Archive for May, 2014

Review of The Mystery of the Green Ghost, by Robert Arthur

Saturday, May 31st, 2014

green_ghost_largeAlfred Hitchcock and The Three Investigators in

The Mystery of the Green Ghost

by Robert Arthur

Random House, New York, 1965. 181 pages.

My co-worker and I got to talking about The Three Investigators series, which we both enjoyed as kids, and he ordered the first three via Interlibrary Loan. After he let me read the first one, I went ahead and ordered number four, The Mystery of the Green Ghost. However, it came in before numbers two and three, so I had to read them out of order.

But that really doesn’t matter. I think reading the first one first is good, but each adventure is basically self-contained.

And, no, it doesn’t hold up perfectly over the years. But they’re still full of adventure and highlight kids outsmarting adults. Now, this one is terribly politically incorrect, with lots of Chinese people who are treated quite stereotypically. We’ve got a kid who’s one quarter Chinese whose nickname is Chang, and who talks about his “honorable aunt.” There are still no girls in the book whatsoever.

But the adventure is good. And Jupiter’s deductions are quite plausible, but still very clever.

It begins when Bob and Pete hear piercing scream coming from a supposedly haunted house that’s about to be torn down. Then a group of men happen to be wandering by, and when they go inside, all of them see a green ghost, dressed in long flowing green robes. They’re sure he’s the ghost of Mathias Green, who died in the house long ago.

And the ghost is seen around town, even at the graveside of Mathias Green by the chief of police. And when they explore the house further, a skeleton of Mathias Green’s missing wife is discovered, wearing a string of valuable “ghost pearls.”

And then the trail leads up north to a vineyard in Verdant Valley. Pete and Bob are invited to the home of the woman who inherited the house, who has a nephew, Chang, the boys’ age. They’re ready for action when the pearls are stolen. Meanwhile, back in Rocky Beach, Jupiter is making deductions — which are crucial when Bob and Pete and Chang disappear.

It’s all fast-moving and action-packed. All three investigators contribute to solving the mystery. In this one, there’s not as much focus on their cool headquarters with its secret entrances, and they never even ride in their gold-plated Rolls-Royce. But what they do is solve a mystery with brains and action and working together (and okay, some luck of being in the right place at the right time) — a mystery that stumps adults.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/green_ghost.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 an interlibrary loan borrowed via 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 Singing School, by Robert Pinsky

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

singing_school_largeSinging School

Learning to Write (and Read) Poetry by Studying with the Masters

by Robert Pinsky

W. W. Norton & Company, New York, 2013. 221 pages.

Singing School is a collection of great poetry. Along with the poetry, analysis is given as to why the poems work. The reader’s attention is drawn to effective techniques, sonorous sounds, and apt images. And challenges are given. For example, with Jonathan Swift’s, “A Description of the Morning,” we have the caption, “Try your own, contemporary version of this, in your own world, keeping it fresh yet recognizable – good luck.”

Robert Pinsky explains the motivation for this book in his Preface:

That the poem by Milton (1608-1674) had gotten under the skin of Ginsberg (1926-1997) exemplifies the ideas that govern this book: examples precede analysis; young poets can learn a lot from old poetry. Models provide inspiration, which is different from imitation. The visual artist looks at the world, but also at art. Similarly, the musician listens, the cook eats, the athlete watches great athletes, the filmmaker watches great movies, in order to gain mastery from examples….

If you want to learn singing, you must study – not just peruse or experience or dabble in or enjoy or take a course in, but study –monumental examples of magnificent singing: study not just a pretty good poem in a recent magazine, or something that seems cool or seems to be in fashion, or that you have been taught in school, but examples that you feel are magnificent. “Magni-ficent”: the Latin roots of the word mean “making great.”…

The four section headings and their order, though not exhaustive, do represent essentials. “Freedom” is where the artist begins: there are no rules, and the principles and habits are up to you. Having confronted and embraced freedom, the poet engages in the particular work of “Listening”: sentences have melodic patterns of pitch, as well as cadences, and great work can help you hear them. So too can the speech you hear every day. The third section uses the word “Form” in a sense related to form in dance or sports – the effective shapes and arrangements of energy – rather than particular “forms” and their required patterns. Finally, “Dreaming Things Up” affirms that many essential and thrilling elements of poetry have to do with what cannot be explained: something new, waking life transformed.

I confess that I didn’t read this book to learn to write poetry. I read this book, a couple pages a day, in order to enjoy some great poems. Having aspects of their greatness pointed out to me made the experience that much better.

favoritepoem.org
wwnorton.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/singing_school.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 Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design, by Chip Kidd

Monday, May 26th, 2014

go_largeGo

A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design

by Chip Kidd

Workman Publishing, New York, 2013. 150 pages.
Starred Review

Go: A Kidd’s Guide to Graphic Design is a wonderfully visual introduction to all that goes into graphic design. Chip Kidd takes the approach that everyone is a designer, and he teaches the reader to be more conscious of design decisions, along with the effects they have.

He begins with an overview of design in general and graphic design in particular. He goes on to look at specific elements of graphic design: Form, Typography, Content, and Concept. Each element is looked at in great detail, and with lots of examples for each aspect. For example, under Form, he looks at things like Scale, Image Quality, Symmetry/Asymmetry, and Color Theory, to name just a few. Absolutely every concept has an example. There are no pages in this book consisting only of plain type.

Many of Chip Kidd’s book cover designs are featured in the book, showing that he really does this professionally, and giving examples of what works and the rationale behind them. But those are by no means the only examples.

The book finishes with 10 Design Projects for kids to try on their own, thus giving them a way to use the concepts they’ve learned. What’s more, he asks them to send copies of their projects to his website, gothebook.com, so not only are they encouraged to be creative, they get ideas for how to be creative, and they get to show off their creativity.

gothebook.com
Chipkidd.com
workman.com

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

Sonderling Sunday – Momo Drittes Kapitel

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday, that time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books, or, in this case, the English translation of a German children’s book.

Momo1

Tonight I’m back to one of my very favorite children’s books, which was originally written in German. This copy of Momo, by Michael Ende, was my very first non-food purchase when I lived in Germany.

Last time, we left off at the end of Chapter 2, so now we are at the start of Drittes Kapitel, the Third Chapter. The German title is Ein gespielter Sturm und ein wirkliches Gewitter (“A play storm and a real thunderstorm”). The English title is only “Make-believe.” I wish they had translated the chapter titles more directly!

Here are the first two sentences:
Es versteht sich wohl von selbst, daß Momo beim Zuhören keinerlei Unterschied zwischen Erwachsenen und Kindern machte. Aber die Kinder kamen noch aus einem anderen Grund so gern in das alte Amphitheater.
= “Although Momo listened to grown-ups and children with equal sympathy and attention, the children had a special reason for enjoying their visits to the amphitheater as much as they did.”
(More direct translation: “Needless to say by itself, that Momo made no difference in listening between grown-ups and children. But the children had yet another reason to so love coming to the old amphitheater.”

“They were never bored for an instant.”
= Es gab einfach keine langweiligen Augenblicke mehr.
(“There were simply no boring moments any more.”)

“ingenious suggestions” = gute Vorschläge

“One hot and sultry afternoon” = Einmal, an einem schwülen, drückenden Tag

“stone steps” = steinernen Stufen

“shrugged her shoulders” = zuckte die Schultern

“first mate” = der Erste Steuermann

“a scientist” = ein Naturforscher

“scientific expedition” = Forschungsreise (Ah! A case where the German has one tidy word for it!)

“sailors” = Matrosen

“ship of the future” = Zukunftsschiff

“living memory” = Menschengedenken

“abounded with shoals, reefs, and mysterious sea monsters”
= wimmelte hier von Untiefen, von Korallenriffen und von unbekannten Seeungeheuern

“Traveling Tornado” = Ewigen Taifun (“Eternal Typhoon”)

“unpredictable” = unberechenbar

“mighty embrace” = riesenhaften Klauen

“Traveling Tornado” = Wandernden Wirbelsturm
(This time the German is using more variation — the trend here is that the original language is more creative! The first time, Ewigen Taifun was a description of the storm. Wandernden Wirbelsturm is its name.)

“adamantium, a steel as tough and flexible as a sword blade”
= blauem Alamont-Stahl, der biegsam und unzerbrechlich war wie eine Degenklinge

“special process” = Herstellungsverfahren

“an old salt” = ein Seebär von altem Schrot und Korn (“a sea-bear from old grist and grain”)

“cross-legged” = mit untergeschlagenen Beinen

“melodious” = wohlklingenden

“crow’s nest” = Ausguck

“rope ladder” = Strickleiter

“slippery” = glitschig

“dome” = Kuppeldach

“giant jellyfish” = Riesenqualle

“tentacles” = Fangarmen

“terrible embrace” = schrecklichen Umklammerung

“jolt” = Erschütterung

“limp and lifeless” = schlaff und kraftlos

“Danger’s our trade.” = Die Gefahr ist unser Beruf.

“rescue operation” = Rettungsarbeiten

“crew” = Besatzung

“paralyzed with fear” = in Ohnmacht gefallen

“stood foursquare” = stand breitbeinig

“composure” = Kaltblütigkeit (“cold-bloodedness”)

“shaft of lightning” = Blitzstrahl

“cables and stanchions” = Stahltrossen und Eisenstangen (“steel bunches and iron rods”)

I’m going to finish up with this paragraph, a bit more dramatic in German:
Blitz auf Blitz und Donnerschlag auf Donnerschlag! Heulender Sturm! Haushohe Wogen und weißer Schaum!
= “Flashes of lightning and peals of thunder followed one another in quick succession, the wind howled, and mast-high breakers deluged everything with foam.”
(“Lightning on lightning and thunderclap on thunderclap! Howling storm! House-high waves and white foam!”)

That’s it for tonight! Now you have some handy phrases for your next sea voyage, real or imaginary, on a German ship!

Review of King for a Day, by Rukhsana Khan and Christiane Krömer

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

king_for_a_day_largeKing for a Day

by Rukhsana Khan
illustrations by Christiane Krömer

Lee & Low Books, New York, 2013. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Recently, Betsy Bird of School Library Journal’s Fuse 8 blog did a post about “casual diversity” – books that include characters from diverse backgrounds, but where that isn’t the point of the story. Race or disability isn’t seen as a problem, it’s just the way the world is.

Shortly after reading that post, I read King for a Day and was delighted to find such a wonderful example.

The story is about Basant, a kite festival that happens every year in Lahore, Pakistan, to celebrate the arrival of Spring. We focus on a boy, Malik, who has been planning for a long time to win the kite battles, to be king of Basant. He has one kite which he has crafted himself.

He flies his kite from the roof of his building. Right away, he comes up against a bully who lives nearby, who has a big, expensive kite. But Malik is triumphant. And the day continues, battling all kinds of colorful kites. The illustrator has beautifully created many different cloth kites for these pages.

Big kites, little kites, fancy and plain. Even kites made of old newspapers. Sometimes I catch them in groups. Making wide circles around clusters of kites, Falcon slashes through their strings.

For a while the kites fly where the wind carries them. When they land, they’ll belong to whoever finds them. But at least they will have tasted freedom.

Insha Allah, I really am king of Basant today!

So we have a wonderful story about a kid living in another culture tasting victory. But what takes this a step further is that Malik is in a wheelchair.

It’s never mentioned in the text, that is just the way Malik is. His sister helps him with the kite’s taking off and helps him gather the kites that come to their rooftop. His brother, down below, gathers kites that drift downward. They help Malik with things that need feet, but he is the mastermind and the chief kite battler.

The illustrations are beautifully done in collage, with a wonderful variety of kites, in particular. Simply a marvelous book.

rukhsanakhan.com
christianekromer.com
leeandlow.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/king_for_a_day.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 Kinsey and Me, by Sue Grafton

Saturday, May 24th, 2014

kinsey_and_me_largeKinsey and Me

Stories

by Sue Grafton
read by Judy Kaye

Penguin Audio, 2013. 7 hours and 30 minutes on 6 discs.

This audiobook includes nine short stories about Kinsey Milhone, Sue Grafton’s famous detective creation. Then in the second part, there are short stories about Sue Grafton herself, as a child with an alcoholic mother, and dealing with her mother’s death.

The Kinsey stories are brilliant, with the one exception of the last one which is simply a frame for the old one-twin-always-tells-the-truth-and-the-other-always-lies puzzle. But the rest of the stories are remarkably varied and entertaining, and all have a clever solution. They made very diverting listening as I drove to work. Each time I shut off the CD after the story finished, because I wanted to relish the story I’d just completed.

The “and Me” stories are still good and well-written, but the tone is much different. They are about Sue Grafton’s relationship with her alcoholic mother, written in the decade after her death. They are far darker in tone, and are very sad. So as you’re enjoying the detective stories, it’s kind of a downer to finish with these. I wonder if that problem would have been solved by putting the “and Me” stories first and then lightening the tone with some nice murder mysteries.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/kinsey_and_me.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 A Dance Like Starlight, by Kristy Dempsey and Floyd Cooper

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

dance_like_starlight_largeA Dance Like Starlight

One Ballerina’s Dream

by Kristy Dempsey
illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Philomel Books, 2014. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a beautifully illustrated picture book about a little girl who wants to be a ballerina. Sounds trite? What gives this book extra power is that the little girl is black and lives in Harlem in the 1950s. Her mother works for the ballet school, cleaning and stitching costumes.

One day, the Ballet Master sees the little girl do an entire dance in the wings, from beginning to final bow. After that, he makes an arrangement for her to join lessons each day from the back of the room, even though she can’t perform onstage with white girls.

And every once in a while,
When Mrs. Adams is especially surprised or perhaps even pleased with my form,
She asks me to demonstrate a movement for the whole class.
With every bend, I hope.
With every plié,
every turn,
every grand jete, I hope.
The harder I work, the bigger my hope grows,
and the more I wonder:
Could a colored girl like me
ever become
a prima ballerina?

And then something life-changing happens. She sees an announcement that Janet Collins is going to perform at the Metropolitan Opera House, the first colored prima ballerina. Her Mama makes sure she gets to go.

My favorite picture in the book goes with these words:

In my heart I’m the one leaping across that stage,
raising myself high on those shoulders,
then falling
slowly
slowly
slowly
to the arms below.

It’s like Miss Collins is dancing for me,
only for me,
showing me who I can be.
All my hoping
wells up and spills over,
dripping all my dreams onto my Sunday dress.

The picture shows a close up of Janet Collins in the middle of a leap in front of a packed opera house, with the girl in a graceful leap right beside her.

The Author’s Note at the back explains the historical background:

On November 13, 1951, four years before singer Marian Anderson’s Metropolitan Opera debut, dancer Janet Collins became the first African American hired to perform under contract with the Metropolitan Opera. Though she had been denied the opportunity to dance with other ballet troupes because of the color of her skin, Met Ballet Master Zachary Solov was so taken with her skill and beauty as a dancer, his choreography of the opening night opera was inspired by her movement. Rudolf Bing, general manager of the Met from 1950 to 1972, considered his greatest achievement to be having hired Miss Collins, breaking the barrier that existed for African American performers of the era.

Miss Collins’s performance on opening night and the fact that she was “colored,” as African Americans were called at that time, were both highly publicized in advance. Though I have only imagined this little girl and her mother were at the Met to see Miss Collins perform, I hope many women, regardless of their age or the color of their skin, are inspired to achieve their own dreams through her historic performance.

As if the inspiring story, with its discussion of wishes versus hope, weren’t enough, the art by Floyd Cooper is simply beautiful. This is an uplifting book in every way.

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

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

Source: This review is based on a library book from 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 What’s Your Favorite Animal? by Eric Carle and Friends

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

whats_your_favorite_animal_largeWhat’s Your Favorite Animal?

by Eric Carle and Friends

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2014. 36 pages.
Starred Review

What’s Your Favorite Animal? is simply good fun. A collection of 14 fabulous illustrators of children’s books answered that question and provided a picture to go with it.

Many, such as Eric Carle, Peter Sis, Peter McCarty, Steven Kellogg, Susan Jeffers, and Erin Stead, give us a little story explaining their choice. Steve Kellogg says, “My older sister had claimed horses as her favorite animal, so I chose cows.” Erin Stead tells us, “I like how penguins seem confidently awkward on land but then glide so swiftly and expertly underwater.” Peter Sis gives us a heart-warming story of blue carp at Christmas time in the Czech Republic.

Nick Bruel goes with cartoon panels, telling us about the charms of octopuses – until Bad Kitty interferes. Rosemary Wells also uses panels, to show us the favored positions of a dog on my bed. Tom Lichtenheld gives us a limerick about giraffes.

I think my favorite picture is Jon Klassen’s duck. Those eyes. Classic Klassen.

The rest are quite short. Chris Raschka’s lovely snail, Lane Smith’s show-off elephant, and Lucy Cousins’ beautiful leopard are simply explained. But shortest of all is the entry by Mo Willems, with a picture of a snake with a bump in the middle: “My favorite animal is an Amazonian Neotropical Lower River Tink-Tink. (It is also this snake’s favorite animal.”

This would require time for discussion in a storytime, and I think would work better shared one-on-one, or with a child to pore over in private. An elementary school art class could have a good time with it. Of course, it begs the question, “What is your favorite animal?”

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/whats_your_favorite_animal.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 The Great Trouble, by Deborah Hopkinson

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014

great_trouble_largeThe Great Trouble

A Mystery of London, the Blue Death, and a Boy Called Eel

by Deborah Hopkinson

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2013. 249 pages.
2013 Capitol Choices Selection

The Great Trouble is a novelization of actual historical events. Cholera broke out in London in 1854, with many sudden deaths. The current theory was that bad air caused cholera, but a Dr. Snow figured out the real reason. He also had to convince the townspeople, though.

Deborah Hopkinson adds a mudlark named Eel into the story. Mudlarks searched the Thames for things they could sell. But Eel gets a better job, working for Dr. Snow, gathering information about the cholera cases.

Meanwhile, Eel is trying to protect his little brother from their stepfather, and his friends are in danger of succumbing to cholera.

Deborah Hopkinson has made a compelling story out of this situation, giving Eel the power to help save lives as well as get a better life.

DeborahHopkinson.com
randomhouse.com/kids

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/great_trouble.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 The Magic Bojabi Tree, by Piet Grobler and Dianne Hofmeyr

Sunday, May 11th, 2014

The Magic Bojabi Tree

by Piet Grobler and Dianne Hofmeyr

Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2013. 32 pages.

Here’s a picture book that begs to be read aloud. It’s set in Africa during a drought. All the animals are hungry. They find a tree covered in red, ripe fruit smelling of sweetest mangoes, fat as melons, and juicy as pomegranates. But there is an enormous python twined around the trunk of the tree, holding the branches out of reach. He will only move if they can tell him the name of the tree. And only Lion, the King of the Jungle knows the name of the tree.

One by one, the animals go and ask Lion the name of the tree. One by one, the animals forget on the way back. Finally, tortoise goes slowly and carefully and makes a song of the name of the tree.

This story has plenty of fun in the animals’ attempts to remember “Bojabi” – “Bongani”? “Munjani”? And of course tortoise’s chant will be one that will entice children to join in.

Just right for Storytime.

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