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Lacey Recommends Books of Poetry and Letters

April is a great month for writing, which makes it a great month for reading, too! Did you know that April is National Poetry Month AND National Letter-Writing Month in the USA? Of course, people everywhere enjoy these types of writing this month, too! That’s why this month’s roundup of books features, you guessed it, poetry and letters!
Poetry
  • The Way to Bea” by Kat Yeh features both poetry AND letter writing. In it, seventh-grader Bea uses poetry to express her emotions about growing apart from her best friends and feeling ignored at home as her parents focus on their jobs and a new baby. Although Bea writes her poems in invisible ink and hides them in a secret spot, to her surprise, someone writes her back! Now she’s determined to find the identity of her secret pen pal. Do some of her old friends miss her, too? Is it the kind librarian at school? Or the boy Bea has a crush on? You’ll have to read the book to find out!
  • If you’re ready to pick up a pen and try your own hand at poetry, or if you’re an experienced poet looking for some new tricks to try, check out “Catch Your Breath: Writing Poignant Poetry” by Laura Purdie Salas. The book includes instructions on writing different types of poetry (haiku, free verse, and more), bios of famous poets for inspiration, and lots of writing prompts to get you started!

Letters

  • When 11-year-old Reenie has to live with her grandmother after her mom dies, her new paper route helps her adjust to life in a new town. It also brings her to the home of Mr. Marsworth, the town recluse. Determined to reach him when he doesn’t answer his door, she starts leaving him letters — and he writes back! In “Until Tomorrow, Mr. Marsworth” by Sheila O’Connor, the entire novel is told in the letters between Reenie and Mr. Marsworth — complete with different handwriting for the two writers — as they try to concoct a plan to keep Reenie’s brother out of the Vietnam War.
  • In “Hope in the Holler” by Lisa Lewis Tyre, Wavie also finds herself adjusting to a new life after her mom dies of cancer. But she soon learns that her aunt Samantha Rose took her in to get an extra Social Security check in the mail, not because she cared about her. Seeking a way to escape her situation, Wavie finds out that she was almost adopted by another family as a child. Is it possible that family might still want her? And will a hopeful letter to the family that could-have-been be enough to change everything?

  • Have you ever written a letter or a diary to someone who you know will never receive it? In “The Night Diary” by Veera Hiranandani, 12-year-old Nisha writes to her Muslim mother, who she lost when she was just a baby, about the way her life and her country is falling apart. It’s 1947 in India, which has recently been freed from British rule and is now facing Partition, or division into two different countries — one for Muslims, and one for Hindus. When Nisha’s father, who is Hindu, finds himself in the part of the country that is now Pakistan and under Muslim rule, the two of them become refugees fleeing to a new home. Through her letters, Nisha searches for a way to put herself back together even though her country has been ripped apart.

What about you? Have you read any of the books listed above? Do you have favorite books featuring poetry or letters? Tell me about them in the comments below!

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Lacey Recommends Weird & Wonderful Books

Hey, girls! The theme for this month’s book recommendations is “weird and wonderful” — and I admit that it was HARD to narrow down my picks. Not only is there a lot of weird and wonderful stuff out there in the real world, but a lot of authors also have weird and wonderful imaginations. I’ve included a mix of both the real and the imagined, both equally wonderful.

Real Weird and Wonderful

  • Did you know that some fish can live up to 250 years, or that scientists have injected jellyfish genes into cats to make them glow in the dark? For real! I had no idea until I read Random Illustrated Facts: A Collection of Curious, Weird and Totally Not Boring Things to Know by Mike Lowery. Each fact includes a fun illustrated cartoon to drive home just how wacky or amazing it is!
  • So, time travel may still be something that we can only imagine … but the places you might want to visit from the past were very real. In the “Thrifty Guide” handbooks for time travelers by Jonathan W. Stokes, you can visit the past without leaving your favorite chair. Each book is set up like a travel guide including maps, stories, and tips for your next ancient adventure. So far, the thrifty guides can take you to the American RevolutionAncient Rome, and Ancient Greece!
  • What happens when you get a bunch of writers and artists together to exchange story inspiration? Something wonderful … and maybe sometimes a little weird. Check it out for yourself in The Creativity Project, edited by Colby Sharp. In it, Colby asked writers and artists to come up with story prompts, or inspirations, which they they swapped with other writers and artists. This book collects the stories, artwork, and comics that came out of the experiment, by authors such as Kate DiCamillo,  Sophie Blackall, Naomi Shihab Nye, and more. But that’s not all — the book includes prompts and inspirations for YOU, too, so you can join the fun!
  • Feel like getting creative (and maybe a little weird) with some yarn and knitting needles? Then check out Monster Hats: 15 Scary Head Warmers to Knit by Vanessa Mooncie. From cyclops to skulls to aliens, these hats can add a dash of weird and wonderful to any outfit! Some of the knitting techniques used are advanced, so if you are a beginner you might want to tackle the projects with a more experienced knitter.

The Weird and Wonderful World of Imagination

Fantasy is one of my favorite types of books, so I had fun hunting down some fantastical books for this column! This is just a small sampling of all the weird and wonderful fiction that is out there.

  • What if you could SEE when another person was lying? In Melinda Beatty’s Heartseeker, Only has such a gift — she sees colors around people when they lie. But her gift has another side, too — it makes it impossible for her to TELL lies. When the king finds out what she can do, he wants to use her power to weed out traitors in his dangerous and power-hungry court.
  • Ada has a secret — she was born with both human and animal DNA as a result of an experiment gone wrong. When a test reveals the truth about her, she is shipped off to a special school for “chimeras,” or others like her. Soon, she is surrounded by kids as different as she is, with scales, wings, tentacles, and other oddities in Tentacle & Wing by Sarah Porter. As they deal with their families’ mixed feelings about chimeras and regular school problems like bullying, they also must face growing tension between humans and chimeras.
  • Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies, which New Moon Girls featured in 2015, is back with a sequel, Rise of the Jumbies. In it, you can return to Trinidad for another adventure with Jumbies, the wicked spirits from Afro-Carribean folktales. This time, your adventure will also take you under the sea to find Mama D’Leau, the dangerous jumbie who rules the sea, and travel all the way to West Africa with mermaids to the place where the jumbies legends originated.
  • If you’re looking for even more adventure, pick up The Unicorn Rescue Society books by Adam Gidwitz, featuring friends Uchenna and Elliot on their quests to protect the world’s mythical creatures. Start with the Creature of the Pines, due out in April, and follow up with The Basque Dragon, which will be available this summer!
  • A story doesn’t have to include imagnary creatures to be fantastical, though. In Jessica Day George’s The Rose Legacy, orphan Anthea learns that her long-lost uncle secretly breeds horses, which have been forbidden in her kingdom for centuries. But that’s not all — Anthea has an ancient gift called The Way, which allows her to talk to them. Can she learn to embrace her terrifying gift w hen her family and her kingdom need her?
  • Are you ready to take a trip on a flying ship? Then board the cloudship Orion in Nadya Skylung and the Cloudship Rescue by Jeff Seymour, where you’ll meet Nadya, who tends the “cloud garden” that keeps the ship afloat. When the ship is attacked by pirates, Nadya and the other orphans aboard escape, but the rest of the crew is captured. Now it’s up to Nadya and her friends to rescue them, and to find out what the pirates were after in the first place. Beautiful illustrations help bring this fantastical story to life!

Have you read any of the books listed above? Leave your recommendations for some weird and wonderful reads in the comments!

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Girls of the Year 2018 – Isabel and Melati

NMG’s Mar-Apr 2018 cover is our Girls of the Year.  This issue mailed on Feb 22 from Minnesota and you should get it soon if you’re a member! You can also buy it here.

Sisters Isabel and Melati have led a campaign to ban plastic bags in their native Bali since 2013. They’re making real progress and together you can read more about it. Maybe they’ll inspire the girls you love to be activists on something they’re passionate about.

It’s not often mentioned, but social justice activism can provide girls a balancing focus that’s larger than themselves while they navigate the personal and social challenges of their tweens and early teens. It gives them experience coping with problems and unexpected challenges in working with others toward a common goal. They can learn to appreciate the individual strengths of each person in the group and see how the different strengths are all needed to achieve the goal.

Plus, it’s just plain fun and affirming to be around people you share a passion with! And it’s awesome to learn how to accept credit earned by changing the world for the better. Activism is also similar to team sports, another growth activity for these ages, in offering girls opportunities to strive for their personal best and to keep trying even when the result isn’t exactly what they wanted.

This issue also begins celebration of the 25th year of NMG magazine. Our first magazine rolled off the press at Service Printers in Duluth, MN on March 21, 1993, only 9 months after Nancy had the idea for a “junior Ms. magazine,” edited and run by girls. Check newmoongirls.com on March 21 to find special features and ways for you to celebrate with us throughout 2018, no matter where you are.

Other features and departments this issue include: Voice Box: How Smart Can Pets Be? * Tell Us: What’s the Best Dress Code? * Body & Mind: Private Odor Worries? * Just For Fun: Ha! Goofy Games * Weird and Wonderful theme: How Are You One of a Kind? Hair Your Way; Wear What You Like * Women’s Work: bell hooks Rocks! * For the Curious: Be a Bee Friend * Fiction: Lone Wolf, by Daryl, 11, California * Check It Out: Our Hit Parade * Last Word: Ann Bancroft, Polar Explorer.

The gorgeous cover photo is by Paola Gianturco, co-author with her 11 year-old granddaughter, Alex Sangster from their book, Wonder Girls. One hundred percent of the author royalties from the book go to the Global Fund for Women to support girls worldwide.  You can buy the book by clicking on this photo of the cover:

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What Kids Don’t Need After Parkland

Awful things keep happening. The world has run amok again. I cry and yell again.

And in the midst of it all the kids need our support and authentic presence.

In fact, they need more than that. They need us to be their allies!

I’m deeply inspired by the kids of Parkland High, and so many others who are joining Emma Gonzalez in “calling BS” about gun violence platitudes. We can choose to get off the sidelines and follow their leadership.

So we asked our members, 8 years old and up, what they need in times like this. Their answers are brilliant and heartfelt, holding gems of great value for all of us who care about kids in good times and awful times.  Here are some of the responses girls shared with us. Let’s start with what they DON’T Need.

They DON’T Want to Be Out of the Loop

Laye:

I don’t want to hear anything that isn’t true. I don’t want adults to tell me that “it’ll be okay” or that “everything will blow over”.  It may be unnerving to hear of the violence and I do believe adults should talk to children and ask them if they wish to know about all the horrible things happening.

Piper:

I dislike when people don’t really care about things that are happening and it makes me sad when people have no idea about the things that matter in the news.  I wish people wouldn’t say things like everything will be ok because how is that true in any way? You don’t know that. I don’t want to be sheltered from it.

Valentina:

I really don’t want people to pretend that it’s not happening for my sake. I have a Facebook and a Flipboard, I know these things are happening. It saddens me that such things even happen in this world, but they do and we can’t change that.

Katniss:

I really don’t want to hear “it’ll blow over”, “You’ll be okay”, “It’s nothing that concerns you”, and “Don’t worry–it’s nothing big.” Parents and other grownups mean well and want to protect us, but we’re old enough to handle bad news, upsetting events, and anything tough.

They Need Us to Accept All Their Feelings Including Anger and Sadness

Valentina:

Awareness is important, and I want to be aware. Yes, it scares me a little bit, but mostly it makes me sad and angry. Well-controlled anger is good. Like everyone else has said, I mostly just want to know and be treated like I’m able to know without breaking.

Ellie: 

I just want someone to just tell me what’s going on. Instead of telling me what I’m doing wrong or that “the grownups will handle it” I want to be told what’s happening so I can understand it.

Kate: 

Usually I just want to hear that someone understands. I process things better when I can think about them on my own for a while, and a hug and “I understand,” is usually the best.

Sarah: 

I like to have discussions with my parents about what happened and why so I understand everything that went on.

Katniss: 

I want to hear, “You won’t like this, but we have to talk about this upsetting bit of news.” And, “This may be hard to handle, but we think you can take it.” And “We respect your opinion, and we want your input on this.” And other things like that.

Larissa:

I want to be be actually TALKED to instead of being ‘sheltered’ and ‘protected’ from what’s going on in the world.  I’m very happy that my parents already do this. I want to be talked to and be able to know what’s going on. I know a lot of things I really don’t want to know about, but I feel like I should know (you get what I mean?) about what humans are doing to each other in the world.

Piper:

Most of the time anger crawls in first followed by sadness.  I want to hear these things, without being treated like I can’t handle them.

Laye:

If a child is uncomfortable around the topic, perhaps it isn’t necessary to give them details of every tragic attack but if a child wants to know, then I think it the responsibility of every adult to give children accurate and detailed information.

Sharing Action and Hope Matters

Sarah:

I want to know people are making a difference,  or doing something in response (protesting against what happened, etc.).

Larissa:

I feel like I want to know this stuff because I feel that someone will change this and I want to know about it as soon as I can:).

Listen More Than You Talk, and Then Take Action as Their Ally

What kids need most often is for us to listen. To listen much more than we talk, especially at the beginning of a conversation about awful things. Almost always, the best way to start is with an open-ended question like “What have you heard?” Save any explanation for later, after she’s had the chance to express her feelings.

It you start out with an explanation, she’ll try to take your cue and leave her feelings out of the equation. But that never helps in the long run. Feelings are fleeting and need to be expressed so she can let go of them and not ruminate on them.  There’s time for focusing on thoughts and reason later on. Try very hard not to assume that you already know how she feels.  Let her tell you.

What Works for Your Kids?

How are you and your girl handling all the awful things recently? I very much want to hear what works for you. And what doesn’t work. Please share your wisdom by commenting here with others who care. We can all use a helping hand in these times.

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How to Cope with your Daughter’s Changing Personality

 

Mom: “Amy, you need to get up, you’re going to be late for school.”

Amy: “I’m not going to school.”

Mom: “Yes, you are. You have that math test today and you cannot be late!”

Amy (putting her blanket over her head): “I’m never going to school again!”

Susann Shier remembers the low point in her daughter’s early adolescence. The girl was a seventh grader and everything—every little thing—was a struggle.

She was terrified about puberty, about adolescence, about how to deal with life, basically. She was just completely out of whack. She finally got my attention and made it clear that she was just beside herself with not knowing what to do,” Shier recalls. “The way I remember it is that I just wanted to freak out and go away too. It was just too much to handle.”

Shier didn’t run away, of course. But even with all her years of training and experience working with teens and their parents as a psychotherapist, she still was impressed by the power of her daughter’s pain, confusion, and need for guidance.

As a parent, you may feel overwhelmed during these emotionally fraught tween and teen years when you’re coping with your daughter’s changing personality. These years are often considered to be the toughest parenting stage since the terrible twos. For many, the worst part is that your daughter seems to rarely “act her age.” She may seem so mature in one circumstance, only to turn around and do something so juvenile that you’re left wondering who is the real girl. And when your daughter unleashes a proposal, arguing her point as well as any adult you know, it’s easy to forget that she’s still a kid.

Girls sometimes look like they’re adults, and that can fool adults into thinking that they’re mature cognitively as well,” says adolescent development specialist Angela Huebner, a Virginia Tech assistant professor. The adolescent brain, Huebner notes, “doesn’t function like an adult brain, especially in the areas of impulsivity, decision-making, and responsibility, the things that drive parents crazy. Adolescents don’t process information the same way.”

Despite this, at various points girls will conduct themselves in a perfectly responsible, mature manner. The problem with a girl’s flip-flopping progress toward maturity is that conflicts are inevitable. You want her to take on responsibility as she gets older; she wants to be awarded more independence. Yet this responsibility-independence partnership rarely glides together in an upward trajectory.

The first step toward a smoother journey is for both parent and daughter to recognize that there will be contradictory behavior. Try a disarmament treaty—if you’ll promise to understand she may act 13, 3, and 23 all on the same day, she’ll promise to understand when you can’t always shift gears quickly. Then as you talk together about some basic developmental struggles all teens and parents experience, you’ll both be able to keep a cooler head and maintain the connection that both sides crave.

Fathers: don’t just do something, stand there. Don’t try to solve problems, just listen to her!

Walk a Mile in Her Shoes

Anyone who remembers her or his own adolescence will certainly remember that it was rife with seeming impossibilities. It may feel to your girl that the whole world is watching every move she makes, every outfit she wears, every word she says. She’s probably right that, at a minimum, many other girls actually are watching closely.

There are dozens of opportunities for self-doubt. She may be wondering about when she will get her period, or whether other girls’ breasts will grow faster. She may be dealing with pimples, hair growing in new places, and endless conversations about looks with her friends. Schoolwork may be more challenging and friendships less reliable. And sometimes, it seems that no one in the family understands or cares about what’s happening in her life.

It can be a very scary time for girls caught between being a kid and soon-to-be adult. Robbie Weisel, who runs mother-daughter weekend retreats as a community educator for Planned Parenthood of Minnesota/South Dakota, remembers one 11-year-old girl summing up what is true for so many girls. “We ask the girls, ‘What is exciting about being a teenager and what is scary?’ One girl said that she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to play pretend anymore. They’re getting glimpses of having to let go of being a kid.”

Helping Her Act Responsibly

Given all the conflicts in a girl’s life, it’s not surprising that taking out the trash, listening to her parents’ rules, and other measures of responsibility are sometimes down on her list of priorities. Parents can help girls hone a sense of responsibility by giving her meaningful tasks at home that she can successfully carry out. When she does the job, it’s important that she knows her contribution matters. If it’s her job to wash the dishes, remember that she’s not always going to show the proficiency you would. Still, she’ll get there, especially if you’re encouraging.

The same strategy can be useful as the issues become larger. Make your expectations about responsibility clear, and be consistent about consequences. Remember that she’ll test the limits, and that she is still learning. “This is development; it’s practice,” Huebner says. “The more parents can step back and think about the big picture, the easier it will be. Think about how much the child has changed between ages 5 and 8. Think about how kids do learn to master stuff and all that they’ve mastered since they were 8 years old.”

Help her see herself as mature and responsible by encouraging successes outside the home. This will also counteract the often harmful and unrealistic cultural messages about what girls should look like, act like, and be like. “Girls can lose their sense of selves if they don’t have something else to define themselves,” Weisel says. “Help your daughter find something that makes her feel good about herself.” If a girl has three or four different interests, she’s more likely to excel in some area even if something is going wrong in another area.

A girl who feels good about herself and who is engaged in the world is more likely to practice fairly consistent responsibility. Girls also learn powerful firsthand messages from what you show them. Show them your best when you can and explain and apologize when you don’t. They will likely follow your example.

Letting go

Keeping your relationship with your daughter is as important to her as it is to you, even if it seems that all she does is push you away. As your daughter grows up, she has to grow away from you. It can feel scary for a parent who feels like her daughter’s shutting her out. But your daughter’s love hasn’t gone away; she just needs time to see who she is without you.

Her cold shoulder, along with persistent behavior conflicts, will get the best of most parents. We lose our patience, we yell, we blame, we threaten disproportionate punishments. And then we have to figure out how to fix it. “You model apology,” Weisel counsels. “And you model it when it’s real for you. So that means maybe you go to a separate space until you can calm down and then give a sincere apology.”

It’s important to make it clear that despite your temper tantrum, your expectations are still the same. Weisel would say something like this: “I showed you anger and I was rude and I’m really sorry for having done that. But that doesn’t mean my rules and expectations are any less. It just means that I showed you that I’m human too. So cut me a little slack, because that’s how we keep our relationship.”

Recognize that they’re going to screw up,” Huebner reminds. “But encourage them and they’ll get through it. Give them enough rope to experiment, but not enough to hang themselves. It’s your job to be the safety net.” When a daughter knows that, bottom line, you will always be there for her, she will be much more likely to show you that she’ll come through for you, no matter what age she feels today.

Anne O’Connor is a Wisconsin freelance writer.

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Lacey Recommends Black Herstory Books

Hey, girls! Did you know that February is Black History (or as we like to say around here, Herstory) Month? Unfortunately, traditional history books and classes have often overlooked the achievements of Black Americans. The books featured this month will help fill in the gaps — and give you inspiration all year long!

Biography Collections

Whether you want to know a little or a lot about amazing Black women from herstory, these books collecting women’s life stories have you covered!

  • My top pick in this section is definitely Little Leaders: Bold Women in Black History by Vashti Harrison. No matter what your passion, you’ll find a Black woman in these pages who has forged a path ahead. Read about politician Shirley Chisolm who ran for president in 1972, science fiction writer Octavia Butler, astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison, and 37 other Black women who followed their dreams to greatness. Each biography includes a cartoon illustration of the woman featured. 
  • “At some point, someone probably will tell you no, will tell you to be quiet and may even tell you your dreams or impossible,” Chelsea Clinton writes in She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World. “Don’t listen to them.” This book is a great way to get a brief overview of Black trailblazers’ lives or to introduce younger siblings and friends to them. Five of the women featured in the book are Black, including some you may have heard of such as Harriet Tubman and Oprah Winfrey; and others who may be less recognizable to you, like Claudette Colvin who refused to give up her seat on a bus when she was just 15, inspring Rosa Parks to do the same; and Ruby Bridges, a brave little girl who was one of the first Black students to attend a school that had been only for Whites before then.
  • Black women aren’t just making history in America, though. In Fearless Women by Toby Reynolds & Paul Carver and 100 Women Who Made History by Stella Caldwell, Clare Hibbert, Andrea Mills, and Rona Skene, you can read about women such as Leymah Gbowee, who led a peace movement to help end the Second Liberian Civil War; Fatuma Noor, a Somali journalist who focused on telling stories the mainstream news overlooked; Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberia’s female president; and more, including often-overlooked American history-makers like Sarah Breedlove, the first woman millionaire in the U.S.!

 Featured Biographies

Want to dive deeper into one amazing Black woman or girl’s story? Then check out these titles.

  • In March Forward, Girl: From Young Warrior to Little Rock Nine, Melba Pattillo Beals shares her story of being one of the first African American girls to attend an integrated school. But even before that, she was ready to make waves. She was frustrated that she couldn’t drink from the “whites only” water fountains or that she didn’t feel safe even at church. And when adults told her to be patient and know her place, she pushed back toward equality.
  • If you follow the sports world, you probably know about tennis legends Venus and Serena Williams. But did you know that both had a desire to win from an early age, that their father coached them in tennis, or that they have BOTH achieved World Number One ranking in both singles and doubles? You can learn all this and more in Who Are Venus and Serena Williams by James Buckley Jr., an illustrated book that follows the sisters’ lives and achievements. 
  • To learn more about Ruby Bridges’ achievements from her own perspective, pick up her book, Through My Eyes, where she describes what it was like to be a six-year-old girl escorted through mobs and protesters to become the first Black child to attend an all-White school.
  • The Youngest Marcher: The Story of Audrey Faye Hendricks, a Young Civil Rights Activist by Cynthia Levinson details how, at nine years old, Audrey was the youngest protester ever arrested at a civil rights rally. She joined marches, sit-ins, and other opportunities for activism toward equality even though she KNEW she might end up in jail for it, proving that you are never too young to take a stand.

What about you? Do you know of fiction or non-fiction books that highlight important moments or women from Black Herstory? Who is your favorite Black woman or girl hero? Share your thoughts in the comments below!