PaperBackSwap Blog

Archive for November, 2014

The Joy of Books, A Word from our Founder

Monday, November 17th, 2014

By Richard Pickering, PBS FounderThe Joy of Books

I knew that the 2014 PaperBackSwap Cruise would be a great time to meet club members, participate in book-themed events, and share in our love of reading. It was going to be fun (and it was)! But I never expected that our itinerary held an event that would affect me deeply.

As the cruise ship pulled into Belize, I was informed that there was a surprise event scheduled, in which I would be needed to participate.  “Dress appropriately, as a representative of PaperBackSwap,” Cheryl G. (Poncer) said. That was all I was told.

About a dozen of us —PBS members and some staff — got off the boat and made our way to the taxi stand, where we boarded a van that whisked us away. As the roads became bumpier and turned from asphalt to hard-pack dirt and stone, my curiosity mounted. “Where are we going?” I asked. The rest of the group smiled knowingly, and Cheryl G assured me that this would be an adventure that I would never forget for the rest of my life.

We headed into the heart of the country, passing small farms and an occasional building that boasted some small trade or service for the local population. Finally the van slowed, and the driver leaned out the window to ask directions. We were in the middle of a very rural area – I could see thatched roofs around us, and I learned later there was no running water and almost no electricity. We were in the proverbial “middle of nowhere.” Liberty Children's Village in Ladyville, Belize

The van turned down one last dirt road. There was a gate at the end, and beyond that, the building that was apparently our destination. Finally, I was let in on the secret: this was a small orphanage, home to 42 children whose parents had died of AIDS.

The staff greeted us with open arms and thanked us for coming.  Many of the older children were in school, but the younger ones were there, and anxious to meet us.  We went into the day care center, which was very clean and nicely appointed. The high ceilings and fans kept the room cool, and the walls were covered with drawings that the children had made and gold stars for good behavior or outstanding scholarship.

Another surprise! The group (led by Gail P.(TinkerPirate and Cheryl G. Poncer) had brought along over 100 books for the kids, carrying them in their luggage onto the cruise. That was enough so that each child would get a couple of books, with plenty more to share with each other. I read a story aloud to the kids, about a farmer with a problem – cows that could type! The cows had a lot of demands for the farmer. It was a fun story, and the kids were very attentive. After the story, our team distributed the books and also gifts that the group had brought, and then we spent some time playing games with the kids.  After goodbyes and hugs, it was time to leave.

Click Clack Moo, Cows That TypeCheryl had been right — I would never forget the day, the kids, the orphanage staff who took such loving care of them, the appreciation for the books and our visit. It was so moving to consider the life that the kids had led, the circumstances that brought them to this place, and the life ahead of them.  I was proud of our group for coming up with the idea to visit the orphanage. On top of planning all the fun events of the PaperBackSwap Cruise, they had gone deeper and found a way to give back. How typical of PaperBackSwap members! It’s been 10 years since the club’s launch, and the generosity and kindness of our membership continues to amaze me.

It’s the kind of giving that makes our Books for Schools campaign such a success every year. So many members have asked us when the next Books for Schools will go live. We’re happy to say that BFS 2014 will be launching very soon! We are planning to begin right after Thanksgiving.

You can read about Books for Schools,  see a list and details of previous participating schools, suggest schools for future inclusion, and if you want to get a head start on donating before the BFS 2014 launch, you can use the Give Credits button on this page.

Our thoughts and prayers remain with those children in Belize. May God bless each and every one of them, and guide them in their lives going forward. And may God bless each and every one of our club members. We love your giving spirit!


Thanks to all those who made the Orphanage visit happen: Gail P (tinkerpirate), Cheryl G (Poncer),  Ajay I., Barbara S (barbelaine1), Cari (ladycari), Kareena I., Len S (lens), Marie N (pottergal), Rick (RickMatt) , Sonal S (ComeGo), our driver Stanley, the staff at the orphanage including Director Agatha Valentine, and of course the kids!!!


Veterans Day 2014

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Nonfiction Review – Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand


Review By Mirah W. (mwelday)

Every year Americans remember the devotion and sacrifice of our military personnel on Veterans Day. Every day I am proud and honored to be a military spouse and, at the same time, it is incredibly humbling to be a part of a group of such strong and amazing men and women.  I recently read Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and was, once again, reminded of the overwhelming pain and suffering some of our service members experience.

Unbroken is the story of Louis ‘Louie’ Zamperini. Louie was a prankster teenager with a penchant for petty theft and he was quickly spiraling out of control.  His brother Pete convinced Louie to direct his energy into running and Louie found his stride and focus.  Louie’s skill as a runner surpassed what he or Pete ever imagined. Louie set high school track records in California and made it to the 1936 Olympics in Berlin, Germany.

In 1941, Louie joined to the US Army Air Forces and became a bombardier on a B-24.  In 1943, during a search for a lost aircraft and crew, Louie’s B-24 crashed into the ocean and Louie was one of the three survivors.  Louie spent over 40 days in a raft lost at sea before reaching the Marshall Islands and being captured by the Japanese.  Louie then was forced to endure torture, humiliation, starvation, and other horrible acts of brutality in Japanese POW camps.

The entire book was so meticulously researched and delivered; it was both amazing and difficult to read.  While reading I kept thinking, ‘what else could he possibly have to endure?’ and then something else would happen; it was gut-wrenching to get through some portions of the book but, in the end, it left me feeling hopeful.  I simply cannot fathom the mentality of the individuals who were responsible for the atrocities Louie experienced.  In addition to Louie’s struggles, his family lived with the grief and doubt of whether he was alive or dead. During Louie’s service, his mother wore a set of aviator’s wings pinned to her clothing every day and at night she moved the pin to her nightgown.  The depth of her love and devotion was touching and memorable.

Unbroken is about resiliency, courage, heartbreak, and strength.  While I believe Louie’s experience is one-of-a kind (I simply cannot imagine others going through this same series of events), there are men and women of our armed forces who endure extreme hardships, injuries and tragedies every day and we hear little about it.  Unbroken serves as a very stark and saddening reminder of what some of our service members go through while protecting our freedoms.

Every year we lose more of our World War II veterans, who many Americans consider to be our greatest generation of military heroes.  I remember visiting Pearl Harbor, hearing World War II veterans sharing their stories with visitors and being riveted by the magnitude of all they lived through. Their stories need to be heard and remembered so we can understand our past and hopefully learn from those events. I believe Hillenbrand has created a masterful tribute to Louie Zamperini and all of our military personnel.  I give 5 stars to this incredibly moving, detailed account of the life of a great American hero.



News From The Cruise – PBS 10th Anniversary Celebration

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014
Hard to believe it is already Sunday, again! Times flies when on a cruise ship in the Caribbean with some of our wonderful PaperBackSwap Members!

Last Sunday was just a few moments ago, when we scallywags climbed aboard the Norwegian Sun cruise ship, and off we sailed from Tampa.

After stops in Honduras, Belize, Costa Maya and Cozumel we are now steaming north, full speed ahead, back to Tampa. Back to our real lives.

The weather has been, well, weather. We have experienced rain, humidity, warm breezes, sunshine, hot temperatures, more rain, hot temperatures, even more rain, hair-frizzing humidity, sunshine and really hot temperatures. Then really, really high humidity with really, really hot temperatures and sunshine galore. And it all has been glorious!

The sunrises have been stunning, the sunsets even more so. We have eaten great grub, drank much grog, secured much booty, danced quite a few jigs, and discovered treasured friendships that will last us lifetimes.

We have had a blast!

We wish you were here and hope you consider joining us on the next cruise for PaperBackSwap Members!

May your seas be calm and your distant shores filled with treasured moments.

Richard “PegLeg” Pickering and his band of merry mates.