Category Archives: Books

Are you a scanner or a diver?

Do you ever have one of those light bulb moments? I recently did, and it’s probably one of the best things that’s happened to me in years. A few weeks ago I stumbled upon an article from the UK magazine Psychologies called What do you do when you want to do everything? Of course the  title intrigued me and as I kept reading, I kept thinking, yep, that’s me alright. The article goes on to mention a book by Barbara Sher of the same title, which happens to be sold in the USA as “Refuse To Choose“. I decided to buy right after reading this article. As I started reading it, nodding my head in agreement, I had an epiphany: I am a scanner, and there’s nothing wrong with me!

So who are scanners and divers? You’ll either be one or the other, but you can’t be both. Most people are divers, which means they usually stick to one career path, maybe one hobby (which may change over time) and they focus deeply on them. They become “specialists” in their areas of interest and want to learn as much as they can about them.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are scanners. They tend to be curious not about one thing, but many (not specifically all at once). They don’t like to specialize in an individual field as they find the outlook too restrictive. They enjoy learning about a new subject but eventually get bored once they understand it and move on to another area, job, interest or hobby. Here are a few questions that Barbara Sher asks at the beginning of her book, Refuse To Choose. You don’t have to answer yes to every single question, but if you do to most, you may be a scanner.

Are you a scanner - Refuse To Choose by Barbara Sher

Are you a scanner – Refuse To Choose by Barbara Sher

Many times in my life I have heard people tell me, why don’t you pick one thing and just go with it? You already have experience in this, or a degree in that field. Just stick to it! And that’s been my problem all along. I don’t want to stick to single one thing for my whole life. How boring would that be? To me, life has so much more to offer than a small slice of pie. I want to have it all! Well, technically, I don’t want all of it but I do have a few interests close to my heart I want to be able to entertain on a regular basis. So this is my life as a scanner, the way I’d like it to be from now on, in no particular order (well, except for the first one on the list):

I am a mother, a teacher, a photographer, a linguist, a reader, a mentor, an artist, a writer, a volunteer and a lifelong learner.

Putting it down on paper makes me realize my list isn’t that long, and there’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to do it all. Barbara Sher even helped me figure out what type of scanner I am (a cyclical Sybil scanner), so I can plan my life around my many interests. I’m really looking forward to this new way of thinking, and living.

If you’re a scanner, you may enjoy Barbara Sher’s book, as well as The Renaissance Soul: How to Make Your Passions Your Life – A Creative and Practical Guide by Margaret Lobenstine, which I also read recently.

Do you consider a scanner or a diver? (No wrong answer here). What do you consider your main life interest(s)?

WWW Wednesdays – March 19, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

Since I used my last WWW Wednesdays update to share the books I recently read, I thought I’d use this update to catch up on some of the books my kids have been reading and enjoying. Some children’s books make a more lasting impression than others. Below is a small selection of books that we really enjoyed, made us laugh or made us think in the past couple of months. If you’re looking for some children’s book ideas, I hope these are helpful.

By the way, one of my most favorite books, The Giver by Lois Lowry, is finally going to be a movie, 20 years after being published. Gosh, I hope the movie doesn’t disappoint. It has a lot to live up to.

Books we really enjoyed

Journey by Aaron BeckerJourney by Aaron Becker. I’m disappointed this book didn’t win the 2014 Caldecott Medal, as I think its illustrations were mind blowing and highly imaginative compared to the winner Locomotive (that book is still OK, by the way, but way too long to read out loud). In Journey, using a red marker (remember Harold and the Purple Crayon, except this book is wordless), a young girl draws a door on her bedroom wall and enters another world. There she experiences many adventures, including being captured by an evil emperor. The denouement reveals who comes to her rescue, making young readers understand that with a little imagination, anything is possible. By far one of the best books we’ve read in the past few months.

Mr. Wuffles! by David WiesnerMr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner. Poor Mr. Wuffles seems very uninspired by his many cat toys, except for one single toy, which happens to be a spaceship belonging to tiny aliens the size of ants. After Mr Wuffles damages their spaceship, the aliens must venture in the human and cat world to find a way to repair their aircraft so they can go back to their world. Except for a few speech bubbles featuring alien talk (and you can figure out what the hieroglyphics text actually says if you’re smart!), this book is mostly wordless, in a comic book format. There’s so much to look at on each page, this book will entertain curious kids for hours.

Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett. We enjoy reading Mac Barnett’s books and this is one of our favorite. Annabelle finds a box containing yarn and starts knitting for everyone in the town, somehow her yarn supply never running out. That’s until a greedy archduke decides to get the extra yarn for himself. My kids love the ending of this book, which clearly shows that mean people don’t get zilch by being nasty.

Tap the Magic Tree by Christie Matheson. This book is magic for all readers, as it invites you to tap, rub, touch, and wiggle the lovely illustrations to make an apple tree bloom, produce fruit, and lose its leaves. What a smart and cute way to display a tree’s yearly cycle!

A Little Book of Sloth by Lucy CookeA Little Book of Sloth by Lucy Cooke. This is one of the CUTEST animal books I’ve ever read. And after reading this book, I dare you not to like sloths. Featuring many photos of baby (and adult) sloths, this book educates you about their fascinating world. It contains tons of facts my kids and I didn’t know, and it even inspired my son to write a non-fiction story about sloths for his writing period at school. Animal books can’t get any better than this one.

Books that made us laugh

Open Very Carefully by Nick Bromley. Imagine reading a quiet storybook when suddenly, a crocodile appears and wreaks havoc on the characters. Will you close the book shut, or take a peek inside to see what happens next? My kids and I love interactive books and this is a great one.

Warning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam LehrhauptWarning: Do Not Open This Book! by Adam Lehrhaupt. This is another interactive book where the narrator warns you not to open it. And if you do, watch out for the many monkeys, toucans, and even alligators you release and the mayhem that follows. Er, how do you get them back inside?

Carnivores by Aaron Reynolds. It’s tough being a meat eater when you try to make friends with plant eaters but you feel misunderstood. Is it your fault that your diet includes the critters you’re trying to blend in with? This book is not for the squeamish (no blood, I promise) but it’s very funny!

The hiccupotamus by Aaron ZenzThe Hiccupotamus by Aaron Zenz. I haven’t had this much fun reading a book out loud for a long time, and it gets funnier every time. I mean, the whole book is like this:
There was a hippopotamus
who hiccupped quite-a-lotamus.
And every time he got’emus . . .
he’d fall upon his bottomus!
So what do you do to help a hippo who has the hiccups? You’ll have to read the storytamus to find the answeramus…

Books that made us think

Back Of The Bus by Aaron Reynolds. Rosa Parks’ defiance and arrest is shown from the eyes of an African American child sitting at the back of the bus with his mom. The child wonders why the bus doesn’t move when Rosa Parks stays in her seat at the front of the bus, and he hears his mom worry, “There you go, Rosa Parks, stirrin’ up a nest of hornets.” But both mother and child slowly realize that this time may be different. My kids both were studying the civil rights movement when we read this book, and it was a wonderful way to give them a child’s perspective.

Unspoken : A Story From The Underground Railroad by Henry ColeUnspoken : A Story From The Underground Railroad by Henry Cole. Unspoken is absolutely brilliant: just like its title, it doesn’t feature a single word, making its story even more powerful. A Southern farm girl discovers a runaway slave hiding behind the corn crib in the barn and decides to help him by feeding him on his journey. No a single word is spoken between the two, and the girl keeps his presence a secret from everyone, even when the confederate soldiers offer a reward. Even if you don’t read children’s books, you should grab a copy of Unspoken and find out how a picture really can be worth a thousand words.

On A Beam Of Light : A Story Of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne. This is a great book that Einstein’s life from his earlier years, showing how he always questioned the world and universe surrounding him, and how he never stopped imagining, which led him to make groundbreaking discoveries.

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WWW Wednesdays – February 19, 2014

WWW Wednesdays

My bookshelf

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau– What I’m currently reading
For the past couple of months, I’ve been reading several books at once. I usually don’t do that but since I’ve been wanting to read books on writing and business, as well as novels, I’ve figured the mix would allow me to learn about various subjects all at once, rather than being stuck in one genre for a long time.

The $100 Startup: Reinvent the Way You Make a Living, Do What You Love, and Create a New Future by Chris Guillebeau. I’m almost done with this book and I’ll share my thoughts in my next update.

Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication by Ann Whitford Paul. This book is so simple and so good, I’ll probably purchase my own copy once I’m done with the library version.

Show Me a Story!: Why Picture Books Matter: Conversations with 21 of the World’s Most Celebrated Illustrators by Leonard S. Marcus. A very insightful book so far, in which illustrators share their life stories and explain how they became children’s book illustrators.

Becoming A Writer by Dorothea Brande. This book was first published in 1934 and I understand every aspiring writer should read it, so we’ll see.

– What I recently finished reading
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford
Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford. I wish this book didn’t constantly switch between the past and the present, especially since it made the beginning of the story feel a lot slower than it could have been. That being said, I really enjoyed this book. It shows how friendship and love can be affected by war, racism, xenophobia, fear, and pure hatred. 12-year-old Henry and Keiko don’t see their different ethnic backgrounds as a barrier to their friendship, but the rest of the world does, including Henry’s Chinese father, who takes his hatred of Japanese people all the way to his grave, even if it means breaking his son’s heart over and over. This is one of the sweetest love stories (and historical novel) I’ve read in a long time and I highly recommend it.

The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo. DiCamillo is a master of storytelling and character development for children and she doesn’t dumb down the difficult issues her characters are facing. In The Tiger Rising, Rob is still suffering from the loss of his mom, while newcomer Sistine is in self-denial about her father’s relationship with her after having an affair and her mom moving way with Sistine. I love how DiCamillo always uses adults as supporting characters, showing how children can find the support they need in the least expected people. This is a very quick read and I recommend it if you’re looking for a great story.

The Shining by Stephen King. King is one of my favorite writers and the master of horror for a good reason. This book is proof that he earned that title early on in his career. What a spooky, chilling, horrifying tale of a hotel taking possession of its guests year after year. I’m not sure what I found scariest: the potential ghosts inside the hotel, the thoughts penetrating the characters’ minds to control them and make them do specific things, the idea of cabin fever, or the moving hedge sculptures in the garden. I usually read at night before going to sleep but this book is a bad choice if you’re tired and need the zzzzz. It may keep you up all night!

Don’t Pigeonhole Me! by Mo Willems. I’m a big fan of Mo Willems as a children’s book author/illustrator so I was glad to find a book that covers the past 20 years of his life and his emergence as an artist. Every year Willems has put together a little sketchbook featuring his doodlings. Some of them are just silly and others were actually the inspiration for a few children’s books. The content of this book is definitely aimed at adults, not his youngest fans. All in all, it reminds all of us that doodling is a great activity we should do more of.

Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey. This is an interesting collection of daily rituals of famous artists, mostly writers and painters. As different as these rituals are, they seem to have the same items in common: these artists found a daily routine that worked for them. They worked at the time of the day or night they felt most productive, whether it was a couple of hours or 10. Some of them relied on drugs to function but most  actually lived pretty normal lives, with little outside entertainment. For many of them, their artistic career came first, often at the expense of their spouses and/or children. You can sense the author did a lot of research to gather a bit of information on so many artists, but he didn’t have much to write since most of the content is copied from other sources, whether personal diaries, letters or magazine articles.

Goals! How To Get Everything You Want by Brian Tracy. If you want to set goals for various areas of your life (career, health, finances and personal), this is a good book to use. Tracy tells you step by step what to do to help you create these goals and how to get them accomplished. Breaking down your goals into smaller steps and working on them every day are just a few pieces of advice you’ll find in this book. Goal setting can be a challenge and this book is inspiring and motivating.

The Power of Focus by Jack Canfield. If you’re looking to bring more focus into your personal, work and financial life, this book can offer a lot of guidance. Full of real life examples for everyday people who managed to turn their lives around, as well as many footnotes from the three authors, this book can be very helpful in identifying the reasons why you may be struggling in some areas of your life. Does this book answer all questions? Probably not, but it’s good enough to get you thinking and going, and hopefully know how to find help for the steps after that. Definitely worth your reading time.

I recently read several books on procrastination and getting things done. Some of them are definitely better than others at helping you identify the specific reasons why you may procrastinate and give you some advice to avoid procrastination. Overall, I think the people at Nike figured it out a long time ago. “Just do it” is the best advice you can follow to get things done, whether you enjoy the activity or not.

The Art of Procrastination: A Guide to Effective Dawdling, Lollygagging and Postponing by John Perry. This is a funny book on procrastination, written by a philosopher who happens to be a procrastinator. Full of quirky anecdotes and real-life examples, this book won’t tell you how to solve your procrastinating habit, but it will at least help you admit you may have a problem, and point out a few tricks. These include breaking things down the Kaisen way (many small steps), and making a list of everything you need to do and NOT do (e.g. not browse the internet when you’re supposed to be working on something important). It even recommends patting yourself on the back every time you get something crossed off your list, and associating yourself with non-procrastinators to make sure you get the most important things done. Above all, John Perry recommends you don’t let your procrastinating habit get in the way of enjoying life and stressing over deadlines you could easily avoid. In the end, happiness is key.

Time Power: A Proven System for Getting More Done in Less Time Than You Ever Thought Possible by Brian Tracy. A very useful book on how to regain lost time for productivity every day, from identifying and avoiding timewasters, to improving efficiency to creating a schedule and sticking to it. Plan your work and then work your plan is the way to go, so you spend most of your time on the activities that will get you when you want to go. This book includes tips of goal setting, thorough planning and execution. It’s worth spending a few hours reading.

The Procrastinator’s Guide to Getting Things Done by Monica Ramirez Basco. This is a simple little book on identifying which type of procrastinator you are, identify the reasons why you procrastinate and how to change your behavior and avoid procrastination. The identification process is well explained but I think this book doesn’t cover strategic solutions in enough detail. Brian Tracy’s “No Excuses!” book offers a lot more hands-on, practical solutions to procrastination, in my opinion.

The Now Habit: A Strategic Program for Overcoming Procrastination and Enjoying Guilt-Free Play by Neil A. Fiore. A good book on how we can fight procrastination one day at a time by noticing why we procrastinate and when, setting up new habits, finding a schedule that works for us, and measuring accountability. It even has a chapter on relaxing and how to find the flow. I’m not sure that really works for everyone but it could be worth a try for some people.

Procrastination: Why You Do It, What To Do About It by Jane B. Burka. If you’re looking for a book that explains the various psychological reasons for procrastination, this is probably a good choice. Full of theory and relevant examples to help you identify the reason(s) why you may procrastinate, it then goes into a solution to make things happen, including some exercises you can do every week to break the cycle. Examples include time management skills, strict scheduling breaking large tasks into smaller tasks, and finding the times of the day you’re most productive.

The Procrastinator’s Handbook: Mastering the Art of Doing It Now by Rita Emmett. If you’ve never read a book on how to stop procrastinating and how to plan better, this is a good start. If you have read on the subject, this book won’t tell you what you already know. You need to identify all the times you procrastinate and the reason(s) why. Setting goals and planning the steps to reach them will help, as well as declutter your environment. This book includes a lot of concrete examples and quotes to motivate you. I recommend reading Brian Tracy’s book No Excuses!: The Power of Self-Discipline for more thorough and helpful advice on the subject.

The Candymakers by Wendy Mass– What I think I’ll read next 
The Candymakers by Wendy Mass. Four 12-year olds are inviting to a candymaking factory to enter a contest and create the most delicious candy. If this sounds a bit like Roald Dahl’s Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, it’s meant to be. I can’t wait to read this middle grade story!

My kids’ bookshelf

I’ll skip my kids’ bookshelf this week and will focus on that exclusively in my next WWW Wednesdays post. We’ve read some excellent children’s books recently and I think they deserve their own post.

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Book review: Baby Penguins Everywhere and Baby Penguins Love Their Mama

A couple of months ago, I participated in the month-long PiBoIdMo challenge, where you had to come up with 30 picture book ideas in 30 days. If you read the daily posts and commented on them, you also had a chance to win some cool prizes. Well, I didn’t win anything but I still got lucky. One of the guest bloggers for the event was children’s book author and illustrator Melissa Guion, and she contacted me after I commented on her post, asking me if I would be interested in reviewing her two picture books, Baby Penguins Everywhere and Baby Penguins Love Their Mama. She thought it’d be a good idea of gather the perspective of a single mom (me), who also happens to be the main character in her book. Well, in the form of a penguin…

I want to apologize to Melissa Guion for taking so long to write and post my reviews of her books. I read them with my kids as soon as we received them. We really enjoyed them and read them a few times each. I just got wrapped up in the holiday frenzy and then my kids were off school for two and a half weeks, and then a new year started… You get the idea. So today I’m finally catching up and sharing these books with you.

First in the series, Baby Penguins Everywhere tells the story of a penguin all alone on the ice, feeling lonely. Until one day, when she sees a hat floating by in the water. Out of the hat popped a little penguin. And another. And another. And another. And many more! The hat looks like one of those magician’s hats where the guy can pull out 10 rabbits in a row.

Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion

Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion

So now, the penguin isn’t lonely anymore. In fact, she’s very, very busy. My kids had fun counting how many penguins she’s actually taking care of. I believe there are 29 little penguins in this book. Wow, I feel tired just looking at them waddling around. I just hope for Mama Penguin they’re not all boys…

Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion

Baby Penguins Everywhere by Melissa Guion

You can imagine that after a while, Mama Penguin is a tiny bit tired, physically and mentally, so she needs to take a moment for herself before she goes back and enjoys her little penguins’ company. I love the message that moms need a break throughout the day when dealing with little ones. My kids did notice she was doing all of this alone and didn’t get any help. I personally feel for her. Obviously penguin moms have a lot more energy than human ones.

In Baby Penguins Love Their Mama, Mama Penguin has started educating her little penguins with different activities every day, which include swimming lessons, sliding lessons, and waddling lessons. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget the squawking lessons. Have mercy…

Baby Penguins Love Their Mama by Melissa Guion

Baby Penguins Love Their Mama by Melissa Guion

By the time Sunday arrives, Mama Penguin needs a nap. I wonder how long her little ones let her sleep but probably long enough because she looks refreshed after that. And then Mama Penguin asks her penguins what she’d become once they were all big penguins, a question most of us moms wonder. The answer? Their mama, of course!

Overall my boys and I found these two books very cute, and very funny. We enjoyed the soft watercolors and the simple way the penguins were drawn without getting in the way of the story. Next time my kids bug me when I’m trying to take a 5-minute break, I’ll tell them I’m Mama Penguin. And if that still doesn’t work, I’ll have to use the big guns and read Five Minutes’ Peace by Jill Murphy to them again.

A big thank you to Melissa Guion for sharing her books with me and my kids!