Archive for January, 2014

Review of Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids, by Jerome Pohlen

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

Albert Einstein and Relativity for Kids

His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities and Thought Experiments

by Jerome Pohlen

Chicago Review Press, 2012. 126 pages.
Starred Review

Wow! This book not only tells you about Albert Einstein’s life, it also gives you a grasp of the basic ideas behind relativity. In a way kids can understand. In a way I can understand!

The majority of the book is a serviceable, well-written biography. It tells about Einstein’s life, his family, where he lived, and how the two world wars affected him. There are many old photographs and other visual aids.

But along with the biography, you’ve got a series of thought experiments and other activities to help the reader understand the concepts. It starts with one of Albert Einstein’s earliest experiments, playing with a magnet and compass. In the section on his childhood, you’re challenged to build a house of cards, something he liked to do as a child. It continues with a cool experiment calculating the speed of life with a chocolate bar in a microwave and an experiment with milk in a water bottle that shows why the sky is blue. Especially interesting are thought experiments which Einstein himself described to help understand Relativity.

The combination of facts with activities and thought experiments makes this an especially interesting book that kids will understand at a deeper level.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/albert_einstein_and_relativity.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 Mr. Wuffles! by David Wiesner

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014

Mr. Wuffles!

by David Wiesner

Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), Boston, 2013. 32 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #8 Picture Books

How does he think these things up? Three-time Caldecott winner David Wiesner knows how to tell a story with pictures, and they usually have a surreal element. This one is no exception.

Mr. Wuffles is a black and white cat. On the title page he walks past toys bought for him with all the nonchalance a cat can express. But one little metal sphere is not a toy. We zoom in to see aliens peering out through a window.

Unfortunately for them, Mr. Wuffles notices them, plays with the spaceship, and damages it. Now the aliens must go on a quest to repair their spaceship – with help from some friendly insects who live in a hole in the wall and also fear the cat.

The whole adventure is wonderfully done, and kids will love noticing the details and telling you what’s happening. The aliens speak with one another – but their words are expressed with speech bubbles containing strange shapes, emphasizing that they are speaking another language. The insects speak with a series of splotches. I love the primitive “cave paintings” on inside of the wall. The aliens add to this to communicate their predicament and get help.

After they repair their spaceship part, they must get it to their ship and get the ship away, all without being captured by Mr. Wuffles. And the human who lives in the house is oblivious to it all. The book ends with the insects commemorating the story of what happened in pictures on their wall.

You and your kids will want to examine this book many times to catch the details. Another brilliant offering from a picture book genius.

hmhbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/mr_wuffles.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 Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac, by Anita Silvey

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014

Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac

365 days of history, holidays, and events

365 great children’s books — one for every day of the year

by Anita Silvey

Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2012. 388 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #5 Nonfiction

Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac is the print form of Anita Silvey’s wonderful blog, also called Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac. I’d been following the blog, so when I learned there was a print book, I made sure to get a copy, and have delved into it daily for all of 2013.

Anita Silvey’s knowledge of children’s books is vast. For each day of the year, she recommends a children’s book with some connection to that date, and gives you a taste of the book and why it is worth reading. As well, each day has a sidebar with facts about that day — children’s authors born that day, as well as other famous people, historic events, and holidays you might not have known about (like “I Love Horses Day” or “Smile Power Day”) — all with related book recommendations.

I was extra happy when I saw she’d listed one of my all-time favorite books, Anne of Green Gables, on my birthday, June 14.

The only catch? It would be hard to read all these books in a year. Now, I’ve read enough already, that I really should take it on as a project one year to read all the ones listed that I haven’t read before. And then the next year, I could try to read at least one of the additionally recommended books for each day, and on and on it could go.

One thing I’m sure of: I read many of the books listed here on Anita Silvey’s recommendation, and I was never disappointed. What you have here is a full year of great reading.

mackids.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/childrens_book_a_day_almanac.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 my own copy, purchased through Amazon.com.

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 Look Up! by Annette LeBlanc Cate

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Look Up!

Bird-Watching in Your Own Backyard

by Annette LeBlanc Cate

Candlewick Press, 2013. 54 pages.
Starred Review

This wonderful book explains to kids how to get started bird-watching. The author is an artist who also encourages kids to sketch the birds they see. Her own illustrations in this book are not intimidating, and she tells the reader that you will get better with practice, and points out what things to notice.

She tells you how to get started and why to get started. Also where to get started (anywhere!). Here’s where she talks about sketching birds:

Try to sketch while keeping your eyes on the bird as much as you can. This takes practice, but it’s so worth doing. Don’t worry about how “good” your picture is – the act of drawing is valuable no matter what the result looks like, because when we draw, we look extra, extra hard, and that helps us focus our attention. There’s so much to pay attention to – shape, color, sound, and more! So let’s take each aspect one at a time.

Then the book looks in more detail at these aspects of birds, to help you learn to identify them. She wraps up by explaining how to use field guides, bird habitats, and classification.

There’s so much crammed into this book! It makes bird-watching seem accessible and even fun! As if the main text weren’t enough, most pages have speech bubbles coming from the birds, who give wisecracks that make information about them even more memorable.

This book is clearly a labor of love. She says right at the start that she’s not an expert bird-watcher. “I just really love birds.”

candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/look_up.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 Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road? by Brian D. McLaren

Saturday, January 11th, 2014

Why Did Jesus, Moses, the Buddha, and Mohammed Cross the Road?

Christian Identity in a Multi-faith World

by Brian D. McLaren

Jericho Books, New York, 2012. 276 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #8 Nonfiction

This is an important book for Christians to read if they want to interact with today’s society. (If they want to just hide out apart from the world, then they shouldn’t bother.) I like the questions Brian McLaren poses, and I like the thoughtful and thought-provoking answers he gives.

At the beginning of the book, he talks about the identity problem Christians have:

Simply put, we Christians already know how to do two things very well. First, some of us know how to have a strong Christian identity that responds negatively toward other religions. The stronger our Christian commitment, the stronger our aversion or opposition to other religions. The stronger our Christian commitment, the more we emphasize our differences with other faiths and the more we frame those differences in terms of good/evil, right/wrong, and better/worse. We may be friendly to individuals of other religions, but our friendship always has a pretext: we want them to switch sides and be won over to our better way. We love them (or say that we do) in spite of their religious identity, hoping that they will see the light and abandon who they have been to find shelter under the tent of who we are.

Alternatively, others of us know how to have a more positive, accepting response to other religions. We never proselytize. We always show respect for other religions and their adherents. We always minimize differences and maximize commonalities. But we typically achieve coexistence by weakening our Christian identity. We make it matter less that they are Muslim or Hindu by making it matter less that we are Christian. We might even say that we love them in spite of our own religious identity.

For reasons that will become clear in the pages ahead, I’m convinced that neither of these responses is good enough for today’s world. So I will explore the possibility of a third option, a Christian identity that is both strong and kind. By strong I mean vigorous, vital, durable, motivating, faithful, attractive, and defining — an authentic Christian identity that matters. By kind I mean something far more robust than mere tolerance, political correctness, or coexistence: I mean benevolent, hospitable, accepting, interested, and loving, so that the stronger our Christian faith, the more goodwill we will feel and show toward those of other faiths, seeking to understand and appreciate their religion from their point of view. My pursuit, not just in this book but in my life, is a Christian identity that moves me toward people of other faiths in wholehearted love, not in spite of their non-Christian identity and not in spite of my own Christian identity, but because of my identity as a follower of God in the way of Jesus.

This book explores those ideas in detail, and lays out what a strong benevolent identity can mean for our doctrine and our liturgy and our sense of mission.

I read this book over a long period of time. (I kept having to turn it in because it had holds.) I think I’m going to buy myself a copy and read it over again, because there’s much in here that I want to absorb more fully.

This is well worth reading. And if you disagree, it would be worth analyzing why you disagree. How do you think Christians should interact with today’s multi-faith world?

brianmclaren.net
jerichobooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/why_did_jesus.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 Paul Meets Bernadette, by Rosy Lamb

Friday, January 10th, 2014

Paul Meets Bernadette

by Rosy Lamb

Candlewick Press, 2013. 40 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 Picture Books

Paul Meets Bernadette is incredibly sweet, without being saccharine.

Paul is a goldfish in a round bowl.

Paul used to go around in circles.

He made big circles
and little circles.

He circled from left to right
and from right to left.

He circled from top to bottom
and from bottom to top.

And then one day, Bernadette dropped in.

“What are you doing? Bernadette asks Paul.
“I’m going round and round,” says Paul. “What else is there to do?”

Then Bernadette takes it on herself to show Paul the whole world outside their bowl.

Here is where this book joins the tradition of books like Minerva Louise and The Adventures of Cow. Children will be delighted at how much more they know than Bernadette. Paul is simply delighted with Bernadette.

The first thing she shows him is a banana, which she tells Paul is a boat. She goes on to show him a “forest” (flowers), a “cactus” (clock), and a “lady’s dress” (newspaper).

A fun one is the teapot which Bernadette tells Paul is an elephant.

”Is she a dangerous elephant?” asks Paul.
“She is not too dangerous,” Bernadette tells Paul.
“But you must not disturb her when she is feeding her babies.”

The picture here shows the teapot pouring tea into teacups.

And while this is going on, the artist manages to show us Paul falling in love with Bernadette, who has shown him the whole world.

A wonderful mistaken-naming picture book with a sweet message. Both kids and adults will enjoy this one.

candlewick.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/paul_meets_bernadette.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 Runaway Husbands, by Vikki Stark

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

Runaway Husbands

The Abandoned Wife’s Guide to Recovery and Renewal

by Vikki Stark

Green Light Press, 2010. 192 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 Nonfiction

It’s been eight years now since my husband left me, and I’ve been divorced for three years. When I heard about this book, I had to read it. I was happy to be reading it from a place of healing. But still, the words were so validating. So good to know I’m not alone in this experience. Even better, I was able to recommend the book to a friend in the thick of it, and she said she was sure God prompted me to recommend it to her at exactly that time. I don’t doubt it for a second.

When I was in the middle of my husband leaving, the book that helped me tremendously was The Script: The 100% Absolutely Predictable Things Men Do When They Cheat. That book looks at what goes through the man’s mind as he’s getting ready to leave and leaving. Runaway Husbands is even more therapeutic, because it tells you what you will go through when you are left.

Now, I’m reading it from the perspective of several years out, but I so recognize the stages.

The author’s husband left her when she came back from a book tour, a tour during which he’d consistently expressed his love to her. Here’s how she describes why she wrote this book:

I was measuring what I’d observed with clients against what I was experiencing in my own life, and I just didn’t get it. Most people assume that it’s impossible for a person to have an affair without the partner having some knowledge — that the injured spouse is always either complicit or purposefully blind. However, that was not my case. Under even the closest scrutiny, I was unable to discern any trace that could have tipped me off that things were not hunky-dory in the marriage. On the contrary, few wives could boast of a more devoted mate, and, oddly enough, until the revelation of his infidelity and subsequent heartless flight from the marriage, he was the ideal husband!

I just couldn’t wrap my mind around how a man who genuinely appeared so committed to our marriage could morph overnight into an angry stranger. In the midst of my suffering, I knew that there’d be no rest for me until I could figure it out. So as days stretched into weeks, I started researching wife abandonment. Through reading and speaking with other women, a remarkable picture slowly started to take shape; my husband’s bizarre behavior seemed to fit into a pattern exhibited by other men who suddenly bolted from apparently happy marriages and then turned against their wives. The similarities were uncanny! I defined this pattern and named it Wife Abandonment Syndrome.

She names eight ways that Wife Abandonment Syndrome is different from a typical divorce: Shock value, a sense of powerlessness, lack of closure, deception, reality is shaken, a redefined past, greater effect on children, and greater effect on friends. There’s a reason this shakes your world so drastically! This book helped me feel better about how long it’s taken me to recover.

I like her eight Transformational Stages of recovery, because I recognize them all. It would have been nice to have this when I was going through them! She aptly names them after weather patterns: Tsunami, Tornado, Thunderstorm, Ice Storm, Fog, Sun Shower, Early Spring, and Warm Summer Day.

And here are her Seven Steps for Moving Forward, which she elaborates on more fully in the main part of the book:

1. Recognize that the chaos won’t last forever (needed to resolve the Tsunami Stage).

2. Accept that the marriage is really over (needed to resolve the Tornado Stage).

3. Integrate the fact that your husband has changed irrevocably and is beyond caring for your welfare (needed to resolve the Thunderstorm Stage).

4. Understand why he needs to justify his actions any way possible — including rewriting history, lying or attacking you (needed to resolve the Ice Storm Stage).

5. Give up trying to get the acknowledgment and apology that you deserve (needed to resolve the Fog Stage).

6. Turn your focus from the past to the future (a step in both the Sun Shower and Early Spring Stages).

7. Celebrate your new life as a single person (Warm Summer Day Stage).

Besides guiding you through these steps, this book offers plenty of helpful advice and encouragement for coping. Best of all, perhaps, is knowing you are not alone.

runawayhusbands.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/runaway_husbands.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 my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com.

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 A Christmas Hope, by Anne Perry

Wednesday, January 8th, 2014

A Christmas Hope

by Anne Perry

Ballantine Books, New York, 2013. 197 pages.

I do love Anne Perry’s Christmas mysteries. I caught the latest a few days after Christmas, but still in time for a good holiday adventure. A Christmas Hope is set in the same world as her William Monk series (which I haven’t gotten around to reading yet), featuring a woman who works at the clinic with Mrs. Monk.

This woman, Claudine Burroughs, is at a Christmas party, trying to keep up appearances with her husband and make the right contacts. Bored with the party, she goes out to the terrace and is surprised to meet Dai Tregarron, a Welsh poet. Here is how he introduces himself:

“I would say ‘at your service,’ but I do little of use. Poet, philosopher, and deep drinker of life . . . and of a good deal of fine whiskey, when I can find it. And I should add, a lover of beauty, whether it be in a note of music, a sunset spilling its blood across the sky, or a beautiful woman. I am regarded as something of a blasphemer by society, and they enjoy the frisson of horror they indulge in when mentioning my name. Of course, I disagree, violently. To me, the one true blasphemy is ingratitude, calling God’s great, rich world a thing of no value. It is of infinite value, so precious it breaks your heart, so fleeting that eternity is merely a beginning.”

Claudine doesn’t prolong the conversation and goes back inside and does her duty at the party. But then the party is interrupted by a young man with blood on his clothes. He comes in from the terrace, saying that Tregarron attacked a young woman and the young man and his two friends tried to stop him.

The young woman dies, and the police are looking for Tregarron. Claudine can’t quite bring herself to believe that the gentlemanly poet would be so violent. But what business does she have interfering in such a mystery?

I like all the variation in Anne Perry’s Christmas mysteries. No two are quite the same, but they all present a good puzzle, and people who want to do the right thing. They all have an uplifting theme, perfect for Christmas.

anneperry.co.uk
ballantinebooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/christmas_hope.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 Conjured, by Sarah Beth Durst

Monday, January 6th, 2014

Conjured

by Sarah Beth Durst

Walker Books (Bloomsbury), 2013. 358 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #9 Young Adult Fiction
2013 Cybils Finalist

I wasn’t sure about this book at first. It seemed awfully dark, and I wasn’t sure what was going on. But oh my yes, Sarah Beth Durst pulled it all together into a fantastic and powerful story.

Eve doesn’t remember anything. As the book opens, she’s being taken by two people from the Agency to live in a home. It’s a Witness Protection Program, but she doesn’t remember what she witnessed, why she is being protected by the Agency, even what sort of Agency it is. She’s sure her face didn’t use to look like it does now. And she remembers surgeries, but not what was done. And she has strange powers. But whenever she uses them, she blacks out and has a vision, a sinister vision of a Magician.

Here is a scene from the first chapter:

She wondered how she even knew this was a bedroom when she didn’t remember ever having one. She’d known what a car was too, though the seat belt had felt unfamiliar. She could recognize a few kinds of birds. For example, she knew that these painted ones on the walls were sparrows and the live one outside had been a wren. She didn’t know how she knew that. Perhaps Malcolm had told her in one of her lessons.

Or maybe it was a memory, forcing its way to the surface of her mind. But the sparrows she remembered flew. She pictured their bodies, black against a blindingly blue sky. She didn’t know where that sky was or when she had seen it. The birds had flown free.

Eve raised her hand toward the birds on the wall. “Fly,” she whispered.

The birds detached from the wall.

The air filled with rustling and crinkling as the paper birds fluttered their delicate wings. At first they trembled, but then they gained strength. Circling the room, they rose higher toward the ceiling. They spiraled up and around Eve’s head. She reached her arms up, and the birds brushed past her fingers. She felt their paper feathers, and she smiled.

Then she heard a rushing like a flood of water, and a familiar blackness filled her eyes.

Eve gets a job, since her handlers want her to live a normal life, meet other teens. Her job is a library page. (I love that detail.) A teenage boy also works at the library, and he seems quite taken with Eve. But is it safe to make friends?

This book is a little confusing at the start, mirroring Eve’s confusion. But trust me, it all comes together by the end and is completely worth a little confusion! A wonderful and imaginative story.

sarahbethdurst.com
bloomsbury.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/conjured.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 Better Nate Than Ever, by Tim Federle

Saturday, January 4th, 2014

Better Nate Than Ever

by Tim Federle

Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, New York, 2013. 288 pages.
Starred Review
2013 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #4 Children’s Fiction

Here’s a book loaded with charm.

Nate is a kid who dreams of starring on Broadway. But he’s also a kid who gets bullied.

Life hasn’t always been easy (my first word was “Mama,” and then “The other babies are teasing me”), but at least I’m singing my way through eighth grade, pretending my whole existence is underscored.

His best friend Libby, also a fan of Broadway musicals, has learned there’s an open casting call for Elliott, the child star of E. T.: The Musical. So Libby and Nate form an elaborate plan for Nate to get out of his hometown in Pennsylvania while his parents are away and his brother Anthony is in charge. He’ll go to the casting call and get his big chance.

Naturally, things start going wrong as soon as Nate sets out. And his cell phone dies, so he can’t answer Libby’s frantic texts. Fortunately, he has an aunt who lives in New York, an aunt who has been estranged from Nate’s mom for years and isn’t exactly expecting him. But she knows how auditions work and helps Nate brave the process.

This book looks at the audition process in New York with lots of humor and lots of heart. The portrayals of the other kids and parents, intent on getting the part, ring true. But mostly, Nate shines exactly like the star he’s destined to become. Great fun.

TimFederle.com
KIDS.SimonandSchuster.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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