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Dig Here! is a bunch of familiar elements — teenage girl best friends, missing treasure, a cranky aunt, and abandoned house, etc. — assembled in a way that didn’t feel familiar. I found myself wondering a lot whether this was the book Gladys Allen set out to write.

The main character, Sandy, is the daughter of missionaries. She’s sent to boarding school during the school year and to various relatives during the summers. When Dig Here! opens, she’s facing the prospect of spending the summer with Aunt Cal, who she’s never met, and who is related to her only by marriage. Aunt Cal says it’s okay for Sandy to bring a friend with her, so she invites her best friend, Eve, and it’s a good thing for her that she does. Eve is a much more forceful personality than Sandy is, and she’s also more adventurous, more sensible, and probably smarter. She’s even better at dealing with Aunt Cal, in part because she’s better at cooking and housework and, I don’t know, getting up on time than Sandy is.

This is one of the things that makes me unsure Allen knows what book she’s writing. Someone — maybe one of Sandy’s parents, in a letter? — talks about how sunny and sweet Sandy is, but all we actually see evidence of is Eve being better at everything. Towards the end you get a little more of a sense of Sandy as a person in her own right, but not much.

It’s an Augusta Huiell Seaman kind of setup. On their arrival at Aunt Cal’s the girls find that Sandy accidentally exchanged suitcases with a fellow bus passenger — a hair tonic salesman, judging by his luggage. A trip to exchange the suitcase for Sandy’s leads them to an old house, and hair tonic guy behaving suspiciously. Then the house turns out to be the one that Aunt Cal should have inherited from her uncle — and would have, if her shiftless cousin hadn’t hidden his will. There also may or may not be an emerald buried somewhere around the property. I’m not sure Eve and Sandy know which of these mysteries they’re investigating, but they investigate with a will, and with the help of cute farmboy Michael, and, eventually, the various hindrances provided by their school friend Hattie May and her brother Hamish. Hamish fancies himself as a detective.

I think what makes Dig Here! feel unusual is that books like these tend to have a very narrow focus. The kids solving the mystery are usually a small, tight-knit group. The crotchety relative exists to have their heart melted by the main character. You get your protagonist, his or her friends, whatever adults they live with, and maybe a villain. But in Dig Here!, everything’s part of a larger picture you don’t see. There are characters you never meet, like Sandy’s parents and Aunt Cal’s cousin. And the characters you do meet have stuff going on that the kids don’t know about. There are subplots that Sandy and Eve don’t find out about until the end, and then only as an afterthought. Aunt Cal is investigating on her own account, and doesn’t tell Sandy anything about it. And she doesn’t need to confide in Sandy — she’s not socially isolated, she’s got friends, and they probably know more about the mystery than Sandy does, too. It gives the book a different feel than you’d get from Seaman, or from any mystery where the kids hide what’s happening from the clueless grownups. And I enjoyed that.

The downside of the kids not having most of the story is that their side of the mystery isn’t that interesting, and the characters I enjoyed most were the ones Allen spent the least time on, but it was fun.I don’t think I need to seek out more books by Gladys Allen, but if I ended up reading another one, I wouldn’t be upset.

Tagged: 1930s, girls, gladys allen, mystery

2 Comments on , last added: 11/29/2014
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2. Aprilly

This is my third attempt at writing a review of Aprilly, by Jane Abbott. I’m not sure why writing about it is so daunting. It’s never going to be my favorite Jane Abbott book — there are structural issues, and a lot of what happens feels unearned. Also I found it hard to sympathize with the protagonist, and wished some of the other characters got more page time. But all of these things are things I’ve had time to think out. When I finished the book, I mostly just thought, “that was nice, but the romance was kind of creepy and unnecessary and Laughing Last was better.”

Anyway, I enjoyed it, but I doubt I’ll want to read it again. And if you want more information than that (you should) here’s a bit of a synopsis:

April Dangerfield is left penniless and homeless (I mean, approximately) after the death of her circus performer mother, and somehow ends up in a small town in Maine, where she finds a number of friends, including the usual crotchety spinster, and eventually acquires a family. And also a horse.

Jane Abbott falls flat for me sometimes, usually in the books everyone else seems to like best. I guess this is just one of those times.

Tagged: 1920s, girls, janeabbott, maine

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3. Patty’s Fortune

Patty’s Fortune is divided pretty clearly into two sections. In the first Bill Farnsworth hosts a house party in an empty hotel, and in the second Philip Van Reypen’s aunt attempts to coerce Patty into marrying Phil. Hopefully that will make it easier to talk about. I’ve been struggling with these last few books, mostly because I have a hard time telling them apart.

The house party thing is, I guess, Wells’ chance to revisit the premise of The Dorrance Domain, except with wealthy young people being waited on by shoals of servants instead of children in straitened circumstances mostly waiting on themselves. The party consists of twelve people, including the Kenerleys as chaperones, a new man called Chick Channing, and no Philip. Yay!

The party would be a complete success (Kit Cameron channels Mr. Rochester! Mona and Roger finally get engaged!) except that it’s indirectly the means of Patty’s introduction to Maudie Adams, a theatrical promoter who tries to convince her to go on the stage. Patty is maybe at her least appealing in this book — more human, but not in a likable way. It’s always been a mystery how Patty stays unspoiled in the midst of so much wealth and attention, but sometimes it seems like the answer to that question is, “Well, maybe she doesn’t.”

Without really seeming to have changed, Patty looks as vain and as spoiled as we’ve ever seen her. I guess that’s mostly when she wants to go on the stage, though. Once we get to the second half of the book, all of my sympathies are with her again. Otherwise some of them would have to be with Lady Van, Phil’s aunt, who tries to subtly and then less subtly coerce Patty into an engagement with Phil. Or with Patty’s parents, who willingly go along with the more subtle coercion. Or with Phil, which, no.

When trying to groom Patty for Phil doesn’t do the trick, Lady Van, in her final illness, tries to get Patty to promise to marry him, telling her that she (Lady Van) will die right then and there if she (Patty) doesn’t. It’s underhanded and gross, and thankfully Fred and Nan Fairfield agree with me, because I was starting to distrust them.

Then…well, as if the emotional blackmail wasn’t enough, Lady Van passes her illness on to Patty (I know, I’m being unfair, she didn’t do it on purpose) and between that and her stress over the promise Lady Van forced out of her, Patty ends up in pretty bad shape.

It’s cool, though. She’s saved through vaguely supernatural means and also Bill Farnsworth.

Next up is Patty Blossom. We’re on the home stretch, guys.

Tagged: 1910s, carolynwells, girls, series

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4. The Red Pencil, by Andrea Davis Pinkney

We begin with Amira's 12 birthday.  She is finally old enough to wear a toob yet young enough to enjoy her Dando lifting her to the sky.  Amira lives on a farm in South Darfur surrounded by friends and family, but changes are afoot.  Amira's best friend Halima and her family are packing their things and moving to the city.  They say the city has more opportunities.  Amira wishes she could go with them to Nyala and attend the Gad Primary School with Halima.  Amira is not so sure about her Muma's old fashioned ways.

                  "She does not like the idea of Gad,
                    or any place where girls learn
                    to read
                    or write,
                    in Arabic or English
                    or think beyond a life
                    of farm chores and marriage." (p. 13 arc)

Soon, the extra chores of 12, missing Halima, and trying to solve the ongoing bickering between her father and villager Old Anwar seem anything but troubling.  The relative peace of her village is shattered when the Janjaweed  attack, changing Amira's very existence.

Amira and the other survivors must pick up the pieces and leave the ruins of the village to find safety.  Their trek takes them to the refugee camp Kalma - the Displaced People's Camp.  Amira doesn't like this space surrounded by fences and barbed wire.

                    "Everywhere I look,
                      I see
                      people, people, and more people.

                      I'm glad to stop walking.
                      I'm glad we have finally reached who-knows-where.
                      But already I do not like this place." (arc p. 139)

It would be easy enough to give up in such a desperate place with no real end in sight.  Amira and her family have lost so much.  But when Amira meets Miss Sabine and is given a gift of a red pencil she discovers some things about herself, her family and those on the journey with her.

Written in free verse, The Red Pencil is a story of family and loss and hope.  It was eye opening for me on a number of levels.  One is that it is so easy for me not to see what is happening in the world from my perch here in NYC.  The horrors of Darfur in the early 2000s seemed so far away in time and place that I wonder how many people in North America are aware of what was happening.  I find myself very impressed with the deftness of Andrea Davis Pinkney's hand when it came to writing the passages dealing with the violence.  She truly tells the story from a 12 year old's point of view, and the free verse format allows for silences that speak volumes.  The illustrations by Shane W. Evans are playful within this serious book and somehow bring a feeling of safety to the pages.

A must read for librarians, teachers and students.

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5. Patty’s Romance

The books in the series are very much running together for me by the time I get to Patty’s Romance, and this one is no exception. Although I guess that’s a funny thing to day about a book that has, as its central incident, Patty’s kidnapping.

I mean, it’s not the most dramatic kidnapping. There’s kind of a cool bit where the various members of the Kenerley household, where Patty’s staying, slowly come to the realization that she must have been taken. But after that, there’s not much suspense, just a lot of men talking about how they don’t believe in paying ransom normally, but it’s different when it’s Patty. She never seems to be in much danger, unless it’s of dying of boredom, and we see very little of the kidnappers.

Patty cleverly brings about her own rescue, but it’s then carried out by Phil Van Reypen, which, as you can imagine, doesn’t make me very happy. It’s the high point of Phil behavior in this book, the low point coming when he tells her she’s not smart enough to play golf. That happens post-rescue, when Phil and his aunt take Patty on a trip to…oh, I don’t know, every mountain resort in the northeast. That’s what it feels like, anyway.

Phil gets another shot at rescuing Patty at one of these, thanks to a character who seems to exist solely for the purpose of stealing their boat and leaving them stranded on a small island. But Bill Farnsworth shows up and saves his life/steals his thunder. Which I guess is representative of his now obvious status as Wells’ favorite. Especially if you think about Mr. Hepworth rescuing Patty when her boat comes unmoored in Patty’s Summer Days.

Anyway, at this point if you’re paying attention you know that Patty’s going to fall in love with Bill eventually, and maybe that’s why Wells keeps heaping praise on Phil — because she feels sorry for him, or because she’s trying to cover her tracks. Or because it seems too much like Patty’s in love with  Bill already. There’s a fine line between “Bill’s always been kind of special to her” and “why does Patty keep saying she’s not in love with anyone?”

So, this book isn’t one of my favorites, but it’ll do, mostly thanks to Bill. And I’m enjoying him as much as I can, because, if I recall correctly, I’m going to like him a lot less two or three books from now.

Tagged: 1910s, carolyn wells, girls, series

3 Comments on Patty’s Romance, last added: 9/17/2014
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6. Patty’s Suitors

Patty’s Suitors is pretty much Kit Cameron’s book, if you’re looking for an easy way to remember it (and I am). It also gives us proposals from Ken and Phil (yes, again) as well as another flying visit from Big Bill Farnsworth, but Kit is new and Kit is involved throughout. And Kit is funny, and Phil Van Reypen hates him, so I’m pretty cool with that.

Kit is the cousin of Patty’s new friend Marie Homer (who exists to provide an alternate love interest for Ken as well as to introduce Kit, but who seems nice). Patty ends up accidentally talking to him on the phone one night when she’s trying to get hold of Marie, and, being Patty, conceals her identity and flirts with him instead of apologizing for the wrong number.

This clearly appeals to Kit’s sense of humor, and, once the issue of Patty’s identity is cleared up, they spend most of the rest of the book playing pranks on each other. He proposes to her, too, but she mostly talks him out of being serious about it.

Anyway, it doesn’t mean much. Once she’s out in society, people are always proposing to Patty. And then she steers them towards her friends. Kit gets pointed in the direction of Daisy Dow, who used to be awful to Patty but I guess isn’t in love with Bill Farnsworth anymore. Ken is paired off with Marie Homer by the narrative even before he’s proposed to Patty. I wish Ken didn’t have to propose to Patty, though. It reduces him, somehow. He’s been a part of Patty’s life since Patty at Home, and everyone thinks he’s great. I understand that everyone has to fall in love with her, but when it comes time to refuse him, Patty has to give him reasons she’s not in love with him and reasons he shouldn’t be in love with her, which is a) super condescending, and b) not her decision to make.

She doesn’t give Phil reasons. I’m very resentful of Phil Van Reypen being treated better than Kenneth Harper. And Patty apparently likes Phil best right now, which makes me like Patty less than I’ve ever liked her before.

Bill shows up toward the end, in an episode that should definitely tell you, if you didn’t already know, that he’s endgame. There have been plenty of men and boys who have been jealous of Patty’s other suitors, but none of them have made Patty jealous, and that seems to be the point of this bit — to show us that even if Patty doesn’t know it yet, this one is different for her.

Tagged: 1910s, carolyn wells, girls, new york, series

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7. Molly Brown, 1/2 — or maybe 3

People have been bugging me about reading Nell Speed for a long time. LadyMem on Twitter, in particular, reminds me every so often that this is something I have to do. And since it seemed like last week was coming late to the party week for me, I have finally started reading the Molly Brown series. This post deals with the first half of the series — Molly Brown’s Freshman Days through Molly Brown’s Senior Days.

And yeah, they’re fun. Really, really fun.

This is actually the first college girl series I’ve read in years that hasn’t made me feel like a lousy person for not liking college. I don’t know if that’s because they’re less intent on preaching the gospel of their fictional college, or just that I’ve moved past that. I think it might be a little of both.

Basically, these series are all the same. An appealing central character arrives at college as a freshman and makes two or three close friends in her own year, gains a wealthy senior as a friend and a spiteful sophomore as an enemy, and becomes generally beloved for her friendliness, honorable behavior and general attractiveness. Add in three more years, plenty of fudge parties and autumn walks, a handful of theatrical and/or musical performances, and a sense of oncoming nostalgia, and you’ve got yourself a series. The Molly Brown books do all of this and do it well, so probably the thing to concentrate on is what’s different.

There’s not a lot. I think the Molly Brown books are more lighthearted than similar series. They’re rarely emotionally intense, and when disaster looms, it doesn’t loom all that convincingly. For me, that’s part of these books’ charm. It’s nice to read something this unsuspenseful once in a while. But it also meant that the characters didn’t touch me as much as they do in, say, the Grace Harlowe books, which are objectively not as well-written. I liked the characters quite a bit, but didn’t have any stronger feelings about them.

The romance level was a little unusual. I don’t think I’ve ever read a college girl series where the romantic subplot was so obvious and kept so much to the forefront throughout the series. And I’m sort of in favor of that in this particular case, because the college girl heroine never falls in love with the balding English professor and probably she should. But I also like it when thoughts of marriage don’t intrude on a college girl’s career, because thoughts of marriage intrude in almost every other book of this age centered around young women. Often in series like this the girls are sort of implicitly paired of with some of the young men they hang out with, but not in a way that implies anything will come of it later. That’s not really the case here. And there was a lot of jealousy, a lot of girls disliking each other because they’re both interested in the same man, which isn’t actually as fun as a lot of authors seem to think it is. And then, there were times when the relationship between Molly and Professor Green bothered me in the same way that romances developing too early in books about significantly younger girls do.

If I had written this post before I started the fifth book, it would be a lot more positive. I really enjoyed the college books; I raced through them, barely able to put them down to go to sleep. But the series rapidly goes downhill after Molly graduates (is this the one where Nell Speed died halfway through and her sister took over?), and I think these are also just the kind of books I like better while reading them than while thinking about them. I know some people are really, really into Nell Speed though. What am I missing?

Tagged: 1910s, girls, nell speed, series

8 Comments on Molly Brown, 1/2 — or maybe 3, last added: 7/3/2013
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8. Molly Brown 2/3

I’ve now read books five and six of the Molly Brown series — Molly Brown’s Post-Graduate Days and Molly Brown’s Orchard Home. And I think I’m taking a break for a bit. I don’t like anyone anymore. Or care about what happens to Molly.

Here’s what happens in the first two post-college Molly Brown books:

A bunch of people fall in love with each other. Everyone is super jealous of everyone else. Molly and Professor Green are much less entertaining than they were before. Molly’s aunt, for whatever reason, is evil. So is the mother of a girl they meet on their way to France in book six. The kind of people who were redeemable in the earlier books aren’t anymore. The humor is meaner. The friendships are less convincing.

I’m sure part of the way I feel about these two books is about my having run out of patience, but not all of it. So, I hope to come back to Molly Brown at some point and finish the series, but for now I am done.

Tagged: 1910s, girls, nellspeed, paris, series, the south

6 Comments on Molly Brown 2/3, last added: 7/3/2013
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9. a bit of sweetness....

eli's slumberland
©the enchanted easel 2013
on this otherwise sad day.

well, for all of you who follow me on facebook (or on here), you know i have been working on this cute little elephant over the last 4 days. it was a surprise gift for the wonderful secretary in my neurosurgeon's office, jackie, who is about to pop soon! these people have been so amazing to me through 3 neck surgeries/cervical spine/fusions that there was just NO way i could let it go without doing something. jackie has always been so lovely to me over the years that it was a no-brainer for me to want to paint her something super cute for the impending arrival of her little one. 

since she's waiting until the baby is born to know whether it will be a little girl or boy, i wanted to make sure that i created/designed something gender friendly. also, it turns out, jackie LOVES elephants (like me). so, it couldn't have turned out any better. 

i delivered it to her personally today and she was so surprised. her reaction made the rest of my 2013 for sure. granted, i'm a bit sore from painting so much for so many days in a row (as i'm still trying to recover fully here from my 3rd surgery) but i have to say, her reaction made the soreness worthwhile.

i have decided to sell PRINTS of this in my etsy shop found here:
it is available in sizes 4x4, 6x6 or 8x8. a perfect addition for any baby boy/girl's nursery. besides, who could resist a cute little baby elephant...in a diaper? ;)

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10. 496 Million Women

496 million. That’s how many women in the world can’t read or write even the most simple sentence. Many women never have the opportunity to reach 6th grade, and some don’t get to go to school at all.

Today, we join citizens around the world in celebrating International Women’s Day, and I want to share the stories of Dinah Mwangi and Katie Hendricks, two special women whose lives exemplify the theme of this year’s celebration, “Equality for Women is Progress for All.”

Dinah MwangiDinah makes progress for all in Nairobi, Kenya. While waiting in line at a carwash, Dinah noticed two young boys straining to see what she was reading – a children’s book she had purchased for her niece. When she asked if they would like to join her, the boys lit up.

They read, and laughed and shared stories with Dinah. Then they told her they had no books of their own.

Dinah started buying books with her own salary and recruited volunteers to read and distribute them to kids each Saturday. In less than three months, she had over 500 kids participating. Now she’s pursuing relationships with Kenyan publishers, corporations and funders in order to expand her reach and deepen her impact.

On the other side of the world, Katie makes progress for all by helping girls from low-income families in California’s East Bay bridge the gap between school and home.

Photo from girlsinc-alameda.orgAs a young teacher, Katie yearned to improve all aspects of her students’ lives, inside and outside the classroom. Her holistic approach led her to create Girls Inc. of Alameda County, a program that inspires girls to be strong, smart and bold. Katie and her team reinforce what their girls learn at school, help them become fluent English speakers, provide them with healthy meals and expose them to subjects girls aren’t always encouraged to study, like science, technology and athletics.

By improving the lives of girls in California’s East Bay, Katie also improves the lives of their family members, teachers, friends and classmates.

Dinah and Katie represent what’s possible when women have the education, resources and motivation to make progress for all. Their immediate impact on the kids they serve is immense. Equally powerful, however, is how their spirit and service ripple through entire communities, transform lives and change the future.

In addition to celebrating heroic women like Dinah and Katie, I invite you to join me in recommitting ourselves to becoming a powerful force for equality.

The gender gap has closed significantly over the past few decades, but we still have a long way to go. In some countries, less than a quarter of women finish primary school; 496 million women around the world cannot read or write a simple sentence; and globally, women only reach 93 percent of men’s educational attainment.

I believe the path to equality is through access to quality education. That’s why First Book is equipping educators like Dinah and Katie with brand-new books and resources for the kids they serve, expanding our network to reach women and girls around the globe and lifting up the voices of an unprecedented community of individuals serving children at the base of the economic pyramid.

Please consider a gift to First Book today. Together, we can support the work of heroic women like Dinah and Katie around the world.

The post 496 Million Women appeared first on First Book Blog.

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11. Tom Selleck Owes Me an Apology

Tom Selleck owes me an apology. Anyone my age knows the unobtainable standard he set for a teenage boy just coming into maturity. Why, do you ask, am I seeking contrition from him?

Good looks? No.

Suave disposition? No.

All the ladies? No…well maybe.

I’m talking about the hair…his stinking perfect hair.


When all of the girls had a picture of the Magnum PI in mind, how could any of us real boys measure up? Curly coiffure, bushy mustache, chest hair, leg hair… There it is! Leg hair. Recently, smooth has become stylish and I would have been perfect for this new generation. But that isn’t my generation. When I was in high school and college, the girls wanted hair and lots of it. Hair I didn’t have.  Well, that’s not absolutely true. Science should study my leg hair because it is translucent like that of a polar bear. It’s there, just not to the naked eye. It only shows up if I have a deep tan, which is near impossible for someone of Swedish/Germanic descent. Undaunted, I went to the pool, laid out, and held my legs just right so that passing females might possibly get the proper angle to spot a few strands.

As a freshman in college, I went so far as to purchase a tanning package. I donned little glasses and laid on top of the plastic surface to bake. And bake I did. Remember the shorts Magnum used to wear? Not long like they are today, 80′s shorts came way up on the thigh. Hoping my tan would expose leg hair from the top of my leg to my toes, I even pulled them up higher. Oh yeah, I got burned in very sensitive areas. It hurt for weeks and didn’t help my hair stand out whatsoever.

We all have physical characteristics we would rather minimize or hide completely. Just the other day, I was talking with a friend who told me her 10 year-old daughter E had been called fat by another girl. My heart sank. Her sweet little girl is now self-conscious about something as irrelevant as my smooth legs. She is active and isn’t overweight in the least, but also isn’t waif-thin like so many women our society seems to put on a pedestal. Such a tragedy.

I want so much for her and other little girls to see what truly matters about themselves instead of what is fleeting.

Your beauty should not consist of outward things … Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.

1 Peter 3:3-4

That’s what is important. I hope my daughters know that. I pray little E learns that too. We have to tell them they are beautiful and keep on telling them until they understand. That’s how God sees them.

So Tom, whenever you are ready, it has taken 25 years, but I am finally over your provocation and prepared to accept your apology. It’s been a long time coming.

Photo credit to Alan Light

8 Comments on Tom Selleck Owes Me an Apology, last added: 3/15/2014
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12. Be Lucky--Win a Free Book!

If you're lucky enough to be Irish, you're lucky enough. 

This month, everyone has the chance to be lucky! 
Win a Free hardcover of A WHOLE LOT OF LUCKY! 

Kirkus Reviews pinned a nice, big, blue star on A Whole Lot of Lucky, so what are you waiting around here for? Enter now at Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Whole Lot of Lucky by Danette Haworth

A Whole Lot of Lucky

by Danette Haworth

Giveaway ends March 31, 2014.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter to win

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13. Girls who kill

By Kathleen M. Heide, Ph.D.

There has been a resurgence of interest in girls who kill, following the report of two 12-year-old Wisconsin girls who stabbed another girl of the same age 19 times on 31 May 2014. The girls reportedly had planned to kill their friend following a birthday sleepover to demonstrate their allegiance to a fictionalized Internet character known as Slender Man. Despite the horror and the apparent senseless nature of the attack, all three girls had some good fortune. 

Although the victim had been left for dead, she miraculously lived. Had one of the stab wounds been a millimeter closer to a major artery by the heart, the victim would have bled to death. The victim crawled from the woods towards the street and cried for help. Had she not had the will to live and the good fortune of a passerby who heard her cries and took immediate action, the two assailants would have been facing murder charges instead of attempted murder charges. Under today’s sentencing laws, these two 12-year-old girls if convicted of premeditated murder in adult court could have spent the rest of their lives in prison.

The story sparked national attention given the age and gender of the assailants and the viciousness of the act. Questions quickly followed: Are murders by girls on the rise? Do girls who commit lethal violence differ from boys?

I have been evaluating juvenile homicide offenders and analyzing murder arrest trends in the United States for 30 years. My analyses of over 40,000 case of juveniles (ages 6-17) arrested nationally for murder and non-negligent manslaughter provide convincing evidence that the involvement of girls does not show an increasing trend over the years. On the average, the proportion of juveniles arrested for murder who were female since the mid-1970s has been about 8%. Stated another way, 92% of kids under 18 who are arrested for murder are boys. Analyses of victims, weapons used, co-defendant status, and circumstances indicate that there are significant differences (not due to chance) between boys and girls arrested for murder.

Do Not Cross, Crime Scene, Uploaded by Diego Grez. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Do Not Cross, Crime Scene, Uploaded by Diego Grez. CC-BY-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Girls under 18 are significantly more likely than boys:

  • To kill intimate partners
  • To kill victims under age 5
  • To kill family members
  • To use a knife, personal weapon, or weapon other than a gun
  • To kill a female victim
  • To act alone
  • To be involved in a conflict-related killings (e.g., argument)

Boys under 18 are significantly more likely than girls:

  • To kill adolescents and adults
  • To kill strangers
  • To use a gun
  • To kill male victims
  • To be involved in crime-related killings
  • To be involved in gang-related killings
  • To use accomplices to kill

The Wisconsin stabbing brought attention once again to youth violence in the United States. While murders committed by juveniles under 18 have decreased substantially since 1993, when they reached record highs, it is no time for complacence. This tragic case underscores the importance of parents to be aware of their children’s activities and to monitor their Internet activities. While it is unknown what factors in concert propelled these girls to plot for months to kill their friend, one fact is known from their statements to the police: their belief in a homicidal mythical internet character was part of the near lethal equation.

Kathleen M. Heide, Ph.D. is a Professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida, Tampa, and author of Understanding Parricide: When Sons and Daughters Kill Parents (Oxford U. Press, 2013), Animal Cruelty: Pathway to Violence against People (Alta-Mira, 2004), Young Killers: The Challenge of Juvenile Homicide (Sage, 1999), and Why Kids Kill Parents: Child Abuse and Adolescent Homicide (Ohio State University Press, 1992).

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14. The Turned-About Girls

Cathlin recently recommended The Turned-About Girls, by Beulah Marie Dix, and it was already sort of in the back of my head, because someone else — Mel? — was reading it recently. And I’ve been reading a whole string of things trying to avoid reading any more of Bulldog Drummond, so I started it almost immediately. And it’s really, really good.

The girls in question are Jacqueline Gildersleeve, a wealthy orphan on her way to spend the summer with her father’s aunt and cousin, and Caroline Tait, a poor orphan being send to live on her aunt’s farm. Neither of them has ever met the relatives in question, and neither of them is eager to. So when they meet on the train and discover they’re headed for the same town,  Jacqueline, who’s just read The Prince and the Pauper, hatches a plan for them to switch places.

Both of them are clearly happier with each other’s relatives than they would be with their own. Caroline, who is quiet and dreamy and musical, gets pretty things and piano lessons and two women who come to dote on her. Jackie, who is active and fearless and headstrong, gets kids to play with, new skills to learn as she helps out around the house, and an aunt and grandmother who come to love and depend on her, which is more satisfying than the sheltering kind of love that Caroline gets from Aunt Eunice and Cousin Penelope.

If there’s a major flaw in The Turned-About Girls, that’s it. Dix alternates between Jackie and Caroline’s points of view, and succeeds in making both of them sympathetic, but as the book progresses, it’s hard to avoid noticing that Jackie is growing as a person and Caroline is not. Jackie is the one who does things. It’s not just that she’s working hard on Aunt Martha’s farm while Caroline is being pampered in town — Jackie is actively learning new things. Her new skills go with lessons learned. When she learns to cook, it’s not just a new skill; it goes and in hand with her growing desire to be helpful to Aunt Martha and Grandma. When she gets into scrapes, it’s because she’s learning to have consideration for other people’s belongings. Caroline makes use of and improves upon skills she’s already got – sewing, playing the piano — but there’s no corresponding character growth. The closest she comes to growing is prompting growth in Cousin Penelope. And she spends most of the book scared or hiding or on the verge of tears. Jackie acts. Caroline is acted upon.

I actually started out wanting to focus on Caroline, and getting impatient with Jackie’s sections. Caroline, I think, is meant to be the real protagonist of the book. But Jackie is the one that makes the book compelling.

And there’s nothing wrong with that, because the key thing is that the book is compelling. It just makes the ending a little less satisfying, because Caroline is the one  who gets to stay with her family of choice. Jackie will help out the Conways financially, but I can’t be the only one who finished the book worried about how Aunt Martha was going to cope without Jackie or Caroline to help her out around the house. Right?

Tagged: 1920s, beulahmariedix, childrens, girls

4 Comments on The Turned-About Girls, last added: 7/24/2014
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15. What Were Girls Like?

I am JulietThree recent YA historical fiction novels by Australian women (all published by HarperCollins/ABC Books) inhabit times when girls had to bend to the influence of men and were comparatively powerless.

The Raven’s Wing is Frances Watts’s first novel for teens. It is set in Ancient Rome where fifteen year-old Claudia is strategically offered in marriage several times. Making an alliance which can best help her family is paramount. Primarily a romance, the book addresses Claudia’s growing awareness of human rights (here through the fate of slaves) which interferes with her sense of duty and makes her a much more interesting character than the docile cipher she is expected to be.

I am Juliet by Australian Children’s Laureate, Jackie French, is based on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. French’s Juliet is a fleshed-out focal character. Superficially she shares some of Claudia’s privileged lifestyle features: attended by maids who wash and dress her and apply her makeup; elaborate meals; and protection behind high walls. Medicinal and other herbs and plants are a feature of their times; and Juliet and Claudia both face imminent arranged marriage, but are aware of a dark man in shadows. Their stories, also, contain a story within a story.

Jackie French has reinterpreted Shakespeare previously – in her excellent Macbeth and Son which grapples with the nature of truth. She has also addressed the role of women in history, perhaps most notably in A Rose for the ANZAC Boys

Ratcatcher's Daughter Issy, the thirteen-year-old protagonist of Pamela Rushby’s The Ratcatcher’s Daughter, doesn’t share Claudia and Juliet’s privileged backgrounds. Set in a well-drawn Brisbane of 1900, Issy’s father is a ratcatcher during the bubonic plague. Issy is offered a scholarship to become a teacher but her family refuse it due to lack of money. The issue of the poor’s inability to take up opportunities that the rich assume is reiterated throughout the novel.

The Ratcatcher’s Daughter and I am Juliet include background notes about the historical period and other points of interest.

 These three books unite in their exploration of girls who are prepared to defy tradition to control their own lives, where possible, in spite of general lack of female empowerment. I hope that this really was possible and is not just a revisionist interpretation.

It is interesting that this crop of YA historical novels has appeared now. Are these authors finding a story-niche or reflecting current concern? Although surely girls today, particularly in a country such as Australia, are more fortunate in their freedom and choice. The Raven's Wing


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16. Laughing Last

I’ve been feeling lately like I’m having a hard time being enthusiastic about the books I’m reading. That happens every once in a while, and it’s always hard to tell whether it’s the books, or me suffering from a general deficiency of enthusiasm, or just my poor memory of how much I enjoyed things.

Looking back at recent posts, I don’t think it’s that third thing. I ended up mostly liking Dwell Deep, and Up the Hill and Over was fascinating, but neither of them comes anywhere near being my new favorite book. Although actually, The Turned-About Girls was great. And I guess Laughing Last, by Jane Abbott, isn’t my new favorite book either, but I love it enough to that I feel like I can safely blame any lack of enthusiasm on my recent reading material. I mean, I don’t feel like gushing about it or anything, but basically it was delightful and I have no complaints.

Jane Abbott is just so good, you know? Very few authors are as good at writing girls of a pre-romance age. And Laughing Last is very Jane Abbott-y, but it’s also got elements of L.T. Meade and Augusta Huiell Seaman and most of it is set in a kind of Joseph Crosby Lincoln milieu, and it’s just delightful in all sorts of ways. I might have to take back what I said about gushing.

The beginning of the book is perhaps the Meade-iest part. It introduces us to the four Romley girls, who range in age from 26 to 15. They’re the daughters of famous poet Joseph Romley, and while they do technically have a pair of guardians or trustees, in effect they’re under the thumb of the local chapter of the League of American Poets, which paid off the mortgage on their house, and consequently feels that it’s okay to bring tours through on Saturdays and keep the girls at their beck and call.

Isolde, the eldest, usually handles the tours, mostly because she’s the one who best fits everyone’s notions of how a poet’s daughter ought to look and act. Then there’s Trude, the practical, motherly one; Victoria, the prettiest and least responsible; and Sidney, the dreamy, stifled fifteen year old.

In search of adventure, Sidney invites herself to spend the summer with a totally unknown relative on Cape Cod. Elderly Achsa Green and her “different” nephew, Lavender, aren’t what Sidney expects, and nor is their home. Sidney’s kind of appalled at first, but with the help of the Green’s summer boarder, she learns to appreciate them. Then she meets Martie Calkins, a girl about her age, and learns a bunch of practical skills, like digging clams. And then, finally, she has a pretty exciting adventure. Jane Abbott’s good at adventures, too–this is, in a way, the most over the top adventure I’ve read in one of her books, but she keeps it grounded.

But mostly you just get to watch Sidney grow up a little, and see things turn out well for her, and it’s great. Sidney’s a little ridiculous sometimes, because she’s a fifteen year old girl with an imagination, but that’s actually an awesome thing to be, and Abbott doesn’t suggest otherwise or condescend.

Again: Jane Abbott is so good. I don’t know why I don’t read her more often.


Tagged: 1920s, girls, janeabbott

5 Comments on Laughing Last, last added: 8/8/2014
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17. Patty’s Motor Car

There’s a reason I got stuck on Patty’s Motor Car when I was reviewing the Patty Fairfield books. A couple of reasons, I guess. And if you want to look at it that way, the reasons’ names are Philip Van Reypen and Christine Farley.

I’m a weirdo who spends a lot of time thinking about things like how Patty Fairfield’s suitors fit into the structure of the series, and I think there’s a turning point here, a two-book transition between between the first seven books of the series and the last eight. Everything through Patty’s Pleasure Trip is about Patty the kid. Then, in Patty’s Success, Wells pushes Patty into the real world by making her deal with the job market. Then she introduces Christine and Phil, apparently for the purpose of splitting up Patty and Mr. Hepworth. This book brings Christine and Phil closer–and for the record, I don’t actually dislike Christine, just what she represents–and moves Patty further into the world by giving her mobility, in the form of an electric car.

I wonder a lot whether Wells seriously considered Phil as a possible endgame suitor for Patty. I find him so consistently awful, but I can’t find any sign that Wells agrees, unless writing him as a reckless, selfish manipulator who thinks he can get away with anything because he always has before counts.

Um, so, yeah. I hate Phil Van Reypen so much. You can take that as a given, although I have no doubt I’ll manage to remind you. Anyway, the next book changes the trajectory of the series a little, but I find it difficult to read these two books that push Patty towards Phil, because he is the worst. I started keeping a journal again shortly before I started rereading this book and now it’s full of “WORST”s in relation to Phil. In fact, if you looked at my journal, you’d think the whole book was instances of Phil being awful alternating with wordless conversations between Patty and Mr. Hepworth. And it is, kind of, but some other stuff happens, too.

So, this car company holds a contest: they put out a book of puzzles and riddles and things, and the person who sends in the most complete and correct set of answers by the deadline wins an electric car. Patty, with a bit of help from Kenneth Harper, a lot of help from Phil, and a bit of important last minute help from Mr. Hepworth, submits a set of answers and–you noticed the title, right?–wins the car.

The Fairfields move to the Jersey shore for the summer, and Patty gets to drive her car around a bunch, and we’re introduced to Mona Galbraith, who Wells never actually describes as nouveau riche. Instead Wells calls her “pushing,” and says her house and her clothes are unnecessarily fancy, but it’s cool, we all know what she means.

But yeah, other than that it’s all Phil getting Patty into scrapes, which he sometimes also gets hor out of, and also there’s a delightfully uncomfortable conversation between Patty and Christine where Christine tries to get Patty to acknowledge that Mr. Hepworth is in love with her and Patty says some stuff that’s one step removed from repeating “I’m not having this conversation,” over and over again. It’s pretty great.

Anyway, I hate Phil Van Reypen, but the rest of this book is pretty fun.

Tagged: 1910s, automobiles, carolyn wells, girls, series

3 Comments on Patty’s Motor Car, last added: 8/22/2014
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18. Patty’s Social Season

The stretch of the series between Patty’s Social Season and, I guess, Patty-Blossom, tends to run together. Lunches and evening parties alternate with house parties and Phil Van Reypen getting Patty into scrapes and flying visits from Bill Farnsworth. This one starts with Patty’s official debut — she’s an adult now, not that you would know the difference — encompasses Mr. Hepworth’s engagement to Christine Farley and a Christmas house party with the Kenerleys, and winds up with Christine and Mr. Hepworth’s wedding. I think Wells felt she had to dispose of Mr. Hepworth quickly.

When I first read the books in which Mr. Hepworth was paired off with someone who wasn’t, you know, Patty, I was pretty upset. But that was when I was in college, and since then I’ve grown to appreciate the fact that the adult who falls in love with a child doesn’t end up with her, as he would in kind of an upsettingly large number of other books. That said, I still have issues with how Wells gets rid of Gilbert Hepworth. Because it’s like she also came around to the idea that they shouldn’t get married late in the game, only now she wants to pretend that she never meant Patty and Mr. Hepworth to be a thing, and I don’t think that’s true.

I’m not saying Patty’s in love with him, ever, just that we’re coming off a string of books in which he understands her better than anyone else, in which she trusts him more than anyone else, and in which it’s pretty clearly demonstrated that the only reason she doesn’t know he’s in love with her is that she’s chosen not to know. And those things are all fine, and possible to move on from, but it feels a little bit weird when you don’t even acknowledge them. It’s like Wells doesn’t want to admit there was ever a possibility of Patty falling in love with him, and…I don’t know, I just really think she must have.  Anyway, Wells tries to get through this somewhat awkward situation by not having Patty and Mr. Hepworth exchange more than a few words once he’s engaged, and it’s not convincing. Or it’s afraid to try to be convincing, maybe.

The Mr. Hepworth parts of the book are pretty minor, but, well. I spend a lot of time thinking about this.

The other thread that runs through the book is Mona Galbraith’s involvement with an adventurer she doesn’t particularly want to be rescued from. Also Phil proposes for the first time–for the first dozen times, probably, very few of them in situations where Patty is able to walk away from the conversation if she wants to. (He is, as ever, the worst.) Also, Patty, Elise, Mona and Clementine Morse (Clementine Morse!) start a club to entertain working people on Saturday afternoons, and it’s pretty cute.

The entire book is cute, really, aside from Philip. And it’s pretty routine, but that’s a nice thing. Nothing ever really happens in Patty Fairfield books, and I’ve never been sure whether my love of them is because or in spite of that. But I’m very sure that I love them.

Tagged: 1910s, carolyn wells, girls, series

4 Comments on Patty’s Social Season, last added: 8/28/2014
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19. My Name is Rebecca Romm, Named after My Mother’s Mom by Rachel Levy Lesser

3 Stars My Name is Rebecca Romm, Named after My Mother’s Mom Rachel Levy Lesser No. Pages: 32     Ages: 4 to  8 …………… …………………. Back Cover:   Rebecca Elizabeth Romm was named after her late grandmother Rebecca. She is annoyed when everyone compares her to her mother’s mom, because all she wants is a name of [...]

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20. Women and Girls - Power or Not?

Kelly over at Stacked just wrote a powerful post on being a woman and speaking your mind. If you haven't already, head right over and read it. I'll wait for you. *quietly scrolling through tweets*

Ah, good. You're back. Kelly has a couple of, oh, ten or twenty cogent points, eh?  She is speaking truth to power - and to us.

The issues of gender and power, girls and power and the destructive subtlety of people speaking and working against women who wish to be themselves and self-directed has been a lifelong concern of mine. As a young fire-brand librarian I was active in Women Library Workers, a feminist library network and support group that now is in an embers stage of it's existence. I have stood down from much of my active work but I have never believed for a nano-second that we are in a "post-feminist" age.

My partner is a guy with a voice pitch that is slightly higher than encountered in most guys. He has spent considerable time on the phone in his jobs. When men on the other end of the phone mistakenly think they are talking to a women, to a man, they are patronizing, dismissive, abrupt and sassy. When the person on the other end thinks my partner is a man, he is treated completely differently.  This has been a conversational topic between us for over thirty years. "Post-feminist age," my eye.

When Kelly talks about the expectations that men and women have for women and girls I hear her talking. As I commented on her blogpost: "I was reminded of a photo going around FB where Jada Pinkett Smith was asked why she let her daughter shave her head. Pinkett Smith wrote, 'The question why I would LET Willow cut her hair. First the LET must be challenged. This is a world where women, girls are constantly reminded that they don't belong to themselves; that their bodies are not their own, nor their power, or self determination. I made a promise to endow my little girl with the power to always know that her body, spirit, and her mind are HER domain. Willow cut her hair because her beauty, her value, her worth is not measured by the length of her hair. It's also a statement that claims that even little girls have the RIGHT to own themselves and should not be a slave to even their mother's deepest insecurities, hopes, and desires. Even little girls should not be a slave to the preconceived ideas of what a culture believes a little girl should be.' "

This spring I attended a wonderful and enpowering unconference at UW-Milwaukee called "Out of the Attic and into the Stacks: Feminism and LIS". Lots of students and lots of old-guard feminist librarians. It was great to be around that living timeline of  feminist librarians. One question that came up from the students to the vets was, "How do you bring feminism into your work?"

This is what I said: You bring feminism into your work every day in every way. By making sure that you purchase and display materials that highlight strong women and gentle men; that open up the hidden contributions of women and that highlight girls as strong and not just frilly.  You do programs that empower girls but also don't shut out either gender. When girls come in to your library, you compliment not their hair or clothes but tell them they are looking strong or tall or smart today. The messages that we give - no matter how small - matter.

We need to stand strong together on these issues of women and girls and power. It does make a difference and will make a difference for decades to come. But we have to commit to doing the support every day in every way.

Image: 'Superherohttp://www.flickr.com/photos/51336161@N02/5416260011 Found on flickrcc.net

3 Comments on Women and Girls - Power or Not?, last added: 12/4/2012
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21. Young Adult Fantasy Threesome!

It has been a while since I reviewed any Young Adult books so for this update I will review Three wonderful YA books that your teens would love.  Please enjoy and grab them for the holiday season.

1) Starters- This book was written by Lisa Price and published by Delacorte Press in 2012. Imgine a world where a deadly war called the Spore Wars wiped out everyone between 20 and sixty years old. A young girl named Callie decides to rent her body to Enders-seniors who want to be young again.  Callie's world is divided and  full of danger, while teens are only second hand citizens. This book follows Callie and her survival in this detopian world full of renegades who will kill for food. As she rents her body she discovers that her renter intends to do more then just have fun. This is a great book to read. It will make you ask the question What if this can happen to us? I highly recommend this book not only for teens, but adults as well.  It will take you to place that may excist one day. Who know it may already be a parral world like this already. It is a very enjoyable read and lots of fun.

2) Elsewhere-  This book was written by Gabrielle Zevin and published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux 2005. An imprint of Macmillan. "After fifteen-year-old Liz Hall is hit by a taxi and killed, she finds herself in a place that is both like and unlike Earth, where she must adjust to her new status and figure out how to "live".  This book look at the afterlife in a whole new way. The writer creates an amazing world that will imerse the reader in it's content. It is full of wonderful discrptions and has a great voice. As you read the book Liz will become a part of you and you will cheer her to the end. A great page turner.  Please grab this book and read it yourself or share it with your teen. A great gift  for everyone.

3) The Knife of Never Letting Go. Book 1 in Chaos Walking- This book is written by Patrick Ness and published by Candlewick Press 2008. "Pursued by power-hungry Prentiss and mad minister Aaron, young Todd and Viola set out across New World searching for answers about his colony's true past and seeking a way to warn the ship bringing hopeful settlers from Old World." I really enjoyed this book and the world the auther created. In this world males can here what other males are thinking. Our two main Characters Todd and Viola set out on a journey running away from death. This book is full of action and intersting characters. You get to know the young teens very well. As you read the book it will be a page turner. it also has a much deeper meaning to it. I highly recommend you grab a copy for yourself and your teens. Just be warned the is very gruesome and not recommended for children under 12.

Thank you everyone for reading my blog and have a wonderful Holiday season. Look for a new update soon.

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22. a whole sea full of mermaids....

 one for every month of the year!

that's what's up next!

i thought it would be fun to do a series of paintings of beautiful little mermaids, based on the gemstone of the month.

i always think it's interesting (and inspiring) to see how other artists work...their creative process, if you will. here's a peek at mine...

from tiny little thumbnails to the sketch outline to a little bit of *coloring* (because i like my sketch books to look pretty) :)

from there i will trace my sketch directly from my sketchbook and then transfer it to my canvas, so that the painting remains as close to the original sketch as possible.

can not wait to start paintings these beauties! :)

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23. IF: whisper

This week I'm ahead of the game...or at least on time.

inspired by this doodle found in the bottom of a first grader backpack:

by Nora

5 Comments on IF: whisper, last added: 2/23/2013
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24. just a peek....

beautiful little Claret....

sweet little June....

lovely little Citrine....

mysterious little Opal...

at some more mermaids i'm sketching out.... Read the rest of this post

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25. Just having some fun.

Not all ideas are worth pursuing, but this one was, at least for my portfolio. 
I am so thankful my kids never did this. Have yours?

3 Comments on Just having some fun., last added: 3/9/2013
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