Posts Tagged ‘children’s’

  • The Berenstain Bears and the Bully by Stan and Jan Berenstain
  • Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (October 19, 1993)
  • Reading level: Ages 4-8
  • Paperback: 32 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0679848053
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679848059
  • I never thought it would happen … I feel like I’ve been let down by a life-long friend … this book has some serious flaws!

    It started off fine:


    • cute summary poem on the first page
    • bright pictures throughout
    • Mama Bear dispensing level-headed advice

    Things went downhill fast when I read that little poem – If a cub gets beat up, that’s usually when he/she vows to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  I had assumed the “bully” was teasing Sister Bear, not physically hurting her.

    Then we started to read the text, Brother Bear threatens a “knuckle sandwich”, the bully returns that “she got fresh, so I cleaned her clock.”  This book series is written for ages 4-7, but these are not phrases I need introduced to my kids!  Brother Bear teaches Sister how to fight, using a Costco-sized bag of beans and boxing gloves; when she meets up with the bully at school, “Sister was ready … she had her left out and her right up, protecting her jaw.  When Tuffy threw a hard right, Sister ducked, then hit her square on the nose with a right cross.”

    The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back was Sister’s realization that “here’s a cub who maybe gets hit a lot at home.  Maybe that’s why she likes to hit other kids at school.”  Huh?  how about plain old attention-getting?  anger management issues?  pent-up energy that could be diverted into something else, jump-roping maybe?  I didn’t like the assumption that Tuffy was hurt at home; imagine the connection young kids could make with children in their own lives (“Susie-Q pushed Tommy when he stepped in front of her in line, she must get beat up at home!”)

    And then there was “she had to visit the school psychologist twice a week for quite a while.”

    Lessons learned?

    • train yourself to physically fight back if provoked
    • kids who fight must be abused at home
    • anyone who visits the school psychologist must be “bad”

    We have dozens of Berenstain Bears books on our bookshelves and are quite fond of them (I love Mama Bear’s cool, calm and collected example!).  The Bully  is so unlike any other Berenstain Bears book we’ve read, almost like a crazy parody.  It’s already off the bookshelf, I’m trying to decide what to do with it now … I’m tempted to simply put it in the recycle bin, rather than donate it to the library books sale or Goodwill! 

    Am I over-reacting?  What would you do with the book?  Would you let the author/publisher know your concerns?

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    Guest Post by a “Little Woman”, age 12

  • The Postcard by Tony Abbott
  • Reading level: Ages 9-12
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Young Readers; 1 edition (April 1, 2008 )
  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • ISBN-10: 031601172X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316011723
    • “She died today.” Those seemingly simple three words change a boy’s life … forever.


      In Tony Abbott’s newest teen mystery, The Postcard, 13-year-old Jason Haff discovers a family secret that includes everything from burglars to a heavily accented German stranger. Starting with the above-mentioned phrase, the Haff family gets a phone call; Jason’s grandma had just had a stroke and passed away. Devastated, Jason’s dad goes down to Florida to pack up her house and sell it. When his dad wants Jason to come with him, Jason has no choice but to leave Boston and head down to sweltering, sticky, Florida.


      As Jason and his dad are working on packing up, the teenager finds an old, yellowed postcard and a mystery magazine from the same era. What is weird though, one story in the book seems to almost perfectly match up with Jason’s grandma’s secret life.


      Mystery magazine aside, Jason finds an almost invisible clue on the postcard. This hunch leads him all over Florida on what seems to be a wild goose chase.  With the help of the “lawn-mower girl-next-door,” and more postcards they pick up along the way, Jason finds the rest of the mystery story and puts his family history together, piece by piece, and page by page.


      I would definitely recommend this book.  I usually stay away from mysteries, but I found Tony Abbott’s newest addition to be an addictive book. Abbott uses tons of description, many allusions, and really takes on the personality of a 13-year-old. Read The Postcard; you’ll be glad you did!

    “Little Woman” wants to know:  Has the pre-teen in your life read any other Tony Abbott books (The Secrets of Droon, The Time Surfers, Kringle, etc?) any favorites to recommend?

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    I am the lucky “winner” of an e-bay auction, for one of my favorite books from childhood, One Kitten is Not Too Many by Dorothy Levenson.  This is an Easy Reader published by Wonder Books, Inc. I wonder what happened to Wonder Books … the best info I found in a google search is this article from a 1949 issue of Time Magazine, which calls Wonder Books a “new company”. 

    The story is about the Dooley family of four whose Fat Cat gives birth to four kittens.  Mr. Dooley is frustrated by the kittens careening around the house and getting into everything.  One night he returns home after a hard day at the office; Mother unties her apron and meets him at the door with the announcement that she has prepared his favorite dinner – fish.  Apparently, the kittens are fond of fish also, and have eaten it right off the plate!  This is the last straw, and Mr. Dooley promptly delivers the kittens to Mr. Brown’s Pet Shop.  One by one, each member of the family passes Mr. Brown’s Pet Shop on their next day’s errands; each goes into the shop and comes out with a little bundle of fur, stating “one kitten is not too many.”  Yes, Fat Cat is reunited with her kittens and the family laughs about as Mr. Dooley proclaims:  “one kitten is not too many, so we will keep one kitten.  One kitten for Sue.  One for Mary.  One kitten for Mother.  And one kitten for me!”.  Campy and predictable, the book is as delightful today as it was way back when!

    Another book I remember reading and re-reading is What the Witch Left by Ruth Chew.  The copy I had must have been the 1973 paperback edition published under Scholastic Book Services; I see that it was re-issued in 1993 by Scholastic, but is out-of-print again.  I’ve looked for it at used book sales, and will continue my search!

    Two neighbor girls get into the bottom drawer of a bureau used by an aunt when she is visiting.  The girls discover the magical items stored there – seven-league boots, a robe that renders the wearer invisible (like Harry Potter’s cloak of invisibility), a little box where lost items will appear, a mirror that (if my memory serves) allows one to see into another place (somewhat like the crystal ball where Dorothy sees Auntie Em crying in The Wizard of Oz).  From what I recall, each chapter is an adventure the girls experience with the magical items.  I wish I could remember all the details – can anyone help me out?!

    Do you have (or wish you still had) favorite books from childhood that are no longer in print?

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