Archive for September, 2018

Review of Life on Mars, by Jon Agee

Sunday, September 30th, 2018

Life on Mars

by Jon Agee

Dial Books for Young Readers, 2017. 32 pages.

I love the silliness that comes from the mind of Jon Agee. In his latest picture book, a boy has come to Mars to find life. He’s bearing a gift of chocolate cupcakes. He’s sure there’s life on Mars, even though other people don’t think so.

But alas! All he finds when he looks around are rocks and dirt. There’s no life on Mars after all!

Meanwhile, children will see the large monster-shaped Martian following the kid around. The boy even climbs on “this mountain” (the creature’s belly) to find where he left his spaceship.

When the kid gets back in the spaceship headed home, he decides he deserves a treat. But who ate the chocolate cupcakes?

This is a child’s first taste of an unreliable narrator, and they’ll love knowing what he doesn’t. It’s an exercise in perspective, too, as you can talk about why the boy doesn’t see the Martian, but we do.

jonagee.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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Review of Titans, by Victoria Scott

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

Titans

Victoria Scott

Scholastic Press, 2016. 313 pages.

I’ve loved horse racing novels since I was a kid collecting The Black Stallion books. This book is in that tradition — except the horses are “Titans” — sophisticated robots with artificial intelligence.

Astrid has loved watching the Titans race since she was thirteen — which was also when she first saw a man die in a race.

The horses are a mixture of the real things and race cars. That’s why I’ve studied both. There isn’t much to do in the suburbs of Detroit, especially when where you live is less suburb and more slum. As working conditions at my father’s plant worsened, and my parents began to argue, the horses were transported from the heart of the forest that nuzzled my house. A glittering promise of hope in the form of iron bolts and smooth steel….

They run and the world trembles beneath my feet. Steam puffs from their nostrils and their eyes cut a crimson path and their bodies clash against one another, steel on steel. As the Titans rumble past, a smile sweeps across my face. Watching them is like kissing a speeding train. Like dancing with a hurricane. The horses are terrifying and beautiful at once. They are mindless beasts, but under the stadium lights, their bodies moving down the track like ghosts, they are glorious.

Racing the Titans is a rich person’s sport, with huge entry fees and a high price for the Titans, but betting on the Titans entertains the masses. It also ruined Astrid’s family’s financial situation. Of course her father didn’t know he was about to get laid off when he gambled so much money on a Titan.

But Astrid meets a grumpy old man who reminds her of her grandfather. And it turns out he has a Titan 1.0 he’d like to race. And she can do the riding.

This book has all the tension of a classic racing novel. Teen gets a chance to race in the big leagues. The stakes are high — both her family and her best friend’s family are about to lose their homes. I stayed up to finish the book because I enjoyed the characters and the tension kept me turning pages.

But I do have some quibbles with the story. I’m afraid I didn’t believe in the “EvoBox” that was only in the Titan 1.0 model and gave the creature emotions. Artificial intelligence, sure, I can believe in, but it was a machine. Astrid felt that way at first and was won over — but I’m afraid I really wasn’t. And when her Titan’s life was in danger, I’m afraid I was unmoved. Just build the machine again, okay?

Another thing played on my little pet peeve. Astrid is a prodigiously gifted mathematician, so that means she’s able to calculate angles in her head and see patterns and use that to take turns more efficiently. I’ve seen this idea in another book. The character was an exceptionally good pool player because they were good at math.

I’m sorry, but having the physical skill to put your body or other things at the right angle is a very different thing from being good at math. As a kid, I was exceptionally good at math. I was, however, terrible at sports. This is not at all uncommon in people who are good at math. Even though, yes, there are math concepts behind pool shots, it doesn’t necessarily translate into being good at pool. And it was hard for me to believe that being good at math would make Astrid good at racing robot horses. Does being good at math make people good at video games using joysticks?

However, it was a good story, and I especially liked Astrid’s friendship with Magnolia, who is especially talented at making hair accessories. Besides running in races, Astrid has to go to social events, like the ball where she needs to find a sponsor. Magnolia by her side keeps good humor in the story and adds warm light-hearted moments to what otherwise could have been a grim book.

VictoriaScottYA.com
thisisteen.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 Grover Cleveland, Again! by Ken Burns

Monday, September 24th, 2018

Grover Cleveland, Again!

A Treasury of American Presidents

by Ken Burns
illustrated by Gerald Kelley

Alfred A. Knopf, 2016. 94 pages.

This is a big, beautiful book packed with facts about all the presidents up to Obama (since it was published before the 2016 election). Here’s where Ken Burns explains the title:

I have four daughters – Sarah, Lilly, Olivia, and Willa. When they were little and had trouble falling asleep, I would recite the names of the presidents to them. (Yes, that’s a historian’s idea of a lullaby!) After a while, they knew the names so well, we turned it into a memory game. We’d start with our first president and work our way up. I’d say “George” and they’d say “Washington”; I’d say “John” and they’d say “Adams.” Their favorite part was when we got to Grover Cleveland, the only president who had two non-consecutive terms. I’d say “Grover” and they’d say “Cleveland”; I’d say “Benjamin” and they’d say “Harrison”; then I’d repeat “Grover” and they would giggle and say “Grover Cleveland, again!” I vowed to my oldest, now a mama of her own, that one day I’d do a children’s book on the presidents called Grover Cleveland, Again! It’s been almost thirty years, but I’ve kept my promise.

I read this book alongside Your Presidential Fantasy Dream Team, by Daniel O’Brien. I’d read about one president at a time, from both books. This one has much nicer, full-color pictures. It gives the basic facts and many insights into the times of each president. It would be great for reports, and draws you into browsing its oversize, inviting pages. It doesn’t compare the presidents to superheroes like that one does, but one book can’t have everything.

Ken Burns takes a more positive approach, leaving out things like Ulysses Grant’s drunkenness. He doesn’t draw decisive judgments about the presidents’ actions. But Ken Burns is trying to inspire kids by telling about our history. He also says in the introduction:

How could someone who had never voted in an election become president? How could someone who had hardly ever gone to school keep the country from being torn in two? How could a man with dyslexia lead the country through a world war, and one with a serious physical disability guide us through another? How could the son of a peanut farmer bring together two countries whose people had been ancient enemies? This is amazing stuff!

Learning about American history might not teach a child how to become a famous scientist or the CEO of a major corporation. But it can make a huge difference in their lives. It certainly has in mine.

kenburns.com
geraldkelley.com
randomhousekids.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?

Review of Imagine! by Raúl Colón

Tuesday, September 18th, 2018

Imagine!

by Raúl Colón

A Paula Wiseman Book (Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), 2018. 44 pages.
Starred Review

Look! A 2018 picture book that I can review!

Why can I review it? Well, I’m on the 2019 Newbery committee, but the Newbery Medal is given for the text of a book – and this book has no words. So it can’t win. (The Caldecott Medal is another story, by the way.) And I can review it.

In this book, a boy leaves his house on a skateboard and crosses a bridge to go into the city. He enters the Museum of Modern Art and checks his skateboard at the checkroom.

But when he looks at the paintings, some of the characters come out and join him! The first one, from Matisse’s Icarus, dances with him, and they climb into Picasso’s Three Musicians and get the musicians to come along, too. Next they round up a lion and another musician from Rousseau’s Sleeping Gypsy. Now they practically have a band!

The happy throng goes out of the museum, exchanging instruments along the way. They have joyful adventures around New York City. They finish up in Central Park with songs, balloons, and bubbles.

When the adventures are done, it’s back to their paintings, and then the boy rides his skateboard back home. And he finishes by drawing a mural of his day with his friends.

This is a beautiful and joyous book. I feel confident that children will find more in its pages every time they go through it.

simonandschuster.com/kids

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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 How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, by Patricia Love and Steven Stosny

Sunday, September 16th, 2018

How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It

Finding Love Beyond Words

by Patricia Love, EdD, and Steven Stosny, PhD

Broadway Books, 2007. 224 pages.
Starred Review
2007 Sonderbooks Standout: #1, Relationships

Okay, why am I reviewing a book about marriage today, when I’ve been divorced for 8 years, separated for 13 years, and with no prospects or evidence that I’ll ever marry again, besides being too busy reading for the Newbery committee to do any dating – or to have time for more than one book for adults at a time?

Well, I’m not sure I completely know the answer to that. It’s partly that it’s a Steven Stosny book. I’d recently reread some others, and they’re so full of wisdom. I’ve also spent a lot of time alone while doing so much reading – but since I don’t have time to date, maybe reading about marriage satisfies a little bit of that loneliness. I’m hoping I can learn some things while my emotions aren’t invested and busy triggering and blinding me – so maybe I won’t make the same mistakes the next time.

This book also has some super interesting things to think about, many ideas about men and women and how we respond and think differently. Everything they say about women rings true, so I suspect what they say about men is also true, and I’m still hoping I’ll absorb some of that.

Besides, the first time I read this book, when I still hoped against hope that my own marriage would be healed, I was taking grad school classes for my Master’s in Library Science, and didn’t have time to write or post a review. When I named it as a 2007 Sonderbooks Standout, I promised to write a review some day. So I’m finally keeping that promise for this book!

Besides, it’s an outstanding book! I read it too late to help my marriage, but I will always wonder if I’d read it sooner and tried some of these things, if something might have changed. As it is, if there’s anyone I can point to this book before it’s too late, that would be a wonderful outcome of writing this review, and nothing would make me happier.

The main premise of the book is similar to the book Love and Respect, by Emerson Eggerichs, which says that a man’s deepest need is respect and a woman’s deepest need is love. Or John Eldredge’s books, as in the book Captivating, that says women need to answer the question, “Am I lovely? Am I worthy of love?” and men need to answer the question, “Do I have what it takes?”

But Doctors Love and Stosny take a different approach. And those books I mentioned are from a Christian perspective and refer to the Bible to make their points. This is a secular book and refers to research, but I think it’s the flip side of the same ideas.

They say that a woman’s deepest vulnerability is fear, and a man’s deepest vulnerability is shame.

Most of the book is about how this falls out and how we can overcome it and use these vulnerabilities to connect rather than resent each other. But let me also talk about the promise in the title – these methods do not require lots of talking about it or building your “communication skills.”

They are not disconnected because they have poor communication; they have poor communication because they are disconnected.

The ideas for connecting are excellent – I wish I could try them out! But what’s helpful for me and can teach me even when I’m not in a relationship is better understanding a man’s perspective, better understanding what things I do that would trigger shame in my partner – despite my best intentions.

I was really surprised by the idea that a woman sharing unhappiness with her husband can make him feel like he’s failing to protect her or she doesn’t appreciate all she does.

Women build alliances with other women by doing what they learned in early childhood: exposing vulnerability. Marlene doesn’t have to mention to her girlfriends that she feels sad, unhappy, lonely, or isolated. They infer it from her body language or tone of voice, just as she can tell if something is wrong with them. As soon as one woman senses a friend in emotional need, they become more interested and emotionally invested in each other. But what do you think happens when Marlene tells Mark that she feels bad? (She has to tell him – his defense against feeling failure and inadequacy has blinded him to her emotional world by this time.) You guessed it – once she forces him to face her vulnerability, he feels inadequate as a protector. He responds with typical shame-avoidant behavior: impatience, distractedness, defensiveness, resentment, anger, criticism, or “advice” that sounds an awful lot like telling her what to do.

Here’s why talking doesn’t help:

One reason that talking about your relationship has not helped is that fear and shame keep you from hearing each other, regardless of how much “active listening” or “mirroring” you try to do. The prerequisite for listening is feeling safe, and you cannot feel safe when the threat of fear or shame hangs over your head. The threat is so dreadful that the limbic system, the part of your brain in charge of your safety, overrides any form of rational thinking. Almost everything you hear invokes fear or shame.

This is also why things sometimes change drastically when a couple gets married. Or why someone outside the marriage suddenly seems much more understanding. If a male friend talks about quitting his job and starting a business, I might admire him for his vision, for living out his principles. But if my husband does that? Oh, you can be sure my fears will get triggered! And if I express my concerns or start asking questions, “Have you thought about this….?” or offering suggestions or even criticism – You better believe I’ll be triggering his shame. [I can’t even begin to express what a comfort it was to me that when my then-husband retired from the military and was looking for a job, I was not in his life and was not in a place to give any input whatsoever. I could all too easily imagine how those conversations would have gone. This book explains why.]

This dynamic is explained in a chapter addressed to men. Again, I hadn’t realized how much a man’s identity is tied to making his wife happy – in a way that’s not as true when they are dating.

There was a time when your partner, before she was your partner, talked to you about various things that made her feel anxious or insecure. You most likely responded with a sense of protectiveness. You knew intuitively that she was upset. If she felt disregarded, you paid more attention to her. If she felt unimportant, you showed her that she was important to you. If she felt accused, you reassured her. If she felt guilty, you helped her feel better. If she felt devalued, you valued her more. If she felt rejected, you accepted her; if she felt powerless, you tried to empower her; if she felt inadequate, you helped her appreciate her competence; and if she felt unlovable, you loved her more. You did all this out of a natural desire to protect the person you loved.

You fell in love because you were able to connect, and you were able to connect because you felt protective. It started to go wrong when you began to see your impulse to take care of her, which made you feel great while dating, as costing too much time or money in a committed love relationship. You probably had good reasons for starting to feel that way, but as long as you feel that way, you will not find viable solutions to time and money problems. In other words, things will certainly get worse until you decide to be protective of your partner’s fear as you used to be; and in the long run, this will cost far less in time and money than a disconnected relationship and divorce.

Of course, this switch in how you reacted to her anxiety was confusing to her, to say the least. She was doing the same thing that used to invoke your protectiveness – worrying or expressing needs – but now she provoked your anger and resentment. It’s as if once you got married you expected that she would never again feel bad, or at least not show that she did. When she did show it, you interpreted her complaints as an indictment of your failure as a provider.

There’s a lot more about how things break down. Before rereading this, I would have said – no, I have actually said – that I don’t have much of a problem with fear.

But I came to see that I work so hard at managing my fear, I’m not even conscious of it. That’s what was going on when I’d give my husband career advice, or over-manage one of the many times we moved. That may be behind my tendency to plan way ahead, to over-pack for trips. I can so easily visualize every What-if scenario. And of course there’s physical fear. Women are trained from childhood not to go for a walk alone at night, for example. I am smaller than most adults, and there’s some fear that comes with that. I plan around it.

And of course the deepest fear is of not being loved, and ending my life alone and abandoned. When that fear’s triggered – well, is it any wonder your partner might feel like you don’t trust him as a lover? Once his shame is triggered, if he withdraws to feel better, my fear’s going to increase, and so on.

But the main thrust of this book is about overcoming those vulnerabilities, seeing your partner’s perspective, and being able to connect. Besides all the insights, there are some wonderful techniques that can build your connection to each other and remind you of your love for each other. Like I said, I really hope I get a chance some day to try these techniques out!

Here’s the last paragraph in the book:

The most profound moments between two people occur when their emotions resonate, soothing their different vulnerabilities and raising their hearts to simple enjoyment. When emotional connection goes deeper than talking, women overcome the stifling limitations of their anxieties, and men abandon destructive shame-avoiding behavior. The best protections from fear and shame are compassion, appreciation, and a sense of connection that is so deep, flexible, and resilient that it creates love beyond words.

I like that the title doesn’t say anything about fixing a bad marriage. This book offers a way to improve your marriage. Even good marriages can stand a little improvement! I hope some of my friends will try it out! And I will plan to reread it if I ever get married again. Until then, I’ve got some food for thought, and I’m mulling over what parts of my life are affected by fear I didn’t even realize I had.

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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 The Empty Grave, by Jonathan Stroud, read by Emily Bevan

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

The Empty Grave

by Jonathan Stroud
read by Emily Bevan

Listening Library, 2017. 12 hours, 41 minutes on 10 compact discs.
Starred Review

Ah! Another chance to enjoy the fifth and final book in the Lockwood & Co. series! Yes, listening to the book on CD is even more fun than reading it yourself.

Of course the reader’s accent helps you get into the mood of this alternate-reality London. And hearing it read slows you down so you can savor the story. (The books are hard to put down, but sometimes I had to simply turn off the car, shut off the CD, and go to work.)

I still say that these books make outstanding family listening – once your children are old enough to handle some seriously spooky events as well as people seriously trying to murder our heroes besides the incidental life-or-death danger they face routinely.

For the plot, I refer you to my review of the written book. I’m here to say that the audiobooks make them even more enjoyable – though it’s hard to believe that’s even possible, because they’re so good in the first place.

I have liked my approach to the whole series – devour each book as quickly as possible as soon as it comes out. Then, when I can get my hands on the audiobook, enjoy it again, savoring it a bit more slowly and catching some details I didn’t notice the first time.

(And that reminds me! I noticed a tiny, tiny flaw while I was listening! At the end, there’s a rapier fight between Lucy and the powerful woman who’s been running London. Well, the woman kicks off her heels when she starts fighting – but we’d already been told there were shards of glass all over the floor. If she had done that – then as the two move around the room fighting, she would have cut her feet and given Lucy a big advantage. But that’s the very first quibble I’ve found in these books.)

jonathanstroud.com
booksontape.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 Braving the Wilderness, by Brené Brown

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

Braving the Wilderness

The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone

by Brené Brown

Random House, 2017. 194 pages.
Review written in 2017

The newest book by Brené Brown didn’t hit me as hard as her earlier books. This may well be that although I know I have a problem with perfectionism (so The Gifts of Imperfection was perfectly appropriate), I already have strong roots of community in my life, especially through my church, but also a wide-ranging network of friends.

Braving the Wilderness is about True Belonging – yet at the same time about having the willingness to be authentic, even when it means standing alone.

Her tips on finding this weren’t as pithy as in some of her other books. In fact, a few months ago, one of my colleagues came back to work after going to a class and was talking about it. I don’t remember much about it except that they used a very long acronym BRAVING, and I thought it was not only unmemorable to have such a long acronym, but I also thought that using V for Vault – to mean not betraying confidences – was a pretty silly stretch. (My co-workers and I thought Vegas would even be better, as in “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”) So imagine my surprise to see that same acronym in this book.

Now that I’m looking at the acronym, I see that she first introduced it in Rising Strong. (I didn’t remember that.) But now since “Braving” is part of the title, it was a little more central, and used as a checklist for trusting others and trusting yourself. The acronym stands for: Boundaries, Reliability, Accountability, Vault, Integrity, Nonjudgment, and Generosity.

She does have some good points when she talks about the need to come back together as a society. I agree that we’re in a place where we need that.

So here’s the big question: Wouldn’t you think that all of the sorting by politics and beliefs we’ve been doing would lead to more social interaction? If we’ve hunkered down ideologically and geographically with people who we perceive to be just like us, doesn’t that mean that we’ve surrounded ourselves with friends and people with whom we feel deeply connected? Shouldn’t “You’re either with us or against us” have led to closer ties among the like-minded? The answer to these questions is a resounding and surprising no. At the same time sorting is on the rise, so is loneliness.

Confronting that, here are what she calls the four elements of true belonging:

“People are hard to hate close up. Move in.”

“Speak truth to bullshit. Be civil.”

“Hold hands. With strangers.”

“Strong back. Soft front. Wild heart.”

There are chapters titled with all four of these suggestions. And it’s good stuff – but it didn’t really stick in my mind.

However, I did like what she had to say about True Belonging at the front of the book.

Belonging to ourselves means being called to stand alone – to brave the wilderness of uncertainty, vulnerability, and criticism. And with the world feeling like a political and ideological combat zone, this is remarkably tough. We seem to have forgotten that even when we’re utterly alone, we’re connected to one another by something greater than group membership, politics, and ideology – that we’re connected by love and the human spirit. No matter how separated we are by what we think and believe, we are part of the same spiritual story.

I do like the way she connects true belonging with standing alone. If you’re just trying to be like everyone else, you’re working on fitting in, and that’s very different from true belonging. But if you are vulnerable enough to show people who you really are – then you’ll be able to find true belonging.

Again, this book might have hit me harder if I were feeling lonelier and didn’t have true community in my life. As it was, it reminded me that even though I live alone, I really do have people in my life with whom I truly belong. And that was a nice thing to remember.

BreneBrown.com
randomhousebooks.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?

Review of Under the Sabbath Lamp, by Michael Herman

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

Under the Sabbath Lamp

by Michael Herman
illustrated by Alida Massari

Kar-Ben Publishing, 2017. 32 pages.

Here’s a lovely story about inheritance and traditions. A group of neighbors has a tradition of hosting each other for Shabbat dinner. The first time Izzy and Olivia Bloom host, the children notice there are no Shabbat candles. Then Izzy shows them the Sabbath lamp that burns oil and has been in his family for one hundred fifty years.

There’s a story-within-a-story as Izzy tells about how his great-great-grandfather Isaac moved to America for a better life. But they couldn’t afford for his whole family to come.

As Isaac packed his belongings, Rachel handed him the drip pan from the Sabbath lamp.

“Take this with you,” she told him. “Just as this part is separated from the rest of the lamp, we will be separated from you. When we come to join you, we will bring the other parts, and the lamp will be whole again. Just like our family.”

One by one, the children and his wife joined Isaac in America, and when they were all together, they lit the Sabbath lamp.

When Izzy and Olivia got married, his father entrusted the lamp to them.

I like the way the book brings the tradition into the present with Izzy and Olivia enjoying the Sabbath lamp together with their friends.

karben.com

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

Review of The Steep and Thorny Way, by Cat Winters

Monday, September 10th, 2018

The Steep and Thorny Way

by Cat Winters

Amulet Books, 2016. 335 pages.
Starred Review
Review written November 2016

The Steep and Thorny Way is a reimagining of Hamlet in 1920s Oregon.

Hanalee Denny has white mother and an African American father, so she’s not very welcome in their town, where it’s illegal even for her parents to be married. But her father died two years ago, hit by a teenage drunk driver, and her mother has remarried to the doctor who comforted her after her husband’s death.

Now Joe, the teen who hit her father, is out of jail for good behavior, but he’s hiding out, because some people are after him. But Hanalee talks to him. He tells her that her father only had a broken leg after being hit by the car, and the doctor who’s now her stepfather must have killed him. What’s more, Hanalee learns that her father’s ghost has been seen on the highway at the crossroads where he was hit. Perhaps she can talk to his spirit and find out what really happened.

Okay, so far I thought we were going to get a straight retelling of Hamlet, so I thought I knew what was going to happen. But there are many twists and turns in this story. Things get sinister when we learn that the Ku Klux Klan is active in their town. They’re recruiting young people, and even Hanalee’s childhood friend is turning against her. And they have reasons for wanting Joe out of the picture as well.

So you’ve got a mystery – how did her father actually die? You’ve also got peril unfolding as Hanalee tries to get to the bottom of the mystery. And there are plenty of historical details about Oregon in that time period.

Reading about someone who’s made to feel “other” is a good antidote to bigotry. I hope this book isn’t as timely as it seems.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/steep_and_thorny_way.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 Strong Is the New Pretty, by Kate T. Parker

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

Strong Is the New Pretty

A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves

by Kate T. Parker

Workman Publishing, 2017. 250 pages.
Starred Review

Strong Is the New Pretty is a book of photographs of girls being strong – and they are indeed beautiful.

My library has put this in the juvenile nonfiction section, but I think in many ways, this is a book for families. If you have girls in your family, stick this on your coffee table. Let the whole family browse the photos. It would also make a nice high school graduation gift for a girl, encouraging them to be themselves. (Though the girl isn’t likely to take such a large book off to college with them, so I suppose that’s a little problematic.)

The text accompanying the pictures isn’t exactly geared to children. There’s an introduction, and then nine chapters, with titles “Confident is Strong,” “Wild is Strong,” “Resilient is Strong,” “Creative is Strong,” “Determined is Strong,” “Kind is Strong,” “Fearless is Strong,” “Joyful is Strong,” and “Independent is Strong.” Each chapter has an inspiring explanation at the front of how these pictures fit with the theme. Every photo has a quotation from the featured girl.

For example:

Cancer stole part of my leg but not my joy. I choose happiness. Being happy is my superpower.

— Grace B. age 12

Leaf jumping is the best.

— Alice age 6

Through music I have the ability to make others smile and even cry when I perform in a way that moves someone.

— Nora age 11

She had a knot in her cleats. I’m really good at untying knots, so I helped.

— Lily S. age 5

Yeah, I am a little muddy. So what?

— Tayla age 6

The quotations aren’t usually profound, but the photographs are stunning! And I love that the photographer gave each subject a voice.

In the Introduction, the author explains how the project got started.

This photo series started as a personal project. I work as a professional photographer, but I’m also a mom (the mom with the giant camera and bag of lenses at most events). And it’s not uncommon for me to be photographing my girls and their friends – constantly – when they’re riding their bikes, at soccer practice, or exploring tide pools while on vacation. The more I shot, the more I began to notice that the strongest images, the ones that resonated most with me, were the ones in which the girls were being 100 percent themselves. When they were messy and funny and stubborn and joyful and in your face, I kept shooting. I didn’t ask them to smile or go put on a pretty dress. I wanted to capture these girls as they were, and how they were was amazing. I wanted to continue capturing them in just that way – not just for my sake, but for theirs, too.

As a body of work emerged, I kept at it with more intention. I wanted to show my girls that beauty isn’t about being a certain size, or having your hair done (or even brushed, in their cases), or wearing a fancy outfit. I wanted to combat the messages the media sends to women every day. I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong.

I strongly recommend checking this book out and enjoying the beautiful images. And I even more strongly recommend sharing them with your daughters. Talk about them. I’m guessing they, too, will see how pretty these strong girls are.

https://katetparkerphotography.com/blog
workman.com

Buy from Amazon.com

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