Posts Tagged ‘Books’

Teach Your Kids To Be Explorers Of The World

With the neverending school budget cuts, art and music are always the areas that suffer the most. It is up to parents to make sure our children still have a creative outlet to express themselves and learn through art. I am no Picasso. In fact before I took my high school art class, I insisted I couldn’t draw a straight line with a ruler. Any type of drawing or painting project was nothing more than a exercise in frustration for me.

However, I was lucky enough to have an awesome art teacher in high school, Ms. Briz, who taught each one of us that we had some stroke of art genius within us even if we didn’t believe it outselves. Somehow she found a way to draw it out of us (no pun intended) and make us see our own potential. She never made any of us feel like we were incapable of  displaying our artistic talents. For a class I dreaded taking, I still recognize the importance of what that class taught me and the self-confidence it gave me. It taught me that our weaknesses are strengths in training and they have value.

Many people don’t realize how relevant art is to the real world and how it can help in other subjects as well. Keri Smith has a series of books to prove just that while keeping art fun and relevant in our children’s lives.

One of them is How To Be An Explorer Of The World. This book encourages children to express themselves by combining art and science in such a unique way. Kids may not even realize that they are creating science experiments, expanding their thinking, and becoming more aware of the world around them through art.

I put this book to the test on the 5th grade Gifted class (because their teacher is awesome and is totally into alternative learning and teaching methods) at Bruce’s school.

Mrs. T let the kids loose with this and several other Kerri Smith books, which I’ll get to in an upcoming post. The experiment couldn’t have turned out better.

The following is one student’s explanation on how  he enjoyed working with this book:

By: DH  in Mrs. Triebwasser’s 5th Grade Class

How To Be An Explorer Of The World helped me look at inanimate objects as if they were alive. Through this book I created my own life museum but it left me some holes to fill like how I constructed my museum (I built it out of Legos).   I put miniature replicas of important items inside each room.  It helped me reflect on my life and values and told me how to build cool things like goggles (which had orange lenses, a strap to go around your head and a fake antennae) and a play oven (which is cardboard and duct tape).  It also explained how to look at The most thought provoking aspect that I took from this book, was to look at inanimate (not alive) objects as alive.   

This book really inspired me look at over 50 explorations to help me create my life museum without  step by step directions telling me how to do it.  I think you should read this book, it really sparks creativity.


The 5 People You Meet In Heaven

I don’t do a lot of book reviews – it reminds me too much of when I was in grade school and had to churn out book reports. But, a while ago I read a book that touched me so much I wanted to share it with everyone. It’s The 5 People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom.

Mitch Albom is not exactly known for his lighthearted, funny or superficial writing. But his books are fairly easy and quick reads and no matter how serious the subject matter there is always some underlying basic truth and raw emotion you just can’t ignore. It seems very fitting to start the new year off with this book.

This book is about a Eddie, who dies while trying to save a little girl’s life. He’s 83 and has lived a long life- war veteran who has made a career of fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. But he wasn’t happy or fulfilled. He questioned his life and whether it was all worth it. He didn’t even know if he was successful in his attempt to save the little girls life.

After he dies he finds himself in the afterlife. There are no pearly gates, people floating through the clouds, angels flying around – it’s very realistic and what I hope the afterlife will be like. It is a lush garden where he meets 5 people who were a part of his life and changed the course of his life forever. They aren’t even all significant people in his life. Some are loved ones and others are distant strangers.

Eddie learns that heaven is for understanding your life on earth. Heaven is not a physical place – it’s a state of being. It can be “found in the most unlikely corners. And heaven itself has many steps.” Everyone’s heaven is different.

In the end Eddie learns why he lived and what he lived for. He learns that even the most insignificant times of his life were had for a reason. Everyone who has walked into his life has had a hand in shaping it. In many ways, every member of the human race is connected in some way. Every person’s stories and experiences have affected those of someone else. No one exists in isolation, even when they feel alone. And in the end “each affects the other and the other affects the next, and the world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”

I highly recommend that everyone read this book. I promise, it isn’t doom and gloom. You will not be depressed. It is 196 pages of the most well-written words and uplifting messages that I have ever read. It will make you think about your life and see certain events and people differently. It might even help you free yourself of events in yoru own life that have held you hostage for far too long. I’m still working on that part.

And for anyone who is afraid of death or dying, I can relate. This book relieved those fears for me. It made me wonder with a certain amount of anticipation and peace – which 5 people will I meet in heaven?

Some of my favorite quotes:
~…There are no random acts. That we are all connected. That you can no more separate one life from another than you can separate a breeze from the wind.
~…the human spirit knows, deep down, that all lives intersect. That death doesn’t just take someone, it misses someone else, and in the small distance between being taken and being misses, lives are changed.
~Strangers are just family you have yet to come to know.
~Time is not what you think. Dying? Not the end of everything. We think it is. But what happens on earth is only the beginning.
~Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to…Sometimes when you sacrifice something precious, you’re not really losing it. You’re just passing it on to someone else.
~All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.
~Holding anger is a poison. It eats you from inside. We think that hating is a weapon that attacks the person who harmed us. But hatred is a curved blade. And the harm we do, we do to ourselves.


Sophie Kinsella's Mini Shopaholic – Another Sneak Peek and Giveaway

Sophie Kinsella & her giveaway items

It’s rare to find a writer who presents such believable and well thought out characters that, even in the wildest of circumstances, we can related to and sympathize with. Sophie Kinsella, aka Madeleine Wickham, is exactly that writer. Her heroines are a combination of who we secretly want to be and who we fear we are most like.

My first encounter with Kinsella was the Shopaholic series. The book’s main character, Rebecca Bloomwood, is smart, independent, funny, and charming but cannot say no to a good sale and therefore gets herself into a heap of debt. Ironically, she is a financial journalist who finds herself on tv doling out financial advice. No matter how deep in debt she gets herself into at no point do you feel she is ditzy or incompetent (that is of course, unless you’ve only seen Isla Fischer’s portrayal of her in the movie)- she’s just a girl with faults and a fabulous shoe closet!

The Shopaholic series follows Rebecca from her single life in London to dating, career moves, moving to NY, finding a sister, married and then motherhood. So, it is no surprise that Sophie Kinsella is about to continue Rebecca’s shopping addiction with her young daughter. I can’t wait to see what trouble the little one creates in this new book, Mini Shopaholic, that is due out September 21st. I’ve already preordered my copy months ago!

Sophie Kinsella posted a sneak peek at the new book a while back and now she is offering the second of three sneak peeks. You can check it out here. She is also giving away 10 hardcover copies of Mini Shopaholic in a signed Keep Calm and Carry on Shopping tote bag. To enter, go here.


Sneak Peak of Sophie Kinsella's "Mini Shopaholic"

I received an e-mail update today from my favorite writer and it had a special gift that I wanted to share with you. This is the first of 3 preview readings Sophie Kinsella did.

I will write more about her next week but for those of you who already love her I didn’t want to hold onto this….

Mini Shopaholic



Emily Giffin's Heart Of The Matter

As soon as I received Emily Giffin’s latest book, Heart of the Matter, I started reading it and couldn’t put it down. But not for the reason you might think. I have to say as much as I LOVE Emily Giffin, I didn’t love this book. Some of you die-hards want to banish me to the self-help section of the bookstore now because I must need help, right? I can’t automatically love it just because she wrote it. If she wrote “The History of Rocks” I am almost positive I wouldn’t like that either. Sorry.

My inability to put it down came from the anticipation that something great would happen soon. I’m a little slow I guess because on the last page I was still waiting.

Overall, I think her writing is great. And this book is no exception. Giffin tells great stories and connects you to the characters’ innermost thoughts and motivations. It is almost like reading a diary of someone you know because the characters seem so familiar. You always get that feeling that you have a vested interest in the outcome of the story.

This book centered around a pediatric plastic surgeon  who gets involved with the mother of one of his patients. Ironically, the lives of his wife and the other woman are intertwined by the social circles they are in even though the two women have never met. His wife is struggling with her own sense of identity and purpose as she transitions from the life of a college professor to stay at home mom. The other woman struggles with life as a single mom and trying to convince herself that maybe a relationship can end well for her.

These women are more alike than they know. Both struggle to find happiness and realize that what they thought would make them happy might not be the answer after all. However, I think a lot of this analysis gets lost in this book. I would have loved to see more about how these women overcome their identity-crisis on their own instead of putting their worth in a man that we hear nothing from throughout this whole book.

The husband’s point of view was needed here but was never given. I found it hard to really sympathize or believe that he knew what he wanted when his story was told only through his interaction with his wife and mistress. I wonder if he will be back in a future book so I can understand his reasoning for his decisions.

I loved some of the familiar faces and I always love how Giffin’s books keep some common thread between them. In every book some old character comes back somehow and interacts with the new characters. Some might say this is a crutch and an easy way out but I like the continuity and knowing how the characters turned out years later. It’s like reconnecting with an old friend after years of being out of touch – you pick up right where you left off.

I was surprised by the ending of this too, which is partly why this was not my favorite. However, I do love this quote…

“Here we are, 2 children and a broken promise later, standing before each other, just the way we stood that day at the altar, with equal parts love and hope. And once again, I close ,my eyes, ready to take a leap of faith, ready for the long, hard road ahead. I have no idea how it’s going to turn out , but then again, I never really did.”

I get it – sometimes no matter what you think will happen life might throw you a curve ball; life is unpredictable and we never know what we are really getting into even when we think we do. NO matter how old we get we really don’t get any closer to understanding everything or being fully prepared for life’s journey.

Even though I get the message and I can appreciate it this book was a letdown for me. There was no big payoff at the end. It’s reminded me of the series finale of Seinfeld. No big storyline wrapped up in a neat little bow, no explanation as to what will likely happen to the characters we’ve invested so much time in – just a bunch of people sitting around whose lives are still undecided.

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