Archive for September, 2012

Review of Seraphina, by Rachel Hartman

Sunday, September 9th, 2012


by Rachel Hartman

Random House, New York, 2012. 465 pages.
Starred Review

Seraphina has a secret. She tries not to be noticed. If people found out the truth about her, the chances are good that she would be murdered horribly. So she didn’t plan to play her flute at Prince Rufus’s funeral. But when the soloist and backup soloist suddenly aren’t available, what else can the assistant to the court composer do? Perhaps she shouldn’t have played quite so beautifully if she really didn’t want to be noticed.

The funeral was coming at a bad time.

Rufus had been murdered while hunting, and the Queen’s Guard had found no clues as to who’d done it. The missing head would suggest dragons, to some. I imagined the saarantrai who attended the funeral were only too aware of this. We had only ten days before the Ardmagar arrived, and fourteen days until the anniversary of the treaty. If a dragon had killed Prince Rufus, that was some spectacularly unfortunate timing. Our citizens were jumpy enough about dragonkind already.

The treaty with dragons has been in effect for forty years, but not everyone — human or dragon — is happy about the treaty. On top of preparing the music for the New Year’s celebration, Seraphina gets pulled into the investigation of Prince Rufus’s death. Meanwhile, the strange visions she’s been having are acting up, her uncle is in trouble, and she has to lie to someone she cares about to try to keep her own secret.

This is one of those fantasy stories with an intricate, highly detailed world. In this case, it’s a world like Renaissance Europe, but with dragons in human form, and an elaborate religion with saints, some of which are particularly hostile to dragons. The world here is skilfully built. There’s a large cast of characters. After her prominence at the funeral, Seraphina gets to know more of the members of the court and gets pulled in to the investigation of the murder. Can the treaty continue? And can she keep her secret?

Honestly, my personal favorite fantasy novels are simpler than this, and more fairy-tale like. With all the detail, it reminded me of the Finnikin of the Rock series. Wonderful books — Just not my absolute favorite, out of a simple personal preference. If you like elaborate detail, this book does it well, and builds a completely credible world where dragons walk among humans.

I’m also not crazy about stories with lots of bigoted religious people, even if it is a made-up religion, but they did provide a realistic threat to Seraphina. The romance is a highlight of the book, built realistically as a friendship with misunderstandings along the way. I was extremely invested in the characters once I got about a third of the way through the book. The story is complete with the solving of the murder, but there are definitely some big things left unresolved and the possibility of war looming. I will definitely want to read the next book the moment I can get my hands on it.

I like that the dragons are extra good at Math. Math is like a religion to them. The book is full of fun details like that. For example, Seraphina’s performance fell short of technical perfection, and her teacher comments, “Had you played perfectly — like a saar might have — you would not have affected your listeners so. People wept, and not because you sometimes hum while you play.”

Hmm. Rachel Hartman gets very close to technical perfection in this book. Is that perhaps why it didn’t quite affect me deeply? But I am tremendously eager to read on, and I’m curious what other people think. Meanwhile, I highly recommend this book about dragons like you’ve never seen them before.

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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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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.

Top 100 Picture Book Authors and Illustrators – #4, Eric Carle

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

I’m slowly working through the top authors and illustrators from Betsy Bird’s Fuse #8 blog Top 100 Picture Books poll. Today we’ll feature Eric Carle.

Here are his totals:
#4 Picture Book Author, 278 points, 44 votes
#4 Picture Book Illustrator, 324 points, 53 votes

Though Eric Carle has a plethora of outstanding picture books filling library shelves across the country, most people realized that his spot in this poll would be filled by his classic, The Very Hungry Caterpillar. Betsy had a lovely post about the many manifestations of the famous Caterpillar, #2 in the poll. It’s even been a Google doodle!

Three other books solely by Eric Carle received votes:

The Very Busy Spider got 9 points, with a comment from Sue Eilers: “My favorite book to read to babies. The illustrations are wonderful.”

Papa, Please Get the Moon for Me got 6 points, and DeeAnn Okamura made the comment, “Another favorite to read to classes. The glorious pull out pages always elicit “oohs and aahs” from the crowd.”

The Grouchy Ladybug got 5 points, and Pam Coughlan (Mother Reader) said, “It’s hard to pick just one Carle book, but I like doing the grouchy voice when reading it.” I like imagining her grouchy voice, myself!

But why, you may ask, did he get so many more points as illustrator than as writer? That’s on the strength of the wonderful #38 in the poll, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, written by Bill Martin, Jr., and illustrated by Eric Carle.

I find I don’t have any reviews of Eric Carle books on my website, but I do have a review of one book with a chapter about him, Artist to Artist: 23 Major Illustrators Talk to Children About Their Art. He’s the second Living Artist to show up in the poll, and here’s hoping his fruitful career will continue for many years to come.

Review of Back to Life, by Alicia Salzer

Saturday, September 8th, 2012

Back to Life

Getting Past Your Past with Resilience, Strength, and Optimism

by Alicia Salzer, M.D.

William Morrow (HarperCollins), 2011. 278 pages.
Starred Review

Back to Life is a book about resilience, a book about thriving after trauma.

Here’s what Alicia Salzer says about trauma in her Introduction:

For the purposes of this book, a trauma is any event or situation that fundamentally shakes our understanding of the world and of our place in it.

Certainly this includes all the horrors that one typically thinks of when the word “trauma” is used. But in my opinion it also includes a host of other experiences that leave us reeling because the “rules” of life seem to have suddenly changed. In this view, a trauma might be a health issue, a betrayal, the loss of an apartment or job. When a life event robs you of your sense of well-being and self-esteem and leaves you feeling unsafe or out of control — that’s a trauma, too.

To be fair, I read this book after I’d already dealt with most of the trauma of my divorce. But in many ways, the book was good confirmation that I’m on the right track in healing. I definitely recognized her descriptions of being deep in the trauma, and I thoroughly relished her ideas for dealing with it even at this level.

For a very long time, I had lots of trouble with flashbacks — mostly replaying arguments and piecing together when my husband was lying and what I should have said had I known the truth. (Okay, I’ll stop. Just writing that sentence put me in danger of obsessing again!) It was actually a different book that said betrayal is trauma (NOT “Just Friends”) that helped me realize flashbacks are completely normal, and not to get mad at myself for having them, but just, when I notice, turn my mind a different way.

Alicia Salzer presents several strategies for coping with the coping mechanisms that crop up. One is to name the nasty inner voice:

We talked in a previous chapter about how symptoms like nightmares and flashbacks are misguided but well-intentioned stabs at self-protection. In the same way, much of what keeps us in permatrauma are ways of thinking and coping that were developed in a time of tremendous, overwhelming stress. We bring these coping strategies to our current lives in an attempt to safeguard ourselves from future harm. But the way you learned to cope on the worst day of your life is no way to live the rest of it.

I’ve named my nasty inner voice Moodith because it’s funny and dismissive and reminds me that she’s not a good advisor, but Hatelyn, Buzzkill, or Mr. Misery will work just as well. Feel free to come up with your own dismissive moniker.

You can see from this example that she approaches healing from trauma with humor and humility.

Now, I didn’t do too many of her actual exercises, but I was uplifted and encouraged by her ideas. I do think reading this book helped me stay on the right track. Some of the Resilience Skills she goes through are: Flexibility, Accountability, Self-Efficacy, External Efficacy, Rosewashing, and Community. These are all great skills to build.

I also adapted her strategy at the end for changing how you feel. I modified her version, but basically it involves using a physical prop, a stone, to remind you of a positive thing you need to do or think about.

I fondly hope I will never go through major trauma again, but I know that’s not too likely. If I find myself in the depths again, struggling with discouragement, or if I feel I just need a reminder of the vibrant life I’d like to be living, that would be a good time to reread this book.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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.

Review of What Came From the Stars, by Gary D. Schmidt

Friday, September 7th, 2012

What Came From the Stars

by Gary D. Schmidt

Clarion Books, Boston, September 2012. 293 pages.

Chapter One of this book happens in Outer Space. The title is “The Last Days of the Valorim.” On a distant planet from ours, the Valorim are about to be defeated, but they make a decision:

Let us take all our song, our story, our beloit, gliteloit, all we have made from our hearts, all we have brought against the Silence, and let us forge it together and send it out from us, so that the Art of the Valorim might still be heard and seen and known even when the Valorim are no longer. Then shall the Silence be defeated.

Young Waeglim was able to forge their Art into a Chain and send it on his own Song and Thought across galaxies and finally to a small star and to a single small planet that is blue like its home planet.

It fell, cooling as it went, down toward the sea and the green land and the red brick building, until, with a final tumble, the Chain of the Valorim Art, the Chain that held their Heart, the Chain that was all that was left against the Silence, struck a window ledge, dangled through, skidded across a white plastic table top, fell toward a gray plastic bench, and dropped into the Ace Robotroid Adventure lunch box of Tommy Pepper, sixth-grader, of the class of Mr. Burroughs, of William Bradford Elementary School, of Plymouth, Massachusetts.

It took some time before Tommy noticed.

Now, Tommy, as a sixth-grader, really hates having an Ace Robotroid Adventure lunch box in sixth-grade. But Tommy’s grandmother waited in a long line so she could get one to give to him for his twelfth birthday, and Tommy’s dad insists that he should take it to school. He tries to hide it. He tries to leave it in his lunch box and take just the food out, “but that kind of plan never works.”

Just when it looks like Tommy’s in for the greatest of humiliations, he sees a quick flash of light at the window and his lunch box falls on the ground. Tommy still thinks he’s doomed, but he can’t help but pick up the glowing chain he sees next to his lunch box and put it around his neck. Then. . . something completely astonishing has happened to his lunch box.

And that’s only the first amazing thing that happens. Tommy can cut intricate shapes out of the birthday cake his teacher made. Tommy knows strange words (that seem normal to him) that other people don’t know. When he sings happy birthday with his father and sister, something else strange happens:

And with that wind in his face, and looking at the sea, and feeling the light fall on him from the first star, and with those he loved beside him, and his mother gone, gone, Tommy felt the chain warm, and he began to sing too. He sang of parting and of grief. He sang of friends and loved ones who must leave him. He sang of friends and loved ones who must leave him. He sang of the loneliness of one star without another. He sang in a high keen, as high-pitched as wind, and he felt the melody twine wih the strange starlight, and heard the sound of Hreth rising out of the ocean, and he sang of that too.

And when he finished, he looked at his father and at Patty, who stared at him in amazement and wonder. And he saw in his sister’s eyes that she was a little afraid.

“What?” he said.

Well, the conqueror of the Valorim is mighty upset when he finds that the Art of the Valorim is not in his grasp after all. So alternate chapters deal with him trying to get it back. Meanwhile strange things are happening in Plymouth, Massachusetts, at William Bradford Elementary School, and powerful people are trying to buy their house, the house they lived in with Tommy’s mother, the house that’s been in their family for generations — to build condos in its place.

And there’s evil to confront. Evil on the other planet, but also evil in Plymouth. Can Tommy and his friends overcome this evil? Can the Young Waeglim keep evil Lord Mondus from reaching across the galaxies and recovering the Art of the Valorim?

I did enjoy this book, and I especially enjoyed the parts set in Plymouth, the story of Tommy and his friends, but I’m not sure the overall story of the Valorim really worked for me. It was never clear how sending the Chain to earth really helped, and how they ever thought to recover it (though it turns out it just so happens that they want to recover it by the end of the book). The way Tommy uses another language is supposed to show that something alien is affecting his mind, but it doesn’t really work smoothly. The sections in outer space read like something from imitation Tolkien, and that didn’t quite work for me. I never really understood completely the story of what happened on the other planet, and I don’t really understand why they didn’t just send the chain to another part of their own planet — except that then it wouldn’t have affected an American kid.

Still, this book takes a story of an ordinary boy with tough problems and sets them in an extraordinary context. In the end, ordinary Tommy Pepper figures some things out that the mighty Valorim need to learn.

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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 an Advance Reader Copy I got at an American Library Association conference.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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.

Review of Swirl by Swirl, by Joyce Sidman, pictures by Beth Krommes

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Swirl by Swirl

Spirals in Nature

by Joyce Sidman
pictures by Beth Krommes

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2011. 36 pages.

This is a gentle and soothing picture book that rewards reading and examining again and again. The text is unrhymed poetry, with only a few lines on a page, and very large print.

You could read this book to very young children with a short attention span, but it will also work with older children, who can notice new details on each page.

The beautiful pictures were created by Beth Krommes, Caldecott medalist for The House in the Night. She uses the same scratchboard technique here, with more colors. The technique works well for showing spirals, since the lines are distinct and clear.

Here’s the first page. It says:

“A spiral is a snuggling shape.
It fits neatly in small places.
Coiled tight, warm and safe, it waits . . .”

We’ve got a snow scene, but most of the picture is taken up with what’s underground. We see several animals curled up in their nests for the winter, and small print labels them: a bull snake, harvest mouse, eastern chipmunk, and woodchuck. All the animals are resting in a coiled shape.

The next page shows those same animals emerging into a springtime landscape, but the sharp reader will still spot some spirals.

The book goes on, gently and soothingly, showing seashells, ferns, ram’s horns, coiled tails and trunks, spiderwebs, and even gets much bigger in waves, whirlpools, and tornadoes. The climax takes us all the way out to galaxies, and then back to the cozy winter landscape again.

There are even two pages at the back that give some of the science (and math!) behind spirals.

This was one of the books we discussed at the Bill Morris Seminar in January, and my fellow attendees made me appreciate it all the more. It’s the sort of book into which you can delve much deeper than initially meets the eye, a book you and your children will want to look at and read again and again.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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.

Review of For Darkness Shows the Stars, by Diana Peterfreund

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

For Darkness Shows the Stars

by Diana Peterfreund

Balzer + Bray, 2012. 407 pages.
Starred Review

Wow. I’ve always loved Jane Austen’s Persuasion. The poignancy runs extra deep since Anne Elliot allowed herself to be persuaded to reject Captain Wentworth’s suit years ago. When he returns, successful and sought after, what can she do?

For Darkness Shows the Stars is a retelling of Persuasion in a science fiction setting. Diana Peterfreund keeps all the poignancy of the romantic situation, but adds layers of complexity involving technology and responsibility.

The story takes place on unknown islands of a post-apocalyptic Earth. Our descendants played with genetic engineering until they met with disaster. The survivors hid for years in caves. They proudly name themselves the Luddites. They did not use technology to play God, and so God allowed them to survive. Now their descendants are the rulers and estate owners. The descendants of the Lost were Reduced — mentally deficient, barely able to speak two words. The Reduced work the land, and the Luddite lords have a responsibility to care for them well.

Eighteen years ago, three babies were born on the same day on the North estate. Elliot North will grow to manage her father’s estate. Ro is Reduced, and loves Elliot and loves color and beauty, but her mental powers are not strong. Then there’s Kai. He’s Post-Reduction. He has full mental powers. But because his grandparents were Reduced, he doesn’t have the rights of the Luddite lords. He works on the estate and becomes friends with Elliot. But he can never be her equal.

Four years ago, Kai left the estate and asked Elliot to join him. But she can’t leave her responsibilities. Her mother died, and her father and sister were only interested in horses and status, not in running the estate and doing what’s best for all the people who live there.

Now Kai has returned. The North family has been forced to rent her grandfather’s boatyard to a prosperous group of Posts who are making a fleet of ships to explore the seas around the islands. They have already met with much success. The group has rejected their background on estates and chosen multisyllabic names for themselves. Admiral Innovation and his wife bring along a promising young captain, Malakai Wentforth. Elliot’s father and sister don’t even recognize that he is Kai returned. But she is all too aware. Kai is back, and he’s angry for being rejected.

Diana Peterfreund did a marvelous job paralleling the plot of Persuasion. And so doing, she keeps all the poignancy of the original, all of Elliot’s pain that she was the one who did the rejecting. And now Captain Wentforth has succeeded beyond her wildest dreams, and she’s the one in difficult straits. He is far more interested in the daughter of the neighboring estate. And why shouldn’t he be?

She also adds complexity. The Luddites have strict protocols against overusing technology. But Elliot has been experimenting with better strains of wheat in order to feed the people on her estate. What is right? And then what about the Posts who come stretching the limits of what is acceptable? Are they inviting another apocalypse?

In this book, the somewhat silly accident in the middle of Persuasion takes on whole new significance when it leads to a revelation about the Posts.

Knowing the outline of what was going to happen made the story that much more compelling, and I was all the more surprised by some of the twists the author inserted. They didn’t change the romance, but they did add to the story.

To some Luddites, the Reduced were children, fallen and helpless, but still human. To others, they were beasts of burden, mostly mute and incapable of rational thought. Elliot’s mother had taught her that they were her duty, as they were the duty of all Luddites. Cut off as the population of these two islands had been since the Wars of the Lost, they might be the only people left on the planet. The Luddites, who had kept themselves pure of the taint of Reduction, therefore had the responsibility to be the caretakers not only of all of human history and culture but of humanity itself.

It had been generations since any Luddites had tried to rehabilitate the Reduced. Mere survival had taken precedence. But Ro was more than Elliot’s duty. She’d become Elliot’s friend, and sometimes Elliot even dared wonder what Ro could be — what any Reduced could be — if the Luddites had the resources to try.

The strength of Persuasion lies in the history between the two characters. In For Darkness Shows the Stars, the author plays on the history by inserting letters Elliot and Kai exchanged through the years as children growing up together. Their friendship was never sanctioned, so they placed letters in a knothole in the barn, a knothole Elliot can’t stop checking, even now.

This is a magnificent retelling of a classic romance. A story of lost love and regret and redemption mixed with genetic engineering and tampering with technology and divine right and responsibility to rule. Not a book I could stop reading before I’d finished.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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.

More Mathematical Knitting

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

I’m a math nut. I’ve always said that my prime factorization sweater proves it.

I finished knitting the sweater in 2005. It shows the color-coded prime factorization of all the whole numbers from 2 to 100. I’ve shown it to lots of people since then, with mixed amounts of appreciation. In 2009, I finally posted a blog explanation of it and how it works.

Last April, I wore it to the US Science and Engineering Festival. I showed it to Ivars Peterson, manning the Mathematical Association of America booth. He tweeted one tweet with a link to my blog post, and the next day I got 28,000 hits on my website.

And the post got so much attention, this month it’s appearing in Hacker News! In print! I’m happy that people are finding out about it. It’s just goes to show that Math is Beautiful.

Now, there’s no way I’m ever going to make a replica of the original sweater. It took way too long. But since then, I’ve designed a t-shirt for sale to all on Cafepress. I’ve knitted a scarf that uses color-coded stripes to represent the prime factorization of numbers up to 50. And I’ve begun work on a cuff-to-cuff cardigan that also uses color-coded stripes, similar to the scarf. I hope it will go up to 100.

But for now I’m taking a break from knitting the prime factorization cardigan, because my little sister is having a baby!

I wanted to knit something special for the little one, but not so blatantly mathematical. I decided to use a mathematical code to knit a blessing into the blanket.

Here’s how it works. I’m using the same pattern I used to knit my son a cotton blanket 18 years ago. It’s a simple knit-purl pattern. I didn’t want lace, since I wanted it to function as a warm blanket. I gave it to him whenever he ate and managed to get him very attached to it!

I want to knit a code into the blanket. The layout is a basic grid. It mimics a plaid, but with knits and purls. I decided to focus on the stockinette sections that show up on one side. These sections are seven stitches across, with the stitch in the middle purled on every other row. There are six sections across in the grid and a total of 20 sections vertically down the blanket.

The baby is a girl, and her middle name will probably be Karise, coming from the Greek word for grace. I decided to use the Christian blessing that shows up many times in the New Testament: “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” After all, what more could you want for a baby than grace and peace?

That’s 14 words, so I decided to put one word on each row of the grid, with the words “Grace and Peace” before and after, using all 20 rows. Each word is six letters or less, so I can use the six stockinette sections to highlight the letters.

Now, how to do the letters? Simple! Years ago, I did a library program where I showed the kids that they could use the ideas from the sweater to make codes using colors or shapes for letters. You start with a simple 1 to 26 code for the letters A to Z. Then I will convert the numbers to base 5 and I only need 5 different coded digits.

Here’s how the letters will be represented:

A – 01 B – 02 C – 03 D – 04 E – 10
F – 11 G – 12 H – 13 I – 14 J – 20
K – 21 L – 22 M – 23 N – 24 O – 30
P – 31 Q – 32 R – 33 S – 34 T – 40
U – 41 V – 42 W – 43 X – 44 Y – 100
Z – 101

Then I assign certain stitches to represent each digit. Since knitting is done from right to left, I’m going to work the stitches on the purl side, so when I look at them, they will read left to right.

Here’s the code I’m using, with two stitches for each digit.

0 = purl 2 (p2)
1 = knit 2 (k2)
2 = yarn over, knit 2 together (ykt)
3 = ssk, yarn over (sky)
4 = cable one purl stitch in back (cb)

Since the purl sections I’m using have 3 purl stitches, one knit stitch and then 3 purl stitches, I’m putting in the code this way: one purl stitch, then the first digit of the coded letter,
then one knit stitch, then the second digit of the coded letter, then one purl stitch.
I’m doing this on the middle row of the section of the grid.

I am working the code from the bottom of the blanket, so I had to list all the words in backwards order.

Here’s how it’s working out!

This picture shows the bottom three rows of the large grid. So I encoded the words “Grace and Peace.” Here’s the detail:

Looking at the first two sections of each word, on the top row, we have G = 12 = k2, ykt; R = 33 = sky, sky.
Second row has a blank section to center “AND,” then A = 01 = p2, k2.
Third row has P = 31 = sky, k2; E = 10 = k2, p2.

Here’s the middle section:

For the middle, on the top row, we have A = 01 = p2, k2; C = 03 = p2, sky.
Second row has N = 24 = ykt, cb; D = 04 = p2, cb
Third row has A = 01 = p2, k2; C = 03 = p2, sky

And finally, the last two sections in the row:

This just has the end of each word. On the first and third row, that’s E = 10 = k2, p2. We’ve got “blank” sections in the other slots.

Oh, and I should mention that on, I purchased some fabulously soft yarn on sale. It’s Artful Yarns Serenade, and it’s 70% pima cotton, and 30% angora. There’s one strand of pink, one of purple, and one of brown, which I thought more interesting than straight pink. It’s ending up so beautiful and wonderful to touch. I always say that knitting with soft yarn is like therapy. And this time, I get to knit in a mathematical blessing.

My posts on Mathematical Knitting and related topics are now gathered at Sonderknitting.

Review of Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy, by Jacqueline Kennedy

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy

by Jacqueline Kennedy

Interviews with Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., 1964
Foreword by Caroline Kennedy
Introduction and Annotations by Michael Beschloss

Hyperion, New York, 2011. 368 pages, 8 compact discs.

This book plus CD set is a recording of seven conversations in 1964 between Jacqueline Kennedy and Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., about her life with John Kennedy. The CDs hold the actual conversations, and the accompanying book has a transcript, with footnotes identifying people and events, and also many photographs from the times being referred to. I listened to the CDs in the car to and from work, and then read the footnotes for the section I’d heard.

Now I was born after John F. Kennedy’s presidency. In fact, the final conversation happened a couple weeks before I was born. So I don’t know a lot about that period of history, and certainly most of the names of the people in the Kennedys’ lives were unfamiliar to me.

But they were still fun to listen to. I’ve heard of the charm of Jacqueline Kennedy, and you could definitely hear that charm in her voice. Her attitudes about being a good wife definitely reflected the time period, but what an asset she must have been to him! She definitely thought the world of her husband, and this is an intriguing look about what it was like to live in the White House at that time.

So even though I didn’t really know what they were talking about, I read the footnotes later and still found myself fascinated by what I was hearing. Those who know more about the JFK presidency may find it much more interesting.

Fifty years from now, it may not be very meaningful to hear a recording of people speaking about our times. But I haven’t heard too many recordings from before I was born, and it felt historic and important to hear the voice of Jacqueline Kennedy herself.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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.

Sonderling Sunday – Das Buch der Tausend Tage

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! – Otherwise known as Nerdy Sonntag. That’s when I play with language by finding German translations of useless and interesting phrases in children’s books.

I’m going to do something a little different tonight. I got the idea of Sonderling Sunday thanks to the brilliant and kind James Kennedy sending me a copy of his book Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, the translation of The Order of Odd-Fish. It even has Sonderlinge in the title!

But, let’s face it, it’s taking a long time to go through the book! That’s because my German is definitely not fluent, and it takes me time to wade through the text, find interesting phrases to use, and such. Now, I have quite a collection of German books, and recently the fabulous Shannon Hale sent me a copy of one of my all-time favorite books, Book of a Thousand Days, translated into German, Das Buch der Tausend Tage.

So, here’s what I think I’ll do: Every other week, I’ll go back to Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge and continue to slowly make my way through it. But on alternate weeks, I’ll look at other books, such as the delightful translation, Winnie der Pu, the Harry Potter series, and another all-time favorite, Momo, by Michael Ende, which was originally written in German. (Right now, my son has taken it with him to the dorm. But all in good time.)

Tonight, in appreciation to Shannon Hale for her kind gift, and because I’ve been itching to get to it, I will begin with Das Buch der Tausend Tage.

I took this picture when she sent me Das Buch der Tausend Tage along with an Advance Reader Copy of Palace of Stone.

Let’s start with stats. As always, the German version is longer. In English, we’ve got 308 pages, contrasted with 319 in German. So it’s not a big difference, but the German print is somewhat smaller.

As with Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, I will try not to give any spoilers, but do hope that I’ll pick some intriguing sentences and phrases that will motivate some readers to pick up the book.

I think it’s nice to start off with the first section. “Part One, The Tower” is Erster Teil, Der Turm In English, we have:

Day 1

My lady and I are being shut up in a tower for seven years.

Lady Saren is sitting on the floor, staring at the wall, and hasn’t moved even to scratch for an hour or more. Poor thing. It’s a shame I don’t have fresh yak dung or anything strong-smelling to scare the misery out of her.

The men are bricking up the door, and I hear them muttering and scraping cement. Only a small square of unbricked sky and light still gape at me. I smile back at its mean grin to show I’m not scared. Isn’t it something, all the trouble they’re going to for us? I feel like a jewel in a treasure box, though my lady is the —

Auf Deutsch:

Tag 1

Meine Herrin und ich werden für sieben Jahre in einen Turm gesperrt.

Lady Saren sitzt auf dem Boden, starrt die Mauer an und hat sich seit einer Stunde nicht mal gekratzt. Die Ärmste, Schade, dass ich keinen frischen Yak-Fladen oder etwas anderes streng Riechendes habe. Ich möchte sie erschrecken, damit sie ihr Elend vergisst.

Die Männer mauern die Tür zu. Ich höre, wie sie murmeln und kratzend den Zement verteilen. Oben klafft nur noch ein kleines, nicht zugemauertes Viereck aus Himmel und Licht. Ich lächele gegen sein gemeines Grinsen an, um zu zeigen, dass ich mich nicht fürchte. Das ist doch schon mal was, dass sie sich unseretwegen so viel Mühe geben. Ich fühle mich wie ein Edelstein in einer Schmuckschatulle, obwohl ja meine Herrin der. . .

Ah, did I think the less bizarre story would yield less interesting phrases to talk about? The beginning has already born fruit. I mean, who wouldn’t want to know how to say “fresh yak dung,” frischen Yak-Fladen, in German? Some more:

“hasn’t even moved to scratch for an hour or more” = hat sich seit einer Stunde nicht mal gekratzt (The translator’s gone briefer in German — “has for an hour not once scratched.”)

“Poor thing.” = Die Ärmste

“scraping cement” = kratzend den Zement verteilen (“scratching the cement to distribute” — see that same root earlier in gekratzt? It’s a good sound for “scratch”!)

“gape” = oben klafft

“a jewel in a treasure box” = ein Edelstein in einer Schmuckschatulle

Going on:

“stupor” = Lähmung (How lame!)

“clawing” = krallte

“trying to shove her way out” = sich mit aller Kraft in die Freiheit zu schieben (“with all her strength in freedom to push”)

“Like an angry piglet.” = Wie ein wütendes Ferkel.

“Stay until your heart softens like long-boiled potatoes.” = Du bleibst da drin, bis dein Herz weich wird wie Kartoffeln, die zu lang gekocht wurden. (“You stay in there, until your heart becomes soft like potatoes, that were too long boiled.” Hmm. A little more awkward that way. But aren’t you glad to know how to say it?)

“to kill you on sight” = dich augenblicklich zu töten

This has a ring to it:
“to think about disobedience” = dir deinen Ungehorsam auszutreiben (“to drive out your disobedience”)

“Until you are meek with regret” = Ehe du nicht lammfromm wirst vor Reue

“feisty ram” = widerspenstigen Bock

This one’s a bit better in English:
“skinny as a skinned hare” = mager wie ein gehäuteter Hase

“the calming song” = das Trostlied

“snoring on my lap” = schnarchend auf meinen Scho?

I like this in both languages:
“Sticky sobs shake my lady even while she sleeps.” = Meine Herrin wird im Schlaf von schwerem Schluchzen geschüttelt. (“My lady in sleep from heavy sobs shakes.”)

“metal flap” = Eisenklappe

“chamber pot” = Nachttopf (“night pot”)

“mucker” = Aratenmädchen

So, that’s a good start! I’m looking forward to attempting to use such handy-dandy phrases as frischen Yak-fladen, das Trostlied, ein Edelstein in einer Schmuckschatulle, wie ein wütendes Ferkel and especially schnarchend auf meinen Scho?.

Tune in next week, as we’ll find out more about what the Belgische Scherzkeks is up to!

Review of The Art of Miss Chew, by Patricia Polacco

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

The Art of Miss Chew

by Patricia Polacco

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012. 42 pages.
Starred Review

Patricia Polacco tells a personal story here about the art teacher who got her started as an artist.

It begins with another teacher, Mr. Donovan, who noticed that if he gave Patricia extra time, she could pass her tests with no trouble. He also sees that she’s a natural artist, and helps her get in with the high school art teacher, Miss Chew.

Miss Chew taught Patricia how to paint and how to see. She noticed that Patricia was seeing patterns instead of letters and got her in with a reading specialist. But especially, she valued Patricia’s art and gave her a featured place in the art show, the only non-high school student in the show.

This book is best read to be appreciated. I’ve long loved Patricia Polacco’s art, but the paintings in this book feel more warm and loving than ever. In the paintings themselves, you can clearly see how deeply grateful she still feels toward those two remarkable teachers. There’s also a sparkle in the pictures of young Trisha as she discovers true joy in making art.

A remarkable and memorable book.

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely 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.