Archive for the ‘Starred Review’ Category

Review of Almost Everything, by Anne Lamott

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Almost Everything

Notes on Hope

by Anne Lamott

Riverhead Books, 2018. 189 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s another short book by Anne Lamott, musing about life and grace and hope. And there’s no one whose musings I enjoy as much.

What is this one about? Well, she frames it with the writing advice she gives to classes of adults and classes of six-year-olds. It’s things she’s learned about life – and she has learned many wise things by now.

I love the realistic humor Anne Lamott brings to things. She tells stories about being imperfect, about being impatient, and about others being imperfect and impatient.

But she comes back to the idea that we are, as she puts it, “preapproved.” “This is a come-as-you-are party.”

Anne Lamott helps me delight in being human. She helps me take joy and delight in life. She helps me do more laughing – especially at myself.

My recommendation is check the quotes from this book I’ve posted on Sonderquotes. (Little by little I’ll get them posted. If there aren’t many when you check, here are my other Anne Lamott quotes.) If you like these small tastes of her writing, get the book to enjoy the whole banquet.

riverheadbooks.com
penguin.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/almost_everything.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 Samson in the Snow, by Philip C. Stead

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Samson in the Snow

by Philip C. Stead

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a quiet book about friendship. This isn’t an action book for keeping a class distracted, but a cozy book to look at closely and share in a lap or with a friend. The beautiful paintings add to the experience, though the scenes don’t change a lot – dandelions or snow.

Samson the wooly mammoth tends his dandelion patch on sunny days, hoping for a friend to come along. One day, a little red bird comes and takes some flowers for her friend, who is having a bad day. The friend’s favorite color is yellow.

After the bird flies away, Samson falls asleep. While he is sleeping, the weather changes, and everything gets covered with snow.

When Samson sees everything all covered with snow, he worries about the little red bird, and sets off to look for her.

As he walks around, he finds a little mouse. The mouse is having a bad day, but is looking for his friend. She is small like him, and he’s worried that she’s covered up by the snow.

The mouse gets warm in Samson’s wooly fur, and together they keep searching. Samson sees something yellow, and it turns out the mouse’s favorite color is yellow, too.

When Samson goes to the yellow spot, it turns out to be the little red bird, very cold in the snow.

Samson takes the mouse and the bird to a warm cave and they all recover and talk about their adventures in the snow.

If it seems a little unlikely that Samson would find the bird’s friend on his walk, well, I like the way it’s left to the reader to figure that out. We see friends caring for each other and Samson, who was waiting for a friend, finds two.

www.mackids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/samson_in_the_snow.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 book I received at an ALA conference and had signed by the author.

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 Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History, by Walter Dean Myers

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Frederick Douglass

The Lion Who Wrote History

by Walter Dean Myers
illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Harper, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

This is a picture book biography of Frederick Douglass. It highlights his decisions to learn to read and later to escape slavery. I like this paragraph.

Frederick listened carefully to the Auld children. They spoke clearly and directly, and he knew that it was because they had also read the words they used. He felt that reading could make a difference in how a person lived.

Years later, abolitionists had Frederick speak at their meetings, and crowds were impressed. This fits with what Trevor Noah says in his book Born a Crime about how the way you speak strongly influences how people relate to you. Frederick Douglass didn’t sound like a slave, in his speech or in his writings. That challenged people’s assumptions.

Walter Dean Myers makes the point that Frederick Douglass gained so much influence, his voice became a lion’s roar.

The careful and wise decisions made by Frederick Douglass – to learn to read, to escape from slavery, to speak out for justice for all Americans, and to aid the Union Army – had helped to write American history.

walterdeanmyers.net
harpercollinschildrens.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/frederick_douglass_the_lion.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 book I received at an ALA conference and had signed by the author.

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 A Small Thing . . . but Big, by Tony Johnston, pictures by Hadley Hooper

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

A Small Thing . . .

but Big

by Tony Johnston
pictures by Hadley Hooper

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This is a quiet picture book with a gentle story — and utterly charming. I was scared of dogs when I was a kid, so I relate to Lizzie.

The book opens, with Lizzie walking into the park with her mother. The park reminds me of parks in Paris, with an ironwork fence and a fountain and flowers. She begins exuberant play — until she comes close to a dog, being walked by an old man.

The pace is leisurely, and the language is delightful. This covers several pages toward the beginning:

“Do not be worried,” said the old man of the dog timidly.

“Does she bark?” asked Lizzie with worry anyway.

“Not at little children,” said the old man.

“Does she bite?” asked Lizzie anxiously.

“Only her food,” said the old man, a bit anxious also, but with sparkle.

“Go ahead, give Cecile a pat.”

Feeling reassured, carefully, oh carefully, Lizzie patted Cecile.

Cecile sat soft and still. She seemed to enjoy those pattings.

“I patted a dog,” Lizzie said quietly.

“A small thing, but big,” said the old man, quietly too.

“Shall we walk Cecile?” he ventured in his quiet way.

Lizzie felt uneasy.

“Do not be worried,” said the old man. “Cecile will adore walking with a child.”

“She is quite adoring being with you,” the old man said shyly.

“How springingly she walks.”

Lizzie walked springingly too.

It continues, with progressively more steps that are small things, but big.

The artwork is what puts this book over the top. They’re in one park the whole book, so you might think it would be lacking in variety. But we get different angles and different scenes in each spread, and wonderful close-ups on Lizzie and on Cecile. I love where they are shown walking springingly, for example.

Lizzie’s face and bearing slowly gain confidence and joy as the book progresses.

The overall effect is light and airy and makes you feel like going for a walk in the park.

So lovely!

mackids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/small_thing_but_big.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 Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Gratitude

by Oliver Sacks

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 45 pages.
Starred Review

This tiny book is short, but lovely. It contains four essays Oliver Sacks wrote in the last two years of his life.

When he wrote the first one, “Mercury,” about turning eighty, he didn’t know that cancer was soon to come back into his life and limit that life. But it fits beautifully with the others, about what’s important in life, and aging, and facing the end of life with gratitude.

In the second essay, “My Own Life,” written after receiving the diagnosis, he wrote:

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life. On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity, and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).

Here’s where the title of the book comes from:

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

The final essay, “Sabbath,” was written at the end of his life. He concludes:

And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life – achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.

This book won’t take much of your time, but it will lift your spirits and perhaps get you thinking about what it means to live life well.

oliversacks.com
billhayes.com
www.aaknopf.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/gratitude.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 Buddy and Earl Go Exploring, by Maureen Fergus and Carey Sookocheff

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring

by Maureen Fergus
pictures by Carey Sookocheff

Groundwood Books, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring is a picture book in the grand tradition of animals-don’t-understand-human-things-with-hilarious-results such as Minerva Louise, The Adventures of Cow, and Paul Meets Bernadette. The child hearing this story will delight in being smarter than the animals.

In this case, we have a dog named Buddy, who is a little more savvy about human things, and an adventurous hedgehog named Earl. Earl is new to the family.

One night, Earl announces he’s going on a trip and travels for some time on his hamster wheel.

After a long time, he stopped and looked around.

“This place looks eerily similar to the place I just left,” whispered Earl.

“Maybe that is because it is the place you just left,” whispered Buddy.

When he heard Buddy’s voice, Earl was so startled that he jumped and made a funny popping sound.

“I ran faster than the wind!” he cried. “How did you manage to keep up with me, Buddy?”

“I am not sure,” said Buddy uncertainly.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” declared Earl. “Exploring is always more fun if you do it with a friend.”

As they explore this place (the kitchen), first Earl sees a silvery lake in the shadow of a great mountain. Buddy knows it’s his water dish in the shadow of the garbage pail, but he gets carried away in Earl’s enthusiasm. When he knocks over the garbage can, at first he feels terrible.

Then he noticed some of yesterday’s meatloaf and forgot all about feeling terrible.

Next, Earl sees a lovely lady hedgehog trapped in the jaws of a monster. Buddy knows it’s Mom’s hairbrush in her purse, but soon is convinced to help Earl save his friend.

Then they have an encounter with the vacuum cleaner before settling down for the night. The last picture shows the two happily asleep – with the results of their exploring strewn all around the kitchen, and Dad’s foot coming into the kitchen the next morning.

The story is simple enough, but the characters make it wonderful – with Earl’s wild imagination, and Buddy’s simple friendly doggy enthusiasm. Kids will enjoy being in the know and delight in the good-hearted adventures of these two friends.

groundwoodbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/buddy_and_earl_go_exploring.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 Animal Ark, photographs by Joel Santore, words by Kwame Alexander

Sunday, December 9th, 2018

Animal Ark

Celebrating our Wild World in Poetry and Pictures

photographs by Joel Sartore
words by Kwame Alexander
with Mary Rand Hess and Deanna Nikaido

National Geographic, 2017. 40 pages.
Starred Review

At the back of this book, the photographer tells us:

At its heart, the Photo Ark was born out of necessity.

I have been sent around the world by National Geographic magazine for more than 20 years to take photographs of people, places, and animals. There have been assignments to capture images of the fiercest predators, the shyest sea creatures, the most beautiful birds, and so many more. Several years ago, I started to see that people weren’t paying much attention to the fate of all the other species we share this planet with. Without action, and soon, I worried that many animals could go extinct.

The Photo Ark is my answer to this. By introducing the entire world to thousands of photographs of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and even insects, I hope we can get everyone following, liking, texting, tweeting, and even talking about this wondrous world of ours.

In the Photo Ark, every creature is equal. I use simple black and white backgrounds, which make all animals appear to be the same size, no matter how large or small they might be in the wild. Each photo also shows you the amazing detail of a creature’s scales, skin, or feathers; their eyes, antennae, or legs – each creature with its own kind of stunning beauty. A slippery minnow in the Photo Ark appears as big as a shark, and a tiny tiger beetle as impressive as a mighty tiger.

I want people around the world to look these animals in the eye, and then fall in love with creatures as dazzling as a pheasant or as odd as an octopus. And once we love something, won’t we do anything to save it?

The highlight of this book is Joel Sartore’s stunning photographs of 32 of these creatures. But they’ve been paired with Kwame Alexander’s poetry to make a powerful picture book and bring these animals to young readers. The poet chose haiku as the form to create a potent message and create instant connection with the reader.

I can’t emphasize enough how striking these images are against their black and white backgrounds. Of course, I got to hear Kwame Alexander perform some of these poems with the images flashed up on a screen. Unforgettable!

This is a book you need to experience for yourself.

KwameAlexander.com
nationalgeographic.com
ngchildrensbooks.org
nationalgeographic.org/projects/photo-ark/

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/animal_ark.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 book I received at an ALA conference and had signed by the author.

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 Henry & Leo, by Pamela Zagarenski

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

Henry & Leo

by Pamela Zagarenski

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Pamela Zagarenski’s lush and detailed illustrations have taken some time to grow on me, but by now I love them. She’s consistent with some interesting quirks – characters so often wear a crown, sometimes hovering over their heads as if imaginary. I think of the characters as regal that way.

This is a story of a boy, Henry, and his stuffed lion, Leo.

Henry could never say exactly what it was that made Leo different. Perhaps it was his glass button eyes, which made him look as if he knew secret things. Or maybe it was his jointed and movable parts. I guess we can never really know what makes one particular toy more special than another. But from the moment Leo was given to Henry on his second birthday, the two were inseparable.

Henry’s sister thinks Leo isn’t real, but Henry knows better. When his family goes for a walk in the woods, Henry gets tired and accidentally leaves Leo behind. They don’t discover he’s missing until nightfall.

Henry insists they leave a light on for Leo, even though his mama explains that Leo is not real.

Then we see several wordless spreads of what happens that night in the woods. Many forest animals (all with crowns above their heads) including a large bear help Leo find his way home.

In the morning, Henry finds Leo close to the path right outside the front door. His sister and father looked there the night before, but Henry knows how Leo got there.

It’s a lovely warm book about friendship, with so much to notice and wonder about in the illustrations.

www.sacredbee.com
hmhco.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/henry_and_leo.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 The Book of Joy, by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, with Douglas Abrams

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

The Book of Joy

Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
with Douglas Abrams

Avery (Penguin Random House), 2016. 354 pages.
Starred Review

The authors speak at the front of the book to explain what this project is about:

To celebrate one of our special birthdays, we met for a week in Dharamsala to enjoy our friendship and to create something that we hope will be a birthday gift for others. There is perhaps nothing more joyous than birth, and yet so much of life is spent in sadness, stress, and suffering. We hope this small book will be an invitation to more joy and more happiness….

Our cowriter, Douglas Abrams, has kindly agreed to assist us in this project and interviewed us over the course of a week in Dharamsala. We have asked him to weave our voices together and offer his own as our narrator so that we can share not only our views and our experience but also what scientists and others have found to be the wellsprings of joy.

You don’t need to believe us. Indeed, nothing we say should be taken as an article of faith. We are sharing what two friends, from very different worlds, have witnessed and learned in our long lives. We hope you will discover whether what is included here is true by applying it in your own life.

The rest of the book is told from Douglas Abrams’ perspective, telling about the joyful meeting between the Dalai Lama and the Archbishop, and their discussions about Joy.

The book is beautiful, reflecting the Joy and Love and Compassion between these two men, but also reflecting thoughts on Joy both the Christian and Buddhist perspectives. It’s lovely how complementary those perspectives are.

The two men met over five days, and the book follows their discussions through those five days. They covered “The Nature of True Joy,” “The Obstacles to Joy” (Fear, Stress, and Anxiety; Frustration and Anger; Sadness and Grief; Despair; Loneliness; Envy; Suffering and Adversity; and Illness and Fear of Death), and “The Eight Pillars of Joy” (Perspective, Humility, Humor, Acceptance, Forgiveness, Gratitude, Compassion, and Generosity).

There’s much wisdom in these pages, as well as a bit of a story of these two men from very different backgrounds and their friendship. I like the way, by using words from leaders of two religions, it has something for people of many different faiths.

Be sure to check some quotations I pulled from this book.

bookofjoy.org
penguin.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/book_of_joy.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 Snow, by Sam Usher

Thursday, December 6th, 2018

Snow

by Sam Usher

Templar Books (Candlewick Press), 2015. 36 pages.
Starred Review

This is a sweet grandson-grandfather story about snow and about getting ready and about waiting. There’s a dose of imagination thrown in as well – or maybe just good plain fun.

The book begins with a boy waking up to snow! He can’t wait to get to the park. He gets ready quickly – but Granddad is still getting ready. So they’re not the first ones.

Granddad reminds the boy about a few things – his scarf, then his hat. But more people are ahead of them, getting to the park. The snow in front of their house is no longer untrampled.

Granddad was taking forever.
So I shouted,
“HURRY UP, GRANDDAD!”

And he said, “It’s OK, we’re not going to miss the fun.”

But we were! I told him all the cats and dogs were out there.

Granddad laughed and said the whole zoo was probably out there.

And then I saw something. . . .

I like the way, when they finally get to the park, there really are a bunch of zoo animals having a grand snowball fight with the kids. They all have a wonderful time, and the boy and his granddad agree that some things are worth waiting for.

I like the nice touch that the boys stuffed toys in the house before they leave are the same animals as we see later in the snow. So was it all his imagination?

Whatever it was, it’s lots of fun.

candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/snow.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?