Monday, April 26, 2010

More from The Mysterious Benedict Society

As I continue to digest some of the major themes in The Mysterious Benedict Society, written by Trenton Lee Stewart, I have been captivated by this idea of trusting a lie for the sake of happiness. I supose this is where we've heard the saying "Ignorance is bliss." Or is it more? Ignorance implies a lack of the truth rather than substituting lies for the truth. The idea of forcing yourself to believe something you know is false seems absurd. Is that even possible? Surely we're just talking about the mentally ill or hardened criminal, right? Wrong! I am shocked at how easy it was to think of examples of believing in lies, by choice! One of the first words that came to mind as my husband and I debated this topic just yesterday was 'suburbia'. Knowing that crime transcends all levels of socioeconomic status, race, religion, age...I still CHOOSE to believe that my family is completely safe living in my upper income neighborhood with pretty white picket fences and manicured lawns. I foolishly choose to leave my door unlocked when we go for a walk or assume the lawn mower will still be sitting in the front yard tomorrow morning if we don't put it away immediately. It is difficult to acknowlege that there are child predators or drug dealers living in my neighborhood, etc. So I just tuck that thought away in my mind and live in the nice little "la-la" land I've invented for myself!

My next thought turned to 'addictions'. Don't people buy into the idea that drugs can take away your problems or that a drink of alcohol will make me feel better or braver, etc? I've heard it said that porn is safe because "it doesn't hurt anyone" or that "my wife would rather me look at this than to have an actual affair"...etc. Really? No, it can't be. But we like to tell ourselves things like that...for the sake of happiness. Why do we do that? Surely these lies don't create real happiness. How could anything of real value come from an illusion?

Then what do we as parents do to protect our children? The thought of never letting my precious (lit)erbugs out of the house again did cross my mind, but even I can see that isn't realistic. Creating children who live in fear of the world doesn't conjure up happy images either. Well, my husband and I thought about this for awhile and decided that there's only one thing we can do. Teach our children what REAL true authentic happiness is! We could spend all of our time warning them of the lies and the wrong choices, etc and never cover it all. I've heard someone speak about counterfeit money. Do you know how people are trained to spot fake money? They intimately study the real stuff! They know real money backwards and forwards so it's easy to recognize a lie!

Here's my challenge to you, friends. Take the time to evaluate what leads to true happiness and talk about it with your family. You'll never get there if you don't know where you're going! Don't let your kids get lost along the way. So many young people are wasting their lives making wrong turns, constantly looking for something to hold on to. Hold on to the truth, friends! There's nothing better!

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

"Are you a GIFTED CHILD looking for special opportunities?" Then you must read this book! Hooray for Trenton Lee Stewart! The Mysterious Benedict society is a masterpiece in the realm of children's literature. Geared for children between the ages of nine and twelve, this adventure will challenge children with its delicious vocabulary and fast paced plot. Perhaps my great appreciation for the book lies in Stewart's ability to write a fantastical piece that still applies to the realities of today. As a biased lover of children's books it wouldn't surprise you for me to say I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book and I've already begun the next. However, I was surprised at the depth of Stewart's underlying themes and have been personally challenged and affected as well!

Here's the breakdown: Four "gifted" children are selected after undergoing a series of difficult tests for a dangerous mission that only they can solve. As in all suspenseful stories, the entire world is in danger and their very lives and newfound friendship is at stake. I'll leave the ending a mystery for you to discover as you read.

For those of you with advanced readers, you often email me asking for book options that will challenge your child while still protecting them from subject matter that might not be appropriate for their age. If your child is reading at the fourth or fifth grade level but is actually younger, feel safe that the only love in this book is among friends and family. There is a definite villain or antagonist, however much of the conflict in this story lies within the characters themselves. Some themes include:
1.Are you trusting in a version of happiness that is mere illusion?
2. Are you the sort of person who will do anything to hear what you want to believe?
3. Fears only truly diappear when you are brave enough to confront them.
4. Within us all lies bravery. It only has to be drawn out.
5. Fear leads to a loss of control.
6. We are driven by a strong desire to belong.

Those of you who have children who like to read books in a series will be happy to know that two more books follow. TMBS and the Perilous Journey and TMBS and the Prisoner's Dilemma. And there's more good news! The website developed for this series ( is perhaps the best book site I've ever visited. With games, logic challenges, author info, FAMILY READING GUIDES, and more...what more do you need to hear? The cherry on top-brand new, this 512 page book is only $6.99 in paperback form.

I have much more to discuss about this book and lesson ideas to share! Check back soon, Friends!

I love it when a book draws you in and takes you on an adventure! For those of you longing for an adventure, pick up a book and read! The more you fall in love with it, your children will too!

In the words of Mr. Benedict, "May your adventures bring you closer together, even as they take you far from home." Share your adventures with us, friends!

Happy reading.

Friday, March 26, 2010

From the Heart

Have you walked through the young adult/teen/preteen section of your local book store or library lately? If you have older children, I'm sure you have. Are you concerned at all by the current choices in literature? I couldn't help but notice that roughly 70% of the new titles had black or dark purple covers. Curious. I would also estimate that the same high percentage were involving vampires, fairies, or magic. Book after book. Title after title. It soon became my mission to locate one new release that dared not fit this dark pattern and I'm sad to say that there was not enough time for me to find anything different. Common sense tells me that there has to be other subject matter out there- other options for children who don't want to fill their heart and minds with the seductive power of evil. As I put myself into the teen's perspective, would I be able to discern what is being bombarded down young people's throats? Would I have the courage to stand up to the peer pressure?
Parents, it's no secret that I'm troubled by what I see and hear. You can not expect your government, your child's school or teacher, book publishers or sellers, the media to protect your child's heart. YOU, friends, must assume full responsibility for guarding your children. You may find this thought profound, but I'll say it anyway. Just because your child wants something or is interested in something does NOT mean you have to give in to it, or worse yet, buy it and bring it into your home.
It is my new mission to find books that are not only appealing to children and young adults, but also appropriate. Friends, wake up! Not all books marketed for children or available in your child's library are good for them. The bottom line is that you need to know what your children are reading. Talk to your kids about their books. Ask questions. Browse the internet for reviews of titles. And in the end feel good about either letting them continue to read it or abandon it for a better choice. When did we buy into the lie that parenting would be easy? Will your child likely be upset? Perhaps. But what a great time to teach them how to guard their hearts!

Here's some scripture on the seriousness of one's heart:

Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (The heart determines behavior.)
Matthew 5:8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
Hebrews 10:22 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
Psalms 119:36 Incline my heart to your testimonies, and not to selfish gain!
Ephesians 1:18 ...having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.
Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
2 Chronicles 16:9 For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.

Happy reading, Friend!

It's Been Too Long, Friends!

I could write my own book based on the events which have unfolded during these past few weeks. You've heard the expression "When it rains, it pours." Well, you could say I've been living on the Ark and I've finally received word that there may be land close by! Have you ever been there, friend? I'm sure you have! Let's just say that after a job change, car accident, three trips to Beaumont for my Granny's surgery, time in ICU, and funeral, shopping for a 'new to us' car to replace the one which was totaled, a virus, allergies, and a birthday party...I've also been battling two months of constant morning sickness! That's right; it's exactly what you think it is. I'm pregnant. And it was quite a surprise to us too. Well, that being said, I sincerely apologize for not updating the (Lit)erbug blog for the past month. (My brother-in-law, Joseph, has been quite frustrated with me. ;0)) However, I'm planning on making it up to you, friend! Oh, I've missed you and have so much to share with you!

Happy reading!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Review of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief (MOVIE)

What children's book fan worth their salt hasn't read Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief? I really enjoyed reading the books in the series- more than I expected to, in fact! And so when my husband asked what I'd like to do on our date last night, I quickly suggested the new movie based on The Lightning Thief! I'll be honest. My expectations were high. Really high. And while the movie was entertaining, it strayed so far from the book. Major characters were left out of the movie and extras were added. Some of the main characters didn't exactly fit the way Riordan described them in the book. But all of that didn't bother me as much as the actual plot changes. We'll have to wait to see how much the next movie (The Sea of Monsters) will need to stray from the actual story to compensate for the omissions and changes to the first. Will they have anything to do with the original series in the end? I just don't understand why any changes needed to be made in the first place. All the ingredients for a blockbuster hit were there. And film makers took those ingredients and basically turned prime rib into bologna. Disappointing! The book would receive an "A-" from me...the movie a "B-".

Friday, February 12, 2010

Extending "14 Cows for America"

Learning about different places and people fascinates me. Knowing how vast and diverse the world is is both awesome and humbling. I mean, I get all caught up in my little portion of the world and forget that I'm just a tiny piece of the whole picture. And even as I say that, I don't consider myself or my family insignificant. No, it's empowering, actually. I mean, if you think of being but a piece of mankind, you must concentrate on what is possible with the "whole body"! The struggles and joys of people from all over our world become mine and yours. Ok, humor me by following this slight tangent, friend! One of my favorite poems (originally intended as prose) touches on this exact sentiment. The Renaissance author, John Donne, is able to eloquently communicate how we are all interconnected. Read this:

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Oh, friend! You know your high school English teacher would be so proud of you if you memorized those lines by heart! And I would be too! It's just beautiful! Now, I know this is slightly above a youngster's head (depending on the age of your youngster) but older kids would be able to digest this poem and compare Donne's themes with that of Deedy's.

Geography lesson: It is so easy with the internet to pull up a map (I used Google maps) and actually show kids where Kenya is. Our story takes place in western Kenya, very close to Tanzania, which sits on the eastern edge of Africa. The Maasai people are truly amazing. Go to to learn all about their customs, concerns, and passions. Though it seems automatic to focus on the differences between our culture and the Maasai, spend lots of time with your family discussing the similarities between them. (we all love a good story, we live in communities, we're proud of our culture and heritage, we have to protect what is valuable to us, we all deal with tragedy, we all have a responsibility to mankind, etc.)

Personal Challenge:
On the Maasai Association website, there is a link for sponsoring a child to attend school and how you could donate a cow or goat to a family in need. What an awesome opportunity for a family! Inspire your kids to organize a yard sale (under your direction of course) and use the money to help another child go to school or buy a family a cow! I believe that if you sponsor a child, you will receive feedback on who you were able to help, etc. Instill in your family a desire to help others! Because if your kids are anything like mine, they don't need another toy or outfit. They have plenty already. And the joy of a new toy eventually grows old anyway and they just want another and another. The joy of giving can last forever! What a small sacrifice it would take from us. But what an impact it might have on other human extension of ourselves!

Happy reading, friend! I just adore you all!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

14 Cows for America

Feeling chilly this cold February night? I have the perfect antidote! 14 Cows for America written by Carmen Agra Deedy, in collaboration with Wilson Kimeli Naiyomah, is guaranteed to warm your heart. Oh, friend! Books like this one are why I love children's literature! Set in western Kenya, the author and illustrator (Thomas Gonzalez) weave a tell of profound selflessness and unity. The unity of mankind. The selflessness and sacrifice of the Maasai people. The goal of my blogging isn't to give you a summary of the plot and that is why, friend, I don't want to reveal any more of what this sacrifice is. Just trust me when I tell you that this story will deeply humble you and your children. The actual story is less than 30 pages long. But they are 30 of the most beautiful pages I've ever read or seen. Stories that change you from the inside out are too few. The icing on the cake is that this is a true story!

After the story, there is a short biography about the book's main character, Kimeli Naiyomah. On the dedication page Kimeli writes:

"To all the little children who read this book. You are the peace the world has been waiting for. May you grow to be compassionate diplomats."

Friend, I am so blessed and yet think so little in respect to helping others. Do I love? Do I sacrifice at all? Would I give up something my life depended on for another person? Someone I didn't even know? Expecting nothing in return? And with such joy and celebration?

If it isn't obvious, this book earned an "A+" from the Literbug!

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!