Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH

Vintage reads

 

 

Anthropomorphic. What a mouthful! But many children’s stories are anthropomorphic. Simple definition: a literary device attributing mrs_frisby_and_the_rats_of_nimhhuman qualities to animals or objects. However, Robert  O’Brien’s Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH an anthropomorphic story, is not merely fantasy. or in my mind, science fiction, because many of the human characteristics of the rats originated with a science experiment in a mental health laboratory at the National Institute of Mental Health.

Synopsis

Mrs. Frisby, a widowed mouse, seeks help from a band of odd-behaving rats who are extremely intelligent. As she becomes acquainted with them, she learns they escaped from the laboratory at NIMH. The rats help save her son’s life, and she in turn, is able to save theirs when danger hunts them down. I suppose that’s more of a hook than a synopsis, but I don’t want to give a whole lot away.

 

Because we have moved book reviews to the new website, you can see the pros and cons and more regarding the Rats of NIMH at scriblerians.com. You can read more details about the new site right here on the News Flash post.

 

News Flash!

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For all our wonderful and loyal followers, we have a News Flash for you!

The Scriblerians have opened up a new site!

http://www.scriblerians.com   (click on book reviews to subscribe)

We will still post here, but we are hoping you will check out our brand new idea for the literary world. Here is a description of who we are and what we will be providing.

About the Scriblerians

The Scriblerians is a group of nine authors and critique partners who write for student readers. We agree that our target audience is not the students, per se, but their parents, teachers, and librarians. We want to nurture relationships with those adults who make book-purchasing decisions for their student readers by providing an essential service to them.

We want to provide reviews for books, especially those written for the Middle Grade and Young Adult markets, evaluating both content and literary quality.

This will help us recommend engaging, well-written books and offer discussion questions for popular books that may include questionable content for a Christian-worldview reader.

 

Here is an excerpt from of a critique done by Loraine Kemp.

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A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is a bittersweet teen fiction about a boy struggling to come to terms with his mother’s serious illness.

Synopsis:

Connor, a twelve-year-old-boy, is faced with unbelievable stress – a dying mother, a father who has split from the family, a recurrent nightmare, a domineering grandmother, and bullies at school. Then, a monster visits. But this monster, which Connor initially believes is just a dream, insists that Connor “called” him. Between dealing with the above problems, Connor must listen to the monster’s stories that force him to confront his anger, confusion, and frustrations. And at the end of the monster’s three tales, Connor is forced to reciprocate by describing his nightmare – a story of truth, and the root of his depression and anxiety.

 

For the rest of the post including pros, cons, and general impression, hop over to our site http://www.scriblerians.com

Again, to subscribe, click book reviews and plunk away. We would love to see you there!

 

Writing . . . Reading . . . And Piecing Together an Adoption Story in 2017

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This January 3rd . . . uh, I mean 4th finds me making a serious effort to shift back into high gear after the holidays. Considering I was supposed to post this blog yesterday, it appears I’m still operating in low gear.

We enjoyed a grand time of celebrating the birth of the Saviour with family and friends. Then we shifted into a much needed slower pace to rest up from all of the holiday cheer. To catch our collective breaths before plunging into 2017. So far we’ve just dipped our toes in the water of the new year, but any second now the diving in will commence.

By comparison to November and December, January is a sloooowwww month. Although normal school and work schedules have resumed, not a lot else goes on and that’s fine by me. It’s the perfect set-up for getting back to writing. The final revisions on “Before I Knew You”, book one of my YA “Choices Matter” series, are seriously calling my name. Then it’s on to finishing books two and three.  I’m anxious to introduce this story to the world in 2017.

As much as I love my characters and their story, it will be a real challenge to stay away from the myriad of genealogy sites, Facebook groups, DNA how-to’s, and to also limit the chatting with all the awesome people I’ve met through these various means. Hey, it’s not every day a person learns she was found on a door step at three-days of age. Then discovers her probable birth mother’s family and meets a probable half-brother. To say I’ve been distracted is putting it mildly. (Find several posts about this journey here; posts are in reverse order.) 

Who knew that half-siblings and uncle/niece share the same amount of DNA? Although we feel quite certain we are looking at a half-sibling rather than uncle/niece relationship, a particular test will help us be sure since the parties directly involved cannot corroborate the story. So, a few days before Christmas, likely half-brother and I sat at my dining room table and carefully read instructions and completed forms for a DNA test that looks at the specific DNA mothers pass on to their children. I tell you, a person doesn’t realize how long sixty seconds is until you must swish/scrape a tiny brush/swab like thing against the inside of each cheek for a minute.cake

photo credit:  http://www.suddenlink.net/pages/jwiolold/Moms%20BD/91/91.html

This Friday we will celebrate the birthday of his (our) deceased mother by going out to dinner. She would have been 91-years-old this January 6th. He will share more about her, their life, our shared ancestors. We’ll probably compare more pictures—there is definitely a resemblance between her and I. We’ll ponder some more about the days and weeks leading up to and immediately following my birth. And I imagine each of us will continue to wonder how this event impacted the rest of her life.

While distant clues pointing toward the other side of the birth equatiScribcolumnon continue to appear, there are no breakthroughs to report. I’m hoping a close match will pop up any day now as the time and energy it takes to hone in on a birth parent with only third and fourth cousin DNA matches is extraordinary. Please stay tuned right here for future updates on this very real “slice” of my life.

The slower pace of January is perfect for both writing and reading. I’m thrilled to announce The Scriblerians are launching a fab book review site that will be a helpful resource for purchasers of middle grades and YA books, a place that will encourage constructive conversations about the books geared toward this important audience. I love reading YA fiction and just last night I perused for books I want to read and share with all of you in the coming year.

Writing . . . launching my new series . . . reading awesome YA fiction . . . piecing together an adoption story . . . 2017 is shaping up to be an amazing year.

I hope your 2017 is already off to a winning start and that it will continucropped-head-shot-2e to gain momentum in the weeks and months ahead. What are you most looking forward to accomplishing this year?

Beth is passionate about seeing GOD at work in the “slices” of every day life AND about the saving of sex for marriage. She believes strongly in accountability and mentoring and considers herself a cheerleader for “renewed waiting” too. Because SEX is worth waiting for. She’d love to hear from you! Comment here OR email her at waitingmatters@gmail.com. Connect with her on Facebook atBeth Steury, Author.

 

Christmas Hymns of Faith

With my day to post on Christmas Eve, I just couldn’t write about a favorite vintage book. December 24 is as much of a holy day on the Christian calendar as is Christmas Day. In fact, the two days together create a most holy time rivaled only by Holy Week leading up to Easter.


What better way to acknowledge this sacred time than to look at a few centuries-old hymns celebrating the birth of our Lord? I love at least a dozen, having sung them since I knew how to carry a tune. I’ve picked three.


“O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” I fell in love with this melody in a minor key the first time I was allowed to attend the midnight Christmas Eve service. Within the lyrics, I recognized how the people ached for Messiah’s arrival. They mourned in lonely exile. They begged Him to end all envy, strife, and quarrels. I felt their pain, and at the same time, I was filled with joy. For Messiah came! He answered their prayers! And I reap the benefits of His arrival, and subsequent sacrifice, on earth.

credit to: dewthis.blogspot.com

“Angels We Have Heard on High.” Every verse is filled with the story of the angels proclaiming Christ’s birth: they appeared to the shepherds, the shepherds were jubilant, and they were invited to see the newborn Messiah for themselves. The final stanza invites all of us to find this joy for ourselves.

But it was the “Glorias” that hooked me. What a thrill to take a deep breath and then belt out “GLO—————-RIA!” My little girl worship soared to the heavens, and I knew Jesus was pleased. Kind of like what the Little Drummer Boy felt–but I’m not going to choose his song today.

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“Joy to the World!” This hymn is so familiar, I tend to take it for granted, but when I consider the words, oh my! The words are why we sing it so often! Be joyful! The Lord has come. Even the rocks cry out! He’s broken the curse! We have the best ruler the world has ever known or will ever know! And He loves us beyond what we can imagine. Lots of exclamation points. I don’t know how to skimp on exclamation points with such a hymn! One is even included in the title.
It’s certainly worth your time to go over the words in these hymns with your children. Each is an individual sermon.
Which hymn would you choose to share with your child in detail? And why?
Have a blessed Christmas!

6 Dates to Disaster

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6 Dates to Disaster by Cynthia T Toney is a thought-provoking book for high school students. Wendy is coasting through the last weeks of school eager for her family trip to Alaska to see Mrs. V and Sam. Unfortunately, financial struggles threaten that dream. Wendy is determined to figure out a way to get to Alaska. When a job opportunity from a classmate looks like the ideal way, Wendy is forced to consider whether or not it’s too good to be true. There’s also a fun mystery involving a jewelry box, and Wendy’s former best friend has a new boyfriend who is bad news.

Pros: See my comment below about one of the main plot points related to a scandal that arises as a result from Wendy’s tutoring job. The ensuing ethical dilemma was thought-provoking. Cynthia creates strong and fun characters. Her stories are humorous and realistic but are clean and morally uplifting. Wendy’s stepdad looses his job threatening her summer plans. Consequently Wendy pitches in to earn money for her Alaska trip to see Mrs. V. David and Wendy handle coupledom without being too physical or dramatic. Wendy is a big-hearted girl, especially when it comes to her stepsister Alice and her former best friend Jen.

Cons: Not too many. There are a few ethical things that come up. The aforementioned plot point of Wendy’s tutoring job. Also, Jen gets involved with an older boy who is a bad influence. There’s alcohol involved, which is handled very well. It’s clear that underage drinking shouldn’t be condoned and that drinking and driving is extremely dangerous. David and Wendy kiss and physical temptation (at a very PG level) comes up. The two “put on the brakes” fast so the story doesn’t go far with this.

Rating: 5 Stars. I bought a copy of this book and will buy other copies for teens. It’s definitely a book for high school kids, possibly seventh or eighth graders. There’s nothing really inappropriate in the subject matter. However, it’s is a bit too mature for kids any younger than this.

Personal Opinion: I’m a big fan of the Bird Face series and 6 Dates doesn’t disappoint. Wendy is as funny and plucky as ever. Alice is sweet. David, Gail, etc. round out a strong supporting cast. Without spoiling anything, we’re reunited with several characters from 8 Notes to a Nobody (Book 1).

Discussion points for parents & teachers:

  1. Job Loss
  2. Family
  3. Dating/Relationships
  4. Academic Dishonesty
  5. Underage Drinking/Drinking and Driving
  6. Integrity
  7. Priorities

Most of all, Wendy’s dilemma about her tutoring job challenged me. She is concerned that she’s doing too much for the students she’s tutoring.  As an adult, I didn’t see anything wrong with what Wendy did. However, I had to step back and put myself in the shoes of a high school student. While adult writers might hire an editor or someone in another profession might have a peer or senior colleague review their work and mark it up with corrections and suggestions, that isn’t really the role of a tutor. They’re just supposed to help a student understand concepts not heavily correct or even rewrite assignments.

Cynthia T. Toney

Blog:  http://birdfacewendy.wordpress.comFacebook Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/birdfacewendy

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/CynthiaTToney

Twitter:  @CynthiaTToney

 Instagram:  @CynthiaTToney

Pinterest:  Cynthia T. Toney, YA Author

Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai

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Ten year old Ha and her family have to flee Saigon during the Vietnam war. They are one of the lucky ones who make it out before their home is destroyed. In America though, Ha considers herself the unluckiest girl in the world. Tormented by bullies and missing the familiar of her home she struggles to find her place.

Pros: Again. Beautiful cover. Full of so much life and really speaks to the core of the story. This book is about a ten year old but the subject matter gripped me and I’m sure it would any teen. It’s written in free form poetry so it is a quick easy read but it’s full of so much to ponder and chew on. Ha and her family are very real and deal with very serious situations but it’s presented in a very gentle way.

Cons: There is a church scene where Ha and her family are required to be baptized in order to be accepted into the community. It is not judgemental. It is from the viewpoint of a child that does not know why getting dunked in water makes her acceptable. The Lord’s name is used in vain once in response to the student’s mocking her about “Boo-dah” over and over again.

Rating: I would rate this PG 13 as it does deal with real emotional topics and there is the use of the Lord’s name in vain. Although, I think the way it’s presented in the book is a great springboard to discuss other religions with a teen.

Personal Opinion: I really liked this book. Got teary near the end as Ha dealt with one obstacle after another. It’s also great to see the other side of the Vietnam war. A side that included real people who lost their homes and families. It is an easy read but there is so much packed in there that I’m certain this is a book that I will read again and again to peel back another layer of the onion.

Discussion points for parents & teachers:

  1. Vietnam war
  2. Belonging
  3. Bullying
  4. Loss
  5. Being different/accepting people who are different

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The White Water Fountain: A Tale of Innocence Destroyed

Vintage reads

 

Last month I shared the childhood story of my education into the world of racial prejudice (The Colored Water Fountain: A Tale of Innocence). I told you it was a set-up for the book review in a future post. I decided to make it book reviews—two middle grade novels by Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear my Cry and Let the Circle Be Unbroken.

Middle-graders are ready to expand their horizons past their own homes and friends, to take on the deep questions of life and decide how they will choose to live. Taylor’s books are a great start in helping them examine the concept of prejudice.

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Set in the Depression Era, the books follow an African American family in the Deep South, poor in possessions but rich in love, who have the rare distinction of owning their land, much to the chagrin of the white plantation owners surrounding them.

Both stories are narrated by Cassie Logan. From her earliest memories, Cassie knows she must steer clear of trouble from whites because whenever there is a showdown, the Negroes lose. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry starts when Cassie is nine. The main story follows events leading up to the murder of a white man and ending with a black teenager wrongly convicted of the crime. As we read, we live what Cassie lives—her fears, her pride, and her anger at how unfair life is for black families.

We also see the white culture of the time—the raw power of the landowners, the hate and arrogance in the hearts of so many men, women, and children, and the woefully few who see the injustice. The last group lives between a rock and a hard place. If they try to stop the evil, night riders destroy their homes and livelihoods, and they lose every person who might have been called a friend.

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The novel also contains its own water fountain scene. While my tale from last month was humorous, Cassie’s story could have been tragic. She saw a water fountain in the courthouse, and she was thirsty. Only it was a WHITE water fountain. As she stepped up to it, her white friend yanked her backward and hauled her out of the courthouse before anyone saw she was in the hallway much less ready to drink from their fountain. He deposited Cassie with her older brother Stacey, who was furious. With her. When Stacey pointed out she could have been hanged for using that fountain and Jeremiah had saved her life, any hope she ever had of being considered equal with whites died on the courthouse lawn that day.

Let the Circle Be Unbroken continues the story of Cassie’s family. She’s eleven now, a little wiser, closer to womanhood. Stacey warns her she can’t be friends with Jeremiah, who is always nice to their family. The black man has learned by experience, that even if the white man seems friendly, you never know when he’ll buckle under the pressure of his own culture.

Against his parents’ wishes, Stacey leaves home determined to help the family earn money. His father knows a black boy on his own is easy prey for unscrupulous white bosses. He follows every lead to find Stacey and bring him home. While mother and father search, Cassie and her younger brothers learn several lessons about surviving in an unfriendly world.

Taylor has written other books about the Logan family over the course of twenty years. She gives us an eye-opening and heartwarming view into the heritage of African Americans. When she must describe a violent scene, her words pack an emotional punch instead of embellishing every bloody detail. Her message goes beyond the sting of racial conflicts and offers hope to humanity through the deep questions of right and wrong, good and evil, and the light of individuals who choose to do right.