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Maureen A. Blake RSS Feed (Purcellville, VA USA)
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Little Beauties: A Novel
Little Beauties: A Novel
by Kim Addonizio
Edition: Paperback
Price: $15.33
110 used & new from $0.01

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eye Opening Wonderful Story!, January 8, 2009
I picked up Little Beauties hoping for a good novel to escape into. I was immediately pulling into this remarkable story, and found it provided that moment of escapist reading where I enter into the world of the book, yet surprisingly was rich with insight that literally changed my perspective and understanding of my own life.

It was one of those few books that I felt was MEANT for me to stumble across. I wasn't looking to read anything about OCD and when I picked it up had only heard of the author so did so based on her notoriety as a poet. That subject matter was a huge surprise-and RELIEF for me.

It just spoke to me so personally in a way that reading dry clinical literature on OCD can't. Not only was it a literary brilliant move to structure the title of each chapter as one of the items on the OCD list, that made the book FUN and CLEVER while informative but not didactic. What a fabulous story which just pulls the reader in. After a while you realize you are learning about this rarity of OCD which for most people isn't something they may ever really have to think about (THANKFULLY!) But for those of us who have ever had relationships with those who just can't use a soap bar if touched by another, or have to wash with nine washclothes (one for each part of the body), or flip out if you bring a libraby book to bed because of the germs-- Well this book is nothing more than the AH HA! Moment of FINALLY UNDERSTANDING the torture of those who suffer this disorder, and the stress it places on not only themselves but those around them.
My copy was passed on to a friend who is a counselor as I think it is a MUST READ for anyone working in a clinical field whom may ever have to help someone deal with the challenges of OCD. When I finished it I was tempted to write a THANK YOU LETTER to the author as I was so touched by this book.


Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree (Reading Rainbow Book)
Zora Hurston and the Chinaberry Tree (Reading Rainbow Book)
by William Miller
Edition: Paperback
Price: $7.95
71 used & new from $0.01

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful story of Zora's independence, May 17, 2006
I am surprised to read the harsh editiorial reviews as MY LITTLE GIRLS AND I JUST LOVE THIS BOOK. As avid readers of children's literature to my six children this book ranks up there with our favorites! Not only does it validate that it is OK to have unique goals and interests which we may develop as adults which differ from those which parents have set for us as children, it does so without coming across as DISRESPECTFUL of the well intended parents. While it SAYS "ZORA Only listened to her mother" I think the irony of that statement is REALLY obvious to even little readers who don't miss the fact that ZORA became a writer and that it was indeed HER FATHER who insisted that she hone her academic skills and study her BIBLE daily which most certainly was as influential and formative in developing skills required for her later writing success as her mother's teaching. While Zora'a father is portrayed as teaching her in a structured and disciplined way SKILLS and LESSONS, Zora's mother is shown to have taught her to not be limited by expectations and rules imposed by others in her life but to actively seek out to learn new things.

I thought that while the statement "Zora only listened to her mother" did indeed benefit from SOME EDITORIALIZING for small children which can be sticky, that issue merits this story becoming a 4 star rather than 5 star one. However at the same time, I FOUND IT REFRESHING that the fact parents AT TIMES are contradictory to children WAS SO HONESTLY PRESENTED IN A CHILDREN'S BOOK. How many kids have received opposing messages from each of their well intended parents? HOw many parents have themselves struggled with EACH OTHER over how to present their ideas which at times contradict?

HOW WONDERFUL for kids to have a book where they CAN IDENTIFY WITH THE MAIN CHARACTER who has to make her own way in the world BY ASSIMILATING WHAT HER PARENTS TAUGHT AND MAKING CHOICES REGARDING THE POINTS WHICH HER PARENTS DISAGREED AND PRESENTED OPPOSING IDEAS. AND HOW WONDERFUL for us parents to read of the brilliant success of ZORA and realize that our kids ALSO will likely be successful and capable DESPITE our errors and flaws of not always being COHESIVE and IN AGREEMENT in our parenting of our children! In this day and age where 50% of marriages end up in divorce, I think those seeming "flaws" of writing may at second glance be apprechiated as honest reflections of OURSELVES and valuable in assisting our CHILDREN in feeling comfortable knowing they are not the only ones who ever felt like that! ,

IT is POWERFUL to read of the overcoming SOCIETY'S OBSTACLES AND EXPECTATIONS BASED ON RACE

AND GENDER, as well as overcoming the unintended confusion we parents sometimes present to our children.

I felt the inclusion of the myth of DEATH was not at all confusing to young readers and indicated Zora's interest in folk lore at a young age which informed her later antropological work. I think for very young readers this myth gives them some explaination of how death took her mother as the personification of death makes it not seem like a mystery but offers explaination which is satisfying to them. (And not harmful regardless of ones beliefs and teaching regarding death, as young readers have such short attention spans they forget this detail as quickly as it takes for them to be entralled by the beautiful illustrations.) Older readers are not likely to be at all confused by this inclusion of storytelling that is represented as being a myth.

Overall I found this to book to be a beautiful one which my girls JUST LOVE as they identify with the dreamy climbing of trees and reaching out for the world in wonder.


Zoo In The Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations
Zoo In The Sky: A Book of Animal Constellations
by Jacqueline Mitton
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.23
77 used & new from $0.01

5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars TERRIFFIC WAY TO INSTILL ENJOYMENT OF SCIENCE WHEN YOUNG!, April 26, 2006
THIS WAS A FANTASTIC BOOK THE MY FOUR GIRLS UNDER AGE 5 JUST LOVED! The illustrations are beautiful and the writing conveys information of constellations in a teriffic STORYTELLING MANNER which doesn't come across as DIDACTIC but rather ENTERTAINING AND ENGAGING FOR EVEN THE LITTLES ONES! What is particularlly nice is that it tells when in the year and where in the sky each constellation can be found so it can be used to help facilitate the activity of star gazing looking for constellations. Even my 1 1/2 year old was interested in this "story"!

This is a TOTAL ASIDE, but I think it particularlly important as a parent to emphasize exploration of science WHEN HOME with Preschoolers and young school age children as in my experience with six children THUS FAR in two different states our schools just HAVE TO SPEND THE BULK OF THEIR TIME TEACHING READING SKILLS to the whole class and unfortunately IN DOING SO, HAVEN'T REALLY EVEN INCORPORTATED SCIENCE in the curriculum of early education but leave it for later years. The amount of time spent on teaching science at all is SO SMALL that books like this are just invaluable as studies also show that interests and skills and abilities of people are greatly influenced by EXPOSURE in the EARLY CHILDHOOD YEARS!

STUDIES in education consistently demonstrate GENDER BIASES STILL EXIST regarding educating GIRLS in the areas of math and science. THEREFORE I was particually pleased my four little girls LOVED THIS BOOK.

This was a book I recommend for anyone- regardless of gender, and regardless of AGE as it can be helpful to anyone who has interest in learning about constellations. It also has a page of great information AFTER THE STORY teaching about the context of the sun and stars in our solar system WHICH I FOUND VERY HELPFUL AND UNDERSTANDABLE by my four little ones when I read it to them (with some modification using simpler language).

I was pleased that my girls really were EXCITED by this book and are longing to watch the stars to find constellations some night.


Shakespeare's R&J - Acting Edition
Shakespeare's R&J - Acting Edition
by Joe Calarco
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.10
25 used & new from $3.30

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Adaptation!, May 11, 2005
I am giving an HONEST review based on SEEING the production of this script at the FOLGER Shakespeare Theater in WASHINGTON D.C. a few years ago. ( I didn't actually READ the script which is the only reason I gave this 4 stars instead of 5! I don't actually KNOW if there are any limitations in the script for directors/actors!)

After having studied SHAKESPEARE extensively in a college ENGLISH program I believe this will become a favorite for college professor's use in the classroom. The story is reminiscent of the story of DEAD POETS SOCIETY in the coming of age comraderie of the boys in the prep school. Shakespere himself included the sexual ambiguity of Murcutio... so it wasn't such a unique insight, yet Calarco developed this theme to its fullest extent beautifully.

This adaptation stands alone on its merits, yet used in conjunction with Shakespeare's work empahsises that more subtle sexual identity theme as well as the other more obvious social issues typically discussed. I personally think this wouldn't be suitable for high school students UNLESS it were a small group that was mature enough to capably handle the subject matter.


Children on Their Birthdays
Children on Their Birthdays
DVD ~ Sheryl Lee
Price: $8.85
57 used & new from $1.60

15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Family Film, January 17, 2004
This review is from: Children on Their Birthdays (DVD)
I never heard ANYTHING at all about this movie which my husband brought home from a clearance rack. It turned out to be the BEST film I have seen in the past year!! The dialogue was realistic and masterfully done, with a terrific cast of child actors, and wonderful direction that reminded me of "The Wonder Years" television show, all topped of with the beautiful voice of Celine Dion's music enhancing the movie. The movie was funny, engaging, moving , and full of substance as it delt with truly valuable issues and lessons in life through the unfolding of the story in a non-didactic but enjoyable manner.(Such as capacity for some to grow and change,fear of change and the unknown, particularlly when in comes to racism, and reparation for wrongs.) This is a family film that is not to be missed, although I do think it is suitable for children ages 8 and up as younger children wouldn't understand or apprechiate its content. (There is however nothing OBJECTIONABLE for younger kids) I do happen to agree that one reason that this was not a box office hit is because of the casting of the main character. Although she is a remarkably talented actress and I personally loved her execution of every line of her role, both my husband, and my son independently stated that they found the supporting actresses to be MUCH more physically attractive than her. For them, despite all the issues of SUBSTANCE in the film, that one cosmetic fact did affect the credibility of all the town boys having the big crush on the lead character (when they found the other girls to be so much cuter!) Considering the typical shallowness of what sells in theaters, this movie didn't meet that criteria of having a convincingly georgous leading girl whose trailers alone will bring people to the box office. If people HAD heard of this movie and had it gotten ANY media attention, it would undoubtedly have been a huge hit!


The Da Vinci Code
The Da Vinci Code
by Dan Brown
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $20.69
4773 used & new from $0.01

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing, Entertaining and Thought Provoking, January 10, 2004
This review is from: The Da Vinci Code (Hardcover)
This novel is a captivating read which I had trouble putting down. In fact my husband also started to read it at the same time,and we were quite competetive over who got the book at any given time!
The suspensful story begins with the mysterious murder of the curator of the Lourve with well defined strong characters of the investigating police, the niece of the slain curator, and an American expert in symbols who is unknowingly drawn into the mess as he had the last known appointment scheduled with the victim. What follows is the quest to discover the murderer in a story filled with fascinating details based on historical research of the Holy Grail, and a secret society of the Catholic Church called Opus Dei, and discussions of various aspects of church history, all of which enrich the mystery.
Dan Brown ingeniously weaves facts into his fictional tale, and is so convincing that some readers will undoubtedly take from this book some of his invented ideas with conviction they are historically true.
As a NY Times Bestseller, this book has received much attention in all media which only adds to the fun of reading it. There are magazine articles, and book club dicussions on the radio and television shows which have dissected the story and identified fact and fiction based on this remarkably entertaining and thought provoking read.
This is a book which I think will be judged as a significant work of pop culture.I look forward to the movie I anticipate will be forthcoming, so please read this BEFORE then-as books are OFTEN better than their counterpart movies!


Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life
Leap of Faith: Memoirs of an Unexpected Life
by Queen Noor of Jordan
Edition: Hardcover
632 used & new from $0.01

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Honest Reflections in honor of her Husband, January 10, 2004
I was captivated by Queen Noor's book and carried it with me everywhere as I read quickly through it. There is a credibity in her memoir as it's genesis was her personal journals which she did not intend on writing for publication. Noor later poured over them along with editors who shaped the book.
I found her honest reflections on her relationship with her husband and her family to be tactfully written, acknowledging that they, like all of us, experience challenges which she indicates at times made her wonder if the whole family would all be better off WITHOUT her. Noor openly discusses her fears in the book and how she struggled with even the idea of seeking counsel of others out of respect for the King. She discusses the challenges of a stepmother stuggling to raise children from Hussein's prior marriages.
Noor is a remarkable woman, who writes of her stengths and her admirable accomplishments such as standing alongside Prince Charles and Nelson Mandela as leaders for United World Colleges International, her work with poverty relief and economic development nad environmental preservation in Jordan,and her representaion of Jordan at the UN in their work on behalf of children as a few examples. I find it interesting to read of the philanthropic work of leaders Noor interacted with.
Noor's dedication and love for Hussein and their children, come through in a manner which is not sugar coated. It takes courage for one in her position to write such an honest memoir, memorializing and honoring her husband King Hussein, and attesting to their love for each other, while acknowledging that the King, like all people, had his weaknesses which challenged their personal relationship (such as his inability to simply listen and empathize with her personal challenges without pesonally comparing them to some political challenge he faced which trivialized her concerns.)
I found it enlightening to read the historical account of Middle Eastern events from Noor's perspective. It was facinating to read of King Hussein's role as mediator in peace negotiations between Arafat and Rabin. I was interested in Noor's insider account of American involvement which is not otherwise refelcted in the media.
Overall, I thought the primary emphasis of Noor's book was on the process of working toward peace in the Middle East and the political dealings she witnessed along side her husband. I felt it appropriate that her memoir focused on Hussein and his legacy of working toward peace, a man who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
Note that Queen Noor is donating proceeds from her book to The King Hussein foundation, which is a non profit organizeion in the US and Jordan which has the goals of peace building, sustainable development, and cross cultural understanding through programs that promote peace and democracy,education and leadership, and environment and health.


The Optimistic Child: How Learned Optimism Protects Children from Depression
The Optimistic Child: How Learned Optimism Protects Children from Depression
by Karen Reivich
Edition: Hardcover
223 used & new from $0.01

35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Optimisim can be learned- one optimist's view., December 10, 2003
The basic premise of this book is that optimisim is not only a tendency which some are born with, but also a learned skill that even those who are naturally pessimistic in nature can master. It is theorized that by teaching children this skill they will be better able to avoid being overcome by depression,as both children and the adults they grow into. The author is one who was an early proponent of cognitive therapy, which is a behavior modification type program for re-training the pessimistic brain of those who are depressed, and which has had remarkable, positive results. In this book those same techniques are described to parents as PREVENTATIVE life skills and habits to be developed in order to safeguard children from ever even becoming depressed. As the former spouse of a clinically depressed man who has sucessfully managed his depression through cognitive therapy, I am a believer in this process. If severly depressed people can be taught a functional optimism which effectively treats depression, then teaching these same positive functional habits of optimism in children as a prevetative measure makes alot of sense. I picked up this book in the hope of teaching our children these life skills. I was impressed by the functional "HOW TO" type exercises to use with children of all ages. This book is written in a easy to understand manner which is not overly innundated with technical jargon. Of course, my review is from the vantage point of an optimist herself who would like to believe I can help prepare my children to face life in a healthy manner through parenting. I am putting a lot of faith in the power of nurture over nature- and many will debate that. Nonetheless, having heard the depressed who has lived through the worst of depression to extol the virtue of cognitive therapy as nothing less than life saving, I think that even a pessimist would be a believer in the power of optimism once he or she learns this incredible secret-- that like most things, optimism can indeed be learned, and that it is one of the most important things one can learn to be healthy and happy. This book truly is a great tool in teaching that skill.


John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose
John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose
by John Milton
Edition: Hardcover
43 used & new from $12.12

31 of 31 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A COLLEGE TEXT I"D BUY AGAIN, December 10, 2003
Coming from someone who was so frugal that my choice of major in college was influenced by the fact I could find most required reading for a dual degree in philosophy and English literature in the library rather than pay my hard earned money for books that were not worthy.... this is my strongest possible recommendation: This was one of the few texts I actually shelled out money for in college without regret and would even purchase AGAIN! ( My copy was destoryed by Hurricane Isabel) I have fond memories of studying Milton, and when he seemed at his most confusing the notes in this text were wonderfully clear.


CRY FOR HELP: STORIES OF HOMELESSNESS AND HOPE (Umbra Editions)
CRY FOR HELP: STORIES OF HOMELESSNESS AND HOPE (Umbra Editions)
by Mary Ellen Mark
Edition: Paperback
31 used & new from $6.12

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enlightening Work, December 10, 2003
This is a beautiful book which portrays the reality of homelessness in NYC in remarkably moving portraits, and the personal words and stories of the featured homeless themselves. It is a book that is at times a portrayal of perseverance and hope while revealing both the struggles and harsh reality of pain and suffering and reasons some people have found themselves homeless, while at the same time capturing what beauty is present in their lives. It is an eye opening reminder for those of us who are more fortunate in the world. A remarkable work to be apprechiated by lovers of sociology,photography, portraiture and photojournalism as well as those who have an interest in simply capturing a glimpse of others' world that most are fortunate enough to never otherwise experience. Regarding one reviewer's comment it is a FAMILY book, I would use discretion in sharing parts of this with children, as some of the content of the personal stories is more suitable for teenagers and adults. I do think however think the photos can be shared with younger children to introduce awareness of povery and compassion for others, as well as an apprechiation of the beauty and joy ALL people can experience, regardless of economic circumstance. There is great value in fostering undertanding and compassion without pity, which I feel this unique work wonderfully does.


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