Archive for December, 2018

Review of Emu, by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Graham Byrne

Monday, December 31st, 2018

Emu

by Claire Saxby
illustrated by Graham Byrne

Candlewick Press, 2015. 30 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2016

Wow! This is a science picture book — telling about emus and how they raise their young — and the artwork is simply stunning.

There are two threads to the text. The story part begins like this:

In the open forest, where eucalyptus trees fringe tufty grasslands, honey-pale sunshine seeps to where Emu sits on a nest. Beneath him are eight granite-green eggs. Yes, him. For in Emu’s world, it is the male’s job to raise the fledgling.

On each spread, we get about that much more of the father emu’s story, as well as a paragraph of straight facts about emus.

The emu we’re following sits on his nest for eight weeks, without eating. He defends the eggs and then the fledglings from various predators. We watch the chicks grow until they are almost as tall and striking as their father.

The facts are good and the Australian setting makes them all the more interesting. Having the story of one family of emus alongside the facts is helpful. But what makes this book truly exceptional are the strikingly beautiful paintings. This book is a joy to leaf through.

This is another book I plan to booktalk in some elementary schools for this summer. It’s always a treat to find nonfiction that will draw kids in. That emu staring out from the front cover beckons kids to find out more.

candlewick.com

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

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

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

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Review of Home at Last, by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

Home at Last

by Vera B. Williams and Chris Raschka

Greenwillow Books, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2016

I read about the creation of this book in Horn Book Magazine, so I was predisposed to like it. Vera Williams wrote the text many years ago, but set it aside until last year, when she felt the time was right. But she knew she was at the end of her life, so she’d need some help to finish the book, and she asked Chris Raschka. The result was that they collaborated on the book, and Chris completed it after she died on October 16, 2015.

The story might have been trite – an orphan child living in a home is being adopted – but this particular story is told with depth and warmth and love that makes it anything but typical. It’s also a long text for a picture book, so it’s not exactly a storytime selection, unless it’s for an elementary school classroom, but it would make lovely cozy family reading.

The book opens as Lester is waiting eagerly for the arrival of Daddy Albert, Daddy Rich, and their dog Wincka, who are going to finally adopt him.

When Lester moves in with them, they give him his own room. Lester needs his suitcase filled with action figures to protect him.

But every night, Lester wakes up in the night and stands by his daddies’ big bed, with Wincka sleeping at the foot. Every night, they wake to see him standing over them.

What Lester wanted was to climb into his parents’ bed, too. More than anything, he longed to wriggle right into the middle of that bed, with Daddy Rich on one side and Daddy Albert on the other side and fat old Wincka at his feet, and to have his action figures in their blue suitcase right on the floor beside them. That way he knew he would be safe from everything bad in the whole world.

Lester never told Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert about this. But every night, as though he had an alarm clock ringing in his belly, he grabbed his suitcase and made his expedition down the hall and through the door to the side of the bed.

Lester’s daddies have trouble with this. I appreciated the paragraph that expressed their thinking.

Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert had decided, long before they finished adopting Lester, that it was important for their new little boy to have his own room and his own bed. They had spent many weekends painting the room and finding the right bed for the boy who was coming to live with them. And they surely knew, from living with Wincka, how impossible it was to get a creature out of your bed once you have let that creature in, if only in an emergency . . . if only for a few nights.

The problem goes on though. The daddies try to help. They do lovely things together with Lester. They look forward to him settling in to school and feeling at home in the neighborhood. They do have some setbacks as well, but it’s clear they love Lester and want to do what’s best for him.

Finally, the solution – and a lovely one – comes from Wincka.

And I like the way the book doesn’t end with that solution – that’s only a part of Lester feeling at home. First, it talks about Sunday mornings when things are relaxed and everyone cuddles in the big bed and sleeps late and has pancakes together. The final spread goes further:

But he also loved when his new cousins – all four of them – stayed over on Saturday nights. They laughed and jumped around and played and played so much that they hardly slept a wink.

And at first light, they piled right on top of Daddy Rich and Daddy Albert.

“Help! We’re being attacked!” the daddies shouted, dashing through the house chased by cousins and Lester and Wincka and even Silver. And then it was pancakes for everyone. And then an entire day of more games and walks and snacks and fun together.

Lester was truly home at last.

Here’s a lovely warm book about a little lonely boy who needs a family – and finds one. I like the way it tackles head-on that he needs extra reassurance, and it isn’t easy – but he does find a home. And that reassurance.

This book is a lovely legacy for an outstanding picture book creator. I also love the way the pictures are a wonderful blend of her style with Chris Raschka’s, creating something new.

harpercollinschildrens.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 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 Experimenting with Babies, by Shaun Gallagher

Sunday, December 30th, 2018

Experimenting with Babies

50 Amazing Science Projects You Can Perform on Your Kid

by Shaun Gallagher

A Tarcherperigee Book (Penguin Random House), 2013. 205 pages.
Starred Review

I discovered this book when it was new to our library, and I’ve been reading it very slowly – just one experiment per day, if that – but lately I’m enjoying it so much, I’ve been telling every parent and grandparent I know about it. I would have had so much fun with this book back when I was a big sister with many younger siblings in the house to experiment on! (I was 3rd of 13. Though they weren’t all in the house at the same time, I’ve been around babies a lot. They are super fun to experiment on!)

Here’s the idea: The author has taken serious science experiments that psychologists have tried on babies and tells parents how to adapt them and try them on their own kid. The experiments start with newborn reflexes and progress to experiments with language and following instructions for toddlers.

One thing I love about the book is that the experiments are not designed to tell you if your child is ahead or behind their agemates. The experiments are simply a fascinating look at human development in general and your baby in particular.

There’s really a wide variety of experiments. Let me describe a few of them – but consider this simply a random selection, and it will tend toward the older end of the experiments. (The beginning ones have to do with those fascinating infant reflexes.)

For example, one experiment has you ask two friends to greet each other in front of the baby. But then you do it again, later, but the second time, they greet each other with their backs turned to each other. The fascinating research is that 9-month-olds don’t react any differently to one or the other – but when researchers tried this (with a video) on 10-month-olds, they looked longer at the one with their backs turned. Somewhere in that time frame, babies figure out that people usually look at each other during social interaction.

I thought this one was really funny. For a child around 13-15 months, you put a toy on the table in front of you that you can activate with your head (causing some sort of light or sound). Then you put it in front of the baby, and see if they will activate it with their head or with their hands. The fascinating thing is that if you do it showing that your hands are full, the baby is less apt to use their own head to turn the toy on than if you do it with your hands empty and available. The baby seems to reason that the only reason you used your head was because your hands were full. But if your hands were free and you used your head anyway – then turning it on with your head must be what you’re supposed to do!

So those are the sort of silly experiments you’ll find here – silly but enlightening. Reading them really made me want to try them out on babies. (These are completely perfect Big Sister activities, but maybe I can convert them into Auntie activities.)

Human development is fascinating, and these experiments give you a little window into how your child is growing and changing and learning.

[And look at that! He’s got a new book coming out in April: Experiments for Newlyweds.]

ExperimentingWithBabies.com
tarcherperigee.com
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 The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, by Michelle Cuevas, illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Friday, December 28th, 2018

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles

by Michelle Cuevas
illustrated by Erin E. Stead

Dial Books for Young Readers (Penguin), 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a lovely and poetical picture book. The story is simple, about the Uncorker of Ocean Bottles, who lives by the sea.

He had a job of the utmost importance. It was his task to open any bottles found at sea and make sure they were delivered.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles often has to travel far to deliver the messages.

Sometimes the messages were very old, crunchy like leaves in the fall.

Sometimes the messages were written by a quill dipped in sadness.

But most of the time they made people quite happy, for a letter can hold the treasure of a clam-hugged pearl.

The Uncorker of Ocean Bottles does wish a message would come for him. Then one day a very peculiar message comes.

I’m not sure you will get this in time, but I am having a party.
Tomorrow, evening tide, at the seashore.
Will you please come?

He asks many people about the letter, if they recognize the script, but he is unable to deliver it. The first time he hasn’t been able to deliver a note.

As he fell asleep that night, the Uncorker decided to go to the seashore the next day. He would go, and apologize to the writer of the note.

Well, when he arrives, all the people he asked about the message have come, too.

They have quite a party by the seashore.

He decides to try to deliver the message again tomorrow.

Mind you, this is a picture book about which I have to let go of my logical objections. But it is so beautiful! Erin Stead’s art work is so peaceful and profound, and the language so lyrical and lovely. (“the waves tipped their white postman hats…”) It’s such a joyful experience, I’m not going to let little logical questions get in the way of my enjoyment, and I strongly suspect children won’t either.

Like most picture books, I recommend trying this book out to see for yourself the whole effect of the words plus the pictures. I suspect that you will be glad you did.

michellecuevas.com
www.penguin.com/youngreaders

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Source: This review is based on a 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 Ten Days a Madwoman, by Deborah Noyes

Thursday, December 27th, 2018

Ten Days a Madwoman

The Daring Life and Turbulent Times of the Original “Girl” Reporter Nellie Bly

by Deborah Noyes

Viking, 2016. 136 pages.
Review written in 2016 from a library book.

Despite the title, this is a complete biography of Nellie Bly for middle grade readers. The episode where she infiltrated an insane asylum for ten days is the way she launched her career in stunt journalism.

Sidebars that take up an entire spread are common, and there are plenty of illustrations and photographs from the time period, so there’s lots of variety in this account.

Nellie Bly, then Elizabeth Jane “Pink” Cochran, came to New York without money, planning to get hired by a newspaper. When that didn’t happen, she decided to write an article for her hometown paper, the Pittsburgh Dispatch answering the question if women reporters could get hired in New York. She interviewed the heads of the six major newspapers — and thus introduced herself to them.

Here’s the beginning of Chapter 2:

One fateful day in September, about four months into her New York adventure, Nellie — who was already nearly broke — found that her purse had gone missing, along with the last of her savings.

In the months and years to come, she would circle the globe, marry a millionaire and be widowed, take over his manufacturing empire, and become an influential businesswoman. But for now, Nellie Bly, who came to New York in search of “new worlds to conquer,” was penniless. She was also too proud to give up. “Indeed,” she wrote later, “I cannot say the thought ever presented itself to me, for I never in my life turned back from a course I had started upon.”

That was when she went to the office of the New York World, talked her way in, and proposed to the editor that she would sail to Europe and return in steerage to expose the horrible conditions.

The newspaper didn’t accept that idea, but they proposed another. Could Nellie get herself admitted to the insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island to report conditions there? If she could get herself in, the newspaper promised to get her out again.

This story — as hinted in the title — is the one the book gives in the most detail. It was frighteningly easy for Nellie to get herself admitted. Once there, she dropped the pretense of being insane — but was completely unable to talk herself out of the asylum. Conditions were horrible and the staff were abusive. Fortunately, the newspaper did get her out after ten days, and then Nellie exposed it all.

This gave her fame, and even opened up the field to more women and “stunt journalism.” Another adventure was when she went around the world in 72 days. She met Jules Verne along the way, since it was his book that had inspired the adventure.

This book is accessible to middle grade readers with its short chapters broken up by interesting sidebars, ample illustrations, and truly surprising stories. Nellie Bly had an amazing life, even when women were expected to keep quiet and do as they were told.

deborahnoyes.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 It Is Not Time for Sleeping, by Lisa Graff and Lauren Castillo

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

It Is Not Time for Sleeping

(A Bedtime Story)

by Lisa Graff
illustrated by Lauren Castillo

Clarion Books (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Oh, such a sweet and cozy bedtime tale!

This is a cumulative tale of a boy going through his bedtime routine. The book begins as they finish dinner:

When I’ve munched and crunched my last three carrots
(except for one I fed to Jasper), Mom takes my plate.
“It’s been a good day,” she says.
“It is a good day,” I tell her.
Because the day’s not finished yet.

And it is not time for sleeping.

We get little scenes as the evening continues on, but after each scene, it is still not time for sleeping.

Telling what happens accumulates, and the words have a gentle rhythm. I like the way the boy yawns and stretches even as he affirms that it’s not time for sleeping. Each scene is cozy with getting-ready-for-bed things.

Finally, the last scene begins the same way the others have, but going one step further:

When dinner is over and the dishes are scrubbed and
I’m squeaky-squeak clean and zipped up to my chin and
my teeth are shiny and I’ve said good night to Jasper and
I’m tucked tight in my bed and the story is done, Mom turns off the lights.
All I can see is the glow from the hall.

There is one more thing the boy needs, something Mom and Dad will never forget – a tight bedtime hug.

And you can’t ask for a better way to end a bedtime book, over several dark pages:

“Good night, sweet darling,” they whisper. “We love you.”

I stretch out comfy in my bed. “I love you, too,”
I whisper back. “Good night.” And I close my eyes.

Because now . . .

Now . . .

Now it is time . . .

for sleeping.

This book makes me sleepy just talking about it! The danger is that your child will realize it’s sleepy-making and will not want to read it at bedtime. But I’m hoping that the title, which says it is NOT time for sleeping, will help.

The pictures are so gentle and warm, matching the text. I love the boy’s footed pajamas, and the picture of the Dad holding him upside-down by his ankles while he brushes his teeth. (Be ready to decide if you’re willing to act out that part or not!)

But this follows the rule of the best bedtime books: A child is sleeping at the end.

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 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 Power of Love, by Michael Curry

Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

The Power of Love

Sermons, Reflections, and Wisdom to Uplift and Inspire

by Bishop Michael Curry

Avery (Penguin Random House), 2018. 92 pages.

This little book contains five sermons preached by Bishop Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, beginning with the 2018 Royal Wedding sermon.

All of the sermons do stress the power of love, and the importance of love in the life of any Christian – love toward anyone and everyone, without distinction.

Here’s a short bit from one of the sermons that sums up his philosophy:

We come in love. I would submit that the teaching of Jesus to love God and love our neighbor is at the core and the heart of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. And we must be people who reclaim Christianity from its popular modality, from the way it is often perceived and presented, to a way of Christianity that looks something like Jesus. And Jesus said, Love God and love your neighbor, so we come in love.

That is the core of our faith. That is the heart of it. And we come, because we are Christian and the way of love calls for us to be humanitarian. It calls for us to care for those who have no one to care for them.

There are only five sermons, and they are not long. The sermons work well as a morning devotional reading. They will inspire you and have you looking for opportunities to love.

penguinrandomhouse.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 Refuge, by Anne Booth & Sam Usher

Monday, December 24th, 2018

Refuge

The Timeless Story of Christmas

by Anne Booth & Sam Usher

Little, Brown and Company, 2016. Originally published in the United Kingdom in 2015. 28 pages.
Starred Review
Review written in 2017

Yes, this is based on the Christmas story, but it focuses on Jesus’ family as refugees when they traveled to Egypt. You don’t have to know anything about Christmas to appreciate this book. And it seems timely whether during the Christmas season or not.

The narrator of the tale is the donkey who carried the family. It tells briefly about traveling to Bethlehem where the baby was born and visitors came.

When the last king left, the scent of frankincense lingering in the air, we all slept and the man had a dream.

A dream of danger.

He woke long before the sun rose and told the woman. She took the baby and kissed him. She smelled his sweet baby breath, and felt his soft, warm baby skin and how his lashes tickled her cheek as he sleepily nuzzled her neck.

“Time to go,” she said.

Here’s how the book ends, over several pages:

And I kept walking, carrying my precious load,
and the woman held the baby close to her heart,
and she and the man talked, about journeys,
and dreams and warnings,
and the love of a baby,
and the kindness of strangers.

And when we rested,
and they were frightened,
they took hope from each other,
and from the baby’s tiny first smile.

And we entered into Egypt . . .

. . . and we found refuge.

The illustrations are water colors with a simple palette – mostly purply-black and white and gold, but with a little blue for Mary. The story is simple and haunting, and presents a way of looking at the Christmas story that had never even crossed my mind.

In addition, the cover of the book informs us that for each book purchased in the United States through September 2017, the publisher donated a dollar to the UN Refugee Agency.

A simple way to talk with your children about refugees and to open your own heart. Yes, all with a simple and beautiful picture book.

UNrefugees.org
lb-kids.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 How to Build a Museum, by Tonya Bolden

Sunday, December 23rd, 2018

How to Build a Museum

Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture

by Tonya Bolden

Smithsonian (Viking), 2016. 60 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a beautiful book, published just in time to hit the gift shop of the National Museum of African American History. Here’s the complete Preface, which gives you an idea what to expect:

A museum is a treasure trove of things. Things lost then found. Things perennially prized. Objects once deemed worthless.

Whatever a museum collects – paintings, pottery, or playthings – its aim is the same: to safeguard remnants of history and culture that inspire, enlighten, and kindle the curiosity of the children and adults who come through its doors, generation after generation.

Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is a treasure trove of paintings, photographs, posters, playbills, pottery, documents, dolls, diaries, books, balls, bells, benches, medals, medallions, and more: objects that deepen our understanding of the black experience in America and so strengthen our grasp of American history.

This is the story of how that magnificent and monumental museum got built.

The first half of the book indeed describes how the museum came to be. The dream actually took shape 100 years ago, but only recently became an actual plan. Then the book tells about that planning process, including choosing a location – the last available space on the National Mall – and designing the building.

The second half of the book talks about the collections contained in the museum and their significance.

What makes this book wonderful is the abundance of photos – first of the building process, then of many items contained in the museum (and in some cases pictures showing how they got into the museum).

Reading this book has made me eager to visit the new museum, which opened only a few weeks ago. And now I have a better grasp of what I will see. This book is a nice overview for children’s and adults. It tells all that goes into building a museum as well as what you should look for in the finished museum.

tonyaboldenbooks.com
nmaahc.si.edu
www.penguin.com/youngreaders

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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 You Belong Here, by M. H. Clark, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

You Belong Here

by M. H. Clark
illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

Compendium, 2016. 32 pages.

I was ready to dismiss this book as a fluffy book to make parents feel good – but the more I read it, the more it won me over.

The poetry is lyrical. The first page sets the tone:

The stars belong in the deep night sky
and the moon belongs there too,
and the winds belong in each place they blow by
and I belong here with you.

The book talks about where various things in nature belong – whales, fishes, waves, dunes, trees, deer, birds, frogs, lilies, turtles, otters, cattails, carp, and more.

Here’s an example:

The pines belong on the mountainsides,
tucked under their blankets of snow
and the bears belong in the caves where they hide
whenever the storms start to blow.

Some creatures were made for the land, or the air,
and others were made for the sea;
each creature is perfectly home right there
in the place it belongs to be.

After two spreads about things in nature, the book always comes back to a picture of a house with a lighted window and a page of poetry about how you belong with me.

Now, my children are adults, and my youngest is actively looking for a job and plans to move away. So I was a little bit resistant to lines like this:

And no matter what places you travel to,
what wonders you choose to see,
I will always belong right here with you,
and you’ll always belong with me.

But if I shift gears and think about a little one, cozying up with Mom or Dad – isn’t that a wonderful message to convey? You belong here. You are loved, and you belong. And yes, even when you’re grown up and wander far, you will always have a place in my heart, I will always feel at home when I am with you.

www.live-inspired.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?