Book of a Thousand Days – Day 158

March 13th, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books, sort of a Very Silly Phrasebook for Travelers.

Buch_Tausend_Tage

This week I’m in the mood for that book I love so much — Book of a Thousand Days, Das Buch der Tausend Tage, by Shannon Hale.

Last time we visited this book, we left off ready to start Day 158, on page 57 in the English edition, Seite 68 auf Deutsch:

“until I put the brush to paper” = als ich den Pinsel aufs Papier setzte

“my lap” = meinem Schoß

“saucy things” = schlüpfrige Bemerkungen

“by the orange light of the fire” = im orangefarbenen Feuerschein
(“orange-colored fire-shine”)

“fawn” = Rehkitz

“spooked” = verängstigt

“she couldn’t speak or move” = Sie war wie versteinert.

“screamed” = geschrien

“metal spikes” = Eisennägeln

“chuckling” = gluckste

“a log full of hornets” = ein Hornissennest

“sweetly” = zuckersüß (“sugar-sweet”)

“hiding game” = Versteckspiel

“she squeaked like rusted hinges” = sie quietschte wie verrostete Scharniere

“crying” = Heulerei

“corners and folds” = Ecken und Ritzen

“sacks of barley” = Gerstesäcken

This is fun in German:
“two braids” = Zwei Zöpfen

“his knees shook” = ihm schlotterten die Knie

“dull” = stumpf

“prey” = Beutetiers

“rasp” = Krächzen

“smothered” = erstickt

“prowess” = Heldenhaft

“as tired as a weeping willow in full leaf”
= so müde wie eine Trauerweide in vollem Grün

I especially like the first part of the last sentence in this section:
“His purring shakes my lap but steadies my hand.”
= Sein Schnurren schüttelt meinen Schoß, aber es schenkt meiner Hand die nötige Ruhe.

That’s all for tonight! If I go on much longer, I’ll be so müde wie eine Trauerweide in vollem Grün.

Review of Men Explain Things to Me, by Rebecca Solnit

March 8th, 2016

men_explain_things_to_me_largeMen Explain Things to Me

by Rebecca Solnit

Dispatch Books, Haymarket Books, Chicago, Illinois, 2014. 130 pages.
Starred Review

I’m afraid most intelligent women need to hear nothing more than the title of this book to give a knowing smile. Rebecca Solnit starts the essay with a particularly stunning example of a man who knew nothing about a topic Rebecca had written a book about, trying to explain things to her. He even mentioned an “important book” she should have read, which it turned out he had not actually read but had read about in the New York Times Book Review. This was the book she had written.

I like incidents of that sort, when forces that are usually so sneaky and hard to point out slither out of the grass and are as obvious as, say, an anaconda that’s eaten a cow or an elephant turd on the carpet.

Yes, people of both genders pop up at events and hold forth on irrelevant things and conspiracy theories, but the out-and-out confrontational confidence of the totally ignorant is, in my experience, gendered. Men explain things to me, and other women, whether or not they know what they’re talking about. Some men.

Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard, at times, for any woman in any field; that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare; that crushes young women into silence by indicating, the way harassment on the street does, that this is not their world. It trains us in self-doubt and self-limitation just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence.

Now, she does make clear that she’s not talking about all men, nor even the majority of men. But there are men out there who don’t respect women’s knowledge or opinions and feel they automatically have more important things to say. My first Master’s degree was in mathematics, and I always felt like I had to prove myself. And always, I must admit, took great delight in getting higher scores than my male classmates on math tests – which was more about me than about them. But where did I get the idea I had to prove myself?

The rest of the essays in this book talk about other ways women are silenced and marginalized. There’s also some discussion about marriage equality in that context.

The phrase [“marriage equality”] is ordinarily employed to mean that same-sex couples will have the rights different-sexed couples do. But it could also mean that marriage is between equals. That’s not what traditional marriage was. Throughout much of its history in the West, the laws defining marriage made the husband essentially an owner and the wife a possession. Or the man a boss and the woman a servant or slave.

Another essay is about a powerful international figure who raped a hotel maid in his luxury suite – and how that can be a metaphor for many things.

The opening essay begins with what is really a humorous scene. But this is not a humorous book. Overall, it’s about feminism and how we’ve made progress, but there is still progress that needs to be made.

Rebecca Solnit will make you think and consider and speak.

rebeccasolnit.net
TomDispatch.com
haymarketbooks.org

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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 W Is for Webster, by Tracey Fern and Boris Kulikov

March 7th, 2016

w_is_for_webster_largeW Is for Webster

Noah Webster and His American Dictionary

by Tracey Fern
pictures by Boris Kulikov

Margaret Ferguson Books (Farrar Straus Giroux), New York, 2015. 36 pages.

Here’s a picture book biography of Noah Webster, telling simply about his obsession with words and creation of the first American dictionary.

Creating the dictionary was a patriotic act for Noah.

By now, the Revolutionary War was winding down. It was clear that America would win its independence. Noah was a proud patriot who longed to do something that would help to hold his new, complicated nation together. Being a bit of a know-it-all, Noah thought he knew just what America needed: its own language – one different from the English spoken in Britain.

“A national language is a national tie,” Noah insisted to all who would listen, and to many who wouldn’t.

Webster first wrote a speller, then a small dictionary. He spent decades working on his big dictionary, including origins of words and quotations using them.

This book shows us how deep this desire went as he had to figure out how to support his family while always working on the dictionary. He eventually went to Europe to get the research done that he needed on word origins.

He finally completed his dictionary in 1825, with more than 70,000 entries.

As it happens, years ago I was given a facsimile edition of that first dictionary. This book prompted me to pull it out and look inside. Sure enough! It contains word origin information, and multiple definitions with examples of usage – many of those examples taken from the Bible.

By now, America had changed. Andrew Jackson was president, and he was both a common man and a bad speller. The nation was finally ready for Noah’s dictionary, full of common words simply spelled.

States issued congratulatory proclamations. Newspapers called him “America’s own Dr. Webster.” Congress adopted Noah’s dictionary as its standard reference book. And although Noah’s dictionary has been revised many times, it is still the standard in America today.

traceyfern.com
boriskulikov.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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Sonderling Sunday – Inside the Dome of Doom

March 6th, 2016

It’s time for Sonderling Sunday! That time of the week when I play with language by looking at the German translation of children’s books.

Sonderlinge3

This week we’re continuing the saga found in Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, otherwise known as The Order of Odd-fish, by James Kennedy.

Last time, we left Jo and Ian at the entrance to the Dome of Doom, on page 256 in the original English version, Seite 325 auf Deutsch.

We’ll continue just looking at some interesting and handy phrases to know. I think of this as an extremely silly traveler’s phrasebook, and hope to tantalize you into reading the original books as well. (Such juicy phrases are found in James Kennedy’s writing!)

This one rolls off the tongue in German:
“a great spherical arena” = eine riesige runde Arena

This one is interestingly brief:
“cage of iron grillwork” = Gitterkäfig (“grill-cage”)

“gaps” = Lücken

This is almost onomatopoetic:
“dim and seedy” = dämmrig und schmuddelig

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but still enjoy it:
“centipede” = Tausendfüßler

And here’s a word I challenge you to use in a sentence:
“eelmen” = Aalmänner

“rougher” = rauer

“queasy feeling” = unbehagliche Gefühl

“grimaced” = verzog die Lippen (“twisted the lips”)

“Knock yourself out” = Bedien dich ruhig (“Help yourself calm”)

“a gloved fist” = eine behandschuhte Faust

“ferocious man” = wild dreinblickenden Mann

“ornate” = prunkvollen (“pageantry-full”)

“slumped” = plumpsen

“gangster” = Ganove

Oops! I caught a quote attributed to the wrong speaker!
“‘Ah, a connoisseur,’ said Jo.” is translated as:
»Ah, eine Genießerin«, bemerkte Ian.

And Germans are even more violent in wishing luck:
“Break a leg” = Hals- und Beinbruch (“Neck-and leg-break”)

“sleazy and glamorous” = schmierig und glamourös

“criminals, spongers, and addicts” = Kriminellen, Schmarotzer und Süchtigen

“jinxjuice” = Hexensaft

“marigolds” = Ringelblume

Here’s a nice long word:
“disagreements”
= Meinungsverschiedenheiten

“crash of cymbals and gongs” = Scheppern von Becken und Gongs

And I’ll stop just as the fighting begins, with a sentence where it’s interesting what they don’t translate:
“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the DOME OF DOOM!”
= Wilkommen, ladies and gentlemen, im Dom des Todes!

Review of Ancillary Mercy, by Ann Leckie

March 6th, 2016

ancillary_mercy_largeAncillary Mercy

by Ann Leckie

Orbit Books, 2015. 359 pages.
Starred Review

Wow! I suspected that I would appreciate the second book, Ancillary Sword, much more after reading the third book in the trilogy, and I was absolutely right.

Yes, you need to read this trilogy in order. It’s a unit, and everything comes together in this final book.

Book One, Ancillary Justice was about Breq, who was once the ship Justice of Toren and is now a lone ancillary, seeking revenge on the tyrant who destroyed most of her and the captain she loved. In the process of revenge-seeking, she starts a civil war, or at least makes obvious that a war is going on.

In Book Two, Ancillary Sword, Breq is Fleet Captain of a new ship, Mercy of Kalr, with a crew of humans, but with access to everything the ship senses. She goes to a distant planet and deals with politics and intrigue on the planet and its orbiting space station, which has its own AI.

In this third book, Ancillary Mercy, the part of the Lord of the Radch that hates Breq comes to the planet looking for her. Breq still wants revenge, and Breq is definitely in danger, and plot threads are woven in intricate ways.

I can’t say a lot about the plot, since I don’t want to give anything away from the earlier books. By this time, I’d gotten used to everyone being referred to as “she.” One thing I especially liked about this book was that even with the large cast of characters, there’s growth in almost all of the characters. Some things Breq was doing as a matter of course in the last book, she’s now questioning. And Breq’s lieutenants face their own challenges, and even the station and the ship come up with some surprising character development.

These books make you think about humanity and gender and perspective and justice and love and relationships in whole new ways — all while telling an intricately woven, imaginatively inventive story with thrillingly dangerous action sequences. (Yes, Breq’s trend of getting seriously injured in each book continues.)

I can’t wait for my son to read it so I can discuss it with him! (He gave me a copy of the first book for Christmas.) This book is mind-blowing and amazing.

annleckie.com
orbitbooks.net

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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?

Review of When Dad Showed Me the Universe, by Ulf Stark and Eva Eriksson

March 5th, 2016

when_dad_showed_me_the_universe_largeWhen Dad Showed Me the Universe

by Ulf Stark
illustrated by Eva Eriksson

Gecko Press, 2015. First published in Sweden in 1998. 28 pages.
Starred Review

This book is completely charming.

One day Dad said he thought I was old enough for him to show me the universe.

The pictures show a little boy about preschool age. The dentist Dad puts on a black beret, a leather jacket, and tall boots. We go with the pair on their walk to see the universe.

“What actually is the universe?” I asked.

“The entire universe,” said Dad, “includes everything, my friend.”

The way there was straight ahead and then to the left.

I like the moment when they go to buy provisions for their expedition, because it reminds me of Winnie-the-Pooh’s “Expotition to the North Pole.”

They walk through town and see the night begin to fall and the shops closing. They go out to a field with no street lights, where people walk their dogs during the day.

I love the way, when they get there and Dad asks if he can see, the little boy notices all sorts of things on the ground:

I could see, even though it was almost dark.
I saw a snail from the universe creeping over a stone.
I saw a blade of grass swaying in the winds of the universe.
There was a flower called a thistle.
And there was Dad, staring at the sky.
“Yes, Dad,” I whispered, “I see it.”
All of this was the universe!
I thought it was the most beautiful place I’d ever seen.

Then Dad tells him he’s supposed to look up, and we see all the stars stretched out. Dad points out all the constellations, including Big Dog, and there’s a moment of child-sized humor when Dad steps in something left by Big Dog.

When we got home, we had sandwiches and hot chocolate.
“So, how was the universe?” asked my mother.
“It was beautiful,” I said. “And funny.”

And so is this wonderful book, a quiet story about a boy, with his Dad, seeing something he will never forget.

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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?

Review of The Accidental Highwayman, by Ben Tripp

March 4th, 2016

accidental_highwayman_largeThe Accidental Highwayman

Being the Tale of Kit Bristol, His Horse, Midnight, a Mysterious Princess, and Sundry Magical Persons Besides

by Ben Tripp
read by Steve West

Macmillan Audiobook from Tor, 2014. 10 hours on 9 discs.
Starred Review

I’ve meant to read this since it came out in 2014, and finally got around to it when it came out in audio form. (With thanks to my sister-in-law Laura for encouraging me to do so.) This was just as well, since the narrator is an outstanding reader and has a marvelous British accent, so it was a great listening choice.

As the subtitle tells us, this book tells the story of Kit Bristol, set in the 1700s in England. He’s the only servant of a reclusive aristocrat, and one day his master comes home having been shot. It turns out he was the famed Whistling Jack, and through one thing and another, Kit ends up taking up Whistling Jack’s commitment to help a princess fleeing an arranged marriage.

It turns out the princess is the daughter of the king of Faery, and he is power-hungry and wants to form an alliance with King George III. On top of that, there’s a soulless duchess after Princess Morgana and a vindictive redcoat obsessed with capturing Whistling Jack and seeing him hanged.

Kit and Princess Morgana go through an amazing variety of outlandish adventures. There were times when I couldn’t see how he could possibly survive (even knowing he must, since the story is told in first person).

The only thing wrong with the book? The story doesn’t end at a good place at all. Yes, part of their adventure does come to conclusion, but our two main characters are by no means safe and happy at the end. So that means I’ll be looking eagerly for the sequel.

This book is good for swashbuckling fun with fantasy. The narrator is wonderful, and this would also work for family listening. Kit does get into danger, but it’s young adult reading more because Kit is a young adult than because of any dark subject matter. Ben Tripp is also an illustrator, so having listened to the book it sounds like I missed out on illustrations, though at least I got to enjoy a British accent to make up for it.

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

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

What did you think of this book?

Review of This Bridge Will Not Be Gray, by Dave Eggers and Tucker Nichols

March 2nd, 2016

this_bridge_will_not_be_gray_largeThis Bridge Will Not Be Gray

story by Dave Eggers
art by Tucker Nichols

McSweeney’s, San Francisco, 2015. 104 pages.
Starred Review

This Bridge Will Not Be Gray is a picture book about the construction of the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a long picture book, but otherwise fits picture book format. Every spread has a cut-paper pictorial background, and no spread has more than a few paragraphs of text, if that.

This isn’t the fancy, realistic-looking cut paper of Steve Jenkins. This is simple, with basic shapes. People are shown as heads of various colors (such as blue and green and red). But the simple style does work. Dave Eggers takes us through the design process of the Golden Gate bridge, beginning with the beautiful bay itself.

It is interesting to me that the reason the Golden Gate Bridge ended up reddish-orange in the first place was that was the color they painted onto steel when it was shipped to make it rust-proof.

They hadn’t actually decided what color to paint the bridge, but plans were to paint it gray.

When Irving Morrow was on the ferry one day, he watched this orange steel being assembled, and he had a thought. He thought that this color was beautiful.

And when Irving was asked what color he thought the bridge should be, he said, Why not leave it this color? And people said, What? And they said, Huh? And they said, Irving, you are nuts. No bridge had ever been orange. Who had ever heard of an orange bridge? No one had, because no bridge had ever been this color. This is true: no bridge in known human history had ever been orange.

And for a good portion of the human race, because something has not already been, that is a good reason to fear it coming to be.

But as the debate continued about the color of the bridge, an interesting thing happened. Other people noticed the same thing Irving had noticed: that this accidental orange somehow looked right.

That gives you an idea of the conversational style of the book. The simple graphics accompany it and add up to a lovely and informative story of how one of the most beautiful bridges in the world was built.

The Golden Gate Bridge, which is orange, is the best-known and best-loved bridge in the world.

It is best-known because it is bold and courageous and unusual and even strange. It is best-loved because it is bold and courageous and unusual and even strange. And it is all these things because Irving Morrow, and thousands of others said:

“This bridge will not be gray!”

It is especially fitting that the author, the illustrator, and the publisher live and work near the Golden Gate Bridge.

mcsweeneys.net

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

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

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

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party

March 2nd, 2016

perfect_princess_party_largeThe Princess in Black
and the Perfect Princess Party

by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale
illustrated by LeUyen Pham

Candlewick Press, 2015. 90 pages.
Starred Review

The Princess in Black is back! This time it’s her birthday. Twelve princesses and their pets have come for the party, which Princess Magnolia wants to be perfect. But every time Princess Magnolia gets ready to open presents, the monster alarm goes off!

The Princess in Black must fight the monsters and send them back to Monster Land. But Princess Magnolia doesn’t want her guests to know that she is really the Princess in Black. Not even the ever-so-good-at-hiding Princess Sneezewort. Princess Magnolia keeps coming up with different activities – hide-and-go-seek, races, a labyrinth, to cover up for her absences fighting monsters.

My only disappointment? I was hoping to see Duff the Goat Boy investigate his own monster-fighting powers. But there will be more books. There is time for that.

Like the first book, this one will span a wide age range. An easy reader, it will booktalk well with the younger grades of elementary school. Boys and girls both enjoy these books. Yes, Magnolia’s a princess, but she’s also a superhero! My two two-year-old nieces will enjoy it because there are plenty of pictures. And plenty of princesses as well.

This is a wonderful series with plenty of imaginative touches. There is repetition so helpful for beginning readers and simple language, but humorous twists which reward reading. The party keeps on getting interrupted, and readers will enjoy the way things slightly change each time.

Book Three is out — I was going to post its review when I realized I hadn’t posted this one yet! All are wonderful and bring something new to the party!

squeetus.com
candlewick.com

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Source: This review is based on my own copy, purchased via Amazon.com, and then given to my niece.

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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Coded Affirmations Scarf

February 27th, 2016

affirmations_scarfThe one knitted object in my Sonderknitting Mathematical Knitting Gallery which I haven’t explained is the Coded Affirmations Scarf.

I knitted the scarf with a small ball of leftover yarn before I knitted Alyssa’s Coded Blessing Blanket, but after it had occurred to me that you could use mathematical bases to make coded messages, as in this Base Six Code Coloring Sheet. With knitting, instead of colors, you use a different two-stitch stitch pattern for the code.

I’m pretty sure I used a similar code for the Affirmations Scarf as I did for the Blessing Blanket later. The patterns would have involved knit and purl stitches, cables to the front or back, and yarn overs with decreases. But to be honest, the scarf is much harder to read because it’s not as clear where the letters begin and end. (It was nice in the blanket that I had a built-in grid to use.)

Anyway, the idea wasn’t to be able to decipher it. The idea was that I would know what the scarf said.

What does the scarf say? My name — my full name, my nickname — and words that I believe describe me. (Along the lines of “Loved,” “Joyful” — you get the idea.)

And the effect is just a seemingly random lacy pattern.

This was my first experiment. And looking at it now, years later — well, I still haven’t been able to decipher it. (I’m hoping I wrote down the code somewhere!)

But the idea — to knit meaning into a scarf with a coded message — was a complete success.

And I still say you could do this with colors on the edge of a picture or anywhere else you want a secret meaning hidden in a pretty pattern.

coded_affirmations_scarf

My posts on Mathematical Knitting and related topics are now gathered at Sonderknitting.