Tuesday, December 28, 2010

December 2010 Book List

40. Oogy by Larry Levin

Once again, another animal book caught my eye - and stole my heart. When Oogy was just a few months old, he was used as a bait dog for dog fights. He was found abandoned in a cage in an old building, half dead, his face torn, bones broken. The police took him to an animal emergency hospital where he was patched up and left alone. One of the nurses there found him a few days later, fell in love with him, and insisted that her veterinarian friend do everything he could to save his life.

The Levins met Oogy when they had taken their dying cat in to be euthanized. A vet tech was taking Oogy outside for a bit, but when he saw the Levins, he rushed over and loved them like they were old friends. Thus began Oogy's new life. The Levins adopted Oogy into their family, where he now thrives. (Larry Levin gave Oogy his name, a play on "ugly", which aptly describes Oogy's lopsided appearance.)

41. The Shepherd, the Angel, and Walter the Christmas Miracle Dog by Dave Barry

Every year around Christmas, I like to find a few short holiday novellas to read. Time is short, so I need something quick - and this was one of the quickest I've ever read!

Doug Barnes, a junior high student in the early 1960s, humorously recounts how his family came to get Walter, a dog to "replace" their recently deceased dog Frank, who died on Christmas Eve, right before their church Christmas pageant.

It's fun light reading with a few laugh-out-loud moments.

42. The Paper Bag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne

When I picked up this book, I wasn't sure what I was getting. I read part of the inside flap and thought it looked interesting. It turned out to be one of those rare holiday books that has quite an impact. It's not fluff. This one is hearty and it will stay with you for a long time.

Molar, who tells the story, and his older brother Aaron are taken to the mall the day after Thanksgiving to meet the new Santa - a friend of their father's who tells them he's going to give them the best Christmas present they never wanted. The catch is they have to help him on the oncology ward at a local children's hospital, where "Santa" is a doctor.

The boys come to know and love the children in the oncology ward, becoming fast friends with some of the patients. Molar and Aaron are given the special task of reaching out to two children in particular: Madhu, an Indian boy with a failing liver, and Katrina, a lonely girl who wears a paper bag over her head to hide the effects of a brain tumor.

I won't give away any more of the story, but the boys do indeed get something beyond their wildest dreams for Christmas - as well as seeing the Christmas wishes of Madhu, Katrina, and a few others come true.

This story could be true, and I often wonder how much of it is based on someone's actual experience. It's heartwarming and will bring tears to your eyes. This is a book to own and reread every year.

43. The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards

Dr. David Henry delivers his wife Norah's twins in the middle of a snow storm. Paul is perfect; Phoebe has Down syndrome. He gives Phoebe to his nurse Caroline Gill to take to an institution, then tells Norah she died. Caroline decides to raise Phoebe as her own daughter and leaves town. And so begins a series of lies that drives a wedge between everyone involved.

Norah, caught in the midst of depression, changes her life in ways no one expects. Caroline, secretly in love with David, keeps him informed of Phoebe's development. David, wanting to spare his wife further pain, keeps knowledge of Phoebe's life with Caroline to himself. Paul, aware of the growing distance between his parents, feels things are his fault.

Plot twists throughout the book kept me from guessing what would happen next. Just when I thought I "knew" what was coming, something totally unexpected would happen.

The story is sad and beautiful. Inspiring and eye-opening. Even though it's not one of my favorite books, I had a hard time putting it down.

44. Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman

I had seen this book before, but I decided I needed to read it after we started school this year. Jacob started throwing fits before science and history each day. I was tired of dealing with it, and I thought Dr. Leman might have some suggestions. Boy, did he!

Basically, I had to look in the mirror and see if Jacob was emulating my actions (albeit magnified). Was I treating him with respect, or was I demanding that he do what I said when I said it? Was I being responsive to him in a positive or a negative way? Dr. Leman doesn't believe in coddling kids and catering to their every whim. Rather he believes in reality discipline - but I have to look at myself first and change what needs changing. Then I can start to work on my sons. (Yes, they both need some attitude adjustments here and there...)

The text of the 5-day "program" is short, easy to read. After that follows suggestions on various trouble areas families encounter and how to tackle them. Like I said earlier - reality discipline. I've been threatening and reminding, doing nothing to help my sons grow responsibly. Instead, I need to let reality be their teacher. If I say for them to do something and they don't, they need to learn from the consequences of their actions.

It's hard to do sometimes. Sometimes I just want to move on from the problem onto something else - but then they aren't learning anything and I'm just reinforcing bad behavior. (No, they aren't that bad, but there's room for improvement.)

Thankfully I have a lot of these suggestions in another Leman book, Making Your Child Mind Without Losing Yours. Great book! Now I can return this one to the library. I'm sure there are some other parents out there who need to read it.

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