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Monday, January 25, 2016

What makes a teaching read?

Some books include facts so naturally you wonder afterward where you learned these things. Experiencing life like a different character, we learn, perhaps, where snow falls deepest or how to soothe the savage beast. But other books offer their lessons more directly, like children's picture books with a moral to tell. Of course, if the book happens to be a children's picture book, the lesson's expected. But how much information is too much information in a novel? Or, at the other end of the scale, how much information is needed to make the situation real? Is it a question of teaching the right things, or how they're taught, that makes the difference between an enthralling read and a teaching one? I'd love to know what you think. Meanwhile, here are some more book reviews of stories read in the period around and after Christmas. Pull up a chair, pour a coffee, and remember the ratings are for what sort of coffee (and read), not what brand or value.

Off the Chart by Smith McCartney Hagaman is a thriller set in a world of terrorist hijackers, army rebels, back-street gangsters, abused women and more. After a plane crash, the survivors come together to escape an Arctic wasteland filled with perils, and the reader learns how to make an international distress call, engineer a murder to look like accident, hack the wings off a plane, and much much more. The characters come with long and complex backstories, making the book read somewhat like a TV series. Enjoy with some dark five-star coffee, but keep many cups to hand as it's a long read.

The World's Greatest Psychic by Harriet Smith Guardino and Barbara J. Guardino also has many lessons to teach, as readers follow the thoughts of those impacted by a fake psychic's life. The persuit of money and power is contrasted with the faithfulness of a mother's love. Imagined promises contrast with genuine dreams and visions. And faith perseveres even through rejection as David's life comes off the reals. It's a sad dark read, but it's hopeful too, and filled with wise promise for parents praying for children, or friends despairing of those they care for. Enjoy some dark five-star coffee as you follow this tortured life through to eventual hope.

The Bear who Loved Chocolate is a picture book by Leela Hope, in which the author teaches that wise lesson to eat more varied foods. It's sweet, like chocolate, and fun, nicely illustrated, and a good simple read. Enjoy with some mild crisp one-star coffee.

And finally, A day with Moo by Kerry McQuaide s a picture book of a child's real, believable life with a toy called Moo. Lessons are simply everyday life in this one - not as rhythmic as some, but nicely illustrations. Enjoy with some more mild one-star coffee.

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