Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Precious Bones

No, this isn't a spooky Halloween story. Precious Bones is the title of a book by Mike Ashley-Hollinger about a girl with that name, although she's usually simply called Bones. She's part Native American and lives at the edge of a swamp in Florida in 1949.

The plot includes a huge storm, but that's just the beginning of the problems. It is exciting and I don't want to give away any secrets so I won't talk about that here.

What I liked best about the book was the way it pulled me into a world that seemed totally real. The book is written in first person and the dialect is so realistic and became so comfortable that I found myself starting to use it. The characters might be people someone traveling to that place and time would actually meet. 

I liked the way the adults were involved, but it was the kids in the story who did the important things.
And those kids, by continuing to do what they thought was right, managed to make a big difference in their world in spite of huge obstacles.

I recommend this book highly.

Saturday, October 27, 2012


Okay, we all agree that we're tired of political advertisements, but as soon as the election is over we'll be swamped with Christmas ads. Some of those are already showing up.

But ads aren't only a nuisance, they can be dangerous to children.

I once read about a scientific study that showed most young kids believe everything they see in ads is true. Because of being bombarded with commercials, children not only want the products, but they accept the social stereotypes portrayed as accurate.

And they may even try to demand the products they see advertised and loose respect for their parents if they don't get them.

Of course we know too much watching of TV, videos, and playing games can desensitize kids to violence and cut down on the time spent in social communication.

So what can parents do about all these problems?

Obviously the first thing is to cut down on the time children, especially young ones, are exposed to the media. When parents work and have others to care for it can be difficult to make time for family activities, but it's important to make that a priority.

And when kids are watching TV parents can make it a habit to comment on the untrustworthiness of commercials. Parents might even borrow their kids gaming devices, play a game or two, then discuss what's good and bad about them.

And while we're getting all the political ads maybe we should remind ourselves not to believe everything we see.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Bullies Again

Recently I substitute taught at a local school that was celebrating Bully Prevention and kids kept coming to we and telling me about some minor thing another student had done or said. They were obviously proud to be telling me, and sometimes the other kids they were tattling about would even accompany them, wait to be asked if they had apologized, and say "Sorry." Obviously they weren't actually feeling any guilt.

I went along with the school policy since that's what they were paying me to do, but I have serious doubts about the ultimate success of the program.

All adults sometimes get negative comments from other people and we can't just run to a teacher or other authority figure and tell on whoever said them. In this world kids need to learn to cope with things like that.

Of course if someone is seriously harming or endangering others it may be necessary to report them to authorities. That's why we have police and courts.

And it is worthwhile to teach children that mean comments to or about others aren't polite. But I'm afraid in the long run encouraging them to be tattle-tails will do more harm than good.

 A while ago I did a series of posts about bullies and a way to handle them that really works. If you go to the top, left side of this page and enter "Bullies" in the search bar you can see all my previous posts on the topic.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Remote Control

Boys who love action and violence will love Remote Control by Jack Heath. Reading it was like watching an adventure flick that never slows down for a moment.

To be honest, this genre isn't the sort of thing I usually enjoy reading. I'm an old lady, not a teenager. But the excellent writing drew me into the plot and made me care what happened to the characters.

Remote Control is science fiction that takes place in a dystopian future universe. It's the second one in a series and I hadn't read the first one, but enough of the past was explained when needed so it wasn't confusing. And, while the ending does encourage readers to get the next book in the series to find out what happens, the story in this book is resolved satisfactorily so I didn't feel cheated.

According to the jacket blurb, Heath started writing the first book in the series as a student in high school. Wow! He obviously has talent, intelligence, and discipline. I just hope he doesn't end up ten or fifteen years in the future churning out dozens of novels that are all alike as some successful authors have done.

In the meantime, I assume the other books he has already written are as excellent as the one I read.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Politics! (A Rant)

Are you tired of political advertising? With a little more than two weeks to go before the election in the United States it will probably only get worse. If all the money spent on campaign advertising were to be donated to the government instead, our country would be in much better financial shape.

Maybe I'm hallucinating, but I seem to remember that a few decades ago candidates mostly talked about what they, themselves, had to offer rather bad-mouthing their opponents.

Here's a crazy idea: what if when the next election comes along we all start in mid-summer keeping count of how many commercials, mailings, phone calls, etc. we get for each cause and candidate and vote for the ones with the lowest numbers?

Okay, I'm just kidding. Obviously that wouldn't be sensible.

But nobody in any government office is likely to vote for anything that offends those who finance their campaigns, so our country is actually being run by the rich. Isn't that what a lot of our ancestors came to America to avoid? Whatever happened to "government of the people, by the people, and for the people?"

I wish it would become illegal for anyone to make campaign donations and the government itself provided equal amounts to all candidates, no matter what parties they belonged to. Come to think of it, there's nothing in the Constitution about political parties so maybe they should be eliminated altogether and each candidate and issue evaluated on its own merits.

Of course that will never happen because the people who have authority because of the way things are want to keep it that way, and they're the only ones who could make the changes.

But at least we can vote and I hope everyone reading this will do that, even if it must be for the lesser of the evils. It's better to make a tiny difference than no difference at all. But please let's all actually read everything in the voter's guides and not make decisions based on the ads.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Plumber and the Wishing Well

 Even though Halloween isn't here yet Christmas items are already showing up in stores. I guess some people do their holiday shopping early, so today I'm reviewing a Christmas book for children.

The Plumber and the Wishing Well isn't a typical Christmas story. Instead it's more like a traditional fairy tale. In it the plumber wants to buy Christmas gifts for his family but he has lost his job and can't afford anything.

Meanwhile some traditional fairytale characters - an elf, a fairy, and a leprechaun - are trying to use a wishing well to get gifts for their own loved ones, but something is wrong with the well and their wishes don't work correctly.

A bird asks the plumber to fix the magic wishing well and he does so, but the way his own wishes are answered is a surprise and I don't want to give away the ending.

Kids who like traditional fairy tales will enjoy this book because it's an unusual take on that sort of story. The author, Liam Maher, grew up in Ireland so it's not surprising that he knows a lot about the kinds of magical creatures in his story.

Gin May's illustrations are beautiful. I especially liked the traditional style pictures of the magical creatures, the realistic birds and the lovely cover.

This book would make a great Christmas gift for kids but the story can be enjoyed at any time of the year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Benjamin Jay was a Bully

At last! Someone has written a book for little kids about bullying that doesn't just tell them to tattle.

Benjamin Jay was a Bully by Emma M. Glover is a great picture book about a bully who moves into a neighborhood and what the other birds do about him. Instead of fleeing in fear they take the advice of Miss Gray Dove to follow the Golden Rule and treat him as they would like to be treated. Benjamin does lots of mean things, but the other birds keep turning the other cheek until he gives up and becomes their friend.

KC Snider's illustrations are beautiful and accurate depictions of the various kinds of birds in the story so the book will help children learn to recognize the species while they enjoy the tale.

Besides offering a way to deal with a problem many kids face, Benjamin Jay was a Bully is a story children will appreciate.

For more information about how the techniques used by the characters in this book can actually work I suggest going to  Bullies2Buddies and downloading resources.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


I recently read Captain Courage and the Fear Squishing Shoes by Stacey A. Marshall and loved it. As a kid I was a lot like Katie, who moved to a new school and felt afraid to talk to anyone. Her school principal turned into Captain Courage and destroyed her fear so she felt brave enough to speak out in class and all the kids loved what she shared.
If only real school principals had time to help individual students like Mr. Magico did.

The bright illustrations by Michele Morse portray the story wonderfully.

And, even though this is a fictional story, this morning I saw a video about scientific studies that show what Captain Courage did can actually work in real life for adults, too. The video is long, but if any grown-ups want to watch it, here's the link

But the delightful book is better for encouraging shy kids.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

I Can't Believe My Dog Did That

I've blogged a lot about American Sign Language lately and here's one more that's sort of on the topic.

We once had a deaf Dalmatian dog named Brenda who learned to understand lots of signs and taught us some signs dogs use. Some of those are even used by other animals and birds.

For example, shaking all over, like shaking off water after getting wet, means "finish" and many creatures may do it when they're glad something is finished or sometimes if they want it to be over.  The ASL sign for "finish" is like flicking water off the fingers and was probably derived from the animal sign.

I wrote a story about Brenda and an amazing thing she once did and it was recently published in the new Chicken Soup for the Soul book, I Can't Believe My Dog Did That.

If you would like to read the story it's on page 179 of the book, which is available on Amazon and in most bookstores. Of course there are lots of interesting things in the book other dogs did as well.