Life can certainly be amazing

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Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Seeing is Believing

So, let’s say somebody came up to you on the first day of school and started telling you about a guy with thousands of pins in his face and it didn’t kill him, and a ginormous snake that swallowed a wallaby (a kangaroo-like animal) whole! And then your friend went on to say that some woman made a bracelet that was long enough for your entire class to wear at the same time.

Pretty amazing, right? And you don’t believe a word of it, do you?

You should, because you’ll read about (and see) those things and more in “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Seeing is Believing!”

Without a doubt, your great-grandparents probably remember reading “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” That’s because it started out as a newspaper column almost 100 years ago when Robert Ripley (a real person, believe it or not) became fascinated with oddities and weird things. Everything in Ripley’s column was authentic, and everything in this book is absolutely true, too.

There are plenty of challenges in this book. For instance, a boy in Florida made a huge ball of rubber bands – over 700,000 in all – which weighs nearly 5 tons. Look around your house. Getting any ideas?

And then there’s the boy who may be the fastest texter ever – 160 characters in 45 seconds, blindfolded. You can do that!

You’ll find curious creatures in here, like the four-eared cat, the two-headed kitten, and the two-faced calf. Then there’s the house hippo whose “parents” adopted her as an orphan. You’ll find a pink turtle with a Mohawk, dogs on wheels, and yes, plenty of gruesome snake stories.

Grab this book and read about the Canadian whose entire body is tattooed with bones and internal organs and the guy whose eyeball has a tattoo (eeeuwww). You’ll see some very old portraits of former circus attractions and modern pictures of human oddities like the magnetic man and the guy with a double arm transplant.

And if art is more your thing, check out the toilet-paper wedding dress, the lifesize dragon cake, the gumball wall (double eeeuwww), a dog made of crayons and – believe it or not – a portrait of Eminem made of M&Ms!

“Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Seeing is Believing” looks like a children’s book. It’s probably going to be found in the children’s section of your bookstore or library. The cover certainly will appeal to kids, but believe this: this book is way too good for adults to skip.

Page after page after page of this “Ripley’s” book is packed with bite-sized nuggets of goofy stories, horrid happenings, there’s-no-way themes, improbable (but real) pictures, and tons of those silly-human stories you’d normally find in the smallest corner of your newspaper. The articles are family-friendly (like the Ripley’s column of old) and can be enjoyed by kids ages 7-to-great-grandpa.

Be aware that reading “Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Seeing is Believing” may result in gasps, I-can-do-that’s, and time-loss… but you won’t mind. This is a pretty cool book, and you can believe that.

Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz by Belinda Acosta

Once upon a time, your baby girl was a snuggly little sweetheart. She was a charmer, that’s for sure, “helping” around the house and wanting to be exactly like Mami. She knew how to get what she wanted from her Papi, too. No matter how big she got, she’d always be your little girl.

And then came the day she transformed. Sullenness was sudden. You were lucky to get fifteen words from her in a 48-hour period. In her eyes, you went from hero to zero, a bubbly font of knowledge to a bumbling fool.

Ana Ruiz can sympathize. Her daughter, Carmen, is about to turn fifteen, and in the new book “Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz” by Belinda Acosta, things at the Ruiz casa are about to explode.

Where did the time go? More importantly, where did her marriage go? Ana Ruiz hurts with those questions. It seemed like yesterday that she was falling in love with Esteban, his dark curls, his gentle demeanor.

But that was two children and a lifetime ago, and now Esteban has moved out. Marcos, Ana’s brother, says Esteban felt as if Ana didn’t “need him” because she had a good education and a job at the college. He didn’t feel like un hombre anymore.

Ana just wished he’d come home - if not for her sake, then for the kids. Seventeen-year-old Diego, a quiet and introspective boy, was ready to get his driver’s license and he had a mad crush on his best friend’s sister. He needed his father as a young man does.

But fourteen-year-old Carmen was taking Esteban’s absence the hardest. Carmen was a Daddy’s Girl and she blamed her mother for her father’s departure. When she spoke to Ana, it was cargado with attitude, which made for a todo chilly household.

Thinking she might pull her daughter closer, Ana decided that Carmen needed a quinceañera. With the help of her sobrina, Bianca, Ana gently pushed Carmen to pick a dress, a court, and a theme. But Daddy’s Girl dug in her heels, acting todo chiflada, begging Esteban to come home.

Which is what Ana wanted, too - or did she? It had been a long time since she had been admired by a man, and the smolderingly-actractivo artist-in-resident at the college was muy tempting.

Told from the point-of-view of a narrator with a flair for gossip, “Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz” is one of those really delightful books that you want to read slowly, to savor the flair and the people in it. Acosta captures this dramatico event in a family’s life, and both Ana and Carmen are perfectly-written examples of typical mother-daughter conflict. Anyone who has a teen girl should read this book, as should any single or almost-single mom.

Be aware that you’ll want at least a small familiarity of Spanish (or at least have a Spanish dictionary handy) to fully enjoy this book. For you - and for anyone who wants a great end-of-summer read - “Damas, Dramas, and Ana Ruiz” is really quite excelente.

The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. Terri has been reading since she was 3 years old and she never goes anywhere without a book. She lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.

© 2009 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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