Read it if: Cinderella Ate My Daughter….

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Now is that a great title, or is that a great title? In fact, it was a brief glimpse at the title of today’s book that fired my curiosity and ultimately led to my immersion in the topic, despite not having a daughter myself.  Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Frontline of the New Girly Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein delves into the baffling, overwhelming and generally difficult-to-negotiate world of parenting young girls in the modern era.  The book focuses around Orenstein’s own struggles and contradictory actions in balancing out a healthy, fun childhood experience for her daughter with her own philosophies and values around gender and identity.

For Orenstein, raising a daughter to be a strong, confident person with a diverse range of talents and interests and a healthy understanding of her own femininity and the numerous ways in which it can be expressed, was a simple and straightforward matter.  Then, of course, she had a daughter.  Let the befuddlement (and 5th birthday spa and facial parties) commence!

cinderella

Read it if:

* you have noticed that Disney Princesses, when depicted together, never make eye contact, and you are curious as to why that might be

* you shook your head in bewilderment on realising that Dora (intrepid explorer and wielder of the purple backpack of adventure) was suddenly dressing in fairy and princess garb

* you’ve suddenly noticed a lot more four-year-olds of your acquaintance wearing lip gloss and eye shadow

* you can’t remember when entire aisles at the toy store became swathes of pink….even in the Lego section

* you are the parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, teacher or carer of a female under the age of 18

 
I found this to be an enlightening read despite not having female offspring to apply it to.  Orenstein exposes some of the more insidious aspects of girl culture while acknowledging the difficulties parents (herself included) experience in finding a middle ground that allows kids to be shielded from incessant (and age-inappropriate) marketing drives, while still enjoying activities and toys that are important to their peers.  It’s also a reasonably quick and light read with plenty of humour, and with thought-provoking material in every chapter it’s the sort of book that provides value even when being skimmed, or picked up and put down.  Highly recommended.

Until next time,

Bruce

Challenging Reads: January First…

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Ahem. Let me assume *serious reviewer mode* today as we delve into…..

Obstacle number 3 in the What’s in a Name Reading ChallengeJanuary First: A Child’s Descent Into Madness and Her Father’s Struggle to Save Her by Michael Schofield.

Taken from: the Non-Christie-Listie

Category: Three – A book with a party or celebration in the title

January First is the memoir of Michael Schofield, father of January (Janni) Schofield, a little girl who has been diagnosed with childhood schizophrenia. It charts the extreme lengths that Janni’s family had to go to before her illness could be diagnosed and appropriate help obtained.  I was drawn to this book after seeing this family’s story on television – notably on Oprah and Dr Phil .

january first

This book’s Point of Difference:

That would have to be it’s unusual subject matter and the author’s voice…more about that below.

Pros:

– Well, it’s certainly an interesting read.  The author relates the day-to-day struggles of living with a child with extreme (and inexplicable) behaviours and I’m sure many parents would be able to relate to at least some of what he describes, if not to the levels exprienced here.

Cons:

– I had a couple of problems with this book. Firstly, I came to this book after having seen the family in documentary style tv shows….from those it was obvious that Jani had some major differences in behaviour from your average 8 or 9 year old, and required medical intervention.  Unfortunately, in the book, the way her father describes some of these behaviours makes it seem as if Jani is just the typical, naughty brat one might see in the lolly aisle of the shopping centre, screaming until it gets its way.  I found this off-putting, as part of the family’s struggle was getting professionals to understand that her behaviour was atypical and dangerous to herself and others. 

– Michael Schofield narrates the story with a spectacular disregard for his wife’s (Jani’s mother’s) abilities and level of caring about their daughter.  In fact, almost everyone in the book is depicted as having a far lower level of rapport and ability to manage Jani than Schofield himself. I’m not sure whether this was a deliberate attempt to relate the actual dynamic of the relationship and his real emotional responses to the situations they found themselves in – he does address this briefly towards the end of the book –  but I found his narration arrogant and coupled with my first con, it left me with the (unwanted and judgemental) feeling that it was unsurprising that he didn’t find the help Jani needed sooner.

Overall:

I wanted to like this book more than I did. I was hoping it would be an insightful glimpse into the lack of services available for mental health generally and children’s mental health specifically.  It did accomplish this to a degree, but I really struggled with building mental rapport with the author and this diminished my levels of empathy toward his situation.  If you would like to give this one a try (and it’s certainly worth a look, despite my cons) I would suggest doing so after viewing some of Jani’s story on video, to give you an idea of Jani as a person. 

Here’s a little bit of Jani’s first appearance on Oprah Winfrey, to start you off.

Oh, and if  you are wondering why I started off calling her Janni and changed to Jani, all will be explained in the book.

Until next time, campers!
Bruce

 

 

 

Ode to an Author: The Incomparable MEM FOX!

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Good evening all, Mad Martha here! I am utterly excited to be bringing you this ode today, as I have just met this most famous and fantastic of children’s authors, Mem Fox!  Yes, Bruce and I made a perilous journey to Chermside Library to see the lady herself (and the wonderful illustrator Judy Horacek, who collaborated with Mem on Where is the Green Sheep? and Goodnight, Sleep Tight) discuss all things literacy.  Alas, we did not manage to get a photograph with Mem or Judy, but they were kind enough to sign our copies of the two books on which they collaborated.  Here are some pictures:

DSC_0299     DSC_0304

You can really see the excitement on Bruce’s face.  It’s good to see him openly displaying his emotions in such a way. For my part, I was so excited that my hand was shaking as I took the photo during the signing.

Considering the incredible and widespread influence Mem Fox has had on children’s literacy in Australia, I thought it fitting to honour her with my very best efforts.  To this end, I have created an epic ode that references just a few of her 40 books.  I would like to offer this ode as my personal thanks to Mem for her passionate efforts to promote child-parent (or grandparent, or carer) bonding through reading.  I have titled this ode, “Time for a Story”.

It’s time to arise;

stretch and open your eyes!

Start the big day anew,

Oh I DO love you!

koala lou 2

It’s time for a bite;

first we’ve had since last night!

What would you like most?

Magic vegemite toast?

possum magic

It’s time to go out

and see who’s about.

What clothes will you choose

to match Grandpa’s red shoes?

shoes from grandpa

It’s time for your lunch;

here’s an apple to crunch.

But I’d rather drink juice

than say “Boo!” to a goose!

boo to a goose

It’s time for a play!

Should we draw or use clay?

Dress up like a cat?

Chase a magic blue hat?

the magic hat

It’s time for a scrub;

Quickly! Into the tub!

Oh you bold, cheeky child,

you just drive me wild!

harriet

It’s time now for bed,

cuddle up, rest your head.

But before we sleep,

Let’s find that green sheep!

green sheep

Sleep well little mouse,

You are safe in this house.

I’ll turn out the light,

now Good night, sleep tight.

time for bedgood night sleep tight

If you have never encountered Mem Fox before, firstly…you call yourself a reader? And secondly, get on to her work POST HASTE! You’ll be a fool to yourself and a burden to others if you don’t.

Adieu, adieu,

Mad Martha