Recycled Sundays – No New Memories

I wrote a blog on how I have been suffering with memory loss in recent years. Imagine my surprise to learn about a man who makes me look like someone with a photographic memory. I have never met him, just read about him as KH. But, even if I had, he wouldn’t remember me. If I met him every day for a year, he still wouldn’t remember. I’ve had a similar effect on attractive young man in the past, but KH is an elderly gentleman with the unique problem.

KH had experimental surgery to control epileptic seizures a few decades ago. It happened back when the medical establishment was willing to take risks with people’s brains until the risk of lawsuits taught them to curtail their adventurousness. They removed tissue shaped like a wishbone, ironically, from KH’s brain. The good news – his seizures ceased. The bad news – KH wouldn’t be able to remember from one day to the next if they had. You see, he is complete unable to keep any new memory.

He can remember most things that happened to him before the surgery: the people he knew, the skills he learned, American history, etc. Yet he cannot remember anything that happened since his surgery. If he met me a week ago and again yesterday we would have to be re-introduced today. By afternoon, he cannot remember what happened in the morning.

Scientists and psychologists would likely give their eyeteeth to work with this guy. He is such a rare and fascinating study. It is rather fortunate that this man is so valuable to research because the scientific community will ensure he is well taken care of. Otherwise, how could be on his own?

Can you imagine? He can’t learn anything new. Talk about being computer illiterate! He could never deposit money. He’d have to have the same bank and same account number as he had before the operation. If the building was torn down and he started a new account somewhere else, as soon as he walked out of the building he’d forget he’d ever been there. I thought I had trouble remembering my pin number but he wouldn’t remember from one day to the next that instant teller’s even exist.

Any foods that he hadn’t tried before the operation would be new to him every time he tasted them. If you asked if he liked tofu for example and he hadn’t tasted it before the surgery, he would have to say he didn’t know even if you offered it to him every day for the rest of his life. If he got on an elevator by himself, would he remember which button to press – and if he did, when he arrived at the floor would he remember where he was going? Talk about the twilight zone.

Imagine turning on the television news in the morning and learning every day for the first time that Madonna wrote a book., Michael Jackson is a grown man, maybe, the space shuttle is launching, and Elvis is dead or working at a nearby gas station.

How could he move to a new house? Every morning, he would wake up in a strange environment. He would have an excellent reason not to be able to find a pen or his keys. He’d have to search every time he needed to go to the bathroom. Would he be able to find his way back to the bedroom? He better not go past the front steps since he wouldn’t know his phone number or his address.

What if someone fell in love with him? Each day they would have to start their relationship from scratch. Out of sight would be truly out of mind. At least he wouldn’t hold anything against her. He won’t remember any of her mistakes. He would also have an advantage over most men, A solid excuse for forgetting her birthday. On the other hand, his wife could say, “Honey I haven’t bought any new clothes in ages” and he’d have to believe her. She never have to complain of a headache. She could just say, “Darling we just did and you were so terrific I’m totally drained.”

I found this short report on KH ‘s life so fascinating that I decided to research him at the library. I searched the periodical indexes for the last 15 years under amnesia, memory, brain surgery, mind, and epilepsy, I couldn’t find a single article that mentioned him. I looked through books and similar topics. Nothing, absolutely nothing. It looks as though everyone has forgotten about KH. Oh well, quid pro quo.

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News,
February 21, 1993

Current comment.
George Wing also must have found this topic interesting since he wrote the wonderful screen play Fifty First Dates based on this type of brain injury.

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The Trick to Being Fearless by Sally Huss. Book Review.

Everyone has fears. The way adults cope with fears and the way children cope is different. The approach in this book seems feasible for young children and could be a useful tool for them to cope on their own.

The little boy in the story, Josiah, “was afraid of everything, but mostly he was afraid of being alone.“ He sees a speaker on television and adopts the concept of swallowing fearful thoughts. The picture book go step-by-step through Josiah’s increasing empowerment as he uses this technique.

It wouldn’t hurt to try the strategy with a child who is afraid of the dark or being alone or has other harmless fears.

The illustrations are cartoonish and effective. The text started out taut and intriguing. However I felt parts were a bit too long and some of the text was too mature for young children who would benefit from this book. For example “who had been assigned the duty of us sitting with Josiah, he saw a program that aroused his interest.”

With adult assistance, fearful children might benefit from this story. At the very least, it is a good launching point for discussion and the development of a coping strategy.

S.T.A.G.S. One Deadly Weekend by M.A. Bennett. Book Review.

S.T.A.G.S. stands for St. Aiden the Great School name for a Saint who made a stag invisible so the hunters couldn’t kill him. I couldn’t decide if it was ironic or deceptive that the school was called S.T.A.G.S. because the halls and rooms were filled with animal heads and the wealthy students participated heavily in a hunting for “sport” culture.

The protagonist, Greer, comes from a modest  background and is one of the targets of the Medievals, upperclass, traditional, anti-technology students who seem to run the school. Inexplicably, Greer receives and invitation, along with two other shunned students, to a weekend at the Medieval leader’s home for “Huntin’ Shootin’ and Fishin”. The wording struck me as odd since tyhese people prided themselves on being upper class and traditional but it may have been a touch of snide subtly directed at the three students being invited.

The three main characters, the bullied ones, we’re likable, understandable, brave and hopeful, the way real teens are. I especially liked Shafeen, an East Indian prince, who gave the villains their real challenge. Greer was well written, naive but smart, courageous but flawed, and mature enough to interest adult readers.

Although the plot was a little predictable, the author kept our suspense. Even though we had a pretty good idea of what the three teenagers would have to overcome, we did not know how this would unfold and whether they would all survive. The tension was built well but the ending went in the expected way. I would’ve preferred a less obvious twist.

While it seems believable and a small group of people could indeed engage in psychopathic behaviour it seems a little far-fetched that so many people were involved and so a large part of the community supported and covered for them. There seemed little purpose for it all.

In spite of my questions, if you’re looking for a suspenseful and scary book, this is a great read. I kept turning those pages long into the night.

Buy link http://a.co/ipBSzyi

Recycled Sundays – Footwear Has a Life of Its Own

People have often entertained the idea that inanimate objects can move, talk, and adventure. Jim Hansen was a marvel at bringing toys, plants and even shapes to life. Disney saw nothing wrong with making flowers, trees, and crockery sing and dance.

TVOntario runs a children show called Readalong. The star has a crush on a pink shoe. But, no need to arrange therapy, since he is a boot. This is no surprise to me. Considering all the anthropomorphism we indulge in, footwear has always seemed the most likely to me to live a life of its own.

I remember the year my son had to share a locker with another classmate at school. By the third week of September, his left shoe had walked away. It was not in any of the three full coffin-sized lost and found boxes, the mud rooms, the classrooms, the office, or the schoolyard. I know. We searched.

We bought him a new pair of shoes.

I think it is unfair that we have to buy shoes in pairs. Why is that? We don’t have to replace all four tires when one is ruined. I felt even stronger about this when my son lost another shoe before Christmas, the left one again. Talk about two left feet.

We bought him a new pair of shoes.

In April, he informed me that there was a “small” hole in one of his shoes. I insisted that it needed to last to the end of the year. Three pairs of indoor school shoes in one year would be outrageous.

A few days later, he told me the hole was beginning to be embarrassing. I told him to bring them home so that I could check them. The sole had pulled away from the shoe for at least 5 cm. Half of his foot stuck out the front. I’d hate to see what he considered a “big” hole.

We bought him a new pair of shoes.

It seems that the constant replacing of a single shoe with a new pair is not just a Canadian phenomenon. My friend, Yuko, told me that Japanese children are just as hard on their shoes, especially when they play the traditional game of geta toss. Getas are sandal-like shoes that people wore with kimonos. Children would play a game whereby they kick one shoe each into the air, much like how we toss a coin. If the geta landed right side up it meant one decision, if it landed right side down it meant another.

Yuko, being a modern girl, wore running shoes just like Canadian children do. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t kick them in the air in a rousing game with her friends. Unfortunately, modern Japanese children have a bigger concern then those who wore kimonos and getas — heavy traffic. Her kick was a bit off-center and the shoe landed in the street  just in the right spot to be crushed by a car. That was one air pump shoe with no more air in it!

They bought her a new pair.

I don’t think they were as upset as I was when my son came home in June of that same year with only one shoe, the left one this time. Ha ha, I thought. I save the right one from the second pair. They may not match exactly, but they’re good enough to play outside in. Unfortunately, they were an entire size different. They would probably make him run in circles just like his mother.

We bought him a new pair.

Somewhere, out there, two like-new left shoes have met up with all the other missing shoes and are high-stepping in the dance of freedom. They’ve join with the partners of all the shoes scattered on the sides of the highway in mockery of those mothers on the way to the shoe store.

Originally published in the Chronicle-Journal/Times-News

March 7, 1993

NEW NOTE: This story is the inspiration for my upcoming picture book Geta Toss.

The Panchatantra Retold – Kakolukiyuum by Sonal Panse

This is a rare and fascinating collection of interweaving folk tales from ancient India. While they remind me of Aesop‘s fables, they are more complicated, with less obvious meanings, and interconnected in a intricate yet logical manner. This set of stories is written for adults.
The legend goes that a king asked a wise man to change his useless three sons into practical, competent young man. The wise man promised that in six months the boys would be transformed by his wisdom stories.
I have never read a story within story within a story circling back going forward and circling back again in the elaborate way this series does. It is an admirable feat of storytelling.
Much discussion could ensue from each little story especially with regard to psychological warfare and strategy. Basically the story is about owls continuing to attack and kill crows. How the crows decide to protect themselves is devised through discussion by exchanging short fables. There is much insight into the human psyche represented by these animals.
There is a wonderful pen and ink illustration for each story. This is a highly unusual book well worth a look.

Reuben’s Choice by Natalie Vallacot. Illustrated by Lauren Densham. Book Review.

This book is composed in the style of “pick a path” or “choose your own adventure” books.

It is written to teach young children Christian values, specifically honesty, obedience, and responsibility. Whenever the child, Reuben, chooses the ethical path he has a positive outcome. When he chooses to lie or be deceitful, he is caught out and told to ask for forgiveness from the adults and from God.

Reuben is allowed to walk to school by himself for the first time because his siblings are ill. On the way he hears howling which turns out to be an injured puppy. He wants to help the puppy and keep it as a pet. He faces a number of choices. Does he investigate the sound or go where is supposed to? Does he tell his parents about the dog?

If you are a Sunday school teacher or a parent looking for religious Christian guidance with your child, this book would be suitable. I did feel, however, that the book needed to have more suspense and surprises. I think children will find it predictable and may not engage for very long. It is best used with an adult and child together.

Surviving Northern Ontario Winters – Recycled Sundays

Boy, I’m getting tired of winter. Even the snow bunnies seem to have less sparkle in their colored contacts these days.

I miss walking the most. It doesn’t seem to have the same satisfaction combined with the Northern expedition – hands buried deep in pockets, back curved into a semi-fetal position, parka hoods drawn forward (no wonder polar bears can sneak right up on Inuit hunters), feet shuffling as fast as they can trying to grip the icy sidewalk, and head down against the wind.

I’m also going rather stir crazy. The most common pastime I engage in is “warming up the car”. People seem to try unusual things to break the boredom during the long winter months. They start new hobbies. They learn new games. They attempt new sports. They look at things with an overly negative eye.

I suspect it was midwinter blues that triggered the adverse reaction to the camel on Camel cigarettes. What was going through the minds of the public when they decided the cool humpback smoker had a face like… well, like another body part? I suspect it was the same boredom and long, dark days that recently caused an outcry against Nestle. It seems their palm tree symbol is as suggestive as the addicted camel. Upside down that is. What I want to know is this. Did the woman who complain store packages upside down in the cupboard and stumble upon this nutty resemblance when she went to make cocoa? Or, in the stir crazy mind set of a long winter nights, did she try yoga for the first time and gain a new perspective on fruit trees?

At this time of the year, those of us who are not snowbirds often wonder why we live here. I can’t answer that. I’m still trying to figure out why I bought the same kind of vehicle twice when the first one drove me crazy. Surviving a winter like this one, though, does give us a commonality, a shared trauma as such, much like living through an thunder storm that lasts for months. It also encourages us to take stock of things, like emergency flares and whether job security is worth having to climb through the car hatch because all the doors have frozen shut, again.

Friendly readers often comment on my columns, but the quiz on “Are You a Northerner?” seemed to to hit a responsive chord with many. A few women suggested I could dig into the more feminine aspects of being a Northerner since most of the questions pertained to men. There’s nothing like positive feedback to fuel the engine. So, here are a few more you can add to your list. You know you’re a northern Ontarion when…

  • Sixty percent of the labels on your clothing contain the words “warm to 30 below”.
  • You master walking in high heels on carpeting when you’re 11, tile floors when you’re 12, and snow when you’re 13.
  • All your foot wear is two-tone: black and salt, navy and salt, brown and salt, and red and salt.
  • You sign up for midwinter exercise classes to get you out of the house on those long, dark, depressing winter evenings and then missed the first two because it is too cold to go out, go to the third, and then decide you are too far behind everyone else to continue.
  • You have a sign over your kitchen sink that reads, “You catch ’em, you clean ’em.”
  • Half of your friends have more vowels in their names than consonants.
  • You play on a mix baseball team sponsored by a sports store at which you never shop and a mixed curling team sponsored by a tavern at which you are known by your first name.
  • You sign up for a hockey pool at work and at your favorite bar and feel physically ill when you forget to play your numbers in the lottery.
  • You’ve owned at least one vehicle that had holes hidden below the floor mat through which you could watch the highway flash past.
  • You always pronounce “sauna” correctly.
  • You think there is too much stick handling in hockey.
  • You order your garden seeds, all beginning with the words “Quick Grow” three months before planting.
  • You’ve actually eaten, but more probably drank, a food product made from dandelions.
  • You know the difference between a fiddlehead and a conehead.
  • You know how to put chains on winter tires, even when they’re moving.

Chronicle-Journal/Times-News, February 13, 1994

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

 

My Favorite Fifteen Fiction Picture Books I Reviewed in 2017

I’ve read so many wonderful picture books this year that it was impossible for me to shorten the list of favorites any further than fifteen. Click on the title to go to the review.

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

My Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books I Reviewed in 2017

Some of these are not strictly nonfiction but I felt they were informative enough to include in this list. They are in no particular order. Click on the titles to read the reviews.

Coming to Canada: Building a Life in a New Land by Susan Hughes.

This is a nonfiction history book is organized into easy-to-read sections. Is quite up to date and inclusive. It begins with the arrival of the aboriginal peoples. It follows through with the Acadians and the Great Expulsion, an example of how prejudice and politics can destroy the lives of ordinary people. Throughout the book, it honestly shows the cruelties and failures done while building our country.

 

A is for Anaconda: A Rainforest Alphabet by Anthony D. Fredericks. Illustrated by Laura Regan.

This is not an alphabet book for preschool or kindergarten children. In fact, calling it an alphabet book could be misleading. It is, in fact, an extensive resource book for information about rainforests.

 

Why I Love Canada. Illustrated by Daniel Howarth.

I really liked this book until I researched it because of a small notation on the cover. Now I love it. Each of the sentences was written by a child in Alberta. (That explains the buffalo.) The illustrator then took the sentences and created the book. This is the kind of think I loved doing when I was a primary teacher. Children have a wonderful way of noticing the beautiful.

 

Eating Green by Molly Aloian.

Although this picture book is written for children, it is a reminder for people of all ages of the impact of our choices.

 

Herds of Birds Oh How Absurd! by S.J. Bushue and Deb McQueen.

Readers learn that deer, dinosaurs, elephants, hippos, horses, kangaroos, llamas, moose, pigs, reindeer, seals, walruses, yaks, and zebras all travel in herds. But porcupines, flamingos, hamsters, alligators, butterflies, lions, toads, ferrets, geese, nightingales, dolphins, penguins, hummingbirds, and monkeys are identified by a different collective noun.

 

Seasons of Joy: Every Day is For Outdoor Play written and illustrated by Claudia Marie Lenart.

The book explores the four seasons, three pages dedicated to each one. The story is written in poetic prose and although there are occasional rhymes, it does not try to be a rhyming book. On each page, children participate in imaginative, child driven, outdoor activities.

 

Can You Say Peace? By Karen Katz.

Each double-page spread has the name of the child and the country she lives in on the left with a full-page bright illustration. A close-up of the child’s face on the is right with the words on how to say peace in their language with a pronunciation guide.

 

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

 

My Favorite Five Middle Grade Books I Reviewed in 2017

Click on the titles to read the reviews.

Erasable and Digby of the Dinosaurs

by Linda Yiannakis

Erasable: The protagonist, nine-year-old Ellie, discovers something in her grandmother’s attic that promises to solve all her problems. But like the genie who grants three wishes, one never knows where magic will lead. Ellie has little understanding of the karmic results of her decisions. What begins as little improvements cascades into major life changes, not all positive.

Digby: A little boy inadvertently finds himself in a secluded world where some species of dinosaurs still exist and have evolved to a higher level. But it is so much more than that.

The Tiny Hero of Ferny Creek Library by Linda Bailey. Illustrated by Victoria Jamieson.

The reader can’t help but love the little hero, Eddie, a tiny bug who braves the huge halls of the school, dodging a spider, a mouse, and lots of squishers (humans who stomp on bugs), in order to find his missing aunt.

 

Tangled Lines by Bonnie J. Doerr.

The reader is given an insight into the daily struggle of fishermen, the risks taken by Cuban immigrants to reach the United States of America, exploitation of the natural world, the senseless slaughter of wild creatures, and the courageous and giving nature of volunteers trying to protect endangered wildlife and the environment.

 

Something Stinks by Gail Hedrick.

Emily is determined to find out why fish are showing up dead on the river banks by her aunt and uncle’s home. Her small town is suffering from job loss, so Emily’s investigations are less than popular. She decides to focus on an exposé for the school newspaper. Whatever industry she points the finger at may mean disaster for the company and, subsequently, the workers.

 

 

Halito Gianna by Becky Villareal.

Gianna could easily become one of your children’s favourite book characters. This is a determined, bighearted, independent, and opinionated girl. She is resourceful and clever.

 

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books