Book Review: Fish In A Tree (MG) by Lynda Mullaly Hunt

Book Review: Fish In A Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt  (2015) (MG) 3.5 Stars ***1/2

“Everybody is smart in different ways. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its life believing it is stupid.” This is the message of the book. Sixth-grader Ally Nickerson is dyslexic which means she has difficulty in learning to read which carries over to difficulty in writing words. Words may be seen as backwards or moving on the page. This book purports that Ally’s teachers, parents, and friends are not aware of her limitations. According to the story, Ally acts out or charms her way out of assignments to cover up her problem. Really? She made it to sixth grade and everyone in her life is none the wiser? At the end of the book, we discover that Ally’s seventeen year old hard-working, focused, responsible brother Travis suffers from the same problem and has hidden it also. It’s this unrealistic portrayal combined with other unrealistic events that warrants fewer stars for an otherwise charming story.

Ally receives a lot of snide remarks from the class mean girls. Characters are stereotypical. Rich bitches, weak geeks, poor paragons. Ally is sent to the principal’s office for sending a sympathy card to her teacher who is going on maternity leave. Ally sees the pretty yellow flowers on the card and believes it to be a happy card. Supposedly, she cannot read the words that express sympathy and is unaware that the card is inappropriate. Again, very unrealistic that a non-reader such as this can hide her problems, and who would be sent to the principal for sending the wrong kind of card?

Ally’s father is deployed in the army as a tank commander. As an army brat, Ally has been in seven schools in seven years. It is my understanding that families of service people generally congregate in the same areas near army bases, so this depiction of Ally being the only one in school in this situation may not be accurate. While this bit of back story  might serve to explain how Ally has not been diagnosed, it doesn’t explain how Ally’s mother misses the mark on her daughter’s and her son’s situations.

The new teacher, Mr. Daniels, suspects Ally’s problems with reading and writing and gently allows her to complete her assignments in different modalities which allow her to use her other itelligences. In time, he tutors her in reading and raises her self-esteem. This changes her behavior and Ally is voted class president. Ally makes two new friends, Keisha and Albert, who encourage and support her.

Ally now deduces that Travis shares her reading and writing problems and engages Mr. Daniels to tutor her brother.

A happy ending for all.

 

Author’s Note: Dyslexia has nothing to do with intelligence. This reading/writing disability is a visual perception problem.  Dyslexic students may spell the same word different ways on the same page, reverse letters in writing words, and be sensitive to the contrast between a white page and dark print. Headaches are common because of eye strain in forcing the eyes to focus. Special help is generally recommended. It’s also a good idea to use an index card under each line of print to reduce the number of words seen at one time and to help keep a straight line of vision.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Book Signing: NY Authors Group at Starbucks, Bay Terrace, Bayside, NY Dec. 7, 2019

Please Join Us! New York Authors Group Book Signings
Starbucks
Bay Terrace Shopping Center
Saturday, December 7, 2019
1pm-4pm 

Tracy Auerbach, Debbie De Louise, Elaine Donadio, Lisa Diaz Meyer, Andrea Roche

Thank You for Your Service, Dad—Sgt. Vincent A Donadio, WWII, South Pacific

Dear Dad,
Thank you for your service as a Military Police Sergeant 27 Infantry Division in the South Pacific during WWII. This is your memorial brick which is part of the first installation at the National WWII Museum, New Orleans, LA.  Rest In Peace                      

 May eternal light shine upon you…

Book Review: Merci Suarez Changes Gears by Meg Medina (Middle Grade)

Book Review: Merci Suarez Changes Gears (2019) by Meg Medina (Middle Grade)
3 Stars ***

So, here we have a 2019 Newberry Medal winner that is, at best, a mediocre story with mediocre plot advancement, little character development, poor transitions, choppy writing, lack of focus, too many characters and situations with way too much telling and not enough showing, and too many details in all the wrong places. I found myself reading and re-reading paragraphs many times. What was the author talking about? I didn’t figure out the point of the story until I was 3/4 through when she finally wrote a few sentences in a row that followed a thread that continued until the ending. Finally! This book did not win the medal for its literary excellence. This book came at the right time in history, when what you’re writing about, rather than how you write it, wins awards.

Lots of Spanish words and phrases make this book particularly relatable and more easily comprehended by English language learners.

We start out with our main character, Mercedes Suarez (Merci), a sixth-grader at the elite Florida Seaward Pines Academy located in what the author hints to be Palm Beach County. Merci’s family is working class Cuban American. Her family is tightly knit and always in each other’s business, while offering unwavering support and help without hesitation. This multi-generational family live on the same block in three casitas, one after the other. Marci lives with her hardworking, responsible parents and seventeen year old brother, Roli. Loving grandparents Abuela and Lolo are next, with the third house occupied by bakery owner, overworked Tia Ines and her twin five year old out-of-control sons. Merci and her brother are required to help with responsibilities in all three households—babysitting the twin terrors, accompanying Abuela and Lolo when they leave the house, working in Tia Ines’ bakery on weekends, and various other obligations.

Merci is in her second year of Seaward Pines Academy, an elite school frequented by wealthy, serious, well-behaved students. Merci ‘s family cannot pay tuition, so she must perform community service for the privilege. Merci’s father tells her, “Do a good job, so they know we’re serious people.” Sixth-graders are required to mentor new students by showing them the ropes. Merci is assigned as a Sunshine Buddy to the very white, very nice, very handsome, very popular Michael. Yuck He’s a boy! Not everyone shares these feelings. This pairing causes passive-aggressive revenge tactics from wealthy, assertive, in-your-face Edna, who torments everyone but now leaves extra room to undermine Merci every chance she gets.

Don’t get the idea that Merci is a victim or a shrinking violet. Not true. In all fairness, Merci’s quick temper and lack of critical thinking skills are the culprits that land her in the principal’s office. For example, Merci accidentally hits a fast ball into Michael’s mouth, sending him to the hospital. Then, oblivious to the consequences, Merci cuts Edna out of the plastered mummy costume which encases Edna’s head, not realizing she cut off Edna’s eyebrows in the process. Not intentionally, of course, but she’s generally unmindful of consequences.

Merci has a special bond with her grandparents. When Lolo shows signs of Alzheimer’s Disease, Merci is furious with her family for not telling her about her grandfather’s condition. This is where the story was headed! In this coming of age story, the title takes on a special significance as Merci is given a beautiful, grown-up bike while gaining perception and appreciation of her family, their flaws, strengths, and natural life cycles. Merci demonstrates this by making a family photo album for her grandfather, capturing family members in every day activities, hair uncombed, crumbs on their chins, in the middle of doing chores and caring for their family. Until now, not thought of as special, but Merci now understands the gift of love they all share.

Merci realizes, “But there are other things I wished for even harder than this bike, and I know I won’t get them, no matter what. Important things, like wishing that Lolo wasn’t sick and that everything could stay the same.

“Then again, staying the same means that Tia Ines might not have the chance to love Simon. It means Roli wouldn’t go to college and get even smarter. It means that I wouldn’t grow up at all. Staying the same could be just as sad as Lolo changing.

“I don’t know what is going to happen next year, no one does. But that’s OK.

“I can handle it, I decide. It’s just a harder gear, and I am ready. All I have to do is take a deep breath and ride.”

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Please Borrow My Books From the Public Libraries!

Great news! Printed copies of my books can now be borrowed from Queens, Nassau and Suffolk County Libraries in New York. Request an inter-library loan!

Queens Libraries—Bay Terrace, Central(Jamaica), and Whitestone 

Nassau Libraries—Manhasset, Port Washington, Syosset

Suffolk Libraries— East Hampton, Huntington

The digital copies are available in Queens Public Library and may be available in other library systems throughout the country. If your library cannot provide access to these books, please ask them to purchase in digital or paperback formats to add to their collection.

The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

Happy reading! If you do decide to borrow my books from the library, please remember to write a review on the library website.

Thanks,

Elaine

Please let me know how you do. I’d love to hear from you author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live

Thanks to Mongo’s, Syosset, NY for Hosting Nov. 2 Book Signing

Thank You Mongo’s Coffee Roastery, Syosset, NY Nov. 2 Book Signing!

Debbie De Louise, Lisa Diaz Meyer, Elaine Donadio, Andrea Roche, Tracy Sanford Auerbach

Book Review: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo

Book Review: Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo (2016)  (MG) 4 Stars ****( Middle Grade Book)

We meet our main character, ten year-old Raymie Clark, on June 5, 1975, as she attempts to take baton twirling lessons from eccentric Ms. Ida Nee. Louisiana and Beverly, also in Raymie’s group, meet each other for the first time as they all decide to make baton twirling their talent so each one can enter and win the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. Events conspire to prevent any actual baton twirling from taking place. Unforgiving Ms. Nee looks at any delay as an excuse to refuse to teach the girls. No one learns baton twirling, but the trio establish a much-needed supportive friendship which quite literally saves lives.

Initial impressions are dispelled as the girls slowly reveal the truth about their situations. Sunny Raymie, living with her kind, responsible mother, is heartbroken since her insurance agency owner father ran away on June 3 with the town dental hygienist without saying good-bye. Fragile Louisiana, prone to fainting spells, is being raised by her eccentric grandmother since the supposed death of her flying trapeze act parents in a drowning accident. Feisty Beverly lives with alcoholic, physically abusive mother since her father left Florida to become a cop in New York City. The girls are desperate for loving attention, answers, and support. They give it to each other as they also receive it from responsive adults in the community.

At first competitors for the crown, they judge Louisiana to be the most needy and deserving of the $1,975 prize money and encourage her to use her beautiful singing voice as her talent. The Three Rancheros, as Louisiana names the group, support Raymie through the death of a beloved neighbor, save a pitiful howling dog from the dog shelter, and help Raymie retrieve her book about Florence Nightingale from the senior nursing home. Beverly, always the independent, unconventional voice of reason, picks locks to illegally enter premises to achieve what they set out to do.

In the end, Raymie literally saves Louisiana from certain death by drowning and is eternally grateful to her swimming instructor who taught her how to save Louisiana before he went away, remembering to say good-bye before he left. Raymie is now known as Raymie Nightingale. “It was the easiest thing in the world to save somebody. For the first time, she understood Florence Nightingale and her lantern and the bright and shining path. She understood why Edward Option ⌈the librarian⌉, had given her the book. For just a minute, she understood everything in the whole world…She was Ramie Nightingale, coming to the rescue.”

This is a simple, charming book, low key but increasingly powerful near the end. To be honest, I found it boring and uneventful in the beginning chapters and almost stopped reading. The pace picked up and the events and characters became more complex. Reading this book is like spending a lazy day where nothing seems to happen but suddenly it does. I’m happy I continued with this sweet, emotionally satisfying story.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Elaine Donadio-Book Signing-Mongo’s Coffee House, Syosset, NY

Please Join Us!                          

Mongo’s Coffee Roastery      
170 Michael Drive
Syosset, NY
Saturday, Nov. 2
11:00am—2:00pm

My Book Titles
The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

 

Book Review: The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped In An Ikea Wardrobe by Romain Puertolas

Book Review: The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir Who Got Trapped In An Ikea Wardrobe (2014) by Romain Puertolas 5 Stars *****

Hilarious! Zany! Clever! Fans of the 2014 movie The Grand Budapest Hotel will love this book.  Unique! Anyone who has ever experienced Ikea, will recognize the truth of the jokes. This book was a best seller in France and has been published in 35 countries. Born in France and having lived in Spain and the United Kingdom, this author’s background affords him an insightful perspective—DJ, singer-songwriter, language teacher, translator-interpreter, and steward—and now he adds internationally acclaimed author to his list of accomplishments. This story entertains on one level, but on a serious note, addresses the plight of the many emigrants who flee dangerous political and social situations, near starvation, disease, and the inability to adequately care for their families, hoping to find jobs in the “good countries” so they may move their families and/or send money home to desperate families and villages.

We meet our main character, a fakir and quite the character, Ajatashatru Oghash (pronounced A-jar-of-rat-stew-oh-gosh!) when he arrives in France with the intention of going to Ikea to purchase a bed of nails which he intends to bring back to India the next day, unassembled, of course. Having forsaken his traditional garb, he is wearing  a beautifully tailored western style suit. His intention is to blend in and to disarm with his charm.

This fakir (fuh-keer) lives as a con artist and happens to be exceptionally clever at his ruse. Arriving in France only with a fake €100 bill, he pays his gypsy cab driver taxi fare and purchases the bed of 15,000 nails with this same printed on one side only bill, which he steals back as soon as he uses it for payment. He manages to acquire additional money but his negative balance dictates that he spend the night in Ikea. He winds up hiding in a wardrobe which gets shipped out of the country.

On his what-turns-out-to-be- a journey of a multitude of countries, Ajatashatru manages to fall in love and win the heart of a beautiful woman, meet a famous movie star, acquire a book deal making him an overnight international sensation, become famously wealthy, all while running away from the gypsy cab driver who he stiffed for the fare at the beginning of the story and who vows to poke holes in Ajatshatru with his sharp gypsy knife.

At the end, our hero decides he has outgrown India but vows to share his wealth and opportunities with the family he left behind and a number of struggling immigrants he encounters on his journey to a new life. Giving and sharing are far superior to hoarding for oneself. “For the first time in his life, the Indian removed the piercings from his ears and his fleshy lips and haved his mustache, taking as much care as if this were his last day on Earth. This was, in fact, the final act in his metamorphosis and disappearance. The fakir had evaporated forever in the steamy bathroom, and a writer had been born.”

This book would make a great movie. I hope someone takes up the challenge.

 

Please let me know your thoughts. I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at author@elainedonadio.com.

I wish you all a life inspired by the wonder of the world around us. May you find and live your truth, in harmony with people, nature and the environment. May you be a force for good and a source of love and comfort. May the world be a better place for you having lived and loved here.

All rights reserved 2019

Elaine Donadio-Book Signing-Mongo’s Coffee House, Syosset, NY

Please Join Us!                          

Mongo’s Coffee Roastery      
170 Michael Drive
Syosset, NY
Saturday, Nov. 2
11:00am—2:00pm

My Book Titles
The Science Project
The Ocean’s Way
Who Do Voodoo?
The Ocean’s Way Poetry Companion
Sojourn Into The Night—A Memoir of the Peruvian Rainforest

 

 

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