Archive for October, 2010

Descriptions in New YA Novel, DARK WATER, are Reminiscent of those in THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET

Dear Reader,

Dark Water (Sept. 2010)  is a YA novel in which the setting of the story–rural Fallbrook, CA–is a character in the plot-driven story. Author Laura McNeal asks her 15-year-old narrator Pearl to lyrically describe the land where she lives, the avocado groves, the river, the roads, the hills, and so on with careful, but never overwrought, detail, much like Sandra Cisneros asks Esperanza Cordero in The House on Mango Street. This makes the book a refreshing, yet up-to-date, breather from the many character-driven YA novels.       

Dark Water’s topics are timely–forbidden love, illegal immigration, devastating wildfires, divorce, loyalty vs. common sense, guilt, and the breadth of responsibility for one’s actions.

This book is sure generate lots of thoughtful discussions between young adult and/or adult readers.

Note: This book was a National Book Award finalist


New Book to Help Toilet Train Children w/ Autism and Other Developmental Disorders

Dear Reader,

(My review is based on a bound galley, which is not the final corrected book.)

In Ready, Set, Potty (Aug. 2010), author Brenda Batts breaks down and explains the many faceted process of toilet training children with autism and other developmental disorders, basing this process on “order, predictability, and routine.”

The crux of this book appears in chapter 8, which includes 16 steps:
1. Pick a target day
2. Establish a baseline
3. Pick a theme
4. Decorate
5. Make diapers a thing of the past
6. Decorate underwear
7. List child’s favorite MOTIVATORS (they are different than rewards)
8. Celebrate the night before
9. Use footprints
10.Customize the toilet seat
11.Create behavior strip
12.Use bathroom basket
13.Give a REWARD
14.Create a potty story
15.Bowel movements
16.Night training

I do not have young children with developmental disabilities, so I cannot comment on the effectiveness of Batts’ process, but because I have read a great deal about autism, I can say that it reinforces how time consuming it is to teach certain skills to children with autism.

Ready, Set, Potty is a quick read. The table of contents is extensive, which is great for easy reference. Many of the techniques may be applied to toilet training any child, not just those with disabilities.


“What we are doing on the beach is looking for the memory of a corpse. But there is no sense of him here for there is no sense of debt.”  Daniel Swift, Bomber County

Dear Reader,

I bought Bomber County because I’d read a review about it in The New York Times and couldn’t believe a book featuring poetry was getting this kind of press. Intrigued, I opened the book, eager to read poetry I wouldn’t have otherwise read. Well, I did read poetry, but not enough; I closed the book hungry for more. And that’s okay, because I will now look for the poetry of Wilfred Owen, Randall Jarrell, Cecil Day-Lewis, and others.

Swift uses poetry as an organization tool, but he doesn’t drown the text in poetry. But what’s there is easy-to-understand, and it talks about flying, death, and war.

I credit Swift’s poetic (concise) writing style as being the carrot that led me through his deeply researched and copious war details: dates; locales; WWII and WWI history; and information about flying, bombing, and the workings of aircraft I often say I learn history despite myself.) Readers interested in the Royal Air Force will not be disappointed.

“The cemeteries daydream of order.”  Daniel Swift

I wish Swift every success with his unusual and interesting book.