Archive for July, 2018

Review of Artemis, by Andy Weir

Thursday, July 26th, 2018

Artemis

by Andy Weir
performed by Rosario Dawson

Brilliance Audio, 2017. 8 hours, 59 minutes on 8 discs.
Starred Review

I got to read a novel for adults! The Newbery committee decided to avoid listening to audiobooks of eligible books, since we don’t want the skill of the readers to influence our opinions one way or the other – so when I drive to and from work, I do not listen to children’s books. And Artemis is indeed a book for adults – there is plenty of profanity and sexual innuendoes.

Jazz Bashara, the main character of this book, is not as likable as the main character of The Martian, the author’s first brilliant book. At least not for me. I’m a rule follower. Jazz is the opposite of that. She’s surviving in her home town on the moon as a smuggler.

But then she gets a chance to change that completely, if she’ll pull off a sabotage job for a billionaire. But then something goes wrong, and then the billionaire gets murdered, and to save her own life she ends up planning a much bigger job.

Like The Martian, this book is full of suspense and full of authentic details about the technology. Artemis is a city on the moon, built in domes named after the men of the first manned mission to the moon. The book is full of details about how life works on the moon, and the job Jazz needs to pull off can only be done using science. The problems she confronts have to do with science, too.

There are also details about how the economy works in a frontier town. And law enforcement. Even the things Jazz smuggles – like flammable items – make sense in this near future world the author has built so carefully. (I like that it’s the Kenya Space Agency that built Artemis, for a fun little detail.)

So it’s a book completely different from the author’s first, but it’s also full of life-and-death science scenarios. And I tend to be extremely picky – but it never disrupted my suspension of disbelief even once.

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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 I Am Jazz, by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings, pictures by Shelagh McNicolas

Tuesday, July 24th, 2018

I Am Jazz

by Jessica Herthel & Jazz Jennings

pictures by Shelagh McNicholas

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2014. 32 pages.
Review written in 2017

I Am Jazz is a simple picture book about the experience of one transgender girl.

Her experience is presented simply, in child-friendly language. She talks about her best friends, Samantha and Casey, and the things all three of them love to do.

But I’m not exactly like Samantha and Casey.

I have a girl brain but a boy body.
This is called transgender.

I was born this way!

She tells us that at first her family was confused, they’d call her a boy despite her insistence that she was a girl.

Then one amazing day, everything changed. Mom and Dad took me to meet a new doctor who asked me lots and lots of questions. Afterward, the doctor spoke to my parents and I heard the word “transgender” for the very first time.

That night at bedtime, my parents both hugged me and said, “We understand now. Be who you are. We love you no matter what.”

This made me smile and smile and smile.

This book was published in 2014, but our library has only recently purchased it. Better late than never! It’s in the nonfiction section – in juvenile biography under “Jennings” – so no child is going to accidentally stumble across it in the picture books. That’s a bit of a shame, because it’s a simple explanation of what it’s like to be transgender – but at least we won’t have parents complaining that they don’t want their child exposed to this. To find this book, you will have to look for it.

I do recommend looking for it! A lovely book to explain to children what life is like for the transgender classmates they may end up encountering. Or, for that matter, to understand what they themselves may be going through. Stories go a long way to counteract bullying. This book tells a true story in a positive way.

transkidspurplerainbow.org
penguin.com/youngreaders

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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 Fish Girl, by Donna Jo Napoli and David Wiesner

Monday, July 23rd, 2018

Fish Girl

story by Donna Jo Napoli & David Wiesner
pictures by David Wiesner

Clarion Books, 2017. 188 pages.
Review written in 2017.

One of my favorite children’s fantasy writers Donna Jo Napoli has teamed up with the amazing illustrator David Wiesner to produce a gorgeous graphic novel.

The story is about a young mermaid who is kept in captivity by a man who calls himself Neptune, god of the sea. The building is next to the ocean, and the man puts on shows for tourists. Fish Girl’s job is to let the tourists get glimpses of her, but never a good look. And she picks up the coins they throw into the tank after the show.

Then a 12-year-old girl sees Fish Girl. She’s afraid Neptune will find out. But the girl comes back, and the two become friends. Fish Girl starts climbing out of the tank at night – which changes things. She begins asking questions about the stories Neptune has told her.

There are a lot of unanswered questions in this graphic novel – the story is mostly told through the pictures. But the story is gripping, and the pictures are stunning. And we’re rooting for Fish Girl as she makes a friend and gets a name and starts thinking about freedom.

hmhco.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 Inspired, by Rachel Held Evans

Sunday, July 22nd, 2018

Inspired

Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

by Rachel Held Evans

Nelson Books (Thomas Nelson), 2018. 236 pages.
Starred Review

In this book, Rachel Held Evans takes a look at the Bible with love, affection, imagination, and scholarship.

In the Introduction, she talks about her history with the Bible, actually very similar to my own – beginning by seeing it as an almost magical book. But as she got older, she started finding out about problematic passages, and different people’s interpretations, all claiming to be “Biblical.”

I loved the way the Introduction ended:

Inspiration is better than magic, for as any artist will tell you, true inspiration comes not to the lucky or the charmed but to the faithful — to the writer who shows up at her keyboard each morning, even when she’s far too tired, to the guitarist whose fingers bleed after hours of practice, to the dancer who must first learn the traditional steps before she can freestyle with integrity. Inspiration is not about some disembodied ethereal voice dictating words or notes to a catatonic host. It’s a collaborative process, a holy give-and-take, a partnership between Creator and creator.

While Christians believe the Bible to be uniquely revelatory and authoritative to the faith, we have no reason to think its many authors were exempt from the mistakes, edits, rewrites, and dry spells of everyday creative work. Nor should we, as readers, expect every encounter with the text to leave us happily awestruck and enlightened. Inspiration, on both the giving and receiving end, takes practice and patience. It means showing up even when you don’t feel like it, even when it seems as if no one else is there. It means waiting for wind to stir.

God is still breathing. The Bible is both inspired and inspiring. Our job is to ready the sails and gather the embers, to discuss and debate, and like the biblical character Jacob, to wrestle with the mystery until God gives us a blessing.

If you’re curious, you will never leave the text without learning something new. If you’re persistent, you just might leave inspired.

In this book she includes some Midrash-inspired fiction leading into chapters about different types of literature found in the Bible. I like the playfulness of those parts, but I especially liked the things she had to say about the different stories found in the Bible.

She’s coming to the Bible with deep love and reverence – but acknowledging that this book was written by humans and we don’t have the original manuscripts, and our individual interpretations may or may not be correct.

And that’s what it’s all about. Christians believe the Bible is inspired by God. But what does that mean? This book is central to our faith, and I do believe it has power. I was blessed by this closer look at its pages, at the stories found there.

If I’ve learned anything from thirty-five years of doubt and belief, it’s that faith is not passive intellectual assent to a set of propositions. It’s a rough-and-tumble, no-holds-barred, all-night-long struggle, and sometimes you have to demand your blessing rather than wait around for it.

The same is true for Scripture. With Scripture, we’ve not been invited to an academic fraternity; we’ve been invited to a wrestling match. We’ve been invited to a dynamic, centuries-long conversation with God and God’s people that has been unfolding since creation, one story at a time. If we’re lucky, it will leave us with a limp.

Or, as she ends the book:

We may wish for answers, but God rarely gives us answers. Instead, God gathers us up into soft, familiar arms and says, “Let me tell you a story.”

thomasnelson.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 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.

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Review of Jump, Little Wood Ducks, by Marion Dane Bauer, photography by Stan Tekiela

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

Jump, Little Wood Ducks

story by Marion Dane Bauer
photography by Stan Tekiela

Adventure Publications, Cambridge, Minnesota, 2017. 32 pages.
Review written in 2017

Here’s a photo illustrated picture book that should work well in story time – with facts about wood ducks in the back.

I had no idea before reading this book that wood ducks build their nests in trees, about 30 feet above the ground. Here’s what happens to those wood duck babies (This is from the back of the book):

Within 24 to 48 hours of hatching, the ducklings are eager to jump out of the nest and get started in life. Before leaving the nest, the mother allows her ducklings to climb and jump all over her. Mama sits patiently while the youngsters jump around like popcorn popping. She doesn’t help the babies jump – they do it all on their own.

When the mother decides it’s time to leave, she flies to the ground and calls softly to the ducklings. Each duckling climbs swiftly to the cavity entrance and launches into the air. They jump one at a time or go out 2 or 3 together. The entire process of leaving the nest takes under 2 minutes. All ducklings need to exit quickly so that the whole group can stay together with their mother.

But the main text of the book imagines that the last 3 ducklings are reluctant to jump. It’s awfully high. They’d rather stay comfortable in their nest. There’s a nice refrain with the last duckling just whispering “Uh-uh.” The language is simple and makes a suspenseful story. I wouldn’t want to jump, either!

The gorgeous photo illustrations are what makes this book wonderful. The author weaves in facts about wood ducks as the mother duck tries to entice her children out – like the yummy things they’d eat (water bugs) and the habitat they’d jump into. The pictures have plenty of variety, but above all show the adorable ducklings. Stan Tekiela must be an incredibly patient photographer to have captured these so perfectly.

adventurepublications.net

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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 Wolf by Wolf, by Ryan Graudin

Wednesday, July 18th, 2018

Wolf by Wolf

by Ryan Graudin

Little, Brown and Company, 2016. 379 pages.
Review written in 2016.

Wolf by Wolf is an alternate history novel about a world where Germany won World War II. On top of that, our heroine is a Jewish girl who was experimented on by Nazi scientists — who gave her the ability to shapeshift her face.

With the ability, she was able to escape the concentration camp. Now, in 1956, she is the key to a plot to assassinate Hitler.

Now, my fundamental problem with the novel is I just couldn’t bring myself to believe that any sequence of injections could make a person able to change their bone structure. Yael can adjust her height and add freckles to her arms — but she can’t get rid of her prison camp tattoo. Even if I could accept that, she can also change her already-grown hair to be a different color or be thicker. I don’t quite see how that can work.

However, the story is so gripping and so dramatic, I was able to forgive it for its unlikely premise. I’ll grant you, it was sobering to read about Hitler’s Europe as the 2016 election happened.

The plot is a complicated one. Because Hitler has survived too many assassination attempts, he now never appears in public, except twice a year — at the start and end of the great motorcycle race, the Axis Tour, where motorcyclists rode from Germania (Berlin) to Tokyo, the capital of the Japanese empire. Last year, a girl, Adele Wolfe, had disguised herself as her brother and won the race. Hitler had danced with her.

Now Yael is going to take Adele’s identity, win the race, and assassinate Hitler in front of the world when he dances with her at the victory celebration. This will be a signal for her allies in the Resistance to move and topple the Third Reich.

But the race is long and grueling. Adele’s brother has entered the race to try to stop her. — He wants to save her life. Then there are the two other previous race victors who also want to be the first to win the Axis Tour a second time. Life and death are on the line. On top of that, Yael must navigate relationships blind.

And she must get to the Victory Ball. She must win.

But to do that, she needs to survive.

It took me awhile to warm up to this story. As I said, I had a hard time with the premise. I thought the writing seemed a little overdramatic. But as I read, I have to admit that a girl in that situation would feel the weight of everything depending on her. The situation is inherently dramatic.

Little by little, we learn her history. Yael has gotten a tattoo of five wolves to cover her prison tattoo. Each wolf represents one person she has lost. She is doing this for them.

Once upon a different time, there was a girl who lived in a kingdom of death. Wolves howled up her arm. A whole pack of them — made of tattoo ink and pain, memory and loss. It was the only thing about her that ever stayed the same.

WolfbyWolfBook.com
ryangraudin.com
lb-teens.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 Octopus Escapes Again! by Laurie Ellen Angus

Tuesday, July 17th, 2018

Octopus Escapes Again!

by Laurie Ellen Angus

Dawn Publications, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

This beginning science book is so simple, our library system is shelving it with picture books – but it’s also full of facts.

Facts about the common octopus are indeed presented as a story – the story of an octopus spending her day looking for food – and meanwhile escaping the predators who want to eat her.

Along the way, we learn what sort of creatures an octopus likes to eat, but especially the clever ways an octopus escapes being eaten.

The illustrations are gorgeous, and with a wide amount of variety. Done with cut paper, there’s a nice realistic effect.

I already knew that an octopus is clever. This one escapes by squeezing into an empty shell, by using its ink to confuse an attacker, by speeding away with a blast of water through its siphon, by releasing an arm, and by quickly changing color to camouflage itself.

The story is simple enough to read to preschoolers, but there is a paragraph of facts about each escape technique. At the end of the book there are five pages of back matter, complete with ideas for enrichment activities.

A fantastic choice for beginning science lessons.

dawnpub.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 Bunjitsu Bunny vs. Bunjitsu Bunny, by John Himmelman

Monday, July 16th, 2018

Bunjitsu Bunny vs. Bunjitsu Bunny

by John Himmelman

Henry Holt and Company, New York, 2017. 122 pages.

I still say that John Himmelman’s books about Bunjitsu Bunny are perfect for readers who are just becoming fluent enough readers for chapter books. There are pictures on every page, and not a lot of words, so even though there are more than a hundred pages, the book is not daunting. And each chapter is a self-contained story, and most of them have some kind of pay-off or surprise ending, so reading them is rewarding.

Now I’ll admit that there’s nothing excitingly new about this new volume, and it doesn’t matter what order you read the books in. So I’m not struck with new enthusiasm about this series or itching to tell you about an especially clever new story.

However – collectively, the books are wonderful. I’m so glad they exist. Kids who already love reading about Bunjitsu Bunny will be happy for a set of more stories.

A bunny who’s skilled at bunjitsu and can conquer every foe, except maybe herself. What could be better?

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 Calypso, by David Sedaris

Saturday, July 14th, 2018

Calypso

by David Sedaris
read by the author

Hachette Audio, 2018. 6.5 hours on 6 CDs.

Hearing David Sedaris read his books always makes me laugh. I will admit that his humor is often crude or rude – but, yes, it is very funny.

In this book he mostly talks about his family. This includes the death by suicide of one of his sisters, so you wouldn’t think there’s a lot of room for humor – but if you think that you probably haven’t ever listened to David Sedaris.

He also talks about buying a beach house on the Carolina coast to share with his family. And his father, who is politically conservative, getting older. And David himself getting older and dealing with physical challenges – and getting addicted to his Fit Bit.

A lot of what’s funny about this audiobook is also very strange – like feeding his own tumor to a snapping turtle. But what can I say? It’s also incredibly funny the way David Sedaris tells it. I guess it helps to know you’re doing something strange.

I always say that nothing is better for keeping me awake on a long drive than a good laugh. You can find that here. (Though let me give fair warning: I wouldn’t want to explain these jokes to kids. In fact, it might be embarrassing if anyone else were in earshot. Funny, though!)

davidsedarisbooks.com
hachetteaudio.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 Niko Draws a Feeling, by Bob Raczka, illustrations by Simone Shin

Friday, July 13th, 2018

Niko Draws a Feeling

by Bob Raczka
illustrations by Simone Shin

Carolrhoda Books, 2017. 36 pages.
Review written in 2017

Niko likes to draw feelings.

When Niko was inspired,
it felt like a window
opening in his brain.

An idea would flit through the
open window like a butterfly,
flutter down to his stomach,

then along his arm and fingers to his pencils,
where it would escape onto his paper in a whirlwind of color.

No one understands Niko’s drawings and what they mean. If he draws the hard work of a mother robin building her nest, they expect to see a bird or a nest – not hard work. If he draws the warm of the sun on his face, they expect to see the sun or his face, not the warm.

His friends don’t understand. His parents don’t understand. His teacher doesn’t understand.

But then a girl named Iris moves next door, and she gets it. When she looks at Niko’s drawings, she feels something.

The next thing Niko draws is the feeling of friendship.

I didn’t expect to like this book as much as I did. Honestly, I’m still a little skeptical about drawing feelings. And a little skeptical that this new girl could catch on so well.

But – there’s something about that feeling when somebody finally gets you. This book delivered that feeling and warmed my heart.

lernerbooks.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.

What did you think of this book?