Childish Nonsense

Exploring Children's Literature

More Randomness

The children from Sandy Hook Elementary will begin classes again soon. Their new school is a former middle school in nearby Monroe. The efforts for the survivors continue to be creative. It’s not too late to do something.

Did you notice Ann Curry stole my random acts of kindness? Just kidding, but I did mention it before she did.

One campaign, organized by the Connecticut PTSA (Connecticut PTSA, 60 Connolly Parkway Building 12, Suite 103, Hamden, CT 06514), has children from across the country making paper snowflakes to hang in the new school to welcome the children.

Another campaign, partially spearheaded by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI), is gathering age-appropriate books for the library. No word yet who will be coordinating this effort, but local chapters are gathering books as we speak.

Back to the business of books. Here are a couple of books I read recently.


Hoop GeniusHoop Genius: How a Desperate Teacher and a Rowdy Gym Class Invented Basketball

By John CoyFour stars

Illustrations by Joe Morse

When John Coy set out to tell the story of basketball, he may not have realized what a fascinating and totally relatable story it is. Apparently, James Naismith was unexpectedly thrown into a 1891 gym class with some very unruly students. Two of his predecessors had quit in frustration. It was only through desperation and quick thinking that Naismith was able to avoid injury to himself and the students and provide the students with some direction. He tried indoor football, soccer, and lacrosse before adapting a child’s game, Duck on a Rock. He used a soccer ball and peach baskets to get the game going. With penalties ejecting them from the game, the boys were so determined to keep playing that they soon adjusted to the rules. Basketball became popular very quickly. Morse’s illustrations realistically depict the atmosphere of Massachusetts in the 1890s and of rowdy boys trying to get the upper hand.

Reviewed by Sue Poduska

Carolrhoda Books/Lerner Publishing Group, March 2013 release

Picture Book, History.

E-book, 44 pages

ISBN: 978-0-7613-6617-1


Tillie PierceTillie Pierce: Teen Eyewitness to the Battle of GettysburgFour stars

By Tanya Anderson

When writing of war, it’s so very easy to forget that war involves people – not only soldiers but also people who live in the vicinity of the battle. Anderson reminds the reader about the residents during the Civil War battle of Gettysburg. The author manages to get in a lot of information without making the narrative dry. She begins with a long history of the town and of Tillie’s family and their neighbors. She also gives a good background of the war and its causes. Tillie’s own account exists, so we’re able to follow her from the time she first heard the shooting. Each time she and her companions tried to get away from the fighting, things got worse. Once they survived the battle, they had to deal with the wounded, dying, and dead and the destruction of property. Details of the destruction help make this palatable. For example, a lamb from a broken headstone had landed on top of a broken gun carriage. The entire town was devastated. The “Taking Tillie’s Path” section is a fun internet exercise.  The photographs accompanying the text are well thought out and instructional.

Reviewed by Sue Poduska

Twenty-First Century Books/Lerner Publishing Group, April 2013 release

Chapter Book, History.

E-book, 100 pages

ISBN: 978-1-4677-0692-6

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About Sandy Hook

Yes, these are only my opinions. I’m no great expert on any of this. But, as a parent and as a person who spends a lot of time being concerned with children, I think I have a right to my opinions.

About Gun Control

This may not be the right time to talk about gun control. The gun lobbies are correct that people who carry out horrors such as the one in Connecticut are going to find a way to get their mission accomplished. The school at Sandy Hook apparently had locked doors and a no-entry policy. Had it not been for a shooter’s gun jamming, more lives would have been lost. The main reason to talk about this now is that such a tragedy draws attention to the issue.

First, they’re also correct that people kill people. But guns make it easier to kill people. If a killer can stand back and not even have to look the victim in the eye, it’s easier to dehumanize the victim. If a killer has to find a knife or baseball bat and get close enough to use the weapon, the victim can duck or get away or try to talk down the violence.

Second, automatic and semi-automatic weapons have no place in this world other than to kill people. No one – not a hunter, not a person protecting a family – needs these weapons in a home. The gun used to kill one of the Sandy Hook victims was bought by that victim FOR PROTECTION.

Third, arming everyone is not the answer. If the teachers had had access to weapons, so would the children. The teachers would have had to stop shepherding the children, unlock the weapons from storage, load the weapons, and aim. How would they have had time for all that? And an untrained person with a weapon is also dangerous. Would teachers then need to pass a weapons certification as part of their training?

About Mental Health

The shooter in Connecticut was apparently a disturbed person. But he was also apparently under a doctor’s care. No one was likely to predict his actions. Like gun control, the tragedy mostly draws attention to our inadequacies in treating mental illness. We need to make easier to get help and stop stigmatizing those who do seek help. Admitting you need to talk to a counselor is a sign of strength, not a sign of weakness.

What Can Individuals Do?

Individuals can do a lot.

  • Hugs all around. Hold your loved ones a little tighter. Plan times to spend together, talking or just being there.
  • Random acts of kindness. Seems like a cliché, but they really do make you feel better. And they really do have a ripple effect. You really do change the world with each one. Really. Even a simple smile can change those around you.
  • Volunteer. Or give blood. Nothing says commitment like life’s blood.
  • Attend a vigil. It may not seem as good as talking to the survivors, but the news media are reporting about the vigils and the survivors will hear about it.
  • Write out your feelings. That’s what I’m doing. Even if no one reads it, it’s therapeutic.
  • Send money to organizations providing counseling or first response.
  • If you’re a knitter, many places are providing prayer shawls and hand knitted toys to the survivors.
  • Listen to the feelings of those around you. We’re all suffering with this.
  • Learn the names of the victims and hold them in your heart.
  • Don’t wallow. Get away from the news coverage. Take a walk. Bake some muffins.
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