Posts tagged ‘books’

December 12, 2011

The immortal story

Given that my son who is not yet four and has less than 2 hours of screen time a week (and yet knows exactly what screen time is and that he wants more of it) recently taught my husband how to do something on his iPad, it’s easy to see that the future involves screens. So what’s a book, a decidedly un-screened thing, to do? Many people are talking about the future of books, and no one seems to know what to predict. It’s clear that digital books are the future. But will they exist alongside paperbacks or replace them entirely? Will books made of trees be the illumated manuscripts of the future, only to be examined in museums?

Will we be snuggling up with an e-reader soon?

On a personal note, I would hate to see the disappearance of books. They are too much a part of my childhood, too much a part of my free time and my personal space, for me to give them up that easily. But on the other hand, maybe we are asking the wrong question. We are talking about the horse when we should be talking about transportation. We are talking about the telegraph when we should be talking about how we communicate. Maybe we are talking about books when we should be talking about stories.

Stories are not going to die. Stories have been around since Homer told the Odyssey to anyone who would sit down and listen. (And were people outraged later, when print came along, reducing that once-living epic to a fixed version of itself, subject only to minor word changes in its infinite translations?)

Stories keep us up at night, turning the pages (or maybe scrolling the screens) to find out what happens to a character we just met only a few hundred pages ago, a character that reminds us so much of ourselves that in her choices we see our own weakness and in her consequences we see our own narrowly-missed (or once-lived) fate. Stories teach us what we didn’t know about other people (that’s why she acts that way! that’s what he meant!). They teach us that some things we never thought of might be entirely possible, or even normal. Often, they teach us that what we thought weird about ourselves is normal, too. (I think that’s what most of the YA and MG genres are all about, aren’t they? Perhaps that’s why I like them so much!)

I’m curious—are you excited about the future of books you can interact with? Of carrying 1000 books in a small case on the plane with you? Or are you holding onto the past like I am, just a little bit longer? Please let me know! I read a blog recently that said the best Christmas present you can give a blogger is comments, and it’s so true! Let me know what you are thinking!

October 26, 2011

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August 24, 2011

Bad Dreams, Nightmares, Scary Things, Oh My!

We’re going to need a king-sized bed soon. While the little one is already sleeping through the night, the 3yo has yet to do that. Okay, not that he’s never done it, but it does seem rare. Recently, nightmares have meant that not only is he getting up, he’s getting up and coming to sleep with us. And they seem like pretty scary nightmares–lots of stuff about tornadoes and the earth opening up. (Note to self about letting a 3yo who already lives in tornado country watch the movie Wizard of Oz.)

It’s really pretty awful when your 3yo says to you “Are you going to bed yet? If you stay up, will you keep an eye out? If you go to bed, it’s okay. But if you are up, will you keep an eye out?” I mean, it’s horrendous enough that he has to ask us to “keep an eye out” at night for his “scary things”, but when he adds that it’s “okay” if we don’t because we want (“selfishly” is implied) to sleep, too, well that’s just guilt-inducing. It’s almost enough to make me stay up all night long with a lantern and some HGTV. Almost.

After a week or so of this, my husband issued a challenged. “I’m not worried about this because I know you are going to fix it.” Emphasis on “you”. At first, I gave him the eye roll. The “I’m not in this alone and you are welcome to help out you know” eye roll. But then he really put the moves on–he tried flattery. When my husband tries flattery, which he only does when desperate and when he’s sure sarcasm is not working, it’s almost guaranteed to work. Almost.

But this time it did. “You always solve his problems,” he starts off, warming up. “You’re SO GOOD at this.” He knows he almost has me, so he goes in for the kill. “You are SUCH a GOOD MOM.” Okay, okay, okay. I mean, please, do I have to do everything around here? (Said with mock martyrdom.)

My first instinct was to go with the nocturnal animal angle. I’ve been talking a lot about the nighttime with 3yo since this has started, and the only time he’s been interested in a positive way was when he learned that some animals stay up at night and sleep during the day. In fact, while driving in the car recently, I said that I thought some mice stay up at night (I wasn’t sure about this, but since owls eat mice it sounded reasonable), and my son says that he bets the kind of mice that stay up all night have really big eyes. I used to teach science. I was SO proud of him and this hypothesis based on previous observations of nocturnal animals.

So I went online to look for books about nocturnal animals. I found a couple but a lot of them were scary-looking. They were really going for the gore. I settled for these two, which have minimal gore and horror but both do mention animals eating other animals. Not sure if I want to introduce that concept as part of an attempt to make the bad dreams go away.

I also found a lot of great nighttime and bad dream books. My 3yo was instantly fascinated by them, especially The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Dream, which was partially because his Granddad and Grandma have an almost infinite collection of Berenstain Bear books that he was recently introduced to at their house and partly because it was third-party proof from such reliable sources as Brother and Sister Bear themselves of this “bad dream” business that mom and dad had been talking about that he was TOTALLY not buying.

We immersed ourselves in these books for a few days. He would fall asleep with the books on his stomach, open to the page of the space aliens attacking Brother Bear in a dream. Ironically, that didn’t make him have more dreams, but actually seemed to help. He talks much more openly about his dreams now and even had his first good dream recently (about Cinderella!).

I believe books and good soup can solve any problem, and while I’m sure this is not solved, we are a long way from where we were a week ago. Below are the books we used and a little bit about them.

Title: The Berenstain Bears and the Bad Dream
Authors and Illustrators
 (they both did both!): Stan and Jan Berenstain
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7


Summary and Review:  Brother Bear is into Space Grizzlies but when the toys give Sister a nightmare and the movie gives Brother one, too, all four bears end up in bed talking about bad dreams and how they SEEM real, but they aren’t.

Title: The Berenstain Bears In the Dark
Authors and Illustrators:
 Stan and Jan Berenstain
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: Sister Bear is afraid of the dark but she learns that she can control her mind and not let her imagination get carried away. I love the pictures in this one that show scary shadow monsters and then the pile of clothes and furniture that created them.

Title: The Dark, Dark, Night
Author: M. Christina Butler
Illustrator: Jane Chapman
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: This was my favorite and my son loved it, too. Gorgeous, gorgeous pictures and a cute story with a great punchline. The animals are each afraid of the pond monster, who keeps getting bigger the more animals that walk with them in the dark. But they realize that the pond monster is actually just their own shadow (something that older kids will be able to deduce and younger kids will easily see when you point it out on the second reading.)

Title: Can’t You Sleep Little Bear?
 Martin Waddel
Illustrator: Barbara Firth
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: It’s a classic; it’s gorgeous, and it’s a wonderful story. The prose is nice to read and the message about the beauty of the natural world and the power of love is perfect for those children who, like Little Bear, are afraid of “the dark all around us”. I especially like the combination of fear and the implied attempt to just get one more minute before bedtime. Very real.

Title: Good-Night, Owl!
 Pat Hutchins
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: This is a super-cute book with fun illustrations and it introduces the theme of animals who are awake in the day and the night which is something my son has really latched onto in his attempt to understand the darkness. Owl is trying to sleep, but all the day animals keep making noise and waking him up. He doesn’t sleep very well, but don’t worry, he gets the last laugh!

Title: The Owl Who Was Afraid of the Dark
 Jill Tomlinson
Illustrator: Paul Howard
Genre: Picture Book
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: This book is gorgeous and the story is simple with a repetitive prose that I really like in a picture book. Baby owl is afraid of the dark, but when he asks people about the dark, they all give him different descriptions. The boy things dark is “EXCITING” because there are fireworks. An old lady says it is “KIND” and a girl says it is “NECESSARY” (for Father Christmas to come). Baby owl likes fireworks and Christmas, but still doesn’t like the dark until a black cat takes him on a tour and shows him a beautiful view of the city rooftops under the stars at night and owl recognizes “my world!”

Title: Where Are the Night Animals
 Stan and Jan Berenstain
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: This book is a nice cross between a story and nonfiction. It has great illustrations and gives a great idea of what goes on at night. It introduces the term “diurnal” as well as nocturnal” and has a nice appendix at the end that shows what the nighttime animals do during the day.

Title: Night Animals (Usborne Beginners)
 Susan Meredith
Illustrator: Patrizia Donaera and Adam Larkum
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Age: 2 – 7

Summary and Review: I like this book a lot. Simple photos and drawings, large print and sort words for early readers. Great way to introduce this concept of nocturnal animals. Not scary at all, but does include an illustration of an owl swooping down on a mouse and a leopard eating a dear. Makes me consider buying other books in the Usborne Beginner series, even though I’m generally skeptical of text-book like books. They do come with a website, which is just the most horribly structured thing you’ve ever seen. If you want to spend time flailing through a site that looks like it was designed before the internet, they have some cool printout and coloring pages, but my guess is you’ll do better on Google.

Activity with the kids:

The goal of these books for us was to separate what was not real (scary dreams about Space Grizzlies and Pond Monsters that are really your shadow for example) from what is real (the beauty of the stars and the animals that are awake and living in the night). Reading these books and talking about these with your kids should help them build a good framework on which they can hang their own ideas, separating them into dream and reality increasingly by themselves.

What about you? If you made it this far in this long post??  Do you have any good tricks for nighttime fears? Have you read any of these books? Please tell me below in the comment section! I love hearing from my readers!

January 11, 2011

Challenge yourself and your family to read!

I just started a reading challenge for January – March of 2011 and I’m really excited about it.  It’s not that a reading challenge is so profound, but it’s already got me thinking about what kinds of books I’d like to add to my list.  I’m joining other members of a Goodreads group to try to read books that start with author last names from A – Z.  These people are pretty serious about their kid lit (yea!) and so there is a complex point system that includes bonuses for new genres, Goodreads authors, and more.  The first book I’m reading for the challenge is Sherman Alexie’s Diary of a Part-Time Indian, which I’ve been meaning to read for some time.  But since X is one of the exception letters (it just has to be IN the name, not at the beginning), this counts for one of the hardest ones to get!  I’m loving it so far–sat down with it last night and am halfway through.

This would be a great challenge for kids of all ages.  Write the letters of the alphabet on a large piece of poster board and hang it somewhere in the house with a column for each family member.  Then write the name of the book read when someone is done and see how long it takes your family to fill up the chart.  Of course, whether or not you want to give out a prize for winning, a prize for everyone who finishes or everyone who tries, or just celebrate the joy of reading with exhilaration itself, is bound to differ from family to family.  But have fun with it!  This would be a great activity for a Spring or Summer break, a family vacation, or just something for the New Year.

Enjoy your books!

September 21, 2010

The devil’s here…and he’s the least of the problems

I saw this book on the ALA’s 2010 list of best books for young adults.  The title alone is enough to pick it up, but the reviews were also tempting.  There was a lot of stuff I loved about it, and it’s definitely a good book, although I’m not sure it’s my kind of read.  But after thinking about it, I decided it still falls into the category of books you want to stay up late and read (and I did that with this one), so it definitely deserves a spot on the blog.

Title: Soul Enchilada
Author: David Macinnis Gill
: Fiction/Fantasy
Age: Middle School and High School

Summary and Review:

“Bug” is a high school dropout, an orphan three times over, whose problems seem big–keeping a regular job and paying rent in a nasty apartment.  Then the devil’s sidekick comes to collect on a debt her grandfather owes.  Apparently, he sold his soul to buy a Cadillac and has now disappeared.  The plot twists again (although they let you know this on the back cover, so it’s not really a spoiler, although I wish they didn’t) when she fights to save the car and realizes that her soul was put up as collateral.

The story takes a lot of turns, which many reviewers seemed to have trouble believing, but didn’t actually bother me that much.  Basketball games and pizza delivery races with the devil?  Hey, I’m there.  I like a book like that.  But for me, I wanted a bit more in the characters.  Bug is feisty and strong, an independent woman to a fault.  But shouldn’t she have some other side?  You see it a little when she remembers her mom–I would have just liked to see a little more.  Of course, maybe I’m being sexist here–if this were a male action hero, would I be asking the same thing?  I certainly hope so.  Same with the other characters–they are interesting and likeable, but I wished I got to know them better.

Possible conversations to have with your kids:

The book doesn’t necessarily lend itself to deepness: that isn’t a fault, it’s just not the point of the book.  But if your kid is reading it, there are things you could talk about.

First, there’s the whole making-a-deal-with-the-devil thing.  Who would do it?  For what would you make a similarly large sacrifice?  Is there a modern true-life equivalent of selling one’s soul?  What would that be?

Before she realizes her soul is up as collateral, Bug fights to keep that Cadillac–despite the presence of a stinky, powerful demon now in the passenger seat.  Why would anyone put up such a dangerous fight for an object?  For Bug, the car is not only a prized possession, but the last remaining memory of her grandfather.  Are there things in your life that mean that much to you?  Why?