Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘children’

Bees, Trees & Keys

The King’s Magnificent Sneeze. Written by Jane Elizabeth Habgood. Illustrated by Russell Ferrantti-Donavellas. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Love the preamble for this picture-book story for 4-8 year-olds, and the taller people that read it with them. “To all of the small people and tall people reading this book – please, always be kind.” That is one of the endearing aspects of this story – no matter how ridiculous, or strange, the behavior is by those involved, everyone accepts what is.

614EmitApzL._SX260_The King’s Magnificent Sneeze reminded me, in some ways, of the classic Goodnight Moon. It is similar in rhythm and rhyme, but different in the context and surroundings. This story takes place throughout the kingdom, whereas Goodnight Moon is all in one room. The tale opens with a humongous sneeze by the King of Snoffleguss.

The King’s sneeze effects some beings physically (such as birds that fall out of trees, and a pond to freeze) and others find their behavior to be quite odd. Even the unimaginable happens when, “Old people easily find their keys.” As expected, and which works perfectly, most every sentence ends with a word that rhymes with “sneeze”.

The writing by Ms. Habgood is just right for the audience, and the illustrations by Mr. Ferrantti-Donavellas are most fitting. Even though they are still drawings, they almost seem to come to life with the people, things, and actions taking place on each page. The King’s Magnificent Sneeze is funny, entertaining, and will delight one and all.

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Enough Already

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You’re Perfect the Way You Are.
Written by Richard Nelson
Illustrated by Evgenia Dolotovskaia.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Here is a good book with a vital message. Not only are the words used for this age group (4 and up) perfectly maintained throughout the story, but the illustrations also match on every page. Some kids books are either too wordy, and complicated, or so simple, as to be insulting. You’re Perfect the Way You Are found the perfect balance.

The young girl of the story asks her mother, father, brother, grandpa, grandma, and uncle, if various parts of her body are alright (hair, hands, nose, etc.). Unlike real life, they are all in unison and give her the same positive message. “Are my hands too small?” I asked my Grandma while she helped wash them for dinner. She just smiled and replied, “No honey. You’re perfect the way you are.”

Children hear what we say about ourselves (and others). They can also sense, even more deeply, what we are feeling when we say something. A mother worried about “looking good enough”, or a father wondering if he’s “gained too much weight”, can have a a big, and often long-lasting, effect on their children’s sense of themselves as well.

Young children, adolescents (and adults), often believe they “aren’t good enough”, and spend lots of money, time, and energy to try to be different. This is usually unconscious and habitual. It is frequently ingrained in our conditioning, and thoughts. You’re Perfect the Way You Are is a good reminder, and important story, to remind us all that we ARE ENOUGH just as we are.

A Bear Adrift

41CFkTe7CPL.jpgSnugs the Snow Bear by Suzy Davies
Illustrated by Peter Hall
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans

A sweet children’s book (for ages 4 and up), with a lot of animal characters, nice people, and of course the star of the show, Snugs, the snow bear. Snugs is not necessarily a polar bear, though he is off-white and lives in Greenland.

Snugs is set adrift when the ice he is on has melted, and goes towards Iceland. On the way he is discovered by a boat (ship Prince Eleanore) and the crew and passengers help him out. It is here that he meets Carla and James, and their grandmother (Mrs. Merryweather) who live in the Isle of Wight (England).

Snugs the Snow Bear combines some beautiful events (the Northern Lights, and visiting sites in Iceland) with the realities of global warming and its effect upon humans, animals, climate and the earth in general.

At first, I was taken slightly aback by the animals (some magical moose, etc.) and people (including Captain LightOwler and Rosanne) being able to talk to one another, and understand each other, but after awhile that concern faded into the background and fit with them all having to live on the same planet.

Be A Brave Girl

downloadBrave Sophia: A Children’s Book sbout Bravery and Courage by Tamala Johnson, J.D. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This story reminded me of the tale about a man who fell asleep under a tree and dreamed that he was a butterfly. When he awoke, he didn’t know if he was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man, or a man who had dreamed of being a butterfly.

Brave Sophia is about a little girl who is scared to talk in front of her class. Her mother tells her she must be brave and do it anyway. Sophia goes into the backyard, dozes off, and dreams that she is a butterfly. In the dream she discovers that she must be brave in order to survive. She awakes with newfound strength and insight.

Be a brave girl,” Sophia’s mother said. “You have to go to school and give your best speech even if you are afraid.”

Sophia spread her arms wide and flapped them like they were butterfly wings. “Mom, don’t worry. I have decided to be brave. I know how to fly now. I am brave Sophia!”

This children’s story is simple, enjoyable, and shares one of life’s truths in a way that young and old can understand and put into practice. The illustrations match the words perfectly. It is a picture book that can be read to a child, or read by a child, the older they become. Let yourself fly and pick up a copy of Brave Sophia.

Whatever Works

41nM1xKgcaLLetting Go into Perfect Love: Discovering the Extraordinary After Abuse by Gwendolyn M. Plano. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

When you’ve been emotionally and physically abused in a 25-year marriage, it takes not only courage to get out, let alone heal, but also an array of support and resources. Ms. Plano provides not only the details of her childhood, adult life and abuse, but also explores what helped, and what didn’t. Adding insult to injury, she later discovers that her daughter was abused by a Catholic sister and several priests. 

The first part of this story is anything but “perfect love”, but its important to provide context and depth to the despair, isolation, and shame that was experienced. The support and realizations that come to the author are as varied and individual as was the abuse. From the instruction’s of a zen teacher, theological inquiries into Christianity and the bible, feeling the presence of an “angel”, and getting psychological support, to the love and care of a Franciscan priest, and a center for abuse survivors. Whatever worked for insight, growth, and healing, is what Ms. Plano reached for.

Two quotes really stood out. “Rather than seeing the controlling behavior for what it was, I focused on what must be wrong with me.” This is such a common, and understandable, feeling that many abuse survivors have echoed. The other was, “It was a delusion to imagine that I was alone, just as it was to imagine that I was unworthy of love.” Self-loathing, self-doubt, and internalizing abuse as one’s “fault”, is one of the most horrendous effects for survivors. The other is feeling isolation and having nowhere to turn.

Another insightful passage, which is seldom spoken of, is about why some people never get out of an abusive relationship. “Domestic violence is usually not reported, and this fact is often misunderstood. Certainly, victims do not report the violence because of the real possibility of retaliation, but there is a deeper reason for their silence. To report partner violence is to betray the partner, it is to forsake the dream of a happily-ever-after marriage, it is to contend with the real and imaginary voices of condemnation, and it is to destroy the family unit.”

Letting Go Into Perfect Love is a blow to the heart, that leaves the reader with a sense that it is possible to survive the unsurvivable. It is possible to acknowledge, confront, and walk away from perpetrators of violence. It is possible to find support – sometimes in the most unexpected places. There are no cliches in this memoir (thank Goddess). There is an honest look at what has, and is happening, to thousands of women across the globe, and how each can find their way to not only survive, but perhaps learn to love again.

 

 

It’s a Baby!

HavingMyBabyHaving My Baby Short stories by Imari Jade, Daphne Olivier, Tori L. Ridgewood, and Joanne Rawson.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Having My Baby is fun to read whether you want a baby, have had a baby, don’t like babies, know nothing about babies, or are just curious. The book consists of four fictional stories that look at pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood in the present, past and future, and which are uniquely told in first and third person.

The Family Plan, by Imari Jade, follows the heir to a well-know clothes designer, Emily, and her unplanned pregnancy with Bekim, a man she despises. Emily has never wanted a child, let alone marriage, and Bekim is not the settling down kind of a guy. Can either of them change? The odds are forever not in there favor.

In Daphne Olivier’s futuristic Rock-a-bye-Baby, Cela and Cane win the lottery to have a perfect, modified child of whichever gender they choose. When they must decide what level of intelligence, and physical features, there son, or daughter, will have, they question there life-long desire to conceive, as well as the idea of “perfection”.

Tabitha’s Solution, by Tori L. Ridgewood, finds Tabitha and Alex desperately trying to induce labor, in order to avoid the hospital and any medical interventions. Issues many parents discuss, and must decide, before, during pregnancy, and at the time of birth, take on a personal and intimate nature, as the couple struggle with their preconceptions, beliefs, and desires.

The final story in the collection, Learner Mum, by Joanne Rawson, takes a confirmed child and baby avoider, Polly Wilkins, to her sister Wendy’s home to take care of her nephew, Josh, for two days. Polly tries to get out of it, but ends up in the thick of panic, and being overwhelmed by a person one quarter her size. Will this experience confirm her worst fears about children, or force her to see another side?

If you haven’t thought about pregnancy, childbearing, or raising children before, read Having My Baby. Though fictional, these stories ring true, in most cases. If you have already had a child, or are in the throws of doing so, you will laugh and cry with these characters, because they will be all too familiar.

The Truth of Fiction

If you read the story, Loving Annalise, without any knowledge of where the characters or events came from, it would appear to be an intriguing and loving romance that was complete fiction. In fact, it is taken from real life experiences of a friend from Austria, who married two brothers (not at the same time).

The old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, is so often true, that it is no longer a cliche. Anything one can think of happening in someone’s life, probably has, is, or will take place. When they all come together, with some perspective and distance, these experiences can also make a great story.

When I first heard a few of the details from my friend’s life, about growing up on a farm in Austria, going to nursing school in Vienna, falling for an abusive man, then later realizing she was in love with his brother, it sounded like a movie. When I asked if she would sit with me for a few afternoons and tell me the entire story, and she said yes, I was surprised and delighted.

The result of her sharing her life resulted in Loving Annalise. It is more than a simple, or even complicated romance, and includes childhood mishaps, coming-of-age, family drama, first loves, big city expectations, erotic encounters, suspense, blackmail, and redemption. The majority of the story takes place in Austria, and Western Europe, with the climax coming home to The States.

If there was ever an example of a life that reads as fiction, Loving Annalise fits the bill, and goes straight to the heart.

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