Archive for April, 2009

Review of Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out, by Patricia Evans

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009


Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out

On Relationship and Recovery

by Patricia Evans

Bob Adams Publishers, Holbrook, Massachusetts, 1993.  260 pages.

I have now read all of Patricia Evans’ books on verbally abusive relationships.  All are very helpful for shedding light on a problem that’s surprisingly hard to recognize when you’re in the middle of it.

In Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out, Patricia Evans takes from the thousands of letters she has received from verbal abuse survivors after she wrote the book The Verbally Abusive Relationship.  She writes:

“I receive between one hundred and two hundred letters and notes a month from the survivors of verbally abusive relationships.  I read every single one.  Some survivors had been so devalued and undermined that they have even requested permission to send their thoughts and feelings on the subject.  Some letters are more than twenty pages long.  As I read these letters, I am often overwhelmed by the suffering they express.  Never would I have dreamt that there were so many, in so much pain, so silently enduring.  I am moved by the spirit of their quest for understanding and freedom from abuse and I am grateful and touched that they have taken their time to tell me their stories.  Often they do so, as they say, ‘. . . in case it may help someone else.'”

Anyone who has been or is in a verbally abusive relationship can read this book to know they are not alone.  Patricia Evans also uses the letters of verbal abuse survivors in order to illuminate and understand the problem.

If you are being devalued, undermined, accused, or defined, you are being verbally abused.  If your partner tries to tell you what your motives and thoughts are, you are being verbally abused.  The problem is real, and the problem is widespread.  And Patricia Evans’ books are helpful for survivors to understand how best to deal with the abuse.

Besides talking about the abuse and ways to deal with it, she also covers healing, recovery, and support, including a chapter of affirmations to build back up your spirit.

I like her concluding paragraph:

“We have been on a long journey with the Survivors.  They have spoken their truth with strength and determination, and in so doing they have given us a vision of freedom.  And even now, as this book ends, a new journey begins.  This journey is a movement toward awareness, meaning, and purpose; it is founded upon the infinite value of the human spirit.  To join in this journey, all we must do is speak our truth with courage and strength.  Truth is what dispels the prejudice, shatters the illusions, and breaks the bonds of verbal abuse.”

This echoes the Bible verse, “You will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”  Amen.

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Review of Lucky Breaks, by Susan Patron

Sunday, April 19th, 2009


Lucky Breaks

by Susan Patron

ginee seo books, Atheneum Books for Young Readers, New York, 2009.  181 pages.

Starred review.

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #4 Other Children’s Fiction

Lucky, who is about to turn eleven, is someone I can’t help loving.  She’s intrepid, but she doesn’t always use the best judgment.  She’s a good friend with a big heart, but she sometimes does mean things in spite of herself.  Susan Patron writes in a way that makes you feel for Lucky as if you yourself were, once again, almost almost eleven.

Lucky Breaks is a sequel to the Newbery-winning The Higher Power of Lucky.  The themes are bigger in the first book, because Lucky’s dealing with the death of her mother and hoping Brigitte will adopt her.  While the issues in the second book are not as cosmic, they are still important — finding and keeping friends.

This book finds Lucky still helping Brigitte settle into Hard Pan, California, and she meets someone she hopes will become her best friend — a girl to laugh with until they hiccup.

But Paloma’s parents are worried about their daughter spending time in the dangerous desert.  Meanwhile, Lincoln is working on a mysterious knotting project that may take him away from Hard Pan.

Susan Patron’s characters are quirky in so many delightful ways.  Miles’ favorite book has shifted from Go, Dog. Go! to Brain Surgery for Beginners.  Short Sammy is digging a mysterious pit.  And Brigitte is figuring out what makes a person truly American.  You can’t help but feel that they are real people, friends about whom you’re eager to hear the latest news.

As for Lucky — She’s the same exuberant, intrepid, scientifically curious, rarely cautious, delightful young lady we met before, a little further along in her amazing journey of growing up.

Susan Patron promises a third book after this one.  I hope she writes quickly!

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Review of Winnie-the-Pooh audiobook, read by Peter Dennis

Sunday, April 19th, 2009



written by A. A. Milne

performed by Peter Dennis

Book published in 1926.  Blackstone Audiobooks, 2004.  3 hours on 3 cassettes.

Starred review.

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: Wonderful Rereads

I’ve already reviewed Winnie-the-Pooh at length and said how special it is to me: .

Although part of the specialness is that I fell in love with my husband while reading Winnie-the-Pooh together, I find that the book is still just as special even though my husband has now left me.  Winnie-the-Pooh has been part of my life much longer than he has.

I have checked out several cassettes from the library that I want to listen to before we end up getting rid of all our cassettes, and Winnie-the-Pooh is one.  (Though the same version is now available on CD.)  It was the perfect book to listen to while my son and I were making lots of trips back and forth while toting our possessions for a move across town.

Few things are as much fun as reading Winnie-the-Pooh aloud, especially with a group of enthusiastic readers.  However, when you are driving, you can’t read yourself, and this performance by Peter Dennis is the next best thing.  He is so exceptionally good at doing the voices of the characters, it’s a bit intimidating.  (Though I will not let that stop me.)

I was appalled to learn that my teenage son doesn’t remember most of the stories.  Surely I had read them to him enough times?  He learned to write his name P-O-O-H, for goodness’ sake! 

Anyway, we thoroughly enjoyed listening to and laughing over them in the middle of the serious business of moving.  We will definitely have to do some Pooh readalouds together just as soon as we find the box where my copy is hiding.

You can’t ask for a better family listening experience than this version of Winnie-the-Pooh.  And I don’t care if your family is all adults or includes toddlers.  Those who are only familiar with the Disney versions may not realize the wonderful subtle humor and charm of the original books.  It’s hard to imagine anyone of any age not enjoying these stories.

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Review of Bull Run, by Paul Fleischman

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009


Bull Run

by Paul Fleischman

Various narrators

Recorded Books, 1995.  2 cassettes.  2 hours.

While I was toting carloads of my possessions to a new home just a few miles from Bull Run and Manassas Battlefield National Park, this book seemed an appropriate one to listen to.  Indeed, it was exceedingly strange to realize that these events happened only a few miles from where I was driving.

Paul Fleischman tells the story of the first battle of the Civil War by using monologues from all sorts of people somehow involved — some from the South, some from the North, men and women, white and black, young and old.  The Recorded Books version uses sixteen different narrators for the different characters who give their stories.

This book expressed so many aspects of the start of the war that I never thought about before.  All the points of view are so different.  Since it’s about war, naturally the story is not pleasant, but it is truly fascinating.

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Review of If Wishes Were Horses, by Anne McCaffrey

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009


If Wishes Were Horses

by Anne McCaffrey

A ROC Book (Penguin), 1998.  85 pages.

This novella by Anne McCaffrey was a charming interlude to read in between longer books. 

Tirza’s mother, Lady Talarrie Eircelly is known far and wide for her wisdom and healing.  However, as Tirza and her twin Tracell near their sixteenth birthday, war strikes the land.  Their father must muster his people to join the fight, and the family is left to deal with the hardships facing the village, which they do with creativity and spirit. 

However, despite all her mother’s great wisdom, Tirza seriously doubts that Mother will be able to come up with the traditional gift for her brother — a horse of his own.  Every decent horse has gone to the battlefields.  Can they even celebrate their sixteenth birthdays during wartime? 

Here’s a heartwarming and charming story with just a touch of magic.

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Review of Orangutan Tongs, by Jon Agee

Friday, April 3rd, 2009


Orangutan Tongs

Poems to Tangle Your Tongue

by Jon Agee

Disney/Hyperion Books, 2009.  48 pages.

Starred review.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #2 Picture Books

This book is entirely too much fun.  I brought it home and read it to my teenage son, and, as I suspected, he couldn’t resist trying it himself.  For Dr. Seuss’s birthday, we recently had a tweetle beetle binge from Fox in Socks, so it was fun to read to each other and laugh from a new book where I didn’t have the advantage of about forty years of practice.

Orangutan Tongs (Can you resist saying that title aloud?) is a book of tongue twister poems, with illustrations.  They are all quite silly and good for fun and laughter.

My son claimed that he had not been practicing, but I found it highly suspicious that when I came home from work the next day, he was suddenly able to recite the Peggy Babcock poem:

Peggy Babcock at work.  Peggy Babcock at play.

Peggy Babcock tomorrow.  Peggy Babcock today.

Peggy Babcock, repeated, is tricky to say:

Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock, Peggy Babcock, ole!

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Review of The Graveyard Book audiobook, by Neil Gaiman

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009


The Graveyard Book

by Neil Gaiman

Narrated by the author.

Recorded Books, New York, 2008.  7 compact discs.  7.75 hours.

Starred review.

2009 Newbery Award winner.

Sonderbooks Stand-out 2010: #2 Children’s Fantasy and Science Fiction

When The Graveyard Book came out, I checked it out for my 14-year-old son to read, knowing he’d want to read anything by Neil Gaiman.  He told me I should read it, but after listening to Coraline, which was very good but exceedingly creepy, I decided that a book by Neil Gaiman with “graveyard” in the title was bound to be too creepy for me.

However, when The Graveyard Book won the Newbery Award, I decided that as a responsible children’s librarian, I really should read it, and I was completely delighted with it.  There’s a little bit of creepiness, but not nearly so much as Coraline.  In fact, I think The Graveyard Book would make fantastic listening for an entire family on a car trip, because it appeals to a wide range of ages.  (If your kids are old enough to handle the fact that the family is murdered at the beginning, they will be able to handle anything else in the book.)

The premise, and the reason for the name, is the same idea as The Jungle Book, except instead of a baby being adopted by the dwellers of the jungle, a baby is adopted by the dwellers of a graveyard.

The book does begin as a family has just been murdered.  The killer is looking to finish the job, but the baby has toddled off.  In the graveyard, a loving woman who always wanted to be a mother convinces her husband to take pity on the baby and take him in.  As Mowgli’s parents needed the approval of the pack, so this baby needs the approval of the inhabitants of the graveyard.  He’s named Nobody Owens, Bod for short.

There are some fun parallels between Bod’s story and The Jungle Book.  For example, instead of getting kidnapped by apes, Bod gets kidnapped by ghouls.  At first the book seems very episodic (with extremely interesting episodes), but by the end, all the adventures tie together into Bod’s need to avenge his family, escape their fate, and live a life outside the graveyard.

Neil Gaiman’s narration is simply awesome.  He now lives in America, but he has a wonderful voice and just enough British accent to sound incredibly cultured.  He gives the different characters different voices, with accents as appropriate.  I found his reading of the chapter with the ghouls especially delightful.

Although I’m sure this book makes great reading on your own, hearing Neil Gaiman read it makes for an incredible listening experience.  I found myself lingering in the car more than once because I got to work too quickly.

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Review of Wings, by E. D. Baker

Wednesday, April 1st, 2009



A Fairy Tale

by E. D. Baker

Bloomsbury Children’s Books, 2008.  307 pages.

“Tamisin Warner first saw real goblins the Halloween she was eleven.”

Worse, the goblins noticed that she saw them and came after her.  Good thing some sudden lightning bolts scared them away.

Seeing goblins isn’t the only strange thing about Tamisin.  She has pointy ears, and she has a growing compulsion to dance when the moon is full.  Her freckles sparkle.

She can cover her ears with her hair and the freckles with makeup.  She can join the dance group at school.  She doesn’t want to feel abnormal.

But then something happens that she can’t ignore.  Two beautiful pearlescent wings grow out of her shoulders.

And the goblins keep showing up.  A new kid at school named Jak seems to see them, too.  Not only is Tamisin forced to find out she’s not the person she thought she was, she also finds herself a pawn at the center of conflict between fairies and goblins.

This fantasy brings readers into an alternate reality where fairies and goblins have their own realm, but the border between them and humans is fragile.  The author’s website reports that Wings is the first book of a trilogy, and I’m looking forward to learning more about that world.

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