Snow Queen

snow queen

After watching the Hillsdale College Classic Children’s Literature lesson on The Snow Queen, I had to read the story for myself. I got a version of this Hans Christian Anderson story, which was illustrated by Yana Sedova. The pictures were sumptuous with lots of icy blues to capture the world of the story.

After watching the lecture, I noticed so many facets of this tale and its theme of reason vs. imagination (a false dichotomy if ever there was one). I don’t remember ever reading The Snow Queen though I had a vague familiarity with its plot. I liked it’s depiction of friendship and loyalty as well as its emphasis on friendship.

Hate that Cat

hate cat

Sharon Creech’s Hate that Cat is a super quick read, perfect if you have a book report due tomorrow and hadn’t started a book. Though Creech’s Walk Two Moons is among my favorite novels for children, Hate that Cat didn’t grab me.

Evidently, Hate that Cat is the second book in a series. The hero writes letters to his favorite teacher and shares all his thoughts about poetry, cats, dogs, and writing with the teacher. The book introduces young readers to poets like William Carlos Williams and Edgar Allen Poe. The most interesting facet of the book was that the narrator’s mother is deaf and he can sign ASL.

For a mature reader, there isn’t much in the theme that isn’t well worn ground. The book doesn’t delight readers of all ages, which is a hallmark of the best of children’s literature. The narrator seemed like a cookie cutter Creech hero, but one who shares little of his personality or background.

Getting the Best Care

getting best careMargaret Fitzpatrick’s book Getting the Best Care: Rescue your loved one from the healthcare conveyor belt is a must read for every adult. Fitzpatrick is a nurse who’s written a great guide for everyone who need to get clarity on options for patients who’re at the end of life. The book contains lots of facts and options with examples of actual stories of people at the end of their lives.

As we age, particularly after age 65 every time we go to the hospital we’re likely to come out diminished. Hospital visits are particularly confusing and troubling as the average person doesn’t know what questions to ask or how to realistically evaluate the outcomes of various treatments. Fitzpatrick shows us how to talk about healthcare with older relatives and with healthcare workers. There are two different worlds, the hospital world and the world we live in, and there needs to be an adjustment in our view of what to ask and how to communicate so that older relatives and eventually ourselves have conversations that honor our wishes and don’t result in a lot of tests and treatments that do more harm than good.

Much of the book covers Fitzpatrick’s mother’s desire to never go into the hsopital. The mother of 9, who died after her  99th birthday, Fitzpatrick’s mother Alma. Alma never wanted to be hospitalized as she got older. As Fitzpatrick shows, that’s not a bad outlook as most of the elderly diminish in mental acuity and physical health with each hospitalization. While Alma did go to the hospital for a broken hip, because her daughter and other children understood Alma’s beliefs on autonomy and quality of life they were able to minimize the time spent in the hospital and able to see that she died as she wished, at home, in peace surrounded by loved ones after a rich life. In addition, Fitzpatrick uses stories of her patients, her brother and ex husband to provide context to how hospitalization effects older patients and how family or advocates can get better communicate to get the right kind of care and to manage expectations.

In a hospital patients are likely to be cared for by dozens of professionals and are often given several tests even when they have a diagnosis for a condition that has no cure anyway. Fitzpatrick’s book gave me the right way to ask the right questions. She also showed me that I should ask what the likely outcome can be, if there’s no cure or the treatment will cause more harm than good.

Chapters cover individual healthcare goals, codes in hospitals, setting realistic healthcare goals, testing, asking the right questions, advocating for loved ones with dementia, palliative care and hospice, nursing homes, and more. The book does not advocate against all hospitalization or to just cut grandma off from medical help, it just shows readers what they can do to better insure that loved one’s care is what they really want.

 

Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish

hereville fish

Another Mirka story by Barry Deutsche, Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish takes us back into the world of an Orthodox Jewish teen named Mirka. Smart and feisty, Mirka clashes with her stepmom. When she’s made to babysit her young half-sister, Mirka defies the rule that she shouldn’t go into the forest. She longs to experience the adventures her stepmother had as a girl. This adventure-seeker soon encounters trouble through a magic, or rather cursed talking fish, who soon kidnaps the little girl, making Mirka the “worst babysitter ever.”

The story is fun and wise. I enjoyed Mirka’s spirt and learning of the stepmom’s history. Surprising Furma, the stepmom grew up with a very modern mother, who’s something of a 1960’s hippy type.

The dialog is fresh and I like how authentic the story felt, in spite of a cursed fish that kept growing. I loved the glimpse into a different culture and all the Yiddish sprinkled into the dialog. (Deutsche provides definitions at the bottom of the page.) The stepmom isn’t perfect, but I liked how she spars with Mirka and makes the teen increase her understanding. Yes, the older generation has wisdom even feisty teens can’t refute. It would be easy to just show Mirka as always right and the rules of her community outdated. Instead, Deutsch points out how there’s wisdom in them.

Dangerous Jane

Dangerous-Jane-263x300With muted watercolor illustrations,Suzanne Slade’s  Dangerous Jane offers a biography of Jane Addams that teaches children of Addams childhood and her main accomplishments including her European travels, her bringing the idea of a settlement house to Chicago where she opened Hull House, to her speaking up for peace and winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Alice Ratterree’s illustrations convey a gentle past era, which doesn’t quite jive with the dire poverty and horrors of WWI, but it’s a children’s book so I understand the choice..

This short biography will acquaint children with a great woman.

Good for ages 4 to 7

El Deafo

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Cece Bell’s graphic novel El Deafo is a charming, insightful memoir that I didn’t want to end. El Deafo chronicles Bell’s early life from healthy infant, through her getting meningitis and navigating school and friendship after she became deaf. I learned a lot about the options in terms of hearing devices and how they were worn and how they made Bell feel awkward. I enjoyed all her memories of TV shows like x and y, slumber parties, and riding the school bus.

Friendship is a major theme in El Deafo and I could feel for Bell who had a hard time making friends. When she does find a friend, Laura, she’s put off by how bossy she is. Yet Laura doesn’t make a big deal out of Cece being deaf. Still the bossiness is hard to take. Later Cece meets Ginny, who loves all the same TV shows like Little House on the Prairie and The Waltons,

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The title El Deafo comes from a superhero name Cece gives herself once she gets a new hearing device that lets her hear her teacher wherever she is in the building — in class, in the teachers’ lounge, in the restroom and this super power changes Cece’s status forever.

The story captures what it’s like to strive to find a friend in a challenging social landscape and enlightens readers on what it was like to experience hearing loss all of a sudden and how complicated it is to learn to cope with it. I highly recommend El Deafo as a book for all ages.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

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Barry Deutsch’s Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword delights. Mirka is an Orthodox Jew who lives in a culture I haven’t see covered in fiction. This story of an adventurous teen has wit and spirit. Smart, lively and brave, Mirka helps her brother fend off bullies and a wild pig. The pig can talk and is prominent in the book offering a tongue in cheek wit as pigs are taboo in a kosher house. (The pig never goes inside the house).

Mirka’s family is very traditional and she doesn’t get along with her stepmother, who’s a strict disciplinarian. Yet rather than presenting the stepmother as a villain, it’s this sharp-tongued woman who most helps Mirka the most.

The book is a fun, fast read that takes readers inside a culture that’s rarely presented. There are two other Hereville books and I’ve ordered them all.

 

You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons

never ricksaw

In You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons Mo Willems captures the joys and travails of the tourist on the road. This sketchbook cum travelogue Willems takes readers on a bumpy around the world trip. The book is 90% cartoons and 10% background insights.

Willems clearly travels as I do in 2nd class open to the real experiences found in Asia and Europe. Kudos to Willems for venturing to Qufu and other cities that most tourists don’t have the time or fortitude to get to. (It can take some chutzpah to buy your own train tickets to smaller towns or figure out where to stay and eat unless you’ve been in China a while.)

taxi dilemma

custoerm china

I think I’d read this years ago. Nonetheless it was still funny. It’s a grade A quarantine read. Available on Hoopla.

qufu

The Young Adventurer

young adve

Another Horatio Alger book read. I’m catching up on my Good Reads 2020 Reading Challenge deficit.

In Alger’s The Young Adventurer, teenage Ben’s a new orphan at 14. His mother died when he was young and now his father’s just died. The $400 he inherited won’t last forever and there aren’t many opportunities in his hometown so though his uncle would like him to stay with him, Ben sets off to New York to make some money. He plans to earn enough to get passage to California where he can make a fortune mining gold.

Like a lot of Alger’s heroes, Ben encounters some swindlers, and luckily manages to avoid them with his funds in tact. Then he lucks out and meets and heiress in distress who asks him to accompany her to California and pays him to locate her fiancé. The adventure continues.

While the story offers a likable hero and plenty of villains, I wasn’t as enthralled as usual. The Young Adventurer is dated in its treatment of a Chinese character. The language of the era came off the way old Charlie Chan stereotypes do. Alger isn’t on the side of the bigots and those bigots probably were presented authentically, but I couldn’t stomach those chapters even though King Si, the Chinese miner, ends up doing well. For this reason, I wouldn’t recommend this book to kids. Now maybe they should read about how people people discriminated and hurt others as that is the real history, but I’d find another book to recommend.

 

Frank Fowler: Cash Boy

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To catch up on my Good Reads reading challenge, I figured an Horatio Alger book was just the ticket. I got Frank Fowler: Cash Boy in a couple days. Frank Fowler, an orphan decides to go to the big city to get a job. He leaves his step-sister, who he thought was his biological sister. On her deathbed his mother admitted that Frank was adopted, that he was adopted under mysterious circumstances. Such is the storyline of a Horatio Alger book. Frank’s pal’s family agrees to take in his sister to keep her from the Poor House.

Though he comes across the swindlers common in these books, it’s not till Frank is hired to read to a wealthy man each evening that he meets his nemeses, the housekeeper and the man’s nephew. They fear Frank will worm his way into the old man’s heart. They plot to get Frank out of the house so that they can get the lion’s share of the old man’s will.

Although Alger’s books follow a formula, I don’t tire of his spunky, honest, courageous boys living in tough times when there were many children who had to take on adult responsibilities. It’s a quick, fun read.