Monthly Archives: April 2020

1-2-3 Magic by Thomas Phelan

9781492629887by Thomas Phelan
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

This parenting book shows a discipline strategy of counting a child’s misbehaviors (Stop Behaviors, or things you want them to stop doing, such as hitting their sibling or throwing a tantrum) until you get to three and then giving the child a break (or timeout, if you prefer). You count without emotion, and without extra talking or explanations of why you’re counting or what the kid did wrong. The break time is supposed to get them to calm down, not be a punishment, per se, which is how they tend to get misused, he explains. The flip side to this is Start Behaviors, or times when you want the kid to start doing something (putting on their shoes, doing their homework), and he offers some tactics for that, but specifically you are NOT supposed to do the counting for Start behaviors.

I read this for a (short-lived) childcare job at the suggestion of the parents who were already using it, so some of the information on how to introduce it to your child didn’t apply, but it was still well laid out and well explained. I also appreciated that they didn’t just go through the best case scenario but also potential unexpected responses from the child. He also shows three different ways to handle the same situation (one bad, one better, and one best), which was helpful for clarifying. One situation he didn’t go much into, but which would have been helpful in my situation, was actually how to handle more than one child at once, especially more than one behavioral situation at once.

A few caveats: I came into a pandemic confinement situation, which exacerbated all of the behavior issues, plus this family of 3 kids was on the verge of adding #4, among other challenges, so there was a lottttt going on. I also think I overdid it on the discipline side and did not have enough positive experiences with the kids to balance it out (Phelan does talk about the importance of creating bonding times with your kids, which I didn’t really get to do).

I will say that once or twice, when I was able to count without emotion and just walk away (which is SO HARD!), it worked exactly like the book said (“Whyyyyy?…. Aw, man” and stopped). I have a feeling that with enough repetition and in a different situation, this might have worked really well. It requires a LOT of work and self-control on the adults’ part, depending on how short a fuse you have (mine is pretty short, apparently!).

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed

9780062937049by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Rising seniors Jamie Goldberg and Maya Rehrman were once childhood friends who reconnect when Maya’s mother signs her up to canvass for a political candidate, Jordan Rossum. Jamie’s cousin Gabe is a muckety muck in the Atlanta campaign, and his little sister Sophie is preparing for her Bat Mitzvah. Maya’s parents are getting divorced and her best friend is mentally already at college (and finally moves there and officially leaves her behind). As she and Jamie grow closer, her mother’s bribe of a car in exchange for volunteering falls to the side.

It’s not surprising that Jamie and Maya fall for each other, though it takes Maya longer to realize it. I loved the subplot with Sophie’s sexuality, and how Jamie handles it. I loved everything about Jamie, except that he seemed a little *too* perfect. Albertalli, I assume, wrote the Jamie chapters, and Saeed wrote the Maya chapters. One thing that bothered me about Maya is that she was not up front with Jamie about her not being able to date. Though on balance maybe it was more of a reflection of how deeply in denial she was about her feelings for him. In the Jamie chapters, it is clear how much she is flirting with him, even if she thought of him just as a friend. It reminded me of Does My Head Look Big in This? in which the main character sticks to her convictions to wear hijab and not to date. But then, those are her convictions, whereas in Maya’s case it’s her mother’s conviction that she’s trying to follow. Maya also doesn’t wear hijab, but her mother does, and the proposed passage of a bill to ban head coverings while driving really ramps up both her and Jamie.

Social media and white supremacy both play big roles in this story. Rossum’s opponent is the one sponsoring the bill, and his supporters vandalize cars with Rossum bumper stickers by putting their own over them, which are impossible to remove or cover up. But Jamie and Maya figure out a clever way to deal with them. Jamie’s grandma, inexplicably some sort of Instagram celebrity, uses her platform to promote Rossum. At one point, someone posts a photo of Maya and Jamie, and there’s also a campaign video of them, that garners a lot of comments, both negative and positive. Teens today have quite a lot to deal with in terms of internet harassment, it’s really very troubling to me. But Jamie and Maya manage to get through it and the ending is sweet and hopeful, but also realistic. Jamie even overcomes his immense self-consciousness and makes a sweet speech at his sister’s bat mitzvah party. Another interesting note is that their father is largely absent from their lives, and they are largely okay with it.


The Cool Bean by Jory John

thecoolbeanby Jory John
Overall: 4 out of 5 stars

Our hero once had a tight group of friends, but something happens and the other three somehow become “cool.” Our hero (who is unnamed but who I will call Garbanzo) isn’t sure what happened or how to also be “cool.” Garbanzo becomes so self-conscious and distracted that they do embarrassing things. Finally the other beans step in to help Garbanzo, and Garbanzo realizes that helping others is what really makes you cool – not sunglasses or swagger – and gets their friends back.

Sweet message, and way better than The Bad Seed, but still a bit didactic and not quite as good as The Good Egg. I was wondering who the target audience for this picture book would be. It talks about being “cool” which I don’t think the typical picture book audience would be quite tuned into. But you could probably use it with kids as young as third grade, and as old as fifth grade, depending on the class dynamics. It might even make a good all-school read to kick off the year, though again, I’m not sure the younger kids would fully grasp it, and the older kids might be too deep into the throes of coolness to listen.