Archive for March, 2018

Review of The Quest for Z, by Greg Pizzoli

Monday, March 12th, 2018

The Quest for Z

The True Story of Explorer Percy Fawcett and a Lost City in the Amazon

by Greg Pizzoli

Viking (Penguin Young Readers Group), 2017. 44 pages.

This is a really interesting story about an explorer I’d never heard of – Percy Fawcett – who searched for a lost city in the Amazon, and never returned.

But he had an interesting, successful, and adventurous life before his final expedition.

Right from the start, he was ready to be an explorer:

He was born in 1867 in Devon, England. His father was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and his older brother was a mountain climber and author of adventure novels. Adventure ran in the Fawcett family blood.

He served in the military before he got to devote full time to exploring, but that’s what he went on to do. The book tells about his preparation and training, as well the legends of an ancient city deep in the Amazon rain forest.

When British explorer Percy Fawcett heard these legends, he called the mythical city “Z.” Maybe he chose this name because the lost city seemed to be the most remote place in the world, the final stop, like the last letter of the alphabet. He made finding Z his life’s work.

There’s a map listing the expeditions he made between 1906 and 1924. (Though it’s rather hard to read – the colors of the routes look very much alike.) The book tells about some of his many adventures with giant snakes and hostile natives. I like the story where they stopped an attack by singing a medley of British songs together, accompanied by accordion. They made friends with that group of natives.

The majority of his expeditions were for surveying – to map some of the most dangerous areas of the Amazon rain forest. But he always listened for rumors of the lost city deep in the jungle.

When he finally set off to find the city, the Royal Geographic Society wouldn’t fund his expedition – so he got newspapers to do it. On his journey, he wrote about every step of the trip and sent out “runners” to bring the story to the newspapers as it happened.

But after a month on the trail, the stories stopped, and Percy Fawcett was never seen again.

There’s an interesting section of the book on the aftermath of the expedition.

In the nearly one hundred years since Percy, Jack, and Raleigh went missing, treasure hunters, fame-seekers, and even movie stars have gone into the jungle to find out what happened to Percy Fawcett. None have been successful.

It’s estimated that as many as one hundred people have disappeared or died in the hunt for Percy Fawcett and the blank spot on the globe that he called Z.

This is a fun book. The pictures are cartoon-like, but include some helpful diagrams and drawings. They fill the pages, so that they aren’t too heavy on text, and kids won’t find the story too intimidating.

It’s a fascinating story of a man who is relatively unknown now, but was a famous celebrity in his day – though unfortunately more famous for his failure than for his many successes.

gregpizzoli.com
penguin.com/children

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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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March 2018 48-Hour Book Challenge: Newbery Edition

Sunday, March 11th, 2018

In case you haven’t heard: I am on the 2019 Newbery Committee!

I need to read lots and lots and lots of books!

So my initial goal for 2018 is to read for the Newbery at least 7 hours per week. But that’s not going to be enough. At all.

So my next goal is to throw myself a 24-Hour Book Blitz at least every month – but also a 48-Hour Book Challenge every quarter (acknowledging that the original idea came from Mother Reader).

So – I took Monday and Tuesday off this week. And I’m going to try to read as much as possible.

Now, this month I also happened to put off some other little things – like filing taxes – for these days off, so there are definitely going to be some interruptions to my reading time. And I’m also going to spend some time writing reviews of the books (to post after the Newbery) and I’m also going to count time spent posting old reviews (I’m super far behind, and like to try to post one per day). And I want to start blogging about the Newbery process. But I’m going to shoot for 8 hours per day of reading time. Let’s see how I do!

And – first I did some other stuff tonight, so there’s really not much reading time left. (The truth is that I’m not *really* going to have to make the Daylight Savings Time change until Thursday – because when I go back to work on Wednesday I’ve got the late shift.) But I officially began my 48-Hour Book Challenge at 11 pm tonight! Let’s go!

Review of Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package, by Kate DiCamillo

Saturday, March 10th, 2018

Eugenia Lincoln and the Unexpected Package

Tales from Deckawoo Drive, Volume Four

by Kate DiCamillo
illustrated by Chris Van Dusen

Candlewick Press, 2017. 101 pages.
Starred Review

Tales from Deckawoo Drive is a spin-off from Kate DiCamillo’s Mercy Watson series, telling stories about the other people who live on Deckawoo Drive. I haven’t read them all, but I wasn’t lacking any knowledge I needed to thoroughly enjoy this one.

Eugenia Lincoln is an elderly lady who lives down the street from Mercy Watson, with her sister, Baby Lincoln. Here is how she’s described when the book opens:

Eugenia Lincoln was a practical person, a sensible person. She did not have time for poetry, geegaws, whoop-de-whoops, or frivolity.

She believed in attending to the task at hand.

Eugenia Lincoln believed in Getting Things Done.

Baby Lincoln, Eugenia’s younger sister, loved poetry, geegaws, and whoop-de-whoops of every sort and variety.

She was especially fond of frivolity.

“We are diametrically opposed,” said Eugenia to Baby. “You are woefully impractical. I am supremely practical.”

But then, one day, an unexpected package arrives with Eugenia’s name on it.

Naturally, there’s plenty of fuss and bother and speculation about opening the package. Inside is an accordion! Baby Lincoln has heard that they can be a pathway to great joy.

But Eugenia wants none of it! She tries to send the accordion back with no luck. She places an ad to try to give it away. Instead, a colorful character comes to her door planning to give her accordion lessons.

One thing leads to another – all in very silly ways – and it turns out that Eugenia Lincoln has a natural gift for accordion playing.

This is a wonderful beginning chapter book with an engaging story that rewards discovery, not too many words on a page, and plenty of pictures throughout. And it’s always a delight to read about a curmudgeon set on a pathway to great joy.

candlewick.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 Empowered Love, by Steven Stosny, Ph.D.

Friday, March 9th, 2018

Empowered Love

Use Your Brain to Be Your Best Self & Create Your Ideal Relationship

by Steven Stosny, Ph.D.

Ixia Press, 2018. 226 pages.
Starred Review

Steven Stosny is my favorite author on relationships. If you have a relationship with a lot of anger between partners, I highly recommend Love Without Hurt (also known as You Don’t Have to Take It Anymore). I know from experience, this book really can help you transform your anger into compassion, and reinforce your own core value.

If you’re dealing with betrayal, I also recommend from personal experience the book Living and Loving After Betrayal. It will help you heal and help you move on.

This book, Empowered Love, I think will help relationships that are good get better and relationships that are sinking come up for air. This time, I can’t speak from personal experience, but I hope someday to try the ideas out!

As in his other books, he reminds the reader that we feel lovable when we are more loving, and we feel valuable when we treat others as valuable.

This book is an expansion of his work in the book Soar Above, bringing the ideas presented there into the realm of love relationships. Both books help you rise above your conditioned responses – the ways you learned to respond as a toddler, which he calls your Toddler Brain.

I realized fairly early in writing Soar Above that I had to write a separate book to accommodate the special challenges of committed love relationships. These occur on an altogether different playing field from those of work and social life. As we’ll see, many of the problems of love relationships stem from partners who behave at home in ways that might serve them well in work and social gatherings but fail miserably in love relationships. No important human endeavor makes it harder to stay consistently in the profoundest part of the brain than interactions with loved ones. The simple explanation of why this is so is that living with someone invokes a wide array of routine behaviors, running on autopilot, without forethought or conscious intention. Routine ways of behaving are likely to stimulate old emotional habits when stressors are added to the mix, such as quarreling children, urgent text messages from work, or overdue bills. The Toddler brain by habit looks for someone to blame, denies responsibility, or avoids the issue altogether.

The more subtle reason that we’re apt to invoke Toddler-brain habits in committed relationships lies at the very heart of love. The same quality that makes love wonderful – giving fully of the deepest parts of ourselves – also makes it a little scary. Most lovers have not felt so emotionally dependent and powerless over their deepest vulnerable feelings since they learned to walk. Similarities in vulnerability can fool the brain under stress and increase the likelihood of invoking Toddler-brain ways of coping in love relationships. Most of the hundreds of couples I’ve treated were fine at work and with friends, smart, resourceful, and creative. But at home they were like playground kids pointing out each other’s faults: “It takes one to know one!” Most were compassionate and kind to other people, but to each other they were opposing attorneys in a bitter lawsuit.

Like his other books, this book is rooted in value. Here’s where he talks about value in the beginning of the section on Adults in Love:

To grasp the psychological function of values, it’s useful to think in terms of the verb to value rather than the noun values. To value someone or something goes beyond regarding that person or object as important; you also appreciate certain qualities, while investing the time, energy, effort, and sacrifice necessary for successful maintenance. If you value a da Vinci painting, you focus on its beauty and design more than the cracks in the paint, and, above all, you treat it well, making sure that it is maintained in ideal conditions of temperature and humidity, with no harsh or direct lighting. Valuing loved ones requires appreciation of their better qualities and showing care for their physical and psychological health, growth, and development.

The experience of value gives a heightened sense of vitality – you feel more alive looking at a beautiful sunset, connecting to a loved one, knowing genuine compassion for another person, having a spiritual experience, appreciating something creative, committing to a cause, or identifying with a community. Valuing gives a greater sense of authenticity and often a greater sense of connection. High value investment gives meaning and purpose to life, with a stronger motivation to improve, create, build, appreciate, connect, or protect.

This isn’t a book about improving communication.

Couples whose interactions are dominated by the Toddler brain often fool themselves into thinking their high emotional reactivity – if not all their problems – is rooted in poor communication. Sadly, they find lots of reinforcement for this pervasive myth in pop psychology, where catchy notions that lack empirical support or theoretical validity reign supreme. The great cliché about intimate relationships is that they are all about communication and that communication is all about talking….

In intimate relationships, verbal communication is a function of connection, rather than the other way around. When people feel connected, they’re able to talk and listen with ease. When they feel disconnected, they tend to attack and counterattack, however cleverly hidden in verbal skills, as they blame each other for the pain of disconnection. Both partners seem to imply:

“I cannot love you until you agree with me or see things my way or express them the way I think you should.”

If partners are motivated to attack or avoid, employing even the most sophisticated communication skills will make them appear phony and manipulative. In my quarter-century of clinical practice, I have never seen skillful communication form a connection without a sincere desire to connect, nor have I seen poor communications skills or choice of words interfere with a sincere desire to connect.

Adults in love don’t try to communicate in order to connect. They connect in order to communicate.

There’s a small chapter on Metaphors, which toddlers don’t understand. If you think of your marriage with a positive metaphor, it will help you love like an adult. Several strong metaphors were given as examples, and I especially liked this one:

Love is like a musical duet. In a duet, both musicians are able to make beautiful music on their own. But together they make something greater than either can do alone: harmony.

Harmony is an appealing combination of elements in a whole. In music, it’s an arrangement of sounds pleasing to the ear. Harmony in intimate relationships is more about emotional tone and atmosphere than expressions of love or specific behaviors. It’s about both partners thriving and growing into the best musicians they can be. You stop making harmony when the Toddler brain dominates the relationship, simply because it cannot balance the drives for autonomy and connection. In the Toddler brain, all you can do is try to criticize or stonewall the violin into becoming the cello, and vice versa.

Harmony rises from partners attuned to their deepest values, which will necessarily include compassion and kindness for each other. The foundation of relationship harmony is frequent notes of compassion and kindness, focused on the long-term best interests of both partners. Focusing on compassion and kindness, rather than on being right or wrong, creates the sort of relationship harmony that keeps the drives for autonomy and connection in balance, and creates Power love.

There’s lots more here, but that gives you the idea. This is about building a relationship on compassion and valuing each other. It has many ideas for getting back on track if your relationship is going astray from that, but trying these things is going to make you feel better about yourself even if your spouse never does get on board.

If they do join you in this kind of a relationship? I do think you will soar. I hope I get to try it sometime!

compassionpower.com
Psychology Today blog: Anger in the Age of Entitlement

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

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

Source: This review is based on my own copy, ordered via Amazon.com.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Thank You Dish, by Trace Balla

Tuesday, March 6th, 2018

The Thank You Dish

by Trace Balla

Kane Miller (EDC Publishing), 2017. 28 pages.

This is a sweet little story of a dinnertime conversation between a girl and her mother.

It starts when Mama says thanks to the rain, the soil, and the sunshine. Grace follows up:

“And thank you, kangaroos,” said Grace.

(Yes, this book was originally published in Australia.)

When Mama asks why Grace would thank kangaroos, she answers, “Well, I’m thanking the kangaroos for not eating all the carrots.”

So begins a progression of people and animals to thank for the various parts of their meal.

For example, an alpaca is thanked for providing the wool that Auntie Amber used to knit a scarf that kept Uncle Fred from freezing when he caught the fish they’re eating.

Road workers are thanked for fixing the path so they could ride their bikes along the creek all the way to Suki’s stand to buy some corn and kale.

And so it goes.

The result is a warm and cozy reminder of how many people and animals helped bring them their delicious meal.

And the book just might provoke a new dinnertime game of long involved thank yous. And what could be better than that?

Thank you, Trace Balla, for writing such a warm and joyful book!

kanemiller.com
edcpub.com
usbornebooksandmore.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/thank_you_dish.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 Thick as Thieves audiobook, by Megan Whalen Turner, performed by Steve West

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Thick as Thieves

by Megan Whalen Turner
performed by Steve West

HarperAudio, 2017. 8.75 hours on 7 discs.
Starred Review

This is now the third time I’ve read Thick as Thieves, and I don’t get tired of it. As with all of Megan Whalen Turner’s books, I discovered a few more nuances each time.

But the audiobook version has the advantage of being read by my new narrator-crush, Steve West, discovered when he read Strange the Dreamer. I could (and do) listen to his voice for hours. He delineates the characters well with different voices. Although the audio version doesn’t have a map, I didn’t feel like it was dragging as I listened to his narration – it made each episode that much more interesting.

And there’s probably not much more I need to say. This is the fifth book in one of my very favorite series. It’s got adventure and danger and characters you root for. And has an outstanding narrator as well. I do recommend reading the books in order, beginning with The Thief, but let me say that they also make outstanding family listening.

harperaudio.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/thick_as_thieves_audio.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.

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Review of The Elephant Keeper, by Margriet Ruurs, illustrated by Pedro Covo

Sunday, March 4th, 2018

The Elephant Keeper

Caring for Orphaned Elephants in Zambia

by Margriet Ruurs
illustrated by Pedro Covo

Kids Can Press, 2017. 48 pages.

This fascinating true story is presented in picture book format, even though there’s a lot more text than what is usual in a picture book, so this is for upper elementary school children.

The author features an African boy named Aaron who found a baby elephant swimming in a hotel swimming pool. No other elephants were around, so his mother was probably a victim of poachers. The elephant needed to go to an elephant orphanage. Aaron was good with animals – and ended up working at the elephant orphanage himself and helping with the baby’s recovery.

The way the story is presented isn’t strictly true, as we learn from the notes in the back – Aaron wasn’t actually the one who found the elephant (named Zambezi) in the pool, but he was involved in Zambezi’s care and ended up working in an elephant orphanage.

But the story does a lovely job highlighting the plight of elephants whose families are killed by poachers. Every several pages, there’s a spread apart from the story with photos of elephants and background facts. These are inserted at a point where the reader finds them very interesting.

So this is a lovely book for teaching kids about elephants and how humans are trying to save them from extinction. As well as the story of how a life was changed and a boy’s love for animals turned into a career saving them. Notes at the back tell kids how they can adopt an elephant or help in other ways.

gamerangersinternational.org
kidscanpress.com

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

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Review of Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Echo

by Pam Muñoz Ryan

read by Mark Bramhall, David de Vries, Macleod Andrews, and Rebecca Soler
music performed by Corky Siegel

Scholastic Audiobooks, 2016. 10 hours, 22 minutes, on 9 compact discs.
Starred Review
2016 Newbery Honor Book
2016 Odyssey Honor Audiobook

This is an amazing audiobook production.

The story is about an enchanted harmonica. The prologue tells of a boy lost in the woods in Germany who learns about the sisters whose spirit enchants the harmonica, and who entrust it into his care.

Then the main part of the book gives us three stories – first a boy in Germany with a musical gift but with a birthmark on his face that makes him seen as less than perfect and in danger in Hitler’s Germany. The second story is about two brothers in Pennsylvania at an orphanage after their grandmother became too frail to care for them. Mike is a talented piano player, and it seems they have a chance of a home, but something is wrong. Perhaps he can join the harmonica band that’s auditioning for new members. Then Ivy, in California, has to move to a new home, where children of Mexican heritage aren’t allowed to go to school with the other children. But she can join the orchestra.

The three stories are told completely separately, with a different narrator for each part. What they have in common is that all involve a harmonica with an especially beautiful tone that has a red M painted on it. The three stories come together in an episode at the end, and then we get an epilogue to tell a little more about the story of the boy and the three sisters who sent the harmonica out into the world.

The book is good, and won Newbery Honor. Each story has some punch to it, and each child has reason to need the encouragement that comes through the harmonica.

The audio production is exceptional! There is harmonica music throughout, as well as piano music when that’s part of the story. It adds so much to hear the songs being played.

Some producers might not have dared to add harmonica music when the text is raving about the harmonica’s glorious tone. But for the most part, the music played went perfectly with what was described. For several of the songs, they added a singer, which I wasn’t completely happy with – but that was a way to let the listener know the words, which was a nice addition for the child listener. Even though I know the words to songs such as “Brahm’s Lullaby” and “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” and “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” an unobtrusive way to include them for kids was to have a voice along with the harmonica playing.

This is definitely a book that has much value added in audio form! A delightful listening experience.

scholastic.com

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

What did you think of this book?