CM . . . . Volume XV Number 13. . . .February 20, 2009.
Think For Yourself: A Kid’s Guide to Solving Life’s Dilemmas and Other Sticky Problems.
Cynthia MacGregor. Illustrated by Paula Becker.
Montreal, PQ: Lobster Press, 2008.
142 pp., pbk. $14.95.
Children-Conduct of life-Juvenile literature.
Grades 4-7 / Ages 9-12.
Review by Lizanne Eastwood.
How many times have you said that to yourself? And don’t you hate the feeling that goes with it? That “Uh oh” feeling comes when you are facing a dilemma – a word meaning a problem that you don’t have an answer for right away A “What-an-I-supposed-to-do-now?” problem.
Life is full of problems, isn’t it? Small ones. Big ones. Sometimes you know what the answer is to a problem. Maybe you don’t like the answer, but you know what you’re supposed to do. Like when your friend asks you to help him cheat on a test. You know you’re supposed to say no. The problem here is finding a way to say it without seeming like a bad friend. This is what is called a dilemma.
The idea behind this book is to help you learn how to deal with life’s dilemmas. Because everyone’s life is different, I can’t think of every problem you’re likely to encounter. In the following pages I give you examples of some common dilemmas for kids your age and then provide you with some suggestions on how to solve them. Hopefully then, the next time you are faced with a dilemma of your own, you can remember some of these problem-solving techniques.
There is something to be said about looking at things in retrospect. That is what happened when I read this book. I kept thinking, “If only I had known how to say no, or knew how to stand up for myself in those situations we call dilemmas. Instead, I struggled through those trying situations and didn’t always make the smart choice. This book will definitely empower youngsters to “Do the Right Thing.”
Think For Yourself is a new edition of Cynthia MacGregor’s book, updated and expanded. The author comes across as a trusted friend, never preaching, just offering wisdom, insight and good advice.
The book is divided into 4 parts:
Part 1 – Dilemmas with your friends
Part 2 – Family Dilemmas
Part 3 – Dilemmas with Grown-ups
Part 4 – Everyday Dilemmas
MacGregor has also included a section called “Getting a Handle on Other Dilemmas.” At the end of the book, there is a listing of handy hotlines and web sites specifically for kids. These resources will help kids with problems that are too big to be dealt with in this book.
The dilemmas that MacGregor portrays are the problems that kids face on a daily basis. What do you do when a friend asks you to help them cheat on a math test? What do you do when you have made plans with one friend and then another friend offers you a chance to do something else at the same time, something totally awesome? How do you thank a relative for a gift you really dislike?
These dilemmas go beyond just good manners, ultimately helping youngsters think for themselves as they determine what is right and wrong and where they can find the personal strength to deal with these issues. MacGregor discusses why each situation she presents is a dilemma, and then what to do if the solution you come up with isn’t a good one, and is there another way around the problem? Through each situation, she encourages youngsters to think for themselves. As a homeschooling parent, my main purpose in educating my own children, who are now older teenagers, was to teach them how to think for themselves. This book would have been a great resource.
The illustrations by Paula Becker are wonderful, capturing the emotions and frustrations kids feel when they are in a situation they aren’t sure how to deal with.
I think Think For Yourself would be a great addition to any classroom course dealing with self-esteem and confidence. Parents should purchase a copy and leave it lying around the house for their kids to find. Great discussions could follow.
Lizanne Eastwood is a Community Literacy Coordinator with the Columbia Basin Alliance for Literacy, a library employee and a home schooling parent of two active teenagers in Grand Forks, BC.
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