105 Ways to Give a Book

Backing Out

Okay, so I was going to share some deep, existential thoughts on Potter that would challenge the core of your very being and force you to examine the way you perceive not only your view of children’s literature, but of life itself. But I’m backing out on that mission. The time doesn’t feel right.

Instead, I’ll direct you to my favorite spoiler of all time, this T-shirt from Threadless. In an artistic, and often vague way, it names some of the great spoilers. You know, like “Rosebud was the name of his sled.” There’s a Harry Potter reference right smack in the middle. I had to buy the shirt, even though I’m not sure if it’s totally cool or totally mean. The hubby and I will take turns wearing it and taking the heat.

Deathly Hallows Kidlitosphere Highlights

Many people were talking about Deathly Hallows this week, meaning that I was quite right to stay off the Internet. However, catching up has been a long process. Chiming in on posts a week late also feels rather lame — though I did it anyway. Here were some of the highlights for me found in the Kidlitosphere.

The “Welcome Back Potter” video cracked me up. Will the kids today get it? Probably not. Sigh.

I didn’t join the Potter parties, but I was glad to read about one at Book, Book, Book, and how fun to share in the excitement of Miss Erin at the midnight release, complete with a photo essay. Book Moot’s post about the magical quality of One World/One Book made me read the first chapter of book 7 on the release day. I wasn’t done with book 6 yet, but I wanted to be part of the day when everyone was reading one particular book.

I loved skimming back through the book following Interactive Reader’s commentary. Like reading along with a buddy.

I was ready to talk about it, or to hear what others were saying, but where to go? Thanks to Bookshelves of Doom who left her post spoiler-free, but opened the comments for everyone to share their thoughts.

For the shortest review, I turn to Emily Reads who then bestows her haiku crown (though let’s hope on loan only) to another Emily who has broken down the plot points of the book, yes, in haiku.

Two reviews I couldn’t live without seeing — after having read the book naturally — are from The Horn Book and the marvelous Fuse#8. Fusie goes spoiler-wild on hers, which I appreciate, as it gives us a chance to discuss the book. I mean, really, is anyone out there reading reviews of the seventh Harry Potter book to decide whether or not to read it?

After reading the 4,100 pages of the Harry Potter books in a week and change, I had to agree with the idea of more and better editing talked about here at The Longstockings. Also, you can catch a look at two Longstockings out on the town, decked out for the festivities.

Oh, and don’t forget that the book discussion will take place soon at Scholar’s Blog.

In other, unrelated news, I totally spaced on the latest Carnival of Children’s Literature, but you can catch it at Saints and Spinners. Also, only deeply interesting to me perhaps, but I’m a CamelCase. It’s true — read about it here.

Tomorrow, more Potter thoughts and I challenge your allegiance.

Harry Potterathon Completed

I’m back online. I missed you guys so much! No, really. It felt so incomplete to only be posting occasionally and not reading your blogs. I was like Paris Hilton without her drink on.

I finished the seventh Harry Potter book on Friday morning, but then hit a batch of “real world” things to do that kept me off the Internet until now. I was almost finished with Deathly Hallows on Thursday night; at about 11:30 p.m. I was drifting off and thinking, “Maybe I can just take a little nap here on the couch and then wake up and finish the book.” Fortunately, the mom in me took control and sent me directly to bed.

In the morning, I had to get the girls ready for day camp and I had to be at work at 10:00 a.m. When they left, I had an hour to get ready for work and then read. But being that showering is so overrated, I went with extra deodorant and reading until the last possible minute. And then I read the last thirty pages at the Information Desk at work. What? Do you blame me? Later that day, I reread the last hundred pages at a more relaxed pace.

So what wisdom, what insight did I take away from my ten-day, 4100-page, Harry Potter reading extravaganza?

Those books are too fucking long.

Okay really, I liked the first three the best for their balance of fun and adventure. The fourth heads darker, for sure, but still has lots of lighter elements to it. Maybe the section on the World Quidditch Cup was a tad lengthy, but the kids love their Quidditch, so I’ll let that go.

The fifth book must come with its own dementor tucked in the jacket flap, because reading it I felt all the joy being sucked away. I mean, what a downer! There’s world suffering on the horizon, and no one will listen. The administration is corrupt. The majority of the people are misled or uninformed. There seems to be no hope in getting the truth to light. Come to think of it, maybe I would have found this book easier to handle if we weren’t in the middle of the second Bush administration.

The sixth book comes back with more action and hope. Rowling cleverly employs the author’s mantra of “show, don’t tell.” She has Dumbledore show Harry the missing back story through the pensieve. Personally, I think Rowling got off on a technicality, but still a good book.

The last book keeps the action for the most part, but with large stalling sections. I’m not going to say much more about it for now, except to say that it’s going to make a great movie. Kind of like Return of the Kingmeets Die Hard.

Speaking of movies, I also watched three of the movies this fortnight. The first two I had seen pretty recently anyway. The first three movies are able to stick pretty close to the books. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire turns the first two hundred pages of the book into about ten minutes of movie. Pretty impressive, but you can’t cut that much without losing lots of subtleties and changing plot points.

Bill and I saw Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix on Saturday morning; we came out with different views. Bill thought the moviemaking aspect of it was very well done and was extremely impressed with Daniel Radcliffe as an actor. For me, having just read the book, I was put off by the number of changes they made to simplify the storyline. Of course, the book was immense, so they had to make cuts somewhere.

Today I’m going to wrap up my Harry Potter immersion with a try at the video game that my daughters have mastered. I’ll also be visiting some blogs to join Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows discussion. Then of course, there is the small matter of how many household chores must be neglected to read all those books. All those very, very long books.

Come back tomorrow for new and almost-intelligent insight. Be ready to take sides.

Poetry Friday: Summer Poem II, Summer Contest Results

Last week I combined the answers to my Summer Contest in one poem. Since then, I've received more entries which you'll find pulled together in today's poem. I'm also naming the winner of the contest, but first...
Summer Day

Getting up early,
Before anyone else is awake,
And weeding the garden as the sun rises.
Enjoying the luxury of a second breakfast
Of just-made blueberry muffins.
Kids on the patio
Knowing there is no reason
to rush off
Unless it is to have
an adventure.
Walking at the edge of the ocean
Collecting interesting
Sharks’ teeth
And looking out over
The breathtaking sea.
Wearing flip-flops or
Going barefoot.
Eating crabs on the back porch
Or popsicles under a shady tree.
Buying the sweetest strawberries.
Or picking them from a patch.
Every choice, every option
a pure delight.
Listening to crickets
and the songs of tree frogs
as the night falls.
Staying out past bedtime
Catching fireflies in glass jars
And then
At the very close of the day
Setting them free.
Thanks again to everyone for their summer suggestions which led to my foray into original poetry. The winner of the signed book Cassie Was Here is Charlotte of Charlotte's Library! Congratulations and enjoy!

Crossing Boundaries

Well, MotherReader’s still studiously trying to avoid accidental Potter exposure, which does tend to limit her net-browsing time; on top of that, she’s feeling under the weather today, which isn’t exactly fueling her creativity. But in an effort to ensure that you, dear guests, aren’t left with nothing to read in the meantime, she’s asked me, her live-in editor, to step in once again with a book review. (After reading it, you can decide for yourself whether or not that was an altogether wise decision. Rest assured, your regular host will be back soon.)

Imbuing characters with a rich internal fantasy life is hardly an unusual concept. Children routinely create imaginary friends. Beyond childhood, the notion of older characters, whether through trauma or alientation from “consensus reality,” retreating into an alternate reality of their own imagining is rich dramatic material. But when fifteen-year-old David Case realizes that the merest chance separates routine life from catastrophe and chooses to adopt new clothes, a new outlook, even a new identity — Justin Case — in a deliberate and rationally considered effort to elude fate, his path is anything but routine.

For one thing, the boundary between “reality” and his imaginings becomes... porous. And for another, fate — or should I say, Fate — really is out to get him.

Just in CaseWith Just in Case, Meg Rosoff takes the commonly accepted conventions of realistic fiction and turns them on their head. The fact that Justin creates an imaginary dog — a greyhound named Boy — for himself is not in and of itself remarkable. That his new friend Peter actually sees the dog and interacts with him as if nothing is out of the ordinary is astonishing. Justin’s year-old brother Charlie, whose near-death is the catalyst for Justin’s quest to escape Fate’s notice, is not an innocent baby, but demonstrates an intelligence and intuition far beyond anyone around him; he is limited only by his inability to communicate his singular awareness to those around him. And Fate is not some metaphorical expression of the vagaries of random chance, but an active antagonist playing games with Justin’s life for his own amusement, continually throwing elaborate obstacles — even extreme obstacles — into Justin’s path and the paths of those around him, all the while offering boldface commentary on the results.

And all of this is enveloped in a tale of teen awakening that is readily accessible and indentifiable; his story may hardly be universal, but his path is instantly recognizable to anyone who has felt dwarfed by forces beyond individual control. Justin’s need to strike out from his maddeningly oblivious parents and seek his own path. His efforts at self-discipline through cross-country running. His involvement with Agnes Day, an eccentric young photographer who may be simultaneously his gateway to a larger world (both internal and external) and the toxic instrument of his psychological collapse. And his continuing (and repeatedly thwarted) quest to come to terms with the consequences of Fate’s callous manipulation.

The novel is hardly light material, but neither is it heavy-handed in its “message.” In fact, the playful thwarting of convention allows Rosoff to convey themes of deep philosophical significance without venturing into lecture or ponderous narrative. The reader can empathize with Justin’s plight while retaining a perspective that allows for greater understanding than the wounded Justin possesses. In all, Just in Case is an intriguing and provocative meditation on the nature of destiny and free will, wrapped up in a thoroughly enjoyable narrative package. It’s the best kind of “learning” experience: one you barely realize you’re thinking about.

Potter-Free Zone

Finished the new Harry Potter? Not me. And I don’t want to hear a thing about it. Not even a seemingly innocuous statement that “it’s good.” Nothing. As an example of my conviction, here is a conversation with my husband:
Bill: I finished the Harry Potter book.

Me: Great. Hold it, when did you read it?

Bill: I brought it to work and finished it at lunch.

Me: Oh.
If the father of my children can’t tell me anything about it, then surely no one can. I made the rather foolish decision to read all the Harry Potter books before the new one. Foolish mainly because I started a mere week ago. It’s a bit overly ambitious, but overly ambitious is my middle name — which, incidentally, makes filling out forms a bitch. Anyway, I’ve been staying off the Internet and — at great personal sacrifice — specifically off Jacketflap, which I’ve come to love for its convenient book blog reader. I’ll be posting this week, but it will be a Potter-free zone. In fact:


So, seen any good movies lately? The girls and I went to see Hairspray and we loved it. I’m a huge fan of the music and the play, and the movie didn’t disappoint. It was fantastic! They toned down some of the innuendo and made some changes to make it a notch more realistic. It’s still most definitely a movie musical, though, and subject to its own rules of believability. Actually, it’s like Live Free or Die Hard is only subject to the rules of Action Movies — and by those rules, LFoDH was also a great ride, almost worth the insane price of admission. There was another movie I was planning to see next weekend, but for some reason the name has slipped my mind. There’s a dark-haired boy and a girl, and another boy and something about magic...

Poetry Friday: Summer Poem, Summer Contest

Today I have an original summer poem, but it’s not really my poem — it’s yours. I took all the entries so far for my Summer Contest and pulled them together into one poem. It involved a little tweaking, a few interesting line breaks, and some added imagery. I’m not a great judge of these things, but I think it’s pretty good.

**** CONTEST **** CONTEST **** CONTEST ****

Keep submitting your ideas for enjoying the summer, and I’ll pick someone at random to win the book Cassie Was Here. And I’m sure I’ll come up with something to send off too. (Pssst. Anyone have something cool I can send to the winner?)

Eating watermelon off the rind,
and spitting out the seeds.
Floating on your back
in the nearest body of water,
and gazing up at the summer clouds
as they drift from one animal shape
into another.
Sitting on the screened-in porch,
a breeze blowing,
reading a great book
for once
all the things to do,
knowing there will be
more time
more time
Eating lemon chills at the zoo,
or taking time for a book shopping spree.
Bouncing on a soft springy tundra,
rolling down a hill,
and eating blueberries
right off the bushes
the way the bears do.
In the far, far, north,
gliding on the deck
when it’s midnight
and the sun’s
still shining.
Scrunching toes in the sand,
playing with the little crabs,
collecting tiny shells,
and hoping for
the perfect sand dollar.
Seeing forward to the point,
when the book
is abandoned,
and the blanket is grubby,
and you still can’t force yourself
to leave the rhythmic
and sighing
of the sea.
Not bad, huh? Mentor Texts & More is doing the Poetry Friday Round-Up this week and is also collecting reviews for an upcoming Picture Book Carnival.

I’ll be reading me some Harry Potter today, tomorrow, and Sunday. Or so it seems. Apparently, it is harder to read at a baseball game than one might think. So I’ve got some catching up to do. Please be sure to see the song that Hank Green did at Brotherhood 2.0 about waiting for the Harry Potter book. It is really amazing. I made it my business to suggest it to MuggleNet and the Leaky Cauldron and GalleyCat and a few other places. Why not do the same in the name of the NerdFighters? (Oh, if you are not a Brotherhood 2.0 watcher, I should mention that NerdFighters as a name is from the vblog. It’s not like I’m getting some complex or something. On the other hand, I did bring a book to a major league baseball game, so perhaps I need to admit something to myself.)

Summer Contest For Cassie Was Here

For the last part of Tell An Author You Care... well, Week, I am posting my MotherReader Standard Interview of a dynamic new author, Caroline Hickey. Her book Cassie Was Here was my first recommendation to my county’s 2008 summer reading program. In fact, I entered my suggestion a mere ten minutes ago.

I may be doing a disservice by not doing a full review of this book, but I wanted to get this post up right now. Some plot basics are covered in the interview below, and I can confidently give it the official Thumbs-Up from MotherReader. Cassie Was Here is interesting and engaging and a particularly good summer read. As a promotion for this smart, fun book the author is giving away a free signed copy. Simply comment below with one idea of something fun to do in the summer, and I’ll pick a winner at random. It’s likely I’ll throw in a little something myself. Now, let’s talk to Miss Caroline.

When did you start writing?

I started writing poems when I was in grade school and considered myself quite the little poet (I wasn’t!). I moved on to short fiction in middle and high school, then back to poetry in college, where I took an amazing poetry seminar and was introduced to the workshopping process. I didn’t start writing for children until my twenties and when I did I couldn’t believe I’d ever done anything else! It’s funny how some things just click.

Where do you do your best thinking?

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of great thinking on the subway. It’s one place you can’t multi-task (unless you have a BlackBerry, which I thankfully don’t), so if I’m trying to figure out a thorny plot or character problem, I stare at the ceiling and just mull, mull, mull. I can’t think at my desk because it’s overflowing with revisions and bills and folders and manuscripts and a stack of books I want to read.

Who inspires you personally and/or professionally?

My writing group, The Longstockings, inspires me and keeps me motivated. We started writing and workshopping together in graduate school, and we’ve supported each other through every step of the book process, from first chapters to first acceptance letters to first book parties! When I feel frustrated with my own work, I read something another Longstocking is working on. It helps me remember how much fun writing is and how I wouldn’t want to do anything else.

Why did you need to write this book?

I wrote Cassie Was Here because I wanted to capture the effect a new influence can have on someone, particularly an older girl on a younger one. My main character, Bree, is eleven and whiling away a lonely summer in a new neighborhood when she meets thirteen-year-old Cassie. There’s nothing more intriguing to an eleven-year-old than a girl who’s a little older and a lot more sophisticated — even when she’s a bully — and that relationship is what I wanted to explore.

How does Cassie Was Here reflect your own life experience?

Since Bree has an imaginary friend (at age 11!), I often get asked if I did as well. The answer is yes, but I was only about 3 at the time. So I’m afraid that Bree is not me, nor much like me, really. However, the book does take place in a small suburb of Baltimore where I grew up, in my old neighborhood, and in my old house. I don’t think I’d do very well writing characters and plot taken literally from my life, because I’d be so constrained by what really happened that I wouldn’t be able to listen to the story and let it tell me where it needs to go.

What’s next for you?

Next up is a tween/YA novel called Isabelle’s Boyfriend, coming out with Roaring Brook next fall. It’s about a fifteen-year-old girl who goes bananas for another girl’s guy and tries to steal him. The problem is, she’s too nice to really do it, so she ends up botching the whole thing and making another guy fall for her!


Seriously, you didn’t think we were going to get through this whole Tell An Author You Care thing without me mentioning Mo, did you?

Well, we’re not. Kudos and congrats and all other synonyms for Mo Willems. Knuffle Bunny Too received not one, not two, but three starred reviews! Read about it at the official Mo site, but remember that you heard about it here first. Unless of course you are Mo, and then it’s fairly likely that you already knew.

I am very happy to read all the great things about this wonderful book, but it is important that we don’t lose perspective and forget what really matters. And that would be that I loved and reviewed it first.

Tell An Author You Care: Part II

Okay, so I got a little distracted. Sue me.

Anyway, I’ve done some good work with Tell An Author You Care... uh, Day. Except for like the day part.
  1. I wrote a snail mail letter to Barbara Park with a copy of my article about the glory of Junie B. Jones for young (and older) readers. I’ve been trying to find somewhere reasonably direct to send it, but I guess I’m giving up and going with Random House in general. Wish my letter luck in finding her! If I’m telling any authors that I care, that’s for me to know and you to find out.

  2. I wrote, by somewhat copying my MotherReader posts, Amazon reviews for The Thing About Georgie and Clementine. I chose these two books because I bought them for the girls’ teachers, and so I got an email from Amazon asking for a customer review. Seemed timely and goes right into the next step.

  3. In some way, I feel that I fulfilled this option by purchasing two great books to give to two great classroom teachers. But just to cover myself, I also preordered the new Harry Potter for my husband. Yes, my husband, because he’s more anxiously awaiting it than I am.

  4. I’m still working on the author profile aspect; almost there. Hopefully tomorrow.
Oh, and in relation to my third thing above — you know, about how the Harry Potter book is more for my husband than me? Well, I’ve done something wacky and decided to read all the old HP books again before reading the new one. Now, lots of people have been rereading, but I suspect most of them started before, say, Tuesday. With a full work day tomorrow, and four more looooong books to go, things don’t look good. But I suspect that my obsessive personality will force me to stick to it.

Why, oh why can’t this stick-to-it thing work with exercising? Oh right, because I hate to sweat, but I loves to read.

Tell An Author You Care

Today is Tell An Author You Care Day, according to Emily at Whimsy Books. Her ideas for showing our humble appreciation:
  1. Write a letter or email to a favorite author. I think J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer receive plenty of fan letters. Think of an author you love who may need a little boost.

  2. Write a positive review on Amazon and, if you want to, link to it in your blog.

  3. Buy a book by a favorite author and give it to someone who will enjoy it.

  4. Profile an author in your blog. I’m not talking just another review. Tell us a little about the author and mention at least one of his/her books that you love.
I’m on this idea like white on rice. (Which reminds me, all you clever wordsmiths should head over to Defective Yeti and submit suggestions to his very witty Cliché Rotation Project.) I love taking opportunities to give people positive messages to counteract all the negative buzz we generate in our own minds, whether it’s family, friends, or authors. Actually, I was at a party on Saturday night, and was complimenting near-strangers all night. I was in that mindset somehow — though the red wine might have had something to do with it — but I’ll tell you, it was fun to tell folks nice things just because I could.

In terms of authors, I’m going to try and do all four of Emily’s suggestions, but I may need more than a day. We’ll see how it goes. I’ll be back with a follow-up later, but you should get cracking on your own author appreciation.

Poetry Friday: Someday

We interrupt this Poetry Friday to bring you an important announcement. Monday, July 16th, is Tell An Author You Care Day — so sayeth Whimsy Books. Take some time to send some love to a favorite writer. Though in sending love, don’t show up at the author’s door with brie and a bottle of Merlot, because for some reason it comes off as creepy. Lesson learned.

SomedayBack to the poetry. I’ll admit it: Someday, by Alison McGhee, made me teary. I’m not sure whether or not that is a good thing. The book shows how a mother’s love follows her baby growing up into a woman, who in turn passes that love on to her own child. I teared up throughout, but I got choked up on the idea of me being gone and my white-haired daughter remembering me. I’m not sure if the book is too sappy or too heart-tugging, but hey, I was moved. I’m not sure that it’s really a children’s book. It’s more like a bound Hallmark card.

Here are some lines from the middle of the book, after the mom has kissed her newborn baby’s fingers, but before she watches her daughter brush her granddaughter’s hair:
Someday your eyes will be filled
      with a joy so deep that they shine.
Someday you will run so fast and so far
      your heart will feel like fire.
Someday you will swing high — so high,
      higher than you ever dared to swing.
Someday you will hear something so sad
      that you will fold up with sorrow.
Someday you will call a song to the wind,
      and the wind will carry your song away.
Someday I will stand on this porch
      and watch your arms waving to me
      until I no longer see you.
I should tell you that the line breaks are mine as most of the sentences went over two-page spreads. The book features the soft, gentle illustrations of Peter H. Reynolds, which complement the text nicely. Tissues are not provided.

The Secret: Part II

The most common thought that people hold, and I held it too, is that food was responsible for my weight gain. That is a belief that does not serve you, and in my mind now it is complete balderdash! Food is not responsible for putting on weight. It is your thought that food is responsible for putting on weight that actually has food put on weight. Remember, thoughts are primary cause of everything, and the rest is effects from those thoughts. Think perfect thoughts and the result must be perfect weight.
— from The Secret
What good news, because Chloe has been packing it on the last couple of years, and now I can tell her that it is not the food that is responsible for her large tummy, but her thinking that food will cause weight gain that is really responsible. I’m sure this concept would be life-changing for her, if she weren’t, you know, a cat.

Here’s my problem with The Secret. When I find a statement that I can get behind, like this:
Get clear on the weight you want to be. Have a picture in your mind of what you will look like when you have become that perfect weight.
Then I’m hit with something that seems this side of crazy, like this:
Let go of all those limiting thoughts. Food cannot cause you to put on weight, unless you think it can.
Come on! I see a benefit in the concept of focusing your energy on a positive instead of a negative — i.e., your target weight rather than the idea of losing weight — because you can make subtle and real changes by visualizing the end goal, or so I hear. With that picture of yourself in mind, maybe you’ll be less likely to grab that third Oreo (or fourth or fifth or sixth... don’t judge me!). But I can’t stand by the idea that food doesn’t contribute to weight gain. There are a lot of fat cats, fat lab mice, and ahem, fat people who will beg to differ on this concept.

The section about health raised similar problems for me. I think that it is possible to bring out healing powers from within, but I wouldn’t want to count on that instead of say, insulin for diabetes. I think that the more you focus on your bad health, the more depressed you get, and the worse you feel. But I don’t think that people are attracting cancer to them. Then there is this part, the most insane section of the book:
Often when people first hear this part of the Secret they recall events in history where masses of lives were lost, and they find it incomprehensible that so many people could have attracted themselves to the event. By the law of attraction, they had to be on the same frequency as the event. It doesn’t necessarily mean they thought of that exact event, but the frequency of their thoughts matched the frequency of the event. If people believe they can be in the wrong place at the wrong time, and they have no control over outside circumstances, those thoughts of fear, separation, and powerlessness, if persistent, can attract them to being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
I was going to put in a sarcastic comment about the World Trade Center or the Indonesian tsunami or the Holocaust, but I can’t even do it. I’m so irritated by that concept, that my blistering smart-ass response has been short-circuited.

Overall, The Secret was a great disappointment to me. There were some gems in there which focus on our own power to shape our thoughts and perspective, and by doing so, to shape our lives in real ways. There were useful messages about the power of positive thinking for our health, relationships, and ourselves. But for me, the good in this book was overshadowed by the bad and the totally insane.

The Secret: Part I

“I learned from The Secret that what you focus on expands. I hoped that wasn’t going to be true of her ass.”
— Roland Gentry, from “You Pay Your Dues
The SecretI missed the first buzz of Rhonda Byrne’s book, The Secret. But it wasn’t long before library patrons were asking for Secrets or The Secret to Life or That Book From Oprah, and I put my name on the hold list below three hundred other wisdom-seekers.

There may be a problem when you’re reading a book, and you’re already rolling your eyes at the dedication:
Dedicated to You

May The Secret bring you love and
joy for your entire existence.

That is my intention for you
and for the world.
I’m not going to enjoy this, am I? And it’s not that I hate self-help books. I’m a big fan of expanding self-knowledge and a big fan of books, so occasionally those two interests direct me to some interesting and useful publications. The writing in this one, though, was a little... much for me right from the start.

The overall premise of the book — and DVD — is that you attract to you that on which you focus. There is part of this concept that has value for me. I do think that as you focus on the negatives, you bring more negative energy in. I also think by focusing on the positive, that you bring positive energy in.

However, I don’t believe that if you focus on getting a bicycle for your birthday, that you’ll get a bike. I don’t believe that if you focus on a car, that you’ll get a car. I don’t believe that if you focus on George Clooney, you’ll get George Clooney. Because believe me, I’ve been focusing my energy there for years.

Oh I forgot — if it doesn’t work, then you’re just not believing in it strongly enough. Very clever.

Let’s get back to the good, just for today. There is value in understanding that your own thoughts control your experience of the world around you. Your positive or negative outlook will affect any given situation and/or your interpretation of that situation. I know people who always believe that they are the victims, and they do turn out to have bad luck more than I would otherwise expect. But neither are they able to look at the good aspect of anything that happens, so it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

In my own life, I’ve been looking at my tendency to attract chaos with my focus on current chaos. I’ve been feeling so very disorganized in my household and my activities, and it does seem that the more it bothers me, the worse it gets. Part of the problem is in my own ambivalence on the issue. While I would like an organized home and mind, I also think that some of the creativity in my humor and my writing comes from the disorder of things. It’s what let’s me make the link from Phillipa Gregory’s books to Lunchables. Or Nobel Peace Prize winners to Pinter tea lights at Hallmark.

What I didn’t get from the book, in attracting like to like, is how to break the bad patterns of attraction. For instance, in my situation, do I just imagine that I’m an organized person and then I’m done? So who picks up the actual Happy Meal toys and tosses the rock tumbler kit?

The Secret has 1,486 reviews on Amazon, and they are all over the board. Some of you may have strong opinions as well. Let’s leave today for your positive or more general comments. Tomorrow I — and you — can let loose on some less stellar aspects of this provocative book.

A Fourth Story

I wasn’t going to write this story, but then I looked at the line-up of posts I have. Go ahead, scroll down and look in awe. Or maybe a couple of notches below awe. There’s the ALA post with mucho comments. The new Knuffle Bunny exclusive. Two great book recommendations and one book slam. So even though this story is a little late, it feels right to include it and knock the one weak post off the page.

So I had a great Independence Day. At midnight, I was re-reading The Other Boleyn Girl, and I read until 2:00 a.m. for no other reason than I wanted to. I love this series, because though you know it might be trash, the historical aspect allows you believe that it’s good for you. They’re like the book equivalent of Lunchables.

I slept late, and then played around with my digital photos for a while. The family decided to give the community pool party a try, and even though I was worried that it would be too crowded, it was very fun. The kids played games diving for change, racing for soda, and swimming a relay race. There was also food and little star-spangled knick-knacks to buy. At the end, they had a beer dive for the adults. All the kids probably enjoyed that more than anything, because there is something very amusing about watching grown-ups make fools of themselves to get a beer. Adults call that “college.” We went home and Bill cooked out while I snuggled on the hammock with my younger daughter. We ate inside just as the storm went through, meaning the night would probably be fine for fireworks.

At the local fireworks display, we met up with our friends and set up a spot on the ground. After music and visiting, the show was about to begin. Now I didn’t think of the fireworks as a fake war, as noted by John Green at Brotherhood 2.0. It never crossed my mind. But he is an intelligent Printz-winning author, and I’m a blogger who just about wets herself with glee for using “bitch-slapped Tinkerbell” in a post, so maybe that’s understandable. What I’m saying here is that I was moved by the pretty lights and the crowds surrounding me. There was music playing during the display as well, and it was not your standard 1812 Overture, but pretty much any pop/country/rock song that featured the words “America” or “U.S.A.” Yes, we could question the wisdom of including Carrie Underwood’s “Independence Day,” which is about abuse, arson, and perhaps murder, but it was crazy-fun to sing out the chorus while the fireworks lit up the sky. “Let freedom ring! Let the white dove sing! Let the whole world know that today is a day of reckoning!”

Beside me was a man who was cheering on the display like most men would yell at a football game. Given the profusion of Spanish I heard uttered earlier, I’m going to make his story that he and his family recently came to America and were very excited to be here. With the fireworks, and the music, and the exuberance, I was touched. I thought it was one of the best shows I’d ever been to.

Suddenly the fireworks stopped. Technical difficulties. Much more like my luck, especially given my fantastic day. I mean, how much longer could things go well for me? But I was upbeat, and took my girls to the bathroom while the band played and we waited for the show to get back on track. While I was in line, a cute guy — shirtless and built and twenty-fiveish — started chatting me up. He even did the conversational arm-touch thing! I was in complete internal conflict between “Does he think I’m someone else?” and singing “Stacy’s mom has got it goin’ on!”

At that point, the announcement came on that the fireworks could not continue. Show over. Given my incredible day, with the hot guy flirting with me, the universe had clearly had enough. I blew some kind of karmic fuse.

I feel bad for the rest of the audience who paid for my mistake, but what can I do? If you believe The Secret, we all attracted that kind of luck with our negative energy, so maybe we’re all to blame.

And that leads me to the slight — very slight — book connection. At the end of next week, I’m bringing out The Secret. Brush off your copy, or skim it at the local bookstore, and we’ll talk the good, the bad, and the insane aspects of this bestseller.

Poetry Friday: What My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know

I love books in verse because they are so quick to read. What? You think the same thing, admit it. Sonya Sones also does a good job of making them funny, realistic, and completely enjoyable.

What My Girlfriend Doesn't KnowWhat My Girlfriend Doesn’t Know is a direct continuation of the story of What My Mother Doesn’t Know. In WMMDK, Sophie starts dating Robin, a boy very outside of the high school social circle, during the school’s winter break. In WMGDK, the break is over, and now they’ll have to see what happens when a popular girl dates a boy whose name is synonymous — literally — with loser. This poem from the book pretty much sums it up.
As Sophie and I walk through the halls,
holding hands on our way to art class,
it feels like we’re committing a crime.

Everyone who sees us
looks offended, grossed out,
horrified, even,

as though I’m King Kong,
and Sophie’s the little blonde
struggling to escape from my huge hairy fist.

They’re gawking at us,
like Sophie’s Beauty and I’m the Beast.
Like I’m Shrek and Sophie’s Fiona.

I can feel her palm
beginning to sweat in mine.
I can feel her fingers stiffening.

But I try to let go of her hand,
so that people won’t know
we’re together —

she won’t let me.
The relationship is difficult for both of them. Sophie is losing her friends. Robin feels responsible for her unhappiness, and additionally has to look more closely at his own social status. He finds some refuge in a college art class that he is allowed to take. On campus, the students don’t know his past or his age and accept him for the funny, smart, talented guy that he is. In some ways, that only makes the situation harder.

As someone who regularly dated... let’s say unexpected guys in my own high school and college careers, I could relate to the story. It’s all too easy to say in books that it doesn’t matter who is identified as cool or uncool, but as someone who’s been there, it matters. You try being the smart kid whose arty boyfriend goes through a punk phase, though I have to admit that I lost interest just before the mohawk made its appearance. His, not mine.

In this book I was intrigued with the boy’s point of view of the odd-couple relationship. Teen girls may also appreciate the boy’s perspective on the early stages of making out. I’d say it was a tad overdone on the “it will all be better in college” message, but maybe smart teens need that idea hammered home by someone other than their parents. There was definitely a strong message for girls to take it slow with their boyfriends — but with two daughters, you’re not going to find me objecting to that concept.

The Tinkerbell Policy

Little Honey Bear and the Smiley MoonI have a new policy on picture books: I refuse to read anything that will leave me covered in glitter. Someone has to take a stand, before adults and kids everywhere start taking on a fairy-dust-like sheen. Little Honey Bear and the Smiley Moon, written by Gillian Lobel and illustrated by Tim Warnes, has the honor of provoking this policy, because ohmigod, all the glitter. On every page. All over every page. Because even on the pages where glitter was not supposed to be, oh glitter was. By the time I had finished reading the book, my hands looked like I had bitch-slapped Tinkerbell.

I’m not even sure what the book was about anymore; between the glitter and the phrasing and the title itself, I was all gooey sweetnessed out before I had reached page four. I think that Little Honey Bear and his cute friends Lily Long Ears and Teeny Tiny Mouse (I can’t believe that I was going to try to come with names cuter than that) went off to meet the smiley moon. When the moon is covered by a cloud, they get lost, until Mommy Bear finds them.

Another problem, now that I’ve had to read to find out what happened: Mother Bear smiles as she takes them all home for a special supper after finding the bear and his friends. Smiles? Special supper? Are you kidding me? Baby bears climbing out of bed, going outside without asking, and leaving the yard? Mommy Bear should have opened a can of whoop-ass on that misbehaving little bear! Let’s talk about consequences!

Syrupy-sweet, glitter-laden, and message-impaired. Three strikes. Yes, kids may love the glitter. Okay, we knows they loves the glitter. But at the very least, this sparkly spew of Satan has got to stay on the page.

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