Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

Haddon, Mark. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. Narrated by Jeff Woodman. Blackstone Audio, 2003.

Reason read: Christmas Present to Myself.

Everyone needs a Christopher John Francis Boone in their life. He is smart, funny, truthful, and loyal to the core. It doesn’t matter that his behavioral problems cause him to be violent when touched or that he hates the color yellow to the point of obstinance. Chris is, at heart, a really good kid who has been dealt a rough hand in life. His mother died of a heart attack and his father is his only family. So when Chris is accused of killing a dog with a garden fork, you feel for him. He knows he is innocent, but he can’t articulate this fact well enough to keep from being arrested and locked up. Eventually the police let him go, but that isn’t good enough for Chris and so begins his crusade to clear his name. The only way to really prove his innocence is to become a detective like Sherlock Holmes and discover who actually stabbed his neighbor’s poodle with a garden fork. This leads Chris down a path of more than one mystery. His journey is both courageous and inspiring.
Everything about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is clever. The way Chris notices even the smallest detail to help him navigate his way through life. The way Chris uses the powers of deduction and reasoning to solve mysteries.
As an aside, it reminded me of Wonder by Palacio.

Author fact: Haddon won the Whitbread Book Award in 2003. He also won the Commonwealth Writers Prize and a Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize. He has a low-pri website here.

Book trivia: the title of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is based on the 1892 short story by Arthur Conan Doyle and all the chapters are in prime numbers.

Nancy said: Pearl called The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time “terrific” and “wonderful.”

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Maiden Voyages” (p 158) and again in the chapter called “Other People’s Shoes” (p 181).

The Dog Next Door

Robertson, Keith. The Dog Next Door. New York: Viking Press, 1950.

Reason read: April is National Dog Month. For the Portland Public Library Reading Challenge I needed a book with an animals in the title.

Thirteen year old Hal has wanted a dog all of his life. His neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Perkins, have never wanted a dog in their lives. Ever. Unfortunately, Mrs. Aylesworth, boxer breeder and sister to Mrs. Perkins, unceremoniously sends the Perkins a beautiful dog named Beau as a gift. So begins a dilemma with a seemingly easy fix: the Perkins should give Hal the dog. Right? Only, Hal’s parents think a dog would be too much responsibility for Hal and the Perkins, knowing Beau is a pure bred, think he could be sold for a lot of money (once they get over the guilt of selling a gift). Stalemate. As a consolation prize, Hal’s parents tell him he can build a treehouse in the back yard complete with a telescope. With the help of elderly boat builder and friend, Mr. Seward, Hal not only builds a shipshape treehouse, he develops a keen sense of responsibility. He watches helplessly as Beau, the new canine about town, is blamed for dog fights and attacks on community members. Beau is getting the reputation of being a vicious dog. Hal needs to set the record straight, but how?
The Dog Next Door was beautifully yet sparsely illustrated by Morgan Dennis. I wish there had been more illustrations.

Author fact: Robertson has written other books, but The Dog Next Door is the only one I am reading for the Book Lust Challenge.

Book trivia: This was a hard book to find. Not many libraries had it on their shelves. As an aside, my edition (published in 1950) had seen better days. It had pen marks, rips and holes.

Nancy said: Pearl mentioned The Dog Next Door when reminiscing about the books she used to read as a child. I have to admit, it was cool to hold a book old enough that my dad could have read the same copy. He would have been twelve years old and definitely interested in reading about a boy who longed for a boat and a dog of his own.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Great Dogs in Fiction” (p 104). Both Keith and the title of his book were left out of the index.

Vile Village

Snicket, Lemony. A Series of Unfortunate Events #7: Vile Village. New York: Harper Collins, 2001.

Reason read: to finish the series started in October in honor of Halloween.

Once again, right off the bat, Snicket asks you to go read someone else’s book. He says, “And if you insist on reading this book instead of something more cheerful, you will most certainly find yourself moaning in despair instead of wriggling in delight, so if you have any sense at all you will put this book down and pick up another one” (p 6). With an introduction like that, how could you not keep reading Snicket’s book? Very clever. By now you know the format: Snicket is still offering meanings for words and phrases. The three orphaned Bauldelaire children are looking for a place to call home. Violet is a teenager and still very much interested in inventions. Klaus is on the cusp of turning thirteen and still loves reading. Sunny is still an infant with four teeth who still can’t speak in full sentences, but she loves to bite things. They have escaped (again) from Count Olaf and his band of wicked accomplices. Banker and Bauldelaire family friend, Mr. Poe, is still in charge of sending the Baudelaire orphans to their next town of tragedy. This time it’s V.F.D. (“Village of Fowl Devotees”), a mysterious town covered in crows. The problem is, no one in the town wants to be responsible for the children. As the name suggests, the community is devoted to their murder of crows. At a Council of the Elders, a timid and loner handyman who is too skittish to speak up at Council meetings, is order to become the children’s guardian. All day long they must do chores for the community and always be respectful of the crows, crows, and more crows. By day, thousands of them hang around in town but by night they roost in the Nevermore tree on the outskirts of town, conveniently right by the handyman’s house.
As an aside, I skipped from Book 3 to 7. By not reading books 4-6 I missed out on Violet working at the Lucky Smells Lumbermill, Klaus being enrolled at Prufrock Preparatory School, and all three children living with a couple named Jerome and Esme Squalor. At the end of book 6 Duncan and Isadora, two of three triplets are kidnapped. In Vile Village it is up to Klaus, Violet, and Sunny to rescue them.
Additionally, what is pretty amazing about the series of unfortunate events the Baudelaire orphans experienced thus far is that they all happened in less than a year’s time. The fire that killed their parents, the escape from Count Olaf’s house, the escape from Uncle Monty’s house, the escape from Aunt Josephine’s cliff side mansion, the time in the Finite Forest, or at 667 Dark Avenue. Books 1-7 take place in less than 365 days.

Author fact: So far I have told you Lemony was a pen name, his birth month is February, and that I was born in the same month. My last author fact is that Lemony is married to illustrator Lisa Brown.

Book trivia: Vile Village is the seventh book in the series and the last one I am reading for the Challenge.

Nancy said: Pearl called the entire series “wonderful.”

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Not Just for Kids: Fantasies for Grown-ups” (p 174).

Teaching Empathy

Henshon, Suzanne E. Teaching Empathy: Strategies for building Emotional Intelligence in Today’s Students. Texas: Prufrock Press, 2019.

Reason read: As apart of the Early Review program for LibraryThing.

The thought I kept returning to over and over again while reading Henshon’s book, Teaching Empathy, is everything she says seems like it should be common sense. I’ve come to the conclusion she gives deceptively simple advice in a very short book (less than 150 pages). Yes, we should be aware of the differences in our society. We should be taking that awareness and creating action that makes a strong and lasting impact. We know this and yet instead, we live in a society which places blame on outsiders. We are given permission to hate any and everyone we cannot understand. Our current administration encourages us to act intolerant and is completely dismissive of our ignorance. Henshon’s book is deceptively simple because in our heart of hearts we know we should be practicing empathy as well as teaching it to our children. Her book is timely, but is it too late?

Here’s what I wish I could have seen in Henshon’s book. I get hung up on how interchangeable some words can be. It seems as though people use sympathy and empathy to mean the same thing. Kindness and thoughtfulness. Concern and caring. All of these things are signs of emotional intelligence but have different meanings attached to them. What they mean to Henshon on a personal and intellectual level would have been next level.

Author fact: Henshon has written numerous books.

Five Children and It

Nesbit, E. Five Children and It. New York: Dover Publications, 2002.

Reason read: Nesbit was born in the month of May.

The Psammead or Sammyad is a strange looking sand fairy capable of granting wishes. I loved the description of “it” as having eyes on long horns like a snail, ears like a bat, body like a spider, hands and feet like a monkey, and whiskers like a rat. And. And! And, the thing talks! When five children named Cyril (Squirrel), Roberts (Bobs), Anthea (Panther), Hilary (the Lamb), and Jane, digging in the sand discover the Psammead can grant wishes they immediately embark on making choices that always seem to backfire on them: wealth, becoming physically bigger than an opponent, living in a castle, growing angel wings, fighting wild Indians, to name a few. Even after they decide to be more thoughtful with their wishes they still run into disaster. Luckily, their parents are away dealing with an ailing grandmother so they have plenty of opportunities to get it right…and wrong. The best part of Five Children and It is the relationship between the siblings. It rings true no matter what drama they face.

Sometimes the language of the turn of the century really comes through. “Smell their fists” is a euphemism for fighting, for example.

Weird quotes to quote, “It is easy if you love the Baby as much as you ought to” (p 42) and “That lot’s all long hair, drink and rude women” (p 65).

Author fact: E. Nesbit is actually Edith Nesbit.

Book trivia: Five Children and It was originally published in 1902. My 2002 edition was illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky.

Nancy said: Pearl said Nesbit influenced writers before and after her.

BookLust Twist: from More Book Lust in the chapter called “Fantasy for Old and Young” (p 83).

Between Parent and Child

Ginott, Dr. Haim G. Between Parent and Child: the Bestselling Classic That Revolutionized Parent-Child Communication. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1965.

This book starts off with the best introduction, “No parent wakes up in the morning planning to make a child’s life miserable” (p 1). As soon as I read that I knew I was in for a good read. Between Parent and Child is all about psychological perception and what you say (as a parent), how you say it, and even what you don’t say, can influence a child both at that moment and years down the road. What Dr. Ginott offers up is common sense advice about how to communicate with small children and even teenagers. His advice is no-nonsense and extremely practical. It is so straightforward it seems simple, a no-brainer, if you will. The ah-ha moment is not in what to say, it’s how to say it to avoid conveying a message you do not intend. Choosing tone as well as the right words are crucial to emotionally intelligent communication with a child. My one naysayer comment? Many, many times Dr. Ginott suggests mirroring the child’s emotion to illustrate understanding. The go-to catch phrases are “You wish you could play with Sam,” “You wish you could have ice cream for dinner,” and, “You’re angry about losing the game.” Here’s where I would get annoyed. I dislike anyone telling me how I feel. As a small child I probably would have connected with someone “understanding” me… but as a teenager I wouldn’t appreciate dad calmly regurgitated what I just angrily spit out.

I would recommend Between Parent and Child to anyone – parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, teachers. In short, I would recommend this book to anyone who is around children of all ages. If I were planning to have a child I would also plan on reading Between Parent and Child several times over. Once while pregnant and definitely more often during my child’s formative years. Maybe even during labor just for good measure.

Favorite quote, “Often after getting angry at their parents for not listening to their argument, children will present their case in writing” (p 56). Yes, but what Dr. Ginott doesn’t mention is that after getting said missive parents often ignore it.

BookLust Twist: From Book Lust in the chapter called, “Babies: a Reader’s Guide” (p 30).

A Lesson in Patience

Last night my street was crawling with children. Face painted, wigged out. Some grubby-greedy, some sweet. All yelling Trick or Treat in crazy costumes. I was prepared with the sugared, packaged, rot-your-teeth treats but that didn’t really matter. I don’t think any of them would have had the tricks if I didn’t. Adults banged drums (what’s up with that?) and talked loudly. Parents hung back while their children groped their way up my steps, their eyes wide and wanting. In the darkness I could just make out Batman and a ghost whispering. Everytime I opened my book the doorbell would ring. One little rabbit didn’t have a bag to put her candy into. She held out a paw with wistful eyes. Her mom showed me the ripped paperbag she was barely holding together. "It’s been a long night" she explained. Before she could protest I produced a cauldron for her little bunny (I tried not to think of Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction ). I love this time of year. Love this wild night. You wouldn’t think it to hear me talk, but I love the costumes, the creativity of some of the parents. I love the kids who say thank you ever so politely and stare up at you wanting more. The kids! I like laughing at the ones who pause to check out the goods and compare. Two Patriots (Brady and Moss) traded candy bars before even getting off my porch. Lot and lots of kids carried Unicef boxes – wasn’t expecting that. Note to self: have the change jar close by to avoid cleaning out the wallet!
Speaking of cleaning out – I ran out of candy before kisa could come home with backup (working late again). I wasn’t all that prepared this year so I tried to make the goodies stretch by bagging them with plastic flies and glitter. Truth be known, I kinda wanted to be somewhere else this year.
Later, when kisa finally got home we walked around the neighborhood. Adults hung out on darkened, candlelit porches while kids continued to chase each other with loud shrieks of laughter. We let Manorabug Spuke glow until close to midnight. Maybe he’ll light the November night, too.

This morning after pancakes and coffee Halloween came down from my living room. All the ghosts, gargoyles, cats, owls, pumpkins, witches, monsters, skulls, spiders and bats. Each one carefully wrapped and packed. I’m leaving one pumpkin out to fill with change throughout the year. That will take care of the Unicef Trick or Treaters. After that, I’m off to find a new cauldron.

Ginger Pye

Ginger Pye
Estes, Eleanor. Ginger Pye. New York: Harcourt, 1951.

Written in 1951 this book has classic charm. It’s written for kids – gradeschool age – but not a bad read for adults either. It’s the story of Jared Pye (Jerry) and his dog, Ginger. It opens with Jerry needing to earn a dollar to buy a puppy. His sister Rachel helps him and before long they have the smartest puppy on the block. It’s not long before Ginger’s talents as the smartest puppy are notice by some unsavory types and he disappears. Of course, being a book for kids it all ends well, but I won’t spoil it for you.
What I loved about the book was the complexity of the story. Ginger disappears in chapter 7 and the mystery remains unsolved until the last chapter of the book. Ginger is missing for six months. In a child’s mind that is a long time. Seven chapters are filled with how the children search and seach for Ginger, but it’s also about how they carry on without him. There are interesting things that happen outside of the main plot.
I didn’t find any quotes that really grabbed me, but I did promise myself to look up mite boxes to see what they really looked like.

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in two different chapters: “Best for Boys and Girls (p 21) and “Libraries and Librarians” (p 138). In this last chapter Ginger Pye is mentioned as an aside. Pearl is really drawing attention to Estes’s other book, The Moffats.

Just a Song


Sometime ago I said that life was too busy for supporting & following & being obsessed by music. I think what I meant was these days I am being far more selective about the music I hear and how far I’ll go to stand before it. Recently, I went on a Natalie binge. Call me crazy, but four years is too long to go without hearing that voice live. Unlike myself I wanted a night upclose and a night far away. Unlike myself I made no attempt to remember the setlist. Unlike myself I made no attempt to get the perfect picture & in fact, refuse to post the ones that actually came out decent. I’ll leave that for some other adoring fan to do. Here is a list of the songs I heard. They are not all from the same night, nor are they in the “correct” order. The time listening to Natalie was too precious to worry about perfection.

  • Carnival~ this is the only one I will fess up to putting in the correct order. Every single time she came out on stage this was the song she performed first. It makes sense. This is her ode to New York; a nod to the city she adores. I have to say I was spellbound when she first appeared. It really had been too long. “Wide eyed misfit prophet, on a traffic island, stopped. And he raged of saving me.”
  • Build a Levee ~ This is a personal fave of mine. “You’ll fall under an evil spell just looking at his beautiful face.”
  • I’m not Gonna Beg ~ Where’s the boa? “I know ‘once upon a time’ and ‘ever after’ is a lie.”
  • At the Fair ~ Introduced as Robert Frost this is a Bonnie Raitt cover…” I swear another night is fallin'”
  • Sonnet #73~ Natalie was asked by the Royal Shakespeare Company to collaborate with Gavin Bryans for his Nothing Like the Sun project & put a sonnet to music. She chose #73 and said a few words about the Black Death and how many people died…typical Nat. “When yellow leaves, or none, or few do hang.”
  • The Equestrienne ~ A story about a circus by Rachel Field. Natalie created a song out of part of the story involving a white horse. “See the girl in pink on a milk white horse.”
  • Janitor’s Boy ~ A song written by Nathalia Crane when she was 10 years old. Natalie put it to music & sang it in a 1920’s vaudville sort of way, very fun and flirty. “He’ll carry me off I know that he will, for his hair is exceedingly red: and the only thing that occurs to me is to dutifully shivers in bed.”
  • If No One Marries Me by Laurence Alma-Tadema~ “And when I’m getting really old, at twenty-eight or nine I’ll buy a little orphan girl and bring her up as mine.”
  • The Man in the Wilderness from Mother Goose~ a strange little poem about a man in the wilderness and asking about strawberries in the sea…
  • Texas ~ a new song of Natalie’s that seemed a warning about having it all. “I don;t mind if I have to kill a little honey bee.”
  • Life is Sweet ~ I have to admit I cried during this song. I think Natalie avoided singing it one night just because someone requested it. The jury is still out on that one…”It’s high time you make up your own sweet little mind.”
  • Wonder ~ the anthem is still strong. The best part was Natalie’s special guest, “How I confound you and astound you.”
  • Golden Boy ~ and to think we have so many more Golden Boys to talk about since Columbine. “Meteor rise from obscurity and all it took was a killing spree.”
  • Go Down Moses ~ this is probably my favorite song. It’s haunting and hurting as only a song about Katrina moving through New Orleans could be. “But it so hard without you…cold shocked and speechless can anyone reach us?”
  • Giving Up ~ another new Natalie song…
  • The End ~ If anyone remembers Natalie’s 2004 tour they will remember the peace banner Natalie held up during Gulf of Araby. It was back for The End. “When we give up the barrel and the blade…”
  • Tell Yourself ~ Natalie tested us with this one. She said “I wrote this for my 13 year old niece…any guesses?” “You’ll never be like the anorexic beauties in the magazines.”
  • Village Green Preservation Society~ Who would have thought The Kinks would show up in a Natalie show.? Erik & Gabe helped Nat make this hysterical.
  • Break Your Heart ~ while I miss the horn section on this song the cello was a good replacement. “See the push and shove for their rewards”
  • From the Time You Say Goodbye~ what a lovely surprise. I never thought I would get to hear this love. “Keep a prayer within your heart that the time will surely fly”
  • Tension ~ although this was just a snippet it was awesome to hear Natalie’s very first song. “A thought mistaken for a memory”
  • Kind & Generous~ The time to give Natalie gifts… “My love and respect for you”
  • Letter ~ I know I have never heard this live before. “but the truth it would reveal knowing you brought me pleasure…”
  • Motherland ~“Where in hell can you go?”

I will never be able to really write about this experience. It was a pleasure. Special thanks to Germany, Scotland and to the great city of New York.