Books in the Home Make a Difference

I know that all of us who work in education and libraries know that access to books for children make a very big difference.  A new study from Nevada University supports what we already know.

It turns out that having as few as 20 books in the home for children can have a significant impact on their education.  The researchers studied more than 70,000 people from 27 countries to get their results.  The results affect all families irrespective of parental occupation or social class.  Here are some quotes from the article in the Telegraph:

It found that being raised in a household with a 500-book library would result in a child remaining in education for an average of three years longer than those with little access to literature.

The advantage to a child was just as great as being raised by university educated parents, as opposed to those with relatively poor schooling, the study found.

The study suggested that the impact was down to the “scholarly culture” of individual households.

Now, let’s see what type of impact access to a great school and public library will have on children!

Two Little Pirates

Two Little Pirates by Ruth Paul

I must preface this review by saying that this is a book from New Zealand, so it’s not available in the US.  I received it from the author and publisher, Scholastic New Zealand.  Ruth Paul’s books are available in Canada as well as Australia and New Zealand.

In rhyming couplets, this book follows two little pirates who attack the King and the Queen.  They are actually two little boys who pounce on their sleeping parents dressed as pirates.  After a brief battle, the parents prevail and the two pirates are hung over the edge of the ship to become shark bait.  When they beg to be released, the King and Queen agree on one condition: that they tidy up the mess they made.  When that is accomplished, they have a nice snack in bed and then everyone cuddles up and dozes as the bed sails off.

Paul keeps a wonderful balance between imaginary play and reality in this title.  At all times, the ship which is the bed is surrounded by water, until the children have finally given up their pirate roles and become children again.  Additionally, the parents respond with great delight to their young pirates and the attack.  The battle is merrily fought, the capture and punishment is doled out in character, and the snack and cuddles conclude.  What a great way to spend a lazy morning together!

Paul’s art is bright and friendly.  She revels in the play along with the family, enjoying the different angles that the bed can be viewed in throughout.  Done in watercolor and colored pencil, the art has a great clarity of line and depth of color.

This is one pirate bed that is definitely worth sailing on.  Children will revel in the story though parents should be braced for a morning invasion after reading it.  Parents should also be open to snacks in bed, crumbs and all.  But who could resist if it ends with cuddles and a snooze?  Appropriate for ages 2-5.

Reviewed from copy received from publisher.

A Blue So Dark

A Blue So Dark by Holly Schindler

Aura has a secret that is getting harder and harder to keep.  Her mother is suffering from schizophrenia and has become Aura’s sole responsibility now that her father has remarried and started a new family.  Aura must make sure her mother goes to job as an art teacher and tries to monitor her through the window.  But her mother is slipping further and further away, into her own world of delusions, fear and suspicion.  As if that isn’t complicated enough, Aura has other personal issues.  Her best friend just had a baby and can’t be as supportive as she once was.  She has fallen for a skateboarding boy but can’t seem to put two words together around him.  To top it all off, she has started to work for her grandmother, who doesn’t know who Aura is.  As Aura tries to save and protect everyone around her, who is saving her?

This book is an honest and brutal portrayal of mental illness and the toll it takes upon the caregiver, in this case a teen who just wants to be normal.  A large piece of the tension here is the relationship between mother and daughter, which teeters, tips and overturns.  There is such a sense of betrayal and loss in their relationship, powerfully combined with dread and fear.  Aura sees herself in her mother’s illness, certain that she too will eventually succumb to schizophrenia.  She believes it is tied to the artistic talent that both she and her mother have, so she tries to turn her back on art.

Aura is a well-drawn protagonist trying to cope with an impossible situation and fighting to keep up the pretense that nothing is wrong.  She is by turns in denial about the situation and drowning in it.  She is a strong, amazing character who is resilient and refuses to stop fighting for her mother and herself. 

Highly recommended, this book is dark, deep and haunting.  It speaks from the heart about matters that are too often hidden or whispered about.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from copy received from Flux.

Holly Schindler has done several blog interviews: Cynsations, Bildungsroman and Bart’s Bookshelf.