101 Hilarious Pranks and Practical Jokes! New Middle Grade Book by Theresa Julian

Theresa Julian, critique partner, writer-friend, published author, and fellow triplets mom, can be called a humor expert. Her first book, The Joke Machine, teaches kids how they can increase their own funny factor. Her second book, 101 HILARIOUS PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES, illustrated by Pat Lewis, is now out in the world! Woohoo! Darlene Beck-Jacobson added an excellent post to her blog “Gold From The Dust: Bringing Stories to Life,” in which Theresa gives potential pranksters a leg up by sharing tips from her book. Darlene’s post is re-blogged below.

Theresa says:

Did you know:

  • Cows moo with different accents – depending on where they live?
  • The bones in the human body are held together by marshmallow taffy?
  • Snakes don’t live in swamps, they live in potato chips cans, like this:

If you didn’t know these facts, it’s okay because – none of them are true. I’m pulling your leg. Kidding. Pranking you.

If there’s a little jokester in your life who wants to learn about pranking, check out 101 Hilarious Pranks & Practical Jokesa middle grade book written by me and illustrated by Pat Lewis. This super silly book includes – you guessed it – 101 pranks, AND explains how to pull the perfect trick.

The book teaches kids how to pace their prank, find the right attitude, and create a story around it. It explains how kids can kick their pranks up a notch through physical humor, which is using their body to make someone laugh. It’s using goofy faces, funny voices, slipping, tripping, and weird smells and sounds to make their pranks extra awesome.

Here are some tips from the book:

Attitude

Start a prank with the right attitude. How would you feel if you were really in the prank situation? If you’re pretending you’ve just won a million dollars, act thrilled. If you’re pretending you broke a window, act shocked. If you’ve filled the cabinet with ping-pong balls, act casual and wait for someone to open the door. Pick an attitude, commit to it, and sell it.

Story

Create an interesting story around your prank. Let’s say you want to convince your friend that your family has a “dead finger” collection and you’ve brought in your favorite one to show her. But, of course, it’s really just your finger in a box, covered in ketchup and avocado mush.

If you walk up to your friend and show her the box, it may not be very effective. But if you build it up with a story that draws her in, and then show the box, you’ll get a bigger reaction. 

Try creating a story like this: You crept down your creaky basement stairs; opened the rusty door to the back room; and gagged at the stench of rotting skin. When you turned on the light, you found that there, in your very own basement, was a dead-finger collection – probably great-grandpa’s from the war. Now, when you show the box, you’ll probably get the reaction you were looking for.

Pacing

A good prank is carefully paced, not blurted out or rushed.

Picture this: Your brother walks into the kitchen and hasn’t yet seen the fake tarantula on the cheese casserole. Do you jump up and yell, “Look at the cheese casserole, ha ha!”? No, of course not. You sit and wait, distract him with comments about how good you’ve been (which, is always true, right?), and wait for the time to be ripe. It’s sooo much better if he finds the hairy spider himself!

Funny Faces

Let’s face it, facial expressions are key to a good prank because they help sell your story. Picture a face that’s afraid, amazed, annoyed, or bored, like the ones below.

The right face can say a lot more than words. So when you’re pranking, let your face do the talking!

Kooky Arms & Legs

Get your whole body into the prank. If you tell your friend the rat in the garage is THIS BIG, fling out your arms and show just how big. If you’re pretending you’re about to vomit, clutch your stomach, moan and double over in pain. In the prankiverse, body language reinforces your story and paints a picture, and is often funnier than words.

Silly Voices and Sounds

Silly voices and sounds make pranks more believable and fun. If you’re pretending you’ve broken a window, download a crashing glass sound and play it on your phone or computer. If you’ll make a prank call, you’ll need to disguise your voice with an accent or different tone. Funny voices are fun to create and once you’ve nailed a few, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without them!

Slipping, Tripping and Prat-falling

101 Hilarious Pranks & Practical Jokes teaches you how to pretend you’re slipping, tripping and falling, so you get the reaction you want. For example, here’s how to pretend you’re hitting your head on a door:

The book also explains how to crack your nose, bite off your finger, detach your head, spit out your teeth, push a pencil through your head, rip your eyeball out, slip in poop, and control gravity. You’re welcome.

So, if there’s a little prankster in your life who’s looking to learn completely ridiculous skills, such as how to use goofy faces, funny voices, bad smells, weird sounds, and smooth body moves to trick their friends, check out 101 HILARIOUS PRANKS AND PRACTICAL JOKES which goes on sale Sept. 28, 2021. Then — watch your back

Theresa Julian loves chocolate, changing her ringtones, and writing humorous books for middle graders. Her books have been featured in TIME for Kids magazine, the Barnes & Noble Kid’s Blog, and Today.com. Theresa is a graduate of Boston College and has a Master’s in Corporate Communications. After many years of writing business documents for large corporations, she’s now happily living on the beach, writing funny books for kids. Her mother claims Theresa spent most of first grade sleeping on her desk, but don’t worry, she’s awake now, dreaming up new ways to keep kids reading and laughing.

Connect with Theresa on http://www.TheresaJulian.com
Twitter: @Theresa_Julian
Instagram: @tm_julian

Double Digit Doggie!

Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds aka Lulu aka Loose aka Loopy Lou aka Muppy.

Happy 10th birthday to the sweetest, softest, fluffiest, barkiest, fastest dog, Lucy In the Sky With Diamonds.

Aside from her usual walks, treats and people-food-added-to-her-dinner, Lucy didn’t have specific plans to celebrate her birthday. Then, a surprise package addressed to Lucy arrived in the mail! In it were an adorable, sparkly birthday hat and pink, unicorn kerchief. Our family had no idea who’d ordered the “doggie decorations” until Morgan’s bf Adam, fessed up. Shout out to another dog lover!

In honor of the best “person” in our family, I’m re-posting the humorous New York Times article Things People Say to Their Dogs, in which Alexandra Horowitz explores this topic with much humor.  a cognitive scientist who studies dogs–doesn’t that sound fantastic?!

Horowitz’s article, lightly edited, is below.

We talk to dogs. Happily so, for there is little bleaker than seeing a person texting while dragging a dog by her leash. It’s so natural to talk to dogs that for a long time I wasn’t even aware when I did it. But now I have evidence that I — that we all — talk to our dogs. For now, I’m listening.

Everywhere I go I encounter dogs: on the sidewalk, in the parks, in stores and airports, at readings, at my dog cognition lab. Most of the dogs are with people. Consequently, it is not long before I hear people talking to their dogs. Sure, much of what we say to dogs is request or command, exclamation points implied: Sit; Come; Go Get Your Ball. Once I began really listening, though, what surprised me was how much is not mere directive.

Heading down a city sidewalk one morning, when sleepy dogs and people stumble out for the dog’s morning micturition, I saw a woman with two small dogs, both in sweaters, one of whom had lifted a rear leg to aim directly onto a scaffolding pole. “You’re going first: excellente! Awesome job!” The dog’s owner crooned. I pulled an envelope out of my bag and scribbled down her words. Thus began my long foray into public eavesdropping on the dog-human dyad.

Once I began listening for other owners’ dog-directed soliloquies, I found that they were ubiquitous. I might catch two or three conversational snippets on a long block. It began to seem as though the act of a person walking by sometimes prompted an owner’s conversational opening to her dog — as though to emphasize how not-walking-slowly-down-the-sidewalk-alone she is. Not at all alone: She is with someone.

As every “Hi, puppy!” directed dogward demonstrates, the way we talk to dogs overlaps with the way we talk to babies. A Harris poll found that 95 percent of us consider dogs our family — so are we simply talking to them as if they were our children? “Pet-directed speech” certainly shares many features with baby talk: We raise the pitch of our voice and make it singsongy. We use a fairly limited vocabulary with infants, and with dogs too: more “You’ve been bad” than “What you did was morally indefensible.” Language is telegraphed: We tend to repeat words, slow our speech, shorten phrases and drop some categories of words, like articles.

On the other hand, when speaking to infants, we hyperarticulate our vowels: exaggeratedly saying Look at the doggeeeeee! to babies — but not nearly as much to dogs. It’s a subtle but key difference that marks a rift in our ways of thinking about kids and pups. Hyperarticulation is didactic, a way of teaching a growing human our language. When we are talking to dogs, we are under no illusion that they will grow up to use the language themselves.

Still, we do talk to dogs as though we are in a running conversation. After several hundred scribbled overhears, I began to notice some patterns in the dog-speech. One category of utterances is pure enthusiasm, the Cheering Squad:

“Good stop! I really liked that halt, guys.”

There’s the Mom Commentary on behavior. Eyes on the dog, she sees everything. And she’s gotta talk about it.

Appropriately (for the category), most of these speakers are women. In fact, among my notebook scribblings, the speakers were women about six times as often as they were men. Women speak more often, more quickly and speak longer than men — on the sidewalk and in scientific studies of dog talkers. They repeat words more and are not shy about dropping in a term of endearment. This is not to say that men are immune from the Mom Commentary:

In addition to the quotidian “Sit” and “Stay,” there are also the Perfectly Implausible Instructions:

In the spirit of conversation that doesn’t need an answer, we turn question marks toward our pups, engaging them as if they might respond — and then waiting a beat to give them due time to so reply. This is the Rhetorical Realm:

Behind every unanswered question is the feeling that we might know the answer, given that we and our dogs live together, see each other naked, and obviously know everything about each other. Hence the reliable appearance of the We’ve Discussed This utterances (dog’s full family name implied):

Most talk I hear is overheard, seemingly not intended for my ears. But when we talk to dogs around others, it serves as a social lubricant, a way to open up the possibility of talking to each other. “What’s your name?” said dog-ward is never answered — except, obligingly, by a dog’s owner. Dogs are not only reflections of us, they are social intermediaries for us. Any hesitation I may have about a person approaching me on the street is deflected by my dog Finnegan’s smiling, wag-filled greeting of them; in response, they talk not to me, but to the dog.

It’s not only strangers who can be looped in by dog-talk. We talk to our relatives — our human relatives — via our dogs as well. The linguist Deborah Tannen writes of a couple mid-argument: “The man suddenly turns to their pet dog and says in a high-pitched baby-talk register, ‘Mommy’s so mean tonight. You better sit over here and protect me.’” The dogs enable the speaking; they are not really the spoken-to.

Of course, through all our talking, dogs are more or less silent. Researchers keep looking for the language-using dog, though. Some dogs — like the Border collies Rico and Chaser, who died last week — have learned hundreds upon hundreds of words. Dogs in fMRI studies both distinguish familiar from nonsense words and process the emotional content of words. Nonetheless, dogs are not talking back. Some scholars think dog-human communication represents a “human fantasy” of how communication might go: all listening, no responding. “We like our pets’ silence,” the animal studies researcher Erica Fudge suggests, “because it allows us to write their words for them.” I do think this begins to explain our nonstop chatter with dogs. When we talk to dogs, it’s as if our private speech, the conversation we’re having in our heads, has slipped out.

The Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky, formulating his theories of child development, described a stage of children internalizing conversations with those around them — social speech — into a conversation in their own heads. He called it “inner speech” and thought it enabled children to use language to reflect on and consider their own behavior. We continue that monologue with ourselves as we age into adults. It’s not quite the way we’d talk to those around us, though, with its cropped syntax and a “note-form” shorthand that represents your familiarity with your own thoughts. But it’s just like what we’re saying to our dogs — as if they were in our heads.

Dogs are, of course, the preoccupation of our minds: we hope for them, care for them, love them. We narrate our thoughts while we watch them, and their thoughts while they accompany us.

One of the things we say to our dogs daily — two-thirds of us, according to one survey of North American pet owners — is I love you. Even the simple sound of our voice is an expression of that love, regardless of the content of the words we say. Through talking to them, we let them into an intimacy with us. They hear our secrets, our private thoughts.

So now you know: Pass me on the sidewalk, and I may be listening. Please don’t let it stop you from talking. It makes me feel optimistic about humans to hear us talk to other animals. We are at our best in those moments when we extend the circle we’ve drawn around ourselves to include them.

 
Continue reading “Double Digit Doggie!”

Dogs Bugging Out

Lucy wonders what I'm holding.
Lucy thinks, what is Mommy holding?

Lucy says, "How does it smell?"
Lucy thinks, how does it smell?

“When are the cicadas coming out?” I wondered.

“I can’t wait to see them,” replied a daughter. “There’s been so much hype.”

She doesn’t remember when they emerged in 2013, but will our dog Lucy? Her eyes–ummm–bugged out when she sniffed and inspected Little Miss Cicada (the one I bonded with–lol). Hubby mentioned (at dinner!) that a friend in VA shared what happened when her dog ingested a bunch of the bugs. Let’s say the digestion process did not go smoothly! Yuck! Today, I’m re-posting “Cicada City Part II,” my impressions–or should I say Lucy’s impressions?– when the cicadas were everywhere.

2013 might be the Chinese Year of the Snake, but at Bmore Energy it’s the Week of the Puppy.

Lucy “guest blogged” “Fluffy Father’s Day” and, in honor of her turning two, I’m featuring my furry sweetheart again.

In my recent post, Cicada City Part I, you met Little Miss Cicada.  What I didn’t say was how Lucy reacted to her first encounter with the large buzzing bug.  Before Lucy met Little Miss Cicada, several dog owners told me that their dogs were feasting on the cicadas. One told me she didn’t even need to give her dog kibble because he was eating so much.

Teenage Daughter #2 babysat for a family who warned her to keep their dog, Molly, inside because Molly was eating the cicadas then throwing them up.  But when Teenage Daughter #2 opened the door to let the kids in, Molly ran out and, you guessed it, ate a cicada.  Teenage Daughter #2 reported, “Molly started acting really weird.  She was twitching and gagging.  I think the cicada was still alive in her stomach!  I was just praying she wasn’t going to throw up!”

Teenage Daughter #1, who babysat for the same family, replied, “I’m afraid of throw up!  Literally, afraid.  And I couldn’t even walk on their grass because of the cicadas.  It was like step, cicada, step, cicada!  They’re disgusting!”

Cicada shells clustered in the grass.
Cicada shells clustered in the grass.

Back to Lucy.  Hon, the photos and 45 second video say it all!

Lucy's not sure she likes this big bug!
Lucy’s not sure she likes this big bug!

Bugging Out!

Little Miss Cicada.
Little Miss Cicada spreading her wings.

Little Miss Cicada hanging out.
Little Miss Cicada hanging out.

“Every time I see them, I scrunch my shoulders and feel weird inside.  They freak me out!  They’re gross!”

Best quote award goes to my daughter Hannah, who was a teenager in 2013, the last time Brood X cicadas created a stir (of wings) in the Garden State.

Yes, our dog Lucy thought they made tasty treats. Yes, that’s me holding an adult cicada. No, no one else in my family thought they were cool.

Repost: Cicada City Part 1

One of my favorite summer nighttime sounds is the collective hum of cicadas.  They start somewhere at the end of June and continue, if it’s warm enough, into October.  I make a mental note the night I don’t hear them anymore. Then, I know winter’s on its way.

This year, a different cicada has come out of its 17-year hibernation.  If you haven’t heard of the periodical Brood II cicadas, I’m afraid you’ve either been living under a rock or under the ground as a separate cicada species. The, ummm, buzz about the buzz started before the first cicada wriggled out of a 1/4 “diameter hole in the ground.  The bugaboo about these bugs reached an all-time high about the same time a rash of little holes covered my yard.  It looked like someone had aerated the ground.  Ohhh, I guess someone did!

Hon, guess what came next?  A condition I’m calling “Cicada Hysteria!”  In fact, plenty of people are still afflicted with “Cicada Hysteria” since the insects are still underfoot, climbing trees, flying around and altogether creating a modern day horror movie.  Take Teenage Daughter #1.  Here’s what she has to say about them, “Every time I see them, I scrunch my shoulders and feel weird inside.  They freak me out!  They’re gross!”

Unlike Teenage Daughter #1, Teenage Daughter #2 is indifferent, and Tween Daughter thinks they’re cool.  From afar.  She doesn’t mind looking at them from a safe distance, but she’s not about to let a six-legged cidada crawl on her arm.

Hon, guess who let a six-legged cicada crawl on her arm?  You got it.  I bonded with Little Miss Cicada! LMC hung out on in my hands for a half hour.  LMC wasn’t trapped, tied down or otherwise constrained.  She hung out of her own free will.  I think we were equally fascinated with each other.

She allowed me to touch her hard shell and peer into the black pupils in the middle of her red eyes.  The antennas under her eyes were short and black.  She picked up her leg and “waved” to me and Tween Daughter.  Really!  Her legs were sticky in an “I can cling to bark” kind-of-way.  I have no idea what LMC was thinking.  Do cicadas think?  If they do, maybe she was thinking, “Please scratch my shell.  It’s really itchy when it first comes out of its exoskeleton!”

I placed her on the side of a Tulip tree, and now I listen for her loud buzz when I water the flowers, walk Lucy and drive through town. I hope that as soon as the song of the Brood II cicadas dies down, the annual cicadas that sing in the night return.

Then I’ll sit outside at dusk, watching the trees turn into silhouettes against the indigo sky. The bats will flit about catching mosquitoes, the fireflies will wink to each other and the screech owls will whistle and hoot.  The perfect, warm temperature of summer nights will fill me up…with hope and happiness and satisfaction. 

Little Miss Cicada.
Bonding with Little Miss Cicada. (photos courtesy of Tween Daughter)

Cicada Party

Wonderlab.org

The cicadas are coming! 2013 was the last year they covered the Garden State’s trees, grass and sidewalks. This excellent article by Eleanor Lutz for The New York Times “invites” us to the Cicada Party.

Hon, I’m kinda grossed out and a lot fascinated! How about you?!

An Invitation to the Cicada Party

Any day now, our insect neighbors will host a once-in-a-cicada-lifetime party. Billions of cicadas, part of a cohort called Brood X, will emerge from underground tunnels to sing, mate and die across the eastern United States. Like any good party, the emergence will be loud. It will be crowded. And everyone’s invited.

The Activities

SINGING–The party will be announced by a cacophony of cicada song, as the males begin to gather in a treetop chorus to call for mates.

MATING–The Brood X females won’t sing in the chorus, but they have plenty of other activities to keep them occupied. After mating, a female cicada needs to choose a tree that will safely harbor her offspring for the next seventeen years. Then she will use a saw-like appendage called an ovipositor to insert her eggs into a young branch.

DYING–The frenzy of singing, mating and egg laying will last just four to six weeks. Then the adult cicadas will die and fall to the ground, creating piles of brown carcasses underneath the trees.

The Soundtrack

The Brood X cohort actually consists of three different cicada species. The males of each species sing a distinctive song to attract others to their chorus. Males also have additional songs for courting nearby females, and they can make a rough, buzzing alarm if they’re picked up or handled.

Male cicadas sing by using their muscles to flex ribbed structures called tymbals. A hollow air chamber inside the abdomen is thought to amplify their song. Females don’t have tymbals and can’t sing, but they respond to males by flicking their wings to make a faint clicking sound. TymbalAir chamber0.25 inches

Directions

Brood X — or the “Great Eastern Brood” — is one of the largest periodical cicada broods in the United States. The insects are expected to emerge this year in at least 15 states, including in cities like Baltimore, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Washington, D.C.

Periodical cicadas occur throughout the eastern United States but are relatively rare across the world. Outside of North America, there are eight year periodical cicadas in Fiji and four year cicadas in India.

Source: U.S.D.A. Forest Service·Note: Published in 2013. Brood distributions can change or even disappear completely if environment conditions become unsuitable. Some cicadas emerge several years early or late.

Throughout history, periodical cicadas have been carefully tracked and mapped by agencies like the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today, many scientists use community science projects like the Cicada Safari phone app to track the broods. Anyone using the app can take a photo of their neighborhood cicadas to contribute to the mapping effort.

The Menu

Thousands of Brood X cicadas will be eaten by hungry predators ranging from birds to small mammals — likely even some household pets. These cicadas have few defenses. They don’t bite or sting, and they aren’t toxic or poisonous. Instead, their survival strategy seems to consist of emerging in such overwhelming numbers that the area’s predators can’t possibly eat them all. As for the cicadas themselves, they feed by drinking a watery fluid inside the xylem of trees and plants.

Attire

As Brood X begins to emerge, you may see brown, cicada-shaped suits attached to trees or on the ground. These are leftover casings shed by the immature cicadas as they become adults.

During their 17 years in the ground, Brood X cicadas shed their skin four times as they move through their life cycle. The immature underground cicadas, called nymphs, also leave behind tunnels from their journey to the surface, which you may notice as tiny holes in the ground.

When they first crawl out of their nymphal skin, adult cicadas are the color of a slightly green toasted marshmallow. As they complete their transition into adults, their bodies will gradually harden and turn black. Brood X cicadas are known for their charismatic red eyes, though a rare few may have other colors, like blue or white.Newly emerged adultShednymphalskin0.5 inches

R.S.V.P.

The Brood X cicadas are due to appear aboveground from early May into June, depending on the weather. Although some stragglers can emerge early, the mass emergence usually begins after the soil temperature warms to 64 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you miss this party, the next one won’t be until 2024, when Broods XIII and XIX emerge throughout Illinois, other parts of the Midwest as well as the southern United States.

Eleanor Lutz, The New York Times, May 19, 2021
Reference images and information from: Chris Simon; “Insects, their ways and means of living” by Robert Snodgrass; “Periodical Cicadas: The Brood X Edition” by Gene Kritsky.

Independent Book Store Day

Independent Book Store Day, April 24, 2021, is billed as “One Day. Hundreds Of Bookstores. Fifty States. Join The Celebration!” My two favorite Indie bookstores are The Book House and Words. Both have great selections, calm, welcoming atmospheres, special events, and the personal touch and help that you can only get at small stores.

I hope to one day, very soon (fingers crossed, wish on a dandelion, Flying Wish Paper and more), enter one or both of these stores as a Kidlit author, not just a customer.

Hon, what’s your favorite Indie book store?

The Book House in Millburn, NJ

Words in Maplewood, NJ

Image c/o the bookstores’ websites.

Key Karma

Image c/o Bill’s Lock & Key

Did you know February 14-20, 2021 was Random Acts of Kindness Week?

I was the lucky and happy recipient of a recent act of kindness!

On a recent drive from New Jersey to Maryland, Hubby used his own set of keys to drive my car. It’s habit for me to grab my keys when leaving the house, so there I was with an extra set “just in case.” We don’t usually bring our dog Lucy, but decided she’d join us on this adventure.

We stopped at a rest stop in NJ where Hubby and I took turns escorting Lucy to “do her business.” Habit again–approaching my car, I took my keys out, but then stuck them in my coat pocket when I remembered they weren’t needed. Lucy didn’t love the hand-off, and practically pulled me off my feet trying to follow Hubby inside the rest stop. I bet you can guess where this is going.

It wasn’t until we reached Maryland that I realized my keys were missing! We re-traced steps and searched the car to no avail. I called the only place we’d stopped on the road and–guess what?--my keys were at the rest stop! The manager had them in his possession and would be working the next day at the same time we’d be driving back to NJ.

A woman had found them in the parking lot and turned them in! An act of kindness for sure! We surmised that when Lucy anxiously tried following Hubby, my keys fell out of my coat pocket. The woman left her contact info because she had the foresight to remove one of the car key fobs. Her intention was to turn that car key into a dealer who would then locate the car’s owner–us! Wasn’t that above and beyond?

On our return trip home, two things happened. The first is that we retrieved my keys. Whew! The second is that we found out the name of the thoughtful woman and–hon, get this--her last name is same last name as my oldest childhood friend and one of my dearest friends in New Jersey! Isn’t that an interesting coincidence?

So, shout out to good karma, random acts of kindness and thoughtful people!

And SHOUT OUT to Stephanie Brenner for stopping at the rest stop, finding my keys, turning them in, and mailing me the other car key fob! THANK YOU!

Hon, have you been been the recipient of a random act of kindness? Have you been the kind person? I’d love to hear about it.

Top Ten Unexpected Positives in 2020

Happy New Year Hon!

Thinking about the holiday events we’d be attending and hosting if we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic, my mind turned to silver linings. In 2020, believe it or not, there was actually amazing news (Polio has been eradicated in Africa) as well as mundane news (Flour was in high demand.). Focusing on how the pandemic effected everyday life and in no particular order, here are the…

Top Ten Unexpected Positives of 2020

  1. Dogs were happy. Very happy. “Shelters, rescues and breeders report increased demand as Americans try to fill voids with canine companion” (Washington Post)
  2. Kids rode bikes to socialize. “How the pandemic has inspired some teens to get off their laptops and go outside” (Washington Post)
  3. Walking was a pastime. “Why Walking is the Ideal Pandemic Activity” (National Geographic)
  4. People stayed outside, even in the cold and rain. “Why You Should Brave the ‘Bad’ Weather” (The New York Times)
  5. Books sales increased. “A Surprisingly Strong Year of Book Sales Continues” (Publisher’s Weekly)
  6. Comfy clothes took over closets. “Dressing for success these days means ‘Athleisure'” (CBS News)
  7. Home cooked meals promoted healthier eating. “Home cooking is the new normal.” (Smart Brief)
  8. Families sat down to dinner together. “The return of family dinner” The Boston Globe
  9. Exercise classes were more accessible than ever. “Virtual workouts have exploded in popularity—and they’re here to stay.” (MindBody Business) And…
  10. Grandparents learned how to FaceTime! “Grandparents, thank you for FaceTiming and learning how to use Zoom during this quarantine” (Motherly)

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, Book Review

During quarantine and this unprecedented time, there are the projects I’ve gotten done, the things half finished, and a bunch of projects I haven’t even started. And then there are books. I’ve been reading a lot so, hon, so get ready for a bunch of book reviews.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe is a beautifully written coming-of-age YA contemporary novel by Benjamin Alire Sáenz. It’s no wonder the novel, published in 2012, garnered so many awards! I was invested in the main characters’ relationship, families, backgrounds, and thoughts on the worlds they lived in. The story drew me in, made me laugh out loud, and brought tears to my eyes.

What’s the book about?
Fifteen-year-old Aristotle (Ari) has always felt lonely and distant from people until he meets Dante, a boy from another school who teaches him how to swim. As trust grows between the boys and they become friends (a first for Ari), Ari’s world opens up while they discuss life, art, literature, and their Mexican-American roots. Additionally, the influence of Dante’s warm, open family (they even have a “no secrets” rule) is shaping Ari’s relationship with his parents, particularly in regard to a family secret; Ari has an older brother in prison, who no one ever mentions. In a poetic coming-of-age story written in concise first-person narrative, Sáenz (Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood) crystallizes significant turning points in the boys’ relationship, especially as Ari comes to understand that Dante’s feelings for him extend beyond friendship. The story swells to a dramatic climax as Ari’s loyalties are tested, and he confronts his most deeply buried fears and desires. It’s a tender, honest exploration of identity and sexuality, and a passionate reminder that love—whether romantic or familial—should be open, free, and without shame.  Publisher’s Weekly
Memorable Quotes:
“One of the secrets of the universe was that our instincts were sometimes stronger than our minds.”
“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.”
“Sometimes, you do things and you do them not because you’re thinking but because you’re feeling. Because you’re feeling too much. And you can’t always control the things you do when you’re feeling too much.”
“Why do we smile? Why do we laugh? Why do we feel alone? Why are we sad and confused? Why do we read poetry? Why do we cry when we see a painting? Why is there a riot in the heart when we love? Why do we feel shame? What is that thing in the pit of your stomach called desire?”
Have you read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets to the Universe? What did you think?