Book Review: The Eleventh Question by Dianne Gray

In her riveting book, The Eleventh Question Dianne Gray takes a visionary slant to take care of an invasive social problem that has received much publicity in the last 10 years. The problem of bullying is one of the chief causes of teen suicide as well as incidents of school violence that shock entire communities to their core.

Wikipedia tells casual researchers like me that  “Bullying consists of three basic types of abuse – emotional, verbal, and physical. …Social aggression or indirect bullying is characterized by attempting to socially isolate the victim. …Often bullying takes place in the presence of a large group of relatively uninvolved bystanders. In many cases, it is the bully’s ability to create the illusion that he or she has the support of the majority present that instills the fear of “speaking out” in protestation of the bullying activities being observed by the group.”  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bullying

This brief excerpt from Wikipedia describes the life of Arista, teen-aged daughter of a loving, but alcoholic and neglectful mother.  With nowhere to turn for help, Arista is on the verge of suicide, when help comes from seemingly out of no where.  What makes this story so fascinating is the OTHER story, of a young ayudante, or helper, to a seer in another part of the world.  Ayudante has his own real world struggles, but is able to “see” Arista as she grapples with her life’s questions.  Her questions somehow tie into his life as well.

The Eleventh Question wove its magical spell around my clock, and time didn’t seem to move at all as engrossed as I was in this novel.

The Eleventh Question and the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.

It is my trademark to offer an opinion here to how a teacher might ramp up the effectiveness of non-fiction documents by the use of fiction, and vice versa.  The non-fiction, social studies issue here is bullying, and with a hint of religious rights.  I can picture students reading this book and doing what I did, rushing to the find out more about bullying, and then turning it into a social action, project based learning experience.

Project Citizen is one curriculum published by the non-profit organization of Center for Civic Education that helps students reach out to the world of public policies to help them solve major social problems in the local community.  Other organizations such as the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Civic Action Project, and the Buck Institute offer similar effective programs or curricular ideas for whole class participation in a project that drives the learning deep as well as wide.

There are few people in this world who have been untouched by bullying.  It is frightening how subtle bullying can be, and how long-term, sometimes fatal, the effects of intimmidating.  Gray’s solution identified social policies connected with the foster care system that students could evaluate.  She also integrates the spirit world, which captures the imagination in a Harry Potter fashion, as a means of solving the problem.

Conservative Christians will have to keep an open mind as they read this book, just as they do with any book that edifies a religion other than Christianity.   Gray puts the actions of one zealous Christian man on the proverbial red carpet, as his behavior warrants.

As I read this I asked myself, “Is this how people typically view Christians?” and then I continued to question, “Is this an accurate stereotype?”  Then, “Why am I feeling defensive here?”  “Am I responsible for the actions of one man in a story?”  “Does he reflect MY values?”  “What about the imperfections of the Seer, and Ayudante?”   “Were they portrayed as evil or wrong?” One right after another, questions kept tumbling into my brain.  I feared that I might end up with eleven questions.  And then what might happen?

Read the book.  Fall in love with Arista and Cayo, the young Ayudante.  The Eleventh Question is heartening, loving, surprising, and deep.  See if it doesn’t make you think, and smile, and cry a wee bit.

Learn about the philosophy of the eleventh question.  I accidentally found out there is more to this than some random number.  You can always count on Dianne to dig deeper in her writing.  🙂

My favorite picture of Dianne of all times!!! You can’t meet a nicer lady!!! 🙂 ML

Other reviews and interviews of author, Dianne Gray, you might enjoy.

Author: Marsha

Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, author, blogger and retired teacher/consultant. Read more about me here. http://wp.me/P7tP3I-2

77 thoughts on “Book Review: The Eleventh Question by Dianne Gray”

  1. “Is this how people typically view Christians?” I am going to assume it is in a unflattering light, correct? If so, in my run ins with the more vocal of the group, then yes, yes it is. I will have to read the book to find out for sure.

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    1. And that, my dear Papi, is a great compliment to a book reviewer. I will be anxious to find out what you think! And beyond that, why, and what to do to change it!!! Or change ourselves, since we can’t change anyone but ourselves!!! Thanks for reading and commenting, and best yet, thanks for reading. The book IS a “can’t put it down” book!!! 🙂

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  2. Your excellent review, Marsha, has me dying to read Dianne’s book. you’re so right when you say that there are few people in this world who haven’t suffered at the hands of bullies. Sometimes we don’t even realise that’s what’s happening to us. I’m off the put this book in my Amazon wish list. 🙂 I also love that photo of Dianne, and find her blog to be like a breath of fresh air.

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    1. You two are two of a kind. The difference is that you write a post every day, and she writes books. You are both awesome writers. I could ready both of your writing every day, and never get tired of reading!!! You just can’t write fast enough!!! But I don’t want to keep you from Amazon!!! 🙂

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  3. “There are few people in this world who have been untouched by bullying.”

    I think this is so true. Sometimes we probably don’t realize bullying has happened until years later. I believe now I was bullied as a freshman in high school. It really was nothing big…but then bullying is not always about big stuff. But the result of lost of self esteem is big.
    I see now where an adult could have intervened and provided some real help to me AND the bullier. But those were different times.

    And perhaps….There are few people who have not done some bullying either. 😦

    We all need to be involved with helping solve this problem……both sides of it.

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    1. I agree with you, Meme. I was bullied some. I remember one ride home on the bus in 7th grade when I weighed less than 100 lbs, and was nearly 5’5″ tall. One boy sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and handed me two pennies, and said, “Here go buy yourself a padded bra. You need one.” (Exact quote remembered X years later!!!!) I haven’t worn an unpadded bra since them. (or no bra, since I don’t really need one anyway.)

      One the other hand, I think many people don’t realize what they can do, they’re scared to do anything because they don’t want to be bullied, or they don’t feel confident to put themselves in the middle, or they don’t think it is serious enough to intervene, or they don’t have the ability to empathize.

      As a brand new teacher I had a bullying problem with one girl in the 5th grade. I talked to her and tried to help HER deal with the bully, the principal’s child. I told her my story, and gave her the advice my mom gave me. HER mother was furious at me (as she should have been – I didn’t really do enough to the bully.) That girl eventually became a teacher, and mother. The mother and father still greet me by name when they see me, and that was over 20 years ago. Sometimes, we just don’t know WHAT to do. THAT has to change!!! Love you Meme. 🙂 Marsha 🙂

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      1. Your experience sounds about like mine. lol Except it was the other girls who did the teasing.
        I am now so grateful for my slim little self. After retiring I vowed 3 things. No makeup, no dresses and you guess the 3rd. lol

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      2. Time to babble, I guess. This is great-fiction to depict bullying and the results it causes. Your tale is so positive, you hung in there with parents anger, the girl became a teacher, probably due to your impact to help her.

        I was bullied quite a bit in jr high and even early high school. I hated it and at times wanted to just skip school, but never did.

        I found out many years later one really bad bully was unfortunately deep into drugs as a young man, sad. Little help then, in the 1970’s in a small upstate NY town where this happened. Moved to progressive large city and it was so great to be free of this, got good grades not bothered by bullies, but could have used help back then. Parents said “ignore it”, NEVER WORKED.

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        1. I never liked that advice very well either, but it was all the advice I had. Basically I must have been lucky because beyond that one time, I don’t remember them bothering me, and I can’t even remember who they were or what they looked like. Just their words.

          Where were you in NY? My husband grew up in Jamestown, as did our neighbor across the street here in CA. As it turned out, both me grew up, not knowing each other in Jamestown, and again not knowing each other when they graduated in different years from Burbank High School, CA, but did finally meet across the street from each other in Central California. V’s people were on the wrong side of the tracks from Ron’s people in NY. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Sir. Sorry you had to go through that, too! Maybe everybody does. I wish I had been more proactive with my student. Teachers (and parents) need a lot more time to practice before they start in with real kids!!! What’s up with that anyway??? 🙂 Marsha 🙂

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          1. WEEELLL, Jamestown NY was where all this took place!! V must have been blessed to have dodged the bullies there, or a huge hulk to repel them!! As I do not yet know V, I am just guessing!! I weighed 125 lbs at 5 foot 8 in Jr High and High School. Male Gym weigh-ins were most distressing as they called out the weights, the “obese” and the “twigs” got much unwanted attention. But an awesome Jamestown High School Honors Chemistry Teacher, Mr. Hull (1974), is remembered fondly as a major influence to go into science and technology in college. I continue to work and prosper in that field, so in many ways their tauntings and rasberries are on them. What power one great teacher can have!

            I must add, though, I joined the JHS Junior play (to impress a girl, no luck) and found that thespianism is fascinating. As I was about to move away with family at end of Junior year, one popular girl (I was not in that crowd) did turn to me and the class and apologized for the bullying that took place and was sorry her classmates had treated me so terribly. I will never forget that act of kindness as I and my family left Jamestown, and we actually wept, my mother and I, that we finally were leaving that city (for Toledo, OH, where things were far better). Where my college that launched my career was (BGSU).

            It is very hard for me to read news about bullies and those that give up, die or turn to crime over it and can understand their plight. I am glad so much more is available to combat this blight, but more needs to be done, rather than “ignore them”.!!

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          2. What a small world, Sir!!! V lived in Jamestown as a young boy, where all his father’s family lived, then moved to Burbank, CA where all his mother’s family lived. And back and forth they moved. V is heavier, but still only 5’4″, so I’m sure was teased. I think he weighed 145 when he got OUT of the service at his heaviest!! He had a big family back there, though, and I think that probably helped. That settles it, Sir, you are going to have to come meet us, or vice versa!! Marsha 🙂

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          3. What a tremendous shock to move from Jamestown to Burbank CA!! I would like to know how V compares/contrasts the two cities. I know I do not miss Jamestown and have not kept any “friends” from there.

            So V had the height issue, can be bad also for teasing.

            My trip here in OR is going well. Saw 1000’s of wind turbine in the upper middle part of Oregon state, so can see wind is huge here in OR and the NW.

            Well my time here at the motel is about over, so must go.

            We do have to meet, V and I have more in common than first thought! What year did V leave Jamestown; I left in 1974, the date of emancipation, IMO. Toledo OH was a lot better for my family and myself.

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          4. I’ll have to ask him when he left. I dont’ know, but probably way before that. I’m sure he was teased about his height, but not in Jamestown. He was too young for it to be an issue! My first husband was only 5’7 and before he passed away he had shrunk to 5’2!!!

            You HAVE to go to Powel’s books!!! You HAVE to, Sir. It’s right off Burnside in downtown Portland. It is the most famous bookstore in the world! When I worked for a dental office in downtown Portland, the owner was a patient of ours. But I’m sure he’s long gone, now. Anyway, it’s super huge, and the books are used and new. You can find ANY book that ever was!!! It’s truly amazing!

            I’m glad you are enjoying Portland. It’s a great place. I hope you guys move there. I will come visit you and visit my brother who lives on the South East side a ways out. I love Portland. 🙂 Marsha 🙂

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          5. I am back now. Here in paradisical Florida, where ibis birds flock to your car’s bonnet! Back to Portland…

            No birds flocked to my car there. I parked my car in downtown Portland early, got the Early Bird discount (but still few birds about) and went to my Summit. I found a nice Starbucks nearby and spread out my conference materials to go over and email a few contacts. My GPS said Powell’s was just a few blocks over, so I walked there. Portland is weird, with very interesting sidewalk strollers. Got to Powells and yes it is huge. We got several Field Guides to Pacific NW, very reasonably (used). Actually went there twice! It is pretty easy to get around there. Others say they love Portland too. I found a fab sushi fast food restaurant there, with tofu and rice bites.

            I’m sorry your first husband lost all that height. Cancer is similar in the ravages of the body, uugh. They gotta get better treatment for these things!

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  4. You make this review sound like one that every teacher should read. There is too much bullying going on and it needs to stop. Seems like an epidemic. Kids that bully ought to go to jail or put on juvenille detention or whatever it is called.

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    1. Yvonne, I love your comment!!! Help me get the word out!!! This book is spell binding for adults and kids alike. The reading level isn’t hard, and any student aged 5-6th grade could understand it! 🙂 Marsha 🙂

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      1. Oh well Marsha, if the book is written on 5-6 th grade level I will have to pas that up. haven’t you figured that out yet?

        I can not make my link thing work. My blogging friend is trying her best to help me but I wrote to her that she needs to imagine that she is teaching somebody from Texas or something like that. Gee I hope no one from Texas reads this, They might take offense. I am a native and have lived in same 25 mile radius my entire life. Same house for 51 years now. I’m called a stick in the mud!

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        1. Hi Yvonne, I didn’t mean that it was only 5-6th grade. Newspapers are written at that level, as are many textbooks. I just meant that EVEN a child that age could understand it. I loved the book, and I have a master’s degree and years of teaching and administrative experience. 🙂 Marsha 🙂

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      2. Marsha, you are not getting my sarcastic self. I meant that if the book can be read by a 5-6 grader then I would be too difficult for me to read and over my head. 🙂 I can read just about anything and not be bored. That is if I had the time to read anymore, but I don’t have that kind of time. If I did not blog or have animals to care for I would have time to tweedle my thumbs.

        If you had read all of my comment you would have seen that I refer to myself as a Texas dummy. Okay? Really! I am a dummy! Some of the computer thingys I am having a problem with. So I must be a dummy. I don’t have a master’s degree. Just a PHD in dummydumbdumb!

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        1. Yvonne, You are right, I missed something when I read your remark!!! I don’t know you well, but what I know is that you write more thoughtfully and intelligently than 99% of the world, so you could have told me that you had a PhD, and I would have believed that, too. I don’t believe the “dummy” idea. No one that blogs like you do, 1) is a dummy, 2) can’t read 3) has ANY time!!!

          No twiddling for you, but then you can’t hold a book and twiddle at the same time. Better get the audio version!! Sorry to be so slow!!! 🙂 Marsha

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          1. Dear Marsha, you are too sweet and too kind for words. Now that we better understand each other, I will endeavor not to be so dry and sarcastic (if indeed that is the word I should be using for my silly sense of humor.

            But I do like you for whatever reason 🙂 not sure why. 🙂

            So I must be off and see about eating an English muffin with honey. I did not have time to eat. Lots more animal work that usual and I am tired- probably because I did not eat and my time is 12:23am 2/10-2013 CST.

            later,
            Yvonne

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          2. oooooh I think you are a blogaholic. 12:23 a.m., that’s getting into aholoic hours, Yvonne!!! I’m not sure why you like me, but I’m glad you do. I do have a feisty side, but sometimes I’m just plain dumb – just don’t see it. Ralph would call me blond. Another friend called me semi-smart, and another space cadet. Even in grade school I remember a boy writing in my yearbook about it in 5th grade. Sometimes I’ms sharp as a tack, and sometimes people wonder what planet I’m from. You happened to catch me at a time when I must have been visiting Pluto, thinking it was still a planet. I got lost on the way back down, and just didn’t get your drift!! So as long as you know that about me, and are ok with it, we can be very good friends. 🙂 Marsha 🙂

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  5. Thank you for posting this. I wrote an article on bullying and an opinion piece this week for the newspaper I work. It is an important issue that many seem to blow off. When I wrote for the other local newspaper, I followed the career of an up and coming country singer. He name is Kylie Morgan and she wrote and sang a song called Phoebe and has a music video that was filmed in my hometown on YouTube. Its about the Irish girl who committed suicide because of bullying she received when she moved to the states. I will have to read this book.

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    1. I agree, Darla. It is a very important issue. WE see the violence in our country and we wonder what to do about it. Getting more guns isn’t going to solve the problem and make people feel safer!!! 🙂 Thanks for your thoughtful comment, and I know you will enjoy Dianne’s book!!! Marsha 🙂

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      1. you are welcome! 🙂 I checked my library system and they do not have it – yet, but I will make a request. Is it fairly new? I’ve been given so many books by publishers that I balk at paying for them. (I know, cheap right?) Hey, I will write the publishing company and get started back recieveing books since I now am employed by another paper!
        Hey, if you like fantasy fiction, check out the Skulduggery Pleasant series. It is from an Irish writer and is bigger in the UK than here. In fact the US is about two books behind. I don’t understand why, because Warner Bros has already bought the movie rights and its fantastic.

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          1. LOL, that is right! You don’t have to have a degree, your experience counts, you just need to get published. You can start with your local paper and submit stuff. It is great seeing your byline in print!

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          2. That’s true, Darla. I have had articles published. I’m having one published in a magazine this next month. Then I’m going to have a regular feature, and it’s a quarterly magazine. I’ve been published in history organization’s magazines or newsletters while I was working. I had some poems published in small magazines – I refused to pay to have anything published. I just haven’t done anything fiction or tried publishing a book yet. That’s next!!! Marsha 🙂

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          3. wow, that is so cool. Send me the link to your magazine publication (if they post it on line) I would love to read it.
            That is awesome, I know you will do well with fiction as well, you have a great sense of humor and timing. 🙂

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          1. Darla, Dianne is a blogging friend. She is adorable!! I haven’t met her in person, but I feel like I have. That would be so cool for you to do a review for your paper!!! YEAH!!!!! 🙂 Marsha

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          2. I commented on her blog and asked her to email me to get my address so she could send me a review copy of her book. Wow, I didn’t realize she had written so many books, both fiction and non-fiction. I have written enough to fill up several books, but have never tried my hand at a book. Except for the History book I did for the town where my newspaper was from.
            The paper self-published it, but I got credit as “written by” – I don’t think that really counts. But, I did write, organize the history and photos, and designed the chapters for the entire book. It chronicled the towns history from 1894 to 2005. It was a huge undertaking (one that totally freaked me out) that I did while continuing my other duties, but I’m pretty proud of it.

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          3. You have written publicly, though, since you’ve written for a newspaper. One summer I wrote a book, but it sits, printed in my office, never going anywhere. I loved doing it, though. It was amazing how the characters just started to come alive in my mind, having conversations, etc. It was hard for me to keep my facts straight, though! I did it so long ago, I’d just have to retype it now because the technology is long gone that held it’s contents. hahaha. Low self esteem – held me back from pushing it out to the public forefront. Besides at that time, I couldn’t stomach criticism. Still not great at it, but when you write, there will be some criticism and having to rework things. 🙂 Right?? Marsha 🙂

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          4. For nearly 10 years been published, but I’ve never tried to get anything published other than newspaper and magazines.
            I too, like you, don’t do well with criticism. 😦
            That is funny about the technology, what did you do, type it on an electric typewriter? LOL
            you should pull it out and do a rewrite and see if it still speaks to you; if nothing else, but for your family!

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          5. Hahahaha Darla. I finally threw mine from work away when I retired after 11 years on the job. I decided that if I hadn’t needed them in 11 years, oh well!!! No need to pass them on to the next person to throw away! 🙂 ML

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  6. What a wonderful review, Marsha. Thank you so much! Bullying and philosophy are two subjects I’ve wanted to write about for a long time and to be able to weave the two into one book was a great experience. I’m so glad (and flattered!) that you enjoyed reading it. Could you please tell Darla Welchel that I would be happy to send her a free copy if she can’t find it in her local library 😀

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    1. For some reason (egocentricity, perhaps?), I felt that bullying in the schools was primarily a problem HERE (in the U.S.) and not “THERE.” Sounds like it’s a more global phenomenon than I’d previously considered.

      Thanks for the review, Marsha.

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  7. Hi Marsha. I should be frantically typing away with a comment and I have been sitting here mesmerised by that rabbit !! So I shall not comment as I will watch that rabbit for the rest of the night 😉 Ralph xox

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    1. Hi to you Ralph, Easy to keep you entertained!! It will be no problem at all to have you visit us. We have real cats, birds, rabbits, and other critters. 🙂 ML, I mean Marsha Lee xox 🙂

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  8. I rarely read book reviews but the “bullying” in the first few words of this one kept me locked in to the end. I thought I’d download the book from Amazon as my next Kindle read. However, when I went to Amazon this is what was said:
    “The Eleventh Question is a magical story of want and desire. A witch’s young apprentice yearns for the answers to life and a lonely girl asks the questions that may set him free. Their intertwined stories touch the essential wisdom of listening to our hearts and following the path of our dreams”.
    So, my question is: “Is this the same book?”. The reblogged review made me go straight to Amazon to buy. Then the Amazon stuff turned me off completely.

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    1. Dear Grumpy, I would have been turned off by the Amazon review as well. I’m not at all sure what the reviewer means by want and desire. The Eleventh Hour does not call the Seer a witch that I remember because that would have turned me off as well. You wil have to read the book yourself, I guess. I think it has deep meaning, regarding bullying. The teen aged girl was being bullied, not only at school, but by her mother’s boyfriend, and that’s all I’m going to say because I don’t want to give a summary here. I think the other reviewer missed the point entirely or else used the wrong words. It does however, have that mystic side to it, and even mystics make mistakes and need help. You read it and decide, and get back to me. It’s only $2.99 and is NOT a hard read. I couldn’t put it down. Marsha 🙂

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    2. This is really interesting. I’m not sure why the word ‘witch’ is used – but it is the same book. I’m going to try and find out how to change that as the ‘overall premise’ of the book because it’s not accurate. Thanks so much for the feedback 😀

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      1. There you go Grumpy. Great question to raise. I saw that after I posted, and sort of glossed over it, thinking to my self, “I sure didn’t get that, but oh well – to each their own.” I’ve heard that some people who review don’t necessarily read the whole book. That could be a problem. Maybe they read the cover, and made their own leap in the rush to get out another review. I don’t know, and wouldn’t want to say that happened, but I’ve never really decided what book to buy based on reviews until I read blogs. Still I go more on who I know that I trust, rather than just random reviews.

        🙂 ML

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  9. Like some of the ‘commenting’ folks, I loved the picture of Dianne! (Reminds me so much of my English daughter-in-law, Angie.) I’ve never personally met her but everything I’ve come to know about Dianne Gray, her books, her blog, her idle observations, leads me to adore her. It is obvious that she is genuine and real… We must get her RUC (her house) delivered to her without any further delays!

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    1. hahaha!!! Maddie, you are too funny. That will have to be our symbol!!! I love it!! We all make one, and then send in our pictures! I’m going to have to follow your blog just because!!! 🙂 Marsha 🙂

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  10. Wonderful book review and post, Marsha! I speak to the topic of bullying quite often…especially as it impacts younger kids and what parents could and should be doing to help. This book looks compelling…I will try to get a copy..
    Thanks for visiting my blog..I’m following yours now.:) I love your little hopping bunny.:)

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  11. Marsha you did a superb job reviewing Dianne’s book. I enjoyed the way you wove in your observations from other readings to compliment Dianne’s excellent work. TY! 😉
    Eliz

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  12. Yes, considering Portland, though Seattle seemed more suitable, with the Sound close by. It took hours to drive out of Portland to the ocean, though worth it! Quaint little houses and shops, one with a pinball machine. Hadn’t played for years (well, I do play the pinball on Windows XP!) and won a free game. Got lots of photos there, Babs is excited of the ocean. It is not built up like here in FL with all the condos and ugly apartment towers. Hard to see ocean when driving by the seashore! Few birds, though, maybe more in summer? Lots of kayaking opportunities, both Portland and Seattle, I found.

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    1. You even get that down here on the central coast and in Monterey Bay. Seattle is lovely. I little more of a rainforest. Seriously, more rain in one area near Mt. Rainier than almost any place on earth. Portland gets the cold Columbia River Gorge air in the winter, so it could be slightly colder in places, but I never found it to be so. My first husband was from Seattle so I went there often. Lots of ferries up there. Baseball and football team, if you are interested in sports. There’s lots to photograph, for sure. I always found Seattle a little depressing, though. I was there in November, in a torrential rain storm to remind me of why I like California better. It’s a great place, though. Babs doesn’t mind cold and rain. Either way, you guys can always come down and see me when you get tired of rain. 🙂 ML

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