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Results 1 - 25 of 139
1. #622 – Eddie and Dog by Alison Brown

9781623701147.

Eddie and Dog

written and illustrated by Alison Brown

Capstone Young Readers      2/01/2014

978-1-62370-114-7

Age 4 ro 8      32 pages

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“Eddie is looking for a friend—a friend who likes adventure. Then Eddie meets Dog. And the fun begins. This wonderful story, with stunning artwork celebrates the excitement of a beautiful relationship.”

Opening

“Eddie dreamed of adventure.

“He imagined flying off to far-off places and doing amazing things. Then one day . . . “

Review

Eddie found Dog. No, wait, Dog found Eddie.

Eddie is at the airport, dreaming of adventures, when he sees Dog in a pet carrier, which Dog opens with his paw. (Dogs can get out of anything.) Dog wants a life of adventure and must see the same in Eddie. Dog asks Eddie if he would like to play. This is the beginning of a unique friendship and a lovely picture book. Eddie and Dog is one of my favorite picture books this year.

What fun the two enjoy together. Their adventures are loaded with suspense, intrigue, and some silliness for good measure. The two hunt crocodiles, sail the seven seas—I’m thinking in alphabetical order—build a grand fort, and traipse through lush jungles. That was day one.

1

When Eddie introduced his new best friend to his mother, she said Dog could not stay—the yard is too small.  Poor Dog. Poor Eddie. Eddie keeps thinking about Dog and it is a good bet that Dog thinks a lot about Eddie. The next day, Dog returns to Eddie. Mom stands her ground. Dog needs a bigger yard and a better home. Mom’s imagination and creativity has taken back seat t her larger practical side. She can’t see the blossoming relationship between Eddie and Dog or how important it is to the new friends. Instead of working with the yard, she instantly says it is too small.

Dog is trying as hard as he can to keep his friendship with Eddie alive. Good friendships should never die—they are too hard to cultivate. But Eddie’s mom is consistently saying no to a dog. Do dogs make her nose sneeze and her eyes cry? Maybe mom really is concerned with Dog’s happiness. Hm, I wonder what will happen next.

2

I love Eddie and Dog. They must belong together else, Dog would not make such grand gestures, would he? Dogs do love unconditionally. And Dog is a dog. You cannot beat logic. Eddie and Dog belong together. I bet Dog keeps trying until Eddie’s mom runs out of excuses and places for Dog to go.

The story is well-paced and the illustrations hit the mark on each and every page.The final spread is my favorite illustration. Eddie sits behind Dog as Dog flies his shiny red propeller plane to their next awesome adventure.. Dog is a cute, cuddly canine. He is the perfect size for Eddie. Dog loves adventures, just as Eddie wanted! The ending has an unexpected twist that I love. Dog can accomplish many fantabulous things in a short amount of time.

sea

Children will love Eddie and Dog. They will be sad when Eddie is sent away, but after the first return—a wonderful twist—kids will keep smiling even when mom sends Eddie off several more times. Sometimes knowing the punch line can be fun. Kids will love Eddie and Dog, even to the point of wanting their own Dog (sorry Eddie). Parents can take heart. Eddie and Dog is an easy and fun read with moments needing sound effects only a parent can provide. Will Eddie and Dog become your child’s favorite book? Quit possibly so, at least until the next edition of an Eddie and Dog adventure hit bookstores. Enjoy!

EDDIE AND DOG. Text and illustrations copyright © 2013 by Alison Brown. Reproduced by permission of the US publisher, Capstone Young Readers, North Mankato, MN.

Purchase Eddie and Dog at AmazonB&NCapstone Young Readersyour favorite bookstore.

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Learn more about Eddie and Dog HERE.

Meet the author/illustrator, Alison Brown, at her website:    http://www.littletiger.co.uk/authors/alison-brown

Find more good books at the Capstone Young Readers website:  http://www.capstonepub.com/

Capstone Young Reader is an imprint of Capstone:   http://www.capstonepub.com/

Eddie and Dog was originally published in Great Britain by Little Tiger Press in 12/18/2013.

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Also by Alison Brown

I Love You Night and Day

I Love You Night and Day

Mighty Mo

Mighty Mo

.

 

 

 

 

 

 

eddie and dog

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copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews


Filed under: 5stars, Debut Author, Debut Illustrator, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Alison Brown, Capstone, Capstone Young Readers, chidren's book reviews, creativity, determination, Eddie and Dog, friendhip, imagination, Little Tiger Press, persistance, pets, relationships

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2. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on Rookie Mistake, last added: 7/29/2014
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3. Rookie Mistake

Having all daughters, I don’t get to pass on sage advice on how to be a man very often. I do have a bunch of nephews. All of their lives, I have mostly been Uncle Clown – the guy that comes in, stirs them up into a frenzy and leaves without any responsibility for the cleanup or calm down phases. I do get to thump them sometimes. Every young man needs a thumping from time to time.

My youngest local nephew is off to college soon. He’s a fine young man who is very devoted to a sweet girlfriend. If you analyze that sentence, you can find the potential problem. It isn’t in the devoted or girlfriend – it lies solely in the young man. We are a stupid breed. Recently I asked him who a young lady in a photograph was and he responded by saying, “the hot one,” with his girlfriend in range… a classic rookie mistake.

Being a visual gender, we tend to over-notice things, especially in the female realm. So I thought I would throw out a few pointers that just might help the young man keep his relationship from going south with his eyes.

1. She has eyes – two of them. In the early days of your relationship, they are mostly trained on you and she is very interested in where yours go. So if you are at the frozen yogurt store and a bikini model walks in, she sees her too. She saw you see her. You now have a choice. Do you want to satisfy that urge to look one more time and wear your desert or would you rather keep your head down and eat it?

2. A pithy comment once you’ve been caught won’t save you. Saying, “I don’t think that skirt would pass dress code at my school,” sounds really funny – but only points out that you’ve sized up what she is wearing along with the legs sticking out of it.

3. Any talk wondering about or complimenting a surgeon is as fake and plastic as what you are encountering. This is a minefield – walk in and there is no safe way out.

4. You aren’t an owl, look ahead when passing females and keep your head from rotating 180 degrees.

5. If you can’t control yourself, sunglasses are acceptable. But only outside, gentleman. Unless you are in the Secret Service, you can’t wear them inside the mall.

6. I think there is a verse in Proverbs that says, It is better to walk around wearing horse blinders than let your eyes wander when you are on a date. That might be a new, obscure translation, but the advice is sound.

I can't see nothing an I'm happy

I can’t see nothing & I’m happy

 

Most women are forgiving and understanding. If they weren’t, there would be no relationships and humanity would have died out long ago. Women understand we are stupid and can’t help ourselves. Heck, Victoria has built an empire out of our visual demands. What the young man often fails to understand is that it takes time to build up enough trust that one can say the stupidest thing ever and maintain his relationship. Twenty + years after I said it, I’m still married.

What was it?

 

To be continued…

 

Photo credit: Orso della campagna e Papera dello stagno

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

0 Comments on Rookie Mistake as of 7/29/2014 12:28:00 PM
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4. Saying Goodbye

It is hard to say goodbye to an old friend. I am currently having to do just that. Sometimes, things deteriorate beyond salvage and the relationship must end. I have had this happen before, not very often – but it has happened.

In my younger days, I was a bridge-burner. I just moved on. I left high school and kept up with very few friends, mostly the ones who went to the same university. After four fun-filled years at college, I left those friends with every intent of doing better. I did not. Oh, I tried. For a year or two I kept up with some. But we all got scattered around the country and once-close ties severed. I predate social media, so we didn’t have that easy connection to tether me to my friends.

I have had to end relationships since then, though not as frequently. It was much easier to end friendships when I moved cities. I have lived in the same city for twenty-five years now and have no intention of leaving. So I can’t pack up and forget to give a forwarding address. Also, the aforementioned social media makes ending a relationship a public event. You have to be sure it is the proper thing to do before you push “unfriend,” or “block.”

What are some causes of ended friendships anyway? Here are some big ones. It isn’t an exhaustive list, you might have experienced other issues.

A trust violation – can be major or minor, equally damaging.

Priority shift – things become important to one and not the other.

Lack of support – a friend has stopped being there for you.

Selfishness – the friend who has all day to complain but has to go when it is time to listen.

Drift – Sometimes, friends just drift apart. It isn’t a willful decision on either side.

Friends can’t always be replaced. Depending on the length and emotional depth of the friendship, there can be a sizable void when the friendship ends. Pain. Regret. Panic, doubt, and second-guessing can even set in. Most of the time, there is even a grieving period when a friendship dies.

So it is with this friend. We’ve been through a lot together. There were entire days we spent together and I don’t regret them. They were good days… comfortable days. Never tight or strenuous, my friend and I got along perfectly. We fit together. I felt a certain contentment with this friend that I rarely feel. In fact, besides my wife, I’ve been closer to few others.

Why, do you ask, must this friendship end?

Is my friend moving? Did my friend betray me?

Loneliness_(4101974109)

 

No, due to old age, my friend’s elastic waistband ripped through the soft, cotton fabric and my favorite pair of boxers is caput. The friendship is no longer salvageable. I could save it for a dust rag or staining cloth, but that’d be weird… unlike writing a blog post about underwear.

 

 

Photo attribution: Bert Kaufmann from Roermond, Netherlands (Loneliness Uploaded by russavia)

 

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

5 Comments on Saying Goodbye, last added: 7/22/2014
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5. The Hallmark Conspiracy

I hate greeting cards. Oh sure, I’ve been touched by the sentimental commercials. Maybe I shed a tear, maybe not. But they didn’t inspire to me buy a card or like them.

The only cards that resonate with me are blank cards. In this day and age, if someone takes the time to write their own thoughts out and mail it – that is a treasure.

What greeting cards really say in their flourishing font is: “I’m lazy!”

Write this in your card: “I was too lazy to set a few minutes aside to put my own thoughts into words, so here are some prepackaged, canned, inauthentic thoughts that a wanna-be romance writer who hasn’t shaved in weeks and smokes big cigars in Spokane thought were relevant just for you, my sweetest. Please say ‘Awwwww’ and kiss me.”

Frankly, greeting cards are disingenuous at best.

 

When I was a kid, they were just speed bumps to the present. Oh sure, I would pretend to read them on my way to disemboweling the wrapping paper that stood between me and the gift. I liked the ones Aunt Eunice would underline so I could skip most of the words – kind of a cliff notes version. Later in life, she began underlining every word, including the price and printing information – which made it less helpful. Of course, by then she was wrapping up ten year-old toasters and place mats for presents, so haste was less of a concern.

Just because you are paranoid does not mean they are not out to get you

-Henry Kissinger

Greeting cards and I have a turbulent history. Since I am negatively disposed against them, they do their best to shame me at every turn. Instead of bowing to their convenience and paying the price, I try to take the time to write personal notes, especially to my lovely wife. But there are instances when I run out of time and am forced to rush into the store and get one. When this happens, I treat it like a commando raid – rush in, select the victim, and get out before anyone gets hurt. I choose based on color and frill, often neglecting  to check the sentiment inside – time is what I lack, anyway. With that method, it is pretty easy to stay away from sympathy and get-well cards, but sometimes (okay, most of the time), the sentiment of my selection doesn’t match the occasion or is age inappropriate. That is where The Hallmark Conspiracy comes in.

Take this week. This week marked her birthday. I had a great present in advance, but completely forgot the stupid card until the day of. So I put on my camo, blacked my eyes and descended upon the grocery store. Although every fiber of my cheap being steered me to the 99¢ rack, I’ve been warned about those and went all out – $3.99! I found the birthday section, saw one with a cute little boy and girl on it and dashed out of the store.

Here is what I got:

image

Hastily altered in the driveway – think she noticed?

 

Mis-shelved! The card was mis-shelved! I swear I was in the birthday section!

Swine greeting cards!!!!!!

Someday society will truly be paperless and I won’t have to deal with these verbose phonies. Until then, I’ll shred a few in effigy and steer clear of the aisle altogether.


Filed under: Don't Blog Angry

5 Comments on The Hallmark Conspiracy, last added: 7/18/2014
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6. Poking Fun at the Enemy

One can learn so much from children. Too often, in our haste to exercise control of every situation, we grown-ups unfortunately root out their innate curiosity and creativity. We drive from point A to point B without noticing the roadside art, whim, and fancy of the trip that is not lost on the childish mind. There is joy to be had in every journey.

I have recently learned you can poke fun at even the vilest of enemies. If you haven’t had a run with my current foe, hold on – cancer will find you somewhere. I don’t wish it on anyone, but unfortunately it worms its way into everyone’s life at some point whether through family or acquaintance. The Myers clan is relatively new at this contest. There is no rule book or instruction manual that I can find. No article 7, subsection 34b that tells us we can’t fight this demon with a joke and a smile.

Sometimes, you have to laugh to keep from drowning in tears. While my bald, frail daughter lays in what was formerly my bed, at times, she seems to find ways to make us smile.

Take for instance a little wresting match with her sister when she attempted to apply a surprise atomic wedgie, but was blocked by the classic counter: the roll onto the back. Rather than move to a frontal assault, she poked her lip out and meekly proclaimed, “But I have cancer.”

With that, her sister waved the white flag, accepted defeat, and soon left the room to repair the damage to her drawers in private.

*****

Just the other day while urging her to drink more water to avoid dehydration and the inevitable trip back to the hospital, I declared, “If you don’t take a drink I’m going to sit on you.”

Her immediate response, “The doctor says you can’t sit on chemo patients.”

Touche, young one! Touche!

*****

 

Yes, we might be behind shoddy castle walls with little defense besides a catapult and barnyard animals, but we have our smiles and cheery hearts. The enemy can’t take that away.

Now leave before I taunt you a second time!

 


Filed under: Learned Along the Way

6 Comments on Poking Fun at the Enemy, last added: 7/10/2014
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7. Dangling Feet & Screws by the Pound

Nearly every winter I have had to trap a flying squirrel or two in my attic and send them packing. Fortunately, I have a walk-out attic easily accessible from my 13 year-old’s closet. When she was an infant, I went on a hunting excursion and learned a valuable lesson – Don’t walk on rafters in socked feet. Yup, I slid right off the rafter and ended up perched on a 2×10 with half of me in the attic and half of me in the family room. Two of my kids and my nephew were watching a Christmas special and all three instantly yelled, “We didn’t do it!” to my lovely wife who stood looking up at my dangling feet.image

I’m not sure if I caught the little critter on that trip, but it did force a trip to the hardware store where Hershel works. Hershel is the best. He’s a little old guy who is slightly stooped from years of hard work. He can fix anything better than anyone who comes in the store, but he is never condescending about:

  • a) your lack of knowledge or
  • b) your stupidity for breaking whatever you came in to fix.

Hershel: Morning Mark, what can I do for you?

Me: I need some drywall.

Hershel: Big project? (His eyes light up! He loves big projects – not only because of what he can sell you, but he also lives vicariously through his customers’ building experiences.)

Me: Nah, actually a really small one.

Hershel: Well, the smallest we’ve got is 4 x 8. They’re in aisle seven. Follow me.

I don’t follow and he notices.

Hershel: What’s the matter?

Me: Nothing smaller? (I look down and estimate the size of my feet, adding an appropriate amount for overage.)

Hershel knows instantly: Where’s the hole?

Me (eyes still low indicating appropriate shame): The den.

Hershel doesn’t flinch or betray just how dumb he thinks I am. Telling me how much patchwork I have in store, he leads me to drywall area and loads me up with tape, mud, sandpaper, screws, and ceiling paint.

Hershel: Once Betty checks you out, go round back. Beside the dumpster, we’ve got lots of broken pieces of sheetrock. You just pick one out and take it with you.

Me: But I really only need about four screws. You sure this is the smallest size?

Hershel: We sell ‘em by the pound. That’s just one pound – smallest we got.

I wondered what genius came up with selling a countable product by volume, but yielded to Hershel’s judgment and headed home. A few days of work and the hole was patched – good as new!

This all leads me to the 4th of July weekend. We are updating the 13 year-old’s room, making it more teen and less little girl. This necessitated a few trips to the attic to store things. You guessed it, I missed a rafter.

Can a house really be considered a home until you’ve broken through the ceiling… twice?

A trip to the store. Hershel, slowed but still knowledgeable and helpful, stood leaning against the wall as I entered.

Herschel: Hey there, Mark. What can I do ya for?

I’ve long gotten over embarrassment over mayhem and destruction I’ve caused in my home. I confidently replied: I need some drywall.

Herschel: Where’s the hole.

Me: It’s in the garage this time. I’ve got the screws leftover from the last time and I don’t need your mud and tape because I don’t care how it looks. (I look at him pleadingly).

He knows what I want, laughs, and says: Sure, go round back and get you a piece… and be more careful next time.


Filed under: Dad stuff

5 Comments on Dangling Feet & Screws by the Pound, last added: 7/8/2014
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8. A Box of Scent

I came home the recently to find this at my doorstep.

 

image

 

I know!  This is an outrage!

It may seem innocuous initially with its flowery packaging and appealing colors, but read between the lines.  Oh, can’t see it clearly? This, my good readers, is a box of scent.  Why is that a big deal, you might ask?  Because, consider the implications of someone giving you a scent meant to cover your current odor. That’s right! Somebody thinks I stink!

Where did this come from? What dastardly knave would leave such a foul gesture on the front step of another?

I know my wife didn’t order something so frivolous when she already has an olfactory sensation in me! I’m like a bed of roses, just ask me.

Did the UPS guy drop it off, and if I so, what does he think of me now?

Is there a scent fairy that didn’t make it into the legend books or that movie where they all teamed up?  A Santa Clause for the nose, as it were.

Why does a box of fragrance smell an awful lot like cardboard? What kind of rip-off is that?

These were the questions I asked myself as I sat beside my box, my anger growing every minute. I began plotting how I would discover the origin of this unwanted gift. I figured it had to be one of my neighbors. We have two that come to mind when anything suspect happens on our street. Two doors down on either side are families that each have their own quirks. We all have those neighbors, so I won’t detail their eccentricities. Suffice it to say that when the media shows up at my door because the police are leading them off in chains, I will NOT say, “Oh, they were normal folks. I can’t believe they found eleven bodies in their yard.”

Since I couldn’t be positive it was either of them, I spent the better part of the afternoon parading up and down the street holding the conspicuous box in my arms so all could see. I watched the eyes of everyone I met – it’s all in the eyes. Each neighbor I encountered looked at the box suspiciously as we engaged in meaningless small-talk, but I never ran across the guilty expression that would pin-point the offender. All-in-all, it was a wasted effort and most likely branded me as neighborhood weirdo number three (if I don’t already wear that label).

When I arrived back at home, I expected the usual June Cleaver welcome. I did not receive anything so grand, my wife was more focused on the box in my arms. For all the attention I got, I may as well have been the UPS delivery guy – whose opinion of me is now as questionable as my odor must be.

“Oh good, the plug-ins are here. Every one in the house has run out,” she said as she took the box and repaired to another room with nary a kind word for me.

What kind of marriage of deception is this? For twenty-two years I lived under the delusion that I was responsible for the lovely smells around here only to discover that in the opinion of my beloved, I stink.

Oh well, even though I now know it isn’t me, I do like the smell of Warm Vanilla Sugar wafting from every outlet in the house…

 

 


Filed under: It Made Me Laugh

5 Comments on A Box of Scent, last added: 6/27/2014
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9. review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

 Listen, if you are a sucker for sister books, you will LOVE THIS, just LOVE THIS." Good Books Good Wine

” Listen, if you are a sucker for sister books, you will LOVE THIS, just LOVE THIS.” Good Books Good Wine

title: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

author: Jenny Han

date: Simon and Schuster; April, 2014

main character: Lara Jean Song Covey

 

I began this book expecting a nice, light summer story; one of those good romances that I haven’t read in a very long time

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before has such a sweet start. Oldest sister, Margo, is about to leave for college in Scotland and her sisters are going to miss her dearly. The girls are tender in their relationships and delicate with each others’  feelings. Their mother is deceased but to the girls still refer to her as ‘mommy’ and their father as ‘daddy’. Margot has been the family’s caretaker and her leaving is a major shift in the structure of the home. We get small clues of the shift when Lara Jean’s coffee isn’t just right and then, she has a car accident.

Lara Jean is in love with the idea of love. She’s a high school senior with a sense of innocence. Lara writes love letters to boys she’s loved since childhood, letters that she never intends to share with anyone. Now as a teenager, she’s always manages to avoid any opportunity for real romance and the only reason she finally has a relationship with a boy is because she stumbles into it.

With her older sister gone, Lara no longer has a shadow in which to hide so, she has to figure out her relationship with Josh (the boy next door who is very much a part of the family), Peter (the dreamboat), Chris (her most unlikely boyfriend) and even with her sisters. We often don’t realize that as we grow and change, our relationships must do the same. We need and perceive people in different ways. This change isn’t always subtle or easy no matter how special the relationship, as Lara Jean finds out.

 There’s a specific kind of fight you can only have with your sister. It’s the kind where you say things you can’t take back. You say them because you can’t help but say them, because you’re so angry it’s coming up your throat and out your eyes; you’re so angry you can’t see straight.

As soon as Daddy leaves and I hear him go to his room to get ready for bed, I barge into Margo’s room without knocking. Margot is at her desk on her laptop. She looks up at me in surprise.

In defining these relationships, Han builds strong consistent characters, except for Josh, the boy next door. He was never more than the all around good guy. Other characters in the story are revealed in their actions, conversations and through other characters. Certainly, one of the strengths of this book is Han’s ability to develop her characters.I was given room to not like elements of many of those I read about while still becoming invested in them and wanting to know their outcome.

Lara Jean’s bi-cultural heritage was an integral part of the story. She was very much just one of the gang but things like the way she prepared for Halloween reminded us of her Korean background.

I thoroughly enjoyed To All The Boys. This story that seemed so smarmily sweet incorporated tough issues that many of us experience at one time or another in our relationships. I read an ARC that had a few spots that needed to be repaired, but I hope and pray the ending did not change!


Filed under: Book Reviews Tagged: bi-racial, Jenny Han, Korean, relationships

1 Comments on review: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, last added: 6/15/2014
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10. A Final Napkin Masterpiece

I am coming to terms with the fact that yesterday was my eldest’s last day of high school…sort of. I am not given to emotion, but this is a big deal. In a little over a week we will celebrate her graduation where she will walk across the stage with ribbons, cords, and medals she earned for her outstanding achievements of the past four years. I had a ribbon adorning my graduation gown, as well. Just look at my picture as I accepted what I thought was my diploma.

img008

Yes, R. Ted Boehm knew that wasn’t my ribbon also. I mooched it from someone who had already walked – note the smarmy grin quickly quelled when Mr. Boehm whispered “This is not really your diploma either, son.”  Oh the relief when I did pick a real one up a few days later. I’m guessing he got more than a few reprobates with that nugget over the years.

There is no doubt she will get a diploma, though. And in the fall she will go off to college. She is loud, messy, a bit sassy at times…and I will miss her greatly. I will miss being woken up by her singing at inappropriate hours of the night. I will miss her ignoring me as she saunters to her room and I will miss her friends being over to all hours watching movies underneath my room with the volume so high my bed shakes. (In writing this I wonder why teenagers hate sleep.) I jest. I could list her positive qualities, but my blog would run out of storage space. She is a true gem – a lovely, talented, and godly young lady.

And so, I drew her a last napkin art yesterday morning. I don’t have any idea when this tradition started or why, but whenever I pack lunches, I draw them a little picture on their napkin. My drawing ability would have to increase significantly to be called rudimentary. My sketches are barely above cave art. But if I ever pack a lunch and forget napkin art, they call me on it. Often my pictures are so terrible that I have to explain what I drew and why it is funny (to me).  Ironically, they also render the napkin basically useless as an instrument of cleanliness.

Most of the time they involve animal humor, but on this occasion I drew a creative take on graduation where my graceful daughter trips in front of the principal.

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I doubt it will come true, but you never know with all of those cords & ribbons weighing her down. Those things are dangerous on many levels, thus my aversion to earning any.


10 Comments on A Final Napkin Masterpiece, last added: 5/15/2014
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11. The King of Feminine Hygiene

Crown_of_Lord_Lyon_King_of_Arms

I have been a good errand runner for many years. I have never minded getting those “things” that need to be got. However, the situation can be comical. Early in our marriage, I learned brand preference – often taking a boxtop as a crutch to make sure. Everything changed after our first daughter was born and the new mama needed something different. My mind isn’t programmed for different.

There I stood looking at an infinite wall of products with no idea what to purchase. I am sure she had given me instructions, but I had no purchase history, no boxtop, no clue. The wall got bigger and bigger while I shrunk into a puddle of indecision.

Until I was rescued by a wonderfully kind, large woman who took pity on me.

“You need some help, honey?” she asked.

“Well, yes, is it that obvious?” I stammered.

“It sure is. What’s the problem?”

“Well, I need to get something for my wife. We just had a baby.”

Her angelic face lit up with joy, “Oh, sweety! How wonderful! Is it a boy or a girl?”

“We had a little girl,” I replied proudly as I dug a picture out to show her.

“She’s just beautiful,” she said. And as if she suddenly plugged into an amplifier, her voice boomed throughout the store while I shrunk even smaller. “WHAT YOU NEED IS NIGHT TIME EXTRA-ABSORBANT…..”

I’ve forgotten whatever else she said. It went on for some time, I think. I will forever appreciate her help, but I have no idea why she had to tell everyone in a five mile radius of the store what I was shopping for. She was spot on with her advice, though.

I was only twenty-eight then. Why it mattered I don’t know. I couldn’t care less now. I have had to do a great deal of shopping lately – and with a wife and three teenage daughters, yes, I have purchased quite a few of those types of products. I don’t flinch anymore. In fact, I like to check out wherever a young boy is working give him to he stink-eye as he handles the carton. I have made more than one blush.

Better yet, when I come home I have even more fun by announcing, “I got your feminine hygiene products.” There is never a “daddy’s home!” parade for that proclamation. No one comes running. They don’t want to hear that from their father. So I deliver them personally to their rooms and make the announcement individually. Lots of rolled eyes and groans.

I don’t mind buying that stuff anymore, but I do have one regret. With four daughters, why didn’t I have the forethought to invest in that stock? If I had done that, I truly would be the King of Feminine Hygiene!

 

Photo attribution: Geni (Photo by user:geni)

8 Comments on The King of Feminine Hygiene, last added: 5/13/2014
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12. The Lost Art of Listening

“Come, Henry,” Colonel Birdwhistle called as he shouldered his cane pole. “We should be on our way. The day is ending and your mother will be spreading supper soon.”

“But we didn’t catch nuthin’” replied the glum boy.Fishing_Drawing

“We didn’t catch ‘anything’, you mean. And catching fish is but a small portion of our purpose here. We are here primarily to enjoy each other and the beauty of creation. If a fish should happen to find our bait attractive, that, my boy, is simply a bonus.”

Unconvinced, Henry pulled at his pole hoping for a nibble that would keep them a little longer. Receiving nothing for his trouble, he reluctantly stood and followed the Colonel toward home.

The two had not gone far when they heard the sound of an approaching horse. Soon it came into view as it galloped their way. Noting its speed, they moved well off of the path. When horse and rider came alongside the pair, the man on top pulled back on the reigns bringing the chestnut to a stop in a cloud of dust.

“Hello there,” called the rider from atop his mount. “Is this the way to Warbler’s Ridge?”

“I believe it used to be…” began the Colonel.

“I’m in an awful hurry,” interrupted the man. “I have urgent business at the paper mill there. This must be the right way, it was given me by the sheriff. I believe Whitaker was his name.”

“Yes, Hub Whitaker is the local sheriff. But as I was saying, this road…”

“Big fella, your sheriff. I’d guess you don’t have to worry much about crime here with a huge man like that minding the wall.”

“No sir,” answered Henry. “Things are pretty quiet round here. But…”

“That’s good, son. Real good,” cut in the stranger. “Well, I ain’t got time to sit around here talking. Like I said, I’ve got important business in Warbler’s Ridge. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.”

With a click of his tongue and flick of the reigns, he urged his horse forward while Henry held up an arm in protest.

“Mister, wait!” called Henry in futility, for the horse was gone. Turning to his companion, he asked, “Why wouldn’t he listen?”

“Henry, you have just learned an important lesson,” returned the Colonel. “Some people don’t understand that having a conversation means listening as well as talking. If he had taken a moment to close his mouth and open his ears, what would he have learned?”

“That the bridge he’s headed toward fell into the river a long time ago,” answered the boy slowly.

“I believe he should figure that out for himself any time now.”

As if on cue, a loud splash could be heard from the direction of the river. The old man and his young friend ambled quickly to the river and past the horse to help the fallen rider out of the water.

“You okay, mister?” asked Henry.

“Why didn’t you warn me, son?” inquired the dripping stranger.

“We tried, but couldn’t get a single word past all of yours,” returned the Colonel. “You missed a turn a ways back and need to follow the river a mile north to get to the nearest working bridge.”

Once more on his horse, the humbled rider continued on his way with every intent of listening for an answer the next time he asked a question. Henry and the Colonel headed home for supper, laughing the entire way. They may not have caught a fish, but they netted a good story to tell.

 

Photo credit:  Ward, Lock, & Tyler of London [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 


7 Comments on The Lost Art of Listening, last added: 5/8/2014
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13. A Bald Dissatisfaction

I’ve been duped. Tricked. Lied to. Taken for a ride to disappointmentville by a fancy I’ve held for years. In reality no one told me a falsehood. Like most times I find myself disillusioned, I did it to myself. A starry-eyed dreamer, I tend to put things onto such a pedestal that once attained, they can’t measure up to expectations.

Who can forget the Chia Pet of the 70′s that I saved and saved for. Don’t even get me started on sea monkeys. I had such high aspirations for them after seeing them on the back page of Mad Magazine. The promise of joy died quickly because the only time they moved was when I shook them out of the bag into their simulated habitat. Ant farms, the bass guitar, a shiny pastel jacket that I thought would be an absolute chick magnet. I was amazed when I found that on the discount rack and wore it proudly to school with my sleeves pushed up, only to find that the world had moved past Crockett, Tubbs, Miami Vice, and the style I flaunted. That first new car I had to have post-college before I understood the stranglehold sixty easy payments could be. I won’t even mention women of my youth, like Hilda* the friendly barkeep. For a foolish lad, women are the most dangerous sort of thing to deify.

I could go on. There have been a litany of things I prized – nah, idolized – right up until I got my grubby mitts on them.

And so, now, I am disappointed with baldness. I have always wanted to shave my head but been dissuaded by my lovely wife, who likes hair on my head, but not on my chin. If you recall my rant about Tom Selleck, I have never truly been satisfied with my hair. Current circumstances gained me quick approval to remove it and I did so excitedly.

I don’t like it and here are my grievances:

1. I always assumed it would be low maintenance. It is not. To my dismay, the hair on my head grows as fast as the hair on my chin. Who knew?

2. I thought it would save money – no shampoo, conditioner, or gel. See complaint number one, razors aren’t cheap and every shave seems to chew through one.

3. Who knew the skin under my hair was even pastier than the rest of me? I’m told paint stores can mix approximately 140 shades of white, welcome to Pure White.

4. When I was twelve, my football team had to get me an adult helmet, then pad the sides because my cranium was so long. Any time I hit someone, the thing wobbled side to side. Head shapes don’t change, they just expand. Let’s play a little game, shall we? I like to call it:

 “Which one is Mark’s head?”

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Surprisingly difficult, is it?

 

So you can see why I’m disappointed. Like most broken things in my life, I have no one to blame but myself. I lifted baldness onto a throne it simply cannot occupy. Fortunately, I can grow my hair out to fix this monstrosity…but not quite yet. Part of me feels a little like a rebel since this has been against the marital rules for so long. And that, I like.

 

*Name changed to protect my stupidity

10 Comments on A Bald Dissatisfaction, last added: 5/6/2014
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14. What is that? Fear?

We have entered some semblance of a routine around here. It isn’t like the old one, that routine is over for a while. Kylie and her mother being home allowed me to go for a nice six mile run. The weather is beautiful and it has been way too long since I’ve been out on the greenway. Of course, that led to some thinking (dangerous for me).

This might sound ridiculous, but we have all avoided public places since the diagnosis. Don’t get me wrong, everyone in our lives has been incredibly supportive. We all just find it tough to be in crowds. Her three sisters have had to go to school, so they have dealt with this quicker than I have. I have been working, but I work in a very small office so I don’t have to deal with crowds.

Yesterday, our dancer daughter had her ballet recital. My Lovely Wife and I split up and took in separate performances so one of us could stay with Kylie. While the dancers were beautiful, I found myself very sad when Kylie’s class was onstage. I couldn’t help thinking that she should be up there and I couldn’t take my eyes off of all of the perfect legs moving across the stage. Hers will be perfect again, it is just going to take time. I came in late and left quickly after it ended to avoid seeing too many people. What is that? Is that fear?

When did I start fearing? I’ve done some work in some of the worst slums in the world where fear should have been a legitimate reaction, but I felt a supernatural calm. What is this fear? Fear of people who care and show concern… What is that?

I am not an emotionally deep man, but I refuse to live in fear. That’s what I told myself as I ran today. Now, I have to decide what I am going to do about it. Am I going to be the leader hear, or keep using the three that have faced the crowds at school as shields because I am afraid?

When I am afraid, I will trust in you.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me?  Psalm 56:3-4
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I’m going to church now. Big step? Not really, bu that’s what I am going to do. I am going alone because my older girls aren’t ready. I totally get that. But maybe I can deflect some of the questions today and next week they will want to go. I don’t know if that will work. Psychology isn’t my strong suit. But I won’t fear.

10 Comments on What is that? Fear?, last added: 5/4/2014
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15. #545 – The Frankenstein Journals: Feet First & I for an Eye by Scott Sonneborn

frankestein coveeThe Frankenstein Journals: Feet First & I for an Eye

by Scott Sonneborn

Illustrated by Timothy Banks

Stone Arch Books         8/01/2014

978-1-4342-9130-1

Age 7 to 10         160 pages

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“In this combination of two separately published works, J.D. discovers that he is the son of Frankenstein’s monster, and armed with the Doctor’s journal he sets out to find his “relatives”—the descendants and relations of the people whose body parts Doctor Frankenstein used.”

Opening

“BORRRRING. That’s how I’d describe the first 13 years of my life.”

The Story

J.D. has lived at Mr. Shelley’s orphanage for Lost and Neglected Children since he was an infant and Mr. Shelley found him in a box. Now, at age 14, J.D.—short for John Doe—is on his own, the orphanage closed. J.D. is trying to find his family. His one lead is a book left in the box when he was an infant. It is a journal and in it is a picture of J.D. as an infant being held by his father—Frankenstein! J.D. had always dreamt he was part of a large family. Using the journal entries J.D. is trying to track down his family, but so his someone else.

Feet First begins J.D.’s journey from orphan to family-finder. J.D. meets Fran, daughter of Dr. Frankenstein. Deranged like her father, Fran thinks of nothing else but making her own improved monster, but nothing has worked. She now wants to use the same DNA dad used which has her on the trail of the same people J. D. is looking for, but J.D. is trying to connect as family. The first is explorer Robert Percy, currently at the end of the world.

I for an Eye: Fran Kenstein is still trying to find the relatives of those people her father used to make Frankenstein, J.D.’s father. J.D. is trying to get to his cousins first, to warn them of the danger called Fran. Now is Los Angeles, J.D. is looking for the grandson of Samuel “Clew” Hammer, a private detective in 1940. Hammer’s green eye became Frankenstein’s left eye. Before J.D. could get very far Fran shows up, gets J.D. thrown into jail, and leaves to go after all his cousins in L.A.

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Review

J.D.’s journey will take a few books so it’s a good thing The Frankenstein Journals is a new series. If you liked Hotdogger, you’ll like The Frankenstein Journals. J.D. tells the story as it happens and scenes rush by. Even this two-story edition was a breeze. Reluctant readers will like this. The action is fast, the story has only what is needed. There are no slow sections that might bog a reader.

Frankenstein’s son looks a lot like his father, with odd shaped hands and feet, and two colors for his eyes, but he is a determined kid, fighting against time and Fran who is anxious to find the same people and lure them back for her experiment. There are illustrations throughout the book, some a full page, some in color. The hand-printed font, in various sizes, shapes, and colors, usually express an unexpected emotion caused by new information about J. D’s family. The book is visually appealing.

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The only thing I do not like are the spaces between paragraphs, as if written on the Internet. This series is a chapter book series for young readers. This is not the time to forget about proper writing, especially when there is no benefit to having these paragraphs spaced incorrectly. At least the paragraphs are indented.

I think boys will like The Frankenstein Journals because of the fast action, a male slant on the stories, thus far, and the crazy illustrations and graphics. The female presence in the story is evil, just as boys this age probably see their female classmates. In a twist, Fran has no interest in J.D., but he instantly falls for Fran, misreading all of her words and actions, just like a lovesick girl would. J.D. no longer has a crush on Fran, having figured out her evil plan. Maybe girls age 7 to 12 age are evil, not just yucky.

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Girls might also like the story of J.D. reclaiming his family. The main character is a sweet young boy searching the ends of the earth, literally—trying to find an unknown number of relatives before evil Fran finds them and makes a new Frankenstein out of them. If you like stories with twists and turns, and the occasional body part, The Frankenstein Journals would be a great series to start reading. Pre-order today for the August release date.

THE FRANKENSTEIN JOURNALS: FIRST FEET and I FOR AN EYE. Text copyright © 2014 by Scott Sonneborn. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Timothy Bans. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Stone Arch Books, an imprint of Capstone, North Mankato, MN.

Learn more about The Frankenstein Journals HERE.

Pre-order a copy of The Frankenstein Journals at AmazonB&N—Capstone—your local bookstore.

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Meet author, Scott Sonneborn at his website:   http://scottsonneborn.com/

Meet illustrator, Timothy Banks at his website:  http://timothybanks.com/

Find more Stone Arch Books at the publisher’s website:  http://www.capstonepub.com/category/LIB_PUBLISHER_SAB

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Also by Scott Sonneborn

Supergirl vs. Brainiac

Supergirl vs. Brainiac

 

Danger on Deck! 

Danger on Deck!…

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Also by Timothy Banks

The Top Secret Files of Mother Goose!

The Top Secret Files of Mother Goose!

 

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frankenstein journals


Filed under: 4stars, Books for Boys, Children's Books, Early Reader, Library Donated Books, Series Tagged: Capstone, family, Frankenstein, mad scientists, relationships, relatives, Scott Sonneborn Timothy Banks, Stone Arch Books

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16. The Dirty Kitchen Apocalypse Theory

I made a discovery amidst my family’s unfortunate new reality. Since I am not a genius, I am sure most of you already knew what I just found out. However, it solved a long-standing conundrum for me.

I’ve been doing the dishes in my domicile for about a decade. There are two reasons and both pertain to my lovely wife. First, her hands get dry and cracked sometimes after she washes dishes. It isn’t a big deal to pitch in and do something, so I figured I could help AND save money on expensive lotions. The second reason is that she said I never looked sexier than when I’m elbow deep in soap suds. If that ain’t reason enough, I don’t know what is.

We have this long running argument about the necessity of some pots, pans, and utensils to the cooking process. I believe that she has an evil plan to soil every dish we own – thus my dirty kitchen apocalypse theory. She discounts my hypothesis and doesn’t seem to care anyway. I still maintain that chocolate chip cookies shouldn’t require seventeen items to make. Yet every time I smell them cooking, I know I have seventeen new items to wash.

Dirty_dishes

All of that leads to today’s brilliant finding. She had been at the hospital with our youngest for two weeks. It has been a rough stretch with me playing Mr. Mom. Thanks to the generosity of others,  I have yet to cook (a fact that makes my other daughters very happy since my culinary expertise doesn’t extend past piling things on bread.) I noticed during the last few days that I didn’t have many dishes to wash at all. Bonus!

We finally got to bring our sick baby home this week and, lo and behold, within an hour the sink was full of dirty dishes. Nothing could dampen the joy of the reunion, but I admit I was slightly peaved. So I playfully confronted the offender with the revival of my dirty kitchen apocalypse theory.

My lovely wife didn’t flinch, just laughed and waved me off.

“But I haven’t washed this many dishes in two weeks,” I complained to her back as she walked away.

“You have to cook to make dishes,” she replied over her shoulder.

Ahhh, so that explains it.

And off I go to fill the sink with suds, hoping she’ll take notice.

 

photo credit: Mysid (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 


11 Comments on The Dirty Kitchen Apocalypse Theory, last added: 4/24/2014
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17. A Single Red Sock

There was a young husband who took a young wife to live in a shoebox beside a busy thoroughfare. The young man attempted to treat his wife with utmost sincerity and kindness, but often found that his tongue got in his way. Dull and ill-advised words suitable only for bachelorhood unfortunately found their way from his mouth to his young bride’s ear.

While the ever-patient bride overlooked most of the offenses, the stupid young husband constantly felt it necessary to pay penance for his outbursts by aiding his wife in her chores. After one particular peccadillo, the husband took it upon himself to do the laundry.

Knowing at least that colors and whites must go separately, he sorted the clothes into piles and decided to begin with the whites. In went the slightly dingy load while the hopeful husband added soap and waited nearby. When the buzzer rang, he jumped to his feet expecting to pull out gleaming white clothes. What to his wondering eyes did appear, but a washer full of pink. Pink, the color of panic. Nothing was the same as it had gone in.

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With his bride due home soon, he frantically searched the load to find an offending single red sock. Casting it aside, he loaded the machine with bleach and ran the whites through once more. Bing – cycle over, no change. Pink panic.

A key at the door

A smiling bride

A kiss before the confession

Disappointment, accusation, regret

“My favorite shirt!” she exclaimed as she held up a blushing blouse. “Ruined!”

“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry,” pled the husband. “I’ll buy you another. What else can I do, my darling?”

“I will tell you what you can do,” she fumed. “You can promise you will never, ever, ever do the laundry again!”

“I swear it, my love,” promised the young man on bended knee. “I will never touch dirty clothes for as long as you’ll have me.”

One score and two years later, the older husband is still bound by his oath and forbidden to use the washing machine with the following exception: his rag towels.

With a family so large, the machine seems to run day and night, but can he help? Not besides folding.

I ask you the following, was the young naïve husband really so foolish decades ago, or did he craft a cunning plan sure to guarantee a life of marital slackness? Could you place that much credit for forethought on the brash youth who couldn’t keep his pie-hole closed? Would the wife’s version tell a different tale?


9 Comments on A Single Red Sock, last added: 4/17/2014
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18. Father of Nations – Terrible Babysitter

I like to think I was a good sitter for the kids when they were little. I mean, I’m dad, so I should be able to provide for their basic needs on occasion. I remember a particular Saturday when our first was a toddler. Instead of playing the usual dolls and house (which I was excellent at, by the way), I decided that her tummy, back, and arms made the perfect canvas for a jungle mural. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We drew and drew until elephants, lions, and zebras were marching all over her flesh. Great, giggly, tickly fun.

Great fun until Mom came home and the little fink sold me out. My lovely wife hadn’t gotten two steps into the kitchen before the scamp had pulled her shirt up to reveal the masterpiece. I don’t recall if it was the classic grocery bags hitting the floor or not, but her fury stretched across the room and melted part of my ear. Something about her perfect, beautiful baby looking like a tattooed Harley rider.

That was the day I received a fairly detailed list of appropriate activities for times when mommy was away. I also learned the difference between permanent and washable markers.

That was a “first child” thing. She’s mellowed about keeping them in pristine condition and maybe I’ve matured a little. Either way, I pale in comparison to the worst babysitter ever. Some of you look for deep meaning in Bible stories and I applaud you. My infantile mind reads some of the odd ones and starts playing Paul Harvey – looking for The Rest of the Story.

When I read Genesis 22, I am awed by Abraham’s obedience. To listen and follow God at the expense of the one thing he had waited a hundred years for, his baby boy, is incredible. For so long he had begged and schemed for a son, but couldn’t have one with Sarah until he completely gave up his own plans and got to a place where he put his utter reliance on God and not himself. Only God.

obras maestras de la pintura - juan carlos boveri

We know how the story goes. Just before he offers Isaac as the sacrifice, God shows him a ram to use as a substitute, sparing his son’s life. Can you imagine the sheer joy? Can you picture the relief of his heart? Do you think Isaac flinched when the knife went up? Do you wonder at what Sarah said when they got home?

Seriously, how do you relay that to your wife?

“Hi Honey, we’re home.”

“Oh, I missed you two so much. How was the camping trip?”

“It was fantastic. You’re never gonna believe what God did. First, he told me to sacrifice Isaac. So I built this altar and put him on it. Just as the knife was about to come down…”

“YOU DID WHAT???”

 

The Bible omits that part of the story. But I wonder sometimes.

 

I wonder what things I hold too dear to put on the altar. I certainly wouldn’t put my kids on there. (Heck, I won’t even draw on them anymore.) But there are other things too precious to me that I hold back. I know it – and so does God. Lord help me to have more faith and obedience like Old Abraham. I just pray I’m a better babysitter.

 

 Artwork Credit: Ferdinand von Olivier [Public domain]

 

 


10 Comments on Father of Nations – Terrible Babysitter, last added: 4/14/2014
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19. #520 – Elephants at the Airport: Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe by Steve Wolfson & Heleen Brulot

EA Frnt Cover-1sm.

Elephants At The Airport: Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe

by Steve Wolfson & Heleen Brulot

Argami Productions     11/25/2013

978-0-9798324-5-1

Age 4 to 8   32 pages

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“Nicki is not so happy about having to move to Zimbabwe, Africa. She is not sure what to expect and is truly surprised when one of the first things she sees is an elephant at the airport.”

Opening

“Nikki thought she was waking up, but maybe it was a dream. Why else were her parents sleeping in her bedroom and why she was sleeping sitting up in a chair.”

The Story

Nikki’s mother gets a job that takes the family to Zimbabwe, Africa. Like most young kids, Nikki does not want to leave her home and her friends. She wonders how she will hang her posters on a mud wall. She is also fearful of all the wild animals that she believes will be everywhere. Nikki might be right. At the airport an elephant—a green elephant with red and yellow spots—takes her suitcase off the belt and walks away with it. Dad insists there are no elephants in the city.

In her new home, Nikki sees a menagerie of animals come through the bushes defining her backyard. Rhinos, lions, zebras, baboons, and an ostrich run and play in front of Nikki’s bedroom window. Dad sternly insists there are no wild animals in the city. Nikki spends all her time playing with the elephant from the airport, much to her parent’s dismay. They never see any of the animals that hide in the bushes until Nikki is alone.

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Review

The first reading of Elephants at the Airport was confusing. Why could only Nikki see the animals that were real enough to play with her? The title on the cover states, Elephants at the Airport and nothing more, not even the author and illustrator’s name (that is perfectly okay). A closer look at the credit and title pages shows a subtitle: Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe. Now I get it. The story is a fable. Nikki has no desire to move to Africa and is terrified of the unknown. To make things worse, a green elephant—with red and yellow dots—grabs her suitcase. Dad refuses to believe his child.

Zimbabwe is not a place to fear, but a magical place for kids where the animals entertain Nikki in front of her bedroom window. The story lacks development. Mainly Nikki and her father are in a stalemate over wild animals in the city in which they live. Dad even takes Nikki to a game park—actually a mechanism to end the story. Nikki declares the elephants were great, but her favorite is still the airport elephant, which causes her dad to yell,

“There are NO elephants at the airport!”

Nikki replies that he is right; the elephant is now at their home. She then runs out to play with Airport. Nikki happily skips out of the house and her parents look out to see their daughter with something green and wonder . . . could it be? An acceptable ending I suppose. Kids will laugh and so might their parents.

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To me, the ending just tells me the inevitable. An easy ending that does not develop the protagonist. Nikki should change by story’s end, but she changes on the first morning. It seems the character that might change is dad, a secondary character. Does he now believe wild animals are in the city? Does he now believe a green elephant with red and yellow spots plays with his daughter? Nikki folded her fears and her lack of enthusiasm for living in a new country too soon in the story.

Young children will like the imaginary playmate aspect of the story. They will like Airport, maybe even more so because of his coloring. They will most likely not care that the story is poorly constructed and in need of a good edit. Though they might want to know where the other elephants are at the airport.
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I love the cover and really like the elephant. The artist draws a nice, realistic elephant. The illustrations are good. A few have what looks like paint smeared across the paper, making the image difficult to see. I think this is supposed to indicate speed—of the animals as they play. A few other images are mostly shades of brown with a bit of color, making it difficult to see what the image represents. That very well could be a printing problem, but in the end, whatever the problem, these spreads are not good. It really is a shame because the illustrations are extremely good.

[After watching the trailer, it is clear that the problem is with printing. The illustrations, every one of them, are gorgeous and detailed clearly in the trailer, but muddled on the page.]

Elephants at the Airport: Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe takes a young girl out of her familiar surroundings and places her into a strange land of wild animals. Nikki quickly recovers from her fears and plays with the elephant from the airport. Dad is not happy, thinking his girl is isolating herself. She has a great time playing with what might or might not be an imaginary friendly elephant. I like the premise of the story. Elephants at the Airport has wonderful story potential but it needs work before I would purchase this adorable green elephant.

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Learn more about Elephants at the Airport: Once Upon a Time in Zimbabwe HERE.

Get a copy of Elephants at the Airport at AmazonB&Nbook’s websiteask for it at your neighborhood bookstore.

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Meet the author, Steve Wolfson at his website: http://www.wolfsonsworld.com/ 

Meet the illustrator, Heleen Brulot at her website:  http://www.brulot.net/

Check out other books by Argami Productions at its website:  http://www.argamiproductions.com/

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ELEPHANTS AT THE AIRPORT: ONCE UPON A TIME IN ZIMBABWE, Text copyright © 2013 by Steve Wolfson. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Heleen Brulot. Reproduced by permission of Argami Productions, Weston, FL.

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elephant at airport


Filed under: Children's Books, Library Donated Books, Picture Book Tagged: Africa, Argami Productions, children's book reviews, creativity, elephants, family, Heleen Brulot, imagination, relationships, Steve Wolfson, wild animals, Zimbabwe

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20. #522 – Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome by Bill Harley

charlie bumpers nice gnome.

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome

by Bill Harley & Adam Gustavson, illustrator

Peachtree Publishers     3/01/2014

978-1-56145-740-3

Age 7 to 10   167 pages

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“Charlie Bumpers has his heart set on playing the role of the evil Sorcerer in the fourth grade play. He’s even got the laugh down pat: Mwa-ha-ha-ha! But his dreams of villainous stardom go up in smoke when he finds out that Mrs. Burke has cast him as the Nice Gnome! Determined to rectify this terrible injustice, Charlie concocts one plan after another, but nothing seems to work.

“To make matters worse, his dad has assigned chores to all the kids in the family and Charlie’s job is walking Ginger – the diggiest, sniffiest, and poopiest dog in the universe. Can Charlie deal with these challenges without causing havoc all around him?”

Opening

“Are you ready, thespians?” Mrs. Burke asked. “Are your desks cleared?”

The Story

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome is the second book in this early reader series. The first was Charlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year, who happened to be Mrs. Burke. This time around Mrs. Burke’s Empire—her term—will be acting out a play for parents and others . . . at night! Since Mrs. aaa use2Burke read The Sorcerer’s Castle t the class, Charlie has been set on playing Kragon, the evil sorcerer. Kragon has the best line in the whole play.

“You horrible people! My plans are ruined! My dreams are ruined! I am ruined!”

Mrs. Burke handed out the scripts. At the top was your role. Charlie couldn’t believe his eyes. Mrs. Burke gave him the role of The Nice Gnome. Charlie would rather be on the stage crew and move sets around than be The Nice Gnome. The problem, as Charlie saw it, The Nice Gnome was ridiculously nice and Charlie does not want to be a nice guy. He did not want anyone laughing at him. He had to get out of this role.

Review

Charlie has a dilemma. Playing The Nice Gnome in Mrs. Burke’s fourth grade class play would be horrible. He tries to ask for a new part. Charlie even tries rewriting his role. Just as in book one, Charlie must somehow make it through Mrs. Burke. Last time he was afraid she would remember the shoe that almost hit her. Now, he must face her about a terrible part. Mrs. Burke is the perfect character to deal with Charlie’s angst. She is stern, maybe a little too s21tern, but tempers this with kindness that the kids rarely see. Mrs. Burke is a good teacher and a good role model. She also reminds me of most every elementary teacher I ever had. Except for maybe her exploding fingers that get everyone’s immediate attention.

Charlie also has some aggravation at home. Charlie thinks it is unfair that his job means walking Ginger first thing after school, while older brother Matt can read a video game magazine. Little sister Mabel—AKA Squid—wants to walk Ginger but is too young and unable to control the dog. Matt refuses to help or switch jobs with Charlie, but he does make a point of reminding him to walk the dog. The three siblings are realistic in their attitudes toward one another. They pick on and at each other, but run to the rescue if someone else picks on them.

The actual play is the best part of the story, as it should be. At times silly and then hilarious, Charlie comaaa use doges to an understanding about The Nice Gnome and Mrs. Burke. Charlie’s part has him on stage as Samantha Grunsky’s helper. Samantha is bossy and a know-it-all, and she sits in the chair behind Charlie. Charlie’s best friend, Tommy, has the other fourth grade teacher.

I enjoyed Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome. The story is a fast read, due mainly to my refusing to stop turning pages. Getting to the play was worth the wait. Kids will enjoy Charlie and will be able to identify with him. Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome has several scenes kids will find hilarious such as Charlie dealing with a neighbor woman whose lawn Ginger prefers to use for “his business.” The illustrations wonderfully capture Charlie’s fourth grade frustrations. Included are the first six pages to the next book in the series: Charlie Bumpers vs. the Squeaking Skull.

.Learn more about Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome HERE.

Buy Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome orCharlie Bumpers vs. The Teacher of the Year at AmazonB&NPeachtreeyour local bookstore.

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Meet the author, Bill Harley at his website:  http://www.billharley.com/

Meet the illustrator, Adam Gustavson at his website:   http://www.adamgustavson.com/

Find other early readers at the Peachtree Publisher website:   http://peachtree-online.com/

CHARLIE BUMPERS VS. THE REALLY NICE GNOME. Text copyright © 2014 by Bill Harley. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Adam Gustavson. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Peachtree Publishers, Atlanta, GA.

COMING FALL 2014
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charlie bumpers nice gnome

 Peachtree Publisher’s Book Blog Tour

Charlie Bumpers vs. the Really Nice Gnome

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Monday, 3/24 

Sally’s Bookshelf

Tuesday, 3/25

 The World of Peachtree Publishers
Wednesday, 3/26 

Shelf Media Group
Thursday, 3/27

 Kid Lit Reviews     YOU ARE HERE!
Friday, 3/28 

Geo Librarian


Filed under: 5stars, Books for Boys, Early Reader, Favorites, Library Donated Books, Series Tagged: Adam Gustavson, Bill Harley, children's book reviews, family, Fourth grade, gnomes, Peachtree Publishers, relationships, school plays

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21. Johnny Reb’s Revenge

Welcome to the South! But beware – we have some surprises for you. If you are just passing through on the way to the beach, leave your car parked in Chik-fil-A’s parking lot long enough to get a sandwich and you’ll find it. The yellow nightmare that welcomes spring here every year: pollen.

 

Halictus_ligatus,_F,_face,_Philidelphia,_PA_2013-01-04-14.44.36_ZS_PMax_(8354392738)

 

We are used to it. We don’t love it, but accept it as one of the few drawbacks of living in God’s Country. I wonder what the Union soldiers thought of the yellow cloud in April of 1864. Did it slow them down or just shock the troops and make them sick along the way? I can’t imagine muskets are easy to aim anyway, but I’m guessing more than a couple Southern soldiers escaped the bullet because of the itchy eyes and runny nose of the enemy.

Despite our ideological divide, the Confederacy was short lived and we are united. This unity allows many Yankees to set up residence here when they get sick of the cold weather and frosty attitudes up north. I’m told they were called ‘carpetbaggers’ back in the day. We have nicer names for them now (when they are in earshot). We sell them our cow pastures at over-inflated prices and say things like “Bless your Heart”, which they think is nice but is actually a veiled insult.

Just kidding (except about BYH) – everyone is welcome here.

I had a humorous run-in with pollen at our first home. It was a cute little starter home that had one issue – when it rained, the run-off from the street came down our driveway and off into the side yard to a retaining ditch. You can never see something like that unless you happen to be visiting in the rain before the purchase. We weren’t and the community real estate agent didn’t share that fact. He was from Connecticut. Anyway, the first time it rained in April, our entire driveway and yard was painted yellow with pollen run-off. Being an inexperienced home-owner and relatively dull anyway, I marched up the street in the rain to confront whoever was spilling yellow paint into my yard. I figured it out fairly soon.

Now I have a new boss moving from New Jersey. He seems like a really nice guy and I look forward to working with him. I wonder how he and his family will feel about Johnny Reb’s revenge. They will mostly likely wait to move until after school is out and will miss it this year. So the question is, should I warn him?  Or let him enjoy the surprise in 2015…

 

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Photo credits: “I Heart Pollen !” by Brooke Novak & USGS Native Bee Inventory and Monitoring Laboratory from Beltsville, USA

10 Comments on Johnny Reb’s Revenge, last added: 4/6/2014
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22. #532 – Evil Fairies Love Hair by Mary G. Thompson

evvil fariries kve hair.

Evil Fairies Love Hair

by Mary G. Thompson

Clarion Books       8/5/2014

978-0-547-85903-3

Age 8 to 12       320 pages

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“You could be gorgeous, brilliant, a star athlete, or great singer, or you could put a hex on your worst enemy. And all you have to do is raise a flock of two-inch-tall fairies. Easy, right? Wrong. Ali learns this the hard way when her flock-starter fairies get to work. Raising them means feeding them, and what they eat is hair. Lots and lots of human hair. Where to get the hair is Ali’s first challenge. What about the beauty salon? Easy, right? Before long, Ali’s friends, classmates, teachers, sister, and parents are entangled with the evil fairies, who have their own grandiose and sinister agenda. It’s up to Ali to overcome these magical troublemakers and set things right.”

Opening

“AGREEMENT 1. Alison E. B. Butler in exchange for one wish, hereby agree: . . .”

The Story

Alison is raising a flock of evil fairies in exchange for one wish. She wants to be smarter than her sister, who get s straight A’s and her parent’s attention. She has two problems right away. Michael gave her the two flock-starters and now he insists on checking up on her, constantly. It wouldn’t be so bad if he weren’t the second worst jerk in town. His brother is number one and dating Ali’s sister Hannah—the one who can do no wrong. Second problem, the baby fairies. All the babies want is to eat and they eat human hair, lots if it. Where is Ali going to get all that hair? She can’t use her own, and keeps her hair in a high bun to ensure the fairies don’t get to her hair. The boys shave their head.

Ali spots the beauty salon across from the middle school. They throw hair away every day. Ali tries to grab some of the discarded hair, but Mrs. Hopper, who has cut the Butler family’s hair since forever, catches her. Ali learns that Mrs. Hopper is not who she seems to be and wants to rescue Mrs. Hopper—the real Mrs. Hopper. Hopper is not the only one held captive. Molly and Tyler, who broke the rules while raising their flocks, are now suffering the penalty, and Mrs. Hopper—the fake one—is now holding them captive. Will Ali be able to free all three? Can she be able to get anyone else to help? Most importantly, will Ali raise her full flock and get her wish?

Review

I love Evil Fairies Love Hair. It has some normal teenage angst, a normal family, middle school casts, two flockstarters who may or may not help, and a good dash of magic. The good kids are not always as good as they seem and the bad kids are not as bad as everyone, including parents, believe. Then there are the little evil fairies, who may not be fairies at all. Evil Fairies Love Hair could be a confusing story, but events happen in good time and everything flows nicely from one plot point to the next. In fact, I had read half the book before I thought to check the time. I didn’t want to put the book down.

From the title, Evil Fairies Love Hair, I had no idea what to expect. The fairy on the cover is odd looking with large, bulging eyes that fill up half her face and a baldhead. She looks demanding and she and her fellow fairies are a demanding bunch. Their leader put the fairies in this position and was now trying to get them to where she wanted to be in the first place. Problem is, she easily makes mistakes, mainly due to her enormous ego. I love the humor and the middle school principal who never has a clue what his students are doing. He just wants them back to class. All the adults are clueless.

Middle grade kids will love this story. It will have them thinking about what they would wish for, if they had the opportunity. Kids will also wonder what getting their wish would cause to those around them. Would it be worth it to have everything you want? This is the author’s sophomore novel. (Escape from the Pipe Men! is her debut and will be reviewed here soon.) The writing is excellent. The story pulls you in and keeps you turning the pages. Kids looking for a magical tale with a few twists and turns will want to read Evil Fairies Love Hair. You may think you know what a fairy is and what a fairy does, but do you really? To find out, you need to read Evil Fairies Love Hair. Be careful what you wish for—you might just get it!.

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EVIL FAIRIES LOVE HAIR. Text copyright © 2014 by Mary G. Thompson. Illustrations copyright © 2014 by Blake Henry. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, Boston MA.

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Learn about Evil Fairies Love Hair HERE.

Buy Evil Fairies Love Hair at AmazonB&NClarion Booksyour local bookstore.

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Meet author Mary G. Thompson at her website:  http://www.marygthompson.com/

Find more intriguing books at the Clarion Books website:  http://www.hmhco.com/

Clarion Books is an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.

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Also by Mary G Thompson

Escape from the Pipe Men!

Escape from the Pipe Men!

Wuftoom

Wuftoom

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NEW from Clarion Books

The Twin Powers

The Twin Powers

 

The Perfect Place

The Perfect Place

evil fairies love hair


Filed under: 5stars, Favorites, Middle Grade Tagged: children's book reviews, Clarion Books, ego, fairies, hexes, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, imps, Mary G. Thompson, middle grade novel, relationships, wishes

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23. #533 – The New Old Truck by Jennifer Somervell & Margery Fern

cover.

The New Old Truck

by Jennifer Somervell & Margery Fern, illustrator

Tales from the Farm Publications          2014

978-0-473-27125-1

Abe 4 to 8         38 pages

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“Old truck backfires, graunches gears, won’t start and often has to be towed. Retired, rejected and shut up in the shed, he feels old and useless. Is this the end for Old Truck? Then brother John comes home . . . “

Opening

“Old Truck loved to work. He was happy carting soil. He was excited carting hay. He loved carting children.”

The Story

Old Truck has worked the family farm for many years. Now, he is getting too old to work like it used to, often needing a tow from Blue Truck. Blue Truck was tired of rescuing Old Truck and Dad said it was time to retire Old Truck and get a new one. Despite much opposition from his children, Dad went out looking for a new truck. He came home with nothing new, having gien in to his children. Blue Truck would have to handle the load. Old Truck was retired to the shed, where it sat. One child had been missing. One John came home he asked about Old Truck. Would he be able to help the old, tired, out-of-date truck?

kids riding

Review

Based in a true story, The New Old Truck retells the story of a family’s beloved old-fashioned truck, about to be retired. Old Truck had been a useful truck, but needed replaced with a modern truck. All the kids objected. They loved to ride in Old Truck; one of the first trucks ever built. It had a hand crank, which is not always included in the illustrations. In general, the illustrations are smart, extremely detailed, and are nicely colored. The one-dimensional characters remind me of the thin magnetic “paper dolls” of old that stuck to a special board. Beyond this, the illustrations will entertain young children as the Old Truck goes from a tired, worn-out machine to a crisp sharp machine ready to beat any truck of any age.

Sentences are short and simply structured, making it easy for children to read. There is a lot of dialogue, mostly of the children protesting, which can be fun to read aloud. There is a little confusion with Old Truck’s savior. John is there, protesting with the others, when Old Truck is retired to the shed. An unspecified amount of time passes, Old Truck is a mess and,

“Then one day John came home.”

This sentence implies John had not been around; had not been home. Yet he was. John was around when all the kids, including himself, protested the retirement of Old Truck and the purchasing a new truck. I think this might confuse the children who notice John had been around. How can, “one day John came home?” When did he leave? Where did he go? Why didn’t he rescue the Old Truck earlier? Picky? Maybe, but continuity is important in a story, including knowing where your characters are at all times. If John was there when Old Truck was retired, and he was, then he should know where Old Truck is when he returns.

kidds told of new truck

Young boys will love the story of Old Truck. Old Truck likes carrying around kids, has a nice smile, and often farts, causing black smoke to trail behind it. What little boy wouldn’t love that? Blue Truck is actually rather boring in comparison, though much nicer looking truck. When restored, Old Truck is so beautiful everyone around wants a ride. This shows how much we like our histories and want them to live on. This simple truck spoke of a simpler time; many would like a return to that time.

Parents will appreciate the short history, after the story, including original pictures. Manufactured in Michigan, the 1921 Model 10 Republic truck journeyed to New Zealand, where the author and illustrator’s grandfather bought it in 1938. The truck worked on the family dairy farm until it was retired. The real John restored the truck several times, finally showing the 91-year-old truck at a vintage rally in 2012. There is beautiful photograph of the family farm, showing the snowy Ruahines Mountain Range (New Zealand), in the background. Also included is glossary of words special to Old Truck, such as chassis, crank handle, and graunch (the loud, grating noise of gears not smoothly moving).

old rretired to shed

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THE NEW OLD TRUCK. Text copyright © 2013 by Jennifer Somervell. Illustrations copyright © 2013 by Margery Fern. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Tales from the farm Publications, Oxford, NZ.

Learn more about The New Old Truck HERE.

.Buy at author / illustrator website.

Meet the author, Jennifer Somervell and illustrator, Margery Fern at her website: Tales from the Farm Productions:   http://www.talesfromthefarm.co.nz/

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Also by Jennifer Somervell & Margery Fern

The Day Dad Blew up the Cowshed

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new old truck


Filed under: 4stars, Children's Books, Library Donated Books Tagged: 1921 Model 10 Republic, farm life, Jennifer Smervell, Margery Fern, old trucks, relationships, Tales from the farm Publications

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24. #534 – You Are My Baby: Garden & You Are My Baby: Ocean By Lorena Siminovich

cover postYou Are My Baby: Garden

You Are My Baby: Ocean

By Lorena Siminovich

Chronicle Books     2014

Age up to 4     10 pages

.“Two books in one! Turn the pages of the little book nestled inside the bigger book to match the baby animals to their parents. La-la-chirp! Buzz-buzz! Swish! Splash! Perfect for learning and playtime fun.”

Openings

“You sing a happy song in our leafy tree. You are my baby little hatchling La-la-chirp!

“You crawl on the sandy ocean floor. You are my baby, little octopus. Fizz!

Review

You Are My Baby:  Garden includes animals you will find in your garden or backyard. Animals such as the answer to the opening line above top: a Blue bird and a baby blue bird. You will also find a spider, snail, squirrel, and a bumblebee, all with their baby.

yamb gardenYou Are My Baby:  Ocean includes animals from the sea. In this board book, you will find an octopus (the answer to its opening lines), a seahorse, goldfish, turtle, and a big wale with water spouting out of its blowhole.

yamb oceanBoth books have soft colors, many in a pattern, such as the bluebird made of blue with a white dotted body and a yellow beak with smaller white dots.Each book is also two books in one. The adult animals and the baby animals move independently giving any possible combination as you please. If you want the whale to raise the baby turtle, simply put the two together. Both are easy to handle. Made of thick cardboard, the books—all four—will withstand the toughest of little hands that grab, pull, and drop.

fish1

I really like the two books together. I like the mix and match of the two without carting out a second book. Kids like to match things up. As a kid, I matched up playing cards. One of these books would have been so much more fun. I could have sat in my grandpa’s lap instead of next to him; I could have practiced on my own. Plus, I know from experience, jelly wipes right off these pages.

Both the Garden, and the Ocean version of You Are My Baby series is adorable and will enchant children and peak their growing curiosity of the world around them. The series is a collection of four including, You Are My Baby: Farm and You Are My Baby: Safari. These You Are My Baby books are one other way of interesting your child in books and reading at an early age. Babies like other babies, making this perfect for the child recognizing his or herself in the world.

missing covers 2

YOU ARE MY BABY: GARDEN and YOU ARE MY BABY:  OCEAN. Text and illustrations copyright © 2014 by Lorena Siminovich. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Chronicle Books, San Francisco, CA.

Learn more about the You Are My Baby series go HERE.

To purchase any of the You Are My Baby books go to AmazonB&NChronicle Booksyour local bookstore.

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Meet the author/illustrator, Lorena Siminovich at her website:  http://www.lorenasiminovich.com/

Find more board books at the Chronicle Books website:  http://www.chroniclebooks.com/

*all illustrations courtesy of Chronicle Books

Also by Lenora Siminovich

You Know What I Love?

You Know What I Love?

Monkey See, Look at Me!

Monkey See, Look at Me!

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New Chronicle Board Books

We're Going to the Farmers' Market

We’re Going to the Farmers’ Market

A Tree for All Seasons

A Tree for All Seasons

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you are my baby gardwen and ocean


Filed under: 5stars, Board Books, Children's Books, Favorites, Library Donated Books, NonFiction, Series Tagged: animals, baby animals, children's book reviews, Chronicle Books, Lorena Siminovich, matching, relationships

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25. A conversation with Alberto Gallace

From Facebook’s purchase of Oculus VR Inc. to the latest medical developments, technology is driving new explorations of the perception, reality, and neuroscience. How do we perceive reality through the sense of touch? Alberto Gallace is a researcher in touch and multisensory integration at the University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy, and co-author of In touch with the future: The sense of touch from cognitive neuroscience to virtual reality. We recently spoke to him about touch, personal boundaries, and being human.

Out of all the human senses, touch is the one that is most often unappreciated, and undervalued. When did you first become interested in touch research?

I was in Oxford as a visiting PhD student and working on multisensory integration, in particular on the integration between tactile and visual signals in the brain. Soon I realized that, despite the fact that is a very important sensory modality, there was not much research on touch, and there were not even a lot of instruments to study such sensory modality. I started by working more with engineers and technical workshops then with psychologists and neuroscientists, just because I needed some device to test the sense of touch in a different way as compared to what was done in the past. Touch was mainly studied with reference to haptic object recognition, mostly on visually impaired individuals or in terms of its physiological mechanisms. Many of the most relevant aspects of touch were very little, if not at all, investigated.

HandsWe use touch for walking, talking, eating, nearly everything basically. It also plays a major role on our interpersonal relationships, it affects the release of hormones and it contributes to define the boundary of our self.

To my students I often say, where our touch begins, we are. I wanted to understand more of these topics. I wanted to compare touch with other sensory modalities. In doing that I was convinced that research on touch had to get away from the fingertips or hands and extend to the whole body surface. The more I studied this sense, the more I became interested in it. For every question answered there were many more without responses. I like touch a lot because there are many things that still need to be understood about it, and I am a rather curious person, particularly when it comes to science.

What do you think has been the most important development in touch research in the past 100 years?

I am not sure if it’s the most important development, but what I certainly consider important is the recent study of certain neural fibres specialized in transmitting socially-relevant information via the sense of touch. That is, the C tactile afferents in humans, that are strongly activated by ‘caress like’ stimuli, might play an important role in many of our most pleasant social experiences. However, I should also say that my personal way to think about science is much more ‘future oriented’. That is, I believe that the most important developments in touch research are the ones that we will see in the next years. I am really looking forward to reading (or possibly writing) about them.

Why did you decide to research this topic?

Most of the previously published books on touch — there aren’t many, to be honest — were focused on a single topic. Most of them were based on research on visually-impaired individuals, and the large majority of them were authored books, a collections of chapters written by different people, sometimes with a different view. Charles [Spence, University of Oxford] and myself wanted something different, something more comprehensive, something that could help people to understand that touch is involved in many different and relevant aspects of our life. We envisioned a book where the more neuroscientific aspects of touch were addressed together with a number of more applied topics. We wanted something where people could see touch ‘at work’. We talk about the neural bases of touch, tactile perception, tactile attention, tactile memory, tactile consciousness, but also about the role of touch in technology, marketing, virtual reality, food appreciation, and sexual behaviour. Many of these topics have never been considered in a book on touch before.

Philippe Mercier - The Sense of Touch

Philippe Mercier’s The Sense of Touch

What do you see as being the future of research in this field in the next decade?

I think that research in my field, pushed by technological advances, will grow rapidly in the coming years. One of the fields where I see a lot of potential is certainly related to the reproduction of tactile sensations in virtual reality environments. Virtual reality will likely become an important part of our life, maybe not in the next decade, but certainly in a not so distant future. However, if we want to create believable virtual environments we need to understand more of our sense of touch, and in particular how our brain processes tactile information, how different tactile stimulations can lead to certain emotions and behaviours, and how tactile sensations can be virtually reproduced. Following the idea that ‘where our touch begins, we are’, research will certainly invest a lot of resources in trying to better understand the neurocognitive mechanisms responsible for supporting our sense of ‘body ownership’ (the feeling that the body is our own) and how this sense can be transferred to virtual/artificial counterparts of our self. Here research on touch will certainly play a leading role.

If you weren’t doing touch research, what would you be doing?

I think I’d work as a scientist in a different field, but always as a scientist. I am too curious about how nature works to do something different. Since I was twelve I’ve always had a special interest in astronomy and astrophysics and I can easily picture myself working in that field too. Understanding the secrets of black cosmic matter or studying the mysteries of white brain matter? Not sure which would be better. What I am sure about is that I like my job a lot, and I won’t change it with anything else that is not based that much on creativity and curiosity.

Alberto Gallace is a researcher at Department of Psychology, University of Milano-Bicocca, Italy, and co-author of In touch with the future: The sense of touch from cognitive neuroscience to virtual reality. His research interests include spatial representation, multisensory integration, tactile perception, tactile interfaces, body representation, virtual reality, sensory substitution systems, and neurological rehabilitation of spatial disorders.

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Image credits: (1) Via Catalana Barcelona Plaça Catalunya 37. Photo by Judesba. CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons. (2) The Sense of Touch, painting by Philipe Mercier. Public domain via Wikimedia Commons

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