Oh Uganda: An Intrepid Volunteer’s Perspective by Karen L. Smith

Oh Uganda: An Intrepid Volunteer’s Perspective by Karen L. Smith
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In this book, the author recounts her experiences as a volunteer with VSO in Uganda. Using tongue-in-cheek humour and a Canadian’s viewpoint of the Ugandan culture she tells the stories of her daily observations and interactions with Africans.Having agreed to live and work in the bustling city of Kampala, Karen finds herself being sent to tough it out in rural Uganda within weeks of her arrival. There she is forced to live without electricity, running water, a working knowledge of the local Lusoga language or other overseas volunteers for support. Although she has some success at integrating, Karen never fails to find the Ugandan ways amusing, exasperating and even bizarre. Karen describes her everyday encounters ranging from chickens and servants at home to managing an educational project and installing boreholes in the community. Then just when Karen is ready to wrap up her volunteer stint, things take a surprising turn.

Changing the world is much harder than it looks.

Ms. Smith had a marvelous sense of humor that shone through brightly in her memoir. I chuckled as I read about the creative solutions she came up with for all sorts of ordinary problems in Uganda, from keeping most of the bugs out of her bed to asking for directions in an unfamiliar town when her understanding of languages like Lugandan wasn’t good and the people she was talking to knew little to no English. Sometimes the best thing to do in life is to find the funny side of frustrating or unexpected events, and the author definitely excelled at that here.

I did find myself wishing that more time had been spent exploring what the people living in Uganda who knew the author thought of her as a person. There were some delightful passages that shared some of their assumptions such as the idea that all white people and all Canadians are wealthy. These were such eye-opening scenes, and they provided a nice framing for the culture shock that Ms. Smith often felt when she was living in Uganda. If they had occurred more often, I would have happily gone for a full five-star rating.

Some of my favorite scenes were the ones that explored the many cultural differences between Uganda and Canada. Ms. Smith arrived in Kampala with assumptions about everything from how animals should be treated to what the definition of a good teacher should be. Of course, the people already living in Uganda had their own opinions on those topics, too. It amused me to see how everyone responded to being exposed to other ways of looking at the world, especially when the two cultures had wildly different ideas about the same topic. There is so much to be said for expanding one’s horizons and learning about how other people live.

Oh Uganda: An Intrepid Volunteer’s Perspective was a humorous and educational read.

Home Boys by Seth C. Kadish

Home Boys by Seth C. Kadish
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

In the year 2000, new therapist Seth C. Kadish is assigned a caseload of Probation boys at a Southern California group home. It’s trial and error, with moments of insight and learning, as Seth attempts to connect with the challenging teens – violent, manipulative Timothy who loves his mother and sister … Ramon, a bouncing butterball of energy and mayhem … odd Ryan who states a desire to be the first man buried on the moon … rapper Joey, jokester Enrique, sweet-natured Manuel … wanna-be gangster Antonio whose father is in the Mexican Mafia … and Rodney, angry and mistrustful, whose sole aim in life is to get back to his drug-addicted mother.

The generational cycle of trauma and abuse can be broken, but nothing in life is guaranteed.

One of my favorite aspects of this book had to do with how many questions I was left holding by the end of it. That may sound unusual but let me explain. I’d expect a work of fiction to resolve most of the conflicts in it, but that’s not how real life works. It felt utterly right to meet these individuals but not necessarily get to know if they lived happily ever after in the years that followed after the author moved on to other work. While I would love to read a sequel that gave updates, I was also satisfied with the idea that not everything in life can be tied up neatly in the end. Sometimes simply meeting interesting people is more than enough.

I wish more time had been spent diving into the backstories of specific residents of Cal Home. Every time it did happen, I was fascinated by the experiences these kids had and how trauma can be passed down from one generation to the next so easily if there’s a tragedy or if the adults in question don’t seek help for their troubles. It was a little odd to compare those scenes to the ones that fleetingly mentioned residents but never gave the audience a chance to get to know them on a deeper level. I think I would have preferred to only be introduced to residents who were going to share their stories.

There was so much compassion woven into this memoir. All of the kids Mr. Kadish worked with had experienced traumatic events, from being the victim of various forms of abuse to losing parents or parent figures at tender ages to seeing other people die from sudden acts of violence. It was impressive to me to see how the author shared examples of the suffering his clients experienced without broaching confidentiality or making excuses for the things they did that lead them to being sent to Cal Home or juvenile detention. Not only did he give wonderfully nuanced accounts of their pasts, but he also made it all seem so effortless even when he had very mixed feelings about particular kids on his caseload.

Home Boys was an engrossing read.

Funerals Your Way: A Person-Centered Approach to Planning a Funeral by Sarah Jones

Funerals Your Way: A Person-Centered Approach to Planning a Funeral by Sarah Jones
Publisher: Fisher King Publishing
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

This short book gives you the information, suggestions and step-by-step guidance you need to create funerals that truly reflect the person who has died. This second edition includes updated chapters about green funerals, funerals in the digital age and information about how to support wellbeing after bereavement.

It will help you if you want to express your own wishes, want to have a meaningful conversation with someone close to you or if you need to arrange a funeral at need.

It is designed to support people who intend to use the services of a funeral director, but would also give inspiration to those who would rather not.

While the author is based in the UK, many of the ideas and suggestions in Funerals Your Way will be relevant wherever in the world the reader may be.

It’s never too early to start thinking about what you want to include in a funeral or memorial service.

I hadn’t realized how much funerals could be personalized before I read this book. They can be formal, religious, humanist, somber, or even a celebration of life. So much depends on the personality, hobbies, and beliefs of the person who passed away. Ms. Jones made it perfectly clear that there are no right or wrong answers here and that it’s a smart idea to respect the wishes of the dead. She included multiple examples of people who planned services for relatives whose preferences or religious beliefs may not have matched those of their loved ones. I thought she handled this matter sensitively and gave the audience plenty of ideas of how to kindly carry out such services.

There were times when I wished that the author had provided the audience a little more guidance on what not to do based on what she has seen as a professional in this industry. Yes, funerals can be adapted to a wide variety of preferences, but it would have been nice to have some advice on common pitfalls to avoid or what she wishes more people knew about funeral and mourning etiquette in general. For example, a friend of mine died when he was very young. There were so many mourners at his viewing that some of them accidentally spilled over into the viewing area of someone else who had far fewer visitors and whose casket was being shown at the same time. I’ve sometimes wondered what the etiquette rules say about situations like those and would have been interested to hear a few stories about paying last respects and showing kindness in difficult situations.

One of the most interesting portions in my opinion was the one that discussed how to honestly discuss someone’s flaws during their funeral without speaking ill of the dead. Some people may have made decisions they deeply regretted later in life, while others may not have ever openly admitted to their mistakes or talked about what they would have done differently if they could live their lives over again. I appreciated the empathy Ms. Jones showed for both the deceased as well as mourners who might have mixed feelings about the recently departed for completely understandable reasons. This is something that is often glossed over when discussing death, grief, and funeral planning. I was happy to see that was not the case here and that there was so much room left to share both cheerful and difficult memories if that is what the next of kin wishes to do.

Funerals Your Way: A Person-Centered Approach to Planning a Funeral was a wonderful guidebook.

Hello, Puddle! by Anita Sanchez

Hello, Puddle! by Anita Sanchez
Publisher: Clarion Books
Genre: Children’s (0 – 6 y.o.), Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 4 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

A nonfiction picture book exploring a deceptively simple but unexpectedly crucial resource for wildlife: puddles! This lyrical, gorgeously illustrated nonfiction picture book is perfect for young science learners and nature lovers.

Hello, puddle! Who’s here?

A normal everyday puddle may not seem very special. But for a mother turtle, it might be the perfect place to lay her eggs. For a squirrel, it might be the only spot to cool off and get a drink when the sun is shining down in July. And for any child, it can be a window into the elegant, complex natural world right outside their window.

With lush, playful illustrations and fun facts about the animals featured, Hello, Puddle! is a joyful celebration of the remarkable in the ordinary, and the importance of even the most humble places in fostering life.

Nature is filled with marvelous things.

This was a detailed introduction to the wide variety of plants and animals that rely on puddles for food, shelter, cooling baths on a hot day, and, of course, fresh water to drink. No one species dominated the plot, so it would be quite easy to use this as a jumping-off point to explore anything from how tadpoles turn into frogs to how seedlings grow to why bats are such an important part of the ecosystem. I thought this was a brilliant way to encourage young children to be curious about the world around them and have some idea of which plants or animals they might want to explore in depth in the future.

While puddles definitely aren’t as active in the winter, I did find myself wishing that Ms. Sanchez had dedicated an extra page or two to what happens in them during that season since she spent so much time discussing spring, summer, and autumn. After all, puddles do sometimes melt during the winter. This was a minor disappointment, and it could be easily remedied by a little research online or at the local library for readers who want to learn more. If all four seasons had been discussed, I would have eagerly given this a five-star rating.

It was refreshing to find a nature book that was accessible to so many different types of people. Puddles form in cities, suburbs, and small towns just like they do in the middle of the woods, and the text supported that fact. They can be observed by folks from a wide variety of backgrounds, too. One doesn’t need to run fast, spend money, listen closely, or carry any special equipment to observe what’s happening in them. This is a fantastic way to introduce kids to nature at story time, especially for families who have tight budgets, special needs, or other circumstances that might make wandering around out in the middle of nowhere difficult for them.

Hello, Puddle! offered an intriguing and educational glimpse into the sort of natural habitat that nearly everyone can find somewhere in their own neighborhood.

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett

In Such Good Company: Eleven Years of Laughter, Mayhem, and Fun in the Sandbox by Carol Burnett
Publisher: Crown Archetype
Genre: Contemporary, Historical, Non-Fiction
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

In In Such Good Company, Carol Burnett pulls back the curtain on the twenty-five-time Emmy-Award winning show that made television history, and she reminisces about the outrageously funny and tender moments that made working on the series as much fun as watching it.

Carol delves into little-known stories of the guests, sketches and improvisations that made The Carol Burnett Show legendary, as well as some favorite tales too good not to relive again. While writing this book, Carol re-watched all 276 episodes and screen-grabbed her favorite video stills from the archives to illustrate the chemistry of the actors and the improvisational magic that made the show so successful.

Putting the spotlight on everyone from her costars to the impressive list of guest stars, Carol crafts a lively portrait of the talent and creativity that went into every episode. With characteristic wit and incomparable comic timing, she details hiring Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, Lyle Waggoner, and Tim Conway; shares anecdotes about guest stars and close friends, including Lucille Ball, Roddy McDowell, Jim Nabors, Bernadette Peters, Betty Grable, Steve Lawrence, Eydie Gorme, Gloria Swanson, Rita Hayworth, and Betty White; and gives her take on her favorite sketches and the unpredictable moments that took both the cast and viewers by surprise.

So many stories and plenty of pages to tell them!

I love the Carol Burnett show and this book reads a lot like one of those episodes. Carol Burnett writes this about her time on the show and interactions with her costars. There are quite a few tidbits about the actors and actresses and even a few discussions of the bits on the show.

The chemistry between the principals on the show stand out in this book. I felt their love for each other, even when they quarrel. What drew me to this book was the story about Harvey Korman being fired from the show. I had to know more and I’m glad I did. I also had no idea how many people helped bring this show to life. It’s funny, witty and touching. I’m glad I read it.

If you love to laugh and learn about television shows, then this one is for you.

The Assumption of Death by Anthony David Vernon

The Assumption of Death by Anthony David Vernon
Publisher: Alien Buddha Press
Genre: Non-Fiction, Poetry
Rating: 3 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

“By turns charming and deeply disturbing, this collection of poems and meditations enthralls and mystifies. This is an engaging and mesmerizing kaleidoscope of ideas about mortality, infinity, and the very essence of being, and it is one of the most captivating hybrid collections I have ever read. I expect that Anthony David Vernon, this exciting new voice in literature, will be thrilling his readers for many years to come.”
– José Sotolongo

Don’t look away from death. Ask it questions instead.

My favorite passages were the ones that used metaphors from nature to explain concepts that could be a little slippery on their own. For example, one poem reminded the audience that “a spider must work with the web that they weave,” and another one made me smile when it said “time to time I come to paths that result in dead ends. But I found that dead ends can lead to clearings.” It was easy for me to imagine those scenes and then play around with them to understand why it’s important to work with the tools you’ve been given or what the advantages are to following a thought to some of its natural conclusions even if it wanders off of the beaten path at first.

The speakers in this collection kept circling around to the idea that death might not happen to everyone. They gave examples from stories about people who either never died or ended their lives in mystical ways. I kept wishing the speakers would go into greater detail about what they meant and how those statements should be woven into some of the other sections that only seemed tangentially related to immortality at first glance.

Some of the most intriguing sections were the ones that teased out the difference between dying and death. There are numerous records of people’s experiences with dying, but death itself cannot be charted in quite the same way. Most books that explore this concept do so from a particular religious perspective, but Mr. Vernon did not do that. His thoughts on the topic could be applied to people from any religion just as easily as they could be applied to people who aren’t interested in that subject at all. Death is a mystery, and the author embraced every aspect of it.

The Assumption of Death had a unique perspective on the topics of death and immortality.

The Unseen Body by Jonathan Reisman, M.D.

The Unseen Body by Jonathan Reisman, M.D.
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Genre: Non-fiction
Rating: 5 stars
Reviewed by Lavender

In this fascinating journey through the human body and across the globe, Dr. Reisman weaves together stories about our insides with a unique perspective on life, culture, and the natural world.

Jonathan Reisman, M.D.―a physician, adventure traveler and naturalist―brings readers on an odyssey navigating our insides like an explorer discovering a new world with The Unseen Body. With unique insight, Reisman shows us how understanding mountain watersheds helps to diagnose heart attacks, how the body is made mostly of mucus, not water, and how urine carries within it a tale of humanity’s origins.

Through his offbeat adventures in healthcare and travel, Reisman discovers new perspectives on the body: a trip to the Alaskan Arctic reveals that fat is not the enemy, but the hero; a stint in the Himalayas uncovers the boundary where the brain ends and the mind begins; and eating a sheep’s head in Iceland offers a lesson in empathy. By relating rich experiences in far-flung lands and among unique cultures back to the body’s inner workings, he shows how our organs live inextricably intertwined lives―an internal ecosystem reflecting the natural world around us.

Reisman offers a new and deeply moving perspective, and helps us make sense of our bodies and how they work in a way readers have never before imagined.

Books written by doctors about their jobs are interesting, but Dr. Reisman has a different take on things. He is a world traveler and has seen some wild things. When he relates these episodes to medicine, and specifically the human body, readers are treated to entertaining educational tidbits.

This book is written like an adventure and is quite creative. The doctor meets many people and gives the human touch to his experiences. People teach him, long after he graduates from medical school. His outside interests also come into play.

Dr. Reisman adds humor to his observations at times and some profound insights. He relates bodily fluids to other things in a way that makes sense. This is a great book that is easy to get through.

Pooch Problems by Christopher Poston

Pooch Problems by Christopher Poston
Publisher: Self-Published
Genre: Non-Fiction, Contemporary
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Astilbe

Are you sick and tired of your dog… walking you instead of the other way around barking incessantly at random things peeing and pooping on your nice rugs Or a myriad of other troubling issues?

Perhaps you’ve wondered… Why is my furry friend so annoying at times?

Punishing and scolding hasn’t worked.

Is there a better way to change their bad behaviors?

What is a “good dog” by definition anyway?

You probably know of dogs who…

Don’t destroy objects in the home
Don’t counter surf or eat food off the table
Don’t howl at all hours of the night
This can be your dog!
Do you sometimes feel lost or clueless about what you should do to bring to life the adorable version of your furry friend?

Do you wish to turn a new page where you have amazing experiences with your pooch?

Are you looking for a guide that simplifies the whole process?

If you answered YES,

This book will show you how to identify and solve common dog issues so that you and your newly trained pooch can live your best lives.

Where there are Pooch Problems there are solutions (125 of them).

If you are struggling with Pooch Problems, know that you’re not alone. This author has spent years dealing with their own Pooch Problems. This book is a culmination of decades of research. Within its pages is a collection of the most powerful techniques used by the world’s top dog behaviorists. Don’t worry, the tips are effective and easy to use. They work on any breed – small or large.

This author advocates for positive reinforcement and is strongly against cruelty to animals. All the techniques embody this style so you can be sure everything taught is cruelty free.

In this book, you will find:
Entertaining and relatable stories highlighting dog failures and successes that will motivate you along the way.
Essential dog topics: breeding, puppy proofing, dog gifts and dog communication
BONUS CHAPTER (downloadable with ebook or included in print version) on how you can be the hero of the story by volunteering at an animal shelter
Pooch Problems presents 25 stories, each of which focuses on a particular dog issue.

You will meet…
Axl the Basset Hound who howls when his baby sister cries
Goliath the Neapolitan Mastiff who is afraid of thunder
Marshmallow the French Bulldog who chews up her owners shoes
Among others!

But that’s just the beginning. Pooch Problems will give you the tools so your dog can do something great.

Competing in agility competitions
Bringing people happiness as a therapy dog
Perform amazing tricks
Pooch Problems REALLY is the complete toolkit for canine training.

Even if you’ve tried teaching your pooch “good” behavior before and failed, let this book show you that no dog is beyond redemption! Let’s just remember that no pooch is perfect and we need to lead with forgiveness, and teach with compassion.

Happy Dog, Happy Life

Good advice is easy to find when you listen to an expert on the topic.

The section on how to formally train a dog to protect his or her family was fascinating. I hadn’t realized such a thing existed, but it made a great deal of sense. The commands Mr. Poston described in it were practical and simple enough for anyone to try. I also enjoyed his comments about how much pleasure many dogs find in being trained for this purpose. Of course they’d want to protect their humans in a crisis!

Dogs don’t necessarily think about the world the same way that humans do. Some of my favorite sections were the ones that went into detail about canine psychology and why they do things like chew on people’s shoes, bark incessantly, or run away when someone is trying to catch them. What doesn’t make sense to an exasperated owner looks quite differently when seen from the perspective of a pet who might be bored, anxious, or think everyone is playing a game. I was glad to see this information included so often as it was pretty important for understanding much of the training advice that was given.

One of the other things I appreciated the most about this book was how adamant the author was that his readers set their dogs up for success in as many different ways as they could. That is to say, he strongly recommended removing temptations from the environment when possible. He also believed in giving dogs positive reinforcement for desirable behavior and offering enticing distractions from negative habits when certain triggers can’t be avoided. His reasoning for this made a great deal of sense.The easier it is to do the right thing, the higher the chances are of a dog following through with it even when they’re smelling a delicious roasted turkey cooling in the kitchen on Thanksgiving or seeing a squirrel darting past them while on a walk.

Pooch Problems
was a breezy, educational read that I’d enthusiastically recommend to dog owners and dog lovers alike.

Who I Really Am: Diary of a Vampire by Alice Cooper (Author, Narrator)

Who I Really Am: Diary of a Vampire by Alice Cooper (Author, Narrator)
Audible’s Words + Music series
Publisher: Audible Originals
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Biography, Historical
Rating: 5 Stars
Reviewed by Xeranthemum

Rock and roll in the BC (Before Cooper) era was a tamer, milder world. In Who I Really Am, Cooper’s latest addition to Audible’s Words + Music series, we learn how the boa-wearing (not the feathered kind) maestro arrived at a show and sound – let’s call it AC for After Cooper – that has entertained millions of kids while terrifying parents in equal measure. Cooper drew inspiration from Saturday matinee horror movies, applied a “no such thing as too much” attitude, and hitched it to a kick-ass rock and roll band. The shows were incredible, but the offstage antics might have been even more entertaining. Cooper generously shares you-had-to-be-there tales of the band’s early days in Hollywood and mythic all-nighters with rock’s premier luminaries. Also included are new recordings of the hits “I’m Eighteen”, “School’s Out”, and “Poison”. Not many artists can claim credit for creating an entire style or genre. Don’t miss the chance to hear a consummate showman reveal that storytelling might be his greatest talent of all.

There’s nothing more fascinating than learning about someone you’ve heard about all your life but really never knew anything about the person until they took the time to introduce you to them. Imagine my shock to realize that Alice Cooper wasn’t the name of the man, but the actual BAND.

I started listening to this as a lark. I didn’t think I’d get much out of it. Wow, was I wrong! I was completely fascinated along with being stunned, shocked, impressed, astonished, saddened, amazed, amused and delighted. He even sang a few songs during the course of his story about himself, the band and the people he met along the way. And yes, he really called himself a vampire – but not in the way you expect. Certainly, in no way related to all the paranormal romances I enjoy so much. It’s a moniker more than anything, gifted by happenstance.

Alice Cooper, and I’m talking about the man, the artist, singer and all-around stunner of a talent, has a history that I never anticipated. His family background is not what I expected. When he shared the story about his grandfather and a 6-yr. old boy he tried to help, I got the shivers. I’m not going to share why or what it was all about because I in no way want to minimize or subvert the impact of that scene. It sure made me stop and stare for a bit. No way! But yes, I guess it really did happen and that fact floored me.

Alice, and I’ll stick to that name recognition, and his family moved around a lot. It seems like many artists that make it big have that kind of element in their backstory. Each move brought challenges that he had to overcome. His parents had unconventional lifestyles in the beginning, and that’s an understatement. Later on, they tried being ‘normal’. Somehow, I don’t think they pulled it off. Like their son, I think they were unique and had some interesting skills of their own to bring to the jobs they eventually did get.

I was expecting some name dropping and I wasn’t disappointed. What amazed me was that Alice Cooper was in the thick of things, when the music scene was in flux and a lot of amazing changes were taking place, many for the good and some for the bad. Drugs, alcohol abuse, hard living and crazy antics certainly played their roles but even through all of that, I found that Alice Cooper had his own HEA going on.

It wasn’t always happy, or easy or smooth, but I think how he described his wife and his relationship with her was quite telling. Even when he hit bottom with alcohol abuse, his wife, Sheryl, stuck with him every step of the way. He credits her influence in getting him back on his feet. How she did it, why and every other question a listener might have, I’ll leave the listener to discover for themselves. I found it to be enlightening, uplifting and in its own way, beautiful. Theirs is a marriage that survived because they both respected the other and worked to make it continue, to help it thrive; to help each other through those tough spots because they loved each other that much and wanted to do it. That’s why I thought that part of his story as incredibly romantic. It wasn’t a fantasy romance. It was gritty at times and rocky, but that’s what made it real – through all his struggles, she was there, and he didn’t take her for granted. She believed in him enough to stand by him. When you hear about so many other relationships in the rock n’ roll world falling apart, they stayed together, 40+ years, 3 kids and a few grandkids later and they’re still going strong. Alice Cooper may have been zany crazy on stage, but in real life, he matured throughout his career, enough to look back on things with a critical eye, and share with fans his take on his career, from the inside.

There was one thing he shared early on that stunned me. There was one moment in time when it was possible Alice Cooper and my favorite songs of the band’s would never have existed. Not to get preachy or anything, but I thank God that His plans included Alice Cooper finding success in this life, even with all the side roads and missteps and bad decisions, there was a reason he stayed on this earth. Yes, that statement is pretty deep, but nonetheless true.

Truly, there is a lot more to say about what I heard in Who I Really Am: Diary of a Vampire, and every bit of it is well worth listening to. I tried to tell my husband about all the things I learned about Alice Cooper and his eyes kind of glazed over. I guess it’s not the same as listening to the actual person tell the story. Alice Cooper has a great talent for narration and storytelling, even if it’s about his own life. I also believe it’s why I liked it so much. A true story, enhanced by a little music and some serious giggles and smiles along the way coupled with awesome name dropping and famous shenanigans, makes this memoir one worth spending time with.

The Boys by Ron Howard & Clint Howard

The Boys: A Memoir of Hollywood and Family by Ron Howard & Clint Howard
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical, Non-Fiction, Memoir
Rating: 4 stars
Reviewed by Nymphaea

Happy Days, The Andy Griffith Show, Gentle Ben—these shows captivated millions of TV viewers in the ’60s and ’70s. Join award-winning filmmaker Ron Howard and audience-favorite actor Clint Howard as they frankly and fondly share their unusual family story of navigating and surviving life as sibling child actors.

“What was it like to grow up on TV?” Ron Howard has been asked this question throughout his adult life. in The Boys, he and his younger brother, Clint, examine their childhoods in detail for the first time. For Ron, playing Opie on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie Cunningham on Happy Days offered fame, joy, and opportunity—but also invited stress and bullying. For Clint, a fast start on such programs as Gentle Ben and Star Trek petered out in adolescence, with some tough consequences and lessons.

With the perspective of time and success—Ron as a filmmaker, producer, and Hollywood A-lister, Clint as a busy character actor—the Howard brothers delve deep into an upbringing that seemed normal to them yet was anything but. Their Midwestern parents, Rance and Jean, moved to California to pursue their own showbiz dreams. But it was their young sons who found steady employment as actors. Rance put aside his ego and ambition to become Ron and Clint’s teacher, sage, and moral compass. Jean became their loving protector—sometimes over-protector—from the snares and traps of Hollywood.

By turns confessional, nostalgic, heartwarming, and harrowing, THE BOYS is a dual narrative that lifts the lid on the Howard brothers’ closely held lives. It’s the journey of a tight four-person family unit that held fast in an unforgiving business and of two brothers who survived “child-actor syndrome” to become fulfilled adults.

Two brothers, one journey few can understand and a lifetime of memories.

I love to read biographies and autobiographies. When I saw this one about little Ronny Howard, I had to read it. I’m glad I did. There’s a whole lot more to Ron Howard than you might think. First, he’s not only a gifted filmmaker, but also a gifted writer. This was like reading a conversation between friends. Truly. His brother, Clint, writes half of this book and he’s more complicated than I ever thought.

Ron Howard is more than just Opie from the Andy Griffith show. I had no idea how hard worked to get ready for that part and how he had to work to BE Opie. I had no idea he had no concept of how to sign autographs while playing the role of Opie. He didn’t have the easiest life and it’s interesting to read about his transition from Opie to Ritchie Cunningham on Happy Days, then his move to directing. I liked how he’s so honest in his retelling of this era and his tendency to wish his father had his success, rather than having it for himself. It shows his humbleness.

Then there’s Clint. I knew this was his brother, but I didn’t know much about him. This book obviously changed that. He didn’t have quite the same experiences as Ron, even though he grew up in the same household. That’s not to say he wasn’t treated well. He was, but he had different experiences. There’s the unfortunate incidence with the buzzard during the filming of The Red Pony. If you’re upset by indignities to animals, then this might be the portion to skip. I never realized he had such drug problems or had become such a character actor. I have a new respect for Clint Howard.

All in all, this is a wonderful Hollywood autobiography and one that shouldn’t be missed. Recommended.