Archive for January, 2013

Review of Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar, by Masaichiro and Mitsumasa Anno

Monday, January 21st, 2013

Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar

by Masaichiro and Mitsumasa Anno

Philomel Books, New York, 1983. 44 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Standout: #7 Children’s Nonfiction

How did I not know about this book?! How did I not know there is a picture book that explains factorials?! It was written before my boys were born — and I didn’t know to buy it for them! This is a crime!

I was at the library, refilling our display of children’s nonfiction books. I find that if I put out children’s math books, they get snapped up. I make sure to put out fun children’s math books, like anything by Greg Tang, or A Million Dots, by Andrew Clements, or Piece = Part = Portion, by Scott Gifford. But while I was looking through the 510s for good fun math books, I found Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar.

The idea is simple. Mitsumasa Anno and his son show us a jar that contains a sea and an island. Each island has 2 countries. Each country has 3 mountains. Each mountain has 4 walled kingdoms. In each kingdom are 5 villages. In each village are 6 houses. In each house are 7 rooms. In each room are 8 cupboards. In each cupboard are 9 boxes. And within each box, there are 10 jars.

How many jars are there all together? There are 10! = 10 x 9 x 8 x 7 x 6 x 5 x 4 x 3 x 2 x 1 = 3,628,800. The second half of the book shows this even more clearly, using dots. And there’s an afterword as well, that explains some of the further uses of factorials.

It’s so simple. So beautiful. And it explains factorials! To children! Yes!

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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.

This review is posted today in honor of Nonfiction Monday. You’ll find the round-up at The LibrariYAn.

Sonderling Sunday – Pride and Prejudice

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday, that time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books — or, um, not. Today I’m going to tackle that classic masterpiece of romance novel, Pride and Prejudice, Stolz und Vorurteil.

(Is that German cover awful, or what?)

The title is pretty much a straight translation. Urteil means “judgment,” so Vorurteil is “fore-judgment,” which is pretty much “prejudice.”

But let’s rush to that classic and immortal first sentence. I’ll try quoting it from memory:

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a large fortune must be in want of a wife.”

No, I got a word wrong. It should be “in possession of a good fortune.”

Okay, how is that immortal thought expressed in German?

Es ist eine allgemein anerkannte Wahrheit, da? ein alleinstehender Mann, der ein beträchtliches Vermögen besitzt, einer Frau bedarf.

Translated literally back, that says, “It is a generally recognized truth, that an alone-standing man, who a considerable fortune possesses,” [I personally think of besitzt as “sits on,” but that’s not really the translation.] “…a wife demands.”

My thinking of besitzt is reinforced in this translation from the next paragraph:
“this truth is so well-fixed in the minds of the surrounding families”
= diese Wahrheit sitzt so fest in den Köpfen der Familien in der Nachbarschaft
(my translation back: “this truth sits so fast in the heads of the families in the neighborhood”)

“is let at last” = endlich verpachtet worden ist

“invitation enough” = Aufforderung genug
(This isn’t the word I’ve seen on invitations. It seems to be more of a summons.)

“chaise and four” = vierspännigen Kalesche

“before Michaelmas” = vor Michaeli

“how can you be so tiresome!” = wie kannst du nur so schwer von Begriff sein!
(I seem fascinated by insults and exclamations like this. My translation of that is “how can you be only so difficult about the concept!” When I put together nur so schwer von Begriff in Google translate, I get back “just so slow on the uptake.”)

“no occasion” = keine Veranlassung

“you flatter me” = du schmeichelst mir

“no new comers” = keine Neuankömmlinge

Here German is more concise:
“much to recommend them” = viel Empfehlenswertes (“much recommend-worthy”)

“silly and ignorant” = töricht und unwissend (There I go again.)

A little less subtlety here in German:
“but Lizzy has something more of quickness than her sisters”
= aber Lizzy besitzt etwas mehr Intelligenz als ihre Schwestern
(I know Germans say it like it is. But I’m a lot happier with a father saying a daughter has more “quickness” than her sisters than him saying she has more Intelligenz.)

“You delight in vexing me.” = Es macht dir Vergnügen, mich zu quälen.

“consideration” = Hochachtung (“high attention”)

This sentence deserves being written in full:
“Mr. Bennet was so odd a mixture of quick parts, sarcastic humour, reserve, and caprice, that the experience of three and twenty years had been insufficient to make his wife understand his character.”
= Mr. Bennet bestand aus einer so seltsamen Mischung aus gelegentlicher Heftigkeit, Schlagfertigkeit, sarkastischem Humor, Zurückhaltung und Kaprice, da? die Erfahrungen von dreiundzwanzig Ehejahren für seine Gattin nichte ausgereicht hatten, sein Wesen zu begreifen

Looking at the details of that, there’s a surprise right away:

“quick parts” = gelegentlicher Heftigkeit (Okay, I’m not sure what’s being lost here, because Google translates that as “occasional violence”! This is in a description of Mr. Bennet!)

Then the German has Schlagfertigkeit, which translates as “quick-witted,” so maybe that’s the “quick parts”? Maybe there’s something about occasional violence in the original British version?!?

I do like “reserve” = Zurückhaltung (“back-holding”)

“to . . . understand his character” = sein Wesen zu begreifen (“his ways to comprehend”)

Jane Austen is harsh about Mrs. Bennet:
“mean understanding” = geringer Einsicht (“inferior insight”)

“little information” = wenig Kenntnissen

“uncertain temper” = launenhafter Gemütsart (“capricious disposition” or, breaking it down further, “whimsical mind-type”)

Let’s finish with the last sentence of Chapter One:
“The business of her life was to get her daughters married; its solace was visiting and news.”
= Ihre Lebensaufgabe war es, die Töchter zu verheiraten — ihre Freude, Besuche zu machen und Neuigkeiten zu erfahren.

It’s fun to read Pride and Prejudice in German, because I almost don’t have to look up the English, I know it so well. Es ist eine allgemein anerkannte Wahrheit that I will have to try to use some of these phrases in daily conversation. (Well, in my own head, anyway.)

Next week, I’ll be back to Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, which I hope you’ll find viel Empfehlenswertes.

Review of A Praying Life, by Paul E. Miller

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

A Praying Life

Connecting with God in a Distracting World

by Paul E. Miller

NavPress, 2009. 279 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Other Nonfiction

My small group began this book more than a year ago, and I continued slowly through it on my own. I think it’s the best book I’ve ever read on prayer, full of practical ideas for really getting personal with God and listening for His voice.

I like the first section: “Learning to Pray Like a Child.” He thinks of prayer in a very personal way with God, and gives examples of how that has worked in his life. He prays like someone really talking with his Father, and helps me want to do that, too.

And Paul E. Miller doesn’t simply talk about prayer. He talks about a praying life. Here’s a section from the Introduction:

Because prayer is all about relationship, we can’t work on prayer as an isolated part of life. That would be like going to the gym and working out just your left arm. You’d get a strong left arm, but it would look odd. Many people’s frustrations with prayer come from working on prayer as a discipline in the abstract.

We don’t learn to pray in isolation from the rest of our lives. For example, the more I love our youngest daughter, Emily, the more I pray for her. The reverse is true as well; the more I learn how to pray for her, the more I love her. Nor is faith isolated from prayer. The more my faith grows, the bolder my prayers get for Jill. Then, the more my prayers for her are answered, the more my faith grows. Likewise, if I suffer, I learn how to pray. As I learn how to pray, I learn how to endure suffering. This intertwining applies to every aspect of the Christian life.

Since a praying life is interconnected with every part of our lives, learning to pray is almost identical to maturing over a lifetime. What does it feel like to grow up? It is a thousand feelings on a thousand different days. That is what learning to pray feels like.

He goes on to explore many different facets of prayer. How much do we really know our Father? How comfortable are we talking with him? The ideas in this book can help.

There were many, many sections of this book I especially like, and I’ve posted them on Sonderquotes. I am sure I’m going to come back to this book again and again for encouragement from a fellow-traveler.

When it comes to prayer, we, too, just need to get the words out. Feel free to stop and pray now. It’s okay if your mind wanders or your prayers get interrupted. Don’t be embarrassed by how needy your heart is and how much it needs to cry out for grace. Just start praying. Remember the point of Christianity isn’t to learn a lot of truths so you don’t need God anymore. We don’t learn God in the abstract. We are drawn into his life.

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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 my own copy of the book.

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.

Stand-out Authors: Sherwood Smith

Saturday, January 19th, 2013

When I posted my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, it became very clear that I have certain favorite authors. I thought it would be fun to highlight the authors from this year’s list whose books have been Sonderbooks Stand-outs before.

Of all the 2012 Stand-out Authors, Sherwood Smith has the second most, with 12 Stand-outs.

I discovered Sherwood Smith when I read her short story in Firebirds. Since Firebirds was a 2003 Sonderbooks Stand-out (#1 for Short Stories), perhaps we should say Sherwood Smith has 13 Stand-outs.

In 2004, I discovered Crown Duel, and I knew I’d found a new favorite author. In fact, I’d put Crown Duel in my top ten favorite books ever. It was a 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-out, My Favorite Book of the Year. In categories, it was #1 in Young Adult Fantasy.

I doubled up on Crown Duel when I reread it in 2009 and named it a 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-out, in the category of Wonderful Rereads.

But in 2004 I naturally read everything of Sherwood Smith’s I could get my hands on, so I also read the three books about Wren and named them all Sonderbooks Stand-outs. In fact, they were my only three Stand-outs in Children’s Fantasy that year:
#1 Wren to the Rescue
#2 Wren’s War
#3 Wren’s Quest

I didn’t find more Sherwood Smith books to read until 2007, when I read Inda, and named it #4 in Fantasy Fiction. However, that was the year I was completing my MLIS degree and didn’t get even all the Stand-outs reviewed. That simply means I have to reread them some time!

In 2009, I started seeing more of her books and devouring them whenever possible. She’s a feature on my Sonderbooks Stand-outs lists since then.

2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, #7 in Teen Fantasy Fiction was Once a Princess

I remember I read Once a Princess the last week of the year. So naturally the first book I read in 2010 was also a Stand-out: Twice a Prince was #3 in Teen Fantasy Fiction.

The truth is, I’m almost embarrassed by how romantic I find Sherwood Smith’s books. So when, that same year, she published a romance novel for an adult audience, Coronets and Steel, it was #1 in Fiction on my 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

In 2011, another stand-alone Teen Fantasy, The Trouble With Kings, was #5 on my Sonderbooks Stand-outs list.

And that brings us to last year and my current list of 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

This time, she appears on both my adult fiction list at #4 for Blood Spirits, the sequel to Coronets and Steel, as well as #2 in Children’s Fantasy and Science Fiction for The Spy Princess, which so far is a stand-alone book, but I hope will turn into the first of a series.

Remember Inda, which was a Stand-out, but I never did review? And which I fully intend to reread? Well, Inda turned out to be the first of a four-book series, and, what’s more, I own all four books but haven’t read them. You see, I bought them when I still hadn’t developed a system to force myself to read books I own. I buy books I know I’ll love, but then I wouldn’t get around to reading them because they didn’t have a due date! On top of that, the Inda books are really long, and I’m spoiled by reading lots of young adult books. But now I have a system, and I hope to get to those books this year.

Again, if you missed these books when they first showed up on my lists, that doesn’t mean you need to miss them any longer! Sherwood Smith is another Favorite Author I highly recommend!

Review of Bink and Gollie: Two for One, by Kate Di Camillo and Alison McGhee

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Bink and Gollie
Two for One

by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
illustrated by Tony Fucile

Candlewick Press, 2012. 80 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Capitol Choices List
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#6 Picture Books

This follow-up to Bink and Gollie is as irresistible as the first. Bink is short and wild. Gollie is tall and sedate. They spend a day together at the fair.

In many ways this book is about failure. Failure at Whack-a-Duck and failure at the Talent Show. But it’s not treated as failure. Not at all. After both events, the girls find happy compensation.

The pictures are the crowning glory of this delightful book. Yes, the words are wonderful, but the pictures bring it to life. Bink’s efforts to throw the ball and Whack a Duck take up an entire dramatic two-page spread. Gollie’s stage fright is communicated without a word as the scene widens to show just how many people are listening to her and the frozen look on her face.

There are not very many words on each page, but there is lots and lots of story on each page. Beginning readers will feel they’ve accomplished something, and skilled readers won’t be bored for a second.

The two girls finish up the day in a fortune teller’s tent.

“I see two friends,” said Madame Prunely.
“Is one of those friends tall?” said Gollie.
“Yes,” said Madame Prunely.

“And is the other friend short?” said Bink.
“Yes,” said Madame Prunely.

“Are they together?” said Gollie.
“Without question,” said Madame Prunely.

“That’s all the future I need to know,” said Bink.
“Come on, Gollie!”

An absolute delight for beginning readers.

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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.

Review of A Jane Austen Education, by William Deresiewicz

Friday, January 18th, 2013

A Jane Austen Education

How Six Novels Taught Me About Love, Friendship, and the Things That Really Matter

by William Deresiewicz

The Penguin Press, New York, 2011. 255 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #3 Nonfiction: Personal Stories

I’m a huge Jane Austen fan. I wrote a paper on her my Sophomore year of college. I had lots of time in which to write the paper — so I read ALL her novels, and then wrote the paper staying up all night the night before it was due.

A Jane Austen Education is perhaps my favorite so far of nonfiction Jane Austen take-offs. William Deresiewicz was a graduate student of literature, and he writes about how things he learned from Jane Austen mirrored and informed his life as he became an adult. He’s not afraid to pull out lessons that he needed to learn, and there’s a lovely combination of personal observations and stories with ideas and examples from the novels.

Here’s how he begins:

I was twenty-six, and about as dumb, in all human things, as any twenty-six-year-old has a right to be, when I met the woman who would change my life. That she’d been dead for a couple of hundred years made not the slightest difference whatsoever. Her name was Jane Austen, and she would teach me everything I know about everything that matters.

He goes through all the novels, matching them up to different periods of his life. There’s lots and lots of good stuff here. He has studied all the novels and studied Jane Austen’s life, so he has plenty of information to convey, and along the way, he comes up with some profound insights and self-deprecating humor. I’ll include at least one paragraph from the chapter on each novel, but there’s a lot more where this comes from.

From Emma:

There was one more thing about my life that had to change, now that I’d read Emma: my relationships with the people around me. Once I started to see myself for the first time, I started seeing them for the first time, too. I began to notice and care about what they might be experiencing, and they began to develop the depth and richness of literary characters. I could almost feel along with their feelings now, as we talked, feel the contours of them as they tried to express them to me. Instead of a boring blur, the life around me now was sharp and important. Everything was interesting, everything was meaningful, every conversation held potential revelations. It was like having my ears turned on for the first time. Suddenly the world seemed fuller and more spacious than I had ever imagined it could be, a house with a thousand rooms that now lay open to explore.

From Pride and Prejudice:

But Austen, it turned out, did not see things that way. For her, growing up has nothing to do with knowledge or skills, because it has everything to do with character and conduct. And you don’t strengthen your character or improve your conduct by memorizing the names of Roman emperors (or American presidents) or learning how to do needlework (or calculus). You don’t do so, she believed, by developing self-confidence and self-esteem, either. If anything, self-confidence and self-esteem are the great enemies, because they make you forget that you’re still just a bundle of impulse and ignorance. For Austen, growing up means making mistakes.

From Northanger Abbey:

Catherine thought she saw things at Northanger Abbey that weren’t really there, but the novel, my professor explained, was not against imagination. Quite the opposite. It was against delusion, against projection, against thinking the same old thing again and again, whether it’s the idea that all balls are “very agreeable indeed” or that all old houses conceal dark secrets. True imagination, he went on, means the ability to envision new possibilites, for life as well as art. Mrs. Allen and the rest of Austen’s dull adults were not ignorant or stupid so much as they were unimaginative. Nothing was ever going to change for them, because they couldn’t imagine that anything ever would.

From Mansfield Park:

How different this was, I realized, from the kinds of stories I had trained myself to tell my friend and his wife, those polished little anecdotes that had to have a laugh at every turn. “You shall tell me all about your brothers and sisters.” All about: no impatience, no competitiveness, no interruptions, no need to worry about being entertaining, no having to watch your listeners’ eyes glaze over while they thought about what they were going to say when you finally stopped talking already. Did Edmund really care about her brothers and sisters? Probably not. But he cared about her, and she cared about them, and that was enough for him. To listen to a person’s stories, he understood, is to learn their feelings and experiences and values and habits of mind, and to learn them all at once and all together. Austen was not a novelist for nothing: she knew that our stories are what make us human, and that listening to someone else’s stories — entering into their feelings, validating their experiences — is the highest way of acknowledging their humanity, the sweetest form of usefulness.

From Persuasion:

Putting your friend’s welfare before your own: that was Austen’s idea of true friendship. That means admitting when you’re wrong, but even more importantly, it means being willing to tell your friend when they are. It took me a long time to wrap my head around that notion, because it flew so strongly in the face of what we believe about friendship today. True friendship, we think, means unconditional acceptance and support. The true friend validates your feelings, takes your side in every argument, helps you feel good about yourself at all times, and never, ever judges you. But Austen didn’t believe that. For her, being happy means becoming a better person, and becoming a better person means having your mistakes pointed out to you in a way that you can’t ignore. Yes, the true friend wants you to be happy, but being happy and feeling good about yourself are not the same things. In fact, they can sometimes be diametrically opposed. True friends do not shield you from your mistakes, they tell you about them: even at the risk of losing your friendship — which means, even at the risk of being unhappy themselves.

From Sense and Sensibility:

If love begins in friendship, I was now able to see, it has to adhere to the principles of friendship as Austen understood them. The lover’s highest role, like the friend’s, is to help you to become a better person: push you, if necessary, even at the risk of wounded feelings. Austen’s lovers challenged each other: to be less selfish, more aware, kinder, more considerate — not only toward each other but to everyone around them. Love, I saw, for Austen — and what a change this was from the days of my rebellious youth — is an agent not of subversion, but of socialization. Lovers aren’t supposed to goad each other toward extremes of transgression, the way that Marianne and Willoughby did; they’re supposed to teach each other the value of behaving with propriety and decorum, show each other that society’s expectations are worthy, after all, of respect. Love, for Austen, is not about remaining forever young. It’s about becoming an adult.

Now, undoubtedly, my knowledge of all the Austen novels contributed to my enjoyment of this book, but I have little doubt that it would also encourage people to read the novels who haven’t before. All in all, it’s a wonderful contribution to Austenalia, a delightful, thoughtful, even scholarly contribution, and from a male perspective, as a nice contrast to so many others. I highly recommend that Jane Austen fans read this book.

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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 my own copy, which I got at an ALA 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 The Journal of Best Practices, by David Finch

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

The Journal of Best Practices

A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband

by David Finch

Scribner, New York, 2012. 224 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Nonfiction: Personal Stories

This book is sweet. As an adult, David Finch was diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome. It actually opened his eyes to why his marriage was falling apart. He began working on learning how to be a good husband, and kept a Journal of Best Practices.

He writes with plenty of humor. Some of the practices, wives might assume a husband would know without being told. I’m thinking of things like “Laundry: Better to fold and put away than to take only what you need from the dryer.” David Finch used his diagnosis to tackle things like that without blame and simply strive to be nicer for his wife to live with.

Here’s where he explains how the diagnosis helped:

Once I learned that I have Asperger syndrome, the fact that we’d had these serious marital problems seemed less surprising. Asperger syndrome can manifest itself in behaviors that are inherently relationship defeating. It’s tricky being married to me, though neither Kristen nor I could have predicted that. To the casual neurotypical observer (neurotypical refers to people with typically functioning brains, i.e., people without autism), I may seem relatively normal. Cognitive resources and language skills often develop normally in people with Asperger syndrome, which means that in many situations I could probably pass myself off as neurotypical, were it not for four distinguishing characteristics of my disorder: persistent, intense preoccupations; unusual rituals and behaviors; impaired social-reasoning abilities; and clinical-strength egocentricity. All of which I have to an almost comically high degree. But I also have the ability to mask these effects under the right circumstances, like when I want someone to hire me or fall in love with me.

Looking back, I suppose a diagnosis was inevitable. A casual girlfriend might have dismissed my compulsion to arrange balls of shredded napkin into symmetrical shapes as being idiosyncratic or even artistic. But Kristen had been living with me — observing me for years in my natural habitat — and had become increasingly skilled in assessing autism spectrum conditions in her job as a speech therapist….

Most people intuitively know how to function and interact with people — they don’t need to learn it by rote. I do. I was certain that with enough discipline and hard work I could learn to improve my behaviors and become more adaptable. While my brain is not wired for social intuition, I was factory-programmed to observe, analyze, and mimic the world around me. I had managed to go through school, get a good job, make friends, and marry — years of observation, processing, and trial and error had gotten me this far. And my obsessive tendencies mean that when I want to accomplish something I attack it with zeal. With my marriage in dire straits, I decided that even if I needed to make flash cards about certain behaviors and staple them to my face to make them become second nature, I was willing to do it.

Kristen didn’t know it, but that was what her life was about to become — her husband, with the best of intentions, stapling flash cards to his face. Okay, not to his face. And there were no staples involved. But flash cards? Definitely. Many people leave reminder notes for themselves: Pick up milk and shampoo, or Dinner with the Hargroves at 6:00. My notes read: Respect the needs of others, and Do not laugh during visitation tonight, and Do not EVER suggest that Kristen doesn’t seem to enjoy spending time with our kids.

I found two things particularly endearing about this book:

1) That he was willing to make so many changes to make life easier for his wife.
2) That his wife loved him despite the hugely egocentric life he was living before the diagnosis and that she never asked him to be perfect. (Some of his descriptions of what he was doing before are pretty outrageous. But she clearly loves him.)

This is a lovely and humorous story about two imperfect people, one exceedingly quirky, learning to live together with love and grace.

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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.

Stand-out Authors: Shannon Hale

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

I’ve now posted 12 years of Sonderbooks Stand-outs, and this year I noticed there were a lot of repeats from previous years.

Now, I don’t think I’m biased in a bad way. Yes, I expect good things when I pick up these authors’ books, but they consistently turn out good ones. Some of them can’t seem to write a book I don’t like.

So, looking at only the authors who appeared in the 2012 list, I thought it would be fun to look back at their previous books that were Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

I’m going to start with Shannon Hale, because she has 3 books on the 2012 Stand-outs, and she also has more total books on all the Stand-outs lists than any other one of this year’s authors, with 15 books.

How, you may well ask, did Shannon manage to get more books on my Stand-outs lists than she has published? Well, her books tend to be stand-outs both in print form and as audiobooks.

Let’s do a retrospective.

In 2003, Shannon published her first book, The Goose Girl. It was my favorite book of the year, and #1 in Young Adult Fantasy.

In those days, there weren’t as many book blogs. I e-mailed Shannon to tell her I’d named her book a Sonderbooks Stand-out, and we struck up an e-mail friendship. Judging by how much I love all her books, it’s obvious we are kindred spirits.

2004 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 in Fantasy for Young Adults was Enna Burning, the second of the Books of Bayern.

2005 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #9 in Young Adult Fantasy was Princess Academy. I was so happy when it won a Newbery Honor, even though I’m a little more partial to the Books of Bayern myself.

2006 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 in Teen Fiction was River Secrets (edged out only by The King of Attolia, by Megan Whalen Turner)

2007 was Shannon’s first year with multiple Sonderbooks Stand-outs. I got to listen to an audiobook of The Goose Girl (#2 in Audiobooks), and she wrote my favorite book of all of hers, Book of a Thousand Days, which was #1 in Teen Fantasy Fiction. And she broke into adult books with Austenland, which was #2 in Romance Fiction.

She topped her record in 2008 with 4 Sonderbooks Stand-outs:
Three of them were Audiobooks:
Book of a Thousand Days was #1.
Enna Burning was #4.
Princess Academy was #6.
And Rapunzel’s Revenge was #2 Graphic Novel of the year.

2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs had another of the Books of Bayern, with Forest Born at #3 in Fantasy Teen Fiction.

After 2009, Shannon had twins, so there’s no surprise she had a few years off my lists. In the meantime, I got to meet her at the National Book Festival. I was so happy when she knew who I was as soon as I said my name!

Perhaps it’s getting where I’m biased about Shannon’s books because I like her so much, but I became her friend because of her books, and I’m not going to stop telling people how wonderful I think her books are simply because I think she’s wonderful, too.

And this year she’s back on my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs three times!

Midnight in Austenland completely hit a sweet spot for me. It’s for adults, a Jane Austen take-off, and has a divorced heroine seeing the truth about how valuable she is. It was my favorite adult book of the year.

And then Palace of Stone was #6 in Teen Fiction, and I finally read Shannon’s one book that I hadn’t read yet, The Actor and the Housewife, which was #6 in Other Fiction.

I think it’s safe to call Shannon Hale one of my favorite authors! If you haven’t read all her wonderful books, consider this a To Be Read List!

Review of Austenland, by Shannon Hale

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013


by Shannon Hale

Bloomsbury, 2007. 197 pages.
Starred Review
2007 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 Romance Fiction

I read Austenland when it first came out, but 2007 was a hectic year for me, what with finishing up my MLIS degree and working half-time and desperately needing a full-time job (and eventually finding one). So I didn’t get a lot of books reviewed that year, and never did post a review of this book.

This year, when Midnight in Austenland came out, it was a lovely excuse to reread Austenland and finally remedy that fault. I did not need to reread Austenland at all to enjoy Midnight in Austenland, since they involve different characters. But it did make a lovely excuse to enjoy this one again.

I am an avid and unashamed Jane Austen fan, and this book is one of my favorite take-offs on her work. The idea is simple: A theme park in England where women can pay to spend a few weeks immersed in a Jane Austen novel, to pretend they are really there.

Jane Hayes wasn’t rich enough to go there on her own steam, but her great-aunt Carolyn spots Jane’s hidden DVD of Pride and Prejudice starring Colin Firth, and Aunt Carolyn figures out Jane’s obsession. She has some wise words about figuring out what’s real.

But then Aunt Carolyn goes a little farther. In her will, she gives Jane an all-expenses-paid trip to Austenland. The trip is nonrefundable, so Jane decides to take it. She reflects:

Jane lay back down, but this time placed the throw pillow under her head. Okay, all right, she would go. It would be her last hurrah. Like her friend Becky, who’d taken an all-you-can-eat dinner cruise the night before going in for a stomach stapling. Jane was going to have one last live-it-up and then quit men entirely. She’d play out her fantasy, have a staggering good time, and then bury it all for good. No more Darcy. No more men — period. When she got home she’d become a perfectly normal woman, content to be single, happy with her own self.

She’d even throw away the DVDs.

Well, needless to say, things don’t turn out quite as Jane expects. Along the way, we’ve got all kinds of fun and of course some mistaken first impressions.

This is a light and fluffy book, and so much fun. Clearly, Shannon Hale filled it with love and respect for Jane Austen, and she pulled off an appropriate tribute that’s a wonderful book in its own right.

Now I just wish someone would really create such a place as Austenland, and that I could go!

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Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased from Amazon as soon as it was published.

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.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of Oh, No! by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Oh, No!

Words by Candace Fleming
Pictures by Eric Rohmann

Schwartz & Wade Books (Random House), New York, 2012. 36 pages.
Starred Review
2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out #9 Picture Books

This book charmed me from the moment I saw it. I simply had to read it aloud. The story can be sung to the tune of “Froggie Went a-Courtin’,” with a few adjustments. In place of “Uh-huh,” you’ve got a refrain of “Oh No!” in very appropriate spots at the end of each verse, and other fun sound effects earlier in the verses.

The story is simple: Several animals fall into a hole, and can’t get out, and it looks like Tiger will eat them. When each animal falls in, we have appropriate sound effects: “Ribbit-oops!” for frog; “Pippa-eek!” for mouse; “Soo-slooow!” for loris; “Grab on!” for sun bear (bending down a branch); and “Wheee-haaaa!” for monkey. When tiger comes to taunt them, anticipating his dinner, it’s “Slop-slurp!”

But someone bigger than Tiger comes along to help, the tables are turned, and no one gets eaten. Will the animals help Tiger out of the trap? “Oh, no!”

Caldecott winner Eric Rohmann has outdone himself with the beauty of these illustrations. The book has so many elements great for a storytime picture book: A catchy tune or rhythm (if you don’t want to sing it), fun sounds, repetitive and progressive story line with nice twists, animals they might not have known, and a turn-about story that will appeal to their sense of justice.

Now, there are some places where the exact tune has to be adjusted a bit. Personally, I found I was not capable of reading it straight, without putting it to the tune. Others may have better luck! But either way, this book begs to be read or sung aloud, and you will definitely want to share it with a child.

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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.