Archive for February, 2013

Top 100 Picture Book Writers and Illustrators – #5 Kevin Henkes

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

It’s been three months since I last posted on the Top 100 Writers and Illustrators from Betsy Bird’s Polls at her Fuse #8 Blog.

I’ve recently been posting features about my own Stand-out Authors – people who had books on my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs and previous Stand-outs lists as well. Doing those feature posts was fun, and it reminded me that I’d been neglecting the Top 100 Authors and Illustrators.

And it so happens that Kevin Henkes, our #5 Top Picture Book Author and Illustrator also appeared in my last Stand-out Authors post.

Here’s how the vote went:

Total points: 229
Number of votes: 41

All of these votes were for books he both wrote and illustrated, so he’s #5 in both categories.

He was an author whose votes were distributed among many well-loved books.

He had three books in the Top 100:

#11 Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse
Points: 89
Votes: 14

#25 Kitten’s First Full Moon
Points: 59
Votes: 9

This one had one comment Betsy didn’t mention: “Beautiful” — from Kyle Wheeler

#66 Chrysanthemum
Points: 29
Votes: 7

Quotations about this book:
“Love all the books by this author” — Allison
“This was a close tie with Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse but my kids like this one better and I only wanted to include one title per author, if possible” — Rachel (Even in Australia)

Mathematically savvy readers will quickly see that this doesn’t account for all of Kevin Henkes’ points. Here are the other books that got votes:

Old Bear 16 points, 3 votes
Comment: “My favorite picture book from the last decade, and quickly becoming one of my all-time favorites.” — Hotspur Closser

Chester’s Way 15 points, 3 votes

Owen 15 points, 3 votes
Comment: “Great way to introduce compromise to kids” — Linda Westphal

A Good Day 3 points, 1 vote

Little White Rabbit 3 points, 1 vote
Comment: “A series of mishaps end happily” — Carol Melichar

Of course, one of the wonderful things about Kevin Henkes is that he’s still writing. I put a picture of Penny and Her Song at the top of this post, because, you watch, I believe in a future poll Penny will be represented.

Review of Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Fangbone!
Third-Grade Barbarian

by Michael Rex

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2012. 120 pages.

Fangbone! Third-Grade Barbarian is straight-up silly fun. I do not expect to see it sitting on the shelves for long, or, well, ever.

Fangbone the Barbarian has been sent by his clan to our world to protect the Big Toe of Drool.

Here Fangbone explains the back story to his new third grade class:

Five hundred winters ago, the greatest evil that ever lived ruled over Skullbania. Venomous Drool was his name. He built an army that swept through the lands and almost wiped out the clans.

Many battles were fought, and many great warriors died to keep his evil from spreading.

Finally, Drool was defeated, and cut into many small pieces. . .

The pieces were separated and taken to different lands so that Venomous Drool could never rule again.

But since my birth, a new army of Drool worshipers has been moving through Skullbania, collecting the pieces one by one, and rebuilding Drool.

The only piece that they do not have is his big toe! My clan was put in charge of protecting the big toe because it is the most evil, cursed, wretched part of his body.

I was given the toe and sent into your world. Venomous Drool and his army will never find me here. He will never get his big toe back.

For I am FANGBONE! Protector of the Big Toe of Drool!

Of course, the situation of Fangbone in a normal (well, klutzy) third grade class has all sorts of opportunities for hilarity. I love the way the teacher tells the kids, “Class? Class! Please relax. Fangbone comes from a faraway place. People are different all over the world. We must respect his culture.”

The story of the book? Fangbone helps his class defeat the bullies in the school’s beanball tournament. And his new class helps Fangbone defeat the monstrous creatures the Drool worshipers send against him.

Best of all? This is a graphic novel with pictures that match the silly fun of the words. There are already three volumes in the series and I already anticipate having kids come to the Information Desk again and again asking if we have the next volume (because someone snatches each volume up just as soon as it gets turned in). Everything about this book says kid appeal. Michael Rex is the author of such stellar parodies as Good Night, Goon and Furious George. He put all that clever and insightful humor into this graphic novel series. A win all the way around.

mikerexbooks.blogspot.com/

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/fangbone.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 the 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.

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

Review of One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, by Jasper Fforde

Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

One of Our Thursdays Is Missing

by Jasper Fforde

Viking, 2011. 362 pages.
Starred Review

I never thought I liked metafiction, where characters enter books. The concept always broke down at some point and just seemed silly. That was before I read Jasper Fforde. While his work is, indubitably, silly, the concepts are inscrutable and flawlessly carried out.

In this volume, we are following a written Thursday Next, a character in a book about Thursday. Thursday Next herself is missing. So is the written Thursday we are following possibly Thursday herself, hidden in the newly rebooted Book World? Whatever is the case, our Thursday has a mystery to solve, and we’re right there with her.

There is so much cleverness in this book! This series is for those who love words and literature and thinking about words and literature. I started marking passages I wanted to share with people, and now the whole book is full of post-it notes. I think I can recite these sections without giving away the plot. The plot is a good one, don’t get me wrong; but you will most enjoy these books if you love the playing the author does with the language and the concepts. For example, here’s a brief scene with some Lost Positives:

I moved quietly to the French windows and stepped out into the garden to release the Lost Positives that the Lady of Shalott had given me. She had a soft spot for the orphaned prefixless words and thought they had more chance to thrive in Fiction than in Poetry. I let the defatigable scamps out of their box. They were kempt and sheveled but their behavior was peccable if not mildly gruntled. They started acting petuously and ran around in circles in a very toward manner.

Our Thursday gets a chance to look for the real Thursday in the Real World, and Professor Plum explains the rigors of being briefly Real:

“It’s highly disorderly,” he explained, “not like here. There is no easily definable plot, and you can run yourself ragged wondering what the significance can be of a chance encounter. You’ll also find that for the most part there is no shorthand to the narrative, so everything happens in a long and painfully drawn-out sequence. Apparently the talk can be confusing — for the most part, people just say the first thing that comes into their heads.”

“Is it as bad as they say it is?”

“I’ve heard it’s worse. Here in the BookWorld, we say what needs to be said for the story to proceed. Out there? Well, you can discount at least eighty percent of chat as just meaningless drivel.”

“I never thought the percentage was that high.”

“In some individuals it can be as high as ninety-two percent. The people to listen to are the ones who don’t say very much.”

“Oh.”

“There are fun things, too,” said Plum, sensing my disappointment. “You’ll get used to it in the end, but if you go out there accepting that seventy-five percent of talk is utter twaddle and eighty-five percent of people’s lives are spent dithering around, you won’t go far wrong. But above all don’t be annoyed or distracted when random things happen for absolutely no purpose.”

“There’s always a purpose,” I said, amused by the notion of utter pointlessness, “even if you don’t understand what it is until much later.”

“That’s the big difference between here and there,” said Plum. “When things happen after a randomly pointless event, all that follows is simply unintended consequences, not a coherent narrative thrust that propels the story forward.”

Much later, I loved the character Thursday discovered involved in the mystery:

“And the name of the driver?”

“Gatsby.”

“The Great Gatsby drives taxis in his spare time?”

“No, his younger and less handsome and intelligent brother — the Mediocre Gatsby. He lives in Parody Valley over in Vanity. Here’s his address.”

When they go to see Mediocre, they meet his brother, Loser Gatsby, at a meeting:

“This is our Siblings of More Famous BookWorld Personalities self-help group,” explained Loser. “That’s Sharon Eyre, the younger and wholly disreputable sister of Jane; Roger Yossarian, the draft dodger and coward; Brian Heep, who despite admonishments from his family continues to wash daily; Rupert Bond, still a virgin and can’t keep a secret; Tracy Capulet, who has slept her way round Verona twice; and Nancy Potter, who is . . . well, let’s just say she’s a term that is subject to several international trademark agreements.”

Along the way, there are choice bits at the start of each chapter quoting from Bradshaw’s BookWorld Companion. Here are two I particularly enjoyed:

Although Outlander authors kill, maim, disfigure and eviscerate bookpeople on a regular basis, no author has ever been held to account, although lawyers are working on a test case to deal with serial offenders. The mechanism for transfictional jurisdiction has yet to be finalized, but when it is, some authors may have cause to regret their worst excesses.

Off the coast lies Vanity Island, and off Vanity likes Fan Fiction. Beyond Fan Fiction is School Essays and beyond that Excuses for Not Doing School Essays. The latter is often the most eloquent, constructed as it is in the white-hot heat of panic, necessity and the desire not to get a detention.

Though in most books written with so many jokes and so much cleverness, you wouldn’t expect to find a coherent plot, this book truly does have one, and contributed to making this a thoroughly satisfying read.

But, bottom line, reading the quotations above should give you the idea of what’s going on here. If you find those bits at all humorous, you need to read the Thursday Next books. I normally say to read them in order, but I’m starting to lose track of what has gone before, and I’m not completely sure it matters. In this book, I’m sure you could start fresh and still enjoy it.

jasperfforde.com
penguin.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/one_of_our_thursdays_is_missing.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 the 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.

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

Prime Factorization Progress – To 39

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

I’ve already posted several times about my Prime Factorization Knitting, and I can’t resist posting pictures every time I get another row of numbers done on my new niece’s Prime Factorization Blanket.

You can get more detail of how it works in the earlier posts, but basically each prime number gets a color, and each number gets a square divided into the colors for the factors of that number. I’ve finished up to 39. (I’m not putting an exclamation mark after that statement, since I haven’t gotten to 39 factorial.) Here’s how the blanket looks so far:

And here’s a close-up on each side, with the numbers written in. You’ll have to figure out the factors. And I can assure you that it’s a lot easier to tell when there are two or three (or four or five) of the same factors in one number when you can see and feel the blanket. I divided it with garter ridges, and the photo couldn’t really catch that.

Here’s the left half:

And the right half:

Don’t forget that you can get your very own Prime Factorization T-shirt at my Cafe Press shop for a lot less effort than this blanket is taking (but okay, you won’t have as much fun as I’m having). I took it to a Youth Services Librarian meeting today, and only the unwary asked what it was going to be. I must admit, it’s a lot better for knitting during meetings when I’m on one of the white rows.

Will I finish before Baby’s arrival in May? I hope I will at least be close….

Review of Days of Blood and Starlight, by Laini Taylor

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

Days of Blood and Starlight

By Laini Taylor

Little, Brown and Company, New York, 2012. 517 pages.
Starred Review

Days of Blood and Starlight is the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone. If you haven’t read Daughter of Smoke and Bone yet (What are you waiting for?), stop reading this review right now, since I can’t talk about this book without giving away a little bit of what happened in the first book.

Of course, if you have read Daughter of Smoke and Bone, there’s nothing I need to say further. Either I could never stop you from reading on, or I could never persuade you. I’ll just say that if you liked the first book, you will like this one. I liked the second one even more than the first.

But you know I won’t stop there! I have to give some impressions about the book. I’ll do my best not to give anything away. If you want to be more specific, please feel free in the comments.

First, I was pretty annoyed with both the lovers at the end of the first book. Later, they liken it to the scenario that Romeo wakes up and thinks Juliet is dead – so he goes out and kills all her family and her people. Really? This guy who talked about Peace? I mean, there was the little matter of torture and being forced to watch her die, but, Really? And then, as if that weren’t enough, now she’s working with Thiago, the guy who killed her and tortured the one she loved? I know, I know, they showed that extreme things were going on, but I wasn’t happy with the situation in the first 20 percent of the book or so.

But let me say this: I love how Book Two ends! It still includes those awful words, “To be continued,” but this time a few highly satisfying things happen toward the end, and a huge development happens that I never saw coming and that is going to make a fabulously dramatic final book.

Now the whole destined-for-each-other thing gets a little old in the beginning of this book, what with all the betrayals and deaths and war. But by the end of the book, that’s not so much their focus as the whole bigger picture and they’re thinking again about things like Peace and Life and trying to end the war, and I like that change of focus.

Oh, and I love Zuzana and Mik in this book!

Okay, I’ll stop before I give anything away. Read this book! She pulls it off! And she sets up the final book to be the most dramatic of all.

daughterofsmokeandbone.com
lb-teens.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/days_of_blood_and_starlight.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 the 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.

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

Stand-out Authors: Second-Timers

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Here’s one last post about the authors who appeared on my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs who have had Stand-outs in years past. This post will be about the twelve authors who are appearing this year for the second time. Most of these are only there the second time because I’ve only just discovered them. I’m looking forward to reading more of their work!

Let’s start with the one with the biggest gap. Back in 2002, Patricia Polacco had a #2 Sonderbooks Stand-out in Picture Books with the book Christmas Tapestry, a heart-warming picture book. This year’s Stand-out, The Art of Miss Chew, is yet another heart-warming picture book.

Another picture book author from this year, Kate DiCamillo, co-author of Bink and Gollie: Two for One, had a book on my 2003 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, her Newbery-winning The Tale of Despereaux, which came in at #3 in Children’s Fantasy.

And while I’m talking about Bink and Gollie: Two for One, I should mention that its illustrator, Tony Facile, appeared on my 2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs with a book he illustrated and wrote himself, Mitchell’s License, my #3 choice in Picture Books in 2011. His style, developed in animation, works so well in picture books.

Back in 2004, another author with a picture book on the list this year had a children’s novel on the 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. Kevin Henkes, author of my #1 Picture Book this year, Penny and Her Song, was #8 in Children’s Contemporary Novels in 2004 with Olive’s Ocean.

And one more picture book author from this year is a second-timer. Jon Klassen’s two Hat books, besides winning ALA recognition, were both Sonderbooks Stand-outs. This year’s offering and Caldecott Medal winner, This Is Not My Hat was #4 in Picture Books on my 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. Last year’s I Want My Hat Back was also #4 in Picture Books, but this one was on my 2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

This year’s Caldecott Medalist is a Second-Timer to Sonderbooks Stand-outs, and so is this year’s Newbery Medalist, Katherine Applegate. The Newbery Medal-winning book, The One and Only Ivan, was #2 in Other Children’s Fiction on 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, but I first discovered her writing in 2009, when Home of the Brave was #1 in Other Children’s Fiction on my 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. (And I usually don’t like prose poems! In both these cases — gorilla or immigrant without much command of English — it seemed completely appropriate.)

And another Newbery Medalist first appeared on my 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, but for Rebecca Stead, it was the earlier book, When You Reach Me, that won the Newbery Medal. It also was my #1 in Children’s Fantasy and Science Fiction. This year, with Liar and Spy, she was #4 in Other Children’s Fiction.

And yet another Newbery Honoree first showed up in 2009. Grace Lin’s Newbery Honor Book, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon, was #5 in Children’s Fantasy and Science Fiction on my 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. This year, the companion novel, Starry River of the Sky, was also #5.

There’s one more Second-Timer in Children’s Fiction, and I’m happy to say that she’s a new writer. Her first two books have both been Sonderbooks Stand-outs, and I am hopeful there will be many more to come. Stephanie Burgis’s debut novel, Kat, Incorrigible was #4 in Children’s Fiction on my 2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. The follow-up, Renegade Magic, was #8 in Children’s Fantasy and Science Fiction on this year’s list.

One author of Children’s Nonfiction made the Sonderbooks Stand-outs for the second time this year. Philip Hoose had a #1 book on my 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs with Claudette Colvin: Twice Toward Justice, and this year he made my list again with Moonbird, at #9 in Children’s Nonfiction.

One writer of Nonfiction for adults appeared on my lists the same two years as Philip Hoose. Karen Casey’s book Change Your Mind and Your Life Will Follow was #2 in Other Nonfiction on my 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. That led directly to my purchasing Each Day a New Beginning, which was #7 in Other Nonfiction on this year’s list.

Finally, one last Second-Timer is the only one writing novels for adults. Chris Cleave first appeared on my 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs with the stunning novel Little Bee. Little Bee was #4 in Fiction, and is a book I will remember all my life. (It was only the disturbing nature of the book that got more pleasant books ranked above it. Powerful stuff, though.) This year’s book about the Olympics, Gold, was also #4, this time in Other Fiction (as opposed to Fantasy).

I hope I haven’t seen the last of these authors! May they write many more books, and may I love their future work as much as I did these. If you haven’t caught these books from the past, I highly recommend them. At least with these second-timers, you can easily catch up!

Review of Hokey Pokey, by Jerry Spinelli

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Hokey Pokey

by Jerry Spinelli

Alfred A. Knopf (Random House), 2013. 285 pages.

Hokey Pokey is not quite like any other children’s novel I’ve ever read, and therefore a little hard to explain. Of course, I don’t want to explain too much, because part of the fun is figuring out what’s going on.

It’s true: Kids live in their own little world, don’t they?

The book opens with the universe whispering to Jack: It’s time!

Here’s how he wakes up:

Something is wrong.
He knows it before he opens his eyes.
He looks.
His bike is gone!
Scramjet!

What more could he have done? He parked it so close that when he shut his eyes to sleep, he could smell the rubber of the tires, the grease on the chain.
And still she took it. His beloved Scramjet. He won’t say her name. He never says her name, only her kind, sneers it to the morning star: “Girl.”

Everything goes wrong from there on out. Jack’s revered in Hokey Pokey. He caught Scramjet himself from the herd of bikes running wild on the Great Plains. It is wrong that a girl should be riding the famed Scramjet and paint it yellow with pink sparkles. And then other things go wrong as well.

The strength of this book is the description of the world of childhood, complete with the logic of childhood. There are places to play like Thousand Puddles, and the Playground. There’s a pile of Dirty Socks that stinks badly enough to make anyone gag. There’s Cartoons where kids can watch all day long. There’s Snuggle Stop, where Little Kids can get hugs (and Big Kids sometimes go secretly).

I like the Four Nevers that get told to any Newbies:

Never pass a puddle without stomping in it. Never go to sleep until the last minute. Never go near Forbidden Hut. Never kiss a girl.

All in all, it feels like a pretty decent description of the world of childhood – except, the world of childhood from a boy’s perspective. Sure, there’s a Doll Farm and girls doing girly things, but there weren’t any little girls mooning over horse books or playing house with their dolls, so I didn’t see my own childhood in those pages. Though that may be appropriate, since the protagonist is a boy.

As an adult reading it, I could tell pretty quickly where it was going, and I felt like it took a long time to get there. With nice touches along the way, mind you. I wonder how it will come across to an actual kid. Will they relate to it, or is all the charm in nostalgia? Will they find it insightful? Will they wish they really did have a world like that? Or will it seem like an adult’s idea of a kid’s world?

There were a lot of creative and imaginative details. I would have appreciated the herds of wild bikes more if I hadn’t recently read The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, by Catherynne M. Valente, which had the same thing. But there were other great details like the Hokey Pokey Man who gives frozen treats of every possible flavor, or the monsters that appear over kids when they sleep, or the half a walnut shell in the right front pocket of every pair of pants. When a kid holds it to his ear at bedtime, he hears The Story.

This book is fun and imaginative and nostalgic. I hope I’ll hear from some kids who’ve read it, because I’m curious what they will think of it.

randomhousekids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/hokey_pokey.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 the 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.

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

Stand-out Authors: Third-Timers

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

I’m winding down my posts about authors who were not newcomers to my Sonderbooks Standouts list this year. Six authors had a total of 3 Stand-outs, and twelve authors appeared for the second time. I have a feeling most of those will surely appear again in the future. Tonight I’m going to highlight the six authors who appeared on my Stand-outs list this year for the third time.

First, I have to mention Patrice Kindl, whose book, Owl in Love was reviewed in the very first issue of Sonderbooks.

I began Sonderbooks as an e-mail newsletter in August 2001, and Owl in Love was the Young Adult Fiction representative in Sonderbooks #1. Then it made my 2001 Sonderbooks Stand-outs list, along with a book by Patrice Kindl I’d read earlier in the year, Goose Chase. Both were Young Adult Fantasy, and Owl in Love was #4, and Goose Chase was #6.

This year, Patrice Kindl’s book Keeping the Castle was #7 in Teen Fiction. She is the author with the biggest gap between Stand-out years. I was so happy to find another book of hers to read!

Next I want to mention Diana Peterfreund, who had my favorite book of the year in 2009, Rampant, that innovative fantasy about killer unicorns. The sequel, Ascendant, was #5 in Teen Fantasy and Science Fiction in my 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

And in this year’s Sonderbooks Stand-outs, Diana Peterfreund’s For Darkness Shows the Stars, a science fiction retelling of Jane Austen’s Persuasion was #2 in Teen Fiction and right up there among my favorite books of the year. I’m discovering a trend: When Diana Peterfreund publishes a book, it’s going to be one of my favorites of the year.

Moving to Children’s Fiction, my #1 non-science-fiction-or-fantasy children’s novel of the year was Summer of the Gypsy Moths, by Sara Pennypacker, another 3-timer.

Her other Sonderbooks Stand-outs were both books about the irrepressible Clementine. The first book, Clementine, was #2 in Children’s Fiction in my 2010 Sonderbooks Stand-outs. The latest book in the series, Clementine and the Family Meeting, was #7 in Children’s Fiction in my 2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.. Will Sara Pennypacker keep up her streak in 2013?

Two authors of Children’s Nonfiction also have three Stand-outs. Steve Jenkins broke into the lists in 2004, when I discovered his amazing book Actual Size. It was #1 in Children’s Nonfiction in my 2004 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

His detailed cut-paper illustrations never cease to amaze me, and when he combined them with such fascinating information as is found in Never Smile at a Monkey, he made my 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs at #4 in Children’s Nonfiction. And this year, he won me over with science and math facts both in Just a Second, which was #6 in Children’s Nonfiction.

Another third-timer has written Children’s Nonfiction in previous years, but this year Candace Fleming made the 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-outs with a picture book. Oh No! was #9 in Picture Books in a stellar year for picture books.

Her nonfiction Stand-outs were The Lincolns, #2 in Children’s Nonfiction in my 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs, and Amelia Lost, #5 in Children’s Nonfiction on my 2011 Sonderbooks Stand-outs.

Finally, one adult Nonfiction writer has a total of three Sonderbooks Stand-outs. Immaculee Ilibagiza broke onto my 2009 Sonderbooks Stand-outs with my top two favorite nonfiction books of the year, Left to Tell, and Led by Faith, both powerful stories of forgiveness and faith about her miraculous survival of the Rwandan genocide.

This year’s 2012 Sonderbooks Stand-out, The Boy Who Met Jesus was #6 in Nonfiction: Personal Stories. Immaculee knows how to make miraculous events seem completely believable and incredibly personal.

For all of these authors, I’ll be very surprised if they don’t rack up some more Stand-outs before they finish writing. I’ll be eagerly looking for more of their books.

Review of The Pun Also Rises, by John Pollack

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

The Pun Also Rises

How the Humble Pun Revolutionized Language, Changed History, and Made Wordplay More Than Some Antics

by John Pollack

Gotham Books, 2011. 212 pages.

I can’t help but love a book that traces the history of puns and reports the many ways they have contributed to human history.

When I saw this book was ordered by the library last year, I knew what I had to get my Dad for Father’s Day. Sure enough, he came to visit me right before Father’s Day, when he had not yet received my gift. The first thing his eye fell on when he walked into my dining room was the stack of books in the corner with this one on top. I had to laugh. I knew it was the right gift for my Dad. Never mind that I was also looking forward to reading it!

I enjoyed the introduction the most. The author tells about how he went to the eighteenth annual world pun championships to investigate competitive punning and ended up the winning the whole thing. He continues, talking about the noble history of the humble pun:

Critics and curmudgeons often deride the pun as the lowest form of humor. Others would counter that if that’s true, it would make punning the foundation of all humor. A close study of history reveals, however, that the reflexive association between puns and humor is a relatively recent development. In ancient Babylonia and Greece, to wit, punning often had religious implications and could even lead to armed conflict.

In any case, punsters throughout history have served as some of the most adventurous scouts on the frontiers of language. . .

It’s simple, and not so simple. As children gleefully learn to spot and evaluate secondary meanings in common words and phrases, they’re really learning how to think critically. To get the joke, they have to overlook the obvious to explore other possible interpretations of what they have just heard, and fast. . . .

So what’s the alchemy at work here? How do the best puns manage to layer so much meaning, humor, even irony into just a few words? And why in the world is punning so intrinsic to human expression that it sparks such mischievous delight in languages as diverse as Tzotzil, Yoruba, French, Pitjantjatjara and Japanese? . . .

But what, exactly, is the link between punning and civilization? What cultural, emotional or functional need does it fulfill across so many centuries and continents? What makes wordplay in general, and punning specifically, such an enduring part of language? Could it be biological and, if so, what evolutionary purpose might it serve? And why should laughter itself even matter in the survival of the fittest?

Ultimately, while puns may seem simple, the art and implications of punning are not. So why, exactly, do bears go barefoot, and what does that reveal about the human condition?

I hope you enjoy this hunt for answers.

I think this is enough for me to tell you. That was enough for me to know I had to read this book. If you feel vaguely repelled by this description, don’t bother. We don’t need you to know the truth. As John Pollack says at the end of his book:

Inevitably, some people will never like punning because it fogs up the lens of clarity through which they view the world and impose order, or at least the illusion of order. But if puns seem, at times, to confuse, they actually enlighten us through both laughter and insight. They keep us from taking ourselves too seriously, and sharpen our capacity for creative thinking. Ultimately, puns keep our minds alert, engaged and nimble in this quickening world, revealing new connections and fresh interpretations. And that’s why, even as we hurtle into a future of uncertain opportunities, puns will always be more than some antics.

penguin.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/pun_also_rises.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 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 All There Is, collected by Dave Isay

Saturday, February 23rd, 2013

All There Is

Love Stories from StoryCorps

collected by Dave Isay

HighBridge, 2012. 1 hour on 1 CD.

StoryCorps is an oral history project. The StoryCorps people have gone all around the country collecting people’s stories in audio form. This is a collection of some of the most moving love stories from the StoryCorps project, told in the voices of the participants themselves.

At first I thought this was the same stories as in the book of the same name. It is not, but is a smaller selection. However, since in this short audiobook you get to hear the voices of the people telling the story, it is very powerful.

You simply can’t go wrong spending an hour of your time listening to people talk about the great loves of their lives.

highbridgeaudio.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/all_there_is.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 audiobook 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.