Friday, 16 January 2015

Books of 2014: Last Year's Reading

Blankets h/c

Haley's post inspired me to draw up a list of the books I want to read this year. But, me being me, before that I need to reflect on what I read in 2014! Off the top of my head, I think that my preference for fiction over non-fiction has been turned upside down in recent years, with most of the books I read being factual, and mainly theological or parenting books. But let's see! (I promise I won't extensively review every single thing I read, just the highlights, or we'd be here a long, long time.)

First off, I should say that my husband winningly purchases a carefully selected load of graphic novels each December for reading over the holiday period. These won't necessarily get finished, but there's normally one or two I relish during our Christmas break, which kickstart my New Year's reading. It also inspires me to tackle something new.  In January 2014 I was literally immersed in Blankets, a beautifully bittersweet geeky coming of age graphic novel. My memories of that period include refusing to speak to any family member until I'd finished Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch, which was a lot better than I expected, joyful in its prose and feeling.  That same holiday I also read Longbourn by Jo Baker. I got all excited about this Pride and Prejudice 'servants' perspective' book - for the first two-thirds I was completely enamoured and was going to tell everyone to read it. But while its setting, characters and writing are wonderful, once I had a horrible realisation what the plot 'twist' was, my stomach churned...Jane Austen would never have allowed it! Not worth the read. The Goldfinch was far subtler in its own referencing and exploration of Great Expectations, but the more fulfilling tome.

February 2014 saw me thinking about issues one of the sisters was having, so Bright Not Broken: Gifted Kids, ADHD and Autism and Different Minds: Gifted Children with AD/HD, Asperger Syndroms and other learning deficits are on the list. Happily, I also booked a trip to France (which I never posted about. Knickers.) so The Rough Guide to Brittany & Normandy and DK Eyewitness Guide to Brittany were purchased.


In March I was longing for that holiday season of graphic novels again, and bought The Suitcase by Dan Berry, which like many graphic novels is strange and unusual, but fairly enjoyable. I also read The Sleepwalkers which I purchased for the kids to read but didn't pass it on straight away as it was very weird and a little scary!

My April Amazon purchase was The Rhythm of Life: Celtic Daily Prayer which was obviously a good investment as I'm still using it now.

May half-term holiday must have brought some hide-from-the-kids-and-read time, as I downloaded Santa Montefiore's Secret of the Lighthouse, The Sleeper by Emily Barr and Penny Marshall's My Mother Was Nuts. It was a joy to discover Santa Montefiore, her books make you think a little but are still an easy read, and I went on to read others. The Sleeper, like Gone Girl, was one of those books that makes you wish you hadn't read about the ugliness of the world, which I prefer to avoid. And I didn't read My Mother Was Nuts until later in the year when I was ill, but it's Penny Marshall (of Laverne & Shirley and movie director fame)'s autobiography and full of laughs.

June I began looking in earnest for good young adult books for 1stSister and came across The Fault in our Stars by John Green and Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson. We both lapped up the entire John Green oeuvre (not sure whether my favourite was Looking for Alaska or An Abundance of Katherines) and I read Amy & Roger's Epic Detour and Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson too, although I thought these were a little too adult for my daughter. I remember reading these through the summer holidays in July & August. 1stSister and I thought Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell was absolutely wonderful, but I have to say, Rowell's book Eleanor and Park (again too adult for my daughter) was the best thing I have read in any fiction for a very long time. The writing of the hand-holding scene, which conveys all the meaning of first love, is still with me.

For our holiday in August I downloaded Bumping about Brittany and Flaubert's Over Strand and Field.

Then I must have really started taking my priesthood studies seriously because I added these to my bookshelf: The Cracked Pot: The State of Today's Anglican Parish Clergy, Being a Priest Today: Exploring Priestly Identity, and In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen, which I began when the girls returned to school after the long holiday.

I must have been ill somewhere in September because I remember reading Cheryl Cole's My Story on my Kindle and there's no way I would have indulged myself otherwise! I also read more books on vocation for my priesthood studies including The Christian Priest Today, The Life & Work of a Priest and How to Find Your Vocation by John Adair.

Then there was the gifted child having problems at school so I rushed out and bought a whole load of (extremely useful) books listed here in October. I also read a book on Unconditional Parenting which to be honest I feel has helped a lot of the issues were were having considerably, as well as revolutionising our parenting, and I RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE WHO HAS OR WORKS WITH CHILDREN!!!

In November I treated myself to another Santa Montefiore book and ordered the just-released ebook Sealed with a Christmas Kiss, the sequel to Sealed with A Kiss which was the first book I read after 4thSister was born.

And then back to December again, when I finally devoured How to Talk so Kids will Listen & How to Listen so Kids will Talk (and promptly ordered How to Talk so Teens will Listen.... too). Someone on a blog somewhere mentioned Simplicity Parenting which is good if you don't do it alread (to a large extent we do). And I ended the year exploring graphic novels again, including starting Jimmy Corrigan the Smartest Kid on Earth which I think is brilliant but haven't finished yet.

I think 'researching' the young adult fiction for my daughter (who is now about to finish Les Miserables - English translation, but still hefty - after starting it in October) bumps up the fiction quotient but otherwise I feel like I've ploughed through a lot of travel, theology and in particular parenting books. These days books will sit on the bedside table and I feel more compelled to pick up something I will 'learn' something factual from, or a prayer or poem I will feel closer to God through using, than simply reading a book, because my reading time remains limited. But I still love reading anything and everything, so recommends are welcome - just need to fit it in between parenting, studying, baking, singing and everything in between!

Acme Novelty Library: Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Talking about the Gifted Child (& a useful Bibliography)

I don't ever blog about having a 'gifted' child. Partly this is to protect her privacy, but mainly because it's just not something I talk about much at all, even with close friends (and never with parents). I've always felt that talking about the issues associated with a child who is "academically gifted and artistically talented", as I think of it now, implies that you think your child is better than other children - cleverer, more special, excelling in school and so on. So I've kept quiet, until recently.

Although we've known for some time that one of our girls was 'advanced' in terms of learning and other abilities, when school informed us she was on their 'Gifted and Talented' list, we didn't really know what that meant. To be honest, most schools don't really know what to do with that type of information, either. Things have only developed because for our child, being Gifted and Talented brings with it a whole other host of Additional Needs including but not limited to: Sensory Processing Disorder; Anxiety; Anger Management Issues; low Self-Esteem; inherent infinitum.

Which means for her parents and siblings, giftedness isn't automatically a good thing; neither is it for the child. We've found, however, that learning to understand the nature of giftedness goes a long way to helping our family help each other to deal with it. Although it remains a huge learning curve and there's never an easy day.

I probably still won't talk about this in much detail, other than to our Family Support Worker at school and a couple of friends who actually know what we go through. However, I've found some useful literature which enlightened us as parents which I thought I should share. There are also publications aimed at children which have helped us, although (typically) our gifted child found them patronising. There are also other parenting books which have helped me to deal with behavioural issues in general which I list. I hope others may find them of use, as we did.

A Gifted Bibliography

'General' Gifted Books

Colangelo, Nicholas (2007)  A Parent's Guide to Gifted Children

Distin, Kate  (Ed) (2006) Gifted Children: A Guide for Parents & Professionals (most useful one for me - UK author.)

Fonseca, Christine (2010) Emotional Intensity in Gifted Students: Helping Kids Cope with Explosive Feelings

Fonseca, Christine (2011) 101 Success Secrets for Gifted Kids: The Ultimate Handbook (this is aimed at gifted kids - ours found it 'too patronising' but I found it so useful!)

Webb, James T et al (Eds) (1989) Guiding the Gifted Child: A Practical Source for Parents and Teachers

Gifted/Other Additional Needs Books

Kennedy, Diane M (2011) Bright Not Broken: Gifted Kids, ADHD and Autism

Lovecky, Deidre V (2003) Different Minds: Gifted Children with AD/HD, Asperger Syndrome and Other Learning Deficits (although I don't like the word deficits, it's worth exploring books like this if there are other additional needs involved)

Parenting Books We Found Helpful

Faber, Adele (2013 edition) How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk

Kimmel, Tim (2005) Grace Based Parenting (A great Christian parenting book.)

Kohn, Alfie (2006)  Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason