Archive for November, 2017

A THANKLESS THANKSGIVING

A Pardon for Tommy

Written by Patricia Nmukoso Enyi

Chelsea is a college freshman who wakes to recurring nightmares. When she was twelve, Chelsea lost her home during Hurricane Katrina. She and her father were swept away by the flood waters. Chelsea has not been able to bring herself to return to New Orleans

Chelsea retells her experience. She survives the flood with the turkey her father captured for Thanksgiving Dinner in her backpack. Enyi traces Chelsea’s harrowing experiences while awaiting rescue and the reunion with her mother and brother at the Houston Astrodome. The family struggles to maintain hope that Chelsea’s dad, Max, will be found alive.

The scene shifts to adjustment to a new life in Houston at their grandmother’s home. Several subplots are included. There are New Orleans’ bullies who have also moved to the new school. Rex, their mother’s twin brother, is unwelcome at their new house. Chelsea has become attached to “Tommy,” her pet turkey. She cannot accept killing Tommy and celebrating Thanksgiving without their father. Will the family find out whether Max is alive or dead? How will the children adjust in their new home? Does “Tommy” become Thanksgiving Dinner?

The characters in the story experience typical coming of age experiences, compounded by the tragedy of this natural disaster, their father’s disappearance, a forced move, and the family’s dysfunction. This book could benefit from some editing. Transitions are not always clear, and the subplots are not fully developed. On the other hand, the author does a good job of painting the pain and trauma of the disaster. Readers need to suspend belief at times; a turkey surviving so many mishaps is a bit far fetched. On the other hand, the story is a powerful one for middle-grade and young adult audiences.

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AUTUMN ANXIETY

The Forest Painter: A Short Story

Written by Diane Mae Robinson

Deep within The Majestic Forest, a bugle call from the top of Peak Mountain has summoned the fairy sprites, the elves, and the wind weavers to perform their autumn responsibilities. But Aura, the Forest Painter, who has been designated to paint the leaves in autumn colors, feels she cannot accomplish the task. Her grandmother was the master painter. Both Aura’s grandmother and parents have already left to paint the heavens. Aura complains that she has not been prepared properly for the task. If she cannot complete her work before the frost arrives, the frost queen will claim the forest forever. Kepa urges her to ask Boreal to help, but Aura believes that Boreal once stole her grandmother’s paintbrush. Will Aura succeed in her race against time to save the trees of the forest? All the plants and animals of the forest are dependent upon her.

This twelve-page story is written with tenderness and empathy. Robinson has deftly woven personification and alliteration with a cadence of language that is charming. Written for a middle-grade audience, it is a sweet and sensitive read that will appeal to a wide range of audiences from beginning reader to adult. Perfect afternoon read to get into the spirit of the changing season.

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A LIFELONG DILEMMA

Florence Nightingale: A Life Inspired

Written by Lynn M. Hamilton

This is an interesting biography that focuses on Nightingale’s personal struggles as well as her pioneering work in nursing. Florence was born into a wealthy English Victorian family. Throughout her life, Florence was torn between what was expected of woman born to a well-to-do nineteenth-century family and her strong ties to the Unitarian Church, which demanded community service to those less fortunate in society. Her family’s wide travels in Europe allowed her to meet powerful thinkers like Victor Hugo and Alexis De Tocqueville. While her family urged her to marry, Florence resisted. By the time she was thirty-two, Florence had asserted her independence by assuming a role as superintendent of a nursing home even though she received no salary. Her service in the Crimean War revealed the serious flaws in hospital care. More soldiers died from their illnesses than in battle. Nightingale demanded that abuses like poor lighting, sanitation, and ventilation be addressed. She urged proper training for nursing students and hospital sanitation, reflecting the germ theory of illness.

I was not aware of Florence’s work in India and the depth of personal struggle she experienced between her convictions and the demands of her family. The fact that she refused to sit on her laurels and accept praise for her accomplishments, but rather be self-critical about her own mistakes and failings impressed me. Her influence on modern healthcare practices cannot be underestimated.

I recommend the book for anyone interested in learning more about the evolution of nursing and modern healthcare or to learn about the life of a remarkable, Victorian woman willing to stand up and be counted. Recommended for ages ten and older.

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HEALTHY HANDOUT

SMART HEALTH: What Today’s Doctors Aren’t Telling You

Written by Dr. Craig C. Koehler

This book is written by a chiropractor, whose personal health struggles began with a bicycle accident as a twelve-year-old child. After hitting his head on the cement, he began to experience nasal problems with sneezing and coughing. In an effort to find the cause, doctors prescribed medications, antibiotics, shots and a tonsillectomy. Five years later, he injured his back and visited a chiropractor where he learned about the connection of the nervous system with the sinuses. Koehler decided on becoming a chiropractor and dedicating himself to help patients deal with pain.

The statistics are scary. In the United States, medical misdiagnosis is the 3rd leading cause of death. Perhaps even more telling is the fact that 80% of the world’s pain-killing drugs are consumed by Americans. Relieving pain becomes more important than finding the cause of that pain. Koehler details the diseases that really are killing people and how consumers are harming themselves with sugar and junk food. By switching off what we put into the body, the natural immune systems can use good nutrition, exercise, meditation, and proper sleep habits to recharge the body. None of this these are easy tasks to accomplish. The doctor urges consumers to join up with a support team to work at establishing a system to turn unhealthy habits into a new pattern that will lead to a healthier body and a longer life.

Recommended as a good reference guide and motivational tool for anyone who desires to establish a healthier lifestyle.

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ARMED AND READY

Prince Martin Wins His Sword

Written by Brandon Hale

Illustrated by Jason Zimdars

Hale has written an original, charming chapter book that began as a way to keep in touch with his son while Hale was away from home. The book is divided into eight short chapters that are completely written in verse. Hale does not shy away from challenging vocabulary in a book that is written for the six to ten age group.

Martin is a young prince who lives in a faraway kingdom. At the beginning of the tale, Martin experiences a dream in which he fights a dragon with a loyal dog at his side. One of Martin’s favorite pastimes is visiting the castle armory, where all types of swords and weapons are stored. Unfortunately, the king permits his son to possess only a wooden staff and a slingshot, until the prince is able to prove that he is loyal, brave and true. Martin is unsure of how to do so, but he is determined to set forth out of the castle to the forest beyond.

Chapters two through eight covers the adventures that await Martin. He will meet a farmer who warns him of wild hogs, a deer whose fawn is trapped, and a brave dog who is willing to defend the helpless with his life. Martin must face his own fears as well as bullies. Will Martin find the courage and strength to survive and prove himself worthy?

The rhymes are perfect for a read aloud. Younger children might need the help of an adult to decipher some of the vocabularies. Color illustrations in each chapter enhance the adventure. This first book in a series should appeal especially to boys who love adventures, dragons, swords, and dogs. Highly recommended for elementary and middle school age children.

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TROUBLE OR TREASURE?

The Bridge of the Golden Wood: A Parable on How to Earn a Living

Written by Karl Beckstrand

Illustrated by Yaniv Cahoua

This short picture book is an interesting tale about a young boy who is given a choice by an old woman. The reader is introduced to a young Asian boy who likes to make things and always carries tools with him. One day he is walking along a stream near his home when he comes across an old woman sitting on its banks. She appears to be staring at a pile of branches piled against the rocks in the stream. She informs the boy that these objects are both “trouble and treasure.” They are trouble for the fish that cannot swim past them, but she will offer him a treasure if the boy will help her. Immediately the clever boy comes up with an ingenious solution to solve the problem. Then the old woman disappears, but her promise is delivered in an unexpected way.

Beautiful watercolor illustrations enhance the uplifting message and serene mood of the book. Beckstrand includes interesting ideas and activities to enhance the book’s value. My main criticism of the book lies in the layout of the text, which is so small that it is difficult to read. I would recommend the story, especially as a read-aloud for elementary grade children, though the message is certainly pertinent to any age group.

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