Archive for May, 2018

Review of This Is What a Librarian Looks Like, by Kyle Cassidy

Thursday, May 31st, 2018

This Is What a Librarian Looks Like

A Celebration of Libraries, Communities, and Access to Information

by Kyle Cassidy
with thoughts on libraries from Neil Gaiman, George R. R. Martin, Nancy Pearl, Cory Doctorow, Jude Deveraux, Amy Dickinson, Amanda Palmer, Samira Ahmed, Sara Farizan, Jeff VanderMeer, John Scalzi, and more

Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, 2017. 234 pages.
Starred Review

It’s no surprise I love this book. It contains photos of hundreds of librarians, with short quotations from them about their jobs. There are essays about the importance of libraries. Essays by famous writers about their experiences with libraries and other essays featuring notable libraries and the good work they are doing. In short, the subtitle says it well – this is a celebration of librarians and libraries and the vast depth of resources they bring to their communities.

I hope that non-librarians will look at this book and gain a new appreciation of all that modern librarians do. I already know all this! In fact, non-librarian friends and family, please read this book as a favor to me. You’ll understand all the better why I am so proud to be a librarian and see librarianship as my calling.

And yes, I have several friends featured in these pages – well, they are at least acquaintances and people I have worked with on committees. I’ve spoken and worked with them. Even had lunch with a few at conferences.

But besides that, this is a beautiful look at the wide variety of missions of librarians and libraries in American communities today.

Here’s how the author and photographer starts the book in the Introduction:

How can I help libraries?

That’s a question I never really thought about until recently. But now it’s something constantly on my mind, because libraries can use some help, and very often the people in the best position to do so are those of us who haven’t thought about them for a long time.

If you travel across America talking about libraries, you will meet some people who love them, some who are indifferent, and others who think they are a waste of resources. The functions that libraries serve are bound up with their communities; indeed, the two are symbiotic. The more love you put in, the more you will get out.

And here’s how he finishes the book in the Afterword:

There’s so much work being done in every community across the country by these people. This isn’t a book about America’s most significant libraries; it’s a book about everyday libraries doing everyday work. They’re just drops of rain in a thunderstorm, but together they work to make the ground fertile.

Wherever you are in America, there is a librarian fighting to get you something, whether it’s a computer, an audio book, a children’s book, a banned book, job skills, a citizenship test, a record deal, a movie to watch, a fishing rod, answers about thirteenth-century clothing, voter registration, local archives, a place to stay warm or cool or dry, a kayak on a breezy summer afternoon, or any of a thousand thousand other things. These librarians are fighting against incredible odds and against powerful forces and against ignorance and arrogance. They don’t even know you, but they’re getting up every morning, relentlessly building a colossus for you to stand on to see farther, reach higher, and achieve more. They’re fighting for your right to access information.

How can you help libraries?

What are you waiting for? Check this book out from your local library! If you need help finding it, I know someone who’d be glad to help.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/librarian_looks_like.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 City Moon, by Rachael Cole, illustrated by Blanca Gómez

Wednesday, May 30th, 2018

City Moon

by Rachael Cole
illustrated by Blanca Gómez

Schwartz & Wade Books, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Such a lovely book! I love the simple way it celebrates that it gets dark early in the fall. Here’s how it begins:

In the fall,
when leaves are coming down,
it gets dark before we go to bed.

After dinner,
after tooth-brushing time,
we put on pajamas,
then coats and shoes.

We take keys,
and bang the big front door
behind us.

It’s evening. It’s night.
We are going on a walk
to look for the moon.

The illustrations show a busy city, with people doing things in their apartments and other walking on the sidewalk. The child asks questions, and the mother answers. The moon hides behind buildings and clouds. They see stars (which are not little moons) and a reflection of the moon. The child learns about those things and that there is only one moon, even though it looks like it’s in a different place.

It’s all simple and lovely as a walk with a mother and small child.

I liked this page:

“Mama, why doesn’t everyone look?”
“They’re busy,” Mama tells me.
“Walking and riding bikes home
and cooking dinner
and putting children to bed.”

This book makes me want to go look for the moon. And I will do so with new eyes. Best of all, it gives me a whole new perspective on getting home from work when it’s already dark. That doesn’t have to be an annoyance.

And like all good bedtime books, it ends with a child asleep in bed, the moon shining down.

rachaelcole.net
cosasminimas.com
randomhousekids.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Picture_Books/city_moon.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 Thanks for the Trouble, by Tommy Wallach

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Thanks for the Trouble

by Tommy Wallach

Simon & Schuster, 2016. 276 pages.
Starred Review

This book opens as Parker Santé is in a hotel, looking for something to steal. He sees a girl with silver hair pay for her coffee.

She reached into her purse and pulled out the fattest stack of hundreds I’d ever seen in real life. I’m talking a hip-hop video kind of wad, thick as a John Grisham paperback. She peeled off one of the bills — (I see you, Mr. Franklin) — and handed it over. “Keep the change,” she said. The waiter nodded a stunned little bobblehead nod, then peeled out before the girl could think better of her generosity, leaving her to tap idly at the top of a soft-boiled egg in an elaborate silver eggcup. I stared at her staring off into space, and counted the many ways in which she was incredible.

He’s attracted to the girl, but that doesn’t stop him from stealing the wad of cash when she leaves her purse behind. However, he makes a fundamental mistake, a mistake that reminds him of the myth of Orpheus.

But my dad said it was the most perfect myth ever written, because it represented the most fundamental human error: we all look back.

When I did, I saw that the silver-haired girl had returned to her seat. In spite of the fact that her purse was open and half its contents had spilled out across the tablecloth, she wasn’t screaming or crying or scrambling around, looking for the culprit. Why, you ask? Because she’d been distracted by something else. By what, you ask? Well, by my journal, of course! I’d left it behind when I tore off with all that money. It had my name in it, and my e-mail address, and an incredibly embarrassing story I’d recently written called “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Kingdom,” which she was now reading.

They get to talking. Or, I should say, the girl talks and Parker writes. Parker hasn’t been able to talk since the accident when his dad died.

But the girl tells him her plan:

“I am waiting for a phone call. And when it comes, I’m going to give this money to the first needy person I see. Then I’ll take the trolley to the Golden Gate Bridge and jump off it.”

Parker doesn’t like the sound of that. So he negotiates. He thinks he’s talking her out of jumping off the bridge, but they end up with the deal that she’s going to spend all that money on him (and with him), and he is going to apply to and attend college.

As their adventure takes off, they get to know each other better. When Parker tries to find out more about Zelda, she tells him that she was born in 1770 in Kassel, Germany. She doesn’t age.

Now her second husband is dying of old age, and she’s had enough.

But whether or not he believes her, Parker has some things to show her about life.

And she has many things to teach Parker.

I like all the questions this book opens up. What would it be like not to age? What would you do?

I wasn’t crazy about the framing — It’s supposedly Parker’s college application essay. I didn’t actually believe you’d be able to submit a book-length manuscript online. Though that does add to the fun because you don’t know if it really happened to the character. Though it certainly supports how dramatically his life changed.

An entertaining book that you can think about for a very long time.

tommywallach.com
simonandschuster.com/teen

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

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

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

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

What did you think of this book?

Review of Creekfinding, by Jacqueline Briggs Martin, illustrations by Claudia McGehee

Monday, May 28th, 2018

Creekfinding

A True Story

by Jacqueline Briggs Martin
illustrations by Claudia McGehee

University of Minnesota Press, 2017. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This picture book tells the true story of restoring a lost creek.

How can a creek be lost? Years before, a farmer had used a bulldozer to fill the creek with dirt, so he could turn the prairie into a cornfield – growing corn where the creek used to be.

A man named Mike Osterholm bought the farm and planned to restore the prairie. Then a neighbor told Mike that he used to catch brook trout at that very spot. Mike set to work to restore the creek.

The book shows the many steps this took. He started with old photographs to mark out where the creek had been. Then he used a bulldozer and an excavator to dig a path for the creek.

Mike said the water remembered.
It seeped in from the sides,
raced down the riffles and runs,
burbled into holes, filled the creek.

But a creek isn’t just water.
It’s plants, rocks, bugs, fish, and birds.

The book goes on to explain how they got each of those ingredients into the restored creek.

It took years to restore the creek, but now:

If you went to the creek with Mike,
you’d see water.

But a creek isn’t just water.
You’d see brook trout and sculpin.
You’d hear the outdoor orchestra –
herons, snipe,
bluebirds, yellowthroat warblers;
frogs, returned home;
and insects –
thousands, and thousands,
and thousands of insects.

Now a new generation can catch trout on Brook Creek – and a new host of creatures has a home.

The art in this book is amazing and evocative of the prairie. The illustrator’s note at the back is poetic:

One hot July afternoon, I visited Prairie Song Farm, home to Brook Creek, to gather images and impressions for this book’s illustrations. As I waded into the deep greenness, all sorts of creatures – winged, scaled, feathered and furred – bustled in the grasses and along the water banks. I wanted to re-create the textures and colors I saw, so readers could “walk” alongside Brook Creek as they learned about its restoration. I made the ripply, sturdy lines of earth, water, and sky in scratchboard and painted the prairie greens, creek blues, and everything in between with watercolors and dyes.

Because of the simple language and picture book format, young children can enjoy this book. But older children will get even more out of the story and learn many things about creatures, creeks, and prairies.

upress.umn.edu

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/creekfinding.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 – Seeking the Belgische Schezkekse

Monday, May 28th, 2018

In honor of Memorial Day weekend and having already finished reading 5 books this weekend and written 3 reviews, let’s do a short, late night Sonderling Sunday!

Sonderling Sunday is that time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books. It’s been awhile since my last Sonderling Sunday post, and I’m getting so very close (proportionately) to the end of the most Sonder-book of all, that we’re going to stick with Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, The Order of Odd-Fish, by James Kennedy, again this time.

We are still on Chapter 24 (of 28), on page 331 in the English version, and Seite 420 in the German edition. As is traditional, I’ll begin with the first sentence of the section:

“Jo watched the ceiling as another sleepless night dragged on.”
= Jo betrachtete die Decke, während eine weitere schlaflose Nacht sich dahinschleppte.
(You’ve got to love “dragged on” = dahinschleppte.)

“as if she were full of squirming baby mice”
= als würde es in ihrem Innern von winzigen Mäusen nur so wimmeln

“wandered” = streifte

“deserted” = vollkommen menschenleer (“completely people-empty”)

This one’s interesting. “Flurd-Poffle” is translated Bodenhatz which means something like “ground-hunt.” It’s another made-up word, but why was it translated at all?

“a large, cold room with glass walls”
= ein großer, steriler Raum mit gläsernen Wänden

“harsh light” = grelles Neonlicht

“little rips” = kleinen Kerben

“pallor” = Blässe

“a guard or a receptionist” = einem Wächter oder einem Pförtner

“eerie” = gruselig

“empty skin” = leere Hülle

“maximum security section” = Hochsicherheitstrakt

“nurses” = Pfleger

“made his long-dreaded return”
= seine so lange gefürchtete Rückkehr inszeniert
(“his so long feared return staged”)

“a swank bachelor’s pad”
= eines prahlerischen Junggesellen

“centerpiece” = Prunkstück

“swinging lounge music” = coole Swingmusik

“off balance” = aus dem Gleichgewicht

“sipped” = schlürften

“laboratory glassware” = Reagenzgläsern

“robotic merriness” = mechanische Unbekümmerheit

“that creeped Jo out”
= bei der Jo ein Schauder über den Rücken lief
(“that Jo a shadow over her back ran”)

“desperate lightheartedness” = verzweifelte Fröhlichkeit

“blithely” = schlichtweg

They preserved alliteration:
“toast of the town” = Star der Stadt

“interchangeable” = austauschbaren

It’s very late and not, technically, Sunday any more, so I’m going to end with this sentence in the middle of a section:

“Wherever he went, he warped everything around him into an empty jest.”
= Wohin auch immer er ging, er verzerrte alles um sich herum zu einem hohlen Witz.

That’s all for tonight. It’s fun now to imagine scenarios where you could possibly use these new German words you know.

Bis zum nächsten Mal!

Review of The Wild Robot, by Peter Brown

Saturday, May 26th, 2018

The Wild Robot

by Peter Brown
read by Kate Atwater

Hachette Audio, 2016. 4 hours on 4 CDs.
Review written in 2016.

This is a simple story about a robot that survives a shipwreck and washes up on an island. There Roz learns to live among the animals, to act like them and speak their language.

After an accident kills a family of geese – except for one egg – Roz feels responsible and adopts the gosling, who imprints on Roz when he hatches. In order to bring up the gosling, Roz needs help from the animals of the island. She works even harder at adapting to their wild ways and making the island her home.

When I first checked out this book, I was impatient with the simple sentences and mistook it for a simplistic story. I had more patience with the audio book and found more depth than I had expected. This book is geared for kids just beginning to read chapter books, but for those, it asks some fascinating questions about what it means to be alive and what it means to feel emotions and how to make friends when you are seen as different from everybody else.

I enjoyed the audiobook so much, I think this would also make a good classroom readaloud for an early elementary classroom. There would be plenty to talk about. The language and story are simple, but they do make you think. This would also do well for a family bedtime story when a child is ready for a book with many chapters.

One odd thing about the audiobook is that there is accompanying music and sound effects at the beginning and at the end. It wasn’t clear to me why the sounds suddenly started up again on the last CD. I did think the sound effects enhanced the story, but was curious why they were only there for part of the story.

The audiobook includes a pdf of illustrations, but of course that’s not a real substitute for seeing the pictures as you read the story. Which brings me back to thinking this would be an even better readaloud than it is an audiobook.

Now, I have a lot of quibbles about a robot having emotions, or if things would really go this way, but for a simple chapter book with a lot of depth, The Wild Robot is a lovely offering.

peterbrownstudio.com
HachetteAudio.com

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

Review of The Upside of Stress, by Kelly McGonigal

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

The Upside of Stress

Why Stress Is Good for You and How to Get Good at It

by Kelly McGonigal, PhD

Avery (Penguin Random House), 2015. 279 pages.
Starred Review

The same friend who recommended Kelly McGonigal’s book The Willpower Instinct to me also recommended The Upside of Stress. Even though I don’t think of myself as having a big problem with stress, I also hadn’t thought of myself as having a big problem with willpower – so this time, I put the book on hold right away, and was not surprised when it turned out to be outstanding.

We’ve all heard about the dangers of stress. Too much stress is bad for you, right? Well, this book looks more closely at that question. It turns out that if you think stress is bad for you, then it is. But if you focus on the upsides of stress – and there are many – stress can actually be good for you.

So all by itself, reading this book can make you healthier! You will learn about the many positive effects of stress, thus breaking the belief that stress is bad for you, thus ensuring it is not as bad for you.

On top of that, of course, you’re going to be much happier, the next time you’re in a stressful situation, when you start remembering the good it can do you.

Here’s how the author summarizes her purpose after she saw these new studies about stress.

So, my goal as a health psychologist has changed. I no longer want to help you get rid of your stress – I want to make you better at stress. That is the promise of the new science of stress, and the purpose of this book.

I like the way, in both her books, she bases everything on scientific studies.

It’s helpful to know a little about the science behind embracing stress for two reasons. First, it’s fascinating. When the subject is human nature, every study is an opportunity to better understand yourself and those you care about. Second, the science of stress has some real surprises. Certain ideas about stress – including the central premise of this book: that stress can be good for you – are hard to swallow. Without evidence, it would be easy to dismiss them. Seeing the science behind these ideas can help you consider them and how they might apply to your own experiences.

The advice in this book isn’t based on one shocking study – even though that’s what inspired me to rethink stress. The strategies you’ll learn are based on hundreds of studies and the insights of dozens of scientists I’ve spoken with. Skipping the science and getting straight to the advice doesn’t work. Knowing what’s behind every strategy helps them stick. So this book includes a crash course in the new science of stress and what psychologists call mindsets. You’ll be introduced to rising-star researchers and some of their most intriguing studies – all in a way I hope the reader can enjoy. If you have a bigger appetite for scientific details and want even more information, the notes at the end of this book will let you dig deeper.

But most important, this is a practical guide to getting better at living with stress. Embracing stress can make you feel more empowered in the face of challenges. It can enable you to better use the energy of stress without burning out. It can help you turn stressful experiences into a source of social connection rather than isolation. And finally, it can lead you to new ways of finding meaning in suffering.

She ends the introduction with big goals for her readers – and I have to say that this book really does move you in this direction:

Why would seeing the good in stress help in these circumstances? I believe it is because embracing stress changes how you think about yourself and what you can handle. It is not a purely intellectual exercise. Focusing on the upside of stress transforms how you experience it physically and emotionally. It changes how you cope with the challenges in your life. I wrote this book with that specific purpose in mind: to help you discover your own strength, courage, and compassion. Seeing the upside of stress is not about deciding whether stress is either all good or all bad. It’s about how choosing to see the good in stress can help you meet the challenges in your life.

Many of the interesting studies of stress looked at people’s biological response to stress. You’ve all heard of fight-or-flight, right? Well, that’s only one possible response to stress. We find different physiological changes in the different responses.

There are several prototypical stress responses, each with a different biological profile that motivates various strategies for dealing with stress. For example, a challenge response increases self-confidence, motivates action, and helps you learn from experience; while a tend-and-befriend response increases courage, motivates caregiving, and strengthens your social relationships. Alongside the familiar flight-or-flight response, these make up your stress response repertoire.

I think my favorite chapter was titled “A Meaningful Life Is a Stressful Life.” It turns out there’s a strong correlation between high levels of stress and engaging in meaningful activities – which shouldn’t actually be a surprise. But I liked the observation that just thinking about the meaning behind your stress – why you’re doing this – can increase the physical benefits of stress. One of the studies cited just asked students to write about their values – and this simple act let them see meaning for their stress.

Since that first study, dozens of similar experiments have followed. It turns out that writing about your values is one of the most effective psychological interventions ever studied. In the short term, writing about personal values makes people feel more powerful, in control, proud, and strong. It also makes them feel more loving, connected, and empathetic toward others. It increases pain tolerance, enhances self-control, and reduces unhelpful rumination after a stressful experience.

In the long term, writing about values has been shown to boost GPAs, reduce doctor visits, improve mental health, and help with everything from weight loss to quitting smoking and reducing problem drinking. It helps people persevere in the face of discrimination and reduces self-handicapping. In many cases, these benefits are a result of a onetime mindset intervention. People who write about their values once, for ten minutes, show benefits months or even years later.

I also loved this strategy of comparing your stress to what you would go through if you were climbing Mount Everest:

Everyone has an Everest. Whether it’s a climb you chose, or a circumstance you find yourself in, you’re in the middle of an important journey. Can you imagine a climber scaling the wall of ice at Everest’s Lhotse Face and saying, “This is such a hassle”? Or spending the first night in the mountain’s “death zone” and thinking, “I don’t need this stress”? The climber knows the context of his stress. It has personal meaning to him; he has chosen it. You are most liable to feel like a victim of the stress in your life when you forget the context the stress is unfolding in. “Just another cold, dark night on the side of Everest” is a way to remember the paradox of stress. The most meaningful challenges in your life will come with a few dark nights.

Of course this was good to hear while I’m in the middle of my year of reading as many books as I possibly can for the Newbery committee. So worth it! And just remembering that is sometimes all it takes to feel more able to deal with it.

The second part of the book talks about how to get good at stress. Here’s what that means:

Embracing stress is an act of bravery, one that requires choosing meaning over avoiding discomfort.

This is what it means to be good at stress. It’s not about being untouched by adversity or unruffled by difficulties. It’s about allowing stress to awaken in you these core human strengths of courage, connection, and growth. Whether you are looking at resilience in overworked executives or war-torn communities, the same themes emerge. People who are good at stress allow themselves to be changed by the experience of stress. They maintain a basic sense of trust in themselves and a connection to something bigger than themselves. They also find ways to make meaning out of suffering. To be good at stress is not to avoid stress, but to play an active role in how stress transforms you.

She focuses on learning to use stress to help you engage, connect and grow.

When you engage with stress, you realize that your physical response can help you rise to the challenge. That’s the challenge response in action. I love math, and I remember when I had a math test coming up, I’d be excited and ready to ace that test – my physical response helped me think even more clearly. (I thought of this example when she gave an example of an athlete getting ready to compete. That one doesn’t work for me, though it probably works for more people than my math test example.)

Okay, maybe that’s not the best example for everyone. So let me contrast it with getting up in front of a large group to speak. When I was a kid, that used to always, without fail, make me shake uncontrollably. So when I started feeling nervous, I’d then dread getting the shakes – which of course made the shakes all the worse. (This was a problem when playing in flute recitals, since my entire flute would shake.)

As a matter of fact, the first time I did not shake when getting up in front of a big group was when I gave a Chalk Talk as part of a math competition in high school. Yes, my senses were heightened and my heart rate was up. But in this case, since I was absolutely sure I knew what I was doing, it only made me more alert and able to do a good job. Even knowing nothing about mindset at the time – that shows that how I thought about it made a huge difference. You can think of it as nervousness and as proof that you’re inadequate, or you can think about it as excitement and an extra performance boost.

Viewing your stress response as a resource works because it helps you believe “I can do this.” This belief is important for ordinary stress, but it may be even more important during extraordinary stress. Knowing that you are adequate to the challenges in your life can mean the difference between hope or despair, persistence or defeat. Research shows that how you interpret your body’s stress response plays a role in this belief, whether you are worried about an exam, getting over a divorce, or facing your next round of chemo.

Embracing stress is a radical act of self-trust: View yourself as capable and your body as a resource. You don’t have to wait until you no longer have fear, stress, or anxiety to do what matters most. Stress doesn’t have to be a sign to stop and give up on yourself. This kind of mindset shift is a catalyst, not a cure. It doesn’t erase your suffering or make your problems disappear. But if you are willing to rethink your stress response, it may help you recognize your strength and access your courage.

Having stress motivate you to connect is the tend-and-befriend response to stress. As I suspected, the research bears out that this response comes more naturally to women. When you’re in trouble, reach out to your community! Yes, it will help. (This is partly why church small groups are so effective. They give you a group ready to help when you’re under stress.)

The social nature of stress is not something to fear. When you take a tend-and-befriend approach, even contagious stress can be strengthening. As we’ve seen, caring creates resilience, whether the altruism is a response to rescue us from our own suffering or simply a natural reaction to the pain of others. A sympathetic stress response to another person’s suffering can spark empathy and motivate helping, which in turn enhance our own well-being. Furthermore, we shouldn’t be afraid to let others see the truth of our own struggles – especially when we need their support. In many ways, our transparency is a gift, allowing others to feel less alone and offering them the opportunity to experience the benefits of tending and befriending.

The final chapter was about using stress to increase personal growth. Yes! That chapter got me excited. I’ve come out of the worst time of my life – my divorce – and I feel like on the other side I’m much stronger and more resilient. I’ve grown. So this chapter resonated with me.

This wasn’t saying that terrible events aren’t terrible. Just that good can actually come out of them.

But as much as we want to avoid pain and suffering, it’s almost impossible to get through life without experiencing some trauma, loss, or serious adversity. If avoiding suffering isn’t possible, what is the best way to think about the experience? “Given that it’s happened,” Seery asked, “does it mean your life is ruined?” He thinks his work gives a very clear answer. “People are not doomed to be damaged by adversity.”

Here I turn to the belief that God has promised to work all things together for good. The author takes a secular approach, but she’s also saying that bad experiences can be redeemed by how you react to them.

This is a critical distinction, and one of the most important things to understand about how adversity can make you stronger. The science of post-traumatic growth doesn’t say that there is anything inherently good about suffering. Nor does it say that every traumatic event leads to growth. When any good comes from suffering, the source of that growth resides in you — your strengths, your values, and how you choose to respond to adversity. It does not belong to the trauma.

Here are some inspiring thoughts from her final reflections:

For most of its history, the science of stress focused on one question: Is stress bad for you? (Eventually, it graduated to the question, Just how bad is stress for you?)

But the interesting thing about the science of stress is that despite the overwhelmingly accepted idea that stress is harmful, the research tells a slightly different story: Stress is harmful, except when it’s not. Consider the examples we’ve seen in this book: Stress increases the risk of health problems, except when people regularly give back to their communities. Stress increases the risk of dying, except when people have a sense of purpose. Stress increases the risk of depression, except when people see a benefit in their struggles. Stress is paralyzing, except when people perceive themselves as capable. Stress makes people selfish, except when it makes them altruistic. For every harmful outcome you can think of, there’s an exception that erases the expected association between stress and something bad – and often replaces it with an unexpected benefit.

I like this personal observation:

When I committed myself to the process of embracing stress, I didn’t anticipate the biggest way it would affect my everyday experience of life. To my surprise, I started to feel a flood of gratitude in situations I would also describe as highly stressful. It wasn’t an intentional mindset shift; the gratitude just showed up. I still haven’t fully figured out why this was the biggest change for me, but it probably has something to do with what was most toxic about my experience of stress before I embraced it – a habit of resenting the things in my life that caused stress because I found the experience of stress so distressing.

For me, I’m reading this book at a good time – when my main stress is obviously from a good reason, and is very meaningful – being on the Newbery committee and trying to spend every spare moment reading. But I hope when tougher things come along, I’ll remember to look for the upside – and then the upside will actually become greater.

Got any stress in your life? I highly recommend this book.

kellymcgonigal.com
penguin.com

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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 After the Fall, by Dan Santat

Friday, May 18th, 2018

After the Fall

How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again

by Dan Santat

Roaring Brook Press, 2017. 36 pages.
Review written October 2017.

Here’s a lovely parable about Humpty Dumpty’s recovery.

Humpty Dumpty’s favorite spot was high up on a wall, close to the birds.

Then one day, I fell. (I’m sort of famous for that part.)
Folks called it “The Great Fall,” which sounds a little grand.
It was just an accident.

But it changed my life.

After that, Humpty was afraid of heights. But he got an idea. He made a paper airplane, and painted it to look like a beautiful bird.

But then, another accident happens (They always do.), and Humpty’s bird got stuck on the top of the wall.

I almost walked away, again.
But then I thought about all the time I’d spent working on my plane, and all the other things I’d missed.

I decided I was going to climb that wall.

But the higher I got,
the more nervous I felt.
I didn’t want to admit it:
I was terrified.

But he keeps going, one step at a time, until he’s no longer afraid.

This sounds simple, and it is – but the execution is brilliant. The timing of the page turns and the dramatic illustrations carry the theme beautifully. I love the page where Humpty reflects that his fear of heights is keeping him from enjoying some of his favorite things – the illustration shows a range of cereals, with gray, boring cereals on the bottom (names like “Fiber Flakes” and “Grown-up Food” and Humpty holding “Bo-Rings”), and bright, colorful cereals on the top (including “Rainbow Bites,” “Sugar Bunny,” “Just Marshmallow,” “Bowl-O-Cookies,” and “Free Toy”).

The catch is the climax. It’s lovely and inspirational – you just have to not think about it too hard (which I have a big problem not doing). Humpty Dumpty hatches! Into a beautiful bird, and flies away!

It’s lovely and wonderful and all about overcoming your fears and going on to soar. There are two problems that persnickety me can’t quite overlook. One is that if Humpty was an egg with a live embryo inside – that embryo wouldn’t have survived his fall. (I always thought he was hard-boiled.) The second problem is that birds can’t fly moments after hatching.

But every other single thing about this book is beautiful and brilliant. You can rise again after unfortunate accidents and emerge better than ever.

dantat.com
mackids.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 Hello, Universe, by Erin Entrada Kelly

Thursday, May 17th, 2018

Hello, Universe

by Erin Entrada Kelly
performed by Ramon de Ocampo and Amielynn Abellera

HarperAudio, 2017. 5 ¼ hours on 5 discs.
Starred Review
2018 Newbery Medal Winner

I was disappointed when I hadn’t read this year’s Newbery Medal Winner before it won – though not too disappointed, because now I had a good book to read! The only problem: When to read it? I need to be reading books eligible for the 2019 Newbery Medal.

However, our committee is trying to avoid listening to eligible books, since a good or bad narrator can influence your opinion of a book – so when the library purchased this book in audio format, I knew what my next commuting book would be.

It’s a quirky story. One thing I like about it is that it stands a writing rule on its head: Don’t use coincidences to move the plot. But in this case, coincidences are used repeatedly – and it’s perfect for this story. It reminds me of the old book by Edward Eager, Magic Or Not? — you aren’t sure if the things happening are coincidences or magic. In Hello, Universe you aren’t sure if events are coincidences or fate.

Among the characters, though, Kaori Tanaka is absolutely sure it’s a fateful day. She says over and over: “There are no coincidences.”

Kaori Tanaka is a self-proclaimed psychic. Her little sister follows her around and helps, in a gratifying and subservient way. Kaori has one client so far, Vergil Salinas. Vergil is very shy, and he feels like a complete failure because middle school ended, and he never said one word to that nice girl he saw in the resource room every Thursday, Valencia Somerset. Valencia is deaf, and she’s recently learned that the girls she thought were her best friends are tired of making the effort to communicate with her. She’s started having the same nightmare every night.

But after Kaori asks Vergil to post her card at the grocery store – with the line “no adults” – the one who picks it up and makes an appointment is Valencia. She hopes to get help with those bad dreams. But the day that Valencia makes an appointment to see Kaori is the same day that Vergil has not shown up for his appointment. What could have happened to him? And will the Universe help them find him?

I like the way the apparent coincidences combine to help each character make some changes.

It’s fun to get a peek when fate brings people together. But then, I was also pretty sure in the Edward Eager books that magic was involved.

harperaudio.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.

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Review of Sword and Verse, by Kathy MacMillan

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Sword and Verse

by Kathy MacMillan

HarperTeen, 2016. 376 pages.
Review written October 2016.

This book starts on the day the palace Tutor-in-training is executed for teaching other slaves to read. Raisa is one of the Arnath slaves who cleans the palace friezes, but she is chosen to be the new Tutor-in-training.

Only the Qilarite nobles are allowed to learn to read, and only the royal family learn the Higher Order symbols, which they use to write to the gods. No one in Qilara knows that Raisa has a piece of writing given to her by her father, one of the Learned Ones of Arnath, where they believed that all should be given knowledge. Before their village was raided and he was killed, her father gave her her heart verse, written out on a soft piece of paper. Raisa hopes that when she’s taught to read, she will be able to understand what that valuable piece of paper says.

But as Raisa is studying with Prince Mati, learning the word-based writing system of Qilara, the prince begins seeking quiet moments with her, and she can’t resist.

But he is a prince and she is a slave. He needs to marry for political gain.

Raisa does remember enough to know the Arnath writing system is sound-based, so it’s going to take some work to decipher it. And if anyone finds out she’s saving any writing from one day to the next, she knows she would be executed.

All these threads are woven together in such a way that not only Raisa’s romance, but the whole kingdom lies in the balance. Prince Mati is to be the next king, and he talks about putting an end to slavery, but there are powerful forces in the Council who won’t let that happen. Meanwhile, Raisa’s being contacted by members of the Rebellion who want to put an end to it their way.

It all leads to Raisa being embroiled in dramatic political upheaval and even needing to request help from the gods.

This book is absorbing and well-written, and was a lovely way to start my reading retreat. I did enjoy that it was a stand-alone fantasy novel rather than a trilogy – but I’m afraid it did feel like it all wrapped up too neatly.

It’s hard for me to root for a romance between a prince and a slave, hard for me to believe that he’s actually a good guy she can trust, and hard to believe they would really end up together.

The author did have the enslaved people from Arnath be the fair-skinned blondes and the ruling Qilarites be dark-skinned with curly hair. It would have been nice to be a little more subtle there, but at least it was a reversal of American history.

I was recently faulting a different book because in it, the protagonist taught herself to read a sound-based writing system, which isn’t actually possible. In this book, Raisa does have verbal cues to start with, and she is taught the word-based writing system, so it was more plausible. I did like that the author made clear it took her a lot of work to figure out the Arnath sound-based system, but she was rather vague about how that could actually be done.

But those are quibbles. I enjoyed reading this book, and was personally glad Raisa got a happy ending, even if the skeptical side of me thought it was a little too neat. If you’re looking for a cautionary tale about not trusting a powerful young man who wants to have sex with you, don’t look here. But if you’re looking for a fun story about daring to learn and daring to shake up the status quo and trusting your heart – this book is absorbing reading and will leave you smiling.

kathymacmillan.com
epicreads.com

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