Category Archives: Reviews & Interviews

Book Review: I Am Because You Are – by Jacob Lief with Andrea Thompson

Book: I Am Because You Are: how the 
spirit of Ubuntu inspired an 
unlikely friendship and transformed 
a community 
Author: Jacob Lief with Andrea 
Thompson (foreword by Desmond Tutu)
Publisher: Rodale Books
Date: May 12, 2015
Genre: nonfiction; memoir 
Pages: 240; hardcover
Price: $24.99
My rating: an inspiring motivating 
true story

I received the ARC of this book from Net Galley in exchange for my honest review.

If you ever wanted to go to Africa to help the people there, or to work in an organization that contributes, or to commit to financial or prayer support, you will enjoy this book. If you simply enjoy a good true story, give this one your time.

I Am Because You Are is the story of Jacob Lief, who, as a young student, went to Africa during his summer break from university. It was a few years after the end of the apartheid about twenty years ago and the country was still unsettled. However, Jacob had fallen in love with the country during an earlier trip there, and before he returned to the United States this time he’d decided on the purpose for his life. He passionately wanted to make a difference in the lives of the people of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. Once back in the US, his acquaintances expected him to eventually get over the idea, but it had rooted itself in his soul and, instead, he became solidly determined. In his mind, there was no other choice for him.

In I Am Because You Are, Jacob tells an intriguing, moving story of life in South Africa, how he was received as a young white man and why he started the organization known as Ubuntu Education Fund. Ubuntu means “I exist because you exist.” He tells about the challenges, the mistakes, the successes, the pitfalls, the disappointments and the celebrations. He introduces the reader to many of the people he worked with in Port Elizabeth – associates and students. We get to follow the lives of a few of the students, one family in particular, to witness the effectiveness and limitations of Ubuntu.

Jacob admits he made mistakes early on and that he was quick to correct what he could so that the organization he co-founded could continue and grow, evolving into the highly regarded service it is today.

Jacob became well acquainted with Desmond Tutu (who wrote the foreword for I Am Because You Are), the now former President Bill Clinton, and prominent heads of influential companies that donated funding.

In 2010, Jacob Lief was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. In 2012, he was selected as a member of the Clinton Global Initiative advisory board. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife and sons, and in Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I Am Because You Are was written with author Andrea Thompson.

I Am Because You Are: how the spirit of Ubuntu inspired an unlikely friendship and transformed a community is an inspiring book.  It may even motivate you to follow your passion, whatever that may be.

You can find I Am Because You Are listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: Rainbows in the Dark – by Jan Coates

Rainbows in the DarkBook: Rainbows in the Dark
Author: Jan Coates
Illustrator: Alice Priestley
Publisher: Second Story Press
Date: January 1, 1999
Genre: Picture book ; ages 5-8
Pages: 24
Price: $14.95
My Rating: A touching, inspiring story to thrill all ages

I was delighted to find an author-signed copy of Rainbows in the Dark in a local independent bookstore. Look at the cover, isn’t it beautiful? This is a book I’d heard about but not yet seen, so I was happy to get my hands on it. Having read and reviewed (October 22’11) A Hare in the Elephant’s Trunk by Canadian author Jan Coates, and interviewed her (October 28’11,) I was eager to read this picture book.

 

This is a wonderful story about the new and different experience of a little girl out shopping with her mother. Abby did not want to shop in the secondhand clothing store and was sullen and bored waiting for her mother – until a woman came in with a dog. Abby told the lady no dogs were allowed in there, and then learned Charlie was a working dog – and the lady, Joanna, was blind.

Joanna enlisted Abby’s help finding things for a special event. In that way Abby observed what it is like to be unable to see. In appreciation for her help, Joanna gave Abby two tickets for a special event. When Abby and her mother attended, what a surprise awaited them! In fact, for Abby there were two surprises – one being a wish come true.  

Rainbows in the Dark is a lovely read, one that will bring awareness to children – and grown-ups, too – of what it is like to be visually impaired. Canadian illustrator Alice Priestley complemented Jan Coates‘ story perfectly, as I hope you will get a chance to see for yourself.  

You can find Rainbows in the Dark listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: The Story of Gar – by Syr Ruus

The Story of Gar
Book: The Story of Gar
Author: Syr Ruus
Publisher: etc. Press Ltd., 
Canada
Date: 2014
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 166
Price: $20.00
My Rating: A fascinating story 
that's different and sweetly 
memorable

 

 

I was delighted to be gifted a copy of The Story of Gar by Syr Ruus. Having read both of her first two novels – Lovesongs of Emmanuel Taggart  and  Devil’s Hump – which I have also reviewed here, I was eager to find out what marvellous tale the author had written this time. I was not disappointed. 

The Story of Gar is about a young mother looking for a new home for herself and her three small children, a man who is alone and likes it that way, a family of crows also uprooted from their home. We are given the interesting view of life seen mostly from the perspective of one young crow in particular. At first notion it may seem a curious plot, however, you really should read this book! Syr Ruus has woven a story that pulls the reader in, holds one’s attention, and thrills with her storytelling.

This book is really about relationships and interactions – people with people, people with nature. The young family is needing a new life, and the man  who helps them finds his life changing – for the better – because of them. His gift to them brings a whole new dimension to everyone’s life.

The Story of Gar is a novel that a young person would enjoy. There are a couple of tastefully handled places more for mature readers, small sections that can easily be skipped over and not ruin the story should a parent/guardian prefer the younger reader not read them.

A portion of this novel was awarded the Joyce Barkhouse Award by the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia.

The Story of Gar was shortlisted in the Ken Klonsky Novella Contest (Quattro Books, Toronto.)

If you want to read this book it can be obtained directly from the author. Please write to her at: syr(at)eastlink(dot)ca 

You can find The Story of Gar listed on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

Book Review: Frankenstink! Garbage Gone Bad – by Ron Lightburn

Frankenstink! Garbage Gone Bad

Book: Frankenstink! Garbage Gone Bad
Author/Illustrator: Ron Lightburn
Publisher: Tundra Books
Date: March 10, 2015
Genre: Picture Book for ages 4-8
Pages: 32
Price: $19.99 CD; $17.99 US
My Rating: an excellent environmental adventure young readers will enjoy

 

 

Frankenstink! Garbage Gone Bad is written and illustrated by Ron Lightburn of Nova Scotia, Canada. I was privileged to meet Ron at his book signing in April and was delighted that he personalized a copy of Frankenstink! for me and one for my grandson. Although my grandson is almost ten I know he will enjoy this book – which I am giving him for his birthday in June, if I can wait that long!

First of all, look at that cover, shown above. It glows in the dark!

Frankenstink! Garbage Gone Bad.back cover<– And look at the back cover shown here.  Isn’t this impressive?

 

 

 

 

 

 

In fact, the book jacket is a poster! How cool is that!

Frankenstink! Garbage Gone Bad.poster

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ron Lightburn is well established internationally as an illustrator, however, this is the first book he both wrote and illustrated. He told me it was a long wait until it was picked up by a publisher but it’s worth it.

Written in fun rhyme, Frankenstink! is the story of a little boy who would not clean up his room. He simply kept shoving stuff under his bed, until … one night it mutated into a huge garbage monster. Oh my! The monster was hungry for trash first and became more and more greedy. After devouring everything it could find to eat in the house, it moved on down the street to the neighbours’ garbage cans and beyond, growing bigger and smellier and nastier as it went.  I won’t give away more than that about the story, except to say there is a satisfying funny surprise ending.

The author’s descriptions along with his illustrations make this book an enjoyable environmental adventure. The gooey, oozy, garbage monster will have young readers eagerly turning pages to follow its progress.

Ron Lightburn wrote this book with a lesson in mind for children. He made recycling, composting, and cleaning up very memorable in an entertaining way through showing the experience of one young boy who refused to do them.  Released during the week of Earth Day, Frankenstink! Garbage Gone Bad is a wonderful book for children of all ages and ideal for the classroom. This book will appeal more to boys because of some of the words and creepy images the author included, but it will also appeal to girls who love a good story. And it’s simply a gorgeous book!

You can find Frankenstink! Garbage Gone Bad on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

 

Book Review: The Day the Crayons Quit – by Drew Daywalt

The Day the Crayons QuitBook: The Day the Crayons Quit
Author: Drew Daywalt
Illustrator: Oliver Jeffers

Publisher: Philomel Books
Date: 1st edition June 27, 2013
Genre: picture book
Pages: 40
Price: Kindle $8.66; hardcover price varies from about $9.00 up
My Rating: A unique idea that makes a funny story for children to
enjoy

Duncan is a little boy who loves to colour. One day he opens his crayon box to find – not crayons, but – notes from his crayons! It seems they each have filed a complaint with him, quit, and left home. Of course, each wrote the note itself so the words are in the colour of the crayon. Here are a few:

Pink crayon feels that it’s more of a colour for girls so isn’t used much. How many things are pink?

Red crayon feels it’s used too much.

Blue crayon complains about being used so much it’s become too short to see over the edge of the box.

White writes that it usually can’t be seen unless outlined.

Peach is embarrassed. It seems Duncan peeled its paper off so now it feels naked.

Yellow and orange are fighting  – something about the colour of the sun – so aren’t speaking to one another anymore.

Poor Duncan. What is he to do? You’ll have to read the book to find out what he comes up with to make them all happy. :)

This is a funny, well-written story young children should enjoy having read to them, and later learning to read themselves. This reader wanted to know what colour’s note would come next and what problem would be presented. The illustrations are cute and nicely done, with the crayons’ printing like a young child would do.

This book by Drew Daywalt was rated as Amazon Best Children’s Book of 2013.

You can find The Day the Crayons Quit on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

Book Review: Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens – by Heather Wright

Writing Fiction - A Guide for Pre-TeensBook: Writing Fiction: A Guide for 
Pre-Teens
Author: Heather Wright
Publisher: Saugeen Publications
Date: July 24, 2014
Genre: Writers' Guide-book
Pages: 68
Price: under $7.00
My Rating: A helpful, easy-to-follow guide designed for 
young writers and useful to anyone

When I learned that Heather Wright had put together a writing guide for pre-teens, I asked for a review copy. Hoping there would be tips even I could pick up, I wasn’t disappointed.

When I was a pre-teen or teenager I could have benefited from this book, as will any young writers now. Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens is well-planned, covering everything a young writer needs to know to give them a sound foundation. It is easy to follow, enjoyable to read, informative, helpful, educational and challenging in a fun and encouraging way.

Each section is divided into sub-sections as follows:

Getting Started

  • Joywriting

What do I need to be a writer?

Habits and Goals

  • Choosing Your Goal
  • Writing Every Day
  • Don’t Miss a Word
  • Write with a Friend or Two

Pantser or Plotter: Which are You?

  • The Pantser
  • The Plotter

Where do I get ideas for stories?

  • What if?
  • Write What You Know
  • Pick 4 Words

Writing Prompts

Plotting Tips

  • Basic Rule of Plotting
  • Story Planning

Plotting with the Hero’s Journey

How do I start my story?

Who should tell the story?

  • Point of View: First Person
  • Point of View: Second Person
  • Point of View: Third Person

How do I describe my characters?

  • Show Don’t Tell
  • Change is Good
  • Character List

How do I describe the setting?

  • Think about how much you really have to describe
  • Use Comparisons
  • Get the Senses Involved
  • Draw a Map or Use Photos

How do I write dialogue?

How do I end my story?

How do I make my writing better?

  • Revising and Editing
  • Words
  • Sentences
  • Combining Sentences
  • Paragraphs

What do I do when a story gets stuck?

  1. Outline
  2. Forget about making the first draft perfect
  3. Write more than one story at a time
  4. Put the story away
  5. Brainstorm
  6. Ask “What if?”
  7. Don’t worry

The author ends with a section called Last Words in which she invites readers to visit her website and ask any questions they may have, or share with her a paragraph or two of their stories.

Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens by Heather Wright is an excellent teaching aid for young writers. I suspect that if you are a writer – no matter your age – reading the headings above you found something that caught your interest. Why not add this helpful writing guide to your collection of writing books?

You can find Writing Fiction: A Guide for Pre-Teens on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

As a bonus for you I am including a link to Laura Best’s blog so you can read the very interesting guest post by Heather Wright.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)

 

 

 

 

2 Book Reviews : Millions of Souls – the Philip Riteman Story; The Rise & Fall of Adolf Hitler

Today I received an email about Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day.  What’s curious about this is that I didn’t even know about Yom HaShoah, but yesterday I finished reading a book called The Rise & Fall of Adolf Hitler written by William L. Shirer.  (Book review at end of this post.)

You know, it dumbfounds me how people can be so blind and indifferent, thereby allowing such unspeakable horrors to continue without correction!

A side note: One evening Dad and I were watching a program on television where people were asked on the street if they think our soldiers saved the world – referring to World War II. One young woman said no, she didn’t think they saved the world. I was aghast! Dad was disgusted. How can she not know the truth of that time? Aren’t our schools teaching anything about that part of our history anymore? Are they just skimming over it?

As soon as I finished the little book mentioned above (which, I must add, said nothing about Canadian soldiers who played a big part, and not much about American soldiers either) I began reading a book called Millions of Souls – the Philip Riteman Story. Mr. Riteman, a Jew, survived the Holocaust but his whole family was exterminated. He now lives here in Nova Scotia. A few years ago he was encouraged to tell his story, the result being this book – although it was extremely emotionally painful for him to do so as it brought back horrible memories. He now travels around the province selflessly telling some of his story to groups who invite him.

It’s timely that I should be reading these books at this time. Although I haven’t read all of Mr. Riteman’s book yet, I am going to include it here for you today on Yom HaShoah – Holocaust Remembrance Day.  Believe me, it is not for young readers who are not prepared to read about the cruelties and realities of war. What I have read makes me heartsick. It is truly unthinkable what people do to people. The evil in this world …    Having said that, at some point everyone should know.

Millions of SoulsBook: Millions of Souls – the Philip Riteman Story
Author: Philip Riteman, as told to Mireille
Baula-MacWillie

Publisher: Flanker Press
Date: October 12, 2010
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 174
Price: $16.95
My Rating: A must-read as a way to know the horrific truth about the Holocaust

 

I think the best way to tell you about this book is to write here what is on the back cover.

“Philip Riteman is a Holocaust survivor whose mission is to educate today’s youth on the atrocities committed against millions of Jews and Gentiles by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime during World War II. From the Pruzhany Ghetto, Poland, Philip and his family were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. There, his entire family was exterminated. As the lone survivor, Philip was used as a forced labourer in five concentration camps, where he witnessed the cruellest treatments that can be inflicted on human beings: degradation, dehumanization, starvation, hard labour, daily beatings, torture, and deliberate, cold-blooded murder.

Millions of Souls is told in three parts. First is Philip’s account of life in his hometown and as an eyewitness to the struggle for survival in the concentration camps. Second is the story of Philip’s exodus to Newfoundland after the war, where he discovered that there was still some humanity left in the world. Third is the story of Philip Riteman today, and his commitment to spreading his message: “Hate destroys people, communities, and countries. Love binds us all together and makes a better world.”

Philip Riteman’s story was recorded by Mireille Baulu-MacWillie during a series of interviews at Philip’s home in Nova Scotia, Canada.”

“I speak for millions and millions who cannot speak.” – Philip Riteman

Thank you Mr. Riteman!

You can find Millions of Souls on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

The Rise & Fall of Adolf Hitler - by William L. Shirer

Book: The Rise & Fall of Adolf Hitler
Author: William L. Shirer
Publisher: Scholastic Book Services
Date: 1968; 7th printing January 1970
Genre: Historical
Pages: 188
Price: varies from under $1.00 up
My rating: worth reading to know the shocking truth of the madness  behind WWII

 
I read this book just to know what I may not have otherwise learned along the way. I’m glad I did. It was an easy book to read, but was difficult to read because of the horror of war, the driven insanity of Adolf Hitler, the unspeakable cruelty he promoted and insisted upon toward anyone in his way. It was revolting to me to learn more of the seeming stupidity of those around him to allow him to carry on the way he did. He was terrifying. He was insane.

My father is a WWII veteran, and I deeply respect all WWII soldiers who put their lives on the line to stop the attempted overtaking of the world, a little at a time. It was a long horrific war that could have been stopped many different times – but it wasn’t seen at first as a realistic threat. As it progressed it became very hard to stop, including several attempts on Hitler’s life which were unsuccessful. I had an uncle who was a young German soldier in WWII, one of countless who didn’t want to fight in Hitler’s armies but had no choice. How very sad and tragic it all was.

This is a small book worth reading.   Lest we forget.

You can find The Rise & Fall of Adolf Hitler on my BUY THE BOOK! page.

Thanks for reading, and … Creative Musings!  :)