Archive for March, 2016

Review of Headstrong, by Rachel Swaby

Monday, March 28th, 2016

headstrong_largeHeadstrong

52 Women Who Changed Science – and the World

by Rachel Swaby

Broadway Books, New York, 2015. 273 pages.
Starred Review

I was going to write that all parents of daughters should read this book. Then it occurred to me that this would be a fabulous book to hand to a teenage daughter. Then I realized that all educators should read this book. Finally, I realize that I think this is a book everyone should read.

Quick, name a scientist who was female and who changed the world with her work. Most people think of Marie Curie and draw a blank when they try to come up with any further names. Rachel Swaby specifically left out Marie Curie from this book. But she found 52 other women who did world-changing scientific work.

I heard Rachel Swaby speak at the 2015 National Book Festival. She was wonderful, so delighted and intrigued by the stories she’d uncovered about these amazing women. I checked out the book and since then have been reading one chapter a day. The fifty-two chapters are an easily digestible 3-4 pages, but highlight the way these women changed the world.

The author chose women who are already dead (“whose life’s work has already been completed”) and she leaned toward women who overcame obstacles, so these stories are inspiring as well as informative. She includes women who worked in the fields of medicine, biology, genetics, physics, geometry, astronomy, math, technology, and invention.

The Introduction explains why this book is so needed:

This book about scientists began with beef stroganoff. According to the New York Times, Yvonne Brill made a mean one. In an obituary published in March 2013, Brill was honored with the title “world’s best mom” because she “followed her husband from job to job and took eight years off from work to raise three children.” Only after a loud, public outcry did the Times amend the article so it would begin with the contribution that earned Brill a featured spot in the paper of record in the first place: “She was a brilliant rocket scientist.” Oh right. That.

The error – stroganoff before science; domesticity before personal achievement – is so cringe-worthy because it’s a common one. In 1964, when Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin won the greatest award that chemistry has to offer, a newspaper declared “Nobel Prize for British Wife,” as if she had stumbled upon the complex structures of biochemical substances while matching her husband’s socks. We simply don’t speak of men in science this way. Their marital status isn’t considered necessary context in a biochemical breakthrough. Employment as an important aerospace engineer is not the big surprise hiding behind a warm plate of noodles. For men, scientific accomplishments are accepted as something naturally within their grasp. . . .

We need not only fairer coverage of women in science, but more of it. . . .

As girls in science look around for role models, they shouldn’t have to dig around to find them. By treating women in science like scientists instead of anomalies or wives who moonlight in the lab as well as correcting the cues given to girls at a young age about what they’re good at and what they’re supposed to like, we can accelerate the growth of a new generation of chemists, archeologists, and cardiologists while also revealing a hidden history of the world.

By her own standards, Hertha Ayrton was a good scientist. So was the detail-oriented seismologist Inge Lehmann, and the firecracker neuroembryologist Rita Levi-Montalcini, too. The scientists in this book aren’t included because they were women practicing science or math in a time when few women did – although by that criterion, many would fit. They’re included because they discovered Earth’s inner core, revealed radioactive elements, dusted off a complete dinosaur skeleton, or launched a new field of scientific inquiry. Their ideas, discoveries, and insights made earth-shaking changes to the way we see the world (and that goes for the seismologist, too). . . .

So instead of calling every standout woman in science the Marie Curie of her field, the next time someone really lives for their work, let’s call them the Barbara McClintock of their specialty. If a scientist charts new territory, let’s refer to them as the Annie Jump Cannon of their particular exploration. If a researcher puts herself in physical danger for an experiment, let’s say she’s like any number of the scientists here who worked with radioactivity or mustard gas.

There are fifty-two profiles in this book. Read one a week, and in a year you’ll know whose research jump-started the Environmental Protection Agency, who discovered wrinkle-free cotton, and even whose ingenious score has now saved generations of struggling newborns. So little coverage has been dedicated to these scientists elsewhere that, in going through these profiles, I hope you’ll feel like you’ve gained a breadth of knowledge that rivals that of Salome Waelsch.

This book hit home to me because I was one of a small minority of women in a graduate mathematics department in the 1980s. It would have done me good to know that outstanding scientists and mathematicians who were women were nothing new at all.

And the book is interesting, too! Each brief biography begins with an intriguing paragraph and then gives you the rest of the story about these women who indeed overcame challenges and accomplished great things.

This book would be a fantastic place to start for novelists looking for actual historical characters with fascinating lives. I say this because I’ve already read a wonderful novel about one of the featured scientists, Sophie Kowalevski, Beyond the Limit, by Joan Spicci. I’m left wanting to know more about most of these amazing women.

Here are a few introductory paragraphs to get you intrigued:

Maria Sibylla Merian loved bugs long before scientists had uncovered their mysteries, loved them at a time when few people were interested in those vile, disgusting things. Acquantances assigned credit or blame for her unusual passion to her mother, who had looked at a collection of insects while Merian was still in the womb. Something about those pinned and polished bodies, shimmering powdery wings, and articulated legs instilled a fascination in the child growing inside her.

Two members of the division of war research at Columbia University spent an entire day grilling Chien-Shiung Wu about her work in nuclear physics. Regarding their own top-secret projects, the interviewers remained dutifully mum until the very end of the day, when they asked if Wu had any idea what they were up to. She cracked a smile. “I’m sorry, but if you wanted me not to know what you’re doing, you should have cleaned the blackboards.” They asked her to start work the next morning.

During the last two and a half decades of her 103 years, Italians liked to joke that everyone would recognize the pope, so long as he appeared with Rita Levi-Montalcini. Though she stood only five feet, three inches, the stories of her work and her life were as large and dramatic as her iconic sideswept hair.

Alice Hamilton’s professional successes – of which there were many – fell at the intersection of science and social issues. Although she earned a degree in medicine from the University of Michigan, gaining further training in bacteriology and pathology at the University of Leipzig and the University of Munich, she didn’t think herself capable of becoming anything more than a “fourth-rate bacteriologist.” But what she lacked in bravado, she made up for in her dedication to problems both “human and practical”: typhoid outbreaks, lead poisoning, and the widespread horror of occupational disease.

Learn the fascinating stories of these and forty-eight other women and along the way become better informed about history and better understand how capable women are and have long been at being scientists.

rachelswaby.com
broadwaybooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/headstrong.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 To Hold the Bridge, by Garth Nix

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016

to_hold_the_bridge_largeTo Hold the Bridge

by Garth Nix

Harper, 2015. 400 pages.
Starred Review

This is a collection of stories by the brilliant Garth Nix. Based on the copyright page, most were published previously, but not necessarily in the United States. (Garth Nix lives in Australia.)

They are uniformly well-written, but there is a tremendous variety of topics. The title story is set in the Old Kingdom world of Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen, Across the Wall, and Clariel. There are also stories set in the world of his other novels A Confusion of Princes and Shade’s Children.

But there are a wide variety of things going on here. His magic always was original. There is a dark twist in a lot of the tales, but this book makes for tremendously enjoyable reading.

I liked the story about the granddaughter of William the Conqueror and the Sword in the Stone. It turns out the magic of the Britons, holly and forest magic, conflicted with the iron magic of the Norman conquerors. This story is an example of Garth Nix’s complicated magical rules which he communicates to the reader through the eyes of his characters who already understand it. He never descends into expository hell, the bane of many fantasy writers. And he can even pull this off in short stories.

Besides revisiting his own worlds, he also goes into the worlds of The Martian Chronicles, by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Hellboy, and Sherlock Holmes — introducing his brother Sir Magnus Holmes, who is a specialist in occult magic. I especially liked the retelling of Rapunzel, where Rapunzel cleverly exploits the requirements of how a witch must treat a guest. Though the witch does some clever exploitation herself.

There are two vampire stories and a zombie story (which is also a unicorn story) and a story about a witches’ school (another one that’s especially good). I did mention there’s a wide variety in these tales. It took me a long time to read, because each story is so satisfying in itself, it’s easy to stop at the end of a story.

A magnificent collection by a master world-builder who also knows how to show you the hearts of his characters.

garthnix.com
epicreads.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/to_hold_the_bridge.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 McToad Mows Tiny Island, by Tom Angleberger and John Hendrix

Sunday, March 20th, 2016

mctoad_mows_tiny_island_largeMcToad Mows Tiny Island

A Transportation Tale by Tom Angleberger

Pictures by John Hendrix

Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York, 2015. 32 pages.

As its caption says, this is a Transportation Tale for little ones who love cars and trucks and things that go.

The text is simple, and the pictures carry the story.

McToad likes Thursdays.

Every other day of the week he mows the grass on Big Island.
But Thursday is the day he mows Tiny Island.

A map filling the double-page spread shows that Big Island is indeed Big and Tiny Island is indeed tiny.

But to get the lawn mower to Tiny Island? That process is what this book is about.

McToad drives the lawn mower onto a truck, which takes it to a train, where it’s loaded using a forklift, and then is taken to the airport. At the airport a conveyor belt takes it onto an airplane which flies to the other side of Big Island. There a baggage buggy takes the lawn mower to a helicopter, which flies it to a dock where it’s lowered onto the deck of a boat. Then a crane on the boat lowers the lawn mower onto Tiny Island.

Tiny Island is indeed tiny. So it’s amusing that McToad takes a break in the middle of the job. When he finishes mowing, it’s time to take the lawn mower back.

It’s funny to me that adding the simple storyline makes this book much more interesting than your typical list-of-vehicles book. Of course, the pictures are delightful. McToad pilots every vehicle with his never-changing, satisfied smile.

McToad likes Thursdays.

Kids who like vehicles will like this book.

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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.

What did you think of this book?

Review of George, by Alex Gino

Thursday, March 17th, 2016

george_largeGeorge

by Alex Gino

Scholastic Press, New York, 2015. 195 pages.
Starred Review
2016 Stonewall Children’s Literature Award

I’ve got a transgender adult daughter, so I was ready for this book, about a transgender 10-year-old. But it opened even my eyes.

The story is simple and well-told. The narration talks about George as “she,” but the people around her treat her as male and assume that she is male, even when they’re trying to be supportive and encouraging.

At the start of the book, George’s teacher is finishing reading Charlotte’s Web to the class, and George can’t keep from crying when Charlotte dies – which of course attracts jeers from boys in the class, including one boy who used to be George’s friend.

George’s teacher tries to be supportive.

“It takes a special person to cry over a book. It shows compassion as well as imagination.” Ms. Udell patted George’s shoulder. “Don’t ever lose that, George, and I know you’ll turn into a fine young man.”

The word man hit like a pile of rocks falling on George’s skull. It was a hundred times worse than boy, and she couldn’t breathe. She bit her lip fiercely and felt fresh tears pounding against her eyes. She put her head down on her desk and wished she were invisible.

George’s class is going to perform a play of Charlotte’s Web. George wants with all her heart to be Charlotte, but is told that there are too many girls who want the part.

This book helped me get inside the head of someone who is figuring out who she really is. And showed me just how difficult that would be – to understand, and then to try to tell the people around you.

This is a children’s book about what it feels like to be transgender. Wow. Perhaps it will help some transgender kids feel less alone. But maybe even more important, perhaps it will help other kids experience empathy, which is one of the best antidotes to bullying. It would be harder to mock someone for being transgender after you’ve read about George just wanting to be who she is.

And it’s also a great story about a kid who wants to surprise everyone by really shining in her class play.

alexgino.com
scholastic.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/george.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?

Book of a Thousand Days – Day 158

Sunday, March 13th, 2016

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 Very Silly Phrasebook for Travelers.

Buch_Tausend_Tage

This week I’m in the mood for that book I love so much — Book of a Thousand Days, Das Buch der Tausend Tage, by Shannon Hale.

Last time we visited this book, we left off ready to start Day 158, on page 57 in the English edition, Seite 68 auf Deutsch:

“until I put the brush to paper” = als ich den Pinsel aufs Papier setzte

“my lap” = meinem Schoß

“saucy things” = schlüpfrige Bemerkungen

“by the orange light of the fire” = im orangefarbenen Feuerschein
(“orange-colored fire-shine”)

“fawn” = Rehkitz

“spooked” = verängstigt

“she couldn’t speak or move” = Sie war wie versteinert.

“screamed” = geschrien

“metal spikes” = Eisennägeln

“chuckling” = gluckste

“a log full of hornets” = ein Hornissennest

“sweetly” = zuckersüß (“sugar-sweet”)

“hiding game” = Versteckspiel

“she squeaked like rusted hinges” = sie quietschte wie verrostete Scharniere

“crying” = Heulerei

“corners and folds” = Ecken und Ritzen

“sacks of barley” = Gerstesäcken

This is fun in German:
“two braids” = Zwei Zöpfen

“his knees shook” = ihm schlotterten die Knie

“dull” = stumpf

“prey” = Beutetiers

“rasp” = Krächzen

“smothered” = erstickt

“prowess” = Heldenhaft

“as tired as a weeping willow in full leaf”
= so müde wie eine Trauerweide in vollem Grün

I especially like the first part of the last sentence in this section:
“His purring shakes my lap but steadies my hand.”
= Sein Schnurren schüttelt meinen Schoß, aber es schenkt meiner Hand die nötige Ruhe.

That’s all for tonight! If I go on much longer, I’ll be so müde wie eine Trauerweide in vollem Grün.

Review of Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit

Tuesday, March 8th, 2016

men_explain_things_to_me_largeMen Explain Things to Me

by Rebecca Solnit

Dispatch Books, Haymarket Books, Chicago, Illinois, 2014. 130 pages.
Starred Review

I’m afraid most intelligent women need to hear nothing more than the title of this book to give a knowing smile. Rebecca Solnit starts the essay with a particularly stunning example of a man who knew nothing about a topic Rebecca had written a book about, trying to explain things to her. He even mentioned an “important book” she should have read, which it turned out he had not actually read but had read about in the New York Times Book Review. This was the book she had written.

I like incidents of that sort, when forces that are usually so sneaky and hard to point out slither out of the grass and are as obvious as, say, an anaconda that’s eaten a cow or an elephant turd on the carpet.

Yes, people of both genders pop up at events and hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories, but the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

Now, she does make clear that she’s not talking about all men, nor even the majority of men. But there are men out there who don’t respect women’s knowledge or opinions and feel they automatically have more important things to say. My first Master’s degree was in mathematics, and I always felt like I had to prove myself. And always, I must admit, took great delight in getting higher scores than my male classmates on math tests – which was more about me than about them. But where did I get the idea I had to prove myself?

The rest of the essays in this book talk about other ways women are silenced and marginalized. There’s also some discussion about marriage equality in that context.

The phrase [“marriage equality”] is ordinarily employed to mean that same-sex couples will have the rights different-sexed couples do. But it could also mean that marriage is between equals. That’s not what traditional marriage was. Throughout much of its history in the West, the laws defining marriage made the husband essentially an owner and the wife a possession. Or the man a boss and the woman a servant or slave.

Another essay is about a powerful international figure who raped a hotel maid in his luxury suite – and how that can be a metaphor for many things.

The opening essay begins with what is really a humorous scene. But this is not a humorous book. Overall, it’s about feminism and how we’ve made progress, but there is still progress that needs to be made.

Rebecca Solnit will make you think and consider and speak.

rebeccasolnit.net
TomDispatch.com
haymarketbooks.org

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/men_explain_things_to_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 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 W Is for Webster, by Tracey Fern and Boris Kulikov

Monday, March 7th, 2016

w_is_for_webster_largeW Is for Webster

Noah Webster and His American Dictionary

by Tracey Fern
pictures by Boris Kulikov

Margaret Ferguson Books (Farrar Straus Giroux), New York, 2015. 36 pages.

Here’s a picture book biography of Noah Webster, telling simply about his obsession with words and creation of the first American dictionary.

Creating the dictionary was a patriotic act for Noah.

By now, the Revolutionary War was winding down. It was clear that America would win its independence. Noah was a proud patriot who longed to do something that would help to hold his new, complicated nation together. Being a bit of a know-it-all, Noah thought he knew just what America needed: its own language – one different from the English spoken in Britain.

“A national language is a national tie,” Noah insisted to all who would listen, and to many who wouldn’t.

Webster first wrote a speller, then a small dictionary. He spent decades working on his big dictionary, including origins of words and quotations using them.

This book shows us how deep this desire went as he had to figure out how to support his family while always working on the dictionary. He eventually went to Europe to get the research done that he needed on word origins.

He finally completed his dictionary in 1825, with more than 70,000 entries.

As it happens, years ago I was given a facsimile edition of that first dictionary. This book prompted me to pull it out and look inside. Sure enough! It contains word origin information, and multiple definitions with examples of usage – many of those examples taken from the Bible.

By now, America had changed. Andrew Jackson was president, and he was both a common man and a bad speller. The nation was finally ready for Noah’s dictionary, full of common words simply spelled.

States issued congratulatory proclamations. Newspapers called him “America’s own Dr. Webster.” Congress adopted Noah’s dictionary as its standard reference book. And although Noah’s dictionary has been revised many times, it is still the standard in America today.

traceyfern.com
boriskulikov.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/w_is_for_webster.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 – Inside the Dome of Doom

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

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.

Sonderlinge3

This week we’re continuing the saga found in Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, otherwise known as The Order of Odd-fish, by James Kennedy.

Last time, we left Jo and Ian at the entrance to the Dome of Doom, on page 256 in the original English version, Seite 325 auf Deutsch.

We’ll continue just looking at some interesting and handy phrases to know. I think of this as an extremely silly traveler’s phrasebook, and hope to tantalize you into reading the original books as well. (Such juicy phrases are found in James Kennedy’s writing!)

This one rolls off the tongue in German:
“a great spherical arena” = eine riesige runde Arena

This one is interestingly brief:
“cage of iron grillwork” = Gitterkäfig (“grill-cage”)

“gaps” = Lücken

This is almost onomatopoetic:
“dim and seedy” = dämmrig und schmuddelig

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but still enjoy it:
“centipede” = Tausendfüßler

And here’s a word I challenge you to use in a sentence:
“eelmen” = Aalmänner

“rougher” = rauer

“queasy feeling” = unbehagliche Gefühl

“grimaced” = verzog die Lippen (“twisted the lips”)

“Knock yourself out” = Bedien dich ruhig (“Help yourself calm”)

“a gloved fist” = eine behandschuhte Faust

“ferocious man” = wild dreinblickenden Mann

“ornate” = prunkvollen (“pageantry-full”)

“slumped” = plumpsen

“gangster” = Ganove

Oops! I caught a quote attributed to the wrong speaker!
“‘Ah, a connoisseur,’ said Jo.” is translated as:
»Ah, eine Genießerin«, bemerkte Ian.

And Germans are even more violent in wishing luck:
“Break a leg” = Hals- und Beinbruch (“Neck-and leg-break”)

“sleazy and glamorous” = schmierig und glamourös

“criminals, spongers, and addicts” = Kriminellen, Schmarotzer und Süchtigen

“jinxjuice” = Hexensaft

“marigolds” = Ringelblume

Here’s a nice long word:
“disagreements”
= Meinungsverschiedenheiten

“crash of cymbals and gongs” = Scheppern von Becken und Gongs

And I’ll stop just as the fighting begins, with a sentence where it’s interesting what they don’t translate:
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the DOME OF DOOM!”
= Wilkommen, ladies and gentlemen, im Dom des Todes!

Review of Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

ancillary_mercy_largeAncillary Mercy

by Ann Leckie

Orbit Books, 2015. 359 pages.
Starred Review

Wow! I suspected that I would appreciate the second book, Ancillary Sword, much more after reading the third book in the trilogy, and I was absolutely right.

Yes, you need to read this trilogy in order. It’s a unit, and everything comes together in this final book.

Book One, Ancillary Justice was about Breq, who was once the ship Justice of Toren and is now a lone ancillary, seeking revenge on the tyrant who destroyed most of her and the captain she loved. In the process of revenge-seeking, she starts a civil war, or at least makes obvious that a war is going on.

In Book Two, Ancillary Sword, Breq is Fleet Captain of a new ship, Mercy of Kalr, with a crew of humans, but with access to everything the ship senses. She goes to a distant planet and deals with politics and intrigue on the planet and its orbiting space station, which has its own AI.

In this third book, Ancillary Mercy, the part of the Lord of the Radch that hates Breq comes to the planet looking for her. Breq still wants revenge, and Breq is definitely in danger, and plot threads are woven in intricate ways.

I can’t say a lot about the plot, since I don’t want to give anything away from the earlier books. By this time, I’d gotten used to everyone being referred to as “she.” One thing I especially liked about this book was that even with the large cast of characters, there’s growth in almost all of the characters. Some things Breq was doing as a matter of course in the last book, she’s now questioning. And Breq’s lieutenants face their own challenges, and even the station and the ship come up with some surprising character development.

These books make you think about humanity and gender and perspective and justice and love and relationships in whole new ways — all while telling an intricately woven, imaginatively inventive story with thrillingly dangerous action sequences. (Yes, Breq’s trend of getting seriously injured in each book continues.)

I can’t wait for my son to read it so I can discuss it with him! (He gave me a copy of the first book for Christmas.) This book is mind-blowing and amazing.

annleckie.com
orbitbooks.net

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/ancillary_mercy.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 When Dad Showed Me the Universe, by Ulf Stark and Eva Eriksson

Saturday, March 5th, 2016

when_dad_showed_me_the_universe_largeWhen Dad Showed Me the Universe

by Ulf Stark
illustrated by Eva Eriksson

Gecko Press, 2015. First published in Sweden in 1998. 28 pages.
Starred Review

This book is completely charming.

One day Dad said he thought I was old enough for him to show me the universe.

The pictures show a little boy about preschool age. The dentist Dad puts on a black beret, a leather jacket, and tall boots. We go with the pair on their walk to see the universe.

“What actually is the universe?” I asked.

“The entire universe,” said Dad, “includes everything, my friend.”

The way there was straight ahead and then to the left.

I like the moment when they go to buy provisions for their expedition, because it reminds me of Winnie-the-Pooh’s “Expotition to the North Pole.”

They walk through town and see the night begin to fall and the shops closing. They go out to a field with no street lights, where people walk their dogs during the day.

I love the way, when they get there and Dad asks if he can see, the little boy notices all sorts of things on the ground:

I could see, even though it was almost dark.
I saw a snail from the universe creeping over a stone.
I saw a blade of grass swaying in the winds of the universe.
There was a flower called a thistle.
And there was Dad, staring at the sky.
“Yes, Dad,” I whispered, “I see it.”
All of this was the universe!
I thought it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.

Then Dad tells him he’s supposed to look up, and we see all the stars stretched out. Dad points out all the constellations, including Big Dog, and there’s a moment of child-sized humor when Dad steps in something left by Big Dog.

When we got home, we had sandwiches and hot chocolate.
“So, how was the universe?” asked my mother.
“It was beautiful,” I said. “And funny.”

And so is this wonderful book, a quiet story about a boy, with his Dad, seeing something he will never forget.

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Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

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