Archive for the ‘ Classic Books ’ Category

Did You See Anna Karenina?

Tuesday, November 20th, 2012

In my excitement about The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2, I neglected another highly-anticipated book-to-movie adaptation, Anna Karenina.

Did you see Anna Karenina last weekend? Or did your husband insist on Skyfall or Lincoln? Or, more likely, since having kids, do you get out to the movies about as often as you get a hot stone massage?

If you haven’t read Anna Kareninawhich would take roughly 33 hours and 24 minutes–try out this new flick starring Keira Knightly and Jude Law (2 hours, 10 minutes, done). The lavish, tragic tale may be old, but it’s ripe and juicy. The famed author Leo Tolstoy weaves together searing social commentary with epic love and tragedy. I listened to this book on a cassette tape with my mom during a 1400-mile car ride. Oh, the ending. We cried. And I better just leave it at that.

I’m a sucker for adapted late 1800s classic literature on screen. Give me Keira Knightly any day. I live for Price and Prejudice. Or maybe I break for Jane Eyre. That’s a tough call. Note to husband: Accents and period costumes are much bigger turn ons than James Bond.

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Halloween: Why Kids Need Scary Stories

Wednesday, October 31st, 2012

Scared to read a spooky story to your kids? Don’t be! Heather Shumaker, author of the brilliant book It’s Okay Not To Share explains why monsters and not-so-happy endings are good for kids. Thanks, Heather, for this great guest post:

Last week we checked the Legend of Sleepy Hollow out of the library. I realized my kids didn’t know the story, and the spooky Headless Horseman is so captivating that I was eager to share this American classic.

On the drive home, my four-year-old looked at the pictures while I retold the story aloud. Midway through, I stopped. How did this version end? When the sinister Horseman hurls the pumpkin, does Ichabod Crane still die? The original story has a dire end: all that’s left is poor Ichabod’s hat. Did this picture book version change things to protect kids and “pretty up” the ending?

Kids need monsters, bad guys and sad endings in their books. Not every story should end with the hero dying, of course, but those that do are especially powerful. When the fox snaps up the Gingerbread Boy, it’s fascinating to kids. And realistic. The natural behavior of the fox is to eat its prey. The story doesn’t shield kids from the consequence of foolishness.

Trolls and ogres persist because they have a rightful place. First, storybook monsters make the story exciting–hugely important for kids to gain a love of reading. They also present a powerful obstacle. The troll under the bridge in the Three Billy Goats Gruff is a worthy adversary. Kids learn that tough, scary trolls may bar the way, but even trolls can be overcome with perseverance and cleverness.

Kids have all sorts of monsters to face in real life – from monsters under the bed to challenges and fears as they grow. For some fears come in the form of big dogs, school or thunderstorms.  At this time of year, Halloween masks and costumes may scare young kids (even if the outfit is a cheerful clown suit). These fears are legitimate and intensely real. Exposing kids to scary pictures or movies can make fears worse—visual images are so intense—but telling stories can help.  Stories with monsters frequently depict a brave hero who soldiers on through all difficulties–modeling traits of persistence and the courage to confront fears.

Stories are a safe way for children to grapple with fears, understand the world and explore morals and emotions. Hearing sad stories (Charlotte’s Web, Old Yeller, The Red Balloon) touches our hearts, builds empathy, and makes us all more deeply human. Bad endings help us understand the world. They teach resilience. It’s good for kids to learn that misfortune is part of life, that problems are normal and happen to everyone, and that sometimes things don’t work out the way you want them to.

So this Halloween, embrace those monsters. Read a story or two which doesn’t end happily ever after. And let imaginations take off when they hear about Ichabod Crane’s hat and the end of his wild ride.

What were your favorite non-happy ending stories?  Would you change those endings for your kids now?

Heather Shumaker is the author of It’s OK Not to Share…And Other Renegade Rules for Raising Competent and Compassionate Kids . She blogs about writing and renegade parenting at Starlighting Mama.

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Amazon e-Book Settlement: How Much Will We Get?

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

Like me, you probably got the email this weekend from Amazon with the subject “Kindle Book Credit.” I opened it hoping Jeff Bezos was going to give me money. After all, pigs fly.

Here’s exactly what the email stated. I read it three times to decipher the meaning. See the email for yourself and then read my take below.

To figure out what was really going on–web articles were equally confusing–I asked my studious lawyer friend to break it down. Apparently, the five major publishing houses and Apple were upset when Amazon started selling e-books much cheaper than they sold the hardback counterparts. Read: Amazon grabbed the lion’s share of buyers and, therefore, profit. Here’s an example: The list price for the hardback version of Gone Girl is $25 while the Kindle version is only $12.99. (Meanwhile, Amazon sells the hardback at $13.94 which crushes local bookstore prices–this is a separate but related issue.) In an effort to combat Amazon’s dominance and to stay afloat, the publishing houses and Apple “colluded” to raise the price of e-books. They created ‘agency model’ pricing, meaning that the publishers set the price of e-books, not Amazon, and gave Amazon a percentage of each sale (30 in this case). In a traditional wholesale market, the supplier (book publishers) sells the product to the retailer (Amazon), and the retailer can name whatever price it sees fit.

The Department of Justice said, “Hold up,”* to the agency model and sued the publishers and Apple. The DoJ’s legal stance was this: “Price fixing is illegal, yo.” Long story short, three publishers don’t want to fight this battle anymore. Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins said, “We’re out. Take our money and leave us alone.” They put $69 million into a fund to pay back buyers for their fixed prices. This is the money that Amazon (and Barnes and Noble) will supposedly give back to us after a hearing in February. This is obviously a blow to the agency model’s cause. But Apple and the two other publishers aren’t giving up. They’re headed to court in coming months.

So, if you bought an e-book published by Hachette, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins on the internet between April 1, 2010 and May 21, 2012, you are entitled to a refund. Amazon stated in its email that the credits will arrive automatically, and consumers don’t need to do anything. (Pigs may grow wings.)

I’m so psyched! I’m going to receive anywhere from 30 cents to $1.32 for every book I bought that falls under the terms of the settlement. I purchased 43 books on Kindle in that time frame. I have no idea how many were published by Hachette, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, but best case scenario, I’ll get 43 x $1.32 = $56.76. Worst case, I’ll get nothing. I have no idea how or who is determining the refund policies.

So, yes, Amazon meant it when they wrote, “We have good news.” They are on their way setting whatever prices they want. This means e-books will probably become cheaper for consumers. Meanwhile, the American Booksellers Association–i.e. the local bookstores–are not happy. As e-book sales grow, their bound books will be more difficult to sell.

Did I make this clearer, or did I just confuse you more? I tried. It’s a hot-button topic for bookish people, and far saucier than 50 Shades of Grey.

I’m on the fence and see valid points on both sides of the issue. But no matter how we feel about it, we need to do one thing. If we like our local bookstores, we have to show them some love. And we must do it often, or they might be empty this time next year.

*quotes may not be exact

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Oldie But Goodie: ‘You Can’t Make Me’

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

First out in 1999, a new revised and updated version of You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded) by Cynthia Ulrich Tobias, M. Ed., hits book stores today. It’s all about living with the strong-willed child without constantly wanting to shoot yourself in the foot. How do you know if you have one?

You just know. Estelle, my 6-year-old twin daughter, bosses us around. She knows what I should wear and how I should do my hair. She plays long after her lights are out. When she doesn’t get her way, she stomps up the stairs, slams the door and screams, “You hate me!” (For the record, we don’t hate her.) When she was four, she buckled her brother and sister’s seat belts for them in the car. Nice, right? But when they finally wanted to complete this task themselves, Estelle screamed. She had lost some power and control she had over them.

Being strong-willed isn’t a bad trait, Tobias writes. These kids aren’t stubborn, defiant, difficult and argumentative. Those are bad behaviors of a strong will that has taken a wrong turn. Instead, this is a very positive thing to be. “A strong-willed person is not easily daunted or discouraged, holds firm convictions and doesn’t often accept defeat…is fiercely loyal, determined to succeed and often extraordinarily devoted to accomplishing goals,” Tobias writes.

The book speaks to parents of toddlers all the way through high school. I especially like the chapter about handling a meltdown.What do you do when your kid is writhing on the floor at church because you won’t let her pick the flowers on the alter? How do you react when your normally well-mannered kid refuses to say goodbye and thank you to a mom on a playdate? Tobias has written many helpful and popular child-rearing tomes, and she knows what she’s talking about. Here are some of her best tips:

Managing a Meltdown Crisis
1. Back off. Talking to a kid who’s lost her temper slowly and loudly won’t work. Neither will yelling, screaming or threatening. Take a deep breath and say to the child, “I’m going to pretend you didn’t just say that.” Then walk away. Refuse to be pulled into the argument or baited into losing your cool. Deal with the problem after the tantrum–when you’ve both calmed down.

2. Let her make decisions. Give her ownership and responsibility to help her maintain control over her own actions and decisions. Make her believe that she’s she’s got a say in her bed time. She’ll be more cooperative when she feels you’ve taken her opinions into consideration.

3. Be honest. If you lose your cool with your kid, don’t be afraid to tell her you’re sorry. Tell her how it’s going to go down the next time. A strong-willed child can smell BS a block away, and she will act out if she thinks you’re pulling a fast one on her. By all means, don’t be indecisive or tentative when you deal with her. She’ll eat you alive if you’re weak. Just be clear on what you want and true to your word. You have to be a person she wants to love and respect.

Estelle’s latest thing is to write simple sentences on Post-Its she leaves around the house–and all over the floor. Her first written words are things like, “Eat your dinner,” “I am older than my brother,” and “I play my way.” Do you have a strong-willed child? What kinds of things does she or he do?

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YA Friday: NPR Tells Us Which Kid Lit is Best

Friday, August 10th, 2012

I’m kind of confused on why NPR is rating children’s literature, but rate they did. They came out with a “scientific” list of the top 100 young adult books of all time. I’m still scratching my head. Shouldn’t they be broadcasting the European debt crisis on BBC and pondering the makings of a gunman on All Things Considered? Whatevs.

Then all the book writers had something to bitch say about it. The Atlantic applauds the NPR list for being dominated by female authors and protagonists but manages to put down the reasons why we all love the genre so much. (It’s not that simplistic, and we’re not “adverse to nuance.”) The Guardian ponders why Diana Wynne Jones is all the way down at number 36. And one of my favorite websites, Forever Young Adult, complained that there was’t enough Meg Cabot while John Green got five nods–and why did NPR think Lord of the Rings is YA?

Best-of lists always stir controversy, and that’s probably what NPR intended. They got a lot of attention, and who doesn’t love getting some of that? But my point is that NPR’s opinion is this week’s big book story, and I’m not complaining. I’m always thrilled to see people–adults no less–obsess over young adult literature.

So, how many of the 100 have you read? I checked off 36.

Below, see NPR’s Top Ten YA Novels of all time (with links to Forever YA’s book reviews):


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