Category Archives: Must-Read

What it means to be different — and alone

KYLIE LOGOI HEARD THE NOVEL “Out of My Mind” as a read-aloud in Mrs. Eklund’s class. Now I’m reading it to my mother.

Based on the author’s own daughter, it’s about this girl, Melody Brooks, who has cerebral palsy. She can’t speak or walk. She can only move her thumbs.

Everybody thinks Melody doesn’t know a lot but she’s actually very intelligent. The book explains her troubles through fifth grade. She’s alone with her thoughts and feelings. Then she gets a computerized device called a Medi-Talker that she can use to help herself be understood.

For the first time she can communicate by voice. She makes friends.
The author says on her website that she didn’t want anyone reading the book to feel sorry for Melody because she wanted to make Melody an unforgettable character — someone to cheer on. She also said she wanted her readers to think people are more alike than different. And what it’s like to be handicapped.

Staffer Kylie Lowell, then in fifth grade, reviews 'Out Of My Mind' by Sharon Draper for our April 2015 edition.
Staffer Kylie Lowell, then in fifth grade, reviews ‘Out Of My Mind’ by Sharon Draper for our April 2015 edition.

We know a lot about Melody because the book is written from her perspective, in the first person. She really likes country music. Her favorite song is “Elvira,” by the Oak Ridge Boys. Her name is musical, too. This was a good detail.

The book made me think of how smart people can really be, even if they’re in a wheelchair — and it made me think badly about how so-called “normal” people can treat people in wheelchairs. I don’t do this but I have seen it happen.

The cover of “Out of My Mind” shows Melody’s goldfish, Ollie, leaping out of his bowl. We discussed this in class. Melody had felt badly for Ollie because he was swimming in circles, doing the same thing, every day, and then it finally jumped out of the bowl. I think the book is called “Out of My Mind” because Melody is relating to the fish: She’s in her mind; she can’t say her thoughts. She can’t speak.

I think that when the fish jumped out of the bowl she sympathized.
Mrs. Eklund is a very good reader. Our class really liked hearing this story, and we were sad when on certain days we missed it. We were also very sad at certain parts of the story, because Melody’s situation was sad, and then things changed. I admire Melody for having gone through everything she did.

This novel is good for kids and adults. Read it.

World of Egyptian mythology lives on!

Egyptian Mythology bookEliza logo

THE ANCIENT EGYPTIANS had a rich, complex mythology. These stories helped them try to understand where they came from and how their world worked.

The National Geographic “Treasury of Egyptian Mythology,” by Donna Jo Napoli and illustrated by Christina Balit, sets the stage for all that would follow:

In the beginning, before there was time, water spread in every direction, though there was no direction really because there was no up, no down; no east, no west; no inside, no outside. This water lay cold and colorless. A wet nothingness that hummed nunnnnnn. Nun. Nun. This was the cosmos.

Think about that: nothing but water, everywhere. Pretty crazy right? Well, suddenly, waves started: at first pretty small ones, but then they started to turn into tsunamis all in a rhythm: thump-thump, thump-thump. A heat formed around this pulse, a heart with a thought in it:

Ah, the first profound disorder: thought. This single thought rubbed faster and faster until it warmed and finally ignited language. The god Ra sprang into life with a word already in his mouth.

More bubbled up. Words now crowded his mouth. They trampled his tongue and pushed against his teeth, his lips. He had so many words to enunciate. The need hammered at him. From that very need came lungs and a voice box and muscles to make it all move. Ra shouted the first word over and over, and those shouts formed lava and spewed forth through the waters of Nun in a fiery explosion. That was the first thing Ra made. A mound of creation that Ra called benben.

Ra’s words held the power of creation. This myth allowed humans to name things, worship things, and have a theory of how everything around them was made.

MythtifiedTefnut, goddess of moisture, had two children, Geb and Nut, the sky and the Earth. Knowing where these things came from allowed the Egyptians to know what the Earth and the sky were. It allowed them to explain the existence of the sky and the Earth. Through this story the mortals were able to learn how and when the universe was created, and they wanted to know more — which was important for ancient scientists. They used this information to further study both sky and Earth, later leading to discoveries that have formed our science world now.

Tehuti is the god of knowledge. He is why the Egyptians made each year have 365 days. He is the one who ensured that mortals can solve problems. He gave people spoken and written words, numbers, reason, and science. Tehuti gave people the tools and ability to understand the world. He ensures the cycle of night and day by bringing Ra across the sky every morning.

For the Egyptians, without Tehuti there was no night and day, no sun, no sunsets or sunrises. They worshiped him for fear that if he got mad the cycle of day and night would be lost forever.

These are the ways that Egyptian mythology played a role in ancient Egyptians’ lives.


This is the first in Eliza Bogel’s occasional series on world mythology for the Flow.

Today’s comics, graphic novels educate, inspire, dazzle

Melissa Lewis-Gentry, manager at Modern Myths in Northampton, says today’s comics and graphic novels can bring many more kids into the world of reading — and can open up many more types of adventures than did comics of yesteryear. For more information visit modern-myths.com.
Melissa Lewis-Gentry, manager at Modern Myths in Northampton, says today’s comics and graphic novels can bring many more kids into the world of reading — and can open up many more types of adventures than did comics of yesteryear.

IT WAS ALWAYS Melissa Lewis-Gentry’s dream to run a comic store. Growing up on the adventures of superheroes such as Stan Lee and Steve Ditko’s Amazing Spider-Man and the angsty, cosmic Silver Surfer, her tastes grew to include the likes of Neil Gaiman’s layered Sandman series and other titles that took their stories — and readers — more seriously.

She worked 10 years in finance then took the chance to follow her dream. She’s been managing Modern Myths Comics & Games in Northampton for nearly a year and enjoys spending her time in a wide, bright, rich, beautiful — and sometimes shadowy — world where anything can happen.

Often that involves helping families and libraries help kids get into reading.

“I’m really big into education and using comics as education. Whether it’s for family members or through the Springfield library system, I provide comics and give recommendations at different reading levels,” she told the Flow.

She also said she’s “really big into having comics where the content crosses any kind of gender stereotyping,” so kids can feel free to enjoy the adventure without being told it’s for them or not for them.
Asked for her top picks for elementary and middle school readers, Lewis-Gentry makes a bee-line for a colorful section devoted to all-age readers.

Here are a few of the titles she said kids, families, and teachers have told her they’ve enjoyed:

Amulet‘Amulet’

Amulet, a graphic novel series by Kazu Kibuishi published by Scholastic in six volumes since 2008, offers what Lewis-Gentry calls “a lot of life lessons and beautiful, lavish art. It’s not the comic strips you’re imagining from being a kid,” she says.

BONE‘Bone’

Bone, a critical and commercial smash, is an independently published comic series written and illustrated by Jeff Smith. There were 55 irregularly released issues from 1991 to 2004.

After being run out of Boneville, the three Bone cousins — Fone Bone, Phoney Bone, and Smiley Bone — are separated and lost in a vast, uncharted desert. One by one they find their way into a deep forested valley filled with wonderful and terrifying creatures.

Lewis-Gentry hails this as a new classic especially awesome for younger readers struggling to read.

“There are a lot of words but you can tell what’s going on with the story [through the art] and it really encourages kids to keep reading.
“It’s a fantasy story, a quest. He’s this silly kind of kids’ cartoony creature but he’s going on this epic adventure, meeting dragons, fighting monsters, and making friends. There’s a lot of text and a lot of context clues as well.”

Lewis-Gentry cites academic studies that she says show comics engage different parts of the brain that stereotypical or standard reading does not.

“So people who might have difficulty reading, whether it’s a learning disability, dyslexia, or anything like that — can read comics and understand the same level of content as someone who’s reading just prose. Books like Bone are really, really great for things like that.”

Sisters‘Sisters’

Raina Telgemeier delights with Sisters, her Eisner Award-winning companion to her comic memoir, Smile.

“This is awesome. The art is interesting; it’s about family dynamics; there’s a decent amount of reading level in it; and the content is great,” Lewis-Gentry says.

And her store does sell superhero titles by the shelf-full, as well as games and gaming modules.

“But,” she says, “not everyone is interested in superheroes. And there’s this stereotype that graphic novels for girls have to have princesses in them; that’s gone away. Now there are more expansive options out there. There’s lots and lots of good stuff.”


For more information visit modern-myths.com.

Parents name favorite books, authors from childhood

Parents name favorite books, authors from childhood

Try these comics!

I READ A LOT of comic books, and I’m sure you do too. Here are some of my favorites you might enjoy. What are yours?

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 7.42.51 PMFoxTrot

FoxTrot (Andrews McMeel Publishing) is written and illustrated by Bill Amend.  As of December 2006, FoxTrot was carried by more than 1,200 newspapers worldwide. The strip launched on April 10, 1988.

The first, and my favorite, is the FoxTrot series by Bill Amend. It’s about a family of three kids and their parents. The youngest child, Jason, is the smartest kid in his class and constantly getting into scrapes. He is obsessed with computer games, Jurassic Park, and tormenting his sister, Paige, the middle child.

Paige is really into fashion and all that other teenage girl stuff. There isn’t really much to say about her but she plays a huge role in the comics.

Last but not least is Peter, the oldest. Peter is really into sports and is always trying to get Jason to play baseball — or any other sport — with him, though Jason usually refuses.

Roger Fox, a.k.a. Dad, loves to play chess and golf. There isn’t much more to tell you about him so let’s talk about Andy (Andrea) Fox. She loves to cook but she is still in what scientists might call the experimental phase. She works at home and is really into all that family-bonding stuff.

Some readers know FoxTrot from its Sunday strip but it’s also collected into books, and I recommend these for people 8 and up.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 7.43.33 PMCalvin and Hobbes

Calvin and Hobbes (Andrews McMeel Publishing) was syndicated from Nov, 18, 1985, to Dec. 31, 1995. At the height of its popularity, Calvin and Hobbes was featured in more than 2,400 newspapers worldwide. As of January 2015, reruns of the strip still appear in more than 50 countries.

Calvin and Hobbes, by Bill Watterson, is about a 6-year-old boy named Calvin and his (stuffed) tiger, Hobbes, pronounced Hobs. Calvin and Hobbes form a club in which they are the only members: G.R.O.S.S. (Get Rid Of Slimy girlS). Calvin hates going to school and gets in trouble a lot because of that.

Hobbes is a sarcastic yet lovable tiger who is alive in Calvin’s eyes.
My favorite part in these comic books is when Calvin pretends to be the brave Spaceman Spiff, who is always encountering aliens whenever Calvin is in trouble in the real world.

Calvin and Hobbes is good for all ages.

Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 7.44.47 PMThe Far Side

The Far Side, syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate, ran from Jan. 1, 1980 to Jan, 1, 1995. It was carried by more than 1,900 daily newspapers, translated into 17 languages, and collected into 23 compilation books.

One of my favorite comic book series is The Far Side, by Gary Larson. It’s basically a bunch of one-panel comics that do or do not have captions. The comics are usually based on animals but there are a lot of them based on people too.

Eliza logoI hope some of you will try to find and read some of these if you haven’t before. Let me know what you’re reading and maybe we can discuss that in a future column.