Posted in Uncategorized

A Jollytologist tells us Secrets That Kids Know… That Adults Oughta Learn

Secrets Kids Know… That Adults Oughta Learn, by Allen Klein, (Sept. 2017, Viva Editions), $16.95, ISBN: 9781632280534

Recommended for grownups – kids already know this stuff

Kids are like little Buddhas. I remember taking my then 4 year-old to his karate lesson in the dead of winter, steering his baby brother’s carriage through 2 or 3 inches of snow, internally swearing like a trooper, when he turned to me and asked for ice cream after his lesson. I thought he was nuts, and said so: “Are you kidding? It’s 18 degrees out!” He looked at me like I was the dope and said – slowly, so I’d understand – “Mommy. When it’s cold out, the ice cream doesn’t melt.” His logic was flawless, and he absolutely got his ice cream that day.

Allen Klein respects the wisdom and innate joy that children have, and wants us to feel that way, too. Secrets Kids Know… is a collection of essays, observations, and anecdotes on how we can follow a kid’s lead and embrace simple joys, rediscover our natural curiosity, and not be so darned serious all the time. Black line drawings by Klein’s daughter, Sarah, set off each chapter and bring a cozy feel to reading. He speaks to us as a Jollytologist – it’s his job to be jolly! – and uses his background as a motivational speaker to make you want to be happy. And that alone is pretty darned great.

I’ve got a five year-old whose transition to Kindergarten isn’t going as magically as I’d like it to, so I dug into this book with vigor. I do find that I’m making more of my time home with him; trying to see things through his eyes and laugh more with him, even though there are still some days where I just want to let wolves raise him and call it a day.

I’m going to put a copy of Secrets Kids Know… in my Parenting section and see if I can booktalk it up with some parents. Check out Allen Klein’s webpage, where you can watch his TED Talk, read his blog, and read more about the Jollytologist himself.¬†

Posted in Fiction

Helsinki Noir – Dark, Hard Hitting Crime Fiction from Finland

helsinki noirHelsinki Noir, edited by James Thompson (2014, Akashic Books) $15.95, ISBN: 9781617752414

Recommended for ages 18+

When I came across the Belfast Noir e-galley on Edelweiss, I also saw Helsinki Noir, from Akashic’s Noir series. Knowing that there’s a huge interest in Scandinavian noir, particularly thanks to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, I gave it a shot. Never let it be said I don’t investigate literary trends!

Whoa. Where Belfast Noir was gritty with a touch of¬†morbid Irish humor, Helsinki Noir is brutal, and often bleak. The stories are hard-hitting, often vicious, and leave you feeling wounded when you’re done. Crime fans, gird yourselves – these 14 stories take no prisoners. Split into three parts: Deep Cuts, Broken Blades, and Winds of Violence, each author seeks to peel back the bright surface of Helsinki’s streets to show readers a darker reflection of a city we often hear only the best of: their strong economy, their health care, their low crime rate.

As with Belfast Noir, shelve this with the grown-up books – this one’s not for younger readers. But by all means, shelve it, and look at more of Akashic’s Noir series. Mystery and true crime readers will appreciate the styles from all over the world, and embrace the darkness that every culture shares – no matter how hard they try to hide it.

Posted in Guide, Humor, Tween Reads

The Young Person’s Guide to Grown-Ups, by Monte Montgomery, illustrated by Patricia Storms (Bloomsbury, 2012)

Recommended for ages 9-12
Being a kid is tough. What if there were some sort of guide to figuring out the grown-ups in their lives? Monte Montgomery and Patricia Storms have created a field guide to the average grown-up to help children navigate these strange people who seem to hold so much sway over them.
The book examines grown-ups as seen through a child’s eyes and includes basic similarities and differences between grown-ups and kids: adults, for instance, have stopped growing taller and started growing wider, but have never stopped feeling like the kid they used to be, providing the reader with an entry point with which to relate.
Set up like a Grown-Ups for Dummies book, complete with callout Tactics boxes spotlighting tools for dealing with different situations and line drawings throughout, Young Person’s Guide takes kids through everything they need to know about grown-ups at home, at school, and “in the wild”. Descriptions of various adults in each of these settings and an FAQ flesh out each section. Montgomery imparts Three Universal Truths that kids and adults alike should know and includes an in-depth, illustrated guide to various classes of adults, like atheletes, dentists, police officers and millionaires (complete with Donald Trump-like caricature).
Young Person’s Guide is a fun book that will help younger children feel like they have some handle on why grown-ups say and do the things they do, while helping them understand that adults and kids have much more in common than they may think. It is a fun book that can start conversations both at home and in the classroom.
Patricia Storms’ webpage are as much fun as her illustrations. Infused with bright graphics and personal information, the reader can see that the illustrator takes the message of Young Person’s Guide to heart and keep in touch with the kid that used to look back from the mirror.