Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Spider Sparrow by Dick King-Smith

This beautiful and simple story touched my heart.  The boy in the story is an abandoned child left to a shepherd and his wife who have wanted children for many years. They love this small boy who they quickly realize is not going to be like other children.  They raise him and repeat over and over that they hope their son will be happy.  I loved the story because for most parents we just want our children to be happy no matter their circumstances.  As a parent I care very little if my child is the best at something and my concern is for their growth and development, whatever that level might be.  In this story, the parents help Spider reach his full potential and they are satisfied with the moments they have with their unique son. 

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo

This is a wonderful story that I found in a neighbor’s free library. (If you don’t know what a free library is, google it and then put one outside your house.)  This story is about a boy whose mother passes away from cancer. His dad, drowning in his own grief cannot cope with the pain of losing his wife and the sorrow that his child is feeling. The dad teaches his son that crying will not bring back his mom so it is unnecessary.  The boy in the story, Rob, decides that he will store all his emotions in a mental suitcase and not take them out because according to his dad that will do no good.  Rob meets Sistine who lets all her emotions out in the extreme.  Eventually these two with the help of a real tiger find a way to temper both the holding and release of emotions. 

This story dropped into my lap at a perfect moment. My children and I are experiencing our own grief. My husband committed suicide on Oct. 21, 2014 and we will never be the same. We each carry grief with us but unlike the father in the story, I have encouraged my children to release their emotions. It takes time to allow this release but as every article in our suitcase is released our lives begin to change and we move forward.  Always the love and hurt from our loss will be a part of our story but it doesn’t have to hold us back.  This analogy is good for children grieving because they will recognize themselves and their grieving adult in the story.  Grieving is difficult work.  This book would most definitely open the door for conversations and if grief hasn’t hit your family yet, would open the door to how to help others struggling through their own grief. I like Sistine in this story because she forces Rob to face his pain.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls

I have read this one out loud to my oldest son but reading it aloud to my two middle kids has made me appreciate it more. Perhaps it is because they are the two that would get into the same scrapes that this young man, Jay Berry, does or perhaps it is because they have tried my patience and I can relate to the mother completely. Either way as we made our way through the 9th chapter the other night I found myself laughing so hard that I could not stop.  This is the chapter where the monkeys get Jay Berry drunk and steal his britches. I have not laughed this much in years. The premise of this book is that a circus train has crashed and the monkeys have escaped, with one very intelligent chimpanzee as their leader. Jay Berry tries with the help of his grandpa to catch the monkeys because they are worth $2 each except for the chimpanzee who is worth $100. Just imagine that! He could by his own 22 and pony if he could just catch them.  Unfortunately the chimpanzee is smarter than he is and he is outfoxed time after time. He doesn't give up and in the end the monkeys are driven by a storm to him and he earns all the money. Does he get his 22 and pony or does he turn the money over to his parents for his twin sister's much needed surgery?  A lesson and laughter all in one!  I love this book.  If you can stop laughing long enough to read it, your kids will love it too! This is the same author of Where the Red Fern Grows.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper

I stumbled upon this book because of an assignment my son has in his class to read 8 award winners by the end of the year. I have struggled to find award winners for him to read. This book is the winner of the following awards: Buckeye Children's Book Award for 6-8 (2011), Dorothy Canfield Fisher Children's Book Award Nominee (2012), Goodreads Choice Award Nominee (2010) and the Beehive awards which is an award done through Utah and the children and parents are voters. That is why I selected the book. I am so glad I did. Sometimes I have to prime the pump to get him to read books that he doesn't select on his own. This was one of those times. I picked it up and quickly became captivated by the heroine who is a brilliant girl trapped by a body that won't respond. It is written from her point of view and done in such a way that will change forever your perception of those we label disabled.  It's a sad story as she makes her way through school with teachers good and bad and eventually is able to communicate through new technology.  She thinks she is making friends but sadly they are unable to accept her completely. It's hard to see past the flailing limbs and drool.  Her champions - her parents and neighbor - never give up and fight so hard for her but in the end it is her determination and will that allow her to navigate life.  It's not a book with a happy ending but most of life isn't about happy endings. It's a book that champions those who cannot voice for themselves and it will change you.  This is a great one for dialog with your children.  I believe it would be a fantastic read aloud book for kids ages 8 and up.  It's also one you could co-read. You read and they read and then you get to discuss. My son came up to me tonight and said, "You were right mom.  I will never be able to look at people with disabilities the same way again.  She's jealous of a baby because the baby gets to learn how to crawl, walk and feed herself."' It makes you think and that is something we all need to do, especially when it comes to those who are different from us. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I had never read this one and it was amazing. Not only was the prose a feast for word eaters but the story itself made you think.  I enjoyed the parallels to the Bible story. I loved Lee. He was the epitome of a great parent, one who listens, advises and then lets a child make their way in the world. Cathy is the queen of evil and it never ceases to amaze me when writers depict women who would abandon their children. I am sure they exist but I cannot imagine it and it seems unfathomably wrong.  Adam Trask needed a wake up call earlier but in the end he redeems himself. This books shows you the power of one word and the freedom understanding it brings.  I highly recommend this book.  It's for adults, not kids but it is one that is a friend on my shelf now.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Cheaper by the Dozen by Frank B. Gilbreth, Jr. & Ernestine Gibreth Carey

This book was extremely influential in my life. I don't know if it was the zeal for life that this family had or the way they taught and learned or the simple humor, but it is one I have read over and over and just finished reading to my boys. In this book you fall in love with the father. He is larger than life and full of energy, working up until the day he died and he did die at the very end of the book, leaving not only his family devastated but those who fell in love with him sad also. His life was built around saving time and avoiding "unnecessary delay". He made his children play language records in the bathroom, he drew constellations on his walls and taught the children Morse code by sending secret messages to them, coupled with prizes if they figured it out first. He loved a good joke, especially one on himself. He wanted nothing wasted. I love this quote from the end of the book. "Someone once asked Dad: But what do you want to save time for? What are you going to do with it?
For work, if you love that best, said Dad. For education, for beauty, for art, for pleasure. He looked over the top of his pince-nez. For mumblety-peg, if that's where your heart lies."
I have found myself over the years looking for ways to save time and what do I do with it? I read, I work and most of all I spend time with family. This book will make your kids laugh out loud with the family stories it tells. My kids go around quoting from it all the time now, telling the family stories as if they were their own memories.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

She has written another book entitled One that is very simlar to this one in how it promotes good social behavior. You may want to check that one out, especially if you are dealing with bullies. This book though tells the tale of how zero feels so empty and so useless and how zero can't find a way to count. It's basically a story of self-esteem and how sometimes you just have to see yourself in a different light or pattern and then you see how much you are worth and how much worth you can bring to others. I would definately use it in a self-esteem lesson, followed by an activity. I might have the kids trace each other and then draw themselves and the things they love or think they are good at on a paper. I like how she makes everyone count in this book!