“In the Shadow of the Axe”, by Carol Krueger. A Book Review by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Carol Krueger’s latest children’s novel, “In the Shadow of the Axe”, makes history come alive… and all “through the eyes of a child”.   Through the narrator, 13 year old Bessie, we are taken back in time to the reign of King Henry VIII of England during his divorce from his fourth wife, the German Anne of Cleves, then his marriage to his fifth wife, Katherine Howard, both during the month of July 1540.

Bessie is asked to be a “Lady in Waiting” to the new Queen Katherine.  This is historically accurate, as girls this young, from “noble” families were often invited to “serve” in the royal household. Indeed, this was regarded as an honour and even made these young women more of a “catch” for future husbands… most were married between 14 and 18 years of age.  Bessie is a rounded, believable character and we can empathise with the terrible pull she feels when asked to testify against Queen Katherine to whom she has sworn an oath of allegiance.

Portrait of Agnes Tilney, a Lady in Waiting to Anne Boleyn, who came to court at age 15 and carried the Queen’s train during her marriage. She was later God Mother to Anne’s daughter, Elizabeth.

When these women joined the queen’s office they had to swear the ceremonial oath. This oath was used to form a bond of allegiance between the ladies and their queen.

Furthermore, Katherine was only 17, close in age to Bessie, and, of course, had formed a strong bond with her.  Refusing to testify, or being accused of lying, would result in being accused of treason… the crime which was punished with the harshest penalty of all.

In “The Shadow of the Axe” Krueger shows us not only life at court, but also the harsh realities of the times… the plague (households were “shut down” for 40 days to be sure there was no risk of contamination); high infant death rates (Bessie’s mother has a stillborn baby during her daughter’s time at court); how marriages were arranged, particularly among the upper classes… daughters in particular had very little say in who they were to marry… and the gruesome reality of what happened to those who incurred the King’s wrath and were “sent to the tower”– as Katherine Howard was in November 1541, until the time of her execution in February 1542 at the age of 19.

Colourful characters such as Lady Rochford, who goes completely insane, or the intimidating Archbishop Cramer, who is tasked with questioning all the Queen’s staff about her behaviour and loyalty to the King, are even more interesting when readers learn that these were indeed real people and Krueger tells the story of Katherine Howard’s downfall and eventual execution realistically and accurately.  There are also interesting historical notes at the end of the novel.

A word of warning to the squeamish: accounts of torture and execution are not spared… the description of the death of Frances Dereham is particularly gruesome and Bessie’s sense of horror at what has happened is palpable.  I know some people strongly disagree with children learning about such things as Medieval torture and execution.   Personally, I believe that “knowledge is power”, particularly when it comes to history and the mistakes of the past.  The harsh reality of King Henry’s subjects (including his courtiers and even his wives) being at the mercy of his temper and power to snuff out life also pervades the book.

My ten year old son (who loves history) and I read this book together and we both really enjoyed it.  Despite knowing the historical outcomes, the book has another layer of interest, as we wonder how all these things came about and what happens to our narrator, Bessie.  Krueger has a talent for crafting time, place, character and scene, so that events which took place over 500 years ago come alive.

 

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10 Dr. Seuss Books you’ve Never Heard of, by Crystal Ponti

Dr. Seuss is one of the most beloved children’s writers of all time. During his career, he wrote more than 60 playful and exuberant books – each with a deeper message about life, love, and humanity.

His most memorable titles, like “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Cat in the Hat”, are mainstays on children’s bookshelves. But he also penned many books that never quite made it into the spotlight.

Here are 10 Dr. Seuss books you might not have heard of (and if you have, you must be a super fan):

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“And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” (1937)

The very first book Dr. Seuss ever published under his pen name, this lively tale about Marco and his vivid imagination predates his bestselling titles, but is still among his best. Travel down Mulberry Street, the most interesting place in town – a place where the ordinary becomes extraordinary. Marco spins a wonderful story for his father, turning everyday sights into wild highlights of his journey home from school.

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“I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today!” (1969)

Follow the Cat in the Hat’s son, daughter, and great-great-grandfather on three magnificent adventures, as told by Cat in the Hat himself. From battles with tigers to the unexpected consequences of a runaway imagination, this is the only book where children can thunk a Glunk and wrestle with King Looie Katz. The illustrations are a unique combination of gouache and brush strokes rather than the usual pen and ink, adding even more uniqueness to a timeless rarity.

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“Would You Rather Be a Bullfrog?” (1975)

“Would you rather be a clarinet, a trombone, or a drum? (How would you like to have someone going boom-boom on your tum?)” In traditional form, Dr. Seuss asks young readers fun, rhyming questions to make them think, ponder, and laugh. The book helps children understand there are so many things they can be, and that they have plenty of time to figure out who they are and where life might take them.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.parent.co/10-dr-seuss-books-youve-never-heard-of/?utm_source=newsletter_256&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=pcodaily&utm_source=Parent+Co.+Daily&utm_campaign=83f735ef56-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2017_04_03&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_3f341b94dd-83f735ef56-132097649

 

10 Books to Read to Your Kids About Climate Change, by Crystal Ponti

The Earth’s global climate is changing. Although this has been a naturally occurring process for millions of years, only recently has the change accelerated to the point where significant impacts are felt the world over. People are causing these bulk of these changes, which are bigger and happening faster than any climate changes that modern society has ever seen before. From increasing temperatures and rising sea levels to intensifying natural disasters and loss of entire species, climate change is an issue we’re all confronted with now and one our children will face for years to come.

Below are ten books about climate change to educate and empower our future generations:

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The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk

by Jan Thornhill

Great Auks were flightless birds that resembled penguins. They were prolific in the icy waters of the northern Atlantic until human hunters, egg collectors, and climate change led to their extinction. Unfortunately, many other bird species are on a similar path. “The Tragic Tale of the Great Auk” is a beautifully designed picture book that reminds us how precious life is – all life. Booklist says, “This vivid, fascinating story emphasizes not only the importance of conservation but also how deeply intertwined the human and animal worlds can be. Eye-opening and tragic, to be sure, but surprisingly hopeful all the same.”

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Giddy Godspeed and the Felicity Flower

by Maria-Pilar Landver

This fun and creative story is about a little girl named Giddy, who wakes to find a wilting flower in distress. It’s much too hot, even at night, and all the flower’s delicate petals are drying out. In the garden the next day, Giddy discovers all is not right in the world and embarks on an imaginative tale to help the flowers survive. Although climate change is not mentioned directly in the book, the message is multi-faceted with a deep connection to helping the earth. The story is accompanied by a wonderful collection of abstract illustrations that will captivate young audiences.

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The Problem of the Hot World

by Pam Bonsper

The trees have stopped growing. The grass is all gone. The world is too hot, and there’s no more water to drink. When the forest world is turned upside down, how will the animals survive? Five friends – a fox, a bear, an owl, a mole, and a deer – set out on a journey to find where the water has gone. Can they bring it back? “The book has a lovely forest setting with recognizable animals, very interesting and charming illustrations (in perfect synergy with the story), and tells the story of environmental changes in a very simple, friendly, serene way,” says one Amazon reviewer.

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The Lorax

by Dr. Seuss

Well before climate change was a household term, Dr. Seuss shed light on the harms of hurting the environment in his classic book “The Lorax.” The rhyming tale is a timely warning of the dangers of clear-cutting, polluting, and disrespecting the earth. Told from the perspective of Once-ler, readers learn how the narrator once discovered the Truffula Trees and Brown Bar-ba-loots and harvested the trees until nothing was left but a single seed – which ends up in the hands of a caring child. “The Lorax” is a wonderful reminder that we all have a role to play in protecting Mother Earth.

(To read more of this post, please follow the link below…)

http://www.parent.co/10-childrens-books-climate-change

“The Ruby Sceptre”, a new fantasy novel for children. By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

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“When a simple game of Hide and Seek ends unexpectedly with being kidnapped by a dragon-like creature, Xuen, princess of her village, is thrown into an adventure she never saw coming.
Carried off to the northern land of Shardonia, Xuen learns that the ruthless and power-hungry King Xolleran intends her to be nothing more than snack food for his pet, the Halaveel Monster.
A fortunate escape brings her into contact with Sus, a boy who always carries a mysterious ruby sceptre. Together they seek to unite those who have suffered under Xolleran and to bring about the end of his evil reign.”

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A map of the lands of Shardonia and Angdoodle, where “The Ruby Sceptre” is set

“The Ruby Sceptre”, recently published by Ngaio Publishing, is a fantasy adventure story for children by New Zealand author Kirsteen McLay-Knopp (me). 🙂

A number of people have asked me what age group “The Ruby Sceptre” is suitable for.  Long ago at a writing workshop I was told not to put an age on my characters for children, as this encourages a wider  audience age range.  A 13 year old who is a reluctant reader may be put off if he or she thinks, for example, that the characters are only 10.  So I’ve left the characters ages open.  Another tip I learned from the writing workshops was that kids love food and if you read “The Ruby Sceptre”, you will see that there are a lot of references to food:  Xuen, the main female character, loves marshmallows and Sus, the main male character, loves chocolate-covered bananas.

The main characters, Xuen (a girl, left) and Sus (a boy, right) on a flying carpet created by magic

The main characters, Xuen (a girl, left) and Sus (a boy, right) on a flying carpet created by magic

I love the fantasy genre (as well as many others) and have been privileged throughout my life to have read (and had read to me) some of the best.  I don’t think we can ever have too many books in this genre (or too many books of any sort) and anything that keeps our kids engaged and reading is a plus.   Let’s face it, we all need a bit of magic and escape in life at times too.    My hopes are that “The Ruby Sceptre” will provide joy and magic to many for years to come.

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 “The Ruby Sceptre” is now available on Amazon… please follow the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The+Ruby+Sceptre&rh=n%3A283155%2Ck%3AThe+Ruby+Sceptre

 

 

A New Book about an Important Issue: “Stolen Lives”, by Netta England

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There have been over 300,000 children abused in NZ state care. I am one of them. So many suffered hideous abuse. This is our nation’s greatest shame.

My name is Netta Christian (nee England). My book ‘Stolen Lives’ is the record of my journey from a neglected and abused state ward, to a woman who discovered her heritage and went on to create a positive life, regardless of her upbringing.

Netta and her brother Ray as children

Netta and her brother Ray as children

I was raised with my brother Ray as a ward of the state in Papatoetoe, Auckland, New Zealand. I was educated at Papatoetoe Primary School and Otahuhu College, where I passed the school certificate examination.

Ray and I hardly knew our mother. She was a strange woman who made occasional visits, and we did not even know we had a father. From a very early age we lived with foster parents and at school we were treated as different. Growing up, I became increasingly aware that my foster mother disliked me. Though never starved, I suffered neglect, as well as mental, physical and sexual abuse.

I am now widowed and have three grown up children and three grandchildren, and live in a Hamilton retirement village.

Netta as a child with her doll

Netta as a child with her doll

In April 2011, the NZ Herald ran a front-page feature story about my wish to start a support group for those who were abused in state care. In 2013, I helped to set up the NZ branch of CLAN (Care Leavers Australasia Network) www.clan.org.au. This group offers support, justice and healing for all those who lived in institutional care as a child.

I believe that my book ‘Stolen Lives’ will positively impact upon people who have had similar experiences and upbringing in care. It is a captivating and beneficial read for all types of people, holding particular interest for care leavers and political activists.

Netta today

Netta today

Copies of Stolen Lives (NZ$30 plus postage) are available for purchase on my website www.StolenLives.co.nz or contact me at stolenlives00@gmail.com

See also Facebook Page:  https://www.facebook.com/Stolen-Lives-by-Netta-England

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40+ Children’s Books about Human Rights & Social Justice, by Monisha Bajaj

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Young people have an innate sense of right and wrong, fair and unfair.  Explaining the basics of human rights in age appropriate ways with stories and examples can set the foundation for a lifelong commitment to social responsibility and global citizenship.

As a parent to a preschooler and a professor of peace and human rights education, here are my top picks for children’s books that discuss important issues—and that are visually beautiful. Some of the books listed offer an overview of rights; the majority show individuals and organizations past and present who have struggled to overcome injustices. All offer different levels of child-friendly images, concepts and text.

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With my son who is 3, sometimes we will skip certain passages or pages, but introducing him to books like the ones listed below that include characters of different races, religions, genders, abilities, sexual orientations, and other backgrounds at an early age will hopefully lay the foundation for deeper engagement with these texts and issues later on. Lately, he has been making tea in his play kitchen for Martin Luther King Jr. and the other day asked about Nelson Mandela’s grandchildren.

Some of these books are on our shelf at home, others we have found at the library or at friends’ houses.

What’s on your list of go-to books for talking about human rights and social justice issues with your children? Let’s keep the list growing in the comments section below!

**These books should be easily searchable, and I’ve created a book list on Amazon.com atthis link with all the books mentioned in this post.

The Right to Equality & Peace

1. We are all Born Free by Amnesty International

About the basics of human dignity as elaborated in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

2. Whoever you Are by Mem Fox

About the common humanity we all share regardless of race, color, religion, nationality, gender, ability or sexual orientation

3. Can you Say Peace?  By Karen Katz

A book about how peace looks in different countries around the world and a celebration of September 21 – the date the United Nations has declared the International Day of Peace

4. A is for Activist by Innosanto Nagara

A colorful board book with an introduction to speaking up and acting for social change whether related to LGBTQ rights, racial justice, or sustainability.

The Right to Education

5. Separate Is Never Equal: Sylvia Mendez and Her Family’s Fight for Desegregation by Duncan Tonatiuh

About the landmark 1947 case fought by a Latino family to desegregate whites-only schools in California that served as a precursor to the Brown vs. Board decision in 1954.

6. Malala, a Brave Girl from Pakistan/Iqbal, a Brave Boy from Pakistan: Two Stories of Bravery by Jeanette Winter

About two young advocates for educational rights who were both attacked in Pakistan—Malala Yousafzai and the lesser-known Iqbal Masih. While Iqbal didn’t survive the attack on him, Malala went on to advocate for the right to education for girls worldwide and win the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

7. The Story of Ruby Bridges by Robert Coles

About a young woman at the forefront of school desegregation in 1960 after the Brown vs. Board. The book shows her fortitude in enduring harassment from angry mobs to get a quality education.

8. Waiting for BiblioBurro by Monica Brown (author) and John Parra (illustrator)

Inspired by the real-life story of Luis Soriano, who started a mobile library with donkeys carrying hundreds of books over long distances for children in rural areas of Colombia.

The Right to Migrate and Seek Asylum

9. Mama’s Nightingale by Edwidge Danticat (author) and Leslie Staub (illustrator)

Written by award-winning Haitian-American novelist, Edwidge Danticat, this book is about a family separated by the U.S. immigration system and how love transcends borders and orders of deportation.

10. Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant’s Tale by Duncan Tonatiuh

Young Pancho the Rabbit misses his father who has gone north and sets out to find him, but encounters a coyote whose help comes at a high cost. This book introduces the hardships that thousands of migrant families face.

(To read more of this article, please follow the link below…)

http://www.niahouse.org/blog-fulton/2016/11/3/40-childrens-books-about-human-rights-social-justice

“The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog”, by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz. A Book Review and Analysis by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Dog

I found “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” a fascinating read and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in child psychology or who works with traumatised children… or even if you just have a general interest in how our minds (and the developing minds of children in particular) respond to trauma.  The full title of this book is “The Boy Who was raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook, What Traumatized Children can Teach us about Loss, Love and Healing” and the authors are Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, and Maia Szalavitz.

One of the things I liked about this book was that, despite saying that traumatic events can “leave indelible marks on the mind [and the]…impact of PTSD [Post Traumatic Shock Disorder] is actually far greater on children than it is on adults” [p.2], the overall tone is positive and hopeful, both for children who have been affected by PTSD as a consequence of  severe abuse and/ or neglect or due to witnessing horrific events, as well as for adults affected by PTSD.   Bruce D. Perry, a child psychiatrist and Senior Fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy (USA and Canada) is the “voice” of this book, which he wrote together with Maia Szalavitz, an award winning journalist who specialises in science and health.  Perry compassionately and respectfully acknowledges the immense importance of “The Forever Years” (childhood) and the importance of investing in and creating a serious strategy of therapy for children  affected by trauma.

As a “lay person” (non-psychiatrist) I found “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” clear and self-explanatory.   On page 21 there is an excellent description of how our human brain develops: …“there are four major parts of the brain: the brainstem, the diencephalon, the limbic system and the cortex.  The brain is organised from the inside out, like a house with increasingly complicated additions built on an old foundation.  The lower and most central regions of the brainstem and the diencephalon are the simplest.  They evolved first, and they develop first as a child grows.  As you move upward and outward, things get increasingly more complex with the limbic system.”

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Source: “The Boy who was raised as a Dog,” appendix, figure 2, p. 248.

The younger a child is when a traumatic event occurs, Perry says, the greater the affect on the lower and most central regions of the brain.  This, he explains, is “developmental trauma” (as opposed to inherent anxiety or stress disorders caused in utero or by genetics).  Trauma in early childhood causes “altered receptors” or heightened sensitivity to “threat”: an over-exaggerated “fight or flight” reaction, based on triggers which the person may not even  be consciously aware of themselves and which, in others who have not undergone similar trauma, would probably not cause such a reaction.  A clear indicator, Perry realised,  was that children with this “heightened sensitivity” had, even when calm and resting, an accelerated heart rate at a level significantly above that of their non-traumatised peers of the same age and gender.

The responses of traumatised children, Perry explains, can be to create more “chaos”, as this has been their “norm” in the past and brain pathways of accepting chaos as normality have been set up.  Adults who undertake social work or foster care, for example, should be aware of this.  “The responses of traumatised children are often misinterpreted.   …new situations are inherently stressful… attempting to take control of what they believe is the inevitable return to chaos, they appear to “provoke” it in order to make things feel more comfortable and predictable.   …we tend to prefer the “certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.”  This response to trauma can often cause serious problems for children when it is misunderstood by their caregivers.”  [p.55].

Following from this, Perry says that he and his colleagues recognised that “…the nature of a child’s relationships–both before and after trauma– seemed to play a critical role in shaping their response to it.  If safe, familiar and capable caregivers were made available to children, they tended to recover more easily, often showing no enduring negative effects of the traumatic event.  We knew that the “trauma-buffering” effect of relationships had to be mediated, somehow, by the brain.”  [p.66]

This is where the amazing capacity of our human brains to “heal” and create “new pathways”, even years after traumatic events which have occurred during early childhood (during the first, early stages of brain development) comes into play.

“…we tend to care for our children [and, interestingly, for ourselves as adults] the way we were cared for ourselves during our own childhoods, [so] a good “brain” history of a child begins with a history of the caregiver’s childhood and early experience.” [p.83].  Our “Forever Years”, then, are also effected by the “Forever Years” of those caring for us when we are young.  The diagnosis “failure to thrive” in a child ” (discussed on p.88) can stem from a parent or parents not having  thrived themselves during their own childhood years.   In extreme cases, even  when other, basic needs (such as for food, shelter and clothing) are met, if a carer is emotionally “distant” a child may fail to gain weight or be delayed in other ways (such as speech or other developmental milestones).  This is purely a “nurture” (or lack of nurture) issue, and nothing to do with anything innate in the child.  Perry talks about how until recently, doctors were “...unaware of the damage that neglect alone can do to the brain.  They assumed that something so clearly visible on scans had to be evidence of a genetic defect or intrauterine insult, such as exposure to toxins or disease; they couldn’t imagine that early environment alone could have such profound physical effects.” [p. 129].

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Neurologists say that the sizeable difference between these two brains of two different 3-year-olds has one primary cause: the way that their mothers treated them. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D./Ch Source: http://www.medicaldaily.com/chilling-brain-scans-show-impact-mothers-love-childs-brain-size-243328

“Fortunately the positive cycle is every bit as cascading and self-amplifying as the vicious cycle,” Perry says, [p.121] and while emotional scars may always be present, the intervention of a loving, understanding environment can reprogram reactions and triggers.  This is enormously positive  when considering the effect on  future social interactions (including romantic relationships) for traumatised children as they grow into adulthood and becomes parents themselves.  The more relationships are positively retained and jobs and parenting situations are handled in constructive ways, the stronger and more confident the “traumatised child now adult” will become, which in turn further aids healing of old, emotional scars.

Perry doesn’t just put this forward as a vague hypothesis, however.  Throughout “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” he gives concrete examples through case studies of real patients he has worked with (obviously, these children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy).   Each is an example of a child suffering from severe trauma, including the “boy who was raised as a dog,” who gives the book its title.  Through his work, Perry says, he and his colleagues “…only gradually came to understand how the sequential development of a child’s brain is affected by trauma and neglect.  It only gradually dawned on us that this understanding could help us find possible treatments. These insights led us to develop what we call the neurosequential approach to theraputic services for maltreated and traumatised children. [p.125].

I love the “neurosequential” approach Perry and his colleagues take, along with the immense positive ramifications it has for the children they are working with.  The nuerosequential approach works on the basis of assessing which areas in a patient’s brain have sustained damage or neglect from past experiences, and then addressing these one by one.   “We would use enrichment experiences and targeted therapies to help the affected brain areas in the order in which they were affected by neglect and trauma (hence the name neurosequential).  If we could document improved functioning following the first set of interventions, we would begin the second set appropriate  for the next brain region and developmental stage until, hopefully,… [the patient] would get to the point where his biological age and his developmental age would match.”  [p.139].

Just as our brains develop sequentially, then, neurosequential therapy is aimed at addressing “loss” in development (caused by abuse, neglect or trauma) in a sequential manner.  Perry uses the example of a boy called Connor (not his real name), now aged fourteen, who had suffered from severe neglect as a baby.  “In Connor’s case, It was clear that his problems had started in early infancy, when the lower and most central regions of the brain are actively developing.  These systems respond to rhythm and touch: the brainstem’s regulatory centres control heartbeat, the rise and fall of neurochemicals and hormones in the cycle of day and night, the beat of one’s walk and other patterns which must maintain a rhythmic order to function properly.” [pp.139-140].  For Connor, “treatment” began with massage therapy, as early neglect had left him with an aversion to touch which was affecting his ability to even make eye contact with others, and hence affecting his social relationships.

Perry goes on to describe the “levels” or “layers” of neurosequential therapy, each of which respond to and attempt to address a deficit caused by trauma earlier on.

White Layers

Touch

kangaroo-careTouch is, of course, our earliest form of validation and security from our carers.  This is the reason for the importance placed on giving newborn babies “skin to skin” contact and the psychological benefits of this can be seen throughout life.  (See previous articles on this blog about the importance of positive touch in early childhood and throughout life, by following the links below).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/infant-massage-nurturing-touch-and-self-care-for-the-caregiver-by-erin-e-sonnier-from-nurtured-child-nurtured-you

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/touch-as-nutrition-by-john-tuite/

Music and Movement

Many of us parents take our preschoolers to “Music and Movement” groups thinking that that’s just “what you do” and that it gives us a chance to socialise with other parents and connect with and focus on our children in a child-centred environment.  All of this is true and the benefits of music to our babies and children has been well documented.  (Again, there is a link to follow below if you would like to read an article about the benefits of music to our kids).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/5-ways-in-which-kids-benefit-from-learning-a-musical-instrument-by-justine-pierre/

After reading “The Boy Who was raised as a Dog”, I came to realise that, beyond being merely “beneficial”, music and movement are essential in brain development, affecting crucial areas such as language acquisition and breathing and heart rate regulation. Music and humanity have been linked since the dawn of time, with every culture having songs and rhymes for children passed down from generation to generation.  They are part of the fabric of who we are.

Play Therapy

mi1_675Perry describes how “play therapy” is used in treating traumatised children and in particular talks about Sandy (not her real name), a three year old girl who witnessed her mother being raped and stabbed to death, before having her own throat slit and being left for dead.  Sandy was alone with her mother’s body in their apartment for eleven hours before being discovered, taken to hospital and having the wounds on her neck treated. [p.33].   Perry discovered that Sandy had a need to role play the scene which had traumatised her again and again.  This involved  Perry himself lying on the ground, in the role of Sandy’s mother, while Sandy attempted to “wake” him and “feed” him, which she had done with her mother during the eleven hours after the brutal attack on them both.  [p.52].  “While she did this [role play] , I had to do exactly what she wanted: don’t talk, don’t move, don’t interfere, don’t stop.  She needed to have total control while she performed this reenactment.  And that control, I began to recognize, would be critical to helping her heal.”  Over the course of manyPlato-play+blue months, Sandy began to alter this re-enactment and, on her own, changed it to a scene where Perry would read her a story book, thus reverting to a positive memory of times with her mother before the attack.  This is not to say that Sandy wasn’t scarred by her extremely traumatic experience.  But “play therapy” in this way enabled her to process what had happened and move towards healing.  Perry says that, with ongoing therapy and encouragement, Sandy went on to lead a satisfying and productive life, despite her horrific early  experience.

The importance of “play” is something for all parents and carers to be aware of.  A particularly useful article on “Attachment Play” (especially beneficial to children being fostered or adopted, who may have attachment issues or disorders, but also beneficial to our children generally) was recently published by Marion Badenoch Rose, here on the “Forever Years”.  (To read it, please follow the link below):

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/an-introduction-to-attachment-play-by-marion-badenoch-rose/

Some other articles on the importance of play can be found at the links below:

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/the-remarkable-power-of-play-why-play-is-so-important-for-children-by-karen-young/

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/let-the-children-play-outside-by-greenlife-matters-the-nursery-and-garden-industry-new-zealand/

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/help-my-toddler-cant-play-without-me-by-janet-lansbury/

Interaction with Peers

kidsplaying-on-playgroundPerry says the next step in neurosequential therapy is being able to aptly interact with peers.  This is a big step, as adults make allowances and try to protect or help a child who they see as having “issues”, but successful peer interaction (and acceptance of and by peers) is necessary to be able to function throughout the rest of life, with implications for all future relationships.  Perry discusses the case of Peter (not his real name) a seven year old boy who was adopted at age three from an orphanage in Russia.  Due to early lack of stimulation and neglect during his time at the orphanage (where intentions were good, but there were simply not enough adults to go around, meaning that Peter and the other three year olds there were fed and changed, but spent all day in cots), Peter, who was an intelligent boy, showed behaviour which was young for his age and, inspite of loving and patient behaviour from his adoptive parents at home, this caused him to be rejected and marginalised by his peers… which in turn led Peter to having angry, bewildered outburts (which only served to further ostracise him from his classmates).

Mandela“The behavior of his classmates was predictable.  What was happening was a small version of what happens all across the planet in various forms every day.  Human beings fear what they don’t understand.  The unknown scares us.  When we meet people who look or act in unfamiliar, strange ways, our initial response is to keep them at arms length.  At times we make ourselves feel superior, smarter or more competent by dehumanizing or degrading those who are different.  The roots of so many of our species’ ugliest behaviors– racism, ageism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, to name just a few– are the basic brain-mediated response to perceived threat.  We tend to fear what we do not understand, and fear can so easily twist into hate or even violence because it can suppress the rational parts of our brain.”  [p.225].

The biggest predator of humans is humans and we have, therefore, a built in fear of other people who seem “different”.  Perry says, “...Peter was intellectually advanced, but socially clueless.  I realised that if he was going to catch up, he was going to need the help of his peers.” [p.226].

choose-wiselyWhat followed was an amazing (and yet simple) exercise in understanding.  Our fear reaction so often kicks in, but the empathy reaction can take longer to activate (in children or adults), but, it has been shown, empathy once activated is stronger than the fear reaction.  To get Peter’s peers “on side” in his healing, Perry (with the permission of Peter, his parents and the school) came along to his class and spoke about the brain… at a level at which seven year old children could understand.

Dr. Bruce D. Perry (author of "The Boy who was raised as a Dog", "talking about the brain".

Dr. Bruce D. Perry (author of “The Boy who was raised as a Dog”, “talking about the brain”.  Source: http://davidsmithsegarra.com/born-love-dr-bruce-perry/

I talked about how they were exercising their “ABC” muscles [of the brain] in school and about the importance of repetition.  I described how they had many other similar kinds of “muscles” in the brain that also needed certain kinds of attention to grow big and strong.  I talked about how the brain develops and what makes everyone’s brain work, emphasizing how the brain changes.” [p.228].

Perry then went on to explain how Peter had had a different and more difficult start in life than the other children in his class.

An orphanage in Eastern Europe. Source: National Geographic.

An orphanage in Eastern Europe. Source: National Geographic.

“When he was a little boy, he spent every minute of every day for the first three years of his life in one crib.  …  Peter was born in another country where they did not know very much about the brain.  … Peter never had a chance to walk around, to play with friends, to get a hug from any loving grown-ups.  His brain didn’t get very much stimulation.  … his new parents came… [then] Peter’s amazing brain started to learn so many things.  Even though he had never heard English, he learned English in just a couple of years. … every day in school, Peter learns things from all of you.  He watches how you do things, he learns from playing with each of you and he learns from just being your friend.  So thank you for helping Peter.  And thanks for letting me come and talk about the brain.”  [pp.228-229].

Perry says that, in the weeks that followed, the children’s “natural goodness” came to the surface and they “included him, protected him and, ultimately, provided therapeutic experiences that helped Peter catch up…. adults have much more influence over the process [of helping children understand those who are different] than they may believe.  When children understand why someone behaves oddly, they give him or her more slack…” [p.229].

tribal-fear-altruism

In Conclusion

The Boy Who was raised as a Dog” has many more examples of the amazing capacity of the human brain to recover from early neglect or trauma, including the story which gives the book its title.  Perry also worked with the children from the WACO Texas cult and talks about his experiences with them in this book.  While Perry’s patients are extreme examples of trauma or abuse, he says an estimated 40% of children will experience some level of trauma before they reach adulthood [p. 233] and that some of our current practices of therapy and childcare are actually causing more harm than healing [p.235].  He advocates for an “infant and child literate society” [p.239] and a nurturing of empathy– which is why we at “The Forever Years” love this book, which fits in so well with our own ethos, of viewing the world “through the eyes of a child”, an ethos which Perry certainly puts into action when treating children who have suffered from trauma or neglect.

Related Links:

Life After Stress: The Biology of Trauma and Resilience

http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2012/08/02/what-americans-dont-get-about-the-brains-critical-period/

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/529-baby-brain-map

http://nancyguberti.com/5-stages-of-human-brain-development/

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“The Children of Herculaneum”, by Carol Krueger (A Book Review, by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp)

Herc FY

“The Children of Herculaneum” is the most recently  published book by New Zealand mother of eight and long time drama teacher and author for children, Carol Krueger. This well-presented text with colourful photographs and an exciting fast-paced story, stands out from other children’s novels in that it brings alive, for kids, the events relating to the erruption of Mount Vesuvius on August 24th 79 AD.   An epilogue at the end of the novel has pictures and a child-friendly text describing the reality of the events that took place, as well as the excavations nearly two thousand years later, which tell us about the lives of the people who lived in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Personally, I love Classical history, which I studied at High School and University.  Prior to this, however, I didn’t know much about ancient Greece or Rome.  Books which ignite an interest in such history for our younger readers are few and far between.

Our seven and eight year old children have read “The Children of Herculaneum” and thoroughly enjoyed it.    Some of their comments on Krueger’s text were as follows:

“I like how the story is told by Portia the slave girl, who is just an ordinary kid, but because of when she lived she had to be a slave.”

“It was interesting that the water fountains dried up and the mice ran away and the donkey had to be blindfolded because he was upset… the nature and animals knew there was going to be an exploding volcano way before the humans did.”

“Portia’s owners’ daughter, Claudia, was spoilt and mean… the characters really seem like real people.”

“The bit about Julius, the boy who is an actor and wears masks on the stage, is really interesting.”

Personally, I like the quotation on page 19 about acting:

“…I love to act, there is nothing like it.  You stand on the stage and suddenly you’re in another world.  And you can FEEL the audience.”

This is certainly true of Carol Krueger, who loves acting and teaching drama as well as writing and history.

LC FY

Author, drama teacher and mother of eight Carol Krueger, dressed as “a woman from ancient Herculaneum” for a recent play.

Anyone interested in purchasing copies of “The Children of Herculaneum” can contact Carol Krueger on 0224557805 or on Facebook.  Prices are $10 for a soft cover edition or $15 for hard cover.

To learn more about Carol Krueger’s drama lessons (which are for both children and adults), please call the same number and also read our article about her (link below).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/delightfully-dramatic-the-benefits-to-our-kids-of-being-involved-in-theatre-an-interview-with-drama-teacher-carol-krueger/

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Two Parents Hope To End Child Sexual Abuse With A Storybook, by Madeline Muir

authors

Parents Kate and Rod Power are aiming to end child sexual abuse through educating kids about the dangers with a storybook.

“I’ve been a police officer for 15 years and have seen some terrible things involving kids,” Kate told the ABC.

“When I had my own three kids I thought being a police officer I knew enough to protect them but then a few things happened in my own community really close to my kids that made me realise I was wrong.

“I can’t protect my kids, they’re vulnerable, I need to teach them and let them protect their private parts if need be.”

Kate and Rod Power are trying to end child sexual abuse by safeguarding their children (and hopefully others) against sexual abuse, by educating them about protecting their private parts.

“I started thinking about what I remembered from my childhood and the thing that stuck the most was nursery rhymes so that’s how we came up with the idea to do the rule as a rhyming book so kids can engage with it and pick it up really quickly,” Rod told the ABC.

They came up with the idea of a child-friendly storybook called My Underpants Rule, to teach kids from four to eight that they have control.

(Read more and watch a fun video at the following link…)

http://www.kiis1065.com.au/entertainment/the-feed/two-parents-hope-to-end-child-sexual-abuse-with-a-storybook/

A Book Review: ‘Be the Best Mom You Can Be: A Guide to Raising Whole Children in a Broken Generation’

Review by Sarah Wilson

Be the Best Mom You Can Be

If you are like most moms (including me!) you probably feel stress and insecurity facing the challenges of being a mom in the twenty-first century.”~from the book “Be the Best Mom You Can Be: A Practical Guide to Raising Whole Children in a Broken Generation”

There are many, many parenting books available today. So many, that it can sometimes be rather overwhelming for parents. In fact, this parenting game is a bit like wading through a bog of advice. But for the most part I do enjoy reading parenting books. I like reading about the experiences of others, and I like applying snippets of advice from the parenting book gems that I read. And ‘Be the Best Mom You Can Be’ is a gem of a book. It’s not preachy or condescending like some parenting books can be. And it doesn’t offer a one size fits all approach…

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