Month: June 2008

A Chimpanzee Daughter in a Psychotherpist\’s Family
by Maurice K. Temerlin

In the seventies, Maurice Temerlin, psychotherapist, conducted an experiment of raising a chimpanzee in his home and treating it like a human child. In Lucy: Growing Up Human he describes what life was like with a growing chimp in the house, and gives his analysis of her behavior. Some of the things Lucy learned (from being taught or by mimicking her human family) were to sit in a chair, use silverware, drink from a cup (she liked wine), put on clothes, entertain herself by looking at magazines, and even basic communication with sign language. The descriptions of Lucy\’s behavior are nothing less than fascinating. But the family gave her way too much freedom, she was hardly disciplined. The chimp practically destroyed their house, terrorized visitors, and created awful messes (she never learned to use a toilet). I was amazed at the tolerance the family had for her destructiveness, amused at many of the hilarious scrapes she got them into, and at Temerlin\’s attempts to psychoanalyze her behavior. A great book, interesting, entertaining and thought-provoking. Temerlin mentioned at one point the idea of his wife writing a book on her viewpoint of the experience, but I don\’t think that ever happened. Too bad, I would have liked to read what she thought of it all. What happened to Lucy after she left the Temerlins is told in Silent Partners.

Rating: 4/5                216 pages, 1976

by Richard Holzapfel

I read Women of Nauvoo several years ago when going through some texts on Mormon history. I can\’t remember where I got it from- the public library, or borrowed from someone\’s private collection? It is well-researched, based on letters, diaries, and minutes from the Relief Society meetings. Covering a wide range of subjects, it describes the daily life of women in Nauvoo, their different roles in contributing to build up the city, participation in the church and how they organized themselves. Although the accounts of their contributions and efforts are inspiring, the writing that describes them is not at all. In fact, it\’s very dull. So I found it difficult to enjoy reading this book. However, if you want to learn more about the history of the LDS Church, or the part that women played in its \”beautiful city\”, Women of Nauvoo is a fairly good resource.

Rating: 2/5 …….. 225 pages, 1992

by Buster Lloyd-Jones

Another book I picked up for free one day. The Animals Came in One by One is the memoir of a British veterinarian. He grew up a sickly child, surviving scarlet fever and polio, but forever weakened by them. His childhood sickbed was always surrounded by animals, and he had no doubts about becoming a vet (in spite of his father\’s adamant disapproval). In addition to receiving formal training, he learned from the animals themselves, observing what plants they ate when feeling ill and concocting remedies from things like wild garlic and herbs. The brief anecdotes and descriptions of his many animal patients and acquaintances are pleasing, but what I found most interesting was reading about the National Air Raid Precautions Committee. During WWII, the vet was in charge of rescuing pets from rubble after air raids, often taking them in when their owners could not be found. In fact, hundreds of pets were euthanized when their owners had to flee the country and couldn\’t take them along. Dr. Lloyd-Jones refused to do this and instead bought ten acres where he housed over two hundred dogs, cats and various other animals for up to five years during the war. Although I really admired the work the author did, and the book was pretty nice, the writing style is very plain and began to bore me in the end. I liked it all right, but can\’t get very enthusiastic over it.

Rating: 2/5 …….. 221 pages, 1966

by Connie May Fowler

I think I picked up this book off one of the biography shelves at the Book Thing months ago. I took it along to an afternoon at the park today. While my daughter ran and climbed, I breezed through some sixty pages, gradually becoming more and more disinterested. This book just did not speak to me. When Katie Wakes is the memoir of a woman living with a man who reviles, mistreats and physically assaults her. All this while living off her paycheck, the drunken sponge! If I could finish this book, I feel I would get a better understanding of the mentality that keeps women from leaving controlling, abusive men. But I could not stomach the brutality, the callousness, and the excuses she gave him. Told in brief vignettes, the story moves back and forth from past to present, as one thought leads into another. It was way too jumpy for me and I just could not concentrate on it.

Oh, and there\’s a dog in the book. She adopts a black lab mix, who gives her unconditional love and affection. I think the dog played a big part in her healing. It reminded me some of The Craggy Hole in My Heart and the Cat Who Fixed It, which also featured an emotionally troubled woman who reached healing via a loving animal.

Abandoned                      271 pages, 2002

More opinions at:
You Gotta Read This!

by Frank Cottrell Boyce

Seventeen days before pounds become euros, two british kids find a bag stuffed with cash, that came off a train destined to burn the money before the changeover. What to do with 229,000 pounds? Keeping it secret from their father, the boys try to spend all the money before it\’s worthless- and find out a lot about inflation (on the playground!), difficulties of making change, and that it can actually be hard to give money away. In the meantime, robbers are trying to find them, and someone is trying to woo their father. Because you see, their mother recently died (they milk this for all its worth: \”my mum\’s dead\” gets them practically every result they want from uncomfortable recipients of their sad faces). The really weird thing is the younger boy\’s obsession with saints. In the movie (which I saw first) this was an amusing quirk, but in the book it became downright irritating and bizarre. Especially the inclusion of Mormon missionary neighbors- some of those details were downright inaccurate. Like not celebrating Christmas? Was that supposed to be a joke?

Anyway, while I really enjoyed the film version, I found I didn\’t like reading Millions very much. I kept loosing interest. There were, I can count, three scenes that made me laugh. The Subbuteo game (p. 70), the loaves and fishes miracle (p. 175) and the way cars are named (p. 214). (Go find the book just to read those three passages!) Sadly, three laughs isn\’t enough to make me like the book. I\’d recommend watching the film instead. It\’s much funnier and gets the same point across about the relative value of money.

Rating: 2/5                    247 pages, 2004

by Jerry Spinelli

The story of a boy who was a loser. To his peers, but not to himself. He was clumsy, socially awkward, always making mistakes- teased, ignored, very unpopular. All the way through grade school he continued oblivious of his poor social standing among his peers. He was happy, friendly, and tried to do good. What others thought of him didn\’t alter how he felt inside. I wasn\’t sure if I should feel sorry for the kid for being so disliked, or admire him for being so good-hearted. In the end I felt rather unmoved. Nothing much actually happens in Loser, except to unfold day after day in the life of a decent kid who tries hard, always fails, and yet still believes in himself. Sadly, it wasn\’t nearly as memorable as the other Spinelli books I\’ve read like Stargirl or Wringer.

Rating: 2/5               218 pages, 2002

Win Three Free Books!

Any Grisham fans out there? This week\’s giveaway is a chance to win three John Grisham novels (used paperbacks, but in good shape!)- your choice of The Pelican Brief, The Firm or A Time to Kill. You can enter to win one, two or all of these titles- just leave a comment and let me know which ones you want! Random names will be chosen until all the books have a new home. The contest closes and names are drawn on tuesday July 1st.

Sorry, due to postal cost this contest is open to US and Canadian residents only.

by Cameron Dokey

This is a wonderful retelling of the Sleeping Beauty story. It unfolds the life of the princess Aurore, growing up well aware of what is supposed to happen on her sixteenth birthday, living under the constrictions of the curse and her parents\’ attempts to protect her from it. She tries to make the best of it, in spite of being forbidden ordinary things like using a knife at the dinner table or doing embroidery. Luckily her cousin introduces her to the great outdoors, so when odd and frightful things start to happen in her kingdom (as a result of her curse, it appears) she sets her eyes on the broader horizon, takes matters into her own hands, and determines to change her fate. Of course things don\’t turn out exactly as expected, but that\’s what makes Beauty Sleep fun to read. The characters are really human, the princess is full of life and spirit, and the story has quite a few twists. I really enjoyed it, and only wish it had been longer and a bit more fleshed-out.

Rating: 3/5              186 pages, 2002

A Practical Guide for Easier Toilet Training
by Katie van Pelt

This was the last book I read on toilet training, but I think if it had been the first I would have had an easier time! It\’s short, simple, and very practical. It doesn\’t go into a lot of detail, but explains fairly clearly how to transition your child out of diapers and on to using the toilet beginning at one year old and ending when they\’re two. Potty Training Your Baby states that teaching earlier is easier, because by the time your child reaches the \”terrible twos\” and is asserting independence by wanting to do the opposite of everything you ask them (at least, that\’s how it felt to me), toilet use will already be a habit. Van Pelt breaks down the process into three major steps: teaching your child to recognize the need to go, where to go, and control of their body functions.

The book also discusses things like how to choose a child potty, teaching an older child, and dealing with setbacks. Especially useful, I thought, was the idea of letting your child occasionally go somewhere acceptable other than the potty (like peeing in the grass, or in a plastic cup) so that if you happen to be far from a bathroom someday, your child won\’t panic and refuse the alternative! There\’s strong emphasis on attitude, and here I think the author takes it a bit too far. I agree with the need to keep a relaxed and calm attitude, and not tease a child about body functions, but she says you shouldn\’t have your child wash their hands after every time, only when they\’ve actually got something on their hands, so they don\’t get the \”unhealthy\” idea their body is dirty and acquire a \”negative self-image\”. Personally, I think it\’s better to instill in a child the habit of always washing hands after using the bathroom, and is quite possible to do so without making them feel their body is \”dirty\”. My toddler loves washing her hands, playing with the soap and water, and will do so many times a day even when it\’s not necessary or required!

Rating: 3/5                 119 pages, 1996

by Penny Warner and Paula Kelly

This was another potty training book I read when going through that stage with my daughter. It is written by a child development specialist and a pediatrician, and outlines conventional methods, based on the latest research. Brief, easy to read, yet very informative. Describes \”signs\” that indicate your child is ready, and several different approaches to toilet training, according to how old the child is or their temperament. Most of the emphasis is on keeping the whole affair stress-free, which is good- although I\’m not sure I agree that a bad potty-training experience can traumatize a child for life… Since my daughter was older than the babes Infant Potty Training was written for, I found a some of the ideas in Toilet Training without Tears or Trauma more useful for her age, and ended up applying a combination of the two different methods. Particularly effective, I remember, was putting a star-chart on her wall (when she was crazy about stickers). This book was pretty much strictly informative for me. The anecdotes from Infant Potty Training were much more interesting and memorable.

Rating: 3/5                   114 pages, 2003


All books reviewed on this site are owned by me, or borrowed from the public library. Exceptions are a very occasional review copy sent to me by a publisher or author, as noted. Receiving a book does not influence my opinion or evaluation of it


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