Archive for May, 2015

Review of With a Friend by Your Side, by Barbara Kerley

Saturday, May 30th, 2015

with_a_friend_by_your_side_largeWith a Friend by Your Side

by Barbara Kerley

National Geographic, Washington, D.C., 2015.

Barbara Kerley takes amazing photographs. (And what else do we expect from National Geographic.)

The text of this book talks about all friends can do and be. The photographs make it shine. Barbara Kerley catches the sparkle in the eyes of friends having fun together.

Looking at the pictures, you’ll notice she’s got all skin colors represented, and friendships between people of all different shapes and sizes and ages. But the pages at the back really bring it home. She’s got a world map and tells where every photo originated. They are truly from all over the world.

Some of my favorite photos are Clowning around in Bamako, Mali, Slip sliding down a muddy hill near Jakarta, Indonesia, Getting ready to fly in Pacific Palisades, California, U.S.A., About to get wet in Lake Cerknica, Slovenia, and Cozying up to a good book in Sarsy, Russia.

This book is a work of art celebrating people – celebrating Friends.

nationalgeographic.com/books

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Source: This review is based on a book sent to me by the publisher.

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.

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Review of All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015

all_the_light_we_cannot_see_largeAll the Light We Cannot See

by Anthony Doerr
read by Zach Appelman

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014. 13 compact discs.
Starred Review
2015 Alex Award Winner
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize

All the Light We Cannot See is a rich, gently moving novel about some extraordinary people in wartime.

The book begins at the end of World War II, with the bombardment of Saint-Malo. The author spotlights two people caught in the siege, and later a third who is looking for something there. The scenes in the spotlight move slowly, inexorably through the book – coming just often enough to keep us fascinated.

In between, we get the history of these people through the war years. Marie-Laure is blind. She lived in Paris with her Papa, and went with him to his work at the Museum of Natural History. He carved a complete model of their neighborhood in Paris which Marie-Laure could navigate with her fingers, and then he taught her to navigate the actual streets.

When Paris falls to the Nazis, they flee to Saint-Malo, where Marie-Laure’s crazy great-uncle Etienne lives. Her Papa is carrying something for the museum. Is it a fake, or is it the Sea of Flames, an amazing diamond with a curse on it? The curse promises eternal life to its keeper – at the cost of disasters happening to all the ones they love. Is this why disasters are striking their family?

Another main character is a young orphan named Werner. He is fascinated with radios and soon gets the attention of the authorities with his ability to repair radio equipment. This attention gets him enrolled in the Hitler Youth and then in the army before his time.

Uncle Etienne has a radio transmitter, and Werner ends up in a unit looking for illegal transmitters.

Meanwhile, an expert on gems is looking for the Sea of Flames. He is patient, and follows one lead after another, during all the war years.

This audiobook was a wonderful choice. The narrator captured the tone of the book perfectly. The detailed descriptions had me mesmerized. I felt like I knew what it was like to be a blind girl in World War II France and a brilliant orphan drawn into the Hitler Youth.

The story is mostly wonderful and transcends wartime – but it did have some horrible moments, because this was wartime. I didn’t find the ending satisfying. Perhaps I read too many young adult books – I wanted things tied up a little more neatly than they were and hated at least one part of the ending.

I also wasn’t entirely sure what happened with one aspect. I wondered if I’d missed something because of listening rather than reading. But when a character speculates about what might have happened, I figured the reader was supposed to speculate, too. I’m not sure I like it that way.

So I’m not sure I completely liked where the journey took me – but I definitely enjoyed the journey. Marie-Laure and her Papa and Uncle Etienne and Werner and his sister Jutta are characters who will live on in my heart.

simonandschuster.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 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.

What did you think of this book?

Review of 5 to 1, by Holly Bodger

Tuesday, May 26th, 2015

5_to_1_large5 to 1

by Holly Bodger

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 246 pages.

This book takes place in the not-so-distant future in Koyanagar, a country carved out of India. For years, India had a one-child policy – with the result that baby girls were aborted so families could have sons. Now the ratio is 5 boys to 1 girl, and girls are at a premium.

Koyanagar was founded by women to make things right. But essentially, they’ve just turned the tables. Men have no rights. The best jobs and money go to women. And now Sudasa is facing the Tests – where one of the five boys competing to marry her will prove his worth.

The losers will face a life with no prospects. They will give their lives on the Wall, keeping others out (or keeping people in), unless they have sisters who can bargain for their lives.

But she has every indication that the tests are rigged.

I picked up this book because the language is enchanting. Sudasa’s thoughts are written in poetry, and it’s poetry with creative touches and interesting typography. Her thoughts are interspersed with prose from Contestant Five – who has plans of his own, and has no intention of being chosen.

I have some arguments with the book. I found it hard to believe that a society founded to right injustice would turn out so very unjust itself. Men are second-class citizens, and their lives are cheap. Giving birth to girls is now the only way to gain status. Besides that, with the poetry format, some details were unclear. There’s a Registry that’s important to the leaders of the country, and it’s not clear why it is so important or what it’s loss would actually mean. I wasn’t clear exactly how things were going to work out at the end or even exactly what the characters meant to do.

However, that said, the writing in this book is simply beautiful. It’s short (with so much written in poetry), so I didn’t at all feel cheated having given my time to reading it. Although I didn’t buy all the details, I was won over by the characters and enjoyed spending time in their company.

randomhouseteens.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.

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Review of One Plastic Bag, by Miranda Paul and Elisabeth Zunon

Monday, May 25th, 2015

one_plastic_bag_largeOne Plastic Bag

Isatou Ceesay and the Recycling Women of Gambia

by Miranda Paul
illustrations by Elizabeth Zunon

Millbrook Press, Minneapolis, 2015. 36 pages.

In 2012, Isatou Ceesay won a World of Difference 100 Award from the International Alliance for Women for her work establishing the Njau Recycling and income Generating Group in her village in Gambia. This picture book tells her story in a way that children can understand – but which adults will also appreciate.

The book begins with Isatou as a child when a basket breaks. When a basket breaks, people could simply drop it and it would crumble and mix back with the dirt. However, then people in the village began using plastic bags. When you drop a plastic bag on the ground, it leads to a problem with trash.

Goats began to die from eating the plastic bags. There was a bad smell. Isatou and some other women gathered up plastic bags, washed them – and made plastic thread from them. Then they used this plastic thread to crochet purses. And selling the purses made money to buy a new goat – a goat that was not confronted with plastic trash it was tempted to eat.

The note at the back tells more about Isatou Ceesay’s work. I like the way the story is told simply, with beautiful collage art, and then details are given at the end for adults. This is an inspiring story of a woman making the world a better place.

oneplasticbag.com
mirandapaul.com
lizzunon.com

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

What did you think of this book?

Sonderling Sunday

Sunday, May 24th, 2015

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. Sort of a Traveler’s Phrasebook for Very Silly People.

Sonderlinge3

This week, I’m back to my stand-by, The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy, the most Sonder book of them all, Der Orden der seltsamen Sonderlinge. However, it’s already quite late, so I’m promising myself I’ll stop after only a half-hour. Let’s see what we can find in that time.

Last time, I left off on page 232, Seite 293.

“forced” = gezwungen

“the Hat of Honor” = dem Hut der Ehre

I really think they left something out here:
“a prancing throng of cockroaches” = einer Horde Kakerlaken

And these are just not as good either:
“dragon of deceit” = Drachen des Betrugs
“kingdom of calumny” = Königreich der Verleumdung

A phrase everyone should know:
“silly hat” = albernen Hut

Oh, and you certainly want to be able to say this:
“We must be gracious in our victory.”
= Wir müssen großzügig sein in unserem Sieg.

Nice long words for Aunt Lily’s research specialty:
“irregular contraptions” = unvorschriftsmäßige Apparaturen

“scavenged appliances” = geweideter Geräte

“gears” = Zahnrädern (“tooth-wheels”)

“spindles” = Spulen

“homemade batteries” = selbst gemachten Batterien

“bottles stuffed with nails and bolts and wires”
= Gläsern mit Nägeln, Drähten und Nieten

Oops! My time’s up. I’m going to try to be good and stop while it is still Sunday.

Meanwhile, always remember to be gracious in your victory.

Review of Waking the Dead, by John Eldredge

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

waking_the_dead_largeWaking the Dead

The Glory of a Heart Fully Alive

by John Eldredge

Nelson Books, 2003. 244 pages.
Starred Review

My church Small Group has been going through this book since last Fall, so eight months. The accompanying workbook is longer than the original book – quoting most of the book along the way! But it has been a fruitful, deep-digging study. I highly recommend this for small groups.

This book gives us the message that our hearts are good, but we are at war.

John Eldredge leans heavily on the message of myth, and that resonates with me. This book is all about awakening our hearts. Working through these ideas with a group of fellow-travelers has been wonderfully inspiring and uplifting.

He talks about four streams: Walking with God, receiving God’s intimate counsel, deep restoration, and spiritual warfare. All of these are needed in helping our hearts come alive.

The overall message is one of life, true life.

To the weary, Jesus speaks of rest. To the lost, he speaks of finding your way. Again and again and again, Jesus takes people back to their desires: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt. 7:7 NIV). These are outrageous words, provocative words. Ask, seek, knock – these words invite and arouse desire. What is it that you want? They fall on deaf ears if there is nothing you want, nothing you’re looking for, nothing you’re hungry enough to bang on a door over.

Jesus provokes desire; he awakens it; he heightens it. The religious watchdogs accuse him of heresy. He says, “Not at all. This is the invitation God has been sending all along.”

This is a provocative book, as it should be with that title! You’ll encounter some ideas that aren’t necessarily widely taught. It shook up the members of our group, in a very good way. We looked at our own hearts, and the ways we are being attacked, and had our eyes opened to many things.

Read this book and get woken up.

ransomedheart.com

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

What did you think of this book?

Review of Sidewalk Flowers, by Jon Arno Lawson and Sydney Smith

Friday, May 22nd, 2015

sidewalk_flowers_largeSidewalk Flowers

by Jon Arno Lawson and Sydney Smith

Groundwood Books, House of Anansi Press, Toronto, 2015. 28 pages.

I can’t resist the charm of this wordless picture book.

We’ve got a little girl with a red hood, walking with her father, holding his hand. Her father’s talking on his phone almost the whole way. He’s not noticing at all what’s going on down at his daughter’s level.

She sees flowers — growing in the cracks of the sidewalk, growing in the grass in a vacant lot by a bus stop. She gathers them.

And then she leaves flowers behind with those she meets, on her level — a dead bird in the park, a man sleeping on a park bench, a dog’s collar, and, when she gets home, her mother’s hair.

The two planes of action — father on phone, girl gathering and distributing flowers — are simply captivating. This book keeps pulling me back to look at it again. I’d love to share it with a child and hear about what they see.

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

What did you think of this book?

Review of Hansel & Gretel, by Neil Gaiman

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

hansel_and_gretel_largeHansel & Gretel

by Neil Gaiman

art by Lorenzo Mattotti

Toon Graphics, 2014. 53 pages.
Starred Review

This book is put out by a publisher of graphic novels and is in the size of a large graphic novel. But there are no speech bubbles here. What you do have are large double-page spreads of black-and-white (mostly black) very dark paintings alternating with double-page spreads of text.

The pictures are dark and sinister, and the story is dark and sinister. Like all fairy tales, it has power. The word painting of Neil Gaiman combined with the art of Lorenzo Mattotti gives this familiar tale new impact.

Here’s the paragraph after the old woman invites Hansel and Gretel into her house:

There was only one room in the little house, with a huge brick oven at one end, and a table laden with all good things: with candied fruits, with cakes and pies and cookies, with breads and with biscuits. There was no meat, though, and the old woman apologized, explaining that she was old, and her eyes were not what they had been when she was young, and she was no longer up to catching the beasts of the forests, as once she had been. Now, she told the children, she baited her snare and she waited, and often no game would come to her trap from one year to another, and what she did catch was too scrawny to eat and needed to be fattened up first.

This story is far too sinister for the very young. Those who read this story will be confronted with evil — and children who triumph over it.

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

What did you think of this book?

Review of Lindbergh, by Torben Kuhlmann

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015

lindbergh_largeLindbergh

The Tale of a Flying Mouse

by Torben Kuhlmann

English text by Suzanne Levesque

NorthSouth Books, 2014. 92 pages.

Lindbergh is a long-form picture book, for lack of a better way to describe it. We’ve got a story of a little mouse for whom life has gotten bleak in Germany. He wants to go to America, but faces many obstacles. After it proves to difficult to get on a ship, he decides to fly. Successive inventions (paralleling the history of human flight) finally result in a tiny plane capable of crossing the Atlantic.

The story is simple, but the detailed, lavish illustrations make this book a feast for the eyes. The painting of the mouse taking off with an owl bearing down on him will give you goose bumps!

There’s a short history of aviation at the back, and I feel confident there are details in the drawings about actual flying machines which escaped me, but won’t necessarily escape avid child readers.

This is a beautiful book. Children who enjoy poring over detailed paintings will be richly rewarded.

northsouth.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Chldrens_Fiction/lindbergh.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.

What did you think of this book?

Pascal’s Triangle Shawl #2

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015

Hooray! Hooray! Today I finished my second, prettier Pascal’s Triangle Shawl!

PTwhole

Pascal’s Triangle is the triangle with 1s on the edges, where each entry is the sum of the two entries above it.

So the beginning rows work like this:

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

1to5

Now, what I did was choose a color of yarn for each prime. Then each entry in the triangle is factored, and each number is shown by the colors of its factors.

I did the same thing with my first Pascal’s Triangle Shawl. With this one, since there are only the primes 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, and 13, I decided to use progressively darker shades of pink and purple, so the shawl would gradually get darker.

Here is a closer look at a section of the shawl:

Right Side

This next picture shows that along the second row, we have the numbers simply in sequence.

Right and Top

For math nuts, each row also contains the binomial coefficients, the coefficients in the expansion of
(a+b)^n

This means that the rth entry in the nth row can be calculated with the formula:
n!/(n-r)! (Counting the entries in each row as 0 through n.)

Some examples: The 2nd entry in the 5th row is (5×4)/(2×1) = 10

The 3rd entry in the 7th row is (7x6x5)/(3x2x1) = 35

Now, I factor all the numbers in my shawl, so for big numbers, it doesn’t matter what the actual number is, but the factorization is easy from the formula.

For example, the 4th entry in the 15th row is (15x14x13x12)/(4x3x2x1) = 3x5x7x13

You can see some of the bigger numbers in this picture:

Right Factored

Now, there are a couple of characteristics which I believe make the shawl especially beautiful.

One is that because these are the binomial coefficients, once you get to the row of a prime number, every entry in that row has the prime for a factor.

This is easier to see with the actual shawl in front of you, but here again is the big picture. You can see that once a new color starts, it goes all the way across the row.

PTwhole

What’s more, by the distributive law, since every entry in a prime row has that prime as a factor, all the sums of those numbers will also have the prime for a factor — and we end up having inverse triangles of each color.

Here’s some more detail:

Detail2

Detail1

Of course, the very coolest thing about it is that, even if you have no idea of the math involved, the combination is beautiful.

And that simply makes me happy.

Modeling Shawl

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