Secrets: You Tell Me Yours, I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe by Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein

Joining us today is Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, author of Secrets: You Tell Me Yours, I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe. This is the second book in The Truth Series for girls. The Truth: I’m a Girl, I’m Smart and I Know Everything, the first book in the series, is also available at Amazon.

Since this book is written as a series of diary entries from the girl, now 13 years old, we asked Dr. Barbara if she had any diaries as a kid and if she remembered anything she had written in them.


I started to keep a diary when I was nine years old.  Actually, it was a leather bound Girl Shout Diary purchased downtown in Reid’s Department Store in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Yes, I do mean ‘Girl Shout’.  You see, I was dyslectic.  Spelling was not my strong point.

Keeping a diary in the fourth, fifth and sixth grades was an amazing commitment for me.  I made a promise to myself that every day would be recorded.  I almost kept the promise.  Once in awhile when I was sick I just fell behind.  Otherwise, even if I was three days behind I wrote.  I would lie on my bed at night and write about my day, or yesterday.  Basically, the diary was a journal of events and a few feelings.  It would go something like this:

“Today I wore my brown jumper and my new loafers.   My father took me to school.  We had indoor recess.  I had a tuna fish sandwish for lucnh.  I walked home with Angela.  We had steake for supper.  I had to pratice my violin a lot today.  My mother tested me on my spelling words for the week.  I got most of them write.  I was so happy.  I love Lucy was on tonight.  I took a shower and then came down to watch it.  I went to bed after it was over.  Eileen called and asked if I was sleeping over this weekend.  I don’t know yet.”

Now as I look back on a typical excerpt, such as the one above, I realize how I shied away from any comments that reflected thoughts or feelings that were uncomfortable to me on any level.  I never talked about my parents’ arguments or if my feelings were hurt.  I never mentioned the one episode I had when a neighbor was inappropriate as I walked home from school.  Although I felt upset for months about the episode, not a word was said in the Girl Shout Diary!

Most of the feelings I was willing to share in the diary were happy ones, such as my pleasure watching I Love Lucy or the excitement I felt about going on a vacation or going to New York City to see a play.  Other feelings appear to be much too risky.  What was I afraid of?  Perhaps my parents would read the diary?  I don’t remember worrying about that.  Maybe I simply wanted to keep the history of my life simple and upbeat?  What is so fascinating is I do remember intentionally leaving out anything risky at the emotional level.  But what I can’t remember is why.

Sometimes I think it was girlish wisdom and optimism combined.  Could I have known at a deep unconscious level that staying happy means to a large extent not focusing on what is not right?

When I decided to write The Truth Series for girls, tweens and teens, I had to make some other choices.  Now I had to build into a young girl’s diary not only what happened to her, but also her feelings and insights.   To not do so, would of course have made The Truth (I’m a girl, I’m smart and I know everything) and Secrets: You Tell Me Yours and I’ll Tell You Mine…maybe as dull as my paragraph above.  Also the fictional diary would be without the fabric that is essential for the reader to process and benefit from.  After all, it is the window the author provides into the feelings, thoughts, and happenings to the characters in a book, through which we can look at our own lives and how we are handling them.

So I knew I had to take the concept of a diary but imbue it with feelings and words I never would have dared to write.  I also knew I had to make my character much more universal that I ever was.  She has had happen to her so many universal themes: her parents do not get along; she has crushes; she has sibling issues; she has to deal with moving; a close relative dies; she has questions and no one to ask them to; she has jealousies; she discovers secrets in her family and the list goes on.  Yet, she too, must remain basically upbeat and optimistic.  That way she is a beacon of light and encouragement to other girls and also a role model for discussions with their moms, teachers, guidance counselors, etc.

I know I have achieved this in The Truth Series.  And yes, I have my three Girl Shout Diaries to thank for much of the success of these books.  My Girl Shout Diaries reinforced the practice and diligence that is necessary to become a writer.  They also left me fascinated with the diary concept and the intimacy it can achieve for both the writer and the reader.  I am grateful I had the chance to write at such a young age.  I am also grateful that no one checked my spelling!

Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein, internationally known Positive Psychologist, is the creator of The Enchanted Self,(r) a systematic way of helping to bring more joy, meaning and purpose into our lives. Thanks to authors like her, more people have been studying the mind in psychology degree programs and great advances have been made in improving the human condition. Dr. Holstein has been a school psychologist for more than twenty five years. She has taught elementary school children and was an assistant professor of education at Boston University. She has been in private practice as a psychologist with her husband, Dr. Russell M. Holstein, in Long Branch, New Jersey, for over twenty five years.


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Happy Memorial Day!



Today, as we celebrate with our family and friends, let us not forget the sacrifices made in the name of freedom.

Happy Memorial Day! God bless our military men and women!

America’s Black Founders by Nancy I. Sanders


For an educational and fun reading experience look no further than America’s Black Founders: Revolutionary Heroes and Early Leaders by Nancy I. Sanders.

In this engaging book geared for ages 9 – 12, Sanders brings America’s black Revolutionary hereos and early leaders to life with stories, historical photographs, and special features. While this book covers a variety of heroes and leaders–John Marrant, Lucy Terry Prince, Crispus Attucks, Salem Poor, Harry Hosier and many more–the story of Richard Allen, from his birth to his death flows through the entire book, weaving in and out of the times in which Allen lived.

Also included are 21 activities that youngsters will enjoy. From stuffing a straw mattress to making a stamp, from how to pen a patriotic poem to designing a flag, and from reading the Declaration of Independence to exploring your family tree, these activities will keep your children or students entertained while they learn.

The photography in this book is outstanding. It is also obvious that Sanders put a great deal of effort and research into America’s Black Founders.  Classes that are studying Colonial America and Revolutionary times will definitely want to have this in their library. It is also a great read for Black History Month.

I highly recommend America’s Black Founders by Nancy Sanders. You can find many more books by Sanders by checking out her website.

Rating:  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Publisher: Chicago Review Press
  • ISBN-10: 1556528116
  • ISBN-13: 978-1556528118
  • SRP:  $16.95 

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    From the Family Bookshelf



    It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted this column. Year end school activities and preparing for our son’s wedding hasn’t left me a lot of blogging time. It’s taken a tiny bite out of the reading time too, but not so much since I read every night before bedtime.During that time, I’ve managed to read some great books:

    Conflicts with Interest by Michael Ruddy. This book brings you up close to the dark underbellies of insurance companies and law offices as seen through a builder’s eyes when he is sued by a client for construction issues.

    More Than Conquerors by Kathi Macias. While the stated genre is contemporary thriller, it is definitely a Christian novel. I loved it!

    America’s Black Founders by Nancy I. Sanders (Review will be posted here soon). This is a book for school-aged children. Every third and fourth grade classroom in America should have one, though younger and older grades would enjoy it too.

    I’m currently reading The Wildcat’s Burden by Christopher Hoare. This is the fourth book in his Iskander series.  I’m also reading A Very Dangerous Woman: Martha Wright and Women’s Rights by the husband and wife team of Sherry Penny and James Livingston.  This last book, sadly to say, was left out in the rain during last night’s huge thunderstorm. I was reading it while I grilled on the deck, but forgot to bring it in. It rained on my beautiful book for about 30 minutes before I realized where it was. I am so upset.

    Okay, now on to Dad. He just finished up Prayers for the Assassin  by Robert Ferrigno. I assume he’ll be starting on the second in this series soon.

    The Lil Diva is back to reading her two, Katie & Kimble books: Katie & Kimble: A Ghost Story and Katie & Kimble: The Magic Wish. She’s anxiously awaiting the third book in this series.

    The Lil Princess has been enjoying books by Lynn Plourde: Book Fair Day, School Picture Day, and Teacher Appreciation Day. She really wants to read without assistance, but she isn’t totally there yet. She’s making good progress, though, and these books are so fun that she wants to read them over and again. She has trouble with some of the names, like “Josephina Caroleena Wattasheena the First” from School Picture Day. But it is also those silly parts that entertain her.

    Until next time, keep reading!

    Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay

    I just finished listening to Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay, narrated by Justine Eyre.  This is an audio book I received through the Amazon Vine program. I didn’t know it was an audio book when I requested it, but I am glad I gave it a shot.

    My full review will appear on Amazon, but I wanted to highly recommend it to my readers here. This is a sequel to A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. McKay was captivated by this story of a group of young girls at Miss Minchin’s Select Seminary for Young Ladies when she was a girl and used that book as a basis for her story.

    A Little Princess centers around a young girl named Sara Crewe, who is living a life of privilege, until her father, Captain Crewe, dies penniless in India. Sara now works for the mean Miss Minchin as a scullery maid and is forced to live up in the attic, but she says she can still be a princess inside. Then one day, a mysterious man from next door changes Sara’s world forever.

    Wishing for Tomorrow is the story of the girls left behind at Miss Minchin’s after Sara leaves with the mysterious man from next door. Ermengarde struggles now that her best friend, Sara, is gone. Lavinia is leader of the girls again and dreams of a more interesting life. Lottie gets into all kinds of mischief.  And the new maid, Alice, is a welcome addition to Miss Minchin’s, even if her standards aren’t quite up to what Sara’s used to be.

    I have not read A Little Princess, so I don’t know how closely McKay followed Burnett’s original creation when she wrote about Ermengarde, Lavinia, Lottie, Jessica, and Gertrude, but this is a moving story. One that I will certainly listen to again.

    As I might have mentioned before, I am currently at work on a middle grade novel about Amelia, a young orphan girl who is sent to live with her miserable spinister aunt. I requested Wishing for Tomorrow because Amelia will be spending part of her time at Wheaton Female Seminary (now Wheaton College), and I wanted to get a feel for some of the things Amelia might have experienced. Having never gone away to college or off to boarding school, I needed to find a way to make Amelia’s experiences real for the reader.

    While I reviewed the audio version of this book, Wishing for Tomorrow is also available as a hardcover.

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    Audio Books–Do You Listen to Them?

     Children’s Book Week has meant all sorts of new adventures for me. In addition to going to see a production based upon Judy Blume’s classic Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, I am reading a book in a format I usually avoid–audio.

    I have a confession to make first. I didn’t know this was an audio book when I requested it from the Amazon Vine program. This program allows you to request a certain number of items each month and post a review on Amazon. I don’t participate much in the program because I have so many other books to read for my blogs, but when I find something of interest I’ll send in a request.

    I am currently working on a middle grade historical, part of which will be set at Wheaton College in Norton, MA–which during the time of my story was Wheaton Female Seminary. I wanted to get a feel for life at an all girl seminary and thought Wishing for Tomorrow by Hilary McKay would be perfect. When I discovered it was an audio book, I have to admit I was disappointed. I’m not the kind of person who can listen to music while she works, let alone try to pay enough attention to a story at the same time I’m working.

    I have found, however, that these compact discs are perfect to listen to in my truck while on the way to the grocery store or when I have a bunch of errands to run. I’m truly enjoying the story. The characters are all so different, and narrator Justine Eyre does a wonderful job of breathing life into these characters and capturing their essence.

    Do you listen to audio books? If yes, how often? What do you like about them? Is there anything you don’t like about audio books?

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    Judy Blume’s Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing at Springfield Symphony Hall

    I decided to celebrate Children’s Book Week with a new adventure. I went on a field trip with the Lil Diva’s third grade class to see a local production of Judy Blume’s classic, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. This book tells the story of poor Peter who is beside himself because of his brother Fudgie’s cuteness, constant meddling in Peter’s things, and total bratiness.

    I had never read this book, even though I was a big Judy Blume fan as a kid. This production was hilarious. I couldn’t decide, however, if I was angry over how inept the parents were portrayed or if it added  to the charm of the whole thing.

    I keep thinking to some of the modern-day cartoons and shows, and how the adults are created to be such boobs.  Fairly Oddparents comes to mind. Is anyone familiar with that one? It’s a Nick cartoon where Timmy Turner is a young boy who has fairy godparents who grant his every wish because his life is so miserable. His parents care about almost everything more than Timmy and his babysitter is pure evil. Yes, it sets the stage for many hilarious antics, but couldn’t that happen without making his parents seem so self-absorbed?

    iCarly is another show that comes to mind. I like the premise of three kids putting together a web show and doing some silly stuff, but Mrs. Benson is portrayed as a total nut job. She is so paranoid that something will happen to Freddie that she had a tracking chip placed in his brain, has a first aid kit the size of an equipment shed, and makes him wear antibacterial underwear. The teachers at Carly’s school–outside of Principal Franklin, who after the kids get him his job back, admits in an episode that he loves Carly, Sam, and Freddie–are portrayed as mean-spirited people who don’t like kids.

    As a mom I can’t help but worry about the message shows like this send to our children; though it’s possible I’ve analyzed these shows much more than the average kid will.

    Overall, I am glad I went to see this production at Springfield Symphony Hall. Though the day was cool and rainy, the kids enjoyed getting out and watching a play based upon a book they had recently read in school. I might pick up a copy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume to see how closely the production followed the book. My daughter mentioned a few differences on the way home.

    What did you do today to celebrate Children’s Book Week? Do you think some books and television shows portray parents in a bad light? Do you still let your children read or watch them?

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