Category Archives: Nonfiction

Review: Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff

Hunt, Gather, Parent by Michaeleen Doucleff

Hunt, Gather, Parent: What Ancient Cultures Can Teach Us About the Lost Art of Raising Happy, Helpful Humans
Michaeleen Doucleff, PhD
Avid Reader Press
Published March 2, 2021

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About Hunt, Gather, Parent

When Dr. Michaeleen Doucleff becomes a mother, she examines the studies behind modern parenting guidance and finds the evidence frustratingly limited and the conclusions often ineffective. Curious to learn about more effective parenting approaches, she visits a Maya village in the Yucatán Peninsula. There she encounters moms and dads who parent in a totally different way than we do—and raise extraordinarily kind, generous, and helpful children without yelling, nagging, or issuing timeouts. What else, Doucleff wonders, are Western parents missing out on?

In HUNT, GATHER, PARENT, Doucleff sets out with her three-year-old daughter in tow to learn and practice parenting strategies from families in three of the world’s most venerable communities: Maya families in Mexico, Inuit families above the Arctic Circle, and Hadzabe families in Tanzania. She sees that these cultures don’t have the same problems with children that Western parents do. Most strikingly, parents build a relationship with young children that is vastly different from the one many Western parents develop—it’s built on cooperation instead of control, trust instead of fear, and personalized needs instead of standardized development milestones.

Maya parents are masters at raising cooperative children. Without resorting to bribes, threats, or chore charts, Maya parents rear loyal helpers by including kids in household tasks from the time they can walk. Inuit parents have developed a remarkably effective approach for teaching children emotional intelligence. When kids cry, hit, or act out, Inuit parents respond with a calm, gentle demeanor that teaches children how to settle themselves down and think before acting. Hadzabe parents are world experts on raising confident, self-driven kids with a simple tool that protects children from stress and anxiety, so common now among American kids.

Not only does Doucleff live with families and observe their techniques firsthand, she also applies them with her own daughter, with striking results. She learns to discipline without yelling. She talks to psychologists, neuroscientists, anthropologists, and sociologists and explains how these strategies can impact children’s mental health and development. Filled with practical takeaways that parents can implement immediately, HUNT, GATHER, PARENT helps us rethink the ways we relate to our children, and reveals a universal parenting paradigm adapted for American families.

My Review

I can already tell I need a hard copy of this book for notes and highlights. Also, I need to listen to the audiobook version again.

The author narrates the audiobook, and I found it easy to listen to her. Her conversational style makes it feel like having a conversation with another mom about common parenting challenges. She also tells stories from the parenting trenches. Plus, a bonus: science!

First off, I really liked the way this book was broken down into parts. First, a research section discusses our (specifically, the WEIRD, Western, United States-based) approach to psychology. It looks at the study of what’s good for children and how much it assumes or misses by ignoring the input of other cultures. Three big parts focus on Doucleff’s time with parents from each of three different cultures: Maya, Inuit, and Hadzabe parents.

There are also TONS of helpful tips and ways to put the different concepts Doucleff explores into practice. Looking for ways to get your kids to help with chores? There’s a section for that. Want your littles to be more autonomous? The author’s got you covered. There are so many ideas I want to try in this book. I feel like I’m going to reference it for a while since I can only manage to introduce one or two at a time.

On the whole, this is a super practical, well-researched book that parents of younger children will find especially helpful. Though you can apply the concepts to all ages, I think it’ll be easiest to introduce them to younger kids.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages whatever age you become a parent. Ha.

Representation
The book contains wisdom and teaching from Maya, Inuit, and Hadzabe parents and leaders.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Mild profanity used very infrequently.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content
None.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog.

tons of helpful parenting strategies and solutions based on Maya, Inuit, and Hadzabe traditions.

Review: Sick!: The Twists and Turns Behind Animal Germs by Heather L. Montgomery and Lindsey Leigh

Sick!: The Twists and Turns Behind Animal Germs
Heather L. Montgomery
Illustrated by Lindsey Leigh
Bloomsbury USA Children’s
Published February 20, 2024

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About Sick!

When a super sickness lands on the land, when a parasite becomes more than a pest, when an infection ignites an epidemic, what’s a body to do? Your body is an animal body, so why not ask the animals?

Follow the scientists, around the world and into their labs, who are studying animals and the germs that attack them. From fungus-ridden frogs with fevers to bacteria-resistant buzzards and everything in-between, animals have A LOT to teach us about infections. But-reader beware!!-the story of germs is filled with twists and turns.

In this fascinating, highly visual nonfiction book packed with colorful, comic-style art, you’ll discover not only the cool ways that animal bodies (and our bodies) fight back against pesky pathogens but also the amazing and surprising ways we can learn to work together with germs.

Sick! The Twists and Turns Behind Animal Germs is written by Heather L. Montgomery with graphic novel-style art from Lindsey Leigh.

My Review

The book begins with a note to readers warning them that not all the questions raised in the book have answers. There are lots of mysteries scientists still explore today and lots of things we can only guess at understanding. With my expectations appropriately tailored, I jumped into reading this book– and was hooked on the fascinating facts inside it.

For most of the book, each chapter focuses on one type of animal and the different pests– pathogens and parasites– that attack it. We learn what the animal has done to adapt to the invaders or, in some cases, what we suspect might be happening. From frogs and alligators to chimpanzees and bats, the book explores facts about lots of different types of animals. It also mentions ways in which our discoveries about these animals’ disease-fighting adaptations may be used to create treatments or vaccines for human diseases.

I found this to be super fascinating stuff. Because I read a pre-release, unfinished copy of the book, I couldn’t see a lot of the final illustrations. A few of the sketches that I could see were a little challenging to interpret. I don’t know if any of the artwork I was looking at is final, though, so it could be that the finished images relate information much more clearly.

On the whole, I think this is a great introduction to animals and diseases and how different species interact. It’s very upbeat and fun, so this isn’t something that intends to scare anyone. It’s engaging and definitely the kind of book that could spark a deeper interest in biology or medicine.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 up.

Representation
The text briefly mentions some scientists of diverse backgrounds.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
References poop, as you might expect in talking about animals and the transmission of parasites or germs.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
None.

Violent Content
Brief descriptions of territorial battles between alligators that leave the loser short a limb and the methods vultures use to get into carrion. Some brief descriptions of the ways germs and parasites destroy their hosts.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Marvelous Middle-Grade Mondays

I’m sharing this post as a part of a weekly round-up of middle-grade posts called Marvelous Middle-Grade Mondays. Check out other blogs posting about middle-grade books today on Marvelous Middle-Grade Mondays at Always in the Middle with Greg Pattridge.

Review: Holy Care for the Whole Self by Laura L. Smith

Holy Care for the Whole Self
Laura L. Smith
Our Daily Bread Publishing
February 6, 2024

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About Holy Care for the Whole Self: Biblical Wisdom for Mental and Spiritual Well-Being

Learn how to have a healthy mind and spirit with a biblical approach. Whether you’re carrying emotional wounds from childhood or suffering from daily anxiety, depression, or intrusive thoughts, none of these are God’s intention for you. He lovingly knit you together in your mother’s womb and calls you to a life of abundance. He offers healing and freedom from these feelings of despair, and Laura L. Smith is here to help you receive them. 

Join Laura as she guides you through tangible tools like prayer, healthcare resources, exercise, Bible memorization, setting boundaries, breathing exercises, gratitude, counseling, and so much more. Experience the rest and restoration our God has to offer.

My Review

Laura L. Smith is one of the few Christian authors that I still follow closely, and I am always glad I do. Her books are saturated with her faith but very centered on celebrating God’s love and encouraging others that they are worthy of every bit of that love. It’s always refreshing and grounding to read her books, and this one is no exception.

Not long ago, I left a Christian book award program when it awarded a book that I felt equated depression and suicidal thoughts with demonic possession. I realize the story was fiction, but it really left me with some ick feelings, and I kept thinking of the teens (and adults) I knew who’d been shamed for anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues as if they needed to have more faith or rebuke the devil better or something.

I wish I could say that organization was the only place I encountered that attitude. It’s absolutely not. I hadn’t realized that I still carry with me a guardedness toward books on faith as if I’m continually braced for the shame game when it comes to mental health concerns.

That said, this book is not about shaming anyone. In the early chapters, the author compares depression or anxiety to other illnesses or disorders. Can prayer help? Sure, she says. But if we have a child with a heart problem, we don’t simply pray for it to go away– we can pray, sure– but we also take the kid to a pediatric cardiologist and follow the doctor’s instructions. It doesn’t have to be either/or. We can have both, and in fact, that’s healthier. I love that.

This book gives a lot of practical tips for managing lower daily stress and anxiety, like making sure you’ve eaten or resting when you need to, etc. It’s very therapy-positive, with stories from the author herself as well as other friends she’s interviewed talking about the benefits of seeking professional counseling and medication where it’s needed.

Conclusion

You’ll find lots of encouragement in the pages of this book. It’s very grounded in the Bible, and each concept is connected back to a verse or passage from the Bible. When I have friends who are looking for faith-based help with mental health issues, this is absolutely a book I’ll recommend. (Good Boundaries and Goodbyes by Lysa TerKeurst is also on that list!)

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 16 up.

Representation
The author is white. She shares stories from friends and professionals but doesn’t offer race information about those individuals.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
References to a person who was unfaithful in their marriage.

Spiritual Content
This faith-based book centered around Christian principles and practices to support mental health contains lots of references to Bible verses and biblical stories.

Violent Content
None.

Drug Content
References to addiction.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Review: Always Matt: A Tribute to Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman and Brian Britigan

Always Matt: A Tribute to Matthew Shepard
Lesléa Newman
Illustrated by Brian Britigan
Abrams ComicArts
Published September 26, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Always Matt: A Tribute to Matthew Shepard

A poignant tribute to the life of Matthew Shepard and his legacy in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights, published on the 25th anniversary of the formation of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

On the night of October 6, 1998, in Laramie, Wyoming, Matthew Wayne Shepard (1976–1998) was brutally killed solely because he was gay. It was a shocking murder that was nationally covered in the media, and it became a rallying cry for the LGBTQ+ rights movement. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed by President Barack Obama, expanding the federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

With a foreword by Jason Collins—the first openly gay, active player in the NBA—and written by Lesléa Newman—author of the Stonewall Honor–winning novel-in-verse October A Song for Matthew Shepard, and a friend of the Shepard family—Always Matt is an emotional yet ultimately hopeful look at the progress that’s been made, as well as the work that still continues, in advocating for the dignity and equality of all people. Without shying away from the pain and tragedy of his death, moving, lyrical prose and minimalist line drawings present a celebration of his incredible life.

Twenty-five years after the formation of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which dedicates its mission to erasing hate, Matthew’s story still resonates for those who lived through it, and remains a vital piece of LGBTQ+ history for younger generations to learn.

My Review

I don’t have any strong memories from when these events happened, but I know I’d heard about Matthew Shepard before reading this book. Despite not having a personal connection to the tragedy, I found reading this book so deeply moving. Each page drew me into thinking about what Matthew Shepard’s life was like. His childhood. Adolescence. Early adulthood.

When I got to the page that references his death, I felt gut-punched. I felt gut-punched again reading about the hateful protests at the courthouse and the funeral service. Is there anything as destructive as hate? Awful. I loved that people dressed up as angels with giant wings that they used to shield people from those messages of hate and fear.

What’s truly beautiful, though, is the way that Matt’s family and community have rallied together to share a message of peace and kindness. It’s courageous.

This is a brave book. It’s unflinching in its truth-telling, but it centers around celebrating a boy’s life, his dreams, and hopes for the future. In the foreword, Jason Collins shares how Matthew Shepard’s death impacted him personally. The author and illustrator also share their personal connections. There were a few other brief stories about people who’ve been impacted. All were so heartfelt.

This is an incredible tribute to a young man whose life has, without doubt, changed the world. I am honestly in awe, and I’m so grateful that the author reached out and asked me to review this book.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Includes a foreward by Jason Collins, the first openly gay active NBA player. The story focuses on the life of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
The family received comfort in Matt’s ashes being interred at an Episcopal church with a ceremony led by the first openly gay bishop in the church.

Violent Content
One illustration shows Matthew Shepard lying on the ground after being attacked. It isn’t graphic, but I did find the image shocking because it really brings home what happened. The text talks about the murder briefly but spends much more time talking about the impact this senseless death had on the community and world.

There are brief references to homophobic protests held at Matthew Shepard’s funeral and outside the hospital.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of ALWAYS MATT in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Matthew Shepard Foundation

The Matthew Shepard Foundation is an organization that works to promote dignity and equality among all people through sharing Matt’s story and his passion for creating a kinder world. You can learn more about the foundation on their website.

Review: The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition by Anne Frank

The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition
Anne Frank
EFE Books
Published May 15, 2022

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About The Diary of a Young Girl: The Definitive Edition

The Diary of a Young Girl, often known as the Anne Frank Diary, is a collection of entries from Anne Frank’s Dutch-language diary, which she recorded while a thirteen-year-old Jewish girl and her family evacuated their house in Amsterdam and went into hiding in 1942 when Nazis occupied Holland. Anne Frank died of typhus at the Bergen-Belsen detention camp in 1945 after the family was captured in 1944.

Anne Frank kept a diary throughout this time, recording vivid recollections of her events. Her tale is a fascinating commentary on human tenacity and weakness, as well as a riveting self-portrait of a sensitive and energetic young lady whose promise was sadly cut short. Miep Gies was able to retrieve the diary.

My Review

I’d been thinking that I’d read Anne Frank’s diary in school, but I don’t think that’s actually true. I know we read the play based on her diary and then went to see it performed by a local community theatre. I don’t think we read her actual diary, though.

This year, one of the books banned near me is the graphic novel adaptation of Anne Frank’s diary. I would like to read that book, but wanted to read the original first, since the objection to the graphic novel seems to be that something included in it isn’t accurate to the original diary.

Some Facts I Learned from the Foreward of Diary of a Young Girl

Anne initially kept her diary for herself, but when a member of the exiled Dutch government expressed interest in personal witness accounts written during the war, Anne began editing her diary entries with the intent on publishing her writing someday.

Anne’s father put together the entries that formed the first publication of the book. He opted not to include journal entries referencing Anne’s sexuality (something not discussed at the time in young adult literature) and negative thoughts about her mom and other people she lived with in the Secret Annex.

When Anne’s father, Otto Frank, died, the diary became the property of the Netherlands State Institute for War Documentation, which investigated and proved the diary authentic. After that, the diary was published in its entirety.

After that, the sole heir of Otto Frank, who owned the copyrights of Anne’s diary, sought to publish a new, expanded edition of the work. This contains about thirty percent new material compared to the original publication.

She Was Thirteen

As I read the entries to Anne Frank’s diary, it struck me again and again how young she was when she wrote them. Though she intended to publish something based on her diary, we don’t have a way of knowing what she would or would not have wanted publicly known. How would she have felt about the things she wrote about her mom and sister– and even her dad– if she’d been the family member to survive the war? We will never have the chance to know.

She wrote so many insightful things, too. She wrote about the anxiety and depression of being in hiding. Her family would hear rumors of arrests, torture, and death in concentration camps. They endured nighttime bombings, knowing if any of them were injured, they couldn’t safely get medical help. And if the building in which they were hiding was destroyed, they’d have nowhere to go.

She wrote about falling in love, about growing up, and about the changes in her relationships with her family members as she grew.

Anne Frank Wanted to Be a Writer

Every life lost in the war and Holocaust is tragic, but there is something especially tragic about the loss of this young writer. Even as a teenager, she had such a gift with words. What would our world have been like if she’d been able to pursue that gift and share it with us for decades more? What would she have written about her life in hiding and about the aftermath of the war if she’d lived to tell us?

I feel like her story would be important anyway as a record of her experiences, but I’m sure what’s made it so enduring is Anne’s ability to articulate her thoughts and experiences in a way that transcends her age. Some passages in the diary are so powerfully written. And yet, in others, she reminds us that she’s an early teenager with hopes and dreams and frustrations about her family, her studies, and her relationships.

Conclusion

I’m so glad I read this book. I think Anne Frank’s story more than deserves its place of honor. This book is so much more than a teenage girl’s diary. It’s an account of a young girl forced into hiding with her family, coming of age during World War II. It’s the story of a bright young mind who finds humor in the everyday goings on around her. This is the story of a girl whose life was brutally ended far too soon.

I highly recommend reading THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL by Anne Frank if you haven’t already. I also think it would be worth rereading as an adult because I know that impacted my perspective.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 up.

Representation
Anne, her family, and the others living in the Secret Annex are Jewish.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Anne uses an offensive racial term for biracial people. (She doesn’t appear to be using the term to be purposely offensive, but in the context of the language commonly used at the time.)

Romance/Sexual Content
Anne reports she once asked a female friend if she could see her breasts and wanted to kiss her. She says she feels “ecstasy” when seeing female bodies. Anne laments that her parents never spoke openly with her about sex. She mentions speaking openly with Peter about the bodies of men and women. Kissing between boy and girl.

Spiritual Content
Anne’s family celebrates Hanukkah and St. Nicholas Day together.

Violent Content
Anne hears rumors of citizens being executed. She hears rumors about people taken to concentration camps. Her family hears they get very little food or water, that thousands must share a single bathroom, that their heads are shaved, and that many are murdered. Anne worries about friends from school and others her family knew. She sometimes has dreams of them asking her for help.

Anne very briefly mentions that someone in her family once tried to end their life.

Drug Content
An adult drinks wine and then does not sleep well. Another adult smokes, and others tell him he should quit. Other scenes reference people drinking alcohol. Anne takes Valerian drops to combat feelings of anxiety and panic during her time in hiding.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE DIARY OF A YOUNG GIRL: THE DEFINITIVE EDITION in exchange for my honest review.

Review: We Are Palestinian by Reem Kassis and Noha Eilouti

We Are Palestinian: A Celebration of Culture and Tradition
Reem Kassis
Illustrated by Noha Eilouti
Crocodile Books
Published September 19, 2023

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About We Are Palestinian: A Celebration of Culture and Tradition

A stunning non-fiction children’s book celebrating everything Palestinian!

From culture and food, to music and literature, We Are Palestinian is a celebration of Palestinian heritage. Brought to life by award-winning writer Reem Kassis, every spread is filled with wonderful anecdotes, fascinating facts, and memorable quotes. It is beautifully illustrated by Noha Eilouti, an emerging Palestinian-Canadian illustrator.

Discover ALL about the history of iconic Palestinian symbols like tatreez embroidery, or the inspiration behind Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry. As you turn every page, you’ll find yourself lost in the world of Dabke (the folk dance of Palestine) and amazed by its famous old cities; you’ll try traditional food like knafeh, explore the different religions, and find out much more. Each spread of We Are Palestinian is accessible, richly inspiring, and visually stunning.

Young readers are going to love discovering more about Palestine. This is the perfect book for parents, educators, and caregivers wishing to explore new worlds of culture and custom with children!

My Review

This is such a cool book. Because of what’s happening in that part of the world, Palestine is in the news so much right now. I love that there’s a celebratory, informative book that kids can read so they have a better understanding of who Palestinian people are and what their lives look like.

I remember just reaching the age when I paid more attention to the news and wanting to know more about the places that reporters were talking about. It’s great that we have resources that allow us to celebrate the rich culture and history of Palestinians without asking kids to weigh in on complex political issues.

The book covers a range of topics, from exploring significant cities in the area to cultural symbols like dress, the flag, and national anthem to celebrated artists, writers, athletes, and entertainers. Because I’m Italian and speak the language of the love of food, I also really enjoyed the parts of the book that focus on the different kinds of food that Palestinians eat. Yum! (Side note: the author also wrote a cookbook of Palestinian food. I am definitely going to check it out.)

I learned a lot from reading this book. As you read, the author might use a word like the name of a dish and a parenthetical reference beside it will note where you can read more about that food. I think it would have strengthened the comprehension if the book included a vocabulary section in the back. Sometimes I felt like the definitions within the text were a little vague.

On the whole, though, I think this is a great book and very timely.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 9 up.

Representation
As you can guess from the title, the book focuses on the life experiences of Palestinians. One section highlights famous Palestinian people from artists to activists to athletes.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Reference to clothing worn for weddings.

Spiritual Content
References Islam, Christianity, and Judaism and discusses how and why certain cities are important to members of all three faiths.

Violent Content
Brief reference to warfare in the region and the lives of Palestinians as refugees.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of WE ARE PALESTINIAN in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.