Teaching My Baby To Read

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For moms who don’t have time to read

Got a teen in your home? Got a child capable of reading at a high school level? It’s darn near impossible to keep up with what your kids read.

Over on my other site, The YA Gal, I review books as fast as I can get them. And yet…I’m still behind. Here are three books I’ve read recently that parents might want know about–even if you don’t have time to read them:

All last year I felt guilty for not having read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. How could I call myself a YA fan and not have read such a popular book? Well, today I remedied that situation. Start to finish. Cover to cover. Quite a lot of Kleenex.

At its heart, The Fault in Our Stars is a teenage love story set against the backdrop of cancer. Hazel drags her oxygen tank everywhere she goes and Augustus has a prosthetic leg. Both are erudite, witty, and converse in a fashion that I’ve never heard teenagers sound like ever–and I’ve been around a lot of smart teens. Like, literally, I’ve never heard teens talk like that. Still, the Gilmore-Girl-esq dialogue is fun to read, although if it doesn’t come across as realistic.

If you enjoy tear-jerkers, this is a great book for you. If you’d rather not put yourself through an emotional wringer, stay away. The only thing that bothered me was Augustus and his unlit cigarette. Hopefully that doesn’t spawn a fad of cigarettes becoming cool again even if they aren’t smoked.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is another title in the uber-popular genre of YA books about teenagers in dangerous “fight-to-the-death” games. But in this case, the main character, Thomas, is not on television…probably. He doesn’t really know the truth because his memory is wiped.

Thomas, along with the rest of the cast, are stuck in the middle of the Glade. Right next to them is the mysterious Maze with ever changing walls. Somewhere, deep in the Maze are evil Grievers which are half slug, half robots ready to attack.

Will Thomas be able to solve the Maze and lead the other kids to freedom or is he actually their worst enemy?

My nine-year-old son loves, loves, loves The Maze Runner. He read it start to finish in one day. To me as an adult it seemed predictable but fun. I wish there were more female characters but I appreciate Dasher’s brilliance in crafting a book that makes adolescent boys want to read.

The Soulkeepers by G.P. Ching might be on your teen’s e-reader right now because it’s free. Usually free books are hit or miss, but this book is amazing.

The last place fifteen-year-old Jacob Lau wants to be is living with his Uncle John in the middle of nowhere. But in the wake of his mother’s disappearance, Jacob has no place else to go. The kids at Jacob’s school act like they’ve never met an Asian American before, and make mixed-race Jacob feel like a freak. His only source of comfort is Malini, a bright and beautiful transplant from India.

Meanwhile, Jacob is seriously spooked by Dr. Silvia, the ghostly pale women who lives in the Gothic Victorian next door. When Jacob breaks one of her stained glass windows he’s forced into her servitude, scooping compost and working in the garden. Jacob can’t figure out if Dr. Silvia is a witch or a trusted mentor–which is too bad because some strange things have been happening to Jacob recently, and he needs all the help he can get to figure out what the heck is going on.

The pacing of this book is perfect. The characters suck you in right away and make you care about them. The suspense makes you want to turn pages as fast as possible. But under all of it, is a deep heart. The Soulkeepers is a book that makes you think.

I was unfamiliar with G.P. Ching until I read The Soulkeepers and since then I’ve cyber stalked her in the most friendly way. I’ve also signed up for her newsletter. I’m pretty darned convinced that Genevieve is a brilliant writer and marketer. I can see why traditionally published authors would be jealous. But this woman is also a class act. G.P. Ching is full of grace and friendly advice for writers and teens alike.

“The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong” by L. Tam Holland

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I’ve been excited to read The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong, by debut author L. Tam Holland, ever since I saw it listed in the Stanford alumni magazine. You might even say I had outrageously high expectations for the book. Luckily, Holland did not disappoint! The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong is hysterically funny, tense in all of the right moments, and poignant, especially at the end.

Vee Crawford-Wong is half Texan, half Chinese, and that’s about as much as he knows about his personal identity. His mom and dad refuse to tell him one tidbit of information about where they come from. On the rare occasions when his dad does say something about China, it’s usually something about American Chinese food. Vee’s mom tells him more about their 2005 Toyota named Fanny, then about her aging parents in Ding Dong Texas.

When Vee’s history teacher makes the class write a five page paper about their ancestry, Vee makes a bunch of stuff up. One lie leads to another and soon the Crawford-Wong family is headed towards China and a truth that nobody wants to reveal.

This book is rich enough for a ninth grade English class–if the parents don’t complain about all the almost-sex scene. The Counterfeit Family Tree of Vee Crawford-Wong also has something missing from a lot of YA bookshelves these days, a non-white main character.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks!

Worried about teens oversharing on the net?

If you’ve ever been freaked out about what your teenagers might be getting into on the Internet, then “Nerve” by Seattle author Jeanne Ryan is the book for you.

Written for a young adult (YA) audience, it tells the story of a teenager named Vee who gets chosen to play a game about dares called Nerve, watched by people all over the world.

But this story is really about how teenagers can unintentionally head down the wrong path in baby steps. 

First you do X, and X doesn’t seem that bad.  Then you do Y, which is a little bit worse.  Then before you know it, you’re involved in Z, and Z is extremely bad.  By then it’s too late!  You’ve done X, Y and Z and you’re in serious trouble.

Another core component of this book is about privacy in the Internet age.  Vee “likes” and “shares” things on her ThisIsMe page, and then that data gets collected by the people who run Nerve, and used against her.

A ThisIsMe page gone bad is a plot-line that can scare almost anybody.  It’s the perfect jumping off board for a serious conversation with teens about Facebook, Twitter and social media in general.

FYI parents, Nerve contains mature content comparable to your teen’s favorite soap on the CW.

 

Hope for Parents of Troubled Teens, by Connie Rae

Hope for Parents of Troubled Teens by Connie Rae has a lot of real gems in it that I appreciate even though my children’s teenage years are still on the horizon.  I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House in exchange for my honest review on both my blog and on Amazon.com.  I am giving this book 3 stars.

I love Connie Rae’s idea on pp. 97-98 about leaving a surprise word of encouragement taped to the milk carton, when you and your child are going through a rough time. That’s definitely a tip worth remembering! Her emphasis on prioritizing family time (p118) is an important concept to remember too. Chapter 3’s theme of taking care of your children and teens by nurturing and protecting your marriage is a really refreshing addition to a parenting book, which I have not seen before.

My favorite advice is from page 192 when Rae shares her three rules to teach our kids to live by, adapted from her time as the parent-ed instructor at her community college’s preschool. (We are very active in our local community college preschool too.) To paraphrase, the three rules are: 1) Don’t hurt yourself, 2) Don’t hurt somebody else, and 3) Don’t hurt your toys. —Simple advice, but awesome!

If I was the parent of a troubled teen I think I would probably read every book out there about how to help my child, and how to cope. There are many parts of this book that would offer me hope and encouragement, as promised in the title. The problem I have with Hope for Parents of Trouble Teens is that even though I am a member of the United Methodist Church, this book is written for a Christian audience and I’m not sure that Connie Rae would consider me the “right” type of Christian.

The author really threw me on page 128 when she was discussing evaluating your church to determine if it was a good fit for your teen. One of the questions she wants parents to ask is whether or not your church is “too liberal”. What should church have to do with politics? Interestingly, she does not advise parents to question whether or not your church is “too conservative”.

I also have concerns about how Rae addresses (or does not address) teenage sexual orientation. On page 19 the author interprets Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” with the advice that parents need to discover and honor the individual bent and nature of a child. Great! I love that thinking. But then on page 114 Rae says that parents need to help teens find “an acceptable masculine or feminine role and to learn sex-appropriate behavior.”  What the heck is that supposed to mean for parents of gay teens? From Rae’s caution against churches that are “too liberal”, I have a guess. The author could have used this passage to encourage parents to accept teenagers of any sexual orientation, but she did not. I really wish she had.