Monthly Archives: March 2008

BOOK BEAT 66 – Wendy Lokken & Heather Drescher

A Book and a Bear Comfort Children of Divorce

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   March 20, 2008

by Philip K. Jason

For the children of divorce, life changes in challenging, dramatic, and often traumatic ways. These children have to process an enormous sense of loss, usually accompanied by guilt. And divorce is not something that happens one day and is over the next; the ramifications are ongoing and complex. Two Neapolitans, Wendy Lokken and Heather Drescher, are part of the team behind a fascinating project that helps children regain a sense of security while navigating this hazardous emotional journey. “You and Me Make Three” is a book that can make a positive difference in the life of any child coping with the disorientation and loss of parents divorcing.

B. B. the Bear is the narrator of the book, a cuddly friend, confidant, and counselor. The idea of B. B. was inspired by Wendy Lokken’s son, Michael, who had learned about “worry dolls” at school and suggested that every child coping with divorce needed a “worry doll,” a source of comfort much like Michael’s own Cozy Bear. Lokken shared this insight with her friend and eventual co-author, Gwendy Mangiamele, who realized that her daughter Mia has fastened upon her own floppy dog named Sheila as an imaginary traveling friend who provided constancy whether at Mom’s home or at and Dad’s.  Lokken and Mangiamele teamed up with author-publisher Edna Cucksey Stephens and illustrator Heather Drescher to develop Caring Creations and launch the book and the comforting toy, B. B. the Bear. 

B. B.’s consoling and supportive language is just right. The observations and suggestions made by this caring companion are accessible to kids, and yet the young readers are not patronized. This friendly bear is convincing when he says that even though Mom and Dad now live in separate homes, both still love their child. The bear is always available to hear the child’s secrets and jokes and to play “let’s pretend” with the child. Also, together they can help Mom with various tasks when visiting her, and help Dad with tasks when over at his place. Homework and personal hygiene need attention at both homes. The young reader is reminded that other kids are also going through the divorce experience.

B. B. assures the child that “it is not your fault” that the parents have decided to divorce, and that when things cannot be worked out it is better for everyone if the parents live apart. The love of each parent is a constant, and the love felt for each parent needs expression. B. B. also encourages the child of divorce to let his or her feelings out – to talk about them both to the parents and, of course, to B. B. Coping with loneliness is also addressed in specific, constructive ways.

The book has a second audience. Each issue in B.B.’s discussion is also recast in a boxed “SMILE Tip for Parents.” These tips, derived from Richard S. Victor’s Victor Smile Foundation, are as valuable to the divorced parents as B. B.’s observations are to the children of divorce. The parents are reminded that the greatest gift they can give the child is the right to love the other parent. Because of the incorporated Smile Tips, “You and Me Make Three” can be read by parent and child together.

“You and Me Make Three” is lavishly produced, and the vivid, energetic illustrations by Heather Drescher work perfectly to establish the mood and tone of the book. It is a book that should be in every grade school library and in the libraries of guidance counselors and professional family therapists as well. But most of all, it needs to be in the hands of the child whose world is threatened by divorce.

The release of this very special book was celebrated on March 12 at the International Kids Network benefit event held at the Naples Ritz Carlton. Upcoming appearances and book signings are Saturday, March 15th, 11am to 1pm at the Naples Borders Bookstore; Saturday, March 22, 11am to 3pm at the Naples Books-A-Million; and Saturday, March 29th at the Naples Barnes and Noble. You can find out more about this brilliant and much-needed book and bear project by visiting the website

Philip K. Jason, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of English from the United States Naval Academy.  A poet, critic, and free-lance writer with twenty books to his credit, this “Dr. Phil” chairs the annual Naples Writers’ Conference presented by the Naples Press Club.

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BOOK BEAT 65 – Jean Harrington

BOOK BEAT   Naples Sun Times   March 6, 2008

by Philip K. Jason

Jean Harrington has been a stalwart member of the Southwest Florida chapter of Romance Writers of America for many years. In fact, she served two terms as president. The glow of success has shown brightly on many members of this productive chapter. Now it is Harrington’s turn to shine. This Naples resident (since 1993) has come up with a rip-roaring, feisty heroine in her first novel, “The Barefoot Queen.” Fiery Grace O’Malley should have a long life ahead of her in fiction. Great granddaughter of a pirate queen who once “savaged the whole English fleet,” young Grace has inherited her ancestor’s rebellious streak and courage, as well as her Irish pride. 

We meet the gorgeous teenager, with her “mane of gold-red hair,” immediately after the death of her father, who has just been hung by Lord Rushmount’s men for poaching deer. The scene introduces us to the conditions of late seventeenth century Ireland, suffering under the exploitation of England and of English landholders who have usurped Irish property rights. A vain and cruel landlord, Rushmount stands for the unabashedly ruthless English ruling class. Grace’s father had found the courage to risk his life so that others might have food.

But Grace’s brother, Liam, a man only too practical and sensible, will not cut him down from the hanging tree for a proper burial and thereby risk his own life. Grace is outraged at her brother, but finds solace in the actions of the village blacksmith, Owen O’Donnell, who defies Rushmount by cutting down Grace’s “Da” and secretly burying him. 

Such timely heroism only supercharges Grace’s admiration and attraction for Owen, who over and over (with a few notable exceptions) rebuffs her bold advances. Because his self-esteem in matters of romance has suffered from the consequences of an accident that has left him with one leg crippled and withered, Owen fights down his longing for Grace and tells himself that he cannot be a proper mate for her. Grace herself feels quite otherwise, and a major interest in the story grows out of this troubled romance.

Grace, of course, has been pursued by many suitors. Among these is “Young Con” Mann, son of Rushmount’s estate manager. The elder Connor Mann had renounced his Catholic faith during the Puritan Commonwealth in order to maintain his holdings, but he is now (in 1665) dependent on the good will of Rushmount during the Restoration period that followed Oliver Cromwell’s purges. The dull-witted “Young Con” would provide a relatively safe situation for Grace, who cannot as a young woman live on her own and who is being pushed out of the tiny family home by Liam’s marriage to Brigit, who is soon pregnant. But Grace is not one to seek only safety and to deny her heart.

To complicate matters even further, Lord Rushmount himself, frustrated in his recent marriage and dazzled by the village beauty, has his eyes on Grace. He would seemingly do anything to have his way with her – and she would be helpless to resist.

But wait, there is more:  Grace herself has followed in her father’s footsteps and turned poacher in order to relieve the excruciating poverty and hunger that devolves from Rushmount’s abuses of power.

In the end, it is Grace’s fearless sense of justice that dominates Jean Harrington’s achievement. Not always mindful of consequences, Grace’s bold actions threaten to bring more harm than good, but she cannot – as her brother Liam can – weigh things in the balance when her heart is committed to a sense of righteous action.

Jean Harrington has done a fine job of bringing knotty historical issues down to the flesh and blood lives of individuals. And with Grace O’Malley, a young woman whose adventures often find her lifting her skirts to her knees or getting them tangled in her legs or washing away the blood of butchered deer, she has devised a vital spirit ready to challenge any influential young actress prepared to buy the film rights.

“The Barefoot Queen” is published by Highland Press. More about the author is available at her website:


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