Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

Review of Keith Haring: The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing, by Kay A. Haring

Saturday, November 3rd, 2018

Keith Haring

The Boy Who Just Kept Drawing

by Kay A. Haring
illustrated by Robert Neubecker

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This picture book is a biography of artist Keith Haring written by his sister. She writes a note at the back:

I wrote this story to answer the question I’m always asked, “What was Keith like as a kid?” The answer is, “HE WAS ALWAYS DRAWING!”

She gets that across in the book, with the words “he just kept drawing” showing up as a refrain on most spreads.

The artist does a great job capturing the spirit of Keith Haring’s work. His unsophisticated but intricate lines are something that naturally appeal to children, and keeping that spirit works wonderfully in a picture book.

The book begins:

When he was little, his father taught him how to draw dogs and fish and funny things. His dad would draw a line. Then Keith would draw one. Soon, the whole page would be full.

From that time on, Keith never stopped drawing.

The story gives us some highlights of his short life. He’d even do murals with children. He’d draw in chalk on black spaces in subway stations.

At the end of the book, she gives Keith’s answers to these questions:

“WHY do you draw all the time?
WHY do you give your artwork away?
WHY do you draw on buildings, on people, on clothing, on furniture, on subway walls, on cars, on skateboards, on walls that belong to no one, and on things to be thrown away?
WHY do you draw on EVERYTHING??”

Keith stopped drawing, just for a moment, and answered.
“I draw all the time because there are many spaces to fill. I give my drawings away to help make the world a better place. I draw everywhere because EVERYONE needs art!!”

kayharing.com
www.neubeckerbooks.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 Imagine! by Raúl Colón

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Imagine!

by Raúl Colón

A Paula Wiseman Book (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), 2018. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Look! A 2018 picture book that I can review!

Why can I review it? Well, I’m on the 2019 Newbery committee, but the Newbery Medal is given for the text of a book – and this book has no words. So it can’t win. (The Caldecott Medal is another story, by the way.) And I can review it.

In this book, a boy leaves his house on a skateboard and crosses a bridge to go into the city. He enters the Museum of Modern Art and checks his skateboard at the checkroom.

But when he looks at the paintings, some of the characters come out and join him! The first one, from Matisse’s Icarus, dances with him, and they climb into Picasso’s Three Musicians and get the musicians to come along, too. Next they round up a lion and another musician from Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy. Now they practically have a band!

The happy throng goes out of the museum, exchanging instruments along the way. They have joyful adventures around New York City. They finish up in Central Park with songs, balloons, and bubbles.

When the adventures are done, it’s back to their paintings, and then the boy rides his skateboard back home. And he finishes by drawing a mural of his day with his friends.

This is a beautiful and joyous book. I feel confident that children will find more in its pages every time they go through it.

simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 Strong Is the New Pretty, by Kate T. Parker

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Strong Is the New Pretty

A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves

by Kate T. Parker

Workman Publishing, 2017. 250 pages.
Starred Review

Strong Is the New Pretty is a book of photographs of girls being strong – and they are indeed beautiful.

My library has put this in the juvenile nonfiction section, but I think in many ways, this is a book for families. If you have girls in your family, stick this on your coffee table. Let the whole family browse the photos. It would also make a nice high school graduation gift for a girl, encouraging them to be themselves. (Though the girl isn’t likely to take such a large book off to college with them, so I suppose that’s a little problematic.)

The text accompanying the pictures isn’t exactly geared to children. There’s an introduction, and then nine chapters, with titles “Confident is Strong,” “Wild is Strong,” “Resilient is Strong,” “Creative is Strong,” “Determined is Strong,” “Kind is Strong,” “Fearless is Strong,” “Joyful is Strong,” and “Independent is Strong.” Each chapter has an inspiring explanation at the front of how these pictures fit with the theme. Every photo has a quotation from the featured girl.

For example:

Cancer stole part of my leg but not my joy. I choose happiness. Being happy is my superpower.

— Grace B. age 12

Leaf jumping is the best.

— Alice age 6

Through music I have the ability to make others smile and even cry when I perform in a way that moves someone.

— Nora age 11

She had a knot in her cleats. I’m really good at untying knots, so I helped.

— Lily S. age 5

Yeah, I am a little muddy. So what?

— Tayla age 6

The quotations aren’t usually profound, but the photographs are stunning! And I love that the photographer gave each subject a voice.

In the Introduction, the author explains how the project got started.

This photo series started as a personal project. I work as a professional photographer, but I’m also a mom (the mom with the giant camera and bag of lenses at most events). And it’s not uncommon for me to be photographing my girls and their friends – constantly – when they’re riding their bikes, at soccer practice, or exploring tide pools while on vacation. The more I shot, the more I began to notice that the strongest images, the ones that resonated most with me, were the ones in which the girls were being 100 percent themselves. When they were messy and funny and stubborn and joyful and in your face, I kept shooting. I didn’t ask them to smile or go put on a pretty dress. I wanted to capture these girls as they were, and how they were was amazing. I wanted to continue capturing them in just that way – not just for my sake, but for theirs, too.

As a body of work emerged, I kept at it with more intention. I wanted to show my girls that beauty isn’t about being a certain size, or having your hair done (or even brushed, in their cases), or wearing a fancy outfit. I wanted to combat the messages the media sends to women every day. I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong.

I strongly recommend checking this book out and enjoying the beautiful images. And I even more strongly recommend sharing them with your daughters. Talk about them. I’m guessing they, too, will see how pretty these strong girls are.

https://katetparkerphotography.com/blog
workman.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/strong_is_the_new_pretty.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 Niko Draws a Feeling, by Bob Raczka, illustrations by Simone Shin

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Niko Draws a Feeling

by Bob Raczka
illustrations by Simone Shin

Carolrhoda Books, 2017. 36 pages.
Review written in 2017

Niko likes to draw feelings.

When Niko was inspired,
it felt like a window
opening in his brain.

An idea would flit through the
open window like a butterfly,
flutter down to his stomach,

then along his arm and fingers to his pencils,
where it would escape onto his paper in a whirlwind of color.

No one understands Niko’s drawings and what they mean. If he draws the hard work of a mother robin building her nest, they expect to see a bird or a nest – not hard work. If he draws the warm of the sun on his face, they expect to see the sun or his face, not the warm.

His friends don’t understand. His parents don’t understand. His teacher doesn’t understand.

But then a girl named Iris moves next door, and she gets it. When she looks at Niko’s drawings, she feels something.

The next thing Niko draws is the feeling of friendship.

I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. Honestly, I’m still a little skeptical about drawing feelings. And a little skeptical that this new girl could catch on so well.

But – there’s something about that feeling when somebody finally gets you. This book delivered that feeling and warmed my heart.

lernerbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/niko_draws_a_feeling.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 Atlas of Beauty, by Mihaela Noroc

Friday, July 6th, 2018

The Atlas of Beauty

Women of the World in 500 Portraits

by Mihaela Noroc

Ten Speed Press, 2017. 352 pages.
Starred Review

This book is amazing! Amazing and wonderful.

Mihaela Noroc has traveled the world and taken pictures of women – beautiful women. These beautiful women come in all colors and sizes, young and old, dressed formally or casually. There is even at least one transgender woman. Many are not what you would call traditionally beautiful. But when you see them through the photographer’s eyes, you know – every one of these women is beautiful.

They come from countries all over the world. As an example, one of the collage pages has photos from Ethiopia, China, Singapore, Germany, France, Spain, Nepal, Uruguay, USA, Switzerland, Mongolia, Greece, Romania, India, Portugal, Chile, Sweden, and England. Another collage has pictures from Uzbekistan, Egypt, Cuba, Portugal, Tajikistan, Netherlands, Italy, Russia, Germany, Peru, India, Greece, Guatemala, Russia, Nepal, Argentina, England, Turkey, South Africa, Colombia, Ethiopia, China, Spain, and Mexico.

And these women are indeed beautiful. This photographer makes the viewer see beauty in even the most old and “plain” women she features.

The book does remind me of Humans of New York with little stories of each portrait subject.

For example, I opened the book at random and came on this pair of photos:

HELSINKI, FINLAND
After her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Katariina started to see life in a different way. For years she had worked in the perfume industry, but her mother’s illness made her think more about health issues related to beauty products, and to want to do something. She gathered a team of specialists and created an amazing free phone app that scans the barcode of a cosmetic product and informs the user about the safety of the ingredients.

EAST JERUSALEM, DISPUTED TERRITORY
After studying in the United States and England, this young Palestinian returned home to put her knowledge in the service of Palestinian people. Raya was pregnant with her second baby when I met her, but besides becoming a mother for the second time she was also on a mission to empower Palestinian women.

As a young entrepreneur, Raya started a cosmetic company, and most of her employees are Palestinian women from marginalized communities. She also works for Palestine’s largest bank, and one of her main projects is to increase the percentage of female employees in all ranks at the bank.

“Supporting so many women is what keeps me going, and gives me the passion, enthusiasm, and energy to have two jobs at a time when I have two young children.”

Many of the text descriptions are shorter, such as this pair:

NAPLES, ITALY
I met these sisters, Monica, Francesca, and Rosanna, in their hometown, though now they all live in different parts of Italy, far from one another. They had reunited to visit their mother, and spend some time together.

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
When I met Rachelle, she was glowing with pregnancy and the city’s late afternoon light.

“We are resting, after a long day at work.”

The book actually doesn’t need any text at all to be stunning. Though it’s also amazing how many different places on the globe she traveled and took pictures of women.

This book is marketed and produced for adults, with very small print in the captions. But if I had a young daughter in my home, I would be sure to purchase this book and place it where she could easily browse through it. Now that I think about it, if I had a teenage daughter in my home, it might feel all the more important. As it is, I’m going to purchase my own copy to remind myself that Beauty comes with many, many different faces.

Looking at this book made me feel part of a sisterhood of women from all over the globe, part of the human family. It reminded me that we come in all shapes and sizes and ages and colors. And we are Beautiful.

tenspeed.com
crownpublishing.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/atlas_of_beauty.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 What’s Your Favorite Color? by Eric Carle and Friends

Wednesday, June 13th, 2018

What’s Your Favorite Color?

by Eric Carle and Friends

Godwin Books (Henry Holt and Company), 2017. 36 pages.

This is another book in support of the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, like What’s Your Favorite Animal?. Here again, a set of distinguished illustrators are asked a simple question – and they all answer in their own unique way.

This time the question is “What’s your favorite color?”

Some artists give long and thoughtful answers, like Rafael López:

The color I choose will surprise you because it dares to be different. No matter what others may say, artists know that gray is magic. It gets along with all the other colors and knows how to make them sparkle. Gray is smart and UNIQUE!

Like the clever octopus, my good friend gray knows how to change colors to communicate. It comes in many different shades – from warm to really cool! In some parts of the world, this flexible color even changes its spelling to grey.

When things get noisy and mixed up, gray is like a calm, deep breath.

Other artists, like Mike Curato, are short and sweet:

My favorite color is Mint because I love mint chocolate chip ice cream.

Or Lauren Castillo:

I love the way the snow magically paints the world white.

Or Frann Preston-Gannon:

I love flaming orange. It is the color of the tiger burning bright as it creeps through the grasses of the jungle.

This isn’t a book for preschool storytime, but it is a book for thoughtful reading over and over again. It’s for looking at things differently. It’s for thinking about your own favorite color. And it’s for enjoying the glorious paintings.

I’m not sure why they chose the order they did of the illustrators, except the obvious choice of putting Eric Carle first. The colors aren’t in the order of the rainbow, and a few colors are almost the same. (For example, Melissa Sweet chooses Maine Morning Gray.) At the back, there’s a bit about each illustrator, and the names are in a colored font. I find myself wishing they had used each illustrator’s favorite color for their name, but they didn’t.

All the same, this is a lovely book. It would be perfect for sharing with a budding artist to get them thinking about and seeing colors with fresh eyes.

What do I mean by seeing colors with fresh eyes? Well, Philip C. Stead’s page is a fine example (though the illustration is what makes it perfect):

A green frog is green
and sometimes socks are green –
just like yarn.
An alligator is green
unless it hides underwater
and then it’s
two white eyes.
Green grass is green
and apples can be green.
A tree is green
except when it’s yellow
red
or nothing at all.
You know what?
A green elephant is green
when it wants to be
and that’s why today
my favorite color
is green.

carlemuseum.org
mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/whats_your_favorite_color.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 Seeing Things: A Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs, by Joel Meyerowitz

Thursday, January 25th, 2018

Seeing Things

A Kid’s Guide to Looking at Photographs

by Joel Meyerowitz

Aperture, 2016. 74 pages.
Starred Review

This is a book about photography – and about becoming a better photographer by learning to see as a photographer does.

The bulk of the book is a series of great photographs, chosen by Joel Meyerowitz, who is a photographer himself. They are mostly not images I would have chosen – they aren’t necessarily pretty pictures – but they are consistently images that make you think and wonder, if you stop to take a second look.

On the accompanying page to each photograph there is some text pointing things out, but also asking questions. The author explains why each one is a great photograph and explores why it captures your attention so effectively.

The earliest photo in this book was taken in 1898 and the latest in 2014. There are a wide variety of subjects and styles. The selection alone is provocative and will get you thinking about what you would choose for a collection of outstanding photographs.

Here’s what the author has to say on the opening page:

I chose the photographs in this book with the hope that the things you discover in them will encourage you to open your eyes and your mind so that you can see the world around you in a new way.

These photographs, of people and animals, of landscapes and life on the street, are full of humor, mystery, and surprise and show that any moment of any ordinary day has the potential to activate your mind with a sudden flash of insight.

That moment of seeing is like waking up.

How lucky we are to be living in an age when making a photograph is available to everyone with a smartphone or a camera. The photographs that follow show the kinds of tools that photographers use, like intuition, timing, point of view, a willingness to wait, and the courage to move closer – tactics that make beauty and meaning, otherwise hidden, visible. All of these things are part of how you naturally see, but you have to be aware of them if you’re really going to see.

What you notice will reflect the way the world speaks to you, and only to you.

You may or may not be able to change the world, but the world can certainly change you.

This book calls itself a kid’s guide to looking at photographs, but anyone of any age who takes pictures will learn from considering the ideas in this book.

aperture.org

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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 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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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/singing_bones.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?

Arts and Crafts at #alamw17

Saturday, January 21st, 2017

I just posted about a program I attended at ALA Midwinter Meeting about Creativity brought into the library using an Open Art Studio approach. They talked at length about how doing Art is not the same thing as doing crafts.

This was somewhat ironic timing, because I had just spent an hour at a program called “DK Maker Break.”

DK was promoting a new book coming out called Out of the Box about making things from cardboard.

We all made owls.

Now, I had a lot of fun, and the book is packed full of ideas and projects.

But — I could really see the point that was going to be made in the next session I attended.

First, I could easily see that my owl wasn’t very “good,” especially compared to the examples we were shown. Even compared to the people next to me making owls. My conclusion: I’m not very good at this.

Those are all things we don’t want kids to feel or think after making something in the library.

Second, I have absolutely no emotional investment in the owl. I plan to throw it away before I go home.

If it were a project I had come up with, I might care about the result. But the whole idea of making this was imposed by others. It’s cute, and it makes a fun picture. But it doesn’t express who I am or say anything about my life.

Finally, if I were a kid, and my mother decided to display the owl I made — I’d be just plain embarrassed! I know it’s not very good. If my mother tried to say it was, I would be far less inclined to trust her judgment about my art in the future! And I don’t have any emotional investment in the product, so it’s not something I want to be reminded of again and again.

It really made me think, and strongly supported the point made in the Creativity program.

Now, Out of the Box is a beautiful book. I absolutely do think it’s a great idea to make the book available to kids, along with a variety of art supplies. But a context where they can browse and choose something they’d like to make would be far more meaningful to the artist, and far more likely to make Art.

I may be a DK Maker, but the experience combined with the next workshop also has made me a person who believes in letting kids make art rather than coercing them into making crafts.

Review of Thunder and Lightning, by Lauren Redniss

Monday, September 19th, 2016

thunder_and_lightning_largeThunder and Lightning

Weather Past, Present, Future

by Lauren Redniss

Random House, New York, 2015. 262 pages.
Starred Review

Thunder and Lightning is another Science Picture Book for Adults by the author of Radioactive.

As with Radioactive, which is a biography of Marie Curie, Thunder and Lightning is full of facts – but the most striking thing about it is the dramatic pictures.

I can’t really describe the pictures adequately, so I’m going to focus on the words here, but be aware that if this is a book you find interesting at all, you should check it out and see for yourself.

The author explores so many aspects of weather! Mainly she tells weather-related stories, but there are also many things about the science of weather. Some of the stories told include a cemetery washed out by a flood, the secret forecasting formula used by Old Farmer’s Almanac, people struck by lightning, a ship that sunk in fog, swimming from Cuba to Florida, devastating fires in Australia, a World Seed Bank in Svalbard, the ice trade on Walden Pond, and making rain in Vietnam. This perhaps gives an idea of the wide range of topics covered here, which all relate to weather.

The author relies heavily on quotes, which bring an immediacy to each story, each exploration.

Here are some things Arctic explorer Vilhjálmur Stefánsson had to say in 1921:

The daylight is negligible; and the moonlight, which comes to you first through clouds that are high in the sky and later through an enveloping fog, is a light which enables you to see your dog team distinctly enough, or even a black rock a hundred yards away, but it is scarcely better than no light at all upon the snow at your feet.

I think my favorite chapter, though, is Chapter 7, “Sky.” After fascinating ramblings and explorations on various topics, I turned the pages on “Sky” – and discovered 16 pages of paintings of sky. Lovely.

This book is surprising and hard to describe. Check it out and see for yourself.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/thunder_and_lightning.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?