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Book review: _Dominic_ by William Steig

The other day, my son said the most wonderful thing for me:  “Can you recommend a book?”  I’ve tried to keep my mouth shut while I’ve watched him plow through mountains of garbage.  My general principle is that, if you expose your kids to enough really good stuff, they will soon get tired of the crap on their own–which is much more effective than hearing an adult say, “That book you’re enjoying is crap, so put it down!”  So he read a lot of Goosebumps (ptui), for instance, but also Tolkein and C.S. Lewis; and eventually, he started throwing out the Goosebumps of his own accord, just so no one else would read it.  (NB:  I don’t, of course, let the kids read just anything.  But there are good books and bad books, and then there’s a vast middleground of useless books.  The Goosebumps series falls into this category.)

Anyway, our local library is pretty small, but when my son asked for a recommendation, I happened on a couple of books by William Steig.  I thought Steig only did picture books — some of which are among our favorites.  But we found two which are designed for slightly older kids — say, grade 3 and up.  I read Dominic, and was completely delighted.

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It  begins,

Dominic was a lively one, always up to something.  One day, more restless than usual, he decided there wasn’t enough going on in his own neighborhood to satisfy his need for adventure.  He just had to get away.

My ten-year-old son read this and realized that this book would speak directly to his adventure-dog heart.  Dominic finds some excitement immediately, and continues on his way, meeting a dying pig named Bartholomew Badger, an overwhelmed goose named Matilda Fox (the mismatched last names are a running joke, just for the heck of it)  and repeatedly falling afoul of the evil Doomsday Gang.

Steig’s language is sort of artificially elevated (and so younger readers or listeners might have to able to figure some words out by context:

Dominic was inside the rib cage, in a sort of succulent prison, and they might have trapped him there; but when they saw him chewing on the big bones with such furious dedication, they were paralyzed with terror.

Steig relishes fancy words, and he really pulls it off in Dominic — to much better effect, I think, than he does in some of his other books.  In The Toy Brother, for instance, the ornate language just draws attention to itself, and comes off as precious rather than playful.

Dominic is also nicely  illustrated by Steig in black-and-white.

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Good stuff!  Perfect for the parent who wishes the boys in the family had some heroes who are easy to like, but who are not Captain Underpants.

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Yorinks and Egielski

I had totally forgotten about this book until one of the kids dragged it up yesterday evening:

Oh, Brother by Arthur Yorinks and Richard Egielski  

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Like most of the books done by this pair, it’s quick, it’s funny, it’s more than a little weird, and it has a nice, happy ending.  Two brothers can’t stop squabbling with each other, not even when their life depends on it.  Things go from bad to worse until they have to hatch a ridiculous plan to survive — and when they get found out, all is well again.  Many nice touches, like the sad slump of the tailor’s mannequin when the brothers are in mourning.  Siblings who love each other but who are constantly trying to kill each other (or parents who have kids like this) will get a kick out of it.

Also check out a couple of the other crazy and wonderful books by this author/illustrator team:

Christmas in July (my husband can’t get through this book without cracking up.  It holds the memorable line:  “Hi, I’m Santa.  Got any pants?”)

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It Happened in Pinsk (this one is priced outrageously for new editions, so you’d have to get it used.  I love this book so much.  Maybe a teeny bit like Kafka for kids, if Gregor Samsa turned back into a person and was happy and grateful for his life from there on out.)

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Prayers for Jen Fulwiler and her new baby boy!

Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary and “Minor Revisions” fame had her sweet baby boy last night!  Her entire pregnancy has been an enormous ordeal — first a pulmonary embolism landed her in the hospital with lungs so clogged with blood clots, the doctors said she ought to be dead.  Then she had to endure a horrible planned procedure which . . . I don’t even know what to say.  I feel like that lady who had her baby in a tree during the Mozambique flooding would feel sorry for her.

So the baby was born!  But Jen says:

Unfortunately, he has some breathing problems (unrelated to my medical issues) that mean that he requires NICU care, and is now being transferred to a NICU at a different hospital with better facilities. Even more unfortunately, I have to stay here at the delivery hospital until we get my blood thinners under control. I haven’t even seen him that much since he’s been born.

Hallie keeps sending me encouraging texts telling me I’m being so strong. I’ve been meaning to follow up and ask her for some examples of what “not being strong at all” would look like. Because I’m pretty sure that that’s what I’m actually doing.

Needless to say, this is a stressful situation for all involved, so we appreciate any prayers you can offer. Thanks again for all your wonderful support.

Beautiful pic of the siblings meeting their new brother on Jen’s blog.

Please pray for quick healing for both of them, and for a speedy reunion!

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Start your week off right . . .

by being a good citizen and doing something super easy to protect religious freedom.  Today is the last day to submit public comment on the new “proposed rule” for the HHS Mandate.

As you must have heard a blillion times by now, the mandate would require employers to provide health insurance coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortifacient drugs.  You have probably heard that the administration has altered the law and made a compromise that fixes the problem.

Well, they haven’t.  It doesn’t.  If you go to this page which gives you a VERY, VERY EASY way to submit a public comment, you will see a fact sheet from the USCCB at the bottom which explains why the fix is no fix.  Basically, if you’re the owner of Our Blessed Lady’s Catholic McCatholicy Home for Catholic Catholics and Rosary Giveaways to Catholics, you will still be required to pay for your secretary’s sterilization and her ten-year-old daughter’s “education” about where she can find the morning after pill.  This is how they fixed it for us.

The government is basically telling the people they’re only allowed to be Catholic when they’re actually inside the Church building.  Even if you’re not religious, that should make you very afraid!  Go here to let the administration know that the mandate is still unacceptable, still a flagrant violation of our religious freedom.

And now, once you’ve done the right thing and added your public comment, which is very easy to do and takes like forty seconds, here is your video to start the rest of your Monday off right (and yes, there is a tie-in, but it’s so flimsy I’m just going to let it go):

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7 Humiliatingly Slow Takes with Huffing and Puffing Afterward

1.  I don’t know how successfully I’ve hidden this in the few photos of myself that I’ve put online, but I am 5’5″ and in the last fifteen years, I’ve put on average of seven pounds of permanent weight for each baby.  This is what happens when all you do is sit down.

2.  I was having stabbing pain, excruciating burning from my lower back down to my toes, tingling, numbness, and general unpredictable sciatic misery, which finally sent me to the doctor, because I couldn’t believe that I could become that debilitated just from doing nothing.  The x-ray revealed that I have “mild to moderate degeneration” between the discs of my spine, brought on by age, weight gain, and inactivity, or, in layman’s terms, being a loser.  I am adding that phrase,  “mild to moderate degeneration,” to my list of possible new names for the new blog I’ll never start.  Other possibilities I’ve gathered over the years include what Mark Shea called me one time (“History’s Greatest Monster”), what an outraged reader told my editor (“Fisher Is Unrepentant!”), and what my mechanic wrote about the van (“Misfires Badly Under Any Significant Load”).

3.  A sad little drama recently played out in a shopping plaza nearby.  First there was nothing but a Curves Gym.  Then Five Guys Burger and Fries moved in next door.  Curves held out for a while, but one day the windows went dark, and they packed up and moved away, presumably shaking their chubby fists in rage, with an embarrassing amount of flappy movement around the upper arm area, as they went.  And then, in the space where Curves used to be, Rick’s Gourmet Ice Cream moved in.

4.  This is not going to become one of those tedious blogs that does nothing but record how many reps or grams or kilos or whatever (wait, I think I’m talking about cocaine now) of cardio I accomplished and which variety of kale I like to add to my puke smoothie.  (Sorry, I just friggin hate the whole smoothie thing.  You still have teeth, people.  Use ‘em.)  I will try not to make a big deal out of it unless I think it would be genuinely interesting to someone besides myself and my doctor.

5.  I picked out an exercise DVD that looked like a reasonable place to start.  Today, I did it for the first time, and had two shocks:  one is that it’s designed for senior citizens; and two, it wasn’t easy to keep up.  Argh.  Yep, ol’ Jane Fonda is going on and on about her titanium hip and how great it is that we’re doing so much to combat memory loss, and I’m screaming on the inside “ISN’T TWENTY MINUTES UP YET, YOU HOLLOW CHEEKED BITCH?”

6.  I used to be able to run five miles.  Cursing the whole way, but still, I used to be able to do it.  Now, I can’t even curse for five miles straight, running or not.  I don’t even have profanity stamina anymore.

7.  In the week that has passed since I wrote #1-6, I have put off reading what Pope Francis said about people who complain about 73 distinct times. Because look,  I got the flu, which meant that I was too weak and feverish to do my back exercises, which meant that I couldn’t sleep because of back pain, which meant that the baby decided this would be a fine time to give up sleeping.  Like, just quit, flat out.  She goes to bed at the normal time, but wakes up at 1:30, ready to play.  The next two hours are spent with constructive thoughts like, “WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME” and “HOW AM I SUPPOSED TO FUNCTION” and “I THINK I HAVE TWO FRIENDS NAMED LYDIA BUT MAYBE ONLY ONE I’M NOT SURE ABOUT THAT BECAUSE THERE IS THAT ONE LYDIA BUT THEN THERE IS THAT OTHER ONE ALSO AND THAT MAKES TWO BUT ON THE OTHER HAND I’M NOT SURE HOW MANY FRIENDS I HAVE NAMED LYDIA.”  (See, fever.)  Then I went to throw up, but my back hurt too much to reach the toilet.  Also, I took a shower and it turned out the soap had a bug on it, and I was washing myself with bug.

And THAT’S why I say sometimes it’s okay to just go through your medicine chest and see what you can find.  Because, sheesh.

For someone with real problems, NOT brought on by being a loser, check out our 7 Quick Takes host, Jen Fulwiler.