Review of The Screaming Staircase, by Jonathan Stroud, read by Miranda Raison

September 4th, 2015

screaming_staircase_audio_largeLockwood & Co.

The Screaming Staircase

by Jonathan Stroud

read by Miranda Raison

Listening Library, 2013. 10 hours on 8 compact discs.
2013 Cybils Winner: Speculative Fiction, Elementary and Middle Grades
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #1 Children’s Fiction
Starred Review

Normally, I won’t listen to a book I’ve already read. In the case of The Screaming Staircase, I’d already read it twice: Once when it came out, and once for the Cybils Award. (It won.) I also named it my favorite children’s book read in 2013. (I don’t allow rereads to count as Sonderbooks Stand-outs any more, so that way I won’t be tempted to give it to this book again in 2015.) So you won’t be surprised that I loved this audiobook (which our library finally purchased). Apparently, I don’t get tired of this story at all!

I’ll refer you to my original review, but point out a few things I noticed.

As a straight mystery (Who killed Annabelle Ward?), this book is wonderfully well-crafted. There are clues and red herrings as well as a life-endangering denouement accompanying some clever deductions from our heroes.

This book is scarier than I remembered it. The Red Room – with blood dripping down from the ceiling threatening to flood them (and they’ll die if it touches them) is incredibly sinister, not to mention the Screaming Staircase, where long-ago monks were led to their deaths and today you can hear their screams in your head. So that’s the only caveat when giving this book to children or suggesting it for family listening (It would be great!) – they have to be able to handle Scary.

As I suspected, though, the only thing better than reading this book is having it read to you with a British accent. The narrator is utterly wonderful! When I got to the part I used to read aloud at schools when booktalking last summer – I could recite the words along with the narrator, but they sounded so much better with a British accent! This narrator also captured the different voices with excellence.

As I mentioned in my first review, there’s so much going on with this book. We’ve got ghosts, swordplay, a deadline which must be met to keep their business, banter between colleagues, an interesting alternate world with great detail as to the different types of ghosts, kids in charge (because only they can see ghosts), and our heroes setting out to show the world that they are excellent at what they do – without the supervision of adults.

If your kids are old enough to handle Scary, this would make phenomenal family listening, because I guarantee the adults will be as mesmerized as the kids. I certainly was. And this was a book I successfully recommended to several adult coworkers. I am having fun listening to the audio version of the first two books in the series in preparation for Book Three coming out soon. I can hardly wait!

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of At the End of the Ages……The Abolition of Hell, by Bob Evely

September 2nd, 2015

at_the_end_of_the_ages_largeAt the End of the Ages…

The Abolition of Hell

by Bob Evely

1stBooks, 2003. 171 pages.
Starred Review

This is another book about Universalism. And Bob Evely summarizes the case beautifully that, at the end of the ages, God will save everyone.

This book is for those who believe the Bible is the Word of God, for people who don’t believe all will be saved because they don’t believe the Bible teaches this. Never mind what’s logical — they think universalism is contrary to Scriptures.

Bob Evely looks closely at the original Greek text of the Bible. He introduced me, in fact, to the Concordant Literal Version of the Bible. (I just interrupted writing this review to order my own copy.) Here’s how the Concordant Translation was developed:

Every single Greek word was closely examined. Each word was studied in every occurrence within the New Testament to determine the best English equivalent to be used. As much as was possible the meaning for each word was determined from the way the word was used within the New Testament, and not how other human authors may have used the word.

To preserve distinctions made by God, each individual Greek word was matched with a unique English equivalent. The same English word was not used for different Greek words, and differing English words were not used when a single Greek word was used.

I’d read in other books that the Greek word aion, which is often translated “eternal,” is more accurately translated as “eon” or “age” — often very long, but not, in fact, “eternal” or endless. The author’s reference to the Concordant Literal Version makes this very clear. We can see when aion and aionian is used in many places where “eternal” wouldn’t even make sense. (Most translators pick and choose where to use “eternal” when translating it.)

Here are a few examples from the Concordant Literal New Testament, which the author quotes:

Ephesians 2:7: “that, in the oncoming eons, He should be displaying the transcendent riches…”
Colossians 1:26: “the secret which has been concealed from the eons and from the generations, yet now was made manifest to His saints…”
Matthew 13:22: “…the worry of this eon and the seduction of riches are stifling the word…”
I Timothy 6:17: “Those who are rich in the current eon…”
John 14:16: “…and He will be giving you another consoler, that it, indeed, may be with you for the eon…”
Revelation 11:15: “The kingdom of this world became our Lord’s and his Christ’s, and He shall be reigning for the eons of the eons!”
Matthew 13:39: “the conclusion of the eon”
I Corinthians 10:11: “the consummations of the eons”

Now, the author adds plenty of commentary to these quotations. To me, he clearly points out that it’s inconsistent to translate aion as “eternal.”

He sums up:

While I have not attempted to show how many specific eons are mentioned in Scripture, I have desired to show that there are distinct, separate eons (or ages) that are mentioned in God’s Word. These “eons” are periods of time with a beginning and an end.

There was a time before these eons began. There will be a time when all of the eons will come to an end. We have seen at least three distinct eons referred to in God’s Word.

And he goes on to look at words translated “hell.” This section is also eye-opening. The author looks closely and in great detail to the words used in Scripture. At the end of this chapter, he concludes:

If an earthly ruler condemned even the vilest criminal to be kept alive just to be tortured forever, we would shudder at his cruelty. But we have inherited the current orthodox teachings about God that calmly attribute such activities to Him, while also teaching that He is a God of love.

I have come to see that the Bible does not teach this at all. Man has intervened and has placed his philosophies and pagan ideas within the Word of God. The modern English translations now perpetuate these man-made ideas, primarily because of a few words mistranslated and misinterpreted. We see a God of love, but a God who is also very harsh. Some say this is necessary because of God’s holiness and justice, but is God not able to use His love and power to bring about justice without losing a single sheep from the fold?

On a more positive note, he then looks at the “all” passages in the New Testament, as well as looking at I Corinthians 15:21-28, which talks about the “consummation.”

This is the grand conclusion of the ages. God has taken what mankind (and Satan) have intended for evil, and He has used it to achieve good. He has operated all in accord with the counsel of His will to achieve His will… that ALL mankind be saved. Some have recognized the greatness of God, and the work of the Saviour, in this lifetime, by faith. Others have taken longer, but now find salvation also. Every knee is now bowing in subjection before Him. Every person has found salvation. Every lost sheep has been found. The purpose of the eons has been achieved, and God is now All in all.

Another section of the book looks at the testimony of church history — the ultimate reconciliation of all things is by no means a new view — in fact, history shows us that this was the dominant view of the early church until Augustine.

I like this book, because as Bob Evely describes how he came to believe God will save everyone, his process pretty much mirrors mine. I, too, thought I couldn’t believe it because the Bible didn’t teach it. I was amazed and delighted to take another look and learn that maybe I’d been misled as to what the Bible actually says. And I was also surprised to learn of the deep historical tradition behind this view.

Here is the author’s conclusion, which mirrors how I feel about it:

Having been exposed to the things I have presented in this work, at the very least you should be hoping and praying that these things are true.

Not wanting to be led astray, this is where I began. I had been taught my entire life that there was a place of eternal torment. When I first heard of the possibility that this was wrong, I was highly skeptical. I did not want to be led into falsehood.

But as I journeyed down the path, studying and thinking of these things I had never been taught by a teacher or a pastor, I came first to a place where I did not know if these things were true, but I certainly hoped and prayed that they were!

How can we not feel this way? To think that there really is hope for those of our loved ones who died outside of Christ! Can God’s grace really be that big? Can His love really go that far? Is He really that wise that He could figure out a way to save all of mankind, despite rebellion and sin and wickedness and rejection?

This is a good place to start. The things you have read in this book have been largely suppressed, at least since the 5th century. When Universalism was declared by “The Church” to be heresy, many of the writings in support of this doctrine were destroyed. “The Church” was wrong, and today we live with the results of that error.

At least begin by hoping and praying that these things are true. Read and study the Word of God with this new possibility; this new perspective. Test this theory, this theology. Don’t believe me, but study and think for yourself.

I think as you go forward you will see the wonderful grace of God at every turn. It is a grace that is greater than anything mankind could ever have hoped for!

And this book is a wonderful resource for that search.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed, by Helen Cooper

September 1st, 2015

boy_who_wouldnt_go_to_bed_largeThe Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed

by Helen Cooper

Dial Books for Young Readers, New York, 1997. First published in Great Britain in 1996.
Starred Review

I’m posting a review of this Old Favorite in response to Travis Jonker’s critique on his 100 Scope Notes blog of the current best-selling children’s book, The Rabbit who wants to fall asleep.

You see, I believe that if you want mesmerizing and hypnotic in a children’s bedtime book, you actually don’t have to sacrifice lovely pictures and beautiful, lilting language.

When my son was a toddler, my then-husband brought this book home after one of his trips to England. It was the British version, so the title was The Baby Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed, but all else was the same.

My son couldn’t keep his eyes open when we read this book to him. Before long, he wouldn’t let us read it at bedtime, because he knew full well it would make him fall asleep.

The book starts with the boys mother telling him it’s bedtime. But it’s still light, because it’s summer, and the boy doesn’t want to go to bed.

But the boy revved up his car…
then drove away
as fast as he could,
and the mother couldn’t catch him.

The boy drives into a lavish dreamscape in his little red car, with a determined look on his face.

The boy meets many creatures and things on his journey and asks them to play, but everyone is much, much too tired.

The language is rhythmic and mesmerizing — but definitely not in a boring or didactic way.

He hadn’t driven very far at all
before he met a tiger.
“Let’s play at roaring,”
said the boy.

But the tiger was too tired.
Nighttime is for snoring,
not roaring,”
yawned the tiger.
“Come back in the morning.
I’ll play with you then.”

The pictures have the soft golden light of a long summer sunset.

He sees soldiers too tired to parade any longer. I like the train (with the dreamscape quickly getting darker), and all the toys in the train cars have their eyes closed:

He stopped for a moment
as a train rolled by.
“Race you to the station,” called the boy.

But the train was too tired.
“Nighttime is for resting, not racing,” said the train.
“I’m going home to my depot, and so should you.”

Of course, parents do not need instructions to read all this in a sleepy, tired, drowsy, weary voice.

When he meets musicians, they’re too drowsy to play music for dancing. They suggest that the boy give them a ride home, and they’ll play a lullaby instead.

The musicians played
such a sweet tune
that the sun was lulled
to sleep and the
moon came out.

The boy’s car went slower …
and slower …
and slower …

and soon the musicians were sound asleep.

Then the boy’s car stopped….
It had fallen asleep too.

The boy tries to get help from the moon hanging in the sky, but even the moon is too tired!

“It’s bedtime,”
sighed the moon drowsily.
And even the moon closed her eyes and dozed off.

Soon, the boy is the only one awake, and all the world around him is sleeping.

But there was someone else who was not asleep.
Someone who was looking for the boy …

Someone who was ever so sleepy,
but couldn’t go to bed until the boy did.

It was the mother.
And the boy hugged her.

The picture of the mother holding the boy here is suitable for framing.

The mother trundles and bundles the boy back to bed. With a big yawn, he gives in to sleep. And the last words of the book are:

“Good night.”

One fun thing about the book is that the dreamscape of the boy’s adventures matches the toys and furniture you’ll find in his room.

The language is so lovely, the paintings are magnificently soft and warm and beautiful, and the tired, tired creatures and things will get any little one yawning.

So my suggestion? If you want to hypnotize your child at bedtime, do it with delight. Try The Boy Who Wouldn’t Go to Bed. Put some sleepiness in your voice, and I challenge you to stay awake, let alone your little one.

Because, after all, nighttime is for snoring, not roaring; dreaming, not parading; and resting, not racing. Good night!

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of As Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust, by Alan Bradley

August 29th, 2015

as_chimney_sweepers_come_to_dust_largeAs Chimney Sweepers Come to Dust

by Alan Bradley
read by Jayne Entwistle

Random House Audio, 2015. 11 hours on 9 compact discs.
Starred Review

I decided to listen to the next installment of the Flavia de Luce books, after learning it’s read by Jayne Entwistle, whom I heard read The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place and heard in person at the 2015 Odyssey Award reception. This added to the fun, though I think I would have enjoyed this book anyway. I was afraid it would degenerate into a standard school story — but Flavia is anything but standard.

Flavia has, however, been sent off to school in Canada. But the very night she arrives, a body falls out of the chimney in her room. The body is wrapped in a Union Jack and has been there awhile. It is clearly a murder, since the head is not attached.

Flavia has no relationship with the police in Canada, so she has little access to clues, beyond what she saw that first night. But she does have access to the school’s chemistry lab, and I was happy when her knowledge of poisons did come into play.

I wasn’t thrilled with the hints that the school was training ground for a league of espionage. That seemed a little far-fetched. However, it did make for some nice red herrings along the way. Because there are secrets everywhere at Miss Bodycote’s Female Academy.

Basically, Flavia has a nice classic murder to solve. Who was killed, and how? And she’s not in her native element. Can she pull it off? Flavia is still her unique manipulative self, with a knack for uncovering secrets and an uncanny knowledge of poisons.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Sky Is Falling! by Mark Teague

August 28th, 2015

sky_is_falling_largeThe Sky Is Falling!

by Mark Teague

Orchard Books (Scholastic), New York, 2015. 32 pages.
Starred Review

This book cracked me up. It’s very much in the same style as The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf, by the same author.

The book contains a twisted retelling of Chicken Little’s story. Or perhaps I should say a more logical telling of Chicken Little’s story. Kids who are familiar with the traditional tale will appreciate the changes in this one.

And look! The third time through the story, I noticed for the first time a detail on the first page that adds impact to how the story turns out. This is a book that rewards close attention.

The story starts the common way:

One day an acorn hit Chicken Little on the head.

She popped up, screeching,
“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

The difference is apparent right away:

”I don’t think so,” said Squirrel.
Squirrel knew a thing or two about acorns.
“See, it fell from a tree.”

But Chicken Little doesn’t pay attention to squirrel.

Soon, all the chickens were in a tizzy.
Chickens are like that.

“The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”
they cried.

They danced around the yard,
flapping their wings.

But in this version, the birds don’t go to tell the king – they start a dance that infects all the animals in the barnyard!

Fox is up to his same tricks, however. If the sky is falling, he thinks everyone should hide in his den.

I love the chicken logic on this page:

”But why aren’t you dancing?” asked Chicken Little.

Fox began to feel annoyed. “Because it makes no sense!”

“Everyone dances when the sky is falling,”
Chicken Little explained. “Look!”

I will simply say about this tale that the fox does get an appropriate comeuppance.

The pictures of the animals dancing their hearts out definitely make it worth your while to pick this book up.

A very silly story which is ever so much fun.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Did God Kill Jesus? by Tony Jones

August 26th, 2015

did_god_kill_jesus_largeDid God Kill Jesus?

Searching for Love in History’s Most Famous Execution

by Tony Jones

HarperOne, 2015. 295 pages.
Starred Review

This book has a provocative title – at least for Christians. Jesus’ death is central to Christianity. What, actually, does it mean?

Like the author, I was brought up with the “payment” explanation of Jesus’ death – essentially that we are sinners and God hates sin – and Jesus, the sinless sacrifice, had to save us from God’s wrath. I’ve heard it preached that this is essentially the gospel. But I’ve also heard stories, explanations, and analogies of this view that get a little bit horrible if you think about them too hard.

It turns out that the reason for Jesus’ death preached at that middle school retreat. . . is not the only way that Christians have understood the death of Jesus. Instead, it’s one of about half a dozen theories that preachers and theologians have used over the past two thousand years to explain why Jesus died. This fact wasn’t advertised to me when I was growing up. Instead, I was taught that there was one and only one reason that Jesus died: because of my sin and God’s anger and disappointment with me. Maybe you were told the same thing. But this sentiment would have been confounding to a second- or third-century Christian. They had entirely different ways of understanding Jesus’ death, ways that we will explore in later chapters.

And behind each explanation of the crucifixion is an implied view of God. God is either strong or weak, in control or abdicating control, engaged or absent, gracious or vindictive. In the pages that follow, we will walk through the various views of Jesus’ death, and we will look at the God who stands behind the cross in each.

For myself, my reading in George MacDonald’s writings is what got me first to even see there might be another way of looking at the cross. This book goes into detail and examines the many different ways Christians have, over the centuries, looked at the death of Jesus. It turns out that the “payment” model wasn’t taught in the church until hundreds of years after Jesus’ death. And now we’re told believing this is the only way to be saved?

Here’s a section from the introductory chapter:

Even without the Bible, what kind of sense does it make to believe that God would create you and me, only to be disgusted by us and wrathful at our inevitable shortcomings? But add in the Bible, and you can really see how misaligned this interpretation of the crucifixion is. If we look in the Bible for evidence of this overwhelming disgust God has for us, it’s hard to come by. Sure, there’s the occasional verse that talks of God’s anger at particular sins or human behavior that God considers an abomination, but the overarching message of scripture is clear: God created us, God loves us, and God wants the best for us. In fact, the Bible is rife with stories of God going out of his way to set people on the right path – despite our failures, despite our sins. Indeed, the Apostle Paul assures us that God loved us “while we were still sinners.”

Before we study the Bible and even before we formulate and wrestle with all the doctrines from church history, we intuitively know something fundamental: the message of Jesus, God’s primary emissary, is that God loves us. That’s what Jesus came to preach and to enact in his miracles. He referred to God as his “Father” and his “Abba” – intimate terms based in relationship. Theirs was a close and loving connection. Jesus came to open that loving relationship between himself and the Father to all of us. This event, the crucifixion, on which all of cosmic history pivots, forever changed both us and God.

This also means there can be no separation between God and Jesus; we cannot set a wrathful and vengeful God in opposition to a loving and gracious Jesus. Jesus repeatedly taught that he and the Father are one, that the best way to know and understand the Father is by knowing and understanding the Son. And the main message of both Father and Son is that they love us and want to be united with us. Even before we come to understand what happened on the cross, we know that whatever explanation we discover cannot contradict the eternal relationship of love that binds the Father and the Son, that binds God and us.

This is a book on theology. The author does what he suggests here – looks at all the doctrines about the cross from church history.

I suspect that as we journey through the history of thought about Jesus’ crucifixion and look at the biblical accounts of that event, we will find a God who is not wrathful or disgusted. We won’t find a God who killed his son, nor demanded that his son be executed to pay a penalty. Instead, I suspect that we will find a God of love who goes even to the most extreme lengths to identify with the human experience and to build a bridge between the human and the divine. We’ll find a God who wants nothing more than to communicate his love to us.

I like his “smell test”:

Research shows that those who believe in a wrathful God are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety disorders than those who believe in a loving, merciful God. Our beliefs really do have consequences, for they structure how we live.

I tend to be a pretty logical person. I like debates, reasoned arguments, and rigorous thinking. But after many years of searching and studying the ways of God, theology, and the Bible, I’ve concluded the following:

Bad theology begets ugly Christianity.

Good theology begets beautiful Christianity.

I call it the smell test. It’s an aesthetic argument. Like me, you’ve probably pulled that half-gallon of milk out of the back of the refrigerator, seen that the “best by” date is long past, and cautiously waved the open bottle under your nose. The result is either, “Smells fine to me!” or a sour stench strong enough to strip the bark off a tree.

That may seem an odd way to measure a faith system. We are used to matters being true or false, right or wrong, not beautiful or ugly, sweet or sour. Most prefer a more forensic approach: she who has the most logical doctrine wins. But, as we will see in the pages to come, many religious systems that are perfectly logical are nevertheless downright ugly. They’re bad for the world and bad for people. In other words, you can devise a system of doctrine that makes perfect sense within its own little self-inscribed world, but when you take it out into the broader marketplace of ideas, it spoils, like dropping a teaspoon of vinegar into a gallon of milk.

In the main section of the book, the author looks at historic interpretations of Jesus’ death within the church (and there are many). And he asks six questions of the various models:

What does this model say about God?

What does it say about Jesus?

What does this model say about the relationship between God and Jesus?

How does it make sense of violence?

What does it mean for us spiritually?

Where’s the love?

It turns out, these are some good questions to ask. This is a book that explores, and a book that thinks deeply.

I recommend this book for Christians who want to think about their faith. For those who think there is only one way to think about the crucifixion, perhaps it will open your eyes. And whether you end up agreeing with the author or not, it offers many perspectives and many things to consider. If nothing else, it will get you thinking about God’s love and grace.

If you’re not a Christian, but you feel you’ve been burned by Christianity or Christians who have taught you that God is angry with you – I also recommend this book. Perhaps you’ll be able to more clearly see God’s great love for you and God’s identification with humanity in Jesus. If nothing else, perhaps this more loving communication of Christianity will be healing.

Here’s a section from the last chapter:

Of the mystics in the history of the church, many like Brother Lawrence spent a great deal of time meditating on the crucifixion. In the climax of the great twenty-eight-day retreat called the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius, the person on retreat meditates on Jesus being crucified, even having an imaginary conversation with Jesus as he hangs on the cross. While this may strike our modern sensibilities as gruesome or strange, now that we’ve come to see the humility of God on display in Jesus and the solidarity that God showed to humankind, we can understand how the cross can become a peaceful meditation, the moment of God’s ultimate presence with us.

The English mystic Julian of Norwich also meditated on the crucifixion. She dared not look up from the cross, she said, “For I knew that whilst I looked at the cross I was secure and safe.” When she looked at Jesus on the cross, she experienced God’s presence. It is ironic: looking into the eyes of a man being executed and feeling peace, safety, security, even tranquility. But it is possible because the crucifixion is God’s ultimate act of love.

We have something to learn from these old mystics. The crucifixion is a source of peace. It’s a magnet that draws us into the all-encompassing love of God. It’s a mirror that shows us the result of all our violent tendencies. It’s a spark that relights the flame of divinity within us. It’s a symbol of God’s victory over the forces that oppress us.

We look into the eyes of the dying savior knowing that in him, God performed the ultimate act of humility. In the abandonment of Jesus’ cry, God experienced the godforsakenness that every human feels. And a new bond was formed between God and humanity – a bond that is now cemented by God’s Holy Spirit.

I like this book. The author does show some drawbacks with the Payment Model of Jesus’ death, but I don’t think this book is primarily about showing drawbacks. It’s about shining a light on the cross, about thinking deeply about the cross and what it means about God, what it means about Jesus, what it means for us spiritually, and how it’s all about love.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Sonderling Sunday – Pu der Bär – Hunting the Wuschel

August 24th, 2015

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of Children’s Books, sort of a Silly Phrasebook for Travelers.


This week, I’m going back to one of my favorite books, Winnie-the-Pooh, by A. A. Milne, otherwise known as Pu der Bär.

Last time we looked at Pu, we finished Chapter 2, about Pooh getting stuck in a very tight place. So this time we will cover Chapter 3, “In Which Pooh and Piglet Go Hunting and Nearly Catch a Woozle” = In welchem Pu und Ferkel auf die Jagd gehen und beinahe ein Wuschel fangen.

Oh! This is my opportunity to see what the translator did with the elaborate joke about Piglet’s Uncle “Trespassers William.”


It’s a pretty straight translation, just using a different name.

For research, I used Google Translate to see what “Trespassers will be prosecuted.” would be in German. Google came up with Strafrechtlich verfolgt wird. Maybe “v” is for verfolgt?

“it was short for Trespassers Will”
= es sei die Abkürzung von Betreten Vic

“which was short of Trespassers William”
= welches die Abkürzung von Betreten Victor sei.

“And his grandfather had had two names in case he lost one”
= Und sein Großvater habe zwei Namen gehabt, für den Fall, dass er mal einen verlöre

“Trespassers after an uncle, and William after Trespassers.”
= Betreten nach einem Onkel und Victor nach Betreten.

“carelessly” = leichtsinnig

A good phrase to know:
“Well, there you are, that proves it.”
= Siehst du, das beweist es ja.

“Pooh was walking round and round in a circle”
= Pu ging immer im Kreis herum

“tracking” = spüre

This is straightforward, but I like it:
“That’s just what I ask myself. I ask myself, What?”
= Genau das frage ich mich auch. Ich frage mich: Was?

“What do you think you’ll answer?”
Und was, glaubst du, wirst du dir antworten?

“paw-marks” = Pfotenabdrücke

“He gave a little squeak of excitement.”
= Es quiekte leicht vor Aufregung.

This is classic Pooh. Not quite the same in German:
“‘It may be,’ said Pooh. ‘Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. You never can tell with paw-marks.'”
= »Könnte sein«, sagte Pu. »Manchmal ist es das und manchmal ist es das nicht. Bei Pfotenabdrücken kann man nie wissen.«

“was bending over the tracks in a puzzled sort of way”
= beugte sich verblüfft über die Spuren
(“bent himself perplexedly over the tracks”)

“Hostile Animals” = feindselige Tiere
(The translator did not retain the Meaningful Use of Capital Letters.)

“a small spinney of larch trees”
= ein kleines Dickicht aus Lärchenbäumen
(Ah! Now I can find out what a “spinney” is! Dickicht = “thicket.”)

“what his grandfather Trespassers W had done to Remove Stiffness after Tracking”
= was sein Großvater Betreten V gegen Steifheit in den Gliedern nach der Spurensuche unternommen hatte

“Shortness of Breath”
= Kurzatmigkeit

Again, classic Pooh:
“It is either Two Woozles and one, as it might be, Wizzle, or Two, as it might be, Wizzles and one, if so it is, Woozle.”
= Es sind entweder zwei Wuschel und ein, falls es das ist, Wischel oder zwei, falls sie das sind, Wischel und ein, falls es das ist, Wuschel.

“Hostile Intent” = feindselig Absichten

“muddled” = vermengten

“The tracks of four sets of paws”
= die Spuren von vier Pfotenpaaren

“it brought very little comfort”
= dies wenig Trost brachte

Just in case you need to say this:
“I have just remembered something that I forgot to do yesterday and shan’t be able to do tomorrow.”
= Mir ist etwas eingefallen, was ich gestern zu tun vergessen habe und was ich morgen nicht tun kann.

“dear old Pooh” = liebster, bester Pu

“Silly old Bear” = Dummer alter Bär

“I see now.” = Jetzt verstehe ich.

“I have been Foolish and Deluded.”
= Ich war ein verblendeter Narr.
(“I was a deluded fool.”)

This doesn’t have the same ring to it:
“I am a Bear of No Brain at All.”
= Ich bin ein Bär ohne jeden Verstand.
(“I am a bear without any understanding.”)

“You’re the Best Bear in All the World.”
= Du bist der beste Bär der ganzen Welt.

“And then he brightened up suddenly.”
= Und dann erhellte sich plötzlich seine Miene.

Perhaps the most useful phrase of all:
“Anyhow, it is nearly Luncheon Time.”
= Auf jeden Fall, ist es schon fast Zeit zum Mittagessen.

Auf jeden Fall, ist es schon fast Mitternacht. Gute Nacht! Till next time!

Review of The Eye of Zoltar, by Jasper Fforde

August 22nd, 2015

eye_of_zoltar_largeThe Eye of Zoltar

by Jasper Fforde

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers, 2014. 405 pages.

The Eye of Zoltar continues the adventures of Jennifer Strange, young manager of Kazam Mystical Arts Management.

The first chapter catches the reader up without really spoiling anything. Here’s her summary of the way things stand:

I now manage forty-five barely sane sorcerers at Kazam, only eight of whom have a legal permit to perform magic. If you think wizards are all wise purveyors of the mystical arts and have sparkling wizidrical energy streaming from their fingertips, think again. They are for the most part undisciplined, infantile, argumentative, and infuriating; their magic only works when they really concentrate, which isn’t that often, and misspellings are common. But when it works, a well-spelled feat of magic is the most wondrous thing to behold, like your favorite book, painting, music, and movie all at the same time, with chocolate and a meaningful hug from someone you love thrown in for good measure. So despite everything, it’s a good business in which to work. Besides, there’s rarely a dull moment.

So that’s me. I have an orphaned assistant named Tiger Prawns, I am now Dragon Ambassador to the World, and I have a pet Quarkbeast at least nine times as frightening as the most frightening thing you’ve ever seen.

My name is Jennifer Strange. Welcome to my world.

The story was good for an airplane read. As usual, it’s bizarre, strange, and quirky. Despite being the third book, loose ends are not tied up — the story will continue.

In this one, Jennifer Strange travels with Perkins to the perilous Cambrian Empire to hunt for the famed Eye of Zoltar — an artifact of great power, but one that can also turn the holder into lead. She must bring along the princess of Snodd — who was transferred into the body of a servant girl to teach her a lesson.

This book is good if you’re in the mood for silly and bizarre — or if you’re simply hooked on Jasper Fforde. There is some deadly peril going on, and more actual deaths than I was comfortable with (though the reader and the participants were warned about the 50% survival rate) but there’s always something to laugh about along the way.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader Copy I got at an ALA conference.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Making and Unmaking at the Library

August 20th, 2015


It’s been a long time since I’ve posted in my Librarians Help! series – but a program that happened this week was so awesome, I have to report it here.

For years now, I’ve heard about Makerspaces in libraries and wondered if there’s a way we could bring that to our customers. At my level, a Youth Services Manager at a regional library in a system of twenty-two branches, there didn’t seem like a way I could bring this to my branch. How would we find space for equipment? How would we provide expertise? And how would customers pay for things like 3D prints? We already have a complicated system for regular print-outs. It just seemed beyond my resources to bring to our branch.

However, libraries are about learning and creating! Our mission dovetails so nicely with the ideas of Makerspaces!

And then I mentioned to a friend that my cousin is Mark Hatch, CEO of TechShop, a for-profit Makerspace. Shortly after his name came up, Mark’s Mom posted on Facebook that President Obama had recently toured the newly-opened TechShop location in DC/Arlington. Now that TechShop is in our neighborhood, I wondered if they think about doing outreach. Their mission is much the same as that of the library – about creating and learning.

I contacted my cousin, and he put me in touch with the Education Coordinator at TechShop DC/Arlington. That such a position exists was a great sign. After some discussion, we set up three programs for teens at City of Fairfax Regional Library this summer!

The partnership works wonderfully. TechShop provides the equipment and expertise. We provide the space and the publicity, reaching out to our neighborhood teens. Our Friends of the Library pay TechShop’s fee (just like paying for puppet shows or other performers) and we are able to offer the programs free of charge to the teens who come.

For the first program, TechShop brought in their vinyl cutter and the teens designed vinyl stickers and cut them out on the vinyl cutter.


For the second program, TechShop brought two Sphero Robotic Balls. The teens got into two teams and created obstacle courses from cardboard which they then ran the robots through.


The third program happened this week. TechShop brought in two old computers and lots of tools. Then the kids took apart the computers and learned about how they work.

As with all the programs, the kids started out kind of reserved and holding back…


But once the drill came out…


They got more and more engaged.


I simply loved seeing them get better and better at figuring out how to take each next layer apart. They were having a fantastic time; they were feeling empowered; and they were discovering really cool stuff deep inside the computers!


It was an awesome thing to watch!

I’m hoping to do more programs with TechShop in the future. We’ve planned a 3D printing workshop in October, and I’d like to do another Computer Deconstruction program. Next summer, maybe we can plan some workshops at more branches.

Now, I do always want to think through how I can improve the program. Next time, I’ll pull out more books on making and creating. (The library recently purchased my cousin’s book, The Maker Movement Manifesto, for example.) I think for the Deconstruction program, I’d like to bring in more craft materials, to give the teens more ideas of something to do with the computer parts they uncover.

I think that other libraries out there that don’t feel quite ready to open a Makerspace of their own might think about this approach. Is there a Makerspace in your neighborhood that might be able to bring programs to your library? It’s a natural partnership.

Once again, as a Librarian, I got to help! In this case, I got to help kids learn and create in exciting and engaging ways. By working with TechShop, we were able to open teens’ minds to a world of possibilities. And we all had a lot of fun, as well!


Review of In Search of the Little Prince, by Bimba Landmann

August 19th, 2015

in_search_of_the_little_prince_largeIn Search of the Little Prince

The Story of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Written and illustrated by Bimba Landmann

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2014. First published in Italy in 2013. 36 pages.

Here’s the life story of the author of The Little Prince in oversize picture book form. The pictures tend to be fanciful – showing Tonio’s boyhood dreams – but I like that the narrative is straightforward and easy to follow.

The book tells about how early Antoine became interested in flying, and how he eventually was able to fulfill that dream. It also gives us a poem he wrote at 12 years old about his first flight in an airplane – showing us that his love of writing began early, too.

This book doesn’t have notes at the back. Words are put into the mouths of family members and we’re told about Antoine’s dreams. Many quotations come from letters, but we’re not explicitly told where something like this comes from:

Only writing gave him comfort.
Short stories. Stories to calm his desire to flee.
And to try and get his soul, heavier and heavier by the day, to fly.
“What’s wrong with you?” his friends asked him. “You’ve got a good job; you earn plenty. What more do you want?”

Tonio’s coworkers only ever talked about money, houses, golf, and cars.
They did not feel, as he did, that they were the inhabitants of a wandering planet suspended in the Milky Way.
“I’m bored,” he sighed.
He needed to be in touch with the wind, with the stars.
He had to start flying again.

So this might bother sticklers. I have to admit – it didn’t bother me.

We also see how he developed the themes that eventually made their way into The Little Prince.

The more Antoine drew, the more the boy resembled him.
Like him, the boy didn’t understand people who want to be rich.
He too was sad at seeing his planet smothered by baobabs,
The way the earth was smothered by war.
He too had tamed a fox.
He too loved a rose . . .

Antoine wrote a fairy tale like the ones he used to listen to as a child:
it was a fairy tale about a little prince who came from far away,
and it helped him find the innocence of his childhood once more,
when he was simply Tonio.

This book will make readers – children or adults – want to pick up The Little Prince again. And perhaps think a little more deeply about the ideas behind it.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?