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?

Categories
Young Adult

Re-visiting My Young Banjo Playing Friends Who Also Love BOOKS!

Do you love music? I have a real treat for you today! I have two young friends who are part of a banjo trio with their father called the Chiodi Trio.

chioditrio
photo courtesy chioditrio.com

I recently had the chance to interview them and talk about books, music, and how they got started.  At the end of the video we get to enjoy a mini music fest!

Check out my interview below:

 

Aren’t they great? I know what you’re thinking: banjos are supposed to be Bluegrass type music, right? Well the fact that they play 20’s jazz is EXACTLY why I love them. They are doing their own thing their own way; it’s unconventional!

You can follow the Chiodi Trio on FacebookTwitter, and their website.  These fellas are very busy and perform weekly down at Wholey’s on the Strip in Pittsburgh (my hometown!).

Have you read any of the books we chatted about?

Categories
2015 Diversity Reading Challenge Lists

Top Five African American Reads

I’m so excited to share this list with you today! My young cousin is a teacher in Pittsburgh and she was gracious enough to share her fave African American books with me. These reads will be perfect for the Diversity Reading Challenge and as additions to your TBR list. My cousin Lisa’s thoughts are first. Mine are in italics.

Seasons of Beento Blackbird by Akosua Busia

Seasons of Beento Blackbird by Akosua Busia

The Seasons of Beento Blackbird marks the debut of Akosua Busia, an exciting and passionate new novelist. It is the story of Solomon Wilberforce, a magnetic and brilliant man who writes bestselling children’s books under the name Beento Blackbird and who has dedicated himself to educating the far-flung children of African descent about their glorious heritage. And it is also the story of the three women who love him: Miriam, the Caribbean midwife who delivered him into the world when she was nine years old; Samantha, his beautiful, talented, and utterly modern New York book agent; and Ashia, an innocent woman-child who awaits him in her native village in Ghana. Solomon spends one season a year with each of these very different women. But when a family tragedy brings him to New York out of season, he finds that the neat compartments that once separated Miriam, Sam, and Ashia begin to fold in on one another. In a life that was once ordered by the cadence of nature itself, suddenly nothing is certain – and Solomon and the women he loves will never be the same again

Lyrical telling of a man’s struggle to love selflessly. I just added this to my TBR list.  

Kindred by Octavia Butler

Seasons of Beento Blackbird by Akosua Busia

Dana, a modern black woman, is celebrating her twenty-sixth birthday with her new husband when she is snatched abruptly from her home in California and transported to the antebellum South. Rufus, the white son of a plantation owner, is drowning, and Dana has been summoned to save him. Dana is drawn back repeatedly through time to the slave quarters, and each time the stay grows longer, more arduous, and more dangerous until it is uncertain whether or not Dana’s life will end, long before it has a chance to begin.

Unique telling of one woman’s journey to literally go back in time and heal the wounds of her ancestors in an effort to function in the present. Unique in that these ancestors are both one of slaves and slave masters. I love the idea of this because of the time travel!

Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

Copper Sun by Sharon Draper

Historical Fiction at it’s best. Captures the essence of a 360 degree beautifully distarous sweet journey of a young African girl from freedom to slavery to freedom. For the first time ever, a simple novel that is able to capture such rich content in a manner that will stunt your ability to put the book down until completed. I read this book this year and loved it! It’s simplicity is beautiful. 

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

 

Fair and long-legged, independent and articulate. Janie Crawford sets out to be her own person -no mean feat for a Black woman in the 30’s. Zora Neale Hurston’s classic 1937 novel follows Janie from her nanny’s plantation shack to Logan Killick’s farm, to all Black Eatonville, to the Everglades, and back to Eatonville- where she gathers in “the great fish-net” of her life. Janie’s quest for identity takes her on a journey during which she learns what love is, experiencess life’s joys and sorrows, and comes home to herself in peace.

Captured one woman’s failed journey to find a sense of purpose and peace within the confines of a man. Rich is colorful dialect and spirit. A love story like no other.  I thought I had read this in college, but I must have overlooked it. Adding this to my TBR list as well!

August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean

August Wilson's Gem of the Ocean

Captures the story of the African American Female Matriarch and her never faltering spirit of resilence despite unsurmountable obstacles.

Yeah so I MUST say something about August Wilson. I’m not a raging fan of Wilson’s as his stories scare me, much like Toni Morrison’s. What I DO love about Wilson’s work is that it chronicles the African American community in Pittsburgh, where I was born and raised, which is an often overlooked city, despite its rich history.

I’m so PROUD of my lil cousin, she’s all grown up now and is one hella teacher in Pittsburgh! So much love for teachers out there, doing what they love to do.

Hey teachers, if you ever want to send me your top 5 list like this, JUST. DO. IT.

 

Categories
Young Adult

Banjos Plus Books Equals Mini Music Fest!

Do you love music? I have a real treat for you today! I have two young friends who are part of a banjo trio with their father called the Chiodi Trio.

chioditrio
photo courtesy chioditrio.com

I recently had the chance to interview them and talk about books, music, and how they got started.  At the end of the video we get to enjoy a mini music fest!

Check out my interview below:

 

Aren’t they great? I know what you’re thinking: banjos are supposed to be Bluegrass type music, right? Well the fact that they play 20’s jazz is EXACTLY why I love them. They are doing their own thing their own way; it’s unconventional!

You can follow the Chiodi Trio on FacebookTwitter, and their website.  These fellas are very busy and perform weekly down at Wholey’s on the Strip in Pittsburgh (my hometown!).

Have you read any of the books we chatted about? Do you play a musical instrument? Tell me what your special talent is in the comments.

Categories
Books Young Adult

Phoenixville Rising by Robb Cadigan

What’s more fun than reading a book?

Reading a book about a town you’re familiar with?

Reading a book when you know the author?

Reading a book and then getting to talk tot he author about the book?

yes, YES and YESSSS!!!

That is what is so ding dang fun about being a book reviewer. I get to read great books and meet great authors! That’s why I’m thrilled to present my newest bestie to you today: Robb Cadigan, author of Phoenixville Rising!

RobbCadigan.jpg

 

Robb is a local guy who made good of himself. But maybe I’ll let him tell you that tale another time, he’s promised to come back and give an interview. Live. in front of the camera. SQUEE!

Anyway, I’m thrilled to present Phoenixville Rising to you because as you might know, I host a book club for adults at the Towne Book Center & Cafe,  just outside Philadelphia. We chose Phoenixville Rising as our June book club pick and the book was my constant companion during my travels to NYC for BEA14.

I’d heard the book was good. Everyone in the neighborhood raved about it. But you know me: I hafta see it for myself. I said: “I’ll be the judge.”

And you know what? It’s Good! I mean like RandomPenguinHouse you should pick it up and republish it good.

Yep. It’s a coming of age story set in Phoenixville PA, a sleepy mill town in suburban Philadelphia. Like many mill towns, Phoenixville was glorious in its heyday. I was born in Pittsburgh so I can relate to this reminiscence.  But don’t let the former mill town saga get you down. Phoenixville Rising is a story of a bunch of streetwise kids and how they cope with life in this town.  Think of it as a modern day Outsiders, by SE Hinton. There are a slew of reasons these kids should do better.

And a slew of reasons why you love them anyway.  Remember your first love? Your first fight? Your yearning to leave a legacy?

Yeah that.

Happens to us all.

And it happened in Phoenixville.

This book would make a great character study for high school classes and is an insightful look into the demise of the mill towns of the past.  If you every get a chance to meet Robb, he’s a Very Important Author; you just haven’t met him yet. Stick with me though, I can introduce you to him. Don’t let his superstar sunglasses intimidate you; he’s a super cool guy who is easy to get along with and can spin a tale that might make you have a feeling.

Wanna connect with him? Catch him on The Twitter: Robb Cadigan and Facebook.  Do let him know I sent ya!