When the Elephants Dance: A Novel by Tess Uriza Holthe

As World War II waned, Americans and Japanese battled for the Philippines, with villages and families caught in the crossfire.  In this compelling novel, the author tells of the Karangalan family, who huddle in their basement with their neighbors, emerging only when hunger and thirst force them into a world where the smallest misstep leads to capture by Japanese patrols who torture captives for information.  As the interminable hours pass, they share with each other the tales and myths of their country, granting them solace and courage.  Told through the voices of 13-year-old Alejandro, his spirited older sister Isabelle, and Domingo, a war-weary guerilla leader, the novel is a beautifully crafted story of strength and endurance in the face of unspeakable horror.

Cinderella Ate My Daughter: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the New Girlie-Girl Culture by Peggy Orenstein

Many parents claim that boys are easier to raise because society is not nearly as judgemental about boys as it is about girls.  Based on my experience of having a son before a daughter, I definitely agree.  As soon as my husband and I found out we were having a daughter, people started plying us with pink clothing, miniature tea sets, and babydolls.  It was as if none of my son’s clothes or toys could possibly suffice because they weren’t girlie enough.  When describing my baby boy, people often used the words “smart” and “strong.”  When describing my daughter, the words “pretty” and “beautiful” were most common.  And, according to Peggy Orenstein, the focus on physical attractiveness is likely to stick around for the duration of her childhood and adolescence.  From the Disney Princesses to toddlers in beauty pageants, and from toy stores to schools, Orenstein’s research revealed many problems related to the girlie girl culture — some of which were even a shock to her.  Although there are no hard and fast solutions to the many problems this book addresses, I still consider it a MUST READ for anyone who plans to raise and/or work with girls!