Monday, December 8, 2008

BRAVE: Be Ready and Victory is Easy, a Story About Social Anxiety


Marjie Braun Knudsen & Jenne R. Henderson, PhD
Summertime Press (2008)
ISBN 9780981575902
Reviewed by Matthew Feliciano (age 8) for Reader Views (11/08)


"BRAVE" is about a boy named Danny.  He has trouble with a lot of things at school and with life.  He is ten-years-old, but age doesn't matter because he has the same problems a lot of kids have.  His problems were that whenever he had a test or something, he either had a headache, or had a stomachache and tried to stay home from school.  He got bullied a lot and was pretty much afraid of everything.  One day, his teacher said that they had to give a speech and the only way to get out of giving the speech was to win the science fair.  Danny was really looking forward to being able to get out of the speech and was certain he would be able to win the science fair.
Danny was paired for the science project with the class clown, Jack.  Jack invited Danny to come over to his house and work on the project with Jack's grandpa.  He doesn't want to go but his mom forces him to because he has trouble making new friends.  When he gets there, Jack's grandpa tells him something that helped him a lot.  Grandpa tells Danny to be BRAVE: Be Ready and Victory is Easy.  Jack's grandpa noticed that Danny was shy and that is why he told him about BRAVE.  The characteristics of BRAVE are something that helped Grandpa as a kid and he thinks this will help Danny deal with things.
With the technique that Grandpa showed Danny, Danny was able to be ready for tests and other things in life that scared him. For example, he wrote the explanation for BRAVE on a piece of paper to remind himself of what to do.  He used this when his brother was being mean and instead of losing his cool, Danny said "So" or "Whatever" and didn't let his brother get to him.  The more he used BRAVE, the happier he became.  With the technique, he went on to work with Jack and win the science fair.
I would recommend "BRAVE: Be Ready and Victory is Easy" by Marjie Braun Knudsen and Jenne R. Henderson, PhD, for anybody who has trouble in their life.  I know that I have some struggles that are similar to Danny's and reading this book helped give me a new way to deal with things. This book was written to help and teach kids, but instead of sounding like a grownup telling you what to do, this book read just like a regular story with a regular kid showing the way.  Teachers and counselors at schools would also benefit from this book, too.  I liked it a lot and am going to bring it to share with my class.

Claus: A Christmas Incarnation (Volume 1)


C. John Coombes
Self-published Digital e-Book (2008)
Reviewed by Paige Lovitt for Reader Views (11/08)

The tale begins in 1854, when fifty-six-year-old Elizabeth Dennison Claussen is preparing to meet a woman who shared an important childhood experience with her.  When Elizabeth's guest arrives, they reminisce about the eventful voyage that they took from Europe to America in the early 1800s.  Elizabeth tells the tale of her life beginning with becoming a maidservant for Rebecca Claussen when her own mother died.  Through her story we learn about the Claussens, who became her adoptive parents.  Even at the present time in which they are reminiscing, Christopher Claussen held a special fascination for both women.  Elizabeth remembers him as seeming to have extraordinary abilities.  She felt he could do anything.  His love for Rebecca was also very special and rare. 
As Elizabeth reminisces, we get to travel through time with her and share her memories.  This includes the pain she suffered upon losing her mother, the excitement that she felt when preparing for her voyage across the sea, being attacked by pirates, and then her experiences upon arriving in the Americas.  All of her memories are brought to life for us by her vivid recollections. 
"Claus: A Christmas Incarnation" is an incredible novel.  The author, C.John Coombes, did a wonderful job of bringing his story to life and making it seem real.  He also provided beautiful illustrations.  In addition to being an artist that can draw, he is also an artist that can paint with his words.  Everything in the story seemed so real, from the descriptions of the era, to the emotions that the characters were experiencing. Their imperfections also show their humanity.  I found myself totally being caught up in the tale, caught up to the point that I read over 400 pages in one sitting.  I cannot recommend this novel enough. I truly believe that "Claus" is destined to be a classic. 

Mental Illness and Your Town: 37 Ways for Communities to Help and Heal


Larry Hayes
Loving Healing Press (2008)
ISBN 9781932690767
Reviewed by Carol Hoyer, PhD, for Reader Views (10/08)
Larry Hayes has finally taken mental illness out of the closet and set a blueprint into place that will help millions of families and individuals with mental illness get the help they need. From his own experiences, Mr. Hayes shares ways in which each of us can reduce the stigma of having a mental illness with excellent examples and ideas of how to set up programs/services to help regain dignity.
As Mr. Hayes states, throughout history treatment of, and regard for individuals with mental illness, has changed dramatically. The problem I see as I read this book is that many do not understand mental illness and many professionals, including medical staff, do not care to know. With today's medical and psychology businesses it is about herding people through the system as fast as they can. The problem is, with some types of mental illness you can't do that. Some individuals need long-term therapy, medication and community support.
His first chapter discusses how mental illness is not caused by mothers but mental illness can be fostered through things like postpartum depression, abuse, neglect and environment. He suggests that more professionals need to have better training in the area of mental illness to include medical, psychology, childcare workers and town administrators. It takes little time to set up these awareness training programs.  One area that really sparked a fire in me was many children going into foster homes and the juvenile system are not given assessments to see if something might be causing their problems. Do their parents even get help?
Having grown up in, married to, and worked for the military, we are now seeing more and more soldiers return from war with post traumatic stress syndrome and our system is overloaded and those who need help are not getting it. Not to mention Vietnam Vets.
Each chapter is filled with examples of how our mentally ill are getting passed over, and what individuals and professionals can do to help--even from the smallest event, learn to know what resources are in your town--to writing grants and getting the government to provide more funding. There are many ideas given in each chapter on what you or I can do. Mr. Hayes has given excellent information on mental illness and enlightened everyone. He does it in a compassionate and sincere way. After reading this book, which I think is a must for everyone, it should spark a fire in you-- after all, one day it could be you or someone you love.
As a Psychology and Nursing instructor at two colleges, "Mental Illness and Your Town" by Larry Hayes is a must read and have for all my students.

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Pig in the Rumble Seat and other short stories


Edward Hujsak
Mina-Helwig Publishing (2008)
ISBN 9781886133105
Reviewed by Richard R Blake for Reader Views (10/08)


Edward Hujsak has assembled an amazing collection of stories from his own life as well as a broad range of tales of the 1930s depression era in his book "A Pig in the Rumble Seat." His short stories showcase his highly imaginative creative side. He is laugh-out-loud funny, highly intelligent, and a skillful writer. These attributes came through in his stories, "Escape" and "The Toy."  I especially enjoyed his insights into human nature in "Tatiana." I was not ready for the unexpected surprised ending in "The Sub."
Set in the Northeast in New England and in the Southwest in San Diego, Hujsak has included well-crafted personal experiences from his engineering career in the field of rocketry. His specialty was in propulsion. He has also included a wide range of subject matter, and varied writing styles. His writing includes science fiction, poetry, and parody. As a gifted story teller, Hujsak has taken time to hone his skill in the art and craft of writing.
The book is a melding of memories I could identify with: the ice truck with the ice tongs, and the old kitchen ice box, the quick war-time marriages, and the off-key choirs of aging men and women singing their hearts out during Sunday worship.
I found the first-person accounts of life on the farm especially enjoyable, "The Still," The Ubiquitous Fordson Tractor," and "Trucks." The ongoing effort of Pa trying to appease Ma was humorous and so true of most marriages. I was very touched with the account of Carl in "The Parting." "A Pig in the Rumble Seat" highlights Hujsak's subtle humor and genius for using word pictures that enhance the reader's visualization of every detail of the each incident in the story.
Hujsak's poetry is well worth pondering, beautiful, contemplative thoughts on nature, the Cuban Missle Crisis, the results of applied force, and the promise of life. His care for details in his fictional pieces and his use of regional and ethnic dialects in his dialog add realism to his stories.
I was awed by the photos included of the Tiger team, standing in front of Atlas with the first Centaur upper stage and the liftoff of Atlas Model "E" from Vandenberg Air Force Base and found the accounts of this era filled with interesting facts new to me.
Articulate and brilliant, Hujsak is a natural communicator with a gift for telling stories that keep you "listening" or in this case reading. "A Pig in the Rumble Seat" is excellent entertainment, refreshing, and skillfully packed with a balance of information and story.

Nicky the Flying Fish


Madlen Krushev (1998)
The Magical Realm of Books
ISBN 9780982042601
Reviewed by Madeline (age 7) and Sophia (age 5.5) McElroy for Reader Views (9/08)

MP3 File
Madeline: I thought this was an interesting short story book about Nicky the flying fish. It was fun to read. I learned a lot about rainbow fish. I think I liked the drawings as much as the story. It was funny when Nicky started flying to reach the sun, she kept jumping and jumping. I really like all the designs in the inside covers and front page. I think both boys and girls would like to read this book. If you like fish and the ocean you would enjoy this book. Nicky's Mom, Rainbow is really colorful; she has pretty eyelashes. I like her a lot. I hope there are more books about Nicky!
Sophia: This is an awesome, happy book about rainbow fish. My favorite part is when Nicky started flying; it looked like fun. I thought the pictures were nice. This book was a little hard to read, but it wasn't too long, it was just right.
Parent Comment: "Nicky the Flying Fish" by Madlen Krushev is very colorful (a bit busy) -- the girls really enjoyed the artwork as one can tell from the comments above. I wasn't too excited about the content, but they seemed delighted with it.  I felt the quality of the book (paper choice for cover), binding and the typesetting was sub-par.