Jade’s Finished Outliers Scarf!

February 4th, 2016

Today I finished the Normal Distribution Scarf I made for my transgender daughter Jade!

OutliersScarf

This scarf shows that it is the outliers that make life beautiful.

A lot of things in life have a normal distribution — height, intelligence, and many other things. Most people are somewhere near the middle of the bell-shaped curve.

All her life, Jade has had qualities that are outliers. And I do believe that has much to do with why she is such a beautiful person. She definitely adds spice to life!

Here’s how I made the scarf:

I chose four colors of yarn. Then I generated random numbers from a normal distribution. I used the website random.org/gaussian-distributions/.

OutliersYarn

The numbers told me what colors to use for each row.

OutliersScarfLengthIf the number was negative, I knitted. If it was positive, I purled. (This will be about even for each.)

For numbers from -0.5 to 0.5, I used brown, Color A.

For numbers from -1.0 to -0.5 and 0.5 to 1.0, I used a brownish burgundy, Color B.

For numbers from -1.5 to -1.0 and 1.0 to 1.5, I used bright red, Color C.

For numbers less than -1.5 and bigger than 1.5, I used a rainbow yarn, Color D.

The rainbow yarn changed only gradually. It started out orange and gradually changed to yellow, then green, then pink. But this yarn for the outliers definitely is the most noticeable yarn throughout.

The only thing I didn’t like about this scarf is that there were far too many ends to sew in, and I didn’t feel like I did a great job of covering that up with a crocheted edging. If I make a normal distribution scarf again, I will probably knit it lengthwise, even though that won’t use as many numbers.

I was also thinking I’d like to use an additional color for 1.5 to 2.0. Then the outliers yarn would be more rare. I also might try using an amount of 0.75 for each section instead of 0.5, so that the sections would be 0 to 0.75, 0.75 to 1.5, and 1.5 to 2.25.

I’m going to test these two ideas on a coloring sheet before I try knitting another scarf.

You can find various more mathematical knitted objects and coloring sheets at sonderbooks.com/sonderknitting.

Review of The Inventor’s Secret, by Suzanne Slade

February 4th, 2016

inventors_secret_largeThe Inventor’s Secret

What Thomas Edison Told Henry Ford

by Suzanne Slade
illustrated by Jennifer Black Reinhardt

Charlesbridge, 2015. 48 pages.

This is an introductory picture book about the work of two great inventors, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. The overarching message of the book applies to any aspiring inventor: It’s what Thomas Edison told Henry Ford the night they first met: “Keep at it!”

The Author states in a note at the end (along with plenty of interesting backmatter):

For nonfiction authors a new story often begins with a fascinating, little-known fact that sparks a magical “goose-bump” moment. When I learned Thomas Edison, one of the greatest inventors of all time, pounded his fist on the table and shouted, “Keep at it!” to Henry Ford, that was one of those moments for me.

She weaves their stories together, with this meeting the central event. She used patent records to establish a timeline, and we get a taste, especially for Henry Ford, how much of his success was based on multiple attempts.

This is an entertaining story with cheery (but informative) and cartoon-like illustrations. But it also presents an encouraging message for future inventions. Follow your dreams. And don’t worry if your first several efforts don’t achieve success.

Keep at it!

suzanneslade.com
jbreinhardt.com
charlesbridge.com

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Review of Pax, by Sara Pennypacker

February 2nd, 2016

pax_largePax

by Sara Pennypacker
illustrated by Jon Klassen

Balzer + Bray, 2016. 280 pages.
Starred Review

At ALA Midwinter Meeting, this Advance Reader’s Edition came in a special gift box, which opens up to a diorama.

When you open the first lid of the box, you see a blurb from librarian and blogger Betsy Bird, and next, one from librarian John Schumacher, and only after that from Newbery author Katherine Applegate. It made me happy to see bloggers featured so prominently (and there are more people I know blurbing the book on the back cover).

Then I read the book itself — and what they say is true. I was pulled in to this book, and finished it by the next day. Even though I have this ARC, I’ve already pre-ordered my own published copy — this edition didn’t have very much of the art by Jon Klassen, which I know will be wonderful, and whose stark artwork is exactly suited to this material.

The book alternates viewpoints between Pax, a fox, and Peter, his boy.

Peter has been raising Pax since he found the orphaned fox kit, not long after Peter’s mother had died. But now, five years later, Peter’s father has enlisted to fight in the war, and he says it’s time for Peter to return Pax to the wild. And Peter is going to have to live with his grandfather three hundred miles away.

The book opens as Peter leaves Pax in the woods. Pax doesn’t understand.

The boy’s anxiety surprised the fox. The few times they had traveled in the car before, the boy had been calm or even excited. The fox nudged his muzzle into the glove’s webbing, although he hated the leather smell. His boy always laughed when he did this. He would close the glove around his pet’s head, play-wrestling, and in this way the fox would distract him.

But today the boy lifted his pet and buried his face in the fox’s white ruff, pressing hard.

It was then that the fox realized his boy was crying. He twisted around to study his face to be sure. Yes, crying — although without a sound, something the fox had never known him to do. The boy hadn’t shed tears for a very long time, but the fox remembered: always before he had cried out, as if to demand that attention be paid to the curious occurrence of salty water streaming from his eyes.

The fox licked at the tears and then grew more confused. There was no scent of blood. He squirmed out of the boy’s arms to inspect his human more carefully, alarmed that he could have failed to notice an injury, although his sense of smell was never wrong. No, no blood; not even the under-skin pooling of a bruise or the marrow leak of a cracked bone, which had happened once.

It doesn’t take Peter long at his grandfather’s house for him to know that he is in the wrong place. He needs to go back and find Pax and take him home. He knows that Pax will wait for him.

But it’s not simple for a boy to travel three hundred miles. The book follows Peter and Pax in alternating chapters as they try to find one another.

The war is coming to the place where Pax was left. The house where they lived is in an evacuation zone. The soldiers are wiring traps at the river, without regard for animals. So besides Pax having to learn to live in the wild, he is affected by what the humans are doing. The other foxes don’t trust him because he smells like humans.

Peter also meets someone on his journey who’s been deeply affected by war. Circumstances force him to slow down and learn some lessons while he’s waiting to travel on, even though he so urgently wants to get to Pax.

This story is an intricate, well-orchestrated look inside the characters, both human and animal. The title is appropriate, because it’s also a look at war and peace.

After I finished the book and was mulling it over (This is a book that you will mull over.), I wondered where it was set. Certain clues — Peter’s love for baseball and the woman he meets having Creole heritage — would indicate this is the United States. But the animals knew about war and had seen war in their lifetimes.

An old fox (who has seen war) explains:

There is a disease that strikes foxes sometimes. It causes them to abandon their ways, to attack strangers. War is a human sickness like this.

Anyway, I was wondering how this could be America, since this doesn’t happen here. Then I noticed the sentence on a page at the very front of the book:

Just because it isn’t happening here
doesn’t mean it isn’t happening.

I’m looking forward to reading this again with Jon Klassen’s illustrations. Publication date is today! Yes, this, the first new book I read in 2016 is already what I hope wins the Newbery in 2017. We’ll see….

sarapennypacker.com
burstofbeaden.com

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Source: This review is based on an Advance Reader’s Copy I got at ALA Midwinter Meeting.

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.

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Review of Mango, Abuela, and Me, by Meg Medina and Angela Dominguez

February 1st, 2016

mango_abuela_and_me_largeMango, Abuela, and Me

by Meg Medina
illustrated by Angela Dominguez

Candlewick Press, 2015. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2015 Cybils Fiction Picture Books Finalist
2016 Pura Belpré Author Honor Book
2016 Pura Belpre Illustrator Honor Book

Mia’s grandmother, her Abuela, has come to live with her family. But Abuela doesn’t speak English and Mia doesn’t speak Spanish. But little by little, they learn to communicate, and some of the help comes from a parrot named Mango, who learns both languages as well.

This is simply a lovely cross-cultural story. It does address that it’s difficult to learn a new language, and takes lots of practice, but all the motivation in this story is love.

The first night, before Abuela goes to sleep, she shows Mia a red feather from a parrot that nested in her mango trees back in her old home. This is the episode that gives Mia the idea to purchase the parrot in the pet store for Abuela and name him Mango.

Spanish words are peppered throughout the story. It’s just a nice twist on the stranger-in-a-new-country story. This time it’s not the girl herself, but her Abuela who clearly loves her and learns to tell her stories about her Abuelo, and also learns to hear all the stories Mia has to tell.

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angeladominguezstudio.com
candlewick.com

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

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Coloring to Learn Math Concepts!

January 30th, 2016

Coloring1

I’m super excited about something I’ve been working on lately — posting Mathematical Coloring Sheets on my Sonderknitting webpage.

Why Sonderknitting? Because the ideas in the coloring pages come from my mathematical knitting projects, which all began with my Prime Factorization Sweater.

PF Sweater

I wore the sweater to the library today, for our Family Math Games event. (We have lots of board games and card games that build math skills and ask only that parents play with their kids.) I also printed out some copies of the Prime Factorization Coloring Sheet — the one that matches my sweater — and brought some crayons.

A girl named Ana who is a regular at our Crazy 8s Math Club was there. She got tired of playing games with her little brother, and her Mom showed Ana the coloring sheet, and Ana became the first actual child to color one!

Ana1

I explained the idea to Ana, using my sweater as a visual aid.

There are different ways you can approach it, but what I suggested was to choose a color for 2, then color a section of every second number. Then choose a color for 3 and color a section of every third number. Then I had to explain you use the color for 2 again to color a second section in the square for 4, then give every 4th number a second section of the color for 2. Then you choose a new color for 5, and she quickly caught on that all the multiples of 5 were in columns….

Ana2

I can’t tell you how happy it made me to hear what she’d say as she was understanding how to do it (“Oh, I see!”) and seeing the patterns come out.

I think Ana’s in 2nd grade (Crazy 8s is for Kindergarten to 2nd grade.), so she can’t have studied much multiplication in school yet. So it made me all the happier to see the wheels turning and the connections forming.

But my favorite thing she said? “I like this! This is fun!”

Ana3

Review of Another Day, by David Levithan

January 30th, 2016

another_day_largeAnother Day

by David Levithan

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 330 pages.

Another Day is the same story told in Every Day, but this time from the perspective of the girl Rhiannon.

Every Day is an amazing book about someone who calls himself “A” who wakes up in a different body every day of his life. He gets each body for one day and only one day. The person whose body and life he inhabits is the same age as he is, and this has happened to him since he was a baby.

Things change when he inhabits the body of Rhiannon’s boyfriend Justin, has a wonderful day with her, and falls in love.

Rhiannon knows that Justin is different that day, more considerate, kinder, and enjoying her more.

Things go back to normal the next day. But then Rhiannon meets a girl visiting her school with whom she hits it off quickly. Then there’s a new boy at a party. He emails her and wants to meet. Someone totally different shows up and tells her a strange story.

What disappointed me about this book is that it’s exactly the same story and ends at the same place. I was hoping we’d find out more about A and the choices he makes, or maybe about the life Rhiannon lives after A.

It’s been awhile since I read Every Day, and it’s a truly great book, but I came away feeling like you really only need to read one of the two books — and Every Day is the more insightful one, showing you what it’s like to live inside the skins of many different teens.

Sure, it’s fun to think what it would be like to try to have a relationship with someone like A who is never in the same body two days in a row. But this book made me feel worse about how she treated Justin, because I did see a little more why she was dating him in the first place.

He still brilliantly shows you what Rhiannon was missing with Justin by describing what happens when A is in Justin’s body:

He sees me crying and doesn’t make fun of it. He doesn’t get defensive, asking what he did this time. He doesn’t tell me he warned me. He doesn’t tell me to stop. No, he wraps his arms around me and holds me and takes these things that are only words and makes them into something more than words. Comfort. He gives me something I can actually feel — his presence, his hold.

The whole idea behind these books is brilliant. The execution is outstanding. My only complaint with Another Day is that I already heard this story, with a little more punch.

davidlevithan.com
randomhouse.com/teens

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Review of Ira’s Shakespeare Dream, by Glenda Armand

January 28th, 2016

iras_shakespeare_dream_largeIra’s Shakespeare Dream

by Glenda Armand
illustrations by Floyd Cooper

Lee & Low Books, New York. 40 pages.

I love picture book biographies about interesting people I’d never heard anything about. The subject of this one is Ira Aldridge, an African American born in 1807 who went on to have his name inscribed at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon, England – the only African American among the thirty-three actors to have received this recognition.

The book tells his story. He was born in 1807 in New York City and attended the African Free School. This was a time when the majority of African Americans were enslaved. He first discovered Shakespeare at the Park Theatre, but there he had to sit in the balcony. Then he discovered the African Grove, and African American theater.

At the African Grove and the Park, people took notice of the stagestruck young man. Actors often sent Ira on errands in exchange for tickets to plays. Some of the stagehands taught him set building and costume making. They all encouraged Ira to become an actor and cheered him on as he auditioned for a small role at the African Grove.

Eventually, Ira traveled to England to study acting rather than go to a ministry college, as his father wanted him to do.

As Ira gained success, he began to use his fame as a platform for preaching the evils of slavery and raised money for abolitionism.

Ira gained more and more fame and recognition and traveled all over Europe.

By the 1840s, Ira was one of the most celebrated Shakespearean actors in Europe. His most famous role was the lead character in Othello. The dark-skinned tragic hero was commonly played by a white actor wearing black makeup.

Ira did not need this makeup. And the emotions he expressed as Othello were as real as the color of his skin. Like Othello, Ira knew despair. He had seen it in the eyes of enslaved people. And like Othello, Ira knew sadness and regret. He had felt both when he received news of Pa’s death.

This book stands out to me because Ira’s is a truly amazing story. Here is someone who followed his dream despite tremendous obstacles and achieved great success. I’m delighted that more children will learn about this amazing person through this wonderful picture book.

glenda-armand.com
floydcooper.com
leeandlow.com

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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.

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Review of Emma, by Alexander McCall Smith

January 26th, 2016

emma_largeEmma

A Modern Retelling

by Alexander McCall Smith

Pantheon Books, New York, 2015. 361 pages.

Oh Emma, Emma – I was reminded by reading this book that she’s really an annoying character.

But I’m a huge Jane Austen fan, and I’ve been eagerly following the new modernized Jane Austen retellings as they’ve come out, and on top of that I love Alexander McCall Smith’s writings, so of course I wanted to read this one.

But I almost stopped reading in the middle. Emma’s snobbishness and superiority was a little more tolerable in the original, somehow embedded in the English class system. For a modern young woman to assume she has the right to manipulate people because she can? Not so endearing.

It was somewhat endearing to occasionally notice Emma sounding like the ladies from the No. 1 Detective Agency or philosophizing like Isabella Dalhousie, but the characters put into the modern day weren’t as likable to me.

Also interesting was that the modern author took more time with the backstory than Jane Austen did, and spent about half the book before the classic novel even got started. Then some of the crucial scenes in the classic were skimmed over rather lightly.

I have to say, though, that I did enjoy a small twist at the end, as the tables get turned a bit on Emma. It’s also a much nicer ending for her father than the original.

I don’t think of my problems with the novel as Alexander McCall Smith’s fault. Emma really is an annoying character, an interfering, manipulative busybody who thinks herself better than everybody else. Somehow I bought her view when it was dressed up in a historic period in England’s history. Weren’t the gentry actually better than everyone else? But modern day Emma I wanted to slap.

Still, I did like the way this Emma thought over her shortcomings at the end. I felt like she gave them more weight and took things more to heart than classic Emma did.

But most of the retellings have made me want to revisit Jane Austen’s classics. This one made me realize that next time I see a reworking of Emma, I’ll be much happier giving it a miss.

alexandermccallsmith.com
theaustenproject.com
pantheonbooks.com

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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.

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Review of Numbed! by David Lubar

January 25th, 2016

numbed_largeNumbed!

by David Lubar

Millbrook Press, 2013. 144 pages.
2015 Mathical Honor Book

I read this book while waiting for the Metro on the way to the National Book Festival – where I got to meet the author at the Mathical booth! I already knew I enjoy his sense of humor because of his Twitter posts as well as his writing, and I’m happy that he turned toward numbers with this book.

In Numbed!, the kids from Punished! get into new trouble at the Math Museum. They go into an experimental area where they’re not supposed to go, and an angry robot zaps them so they’re numbed. First they can’t do any math at all; when they fix that (by solving a problem in the matheteria, where a special “field” helps them), they can only do addition and subtraction, but not multiplication and division. When they fix that, they still can’t do word problems or apply mathematical reasoning to anything.

Now, as a math person, I really have to work hard at suspending disbelief for this story! Multiplication is repeated addition, so the idea that the kids would be able to add and subtract but not multiply didn’t work for me. Of course, the kids figured that out – that was how they got around the problem. But that areas of math are so distinct? No, I couldn’t quite handle that! And then the hand-waving involved in the robot being able to “numb” them and the matheteria having a “field” making it easier to do math problems? Aaugh!

But I really wanted to like the book. It won a Mathical Honor! And I like the author! So let’s point out all the good things about it. First, I do like the characters – boys who can’t stay out of trouble. At the start of the book, they don’t see what math is good for – and they definitely find out it’s good for many, many things when they lose the ability to do it.

I really enjoyed the high-level problems the boys had to solve to break their curse. The boys applied creative reasoning, and the problems and solutions were all explained clearly – and we believed that the boys could figure them out, at least in the enhanced “field.”

In general? The premise was a little hard for me to get past – but in practice, the book was a whole lot of fun. It’s also a quick read – I only read it while I was waiting for the Metro, not while the Metro was moving, and finished the whole thing on National Book Festival day.

Punished! has been very popular with kids in our county. I hope they’ll also find out about Numbed!. A silly school story – with math!

davidlubar.com
millbrookpress.com

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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.

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Sonderling Sunday – Heidi Discovers Snow

January 24th, 2016

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.

Heidi

This is a snowy weekend, so I wanted to find a snow passage to use this week. I was thinking I’d like to use Heidi and bemoaning that I have a German edition, but not an English one, and my son pointed out that I could probably easily find a copy online. Sure enough! I checked out a copy right away through Fairfax County Public Library.

Instead of starting at the beginning, I’m going to start on Chapter 4, where Heidi first sees snow. Since Heidi was originally written in German, I’ll list the German text first. This chapter is called Bei der Grossmutter in German, and “The Visit to Grandmother” in English. As usual, I’ll translate interesting phrases:

den Geissen = “the goats”
der Weide = “the high meadows”

so ging es Tag für Tag = “and so it went on day after day”

und Heidi wurde bei diesem Weideleben
= “till Heidi, passing her life thus among the grass and flowers”
Aha! It seems that sometimes it’s just the translated language that is longer. German just uses “meadow-life.”

der Wind lauter zu sausen anfing
= “the wind blew louder and stronger”

Missgeschick = “mishaps”

English translated this with two words:
störrig = “naughty and obstinate”

den es sah immer irgend etwas Erfreuliches vor sich
= “for wherever she was she found something to interest or amuse her”

Raubvogel = “great bird”

herumrührte = “stirred”

das Wogen und Rauschen in den drei alten Tannen hinter der Hütte
= “the waving and roaring of the three old fir trees”

dieses tiefe, geheimnisvolle Tosen in den Wipfeln da droben
= “the deep mysterious sound in the tops of the trees”

hauchte in die Hände
= “blowing on his fingers to keep them warm”

den auf einmal fiel über Nacht ein tiefer Schnee, und am Morgen war die ganze Alp schneeweiss und kein einziges grünes Blättlein mehr zu sehen ringsum und um
= “for one night there was a heavy fall of snow and the next morning the whole mountain was covered with it, and not a single little green leaf was to be seen anywhere upon it.”

schaute ganz verwundert
= “looking out in wonderment”

den nun fing es wieder zu schneien an = “for the snow was beginning again”

die dicken Flocken fielen fort und fort
= “the thick flakes kept falling”

bis der Schnee so hoch wurde, dass er bis ans Fenster hinaufreichte
= “till the snow was up to the window”

und man ganz verpackt war in dem Häuschen
= “and she and her grandfather were shut up fast within the hut.”

den nun schneite es nicht mehr = “the snow having ceased”

und schaufelte ums ganze Haus herum
= “and shoveled away the snow round the house”

und warf grosse, grosse Schneehaufen aufeinander, dass es war wie hier ein Berg und dort ein Berg um die Hütte herum
= “and threw it into such great heaps that they looked like mountains standing at intervals on either side the hut.”

Dreifuss = “three-legged stools”

hohen Schichten = “deep snowdrifts”

zu tauen = “to thaw”

ein gelinder Wasserfall = “a trickling waterfall”

Griffel = “pencil”

Wissbegierde = “curiosity” (“knowledge-desire”)

trocknen von oben bis unten = “thoroughly dry”

I love this phrase:
die Mundwinkel gezuckt
= “a twitch of amusement at the corners of his mouth”

als es draussen knisterte und knarrte vor Kälte bei jedem Schritt
= “when with every step one took the ground crackled with frost”
(“as it crackled and creaked out cold at each step”)

und die ganze grosse Schneedecke ringsum hart gefroren war
= “and the whole vast field of snow was hard as ice”

Heuboden = “hayloft”

Ah! Except for the “after him” part, this is what I did today!
In grosser Freude hüpfte das Kind ihm nach in die glitzernde Schneewelt hinaus
= “The child skipped out gleefully after him into the glittering world of snow.”

in dem Sonnenschein schimmerte und funkelte es überall von den Bäumen in solcher Pracht
= “they looked so lovely as they glittered and sparkled in the sunlight”

Heidi hoch aufsprang vor Entzücken
= “Heidi jumped for joy”

Stossschlitten = “hand-sleigh”

laut aufjauchzte = “shouted aloud with delight”

I’ll have to stop there, where Heidi just arrived at the grandmother’s house. But this was a perfect section for today — I like Heidi’s delight in the glittering, snowy world — die glitzernde Schneewelt, and yesterday we certainly had die dicken Flocken fielen fort und fort.

Till next time, bis bald!