________________ CM . . . . Volume XVI Number 22 . . . . February 12, 2010

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Can We Be Friends? Buddy-Building Strategies. (Slim Goodbody's Life Skills 101).

John Burstein.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2010.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-4809-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-4793-2 (RLB.).

Subject Heading:
Friendship-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-4 / Ages 8-9.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

** /4

   
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Can We Get Along? Dealing with Differences. (Slim Goodbody's Life Skills 101).

John Burstein.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2010.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-4804-5 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-4788-8 (RLB.).

Subject Heading:
Toleration-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-4 / Ages 8-9.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

** /4

   
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Have You Heard? Active Listening. (Slim Goodbody's Life Skills 101).

John Burstein.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2010.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-4806-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-4790-1 (RLB.).

Subject Heading:
Listening-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-4 / Ages 8-9.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

** /4

   
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I Said No! Refusal Skills. (Slim Goodbody's Life Skills 101).

John Burstein.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2010.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-4805-2 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-4789-5 (RLB.).

Subject Headings:
Peer pressure-Juvenile literature.
Decision making-Juvenile literature.
Risk-taking (Psychology)-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-4 / Ages 8-9.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

** /4

   
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What Should I Do? Making Good Decisions. (Slim Goodbody's Life Skills 101).

John Burstein.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2010.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-4807-6 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-4791-8 (RLB.).

Subject Heading:
Decision making-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-4 / Ages 8-9.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

** /4

   
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Why Are You Picking On Me? Dealing with Bullies. (Slim Goodbody's Life Skills 101).

John Burstein.
St. Catharines, ON: Crabtree, 2010.
32 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $20.76 (hc.).
ISBN 978-0-7787-4808-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-0-7787-4792-5 (RLB.).

Subject Heading:
Bullying-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-4 / Ages 8-9.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

** /4

   

excerpt:

When you are listening to someone, do not keep your eyes frozen in place, in other words, don't stare. Your gaze should be friendly and open. You can look at the speaker's face as a whole. Then look in his eyes for a moment or two. Shift your gaze to the person's hands and then back to his face.

Don't move your eyes around too much. You don't want to look wild and strange! (From Have You Heard? Active Listening.)

 

Slim Goodbody (aka John Burstein) presents this news series, "Slim Goodbody's Life Skills 101," designed to help young students develop social skills such as communication, decision-making, assertiveness, active listening and tolerance. Each of the books has 13 chapters as well as a table of contents, a glossary, an index and a list of books and web sites for further information. Some of the web sites include games, tips, and free downloads for kids, teachers and parents. All titles begin with a story related to the topic, followed by a brief introduction by Slim and the reasons why the featured topic is so important. The remainder of the book is devoted to explaining strategies and tips and providing examples from a child's everyday life. Text is printed in a large, simple font, and uses kid-friendly language, while illustrations consist mostly of colour photographs, although there are a few drawings and diagrams. Both genders, different races and children with disabilities are represented in the photographs.

     Though the basic premise of these books is sound, it is unlikely that kids will check the books out of the school or public library. According to the publisher, the interest level of the series is Grades 3-6, but the upper elementary student will find the text, in both font size and language, too juvenile, while the younger student will find the many steps involved in some of the strategies too confusing and difficult to remember. As a supplement to the health education curriculum, the series might work, but teachers and guidance counselors will likely select only small portions of the books when they are working with individuals or groups of students, partly because of the students' attention spans, and partly because each school division might already have an accepted division-wide model for a specific skill (e.g. a decision-making model). Thus, the books have both limited use and appeal and a small target audience.

     Friendships can be difficult to cultivate, especially if a child moves or changes schools frequently. In Can We Be Friends? Buddy-Building Strategies, readers will learn about places to meet friends (although the suggestion of meeting new friends at a mall is, perhaps, unwise), conversation starters and the qualities of a good friend as well as how to determine if a friendship is worth saving. Shared interests, common goals and spending time together are some of the basic ways in which kids can find out if they are suited to one another. One section in the book talks about "BFFs" (Best Friends Forever), but this term, though current, could date quickly.

     Can We Get Along? Dealing with Differences focuses on accepting each other's differences, whether they be customs, language, religion, family values, physical differences, talents, likes and dislikes, or perception of events. Cooperation and healthy competition through good sportsmanship are discussed along with strategies for resolving conflicts, but the six steps in conflict resolution are too many for kids to remember and could very well have been combined or condensed for ease of recall (or perhaps made into an acronym).

     The author states that two-thirds of all learning is done by listening, hence the importance of active listening. Have You Heard? Active Listening explains the inner workings of the ear and how people hear, then goes on to discuss the difference between hearing and listening (listening takes more energy), and why a person's mind tends to wander when someone is speaking. Becoming an active listener depends on following several steps, some of which include paying attention, looking at the speaker, observing the speaker's body language, not interrupting, and reflecting on what has been said to get a clearer understanding of the speaker's message. Hints to achieve better concentration when listening are provided.

     I Said No! Refusal Skills teaches kids how to refuse with assertiveness at the appropriate time. Young children learn to say yes to their parents, coaches and teachers from an early age, so saying no can be difficult, especially to someone older and in a position of authority. The premise of this title is that it takes courage to say no, but, as in the case of negative peer pressure, it must be done, so the author provides 10 refusal skills for kids to practice and maintains that a child who learns to say no at the right time will set an example for others. Refusal skills include thinking of the consequences of an action beforehand, using a firm voice, strong body language, repetition, changing the subject, walking away and not apologizing for one's opinion.

     In What Should I Do? Making Good Decisions, there is information about the physiology of the brain as it pertains to decision-making, the differences between major and minor decisions, and the factors behind decision-making- facts versus feelings, imagination, time and "gut" feelings or intuition. In order to find out just how many decisions one makes in a normal day, the author suggests that kids carry a small notebook and jot down every decision they make- from what to wear to school to what TV show to watch- and add up the number of decisions at the end of the day. But this is hardly realistic, and kids are likely to give up or forget before morning recess. Once again, there are too many steps in the decision-making model provided, and even though a review list is given, it is not likely to be used.

     Finally, Why Are You Picking On Me? Dealing with Bullies focuses on one of the biggest problems facing schools today- bullying. It is estimated that one out of every five students is or has been a victim of bullying. Bullying can be physical, silent (e.g. ignoring someone or giving them dirty looks) or verbal, and it can happen in person or via computer or telephone. Topics in this book range from reasons why people bully others and what bullies have in common, to dealing with bullies and the role of the bystander.

     Best used by teachers in a classroom setting, these books do have some merit, but are unlikely to be checked out of the library by kids.

Recommended with reservations.

Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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