MG Book Review: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

MG Book Review: See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng -5 Stars  *****

This book is perfect for 10-12 year olds, especially those who are obsessed with communicating with outer space and/ or unfortunately, are victims of parental neglect.

What a wonderfully, surprisingly insightful book this turned out to be! The formatting is so different from a traditional book that I was not sure what to expect. The story is told in the first person point of view — without quotation marks and often in interview format—of eleven year old Alex Petroski from Rockview, Colorado who decides to travel to a site near Albuquerque, New Mexico to the SHARF rocket festival where he plans to launch his home-made rocket in competition. Before he leaves, Alex rescues an abandoned dog whom he names Carl Sagan after his role model and idol. Carl Sagan accompanies Alex on his three-day trek which gives them both a series of adventures and a purpose to clarify some loose ends and missing information. Alex uses his IPOD to keep a record of conversations and sounds to create a Golden Record which he plans on sending into outer space, similar to what the famous astronomer Carl Sagan did with Voyagers 1 and 2.

As the story unfolds, it is apparent that Alex is a neglected, unsupervised child with a heart of gold and the wisdom of a much older person. Although he is eleven, Alex likes to brag that he has the smarts of a thirteen year old and should not be judged by his age. Alex’s father is deceased, his mother is schizophrenic and missing in action most of the time—physically, mentally, and emotionally—and  his twenty-four year old brother lives and works in Los Angeles. Alex goes to great lengths to hide the fact of his abandonment.

His open, loving, and generous spirit endears him to the outside world as he travels with Carl Sagan to meet his destiny. Alex meets up with friendly, caring, adult strangers who aid him in his now three-fold quest: to attend and compete in the rocket festival in New Mexico, to verify if the man on the internet search with the same name and birthdate as his thought-to-be-deceased father is in fact his father in Las Vegas where he inadvertently discovers a half-sister, and to visit his older brother, RJ in Los Angeles whom he hasn’t seen in over one year.  Alex and Carl Sagan both experience setbacks as Carl Sagan is hopelessly lost in Las Vegas and Alex is severely injured in Colorado. Thankfully, the adults in Alex’s world step up to the plate bringing this heart-wrenching story to a satisfactory ending as they learn to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions—all except for Mom who is an extreme case requiring long-term treatment, which may or may not work.

Wow! What an emotional roller coaster!

Lesson Ideas—
* Study the cosmos, interplanetary communication, principles of rocket science, Carl Sagan
* Calculate distances from location to location according to different methods of transportation

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

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


Study Guide 5- The Ocean’s Way by Elaine Donadio

Chapters 14-18.

Please see my Nov. 2, 2017 blog post for the updated study guide schedule.

You can preview and purchase The Ocean’s Way at Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites for a digital or paperback copy, or you can visit for a digital copy.

This is the last study guide for this book. You might want to purchase Who Do Voodoo? to be ready for our next focus book for January.

Holly and Jasmine have experienced many changes. Holly in particular is deeply affected by what she has learned about dolphins and pilot whales giving her a new understanding of how each person can contribute to the balance of nature and the preservation of the environment.


These questions are based on Chapters 14-18.


1. List at least five facts you learned about manatees. What has the state of Florida done to insure their safety?

2. List at least five facts you have learned about pilot whales. In what ways are pilot whales like humans? In what ways are they different? What is it about pilot whales that make them so vulnerable? What other creatures can you think of whose behaviors could lead to their own downfall?

3. How are donations used to help rescued sea creatures in Florida? Why do you think the government and people of Florida attach so much importance to maintaining the safety of the wildlife in their state?

4. Design a fundraising campaign in your school and/ or community to help raise money to help in the rescue of stranded sea creatures. Decide how to raise the money. Create a poster. Research marine rescue organizations. Choose one to be the recipient of your monetary gift. You do not actually have to put this plan in practice, but please do the plan either way.

Which creatures need rescuing where you live? What could you do to help?

5. Take a look at Holly’s poem about the ocean on the last two pages of Chapter 18. Explain Holly’s fascination with the ocean. Design a T-shirt to capture Holly’s message using a slogan, images, and words to attract attention.

6. Holly and Jasmine have both changed from the beginning, middle, and end of the book. How has each one changed? What influenced these changes? Do you believe these changes are temporary or permanent? Support your answer.

If you had to choose one thing to change about yourself, what would it be? Make a decision now to accomplish this goal. Research. Analyze. Plan. Do.


Spoiler alert: I will not be providing the answers for the questions. If you’re a serious adventurer, then you will discover the world on your own. Support all your answers with facts found in the book or outside resources. Seek and you shall find!

Next: Who Do Voodoo? Study Guide 1. See you on Dec. 30, 2017!

You can email Elaine Donadio at author

All rights reserved 2017.

Study Guide 4- The Ocean’s Way by Elaine Donadio

Chapters 10-13.

Please see my Nov. 2, 2017 blog post for the updated study guide schedule.

You can preview and purchase The Ocean’s Way at Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites for a digital or paperback copy, or you can visit for a digital copy.

Holly and Jasmine visit marine parks and are treated like special guests. They learn a lot about dolphins, alligators, wetlands, ecosystems, the environment, and the balance of nature.


These questions are based on Chapters 10-13.

1. Go to the fourth page of Chapter 10. Answer the ten questions about dolphins. Include answers from Chapters 10 and 11, the Internet, and any source books you may have. Check your answers on the sixth page of Chapter 10.

2. Make a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast dolphins and alligators. If you had to live your life as one of these creatures, which one would you choose? Why?

3. What are wetlands? We learn that alligators are apex predators. Describe the food chain among the creatures of the Florida swamps.

4. What would happen if the Florida wetlands were destroyed? Explain the effects on the environment and ecosystems. How would the world be affected if alligators became extinct? How would the world be affected if dolphins and pilot whales became extinct?

5. Choose a creature living in the South Florida swamps. Research facts and list them. Using these facts, create a Tanka poem to tell about your creature. Use the Tanka poem about the swamp in Chapter 13 as a model. See the formula below.

Tanka Poem – 5 lines

Line 1  – 5 syllables
Line 2  – 7 syllables
Line 3  – 5 syllables
Line 4  – 7 syllables
Line 5  –  7 syllables


Spoiler alert: I will not be providing the answers for the questions. If you’re a serious adventurer, then you will discover the world on your own. Support all your answers with facts found in the book or your own research. Seek and you shall find!

All rights reserved 2017.

You can email Elaine Donadio at

Next: The Ocean’s Way Study Guide 5. See you on Dec. 31, 2017!

Study Guide 2- The Ocean’s Way by Elaine Donadio

Chapters 4-6.

Please see my Nov. 2, 2017 blog post for the updated study guide schedule.

You can preview and purchase The Ocean’s Way at Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites for a digital or paperback copy, or you can visit for a digital copy.

Holly and Jasmine both share many personal details of their lives. Holly is surprised to discover how much pain her best friend is feeling. When it looks as if all hope is lost, the adults in the story step up to the plate.

These questions are based on Chapters 4-6.


1. Discuss how Jasmine’s self-image might be influenced by her situation at home. How might this affect her interaction with others?

2. Pretend you are a case worker from Child Protective Services. Create five interview questions for Jasmine’s mother and have Jasmine’s mother answer them as you believe she would. Use details from the story.

3. Describe Grandma Rosie’s personality. The girls seem to believe things will turn out fine now that Grandma Rosie is on the scene. Do you agree or disagree with their conclusion? Base your answer on what has happened in the story.

4. Now that we’ve met Grandma Rosie, you can well imagine the conversation she will have with her son-in-law Albert about what’s going on in his home. Write a dialogue tracking the discussion.

Grandma Rosie:
Grandma Rosie:
Grandma Rosie:

Keep the conversation going…

5. Pretend you are Jasmine. Write an email message to your father telling him how you feel about his absence and return. Use facts from the story.


Spoiler alert: I will not be providing the answers for the questions. If you’re a serious adventurer, then you will discover the world on your own. Support all your answers with facts found in the book. Seek and you shall find!

You can email Elaine Donadio at

Next: The Ocean’s Way Study Guide 3. See you on Dec. 16, 2017!

All rights reserved 2017.

Study Guide 1- The Ocean’s Way by Elaine Donadio

Chapters 1-3.

Please see my Nov. 2, 2017 blog post for the updated study guide schedule.

You can preview and purchase The Ocean’s Way at Amazon or Barnes & Noble websites for a digital or paperback copy, or you can visit for a digital copy.

We meet our main character, Holly Christiano and her best friend, Jasmine Jankowski. Holly is thrilled to be going to study marine life in South Florida, but Jasmine is putting up barriers. We learn about the girls’ lives and the problems and disappointments they face.


These questions are for Chapters 1-3.


1. Make a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast Holly and Jasmine. Choose which one you would rather have as a friend. Explain.

2. Sometimes we can learn about a character’s strength by how they react to situations in their lives. Describe how Holly and Jasmine have each deal with heartache. Pretend you are a school guidance counselor, what advice would you give them to make their lives happier?

3. Which character can you most identify with? Pretend you are that character. Write an entry in your diary explaining what’s on your mind.

Using the crossword puzzle model in Chapter 1, create your own crossword puzzle using five words and a thesaurus to describe how you’re feeling about your life right now.

Using the diamante (diamond) format of the airplane poem in Chapter 1, create your own diamante poem to describe an important object in your life. Use the following format. Note the diamond shape. Your poem should look the same.

Diamante Poem Format

Line 1- one noun
Line 2- two adjectives
Line 3- three “ing” verbs
Line 4- a four word phrase
Line 5- three “ed” verbs
Line 6- two adjectives
Line 7- one synonym for the noun in Line 1

4. Discuss why Nestor treats Holly so differently from Jasmine. What does this tell us about Nestor? How do you deal with being treated differently from siblings, friends or classmates?

5. Predict what Holly might find when she visits Jasmine’s house. Use details from the story to support your answer.


Spoiler alert: I will not be providing the answers for the questions. If you’re a serious adventurer, then you will discover the world on your own. Support all your answers with facts found in the book. Seek and you shall find!

All rights reserved 2017.

You can email Elaine Donadio at

Next: The Ocean’s Way Study Guide 2. See you on Dec. 9, 2017!

All rights reserved 2017

Kids: Let The Pros Sweat The Small Stuff

PrintWith so many parents working long hours, it’s understandable that you want the quality time you spend with your children to be free of stress. One way to accomplish this is simply to have fun with your kids, while leaving “the  rules” for someone else to teach. Manners? Bathroom etiquette? Bike riding? Tying shoelaces? No problem. Let the pros handle it.

In today’s self-starter business society, people have come up with a business for every need. In fact, there are even businesses for things you never even knew you needed. Like the above mentioned areas, for example.

Let’s take a look Leslie Goldman’s p.11 article in the March, 2016 issue of Parents which is a wealth of information for making parenting easier.

Need Help With Manners? – Manners To Go, $150-$375 for a 90 minute private lesson in Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania at

Need Help With Toilet Training? – Potty Generation, Webinars, $27 to $57, Discover Package, $450;

Need Help With Riding a Two Wheeler? – REI’s two-hour “How To Ride A Bike” class teaches  kids as young as four, how to balance, steer and brake. Bring your own bike. $45 to $65.

Need Help Tying Shoe Laces? – Nordstrom department store offers a free shoelace-tying workshop at their stores. Kids even get a certificate.

Who knew? There may even be many more helpful businesses out there. If you’re aware of any, please share. Let me know how you do. I’d love to hear from you.

Next week’s blog post – It Was Good To Be Lady Almina of Highclere Castle: Good-bye Downton Abbey

© 2016 All rights reserved

Selfie: Millennials As Parents

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

Unique (they think), entitled, individualistic, self-promoting, tech savvy, social media addicted, constantly seeking public approval  Millennials: kids born between the late 70s and late 90s or between 1982 and 2004, depending on the source. These dates are flexible, since behavior should be examined, as well as year of birth in determining assignment to a generational group. Emotionally conflicted parents foster emotionally conflicted kids. We’ve been discussing the effects of stress on today’s kids in the last few blog posts. If you think the social media whirlwind is tough on millennial parents, let’s take a look at how it impacts their children.

In an article in the October 26, 2015 issue of Time Magazine, “Help – My Parents Are Millennials by Kathy Steinmetz, the following picture is presented:                                                                                                                 * Mom-petition – social media presents a constant brag fest photo-op for the “perfection” that is the lives of others, creating a daily standard to be met and surpassed                                            * Dependence on Social Media For Approval – the number of  likes and comments matter                                                                                                                                                              * Social Media Fosters Rude, Confidence-Slashing Comments Its Nature – people post things they would never say in a face to face situation                                                                      * Information Overload – Google, Twitter, Apps, Facebook all day long                                       * Afraid Of Making The Wrong Choice – must check reviews of doctors, restaurants, manicurists, hair stylists, toy stores, etc. before taking action                                                           * Democratic Approach To Family Management – kids are canvassed for their opinions and participate in discussions regarding family decisions, activities, schedules, punishments                                                                                                                                               * Their Children’s Approval Is Sought – children are confident in expressing their opinions and feel free to let their parents know they do not approve of their choices                               * Their Children Have An Inflated View Of Their Place In The World – they want what they want NOW. Every activity results in a media blitz of photo ops.Of course they think they’re terrific, their pictures are posted all over social media every day. Since when did eating an ice-cream become newsworthy?                                                                                           * Technology Both Brings Parents & Kids Closer And Acts As A Barrier – yes, cell phones keep you in touch but also interfere with conversations and participation in the present *** flip phones without Internet are safer to protect your kids from cyber sexual predators and social media sites where bullying and teasing can happen at an alarming rate ***                                                                                                                                                                            * Worry About Screwing Their Kids Up For Life – the parent fears if they don’t make the right choices, the child will carry permanent emotion, mental and psychological scars

So, here’s my take on this subject. Warning: I have a lot to say since my experience with this subject is extensive. Ready?

What we have is a generation of petrified parents, afraid of public media criticism and criticism from their own little children to whom way too much power has been given. Millennials, take back your parental power! You have a right to make decisions for your children for which they have no say. Be the parent. You’re creating a dysfunctional family by allowing the child to be in control.

Don’t run to social media for every advice. Family members, neighbors and professional have valuable life experience, know your child and your situation, and can offer suggestions in a loving, supportive environment. The Internet is great for fact checking the dates of the Crimean War, but has little place in life affirming decisions.

Stop posting every little thing on Facebook. Do you really think anyone wants to see sixteen pictures of your child walking in the park carrying a balloon?

Put down those cell phones. Stop texting your friends and pay attention to the people who are in front of you. Be present.

Your child is a kid, not a mini adult. Don’t give away your power to children who are emotionally ill-equipped to handle the burden of their own lives. That’s your job.

In every healthy relationship, there’s room for one adult and one child. A child without a strong parental influence grows up insecure and resentful. Notice, I did not say an overbearing influence, I said strong. You be the adult. Let your child be the kid.

Trust yourself. Relax and enjoy your children. Parenting is not an Olympic sport.

You don’t need to seek constant outside approval. Set your goals. Follow your life’s path. Constantly seeking outside approval can only lead to confusion and disappointment. Leave your middle school self in the past.

Please let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you.

Next week’s blog post – Earth Day Kudos

© 2016 All rights reserved

Emotional Intelligence For Kids – A Coping Mechanism

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

In last week’s blog post, we discussed stressed out kids who lack the coping mechanisms most of us learn by the time we’re adults. We can help our children stay balanced in today’s world by helping them to learn emotional intelligence. What is it? Psychology Today defines EQ or emotional intelligence as “the ability to identify and manage our own emotions as well as those of others. It includes three skills: the ability to identify, harness and manage emotions and apply this skill to problem solving, thinking, and cheering up or calming down another person.”  Think about it. Who has the most pleasant life – the smartest, the wealthiest or the one who is balanced and gets along easily with almost everyone?

According to an article “What’s Your Child’s EQ?” by Teal Swan which appeared in the November, 2015 Long Island edition of Natural Awakenings, “emotional health is more important in determining future happiness  than academic success or wealth.”

The author tells us we can ensure a child’s healthy emotional upbringing by avoiding these mistakes:

The Don’ts

1.  Disapprove of a child’s emotions -don’t reprimand or punish for expressing negative emotions                                                                                                                                                     2. Dismiss a child’s emotions – don’t ignore or trivialize emotions                                                                                                           3. Ignore a chance to offer guidance- don’t neglect to set limits on behavior and help the child understand and cope

The Do’s  

We should all value and respect each other’s feelings. Remember, emotions matter.
* Become aware of the other person’s emotions.
* Care about the other person  by seeing their emotions as valid and important
* Allow others to be vulnerable without fear of judgment. Understand rather than agree or redirect.                                                                                                                                                      * Acknowledge  and validate another person’s feelings by saying, ” I can see how you might feel that way.”                                                                                                                                                   * Only after the other person’s feelings have been validated, we can assert new ways of looking at a situation that may improve the way another person is feeling

By helping our children to understand themselves as well as others, they gain another tool to use in times of stress, be it their own, or when they’re witnessing an emotional reaction. Putting a lid on it isn’t always good. Yes, we must be appropriate, but that’s where the strong parenting comes in, whereby we teach our children to express emotions within certain behaviors. Children should learn to use their words, not their fists. Emotions in themselves are not bad. It’s the physical manifestation of feelings that will get us into trouble. Slamming doors, punching a hole in the wall, smacking someone across the face are not acceptable. Instead, children should be taught to state their feelings and know their point will be well made.

Please let me know how you do. I’d love to hear from you.

Next week’s blog post: Selfie: Millennials As Parents

© 2016 All Rights Reserved


Kids Off The Hook? Maybe It’s Stress.

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

Are your kids acting out more than usual? Screaming, crying, not cooperating? Refusing to go to school or to an after school activity? Rebelliousness? Or, maybe they’re just stressed out. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, stress among kids is at an all time high with high school and college students often reporting higher stress levels than adults. What do kids have to be stressed out about? Read on.

According to Gina Shaw’s article pp. 61-63 in the September, 2015 issue of WebMD, there’s a whole list of things resulting from life in the modern world. Let’s take a look.

* Kids are asked to make choices leading to careers at a young age.                                             * Facebook and Instagram depict pictures of all their friends at social gatherings to which they were not invited and from which they are conspicuously absent                                                                                                                    * Kindergarten is the new first grade. What happened to blocks, finger painting, music, climbing and jumping?                                                                                                                              

* High stakes testing puts too much emphasis on performance on a few specific days rather than on how they function in the classroom over time
* Overscheduling sports, art and music. These are supposed to relieve stress, not add to it.                                                                                                                                     * Reduction of art, music, physical education in the school program eliminates outlets                                                                                                                            * Exposure to adult media content such as shootings, bombings, explosions, earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, effects of global warming, prophesies of the end of the world, falling comets, black holes, drone attacks, terrorist atrocities, etc., causes anxiety and fear                                                                                   * Bullying and Teasing are no longer private matters since kids may be victims on Facebook, Instagram and through text messaging for everyone to witness                                  

* Too little sleep affects memory, judgment and mood
* Chronic illness has more than doubled in kids between 1994 and 2000 with obesity, asthma, type 2 diabetes, behavior and learning problems, and ADHD Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder at the top of the list
* Family disruption due to illness, death, deployment, divorce or separation, abandonment, physical or sexual abuse, addictive behaviors with alcohol, drugs, gambling                                                                                                                                * Stressed out parents lead to stressed out kids 

What can you do to counteract these stressors? “Talk with your kids every day. Don’t over schedule so there’s time for free play on a daily basis. Talk about stress and suggest ways to control it, deep breathing, for example. Speak with a doctor about counseling referrals, if needed. Manage your own stress and watch the calm trickle down.”

As adults, we are much better equipped to deal with the stresses of every day life. Our self-esteem is more highly developed. Our happiness is not so dependent on the approval of others. We found a support system that gets us through the day. Most of us are well- settled into the lives we’ve chosen for ourselves. We are in control of our destinies with  decisions and choices of our own making. If we’re not happy in a situation, we have the mobility and where-with-all to move ourselves up and out. Kids haven’t yet developed these coping mechanisms.

Let me leave you with these thoughts. Be the adult in the relationship. Calm yourself. Get your head on straight. Be a role model, and a source of comfort and support for your children, as well as the adults in your life. Be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

Prioritize. Then, let go. Must your child excel in violin and football? Trust that your children can occupy themselves constructively within unstructured time. Let them be. This is how they develop themselves. Present the tools, then allow them to utilize them in their own time. Don’t live vicariously through your children. Their successes ( or weaknesses ) are theirs. If you want bragging rights, then do something constructive and amazing with your own time. That success will belong to you. Don’t hijack the accomplishments of others to try to make yourself look good.

As a former teacher, I have a great respect for education. However, it does not only come from a formal lesson in the classroom. Books; cable shows; YouTube videos; public, school and private libraries; zoos; museums; community and back yard gardens; a walk in the woods, around the block or outside your home; a visit to the beach, a river or a pond, can all offer learning experiences. How about behind the scene experiences at a play, concert, sports event? Think about what can be learned from watching a construction project. Look up at the sky in the day, then at night. What do you see? Answer those questions and fill in the gaps with books, Google searches, TV and Cable specials. Let your kids explore. Their natural curiosity will look for answers. You get the idea— we can learn from everything in the real world as well as what is focused on in the classroom.

Education is knowing things outside yourself. Authentic learning complements formal learning.

Allow them time to find their own path. With so many options available in today’s world, it’s unfair to force a young person to choose before they’ve had a chance to investigate and try it on for size. As we know, one size does not fit all.

Help your children develop a high self-esteem so they might feel confident in the path they’ve chosen for themselves. A strong self-image counteracts negativity from immature and/ or aggressive sources. Allow them to pursue what they’re good at and what gives them happiness. This is how they learn to accept and like themselves.

Please let me know how you do. I’d love to hear from you.

Next week’s blog post: Emotional Intelligence For Kids – A Coping Mechanism

© 2016 All Rights Reserved

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