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The Thing About Leftovers

by C.C. Payne

True confession time: I’m a retired woman, on a budget in a town of 600 people with a teeny library.  To feed my book habit, I enter EVERY contest I can find.  Every Single One. Most times I am unaware of the author, and often don’t even bother to read the book description.  There was over a year of my life when a brain injury meant I was unable to read, and once healed I vowed to read like a maniac. So, I contest like mad.  blog

I won The Thing About Leftovers and eagerly began the book several days ago.  A few pages in, I became suspicious and started looking closely at the book information. I was saddened when I read: Penguin.com/Young Readers Ages 10 up.

FYI, I am way up past 10 years old.

Sigh.

But, I’d won the book, the author had kindly personalized it and mailed it quickly.  I determined to stick it out. I figured at 52 I could read faster than a 10 year old and would zip through to ease my guilt.

A funny thing happened….I became absorbed. I actually read it in two days, not to get it over with, but because I couldn’t put it down.

Payne wrote a novel with a compelling main character, Fizzy, a sad young girl who had her life ripped from her when her parents divorced.  Mom relocated to another town.  Dad found another woman. Fizzy became the new student (outcast) at an unfamiliar school.  Most teachers were uninterested, old friends abandoned her, Mom began a new relationship and Fizzy was lost.  Leftover from an old world, unsure of her place, feeling unloved, this is the story of pain, loss, rebuilding.

The Thing About Leftovers punched me in the gut.

I lived much of Fizzy’s life. My mom was married and divorced three times. There were multiple dads among the siblings, and by marriage number three I was one of the last remaining kids at home.  I had the stepfather who moved in and took over.  I lost my older siblings who fled and remained away for decades.  The only other sibling who stayed was drinking at 19, an alcoholic in his 20s and dead at 37.  My purpose as a youngster was to be the peacemaker.  To make people laugh. To be good and not cause problems.

My entire childhood was fractured and upon my parent’s deaths I was freed and packed away (much) of that pain.  I worked very hard to create a different life for my kids where they were loved unconditionally and my marriage was strong and filled with joy.

Payne crafted a novel which caused me to remember.  I remembered through Fizzy and I cried.  Several times I actually had to stop reading because I felt so much pain for a fictional character, and for me who had forgotten how hard my childhood was all those years ago.

I am sure my reaction to Fizzy’s mom is much more vitriolic than the author intended, but I felt anger any time she was in the story. Every “yes, ma’am” uttered by Fizzy hurt me.  Even though the book ended on a positive note, with some moral (hopeful) lessons for other readers, this reader hurt and felt lots of discomfort.

I am glad I won this book.  I am glad I’m polite enough to have stuck with it because the catharsis was liberating.  It’s amazing how much I’d packed away and completely forgotten.  It says a lot about the writing skills of the author that she was so spot on describing the angst experienced by many of us during our formative years.

 

 

 

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Who is Santa?

by Stephen Bigalow

Full disclosure – Christmas is my holiday.  I’m the annoying person who decorates waaaayyy before Thanksgiving.  We started putting up our six, yes SIX, Christmas trees on November 1st and I accept my role as weirdo.  When I received a copy of Who Is Santa? I was overjoyed to find a new addition to our family library.  blog2

I have been a private school teacher, worked in Montessori schools, volunteered in children’s church, taught Sunday School and homeschooled my own boys so I have read a lot of books to children over the years.  Not all of them are worth reading twice, yet we all know if a kid likes a story, parents read and re-read and read it again.

Bigalow has penned a lovely book which parents will be happy to read often.  The dialogue is charming, illustrations are beautiful and it is creatively written.  What I really appreciated is that each chapter is manageable – bedtime routine will not go on and on, but you can enjoy this over the nights leading up to the holiday.  blog1

This is also a book which covers many age groups – to be read to for younger tots and older kids can read it themselves and be interested in exactly how the legend that is Santa came to be known.  It isn’t a fluffy book, and would be appreciated by those who enjoy long tales with lots of background.

 

Every Ornament Has Its Place

First book review since recovering from my 17 month bout with brain damage and I am excited to share something I wouldn’t typically read and review.  This one is special for several reasons.  As part of my brain exercise training, I joined the twitter community.   If you don’t understand how participating on twitter exercises your brain cells, I encourage you to take a look at that site.  Lots of cognitive abilities required and a real testament to juggling knives on fire.  Spending time there has improved my memory, allowed me to practice interacting and being, I hope, clever.

While on twitter I ran across a fellow high school graduate from my hometown.  He is now an author and was kind enough to send me a copy of his first published work.  “Every Ornament Has Its Place” written by Vincent Verrico and illustrated by Marcus Williams, is a delightful holiday story about 8-year old Matt, a favorite ornament and the Christmas spirit. LIB5197_C7

As a parent to grown children and a former homeschool and private school teacher, I have read a LOT of books to kids of all ages.  I also know how painful reading can be if the material is not enjoyable or becomes old quickly.  Verrico has penned a book which reads well.  I kept imagining the voices I would have used with my own boys.  The reader will also likely be reminded of their own family memories of Christmas decorating.  Like Matt’s family in the story, I could relate to the anticipation of going through the boxes which hold those special treasures enjoyed only one time a year.  We have often referred to our Christmas Tree as a time capsule – every ornament representing something as we traveled the country and bought souvenirs for the tree.

What surprised me about the story was the dialogue as well as depth.  Frequently children’s books lack a lot of interestbook 2 picing material for the parent who does the reading.  This one will not be a chore to share with your kids.  The team also smartly chose bright, interesting illustrations for your child to peruse.  Really well done and would highly recommend as part of your holiday tradition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And, because as a parent I was moved by the video shared by the author after publishing his book, I wanted to share that with you.  Well done Dad.  You raised a very special young man.