Friday, April 22, 2011

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

This is the April book for our book club. It was not one of my favorites - but it has to the potential to be a book full of discussion spots.

The premise: Amy Chua has two daughters and she has determined they will be raised as good Chinese daughters because she is the perfect Chinese mother. That means she bullies, screams, pesters, sacrifices, prods and accepts nothing less than absolute PERFECTION!

Her husband is only a shadow in this story, but he has given his wife full control of this part of their life and my goodness she takes over. Sophia, the older of the girls is molded into a piano prodigy. Lulu the younger is molded into a violinist extraordinare. At least that is the plan...

Lulu does not take kindly to this plan. Slowly she becomes a formidable opponent for her mother's zealous mothering. The battle brews throughout the story and explodes. There is an interesting that I won't give away.

What do I think...
I have been a teacher for my entire adult life. I have rubbed up against many different types of parents - all of them "Western" parents. I could not quantify them in a few sentences or a generalize what they are. Amy does this continuously throughout the book. She constantly explains what 'western' parents would do rather than the wonderful "Chinese mother' method. I HATED THAT!!! This entire book is a stereotype! Earlier I called Amy zealous, but that is being generous to mom...she is so far beyond that I can't really quantify her. This description makes me want to assume that all Chinese Mother's are Tiger Moms. But based on my teacher past I am sure that is not true!! ARGH!!! That is exactly what I hate about what she did.

So what did I get from the story...A push to understand again that parenting is an extremely personal task which most of us fail miserably at and yet we end up with INCREDIBLE kids. We try our best with our abilities and our stereotypes, and our kids are both the guinea pigs and unknown element.

And that brings me to the other reminder for me as a teacher... I sometimes assume I know what the parenting is like in a family. But, I can't. The parent can do exactly the same thing with tremendously different results!!

Finally - I am SO pleased I didn't grow up in a family like this. I don't think I would have survived!!!

So...I would say this is the kind of book you can ask someone else to describe to you, or check it out at a your money and borrow my copy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

Heaven. 4 year old boy. Heaven.
Not necessarily a combination you expect. But, that is exactly what this story is... a little boy with a terrible appendicitis and an experience that has changed the lives of many adults.

The book is written by Colton's dad, a minister from Nebraska, several years after the actual experience. So - it travels forward and backward throughout the book. Basically, Colton has a heavenly experience when he is in the hospital following a ruptured appendix. He meets his grandfather, his older sister (a miscarriage) and many people who aren't old and don't have glasses (that isn't allowed in heaven.)

Colton drops these details slowly over several years sort of out of the blue. He is completely convincing. He describes things that most 4 year olds wouldn't know or understand...rainbows around God's throne, Jesus' sash and other details. And, it's a place he really wants to return fact, when reminded that he is NOT to run out in the street because he could be killed he seems a bit excited because that would get him back to Heaven.

This is a book that reads very quickly. I had chills many, many times as I followed the story. Colton paints a picture of heaven that I want to join. A picture of a God that is HUGE and full of love and wants us to be there! It is also a book that challenges the reader to question exactly what we believe and expect. What is heaven - really.

In Colton's words - heaven is for real...maybe that is enough!

Chaos Walking Trilogy by Patrick Ness

War and love and noise and teenage angst and aliens and weapons and unity and terrorism and leaders and death and love and...

That is the world of Todd and Viola - two teenagers struggling to stay alive, ward off a world war and greet a new spaceship of pioneers. Their story begins in a Todd's world - a world of men whose noise (thoughts) is heard by everyone at all times. As Todd nears his life changing 14th birthday in Prentisstown in which he will become a man - he meets Viola lost and mute in the swamps - the first and only girl he has ever met. And their journey begins. A journey that takes them across a planet poised for war between the Ask (men) and the Answer (women). Each is lead by a neurotic leader so focused on winning an ongoing war that neither is above destroying the entire planet if that's what it takes. This includes terriost attacks (Answer) and mind control(Ask) and the natives (Spackle) becoming not just restless but violent and full of revenge for the horrible treatment of a small group.

Ness creates a world that I absolutely HATED!! It is a dark and scary world where no one is to be trusted even though you can read half the populations mind all the time. I was sick of the Mayor and the Mistress and their lies and twisted dealings with this very young couple. I considered quitting reading this more than once. In fact I absolutely was not going to read the third book. I was so mad at the end of the second I was not going on.But -then there is Todd and Viola. They turn everything on it's head. They are innocent and guileless and helpless and naive and sweet and in love. I wanted to know if they make it - if they can stay alive long enough to force the idiot adults back from the brink of mutual annihilation.

This is also a story of the bleakness of war. It was hard to read parts of it as a pacifist. The decisions that both the Ask and Answer were hard for me to comprehend. The war was the end for both of them and no end of pain, humiliation and destruction were off limits.

And then I got to the end...I can't say anything because I don't want to give it away...