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Original Essays | July 22, 2014

Nick Harkaway: IMG The Florist-Assassins

The three men lit up in my mind's eye, with footnotes. They were converging on me — and on the object I was carrying — in a way that had... Continue »
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    Nick Harkaway 9780385352413


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The Princess Panda Tea Party: A Cerebral Palsy Fairy Tale by Jewel Kats
The Princess Panda Tea Party: A Cerebral Palsy Fairy Tale

Home School Book Review, June 20, 2014

Can a person with cerebral palsy be self-confident and graceful? Eight year old Michelle has cerebral palsy and lives at an all-girls orphanage. The other girls, especially Josephine, often make fun of her, calling her a “grandma” because of her mobility device, a walker. One day, she has saved up her money to buy a Panda Bear Princess stuffed toy at the Salvation Army store. When Michelle returns to the orphanage, Mrs. Goldsmith, the head mistress, announces that all the girls are to compete in a contest of manners and deportment at a tea party, and three winners will be selected for an exchange student scholarship to spend six months in London under the Queen of England’s care. Michelle begins to cry, knowing that she has no chance of winning due to her disability, and when she opens her Panda Bear Princess box, a tear falls on the toy.

But what happens next is amazing! Princess Panda comes to life and, using Michelle’s therapeutic riding horse Baxter, whisks her off to a castle in the sky where the Princess teaches Michelle all about how to be self-confident and graceful. Is it possible that Michelle might just be able to win the contest after all? Other books in the Fairy Ability Tales series by author Jewel Kats include Cinderella’s Magical Wheelchair: An Empowering Fairy Tale; The Princess and the Ruby: An Autism Fairy Tale; and Snow White’s Seven Patches: A Vitiligo Fairy Tale. Not only do all of these stories provide great encouragement for young people who must deal with these various conditions, but they also will be beneficial reading for other children to help them develop a more empathetic understanding of those with such difficulties. The Princess Panda Tea Party is another keeper!
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A Simple Idea to Empower Kids: Teen's Edition by Kathleen Boucher
A Simple Idea to Empower Kids: Teen's Edition

Home School Book Review, June 19, 2014

If you are a parent of teens, what can you do to help them develop self-confidence and do their best? We parents know that our responsibility to mentor and encourage our child doesn’t end when he or she turns thirteen. In A Simple Idea to Empower Kids: Based on the Power of Love, Choice, and Belief, for ages 3-12, author Kathleen Boucher shares three important principles of love, choice, and belief that will help kids to achieve great success and accomplish anything they want. But how can you inspire teens to follow their dreams? These same three principles are just as necessary for teenagers to understand as well.

The text of A Simple Idea to Empower Kids: Teen Edition is basically identical, but different illustrations are used to appeal and apply the message to teens. Secret #1 is that there is only one of each person on Earth, so everyone is important. Secret #2 is that the second greatest force on Earth is the power to choose. And Secret #3 is to believe in oneself. At the age of four, Boucher developed polio, which left her with a limp, but she persevered and became a registered nurse. She learned early in life that a person’s inner strength is always so much stronger than what happens in the “outside” world. All teenagers will definitely benefit from following her can-do philosophy.
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A Simple Idea to Empower Kids: Based on the Power of Love, Choice, and Belief by Kathleen Boucher
A Simple Idea to Empower Kids: Based on the Power of Love, Choice, and Belief

Home School Book Review, June 18, 2014

What do you think is the greatest force on Earth? All parents want their kids to be happy and confident. For a number of years, author Kathleen Boucher, who is the mother of two children, has taught them to observe three important principles that will help them to achieve great success and accomplish anything they want. Now she wants to share this good news for others to use with their children or grandchildren. A Simple Idea to Empower Kids is a book about how kids can use the power of love, choice, and belief to seek their hearts’ desire.

“Stop for a minute and listen. Do you hear that? It is your heart beating. It is filled with love. Love is the greatest force on earth.” Boucher’s mission is to inspire and motivate young people to follow their dreams. “Can you keep a secret?...From the beginning of time until the end of time there will only be one of you on Earth. Only one! This means you are very special exactly as you are right now.” Parents can use the principles of this book to foster strong self-confidence in their children. “Are you ready for one more secret? I promise you this is the last one. Believe you can do it.” It could also be useful in helping kids to deal with the problem of bullying. Can you guess what the second greatest force on Earth is?
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A Bee Named Bea and Other Poems by Mrs Candace A. Dietz

Home School Book Review, May 28, 2014

Do you like funny poems? From “An Alligator Named Augie” that makes friends with a froggy and “A Bee Named Bea” that everyone is afraid of, through “A Deer Named Stan” that had a bad habit of sneering at everything and “A Dolphin Named Quinn” that makes number figures in the ocean, to “A Turtle Named Shelly” that is so smelly he needs to take a bath and “A Little Girl Named Kempie Pearl” who always says “no no” to just about everything, A Bea Named Bea and Other Poems is book of humorous poetry for toddlers and beginning readers, but adults will enjoy reading it as well. The twenty poems tell all about the joys and problems of nineteen lovable animals and one little girl. Will Kempie Pearl ever say yes?

Each poem by author Candace Dietz, who is the mother of four children and grandmother of eight, chronicles some kind of problem or predicament and ends with a happy resolution that reinforces an important lesson. Dietz has taught Spanish for more than thirty years to students of all ages and recommends using A Bea Named Bea in early grades. Not only will children like hearing about a chameleon that can’t change color, a cow that can’t stop mooing, and a canary that can’t sing, but they will also enjoy acting out the stories in a way that can be incorporated into lessons on phonics, rhyme, and spelling. The book is beautifully illustrated with original, whimsical watercolors by artist Virginia J. Rost and would make a great bedtime selection for reading aloud.
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The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier
The Night Gardener

Home School Book Review, May 25, 2014

It is sometime in the 1850s. Two red-headed, Irish children, fourteen year old Molly McConnachie and her ten year old lame brother Kip, from County Donegal, had left Ireland with their parents for a new life during the potato famine. However, something happened to wreck the ship, and Molly and Kip found themselves in an orphanage without their Da and Ma. Molly has been comforting Kip with her storytelling ability. They sneaked away and have come to Cedar Hollow, England, where Molly lands them jobs, she as a maid and Kip as a gardener, at the old Windsor estate in the “Sourwoods.” They meet the master of the house, Mr. Bertrand Windsor, his wife Constance, and their two children, Alistair and Penelope Eleanor or Penny.

However, things are not right. The children hear stories about an ancient curse and a mysterious spectre. The house looks as if it is haunted. There is an ugly tree growing right up beside it and actually right into it. The woods surrounding the place have no birds. The Windsors all appear to be sickly. Mr. Windsor seems to have financial problems. Strange men come around asking for money. And something very sinister and eerie is going on at night. Will Molly and Kip be all right? Or will something bad happen to them? And will they ever find their parents? The Night Gardener is said to be the “much-anticipated follow-up to Jonathan Auxier’s exceptional debut, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes,” which I have not read but is about a blind ten year old orphan who has been schooled in a life of thievery and one fateful afternoon steals a box from a mysterious traveling haberdasher that contains three pairs of magical eyes. It apparently bears no direct relationship to The Night Gardener.

As to language, one common euphemism (drat) occurs and the term “bloody hell” is found once. Some references to drinking wine and ale and smoking tobacco are found. And there are two or three rather violent deaths. Thus, it might not be appropriate for especially sensitive readers, but there is nothing that most parents would find majorly objectionable. The book is said to be “a Victorian ghost story” with shades of Ray Bradbury, Washington Irving, Frances Hodgson Burnett, J. M. Barrie, and even Henry James. Yet, it is more. It is also a cautionary moral fable about human greed, the dangers of lying, and the power of storytelling. Young people who enjoy spooky stories with a gothic-like setting, a creepy plot, a menacing atmosphere, and memorable characters will like this book.
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