Books That Matter

As a parent, one of my main goals is to raise my kids to care. Not just care, but care deeply. I want my kids to see other’s suffering and genuinely want to change it. I am doing my best to contribute to a generation that has the skills (emotional, educational & physical) to face the trails headed their way. Trials like deep inequality, rampant homelessness, lack of adequate food, clothing, health care and sadly the repercussions of perpetual war. I want my kids to feel empowered to make changes. A good way to do that is to give them a deep understanding of each issue. Books are a great tool to achieve this.

Malala Yousafzai Quote

    When I was growing up war was just the way things were. No one took the time to explain to me that there were other ways to handle attacks from other countries. I remember sitting in my classroom in middle school as the Twin Towers were hit by those planes. We watched the people jumping from the buildings on our tiny bulbous screen hung in the top corner of our classroom. About the time my teacher realized that people were jumping to their death in front of a class of children she turned the TV off. 

Another teacher came into my class and the two of them angrily discussed blowing those terrorists to smithereens. My classmates heatedly discussed how America would kill them all. In middle school…the KIDS went straight to death. There was no talk of any other way to handle the attack. I remember sitting and looking at all that anger and hate and all I could feel was devastation at the choice those people jumping had been forced to make. My mind reeled with the horror I knew was coming to the country responsible. I knew in a round about kind of way what happens in wars. I knew because every chance I had I was reading story after story about anything and everything. I cared because from a very young age my brain was used to thinking from anothers perspective.

I want my kids to think diplomatically and find solutions other than to kill everyone. I want my kids to understand that a handful of people from a country do not represent an entire populace. I want my kids to find solutions to complicated issues.

Einstein Quote about peace

  One way to do that is to read them or have them read stories that illustrate the consequences of war and poverty. I recently stumbled upon the “Through My Eyes” series while browsing books in my local library. At 20 months and 4 years my kids are still too young to read these but you can bet I will introduce them later. I suggest you read through them and introduce them to your kids when appropriate. 

Naveed CoverThe explosion jolts him awake. He sits up, gasping for air, heart thumping.

Was the blast real? Perhaps it had only happened in his head, a bad dream. Demons of the dark, his father had called them. ‘Push them away. They’ll only poison your thoughts. Seek the light and they can’t hurt you.’

Naveed is sick of war – of the foreign powers and the Taliban, the warlords and the drug barons that together have torn Afghanistan apart. He’s had to grow up quickly to take care of his widowed mother and little sister, making what little money he can doing odd jobs and selling at the markets. When he adopts Nasera, a street dog with extraordinary abilities, he has a chance to help rebuild his country. But will a new friend’s betrayal crush his dreams of peace forever?

Amina CoverAmina lives on the edges of Mogadishu. Her family’s house has been damaged in Somalia’s long civil war, but they continue to live there, reluctant to leave their home. Amina’s world is shattered when government forces come to arrest her father because his art has been officially censored, deemed too political. Then rebel forces kidnap Amina’s brother, forcing him to become a soldier in Somalia’s brutal ongoing war.

Although her mother and grandmother are still with her, Amina feels vulnerable and abandoned. Secretly, she begins to create her own artwork in the streets and the derelict buildings to give herself a sense of hope and to let out the burden of her heart. Her artwork explodes into Mogadishu’s underground world, providing a voice for people all over the city who hope for a better, more secure future.

 

Shahana Cover‘Open your eyes. We will not hurt you.’
The boy quietens; his eyes open.
‘Where are you from?’
The boy stares at them both; then says, ‘Who will you tell?’

Shahana lives alone with her young brother in the shadow of the Line of Control, the border patrolled by Pakistani and Indian soldiers that divides Kashmir in two. Life is hard, but Shahana ekes out a living with her beautiful embroidery. Then she finds a boy lying unconscious near the border. Zahid is from across the Line of Control, and Shahana takes a terrible risk by sheltering him. But how can she give Zahid up to the authorities when she knows he’ll be imprisoned – or worse?

An unforgettable novel about one young girl in war-torn Kashmir.

Emilio CoverFor high-school student Emilio Garcia Lopez, it’s an ordinary school day. But that evening the knock on the door announcing the arrival of his police officer cousin Juanita, flanked by a tall man in the uniform of the Federal Police, will turn his ordinary day into the beginning of a long nightmare. Emilio’s mother has been kidnapped in broad daylight from a hotel car park by unidentified criminals, who appear to know a great deal about her business and who have mistaken her for a wealthy businesswoman. An action-packed story set in a contemporary conflict zone.

 

 

Malini CoverMalini lives with her parents and young sister, Banni, in northern Sri Lanka. As the civil war heads towards its catastrophic end, Malini and her family are herded by Tamil Tiger troops towards the coast where they and thousands of other Tamil civilians will act as human shields. When Malini’s father pushes a phone into her hands and tells her to run off into the forest with Banni, Malini does as she is told. But then the shelling begins, and Malini has no way of finding her mother and father. With the role of parent thrust upon her, Malini has no choice but to travel to her grandfather’s village a long way inland. She and Banni will need to keep off the highways and stay alert for soldiers. But where will the next meal come from? Who can they trust? Where will they shelter? And will they ever be reunited with their parents again?

Zafir CoverZafir has a comfortable life in Homs, Syria, until his father, a doctor, is arrested for helping a protester who was campaigning for revolution. While his mother heads to Damascus to try to find out where his father is being held, Zafir stays with his grandmother – until her house is bombed. With his father in prison, his mother absent, his grandmother ill and not a friend left in the city, Zafir must stay with his Uncle Ghazi. But that too becomes dangerous as the city becomes more and more besieged. Will Zafir survive long enough to be reunited with his parents?

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Book Review “Private Lucky” Melissa Guzzetta

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This true story of survival, determination, and incredible luck will lift your spirits and inspire you to never give up on your dreams! Some people are born lucky. Others make their own luck. As a boy, Hank wanted nothing more than to fly like the fighter pilots he admires in the skies over Amsterdam. When the lives of Dutch citizens are turned upside down with the Nazi occupation of Holland, his dreams will have to wait as he witnesses the tragic unfolding of events affecting those around him before finding himself in a fight for his own life. He must go into hiding before his sixteenth birthday despite the fact that he is not Jewish. After the war, his life takes another unexpected turn when he is enlisted by his father in the American Army in Germany where his inability to speak English results in hilarious missteps at every turn. He can roll with the punches if the Army will teach him to fly, but when he learns that pilot training stopped with the end of the war, it seems he’ll never reach his goal. Undaunted, Private Hank evolves into a suave and popular soldier. He learns what it means to be American, arriving in America broke but determined to pursue his lofty goals in a manner only this quirky and very lucky Dutch-American would even think of trying, flying by the seat of his pants to some of the highest levels of aviation.

Private Lucky Cover

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First lines: Whap! Startled, I awoke to a stinging, wet slap to my left arm. Slap! What is this torture? Another two blows in rapid succession caused a body spasm, my defensive reflexes too slow to protect myself. I’m alive?

Private Lucky comes out of the gate establishing a fascinating, hilarious and determined tone that catches the readers eye and doesn’t let go. Immediately we find that Hank is a man whose life is filled with adventure. His story is certainly worth telling and I warn you now, you will have trouble putting this book down.

Knowing what is to come, I found reading the pre-war Holland section difficult. Since this is the true story of a very real man’s life, the usual detachment I have as a reader was stripped and I cringed at the tales of Hank’s boyhood adventures. If only his life could have continued to be full of pranks and mooning over airplanes.

I can not imagine the surreal experience of witnessing your country being attacked and invaded must of felt like.

A sentence from this section of the book moved me to tears.

“I shut my mouth and tried to understand why the music was not beautiful”. This hit me hard. Thinking of Hank as a child at the cusp of all the horror that is to hit his and so many lives, I empathized how it would feel for him. He was just a child watching a parade who couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement. I think this section of the book fully embodies the sheer naivety of a child.

The book outlines pieces of the war and Hank’s experiences without focusing mainly on that time. The transitions throughout the book are well placed. I felt like Hank reminds the reader and maybe himself that some of those who suffered came out ahead and had more stories to tell. That one period of their lives doesn’t completely define them as a person.

As Hank ages we get to meet Hank of many hats. We have Hank the womanizer. Hank the soldier. Hank the pilot. With his transitional diploma his adventures take him far and wide.

Hank has lived and I believe most likely continues to lead a life to the fullest. Reading history through his eyes was a delightful, humorous and sometimes somber experience. I thank him for his honesty and I applaud Guzzetta for telling it.

My rating for this book is 5 stars.

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: Private Lucky | Author(s): Melissa Guzzetta |Publisher: Good Luck Publishing / Publication Date: 09-23-2015 |Pages: 260 (Print) | ISBN:  978-0986403910 | Genre(s): Biographies & Memoirs  | Language: English |Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 7-6-2016 |Source: Copy from author

 

 

Book Review for “After Dad” by Ralph Cohen

 

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He was always there for me, Jenny Kovacek says in the opening of the novel After Dad, and indeed, her father is such a charismatic force in the family that despite his untimely passing, he continues to have a dynamic impact on his survivors. Set mostly in Southern California during the tumultuous 1960s, Ralph Cohen’s debut novel tells the stories of the man’s three children and widow as they cope with his loss. Though missing, the father is never far from their minds, and during critical moments in their lives, he seems to reach out in various ways, from simple memories of touch and voice to artifacts left behind to a sense of his ongoing existence. How each of the family members responds to his lingering presence leads to results that are by turn comic, tragic and transformative.

after dad cover

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After Dad was a haunting read. The author does such an amazing job drawing you into the eyes and thoughts of each character. 

Jenny seemed for the longest time to not believe her dad was really gone. You can feel her heart aching at his loss. Her dad truly was her best friend. She’s basically just floating in her existence. Her view of the world is very surreal. She is a very relatable character for me. 

Margot on the other hand felt his loss in a sharp way. Like a piece of her was just gone and all the cogs that needed to push each other for her to function lost all their teeth. Like a chasm opened up inside her and she couldn’t figure out how to keep from getting sucked all the way in. I felt for her. Life really does suck out parts of you along the way. I just wanted to grab her and give her the right direction to go in. 

Toby…poor Toby I think felt it worst of all. Maybe even more so than his mother. He lives in a delusion. It’s almost as if he moves in and out of reality. His character was fascinating to read from. His view on everything is so distorted. Even at the end….it’s as if he wasn’t really all the way into reality. 

I wish we would of been able to read more from Ruth’s perspective. Being left with three kids couldn’t have been more of a shock. Being married to someone with so much personality and then losing them….with everyone still looking at you to keep it together….I just can’t fathom the pain.

This man was such a vibrant person. With his stories and his flippant way of handling the world. Almost as if nothing could touch him. I can imagine how big a hole losing someone like that would leave.

It would feel empty. Empty and cold. 

Ralph Cohen has done something amazing here. He has brought these characters to life. He has made their grief so complicated and intricate. He has given me characters that will stick in my head for a long time. He has given me things to wonder….avenues into others complex feelings and experiences. 

He has done one of the hardest things an author can do. He’s made me love and hate, fear for and cheer, fall in love and then lose it all. He has made me feel. No greater deed can be done than to appeal to what make’s us human.

This book deserves the full 5 stars.

5 stars

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The Technical Data:

Title: After Dad | Author(s): Ralph Cohen |Publisher: Tattersall Press / Publication Date: 1-11-2014 |Pages: 309 (paperback) |
ISBN: 9780615942384 | Genre(s): Fiction  | Language: English |
Rating: 5 out of 5 |  Date Read: 10-30-2015 | Source: Copy from author