Archive for December, 2018

Review of Dare to Lead, by Brené Brown

Friday, December 21st, 2018

Dare to Lead

Brave Work. Tough Conversations. Whole Hearts.

by Brené Brown

Random House, 2018. 298 pages.

I love Brené Brown’s books, beginning with The Gifts of Imperfection, which is wonderful reading for any recovering perfectionist like me.

This current book seemed repetitive, with lots of material from her previous books. Then I noticed the second subtitle on the cover: Daring Greatly and Rising Strong at Work. This book is all about using the principles from the previous books in a work setting.

It’s not like she doesn’t warn the reader. Here’s a paragraph from the Introductory chapter:

I’ve always been told, “Write what you need to read.” What I need as a leader, and what every leader I’ve worked with over the past several years has asked for, is a practical playbook for putting the lessons from Daring Greatly and Rising Strong into action. There are even a few learnings from Braving the Wilderness that can help us create a culture of belonging at work. If you’ve read these books, expect some familiar lessons with new context, stories, tools, and examples related to our work lives. If you haven’t read these books – no problem. I’ll cover everything you need to know.

There are four Parts to the book: Rumbling with Vulnerability, Living into our Values, Braving Trust, and Learning to Rise. It’s all about living authentically and being willing to be vulnerable with your co-workers and being able to speak truthfully with one another.

Even though it was a bit repetitive, and even though some of the acronyms are clunky, and V for Vault in the acronym BRAVING still makes me laugh – many of the ideas here are worth being reminded about – in a nice consolidated format. After all, I do want to live by my values and be whole-hearted with my co-workers. Putting these ideas into practice will make you a stronger and more authentic person.

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.

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Review of A Child of Books, by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Thursday, December 20th, 2018

A Child of Books

by Oliver Jeffers and Sam Winston

Candlewick Press, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Picture books that try to convey the magic of reading don’t often come close. This one, with powerful and imaginative text-based art gets across the feeling of the world that books create – and thus achieves success.

The main text is simple:

I am a child of books.

I come from a world of stories
and upon my imagination I float.

I have sailed across a sea of words
to ask if you will come away with me.

Then the girl (the child of books) and the boy she invites go off and have adventures, which include mountains of make-believe, treasure in the darkness, forests of fairy tales, and monsters in enchanted castles.

Our house is a home of invention
where anyone at all can come
for imagination is free.

I have to confess – my personal favorite page is the one with the words “Some people have forgotten where I live.” That page shows a man reading a newspaper. His glasses show the reflection of a bunch of numbers. But if you read the small print on the newspaper he’s reading, the articles are hilarious. The headlines include, “BUSINESS,” “IMPORTANT THINGS,” “SERIOUS STUFF,” and “THE FACTS.”

Here’s the first paragraph of the article on “THE FACTS”:

Scientists have discovered a new fact. In one test, nearly half the subjects proved the fact, it was revealed. The findings, which came from first watching people and then quizzing them, have attracted criticism from some other scientists.

Okay, that’s not enough! The final visible part of the article says this:

Their work began with several trials involving people who were shut in a small room and tested. After 6, 12, or 15 minutes, they were asked if they had discovered this fact. On average, their answers were near the middle of a nine-point scale.

(Excuse me while I laugh about that and the other Serious and Important articles.)

Where was I? Oh, part of what makes this book so special is that it uses the text of classic children’s books in the art. The “mountains of make-believe” are formed from tiny print of words taken from Peter Pan and Wendy. The initial invitation to leave to the world of books is given on a road paved with words from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The sea of words that the child of books arrives on is made of text from Gulliver’s Travels, The Swiss Family Robinson, and The Adventures of Pinocchio.

In fact, looking more closely at the monster made of dark words that seem to come particularly from Dracula and Frankenstein, I see that his horns and nose are made of sinister phrases and his claws are the words “Abhorred,” “monster!” “Fiend,” “Wretched,” “creature,” and “devil!” The children escape the monster by climbing down a rope made of words from Rapunzel.

The Forest of Fairy Tales has trees whose trunks are the page end of books and whose branches are words from various fairy tales.

And the art is lovely throughout. Words, unfittingly, can’t do it justice. There is much use of photographed elements (like the books in the fairy tale forest) mixed with cartoon art mixed with well-placed words.

Usually when the main text of a picture book isn’t long (I count 122 words.), it seems good for a toddler audience. Not this one. This book will be treasured more by a child who has already experienced some of the magic of reading and who will enjoy reading the fine print and catching some of the references. In fact, such a child might be lured into discovering new treasures they haven’t encountered before.

oliverjeffers.com
samwinston.com
www.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 Looking Back, by Lois Lowry

Wednesday, December 19th, 2018

Looking Back

A Book of Memories

by Lois Lowry

Revised and Expanded, with a Foreword by Alice Hoffman

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2016. 259 pages.
Original edition published in 1998.
Starred Review

This is an Ideas photo album, courtesy of author Lois Lowry.

She says in the Introduction:

Stories don’t just appear out of nowhere. They need a ball that starts to roll.

This book is written because the most common question writers for children get asked is “Where do you get your ideas?”

The book is full of old photographs. Before each chapter, she’s got a short selection from one of the books she’s written. Then there’s a photograph. Then there’s a memory about the photograph. Many times, it’s easy to see how the memory and photo relate to the quotation. Sometimes less so. But it’s always interesting.

This also gives a picture of a writer’s life. Though the pictures aren’t in chronological order. But you do get the feel for themes running through her life. She also included some photos of her parents. I enjoyed the ones where she placed photos side by side of herself and her mother at the same age.

I’ve been looking at old photos myself lately. It’s fun to go through an album of memories with Lois Lowry.

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 A Bike Like Sergio’s, by Maribeth Boelts, illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Tuesday, December 18th, 2018

A Bike Like Sergio’s

by Maribeth Boelts
illustrated by Noah Z. Jones

Candlewick Press, 2016. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Every kid except Ruben has a bike. His best friend Sergio tells him to ask for one for his birthday, forgetting there’s a difference between their birthdays.

At the grocery store, Sergio buys a pack of football cards, and Ruben buys bread for his mother. Then a dollar falls out of a lady’s purse. Sergio doesn’t run after her because it’s just a dollar. But when he gets home, he discovers it’s actually a hundred-dollar bill. Which is enough money to buy a bike.

So – it’s a story about making the hard decision to give back found money. It’s very well done, showing the range of emotions – dreaming about the bike, but not looking at his parents. He watches his mother cross things off her shopping list because they can’t afford them. There’s a part where he thinks the money is gone, and all the emotions that brings.

When he finally gets up the nerve to give the money back, I like that the woman doesn’t offer to buy him a prize. She thanks him and tells him he’s blessed her.

When Ruben tells his parents the whole story, they tell him they’re so proud. And Ruben is proud of himself, too.

This book has a message – but the message is palatable because it tells a good story, a story about a boy who feels real and whose reactions are true to life. I do hope Ruben gets a bike some day! And for kids who’ve never had to do without, this book may be eye-opening, too.

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 Almost Everything, by Anne Lamott

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

Almost Everything

Notes on Hope

by Anne Lamott

Riverhead Books, 2018. 189 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s another short book by Anne Lamott, musing about life and grace and hope. And there’s no one whose musings I enjoy as much.

What is this one about? Well, she frames it with the writing advice she gives to classes of adults and classes of six-year-olds. It’s things she’s learned about life – and she has learned many wise things by now.

I love the realistic humor Anne Lamott brings to things. She tells stories about being imperfect, about being impatient, and about others being imperfect and impatient.

But she comes back to the idea that we are, as she puts it, “preapproved.” “This is a come-as-you-are party.”

Anne Lamott helps me delight in being human. She helps me take joy and delight in life. She helps me do more laughing – especially at myself.

My recommendation is check the quotes from this book I’ve posted on Sonderquotes. (Little by little I’ll get them posted. If there aren’t many when you check, here are my other Anne Lamott quotes.) If you like these small tastes of her writing, get the book to enjoy the whole banquet.

riverheadbooks.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 Samson in the Snow, by Philip C. Stead

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Samson in the Snow

by Philip C. Stead

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a quiet book about friendship. This isn’t an action book for keeping a class distracted, but a cozy book to look at closely and share in a lap or with a friend. The beautiful paintings add to the experience, though the scenes don’t change a lot – dandelions or snow.

Samson the wooly mammoth tends his dandelion patch on sunny days, hoping for a friend to come along. One day, a little red bird comes and takes some flowers for her friend, who is having a bad day. The friend’s favorite color is yellow.

After the bird flies away, Samson falls asleep. While he is sleeping, the weather changes, and everything gets covered with snow.

When Samson sees everything all covered with snow, he worries about the little red bird, and sets off to look for her.

As he walks around, he finds a little mouse. The mouse is having a bad day, but is looking for his friend. She is small like him, and he’s worried that she’s covered up by the snow.

The mouse gets warm in Samson’s wooly fur, and together they keep searching. Samson sees something yellow, and it turns out the mouse’s favorite color is yellow, too.

When Samson goes to the yellow spot, it turns out to be the little red bird, very cold in the snow.

Samson takes the mouse and the bird to a warm cave and they all recover and talk about their adventures in the snow.

If it seems a little unlikely that Samson would find the bird’s friend on his walk, well, I like the way it’s left to the reader to figure that out. We see friends caring for each other and Samson, who was waiting for a friend, finds two.

www.mackids.com

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

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

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

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Review of Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History, by Walter Dean Myers

Friday, December 14th, 2018

Frederick Douglass

The Lion Who Wrote History

by Walter Dean Myers
illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Harper, 2017. 36 pages.
Starred Review

This is a picture book biography of Frederick Douglass. It highlights his decisions to learn to read and later to escape slavery. I like this paragraph.

Frederick listened carefully to the Auld children. They spoke clearly and directly, and he knew that it was because they had also read the words they used. He felt that reading could make a difference in how a person lived.

Years later, abolitionists had Frederick speak at their meetings, and crowds were impressed. This fits with what Trevor Noah says in his book Born a Crime about how the way you speak strongly influences how people relate to you. Frederick Douglass didn’t sound like a slave, in his speech or in his writings. That challenged people’s assumptions.

Walter Dean Myers makes the point that Frederick Douglass gained so much influence, his voice became a lion’s roar.

The careful and wise decisions made by Frederick Douglass – to learn to read, to escape from slavery, to speak out for justice for all Americans, and to aid the Union Army – had helped to write American history.

walterdeanmyers.net
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 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 A Small Thing . . . but Big, by Tony Johnston, pictures by Hadley Hooper

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018

A Small Thing . . .

but Big

by Tony Johnston
pictures by Hadley Hooper

A Neal Porter Book (Roaring Brook Press), 2016. 40 pages.
Starred Review

This is a quiet picture book with a gentle story — and utterly charming. I was scared of dogs when I was a kid, so I relate to Lizzie.

The book opens, with Lizzie walking into the park with her mother. The park reminds me of parks in Paris, with an ironwork fence and a fountain and flowers. She begins exuberant play — until she comes close to a dog, being walked by an old man.

The pace is leisurely, and the language is delightful. This covers several pages toward the beginning:

“Do not be worried,” said the old man of the dog timidly.

“Does she bark?” asked Lizzie with worry anyway.

“Not at little children,” said the old man.

“Does she bite?” asked Lizzie anxiously.

“Only her food,” said the old man, a bit anxious also, but with sparkle.

“Go ahead, give Cecile a pat.”

Feeling reassured, carefully, oh carefully, Lizzie patted Cecile.

Cecile sat soft and still. She seemed to enjoy those pattings.

“I patted a dog,” Lizzie said quietly.

“A small thing, but big,” said the old man, quietly too.

“Shall we walk Cecile?” he ventured in his quiet way.

Lizzie felt uneasy.

“Do not be worried,” said the old man. “Cecile will adore walking with a child.”

“She is quite adoring being with you,” the old man said shyly.

“How springingly she walks.”

Lizzie walked springingly too.

It continues, with progressively more steps that are small things, but big.

The artwork is what puts this book over the top. They’re in one park the whole book, so you might think it would be lacking in variety. But we get different angles and different scenes in each spread, and wonderful close-ups on Lizzie and on Cecile. I love where they are shown walking springingly, for example.

Lizzie’s face and bearing slowly gain confidence and joy as the book progresses.

The overall effect is light and airy and makes you feel like going for a walk in the park.

So lovely!

mackids.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 Gratitude, by Oliver Sacks

Tuesday, December 11th, 2018

Gratitude

by Oliver Sacks

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 45 pages.
Starred Review

This tiny book is short, but lovely. It contains four essays Oliver Sacks wrote in the last two years of his life.

When he wrote the first one, “Mercury,” about turning eighty, he didn’t know that cancer was soon to come back into his life and limit that life. But it fits beautifully with the others, about what’s important in life, and aging, and facing the end of life with gratitude.

In the second essay, “My Own Life,” written after receiving the diagnosis, he wrote:

Over the last few days, I have been able to see my life as from a great altitude, as a sort of landscape, and with a deepening sense of the connection of all its parts. This does not mean I am finished with life. On the contrary, I feel intensely alive, and I want and hope in the time that remains to deepen my friendships, to say farewell to those I love, to write more, to travel if I have the strength, to achieve new levels of understanding and insight.

This will involve audacity, clarity, and plain speaking; trying to straighten my accounts with the world. But there will be time, too, for some fun (and even some silliness, as well).

Here’s where the title of the book comes from:

I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return; I have read and traveled and thought and written. I have had an intercourse with the world, the special intercourse of writers and readers.

The final essay, “Sabbath,” was written at the end of his life. He concludes:

And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life – achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.

This book won’t take much of your time, but it will lift your spirits and perhaps get you thinking about what it means to live life well.

oliversacks.com
billhayes.com
www.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 Buddy and Earl Go Exploring, by Maureen Fergus and Carey Sookocheff

Monday, December 10th, 2018

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring

by Maureen Fergus
pictures by Carey Sookocheff

Groundwood Books, 2016. 32 pages.
Starred Review

Buddy and Earl Go Exploring is a picture book in the grand tradition of animals-don’t-understand-human-things-with-hilarious-results such as Minerva Louise, The Adventures of Cow, and Paul Meets Bernadette. The child hearing this story will delight in being smarter than the animals.

In this case, we have a dog named Buddy, who is a little more savvy about human things, and an adventurous hedgehog named Earl. Earl is new to the family.

One night, Earl announces he’s going on a trip and travels for some time on his hamster wheel.

After a long time, he stopped and looked around.

“This place looks eerily similar to the place I just left,” whispered Earl.

“Maybe that is because it is the place you just left,” whispered Buddy.

When he heard Buddy’s voice, Earl was so startled that he jumped and made a funny popping sound.

“I ran faster than the wind!” he cried. “How did you manage to keep up with me, Buddy?”

“I am not sure,” said Buddy uncertainly.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here,” declared Earl. “Exploring is always more fun if you do it with a friend.”

As they explore this place (the kitchen), first Earl sees a silvery lake in the shadow of a great mountain. Buddy knows it’s his water dish in the shadow of the garbage pail, but he gets carried away in Earl’s enthusiasm. When he knocks over the garbage can, at first he feels terrible.

Then he noticed some of yesterday’s meatloaf and forgot all about feeling terrible.

Next, Earl sees a lovely lady hedgehog trapped in the jaws of a monster. Buddy knows it’s Mom’s hairbrush in her purse, but soon is convinced to help Earl save his friend.

Then they have an encounter with the vacuum cleaner before settling down for the night. The last picture shows the two happily asleep – with the results of their exploring strewn all around the kitchen, and Dad’s foot coming into the kitchen the next morning.

The story is simple enough, but the characters make it wonderful – with Earl’s wild imagination, and Buddy’s simple friendly doggy enthusiasm. Kids will enjoy being in the know and delight in the good-hearted adventures of these two friends.

groundwoodbooks.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.

What did you think of this book?