Archive for August, 2013

Review of The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf, by Mark Teague

Friday, August 30th, 2013

The Three Little Pigs and the Somewhat Bad Wolf

by Mark Teague

Orchard Books, New York, 2013. 40 pages.
Starred Review

What is it about Three Little Pigs adjustments? Like The Three Pigs, The Three Little Aliens and the Big Bad Robot, and The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, this book simply makes me laugh.

The story isn’t much different from the traditional one. Instead of being sent off by their mother, the three pigs are let go because the farmer and his wife move to Florida.

From there, things progress as expected. The commentary along the way is the hilarious part. The first and second pig love potato chips and sody-pop, respectively. The Somewhat Bad Wolf succeeds in blowing down their houses, saying, “I can’t believe that worked!” The wolf is so surprised, the pigs have time to escape to their sister’s fine brick house.

The pictures are fabulous. I especially love the one where the wolf is collapsed on the lawn after trying to blow down the brick house. It’s no wonder the pigs take pity on him!

scholastic.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/somewhat_bad_wolf.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 Silver on the Tree, by Susan Cooper

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Silver on the Tree

by Susan Cooper
read by Alex Jennings

Random House, 2002. Originally published in 1977. 9 hours, 26 minutes on 8 compact discs.
2012 Margaret Edwards Award Winner

Silver on the Tree is a classic. It’s the fifth and final book of The Dark Is Rising sequence, which collectively won the Margaret Edwards Award for lasting contribution to Young Adult Literature. I love the way this book brings together characters from all the previous books — the three Drew children, Will and Merriman, and Bran Davis.

Like with the other books, this one is strong on atmosphere and not so strong on plot. It feels like everything they do has been prophesied, and Will and the other characters trust their “feelings,” and just “know” what they should do next at each step. Okay, there’s a few places where other characters give them the word they need that they’re supposed to remember, and then we know they’d better pay attention to that word.

But we never doubt for a moment that they will succeed in their quest and do just the right thing at just the right time. The only question is what, exactly, the prophecy will look like when it happens. We’re told that each step of the quest — found in each previous book — is crucial for the Light to have when the Dark finally rises. But we don’t really believe the Light won’t have each piece.

Now, I did like the way some Arthurian legend is woven into the sequence. And Susan Cooper is still strong on atmosphere and mood.

There was one thing, though, that I simply hated in this book. All of the mortals involved in the quest are forced to forget the whole thing, to remember only “as in a dream.” WHAT!?! They’re strong enough to save the world, but not strong enough to remember the part they played?!? No.

Related to that, I hated the choice forced on Bran Davis. So much for destiny! And now he doesn’t even get to remember? (I’m meaning that to be vague enough to not really be a spoiler.)

Listening to this book was a good choice, as Alex Jennings does a magnificent job with the different voices and accents. However, I should admit that I listened to part of the book when I was driving to an unfamiliar place, so I missed some of the nuances and was perhaps less captured by the narrative than I might have been otherwise. I also have a feeling this book would have a stronger place in my heart if I’d first read it as a kid. I don’t think then I cared quite as much if the characters have a plan or just follow their gut (and the “High Magic”) again and again.

Anyway, I’m glad I read the series again. It is a classic fantasy good-against-evil series, one of the pillars of the genre. The Dark finally rises, and the Light must prevent it, using all the tools they’ve amassed to this point.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/silver_on_the_tree.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 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!

More about Mathematical Knitting

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

On Wednesday, I finished knitting a Prime Factorization Blanket for my new little niece.

In my post about the blanket, I explained how the colors show the prime factorization of each number from 2 to 99. But I didn’t talk about the patterns, and I want to say a little bit about that here.

In fact, the only reason the Prime Factorization Blanket isn’t quite as good as the Prime Factorization Sweater is that I can’t have rows of 8 on the back and rows of 2 and 3 on the sleeves.

And the Prime Factorization Scarf is good for getting the flow of the numbers.

However, I do think the patterns in the 10 by 10 grid are a little easier to see with the larger diamonds on the blanket. Here’s the complete blanket laid out:

Let’s start by looking at the diagonals. 11 is 1 bigger than the base of 10. So the color for 11, red, goes in a diagonal across the blanket from the bottom left to the top right.

9 is 1 less than the base of 10. 9 = 3 x 3, so every number with a factor of 9 has two sections of yellow, the color for 3. You can see the yellows going diagonally up the blanket from the bottom right to the top left.

Oh, and I nearly forgot the more obvious ones. Since 2 and 5 are multiples of 10, they line up in columns. Every second column has turquoise for 2, and every fifth has green for 5.

Once you’re used to focusing on one color, you can pick any color and watch how it distributes evenly around the blanket. Take 19 for example, dark pink. You can see it climb up the blanket from the bottom right to the top left on a steeper diagonal than the one for 9.

And if you look at the colors it’s paired with, first it matches with 2, then with 3, then with two sets of 2, then with 5.

Another fun pattern is that the columns are sets of numbers that are congruent mod 10. So if you add, subtract, multiply or divide any two numbers in the same columns, your result will be in the same column.

For example, 2 + 17 = 19. Well, 62 + 27 = 99. The numbers in the second equation are from the same columns as the numbers in the first equation.

And that’s only the beginning of the patterns you can find.

Now that I’ve mailed off the blanket, I’m consoling myself by getting excited about the Pascal’s Triangle Shawl I’m going to make.

Pascal’s Triangle is formed by starting with 1, then adding a row of numbers where each number below is the sum of the two numbers above it.

Here’s how it works:

1
1 1
1 2 1
1 3 3 1
1 4 6 4 1
1 5 10 10 5 1
1 6 15 20 15 6 1
1 7 21 35 35 21 7 1
1 8 28 56 70 56 28 8 1
1 9 36 84 126 126 84 36 9 1
1 10 45 120 210 252 210 120 45 10 1
1 11 55 165 330 462 462 330 165 55 11 1
1 12 66 220 495 792 924 792 495 220 66 12 1
1 13 78 286 715 1287 1716 1716 1287 715 286 78 13 1
1 14 91 364 1001 2002 3003 3432 3003 2002 1001 364 91 14 1
1 15 105 455 1365 3003 5005 6435 6435 5005 3003 1365 455 105 15 1

The cool thing? Even though you’ve got really big numbers, when you factor them, the only prime factors are ones that have already appeared in the triangle. So I only need colors for the prime factors 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, and 13.

I’m stopping at row 15, because on row 16, we’ve got numbers with more than 6 prime factors, and that’s the most I’m prepared to accommodate unless I make my diamonds bigger. But up to 15 is going to be lovely.

I chose colors yesterday and tried to order the same colors. I’m not sure the ones I have aren’t discontinued colors by now, but when my order arrives, I can get going. (In fact, I’ve already started with the colors I have, hoping I won’t have to take out too much.) Here’s the color scheme I chose, using Cotton Classic yarn by Tahki.

2 is on the bottom left, and then it goes around counterclockwise. So 2 will be pale pink, 3 will be rose, 5 will be red, 7 will be purple, 11 will be yellow, and 13 will be turquoise. And they are going to repeat in beautiful ways, just you wait!

I’ve already begun, though if it turns out that the pink I’ve ordered is a different shade from what I have, I’ll have to take out the square for 2 that I’ve begun. But I can’t stand waiting for the order!

You can see there the initial diamond for the first row: 1.

Second row has two diamonds for the second row: 1 1

Third row, I’ve knitted the first diamond for 1, and I’ve begun the next diamond, for 2.

When I get to the row with 4, I will start showing the prime factorization, so 4 will be listed as 2 x 2, with two sections of pink.

The way I’ll show the prime factorization will be exactly like the blanket, but the patterns will be very different, always with the diamond representing the sum of the two numbers on its lower edges.

And it will get cool on the top edge with numbers like 6435 = 3 x 3 x 5 x 11 x 13

I can’t wait to show pictures of the final result. I think it will be beautiful!

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

Review of The Fitzosbornes at War, by Michelle Cooper

Saturday, August 24th, 2013

The Fitzosbornes at War

by Michelle Cooper

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2012. 552 pages.
Starred Review

This is the third and final volume about the royal family from the Island of Montmaray, a fictional island in the ocean between England and Spain. After the Nazis took over their kingdom in Book One, Sophie and her family have been living in exile in England.

Like the second book, The Fitzosbornes in Exile, the third volume is not as action-packed as the first book, A Brief History of Montmaray, when we had the original conflict with the Nazis and life-or-death confrontation. This book is more along the lines of Downton Abbey, only one war later, showing us how things were socially during World War II.

But Sophie and Veronica do have much more freedom than in the second book, when they first came to England. They both get jobs to help with the war effort, and send Sophie’s little sister Henry off to boarding school – if they can find one that will take her. Toby and Simon, of course, end up fighting.

This book covers the entire period of war between England and Germany. Since you know who won World War II, I think it’s safe to tell my readers that they get rid of the Nazis on their island. I won’t say how and when.

But most of the book is about the events of World War II from the ground. Yes, there’s some heartbreak here. And lots of bombing and fighting and danger. And, yes, Sophie’s growing up and ready to find a husband. Which reminds me – don’t leaf to the back of the book if you can resist. There’s a family tree at the back which shows all the marriages and children at the end of the book and gives quite a bit away.

This is a long book, and it moves at a rather leisurely pace. (I actually was spurred on to finish by looking at the family tree.) But I do believe that those who have already come to know and love Sophie and her family will be happy to spend more time seeing the world through Sophie’s eyes. You’ll get a taste of what it must have felt like to live during World War II while you’re at it.

MichelleCooper-Writer.com
randomhouse.com/teens

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/fitzosbornes_at_war.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 Bink & Gollie: Best Friends Forever

Friday, August 23rd, 2013

Bink & Gollie

Best Friends Forever

by Kate DiCamillo and Alison McGhee
illustrated by Tony Fucile

Candlewick Press, 2013. 84 pages.
Starred Review

Hooray! Another book about two unlikely friends, Bink (short and wild) and Gollie (tall and organized).

In this installment, the two friends’ adventures get even more bizarre than before. Believable? I’m not so sure. Fun? Absolutely!

There are again three stories. In “Empire of Enchantment,” Gollie discovers proof that she has royal blood. It goes to her head. In “Why Should You Be Shorter Than Your Friends?” Bink orders an Acme Stretch-o-Matic with rather disastrous results. In “Kudos, Bink and Gollie,” the two friends decide to collect something so they can get their picture in Flicker’s Arcana of the Extraordinary. But what should they collect?

As always, the varied and exuberant illustrations make this book so much more than your typical early chapter book. Why should an early chapter book be boring? Tony Fucile consistently mixes things up with close-ups and faraway or slanted shots, with varied expressions that reveal so much, and even with varied shapes to the panels.

Much as I love Frog and Toad, this book does not go for universal friendship situations that every child will recognize. No, these authors celebrate the particular! Here are two unique individuals unlike anyone else. And the result will be universally loved.

binkandgollie.com
candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/best_friends_forever.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 Flight 1-2-3, by Maria van Lieshout

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Flight 1-2-3

by Maria van Lieshout

Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2013. 36 pages.
Starred Review

As a counting book, and as the ideal book to familiarize a small child with plane flight, this book is wonderful.

A note at the back reads, “Typeset in Frutiger by Swiss designer Adrian Frutiger. Since this distinctive and legible typeface was commissioned in 1968 by Charles de Gaulle International Airport in France, it has been in use on airport signage all over the world.”

The book begins, “When taking a flight, what do you see?” We’ve got 1 Airport, 2 Luggage carts, 3 Check-in desks. Most of the people are the iconic figures you see on airport signage, except the family we’re following. The boy has a yellow cap and backpack, and his parents distinctively come along on the journey through the airport and security to the gates and the airplane.

The numbers are fun, too. After getting to “10 Gates,” it skips to “100 Fastened seat belts,” then “2,000 Miles. 3,200 Kilometers.” And “33,000 Feet. 10,000 Meters. A million places to explore.”

The final page celebrates “One happy meeting.”

This is just a lovely book to look at. The simple font and iconic pictures are perfect for small children to easily see what’s going on. And they will be able to find the things from the book in the airport, whatever airport they may happen to visit.

I so wish this book had existed when my children were small and we were flying around Europe! As it is, I think this will spark a “Things That Go” theme for my next Mother Goose storytime. I want to let all the parents know about this wonderful book!

chroniclekids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/flight_123.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 Safe Journey, by Julia Cameron

Thursday, August 22nd, 2013

Safe Journey

Prayers and Comfort for Frightened Flyers and Other Anxious Souls

by Julia Cameron

Jeremy P. Tarcher (Penguin), 2013. 151 pages.

This is a lovely little book, in paperback and designed to easily fit in a travel bag for airplane reading. I’ve never really been afraid to fly, but Julia Cameron writes in a way that makes her feelings universal, even if you’re not dealing with that particular fear.

She approaches her fear of flying with story. She tells about a memorable flight, telling us her frightened prayers she sent to God, and then the reaction of the two frightened flyers sitting in her row. She talked with one seatmate about praying to overcome her fear — and then he ended up flying back on the same flight as she did!

Once at her destination, she got strategies from friends, like postponing worrying and acting as if. Those strategies, combined with prayer and helping someone else, healed her fear of flying, as demonstrated when she took a third flight to meet her firstborn grandbaby.

The story’s nice, but Julia Cameron’s prayers are inspiring. She tells God how it is and asks for what she needs, simply and directly. Here’s one example:

Dear God, I am frightened.
Please let us find smooth air again.
Get us out of this turbulence.
Thank you for your help.
Amen.

She also intersperses quotations from others about flying and tips for the reader to try. Even though I’m not plagued by a fear of flying, this book was a lovely reminder to trust God about things I was worried about.

juliacameronlive.com
tarcherbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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

The Prime Factorization Blanket!

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Yes! My Masterpiece is finished!

What is this, you ask? This is a Prime Factorization Blanket!

With colors, it shows the prime factorization of all the integers from 1 to 99.

Here is the entire blanket, laid out flat:

Here’s how it works: Every prime number gets a color. The numbers start in the lower left corner.
I left a space for 0.
1 is the background color, white.
Then the next color is 2, a prime, so it gets its own color, blue.
3 is prime, and gets its own color, yellow.
4 is 2 x 2, so that square is two sections of blue. (You can tell on the blanket that there are two sections.)
5 is prime, and gets a new color, green.
6 = 2 x 3, so that square is part blue and part yellow. And so on.

I’ve got 0 through 9 on the first row, 10 through 19 in the next row, then 20 through 29, and so on through the top row, which is 90 through 99.

To show it more clearly, let’s look at each quadrant. Here’s the bottom left quadrant:

I put in the factors for each color. (After a few colors, I stopped putting in the “x” symbol for times.) I put a reference number on the left side so you can easily see which row. This set has 1 through 4, 10 through 14, 20 through 24, 30 through 34, and 40 through 44.

Now let’s look at the bottom right quadrant:

This picture shows 5 through 9, 15 through 19, 25 through 29, 35 through 39, and 45 through 49. For example, see if you can spot 48, which has a prime factorization of 2 x 2 x 2 x 2 x 3. Or look at 38, right below it, which equals 2 x 19.

By the way, this blanket is for my little niece, the daughter of my brother, who is, if it’s possible, even more of a math geek than me. On the 17th of December, my sister-in-law had an ultrasound, and we learned that the baby would be a girl, so I chose shades of pink for the next primes that came up, 17 and 19!

Now here’s the upper left quadrant:

This picture shows 50-54, 60-64, 70-74, 80-84, and 90-94. Can you find 62 = 2 x 31? Or 94 = 2 x 47? (I have to note that the colors are more distinct in person, and you can tell by the garter ridges how many sections there are of each color.)

And finally, the upper right quadrant:

And this, of course, covers 55-59, 65-69, 75-79, 85-89, and 95-99.

I’m so happy to finish it! The yarn is the same as what I used for my Prime Factorization Sweater, Cotton Classic. This yarn has enough colors (most important qualification), and it’s wonderfully soft — perfect for a baby blanket. I used a lot of leftover colors from the sweater, in fact.

The only really hard part? Giving it away! But I got the *idea* because my brother’s wife was having a baby, so this seems only fair to send it to the baby, as promised. Unfortunately, she lives on the other side of the country — so the one stipulation is they must take *lots* of pictures of her with it!

In fact, I thought of a way to console myself for giving away the blanket. My next project will be a Pascal’s Triangle Shawl!

I tested out, and the shape will work great!

I loved doing the entrelac squares for the blanket — it was much much easier than the intarsia I used on the Prime Factorization Sweater. And it will be easy-peasy to make a triangle instead of a square. I’ll use factors and do Pascal’s Triangle…. More on this to come, you can be sure!

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

Oh, and don’t forget! If you want your own prime factorization t-shirt or tote bag, you can find them at my Cafepress shop.

Review of The Grey King, by Susan Cooper

Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

The Grey King

by Susan Cooper
Performance by Richard Mitchley

2001, Listening Library. Book originally published in 1975. 5 compact discs; 5 hours, 40 minutes.
Starred Review
1976 Newbery Medal Winner
2012 Margaret Edwards Award Winner

I’m slowly rereading the Margaret Edwards-winning Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. I never discovered them as a child, so I’m afraid they don’t have the magic to me I think they would have had if I had read them at a younger age. And I’d only read them once before, but that was enough to know they’d be worth reading again.

In general, I’m not crazy about the plot of these books. In this one, Will is pretty much led by the nose. He senses what he’s supposed to do as he’s supposed to do it. There’s a rhyme that he has forgotten at the start of the book, but it comes back when he needs it, which doesn’t surprise us. In fact, as an Old One, Will has what amounts to superpowers, and that makes it hard to worry much about him. The kid he joins up with, Bran Davis, is far more interesting, and we do wonder at times if he will make it through.

What these books are strong on is atmosphere. The Grey King is set in Wales, and Susan Cooper makes you feel like you’re there, with the mountain like a presence. The surprising plot development (which I’d completely forgotten) adds to the sense of magic and the weight of history. Maybe you don’t expect the Light to fail, but Susan Cooper spins a yarn that keeps you interested in the quest and keeps you feeling that there’s magic in the air.

Of course, listening to this volume added much to the experience. The Welsh and English accents were delightful to listen to, and it only added to the strong sense of place. A classic worth enjoying again.

listeninglibrary.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/grey_king.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 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 Dodger, by Terry Pratchett

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Dodger

by Terry Pratchett
read by Stephen Briggs

Dreamscape Media, 2012. 9 compact discs, 10 hours, 32 minutes.
2013 Printz Honor Book
Starred Review

I had planned for quite some time to read this book, but this is one where the audio should not be missed. Dodger is set in Victorian London, and yes, this is the Dodger from Dickens’ books and “Charlie” Dickens is a prominent character. So all the British accents, from the street people to the “nobs” add so much to the book.

Dodger is a “tosher” — someone who goes through the sewers looking for lost treasures like coins or jewelry. Only recently have nobs started dumping their waste in the sewers — originally they were built by the Romans to manage rainwater. And Dodger is good at his job, a veritable king of the toshers.

But one day during a storm, he comes up out of the sewers to see a young lady being beaten and forced back into a carriage. He rescues her, and both their lives will never be the same. That’s also when Dodger meets Charlie, who with his friend gets the girl to safety.

But it turns out that this girl’s fate is tied to international politics. There are powerful people who want her dead, and when Dodger gets on their wrong side, they’d also like Dodger dead. Along the way, Dodger has other notable adventures, such as encountering a villainous barber (Or is he villainous?) named Sweeney Todd.

This audiobook had me mesmerized from the start. In the first place, Terry Pratchett knows how to turn a phrase. (That’s the one problem with audiobooks. I can’t quote choice bits for you.) But as well as that, we’ve got the exotic but completely historical location — the sewers and streets of Victorian London. We’ve got international intrigue. We’ve got assassins after our hero. And we’ve got clever plots and counterplots. And we’ve got a clever, plucky hero who makes good.

Wonderful storytelling! Gripping adventure! Fascinating history! And my favorite: Great British accents! You can’t go wrong with this book.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/dodger.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 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!