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Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays Day 9

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays

It’s the 9th day of Diversity!  We’re looking at Night by Elie Wiesel today.

Night by Elie Wiesel

I can’t even begin to explain how powerful this book is. It’s small but it is powerful. Not merely another Holocaust story, Wiesel’s story expresses the utter anguish of the victims, Wiesel himself included, who was only about 15 when he was captured. The level of atrocity the Nazis inflicted never ceases to amaze me but what is equally as astonishing is the lives the survivors made for themselves afterward.

It’s no wonder this book is on so many required reading lists. This is a trilogy, so if you’re so inclined you can go further with Wiesel. One book was all I could stomach. This amazing little book qualifies as part of the Diversity Reading Challenge.

 

Categories
Children Diversity Reading Challenge

Happy Hanukkah! Schmelf the Hanukkah Elf by Greg Wolfe, illustrated by Howard McWilliam

Schmelf the Hanukkah Elf

Shmelf is one of Santa’s most important elves. He’s part of the List Checking department, and he makes sure all the good boys and girls get their presents! But when Shmelf finds out that some children are missing from Santa’s list, he goes to investigate.

What Shmelf uncovers is Hanukkah, a wondrous and joyful holiday that Jewish families celebrate each year. As Shmelf observes a family lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and hearing the Hanukkah story, he sees how special the traditions of the holiday truly are-and he wants to be a part of it! Luckily, Santa just might have a special role in mind for Shmelf….

Isn’t that the cutest little elf face ever? I love that this book is focused on the little ones. I know some little ones don’t understand that they celebrate differently than their friends. Here’s a way to make Hanukkah feel special for the little ones who are confused or who want to learn about Hanukkah.

Schmelf!

This fun book counts for their Diversity Reading Challenge!

Categories
Books

How to talk to kids during times of tragedy: 3 books to help

In light of yet another horrific hate crime, this time in my hometown of Pittsburgh against the Jewish community in Squirrel Hill, I thought this was a particularly good time to revisit how we discuss tragedy, violence, death, and dying with our kids. This is a conversation no parent dreams of having but more often we are faced with. What are we to do when wanting to comfort a scared or grieving child? We are struggling to process it in our own minds; the last thing we want to do is explain tragedy to our little ones. When I am faced with my own tragedy, I turn to books.

To be sure, books don’t have all of the answers but they are a start. Books are an excellent resource when you don’t know what to say, where to go, or how to begin. Books can comfort you and let you know that you’re not alone. The following are three books that have helped me during a difficult time in my life.

1. HEALING A CHILD’S GRIEVING HEART: 100 PRACTICAL IDEAS FOR FAMILIES, FRIENDS AND CAREGIVERS BY ALAN D. WOLFELT

“A grieving child’s life is like a piece of paper upon which every passerby leaves a mark. What kind of mark would you like to leave on the life of the child whose heart and soul have been touched by the death of someone loved?”

I found this book to be amazingly helpful. Inside it contained more than 100 helpful activities for dealing with grief and mourning. Tip 12 is an example: “Consider the child’s relationship to the person who died…Each child’s response to a death depends largely upon the relationship she had with the person who died…Set aside your own thoughts and feelings and enter her world as you consider this point.” See what I mean? Useful stuff. A child’s grief is not the same as your grief and must be treated differently than yours. Once I grasped that concept, I was able to move through the other practicalities of the book and construct a strategy that worked for each of my children separately.

 

2. THE GRIEVING CHILD: A PARENT’S GUIDE BY HELEN FITZGERALD

Fitzgerald helped me understand my own death history and confront my feelings about death. “Before you begin talking to your child about the death of a loved one or about death in general, be sure you know where you stand.” The author reasons that “the more you understand yourself, the easier it will be to avoid letting those feelings influence your child.” This, too, was helpful. You don’t want to muck up your child’s understanding of death with your own conflicted feelings. Throughout the book, Fitzgerald offers honest and useful ways handle such situations as whether or not to take the child to the funeral, or deciding when it’s time to seek professional help.

3. TALKING WITH YOUNG CHILDREN ABOUT DEATH BY FRED ROGERS

Talking with Young Children about Death is a brochure I received from a children’s grief therapist. As a long time fan of Mister Rogers, it is not surprising that I would turn to him to help me understand a child’s point of view while dealing with grief. “Children’s sensitivity to ‘vibes’ is extremely keen. At a time of sadness in a family there are so many facial cues, so many disrupted schedules, new people coming and going, lots of conversations to overhear, and a general aura that clearly states that something important is going on.” When you think about it that way, is it any wonder children act out? They know something is going on but no one will tell them in a way that they can understand. That must be incredibly frustrating and scary.

I’ve discovered that by turning to books for any occasion, even tragedy and dying, I can find what I need. Sometimes I find answers to questions, sometimes I find inspiration, sometimes I find a comforting poem or story. Talking with children about tragedy isn’t easy, but if you’re not sure where to begin, why not open a book?

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Banned Books

Banned Books Week is Coming!

In Honor of Banned Books Week, which starts TOMORROW,
Here are 4 Banned Books for Teens

1. The Diary of Anne Frank

I’m sure most adults are familiar with the tragic story of Anne Frank and her family.  Most adults have also probably read the book in high school as a reading assignment.  To be sure, the story is depressing, tragic, and at times, unreal.  After all, it is difficult to imagine a time when people where being killed for professing a certain religious belief.

Irrespective of when you last read Anne Frank, read it again as an adult. More pointedly, as a parent.  It will change your mindset.  My heart hurts that a young girl is forced to hide for so long only to ultimately perish in one of the worst ways possible.  As a mother with a daughter of a similar age, it hurts that the girl doesnt have the best relationship with her own mother.

If this is such a classic book, why then is it on the banned book list? To be sure, the story of The Holocaust is grossly violent, but most people believe it is truth and history so worthy of being studied.  To be sure, everyone knows the young Anne dies in the end, which is tragic.  This story, however, contains more than these facts: it’s a story about relationships and the girl’s view of the world.

Anne’s death isn’t described in detail unlike much teen literature that’s available today.  There is also no description of  violence, no sex, and no vampires: reasons which other books have been banned.  Challengers to the book claim that some versions of Anne Frank’s book contain sexually explicit and homosexual scenes.  The version I had did not contain those scenes. And so what if they did?

Regardless of the version you read, you cannot ban this book because some versions have scenes which you find objectionable or because of violent back stories.  It is your right as a parent to choose what your child reads. You cannot choose what other people’s children read.

Books want to be freely read. Agree? Disagree? Want more? Go see what others are reading and talking about this week!

P.S.  There is a newish book out, fiction, I believe, about her sister Margot.  Has anyone read it?

 

2. Go Ask Alice

Revisiting Go Ask Alice:  I know schools are still requiring this book.  Since my original post I’ve discovered that research suggests that this book is truly a work of fiction and not based on a real person.

Wow. Go Ask Alice is my current read for Banned Books Week. And all I can say is: Wow. Seriously.  Supposedly based on a diary of a young teenage girl, the book had me gripped from beginning to end.

I’m sure the book was banned due to its drug use and sex references. But, unlike some books (and many movies) these  experiences are NOT glamorized at all. At ALL.  The main character (whom I do NOT believe to be named Alice, although she references an Alice) complains and suffers bitterly because of her drug use.

If she could do a PSA I’m pretty sure she would say “don’t use drugs. ever!” But, alas, she does not get the chance.

Multiculturalism is a sticky wicket in this book.  I am 100% certain that all the characters in this book are Anglo, however, the main character does interact with her Jewish friend.  The setting is a middle class neighborhood in the early 70s where mothers still stayed at home, etc.  The sticky wicket is the drug activity.  A few references to homosexuality bump this book up to slightly more pluralistic viewpoint than many of the other books I’ve read recently.

Something scary about this? I just NOW noticed that there is a face on the cover of this book.  Wow.  Never saw that before and I look at this book OFTEN.

I HIGHLY recommend that you read this book with your children. Young teens (13+) need to get this lesson.

3. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer

I want to revisit this title. Again. The story is so good and the movie was so…not.  Anyway, I now see teens buying this book so I’m guessing classrooms have realized how important this work is.  As always, book is BETTER.

“What about a teakettle? What if the spot opened and closed when the steam came out, so it would become a mouth, and it could whistle pretty melodies, or do Shakespeare, or just crack up with me? “

To be sure, Safran Foer’s new novel, Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close, is as interesting as his debut novel, Everything is Illuminated.  Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close revolves around 9 year old Oskar Schell, his family, and his father’s death after the Sept 11th events.  Do not be deceived: the story is neither for children (although possibly YA) nor a drab account of the terror attack.

Individual family members suffer with what appears to be post traumatic stress disorder through generations of terrorism and war.  Given his background, it is little wonder that Oskar suffers from anxiety as he copes with and searches for answers to his father’s death.  Safran’s story is imaginative in its presentation, providing photographs and other graphic representations: several pages are empty like pages in a blank book.  The book is clever enough to be different from every other novel, yet at times just a little too clever.

In the end I am satisfied with the author’s ending and the resolution of the character’s situations.  Multiculturally, the main characters are Jewish and while not openly practicing, appeals to my need for ethnic diversity.

 

4. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

I’m so excited for today’s review because it was written by none other than my Pumpkin!  At 15 Pumpkin is an avid reader and I love to share books with her.  In fact, she’s the one who got me hooked on Twilight and The Hunger Games series.  So I blame her for some of my madness.

Let’s see what Pumpkin says about Perks:

he perks of being a wallflower is a great book but I can see why it is on the banned book list. There is a lot of underage drinking, sex, and drugs going on without the mention of how bad they are. Charlie, the main speaker of the story, has become one of my favorite characters out of all the books I’ve read because of how honest he is. I also felt like I could feel his emotions in the story from the vivid explanations, the story had me crying at many points!

don’t think I could find anything wrong with the book. I feel it gives a real interpretation of how a kids who gets pulled into a great friendship would react.  Although many of the characters do wrong to Charlie at some point in the book, you don’t end up hating any of them at the end of of the book because of how kind speaking Charlie is about them. He always has a way of forgiving characters or seeing past their rudeness. This is a character trait I love because nowadays, most of the books I read are about people hating people.

Schools should overlook the drug usage and such in the book because The Perks Of Being A Wallflower makes you see things through other peoples eyes and shows you good life lessons. This book has been added to my favorites list!

I couldn’t agree more: you can’t hide drug use from kids, they already know about it

What are your thoughts? Worth challenging/banning?

Categories
Books Children Reviews

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats

In honor of my upcoming Blogoversary, here is my very first post. Again. I’m so proud!

One of my earliest recollections of books is The Snowy Day, by Ezra Jack Keats. I’m sure I’ve read it a million and half times since.  How delightful it was (and still is) to read a book and see a child who resembles me!  Back then I don’t recall there being too many books with children any color other than white.  Currently, the situation has improved but still can make more improvements.  Not only is The Snowy Day a wonderful book because it features a child of color, it is also a wonderful book because the story is gently told, easy to read, and visually appealing.  The story appeals to children of all ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds because any child can find something about the story to relate to. Perhaps the child is preschool age and they can relate to young Peter’s discoveries outside by himself because he’s a big boy.  Older children can relate to the story because the words are easy enough for them to read for themselves.  Other children might be able to relate because they’ve made snow angels or because they live in an apartment like Peter or because their mother’s make them take a bath after playing outside.  I believe the possibilities of comparison are limitless.

The story appeals to children of all ethnicity and socioeconomic backgrounds because any child can find something about the story to relate to. Perhaps the child is preschool age and they can relate to young Peter’s discoveries outside by himself because he’s a big boy.  Older children can relate to the story because the words are easy enough for them to read for themselves.  Other children might be able to relate because they’ve made snow angels or because they live in an apartment like Peter or because their mother’s make them take a bath after playing outside.  I believe the possibilities of comparison are limitless.

How shocked I am to discover that Ezra Jack Keats was not African American!  I never bothered to check the author’s ethnicity because I just assumed he was African American given the multicultural nature of his books.  Keats, in fact, is of Jewish descent and grew up in Depression Era New York City.  It is perhaps this upbringing that helped Keats understand the plight of the non-mainstream child.

If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at this book, pull it out and enjoy it, I guarantee it will put a smile on your face.

Categories
Books Reviews Young Adult

Book Review: Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters by Meredith Zeitlin

Amazon.com Synopsis:

“Laugh-out-loud funny high school drama – perfect for fans of Lauren Myracle and Meg Cabot

Let’s say you’re fourteen and live in New York City. You’d think your life would be like a glamorous TV show, right? And yet . . . You don’t have a checking account, much less a personal Black American Express card. You’ve never been to a club, and the only couture in your closet is a Halloween costume your mom made from an old laundry bag.

In other words? You’re Kelsey Finkelstein – fourteen and frustrated. Every time she tries to live up to her awesome potential, her plans are foiled. Kelsey wants to rebrand herself for high school to make the kind of mark she knows is her destiny. But just because Kelsey has a plan for greatness . . . it doesn’t mean the rest of the world is in on it.

Kelsey’s hilarious commentary and sardonic narration of her freshman year will have readers laughing out loud – while being thankful that they’re not in her shoes, of course.”

If I were a teenager today I would probably be a lot like Kelsey Finkelstein.  Or at least want to be her friend.  The fourteen year old heroine in Freshman Year and Other Unnatural Disasters, by Meredith Zeitlin is an endearing young lady with an acerbic wit and a knack for laughing off embarrassing moments.  To be sure, Kelsey has a healthy sense of her abilities and what she wants out of life; but not in a bad way.

Unlike many teen heroines, Kelsey does not seek the company of a vampire.  Nor does she use her acerbic wit to verbally attack anyone, unless they deserve it.   Kelsey has never killed anyone, nor has she covered up a murder.  She is not ruthless in her social climbing and doesn’t secret off to an unknown parallel universe.

What Kelsey does do, is get herself into embarrassing situations, much like any normal fourteen year old would.  Kelsey also dreams about boys, dates boys, talks about dating boys, talks with her besties about boys and disobey her parents (to see boys).

I like Kelsey. You can’t help but like her.  Zeitlin infuses the character with just enough positive self esteem to allow the character to laugh at her own flaws but not become so self absorbed that she has no room to consider other’s feelings.  I also like Kelsey because she’s Jewish.  While not so blatantly New York Jewish, like Fran in The Nanny, she’s enough to make her a positive multicultural character.

I would like to have seen a little more of Kelsey’s Jewish customs in the story, other than the quick mention of helping the family write Chanukah cards and a brief mention of cousin Lainie’s upcoming Bat Mitzvah. I feel as if exploring these details a little further would give Kelsey a little more depth, but that is merely my personal preference.

Cheers to Zeitlin for providing a protagonist that appeals to young women of other faiths and ethnicities.  Zeitlin’s Kelsey made me chuckle out loud.  She also reminded me not to insist on too many “mother-daughter” moments because that would be Typical Lame Parent Behavior.

Need an additional laugh? Check out the trailer!

I give this book 4 paws!

 

 

 

*DISCLAIMER: I received this book from the publisher to assist in my review. All opinions are my own.*

Stay tuned for my SPECIAL interview with Meredith Zeitlin! woo hoo!

Categories
Children Diversity Reading Challenge

A fun new book for Hanukkah: Schmelf the Hanukkah Elf by Greg Wolfe, Howard McWilliam

Schmelf the Hanukkah Elf

Shmelf is one of Santa’s most important elves. He’s part of the List Checking department, and he makes sure all the good boys and girls get their presents! But when Shmelf finds out that some children are missing from Santa’s list, he goes to investigate.

What Shmelf uncovers is Hanukkah, a wondrous and joyful holiday that Jewish families celebrate each year. As Shmelf observes a family lighting the menorah, playing dreidel, and hearing the Hanukkah story, he sees how special the traditions of the holiday truly are-and he wants to be a part of it! Luckily, Santa just might have a special role in mind for Shmelf….

Isn’t that the cutest little elf face ever? I love that this book is focused on the little ones. I know some little ones don’t understand that they celebrate differently than their friends. Here’s a way to make Hanukkah feel special for the little ones who are confused or who want to learn about Hanukkah.

Schmelf!

Even though this book is for the littles, let’s make it count for their Diversity Reading Challenge.

Categories
Diversity Reading Challenge Young Adult

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays DAY 9 – Night by Elie Wiesel

The 12 Books of #Diversity for the Holidays DAY 9

It’s the 9th day of Diversity!  We’re looking at Night by Elie Wiesel today.

Night by Elie Wiesel

I can’t even begin to explain how powerful this book is. It’s small but it is powerful. Not merely another Holocaust story, Wiesel’s story expresses the utter anguish of the victims, Wiesel himself included, who was only about 15 when he was captured. The level of atrocity the Nazis inflicted never ceases to amaze me but what is equally as astonishing is the lives the survivors made for themselves afterward.

It’s no wonder this book is on so many required reading lists. This is a trilogy, so if you’re so inclined you can go further with Wiesel. One book was all I could stomach. This amazing little book qualifies as part of the Diversity Reading Challenge.

 

Categories
Books Children Reviews

When you Gotta Go by William Tellem is STILL my favorite bathroom book

When you Gotta Go by William Tellem
is STILL my favorite bathroom book

When You Gotta Go by William Tellem

If you’re afraid of potty humor then don’t watch this video.  As you can see from the video, I’m almost laughing as I read the book.  It was given to me because I enjoyed it so much.  I am honored and flattered to have received this book.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

When You Gotta Go is published by Swordpen.com, “sharp stories for keen kids”.  I am in love with this publisher.  Need more multicultural books for children around here. Did I mention the book was graciously given to me by SwordPen CEO Zev Lewinson himself?  Here’s a link to a blog post he wrote *about* me!

Meanwhile, watch the video. Have an open mind and…LAUGH

 

What did you think? Too silly for you?

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Blogging from A to Z Challenge Diversity Reading Challenge

Bad Girls Book Club Letter N #atozchallenge

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge

Today’s letter is

N

The Book

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

Number the Stars by Lois Lowry

 I’m tired and I wanna make this brief. I’m sure you are too. Annemarie is a little Dutch girl living in occupied Copenhagen during the war. Her little Jewish friend moves in and has to live as a non-Jew to survive. Annemarie has to go on a mission to save little Ellen’s life.
Bad Girls come in all ages.

Have a restful day off and I’ll see you for letter O!

(napping. also starts with letter N)