Review of Keep Moving, by Maggie Smith

November 28th, 2020

Keep Moving

Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change

by Maggie Smith

One Signal Publishers (Atria), 2020. 214 pages.
Review written November 6, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

This is a book I wish I’d had when my husband left me and my life was falling apart. But ten years after the divorce was final, these words still encourage me greatly. I expect I will buy copies of this book to give as gifts in case I ever have friends in tough situations where their expectations for what their life was going to be crumble. Even in the present, reading these words keep me moving. I’ll be posting lots of quotes from it on my Sonderquotes blog.

The bulk of this book is inspirational encouragement on each page, finished by the words – on every page – “KEEP MOVING.”

Here’s an example:

Focus on who you are and what you’ve built, not who you’d planned on being and what you’d expected to have. Trust that the present moment – however difficult, however different from what you’d imagined – has something to teach you.

KEEP MOVING.

Here’s another:

You are not betraying your grief by feeling joy. You are not being graded, and you do not receive extra credit for being miserable 100% of the time. Find pockets of relief, even happiness, when and where you can.

KEEP MOVING.

There are three main sections: Revision, Resilience, and Transformation. Within each section, in between these inspirational sayings made to be quoted, we’ve got pages here and there of smaller text, giving us the context of when the author had to deal with loss, in more than one way.

She began this book by writing daily goals for herself as her life was falling apart — and she kept going.

After writing this review, I decided to buy my own copy so I can come back to it again and again. Every day I’m reading a page to encourage me and keep me moving.

SimonandSchuster.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Knights vs. Monsters, by Matt Phelan

November 23rd, 2020

Knights vs. Monsters

by Matt Phelan

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 168 pages.
Review written June 1, 2019, from a library book.

Knights vs. Monsters is a sequel to Knights vs. Dinosaurs, where a band of knights from King Arthur’s Round Table brag a little too much about fighting dragons, and Merlin sends them back in time to try their skills against terrible lizards – dinosaurs.

In this book, the same knights are feeling a little bored in Camelot and aren’t having much luck searching for the Grail – so when a magic boat appears on a river, they board it and end up on an adventure in the Orkney Isles.

There they find a sorceress, Queen Morgause. She’s heard of their exploits, and now conjures up monsters for them to fight every night. All as part of a grand plot that threatens Camelot itself. Can the knights survive against fearsome monsters?

You’ll enjoy this a bit more if you’ve read the first book and met our characters. This will help you appreciate the title of a song a minstrel wrote, “Melancholy the Erstwhile Squire Who Is Now an Accomplished Archer.”

This book is a light-hearted diversion taking off from the legends of Arthur. With lots of battling monsters.

mattphelan.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Review of They Went Left, by Monica Hesse

November 17th, 2020

They Went Left

by Monica Hesse
read by Caitlin Davies

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. 9 hours.
Review written July 13, 2020, from a library eaudiobook

They Went Left is a novel of the Holocaust – but takes place after World War II has ended. Zofia Lederman spent months in a hospital, and something’s still wrong with her mind. She still gets pulled into dark memories – and she’s not even sure the memories are real.

Zofia wants nothing more than to find her little brother, Abek. She’s obsessed with the promise she made to him to find him after the war. All the rest of her family is dead – they went left to the gas chambers when sorted at the camp.

First Zofia has a helpful Russian soldier take her to their home in Poland. But it’s empty and has been looted, and Abek isn’t there. It becomes clear she isn’t being welcomed back by her former neighbors, either.

Then Zofiya hears of a place for displaced persons in Germany. Others from the camp where she last saw Abek have gone there. She makes the journey there to find her brother. Once there, she’s surrounded by other people trying to figure out how to go on with their lives. It turns out not every displaced person was even in the camps. And all the while, she’s starting to wonder which of her memories she even dares to believe.

This powerful story will linger in your memory. It captures the exquisite pain of figuring out how to start your life over after seeing your whole family die and experiencing horrors.

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Source: This review is based on an eaudiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 Water Land, by Christy Hale

November 13th, 2020

Water, Land

Land and Water Forms Around the World

by Christy Hale

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2018. 24 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#8 Children’s Nonfiction Picture Books

My coworker and I agree that the library copy of this book may not hold up well. Although they are extra-sturdy light cardboard pages, there are cut-out shapes on each one and a giant fold-out page at the end. But check this one out quickly while it lasts, because it’s wonderful!

I have never looked at water and land forms this way – but now I will never think of them any other way.

This book pairs a water form with a land form. You’ve got a cut-out on each set of pages. Here’s how it works:

The first spread has a big picture of an autumn scene with a brown background. There’s an oval cut-out on the right-hand page showing blue and a kid in a boat. The only word on the page says “lake.”

When you turn the page, the next spread has a blue background. The cut-out is now on the left side and shows brown. The only word on this page is “island.”

And so it goes. We’ve got the shapes of water forms matched up on the next page – using the exact same cut-out shapes – with land forms.

Other pairs are: bay and cape, strait and isthmus, system of lakes and archipelago, gulf and peninsula. In the back, there’s a fold-out page that includes two charts and a big world map, pointing out examples of each of the forms.

The idea is so simple – and it’s beautifully carried out. Those who read this book will have a clear understanding of these water and land forms forever after.

mackids.com

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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 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 Three Little Kittens, by Barbara McClintock

November 11th, 2020

Three Little Kittens

by Barbara McClintock

Scholastic Press, 2020. 32 pages.
Review written June 12, 2020, from a library book

This book really made me smile. It’s from the song “The Three Little Kittens,” and I think I love the book because I had a record of the song when I was a little girl and played it over and over.

The book uses pictures with speech bubbles to tell the story in the song. You couldn’t exactly sing at the pace of the book – since there’s plenty of extras – but all the lines are there.

The kittens are adorable and full of energy, and some mysteries are solved. Why did the kittens soil their mittens? Because the pie was hot, and they used the mittens to eat it and made a mess. When they wash the mittens, they also make a mess, but do clean it up.

And at the end when they smell a mouse close by? It turns out there’s plenty of pie for all, so they invite him to join them.

Maybe I mostly enjoyed this book because it makes me nostalgic, but the happy, exuberant kittens (and their messily eating pie with mittens) and their forbearing mother made me smile.

scholastic.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 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 Know My Name, by Chanel Miller

November 9th, 2020

Know My Name

by Chanel Miller

Viking, 2019. 357 pages.
Review written October 3, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

Know My Name is a memoir by the victim in the famous case where she was raped while she was unconscious on Stanford campus by a member of the swim team. He was found guilty and then given a light slap-on-the-wrist sentence. Chanel wrote a letter as Emily Doe to her rapist that was published on BuzzFeed and went viral and touched hearts and lives across the world. (I love the little detail that Joe Biden wrote to her after reading it and said, “I see the limitless potential of an incredibly talented young woman – full of possibility. I see the shoulders on which our dreams for the future rest.”)

Chanel Miller is an incredibly skilled writer. She takes the story of her own rape and explains its terrible impact on her life. She doesn’t excuse it. She doesn’t take it lightly ever. She explains that it impacted her life every single day since the event and will continue to impact it. She points out the many, many failures in the system that made things worse for her. She explains how wonderful it was that her life was saved by two Swedes who happened to bicycle past and took the time to save her. But she gets all her readers wondering what would have happened if they hadn’t come along. You’d think with such witnesses, it would be an easy conviction, but it wasn’t. Not easy in any sense at all.

And yet she leaves us with hope. Her letter, which is included at the end of the book, touched lives across the world. Her book cover design represents the Japanese art of kintsugi, “in which pieces of broken pottery are mended with powdered gold and lacquer, rather than treating the breaks as blemishes to conceal. The technique shows us that although an object cannot be returned to its original state, fragments can be made whole again.”

I checked out this book after I’d already learned I was going to be a panelist for Young Adult Fiction and Speculative Fiction for the Cybils Awards, but I thought I’d read it slowly, a chapter at a time and just draw it out. Instead, I ended up binge-reading it to finish it the night before Cybils nominations opened. Even though I knew what happened, the book ended up being impossible to put down. She makes you understand how it felt to be violated in this way and how difficult it was to put her life back together and go on.

I’m going to finish this review by quoting her final paragraphs. I’m not giving anything away. Most of you will have heard of her story. But I’m quoting her to show how powerfully she brings hope to victims everywhere, and to people everywhere who ever wonder what their own lives are worth.

I began this story alone as a half-naked body. I remembered nothing. There was so much I did not know. I was forced to fight, in a legal system I did not understand, the bald judge in the black robe, the defense attorney with narrow glasses. Brock with his lowered chin, his unsmiling father, the appellate attorney. The obstacles became harder, I was up against men more educated, more powerful than me, the game rougher, more graphic, serious. I read comments that laughed at my pain. I remember feeling helpless, terrified, humiliated, I cried like I’ve never cried before. But I remember the attorney’s still shoulders as guilty was read. I know Brock slept ninety days in a stiff cot in a jail cell. The judge will never step foot in a courtroom again. The appellate attorney’s claims were shut down. One by one, they became powerless, fell away, and when the dust settled, I looked around to see who was left.

Only Emily Doe. I survived because I remained soft, because I listened, because I wrote. Because I huddled close to my truth, protected it like a tiny flame in a terrible storm. Hold up your head when the tears come, when you are mocked, insulted, questioned, threatened, when they tell you you are nothing, when your body is reduced to openings. The journey will be longer than you imagined, trauma will find you again and again. Do not become the ones who hurt you. Stay tender with your power. Never fight to injure, fight to uplift. Fight because you know that in this life, you deserve safety, joy, and freedom. Fight because it is your life. Not anyone else’s. I did it, I am here. Looking back, all the ones who doubted or hurt or nearly conquered me faded away, and I am the only one standing. So now, the time has come. I dust myself off, and go on.

I recommend many books. Let me urge you to read this one. It will leave you with more compassion than you had before, and with more power, and more hope.

chanel-miller.com
penguinrandomhouse.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 A Home for Goddesses and Dogs, by Leslie Connor

October 31st, 2020

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs

by Leslie Connor

Katherine Tegen Books, 2020. 385 pages.
Review written August 17, 2020, from a library book
Starred Review

A Home for Goddesses and Dogs is another heart-warming story by the author of The Truth According to Mason Buttle, a book I read during my Newbery year and loved in so many ways.

As the book begins, Lydia Bratches-Kemp, an eighth grader who’s been home-schooled, is setting out for a new home after her mother’s death. She gets to stay with her Aunt Brat and her wife Eileen on a farm in Connecticut owned by Elloroy, who had gotten too old to keep up with things. To add to her new family, shortly after Lydia arrives, Brat and Eileen decide to adopt a dog. Lydia’s not a dog person, so it takes her some time to get accustomed to the unruly and exuberant yellow dog they choose.

The book is about making friends, making a home, and making a new family. Lydia also has things to deal with in her memories of her mom, and about her dad who left them when her mom got sick. Lydia’s mom was an artist, and used to make goddesses when something came up they had to deal with, such as the Goddess of the Third Heart, made when her mom got passed up for the third time on the heart transplant list.

Lydia’s new school is small. She’s skeptical, but some girls offer to show her around the neighborhood, and she makes some connections that surprise her.

This is a feel-good story about finding home.

leslieconnor.com
harpercollinschildrens.com

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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 My Calamity Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

October 29th, 2020

My Calamity Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

HarperTeen, 2020. 520 pages.
Review written October 10, 2020, from a library book

This is the third book by “The Lady Janies” about a historical (or fictional) Jane retold with a paranormal twist. The first two – My Lady Jane about Lady Jane Grey and My Plain Jane about Jane Eyre – I was very familiar with the stories they were based on, and especially enjoyed the way they’d been shifted. I was not very familiar at all with the life of Calamity Jane of the Old West, so that made the book not quite as much fun.

At first, I felt like it was all melodramatic and silly. Then I remembered that it’s intentionally melodramatic and silly, and I settled in and enjoyed it.

The twist they put into this story was that Wild Bill Hickok and his Wild West show featuring Calamity Jane were werewolf hunters as well. So this is the Old West with werewolves. And we’ve got an evil werewolf, the Alpha, who’s forming a Pack of werewolves who follow the Alpha in wickedness. And Wild Bill and Calamity Jane and Annie Oakley and Frank Butler the Pistol Prince all get involved in a wild adventure with the Alpha as the adversary. But we do have a twist that not all werewolves are bad. If you get bitten, you don’t have to prey on others when the moon is full.

And it includes trick shooting and bull whip manipulations and plenty of romance.

So it’s more silly fun. This time in the Wild West.

ladyjanies.com
epicreads.com

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Sonderling Sunday – The Battle’s Thrilling Finish

October 25th, 2020

Surprise! It’s been months since I’ve done it, but tonight it’s time for Sonderling Sunday!

Sonderling Sunday is that time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books, sort of a Very Silly Phrasebook for armchair travelers.

Since I’m skipping so many weeks now, I’m going back to the Sonderbook that gave me the idea, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, with the original English title The Order of Odd-fish, by James Kennedy.

Last time, which I’m afraid was back in April, we left off on page 353 in the English edition, Seite 449 auf Deutsch. For a very long time, Jo and Fiona have been fighting a bitter battle. (I try not to give away any spoilers, just intrigue you with the language and phrases used, so I won’t say more than that.)

The way the next section begins hints at the drama:
“Jo grabbed the bars of the cage, hanging on. It wasn’t over until she fell in the water.”
= Sie erwischte die Stangen des Gitters und hielt sich fest. Der Kampf war erst vorbei, wenn sie ins Wasser fiel.

See if you can find a reason to use this sentence this week:
“But she had lost her ostrich.”
=Aber sie hatte ihren Stauß verloren.

The translator has often lost alliteration:
“she was bruised, bloody, and broken”
=sie war übel mitgenommen, blutüberströmt und am Ende ihrer Kräfte
(“she was evilly run-down, blood-overflowing and at the end of her strength”)

“gibbered” = plapperte sinnlos (“babbled senselessly”)

“a black, sludgy gelatin” = eine schwarze, schlammige Gelatine

“the universe itself might unravel”
= das Universum selbst möglicherweise vernichtet werden würde

“She was still clinging to the side of the cage.”
= Sie klammerte sich noch immer an den Käfigstäben fest.

“bestial and ugly, screaming for blood”
= bestialisch, hässlich und nach Blut schreiend

“bucked fiercely” = bockte wild

“every chance” = bei jeder sich bietenden Gelegenheit

“waving her over” = winkten sie zu sich.

Long word alert:
“opposite side” = gegenüberliegenden Seite

“stamping, hollering, and pressing their faces against the cage”
= stampften und brüllten und pressten ihre Gesichter gegen den Käfig

“encouragement” = Aufmunterungen

“screamed abuse” = beschimpften sie

“extra lance” = Ersatzlanze

“blast” = Knall

“clogging the doors and hallways” = verstopften Türen und Gänge

“unheard-of” = absolut unerhört

“breaking the furniture” = zertrümmerte die Möbel

“debris” = Trümmer

“flung aside” = beiseitegestoßen

“squirting out of her eyes” = spritzte aus ihren Augen

“running out her nose” = lief aus ihrer Nase

“gurgling in the back of her throat” = gurgelte in ihrer Kehle

“seeping from under her fingernails” = sickerte unter ihren Fingernägeln hervor

“in the back of her throat” = an ihrem Gaumen

“piteously” = erbärmlich

“dark and angry” = düster und wütend

“thunderous cheer” = donnernder Jubel

And the last sentence of Chapter 25:
“She had betrayed them all.”
= Sie hatte sie alle betrogen.

Auf wiedersehen! Now until next time, see how many of these phrases you can work into conversation, preparing for the day when we can travel to Germany again! When that day comes, we’ll surely hear donnernder Jubel. Let this be Aufmunterungen until that day! Bis bald!

Review of Champion, by Sally M. Walker

October 25th, 2020

Champion

The Comeback Tale of the American Chestnut Tree

by Sally M. Walker

Henry Holt and Company, 2018. 136 pages.
Starred Review
2018 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#8 Longer Children’s Nonfiction

I’m not sure when I heard that American chestnut trees had all died off, but I know I heard it as a regrettable fact.

This book says that isn’t actually true. Scientists are using a three-pronged approach to bringing back the American chestnut tree.

First, we learn what happened. A mysterious blight hit the magnificent trees in 1904 in New York, killing them quickly.

It took some work, but scientists determined that a fungus was causing the problem. Finding a way to fight the fungus proved to be very difficult. By 1940, nearly four billion American chestnut trees had died.

However – there’s still some hope.

The roots of many American chestnut trees are still living beneath the soil. Certain microbes in the soil stop the blight fungus from invading the buried roots. The healthy roots continually send up new sprouts that ring the lifeless stump. Each sprout develops its own root system and becomes a sapling. But its reprieve from the blight is only temporary. The sapling grows for 5 to 10 years, until eventually the blight kills it.

However – those still-alive trees give scientists something to work with.

There are currently three approaches being used to try to bring back the American chestnut tree. One is weakening the blight – a virus was found in Europe that attacks the fungus that causes the blight and makes it weaker, so that trees can survive its attacks. Scientists are working with this virus and inoculating trees.

Another approach is to cross breed American chestnuts with Chinese chestnuts, which are naturally resistant to the blight. The challenge is using backcrossing to keep almost all the characteristics of the American chestnut in the resultant trees – but have them resistant to the blight.

The final approach involves genetically modifying the trees’ DNA with a blight-resistant gene from wheat. However, genetic engineering is highly regulated, so there will be many tests the resulting plants must undergo before they can even be allowed to propagate in the wild.

It’s all very interesting, real-life science. Because trees are slow-growing, it all takes years, but maybe our grandchildren will once again be able to find forests of American chestnut trees.

There’s plenty of back matter in this book, including four appendices about side stories. I liked Appendix B where they tested whether squirrels like the taste of the new chestnuts and would gather them. Appendix C talks about ways children and classrooms can help the effort.

sallymwalker.com
mackids.com

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Source: This review is based on a book sent by the publisher.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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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