Friday, October 28, 2011

Always Something There to Remind Me - Beth Harbison

Synopsis from Barnes&Noble: Can you ever really know if love is true? And if it is, should you stop at anything to get it?

Two decades ago, Erin Edwards was sure she’d already found the love of her life: Nate Lawson. Her first love. The one with whom she shared everything—dreams of the future, of children, plans for forever. The one she thought she would spend the rest of her life with. Until one terrible night when Erin made a mistake Nate could not forgive and left her to mourn the relationship she could never forget or get over.

Always Something There to Remind Me is a story that will resonate with any woman who has ever thought of that one first love and wondered, “Where is he?” and “What if…?” Filled with Beth Harbison’s trademark nostalgia humor and heart, it will transport you, and inspire you to believe in the power of first love.

I enjoyed the story itself. It flowed nicely. The characters were dynamic, and I grew to really like some of them (and dislike others). This was a quick read. And the topic, I believe, really does appeal to women and those of us who play the “what if” game.

I could have done without the more intimate details.

Your Child's Writing Life - Pam Allyn

Synopsis from Barnes&Noble: An illuminating, first-of-its-kind resource to help parents foster a love of writing in their child's life.

New educational research reveals that writing is as fundamental to a child's development as reading. But though there are books that promote literacy, no book guides parents in helping their child cultivate a love of writing. In this book, Pam Allyn, a nationally recognized educator and literacy expert, reminds us that writing is not only a key skill but also an essential part of self-discovery and critical to success later in life. Allyn offers the "the five keys" to help kids WRITE-Word Power, Ritual, Independence, Time, and Environment-along with fun, imaginative prompts to inspire and empower children to put their thoughts on the page.

I picked this up at the library as a resource for work. And while it is primarily a guide for younger writers, there are some prompts I can use with my 7th and 8th graders.

I love that it breaks it down by age/developmental level to look at what writing skills to develop and gives prompts for parents to use at home. And tips to create a “writing life” at a young age. Definitely a book I will be purchasing to have on my shelf as a resource.

I tell my students on a regular basis that writing is so *integral* to whatever they want to be and do later in life (yes, even for you pro-ball players and singing sensations). A lot of times they don’t get it because it hasn’t been a part of their life until school…and really, to be honest, until they hit middle school.

My girls will also benefit from this read (although they might not feel it’s beneficial)…I see Christmas and summer break writing projects heading their way. 

So, for anyone with a child of any age, pick it up and read it.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Between Here and April - Deborah Copaken Kogan

Synopsis from B&N: When a deep-seated memory suddenly surfaces, Elizabeth Burns becomes obsessed with the long-ago disappearance of her childhood friend April Cassidy. Driven to investigate, Elizabeth discovers a thirty-five-year-old newspaper article revealing the details that had been hidden from her as a child—shocking revelations about April's mother, Adele.

Elizabeth, now herself a mother, seeks out anyone who might help piece together the final months, days, and hours of this troubled woman's life, but the answers yield only more questions. And those questions lead back to Elizabeth's own life: her own compromised marriage, her increasing self-doubt and dissatisfaction, and finally, a fearsome reckoning with what it means to be a wife and mother.

Book club book for October.

I have never thought much about depression and suicide as a mother. When I have, my thoughts have (honestly) been toward what a horrible mother the woman must have been. This book challenged me to look at it all differently – through the lens of overwhelming motherhood. Not that it ever makes it okay. But more that there should be compassion on some level.

Joyce Meyer always says that “Hurting people hurt people.” How true is that in these instances.

The story was well-told (although, again, I could have done without the same language and sexuality that seems to pervade modern fiction) through the eyes of Elizabeth Burns.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

One Day - David Nicholls

Synopsis from B&N: It’s 1988 and Dexter Mayhew and Emma Morley have only just met. But after only one day together, they cannot stop thinking about one another. Over twenty years, snapshots of that relationship are revealed on the same day—July 15th—of each year. Dex and Em face squabbles and fights, hopes and missed opportunities, laughter and tears. And as the true meaning of this one crucial day is revealed, they must come to grips with the nature of love and life itself.

I don’t know why it still surprises me that so much modern fiction is fully of swearing and sex…but it does.

I heard about this book when I saw a preview for the movie. While I enjoyed the book, I think I’ll be skipping the movie due to the above issues.

All that being said, I think that the format the book took was quite clever. To cover two decades of the relationship between Dexter and Emma by highlighting the same date (coninciding with the day they met), was a unique way to share their story. And, quite frankly, I didn’t feel like I had missed out on anything by the book not covering the other 364 days of each of those years. Nicholls did an excellent job with that aspect.

I didn’t ever grow attached to either Dexter or Emma…or any of the subsidiary characters. I mean, it was an interesting story, but I didn’t feel like I could related to any of the characters.

The ending (well, not the very end but the end of the second to last part) did come as quite a shock to me. I hadn’t seen it coming at all…which I always appreciate.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

When Your Child is 6 to 12 - John M. Drescher

Synopsis from B&N: We've been over-run with child-rearing manuals for infants. We've been swamped with advice for relating to teens. But little has been offered to parents whose children are in middle childhood! John. M. Drescher, a wise voice in the field of parenting literature whose books have sold more than 400,000 copies.

I don’t quite know how I feel about this book. I have two dear step-daughters who both fall smack in the middle of that age range at eight and ten.

Maybe I’m too hard-core. Or maybe I’m too old school. I don’t know. However, while this book mentioned in passing that you should discipline them, it doesn’t go into how to do so effectively. Instead it focuses more heavily on the warm fuzzies of self-esteem, encouragement, praise, etc. It goes so far as to say that you shouldn’t tell this age child what to do; instead you should simply model it.

While I believe that you should model the behavior you expect, I think you have to say it too. They are just not observing you enough (especially as they get to the older end of the range) to pick up everything they need. That’s why children at this age are cognitively and emotionally self-absorbed. Instruction needs to be more explicit at times.

I have issues with the whole “need to preserve their self-esteem” mantra in general. I don’t give my students grades that will best support their self-esteem (despite what some parents would prefer). I give them the grades their work earns them. I believe there should be sports for fun. However, I also believe if you play competitively, there have to be winners and losers. That’s a life lesson and when better to learn it?

I also fully support encouragement and praise. But there are also times when correction and redirection are needed. Sometimes your kid really screws up and there just isn’t anything to praise in that situation. You shouldn’t make something up – that is modeling dishonesty.

So while there were some good things in the book, I think some balance is called for.

Secret Daughter: A Mixed-Race Daughter and the Mother Who Gave Her Away - June Cross

Synopsis from B&N: June Cross was born in 1954 to Norma Booth, a glamorous, aspiring white actress, and James "Stump" Cross, a well-known black comedian. Sent by her mother to be raised by black friends when she was four years old and could no longer pass as white, June was plunged into the pain and confusion of a family divided by race. This is an inspiring testimony to the endurance of love between mother and daughter, a child and her adoptive parents, and the power of community.

I actually came across this book when I was looking for another book of the same title.

I found the perspective on race interesting. I grew up an Air Force brat, in diverse environments and with diverse people surrounding me. So racism is never something I’ve really been able to grasp. I mean, 1954 wasn’t really that long ago…50ish years. Yet mixed-race children had an entirely different upbringing, according to Cross’s book.

I enjoyed the relationship between June and her “adoptive” mom. I think that Aunt Peggy loved her as she was her own. However, June always had her birth mother, Norma, in her life. And Norma had a completely different set of values. I’m sure that added to confusion in young June’s life.

The book doubled back on itself some, which led to confusion. And the prose was tedious to slog through at times.