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Monday, March 12, 2018

The Other Side of the Bridge


About 6 months ago, my book club did The Orphan Keeper by Camron Wright. The Orphan Keeper tells the fascinating story of a man who was abducted as a child in India and sold to a couple in Utah who believe they are adopting an orphan. Once the couple (who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, like me and my book club friends) find out that the boy was not adopted, they make efforts to find his family, but all traces are lost in the scam, until years later. It's a true story that has been fictionalized for convenience, and I wished it was just the true story, but it made for a great book club discussion.

So, I was interested when I heard that author Camron Wright was coming out with The Other Side of the Bridge, a new, completely fictional story. I wanted to know if the book was any good, but I was still bound up with some Cybils work. So I asked Sarah, who chose and hosted our book club on The Orphan Keeper if she'd like to read it. And she said yes!

Sarah read the book, and I asked her lots of questions about it. We had a good discussion about The Other Side of the Bridge, and here's what we wrote together: 

I was really excited to read The Other Side of the Bridge but came away disappointed. The book follows the story of two seemingly unrelated characters. Katie is a young woman living in San Francisco, struggling with her father’s death and what she wants out of life, and writing a history of the Golden Gate bridge. Dave is a middle-aged man, living in New Jersey whose world turns upside down when his family is tragically killed. I felt like the book started off really well, but didn't finish strong.

My husband, Todd, decided to read it after I finished it and he really related to Dave, since they're the same age and each have a wife and three kids. But as the book went along, it became harder to relate to Dave. Todd thought that the whole book should have been about Dave's journey across the country. Instead, the trip was summarized and we didn't see into what Dave was thinking as he made this physical and emotional journey. As a result, the end felt rushed, and confusing.

As for me, I couldn't relate to either Katie or Dave very well. And the little bit of romance that happens in the book was so cheesy.

I liked that the eventual interaction between Dave and Katie was realistic though. Katie has been looking for Dave during her research, and though they meet once in person, when they later talk on the phone they don't realize that they've met before. That seemed true to life. 

I loved The Rent Collector; it really gave me a new perspective on how people in other countries live. I like stories about people thriving in adverse situations, and overcoming difficult circumstances. I loved The Orphan Keeper, too. Ultimately, I felt like The Other Side of the Bridge had all the ingredients to be breathtaking, but it in the end it was just “meh”. I felt like the book was reaching for something, but it didn't go deep enough. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Birthday Presents for a Five Year Old

How is it that I have had two five-year-old boys, but when my daughter (who is about to turn five) is invited to a friend's birthday party, I can't think of what gift we should bring?

Last night I looked back in my journal at what the boys got for their fifth birthdays - Benjamin got an Iron Man mask and disc shooter, which helped me remember that literally anything character branded is a big hit at this age. I don't think Benjamin knew a thing about Iron Man at the time, but man, he loved that gift.

Benjamin at 5: Whatever it is, I'm into it!
When Levi was five he got a gift card to the craft store (I wish I could remember what he ended up buying with it!) and a very silly book: Mameshiba. We knew that we'd end up reading this book to him, because he wasn't reading independently at the time, but we liked the Mameshiba books, too. They make our whole family laugh.

What Jubilee gets for her fifth birthday remains to be seen, but I confess that when I was offered PAW Patrol: Rescue Time I jumped at the chance to try it out. This is the kind of book I would usually let my children linger over at the book fair, but not purchase. What better way to be the coolest mom ever than to whip out a new book that comes with it's own mini-projector on a regular night?

And the book went over very well with her. When I asked her what she liked about it she said, "pretty much everything." The book has two stories, typical Paw Patrol episode adaptations from my perspective. It comes with a mini projector that is set up as a wristwatch for the child to wear. This watch/projector is the most exciting thing for a kid, but I think it would've been better without the wristband. It takes some doing to hold your arm steady, focus the projector, advance the slide, etc. We had fun with it though, and she's been playing with it since. I did like how having the projector added more pictures to the story.

Levi at 5: The everyday hero
When we went to pick out a gift for her friend today, we kept it to things that could be used up: Play-doh, a notepad, some puffy stickers to decorate it with, and a little treat.

So, here are the sorts of things I recommend giving to a five-year-old:
  • books (of course!)
  • dress-ups (we've had fun with chefs, superheroes, princesses, ninjas, and more)
  • art/craft supplies (something just a little out of the ordinary, like these Slick Stix)
  • treats (a whole package of cookies is, like, AMAZING to them)
  • experiences (playdates and outings and themed days)
  • money (this turns into an experience gift, because they love going to pick something out)
What gifts have you found go over well with this age? I'd love to hear what you think I should get for Jubilee next month!




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