Review of Five, Six, Seven, Nate! by Tim Federle

April 30th, 2015

five_six_seven_nate_largeFive, Six, Seven, Nate!

by Tim Federle
read by the Author

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2014. 6 CDs.
Starred Review

First, I’ll say that this follow-up to Better Nate Than Ever is fabulous. In this case, the author and narrator has worked on Broadway himself – so he can tell this story as it should be told.

Five, Six, Seven, Nate! features Nate Foster, moving to New York, cast as second understudy for the role of E. T. in E. T.: The Musical. His adventures and the simple day-to-day things he deals with, are hugely entertaining. The reader (or listener) is definitely rooting for Nate, excited about his dream come true of actually performing on Broadway.

He leaves his best friend Libby behind, but she’s given him plenty of tips and moral support. He’s also leaving behind relentless bullies and parents who are far more impressed with his older brother’s sports prowess. At thirteen years old, his voice is changing – which leads to some awkward timing. He’s staying with his Aunt Heidi and learning how to navigate New York and show business.

This is a feel-good, heart-warming novel that will leave you wanting to belt out a musical number at the end. (Now that would have enhanced the audio!) Tremendously fun listening.

Okay, that’s my review – I loved the book, and kids will love it, and it gives insight into what it’s like to be part of a Broadway musical.

Now let me talk about something I was going to ignore – but I decided that in today’s climate, it deserves mention.

Yes, Nate – a thirteen-year-old boy who is obsessed with Broadway musicals – is gay. Back home, in Pennsylvania, he was relentlessly and cruelly bullied. In the book, Nate is involved in two kisses, one with a girl, one with a boy. The one with a boy feels dramatically different, dramatically more right.

The reason I bring this up at all is that I still have friends who believe that homosexuality is a choice, not the way people are born. This book, without making an argument at all, argues against that view. Some of those friends might not want their children reading this book, but I believe they would do well to read it themselves.

Come on, a boy who loves musical theater? Do you really have trouble believing he’s gay? Do you really have trouble believing he would be bullied horribly? Do you really believe he would choose bullying, choose his parents’ disapproval, if he actually had a choice about it?

You may argue that this is only fiction, but the book is based on the author’s adventures in Broadway. The whole scenario rings true.

In the first place, this is a fantastic, feel-good story. But for kids who see themselves in Nate, this is a wonderful opportunity to read a book about someone like them, someone different from his peers. For kids who don’t see themselves in Nate, what better way than reading to put yourself in someone else’s shoes? If this book promotes understanding and compassion – more power to it!

timfederle.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 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.

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Sonderling Sunday – Ecknische und Knirps

April 26th, 2015

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

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a post, with no good reason but your basic busyness. So I’m happy to get back to it tonight. And it’s the turn of my stand-by, the truest Sonderbook of them all, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, by James Kennedy, the translation of The Order of Odd-fish.

Last time I visited this book, I finished with “the picture of happiness,” die Verkörperung von Glückseligkeit, which is on page 228, Seite 287.

As always, I love learning how to translate James Kennedy’s disgust-inducing prose. :)

“a dingy, nameless place” = ein schmuddeliger namenloser Ort

“its walls yellowed with decades of smoke and stains”
= Die Wände waren von jahrzehntealtem Rauch und Schmutz vergilbt.

“an ornery dog” = ein übellauniger Hund

“godawful” = einfach schrecklich (“simply horrible”)

“worry” = Kopfzerbrechen (“head-breaking”)

“corner booth” = Ecknische
(Yes! This is now exactly what I’m going to name my corner cubicle!)

Here’s a handy phrase to know:
“scrawled-upon napkins” = vollgekritzelten Servietten

We can say this much more concisely:
“snaky” = schlangenartiges

“brushed off” = freiklopfen

“thinking about it too much” = zu viel darüber nachgegrübelt

I mean, who puts words like these together but James Kennedy? This is why this book got me going with these handy-dandy phrases you didn’t know you wanted to know.
“squeaky whisper” = quietschendes Flüstern

Again, we’re a bit more concise:
“Right now!”
= In ebendiesem Augenblick!

“or worse”
= möglicherweise geschieht sogar Schlimmeres

“Nora had gone too far.”
= Jetzt war Nora eindeutig übergeschnappt.
(“Now was Nora undoubtedly over-snapped.”)

“vindicated” = gerächt

“headline” = Schlagzeile (“Strike-line”)

They kept all the headlines alliterative. Here’s the shortest:
“CHATTERBOX CHASTENED” = PLAUDERTASCHE PLATTGEMACHT
(“Chatterbox flattened”)

“superlative distinction” = unübertrefflicher Ehre

“swaying tassels” = wippenden Quasten

I like this one:
“a wee tot” = ein Knirps

And let’s finish off “with delirious joy” = freudetrunken (“joy-drunk”)

I’m truly jazzed about finding an appropriate name for my cubicle at work (The Ecknische), though perhaps not quite freudetrunken. And I’m going to look for an excuse to call my little nieces the Knirps.

Bis bald!

Crazy 8s Math Club and Living Venn Diagrams

April 23rd, 2015

This week I brought my camera to Crazy 8s Math Club! We were learning about Sets and Venn Diagrams – and look at those faces!

Crazy 8s is a Math Club sponsored by BedtimeMath.org. They provide the ideas and materials, and the library provides the place.

Here is a set of kids with brown eyes. We had a Flat Visitor from California who also had brown eyes!

Crazy8s1

When we started the 3-set Venn diagram, I thought they could start with cars and trucks. They caught on quickly!

Crazy8s2

And finally, a living Venn diagram. The kids figured out where they belonged depending on whether they had brown eyes or not, whether they could curl their tongue or not, and whether they fold their hands with their left or right thumb on top. I’m happy to say that the kids who didn’t fit in any of those sets were excited to be “in the universe.”

Crazy8s3

And afterward — some silliness with the glowsticks (which they got to take home).

Crazy8s4

Crazy8s5

Crazy8s6

More proof that Math is Fun — and kids know it!

Review of Really Big Numbers, by Richard Evan Schwartz

April 21st, 2015

really_big_numbers_largeReally Big Numbers

by Richard Evan Schwartz

American Mathematical Society, 2014.
Starred Review
2014 Mathical Books Award Winner

Full disclosure: When I visited the National Math Festival and met Richard Evan Schwartz, I got all fangirl about his book You Can Count on Monsters and showed him my prime factorization cardigan. Of course I purchased his new book and got it signed. I am particularly proud of what he wrote: “To Sondy, Beautiful cardigan! It looks like we have a lot of the same ideas. Best wishes, Richard Schwartz”

And when I showed him my Pascal’s Triangle Shawl, he gave me the idea of making a new one using congruences mod n. Yes! I like the way this man thinks!

[In fact, in a weird side note, after reading his bio on the AMS webpage and learning he did his undergrad in math at UCLA, I find myself with a memory — which very well may be false — of taking a class with him as an undergraduate when I was a graduate math student at UCLA. I took a class (Number Theory?) with some undergraduates. That was in 1985-1986. An internet search shows he got his PhD in 1991 — so this is actually possible! And I remember a cocky and extremely intelligent student who looked a whole lot like he does now, only younger….]

You will not be surprised when I say I loved his new book! There are many books that deal with large numbers using analogies. A few from the beginning of this book include:

About 7 billion people live on Earth. If they all lined up, spaced about a foot apart, they would circle 50 times or so around the equator.

You could cram about 20 billion grains of very fine sand into a basketball.

100 billion basketballs would fill New York City roughly to the height of a man.

You could cover the service of the earth with about a quadrillion (10^15) exercise trampolines.

A quintillion (10^18) grains of very fine sand would just about cover Atlantic City, NJ, to a depth of 3 feet.

Speaking of a quadrillion and a quintillion, I’ve seen a few other books that explain the names for large numbers, but that’s only about the halfway point of this book! You know things are getting interesting right after the page where he shows

10^21 sextillion
10^24 septillion
10^27 octillion
10^30 nonillion
10^33 decillion

The next page says, “This system goes quite far out but I think that these names lose their novelty after the first 30 or so.” On that page we see spectators sleeping or reading a newspaper. Here’s the chart:

10^36 undecillion
10^39 duodecillion
10^42 tredecillion
10^45 quattourdecillion
10^48 quindecillion

On the page facing that one, he says, “Here, let me skip ahead some and show you the names of a few really big ones.”

10^78 quinquavigintillion
10^93 trigintillion
10^108 quinquatrigintillion
10^123 quadragintillion
10^153 quinquagintillion

Since this is still only about the halfway point of the book, you get the idea that when this book talks about really big numbers, it means really big numbers!

The author throws in questions about the big numbers – questions challenging enough to get even an adult with a math degree thinking.

There are more illustrations of the size of things, such as:

The sun, the true giant in the solar system, has about 4 nonillion (4×10^30) pounds of material.

We could continue counting up roughly by powers of 1000, moving out beyond the solar system to the stars surrounding the sun and eventually to galaxies and galaxy clusters, and superclusters, outward even to supercluster filaments and membranes…

but if you want to see some REALLY big numbers, we will have to move faster than that.

What is this author’s idea of REALLY big numbers? Well, before long, we get to a googol (10^100).

A googol atoms would fill the observable universe about 100 quadrillion times over.

You could say that a googol is so big that it rises beyond the merely astronomical.

He gives more illustrations of how big a googol is, but then says:

Yeah, a googol is a pretty big number.

But if you want to talk about REALLY big numbers then we’ll have to move on to a new level of abstraction. So, get ready, because the ride is gonna be pretty bumpy from here on in. But, remember, this book is supposed to be like a game of bucking bronco and you can always come back to it later if you fall off now.

All of this is accompanied by helpful and/or amusing computer cartoon illustrations.

So, then, the first abstract thing I want to tell you about is called plex.
When you “plex” a number, you write 1 followed by that number of zeros.
In other words, when you plex a number, you raise 10 to that power.

A googol-plex is 1 followed by a googol zeros, or, equivalently, 10 raised to the googol power.

A googol-plex is also 100-plex-plex and likewise 2-plex-plex-plex.

I love this page:

In my experience it is impossible to picture a googol-plex in concrete terms. Any attempt will scramble your brain. An implacable guard blocks the door to that kind of intuition.

But, let’s try to sneak by the guard and see what we can.

After some attempts at that, he says:

Mathematics gives us a language to name all kinds of things, but we can’t relate to everything we can name. If you want to think about REALLY big numbers, you have to give up the idea of picturing them….

Just let go of the reins and let LANGUAGE gallop on.

He even explains Recursion – “the trick of making something new by applying a simple rule over and over.”

Then he looks at some numbers plexed multiple times. I just love when he starts making up his own names.

Here is the number “one plexed one plexed two times times.” [The diagram here is very helpful.]

This number has no familiar name, so let’s call it “Fred.”

Let’s unravel “Fred” from the inside out.

“one plexed two times” is 1010, or ten billion, so “Fred” means “one plexed ten billion times.”

And here is “1 plexed FRED times.”
Let’s call this number “Big Jim.”

You may ask, “How big are ‘Fred’ and ‘Big Jim’?”

I’ll tell you honestly: I don’t know! Already, “1 plexed 4 times” makes a googol-plex seem microscopic, and each new plex is a quantum leap forward in size and abstraction.

To get to “Fred” you take 10 billion quantum leaps.
And “Big Jim” is “Fred” quantum leaps away.

And Richard Schwartz still doesn’t stop there! At the end of the book, he starts introducing new symbols. He shows a square that means “1 plexed N times.” Then he makes a new symbol that builds off of the square, and further symbols that build off of that.

Accompanied by diagrams with these new symbols, he says:

Once you get a taste for this kind of symbol, and the accelerated voyage it lets you take through the number system, nothing stops you from making more symbols.

Each new addition to the language is a chariot moving so quickly it makes all the previous ones seem to stand still.

We skip from chariot to chariot, impatient with them almost as soon as they are created.

Unhindered by any ties to experience, giddy with language, we race ever faster through the number system.

When you finally reach the last page, you will agree with the final line:

Infinity is farther away than you thought.

I’ve quoted extensively from this book, but believe me, quotes out of context pale in contrast with the actual book – I’m simply giving you a clue as to what you’ll find here. The illustrations, symbols, and diagrams all help lead the train of thought, or I should say ladder of thought, or better yet supersonic jet of thought.

I wish I had this book when my boys were young! My oldest, when he was in Kindergarten, liked to make up words for numbers “bigger than infinity.” I think the way this book is presented, the ideas of larger and larger numbers – bounded only by your imagination – would have inspired both my sons. I definitely plan to show this to kids at the library.

ams.org/bookpages/mbk-84
mathicalbooks.org

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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 my own copy, purchased at the National Math Festival and signed by the author.

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 What We See When We Read, by Peter Mendelsund

April 18th, 2015

what_we_see_when_we_read_largeWhat We See When We Read

A Phenomenology

With Illustrations

by Peter Mendelsund

Vintage Books (Random House), New York, 2014. 419 pages.
Starred Review

This book is hard to describe. It’s a book for adults which relies heavily on illustrations.

The author is an art director and a designer. He uses images and text to explore the question: What do we see when we read? What do our brains experience? Do we catch all the details? What’s going on in our brains and in our senses when we read?

There are thought-provoking images on almost every page.

Here’s an example of the interesting things he says, from one of the early chapters:

The story of reading is a remembered story. When we read, we are immersed. And the more we are immersed, the less we are able, in the moment, to bring our analytic minds to bear upon the experience in which we are absorbed. Thus, when we discuss the feeling of reading we are really talking about the memory of having read.

He talks quite a bit about Anna Karenina:

If I said to you, “Describe Anna Karenina,” perhaps you’d mention her beauty. If you were reading closely you’d mention her “thick lashes,” her weight, or maybe even her little downy mustache (yes — it’s there). Matthew Arnold remarks upon “Anna’s shoulders, and masses of hair, and half-shut eyes. . . ”

But what does Anna Karenina look like? You may feel intimately acquainted with a character (people like to say, of a brilliantly described character, “it’s like I know her”), but this doesn’t mean you are actually picturing a person. Nothing so fixed — nothing so choate.

There are many different fascinating trains of thought in this book, which really should be experienced. One in particular was when he talked about how memory and imagination are intertwined.

Memory is made of the imaginary; the imaginary is made of memory.

As an example of this, he remembers a trip he took with his family to a river and a dock when he was a child. And now that experience plays into his imagination any time he reads about river docks.

This is a book that should be experienced.

Writers reduce when they write, and readers reduce when they read. The brain itself is built to reduce, replace, emblemize . . . Verisimilitude is not only a false idol, but also an unattainable goal. So we reduce. And it is not without reverence that we reduce. This is how we apprehend our world. This is what humans do.

Picturing stories is making reductions. Through reduction, we create meaning.

These reductions are the world as we see it — they are what we see when we read, and they are what we see when we read the world.

petermendelsund.com
vintagebooks.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 Ribbit, by Roderigo Fulgueira and Poly Bernatene

April 16th, 2015

ribbit_largeRibbit!

written by Roderigo Folgueira
illustrated by Poly Bernatene

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2013. Originally published in Great Britain in 2012.
Starred Review

One morning, a surprise visitor is in the frog’s pond.

It was a pig – a little pink pig sitting on a rock.

When they ask the pig what it’s doing there, the only thing the pig says is, “Ribbit!”

The frogs get into a tizzy about it:

”WHAT did he say?”
cried the frogs.
“This pig is confused!”
“Does he think he’s a frog?”
“Is he making fun of us?”

But again, all the little pig said was . . .

“Ribbit!”

Soon, the other animals of the forest hear about the pig who thinks he’s a frog. They start teasing the frogs, and doing their own speculating.

The animals laughed and laughed –
and the frogs got angrier and angrier –
until, finally, the chief frog shouted out . . .

“Stop!

We’re not getting anywhere by fighting!
We must go and find the wise old beetle.
He’ll know what to do.”

But when all the animals and frogs go to the wise old beetle and try to show him the problem, the pig is gone. However, the wise old beetle indeed is able to shed light on the situation, and the book wraps up with a new situation, and some insights for all the animals about how to make new friends.

“Tweet!”

This book has the fun of animal sounds, a lovely twist ending, a nice message, and wonderful illustrations. Just see if you don’t get a giggle every time the pig says “Ribbit!” This is another book that makes me itch to read it aloud.

randomhouse.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 The Martian, by Andy Weir

April 15th, 2015

martian_largeThe Martian

by Andy Weir
performed by R. C. Bray

Brilliance Audio, 2014. 11 hours on 9 discs.
2015 Alex Award Winner
Starred Review

This audiobook was too good. Every time I stopped my car, I didn’t want to turn off the CD player and get out. Finally, when it was down to the last half-hour, I brought the final CD into my house to finish listening – even though I was already coming home late after playing games after work. The entire book was tough to shut off at any time, but a half-hour from the end, it was impossible.

This book is set in the near future, on NASA’s third mission to Mars. A freak accident has happened, and Mark Watney was left behind, since all his crewmates thought he was dead.

The book is about his struggle to survive. Using what he has (their mission was cut short), he works to figure out how to survive long enough to last four years until the next scheduled mission to Mars.

And that’s not easy. He doesn’t have enough food. He doesn’t have enough water. He has no way to contact earth. He is miles away from the planned landing of the next Mars mission.

Mark is a botanist and an engineer – and his ingenuity and resourcefulness are incredible. Everything he does to survive – to make plants grow in Mars, to make water out of rocket fuel, for example – at least sounds like plausible science. And enough things go wrong to be completely believable. Just when you think he’s finally got it made, something new almost kills him, and new plans must be made. The description of the mission to Mars and the equipment sent is told in such a way, I caught myself thinking it’s already been done.

A friend complained that the book doesn’t really explore the psychological aspects of being thousands of miles from any other human. You do have to enjoy hearing about someone messing around with science and solving one life-or-death problem after another. I was so absorbed in this, I’m disappointed when the book is done to realize none of it is real. (And I’m used to reading – this doesn’t happen to me often.)

The tension is gripping, and the science is fascinating, and you grow to really like this guy who doesn’t give up even when abandoned on Mars.

If NASA ever does send humans to Mars, I think they should read this book first. Just in case.

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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 Belzhar, by Meg Wolitzer

April 10th, 2015

belzhar_largeBelzhar

by Meg Wolitzer
read by Jorjeana Marie

Listening Library, 2014. 8 hours on 7 compact discs.
Starred Review

Jam Gallahue has been sent to The Wooden Barn, a boarding school in Vermont for “highly intelligent but emotionally fragile” teens. After she lost her boyfriend, Reeve, she’s withdrawn from everything and everyone.

On her first day of classes, her roommate is jealous when they discover that Jam’s been put into Special Topics in English. No one knows why everyone claims the class is life-changing. There are only four other students, and a teacher who will retire at the end of the term. They will be studying Sylvia Plath. The teacher, Mrs. Quinnell, gives them each a red leather journal and tells them to write in it twice a week. She’ll be collecting them at the end of the term.

When Jam writes in the journal, she’s transported to another place, a place outside time, and she is together with Reeve again. She can’t do anything new with him in that place, but she can actually feel him and see him and talk with him. When she comes back, five more pages of her journal are filled in with her own handwriting.

The other members of Special Topics in English have their own traumas to deal with. Before long, the class members all figure out that each one is being transported to another place, where things are right again, every time they write in their journals.

But the journals will be completely full by the end of the term.

This story could have been trite and problem novel-ish. But the author has crafted the story well, revealing information a little bit at a time. Each student in the class has a compelling story, and we also learn more and more about what Jam went through, and how she interacts with her fellow-students.

There’s a fine overarching message about dealing with trauma and being able to get on with life. But the book is good because the story is told in a compelling way.

It’s also a tribute to the healing power of words – both written yourself and written by others.

This book has some healing power of its own.

listeninglibrary.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 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.

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Review of Madame Martine, by Sarah S. Brannen

April 9th, 2015

madame_martine_largeMadame Martine

by Sarah S. Brannen

Albert Whitman & Company, Chicago, 2014. 36 pages.
Starred Review

I love picture books. But now that my sons are adults, I don’t often purchase a picture book for my own use. The ones I check out from the library are generally enough.

So it tells you something about how much I love this picture book that I just ordered myself a personal copy.

I’m going to give a Spoiler Alert for my review — except I don’t believe you can Spoil a picture book. It’s not about what happens, but about how exquisitely it’s carried out. I will tell you what happens — please, check out this book yourself to appreciate the beauty of how it’s done.

For starters, it’s set in Paris. The book opens to a typical gray cloudy day looking at the park below the Eiffel Tour, with many people and dogs strolling. Madame Martine is then pictured in her dark gray coat, carrying an umbrella and her shopping.

Madame Martine lived alone in a little apartment in Paris. She took the same walk every day. She shopped at the same stores. She wore the same coat. That was how she liked it.

Madame Martine lived near the Eiffel Tower, but she had never climbed it.

“Eh. It’s a tourist thing,” said Madame Martine.

We hear about Madame Martine’s routine, with specific foods for each day of the week. We see tourists ask about the Eiffel Tower and hear Madame Martine’s disdain expressed.

But one rainy Saturday, Madame Martine finds a “very small, very wet, very dirty dog,” a dog who needs her.

She starts doing her routine with her little dog Max along. But one ordinary Saturday, Max suddenly chases a squirrel — and ends up climbing the Eiffel Tower! In fact, Madame Martine doesn’t catch him until just before the doors close on the elevator up to the top.

There’s a wonderful spread with no words, from the top of the Eiffel Tower as the lights of Paris are coming on and the horizon is tinged with pink. (I have some photos like that myself!)

“Oh!” said Madame Martine. “I never knew how beautiful it was.”

“How did you bring that dog up here?” asked a guard. “Dogs are strictly forbidden.”

“I didn’t bring him up here,” said Madame Martine. “He brought me.”

The remaining few pages of the book are bright and sunny. Madame Martine is now wearing a bright red coat, with a yellow patterned scarf.

Madame Martine and Max still have a routine. They still buy certain foods on each day of the week.

Every Saturday they tried something new.

sarahbrannen.com
albertwhitman.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 Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson

April 8th, 2015

gilead_largeGilead

by Marilynne Robinson

read by Tim Jerome

BBC Audiobooks America, 2004. 7 CDs.

My co-worker Lynne Imre recommended these books, and I’ve long been meaning to read Housekeeping, so I grabbed an audiobook, which is my way of reading books I’ve long been meaning to read.

This reminded me of the Marilynne Robinson nonfiction I’ve read, When I Was a Child, I Read Books. The fictional story is narrated by an old preacher in 1956, writing a letter to his young son. The preacher, John Ames, has a heart problem, and doesn’t think he will live to see his son reach adulthood.

The book is gentle and philosophical, and has some Scriptural insights thrown in throughout, since, after all, a preacher is narrating.

Reverend Ames tells about his father and grandfather, both preachers before him. His grandfather was an abolitionist and a character.

In many ways, the book is a meditation on fathers and sons, and blessings handed down from one generation to the next. Besides John Ames’ own family, his dear friend and fellow preacher has a wayward son who was named after John Ames. Young Jack comes back to town and he and the preacher embark on a journey of understanding, forgiveness and blessing.

This is a slow moving novel, but a rich one. I didn’t always hurry to put in the next CD when one ran out, and it’s not the kind of book that it’s hard to stop the car and shut off the sound when you arrive at your destination. But sometimes that’s the best kind of audiobook — something to mull over on your commute, which will stick in your thoughts.

The reader has a deep, rich, friendly, thoughtful voice. He made it easy to imagine an old preacher speaking these words.

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

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