A therapeutic title: Cleo the Crocodile

While this book looks like just another children’s story/activity book it certainly is not. This one is meant to be a resource for children, mental health professionals and others who are tasked with helping youngsters who have experienced significant trauma. The story of Cleo is told from the point of view of animals so as to allow children to listen without having to initially claim the story as their own.

Cleo has had painful experiences but they are all that Cleo has known; change, even if it might be for the better, is scary. Children hearing the story will see that it takes Cleo a long time to trust but that, eventually, things get better. This book then has a series of guided activities that children and their trusted adults can work on together and at their own pace.

This resource will be welcomed by social workers, foster carers, therapists and others who work with children who are trying to cope with their difficult histories.

#CleoTheCrocodileActivityBookForChildrenWhoAreAfraidToGetClose #NetGalley

The Kennedy Debutante by Maher

The Kennedy DebutanteThis novel is a richly imagined, evocative and detailed portrait of life in England, Europe and the U.S. in the years surrounding WW II.  The book focuses on the Kennedys and their circle.

Readers will spend time with staunchly Catholic parents, Joe and Rose, who have many aspirations for their children.  Joe Jr. and JFK are portrayed as they fall in love and commit to service in the war.  Rosemary and her emotional struggles are described and the younger Kennedy children also have a place.  The book though is most especially the story of Kathleen (Kick) Kennedy and her friends, colleague, romances and search for meaning.

Kick falls in love with England where she strives to find a worthwhile life while also enjoying a busy social life with her friends, including Deborah Mitford and her circle.  Kick is always aware of what is expected of her as a Kennedy but struggles with this.

Nowadays when marriages are not universally expected to take place between people who are the same (the same race, religion, socioeconomic status, etc.), it is hard to recall that this was not always the case.  However, when Kathleen (Kick) Kennedy, of Irish background and Catholic, falls in love with Billy, an aristocratic British, Protestant, her parents clearly do not approve.  How Kick chooses to live her life forms the core of the novel.  I do not want to put in any spoilers so will stop here.

I found The Kennedy Debutante to be an excellent historical novel.  I hope that you will too!

Critical Praise for the book:
“You will be swept up, first and foremost, by its vivid, captivating heroine. Kick Kennedy was naive and privileged, to be sure, but in Maher’s masterful portrait, she is also a bold young woman living at a precarious moment in history, eager to make her mark on the world as fearlessly as she will follow her heart.”—Julia Glass, Author of A House Among the Trees and the National Book Award–winning Three Junes

“Maher’s assured debut, set against the backdrop of World War II, explores the life of JFK’s younger sister Kathleen “Kick” Kennedy…This immersive, rich portrait of a complex young woman from one of the world’s most famous families will hold readers in thrall.”—Publishers Weekly

A story about sharing and siblings: What are You Doing Benny? by Fagan and Denton

This picture book shows two foxes; I did not realize initially that they are brothers, although they are. Benny, the older fox, is having fun doing many different activities. Whenever the younger (nameless) fox asks to participate, he is told no. This happens repeatedly, in my opinion a few more times than needed for the sake of the story, although the illustrations are fun. Eventually the younger fox begins to play on his own although he continues to follow Benny a while longer. After a time, the two foxes begin to share and play together in an activity initiated by the younger.

This story shows the persistence of the younger fox and the older fox’s focusing on himself, not others. The ending, in which, Benny enters into an activity with his younger brother is meant to, at least temporarily, resolve their conflicts.

Younger siblings will most likely relate to being pushed away by their elders. Older siblings will be reminded of how hard it is when a younger brother or sister wants their attention. This is all fine but what I slightly quibble with is the persistence of the younger sibling. He might be viewed a bit as a victim, rather than as a child who has some resources of his own. Nonetheless, this may be a good story book to read with children of any birth order.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for this advance read. Opinions are my own.

#WhatAreYouDoingBenny #NetGalley

My best book of the year: Becoming by Michelle Obama

BecomingThis book has gotten so much advance…advance money, advance ticket sales for the tour, advance praise from many, including that magical bookseller, Oprah Winfrey.  I wondered if it could possibly be that good.  My own answer is, Yes.  It is that good and more.

This book is compelling not only because of the fame that Ms. Obama has achieved and the incredible accomplishments of her husband and herself. It is also compelling because it is a universal story of a girl growing up.  She is a girl with a secure family and also knowledge of the struggles her family faced and the inability of some of them to achieve their dreams because of their race. It is the story of parents who wanted the best for their children and raised them to be independent. It is the story of a girl who wants the best education she can have, even when a high school counselor tells her she is dreaming too high.  It is the story of a young woman who goes to the college SHE chooses and is aware of her minority status just about always.

The young Ms. Obama is driven and direct; she so very much wants to achieve and does. But…and this is important, she is able to look at her life and think about whether being a lawyer, for example, is what she really wants.  At such moments, Ms. Obama is open and candid.

Michelle Obama, as we all know, meets a young intern at her law firm.  The story of their courtship and marriage resonates.  Her descriptions of Barack Obama make me wish that I could know him for his remarkable mind, optimism and caring.  Yet, marriage is work is what comes across; life is not all fairy tale and the reader wants the best for this couple throughout the book.

I have not yet finished Becoming so may write more later but truly I urge you to read or listen to this one.  It is so very much worth your time whatever your political persuasion.

I am listening to the audio version of this book as it is Michelle Obama who narrates it.  I adore hearing her voice and her emphases as she reads.  I both want to finish this one and not finish it so that I can still have it to look forward to!

Five stars and more! Most highly recommended.