Monday, November 21, 2016

Memoirs of a Sidekick by David Skuy


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Told entirely from the perspective of a somewhat shy seventh grader named Adrian, this is the story of Adrian and Boris who have a secret hideout, code names and dozens of escape plans for when danger is near.

The book is divided into sections each with its own theme. There is an overarching plot however and the sections each contribute to the book's resolution. I admired the boys' naivete and good intentions (they are socially and environmentally conscious) although as a parent of young sons I did find myself shaking my head now and then.

Bullies are always bad especially the sneak bullies, the ones who are model kids and somehow manage to charm grownups. One such bully is the boys' antithesis, Robert. Like many bullies he has his cronies who tag along with him and laugh at his tired jokes and gags.

Politics is a facet of life that cannot be escaped and we find that in this novel the same is true. Boris decides that he wants to be Student Council President and the two hatch a series of operations designed to win the support of key voting blocs in their school

Recent elections have shown that pools cannot be trusted and Adrian feels the same as B-ster (one of Boris' many nicknames) prepares for what is perhaps the most important election in the school's history. The ending is somewhat predictable but this is after all a book aimed at middle grades. I recommend it for kids in grades 3 and above.  Some realisitic fiction read alikes to this book are Chris Rylander's The Fourth Stall and Amy Rylander's The Popularity Papers.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Empathy, Diversity, Cultural Awareness and the Political Process...for kids!

Empathy is a buzzword nowadays and with good reason. When we empathize with someone we can imagine what it is they are feeling and we can better understand their point of view. I am an avid public radio listener and I heard a story not too long ago about what parents wanted their children to know versus what teachers wanted. For young ones games that are inventive and relevant are excellent teaching tools. Here we find several games and apps that do just that.

My own children are feeling much better now but the results of last week's election left them saddened. I know that many children are still coming to terms with what happened. I have searched for some reads that parents and caregivers can use to help. The past few months have seen many difficult issues come to the forefront and although as parents we often try to shield our little ones from the ugly truths, there will come a time when we have to talk. This site lists many good books that can be used to help talk about many of life's difficult issues.

My children are one of a few ethnically diverse children in their school. Thus from time to time we often have some very deep conversations at home about race. This site talks about teaching kids about people who may look or do things differently than they. A big part of that is also understanding and respecting similarities and differences. Lately it seems that people who are "different" have been in the news a lot. For adults who want to gently broach the subject, picture books are a good way to do so and this website has some books that talk about diversity and inclusion.

I have been as surprised as anyone with the level of vitriol spewed in the campaign. It is no wonder that a week later there are still protests and rallies nationwide. Commonsensemedia has a great set of tools to help kids of all ages navigate the campaign season (don't forget, midterm elections are around the corner!) as well as deal with the negative aftermath of an election.

These are just a handful of resources however and if you wish to find more head to your local library!