Archive for January, 2015

Review of Say This, Not That, by Carl Alasko, PhD

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

say_this_not_that_largeSay This, Not That

A Foolproof Guide to Effective Interpersonal Communication

by Carl Alasko, PhD

Jeremy P. Tarcher (Penguin), 2013. 219 pages.

This is a handy and practical book about communicating in every area of life.

First, Carl Alasko gives an introduction that includes the Five Rules of Effective Communication:

1. Decide in advance what you want to accomplish.

2. Say only what you need to say; nothing more.

3. Don’t ask questions that don’t have an actual answer.

4. Do not use blame: no criticism, accusation, punishment or humiliation.

5. Always be ready to stop when things get too heated.

After explaining what he’s setting out to do in the introduction and explaining these principles, the author goes on to present scenarios from many different life situations. All of them take up two pages. On the first page is what you shouldn’t say (and why); on the second page is what you should say (and why). All these examples give you a good idea of how to put the principles into effect.

The sections of the book are Dating, Developing a Long-Term Relationship, Parenting, Friendship, the Workplace, and other Everyday Situations. There’s a section on Advanced Work at the end, now that you’ve learned the basics.

I read this book slowly, one scenario at a time. I can’t think of a situation when I actually used the book, but the message is a nice calming one, reminding me that I can rationally deal with tense situations and resolve them without blame. I began reading the book around the time I signed up for online dating, too. Even though I didn’t necessarily come up with the situations listed in the book (though there was one about writing your profile), reading through the dating scenarios was confidence-building. I can do this. And reading the Relationship scenarios is also confidence-building. We can be adults in communicating with each other.

This book contains nice practical advice for dealing with others.

tarcherbooks.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 Froodle, by Antoinette Portis

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

froodle_largeFroodle

by Antoinette Portis

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), New York, 2014. 32 pages.
Starred Review

I just got back from a vacation in Oregon, where I stayed in the home of my sister and her toddler daughter Alyssa, who is learning to talk and make animal sounds and all those good things. When I read this book, I so wished I could read it to Alyssa! I will have to settle for a Preschool Storytime. Now, it will go over best with kids who already know their animal sounds, so they will know how silly this book is. But no matter what the age, you will certainly find kids repeating the silly, jazzy words.

Here’s the story: All the animals and birds in a particular neighborhood make the normal, expected animal sounds. Until one day, out of the blue, little brown bird decides she wants to sing something new, maybe something silly, like “Froodle sproodle.”

The other birds are upset, especially the biggest bird, Crow. But before long, more silliness slips out, and it begins to spread. Cardinal says, “Ickle zickle! Pickle trickle!” And next thing you know, even the peace-making dove has joined in with “Oobly snoobly!”

Little Brown Bird, Cardinal and Dove continue singing jazzy songs together, until even Crow can’t resist. The neighborhood will never be the same.

What makes this book so fun is that the sayings are admittedly silly. Crow even gives his reason for participating as “Everyone knows there is no such thing as a silly black crow.” But the sayings are also jazzy and catchy, and I’m guessing that kids who hear this book read will be no more able than Crow to resist joining in.

mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/froodle.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 Rupert Can Dance, by Jules Feiffer

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

rupert_can_dance_largeRupert Can Dance

by Jules Feiffer

Michael di Capua Books, Farrar Straus Giroux, 2014. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Jules Feiffer, the genius behind Bark, George, has another simple-but-powerful kid-pleaser here.

Rupert is a cat. His owner, Mandy, dances all day long, and Rupert loves to watch her dance. Mandy only stops dancing when she goes to sleep – and that’s when Rupert starts.

You can not believe how good he was.

Not just a good dancer, but also a quiet dancer.

Dancing was Rupert’s secret!

And the last thing he wanted was for Mandy to wake up and find out.

Rupert loved having a secret from Mandy. Cats love secrets

and Rupert took great pride that his secret was one of the best ever.

But then, one night, Mandy wakes up unexpectedly and learns Rupert’s secret. And, to Rupert’s horror, she wants to give him dancing lessons.

Rupert was mortified. The fun in dancing was to do it his own way. In secret. And without having to take lessons.

Dogs might qualify for lessons, but Rupert was a cat.

Cats are not meant for lessons. Cats are free spirits.

Rupert stays under Mandy’s bed for three days. Until finally Mandy hatches a plan for getting Rupert interested in life – and dancing – again.

Part of the charm of this book is Jules Feiffer’s loose, enthusiastic drawings. I like the exuberance of the dancing girl and dancing cat. I like the picture of Mandy thinking about Rupert – line drawings of Rupert are superimposed all over Mandy, perfectly symbolizing how he’s intruding into her thoughts.

I also like the way Rupert is such a quintessential cat. Cats indeed love secrets. I believe that. And a cat would indeed blanch at being offered lessons, like a dog.

Here’s a book that at least will not get children trying to teach their cats to dance. But it may get them wondering what secrets their own cats are hiding.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/rupert_can_dance.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 Viva Frida, by Yuyi Morales

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

viva_frida_largeViva Frida

by Yuyi Morales
photography by Tim O’Meara

A Neal Porter Book, Roaring Brook Press, 2014. 36 pages.

I didn’t expect to fall for this book, despite the glowing reviews I’d read. However, the descriptions didn’t prepare me for what this book does.

Now it’s my turn to attempt to explain this book’s genius. This book is not a biography, not even a picture book biography. It’s an inspirational, symbolic text, based on the life and work of Frida Kahlo. The Author’s Note at the back is longer than the main text of the book, which is presented one or two words on a spread, in both English and Spanish.

The photographic illustrations mostly (but not all) feature puppets of Frida Kahlo, her pets, and her husband Diego Rivera. The same puppets are not used in each spread, since Frida’s expression changes.

The story is mainly told with pictures and shows Frida finding a locked box and her monkey finding the key. Inside is a skeleton puppet, which she plays with.

The next sequence begins with “I dream.” We see Frida, now as a painted paper cutout, wearing winged boots, flying through the air, and helping a wounded deer.

As you can tell by my struggle to describe it, everything in this book is highly symbolic. The end result is beautiful and inspiring.

I also suspect that young children, who aren’t necessarily as hung up on understanding every word, will be all the more inspired by this book. In fact, I would love to talk with a group of children about what they see in the pictures. I have a feeling they would come up with many things that I have missed.

mackids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/viva_frida.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 A Walk in Paris, by Salvatore Rubbino

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

walk_in_paris_largeA Walk in Paris

by Salvatore Rubbino

Candlewick Press, 2014. 38 pages.

Ooo la la! This is a book for those who love the City of Lights.

The story is simple: A little girl and her grandpa are walking around Paris, seeing the main sights. The pictures are hand-drawn colored sketches, but evoke the feeling of Paris. I was transported back in these pages.

Extra facts about the things they see are printed among the pictures. The main narrative is a simple explanation of the day the girl is having with her grandpa.

They go to a market, ride the metro, walk the streets, climb the tower of Notre Dame to look at the view, eat in a bistro, look at the Louvre, and stroll in the Tuileries, among other things. There’s a nice touch when they come out of the Metro and see the Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkling – there’s a fold-out page which gives the reader a feeling for how spectacular and big the tower is.

This book can be enjoyed by all ages, but what a marvelous way to prepare a lucky child who gets to visit Paris. (I wonder if my boys had been prepared for the line at Notre Dame, if they would have been more willing to wait in it to get to see the view at the top with the chimeras.)

candlewick.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/walk_in_paris.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 100 Bears, by Magali Bardos

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

100_bears_large100 Bears

by Magali Bardos

Flying Eye Books, 2013. 100 pages.

Counting books that go all the way up to 100 are something special. This one is a little bizarre and a little random, but I found it charming and would want it for my kids if they were still learning to count. It’s too long for a storytime, but I can imagine kids poring over it at home the way my son spent hours with the Where’s Waldo books when he was a child.

As you will guess by the 100 pages, there’s basically a number on each page of this book. But it tells a general story as it counts, helped along by the pictures. The story is not a terribly coherent one, but it generally makes sense, and you see the same six bears and the same eight hunters throughout the book.

The book begins:

1 forest
2 mountains
3 bears on each mountain
4 paws in the air
Eating honey, 5 times a day
6 bears in the forest
7 mushrooms
8 hunters
9 gunshots
10 butterflies flutter by … the bears seize the chance to sneak away

The rest of the book follows their strange journey with the hunters sometimes being chased and sometimes chasing them and sometimes just, apparently, partying.

Sometimes the objects counted aren’t particularly relevant to the story, like “13 cats meow… 14 smoking chimneys.” Most of the time there are objects to count, even when it gets to high numbers like “62 windows on the way home… 63 travellers.” Sometimes the author just gives the number as a numeral with nothing to count, such as “Flying over route 25” (with a road in the shape of the numeral 25), “To go and celebrate the 31st” (just a page-a-day calendar shown), or “off they go to number 41” (a house number). The 37 and 38 page fudges by saying “37 or 38 bits of confetti… give or take.” (This is actually rather brilliant or totally unfair, depending on your perspective.)

There are a few ways you can tell the book was originally published in Europe, and not a lot of effort was made to Americanize it. On the picture of the 15th floor, there’s a light on in what American’s would call the 16th floor (since Americans call the ground floor the first floor). The bears get sick with “fevers of 39 degrees C,” and weights are given in kilos, and heights in centimeters.

But while the story doesn’t exactly hold together, it does circle back to “100 trees… The forest.” And I find it the delightful sort of book you can look at again and again, examining details and, of course, counting.

flyingeyebooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/100_bears.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 Promise, by Nicola Davies, illustrated by Laura Carlin

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

promise_largeThe Promise

by Nicola Davies
illustrated by Laura Carlin

Candlewick Press, 2014. 48 pages.

The Promise is a simple picture book about planting trees — and thus transforming a “sad and sorry city.”

The pictures show the change from sad and gray and brown to happy and bright and colorful.

It’s the story of a girl who stole a purse from a woman who wouldn’t let go until she promised to “plant them.”

The purse was full of acorns.

The girl understood her promise.

I forgot the food and money.
And for the first time in my life, I felt lucky,
rich beyond my wildest dreams.

I slept with the acorns as my pillow,
my head full of leafy visions.

Neither the text nor the pictures are long on details. People might quibble over how it would work.

But this is a picture book for children, and I believe children will get it.

Green spread through the city like a song,
breathing to the sky, drawing down the rain like a blessing.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/promise.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 How I Discovered Poetry, by Marilyn Nelson

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

how_i_discovered_poetry_largeHow I Discovered Poetry

by Marilyn Nelson
illustrated by Hadley Hooper

Dial Books, 2014. 103 pages.

How I Discovered Poetry is a series of fourteen poems Marilyn Nelson wrote about growing up black in the 1950s in a military family, her father one of the first Negro officers. She writes about moving around, making friends and saying good-by to them, leaving pets behind, and packing up possessions.

She touches on racism and Communism and feminism – but mostly she evokes childhood.

Here are two of my favorite poems. The first reminds me of games my friends and I played on the playground.

Moonlily

(Mather AFB, California, 1956)

When we play horses at recess, my name
is Moonlily and I’m a yearling mare.
We gallop circles around the playground,
whinnying, neighing, and shaking our manes.
We scrape the ground with scuffed saddle oxfords,
thunder around the little kids on swings
and seesaws, and around the boys’ ball games.
We’re sorrel, chestnut, buckskin, pinto, gray,
a herd in pastel dresses and white socks.
We’re self-named, untamed, untouched, unridden.
Our plains know no fences. We can smell spring.
The bell produces metamorphosis.
Still hot and flushed, we file back to our desks,
one bay in a room of palominos.

Then an early one that includes her first inspiration to be a poet some day:

Critic

(Kittery Point, Maine, 1959)

Daddy pulled a puppy from the pocket
of his flight jacket, and we imprinted
like a gosling to a goose. Speida’s my dog, though he’s impartially affectionate.
Either he likes poems, or he likes my voice:
I read aloud from the anthology
I found with Daddy’s other college books
and he sits, cocks his head, and wags his tail.
My teacher, Mrs. Gray, told me about
the famous poetess who lived near here.
She says I’ll be a famous poet, too.
Today I read Speida one of my poems.
His face got a look of so much disgust
I laughed and forgot we’re being transferred.

marilyn-nelson.com
penguin.com/teen

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/how_i_discovered_poetry.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 Haiti: My Country, Poems by Haitian Schoolchildren, illustrated by Rogé

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

haiti_largeHaiti

My Country

Poems by Haitian Schoolchildren
Illustrated by Rogé

Fifth House, Canada, 2014. 40 pages.

I meant to read this book quickly, but opening it up makes me pause. This book includes fifteen poems by schoolchildren, and one by their teacher. All the poems are about Haiti — and they celebrate its beauty.

Accompanying the poems are large portraits of the children themselves, looking back at the reader.

My favorite poem is by Judes-Raldes Raymond:

The pretty flowers of my country are to me
Like pink butterflies
That smile at the sun.
I especially like pink flowers! The pink ones!
The charming pink flowers in my garden
Of multicoloured flowers:
Yellow, green, pink, red.
They are all lovely
Attached to their roots.
The giant sun shines in the sky
To the delight of the red flowers
in my garden.

This is a joyful, colorful, and irrepressible picture of Haiti.

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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 Edward Hopper Paints His World, by Robert Burleigh and Wendell Minor

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015

edward_hopper_paints_his_world_largeEdward Hopper Paints His World

by Robert Burleigh
paintings by Wendell Minor

Christy Ottaviano Books (Henry Holt), New York, 2014. 44 pages.
Starred Review

I’ve got a soft spot for picture book biographies of artists, especially when the illustrator does such a wonderful job of evoking the subject’s artwork.

Both author and illustrator of this book did their homework. The author tells how, from childhood, Edward Hopper planned to be an artist. He doesn’t linger long in childhood, but talks about how Edward pursued his goal singlemindedly, even though it took years before he won recognition. Here’s a typical page:

Because he was fascinated by the look and feel of old houses, Edward began to make paintings of them. Once he remarked: “All I want to do is paint sunlight on the side of a house.”

But maybe Edward liked to paint houses for another reason. Many houses in his paintings seem moody, quiet, and alone. Were Edward’s houses a bit like Edward himself?

Another page explains one of his most famous paintings, and the illustration, with Edward Hopper looking at the scene, isn’t exactly like the painting.

But Edward didn’t just copy what he saw. His paintings often combined things he sketched on his travels: a café on a deserted street corner, customers drinking coffee, lost in thought – or dark shadows on an eerie green pavement.

Starting with scenes and details like these, Edward used his imagination to create some of his best-known pictures. One famous painting shows solitary people sitting at a counter in an all-night diner. The painting is called Nighthawks.

“I was painting the loneliness of a large city,” he later explained.

The paintings illustrating this book are beautiful in their own right. I found the Artist’s Note especially interesting:

. . . In this book, I tried to create the feeling of Hopper’s art while maintaining my own style. Upon careful observation, the reader will notice many differences in my interpretations of the four famous Hopper paintings in this book. My idea was to evoke the familiar through Hopper’s point of view. . . .

In this book, Robert Burleigh and I have attempted to give the young reader an introduction to the artist’s process of discovery. We see Hopper observing subjects, and we try to imagine what it might have been like to be there with him. Hopper sometimes sketched and painted his subjects on-site, but other times, he would return to his studio and sketch his observations from memory. His work is a combination of the real and the imagined. The best example of this is perhaps his most famous painting, Nighthawks. My research has shown that the all-night café in his painting never really existed. Hopper created this imaginary place from the many different scenes he encountered on his walks through New York City’s streets – and he did it in such a way that the viewer is convinced they know this café to be real. Such is the power of creativity! Robert Burleigh and I hope that we will inspire young artists everywhere to observe and then create wonderful pictures of their world.

I feel confident the author and artist are succeeding in that goal.

robertburleigh.com
minorart.com
mackids.com

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