book · reviews

Palisades Park- Book review

Palisades ParkI began reading Palisades Park by Alan Brennert before we left for Hershey and finished it up on the trip. It worked out to be the perfect story to read right before traveling to a theme park. While I am way too young to have ever experienced Palisades Park, and I didn’t grow up in NJ, I at least had heard of Palisades Park before reading this story.

Palisades Park begins by telling you the back story of how Eddie and Adele met and fell in love at Palisades Park in the 1930s. Eddie had left home as a teenager and started off by jumping from carnival to carnival. He would take any carnival job he could get and then hop on the nearest train and find another carnival to join and make a bit of money.  He then decided to get off the train back in NJ and go to Palisades Park, the place he remembers from his youth with a smile. Adele began her life working for her father as an actor, but when the movie industry moved to CA, her father stayed in NJ. Adele got a job working at a root beer stand at Palisades Park.

Eddie and Adele get married when she gets pregnant.  They decide to purchase a French Fry stand in Palisades Park and work it together. They have a beautiful daughter which they named Antoinette. Antoinette, who decides to refer to herself as Toni, much to her mother’s chagrin. She enjoys playing with her brother Jack and the rest of the boys in the neighborhood. She spends her days at Palisades where she meets Bunty Hill who teaches her to swim and later dive right in the pool at Palisades.

Toni’s family has to learn to deal with the Great Depression, Eddie enlisting in World War II, the Palisades Park fires, discrimination and so much more. Can the family survive the changes and growing up and growing apart that takes place in life? Will Toni figure out how to reach her own goals in a world that sees her as just a girl? Can Jack find his place in the world? Will Eddie find a way to keep his head above water after the war? Will Adele ever find a way to accomplish her dream of being a movie star?

This was a great historical fiction. I enjoyed this story and felt it was an easy read. There were things that were predictable, but it didn’t make the story feel predictable. You will find yourself wanting to read what happens next. The story begins with Eddie as a boy himself and ends after Palisades Park closes in 1971. I enjoyed the fact that Toni was given a backbone and stood up for what she believed in during a time when it was frowned upon. I also enjoyed reading more about the life of the people who worked in Palisades. It gives you enjoy of a glimpse into the backstage life of the workers and their relationships. Being at Hershey while reading this I noticed many of the rides mentioned in this book as well it gave me an appreciation for the people who choose to work in the parks.

I encourage you to pick up Palisades Park by Alan Brennert, I know I will be looking at other books written by him.

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book · Education · family · life · reviews

Grit- part 1 — seeing grit in yourself and children

Grit BookI have been reading the book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance by Angela Duckworth. I haven’t finished reading it just yet, but I wanted to share some of my insights to this point.

Grit is a term that was starting to be tossed around in education before I left teaching. Grit is the stick-to-it-ness of people. This book dives into how grit comes about and how it effects each person in their lives.

I have always felt that I am rather gritty in life. I know that I am in my career path. I am a make a goal, stick to the goal type of person. I know that life isn’t perfect. I know that I am not perfect. I also know that I need to stick to the things that I want to accomplish and that both the successes and failures will assist me in growing in my career. I look at each academic year, each new class of children, as an opportunity to grow and develop as a teacher.

I have over the years seen the difference between a child who has grit and those who do not. So much of education and assumed to be based on ability. While having a high ability often makes school easier, it is not the only factor in a child’s success in school. Over the years the children who have made the biggest impact on me are the ones who work hard and overcome the deficits they come to me with. The kindergartners who did not go to preK and hardly know how to write their name and leave writing sentences. The children who come into the classroom not speaking English and leave as fluent readers and writers. The children who do not recognize their numbers and leave understanding addition and subtraction.

But it isn’t only the students who go from below grade level to on grade level who have grit. Some of the children who I worked with that had the most grit were my special needs children. The ones who fight through the pain, both physical and educational pains. The children who struggle to speak in complete sentences who want nothing more than for you to listen to their story.

What I have seen, in my own sons, as well as many gifted children, is that the gifted children often develop grit later than others. Children who learning come easy to do not have to push themselves to gain academic knowledge. They do not have to work to learn, it just happens. So what do we do for these students? How do we help them gain the passion and perseverance to grow in life? How do we help them learn to overcome adversity and move on with life? This in itself is a form of learned helplessness. They feel that they can do anything so when things do not go smoothly they do not know what to do next.

For Blake, he hit this struggle this year. In math this year he actually had to work. He needed to practice the skills worked on in class. He struggled to complete homework assignments and needed to learn to ask for help. He needed to see that even if he got things wrong the first time he could go back and try again. He is learning that life isn’t simple. That all learning isn’t just a matter of showing up and then knowing how to do everything. One of the big things that Richard and I did was let him struggle. He needed to fail. He needed to see that even after he failed he could do it.

As parents we want our children to be successful. We want our children to feel pride. But, are we giving them true pride by using empty praise? When we do things for our children what are we telling them? What happens when you praise a child for their ability and not their practice? What happens when everything easy? How do we push children without hurting them? Is it bad for them to feel hurt from time to time, or will that actually encourage them to step up and try again harder next time?

How do you find that fine line between helping and hurting. If you do too much you are inviting a feeling of learned helplessness. If you do not help enough at certain times are you also bringing on those same feelings? Where is that fine line? Do gritty parents raise gritty kids? Can you increase your level of grittiness in yourself? In your child? The answer is yes, but is isn’t easy and there are many things that must fall into place. Finding something that you are passionate about and finding the perseverance to stick to the thing you are passionate about no matter what is thrown in your way… that is grit.

 

 

book · life · reviews · Uncategorized

Star Girl and Mockingbird book reviews

This summer the boys and I got library cards. We have been going to the library every week. Each week Blake gets 7-9 books and Colby gets 5-7 books. I have been picking up 2 books each week. I am always shocked to see that we have plowed through the books and are ready to return them the next week.

The last two weeks Colby has been choosing books off a list we found of books for children who liked the Wonder series. He asked me to read one last week and one this week.

Book - Stargirl by Jerry SpinelliLast week he had me read Star Girl, by Jerry Spinneli. Star Girl is written about how a school deals with “The new girl” who starts school for the first time. Leo tells the story of how Star Girl changes Mica High from the first day she arrived. Star Girl did not look, act or even think like anyone else in the school. Is it good to be THAT different? Can the positive energy and unique desire to be happy all the time, that is Star Girl, bring about a change in the culture of a whole school, or at least a few of the students there?

I really enjoyed this story and so did Colby. I believe in some ways he could relate to Star Girl. He was just the new kid and he too is very emotional, passionate and always wants people to be happy. Now don’t get me wrong he doesn’t dress crazy, or call himself a unique name, or go out of his way to feel that different, but he knows his personality draws people in and makes them happy.  This is a YA book and one that is a good read for teen and tweens. The story is written from the voice of Leo and how he reacts to Star Girl. Both male and female readers can relate to this story.Book - Mockingbird by Kathryn Erskine

Colby and I both plowed through the book Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine yesterday. It’s not that the book was super short, it was just that good. Caitlin is in the fifth grade. She is bight, a gifted reader and a talented artist. Caitlin also has Asperger’s syndrome. Before, her brother Devon helped her negotiate how to fit into a world that makes little to no sense to her. But, then the unspeakable happened. Devon was killed in a school shooting. Her father doesn’t no know to deal with his own emotions never mind those of his daughter. The school counselor tries to help Caitlin see that with a little guidance she can understand empathy and then understand how to help herself and so many other people in her life that are hurting after this tragedy.

This book is a good ready for anyone! It was an interesting look into the thought process of a child with Asperger’s. I have taught children with this and I could relate. I have know children with his and see how they just don’t fit in even when they don’t realize they don’t fit in. They see the world through their own set of eyes. This book did an excellent job of showing how important it is to see each person for their strengths and that if you just step back and look at the person for their strengths and not the aspects of why they don’t fit in you may see you have more in common than you realize.

The theme of school shooting plays a back plot in this book. It is not discussed in great details, but more deals with how this effects those left behind. The purpose seemed to be to connect a variety of characters to the same tragedy. This is something that is being addressed in schools on a regular basis, and helping children see how the shooting effects more than just the victims themselves may help children see this act in a new light as well.  (this is also a YA story)

book · reviews

The Secret, Book & Scone Society

When we went to the library last week, I only planned on picking up The Elite. Colby wanted to go upstairs to the non-fiction section so I decided to go check out the fiction section while I was there. I found myself browsing through the new book section

ellery adams' THE SECRET, BOOK & SCONE SOCIETYWhile I was looking at the shelves the title of this book drew me in: The Secret, Book & Scone Society, by Ellery Adams. How could I walk away from a book that has both book and scone in the title? This book is a mystery which I enjoy but don’t read as often as I do other types of fiction.

Miracle Springs North Carolina was a picturesque town. People flooded here from “the city” to bask in the tranquil nature to take advantage of the natural springs, five star restaurants and inn. While there they found so much more.

Nora who owns Miracle Books will help the visitors find the best books to read to help them heal what ails them. Many of these visitors also visit The Gingerbread House owned by Hester to get her famous comfort scones.

When a visiting business man reaches out to both Nora and Hester for help, and then if found dead on the local train tracks, the town is turned on edge. Through this the Secret, Book & Scone Society was formed. Can a group of women who all have their own daemons to deal with ban together to discover the truth? Can the find friendship and healing, or will they keep their own secrets guarded as well as their hearts?

I enjoyed this story. It was a mystery, but even more than that it was a book about trust. It is about women working together to find the strength to deal with the past and move onto the future. Can they learn to trust each other enough to help each other while helping themselves.

I know I will be searching for more books by this author tomorrow when I head back to the library!

 

 

book · reviews

The Elite– book review

When I posted about reading The Selection by Kiera Cass, many of you said you felt the story sounded interesting and that you would like to hear if I read the second book. Well… I did! This week the boys and I went to the library and the first book I picked up for myself was The Elite.

If you want to refresh your memory about what happens in The Selection, you can read my post here.

35 girls arrived to steal the heart of the prince, and now only 6 remain. America Singer still doesn’t know what she wants to do. Who should she love? Does she stay and try to become the princess or leave and go back to her first love?

America went into the selection feeling that the whole process was wrong. She envisioned the prince picking based on looks, politics and/or other reasons than love. She saw that many of the girls involved were more in getting the crown than loving the man. But that all changed the more she got to know Maxon. Now she doesn’t know what to think.

America learns more about how Illea comes to be as well as why they now live in a caste system. What does she do with this new found information? Will it change how she feels about Maxon and the possibility of becoming a princess?

I can tell you this…. I’m ready to head back to the library and pick up the next book in the series!

 

book · reviews

Hello Love– book review

You can tell it is summer by the rate I am reading books. Or maybe it is because I have been reading lighter stories lately. Last night I finished reading Hello Love, by Karen McQuestion.

This is a really cute story, predictable, but cute.

Hello Love by [McQuestion, Karen]Dan lives with his daughter Lindsay and their dog Anni. Anni, so named because Dan’t wife Christine gave Dan Anni for their anniversary. Christine passed away a year ago of cancer and Dan is trying to hold all the pieces of their lives together. Every night Anni waits for Christine to come home, which makes it hard for Dan since he knows his beloved Christine will never return again.

Meanwhile… Andrea is dealing with moving past her recent divorce from Marco. Her friend Jade drags her off on an outing where Andrea is expected to push away all the negatives of her life and as the cosmos for something more positive. Andrea plays along even though she doesn’t believe it will work.

One day Lindsay lets Anni out and she is “dognapped” from their driveway. Lindsay and Dan are devastated.

Andrea, who works for a management company, get a complaint of an illegal dog. She finds the dog there and feels the dog is being abused. Instead of calling the police, she takes the dog and claims it as her own.

Dan and Andrea’s paths cross from time to time. Will they ever realize the connection they truly have. Can they each find what they are searching for in life?

This is a great summer/beach read (even if half the book is set in the winter… that’s not important). It is an easy read where even if you know what is going to happen you want to continue to read to make sure all is right in the world. There are a less predictable moments, and those help to keep the story rolling. If you like dogs and want a happy ending story, then Hello Love by, Karen McQuestion is a good book to pick up.

 

book · reviews

The Selection- book review

Over the weekend I finished reading The Selection by Kiera Cass. I picked it up as a free book through Amazon Prime. I’m noticing that they have a lot of first in a series books as part of the prime books.  Of course… suck you in with a good story and then you are willing to pay for the rest of the series? Well this is on series that I am considering giving in and paying for.  But, I’m getting ahead of myself, let me tell you about the book.

This book is set post World War 4. When the world we know it doesn’t exist. There is now a royal family and caste system in place. Moving between castes is near impossible, especially for females. Well that is unless you are part of the “Selection”. Thirty-five girls, one from each region will be selected out of the masses, and this selection will change their lives. For one… the biggest change of all.

America Singer wants nothing to do with being part of the selection. She loves Aspen, but he is in a lower caste. Can they figure out how to make this love work? When America’s name is called as the selected girl from her region, she is shocked and still critical of the whole process. But, when she meets Prince Maxon, she begins to think of life differently.

What will happen when America goes from her “just good enough” home to living in the castle? Will she get along with the other girls? Will she make it past day one never mind to the end of the selection process?

I really enjoyed this story. It reminded me a lot of The Hunger Games, without the whole making children kill each other part. The world is again that post apocalyptic state of the world. There is a government that is ruling over the world that holds everyone into a caste system. The government is a royalty who is searching for the right person to marry their heir. They are searching among the masses to show that anyone can be the next princess, even though the system set in place makes it difficult to move up and crazy to move down.

I found myself sucked into this story and wanting to join America in her adventures. I found myself running the gamete of emotions with her and now I need to get the next book since this one left off with 6 girls still in the selection process. I guess I’m off to find “The Elite” Hmmm maybe I can get it at the library? If not, I will pay to download it on my kindle… it’s that good.

book · reviews

Match Making for Beginners- book review

Every month Amazon had 10 or so new books available as free Kindle books through Amazon First Reads.

Matchmaking cover

In May, I picked up the book Match Making for Beginners, by Maddie Dawson.

Marnie McGraw wanted “an ordinary life”. She wanted the house, husband, children and relationship that everyone said she needed to have for her life to be perfect. She thought she found the right person in bad boy/rich kid turned teacher Noah. But, when he gets cold feet and tries to leave her before they even get to the alter, she should believed that nothing good was going to come out of the relationship. Little did she know that what came out of the time with Noah was meeting his great aunt Blix.

Blix is the aunt that no one in the family ever seems to understand. But, when Blix meets Marnie she believes the connection they have is beyond that anyone could explain.

Blix is a matchmaker who uses magical spells to help her “projects” find happiness. She surrounds herself a ragtag group of characters who love Blix for being… Blix. The understood that Blix’s intentions were to help. When Blix left her Brooklyn Brownstone to Marnie, they were not shocked. Noah and his family on the other hand were not happy at all.

Read to find out about the relationship created between Blix and Marnie. Read how Marnie learns to put herself and her choices first. Will Marnie want to stay in Brooklyn and pick up with Blix left off or will she just think that Blix is a whack job and go back to her family in Florida?

I enjoyed Match Making for Beginners, by Maddie Dawson. a lot and didn’t want to put it down at times. While it was rather predicable what was going to happen, I still found myself cheering for this ragtag group of characters that are Blix’s projects.  I would encourage you to pick this up as a light read, that will suck you into this life of love gone wrong, love gone right and the magic of everything in between.

 

book · reviews

All the Breaking Waves- book review

I can tell that summer is near, I’m reading more and more. There is something about sitting down and reading while the breeze blows, the birds chirp and the world is warm that just works. Or maybe it’s the fact that life slows down in the summer and you have more time to just sit and read? Who cares what the reason is… it’s summer and that means I’m reading more.

I finished my latest book yesterday. I’m still enjoying reading books that I can get free through Amazon Prime. This time I read All the Breaking Waves: A Novel, by Kerry Lonsdale.

Molly is an art history professor, a jewelry maker and a mother to her eight year old daughter Cassie. But, those are the easy things to understand about Molly. She has a secret or ten that she has kept from the public for years.

Molly lost both her parents on the same day just before graduating from high school. This experience altered her path and choices for the rest or her life, or so she thought. When her daughter Cassie began having premonitions about tragic experiences with her friends, Molly had no choice but to dive back into the life that is her past. Molly packs up her stuff and Cassie and heads back to the house she called home.

Molly never expected to go back to her Nana’s house in Pacific Grove, but she knew that was the best place for Cassie to get the help she needed. While there Molly has to face the many pieces of her past that she walked away from many years before.

I found myself drawn into All the Breaking Waves: A Novel. It was one of those books you knew would have a happy ending, but you keep reading just to make sure you are right. The relationships in this book feel true to life. The questions and challenges that Molly faces may not be the same as other mothers, but I think that most mom’s can relate to the challenges she is facing and the choices she makes. I would highly recommend this book.

book · reviews

Those Who Save Us- book review

Last night I finished the book Those Who Save Us, by Jenna Blum. I really enjoyed this historical fiction brings the travesties of WWII together with the effect that it had/has on those who lived through it.

Trudy is a History Professor specializing in Germany History. She teaches her students about the women who lived in Germany during the rein of Hitler. What drives her to do this? The search to find the truth about her own past.

Trudie, as she was known as a child, was born in Germany during WWII. Anna, Trudie’s mother, fled from her home when her father found out she was pregnant with Trudie. Anna moved into the local bakery and helped the baker in exchange for room and board for herself and eventually for her daughter Trudie.

Anna makes many choices during the 3 years she in Trudie live together in the bakery. Many of these decisions effect her relationship with her daughter as well as the way she feels about herself. At the end of the war, Anna marries a US soldier and moves to Minnesota.

While growing up Anna tells Trudie that she must forget all she remembers about her time in Germany. Anna will not tell Trudy anything about her past.

Now as an adult Trudy decides to take on a research project through the unversity where she interviews Germans who lived in Germany during World War II. She is searching to find out how they feel about that time and the effect it has had on their lives. Or is what she is really searching for the truth about her own past?

This book was very moving. There were many times where I had to put it down and others I didn’t want to put it down. The interviews that are accounted in the story show such diverse stories of how the people in Germany got by during this difficult time in history.

If you enjoy historical fiction about World War II, as well as gaining a better understanding of mother/daughter relationships, I encourage you to check out Those Who Save Us

 

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