Monthly Archives: September 2015

A Change of Heart

This week I wanted to write a short blog, and this morning I thought I had it:

STEPPING ON HOT WHEELS STINKS!!!!

But as I was re-bandaging the cut on the bottom of my foot, I realized that a short negative blog is kind of lame. So instead, I will leave you with three incredibly positive things in my life right now . . . and then a book review, of course.

  1. My son’s giggles
  2. My daughter’s persistence
  3.  My husband’s dedication

This week’s review is Wonder by R.J. Palacio:

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I started Wonder with an open mind. It came recommended, once again, from my mother who is a children’s librarian. By recommended, she meant that she hadn’t had a chance to read it because every copy was always checked out . . . by actual kids, not adults catching up on the latest middle-grade book craze.

My first thoughts were . . . I LOVE IT! The way R.J. Palacio tells the narrative from different character’s perspectives is interesting. The central character, Auggie, a boy with a genetic disorder that leaves him with a deformed face, is easy to like. He has been homeschooled his entire life, but finds the courage to start going to public school in fifth grade. Auggie is always true to himself and keeps shattering people’s notions of how he should be, simply by being himself, and there is inspiration in that. My favorite part, though, is that the middle school and teenaged kids in the book actually speak and act their age. So many books in this genre have characters that sound and act like they are in their 30s, spewing wisdom and offering their philosophical advice, which no teenager honestly sounds like. (Unless that teenage philosopher lives in Dawson’s creek, I suppose.)

But as I came to the end of the book, and the emotions and message sank in, I felt disappointed in some ways. Everything started to go a bit too smoothly. I wanted to know if I was the only one who felt this way about this extremely popular book. So I headed to Amazon to read a few reviews. Wonder has 7,340 reviews on Amazon, with 89% being five stars. It has zero one-star reviews, and only 1% are two or three-star. Sadly, I put myself in with the 1% that gave it three stars.

Wonder really is a good book, and it has a great message of acceptance and loyalty–especially for people with special needs. However, I laughed out loud when I read one review that called it “inspiration porn”, and I can’t say that I disagree. Because in the real world, as unfortunate as it is, bullying exists. It exists everywhere, at every school. And 99% of the time, it doesn’t end with [SPOILER ALERT!!!] a standing ovation for the person being bullied.

Do I recommend Wonder? Yes. Because writing middle-grade books is tough. The age is tough, and it’s incredibly difficult to be sincere without sounding cheesy. I love what the principal says during the fifth-grade graduation:

” . . . I think it has more to do with the particular age that you are right now, this particular moment in your lives that, even after twenty years of my being around students this age, still moves me. Because you’re at the cusp, kids. You’re at the edge between childhood and everything that comes after. You’re in transition.”

During Principal Tushman’s (love the name) speech there is also a great quote from J.M. Barrie’s book The Little White Bird:

“Shall we make a new rule of life . . . always to try to be a little kinder than is necessary?”

This message of kindness and tolerance flows throughout the book, and I think it is an important one. In that regard, Wonder is an excellent book. It can, however, ride that fine line between sincerity and stereotypical cliche. Even a great story has to come to a logical conclusion, but this one left me feeling let down.

The Good Choices Mom

My husband and I have taught our two children about choices from an early age. The hardest part of letting your children make choices is that you have to be okay if what they choose isn’t necessarily what you would.  A great example of this would be the sparkly tutu my daughter chose to wear to the park…every single time…for at least a month.

Up until about a week ago I was able to manipulate the choices into things that would be positive either way. “Would you like carrots or cauliflower?” “Do you want to go to the park or the zoo?” But now I find myself saying, “If you choose to be mean, then you will have to play by yourself.” Things are gettin’ real at our house, people!

And it is SO hard to watch them make poor choices and then have to deal with the consequences (especially when I’m the one handing out the consequences). I keep reminding myself that I won’t always be there to discuss the choices that my children will have to make. Eventually the decisions they’ll be making are going to get really tough. “Do you want to go to a party or study for your midterm?” “Do you want to smoke pot or join the swim team?” “Do you want to date the girl who makes you a better person, or the one who is really hot but treats you bad?”

Today, though, we had a breakthrough! After yet another round of “if you choose to be mean, you will have to play by yourself…” my four-year-old came out of her room, and she CHOSE to change her attitude. YES! I think I’m finally doing something right!!!

Then again, maybe some days are just better than others. Or perhaps it was simply that her tummy informed her that it was lunchtime, and that mom only hands out Fruit Snacks when you DON’T make your brother cry…

***

This week’s book is a shameless promotion of the children’s book my husband and I just released, The Thumb Book. It turns difficult situations into opportunities to have fun. The lessons are a bit absurd, but behind the silliness there are opportunities to talk with your kids about the mean people of the world. There is also opportunity for creativity because you can make your own “Thumb Stories!” We’ve been making “Thumb Theatre” at home and the kids LOVE it. My daughter even made this video:

So check out The Thumb Book, available through Handersen Publishing. There are also more awesome Thumb videos!

People can be mean, so can thumbs, but maybe you can turn that negative into a positive.
People can be mean. So can thumbs. But maybe you can turn that negative into a positive.

http://handersenpublishing.com/the-thumb-book.html