Tag Archives: literature

A Book and an App


Bring just one pencil

The Book

I’m enjoying a new (to me) book over the holiday break: The Mysterious Benedict Society, about several children- but one in particular – who are recruited by the odd, reclusive, Mr. Benedict. Their recruitment, itself, is a bit of an adventure. Each responded to this strange add appearing in the newspaper.

There are tests within tests to separate the wheat from the chaff. A test that’s a puzzle, a maze, tests of resourcefulness and honesty. And, when all that is over, the real work is just begun.

I originally bought this book for my son, who read a few pages and then decided that there wasn’t enough action in it and set it aside. But, seriously,  buying for Harry is just cover for me to get whatever I want regardless of the age of the target audience, so I wanted to read it from the start.

I’ve heard of people doing book clubs specializing in just children’s books and it’s no wonder. The youth – young adult book market has exploded over the past decade or more as every author vies to be the next JK Rowling. Sure, it’s put a lot of crap into circulation, but there are also a lot of extraordinarily creative authors getting published who may not have seemed worth the risk fifteen years ago.

I’ve only just started the Benedict Society this weekend, so I can hardly give a fair review, but as far as I’ve read, I’m enraptured and can’t help but to want to spend my days lying in front of the fire reading.

The App


Big Trak

The app I found today is called ‘Cargo Bot.’ It’s a puzzle game that introduces kids to programming algorithms in a way that they can immediately see working and grasp the concepts. I recommend it for any child (or even adult) interested in learning how computers think. It’s a little reminiscent of the late 70s programmable tank toy, Big Trak, except this app is actually fun for more than two minutes.

Imagine all the fun you can have delivering apples to your dad with your own Big Trak and transported (sold separately)! I thought this thing was the bee’s knees back then, but didn’t ever get my hands on one( it sold for a whopping $43) until much later when my friend Kevin and I were talking and he mentioned that he still had one.

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Posted by on December 14, 2013 in Uncategorized


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Judy Blume – A look back to 1972 in NYC

ImageTales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, published in 1972, follows the life of a child growing up in New York City across the street from Central Park and his trials from growing up with a little brother (Fudge), parents who don’t always understand and the pressures of elementary school projects.

Reading this book now opened up a couple windows into the past for me. First, my own memory of reading this myself in Mrs. Nichol’s fourth grade reading class at Warner Elementary school in Wilmington, DE.

Second, my memory of being a kid in the 70s and 80s. It was a time where people must have felt more safe in the world than they do now. Children were allowed to go out and play by themselves, my parents never had any idea where I was and didn’t really care so long as I came home by dinner.

One chapter of ‘Fourth Grade Nothing’ really brought this home for me. The story centers around Peter and his brother, Fudge. Peter is in the fourth grade (10-11yo) and Fudge is 3. Yet, in one scene, the mother leaves Fudge in the care of Peter and his two friends in Central Park while she runs home to turn the oven on. Peter also mentions how he is allowed to come to the park himself, but it is unusual for his mother to leave Fudge in his care – not because of crime, but because Fudge is a disaster, dangerous to himself and all those around him.


Violent Crime in NYC – *indicates 1972

I think parents today would panic at even the idea of leaving their kids by themselves for almost any length of time, let alone if it was in the center of New York. What’s the reality? Is New York (as an example) more dangerous now that it has been? The answer is: no. Take a look at this graph of violent crimes committed per year in NYC. When crack was an epidemic in the 90s crime skyrocketed, but it’s come down, way down – below what it was before the rise in crime.

Today we live in a world of fear and think it’s normal. We hawk over our children all the time and worry about everything. I didn’t grow up like this, why would I default to it now?

“One possible reason fear of crime remains high is that powerful people have an incentive to ring the alarms anyway. Politicians score points by promising to get “tough on crime,” even after those efforts pay off and crime levels hit historic lows. Media play up only the most horrifying deeds. The result is a skewed perception of how dangerous the world is.”

Slate Magazine 

What do you think? Is the world safer or more dangerous? Do we over-react to reports of violence?

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Posted by on June 16, 2013 in Uncategorized


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