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Category Archives: Must Read

WITH THE LIGHT: Raising an Autistic Child by Keiko Tobe

With the Light

WITH THE LIGHT is a 7-volume manga series I really want to read! The books follow Hikaru’s life from birth through his teenage years. His mother knows something is different about her boy, but when he is diagnosed with autism we become exposed to real-life complications, odd social situations, looming sexual awareness and everyday disruptions to family life.

The subject matter is so hard to live with, let alone share with others, that I think it is a very important series. The manga format is engaging for teens, while the subject matter is complex and personal. I think anyone working with autistic children or their siblings should get this series. It should be in doctor’s waiting rooms and high school libraries. A must read for teachers and therapists.

 

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Poindexter Makes a Friend by Mike Twohy

Poindexter Makes a FriendMy nephew thinks I bought this book for him.  While he’s somewhat correct — it really is a fun book to read to a child, so borrow one (a child, that is) if you have to — apparently I am still working on my “sharing” skills, because this one lives at my house, not his.

It’s about a young pig named Poindexter who is shy around his relatives and other kids in the neighborhood, preferring to read to the stuffed animals in his room instead of joining the kids outside.  This reminds me so much of my nephew, who gathers his stuffed animals around him during bedtime stories, saying, “Come here, friends!”  (Although he also loves running around outside, but I digress.)  Poindexter is perfectly happy with this arrangement, but how is a well-adjusted, well-read young pig to make friends with other animals that are not stuffed?  He finds solace in the local library, where he sits and reads but also helps the librarian push the book cart and reshelve books.  I was a very happy aunt indeed when I pointed to the picture and asked where Poindexter was going, and my nephew immediately responded, “Library!”

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MUD PIES and OTHER RECIPES: A COOKBOOK FOR DOLLS by Marjorie Winslow

In honor of summer vacation, this is a “slow down” book that inspires outside play. We should never hear the word “bored” from our children. There are always BOOKS to read, things to make with sticks and boxes, or, as I say, laundry to fold.

“This is a cookbook for dolls. It is written for kind climates and summertime. It is an outdoor cookbook, because dolls dote on mud, when properly prepared. They love the crunch of pine needles and the sweet feel of seaweed on the tongue.”

“The sea makes a nice sink; so does a puddle at the end of a hose. For a stove there is the sun, or a  flat stone.”

Originally published in 1961, Marjorie Winslow’s clever recipes are timeless. This little gem creates everything a doll (or bear) might like to eat during a good day of outside play. No need to purchase plastic play food, this book inspires children to make their own creations. I have fond memories of the beautiful plastic necklace “cakes” my daughter made for her dolls. I highly recommend this book; it reflects a kind of play that is mandatory but often neglected for electronic entertainment.  It’s time to turn off  the TV and go outside.

SILKY SPAGHETTI

“…Collect enough corn silk to fill a big bowl. Add 2 cups of fresh air and leave in the sun until just tender. If a sauce is desired, the following may be poured over each serving: to 1 melted ice cube, add 1 teaspoon of minced grass and a dash of white sand.”

MUD PUDDLE SOUP

“…Find a mud puddle after a rainstorm and seat your dolls around it. Serve.”

PINE NEEDLE UPSIDE-DOWN CAKE

“…Using the square cake pan, cover the bottom with a layer of pine needles. Then mix moist earth from the foot of a pine tree with pine needles and pack the mixture tightly into the pan on top of the layer of pine needles. Place in a hot sun to bake, turning upside down to unmold. “

 

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Go the F**k to Sleep by Adam Mansbach, illustrated by Ricardo Cortés

Go the F**k to SleepA friend and loyal reader of our blog requested that I review this book, and what a great suggestion that was.  Timely and certainly a fun book to review!  Her reasoning was:  “Because if you like it, I’m buying it for all my friends who have kids.”

With that kind of endorsement, who could resist?  That is what we’re here for, after all.

If you live under a rock and haven’t heard about this new picture book, it started as a joke.  Author Adam Mansbach posted the following status update on his Facebook profile one night: “Look out for my forthcoming children’s book, ‘Go the F**k to Sleep.’”  It received an overwhelming response, so he began to draft some actual verses.  Originally scheduled to be released in October, the release date was moved up several times due to demand and insane levels of pre-ordering.  It was finally released June 14th.  And it gets better: Samuel L. Jackson narrated the audio version, which is available for free on Audible.

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The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes by Marcus Sakey

The Two Deaths of Daniel HayesIn an interview last week, Chicago novelist Marcus Sakey said ideas for his books emerge from “sheer panic” and called the challenge of finding an idea to write about every day for a year “daunting.”  When he does choose an idea to work with, however, you can be sure it’s a good one, and that his execution will do it justice.

In that same interview, Sakey cites his inspiration for the driving force behind his newest thriller, The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes, as coming from fellow Chicago author Sean Chercover.  Apparently Chercover quoted Negro League baseball player Satchel Paige (1906-1982), who once said: “How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”  Sakey explains, “I just took that and I thought, who would you be, if you didn’t know who ‘you’ was?  …I really tried to keep that front and center, [that] this guy is literally inventing himself as he goes along.”  The Two Deaths of Daniel Hayes revolves around a man who finds himself nearly dead with no memory of himself or his life prior to that moment.  As he finds clues to his identity, however, and learns more about the circumstances that left him mostly drowned on a beach in Maine, he begins to wonder if he is really capable of the acts others claim he has committed.

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Packing for Mars by Mary Roach

Packing for MarsLet’s start with a disclaimer: I read this book many months ago, soon after it came out in hardcover.  While my goal here is to mostly review recent reads, I’m making an exception in this case because of its trade paperback release last month and the final Shuttle missions.

If you’ve read Mary Roach before, you know what to expect: easily accessible science, research into unusual but fascinating areas, and a healthy dose of humor.  Packing for Mars is true to form, and was one of my favorite books to hand-sell during the last holiday season.

Before reading this book, I thought I knew a lot about the space program.  My father is an actual rocket scientist, and NASA has occasionally entrusted him with things like moon rocks.  I’ve read The Right Stuff, more than once.  We have Shuttle magnets on our refrigerator, and I even played with an astronaut Cabbage Patch doll when I was growing up.  Somewhere I have a Lego set of a Shuttle on a launch pad.

Packing for Mars, however, explores space exploration from a very different, but very human, point of view.  From the psychological effects of being confined in a small capsule or floating freely out in space to the problems that arise from collecting human excrement without gravity, this book is an in-depth look at the lesser-known engineering marvels that have allowed humans to travel, live, and work in the void of outer space.  It is not just a matter of how to propel machines into space that interests Ms. Roach, but the idea of learning what humans need to survive in such and environment and adapting the vehicles accordingly.

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Hell’s Bells by John Connolly

Hell's Bells by John ConnollyFirst a quick note: John Connolly’s latest book was released yesterday in the UK with the title Hell’s Bells.  In the US, it will be released in October under a different title: The Infernals.  Who can wait another 5 months, though?  I recommend ordering a copy from the UK today, although this should in no way interfere with your plans to buy the US edition in October.  You can thank me later.

Connolly is best known for his crime fiction series (starring PI Charlie Parker) and the previously-reviewed The Book of Lost Things.  The Samuel Johnson books, however, are more humorous and adventuresome and generally not as dark.  Read these with tongue fully in cheek!

Hell’s Bells is a sequel to The Gates, featuring a boy named Samuel Johnson and his trustworthy dachshund, Boswell.  In The Gates, the Great Malevolence and his minions tried to invade Earth, but found themselves thwarted by young Samuel, the ever-loyal Boswell, and a very minor demon called Nurd.  Hell’s Bells sees Samuel and Boswell lose the home court advantage as they are transported to Hell by a demon who has fallen out of favor after the failed invasion. Along for the ride are a group of notorious dwarfs, a couple of policemen, and an ice cream truck.  Throughout, Samuel’s ordinary life problems (divorced parents, unattainable girls, and the like) are superseded by the demons he encounters and the battles he witnesses.  His perseverance and continued good humor keep these books light, despite heavy subject matter.

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My Naughty Little Sister by Dorothy Edwards, Illustrated by Shirley Hughes

I havMy Naughty Little Sistere the complete collection of My Naughty Little Sister books. If you can find them on eBay or Amazon get them!   These stories are narrated as memories of an older sister’s about the mischievous behavior of her naughty little sister. I grew up on these stories and shared them with my children, who loved them as much as I did.  Children love to hear about bad children, danger and the consequences of our behavior.

The first line of the book is: “This is such a very terrible story about my naughty little sister that I hardly know how to tell it to you.”  Each story continues to recollect the horrible actions of this child, but the language is wonderfully lyrical and fun to read out loud.

“Do you like climbing? My naughty little sister used to like to climb very much indeed. She climbed up fences and on chairs and down ditches and round railings.”

“You wouldn’t think there could be another child as naughty as my naughty little sister, would you? But there was. There was a thoroughly bad boy who was my naughty little sister’s best boy-friend: Bad Harry.”

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17 Things I’m Not Allowed To Do Anymore by Jenny Offill & Nancy Carpenter

17 Things I'm Not Allowed To Do Anymore“I had an idea to staple my brother’s hair to his pillow. I am not allowed to use the stapler anymore.”

“I had an idea to walk backwards all the way to school. I am not allowed to walk backwards to school anymore.”

“I had an idea to do my George Washington report on beavers instead. I am not allowed to do reports on beavers anymore.”

This is a fabulous story of a curious child whose constant experimentation gets her in trouble. She is obsessed with beavers and taunting her little brother. Her imagination is both naughty and brilliant. The adult expressions of frustration are priceless and the simple text is hilarious. Recommended for ages 7 – 90 yrs, because adults will enjoy this picture book as much as children.

 

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Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff by Mary Roach

Stiff by Mary Roach

If you’re anything like me, you watch those formulaic detective shows. You know, the ones where everything is packaged in a neat bow at the end – usually with the help of a medical examiner who knows the exact time and date the victim was murdered. And if you’re any more like me (which, creeeepy!), you’ve wondered at the accuracy of that time and date. I mean, is it even possible to know stuff like that?

Apparently, it is.

In one of the disturbingly engaging chapters in Mary Roach’s Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers, she describes a section of the University of Tennessee’s campus devoted to the study of decomposing bodies in various states of…disposal? Eek, that sounds a little indelicate. But get this: some are splayed naked under trees while others are dressed to the nines but stuffed in a car’s trunk. Still others are in shallow graves or dumped in marshy lake water. All of this is done under the scientific eyes of Professors and soon-to-be medical examiners to determine the rate at which the human body decays in various circumstances. E. GADS. Let me warn you right now: if you are at all queasy about this subject matter, for the love of all that is good and holy, do not do an image search of the University of Tennessee body farm. What is seen cannot be unseen.
 

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