Patricia Furstenberg came to writing through reading.
Patricia enjoys writing for children because she can take abstract, grown-up concepts and package them in humorous, child-friendly ideas while adding sensitivity and lots of love. What fuels her is an exhilarating need to write and… coffee.
“How many cups have had this morning?”
“Five cups.” (Gilmore Girls)
Between her books you can find the beloved, Amazon Bestseller "Joyful Trouble, Based on the True Story of a Dog Enlisted in the Royal Navy", "The Cheetah and the Dog", "Puppy, 12 Months of Rhymes and Smiles", "The Elephant and the Sheep" and many others.
She is a Huffington Post contributor and pens the Sunday Column for MyPuppyclub.net.
Coming soon are: "As Good as Gold", #AsGoodAsGold and "Belle, Cat - Whiskers on my Mat", #BelleCat
Between job requirements, commuting to work and school, extra murals, the latest Minecraft or Spinners, how does one win the battle of raising an all-rounder child? Inevitably, something will fall between the cracks. Don’t let it be your child’s love of books. Raising a boy who finds joy in reading sounds easier said than done, but, in the long run, it’s a battle worth fighting. Your mission is finding your way through the maze of everyday activities and temptations towards a half-an-hour bedtime reading.
Often disregarded, yet effective, reading equips children with much-needed life skills. Reading has educational, neurological and psychological benefits stimulating children’s developing minds and improving their emphatic skills, helping them socialise at school and thrive in life. To better understand this let’s see how reading happens. As you read this article, there are four different activities taking place in your brain:
1. Phonics: Associating a speech sound to each letter.
2. Sight: Some English words must first be recognised as a whole, then sounded (“the”). English vocabulary has 26 letters, yet when reading we use 44 speech sounds, 20 vowel sounds and 24 consonant sounds. Thinking skills are therefore involved.
3. Contextual analysis: Prediction of what will happen next.
4. Structural analysis: Understanding what a word means by looking at its root or figuring out its meaning from the context.
Here are the five steps on how to get your son to read – and loving it.
1. Visit the local library together, find books that interest him.
Let your son wander around the library, pick a book and sit down to page through it. Find books geared at your child’s age group and interests.
Read aloud to your son from as early in infancy as possible. Research shows that children who were read to as infants have higher chances to grow up with a love for books.
If your son can read, take turns reading aloud every day. Let your child read to you and don’t worry if he is mispronouncing some words. Rather allow him the pleasure of having finished that page.
2. Leave reading material around the house, reading means more than books.
Be it a picture book, a magazine, a joke collection, or even a comic book, you want your son to pick it up and enjoy a page or two at a time. How-to books on sport or another interest might be a great place to start getting a boy interested in reading.
Never make reading a chore. Rather surround your child with books than forcing reading on him. Place a bookshelf in his room and allow him to choose a few books he’s really interested in.
3. Read yourself… and make sure you get caught reading.
Children often mimic what they see, not what they hear and we, as parents, are our children’s mirrors. Waiting for your son to come out from school? Read; keep a book in the car just for this reason. Going to the Home Affairs for your son’s passport renewal? Take a book with you and allow your son to see you reading in public. There’s nothing to be ashamed of when we’re reading.
Modern day technology allows you to download eBooks on your phone. It is a casual way to get boys comfortable about reading in public.
4. Get dad, an uncle or a grandfather involved.
Get Dad to read too if your son struggles with reading. Try a father-son book club and perhaps get involved with other dads and their sons. Make it casual, have a BBQ-Book Club or a campfire. Pair books with an activity, away from technology might also help.
Remember, having positive role models helps both boys and girls stay interested in reading.
5. Start a reading list and have a rating system – think about it like a sport.
Write down what your son reads and what he would like to read next. Allow him to rate the books, group them in categories. This way you can both see where his interests lay and he can feel more in control over his reading.
Explain to him that reading is like a sport, it takes practice to get better at it.
Being a good reader will make learning during school years and tertiary education a lot easier. Reading entails an understanding of what is being said behind the literary meaning of the story, connecting that information to what we already know, relating to it and drawing knowledge from it.
Reading is the capacity of focusing on a task for a certain amount of time. And these skills, like the pieces of a puzzle, are what later help children experience a successful schooling career. For this is what reading entails, being able to focus for a prolonged time. Or at least until Mum or Dad come to switch off your light and forcefully remove the book from your hand because… tomorrow is school.
“Joyful Trouble, a book that reads like a movie”, an Amazon Bestseller.
There are many magical places in the world, spaces where nature and time seem to have a place of their own. Where the earth is so fertile that even the people living there seem to draw energy out of it and where time has a different pace and a deeper meaning. For what is a man’s life, but a stepping stone on which his children’s lives and his grandchildren’s lives are built upon.
Such a man, with a spirit as fertile as the rolling hills of his native land and a will power as inexhaustible as the wind’s, was Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the man upon which a whole new nation was built.
This tall man with a bright, friendly smile and colourful shirts walked with the crowds and stood near the kings, listened to by all. Always one to speak of forgiveness, of dialogue and freedom, he had been an inspiration for many. Here are a few of the lessons he had taught us.
“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela.
“It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela.
“If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.” – Nelson Mandela
“Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically.” – Nelson Mandela
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
Fairy tales may be full of charm and enchantment but they certainly provide valuable lessons. Identifying oneself with heroes from literary works is a healthy stage in one’s childhood as children’s imagination is one of the ways in which Mother Nature protects them from the harsh realities of daily life.
The tricky part arises when adults find themselves tied up to literature, whether they like it or not, as several physical and mental disorders are named after literary characters. Here’s a look at five of them:
Sleeping Beauty Syndrome
This classic fairy tale, first told by Charles Perrault (17th century), retold by the Brothers Grimm (18th century) and made popular by Disney, is much loved by one generation after the other. The medical condition is also known as Rip Van Winkle Syndrome, after the title of a short story written by Washington Irving (19th century).
Without even going into the symbolism hidden inside this story and leaving aside the medical and hygienic implications of a human body asleep for 100 years, let’s just look into the neurological syndrome named after it. Also known as the Kleine-Levin syndrome (KLS), named after the medical doctors to have first mentioned and studied it, its first known case was reported in 1862.
This condition is characterised by frequent episodes of hypersomnia and behavioural disturbances. Individual episodes last more than a week, but less than a month. A normal lifestyle is out of the question as these patients tend to be bedridden. Patients experience approximately 20 recurrent episodes during more than a decade. Unlike the fairy tale that borrowed its name, the condition seems to affect predominantly male patients (68 percent) worldwide. It is a very rare disease, occurring one in a million. The onset of the condition seems to follow a viral infection. There is no known cure yet.
The medical condition itself has nothing to do with the social satire depicted in the fairy tale, but rather with a desperate call for sympathy. The patients suffering from Munchausen Syndrome are not sick, but fake the symptoms in front of family and doctors, often secretly injuring themselves to maintain the illusion of illness. The Munchausen Syndrome is a mental disorder caused by childhood trauma, poor self-esteem, emotional or personal disorders. More common in men than women, it is difficult to obtain accurate statistics because lying is very common with this illness.
3. Dorian Gray Syndrome (DGS)
This medical condition is named after the classical story by Oscar Wilde in which the main character sells his soul to keep his youthful appearance and beauty until the very last moment of his life. The patient suffering from this condition will be overly preoccupied with keeping his/her young look and a “perfect” appearance.
Dysmorphophobia, or excessive dislike of a part of one’s body, will often manifest, therefore these patients will abuse cosmetic surgery to the point where depression sets in. In addition, they will often abuse weight-loss products, mood enhancers and even their gym membership card. A sufferer of DGS shouldn’t be taken lightly. Although a lack of self-esteem or a narcissistic personality might be the cause, the syndrome itself often conducts to physical disorders as well as causing social and mental health issues (depression, even suicide).
4. Othello Syndrome
Named after the main character in the Shakespeare tragedy ‘Othello”, the patient affected by this malady lives with the constant obsession that their life partner is cheating on them. Psychiatrists John Todd and Kenneth Dewhurst were the first to name and study this mental disorder in 1955.
Within limits, jealousy is a normal human feeling. But when it leads to repeated interrogations of one’s partner, searches for nonexistent evidence, stalking, even violence, it becomes a “dangerous form of psychosis” (Todd).
The Othello Syndrome is believed to be caused by a stroke, a tumour, or some other injury, especially to the right frontal lobe but also by substance abuse like dopamine prescribed in the treatment of Parkinson disease. Alcoholism and cocaine abuse can also lead to the onset of Othello Syndrome. Not to be taken lightly, this syndrome can affect both men and women and it can lead to disruption of marriage, homicide or suicide.
5. Peter Pan Syndrome
Named after the main character in the book with the same name by Scottish novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie, it was first made popular by Dr. Dan Kiley in 1983. This syndrome defines men who refuse to act like grown-ups and assume responsibilities. They prefer to live in a juvenile world, are enthusiastic and like to have fun, but never settle down in a relationship because they dislike restrictions. They lack decision making skills and the ability to assume responsibilities. To disguise this, they act overconfident and arrogant. Women found in the same situation are affected by the Wendy Syndrome.
These people, although having developed intellectually and having above average IQ’s, have not developed emotionally past adolescence. The main cause is, probably, a lack of affection during childhood. With the aid of psychotherapy these people can learn to overcome their fears, to assume responsibilities and lead a fulfilled, grown-up life. However, this is not a mental disorder. The Peter Pan Syndrome is closely linked to Carl Jung’s theory of “Puer Aeternus” (eternal boy).
A similar syndrome is the Huckleberry Finn Syndrome, named after the main character in the Mark Twain novel. Developing in children due to a feeling of being rejected by their parents, feeling inferior in school or due to depression, it seems to be a defense mechanism. It manifests by a desire to do anything but go to school; these children will waste their time on the streets or playing computer games. Moving into the grown-up stage of life, these children might be at risk of frequent job changing and absenteeism.
Here are some of the amazing reviews Joyful Trouble received:
“Such a lovely book!
This heart – warming story is definitely about friendship and the strong bond that links men and dogs…and what a better “lens” to see the beauty of this friendship than a story told by a Grandfather to his sweet little grandchildren…!
But this story is most of all about the transforming power of love. Even the title talks about this: even though at the first sight the words “joy” and “trouble” are mutually exclusive, the situation changes under the magic touch of love….and becomes “joyful trouble”..
I definitely recommend this book for both children and adults: each generation will find its message and certainly feel better after reading this well told story!”
“I came across this little story which reminded me of home in Cape Town many years ago when my family and I visited Simon’s Town and posed next to a statue built in honour of a great friend – a large Great Dane. I loved the way Ms Furstenberg retells this naval story in the setting of a grandpa and his grandchildren spending time together and he relating Joyful Trouble’s story to them. I thought she did a marvellous job of this loveable dog’s passing – comparing it to the little boy’s kite – even I felt a tinge of sadness for this dog who touched so many lives. I highly recommend this story to be read even to younger children before going to bed, doing so in the same way the story is told – every time the little ones visit granddad, he tells them a little bit more. The chapters are just the right length for such a reading session. I’ve sent the link to my 10-year old granddaughter so that her mother can download a copy for her.”
“This is a wonderful story which tells a wonderful tale about a military service dog whose efforts will warm your heart. As a dog lover and trainer, it never seems to surprise me how loyal and dedicated ordinary dogs are. They make such a wonderful impact in our lives. However, when these dogs are serving alongside our soldiers and sailors, defending our country, their heroic tales are more inspirational. I think the author tells this story very well. It is relatable and I’m sure many children will gain a lot from reading it. It is a great read for adults too!”
“Very cute book that I read to my 7 year old daughter and she loved it. Fully recommend to any children, and not just dog loving children.”
“A wonderfully skilled blend of fact and fiction, beautifully narrated, and really touches on the important things in life.”
“Such a heartwarming, lovely story. Great for all ages. A cute twist on a true story. Like all of her books, you feel good when you read it.”
“Such a well written and heart warming story for all children. Thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. Captivating read from the first page!”
“A book written for all the senses : tactile information, kinaesthetic, auditive….a strong auctorial voice explains every situation, making it possible for the reader to live it as a film.”
“A delightful story narrated by Grandad about a mischievious fun loving dog who gained the friendship and respect of the Navy Seamen. Patricia brilliantly conveys the child-like innocence and wonderment of the children. The story will make you “awww” as well as “lol”. Parents will enjoy reading Joyful Trouble to their little ones.”
“I have just finished reading “Joyful Trouble” and I loved it!
Really funny and excellent likeable characters, especially the little brother Tommy. A charming read for those of us who understand the joys and pains of owning dogs.
Well worth a read, you won’t be disappointed. :-)”
Raising a boy who takes pleasure out of reading books just as much as from a soccer ball or a Play Station might sound easier said than done, but, in the long run, it’s all worth it.
There are lots of books there that can stand on their own two feet and win the battle against a Nintendo, a Xbox or… even Minecraft!
Here are five easy steps to get your son to enjoy reading.
1. Visit the local library together.
Let your son wonder around the library, see a book and sit down to page through it. Don’t rush him. Find books with little text and lots of images geared at what your child is interested it. Then slowly move to books with short chapters.
If your child struggles to read himself, then read to him, aloud, every day. He’ll still get to enjoy the story without feeling frustrated and books will still be a positive experience for him. Until he’ll enjoy them by himself.
2. Leave reading material around the house
Be it a picture book on his favorite topic, a magazine or a comic book, you want him to pick it up and enjoy a page or two at a tiem. How-to books on sport are a great place to start getting a boy interested in reading.
Never make reading a chore. Rather surround your child with books, rather than forcing it on him. Place a bookshelf in his room and allow him to choose a few books to place in it.
Children often mimic what they see and we, as parents, are our children’s mirrors.
Kids, especially boys, love silly books. Books with jokes are a great way to get them reading, sometimes even without them even noticing they are doing it.
4. Get Dad involved.
Get Dad to read too if your son struggles with reading. Even better, try a father-son book club and perhaps get involved with other dads and their sons. Book clubs are not only for girls – have a BBQ-Book Club, for example.
Remember, having positive role models help both boys and girl staying interested in reading.
5. Start a reading list by writing down what your son read and what he would like to read next. Allow him to rate the books. This way you can both see where his interests lay and he can feel more in control over his reading.
Studies show that children who have been introduced to books from an early age have a positive attitude towards reading and a greater chance to become successful readers. But a successful reader isn’t only someone who devours one book after another. A successful reader will also understand what the story line is about, will get its meaning and will also be able to focus on the task at hand for a longer time. For this is what reading entails, being able to focus indefinitely. Or at least until Mom or Dad come to switch off your light and forceful y remove the book from your hand because… tomorrow is school.
I am overjoyed to announced the release of my new children’s book Joyful Trouble just in time to enter it in the 2017 Kindle Storyteller Contest with amazing reviews from all over the world, the best ones written by children!
Here is one of my favorite book reviews:
Joyful Trouble Book Review by 10 years old E from Ireland
Talented E, 10 years old from Ireland, left the following 5 Stars Amazon Review:
” This book is based on the true story of a dog called Joyful Trouble. There are three main characters: five year-old Tommy, his nine-year-old sister Anna, and their grandad. When they see a Great Dane in a parade, Grandad tells the kids the story of a dog he loved, called Joyful Trouble. He remembers being in the Navy during WWII and meeting the dog on the way to work one day.
Joyful Trouble was a mischievous but very helpful dog. The seamen got to know and love him and the dog was soon part of the crew. Joyful Trouble and Grandad were good friends and were put to work together. Along the way, the dog meets new friends, loses old ones and still is very happy. He causes a lot of trouble (that’s how he got his name) but also stops fights and commotion. In this book, Grandad is the story-teller and Anna and Tommy are the very eager listeners.
I love this book and it made me happy and, at some parts, sad. It is also a bit funny. The reason I love it so much is because I love dogs and true stories. I hope others will also enjoy it. I would recommend it for ages 8+.”
Thank you, E! Your heartfelt review is exactly what a writer strives towards 🙂
A humorous read about an incredible dog and how he found his true, yet unexpected calling.
A dog. A friendship. A purpose.
Proven to warm your heart, “Joyful Trouble” is a fast-paced, engaging and funny story.
Patricia Furstenberg paints a charming portrait of the bond between a small girl and boy and their much-loved Grandad. This book takes readers on an unbelievable journey, tackling universal themes and voicing animal rights and the importance of fighting for what is right.
When a Great Dane arrives in a Navy base nobody expects him to win everybody’s hearts, although breaking some rules along the way. But things soon turn sour as somebody threatens to put him to sleep. Who will stand up for this four-legged gentle giant?
A charming celebration of innocence.
***From the back cover of the print edition:***
“A superb tale which teaches us the true meaning of love, integrity, and the greatest things of all – a dog’s friendship and loyalty.” Susan Day Author, astrosadventuresbookclub.com
“Nine-year-old Ana and her little brother Tommy are taken on an historical adventure by their grandfather. It is the true story of an exceptional and gentle giant. Experiences that draw the reader in, through touching life lessons about courage, determination, resilience, loyalty, civic duty, empathy, history and a friendship that binds beyond human conception. ‘Grandpa looking into Ana’s eyes—said, ‘You must remember this. Determination and faith Ana, will always get you through tough times. Always.’” Jennifer Campana Lopez, TheJennieration.com – A New Generation of Fearless Thinkers & Learners.
The Storyteller contest is open until 19th May 2017 to budding and established authors.
In a world where terrorism takes over peace and hostilities replace kindness and tolerance; in a country where #FeesMustFall and, indirectly, so does education, a country governed by the local version of He Who Must Not Be Named, how do we keep our faith strong, for the sake of our children?
I keep on telling myself that the people make the country and not its politicians. Although the politicians may very well break it. After all, the people have the power to choose their own government. Although power is not the correct word here anymore, choice is. Just as I choose not to speak ill of my husband in front of my children – or anyone else for that matter and just as I do not speak ill of my own children in front of them – or anyone else, because I don’t want to break them.