Monthly Archives: July 2009

Miss L’eau


Miss L’eau
Author: T. Katz
Publisher: Windstorm Creative, Inc.

Reviewed by: Cheryl Malandrinos


Miss L’eau by T. Katz is a delightful chapter book with an excellent message. 

James and David like their teacher, Miss L’eau.  She’s a lot like the other teachers at their school, yet, there’s something different about her too.  And she has the most amazing eyes.  One day, James seeks shelter from a storm in the boys’ secret hiding place by the old lighthouse.   James thinks he sees something, but certainly that can’t really be what he saw.  Suddenly Miss L’eau is more mysterious than ever.  The boys are determined to figure out her secret.  They don’t know, however, how much that secret will change their lives..and perhaps, the world.

In this exciting and fun short chapter book, the story focuses on two young boys and their teacher.  While there are other characters popping in from time to time, in true chapter book format the number of characters is limited, allowing young readers to easily grasp everything that is going on.

The mystery surrounding Miss L’eau and why she is in Grant Harbor keeps readers turning the pages.  In a short amount of time, James and David go from giving little consideration to the ocean that they have lived next to all their lives, to strong proponents of protecting the ocean and marine life. 

The soothing cover art works well with the topic of the book, a mixture of darker and paler oceanic blues; though I have to admit that the one big eye in the middle of the cover creeps me out.  Perhaps an animated version of an eye or a smaller picture of two eyes might have made it less jarring.

Miss L’eau will show young readers how easy and fun it can be to take care of the world around them and to encourage others to do the same.

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Filed under Children's Books

Chemical Cowboys: : The DEA’s Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin


Chemical Cowboys: The DEA’s Secret Mission to Hunt Down a Notorious Ecstasy Kingpin
Author: Lisa Sweetingham
Publisher: Ballantine Books

Rating:  + half
Reviewed by:  Gary Mack


Two chapters into Lisa Sweetingham’s narrative, Chemical Cowboys, it’s clear that the former Columbia School of Journalism student’s strength is in how to sniff out sources, chronicle historical fact, and disseminate information important to the case. Her work is exhaustingly detailed, well documented, and credible in every sense from the perspective of an investigative reporter.

Where Ms. Sweetingham’s work falls flat is in her ability to tell a compelling story through a minimum of characters. Her sweeping approach on the DEA’s struggle with “kiddie dope”, the Ecstasy Wars of the 90’s, skips around haphazardly, introducing so many agents, drug lords, Israeli mobsters, mules and grifters, she clogs up your information pipe line to where you are overwhelmed and disinterested. You sort of just want to stop and clean up the mess.

Non-fiction must move along like fiction. Stories are usually easy to follow when you know whom the good guys and bad guys are. In this instance, it’s clear the agents Germanowski and Gagne are the two protagonists we want to follow. Certainly we understand there were other players during their tenure but it’s the G-boys we want more of, want to know, want to be with in their daily struggles against the antagonistic, Oded “The Fat Man” Tuito.

The basis of the story lies amongst these 3 players yet we drift in and out of their lives as we struggle mightily through the introductions and background of one character after another. In many cases, even with the most minor of players, you can bet on two to three paragraphs of family history, criminal history, and who’s the subjects favorite teacher from his or her eighth grade Junior High School class. Though I hyperbolize, it’s all too much.


In the expose’s most grotesque moment, Sweetingham finds it necessary, even though it’s complete conjecture, to let us know that one of the Club Kids, the heroin induced Michael Alig, may have swallowed the testicles of his murdered roommate. This revelation hardly adds to the story and is only mentioned so the author can be provocative.

It’s a real shame. Sweetingham had a great opportunity to open our eyes on a part of the drug war still unknown to us. If she would have fashioned Germanowski and Gagne to their undercover brethren, “Popeye” Doyle and “Cloudy” Russo, she would have created a more stirring and memorable account. In my opinion, Chemical Cowboys is a disappointment. The pace is swift, yet the over stuffed content drugs you up as a reader with information and forces you to struggle turning the pages. Three-quarters in you are fighting the story and you’re tempted to jump chapters just so you can get it all over with.


Next time around, let’s hope the talented and well schooled Lisa Sweetingham decides to do much more – with much, much less.

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Filed under Thriller, True Crime

Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges


Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges
Author: Etta K. Brown
Publisher: Langdon Street Press 

Reviewed by:  Cheryl Malandrinos 

If you suspect your child has a learning disability or if an educator has suggested your child has a learning disability you’ll want to pick up a copy of Learning Disabilities: Understanding the Problem and Managing the Challenges by Etta K. Brown.

A certified special education teacher, school social worker, school psychologist and Licensed Education Psychologist, Brown puts her twenty years of experience to excellent use in putting together a helpful and informative guide for parents who need to understand learning disabilities and the environmental influences that impact a child’s ability to learn.

If only I had this book in my possession when I began the difficult process of having my daughter assessed, I would not only have done things differently, I would have been a better advocate for my child. I didn’t know the majority of the information found in the book, which is why I believe that every parent with a child who has been recommended for an assessment needs to read it before taking any step in that direction.

In addition to the impact that diet and sleep have on brain function, the author discusses developmental readiness and how immature development may affect classroom performance. She spends time on the subject of retention and why it isn’t always the best solution. This book also covers how parenting, emotional trauma and toxic metals can affect development.

After getting an understanding of learning disabilities and environmental influences that impact a child’s ability to learn, Brown moves on to a history of Special Education and provides an in-depth look at the entire process of determining eligibility, tests and testing, and the Individualized Education Plan (IEP). She is a strong proponent of parents acting as advocates for their children.

The last section of the book shares signs and symptoms of learning disabilities and accomodations and modifications that can be made at home and school to provide the best enviroment for your child’s learning based upon the disability she is trying to manage.

Learning Disabilities will empower parents to take an active role in their child’s education and provide them with the tools to be the best advocates for their child.

I highly recommend Learning Disabilities by Etta K. Brown. Every school should have multiple copies on hand to assist parents with the process.


Filed under Non-Fiction