Zero by Kathryn Otoshi

Otoshi writes another winner!

My daughter and I loved Kathryn Otoshi’s book about bullying, One. So when we saw that the library also had her book Zero, we thought we’d read it, too. I think I liked Zero even better than One because its message is about accepting yourself the way you are and how everyone is important, everyone can be a part of something even if you think otherwise.

The number Zero is big and round, but she feels empty inside because there is a hole right in the middle of her. She wants to count with the numbers—which, by the way, are the same colors from the previous book, making this one an effective sequel!—but since she thinks she’s not worth anything she can’t have fun counting with the rest of the numbers. She especially wants to be like number One, who looks bold and solid with strong strokes of color and corners rather than the roundness that Zero has.

Zero even tries to be something she’s not in order to count. She tries to change herself into a One, then an Eight and a Nine, but of course, it doesn’t work. She desperately wants to be anything other than herself and it just rings so true of so many children who want to be someone else.

Then she actually tries to impress the rest of the numbers, thinking that will help—and who hasn’t been there? Instead of impressing them with her speed, of course she runs right into them, which only makes her sadder. She feels like she is worth nothing.

Then, as she professes she will never count or have value, Seven—the bully from the previous book!—tells her that every number has value and that it’s what’s inside that counts. Seven tells Zero to be open, and that she will find a way. As soon as Zero sees herself differently—as open rather than empty—she suddenly realizes her value. She stands next to the numbers and helps them count more by adding herself, saying, “If we help each other soar, we can count even more!”

Once again, Oteshi uses such simple yet delightful concepts to help children understand that each and every one of them has worth, has value—and sometimes we just need to look at things a little differently in order to really understand them. That’s actually a good lesson that adults could really use, too.


Catching Fire news

Wiress, Mags, Beetee and (maybe) Finnick have been chosen!

Is it just me, or does Catching Fire already seem like a very white-centric film? With all the controversial racism that fans exhibited when The Hunger Games showcased a wide variety of characters (albeit with less diversity than expected, since many of us pictured Katniss and Gale as being at least mix-raced with the rest of the Seam), one would think that a greater effort would be made to cast more diversity into film two—but so far it looks like the only non-white cast member is our beloved Cinna, who was played so well by Lenny Kravitz.

At any rate, the latest news is that a few more characters have been chosen in addition to Jena Malone as Johanna Mason and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Plutarch Heavensbee. They are:

Tony Shalhoub as Beetee. So much for my Steve Urkle pick. I’m not happy about this one at all—I definitely didn’t picture Monk when I read the book—but who knows? We’ve been surprised before.

Amanda Plummer as Wiress. Perfect pick! Well done, I must say. If you’ve ever seen or heard Plummer (Pulp Fiction, dozens of voice roles) in action, you know she’s diverse and talented. I think of her episode on Law and Order: SVU in which she played a schizophrenic rape survivor and know she’s going to be absolutely wonderful as one of my favorite Catching Fire characters.

Lynn Cohen as Mags. I am good with this casting decision, too. She’s got the look and the chops to play the part of another favorite character (okay, just about every character in this book is amazing—one of the many reasons why I love it!) of mine, and I wasn’t really set on anyone else in the role. However…

Sam Clafin as Finnick Odair. While this is said to only be a rumor at the moment, he’s already being listed as Finnick on multiple blog sites as well as IMDB. Really? Clafin hasn’t been on the scene for long—you might know him as “the other guy” in Snow White and the Huntsman, William or whatever; he’s also in that fourth Johnny Depp pirate movie that was so painful I couldn’t even get through the first twenty minutes of it—but this is the role of the most charming and attractive man in Panem. I always pictured Jensen Ackles, who plays Dean Winchester on Supernatural, as Finnick when I read the book. I know many would believe he’s too old for the role, though he’s much better-looking and charming than I’ve ever seen Clafin. I know Army Hammer was in the running for a while, and while I didn’t like him for the role, either, I think I would have preferred him to Clafin.

What about you? What do you think of the casting decisions so far?

For Your Own Good

“Hidden cruelty in child-rearing and the roots of violence.”

Is anyone else as heartbroken, as scared, as I am when you read a book by Alice Miller? Some of her commentary and evidence is absolutely chilling and it almost has to be digested in small doses. As a person who actively seeks out fictional thrillers and scary content, I must confess to being much more fearful of humanity, of my own impact on my child, by Miller’s works than anything else.

I have had a copy of For Your Own Good for about two months now, and I am having trouble making my way through it—not because it’s incomprehensible or boring or anything like that, but because I’m worried about what I will find. I think most people find that Miller’s works resonate within them deeply, and while I read her to help myself be a better parent, I also find things that make me, well, sort of hate myself.

I do yell at my child. I have never, ever spanked her, but I have given time-outs, which is essentially the same thing as withholding love. The traditional way we have been brought up to raise our children, Miller argues, is inherently violent—and this violence simply begets more violence within our culture itself. In this particular volume, she actually analyzes the childhood of Adolf Hitler—and while I haven’t read that yet, I fear it. What parent doesn’t worry about raising some sort of sociopath who goes postal on his or her community, after all?

My priority this week is to plow through this book with courage, unflinching, and to really absorb and analyze what Miller has to say. This visionary psychologist had so much to teach us about parenting, about our own humanity and being loving to one another, and I want to read all of her works. And as difficult as it is to pinpoint this analysis toward ourselves, if we can’t do it, what separates us from the other mammals?

What kind of parent, after all, can raise a child who becomes a violent dictator, a drug addict, or even someone who simply doesn’t love him or herself? The choices we make today, the things we learn about ourselves and what we choose to do with that knowledge, may truly determine it all.

Once I’m finished with this volume, I think I’ll also finish reading Parenting Without Punishing… You can find a free copy here.

The Little Book of Humorous Quotations

Everyone needs a good book of quotations to turn to, whether you’re a writer searching for those perfect words of wisdom or simply seeking the right words for a speech or just to say to someone you love. Sometimes you want something witty or romantic, while others call for something a bit more on the funny side. That’s where books like The Little Book of Humorous Quotations by Alison Bullivant come in.

I ran across this book at a Barnes and Noble many years ago and purchased it; I think it was along with a bunch of college texts and other sale reference books that were available, such as my Shakespeare compilation. And it wasn’t until a few days ago that my mother found my copy in the basement as she was cleaning out some of my old things from high school and college. Apparently I had marked a couple of gems in the book that I particularly enjoyed, such as:

“Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies.” –Gore Vidal

The book is easily set up enough, with sections like The Arts, Women, and Sex, Love and Marriage all displayed in the front of the book in a very brief but easy to use table of contents. The book is also nearly pocket-sized, small enough for a large purse and definitely accessible on a desk. A useful built in silken bookmark is also present in the book for easy marking and browsing—though I would definitely suggest keeping a set of tabs nearby if you plan on reading through the book in one sitting. Some of the quotations are also very funny, so be sure to not spew your drink all over the keyboard or the book itself if you are reading with refreshments.

The Little Book of Humorous Quotations would also make a fantastic gift for someone you love, especially a college student or other person who would find such a resource valuable in his or her work. A simple acquaintance would also be a good person to give the book to, especially during graduation. New graduates or people promoted to a new position at work could also find the book helpful.

I also like the design of the book, which is hard back and bright orange, my favorite color. Normally I don’t enjoy using hard back books, but in this case it does make it easy to stand up or place within an easy reach on your desk.