Archive for December, 2015

Review of Searching for Sunday, by Rachel Held Evans

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

searching_for_sunday_largeSearching for Sunday

Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church

by Rachel Held Evans

Nelson Books, 2015. 269 pages.
Starred Review

Lee Ann, a friend from church, told me about this book, which seems appropriate. Rachel Held Evans is young, but she cuts to the heart of what is wrong with church today. However, while she does point out some negatives, this book wouldn’t speak to me if that were all it is. She also articulates a vision of what church should be and what we should find from Christ-followers.

Her introductory chapter had me hooked. She says she’s often asked to talk about why young adults are leaving the church, and she can’t talk about all the nuances of what’s going on in every denomination.

But I can tell my own story, which studies suggest is an increasingly common one. I can talk about growing up evangelical, about doubting everything I believed about God, about loving, leaving, and longing for church, about searching for it and finding it in unexpected places. And I can share the stories of my friends and readers, people young and old whose comments, letters, and e-mails read like postcards from their own spiritual journeys, dispatches from America’s post-Christian frontier. I can’t provide the solutions church leaders are looking for, but I can articulate the questions that many in my generation are asking. I can translate some of their angst, some of their hope….

I told them we’re tired of the culture wars, tired of Christianity getting entangled with party politics and power. Millennials want to be known by what we’re for, I said, not just what we’re against. We don’t want to choose between science and religion or between our intellectual integrity and our faith. Instead, we long for our churches to be safe places to doubt, to ask questions, and to tell the truth, even when it’s uncomfortable. We want to talk about the tough stuff — biblical interpretation, religious pluralism, sexuality, racial reconciliation, and social justice — but without predetermined conclusions or simplistic answers. We want to bring our whole selves through the church doors, without leaving our hearts and minds behind, without wearing a mask.

I explained that when our gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender friends aren’t welcome at the table, then we don’t feel welcome either, and that not every young adult gets married or has children, so we need to stop building our churches around categories and start building them around people. And I told them that, contrary to popular belief, we can’t be won back with hipper worship bands, fancy coffee shops, or pastors who wear skinny jeans. We millennials have been advertised to our entire lives, so we can smell b.s. from a mile away. The church is the last place we want to be sold another product, the last place we want to be entertained.

Millennials aren’t looking for a hipper Christianity, I said. We’re looking for a truer Christianity, a more authentic Christianity. Like every generation before ours and every generation after, we’re looking for Jesus — the same Jesus who can be found in the strange places he’s always been found: in bread, in wine, in baptism, in the Word, in suffering, in community, and among the least of these.

This book does tell her story, and it presents a picture of what Christ-followers should be for, a loving and joyful message.

Rachel Held Evans has a way with words. I was reading a library copy, so I didn’t write in it, but I kept using post-it notes to mark sections to put into Sonderquotes.

She talks frankly about her own doubts and failings and her own journey. And she presents glimpses of the beauty that is so present in the church.

I think what makes this book so uplifting is that she’s honest, but she doesn’t focus on what we should be against. She focuses on what the church should be for.

And even still, the kingdom remains a mystery just beyond our grasp. It is here, and not yet, present and still to come. Consummation, whatever that means, awaits us. Until then, all we have are metaphors. All we have are almosts and not quites and wayside shrines. All we have are imperfect people in an imperfect world doing their best to produce outward signs of inward grace and stumbling all along the way.

All we have is this church — this lousy, screwed-up, glorious church — which, by God’s grace, is enough.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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?

YALSA Institute 2015, Part One

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

YALSA Institute Notes

Last month, I attended the YALSA Institute in Portland, Oregon. It was amazing, and ideas buzzed around my head afterward. I am typing up my notes here to try to organize my thoughts about it. I thought it would be nice to start before I head to ALA Midwinter Meeting next week!

Opening Session, Friday night November 6.


The speaker for the YALSA Institute Opening Session was Aija Mayrock, author of The Survival Guide to Bullying. She told her story.

The bullying against her started when she was 8 years old and continued for five years. She moved to another state when she was 13 – and then the bullies found her online and cyberbullying started.

She performed a rap poem. I like this line:

Have you ever hid
what made you wonderful,
Just to appear a regular kid?

She decided to write a book when she was 16 and another kid committed suicide. First she self-published, and now the book is commercially published. There has been an international outpouring of support.

Bullying impacts 13 million American kids and more all over the world, including Russia and Japan.

Five Biggest Problems:
1) Kids don’t communicate.
2) Parents don’t know how to hndle this issue.
3) Teachers don’t know how to interfere in the classroom.
4) Bystanders are afraid to stand up.
5) In schools, bullying is not taken seriously.
Cyberbullying: She wants to empower kids to be superheroes online. You can change someone’s life by standing up for them. In her day, one person was kind to her and got her through.

Creativity helps kids get through anything and communicate. The library was that place for her in middle school.

A teacher later told her, “It’s never your fault when you’re bullied.”

Often the problem is that bystanders don’t feel empowered.

Coding Camp

The Saturday of YALSA Institute, the first session I went to was about Coding Camp, but trouble catching the train meant I was quite late. I think I was mainly there for questions at the end, so the things I heard may seem a bit random. Here’s what I did catch:

The sessions of their coding camp lasted an hour and a half to two hours each. You could do it in an hour, but it can often take 45 minutes to get going.

They used Scratch, which has interactive curriculum. Scratch has many resources, and is coming to tablets.

It helps kids be willing to share if they see all is a work in progress.

In doing programs like this, be willing to fail.

You can do different formats. Once a week, 2-day intensive, etc.

If the kids share laptops, they talk more.

Try to get kids into coding through a variety of interests.
Having interns helped!

One library has an event monthly where kids play each other’s games.

Publicity: Emphasize the interest, then the coding. You do need to know what your patrons are into.

Make presentations optional.

Bringing coding in shows how kids can take interests and do something awesome.

Introducing Middle School Students to the YA section

Presenters: Todd Krueger, Alicia Bowers, Carrie Ryan, Beth Saxon

Todd Krueger:

There’s a dearth of material on middle school switch to YA. For recreational reading, middle school students read more personally relevant books than assigned reading. They find most things more fun when done with others.

Always give middle school students a choice what to read. They love to talk about books. Give them a chance.

Girls are more likely to read recreationally. More educated parents mattered, but not social class, race, or grade. They get as little as 17 minutes per day to read in the classroom.

Don’t use the term “reluctant reader.” Use “occasional reader” instead.

Carrie Ryan’s transition book was by Jude Devereaux. She’s written both YA and middle grade. The heart of the difference is not age or length.
The violence level is different – off screen in middle grade.

Sex is still mostly off-page in YA, but there’s plenty of angst on the page. “All angst all the time.” – the angst of figuring out who you are in the context of romantic relationships. Love triangles are about knowing who they are.

You won’t put anything past a kid reader. If they don’t know a word, that’s what a dictionary is for. In middle grade, there’s a little more telling with the showing and more signposts.

There’s still romance in middle grade, but it’s about friends and family.

In middle grade, you’re figuring out who you are in the context of someone else’s rules. In YA, you realize you make your own rules.

In YA you’re looking forward to the life you’re going to lead. It’s about the firsts.

YA readers don’t realize it’s going to be okay. “That’s not allowed; this can’t happen; I don’t know what to do.”

It’s about what the reader needs: In middle grade, they need to know it’s okay to leave some things behind (like Doll Bones, by Holly Black). In YA, they need to know they can transition forward. The characters are captains of their own ship.

In middle grade: Have a safety net. What reassurances does the reader need right now? Sometimes the safety net is the book itself.

Don’t withhold books. Say, “If you have questions, come and talk to me.” It will be okay.

Alicia Bowers:

She’s a book pusher. She helps transition readers to middle school reading.

Have a safe space, comfortable seating, quick picks, puzzles and games. Lure them into reading.

Kids always link on videos for book trailers (on her library web page).

Assigned reading, she uses Book Bingo: Choose the 5-in-a-row that works best for you. No page count minimum! No written assignment! Put down books you don’t like.

She does author visits and field trips on the weekends.

Choice is the main factor in the summer reading list.

There are always booktalks when she’s around.

Summer: Harry Potter Camp and Hunger Games Camp (see Their favorite thing in Harry Potter Camp was dueling.

Set traps to lure your children into reading!

Beth Saxon:

Program for circulation. All programs should promote some of your collection.

Make the solitary reading experience a social reading experience.

All programs should promote some of your collection.

Goal: An inclusive community of readers.

Go outside your own comfort zone.

Give the message: I see you; I hear you; you are welcome here.

Middle schoolers are always trying to find out how they fit in.

She gave lots of program ideas:

Book Tasting or Book Speed Dating: Give them 3 minutes to read the cover, etc. Give them paper and pencil to note down titles. Pass the book to the right after 3 minutes.

Book Club formats: Traditional read & discuss, BYOB, “Limited Run” – 3 months in a row, that’s it, Quarterly, Genre (Specific or Rotating), Guest speaker (Math teacher with An Abundance of Katherines, detective with a mystery, etc.).

Booktalking: 30 books in 30 minutes (Flash booktalks). Have kids time you on their phones.

Throwback Thursday: Highlight some great backlist titles.

Multimedia: Fandom (collage, fanart), photo sets (Tumblr), music play lists, book trailers

Character Chats: Role-playing program. Come as a character. Ask loaded questions. (This works great for an anime club.)

Programs for Specific Titles and Series: Validate fandom. Encourage curiosity. Really talk with teens about what they’re into. Cosplay? Fan art?

Technology Programs: The Catalog for Fiction Readers (show how to place a hold), e-Content Tutorials, Follow-a-thon (author twitter accounts and Instagram feeds).

Passive Programs: Awesome Box — If you think it’s awesome, return it here; Six Word Book Review Challenge — Every submission is an entry; Nutritional Label for a Book (Example: Total Sex: 100g; Actual Sex: 5g; Desired Sex: 95g; Unfairness: 75g; Love: 250g)


That was only the first evening and morning of the Institute! More notes to come…

Review of Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer, by Kelly Jones

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

unusual_chickens_largeUnusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer

by Kelly Jones

illustrations by Katie Kath

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2015. 216 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a wonderful light middle grade fantasy novel that’s quirky and inventive. It’s almost not a fantasy novel at all, dealing with a mixed-race kid in a new neighborhood who’s missing her dead grandma and trying to learn how to fit in — while learning to raise chickens with superpowers.

That’s right. Chickens with superpowers, and quirky superpowers at that.

Sophie and her parents have moved to her great-uncle Jim’s farm, which her dad inherited. Her Mom’s a writer, and her dad’s trying to find work, but they’re hoping to make something of the farm as well. Uncle Jim had some unusual chickens, but they have scattered after he died. She finds them one at a time and discovers their surprising abilities — along with someone who wants to have them for her own.

Sophie does find a flyer from Redwood Farm Supply among Uncle Jim’s junk advertising “Unusual Chickens for the Exceptional Poultry Farmer.” She writes to the farm for advice and gets very sporadic poorly typed answers back, but accompanied by lessons for being a poultry farmer.

This is a fun and imaginative story. The story is told in the letters Sophie writes to her dead Abuelita, Uncle Jim, and Redwood Farm Supply, as well as frequent illustrations. Sophie has quite a job ahead of her establishing herself as a farmer of Unusual Chickens and thwarting those who would try to stop her. On top of that, she’s got a whole summer to figure out how she’s going to manage to fit in with the other kids in the neighborhood.

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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 Newt’s Emerald, by Garth Nix

Saturday, December 26th, 2015

newts_emerald_largeNewt’s Emerald

Magic, Maids, and Masquerades

by Garth Nix

Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins), 2015. 291 pages.
Starred Review

Garth Nix, author of Sabriel and other fantastic books, has written a Regency romance! With magic! (The romance is in a world with magic. I don’t think he actually wrote it with magic.)

Lady Truthful Newington is eighteen years old and soon to be launched into fashionable society in London. But on her birthday, her father gets out the famous Newington Emeralds, which she will inherit when she turns twenty-five, and a storm comes up and they are stolen.

Her father lapses into illness after the loss, blaming her cousins, the Newington-Lacys. Truthful knows they wouldn’t have done such a thing, but she can hardly investigate herself as a young female. However, when you have an aunt skilled with glamours, it’s possible to disguise yourself as a young male relative, who would of course be authorized to search for the emeralds.

Along the way in the search, she encounters a young man also on the trail of the thief. Of course there’s a problem that she’s not who she appears to be.

This book doesn’t have a complicated plot or romance. The magic is mostly light-hearted and about the appearances of things. But it’s definitely a fun story. If you like Regency romances (and who doesn’t enjoy one now and then?), the magic in this one adds some extra spice.

Here’s Truthful worrying about how she’ll do in London:

In London, Truthful felt sure she would be considered plain, particularly as her sorcerous talents did not include any particular skill with the glamours that would enhance her charms. Truthful had the small weather magic that ran in her family; she could raise a gentle breeze, or soothe a drizzle. In addition to this, horses and other animals liked her and would do her bidding. But she had none of the greater arts, and little formal training.

Truthful’s time in London ends up being much more interesting than merely balls, including peril on land and sea. But you can’t have a Regency Romance without balls, and this book is no exception.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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?

Sonderling Sunday – Crazy Cockroaches

Sunday, December 13th, 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.

Sonderlinge 1

This week, we’re back to our stand-by, the most Sonderbook of them all, Der Orden der Seltsamen Sonderlinge, by James Kennedy, originally titled The Order of Odd-Fish.

Last time, we left off on page 251 in the English version, Seite 318 auf Deutsch.

We’ll start with some basic, handy phrases:

“sudden exit” = überstürzte Abgang

“the talk of the lodge”
= das Tagesgespräch im Logenhaus

“as the other knights and squires bustled around”
= während die anderen Ritter und Knappen um sie herumwuselten

“dully” = gleichgültig

Of course we know this one:
“cockroaches” = Kakerlaken

This one Google translate doesn’t recognize:
“bender” = Sauftour (but it seems to be “booze-tour”)

“wrinkled and sweaty” = zerknittert und verschwitzt

“their ties stained or missing” = ihre Fliegen waren schmutzig oder fehlten ganz

“snoring, drooling” = schnarchenden, sabbernden

“society column” = Gesellschaftsspalte

This is a little more vehement in translation:
“Not a word!
= Nicht ein Sterbenswörtchen!
(“Not a dying-little-word!”)

“fiercely” = hitzig

Here’s a sentence worth translating (spoken by a cockroach):
“Last night I broke three windows, fell down the stairs, got in a fight with a beetle, danced on eight separate tables, and drank things most people don’t even know exist!
= Ich habe gestern Nacht drei Fenster eingeschlagen, bin eine Treppe hinuntergefallen, habe mich mit einem Käfer geprügelt, habe auf insgesamt acht Tischen getanzt und Dinge getrunken, von deren Existenz die meisten Leute nicht einmal etwas ahnen!
(“I have yesterday night three windows hit in, one staircase fell down, have myself with a beetle beaten, have on a total of eight tables danced and things drunk, of which existence most people don’t have any idea!”)

“threw out the window” = auf dem Fenster geworfen

Here’s a phrase you’ll want to know:
“ate enough caviar to kill a man”
= so viel Kaviar gefressen, dass es einen normalen Menschen töten würde

“What are we going to be outraged about now?”
= Worüber sollen wir uns jetzt echauffieren?

“notoriety” = berüchtigen Ruf (“notorious reputation”)

“If I pick my nose” = Wenn ich in der Nase bohre (“If I in the nose drill”)

“vomiting” = kotzen

Don’t use this one:
“I’ll open a vein and let it run”
= Ich schneide mir eine Ader auf und lasse das Blut fließen
(“I will cut me a vein open and let the blood flow”)

I like this word:
“shuffle past” = davonzuschleichen

“Insolence! Insolence and impropriety!”
= Frechheit! Anmaßung und Unverschämheit!

Drooling came up again:
“drooling grin” = sabbernden Grinsen

This is a bit clunkier in German:
“Dugan looked like someone had hit him with a brick.”
= Dugan schaute aus, als hätte ihm jemand mit einem Ziegelstein auf den Kopf geschlagen.

“strangled cough” = erstickten Husten

That’s it for tonight! This week, if anyone gives you trouble, be ready to call out, “Frechheit! Anmaßung und Unverschämheit!

Bis bald!

Review of You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost), by Felicia Day

Saturday, December 12th, 2015

youre_never_weird_largeYou’re Never Weird on the Internet (almost)

by Felicia Day

Touchstone (Simon & Schuster), New York, 2015. 261 pages.
Starred Review

Geeky girl makes good! I have to love this book – being so much of a geek myself.

Felicia Day was even a math major! Of course she’s cool! (What? That’s not how everyone defines coolness?) Never mind that she was also a music major. And homeschooled before that. And a gamer.

Oh wait! The flap says she’s the eighth most followed person on Goodreads. Now I’m jealous!

Felicia Day is familiar to me because of seeing her star in the fabulous internet show, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. I was delighted to read the story of her life, because she’s as quirky as I am, and she has achieved her dreams.

She’s open and honest and entertaining about her life. She hasn’t led a traditional life, and she talks frankly about a time when her video game playing did creep into addiction. Growing up homeschooled, people she met online were her first friends. Perhaps it’s fitting that her eventual success came via the internet.

Joss Whedon wrote the Foreword to this book. He explains well why it is worth reading:

It’s hard being weird. No – it’s hard living in a culture that makes it hard. This book deals with hard – without rancor, without the ugly flush of one-upmanship. Felicia created a persona of the bewildered waif who somehow manages to manage (and occasionally triumph). That persona is a gloss on a similar, but more painful, reality. Her odd, compelling journey was more difficult than a lot of us who knew her knew. But that’s part of her gift: she makes crippling anxiety look easy.

Another part of her gift is that she’s damn funny. Even if she’d come from the heart of normcore, her tale would be worth telling and well told. But she was raised in Crazytown, and the more foreign her territory, the more delightful – and somehow more relatable – her tale becomes. Reading this book is like spending an afternoon with Felicia, hearing breathless tales (they’re always breathless – Felicia doesn’t pause when she talks) of achievement, despair, and dazzling, almost transcendent nerdiness. This is the story of someone who found her place in a corner of the world that literally didn’t exist till just before she showed up. Felicia’s place is always off the edge of the map, where dragons wait, and this story is more than a memoir. It’s a quest. If you wanna survive, stay close to the redhead.

She knows her way.

This book is conversational, inspirational, and good silly fun. Felicia Day comes across as an enthusiastic little sister with good ideas. Here’s a little bit of her philosophy in her summing-up chapter:

That same motto “I am determined to create something or express myself, no matter how hard it is, even if my mom is the only one who sees it!” is the embodiment of how I view the web. For the first time, everyone has a chance to have his or her voice heard, or to create a community around something they’re passionate about and connect with other people who share that passion. Best of all, it rewards people and ideas that never would have made it through the system and allows the unique and weird to flourish. . . .

I was raised incredibly weird, but one day I accidentally got brave and thought I had a unique point of view about gaming. I decided to jump into web video – a world I knew very little about – to express it. Who knew there was anyone out there who wanted to listen?

I believe the next Oprah Winfrey or George Lucas will not come from a local news desk or college film program. He or she will come from the world of the web. Where the bar to entry is low, and where a group of kids can dream up a story and shoot it in their backyards. Regardless of whether someone gave them permission or not.

I hope all my copious oversharing encourages someone to stop, drop, and do something that’s always scared them. Create something they’ve always dreamt of. Connect with people they never thought they’d know. Because there’s no better time in history to do it.

There you have it! Felicia Day’s copious oversharing is delightful reading for anyone who’s even slightly geeky. She’s one of us, and she is achieving her dreams and learning about life along the way. What’s not to like?

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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 8: An Animal Alphabet, by Elisha Cooper

Thursday, December 10th, 2015


An Animal Alphabet

by Elisha Cooper

Orchard Books, New York, 2015. 36 pages.
Starred Review

Okay, this book is wonderful. For teaching about the alphabet, about counting (to eight!), about identifying multiple animals.

You get the concept of the concepts presented here right on the first page:

Find the one animal on each page that is pictured 8 times – 8 ants, 8 badgers, 8 chickens. Find all the other animals, too. Some may be familiar, such as a cat, and some not, such as a muskrat. (For help, see the “Did you know” section in the back.) But every animal is amazing and beautiful in its own way. Especially the hippopotamus. Let the exploring begin!

*Why the number 8? Because 8 is great. Because 8 is round and adorable. Because 8 is fun to count to (move over, 10). Because 8 is not too big, and not so small, but just right. Because 8 is my favorite number.

This is indeed a book for exploring. You can pretty quickly see on each page which animal is pictured 8 times, but it’s not a rubber stamp. The animal is pictured in 8 different poses, or perhaps even 8 different varieties of the animal. I grant you, the 8 ants aren’t terribly varied, but the 8 chickens include roosters as well as hens, the 8 goats include some kids, and the 8 moths and 8 newts come in many different colors.

As mentioned in the introduction, not all the animals are familiar. Some notable pages include:

Aardvark, abalone, albatross, alligator, alpaca, ant, anteater, antelope, armadillo

Camel, cat, caterpillar, chameleon, cheetah, chicken, chimpanzee, chipmunk, cicada, clam, cockroach, cow, coyote, crab

Panda, parrot, pelican, penguin, pheasant, pig, pigeon, platypus, porcupine, possum, puffin

Salmon, sandpiper, seagull, sea horse, seal, sea turtle, shark, sheep, skunk, sloth, slug, snail, squid, squirrel, starfish, swallow, swan, swordfish

The format of the book is the large and small letter in a corner of the page and the names of the animals at the bottom. The animals are all mixed up on the page, not necessarily to scale. These are paintings, not photos, but they’re lovely paintings, and you definitely get the idea. But the key in the back of the book will be needed.

So this is a good book for kids who like “Where’s Waldo” or any book of detailed pictures. I suspect it will take a few times through the book before parents know which animal matches every single name. And of course, one of the animals on each page shows up 8 times. So of course you will count them!

The key at the back has the heading “Did you know?” and each of the 184 animals in the book has a small picture and some facts about it. Here are some examples:

Aardvarks are sometimes known as “ant bears.”

Armadillos spend almost eighteen hours a day napping.

Butterflies taste with their feet.

Deer can see blue, yellow, and green, but not orange or red.

Dung beetles are able to tell which direction they are going from the position of the sun and the stars.

A group of ferrets is called a “business.”

Gibbon couples start each day by hooting at each other.

An evening swarm of male gnats is called a “ghost.”

Lemurs enjoy sunbathing.

A single oyster filters over forty gallons of water a day, cleaning water for other animal life.

The skin of the rhinoceros is more than an inch thick.

Vultures poop and pee on their legs to keep themselves cool.

Xeruses hold their tails over their heads to shade themselves from the sun.

A yabby’s shell will match the color of the water it grew up in.

Yapoks have both webbed feet and stomach pouches.

Savvy parents probably won’t get started reading all 184 animal facts the first few times through the book. Pointing and naming and counting will keep you plenty busy.

This looks like a perfect book for my toddler-soon-to-be-preschooler nieces, or for anyone interested in exploring, naming, learning, and counting.

Buy from

Find this review on Sonderbooks at:

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?

Sonderling Sunday – Der Lorax, BIGGER!

Sunday, December 6th, 2015


It’s been almost two months, but 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.

This week, I don’t have much time, but I’m going to do a little bit anyway! Tonight we’ll look at Der Lorax. This one’s fun because it’s poetry, so I’ll usually do a section at a time and then give a more direct translation from the German back to the English, so you can see how things were changed to make them more poetical.

Last time, we left off as the Bar-ba-loots sadly walked away because the Thneed business needs to grow.

And then we come to the new factory:

“I meant no harm. I most truly did not.
But I had to grow bigger. So bigger I got.
I biggered my factory. I biggered my roads.
I biggered my wagons. I biggered the loads
of the Thneeds I shipped out. I was shipping them forth
to the South! To the East! To the West! To the North!
I went right on biggering . . . selling more Thneeds.
And I biggered my money, which everyone needs.”

= Ich wollte nichts Böses, auf gar keinen Fall.
Doch der Laden muss wachsen, so ist das nun mal.
Es wuchs die Fabrik, es wuchsen die Kisten.
Es wuchsen die Schnauchbestellungslisten.
Es wuchsen die Straßen. Es wuchs der Transport
von Waggons voll mit Schnäuchen. Wir schifften sie fort —
nach Osten, nach Süden, nach West oder Nord.
Es wuchs einfach alles, das Geld wuchs auch.
Und Geld is etwas, das jedermann braucht.

(“I wanted nothing evil, absolutely no way.
But the shop must grow, and that’s simply that.
It grew the factory, it grew the crates.
It grew the Thneeds-order-list.
It grew the streets. It grew the transport
of trucks full of Thneeds. We shipped them forth
from the east, from the south, from the west or north.
It grew simply everything, the money grew also.
And money is something that everyone needs.”)

My favorite rhyme in that previous section is definitely Kisten rhymed with Schnauchbestellungslisten.

Yes, the rhymes are fun. Listen to this one:

“Then again he came back! I was fixing some pipes
when that old-nuisance Lorax came back with more gripes.”

= Doch später, ich war bei den Abwasserkammern,
kam dieser Lorax, um
wieder zu jammern.

(“Then later, I was in the wastewater chambers,
came this Lorax, again to whine.”)

And then Dr. Seuss makes the English so onomatopoetic. Let’s see how the translator does:

“‘I am the Lorax,’ he coughed and he whiffed.
He sneezed and he snuffled. He snarggled. He sniffed.
‘Once-ler!’ he cried with a cruffulous croak.
‘Once-ler! You’re making such smogulous smoke!
My poor Swomee-Swans. . . why, they can’t sing a note!
No one can sing who has smog in his throat.”

= „Ich bin der Lorax.? Er schnappte. Er schniefte.
Er nieste und japste und keuchte und piefte.
„Einstler?, rief er, jetzt heulte er auch.
„Einstler, du machst so rußigen Rauch!
Meine Schwippschwäne bringen kein Lied mehr heraus.
Diesen Smog in der Kehle, den halt niemand aus.?

I don’t think the translator is making up as many words, but they did get a nice rhythm to the lines. Google Translate says that rußigen Rauch means “sooty smoke” — so if it’s not quite smogulous, well, it’s getting there.

I like the way this paragraph was rephrased for rhythm:

“‘And so,’ said the Lorax,
‘– please pardon my cough —
they cannot live here.
So I’m sending them off.'”

= „Und weil du nicht aufhörst,
hier Dreck rauszupusten,
verschwinden die Schwäne —
verzeih meinen Husten.?

(“And because you don’t stop
here filth out-blowing,
disappear the swans —
pardon my cough.”)

Ah! The translator does well with Gluppity-Glupp:

“‘What’s more,” snapped the Lorax. (His dander was up.)
“Let me say a few words about Gluppity-Glupp.
Your machinery chugs on, day and night without stop
making Gluppity-Glupp. Also Schloppity-Schlopp.'”

= „Doch fast noch schlimmer?, er fing wieder an,
„is dieser üble Schlickerschlamm.
Tag und Nacht schwappt der stinkende Schlubberschlapp
aus dreckigen Rohren, der Schlabberpapp.?

(“‘But almost even worse,’ he began again,
‘is this bad Schlickerschlamm (silty-mud).
Day and night sloshes the stinky Schlubberschlapp
out of dirty pipes, the Schlabberpapp.'”)

When the Humming-Fish leave, some notable words are:
“their gills are all gummed” = sein Mund is verklebt

This rhyme was easy:
“weary” = schwierig
“smeary” = schmierig
Though look at that — they skipped the rhyme about, “Oh, their future is dreary.”

Another interesting word:
“yap-yap” = meckern (“gripe”)

Then the big confrontation:

“And, for your information, you Lorax, I’m figgering
on biggering
turning MORE Truffula Trees into Thneeds
which everyone, EVERYONE, EVERYONE needs!”

= Ich will noch viel mehr, und zwar jetzt und hier.
Mein Geschäft wird erweitert,
Aus jedem Tuff wird hier ein Schnauch,
weil jeder, JEDER einen braucht!

(“I want a lot more, and that here and now.
My business is extended,
For each tuft here is a Thneed,
because everyone, everyone needs one!”)

Instead of “smoke-smuggered stars,” we’ve got verpesteten Ort (“pestilential place”).

Shorter in German:
“seat of his pants” = Hosenboden

“a small pile of rocks” = ein Haufen Steine

Instead of “UNLESS,” the pile of rocks says ES SEI DENN (which seems to mean the same thing).

I like this line:
“I’ve worried about it
with all of my heart.”

= Ich zerbrech’ mir den Kopf,
grüble hin, grüble her.

Very roughly, this is something like: “I rack my brains, speculating in and out.”

“Catch!” = Fang!

“It’s a Truffula Seed.
It’s the last one of all!”
= Der letzte Trüffelasamen von allen!

And here is the finish:
“You’re in charge of the last of the Truffula Seeds.
And Truffula Trees are what everyone needs.
Plant a new Truffula. Treat it with care.
Give it clean water. And feed it fresh air.
Grow a forest. Protect it from axes that hack.
Then the Lorax
and all of his friends
may come back.”

= Trüffelas sind, das weißt du nun auch,
etwas, was wirklich jeder braucht.
Pflanz einen Trüffela, und vergiss bitte nicht
klares Wasser, frische Luft, viel Pflege und Licht.
Mach einen Wald draus, hege ihn gut,
schütz ihn vor Äxten, sei auf der Hut!
Das ist dein Auftrag, du schaffst das, viel Glück!
Und vielleicht kommt der Lorax
mit seinen Freunden

(“Truffulas are, that know you now also,
something that really everyone needs.
Plant a Truffula, and please don’t forget
clear water, fresh air, much care and light.
Make a forest around, cherish it well,
protect it from axes, be on your guard!
That is your job, you can do it, good luck!
And perhaps comes the Lorax
with his friends

Look! I finished a book! I went longer than I meant to, but in doing so I biggered my fun.

Viel Glück!

Review of Thresholds, by Sherre Hirsch

Saturday, December 5th, 2015


How to Thrive Through Life’s Transitions to Live Fearlessly and Regret-free

by Sherre Hirsch

Harmony Books, New York, 2015. 192 pages.

Here’s a book written by a rabbi with advice, tips, and encouragement about getting through life’s transitions.

When I talk about the thresholds of our lives, I am referring to those moments when we are in transition, those moments when we are standing between the way we were accustomed to living and a new way of thinking, feeling, and being. I’m talking about those moments when we are preparing to enter a new “room,” to take the next step on the journey of our lives.

Maybe we are in the hallway because our circumstances have changed: we became engaged or our parents got divorced. Other times it may be that something has changed within us: our job is fine but we have outgrown the work, or after five years we have become bored as a stay-at-home mother.

These moments can be disorienting and scary, sometimes painful or even heartbreaking. Other times they can be exciting, hopeful, filled with possibility. For years anthropologists have studied these hallways, these “liminal moments,” a tern derived from the Latin word limen, meaning “threshold.” They have examined why we respond to them so differently when these moments are woven into the fabric of our lives. Why do some of us struggle to cross while others don’t? Why do some feel paralyzing fear at any sign of change while others feel intense excitement and others immense faith? Why do some of us refuse to move forward – or worse, move backward – while others lunge ahead with gusto? Why do some burst into tears, burst into joy, or not burst at all? Why is it that we may respond one way to one transition and completely differently to another?

As I read this, I thought I wasn’t really in a transitional phase right now, and was appreciating her words from a distance. But the truth is, the fact that my son is in his last semester of college has been giving me bouts with the Empty Nest Blues – and that would certainly qualify in Sherre Hirsch’s definition of a Threshold.

And I’ve certainly been through plenty of such phases, and am, in fact, in a place right now where I never expected to be when I was younger. My journey has not gone as planned, and her words are helpful for my situation, too.

This book doesn’t necessarily present striking new ideas, but it does give encouraging reminders. It will help you face your next phase in life – and the transition to it – with less fear and more joy.

Several quotes from this book made their way to Sonderquotes. Read them for an idea of the wisdom and encouragement found here.

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Review of Tower of Thorns, by Juliet Marillier

Friday, December 4th, 2015

tower_of_thorns_largeTower of Thorns

by Juliet Marillier

A Roc Book, 2015. 415 pages.
Starred Review

This is the second book about Blackthorn & Grim, and yes, you should read the books in order.

In Tower of Thorns, like the first book, there’s a mysterious enchantment that Blackthorn and Grim need to break. Along the way, we find out more about both of their painful pasts.

This series is set in ancient Ireland. Monks are around, but also Wee Folk and others of the fey. Blackthorn is a wise woman. She wants nothing else than to bring vengeance and justice to the chieftain who had her husband and baby killed. But she is under conditions given by the fey who set her free from prison to not seek vengeance for seven years — and to help anyone who asks her.

In this volume, there’s a lady who lives near a tower that has cast a blight on all the land around it. But she’s not telling Blackthorn the full story.

And while Blackthorn is working on that curse, she sees an old friend, whom she’d thought was dead. He says that he will be able to bring the evil chieftain to justice if she goes with him. But there’s no way she’s going to take Grim into danger, so the only answer is to lie to him. Or so she decides.

In this installment, we get more insight into what happened in Grim’s past. We see, though Blackthorn doesn’t, how strong the bond has grown between them.

Juliet Marillier’s writing is magical. I read this on my flight across the country, and had to continue until I’d finished.

Blackthorn and Grim are described as people dealing with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. They have their own curses of flashbacks and have trouble trusting anyone, and certainly don’t claim to faith in God. But the reader cannot help loving them as they struggle on and try to do good in the world, in spite of themselves. The description of their journey is pitch perfect and brings the reader along with them. I can’t wait for the next installment! This is a wonderful series, even if I wasn’t quite as enthralled as I was with the first volume. That was mainly because most of the people they were dealing with weren’t nearly as good-hearted as those in the first book. But Blackthorn and Grim themselves are people I can’t hear enough about.

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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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