Archive for July, 2013

Review of First Cameraman, by Arun Chaudhary

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

First Cameraman

Documenting the Obama Presidency in Real Time

by Arun Chaudhary

Times Books (Henry Holt), New York, 2012. 306 pages.
Starred Review

This book was simply fun reading. A fascinating look at an ordinary guy (or so he seems) who got to look behind the scenes of power, and also had the fun of doing a job that had never been done before.

Arun Chaudhary was the first official White House videographer. He was a film student, and interjects things he knows about filmmaking along the way. He had a different perspective from journalists, and his story of his years with this fascinating job are filled with thoughts about what it all means and how video has changed how we see the world.

Here are some of his thoughts expressed in the Introduction:

I should say that I have more than a passing interest in how political videos work because I spent four years filming Barack Obama pretty much around the clock. As the first Official White House Videographer, I was sort of like President Obama’s wedding videographer if every day was a wedding with the same groom but a constantly rotating set of hysterical guests.

If there’s one thing I learned over those years, it’s that videos don’t lie — on the contrary, they are the most reliable gauge of truth we have. The basic narrative told in a shot is true, despite the ease with which some elements of motion picture can be manipulated. No one can deny the power of editing to influence a viewer….

In our age of media supersaturation, videos have an ever more direct impact on how we judge and elect our politicians. This, at the end of the day, may be a very good thing. Given enough screen time, all candidates reveal who they really are. No matter how carefully scripted and choreographed their media appearances and stump speeches, no matter how skillfully edited their official videos, eventually — for better or worse — the camera will catch them out….

So just to let everyone know, the following pages won’t be about what my lousy childhood was like or what the president eats for breakfast. I’m not going to complain about getting thrown out of Indian Parliament by my belt, or getting trapped in the White House library bathroom while POTUS conducted a forty-minute YouTube town hall with Steve Grove on the other side of the door. (Curse you, noisy automatic toilets!) I’d rather explore the complex interplay of politics and media, and art and government, and audio and video, in the new millennium, and discuss what I’ve learned as the first-ever cameraman to train his lens on a president around the clock.

Arun Chaudhary delivers on his promise. Though he does throw in a lot of fun and quirky anecdotes, this book isn’t so much about him as it is about the ground-breaking job he had and what it means for American politics and government. I sent a copy to my film-major son because it highlighted a cool job that a film student came up with, and I thought he might find it as fascinating as I did.

firstcameraman.com
henryholt.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of That’s a Possibility! by Bruce Goldstone

Monday, July 29th, 2013

That’s a Possibility

A Book About What Might Happen

By Bruce Goldstone

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2013. 32 pages.
Starred Review

A book about probability for kids! Hooray! What’s more, I find it tremendously impressive, because Bruce Goldstone keeps things far, far simpler than I could possibly have done if I were trying to write such a book.

Back in my college-math-teaching days, I often taught Introduction to Statistics. That’s probably why it never would have occurred to me that it’s possible to write a book explaining probability without even using fractions. In fact, the only place where he comes close at all is in the explanation about flipping a coin: “So the odds that the coin will land heads up is 1 out of 2 possibilites. (You can also say 50%, because 50 out of 100 is the same as 1 out of 2.)”

He manages to explain every fundamental concept with pictures. The pictures are vibrant, colorful, and interesting – and they so beautifully get across the concepts.

He begins by talking about possibilities. For example, there’s a picture of a kid holding 7 animal-shaped helium balloons. He asks, “If one of these balloons POPS, will it be the monkey? That’s a possibility!”

Then he goes on to talk about when things are impossible. And then what it means to be certain. Then the concepts of “likely,” “probable,” and “improbable.” Those are easily showed with pictures. He uses colorful pictures of flowers, parrots, and gumball machines.

And he goes on beyond the concept of “equally likely outcomes” (which he doesn’t mention, but didn’t I tell you I don’t know how to keep it as simple as he does.) There’s even a page that says, “Your imagination can help you think of possibilities, too.” It shows a girl jumping into a swimming pool, and asks, “What will probably happen when this jumper hits the water?”

Then it goes on to odds and flipping a coin. He explains “independent outcomes” without using those words – the idea that no matter what has already happened, your odds of getting tails on the next toss will always be 1 out of 2.

Then he looks at colorful spinners and a simple game that uses them. Then he looks at the classics of probability theory: playing cards and dice. Instead of listing all the possibilities of a 2-dice roll, he puts pictures of all the possible rolls in a chart, using one white and one black die. Kids can see at a glance that it’s more likely to roll a 7 than any other number.

Then he takes on Combinations and Permutations, again keeping it beautifully simple. Squidgy the Bear has 10 shirts and 10 pairs of pants. We see a picture of all 100 combinations before the author asks us what are the chances he’ll wear one particular outfit.

And the culmination (about permutations), before the notes at the end, is especially fun. Rabbit, Ribbit (a frog), and Robot run in a race. What are the possible results? They’re all pictured for you. I especially like the final questions:

Can you say all the possibilities together without getting your tongue twisted? That’s a possibility, but is it probable?

The notes at the end explain some activities kids can do at home, and then define some terms (like permutations) he didn’t use earlier. This is only very slightly more complex than what went before.

So, what makes me rave about this book? He keeps it so simple! The design is magnificent, and the pictures are beautiful and colorful – and helpful at the same time. But having taught probability to college students, let me tell you, his ability to explain the concepts at an elementary-school level is nothing short of genius. Magnificent!

brucegoldstone.com
mackids.com

This review is posted today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted this week at Sally’s Bookshelf.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/that’s_a_possibility.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Speaking From Among the Bones, by Alan Bradley

Saturday, July 27th, 2013

Speaking From Among the Bones

by Alan Bradley

Delacorte Press, New York, 2013. 378 pages.
Starred Review

Hooray! Another installment in the detective novels about Flavia de Luce, eleven-year-old genius and poison aficionado.

In this book, the locals are celebrating the quincentennial of the death of Saint Tancred by opening his tomb. Along the way, they find a dead body that is not five hundred years old, but rather that of their missing organist. Naturally, Flavia ends up gathering the clues to find the murderer.

I enjoyed this book immensely. There’s another clever puzzle for Flavia to solve while bicycling around the neighborhood. This time, she and her sisters weren’t nearly as mean to each other, and I enjoyed the respite. It looks like their beloved Buckshaw will have to be sold, which pulled them together. The book did end with a bombshell regarding their family, which stresses that these books should be read in order. Those who have read so far will be delighted as I with the latest installment.

Here are a few fun sections:

Ordinarily, anyone who made such a remark to my face would go to the top of my short list for strychnine. A few grains in the victim’s lunch pail — probably mixed with the mustard in his Spam sandwich, which would neatly hide both the taste and the texture . . .

It wasn’t until I was nearly home — not, in fact, until I was sweeping past the great stone griffins that guarded the Mulford Gates — that I realized I had overlooked two very important things. The first was that business of the bat, and how it had managed to get into the church. The second was this: If the tomb in the crypt was occupied by the remains of Mr. Collicutt, where on earth, then, were the bones of Saint Tancred?

Whenever I’m a little blue I think about cyanide, whose color so perfectly reflects my mood. It is pleasant to think that the manioc plant, which grows in Brazil, contains enormous quantities of the stuff in its thirty-pound roots, all of which, unfortunately, is washed away before the residue is used to make our daily tapioca.

I knew that the instant life ends, the human body begins to consume itself in a most efficient manner. Our own bacteria transform us with remarkable swiftness into gas bags containing methane, carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and mercaptan, to name just a few. Although I had for some time been making notes toward a future work to be called De Luce on Decomposition, I had not had until that moment any real, so to speak, firsthand experience.

There you have it: An old-fashioned cozy mystery with a precocious and delightfully bloodthirsty sleuth in postwar England. Tremendous fun!

flaviadeluce.com
bantamdell.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/speaking_from_among_the_bones.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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

Review of Moo Hoo, by Candace Ryan and Mike Lowery

Friday, July 26th, 2013

Moo Hoo

by Candace Ryan
illustrated by Mike Lowery

Walker & Company, New York, 2012. 28 pages.

This book just makes me laugh. You can figure out the pattern from the first three double-page spreads:

Cow and Owl are friends.

Moo Hoo.
Hoo Moo.

They make music together.

Moo Hoo.
Two coo.

They fix things together.

Moo Hoo.
Glue shoe.

Cow and Owl each have a superhero toy. Owl’s superhero’s shoe broke when he hit it against his drum set on the second page.

But then a kangaroo shows up and wants to play. (Roo new.)

Roo wants to play, but Cow and Owl are hesitant to let him join them, and he feels bad. For this entire exchange, the same two-word rhyme structure is used.

At the end?

They discover that three is better than two.

Moo Hoo Roo.
New true crew.

I can’t decide if this humor and cleverness is a little beyond the usual preschool storytime set. I suspect that they would enjoy the simple language and the simple friend-making plot, while their parents would get a kick out of the clever wordplay. And I’m sure that early elementary school kids will enjoy it. It’s easy to read, and tells a clever story in a tightly-constrained format. A lot of fun.

candaceryanbooks.com
argyleacademy.com
bloomsburykids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/moo_hoo.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of When I Was a Child I Read Books, by Marilynne Robinson

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

When I Was a Child I Read Books

by Marilynne Robinson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, New York, 2012. 206 pages.
Starred Review

When I checked out this book, I expected a heart-warming memoir from someone I’ve been told is an outstanding writer. (I really must read her novels. I own at least one.)

Instead, I found scholarly and intellectual essays about a wide variety of things. Reading, yes, but also religion, justice, cosmology, ideology, liberalism, imagination, community, freedom. . .

I read it slowly, and the essays are on different topics, which I’m afraid is an obstacle to remembering all that was in this treasure-house of a book. But I did come back to it eagerly, and every time I dipped into it, it left me thinking deeply.

The essay I remember most distinctly, was, of all things, “The Fate of Ideas: Moses.” In it, she points out that the Mosaic Law, which we often think of as harsh, was much kinder to the poor and downtrodden than modern laws, and particularly than laws in England before America was founded.

Moses (by whom I mean the ethos and spirit of Mosaic law, however it came to be articulated) in fact does not authorize any physical punishment for crimes against property. The entire economic and social history of Christendom would have been transformed if Moses had been harkened to only in this one particular. Feudalism, not to mention early capitalism, is hardly to be imagined where such restraint was observed in defense of the rights of ownership. Anyone familiar with European history is aware of the zeal for brutal punishment, the terrible ingenuity with which the human body was tormented and insulted through the eighteenth century at least, very often to deter theft on the part of the wretched. Moses authorizes nothing of the kind, nor indeed does he countenance any oppression of the poor….

These laws would preserve those who were poor from the kind of wretchedness More describes by giving them an assured subsistence. While charity in Christendom was urged as a virtue — one that has always been unevenly aspired to — here the poor have their portion at the hand of God, and at the behest of the law. If a commandment is something in the nature of a promise (“Ten Commandments is an English imposition; in Hebrew they are called the Ten Words), then not only “you will not be stolen from” but also “you will not steal” would be in some part fulfilled, first because the poor are given the right to take what would elsewhere have been someone else’s property, and second because they are sheltered from the extreme of desperation that drives the needy to theft. The law of Moses so far values life above property that it forbids killing a thief who is breaking and entering by daylight (Exodus 22:2).

More along those lines are found in “Open Thy Hand Wide: Moses and the Origins of American Liberalism”:

It is striking to note how protective, even tender, comparable Old Testament laws are toward debtors. This is Deuteronomy 24:10-13: “When you make your neighbor a loan of any sort, you shall not go into his house to fetch his pledge. You shall stand outside, and the man to whom you make the loan shall bring the pledge to you. And if he is a poor man, you shall not sleep in his pledge; when the sun goes down, you shall restore the pledge that he may sleep in his cloak and bless you; and it shall be righeousness to you before the Lord your God.” The Geneva Bible has a note that makes the law gentler yet. It says, “As though ye wouldst appoint what to have, but shalt receive what he may spare.” No one can read the books of Moses with any care without understanding that law can be a means of grace. Certainly this law is of one spirit with the Son of Man who says, “I was hungry and you fed me. I was naked and you clothed me.” This kind of worldliness entails the conferring of material benefit over and above mere equity. It means a recognition of and respect for both the intimacy of God’s compassion and the very tangible forms in which it finds expression….

The tendency to hold certain practices in ancient Israel up to idealized modern Western norms is pervasive in much that passes for scholarship, though a glance at the treatment of the great class of debtors now being evicted from their homes in America and elsewhere should make it clear that, from the point of view of graciousness or severity, an honest comparison is not always in our favor….

At present, here in what is still sometimes called our Calvinist civilization, the controversies of liberalism and conservatism come down, as always, to economics. How exclusive is our claim to what we earn, own, inherit? Are the poor among us injured by the difficulties of their lives, or are the better among them braced and stimulated by the pinch of want? Is Edwards undermining morality when he says “it is better to give to several that are not objects of charity, than to send away empty one that is”? Would we be better friends of traditional values, therefore better Christians, if we exploited the coercive potential of need on the one hand and help on the other? There is clearly a feeling abroad that God smiled on our beginnings, and that we should return to them as we can. If we really did attempt to return to them, we would find Moses as well as Christ, Calvin, and his legions of intellectual heirs. And we would find a recurrent, passionate insistence on bounty or liberality, mercy and liberality, on being kind and liberal, liberal and bountiful, and enjoying the great blessings God has promised to liberality to the poor. These phrases are all Edwards’s and there are many more like them.

Here’s a paragraph I liked from the essay “Imagination and Community”:

When definitions of “us” and “them” begin to contract, there seems to be no limit to how narrow these definitions can become. As they shrink and narrow, they are increasingly inflamed, more dangerous and inhumane. They present themselves as movements toward truer and purer community, but, as I have said, they are the destruction of community. They insist that the imagination must stay within the boundaries they establish for it, that sympathy and identification are only allowable within certain limits. I am convinced that the broadest possible exercise of imagination is the thing most conducive to human health, individual and global.

And here’s a section from that same essay about the nature of education:

From time to time I, as a professor in a public university, receive a form from the legislature asking me to make an account of the hours I spend working. I think someone ought to send a form like that to the legislators. The comparison might be very interesting. The faculty in my acquaintance are quite literally devoted to their work, almost obsessive about it. They go on vacation to do research. Even when they retire they don’t retire. I have benefited enormously from the generosity of teachers from grade school through graduate school. They are an invaluable community who contribute as much as legislators do to sustaining civilization, and more than legislators do to equipping the people of this country with the capacity for learning and reflection, and the power that comes with that capacity. Lately we have been told and told again that our educators are not preparing American youth to be efficient workers. Workers. That language is so common among us now that an extraterrestrial might think we had actually lost the Cold War.

The intellectual model for this school and for most of the older schools in America — for all of them, given the prestige and influence of the older schools — was a religious tradition that loved the soul and the mind and was meant to encourage the exploration and refinement of both of them. I note here that recent statistics indicate American workers are the most productive in the world by a significant margin, as they have been for as long as such statistics have been ventured. If we were to retain humane learning and lose a little edge in relative productivity, I would say we had chosen the better part.

I love it when she waxes eloquent about books:

Over the years I have collected so many books that, in aggregate, they can fairly be called a library. I don’t know what percentage of them I have read. Increasingly I wonder how many of them I ever will read. This has done nothing to dampen my pleasure in acquiring more books. But it has caused me to ponder the meaning they have for me, and the fact that to me they epitomize one great aspect of the goodness of life….

I have spent literal years of my life lovingly absorbed in the thoughts and perceptions of — who knows it better than I? — people who do not exist. And, just as writers are engrossed in the making of them, readers are profoundly moved and also influenced by the nonexistent, that great clan whose numbers increase prodigiously with every publishing season. I think fiction may be, whatever else, an exercise in the capacity for imaginative love, or sympathy, or identification.

I love the writers of my thousand books. It pleases me to think how astonished old Homer, whoever he was, would be to find his epics on the shelf of such an unimaginable being as myself, in the middle of an unrumored continent. I love the large minority of the writers on my shelves who have struggled with words and thoughts and, by my lights, have lost the struggle. All together they are my community, the creators of the very idea of books, poetry, and extended narratives, and of the amazing human conversation that has taken place across millennia, through weal and woe, over the heads of interest and utility….

I belong to the community of the written word in several ways. First, books have taught me most of what I know, and they have trained my attention and my imagination. Second, they gave me a sense of the possible, which is the great service — and too often, when it is ungenerous, the great disservice — a community performs for its members. Third, they embodied richness and refinement of language, and the artful use of language in the service of the imagination. Fourth, they gave me and still give me courage. Sometimes, when I have spent days in my study dreaming a world while the world itself shines outside my windows, forgetting to call my mother because one of my nonbeings has come up with a thought that interests me, I think, this is a very odd way to spend a life. But I have my library all around me, my cloud of witnesses to the strangeness and brilliance of human experience, who have helped me to my deepest enjoyments of it.

I didn’t intend to quote so much! But that gives you an idea of what’s found here. This isn’t light reading; it’s deep and thought-provoking. She’s coming from a Christian and intellectual perspective and I found her words stirred up ideas I’d never thought about before.

fsgbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/when_i_was_a_child_i_read_books.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Tongues of Serpents, by Naomi Novik

Tuesday, July 23rd, 2013

Tongues of Serpents

by Naomi Novik
read by Simon Vance

Tantor Audio, 2010. 10 hours on 8 CDs.

The library finally got this book about Temeraire on CD! They had it in e-audiobook form, but I don’t have a way to listen to those in my car. So I listened to one more book about Temeraire, the celestial dragon.

Naomi Novik’s books are like the Master and Commander books, only with dragons. It’s an alternate world where nations use dragons in their Aerial Corps, with a full complement of deckhands and one captain who bonds with the dragon when it hatches. The books take place during the Napoleonic wars. You really should read them in order.

In the latest installment, Temeraire and Laurence are in Australia. (Besides England, they’ve been to China, Central Asia, Africa, and Europe. So why not Australia?) The book starts with some political posturing, but gets more interesting when they take a crew of convicts into the interior, and a dragon egg gets stolen. They encounter all kinds of new dangers in their journey to get the egg back.

The plot isn’t terribly gripping, but I could happily listen to Simon Vance read a phone book, and this is much more interesting than the phone book. His British accent is a delight to listen to, and I can recognize the voices he uses from the previous audiobooks, even though it’s been awhile since I heard the last one. He’s consistent with a different voice for each character, so they are recognizable, even in the next book.

I shouldn’t say too much about this installment, because if you’ve listened to the other books, nothing I can say would keep you from reading on. Yes, read this series. Or much better yet, listen to this series. Napoleonic Wars with dragons! A reader with a fabulous British accent! A great way to while away a commute.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/tongues_of_serpents.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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

Review of Miss Moore Thought Otherwise, by Jan Pinborough and Debby Atwell

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

Miss Moore Thought Otherwise

How Anne Carroll Moore Created Libraries for Children

by Jan Pinborough
illustrated by Debby Atwell

Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, 2013. 40 pages.

This nonfiction picture book tells, in simple, accessible language, about Anne Carroll Moore, one of the first librarians for children.

The title phrase, “Miss Moore thought otherwise,” is used throughout the book. “In the 1870s many people thought a girl should stay inside and do quiet things such as sewing and embroidery.” “People didn’t think reading was very important for children – especially not for girls.” “Back then, an unmarried girl like Annie might keep house for her parents, or perhaps become a teacher or a missionary.” “New York was a big city. Some people thought it was a dangerous place for a young woman to live on her own.” “She saw that many librarians did not let children touch the books, for fear that they would smudge their pages or break their spines. They thought if children were allowed to take books home, they would surely forget to bring them back.” “When Miss Moore turned seventy years old, it was time for her to retire. Some people thought she should sit quietly at home.”

To all of those things, “Miss Moore thought otherwise.”

And besides telling the attitudes Anne Carroll Moore worked against, the book also displays the positive work she did – such as being an instrumental part of planning the Children’s Room in the New York Public Library’s new Central Branch. There are many pages about the bright and beautiful Children’s Room and what children could do there. I like this little tidbit:

One day the king and queen of Belgium visited the New York Public Library. “You must come see the Children’s Room,” Miss Moore told the queen. That day all the children in the library – from the richest to the poorest – shook hands with a king and queen.

(And the picture shows children all lined up to do so, with Miss Moore helping the next in line get ready.)

Notes at the end tell about more trailblazing librarians, give more details, and tell you where you can find out more.

The book text ends with a nice capstone paragraph:

Today libraries across America have thousands of books for children. And thanks to the help of a little girl from Limerick, Maine, who had ideas of her own, any child can choose a book from a library shelf, curl up in a comfortable seat to look through it – and then take it home to read.

missmoorethoughtotherwise.com
janpinborough.com
hmhbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/miss_moore_thought_otherwise.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

This review is posted today in honor of Nonfiction Monday, hosted today at Wrapped in Foil.

Sonderling Sunday – Another Dimension

Sunday, July 21st, 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, in this case the one I keep coming back to, the one that started it all, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, James Kennedy‘s The Order of Odd-Fish.

Last time, we left off in the middle of Chapter 14, on page 172 in the English version, Seite 218 in the German edition.

Think of this as one of those German-learning tapes, with useful phrases for you to learn before you go to Germany, and I hope it will make you laugh. (I’d totally do it as a podcast, but I seriously doubt my ability to pronounce the German even close to correctly.)

“It was sad but true” = Es war traurig, aber wahr

“utterly tedious” = auβerordentlich langweilig

“threat” = Drohung

“to teach… about discredited metaphysics” = verrufene Metaphysiken aufzuklären

I like saying this:
“drag herself out of bed” = aus dem Bett schleppen

“stumble down the hall” = in die Halle herunterstolpern

“excruciatingly dull lessons” = entsetzlich langweiligen Vorlesungen

“babble away happily” = plapperte glücklich

“an intriguing question” = eine höchst faszinierende Frage

“with silent apprehension” = mit stummer Sorge

Going for a record-length word:
“wondering what she’d gotten herself into”
= während sie sich fragte, in was sie sich jetzt wieder hineinmanövriert hatte
(“during which she asked herself, in what had she herself now into-maneuvered”)

“tilted her head” = legte den Kopf schief (“laid the head crooked”)

“small, disconnected bits” = kleine, zusammenhanglose Bruchstücke
(“small, together-hang-less broken-pieces”)

“furry hands” = runzligen Händen

“crumpled it into a wad” = zerknüllte sie zu einem Ball

“Sir Oort waved her silent.”
= Sir Oort brachte sie mit einer Handbewegung zum Schweigen.
(“Sir Oort brought her with a hand-waving to silence.”)

“crumpled-up map” = zusammengeknüllten Landkarte

“crawling around” = herumgekrabbelt

“realized” = begriffen

Here English is much more efficient:
“Sir Oort uncrumpled the map.”
= Sir Oort faltete die Karte auseinander und glättete sie.
(“Sir Oort folded the map apart [out-one-another] and smoothed it.”)

“Jo’s mind wrestled with the concept”
= Jo versuchte, diese Vorstellung zu verarbeiten
(“Jo sought, this notion to work through”)

“mildly” = nachsichtig

“rebuke” = Tadel

“inspiring” = angeregt

“rang out like a bell” = klang glasklar (“rang glass-clear”)

And the final paragraph of this section is worth quoting:
“‘As an Odd-Fish, it is not my job to be right,’ said Sir Oort. ‘It is my job to be wrong in new and exciting ways.'”
= »Als ein Seltsamer Sonderling ist es nicht meine Aufgabe, etwas Richtiges zu finden«, erklärte Sir Oort, »sondern meine Aufgabe besteht darin, auf möglichst neue und aufregende Weisen falschzuliegen.«

There you have it. If my translations and explanations tonight aren’t perfect, I hope I’m at least being wrong in new and exciting ways. We’ll take up the story in a couple weeks in the middle, still, of Chapter 14.

Review of Gorgeous, by Paul Rudnik

Sunday, July 21st, 2013

Gorgeous

by Paul Rudnick

Scholastic Press, New York, 2013. 327 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a light-hearted and upbeat modern fairy tale, with sly jabs at the fashion industry, celebrity culture, and popularity.

Becky Randle’s mom doesn’t go out much. She weighs almost 400 pounds and seems afraid of life. But Becky loves her fiercely.

However, on Becky’s eighteenth birthday, her mom dies and leaves Becky a phone number. When she calls the number, she’s offered a thousand dollars and a plane ticket to New York.

In New York, she’s offered a bargain from the mysterious and glamorous designer Tom Kelly.

“Let’s talk about you,” he said. “You’re eighteen years old, you’ve finished high school and you couldn’t be more ordinary. Yes, you have the tiniest hint of your mother, but don’t kid yourself. You’re nothing. You’re no one. And you look like – anyone. You don’t exist.”

I knew I should punch him or shoot him or at least disagree but I couldn’t, for one simple reason. He was right.

“So here’s my offer,” he said, sitting up straight, as if he was about to conduct serious business. “I will make you three dresses: one red, one white, and one black. And if you wear these dresses, and if you do everything I say, then you will become the most beautiful woman on earth. You will become, in fact, the most beautiful woman who has ever lived.”

She decides to try his offer. She gets poked and prodded and measured by an entire crew of people, including handmade shoes and custom jewelry. I love the part where they take a blood sample:

“This is couture,” explained Mrs. Chen, depositing the spool in a test tube. “Every garment will be custom made, only for you. You will become a part of each dress.”

When the first dress, a red one, is finally ready, Tom Kelly takes Becky out to a gala.

We passed a large framed poster, under glass, announcing the schedule for upcoming operas and concerts, and I was inches away from the glimmering reflection of a woman who was not only unthinkably beautiful, but at ease with herself and entertained by my gaping. And that was when I first suspected that the reflection, and the woman, and the miracle, might be me.

My instantaneous response was a screaming brainload of panic. I pulled my arm away from Tom and I ran down the nearest available hallway, to the ladies’ room.

Looking in the ladies’ room mirror, she sees her old self. But when someone else walks in, her reflection again shows Rebecca Randle, the most beautiful woman in the world.

And then Tom Kelly adds the kicker, another fairy-tale element:

”By the way,” said Tom Kelly; he was leaning into the room with both hands braced against the door frame, like a warm-hearted Christmas Eve dad, checking that I was tucked in and that sweet dreams were on their way.

“I should mention something. You have one year to fall in love and get married. One year, or all of this, by which I mean Rebecca, all of it disappears forever.”

So, Becky’s adventures begin as the most beautiful woman who’s ever lived. I love her sense of humor about it, as well as her friendship with the down-to-earth Rocher, from back home. She meets the teen heartthrob she’s had a crush on since childhood (Turns out, he’s gay.) and gets to star in a movie with him. She meets royalty and other celebrities. Who is she, really, under that astoundingly beautiful exterior? Is Rebecca Randle, most beautiful woman in the world, a real person at all?

The book has an unexpected but completely satisfying ending. The last paragraph is one of my favorites ever and made me laugh out loud.

Oh, and the author has mastered the art of chapter endings that make you want to keep reading. If you don’t want to spend half the night reading this book, let me give you a hint: stop in the middle of a chapter! I didn’t, and was sorry the next day.

For a modern fairy tale about beauty and identity, with plenty of humor along the way, try Gorgeous, by Paul Rudnick.

thisisteen.com/books
scholastic.com

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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

Review of Out of the Depths, by Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau

Saturday, July 20th, 2013

Out of the Depths

The Story of a Child of Buchenwald Who Returned Home at Last

by Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau

Sterling, New York, 2011. 380 pages.
Starred Review

Israel Meir Lau was one of the youngest survivors of Buchenwald. His older brother was charged by their father to take care of him, and against all odds, he did.

The weight of history and the pride of his heritage rings through these pages. Here he talks about his brother:

Naphtali recalled his last conversation with Father, in which Father had counted thirty-seven generations of rabbis on both his and my mother’s sides of the family. He did this in order to demonstrate the great responsibility of whoever would be saved from the horror to continue the chain of our heritage. Father read verses from Jeremiah: There is hope for your future, the word of God, and your children will return home. He emphasized that if we escaped this inferno safely, we would know how to find our home, which was not this home or any other on this enemy land. “Your home will be in Eretz Israel [the Land of Israel], even if you have to acquire it through suffering,” he said, and Naphtali and Father cried on each other’s necks. After embracing each other tightly, Naphtali returned to his job in the ghetto. Father’s words echoed in his ears. Father had believed that I, the youngest son of the Lau family, would escape the inferno safely and pass along the heritage that the Nazis were attempting to destroy.

Israel (“Lulek”) did indeed survive, though his parents did not. He was only eight years old at the end of the war, but his brother managed to keep him safe in the camps. He and his brother made it to the land of Israel, and Lulek went on to become Chief Rabbi of Israel.

This is his story, a story of God’s protection and a story of great service back to God.

The beginning of the book, describing the war years, is the most gripping. After he gets to Israel, he doesn’t organize the material in chronological order, so the book was a little harder to follow. But throughout the book, a powerful story is told of a man who clearly has the hand of God upon his life.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/out_of_the_depths.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.