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Slight Delay

Hi everyone,

Sorry I won’t be able to post the last installment of the Halloween series tonight.  I’m recuperating from a sinus infection, and I’ve fallen behind on my reading and reviewing.  Instead, why not turn on PBS and watch an adaptation of P. D. James’s Death Comes to Pemberley?  You can also reread my review here.



Dog Training for Dummies by Jack and Wendy Volhard

Today is the perfect day to finish up our dog days series here at Of Print and Prose.  Today, Reeses and I drove to Richmond to officially complete her adoption!  We got to see some friends from Houlagan’s Rest and hear that all of Reeses’s siblings have also found good homes!

Wallace is a well-trained dog!

Wallace is a well-trained dog!

I feel a little bad reviewing two “for Dummies” books at once, but it’s what I’ve been reading.  This one was recommended by our dad, who has already used it to train his dog Wallace.  I ordered a copy, and we’ve already started using it in training sessions with Reeses.

I really like the way the authors laid out the section on basic training.  They give multiple steps to teach each command, which I find very helpful.  Everything is very specific, with details such as how often to give rewards, how many times per training session to practice a certain command, and so on.  Then, they offer steps to help your dog learn the command with distractions.  After that, they sometimes suggest common sense ways to test your dog’s ability to perform the command, and suggest which step to return to for extra practice.

I was also intrigued by the chapters on nationwide dog training programs.  These were created by the American Kennel Club to promote responsible dog ownership, and unlike many of their competitions, any dog can participate.  The main one is the Canine Good Citizen certificate.  After training, the dog and owner participate in a test.  What I like is that the test is for very sensible skills that help a dog be a good neighbor, such as greeting a friendly stranger.

I have mixed feelings about the range of topics in the book, which didn’t always relate directly to training.  On the one hand, I appreciate the information on grooming.  I can see why this was included, since it is possible to train dogs to get used to having their ears and paws handled, so that they will behave better when they are being groomed.  On the other hand, there was tons of information about nutrition, which seemed a little excessive.  I’m not questioning the importance of good nutrition, but that’s something I would prefer to ask my vet about, as opposed to consulting a reference book.  Plus, it seems only marginally related to training.  That said, the layout of these books makes it very easy to skip past the portions you don’t find helpful and focus on the ones you do.

Some helpful tips I learned from this book are:

1. Use basic commands like “sit” and “stay” to help your dog behave politely in a wide variety of situations.  Reeses is learning to “stay” after she comes in from a walk (instead of climbing under furniture to take a nap.)  It’s a lot easier to take her leash off that way!

2. You can clean your dogs ears with a cotton ball and a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water.

3. The Volhards give specific recommendations for how to help shy dogs get used to meeting new people.  Basically, you have the new person walk by a few times, pausing to toss the dog a treat.  This way, they can gradually get closer without approaching the dog directly or bending over her, which can intimidate a shy dog.

4. Clean your shoes and your dog’s feet when you get home from the dog park.  This helps prevent your dog from catching infections, and they can still make friends.

I’d recommend this book to anyone with a dog.  It is a well-organized reference that would be helpful no matter how old your dog is.  It also has information about advanced training and competitions for those who are interested.  I give this book three and a half stars.  I will be referring to certain chapters regularly, and I definitely think it is worth buying.  ★★★1/2

Elizabeth and Reeses reading together

Elizabeth and Reeses reading together

I hope you enjoyed the Dog Days series!  Please stay tuned for a return to our regular posts!


Meet Reeses!

We have a new reading buddy here at Print and Prose!  Her name is Reeses, and she is a puppy from Houlagan’s Rest rescue organization in Richmond, VA.  We’re fostering her for now, but we are hoping to officially adopt her soon!

Reeses reading on her first night at home

Reeses reading on her first night at home

Reeses has been feeling pretty shy as she settles in to her new home, but she did take a quick peek at the articles my husband was reading on his tablet.  Now that she is more comfortable with sitting on the couch, hopefully we’ll have lots more reading time together!

In honor of Reeses, four-legged reading buddies, and the dog days of summer, I am starting a week(ish) long series of posts about books that are somehow related to dogs!


Becca’s Summer Reading List

IT IS SUMMER AT LAST!  Having completed my first year as a high school teacher, I am so unbelievably excited to spend time reading what I want, when I want, where I want.  On the beach?  I can do that!  In bed, despite it being in the middle of the day?  Already did it, and I’m not sorry!  Coffee shops, my patio, terrace cafes – I’m so excited to do some lounge reading as opposed to frantically-becoming-an-expert-on-before-teaching reading.  Oh, and everyone who thinks kids look forward to summer more than their teachers – you have obviously never taught!  I am ecstatic!  This summer, on my somewhat ambitious reading list are the following:

How to Read Literature Like a Professor by Thomas C. Foster: I’ve been meaning to read this book to aid me in my teaching for years, but never had the time to sit down and actually finish it.  Anyone who is an avid reader and wants to know what’s going on in their books at a higher level should check this out – it’s like taking a college English class but on your own time and in your pjs, if necessary.

Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Gailbraith (AKA J.K. Rowling): I love Harry Potter an unhealthy amount and really enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy as well – so I’ll read anything by this author.  I’m excited since this is a private detective story following the suspicious death/suicide of a young supermodel.  Looks fun!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman: I will admit, I know almost nothing about what this book is about.  On my way to Boston, I met another high school English teacher in an airport bar and was chatted books for an hour – it was lovely!  She mentioned that Neil Gaiman is one of her favorite authors, so when I saw this at the library, I thought I’d give it a go!

Juliet by Ann Fortier: I just finished teaching Romeo and Juliet, and am still a little obsessed.  This book is a combo of modern/historical characters – which I love – and follows Julie, who upon receiving a key to a safe deposit box in Sienna realizes that her ancestor was Juliet (yes, THAT Juliet) and Mercutio’s dying words, “A plague on both your houses…” is quite possibly a real curse still at work today.  The curse’s obvious next victim?  Julie!

The Happiness Project: or why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle, and generally have more fun by Gretchen Craft Rubin: I wrote my masters thesis on positive psychology in the classroom and now dedicating most of my waking hours to a high-stress job that can make me elated and absolutely miserable, often in the same week.  I want to be happy.  So I want to read this book!

Mean Genes: from sex to money to food, taming our primal instincts by Terry Burnham: There’s not much to say other than I studied evolutionary psychology in college and love reading this stuff.  Are we slaves to nature?  How much self-determination do humans really have?  I’ll let you know when I read it.  (Oh, and maybe the next time a furious student throws a phone at me, I’ll know it’s not her fault… it is just those mean genes!)

The Book Thief by Marcus Zuzak: How have I not read this book yet??  I’ve been meaning to for years, and now, in a teacher book club that meets only in the summer months, I am!  Set in 1939 Nazi Germany, a young foster girl collects books that don’t belong to her – and shows how literature can be a powerful, life-changing force.  I’d love to use this for supplemental literature in my 10th grade English class in the future!

Water, Stone, Heart by Will North: Not too long ago on Facebook, an ad popped up that said something along the lines of “Did you love The Forgotten Garden?  Then you’ll love the newest book by Will North, Water, Stone, Heart!”  Well, I DO love The Forgotten Garden.  So I ordered this book without so much as reading a description of it.  Now that I have it, it looks like classic chick-lit.  It is set in England, and tells the story of a woman escaping an ugly divorce and a (I’m assuming HOT) professor of architecture whose wife has just left him.  Who cares what else it’s about – I’m gobbling this one up for sure!

I’m also spending a little time this summer working on a few writing pieces (if I ever stray from my reading list long enough to accomplish anything).  It’s slow going, and I’m not happy with much that I have on paper yet… but I’m starting!  And let me tell you, I have IMMENSE respect for all of the authors we’ve reviewed on the blog.  Writing is not an easy task at all, but oh, how thankful I am for the fruits of writers’ labors.  Enjoy your summer – and don’t forget that a good book and some SPF should be on you 24/7!

– Becca


Elizabeth’s Summer Book List

Hi everyone!

My summer vacation doesn’t start until next Friday, but I’m already looking forward to catching up on my reading!  (And feeling jealous of all the other school employees who are already done!)

What I’m reading now: Dog Sense by John Bradshaw and Puppies for Dummies by Sarah Hodgson.  I want to get a puppy this summer!

Here are a few things I am planning to read next:

1. Grimm’s Fairy Tales– I’ve read many of these, but only a few at a time.  This summer, I want to read the whole book!

2. Evelina by Fanny Burney- I found a copy of this in a used bookstore when Becca and I visited Boston.  I’ve seen it mentioned by Louisa May Alcott and Jane Austen, and I’ve always been curious to read it.

3. The Mark of the Midnight Manzanilla by Lauren Willig- It’s not coming out until August, but I’m looking forward to reading the latest Pink Carnation novel!

4. A Thousand Miles Up the Nile by Amelia B. Edwards- I think summer is the best time to read about travel!


Read Across America Day

Read Across America

As much as I love snow days, I’m a little disappointed not to be participating in Read Across America day with some of my kindergarten friends at a local elementary school.  Read Across America is an annual event, held on Dr. Seuss’s birthday, to celebrate reading.  It was created by the National Education Association.  Their goals for the event are summed up nicely in their Reader’s Oath-and may I congratulate the author on writing an oath worthy of Dr. Seuss?  Here it is, in full:

I promise to read
Each day and each night.
I know it’s the key
To growing up right.

I’ll read to myself,
I’ll read to a crowd.
It makes no difference
If silent or loud.

I’ll read at my desk,
At home and at school,
On my bean bag or bed,
By the fire or pool.

Each book that I read
Puts smarts in my head,
‘Cause brains grow more thoughts
The more they are fed.

So I take this oath
To make reading my way
Of feeding my brain
What it needs every day.

Last year, I participated by wearing a Cat in the Hat hat, reading lots of Dr. Seuss books, and helping welcome “celebrity guest readers” (student volunteers from a nearby high school).  If you would like to help out, here are some ideas!

1. Volunteer at a local elementary school or public library.  If you have kids or teachers in your life, volunteer in their class.  If not, your workplace may already have a  school they support (or you could help get the ball rolling at the nearest school.) Local libraries, scout troops, etc can also use your help.  Being a guest reader doesn’t take much time, but it is a great way to show your love of reading.  And Dr. Seuss books are especially fun to read out loud!

2. Donate some books.  New or used, for any age group, sharing your books is a great way to help other readers.  New teachers (like Becca!) are especially in need of books in order to start class libraries.  Most local libraries have programs where volunteers raise money for the library by selling used books.  Many hospitals also accept donations, especially of children’s books.  Many of us avid readers were fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by lots of books, but this is an advantage that students from low income families often lack.  Our local teachers and librarians are working hard to try to remedy this situation, and they need all the help they can get!

3. Plan some fun, reading-related activities for the young readers in your life!  Are your kids snowed in during Read Across America day like me?  You can still celebrate at home.  In addition to doing some reading, consider a book-related snack or craft.  With a little food coloring, you can make your own green eggs and ham.  Making and decorating your own bookmarks is an easy craft, too.  Little ones can do this with paper and crayons (0r popsicle sticks, paper clips, or ribbon-whatever you happen to have!), but here are a few tutorials if you’d like something more challenging/fancy:

Above all, I hope you take some time to enjoy reading today!  I am currently caught up in Elizabeth Peters’s Crocodile on the Sandbank, and I am enjoying the luxury of some extra reading time!


Lord of the Flies by William Golding

First of all, let me apologize for my extremely extended absence of the past 18 months! It turns out that teaching English means a major reduction in reading novels and books of my choice – who would have guessed? But I’m back, and it seemed fitting that my very first review in a very long time would be the first full-length work of fiction that I taught to my 10th graders: Lord of the Flies.

Full disclosure: I HATE Lord of the Flies! I hated it when I read it in high school, I didn’t particularly love it when I re-read it to prepare to teach it, and I absolutely, completely despised it when I taught it (with, I now realize, way too much detail) to my classes in the fall.

The plot is one that is likely familiar to many. During WWII, an airplane full of young British boys crashes on an island and no adults survive. Throughout the novel, the boys struggle to create a society and maintain routine and civility, but ultimately fail, becoming lawless savages.

For me, there’s nothing particularly thrilling in the plot – though it is an excellent tool to teach symbolism and the historical context surrounding WWII (the author, William Golding, had a particularly interesting experience as a child during WWI and a soldier during WWII that led to his less than positive views about humanity). Though the story of innocent children slowly becoming monsters is an interesting one, I think much of the plot gets lost in lengthy descriptions of the island and a very long and detailed downward spiral into barbarism. The characters are not particularly relatable, or well-drawn. Ultimately, the novel’s theme – that all humans are born with evil that in the right conditions (chaos and fear) will manifest itself – is one that is not particularly pleasant to read about. Nonetheless, it’s a novel that nearly every graduate of a U.S. high school has read – it’s part of the canon that I expect will be seeing quite a few changes in the next several years. If you want to be part of the conversation, pick up this book at your local library (it’s not worth owning). If not, use your time to read something more enjoyable! I’m giving Lord of the Flies 1 star and bracing myself to teach it with a positive attitude to all my future 10th grade students! ★