Book Chat

Time again for book reviews, which may contain affiliate links:

the blessing of a b minusI was hooked on this book by its title: The Blessing of a B Minus: Using Jewish Teachings to Raise Resilient Teenagers. Back when I was in a MOPS (Moms of Preschoolers) Group, the mentor mom called me the laid back mom, and for the most part I accept that moniker gladly. Still, our culture today (or maybe it’s just the area where I live) can lead one to feel that every parenting decision is do-or-die.

This book discusses how parents of teens should just basically relax and enjoy their kids for who they are. Adolescence isn’t an easy passage, and if we as parents can help our kids through it without a sense of panic over every event, we’ll all enjoy life more. She mentions a study showing that the best predictors of adult success aren’t grades or activities, but empathy, optimism, flexibility, a sense of humor, good teamwork ability, and a positive reaction to setbacks. Lots of good, down-to-earth advice.

The book is written from a Jewish perspective, but it’s helpful for anyone. Also, the last chapter kind of lost me as the author seemed to have a fairly permissive attitude about experimentation with alcohol, drugs and sex – but if I could just leave that chapter off, I could recommend it. She also wrote “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee,” which is apparently a very similar book for the parents of younger kids.


A Life in NatureMy free video birthday rental this year was Miss Potter, and as is often the case, seeing a movie piques my interest in knowing “the real story.” So I began Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature. I was a bit put off by its length – the notes alone are over 100 pages – but I’m glad I stuck with it.

Beatrix was truly entranced by nature her whole life. From her childhood, when she sketched little rabbits, mice and other pets, to her vacations with her family when she spent her time sketching the beautiful English Lake District scenery to her adulthood when she spent her happiest time at Hill Top Farm which she bought with her own money earned from her books, Beatrix was always happiest when surrounded by nature.

The movie was basically accurate. It showed Beatrix’s growing friendship with her publisher, Norman Warne. The two were briefly engaged, despite the fierce opposition of her family, before Norman died shortly thereafter. Beatrix did marry at 47, to her lawyer/advisor William Heelis, who was 42. Again, Beatrix’s mother was so controlling that the marriage almost did not happen.

I learned many interesting tidbits about the lady behind Peter Rabbit:

She enjoyed sketching many plants, notably funguses (she referred to them as such, not as “fungi.”)

As you might guess from her drawings, she was incredibly detail-oriented. She took interest in the details of various spin-offs from her books:  Peter Rabbit stuffed toys, wallpaper, etc.

During the second half of her life, she was much more interested in farming (particularly in the animals) than in working on books. Her publisher had to really push her to produce a book each year.

She was very interested in preserving the land in her beloved Lake District area of England for future generations, not wanting to see it commercialized. I visited the Lake District about 15 years ago, and let me tell you, it really is stunning. Many of the big name English authors lived there, like my favorites, the Bronte sisters. I’m so glad Beatrix worked to keep this area so beautiful and unspoiled.


Baby animals. Is there anything cuter?

Years ago, when I was teaching, each year I would show the kids a video of a baby panda. It was so darn cute! And if you’ve spent anytime at all online, surely you’ve been the recipient of many email forwards depicting adorable baby animals.

ZooBorns is all these cute little animal babies wrapped up into one (adorably small-sized) book. It’s basically a picture book, but it’s chock full of great photos of animal babies. You’ll also learn some neat facts about each animal and whether or not he/she is endangered. There’s even an animal from my hometown Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo!

This book would be a great addition to any animal lover’s home.

Thanks to FSB Associates for the chance to review ZooBorns.


The Nutcracker HoffmanRecently my mom gave me The Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann, beautifully illustrated by Roberto Innocenti.

I’d always heard that the “real” nutcracker story was significantly darker than the Christmasy-fun ballet, and yep – it’s true. I’m reading a chapter after dinner each night to the kids, and so far Marie (not Clara as in the ballet) has cut her arm on a cabinet and fallen to the floor unconscious.  Godfather Drosselmeier appears to have morphed from the ballet’s lovable eccentric to a good candidate for the mental hospital. Nutcracker uses phrases like “where the devil are you?” And we’re just halfway through! Still, I enjoy seeing the original text for a Christmas tradition I enjoy so much.


10 thoughts on “Book Chat

  1. Sounds like Beatrix Potter has similarities to Emily Dickinson and Gene Stratton Porter. I am glad you are making your way through the Nutcracker. I figured you’d do it in this style.

  2. Your first book looks interesting to me. I can always use reminding that parenting decisions aren’t all “do or die”! The Beatrix Potter book piques my curiosity too.

    Thanks for sharing your reads!

  3. Okay, I definitely need to get the book you mention first here (as well as the preschooler’s version, since my kids are 3, 4.5 and 10), and I just had to say that we all love the Zooborns books, too! I reviewed them for 5M4B and the one you show here is currently sitting in the kids’ bathroom… it definitely makes for a nice book to pass the time. 🙂
    -Dawn, 5 Minutes for Books

  4. I read the Beatrix Potter book several years ago and even though it took me over a month to read it was probably one of my favorite book I read that year.

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