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Spotlight and Review: Pure Trash – The Story by Bette A. Stevens

In Book Reviews, Spotlights on September 11, 2013 at 9:46 pm

Bette Stevens is probably best known for her highly successful children’s book, Amazing Matilda. Now she has dipped her toes into the deep waters of young adult literature with her new book, Pure Trash – The Story.

Having already read Bette’s ‘Amazing Matilda’, I was delighted to be asked to read this one as well. Though aimed at an older audience, it is still written in the same generous and caring tone. Set in the 1950’s, Pure Trash highlights the sense of social injustice doled out when two children are condemned and forever tainted because of their father’s alcoholism and the family’s unmitigated poverty.

PURE TRASH book coverMy Review

Pure Trash is a short story focused on a day in the lives of two young boys, Shawn and Willie Daniels. They are extremely poor, have a drunken father, a long-suffering mother and live in a shack in 1950’s America; located near a small New England town in which bullying and prejudice is rife. They attend church every Sunday. This day (Saturday, and no school), having done their chores, is filled with gathering discarded empty bottles on their way into town, and collecting the returns money. The boys really look forward to this trip every week, as they are able to buy pop and sweets before returning home to fish with their father, who, by the time they get back, will have drunk enough beer to “catch his limit” and to, “’hold your (his) mouth just right’ or the fish wouldn’t bite”.

Despite the excitement of this weekly trip, Shawn is filled with dread at the thought of encountering the gossips, and other mean townsfolk, who call them names and laugh at them; all because of their poverty and their drunken parent.

On the way back from the trip, Willie falls off his bike and Shawn seeks help from someone he believes to be kind; someone who also attends the same church. But, he is surprised when he learns that cordially nodding to someone every Sunday in church is not the same as turning up on their doorstep and asking for help – at least not when your Shawn and Willie Daniels.

I thoroughly enjoyed this story. Told with great sensitivity, Ms. Stevens weaves a tale of intolerance and impassive bullying, the backlash of another’s alcoholism and the knock-on effects of abject poverty. The atmospheric descriptions set the scenes beautifully – I felt I was actually riding my own bike with the boys on their excursion. The whole timbre of the book, from the very first word, is that of compassion and understanding. I felt tinges of sadness, though. To the boys, this is all they know. They completely accept their father’s excessive drinking, and their mother’s frugality as she makes her house dresses out of “flowered chicken feed sacks”. There is no money to repair the house, but the boys’ father buys a brand new television set for himself, which sounds like an echo of so many households today. The boys do not envy others, instead they are grateful for what little they have. They find great joy in their natural surrounding; blue skies, hills and fields, and the simple things available to them. Such small treats as ice-cream and some pop are a thing pure delight.

This book is not just about poverty and making do, and being happy with what you have been given – albeit, through lack of knowledge. It is also about intimidation and small-mindedness, and the terrible indictment of the society that has risen from such behaviour, not just in the fifty’s, but of today as well. Such families do still exist and the intolerance continues as one generation begats the next and the tradition continues on both sides.  Perhaps it is all unavoidable, but it is sad how innocent children are made to suffer for the mistakes of their parents.

A sensitive and touching tale which is well-written, absorbing and entertaining. Highly recommended. 5 stars

Where to buy Pure Trash


About the Author

Bette A Stevens

Bette A. Stevens received her B.S. in Elementary Education from the University of Maine at Orono before embarking on graduate courses in Curriculum Studies at Chapman University in California. Stevens is a retired teacher and author of two children’s books: AMAZING MATILDA: A Monarch’s Tale, an award-winning picture book and The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!, a children’s activity book. Stevens and her husband live on a 37-acre farmstead in Central Maine. PURE TRASH is a short story for the YA/Adult audience and a prequel to her upcoming début novel. 

Where to find Bette





Other Books by Bette A. Stevens

The Tangram Zoo and Word Puzzles Too!
Amazing Matilda book cover

Children’s Book of the Week: Lionel’s Grand Adventure (Lionel and the Golden Rule)

In Children's Book of the Week on December 11, 2012 at 6:08 pm

Children's Book of the Week - Lionel's Grand Adventure, Lionel and the Golden Rule promotion of  Carte Blanche by Amelia Curzon

This week’s choice for Children’s Book of the Week is the delightful read, Lionel’s Grand Adventure (Lionel and the Golden Rule) by Paul R Hewlett. With its well-constructed text and its light touch, it has all the right ingredients for the intended reader; originality, humour, a touch of magic, a likeable hero, and above all a sound lesson in how to treat others.

Please come over and read more about this great little book at Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

Children’s Book of the Week: Thomas and the Lily Pond

In Children's Book of the Week on November 27, 2012 at 12:38 am

Thomas and the Lily Pond - Book cover

I am thrilled to introduce this week’s Book of the Week, Thomas and the Lily Pond by Jane Whiteoak. With enchanting animal characters, charming illustrations and a fast pace this enjoyable little book shows children how friendship ultimately will triumph over bullying tactics.

Please come over and read more about this great little book at Mungai and the Goa Constrictor

Guest Post: Cat Trades Up – Leaves Life of Pizza Boxes Behind

In Guest Blogger, Pets on November 11, 2012 at 12:01 am

I always love it when my guests blog about their pets and share their views on animal welfare. This week’s post, by the lovely Magdalena Vandenberg, is no exception.  A very big welcome to you, Magdalena! Thank you for being my guest and sharing Minnie Moo’s story with us.

I can often be heard jokingly telling others that I’m a cat lady in training.Magdalena Vandenberg on Amelia Curzon's blog - Carte Blanche

Without a shadow of any doubt, I’m showing early signs of becoming a stylish spinster sitting alone in her over-stuffed comfy chair watching re-runs of Homeland and The Mentalist while surrounded by the love, or perceived love, of lazy fluff-balls.

Cats are my weakness.

There’s just something about them that resonates with me. Aloof, needy yet detached, loving yet fiercely independent. Always hungry and addicted to napping, these are all admirable traits, and say a lot about me.

I should add here, I love dogs too. I just love cats a little more. They’re infinitely easier to sneak past the landlord’s “no cats allowed” policy.

From pint size pets to the might of the larger beasts, the animal world fascinates me.  And I can’t for the life of me think why anyone would want to purposefully inflict harm, or treat them with malice and ill intent.

This riles me. It goes against my DNA. Maybe I’m too idealistic, but at the very least everyone, person, animal, inanimate object deserves respect. Right?

I’m a firm believer if you own a pet, or any animal it’s your responsibility to give the critter love, food, shelter, attention and a safe place to call home.

I simple don’t get it when people abuse this privilege.

Years ago, I was in Sydney, Australia, driving home from work down a busy commuter road.  While crawling along at a snail’s pace, I remember looking out the window at the most adorable scene. This young boy, he was about twelve years old, was walking while carrying a cute-as-a-button white fluffy small dog.

In the blink of an eye, to my horror, and out of nowhere, the boy started to hit the little dog with his angry fists. I couldn’t believe what I was witnessing.

Incensed and without any hesitation, I plied on the brakes, stopped the car in the middle of the road, left my keys in the ignition, and marched over to the boy.

“Stop that!” I shouted. “Stop that, right this minute. Stop being cruel to the dog.”

I remember my ranting went something like… “You can’t do that to the dog. What’s this poor little dog ever done to you? Stop being a bully.”

All I heard was, “but, but but…”

I continued on in my sterner by the minute voice… “If you don’t stop being mean to the dog, I’m going to report you.”

It was then I could see tears prick in his eyes as he said, sorry.

“Thank you for apologizing, but don’t say sorry to me, say sorry to your dog.”

Walking back to my car, I was oblivious to the honking horns of the irate drivers and the traffic jam I had caused. Driving off, all I cared about was that little white dog. I had to trust and hope he would be ok.

Fifteen years later, I clearly recall the incident, and hand on heart, I would do exactly the same thing.

Mention cats, animals and my heart melts. Particularly the underdogs (sorry cats, it’s just a figure of speech) who’ve had a rough start, but given half a chance have a whole lot of love to give.

Minnie MooThat’s why I fell in love with Minnie Moo.

One day, I left the back door open. The next day, I had a cat. It was as simple as that.

Naturally, I went around the neighborhood asking everyone and anyone if they were missing a boy cat. No one claimed him, and to this day I think he was abandoned. Just left behind like an unwanted piece of furniture.

At that time I lived opposite a Pizza Restaurant, and my theory is he just got tired of sleeping in pizza boxes and eating left over salami. Once Minnie Moo walked through my open door, there was no turning back. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A little bit about Magdalena Annegie VandenBerg

Born to Dutch parents, Magdalena was born in New Zealand. But unlike the flightless kiwi bird, as soon as she could she spread her wings to live and work in Sydney for twelve years.

The career opportunity of a lifetime beckoned as Magdalena travelled the world working in marketing and PR for the creative genius of Cirque du Soleil.

Now back in the land of sixty-four million sheep, Magdalena is pursuing her life long dream of writing.

Her first children’s e-book, Minnie Moo, The Extraordinary Adventures of an Ordinary Cat is out now and available on most e-book formats. This story is ideal for children reading chapter books.

The book is in part, a tribute to the little white dog. An inspirational tail with a big message; it’s always ok to do the right thing. It’s never ok to be a bully.

Magdalena’s second e-book is her first foray into contemporary romance. Love in the Vines, tells the story of food, wine, love and betrayal. Like wine, loves begins in the vines. Betrayal begins in the heart of a marriage.

The Extraordinary Adventures of an Ordinary Cat - Book Cover

Love in the Vines - Book Cover

My Blog – Magdalena VandenBerg

Minnie Moo’s Blog




Love in the Vines on Amazon

Minnie Moo on Amazon

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