Archive for the ‘Dealing with bullies’ Category

Humor Abuse

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

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Lorenzo Pisoni was just two years old when he created and presented his first act during into intermission in his family’s Pickle Circus. His performance was so compelling it cut significantly into concession sales. Lorenzo Pisoni was drafted into the performance itself.

Humor Abuse, Pisoni’s one-man show about his life in the circus and out, is a brilliant meditation on how a severely gifted person can be accidentally abused by his parents as they nurture a child’s gifts. The problem a gifted child with gifted parents faces is that when he gets into the family business, he sometimes finds himself also taking on his parents’ burdens.

Humor Abuse is a hilarious and sad and impressive tribute to hard work, circus, clowning, and family. The pratfalls scripted into the show echo the slips and trips that occur in life as parents and child learn to nurture their talents.

Today is the closing day of this run. Go!

Book review: Water for Elephants

Monday, May 10th, 2010

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Author:Sara Gruen
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2007

Fizzy says:

Great book. REALLY cool. It follows the story of one man for one summer, as he runs away to the circus. Accidentally.

Gruen definitely did her research, and gets deep into the gritty life of traveling circuses around the 1930's. The hierarchy that separated bosses, performers, and workers is very clear, and Jacob, the narrator, doesn't fit into any of those categories, which leads to an interesting and fast paced novel.

I read it in about a day and a half. SUPER good. Recommend it to anyone.

Emily says:

Beautiful and deep, but interspersed with the fascinating circus lore is unspeakable cruelty, human to human, and especially, human to animal. Balanced, sometimes, by unbelievable grace.

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Water for Elephants

Book review: Makers

Friday, February 5th, 2010

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Author:Cory Doctorow
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:fiction, cyberpunk
Year of publication:2009

Let me start by saying that I would like at least one of every invention described in Makers. I am particularly taken by the RFID/GPS/labeling/cataloging system that allows a person to locate any item they have tagged by typing in its name. But I would be happy to ride The Ride, or own any one or all of the tiny robots, the Super Marios, well, truly, any and all of them.

Doctorow also puts forward an interesting business model - the 6 months and you're out theory of manufacturing anything. Seems exhausting, but true to life. And may very well be the only viable model for hardware manufacturing in the future.

That said, Makers is the book that Ayn Rand would have written instead of The Fountainhead if she'd lived a few years later and chosen engineering rather than architecture as her metaphor.

In the Makers world, anyone with a moderate-to-high IQ is not only smart, but sensitive, creative, well-intentioned, and deep-down-to-the-core good (although sometimes that is not immediately apparent). Sure smart guys (and they are mostly guys, of course) may occasionally take actions that send others to the hospital for months at a time, but they do eventually realize the error(s) of their ways and take steps to correct them.

Women in the Makers world are very, very bright, attracted to Makers, attractive, moral, tolerant, thrifty, ... well, you know, they are pretty much not very reality-based.

Oh, and then there are the policemen. Seems that policemen (and lawyers) were pretty much put on this earth to physically and/or psychically destroy smart people.

Anyway, the plot moves along at an involving pace. And you like and approve of and root for all the smart people who are constantly inventing all kinds of very cool things.

And then appears the very horrific random outburst of violence or kind of overly long sex scene (but then, I am probably not the target audience of this book; maybe the Powers That Be thought these were necessary).

So, anyway, I'm very glad I read this book. But I did feel that Death Waits was treated overly harshly. He is a very young smart person, no doubt, but he IS a smart person, if not an engineer. It's good that in some fictional universes, smart people are not the enemies. Now, in addition, I'd really like to visit a fictional universe in which smart women are people too.

-- Emily Berk

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Makers

Book review: The Children’s Book

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

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Author:A.S. Byatt
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2009

There are so many intertwining, involving stories in The Children's Book that it was sometimes hard to slow down and remember that great novels are not entirely about what they are about.

Set in the time leading up to World War I and before women's sufferage, the plot tells of a group of families and their associates and friends. There is a destitute young boy who is nurtured to become the artist he deserves to be. There are the young women who, lacking the vote and receiving conflicting messages about how to behave socially and politically, pay terrible prices. The subplots about how various characters resolve their needs to express themselves politically, even when expressing their opinions may adversely affect those they love should be required reading for anyone thinking of a career in politics.


This is not an easy book to read, but it is also not an easy book to put down.

It's as if Byatt is leading us through a magical party. She continually blows up the most beautiful balloons and then, once you've become entranced by one, she wanders back to burst it.

-- Emily

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Children's Book, The

Book review: Among Schoolchildren

Monday, January 18th, 2010

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Author:Tracy Kidder
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 12 and up
Genre:Non-fiction
Year of publication:1990

My first comment on this book read: "So far I am really captivated by this book, which is interesting because I didn't really expect to like it so much..."

This feeling lasted for the entire book. The writing style pulled me in so much that the story didn't even matter, although it is really cool as well. Kidder basically shadowed a fifth grade class in a poor, rundown, public school for an entire school year and wrote about the experience.


He really got to know the teacher (Mrs. Zajac) and her students and so the reader really knows them by the end too. The difficulties that Mrs. Zajac encounters with teaching the kids range from students three years behind, to shyness, to racism.

Great book, I recommend it for anyone. (5 stars)

--Fizzy


If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Among Schoolchildren

Book review: A Step From Heaven

Saturday, January 2nd, 2010

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Author:An Na
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 12 and up
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2003

I'm not sure how to rate this book, because the narration ranges from a five-year-old's perspective to that of an 18-year-old one. This is really interesting, but leaves most of the book as a very easy, lower-level read. However, this story about abuse and immigration is intense and scary.

Yung and her family emigrated from Korea when she was five to find a better life. But her dad ended up drinking and life got very hard trying to keep their heritage while living in America...

--Fizzy


If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Step From Heaven, A

Book review: The Kite Runner

Friday, September 18th, 2009

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Author:Khaled Hosseini
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Sophisticated readers
Genre:fiction
Year of publication:2008

An amazing book, but sooooo sad... I wish Hosseini could have given it a slightly happier ending. I think it is cool that we were able to see an up close and personal view of Afghanistan, even if it was not really a joyful thing to see. It shows how ignorant, I at least, am about the rest of the world.

I like how we get to see Amir's understanding of his life change as he grows up and figures out his needs and how to solve them (his need for forgiveness, of freedom of choice, and ideas, revenge...)

--Fizzy, age 14


If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Kite Runner, The

Book review: The Mercy Rule

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

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Author:Perri Klass
Reading Level (Conceptual):For grown-ups
Reading Level (Vocabulary):For grown-ups
Genre:Fiction, parenting
Year of publication:2009

The Mercy Rule is a rule instituted in some amateur sports leagues that requires that if one team is so far ahead in points as to be uncatchable by the opposing team, the game is ended earlier than it otherwise might.

In this extremely gentle, wise, moving story, Lucy, a physician who is also a mother and a graduate of the foster care system, unconsciously applies this rule to her family and work life.


Just about every character in the story, no matter how poorly they behave, has a sweetness and realness. For example, Lucy's pre-teenage daughter is mostly embarrassed by her mother and especially by her probably autistic-spectrum brother. And yet, she Does the Right Thing by them when crunches come. It's also the Right Thing in that it's probably not the thing that the mom would think of having Isabel do.

Anyway, if you are having one of those existential weeks, one of those where you know that you are actually a very lucky person, but you are feeling ungrateful and unhappy nevertheless, reading this book might cheer you up a bit. It did that for me.

-- Emily

If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Mercy Rule, The

Book review: The Book Thief

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

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Author:Markus Zusak
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 12 and up
Genre:Fiction
Year of publication:2007

Good book. About a girl during the Holocaust, but on the side we don't usually hear: She is German, but suffering as well. In the very beginning of the book Liesel's brother dies, and she is shipped off to live with "scary" foster parents. And by the middle her family is trying to keep a Jew hidden, and still "Heil Hitler" everyone they see.

The story is told by Death, which is a little bit spooky sounding, but Zusak makes Death surprisingly compassionate. As Liesel has to face the terrors of WW2, Death adds his two cents every once in a while, giving the story an interesting edge, especially because he tells us the climax of the book in the beginning, and makes us read all the way through for an explanation.

-- Fiz, age 14

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If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Book Thief, The

Book review: The Agony and the Ecstasy: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo

Sunday, September 13th, 2009

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Author:Irving Stone
Reading Level (Conceptual):Sophisticated readers
Reading Level (Vocabulary):Children 12 and up
Genre:Fiction, biography
Year of publication:1961

Reading this novelized biography of Michelangelo just now, after so recently reading the non-fictionalized Dancing To the Precipice was probably a mistake.

I did read The Agony and the Ecstasy to the end and found it mostly interesting, but -- so many unexplained wars, duplicate names, minor characters, changes of venue. Seems to me if you are going to fictionalize, you might want to streamline. If there are three characters named Ludovico, maybe rename one to be Vico?

I did learn a lot of facts, or at least I think they were facts, about Michelangelo's life and the history of the Papacy and the Italian city states. What I did not learn, and missed, was a bit more of an explanation about why this talented, obsessed artist allowed himself to be so taken advantage of? And why did the patrons who claimed to admire him so much abuse his gifts rather than help nurture them? I understand that they might need to use their enormous wealth to pay their armies, but -- Why the law suits? Why did so many popes ask the impossible when they clearly wanted Michelangelo to do great work for them?

The story felt to me like a history text, but because the text was labeled "fictionalized", I was never sure which parts were factual.

Seems like Irving Stone's message to us about Michelangelo is that his obsession with working marble led him to make foolish business decisions. But if he had not been so totally obsessed with working marble, would he have had the fortitude to keep on struggling given the financial strain he was under his entire life? On the other hand, maybe if he had refused to take on some projects until they were funded, he would have found himself under less financial strain?

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If you found this review helpful and/or interesting, consider supporting our book habit: Buy this book!: Agony and the Ecstasy, The: A Biographical Novel of Michelangelo