tried to address serious issues in superficial ways. When Poehler hits, though, she hits. Cameos from Patrick Stewart, Kathleen Turner, and Carol Burnett are enjoyable. (A cameo from Seth Meyers, who I also like, didn’t do much for me). I also greatly enjoyed Poehler’s essay on working mothers versus stay-at-home mothers in which she encourages both groups to have better respect for the other, criticizing society for pitting the two groups against each other. This essay saved the book for me.
  • In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. In 1819, the whaleship, Essex, left Nantucket with a crew of 20. Over a year later, it was rammed by a large whale, resulting in the crew escaping, and after months of survival tactics (including cannibalism), only eight returned home. This descriptive book, gives a great sense of time and place, and is a fascinating account of a truly horrifying event (which later inspired Herman Melville’s Moby Dick). Descriptions of dehydration made me reach for my water bottle more than I usually do!