Review: Down Came the Rain

“Chris and I were suddenly alone with a brand-new baby, and we weren’t sure what to do. We stared at each other for a while and then tried to settle in.” page 61

Down Came the Rain: My Journey Through Postpartum Depression by Brooke Shields.
Hyperion, New York, 2005.
Memoir, 226 pages.
Not leveled.

Actress and model Brooke Shields writes a very personal story about her experiences with infertility, postpartum depression, and more.

Down Came the Rain resized

This is not your typical celebrity memoir.  The few references to famous people or media are because they are directly relevant to Shields’ life and her theme.  The book actually does not start with postpartum depression.  It starts with her long and difficult journey through infertility and miscarriage and her father’s death.

After chasing the dream of motherhood for so many years, Shields was originally loath to admit that anything was wrong, even as she was spiraling into darkness.  She also doesn’t seem to have had the best support or encouragement from the medical team – some members were good but her birthing experience was scary and discouraging.

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Review: Little Book of Life Hacks

“Getting your most important (or tedious) task out of the way will create a powerful momentum for the rest of your day.” page 187

The Little Book of Life Hacks: How to Make Your Life Happier, Healthier, and More Beautiful by Yumi Sakugawa.
St. Martin’s Press, New York, 2017.
Nonfiction, 200 pages.
Not leveled.

An illustrated guide to a wide variety of diys, life-hacks, how-tos, and helpful tips.

Little Book of Life Hacks resized

It seems to be a pattern that I discover famous people and trends through reading.  This was a random pick at the craft store – however not chosen to be diverse (like my Target Picks), just a book I grabbed on a whim because the artwork was so cute.

The cover is really appealing although it doesn’t photograph well.  The gold elements are shiny and there is a lot of texture.  This book is easy to pick up, read a few pages, and put down, although I read through it traditionally the first time.  One element I disliked, is that while there are page numbers, only about half of the pages are numbered.  So it was difficult to refer to a specific page.

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Review: Yes, Chef

“When I had my own restaurant someday, I thought, I would never rule out someone based on race or sex or nationality. I wouldn’t do it because it was egalitarian, I’d do it because cutting people out meant cutting off talent and opportunity, people who could bring more to the table than I could ever imagine.” page 160

Yes, Chef: a memoir by Marcus Samuelsson.
Random House, New York, 2012.
Autobiography, 326 pages.
Not leveled.

The life story of Marcus Samuelsson, a chef across three continents.

Yes Chef cover resized

This was a random find that was enchanting.  I’ll admit that I was first drawn in by the appealing cover, and then after the generosity of the friend who gave this to me, I had to at least start reading it.  What I found between the covers kept me up all night until the book was finished.

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Middle-Grade Reads for Adults

Maybe you just want a short read for the weekend.  Maybe you’re looking for a read-aloud for your family, something to read alongside a child, or a book for your students that might hold your interest too.  Here are five fiction and five nonfiction middle grade books that can hold the interest of an older reader – whether a teen who needs a less challenging read, adult who wants to finish a book quickly, or a family wanting to read together.  Continue reading “Middle-Grade Reads for Adults”

Review: The Girl From Everywhere

“Though the distance from cabin to gangplank wasn’t more than twenty feet, I was protective of the ship. Slate had told me from a very young age not to talk to strangers about Navigation.” page 168

The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig.
Greenwillow Books, HarperCollins Publishers, New York, 2016.
Speculative fiction, 454 pages.
Lexile:  750L  .
AR Level:  5.2 (worth 13.0 points)  .
NOTE: This book is not suggested for MG readers despite the reading level.

Nix’s father is a Navigator who can travel to any place, real or imagined as long as he has a map for it, but he’s only obsessed with getting back to the one place he cannot reach – 1868 Honolulu, where Nix’s mother died.

The Girl From Everywhere cover

Now having read this book, I can finally fully appreciate why all of the reviews were so maddeningly vague.  This is, unfortunately, the type of book that you can’t discuss with any real depth unless you’ve read it, because to discuss anything interesting is to give away part of the action.

So I apologize in advance that you might find this review to also be maddeningly vague.  In a book where the majority of the setting and even the time frequently changes (and further changes amongst real and imagined places), the focus is rather on both the characterization and the action.  Both are fast-paced!

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Review: The Lost Boy

“Leaving Duinsmoore was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. In a matter of months, in the tiniest fraction of my life, Duinsmoore had given me so much.” page 278

The Lost Boy: A Foster Child’s Search for the Love of a Family by Dave Pelzer.
Health Communications, Inc. Deerfield Beach, Florida, 1997.
Memoir, 340 pages.
Lexile:  720L  .
AR Level:  5.1 (worth 9.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, this is an adult book, not suggested for MG readers.

Peltzer’s first book is all about the inhumane treatment he suffered at the hands of his mother.  The second, after a brief recap of the abuse, focuses on his life in the foster care system.

Pelzer - The Lost Boy

I believe this was the first book that I ever read about foster care.  Many years later, I found some of the series in a thrift store and decided to read through it again.  After the sensational story of the first book, this one is significantly milder.  Peltzer’s mother still has a lot of power over him – mentally, emotionally, and legally.  But her physical control of his body is limited and he starts to heal in some ways.

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Review: A Child Called “It”

“The story has two objectives: the first is to inform the reader how a loving, caring parent can change to a cold, abusive monster venting frustrations on a helpless child; the second is the eventual survival and triumph of the human spirit over seemingly insurmountable odds.” page 164

A Child Called “It”: One Child’s Courage to Survive by Dave Pelzer.
Health Communications, Inc. Deerfield Beach, Florida, 1993.
Adult memoir, 184 pages.
Lexile:  850L  .
AR Level:  5.8 (worth 5.0 points)  .
NOTE: Despite the reading level, these are books written for adults, not MG readers.

The early childhood of a severely abused boy.

Pelzer - A Child Called It

This is the first, and most well-known, book in an autobiographical trilogy.  Dave Pelzer was one of the most severely abused children in California.  His father kept his mother from murdering him, but otherwise he was routinely tortured, starved, beaten, and otherwise maltreated.

The entire book should probably not be read by anyone who might find these events triggering.  His parents also rely heavily on alcohol and his mother occasionally turns her rage from him to his father or others.  It’s interesting that few reviews remark on this being an example of domestic abuse from a woman to a man.  Male perpetrators are certainly more common, but it’s important to recognize that women can be abusers as well and to validate and hold a mirror up for male victims of abuse.

While the book is intense, it’s not overly emotional (although it can feel overwrought at times).  Pelzer narrates with a steady, precise flow, documenting what it felt like for him to be a child in the total control of a sociopathic parent.  I remember crying and crying on my first read through.  However, after hearing or reading the stories of other children, this book is not so affecting on the second readthrough.

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