Archive for the ‘Stand-outs’ Category

Review of Illuminae, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Illuminae

The Illuminae Files_01

by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Alfred A. Knopf, 2015. 599 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #13 Teen Fiction
2016 Cybils Award – Young Adult Speculative Fiction

First, a nod to Illuminae for winning the Cybils Award! My committee chose the book as one of our Finalists in Young Adult Speculative Fiction, and the final team of judges chose it as the winner! (I think I was the one who first put it on my working shortlist, though definitely not the last. It was one of the first books I read for the Cybils, while I was treating myself to a reading weekend right at the start. It was a big contrast with the fantasy I had been reading.)

Illuminae is a science fiction thriller. It’s set up as a file — a file of information taken from ship’s records and other sources. There’s a memo at the front, addressed to Executive Director Frobisher from The Illuminae Group.

You’ll find all intel we could unearth concerning the Kerenza disaster compiled here in hard copy. Where possible, scans of original documentation are included. Fun Times commence with the destruction of the Kerenza colony (one year ago today) and proceed chronologically through events on battle carrier Alexander and science vessel Hypatia as best as we can reconstruct them.

I found this bit quite amusing:

Some written materials were censored by the UTA and had to be reconstructed by our commtechs, though profanity remains censored as per your instruction. Sure, the story kicks off with the deaths of thousands of people, but god forbid there be cussing in it, right?

Throughout, all swearing was blacked out. So no one can complain about profanity in this novel. It amused me how one’s mind fills in the words, though.

The story, though. The story begins with the transcripts of “extracts of debriefing interviews with the subjects of this dossier, Kady Grant and Ezra Mason. The interviews were conducted shortly after the evacuation of Kerenza.”

It all began on the day Kady broke up with Ezra and was staring out the windows of her classroom figuring out all the things she should say to him. So she saw the spaceships arrive and fire on their settlement.

Their settlement was illegal, but had been there for twenty years. But a ship from rival corporation BeiTech came to wipe them out. Kady had her truck in the parking lot because she didn’t want to ride the tube home with Ezra, so she got to her truck. When Ezra knocked on the window, they both were able — just barely — to make it to the shuttles and supposed safety, though they were shipped onto two different ships of the three escaping.

The largest ship is the Alexander, a UTA battlecarrier, going to escort the other two ships to the nearest wormhole, 7 months travel away. The Alexander suffered some damage. It is not able to create its own temporary wormhole for transport, and there’s damage to AIDAN, their artificial intelligence network.

Kady is “good with computers” and figures out how to communicate with Ezra, despite all communication being shut down. And she wants to know what’s going on.

And things rapidly get worse and worse. Ezra has been conscripted to be a fighter pilot, so he witnesses AIDAN blowing up the other ship they’re escorting, though he refuses to fire on the escape pods filled with civilians, which are now under quarantine in Landing Bay 4 — but then the powers-that-be blame the destruction on the Lincoln, a BeiTech fighter ship that is out there, closing on them.

AIDAN gets shut down, but they know they’ll have to turn it on again when the Lincoln catches up to them in order to have any chance of escaping the Lincoln.

And — from there, the situation rapidly gets worse and worse. In this book you’ve got a virus that turns people into what are essentially psychotic zombies on an enclosed spaceship, military types incompetently trying to keep secrets, artificial intelligence taking over control, and an enemy space ship quickly approaching to blow them out of the sky.

And it’s a lot more exciting than I made it sound.

I realized just how high the death count was when I read the Acknowledgments at the back. It included lines like this:

… we also hope you never find yourself unexpectedly shivved through the eyehole of your hazmat suit by a small child.

… May your throats never be snipped open by a lunatic with a pair of pinking shears.

… May you never die howling, abandoned in an escape pod at the end of the universe.

… May you never be run over by a seventeen-year-old in a stolen truck after you shot her ex-boyfriend.

… We hope you’re never incinerated in a nuclear firestorm initiated by a mostly insane artificial intelligence off the shoulder of Kerenza VII.

You get the idea!

I had a few quibbles, especially with the portrayal of AIDAN. But mostly, despite the body count, this book had me cheering for Kady and her quest to get out the truth about the attack on Kerenza. I did wonder, many times, how in the universe these files were going to survive.

I’m reading a lot of fantasy novels for the Cybils, so it was refreshing to read some hard science fiction, executed brilliantly.

And I must mention, in case you couldn’t figure it out from the subtitle, that this is only Book One of a longer series. However, that is forgivable, since this segment of the story is complete, so you’re not left in an agony of suspense — though you definitely want to find out what happens next. They hit the sweet spot of what a reader would like to see in a Book One.

amiekaufman.com
jaykristoff.com
randomhouseteens.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/illuminae.html

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 Lily and Dunkin, by Donna Gephart

Monday, March 6th, 2017

Lily and Dunkin

by Donna Gephart

Delacorte Press, 2016. 331 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #10 Children’s Fiction

Neither Lily nor Dunkin is happy with the name they were given at birth. Dunkin doesn’t like his name because it’s Norbert Dorfman, after his grandfather and great-grandfather. Lily doesn’t like her name because it’s Timothy. Lily knows she’s really a girl, and is trying to be brave enough to wear girl’s clothes to school when eighth grade starts, but she doesn’t quite manage it.

Dunkin met Lily before school started, and even saw her wearing a dress, but when he asks about it, Lily backs down and says it was just on a dare. Dunkin would like to be friends with Tim at school, but when the guys on the basketball team take an interest in him because he’s so tall, he can’t stay away — even though they’re the same guys who bully Tim.

On the surface, this is an issue book. Lily is dealing with being transgender and trying to get up the courage to go public with that. She also wants to go on hormone blockers before it’s too late, but her Dad’s having a hard time with it.

Meanwhile, Dunkin has his own issues. He’s got bipolar disorder. His mother decided to trust him to take his own medication this year. But if he takes his antipsychotic pills, he doesn’t have enough energy to play basketball. So he sneaks a pill into the trash each day.

As an issues book, I enjoyed this. It’s for a slightly older reader than George but I like the way both books help you understand how it would feel to be transgender and some of the many difficulties you’d face.

But the book does have more to it. There’s navigating friendships and eighth grade, and there’s an old tree in front of the library that’s scheduled to be cut down. It’s a tree that meant a lot to Lily and her grandfather who is now deceased. As for Dunkin, he’s the new kid. He’s just moved to Florida, leaving behind some kind of family disaster involving his Dad. He knows nothing about basketball, but now he has a chance to be somebody because he got his growth early. If he can learn enough about the game before it’s time to play.

donnagephart.com
randomhousekids.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 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 Three Dark Crowns, by Kendare Blake

Saturday, March 4th, 2017

Three Dark Crowns

by Kendare Blake

HarperTeen, 2016. 398 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #12 Teen Fiction

I’m going to say right up front that the only bad thing about this book is that it’s apparently only Book One of a series. If I had realized that from the start, I might not have been so disappointed when the book stopped at an exciting place where the story is far from over.

This book takes place on the enchanted Island of Fennbirn, favored by the goddess. It is the queens’ 16th birthday. But there are three queens — a queen who is a Poisoner, a queen who is an Elemental, and a queen who is a Naturalist. Each queen is supported by those of her kind, who have particular powers from the goddess.

At Beltane, four months away, the queens will meet for the first time since they were children. There will be great ceremony and each queen will display her power at the Quickening. Then, in the next year, each queen will attempt to kill the other two. The last queen alive will rule over Fennbirn.

There’s a problem right from the start. Queen Katharine of the poisoners and Queen Arsinoe of the Naturalists have so far displayed no gift at all, unlike Queen Mirabelle of the Elementals, who is strong in her gift. But the families behind them aren’t going to lose power easily.

The author shows us each queen and her way of living, the people she loves and the plots around her — and I found myself hoping that, somehow, all the queens will survive.

Mind you, that still might happen — like I said, the book doesn’t finish the story. It takes us only up to the Quickening. Now the queens have a year to kill each other. But it’s more and more difficult to imagine how things could end so tidily.

The writing is wonderful. The author alternates between the three queens, but I never found myself impatient to skip one story — each queen has a fascinating and tension-filled story as they all progress toward Beltane. We also learn much about their friends and foster families. Arsinoe has a friend with a cougar as her familiar. Katharine has a young man teaching her how to attract the Suitors who will come to court the queens. And Mirabella, surrounded by priestesses, does have loyal servants who help her when she dreams of when she was young and still with her sisters.

The world-building is well-crafted. There’s no exposition hell, with the details of this world skillfully woven into the stories.

I will say that all three queens are still alive at the end of this book. And I desperately want to find out how long they will stay that way and what will happen next.

kendareblake.com
epicreads.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/3_dark_crowns.html

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.

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Review of Sachiko: A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story, by Caren Stilson

Thursday, March 2nd, 2017

Sachiko

A Nagasaki Bomb Survivor’s Story

by Caren Stilson

Carolrhoda Books, 2016. 144 pages.
Starred Review
2016 National Book Award Longlist
2017 Sibert Honor Book
2016 Cybils Award, Middle Grade Nonfiction
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Children’s Nonfiction

This book is what the title says it is: The story of a survivor of the Nagasaki atom bomb.

Sachiko Yasui was six years old when the bomb fell on her city. The book first sets the stage, briefly explaining how the war was going and American attitudes toward the Japanese at the time. Throughout the book, background information is inserted with spreads on darker-colored pages, so it’s clear they are background. But we’re given a detailed, hour-by-hour account of what happened in Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.

Of course Sachiko and her family lost their home. But one by one, she also lost all her family members.

The first to die was her two-year-old brother, who had a wooden stick go through his head in the initial blast. All of the girls Sachiko was playing with at the moment the bomb went off also died. Her other two brothers took longer to die of radiation sickness.

Fortunately, Sachiko had her parents to take her out of the city and to help her survive and to put her in school. Though years later, it was cancer that took their lives, a result of the radiation from the bomb.

Sachiko herself suffered from radiation sickness and was bullied in her new school because she lost her hair and had scaly skin. I do like the way the author weaves in stories of those who inspired Sachiko: Her father revered the teachings of Gandhi; Sachiko got to see Helen Keller when she visited Japan; and she was impressed by the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It was a long time before Sachiko was ready to tell her story, but since 1995, she has traveled around the world, especially speaking to students, and promoting peace.

Sachiko also tells young people that, as she was inspired by Helen Keller, she hopes to inspire them. “I’ll try to speak about how strong you can be as a human being when you encounter difficulties in the future.”

This book is illustrated with plenty of photographs and presents a powerful and important story, in a way that young people can understand and that will move anyone’s heart.

May her words be true: “What happened to me must never happen to you.”

hibakushastories.org
lernerbooks.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 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 The Keeper of the Mist, by Rachel Neumeier

Saturday, February 18th, 2017

The Keeper of the Mist

by Rachel Neumeier

Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 391 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Cybils Finalist, Young Adult Speculative Fiction
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #9 Teen Fiction

Here’s a fantasy story that warmed my heart. It had plenty of danger and suspense, but I liked these people. I enjoyed spending time with them. The fantasy world was unique and interesting.

Keri runs a bakery she inherited from her mother, and is struggling to keep it going. She’s the illegitimate daughter of the Lord of Nimmira, but she doesn’t have time to think about that, even when her best friend Tassel speculates which of the Lord’s sons will inherit his title and magic, the magic that keeps a mist around Nimmira.

Nimmira is a small country on the boundary of two countries at war with one another. On one side is Tor Carron, and on the other Eschalion, which has been ruled by a powerful sorcerer for hundreds of years and has a habit of conquering and absorbing its neighbors. But the mist around Nimmira magically makes outsiders forget that anything is there. Eschalion and Tor Carron think they have a border only with each other.

But when Lord Dorric dies, the magic of Nimmira chooses Keri to be the next Lady of Nimmira, much to her surprise. The Timekeeper comes to her door with the news, and right away her friend Tassel becomes the Bookkeeper and her friend Cort becomes the Doorkeeper.

However, immediately the Mist fails, and Keri’s ascension does not bring it back. A group of soldiers crosses the border from Tor Carron, and a sorcerer comes from Eschalion. Keri decides to pretend that she let down the Mist on purpose to get to know their neighbors and invite them to her ascension. But that can only hold off more trouble for a little while.

This story was creative. I’m not sure why the author chose the essential people of the magic to be a Lord or Lady, a Timekeeper, a Bookkeeper, and a Doorkeeper, but I like the way they worked out in the story. Though there were some questions about the magic of Nimmira and the other lands, it all did follow rules and didn’t change willy-nilly. During the course of the story, they’re threatened by a powerful sorcerer, and I like the way they used their own unique magic against him.

This book portrays a girl who’s always been underestimated who suddenly becomes the ruler of a magical kingdom when the magic may be failing. I like the part where she tries to make the representatives of the other countries think she wants a big strong man to take the burdens off her shoulders, though not so much when her half-brothers think that’s actually a good solution. I also like where Keri goes to the House kitchens and makes an exquisite cake when she’s feeling stressed.

Keri’s up against huge obstacles, and you root for her all the way.

RachelNeumeier.com
randomhouseteens.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 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 Games Wizards Play, by Diane Duane

Thursday, February 9th, 2017

Games Wizards Play

by Diane Duane

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 620 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #8 Teen Fiction

Games Wizards Play is the tenth book in the brilliant Young Wizards series by Diane Duane. I’m very sorry to report that I didn’t get the ninth book read – but I was still able to follow this one.

However, this is a series that you will appreciate more if you start from the beginning. The way magic works in these books is very well-worked-out by the author and all follows definite rules – but it will be easier to understand those rules if you’ve been coming along on the journey from the start.

And things do get complicated and esoteric. Somewhere around Book Five, the characters started dealing with alternate universes. In Book Three, they dealt with other galaxies and planets and sentient computers.

The books have gotten longer and longer, too, which I confess is probably why I never got around to reading Book Nine, A Wizard of Mars. It’s also why I hadn’t gotten around to reading this book until I had a whole weekend where I was planning to spend as much time as possible reading.

This book was actually perfect for a Reading Interlude. I had a nice chunk of time set aside for reading – and how lovely to get to spend that time with these characters I’ve enjoyed so long. I think if I tried to read this book a little bit at a time, I might have got lost in the technical details of wizardry, which do fill a lot of the book. As it was, this was delightful weekend reading, and I put off going to my gaming group until I got the last chapter read.

In this volume, initially neither the universe nor the planet is even at stake. There’s an Invitational competition for young wizards to present new spells they’ve worked out. These Invitationals happen once every eleven years, and our heroes – Nita and Kit and Nita’s sister Dairine – are being asked to act as mentors.

Their mentees are interesting but talented characters. Penn, mentored by Nita and Kit, has a spell designed to protect earth from sunspots (as far as I can translate the technical language, anyway). Dairine’s mentee Mehrnaz lives in Mumbai and is from a large family of wizards, but has oppressive family dynamics.

Penn behaves like a jerk, especially toward Nita, but his wizardry is good – and there seems to be more going on there than meets the eye.

Meanwhile, Nita and Kit have decided to become boyfriend and girlfriend – and are bothered by how much that changes things between them. And everyone around them seems to be talking about sex. But they’re too busy being wizards.

The pace of the book is leisurely. There is tension and they’re in a hurry to get ready for the competition – but the author puts in more scenes than are absolutely essential and takes some time exploring subtleties and thoughts and feelings. You often read the point-of-view character’s thoughts in this book. And yet, in this case, I didn’t find that annoying. Maybe because I already know and love these characters? Maybe because I’m already interested in all the different relationships and the various subtleties of life as a Wizard. Anyway, that was partly why it was nice to have a long, concentrated span of time set aside to read this book. I wasn’t impatient to get to the end, and I enjoyed the journey.

I wasn’t surprised that a fairly significant earth-changing situation did come up at the end. Though mostly this book was about relationships between wizards when there was not an earth-shaking crisis.

If you haven’t started with this series and if you like science fiction at all, I highly recommend it! Go back to the first book, So You Want to Be a Wizard? It turns out that all over our world Wizards, dedicated to reducing Entropy, are helping the Powers That Be and fighting the good fight against the Lone Power. These books tell that story and take the reader all over the universe.

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hmhco.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 The Singing Bones, by Shaun Tan

Wednesday, February 8th, 2017

The Singing Bones

by Shaun Tan

Foreword by Neil Gaiman
Introduced by Jack Zipes

Arthur A. Levine Books, 2016. 185 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Children’s Nonfiction

This is a book of art. But all the art is based on fairy tales from the Brothers Grimm. Shaun Tan has created sculptures based on the tales. On each spread, there’s a short excerpt from the featured fairy tale on one page, and a photograph of the sculpture on the other page.

In the Afterword, Shaun Tan tells us about the sculptures:

The main materials I’ve used are papier-maché and air-drying clay, carved back and painted with acrylics, oxidized metal powder, wax, and shoe polish. The resistance of clay in particular at a small scale encourages simplicity, especially where the key tools are blunt fingers and thumbs: Faces and gestures are abbreviated, just like characters in the tales themselves. The concept of a thing also becomes more important than a detailed likeness: A fox need only be a few red triangles, a sleeping man requires no body, and a queen’s face can be eroded away by the force of a single, elemental feeling: jealousy. What matters above all else are the hard bones of the story, and I wanted many of these objects to appear as if they’ve emerged from an imaginary archaeological dig, and then been sparingly illuminated as so many museum objects are, as if a flashlight beam has passed momentarily over some odd objects resting in the dark galleries of our collective subconscious. Like the tales themselves, they might brighten in our imagination without surrendering any of their original enigma.

He achieves this feeling of simple forms, of the bare bones of the stories. As Neil Gaiman says,

Shaun Tan does something else here: something profound. His sculptures suggest, they do not describe. They imply, they do not delineate. They are, in themselves, stories: not the frozen moments in time that a classical illustration needs to be. These are something new, something deeper. They do not look like moments of the stories: instead, they feel like the stories themselves….

Here they gather for you, timeless and perfect, a mixture of darkness and light that manages to capture Grimms’ stories in a way that nobody, to my knowledge, has done before.

Shaun Tan makes me want to hold these tales close, to rub them with my fingers, to feel the cracks and the creases and the edges of them. He makes me want to pick them up, inspect them from unusual angles, feel the heft and the weight of them. He makes me wonder what damage I could do with them, how badly I could hurt someone if I hit them with a story.

All of Shaun Tan’s work is eerie, abstract, and creepy. But combining his images with timeless folk tales gives them whole new power.

In short, you really need to see these images. Check out this book and take a look!

shauntan.net
arthuralevinebooks.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 Goldenhand, by Garth Nix

Friday, January 27th, 2017

Goldenhand

by Garth Nix

Harper, 2016. 344 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Teen Fiction

This is now the fifth novel set in the Old Kingdom, not counting a novella and short story. The events of this book happen just as the title story of Across the Wall finishes.

You don’t necessarily need to read the prequel, Clariel, before you read this one. But reading the other books would be helpful, so you have a feel for how Charter Magic works. And Clariel gives you background about the Witch With No Face, who is behind the scenes in this book. It had been years since I read the earlier books, so I didn’t remember details, but I didn’t have any trouble following this story.

The title refers to Lirael herself. Right at the beginning, we learn how she got the name:

Lirael hurried up the steps to the mews. She flexed her replacement hand as she did so, marveling at how well it worked. When her own hand had been bitten off by the Disreputable Dog almost seven months before in order to save her life from the ravening power of Orannis, Sameth had promised to make her a replacement. He had lived up to that promise, and shown he was indeed a true inheritor of the Wallmakers’ engineering ingenuity and magical craft, though it had taken him a long time to get it right, with much tinkering and adjustment. It was only in the last few days that it felt entirely normal to Lirael, really just like her own flesh-and-blood hand.

It was mostly made from meteoric steel, but Sam had gilded the metal, and unasked had added an extra layer of Charter spells atop the ones that made the hand work and even feel like flesh, so it also glowed faintly with a golden light.

Already, many people were calling her Lirael Goldenhand.

Sabriel and Touchstone are taking a vacation while things are apparently quiet. This leaves Lirael in charge when a dangerous free magic creature emerges across the wall. The message comes from Nicholas Sayre.

Lirael deals with the creature and tries to heal Nick, but he’s got a strange combination of free magic and charter magic inside him (from what happened in Abhorsen). She decides she needs to take him to the Clayr. Perhaps they have a book in the Great Library that will help figure out his case.

Meanwhile, north of the kingdom, a girl of the Athask tribe named Ferin is trying to bring a message to Lirael. A message left from Lirael’s mother before she died. But all the other tribes are sending their sorcerers to stop her. When Ferin is turned away at the bridge, she takes a boat, but after some fisher folk save her, they are all in danger.

For most of the book, chapters alternate between Lirael and Ferin. Lirael travels with Nick to the Clayr, and Ferin is desperately traveling over water and over mountains to get into the Old Kingdom. When Ferin does finally deliver her message, an even more daunting danger faces the Old Kingdom.

This book had me enthralled from the start. Even though the story is complete in itself, it will be especially beloved by people who already know Lirael and care about her. In this book we’re rooting for her as she faces responsibility as the Abhorsen-in-Waiting, dealing with several crises as well as facing her family at the Clayr glacier and the Great Library.

Garth Nix’s world-building is flawless. The map’s been expanded and we learn about the northern tribes. His descriptions of the way free magic and charter magic work still sound plausible and consistent and true. You’re never drawn out of the story by hand-wavy descriptions.

When I started the book, Ferin’s desperate run from free magic sorcerers manipulating the Dead to chase her were so scary, I woke up one morning from a dream about it. (It was combined with drones from Railhead, which I’d finished before starting Goldenhand. Fortunately, I woke up before I got too scared.)

Yet another wonderful and captivating story of the Old Kingdom and the Abhorsens who travel in Death to fight evil, using a necromancer’s bells.

garthnix.com
epicreads.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 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 Nanette’s Baguette, by Mo Willems

Saturday, January 14th, 2017

Nanette’s Baguette

by Mo Willems

Hyperion Books for Children, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Picture Books

Hooray! A new Mo Willems book! With new characters!

Mo Willems recently spent significant time in Paris, so some of his recent books have a French theme. Nanette’s Baguette is a story with all the fun of any Mo Willems book about a frog who gets to go buy a baguette all by herself for the very first time.

My one quibble? Frogs with teeth able to Krack into baguettes? Okay, it’s odd, but he makes it work.

The book is full of –ette rhymes, and they are done well and add to the humor.

Here’s the beginning:

NANETTE!

Today is a day Nanette won’t soon forget.

Today,
in the kitchenette,
Mom tells Nanette
that Nanette gets
to get the baguette!

Baguettes are warm.
Baguettes smell wonderful.

Getting to get the baguette is
Nanette’s biggest responsibility yet.

Is Nanette set to get the baguette?

YOU BET!

When Nanette gets the baguette, it indeed is warm. It indeed smells wonderful. And there sure is a lot of it….

Or at least there’s a lot of it for awhile.

After much drama, here’s the scene when she gets home:

“Where is the baguette, Nanette?” asks Mom. Did you forget?”

Nanette did not forget.
Nanette is upset.
Nanette is beset with regret.
She sweats.
I ATE THE BAGUETTE!

Mom is understanding and kind. (I love that Mom’s hug is as warm and wonderful as a million baguettes.) They go back to get another baguette. But that baguette, too, is warm and smells wonderful. This time Mom is the one who’s tempted….

The illustrations in this book are amazing. A note at the back explains, “The images in this story are comprised of photographed handcrafted cardboard-and-paper constructions digitally integrated with photographed illustrations and additions.” On the back flap, there are some small pictures of Mo Willems creating it, so you can see the small village with the creator standing behind it.

I was going to say that the pigeon isn’t hidden in this book – and then I found him in a clever place. So that will please Mo Willems’ many fans.

Again, I’m not so sure about frogs. I wouldn’t be sure they actually are frogs except for the pictures on the wall in their house. (Teeth? Really?) But his simple cartoon characters always do work. As always, I like the way he can put so much emotion into such seemingly simple faces.

And it begs to be read aloud. So much fun as it rolls off your tongue! I’m definitely using this book for my very next storytime.

Nanette’s Baguette may be Mo’s best yet!

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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 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 How to Bake Pi, by Eugenia Cheng

Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

How to Bake π

An Edible Exploration of the Mathematics of Mathematics

by Eugenia Cheng

Basic Books, 2015. 288 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Nonfiction

I have a Master’s in Math, so I love math books for a general audience. Besides, my math degree is very old by now, so a book like this taught me about a whole field of mathematics I hadn’t known about before. And it’s written by a woman!

She had me from the Prologue, where she debunks some math myths and begins with a recipe. Here are some parts I especially liked:

Cooking is about ways of putting ingredients together to make delicious food. Sometimes it’s more about the method than the ingredients, just as in the recipe for clotted cream, which only has one ingredient — the entire recipe is just a method. Math is about ways of putting ideas together to make exciting new ideas. And sometimes it’s more about the method than the “ingredients.”

Here’s about the myth that you have to be really clever to be a mathematician:

Much as I like the idea that I am very clever, the popular myth shows that people think math is hard. The little-understood truth is that the aim of math is to make things easier. Herein lies the problem — if you need to make things easier, it gives the impression that they were hard in the first place. Math is hard, but it makes hard things easier. In fact, since math is a hard thing, math also makes math easier.

Here’s talking about what it’s like to do research in math:

It’s true, you can’t just discover a new number. So what can we discover that’s new in math? In order to explain what this “new math” could possibly be about, I need to clear up some misunderstandings about what math is in the first place. Indeed, not only is math not just about numbers, but the branch of math I’m going to describe is actually not about numbers at all. It’s called Category Theory, and it can be thought of as the “mathematics of mathematics.” It’s about relationships, contexts, processes, principles, structures, cakes, custard.

Yes, even custard. Because mathematics is about drawing analogies, and I’m going to be drawing analogies with all sorts of things to explain how math works, including custard, cake, pie, pastry, donuts, bagels, mayonnaise, yogurt, lasagna, sushi.

True to her promise, she begins each chapter of her book with a recipe, and uses the recipe to illustrate the math about the recipe on the conceptual level.

Abstract Algebra was always one of my favorite fields of math, and Category Theory is a level of abstraction higher. What could be cooler than that?

But if the idea of extreme abstraction doesn’t get you as excited as it does me, think of it as math concepts explained through recipes. That conveys better how friendly this book makes the concepts.

She has analogies for almost everything. Here’s where she explains what abstraction is:

Abstraction is like preparing to cook something and putting away the equipment and ingredients that you don’t need for this recipe, so that your kitchen is less cluttered. It is the process of putting away the ideas you don’t need for the present purposes, so that your brain is less cluttered.

Here’s her explanation of proof by contradiction:

Imagine trying to “prove” that you really need to boil water to make tea. You would probably just try to make tea without boiling the water. You discover that it tastes disgusting (or has no taste at all) and conclude that yes, you do need to boil water to make tea. Or you might try to “prove” that you need gas to make your car go. You try running it on an empty tank and discover it doesn’t go anywhere. So yes, you do need gas to make your car go.

In math, this is called proof by contradiction — you do the opposite of what you’re trying to prove, and show that something would go horribly wrong in that case, so you conclude that you were right all along.

I think this book is truly beautiful. And I suspect it might provide glimmers to people who have never before seen beauty in math at all. If that’s not enough to appeal to potential readers, well, it has recipes.

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Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/how_to_bake_pi.html

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?