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 Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens

Book Review: Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens (2019) 5 Stars *****

Delia Owens, a wildlife scientist in Africa, has astounded the world with her first novel Where the Crawdads Sing. Set in the Outer Banks marshes of North Carolina in the 1950s and 1960s, we meet six year old Kya, who has been abandoned one by one as her mother and siblings escape a drunken, abusive, irresponsible, neglectful father and literally leave her to fend for herself, each deciding to heal their emotional turmoil and physical pain in some other place, leaving the baby of the family as someone else’s responsibility.

By the time she is ten years old, Kya’s father also just walks away without explanation, leaving Kya without money, resources or hope. An outcast living in isolation and shame, Kya draws on her inner strength to find ways to generate income so she can eat and buy gasoline for her little boat that is her lifeline to the rest of the world. The Marsh Girl, as she is derisively called, grows up to be a beautiful, self-educated woman, loved and abandoned by two very different men, leaving emotional scars never to be healed, and embroiling her in scandal that haunts her for a lifetime. The ending of this book might surprise you, but then again, maybe not. Any reader understanding Kya’s innate intelligence and inner turmoil would never expect anything different from her.

Being an industrious, resourceful child, Kya generates income by selling mussels and smoked fish which enables her to subsist mostly on grits and whatever root vegetables she can grow in her marshy garden. Tate, a kind neighbor boy, teaches Kya to read, brings her books, and quietly looks after her from afar as they grow into adulthood. Kya is also befriended by Jumpin’ and his wife Mabel, an African-American couple in the rural south, who unobtrusively help and protect the proud and independent Kya. Kya’s accomplishments surpass all expectations. Living in the modern world is not an option. Kya’s beloved marsh offers a place of comfort and safety and a pathway to critical acclaim.

This book is filled with beautiful sensory images, metaphors, and similes.
Some examples:
*A floating mat of duckweed colored the water as green as the leafy ceiling, creating an emerald tunnel.
*Suddenly the ocean’s face—gray, stern, pulsing—frowned at her.
*Egrets took flight, a line of white flags against the mounting gray clouds.
*…Kya eased alone through the sea toward the village, the sky in a frumpy sweater of gray clouds.
*As evening fell, she took her blanket and slept in the marsh, close to a gully full of moon and mussels, and had two tow bags filled by dawn. Gas money.

Where do the crawdads sing? “Just means far in the bush where critters are wild, still behaving like critters.” The author emphasizes the differences between marsh and swamp. Its symbolism extends to Kia’s life journey. Keep this in mind while you enjoy the book.

 

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 Review: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis (2018) 5 Stars *****

Book Review: Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis 5 Stars *****fullsizeoutput_374a

Yes, men can follow these tips also to achieve the life they want.

The point of this book? “Stop believing the lies about who you are so you can become who you were meant to be.”  ‘The author tells us we must choose our own happiness and that we have control over our own lives. Let’s take a ride with this zany author on the road to self-discovery and self-esteem. Think it through. Set up goals. Make a plan. Then do it! ‘  Sound familiar? Yes, but have you done any of it? Or, have you decided those books were written to inspire someone else’s life? You see where I’m going here? This book is meant for YOU. Get with the program, girlfriend

“Where to start? Start with a small goal, be careful with commitments and be honest with ourselves. Go to therapy, hustle for joy, reorder our priority lists. (Make ourselves FIRST!) The secret to success? Wake up early, work the hardest, ask for help, be willing to fail over and over, and be willing to constantly improve ourselves and our brand. You don’t have permission to quit. When a voice of authority tells you’re too old, fat,__, ___, or___, they’re giving you permission to quit. Don’t listen. You do not have permission to quit. Need help? Be audacious, try alternative routes, keep our goals in plain sight. Need more help? Write it down, say it out loud, create a vision board. Need even more help? Mantras, edit media exposure, prepare in advance.”

Remember these tenets: “Someone else’s opinion of me is none of my business. Right now, in this moment, I’m my own hero. Only we have the power to change our lives.”

Final message? “Girl, get a hold of your life. Stop medicating, stop hiding out, stop being afraid, stop giving away pieces of yourself, stop saying you  can’t do it. Stop the negative self-talk, stop abusing your body, stop putting it off for tomorrow or Monday or next year. Stop crying about what happened and take control of what happens next. Get up, right now. Rise up from where you’ve been, scrub away the tears and the pain of yesterday, and start again…Girl, wash your face!

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 Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante

Book Review: My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (2012) 5 Stars *****

An excellent source book for women’s studies and sociological patterns.

Intelligent. Insightful. Thought Provoking.
Elena Ferrante will be remembered as one of the greatest novelists of all time.

Where does one start to describe this book that pierces the heart and mind with a mixture of conflicting emotions as the reader struggles to take sides and assign culpability in this truly amazing coming of age story set in the outskirts of Naples, Italy in the 1950s and 1960s? We meet the main characters Elena (Lenu), the narrator, and her best friend Raffaella (Lila), as primary grade students with a complex relationship of perpetual duality: love/frustration,  support/disinterest, trust/suspicion, understanding/judgment, admiration/resentment, emulation/rejection, cooperation/independence. The real question: Which one is truly the brilliant friend?

The characters are complex. In their early years, although opposite in personality and family circumstances, they are on the same plane. By the time middle school comes about, Lenu is a quiet, shy, studious, secretive, passive aggressive, pleasing follower while Lila is a boisterous, confrontational, elusive, rebellious, self-taught leader. Lenu’s family allows her to complete high school while Lila’s family demands that she leave school after the elementary level to help in the family business. As youngsters, Lenu is the pretty one, while as teenagers, Lila develops into the seductress. The more demanding and manipulative she is, the more the boys adore Lila. Both girls give off conflicting messages as they engage in a rivalry to establish themselves as the superior one. Lila is the first to marry at age sixteen. Despite Lila’s apparent independent strength, she is the one who is entrapped by the norms of the society in which they live, while Lenu’s education appears to open her mind to the possibility of a different way of life. This book is an excellent source for a course on women’s studies, the plight of women, or sociology in a male dominated society.

As in any poor neighborhood where the residents are struggling for basic existence, living in close quarters, and searching for ways to make money to improve their lives and provide for their families, illegal activities and violent episodes mar the tranquility of daily life. Point, counterpoint. The residents of this embroiled village victimize each other. Who else is there in this static town where new people do not move in and residents hardly move out? Today you’re up. Tomorrow you’re down. But not for long. And so it goes.

It appears that the representation of everyday life in this part of Italy, while not flattering, is accurate. Major and minor characters are complex. They seem real. Could it be that they are truly a figment of the author’s imagination?

I happened to read this book coincidentally as the HBO mini-series of the same name aired. The series is true to the book. Many of the lines were taken straight from the book dialogue spoken in Neapolitan dialect with English subtitles. A few minor details were changed, but too few to mention. Hearing the familiar  Neapolitan dialect which I learned from exposure to my Neapolitan mother and grandmother made the series all the more enjoyable for me. All in all, a brilliantly written book has been made into an equally  brilliant mini-series. I believe we can expect a host of awards for this one.

Elena Ferrante is a pseudonym for an author who wishes to remain invisible. As a matter of fact, writing is not her full time job. She writes these wonderful books in her spare time—when she’s not at her day job. Is she even really a woman? No one knows. In any event, her Neapolitan Novels series contains four books: My Brilliant Friend, The Story of a New Name, Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay, and The Story of the Lost Child.  Although I do not know the time frame for these HBO presentations, we can expect at least the next two books to be made into mini-series to give us closure on Lenu and Lila’s story. I look forward to reading and reviewing the next three books.

The review for The Story of a New Name will be published on January 9, 2019.

Ciao bella!

 

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 Review: The Confidence Code For Girls by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman

Book Review: The Confidence Code For Girls by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman (MG) (YA) 5 Stars *****

By the way, I don’t see why this book wouldn’t be helpful to boys also.

What’s the message of this book? ” Taking Risks, Messing Up, & Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self!” This is a how-to book with lots of visuals—cartoons, speech bubbles, different fonts, cute little quizzes and assessments, outlines for setting goals—with input from women in a multi-generational, high achieving family with their heads on straight. Great for middle grade and high school girls who need a self-confidence boost and/ or a guide for setting and achieving goals despite negative comments and subversive actions from people who need to be ignored! A fun and helpful, user-friendly read.

“What is confidence, anyway? Confidence is what turns our thoughts into action. You can think of it like a math formula:
Thoughts + Confidence=Action.

“One big thing that confidence is NOT: It’s not about how you look. It’s about how you act, and who you are.

* Find Role Models-look for daring, incredible girls and women
* Look Out For Fakers-those who put others down to puff themselves up
* Shout It Out-praise others who show confidence by taking positive action

“Break it down, assess risks, break out of comfort zones, take small steps, get comfortable being uncomfortable, be your own coach, don’t be afraid of failure, stop trying to be perfect, set goals, ask for help, and say it like you mean it!”

That’s all? Yes, it’s as easy as that.

 

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 2018

Saturday, March 14, 2020- Barnes & Noble, Massapequa, NY 12:00-4:00pm

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