Archive for October, 2018

Review of Penguin Day, by Nic Bishop

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

Penguin Day

A Family Story

by Nic Bishop

Scholastic Press, 2017. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Nic Bishop’s stunning photographs make this book stand-out. It’s a simple picture book about the life of a baby rockhopper penguin – but the illustrations are clear photographs taken in the wild.

The language is simple. Here’s how it starts.

Morning has come and baby penguin is hungry. Baby penguin is too little to get breakfast, so mama penguin will go hunting.

Papa penguin will stay behind to keep an eye on the little one.

We see mama penguin’s hunting trip, and we see baby wander off but get protected from a hungry skua by papa penguin.

Clear, beautiful photographs illustrate the whole journey.

The short note at the back says:

The author spent three weeks photographing rockhopper penguins for this book. Severe gales and freezing temperatures often made things difficult for him but never daunted the penguins. Every day they ventured into stormy seas and climbed home over tall cliffs, meeting each challenge with feisty determination. More than one chick and its parents were photographed to make this book.

A fantastic introduction to nonfiction for littlest listeners and readers. This book would work well in a storytime, as well as for a young child beginning to be interested in the natural world, as well as for an older child who likes penguins.

nicbishop.com
scholastic.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 Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Monday, October 29th, 2018

Dear Ijeawele,

or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions

by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Alfred A. Knopf, 2017. 63 pages.
Starred Review

This book is short – which makes it perfect for reading a little bit at a time, one suggestion per day. This would make a lovely gift for mothers of young girls.

Here’s the background of this little book, from the Introduction:

When a couple of years ago a friend of mine from childhood, who’d grown into a brilliant, strong, kind woman, asked me to tell her how to raise her baby girl a feminist, my first thought was that I did not know.

It felt like too huge a task.

But I had spoken publicly about feminism and perhaps that made her feel I was an expert on the subject. I had over the years also helped care for many babies of loved ones; I had worked as a babysitter and helped raise my nephews and nieces. I had done a lot of watching and listening, and I had done even more thinking.

In response to my friend’s request, I decided to write her a letter, which I hoped would be honest and practical, while also serving as a map of sorts for my own feminist thinking. This book is a version of that letter, with some details changed.

Now that I, too, am the mother of a delightful baby girl, I realize how easy it is to dispense advice about raising a child when you are not facing the enormously complex reality of it yourself.

Still, I think it is morally urgent to have honest conversations about raising children differently, about trying to create a fairer world for women and men.

My friend sent me a reply saying she would “try” to follow my suggestions.

And in rereading these as a mother, I, too, am determined to try.

And the fifteen suggestions she gives are good ones. Her style is personal and friendly, since the letter was written to a friend. Above all, it’s inspiring – and makes me think about my own interactions with people.

I’ll give some examples. The first suggestion:

Be a full person. Motherhood is a glorious gift, but do not define yourself solely by motherhood.

There is much elaboration on each suggestion, thoughtful, illuminating and inspiring. Here’s another one I loved:

Teach Chizalum to read. Teach her to love books. The best way is by casual example. If she sees you reading, she will understand that reading is valuable…. Books will help her understand and question the world, help her express herself, and help her in whatever she wants to become – a chef, a scientist, a singer, all benefit from the skills that reading brings.

This one was interesting, because I hadn’t thought of it this way before:

Never speak of marriage as an achievement. Find ways to make clear to her that marriage is not an achievement, nor is it what she should aspire to. A marriage can be happy or unhappy, but it is not an achievement.

We condition girls to aspire to marriage and we do not condition boys to aspire to marriage, and so there is already a terrible imbalance at the start. The girls will grow up to be women preoccupied with marriage. The boys will grow up to be men who are not preoccupied with marriage. The women marry those men. The relationship is automatically uneven because the institution matters more to one than the other.

The Eighth Suggestion:

Teach her to reject likeability. Her job is not to make herself likeable, her job is to be her full self, a self that is honest and aware of the equal humanity of other people…. We have a world full of women who are unable to exhale fully because they have for so long been conditioned to fold themselves into shapes to make themselves likeable….

Show her that she does not need to be liked by everyone. Tell her that if someone does not like her, there will be someone else who will. Teach her that she is not merely an object to be liked or disliked, she is also a subject who can like or dislike. In her teenage years, if she comes home crying about some boys who don’t like her, let her know she can choose not to like those boys – yes, it’s hard, I know, just remembering my crush on Nnamdi in secondary school.

But still I wish somebody had told me this.

I like this paragraph in a suggestion about romance (“Romance will happen, so be on board.”):

Teach her that to love is not only to give but also to take. This is important because we give girls subtle cues about their lives – we teach girls that a large component of their ability to love is their ability to sacrifice their selves. We do not teach this to boys. Teach her that to love she must give of herself emotionally but she must also expect to be given.

And the final suggestion:

Teach her about difference. Make difference ordinary. Make difference normal. Teach her not to attach value to difference. And the reason for this is not to be fair or to be nice, but merely to be human and practical. Because difference is the reality of our world. And by teaching her about difference, you are equipping her to survive in a diverse world.

She must know and understand that people walk different paths in the world, and that as long as those paths do no harm to others, they are valid paths that she must respect. Teach her that we do not know – we cannot know – everything about life. Both religion and science have spaces for things we do not know, and it is enough to make peace with that.

Teach her never to universalize her own standards or experiences. Teach her that her standards are for her alone, and not for other people. This is the only necessary form of humility: the realization that difference is normal.

Come to think of it – this book is great reading even if you aren’t the mother of a young girl. It’s inspiring, encouraging, and thought-provoking.

aaknopf.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 Mouse and Hippo, by Mike Twohey

Saturday, October 27th, 2018

Mouse and Hippo

by Mike Twohy

A Paula Wiseman Book, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, 2017. 32 pages.

Here’s a fun picture book that gives practice in perspective.

Mouse is an artist. But he accidentally sets up his easel and paints on Hippo’s back. When Hippo rescues him and compliments his painting, Mouse decides to paint Hippo. In gratitude, Hippo does a painting of Mouse.

The funny part of this book is how each one dramatically poses – and then each other one does a humorously simple representation.

Hippo is so big, Mouse uses his biggest brush, and just swipes gray paint across the canvas. There’s no room for more detail.

Mouse is so small, Hippo uses the smallest brush, and simply paints a small dot. He doesn’t have a small enough brush to paint Mouse’s whiskers.

Also funny is how happy each new friend is with their painting.

Hippo says, “If I use my imagination, my ears are probably way up here – and my dimple is right here!”

Mouse says, “I love it! You made me look so cute!”

A fun story with an amusing new set of mismatched friends.

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.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Dark Energy, by Robison Wells

Friday, October 26th, 2018

Dark Energy

by Robison Wells

HarperTeen, 2016. 278 pages.
Starred Review

Dark Energy is set in the near future. Aliens have landed, well, crash landed, in Minnesota, after skidding through Iowa. Alice Goodwin’s Dad is director of special projects for NASA, so this news means that Alice is moving to Minnesota and enrolled in an elite private school there.

It’s actually a few weeks before the aliens emerge from their giant spaceship. When they do, they look like humans.

Naturally, there are protestors. Almost 20,000 people died when the ship crashed. The aliens don’t seem to be looking for conquest, but they also don’t seem to have special insight or knowledge capable of creating such amazing technology.

Most of the thousands of aliens are settled in a tent city, but Alice’s Dad arranges to have two of them attend her private school. Can Alice teach Coya and Suski human ways? And can she and her friends figure out what’s so fishy about their story?

This is an imaginative look at what would happen if aliens crash-landed, combined with a mystery as to what it is the aliens aren’t telling. Combined with a boarding school story and a road trip tale, with some life-or-death danger, this book is an entertaining read.

I enjoyed this paragraph, where the aliens first come out of the ship and are met by a delegation:

Still, it was apparent from the communication that the aliens were impressed with the dress uniforms of the military men, and the alien woman’s hands moved from a dangling award on one of their chests to the dangling tie around the vice president’s neck and back again. Then she noticed that the man in the back had the same kind of tie, only his was striped instead of silver, and that seemed to impress her even more. The alien man was the first to approach the woman in the business suit, and he pointed to the tiny flag pin on her lapel, and then at the many pins on the military uniforms, then the men’s ties, and he gave her an encouraging Try harder next time smile.

I liked Alice’s voice as the narrator describing all this. She’s got a sense of humor about it all and because of her Dad’s job, tends not to catastrophize one way or the other. When things take a dramatic turn for the worse, she’s level-headed and thinks through how to help her friends.

How would you feel if aliens landed?

robisonwells.com
epicreads.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 The Search for Olinguito, by Sandra Markle

Wednesday, October 24th, 2018

The Search for Olinguito

Discovering a New Species

by Sandra Markle

Millbrook Press, Minneapolis, 2017. 40 pages.

The Search for Olinguito is a fascinating story, telling about how scientist Kristofer Helgen suspected and then confirmed that there was a new species in the raccoon family.

Kristofer was studying another mammal, the olingo. He worked for the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. In 2002, he was looking at samples of pelts and skulls from olingos in different regions – and found one completely different from the others.

This animal had a different shade of fur, a different skull shape, and larger, pointier teeth. He went looking in other museums and found five similar samples.

The next step was to check the DNA – yes this new animal had different DNA, and the samples found were similar. He named the new animal “olinguito.”

But then the question arose: Do olinguitos still exist? Could researchers find them in the wild?

The search led first to a zoo. In the 1960s, the Louisville Zoo had tried to start a breeding program with olingos. But the female olingo, Ringerl, that they brought in would never choose a mate. They sent this supposed olingo to various zoos, but she never did produce any babies. Kristofer checked her DNA from a sample in the National Institutes of Health database, and she was indeed an olinguito.

So – they decided to search in the habitat where Ringerl was originally found, the cloud forest. That put them on track to finally discover olinguitos in the wild.

Naturally, the locals knew about these creatures and called them “night monkeys.”

When they tried to publish a paper about the new species in a journal in 2006, they were told they still needed more information about its physical traits and behavior. So from 2006 to 2011, scientists gathered more data.

A report was finally published in the journal ZooKeys on August 15, 2013. That day Kristofer also officially announced the olinguito to the world at a press conference.

This book is illustrated with photographs and a few maps. The text is simple enough for upper elementary age kids to understand easily. There are some questions posed in the back matter with the heading “Be a Science Detective!” One of the questions is, “After reading this story, why do you think even the people living near the cloud forest didn’t know much about the olinguito’s life?”

I like the way this shows a true and recent story of a scientist at work. There are cute animal pictures, too!

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?

Review of Hallelujah Anyway, by Anne Lamott

Monday, October 22nd, 2018

Hallelujah Anyway

Rediscovering Mercy

by Anne Lamott

Riverhead Books, 2017. 176 pages.
Starred Review

I do love Anne Lamott. She’s down-to-earth and real. She admits to all kinds of uncharitable thoughts – and then shows us that they can be overcome with mercy. She does away with pretense and helps me stop trying to do the same.

In this book, she focuses on Mercy. Here’s a paragraph from the beginning. I opened the book at random and found something wonderfully quotable:

Just to hear the words “mercy” or “merciful” can transform the whole day, because as the old saying goes, the soul rejoices in hearing what it already knows. Something lights up in me. We know mercy is always our salvation – as we age, as our grandchildren go down the same dark streets that called to their parents, as the ice caps melt. But I wish it was something else. I wish it was being able to figure things out, at which I am very good, or to assign blame, at which I am better, or to convince people of the rightness of my ideas. I wish it was a political savior who believes the same things I believe, who possesses the force of great moral strength that (of course) agrees with my own deepest values. But no, hope of renewal and restoration is found in the merciful fibrillating heart of the world.

Anne Lamott will make you smile and make you think and make you look at the world with a little more mercy.

penguin.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 Hens for Friends, by Sandy De Lisle

Sunday, October 21st, 2018

Hens for Friends

by Sandy De Lisle
illustrated by Amelia Hansen

The Gryphon Press, Edina, MN, 2015. 28 pages.

I’m dedicating this review to my lifelong friend Kathe, who had to campaign to get her town to allow her backyard chickens, as well as a nod to my sister-in-law Pam and Facebook friend Shannon, who have kept chickens.

This is a simple picture book story about a boy whose family got six chickens from a hen rescue agency.

I love them all, but Margaret is my best hen friend. When I sit on the ground, she jumps into my lap and tucks her head under my arm. When I stroke her back, she makes a funny sound, kind of like a purring cat.

The family almost didn’t get the hens because some people in their city didn’t want chickens there, thinking they’d bring rodents and diseases. The book shows how they take care of the chickens to make sure that doesn’t happen (including more details in a note at the back).

Basically, this book is propaganda for owning chickens! But it’s done as a charming family story. At the end, the family uses two of Margaret’s eggs for our narrator’s little brother’s birthday cake.

When the other hens aren’t looking, I give Margaret a piece of strawberry from Eduardo’s birthday cake. She gobbles it right up. “You’re special, Margaret,” I whisper in her ear. She makes a squawk that sounds just like “You are too.”

Mom’s right: our hens are lucky to have us. But I feel lucky to have them too, especially Margaret.

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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 This Savage Song, by Victoria Schwab

Saturday, October 20th, 2018

This Savage Song

by Victoria Schwab

Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins), 2016. 427 pages.

Kate Harker and August Flynn live in a divided city overrun by monsters. The monsters are created when violent acts are committed. In the north side of the city, people pay Kate’s father for protection. Those who wear one of his medallions will not be touched by the monsters (or the monsters will pay). In the south side of the city, August’s father’s forces patrol to control the monsters. But he uses three of the most powerful type of monster — which includes August himself.

But the truce between the two powerful men and the two halves of the city is growing shaky.

Kate has been sent away for her own protection. But after she gets kicked out of six boarding schools, her father has to take her back. She will attend Colton Academy on the north side of Verity. August is also going to attend Colton Academy. Because the truce may fail. And Kate Harker may be the one thing her father cares about.

Monsters are only capable of telling the truth. Which might make it hard for August to pose as human, but he manages. His type of monster, the Sunai, can steal the souls of sinners by making music. He can tell when someone has committed violence, the kind of violence that produces monsters — their shadows don’t hold still.

The Sunai bring about justice. They work for good, right? But when they get Hungry, they can lose control….

Kate wants to prove she’s strong enough to live in the city, that she is enough like her father to not fear the monsters and rule the city. She notices there’s something off about August.

When monsters attack her school and it looks like the Sunai are doing it — but August is the one who saves her — Kate realizes that someone is trying to make the truce fall apart. Both she and August are in danger, but can they trust each other?

This book has an imaginative premise and explores what makes a human and what makes a monster. There is gore and violence, but interesting thoughts about society and violence and family.

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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 Drowned City, by Don Brown

Friday, October 19th, 2018

Drowned City

Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans

by Don Brown

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2015. 96 pages.
2016 Sibert Honor

Nonfiction in comic book form is an idea whose time has come. What could be more memorable? Do you want to teach history in a way kids will pay attention, absorb, and understand? In fact, speaking for myself, this is a way adults can read it and absorb much more information than reading regular text.

Now, the story of Hurricane Katrina is not a pleasant story at all. This feels more hard-hitting than The Great American Dust Bowl, since the people involved, including those who bungled the response, are still alive. Though both stories are horrific. And the reader can understand that better with the graphic illustrations.

Don Brown uses a variety of panel arrangements and colors to keep interest high. Leafing through the pages, you get a sense of action.

The book does end on a hopeful note. The last spread is a picture of new construction. The text on the last page says:

One ruined neighborhood, the lower ninth ward, is overgrown with plants and weeds and has just 15 percent of the population it had before Katrina. But new houses are going up, built atop deeply driven piles, giving them firm roots to stop them from floating away during the next Katrina. The man setting the piles is a “born and raised” New Orleanian.

“We’re coming back. This is home. This is life.”

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 Unicorn on a Roll, by Dana Simpson

Thursday, October 18th, 2018

Unicorn on a Roll

Another Phoebe and Her Unicorn Adventure

by Dana Simpson

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2015. 222 pages.

This is the second collection about a girl named Phoebe and her best friend, the unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils. And I am officially a Phoebe and her Unicorn fan.

In this volume, Phoebe releases Marigold from the wish that made Marigold Phoebe’s best friend – and discovers Marigold wants to be her friend anyway.

Phoebe faces normal kid things – such as wanting a part in the school play and competing in the school spelling bee against the boy she has a crush on. But she also faces things unique to someone whose best friend is a unicorn who is convinced she’s the best thing in the universe.

One nice sequence is when Phoebe gets to go to the land of the unicorns for a party – when the unicorns decide to hold an intervention, trying to convince Marigold to stop being friends with an icky human. They are unsuccessful.

Oh, and we learn that Marigold Heavenly Nostrils is skilled at roller skating – though Phoebe can’t ride her when she does. (Hence the title.)

This comic strip is all that a comic strip should be – inventive, funny, true to life, and with insights about life that sneak up on you.

danasimpson.com
ampkids.com

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Source: This review is based on my own copy, sent by the publisher.

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?