Archive for October, 2012


Book Slump and Reviews

I’m feeling in a bit of a book slump as I can’t figure out what to read next. Ever since my string of books back during the end of September/beginning of October, most of what I’ve read is just random things I have picked up at the library. As you have probably noticed, I’m on a bit of a Persian/Iranian kick lately. I tried to read Dear Uncle Napoleon by Iranian author Iraj Pizishkzad (translated by Dick Davis) and Shahnemah : the Persian book of kings written by Abolqasem Ferdowsi (translated by Dick Davis), but I can’t seem to focus enough on them to finish more than a couple of pages. They are both the sort of books which are great to read if you have no distractions whatsoever and can just focus on reading, which in my case rarely happens. I’m still on the wait list for two William Joyce books, The Sandman: The Story of Sanderson Mansnoozie and Toothiana: Queen of the Tooth Fairy Armies (which are both part of his Guardians of Childhood series), and Rick Riordan’s newest book The Mark of Athena. 

I’ve started Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams, a children’s fantasy/sci-fi book, and hopefully it will keep my interest, but it is a little slow going so far. I’m also listening to and am almost finished with John Flanagan’s The Kings of Clonmel, narrated once again by the fabulous John Keating. I just finished my Teen Read book Stravaganza: City of Swords by Mary Hoffman, which I’ve been waiting to read for several months now, and really enjoyed it. On to the book reviews. As always, I rate things from 1 – 5 stars, one being the lowest and 5 being the highest. I’m leaving out Brave New World and The Color of Earth as I reviewed them here for Banned Book Week. The Caldecott Challenge is my attempt to read all of the Caldecott Honors and Award winners from 1938 – the present.

Children

The Juggling Pug by Sean Bryan

Seeing as I loved the other three books that Sean Bryan wrote and Tom Murphy illustrated, I decided to see if I could find this book. I finally got a hold of a copy. Great and funny rhyming book, for kids and the adults reading it to them. Everything is great for the juggling pug, even with some of his misadventures, the townspeople still love him. Until one day, a girl says enough and decides she has had enough of the pug, and wants to get rid of him. The pug comes and apologizes and everything is alright again. My husband thought the book reminded him of our dog. Recommended for ages 1-6, 4 stars.

A Book of Sleep by Il Sung Na

I’ve had this on my son’s to-read list forever but didn’t have the time to pick it up until this week. The book is a very simple bedtime book about all the animals going to sleep and waking up again, except for the owl. I love the illustrations though, they make the book look whimsical and fun. I especially like the one with the giraffes resting on clouds as they sleep alone and the one-eye-open pigeons. Highly recommended for ages 1-5, 5 stars.

Gifts from the Gods: Ancient Words and Wisdom from Greek and Roman Mythology by Lise Lunge-Larsen, illustrated by Gareth Hinds

I love the author’s book on The Adventures of Thor, the Thunder God, so when I saw this book while trying to find some story books for my son, I picked it up. It is an interesting concept for a book. Yes it is on Greek/Roman mythology, but the author has decided to examine some of the stories through words that we use today and the god/goddess that gave the word to us via their story. Each word is defined at the beginning of each section, then there is a literary quote where the term is used, then the Greek/Roman myth, then other examples of words that come out of that myth. For example, the nymph Echo’s story comes to us after the wood nymph talked and talked to distract the goddess Hera, so her husband Zeus could escape with the nymphs he had been cavorting with. Hera is furious and curses Echo saying “From this moment on, you will never speak again, except to repeat the last words spoken to you.” Echo wanders around for weeks until one day she meets the beautiful but vain shepherd Narcissus, who eventually falls in love with his own shadow and wastes away. The daffodil’s real name is “narcissus” named after the blonde-haired youth. Echo later dies. The end of the story has a paragraph on what narcissists do and the illness that follows it called narcissism. With the easy explanations and fantastic illustrations to go along with the text, I can definitely see readers ages 7-11 getting into this book with no problem. 5 stars.

Danny Kaye’s Stories from Faraway Places by Maung Htin Aung et al

I picked this up many years ago at an antique store because when I was growing up, Danny Kaye was my favorite comedian. It is only now as a parent that I actually read the book to my son. Thankfully the stories are relatively short so we can read a couple at a time. I like that the 15 stories are from all over the world (hence the many different authors/editors) and it has awesome little illustrations. My favorites were A Guest for Halil, The Conceited Spider (an Anansi the spider tale), The Silly Fellow Who Sold His Beard, The Vegetable Tree, and The Candle in the Darkness. Recommended for ages 4-8, 4 stars.

The Barefoot Book of Animal Tales from Around the World retold by Naomi Adler

I went to the library looking for collections of stories to read to my son at night. These were a little long for him, but I enjoyed reading them as I thought they were retold really well and had great illustrations. As the author said in the back of the book, these would be great for storytelling contests and storytimes. I had never heard of most of the stories so it was great to hear so many new ones. I would love to own this book! Recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.

Along a Long Road by Frank Viva

This book has been on Liam’s to-read list forever because I thought it sounded cool. It is the story of a man who travels on a circuit around his town and a few others in the area, and the things that happen to him along the way. I liked that the road in the book went through the front and back covers, end pages and continued through the book. Plus my son seemed fascinated by the simple rhyming text and the bold colors and glossy paper they were printed on. Recommended for ages 1-5, 3 stars.

Big Rabbit’s Bad Mood by Ramona Badescu

I picked this one up today while looking for some more books to read to my son. Big Rabbit is in a bad mood and he tries everything to get rid of it. He calls his friend Squirrel and his mother, he tries to watch TV. Finally as he is trying to re-arrange the house and pointing arrows to the door for the bad mood to follow, his friends and family surprise him with birthday presents and cake. Suddenly his bad mood is gone and everything is right again. The illustrations were funny and bright and I think kids would love them. The end pages are fun too, featuring all the friends and family of Big Rabbit that are coming to his party. Recommended for ages 3-6, 3 stars.

Three Little Cajun Pigs by Mike Artell

Now I can see that if you actually are Cajun, you might find this book offensive. However, as the mom of a toddler trying to read him as many interesting books as possible, this rhyming book with its Cajun twist on the “Three Little Pigs” story was very fun to read aloud. I loved the names of the three pigs, Trosclair, Thibodeaux (pronounced TIB-boe-doe) and Ulysse (you-LEASE though his nickname is Boo). The scenario is that Mama Pig has kicked them out of the house and so they need a place to live, so Trosclair builds his of straw, Thibodeaux out of sticks and Ulysse/Boo out of bricks. The big bad wolf is replaced by a mean old gator who thwacks their house with his powerful tail, but ends up with his tail cooked and his bottom sore after trying to enter Boo’s chimney. Great funny illustrations make the story even better. Highly recommended for ages 3-7, 5 stars.

I Took the Moon for a Walk by Carolyn Curtis, illustrated by Alison Jay

I love Alison Jay’s cracked painted illustrations with all the tiny details, but had only read her alphabet book and “If Kisses Were Colors,” so I thought I’d give this book a try. This was a cute rhyming bedtime book about a little boy who took the moon for a walk and it followed him home to shed light as the boy went to bed. My favorite illustration was the one about the dew on the grass that the moon called forth, as Jay makes the grass look like it is singing, and the bugs that are crawling over it. The back of the book is cool as it talks about the phases and facts about the moon, as well as nocturnal creatures such as owls, bats and fireflies. Highly recommended for ages 1-6, 5 stars.

The Golden Mare, The Firebird, and the Magic Ring retold by Ruth Sanderson

I picked this up at the library, while browsing the fairy/folktale section looking for books for my son. The story is based off a number of Russian fairy tales, including “The Firebird.” A young man named Alexi meets a talking Golden Mare and the man goes to work as a huntsman for the Tsar, a cruel man who is used to getting everything he wants. When he is not able to procure the mare, he sends Alexi off on dangerous missions, like capturing the Firebird, so that he can be killed. Next the Tsar demands the hand of the most beautiful maiden in the land and she in turn says the Tsar must get her wedding ring first, so he sends Alexi after it. The Golden Mare has helped her master in all his adventures and this task is no exception. Yelena the maiden tries to trick the Tsar by getting him to jump into the cauldron of boiling water, but he makes Alexi go in first, and after he sees that the young man is not harmed, he jumps in too but is changed back into an infant. Alexi ends up marrying Yelena and they adopt the Tsar as their child. Honestly I would give this book five stars for the illustration alone, but the storytelling is really well done as well. Highly recommended for ages 5-10, 5 stars.

Anasazi to Zuni: An ABC Book of the Southwest for big and little people by Jane Harrison

I picked this up at my local public library as I’m always on the lookout for new books for my son. He was mildly interested in it, as it was pretty wordy for an ABC book. Each letter of the alphabet had 3 or 4 words that started with that letter, a phonetic breakdown of the word, plus a little description of the word being described. All of the words relate to things in the Southwest, such as D is for Dinosaurs, as there are a lot of dinosaur bones found in the area (especially Northern Arizona), and F is for Frybread. There are a lot of Spanish and Native American words as those cultures are prevalent in the are, so the phonetic pronunciations help out at lot. I loved the illustrations, as they were so precious! I thought it was a cute introduction to the Southwest for parents and children. I would love to own a copy! Recommended for ages 3-6, 5 stars.

Caldecott Challenge

Yonie Wondernose by Marguerite de Angeli

It took me 3-4 nights to read this to my son because it was so long, but it had a good story. The book won a 1945 Caldecott Honor. It is the story about a 7-year-old Amish boy named Jonathan, nicknamed Yonie Wondernose because he is so curious about everything. One day, his father and mother go on a trip and leave him in charge of the farm animals, with his Grandmother and little sister at home as well. Pop has promised him a surprise if he does well, so he tries his hardest but his curiosity sometimes distracts him from his work. He rescues his grandmother from the hen-house, where he accidentally locked her and then has to save all the farm animals from a fire, caused by a summer storm. In the end, he gets his surprise, the ability to work with his father and plow the fields all by himself. Recommended for ages 4-7, 3 stars.

White Snow, Bright Snow by Alvin Tresselt

This book won the 1948 Caldecott Award. It starts off with a poem and then the story of winter in a small town, and shows how the weather affects the citizens of the town, namely a farmer, the postman, the policeman and his wife, and of course, the children. Everyone is waiting for the snow to fall, and the story continues as it snows throughout the winter until the snow finally stops and spring arrives. Recommended for ages 3-7, 4 stars.

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown

This is a great book to share, especially if you are doing a storytelling version of it. It won a 1948 Caldecott Honor award. Though I have seen many variations of this story, this is the first time I’ve read a French version. The basic story is that there are three hungry and tired soldiers, who happen upon a poor town. The villagers have little to eat themselves and don’t want to share their food, so at first they tell the soldiers that they have no food or lodging for them. The soldiers decide to make Stone Soup, something they “ate with the king” and suddenly the villagers are sharing a bit of potato, carrots, seasonings, beef, cabbage, barley and some milk. Soon they have a feast and they share the rest of their food and then give the soldiers the finest lodgings in town. It will teach kids about sharing and how to use their imagination. I did manage to find a Weston Woods version of the story here: http://video.nhptv.org/video/1689038516/. Recommended for ages 3-7, 3 stars.

The Little Island by Margaret Wise Brown

I had never heard of this book, until I picked it up for my Caldecott Challenge. I think it is another excellent example of a better book as compared to Goodnight Moon. It won the 1947 Caldecott Award. In this book, the reader learns about a little island, as told by the island itself. The little island goes through all four seasons, as the reader observes how the the plant and animal life on the island changes as the year progresses. I also liked how the cat who comes with a couple to the island learns about faith and how “the island is a part of the world, even though it is far away from everything.”

I love the painted illustrations, that along so well with the text. My favorite is that of the pair of kingfishers. It is interesting to note that Leonard Weisgard, who illustrated this book, also illustrated a Caldecott honor award winner of the same year Rain Drop Splash. I was fascinated to find out that this book is featured in another much more recent book called Miss Little’s Gift, about a teacher who helps a young boy with ADHD by getting him interested in reading through getting the boy to read The Little Island (http://www.douglaswood.com/pages/books/children/bk_misslittlesgift.html). I think this book might be my new favorite of Margaret Wise Brown’s. Highly recommended for ages 1-6, 5 stars.

Song of the Swallows by Leo Politi

When I think about what this book is about, I think of Warner Brothers cartoons, because one of them sings about “when the swallows come back to Capistrano…” The author wrote many books about the Latino communities in Southern California, including this book. This book won the 1950 Caldecott Award.

Juan is a boy who lives in the California town of Capistrano. He likes to talk to his friend Julian the gardener and bell-ringer of the Mission of San Juan Capistrano about the swallows, called los golondrinas in Spanish, who come every year to nest and raise their young. They come every year on Saint Joseph’s Day in the early spring from South America and stay until the late summer. There are two songs in the book, one the children learned at school (that the author wrote and composed himself) and one they sing when the swallows arrive. Recommended for ages 5-8, 3 stars.

Finders Keepers by Will Lipkind

This book won the 1952 Caldecott Medal, which again makes me wonder about the competition that year. I wasn’t overly impressed with the book, although it was a cute story. Two dogs named Nap and Winkle find a bone but can’t decide who should have it, so they ask a farmer, goat, barber, and a bigger dog. Each makes them help him out first and then poo-poos the question of the bone, saying it doesn’t matter. Until the bigger dog comes and tries to steal it, so they take it from him and decide to split the bone between each other. Recommended for ages 4-7, 2 stars.

Ape in a Cape: An Alphabet of Odd Animals by Fritz Eichenberg

Another book I had never heard of before doing the Caldecott Challenge, this rhyming ABC book won a 1953 Caldecott honor award. I liked the full-page illustrations, though the colors were a little odd and made them look rather creepy and/or possessed. I did love E: Egret in a minuet, Q: Quail on the trail, and Y: Yak with a pack. I agree with another reviewer who said that despite all the cool rhyming animals throughout the book, the author/illustrator kind of crapped out with Z for Zoo. Recommended for ages 1-5, 3 stars.

Dick Whittington and His Cat by Marcia Brown

I had never heard of this book until I picked it up for the Caldecott Challenge. The book won a 1951 Caldecott Honor, and I thought it had a fabulous story. Dick Whittington is an orphan who travels to London to seek his fortune, but it does not work out like he planned. He ends up working for a wealthy merchant, gets no sleep because of all the mice and rats that run over his bed, and is beaten by the cook. He gets a cat named Miss Puss for a penny and she helps him sleep by taking care of the mice and rats. One day as the merchant’s ship is about to sail, Dick gives Miss Puss to the merchant for trade. The ship lands on the coast of North Africa, where the king’s palace is being overrun by vermin. In trade for lots of gems and gold, the ship’s captain gives the king and queen Miss Puss, who promptly takes care of their problem and she ends up staying with them. Dick is very rich after the expedition and ends up marrying the merchant’s daughter and becoming the Lord Mayor of London. I loved the cut linoleum illustrations, which made the story seem more rustic and old-fashioned, like the Medieval/Renaissance time period the book was set in. Highly recommended for ages 4-8, 5 stars.

The Egg Tree by Katherine Milhous

Again, I had never heard of this book until reading it for my Caldecott Challenge, as this book won the 1951 Caldecott Award. Frankly I liked “Dick Whittington and His Cat” better than this one, but it is an interesting story. A group of Amish grandchildren are hunting for Easter eggs, and two of the kids doing it for the first time. One of the girls named Katy discovers a special group of six eggs, which have been hollowed out and beautifully painted. Katy wins the prize for the prettiest eggs and her brother for the most eggs. After the children pick one of Katy’s special eggs to keep, Grandmom puts the on a small tree, creating an Easter Egg Tree. The children decide they should make a bigger tree and so decorate many more eggs to put on it, and the following year an even bigger one. Soon all the local villagers come to see the tree as well as visitors from far away. The book is set in Pennsylvania Dutch country, and is based off the author’s family traditions, which include the traditional designs for the eggs used and described in the book. I liked that the back cover of the book included instructions on how to make your own Easter Egg Tree. Recommended for ages 4-8, 3 stars.

The Big Snow by Berta and Elmer Hader

The authors actually lived in stone house in the country and go through many “big snows” and like to feed the animals, hence this book is based off their life. I liked the vivid descriptions, as well as the watercolor and black and white drawn illustrations in this book. The story is about all the animals and birds that live in the forest before winter comes, and how they prepare for it, even though they aren’t necessarily prepared for “the big snow”. The last part of the book talks about Groundhog Day. This book won the 1949 Caldecott Award, and it was well-deserved. Recommended for ages 4-9, 4 stars.

They Were Strong and Good by Robert Lawson

Ok, I know this book is outdated (contains racial stereotypes of African-Americans and Native Americans) but I rather enjoyed it. It was the mostly true story of the author’s family on both sides of the family, going back 2 generations. The drawings of his family were rather cartoonish (they kind of reminded me of an early graphic novel) and the book itself is long, but there is very little text per page and I thought it made for an interesting story. I especially liked his “Mother’s Father” story, about the sea captain, parrots and Panama hats. It did win the 1941 Caldecott Award, but really if it was only going up against “April’s Kittens” by Clare Turlay Newberry, is it any wonder that it won? Recommended for ages 4-8, 4 stars.

Wee Gillis by Munro Leaf, illustrated by Robert Lawson

I had never heard of this book until I picked it up for my Caldecott Challenge, but I had heard of the author and illustrator. They most famously have worked together for the the book The Story of Ferdinand, which I read a month or so ago. This book won a 1939 Caldecott Honor and so far it is my favorite Caldecott book that year. Wee Gillis is the story of a young boy whose mother is from the Lowlands of Scotland and whose father is from the Highlands. Every year he either spends tending cattle in the Lowlands or stalking stags in the Highlands, and it is in these two places that he builds up the strength in his lungs. When he has grown up a bit, he must choose whether to live in the Highlands or Lowlands, but a chance encounter with a bagpiper changes that. The story was very simple, but I really enjoyed Robert Lawson’s illustrations. Recommended for ages 4-8, 4 stars.

The Biggest Bear by Lynd Ward

I normally don’t give reviews one or two stars, but this book just rubbed me the wrong way. I am not pro-gun, which is probably part of the reason I didn’t like this book. I definitely should’ve pre-read this one before I got into it because of all the guns and mentions of shooting, which I did not want my 15 month old to hear. I wasn’t a fan of the illustrations, though it is clear the author made them the focal point of the story and just added minimal text. It is probably one of the longest Caldecott books I’ve ever read (85 pages). This book won the 1953 Caldecott Award.

The basic story is that the main character Johnny wants to kill a bear so he can hang the skin on his barn, like the rest of the town has done. So he goes into the woods to do just that, and instead finds a baby brown/grizzly bear, which he brings home. The bear grows up quick and causes so much havoc that eventually Johnny is told to go into the woods with the bear and shoot him. Johnny can’t bring himself to do that, but instead takes him far away from the farm three times, but the bear keeps finding his way back home again. Finally the fourth time he is taken out, the bear goes into a trap with Johnny and the people who set the trap are zoo keepers who were looking for a bear and say that Johnny’s bear is the biggest bear they’ve ever seen. This way the bear is taken care of and Johnny can come visit him. Recommended for ages 4-8, 2 stars.

Children and Young Adult

Erak’s Ransom (Ranger’s Apprentice #7) by John Flannagan

I finally finished it! Again, not being in the car as often as I have in the past makes it take literally forever for me to finish an audiobook. This book took a little to get going, but it was jam-packed full of action and great storyline once it did. This book was meant to be an in-between book, between Book 5 and 6, but was written afterwards. It covers the period of time before Will becomes a full-fledged Ranger, in the last few months of his training. Erak is captured by the Arridi, a desert people, and the gang must leave Halt and Lady Pauline’s wedding in order to rescue him. Will, Halt, Cassandra, Gilan, Horace and Svengal all journey to Arrida to meet with the Wakir, to get Erak released, but there is a snag. On the way to get him, the Arridi party that has Erak is attacked by Tualaghi bandits, who kill everyone but the prisoner. Will is rescued from the desert, after trying to find Tug (his horse) whom he lost in a sandstorm, by the Bedullins (a nomadic desert tribe). They eventually help to rescue everyone, who has since been captured by the Tualaghi. Will Tug be returned to Will? Will he be able to rescue the Araluens and the Wakir before they are executed? To find out, read this great book! Recommended for ages 10+, 4 stars.

Young Adult

Library Wars: Love & War, Vol. 8 by Kiiro Yumi

I love this series, but the main character Kasahara is a little bit clueless. She is asked by Tezuka’s brother (the one trying to centralize the libraries, who doesn’t care how it gets that way) to join his splinter library group. She says no after she realizes that he is for censorship. Once Tezuka’s older brother realizes he’s not going to get Kasahara’s help he says he can end her suffering (i.e. get out of the inquiry that has been hounding her for two months after the book burning of the previous volume) if she will just send Tezuka to him. The rest of the task force realizes where she has gone through the help of her roommate, Shibazaki, and Dojo goes after her and takes her home. A few days later, Kasahara gets a letter from Tezuka’s older brother and he drops the bombshell on her of the true identity of her “prince”, aka Dojo. Now if you, the reader, have been paying attention, you figured this out awhile ago, but Kasahara is slow with these things, and she is blown away. She thinks Dojo hates her, but she talks to her other instructor, Komaki, who assures her that he doesn’t. Meanwhile, Marie (the high school girlfriend of Komaki) is molested in the library by a stranger and the Library Forces band together to try to catch him, using Kasahara and Shibazaki as bait. My favorite line in the book is where Kasahara is dressed up to catch the perp, and Tezuka can’t stop staring at her legs. So she yells in frustration: “My legs are not for show! They’re for running fast and kicking ass!” Can’t wait for the next volume! Recommended for ages 13+, 4 stars.

The Color of Water (Color Trilogy #2) by Dong Hwa Kim

Overall, I agree with a fellow reviewer when I say that overall I enjoyed this book, but it seemed like the author was simply rehashing the formula from the first book but it was a good quick read. I am a little annoyed, now that I’ve gotten into this series, that the library only has the first two volumes of the series. So I will have to go to a book shop to find the third one.

This book is about Ehwa as a 16 year old girl who discovers the man she really falls in love with and her mother’s deepening love and dependence on the traveling salesman, the picture man. Ehwa is learning more about her body and how relationships between women and men work, both emotionally and physically. I did think it was creepy when her beloved’s employer, who is 80 years old, sees her once and thinks he can just buy her from her mother with offers of money and land. I’m glad the mother was strong enough to tell him to go bugger himself. Recommended for ages 14+, 3 stars.

Stravaganza: City of Swords by Mary Hoffman

I’d like to start out this review saying how much I love Mary Hoffman’s books. I think she is a brilliant writer, and I was overjoyed and a little embarrassed when she actually found a review I had made on her last book, “City of Ships” on my 1st blog. And yes there was much more to the story as a whole other than Arianna and Luciano getting married. Now if I had checked out this blog post by the author, I may have known that the series was originally supposed to be a trilogy and she would love to extend the series for an additional 6 books, but for the time being that is not possible.

I’m glad she did this book, City of Swords, however it almost seems like she rushed through it. I liked Laura’s character but she had almost no character development, aside from “she’s a cutter” and she’s the newest Stravaganti who gets to spend less time there than the others. As another reviewer said, there is more story devoted to Luciano and the other Stravaganti than Laura. This book was based in Fortezza in Talia (Lucca in Italy)and follows Lucia di Chimici, whose father Jacopo was one of the good guys but sadly dies in the beginning of the book. So Lucia is set to be crowned ruler of Fortezza until the Manoush Ludo comes out and says that he is the illegitimate son of Jacopo and a year older, and challenges her right to rule. They rule in Lucia’s favor and Ludo decides to attack with his splinter group of Fortezzan military and subjects that support his claim. Lucia ends up being defended by the Grand Duke Fabrizio, her cousin, and her assembled family’s army. Laura and the other Stravaganti end up fighting for the Di Chimici’s against Ludo, even though Laura has feelings for him. Who will win and what will happen to Laura and Ludo? And yes Arianna and Luciano do get married in Belleza, but at what cost to the Stravaganti and di Chimici sides? To find out, read the 6th book in the Stravaganza series.

It took me awhile to really get into the book and the way she ended it, with several loose ends, makes me think that she does plan for at least a 7th book, or at least left it open for her to do so. I will say though that I didn’t guess about Laura’s real role as a Stravaganti until the very end of the book. Recommended for ages 12+, 3 1/2 stars.

Adult

The Bellini Card by Jason Goodwin

As I have stated before in the previous novels, I love this historical fiction/mystery series! But I think the author may have gotten bored with his traditional formula and decided to try something new, which in my opinion didn’t work. It may have been the setting (I’m just not a fan of Venice), but the book eventually got better once Yashim came back into the story.

In this volume, it is 1840 and Yashim is called to the palace to see the new sultan, who asks him to recover a painting of Mehmet the Conqueror painted by Bellini. The vizier warns him against doing this, so Yashim is in a dilemma. Therefore, he decides to send the Polish Ambassador, Palewski, in his place, posing as an American art dealer. People connected with the art world in Venice are suddenly appearing dead, and the suspicion is on Signor Brett (Palewski). Yashim does eventually make an appearance and that’s when the story finally gets rolling. Will Yashim be able to unravel the mystery behind all the deaths and find out where the missing Bellini is? To find out, check out this book. 3 stars.

An Evil Eye: A Novel by Jason Goodwin

Thank you Mr. Goodwin for going back to the formula with the first two books as this book was way better than the last one! This book was jam-packed with court intrigue, several mysteries to solve, action, adventure and just fantastic storytelling. The year is 1839 and it is a couple of weeks after the death of the old sultan. His 16 year old son, Abdulmecid has just become the new sultan and this means that the changing of the households have started. The harem of the old sultan must move to make way for the new harem, and the transition has not been smooth. Right away there are problems between some of the new girls and Talfa, the sister of the old sultan. Not to mention several mysterious incidents, that people are blaming on an evil eye. The vizier calls upon Yashim to figure out what has happened to Fevzi Ahmet, the Captain of the Ottoman Navy. What is Yashim’s connection to the Captain? What is really going on at the harems? This book kept me guessing till the very end and I hope the author decides to continue the series. Highly recommended, 5 stars.

Touchpoints the Essential Reference: Your Child’s Emotional and Behavioral Development by T. Berry Brazelton

The real reason I wanted to check this book out is because one of my good friends swears by this book, says it helped her immensely with her first child, who is nearly two. I have been trying to figure out how to properly discipline my child as nothing seems to be working very well. He just says use time-outs but make them short and hug them afterwards, and not to use any physical discipline. The time-outs don’t really seem to be working, so I am at a loss of what to do next.

As others have said, half the points I agreed with and the other “I don’t think so.” The book focuses on birth to age 3. It was divided into three sections: the first by ages of the child and their development, the second was challenges to development, and the third was allies in development. I will say that I skimmed the parts relevant to the age of my child and into the 2 year old section. Some of the things made sense like when a child is about to do something, they will look back at you for approval of whether it is right or wrong. I did find the sections on Manners, Emotional Manipulation, Sleep Problems and Spacing Children helpful. Maybe the updated version would be better. 3 stars.

New Persian Cooking: A Fresh Approach to the Classic Cuisine of Iran by Jila Dana-Haeri

This was an updated look at traditional Persian (Iranian) cooking, which is something I first fell in love with in London 2003. I knew about the khoreshts (rice and meat/veggies stews), but I’ve never seen so many versions of it, not to mention the soups and polo (rice dishes). I also found things like the Yogurt and Spinach salad and the Orange Blossom and Cinnamon Ice Cream, which sound amazing. Highly recommended, 4 stars.

Slow Cooker Revolution: One Test Kitchen, 30 Slow Cookers, 200 Amazing Recipes by America’s Test Kitchen

I love the show America’s Test Kitchen (aka Cook’s Country), so when I found out they had a Slow Cooker cookbook, I jumped at the chance to look at it. One of the reasons I love the show is that they’re so thorough with everything, be it recipes, taste tests or equipment comparison. This cookbook is no different. At the beginning is a guide to the best slow cooker on the market and keys to slow cooker success. Then come the recipes, which include soups, stews, braises, chilis, barbecued meats and more, pasta sauces, meatballs and meatloaves, Mexican fare, casseroles, side dishes, brunch, dessert and basics such as gravy and applesauce. As I become older, I realize how much easier it is to cook with a slow cooker, not to mention relatively cheap. I’m also trying to get more excited about chicken recipes, so this cookbook was great for that. I was particularly interested in trying their Thai-Style Chicken Soup, Beef Pho, Old Fashioned Chicken and Dumplings, Moroccan Chicken Stew, Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, and Turkey Breast with Gravy. Highly recommended, 4 stars.

The Happy Baker: A Girl’s Guide to Emotional Baking by Erin Bolger

Although I did think a lot of the cookie recipes repeated themselves, overall, I thought this book was great! Erin Bolger is not a professional dater or baker, but shares her dating history from the beginning (with permed red hair, giant eighties glasses and black pleather pants as a nine year old) to the her present single-ness which she is finally comfortable with, and shares recipes for the cookies, cupcakes, candy and bread that have gotten her through her worst breakups. I especially liked her little drawings at the bottom of the page. I would like to try to make the Toffee Cracker Goodness, Erin’s Go-To Cookie minus the coconut, Gingerbread Biscotti, Sea-Salted Caramels, and Spicy Dark Chocolate Island Bark. 4 stars.

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Teen Read Week 2012: Oct 14-20

So apparently I am totally out of the loop. I had forgotten that this week was Teen Read Week, probably because I haven’t worked in a library and/or haven’t gone up to the teen section of my library in awhile. What caught my attention and reminded me of the fact was this article on teens reading to pay off library fines, which I thought was a clever way to encourage them to read.

For those who do not know about Teen Read Week, it is celebrated the third week in October, and is a literacy initiative to encourage teens to read.  This year’s theme is Read For the Fun of It. Here are some programming ideas for librarians, although youth groups could do some of them as well. YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) even has a Pinterest page. I will admit that I put some of their ideas on my own Library Programming Pinterest page as well. The 2012 Top Ten Books have been picked by teens, and are listed below. For more information on the books, check out this pdf.

1. Veronica Roth’s Divergent

2. John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars (excellent book which I highly recommend, though it is very sad)

3. Marie Lu’s Legend

4. Ransom Riggs’ Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (another I would recommend)

5. Sarah Dessen’s What Happened to Goodbye

6. Beth Revis’ Across the Universe

7. Marissa Meyer’s Cinder

8. Maggie Steifvater’s The Scorpio Races

9. Gail Forman’s Where She Went

10. Meg Cabot’s Abandon

Real Life: Jobs and my son

I apologize for not writing more. Last week was rather busy and stressful for me, as I had two interviews and no childcare. They were both for library assistant positions, with one having slightly more responsibilities and a higher starting salary. I must say that I would love to do either of them. They are both part time, which for the moment I am comfortable with as my son is still young and I would like to be with him as much as possible but still have a little independence. I should be hearing something between this Friday and next Thursday concerning both of the jobs. Honestly I can’t wait to go back to work again.

I’ve been thinking about posting for awhile now, but couldn’t come up with a decent subject. I’ve been thinking a lot about my son, as he has been growing so much. He’s now 15 months old, another inch taller (now 33 inches) and a pound heavier. He seems like such a big boy, but he’s still a baby in a lot of ways despite his height. I’ve just been so fascinated at how he is growing up. Even though my specialty is in youth services, I haven’t a whole lot of experience with his age group, birth – five, but rather 5-16. Plus he’s my first child so I’m figuring everything out as I go along, which is always a learning experience. He is getting more independent, though still needs me for diaper changes, giving him food, that sort of thing. I do miss the snuggly nap baby he used to be, but I’m so proud of him now too. He can grip things better so it is easier for him to feed himself and play with things, he’s gotten really good at opening doors and figuring out how to escape from behind the baby gate. He’s still a little wobbly with walking, but he’s getting better at it. He still needs work socializing with other children, so we’ve decided to put him in daycare for two half-days a week to help with that. It took us a while to find one that I really liked, but I think this place that we’ve chosen is a good fit. It is right next to a hospital (in fact affiliated with it), so they have a nurse on staff at the facility. They are accredited with the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) so they will track his learning and developmental progress and give me updates on his activities, which I am happy about. They have a garden which the children help tend. The enrollment counselor’s child has been going there since 6 months and loves it. They help with potty training and teach the child about oral hygiene. All in all, it seems like a great place. He starts tomorrow and though part of me wishes I could be with him always, the other half is glad for a bit of a break.

I’m naming this one part two, as I have previously posted on Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s work in this post. Now the reason I have decided to do another art post on them is because frankly I’ve been kind of obsessed lately. I recently read a biography on Lizzie Siddal, who modeled for the Brotherhood and eventually married Rossetti. I enjoyed the book so much that I’m currently reading another book entitled Pre-Raphaelites in Love, which is a crappy title for a well-researched book on the relationships of the Brotherhood. Today I was trying to find a substitute cover image for my Facebook page as Banned Books Week ended Saturday, and thought I would like a Pre-Raphaelite painting. As I was browsing, I discovered that Tate Britain, the art gallery where I originally saw the Brotherhood’s paintings all those years ago, was doing an exhibition on the paintings that is running from now until mid January 2013 (am definitely jealous that I can’t go and check it out).

I ended up settling on an Edward Burne-Jones painting called Laus Veneris. I had never heard of it, but I thought the colors were gorgeous. Apparently the painting is based off a poem by Algeron Charles Swinburne (a friend of the PRB). The title translates as “the praise of Venus or love,” and is the story of a young knight who falls in love with the goddess Venus and stays with her until he feels guilty and wants to repent, so he asks the Pope for forgiveness. According to this website, “The Pope declares it impossible, just as impossible as his papal staff blossoming. Three days after the knight returns to Vienna, the Pope’s staff supposedly bloomed with flowers, but he never learns of this divine miracle and spends his life in damnation.” The weird thing about this painting is that we see it from the point of view of a woman, Venus in this case, and not from the  man, as in Swinburne’s poem. Burne-Jones was no stranger to having strong women his paintings, especially in depicting Venus, which he did in several of his paintings. According to the above website, Burne-Jones’s painting is described with “the same mood of sadness, particularly in the eyes and the languid gesture of the love-sick queen. The painter depicts her beautifully attired in flame colored robes with a golden crown on her lap, yet her sad and pale expression contrasts her splendor. She reclines wearily in her bower, the “palace in the mountain,” hung with an elaborate tapestry embroidered with love tales of olden times, featuring Venus on a chariot. Four maidens sit by her side with open scrolls of music, singing praises of love to cheer her up. Behind the figures and through the open window, there are five knights who seem to pause and listen, intruigued by the scene.” So it is the tapestry within the painting that tells us of the Laus Veneris story and not the actual figures themselves.

Edward Burne-Jones Laus Veneris, 1873-78

One of the things I always found fascinating about the Pre-Raphaelites was that despite the fact that their subject matter was primarily medieval or classical in nature and usually had some sort of religious or moralistic theme, the members themselves were far from chaste. The Brotherhood called the women who sat for them as models, “Stunners,” and they were always on the look out for the next one. Several of the artists married their models, such as Rossetti to Lizzie Siddal (though he begrudgingly did it after waiting 8 years and having many affairs with other women and models in the meantime, like Jane Burden who was married to William Morris and they carried out an affair in the same house while living together). Ford Madox Brown, who was not officially a member of the PRB, but was a close friend of many of the members including Rossetti and Lizzie Siddal, married his model Emma after fathering a child with her.  Rossetti also had an affair with his model Fanny Cornforth. John Everett Millais married Effie Gray, who had previously been married to art critic and supporter of the PRB, John Ruskin, but had a big public messy annulment after it was acknowledged that he never consummated the marriage. William Holman Hunt “rescued” the barmaid Annie Miller with a view to eventually turning him into his wife after using her as his model. Several other members in the Brotherhood used her as a model as well. Hunt’s master plan didn’t work out as he kept leaving on trips to the Middle East to get better lighting for his paintings. He left her at home where she slept around with Rossetti and possibly more artists. I found this article awhile back on Annie Miller, which explains a bit more about what happened and features paintings that she was featured in.

Another model of Rosetti was Alexa Wilding, who may be, according to the Kissed Mouth blog: “the most important models in Rossetti’s artist career.  According to the research of Jennifer Lee (I urge you to seek out her thesis on line), Alexa sat for more completed works than any other model, he painted over the features of Fanny Cornforth with Alexa’s more commercial face, and she managed to embody all things for the artist, from goddess to demon and all points in between.” According to the blog post, there is no evidence to suggest that they may have been lovers. One of my favorite paintings featuring Ms. Wilding is La Ghirlandata, or The Lady of the Wreath. The centralized figure playing a harp is Alexa Wilding, but the top two figures, which are angels listening in, were modeled off Jane & William Morris’s 10 year old daughter, May.  According to the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood blog:

La Ghirlandata was painted at Kelmscott Manor after a period of great difficulty for Rossetti — he had attempted suicide earlier that year (1872). Morris stayed away, but his wife Jane – with whom Rossetti was in love – was there. The honeysuckle and roses around the top of the harp in this picture indicate sexual attraction, while the harp itself represents music – a common metaphor for love and lovemaking. His intense use of colour creates a brooding, melancholy mood, while the picture’s symbolism – though unclear – may reflect his emotional condition at this time. Rossetti’s brother later claimed that he had intended ‘a fateful or deathly purport’ by painting the dark blue poisonous monkshood in the foreground, but by mistake he had painted its harmless relative the larkspur instead.”

Dante Gabriel Rossetti – La Ghirlandata, 1873

After a few weeks drought, I finally have some more pt library job interviews this week. So fingers crossed that one of them works out. In celebration of Banned Book Week, which I already posted on Sunday, I decided to read a couple of the books on the Most Challenged Books of the Year list. I picked Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa.

I had never read Brave New World, and really before going to library school, the one way I had heard of it was because a friend of mine who is a year younger than me, had read it in 10th grade and loved it. Since I respect her good opinion on books, I decided to give it a try. Wow is the first thing I would say about Brave New World. It is literally unlike anything I have ever read. Honestly I was pretty sure that the author either has one hell of an imagination (remember that this book was written in 1931 and published in 1932) and/or was taking a lot of drugs. He obviously was later when he published his book The Doors of Perception, which is all about his drug experiences. This website helped me understand the book a bit more. Under the Historical and Literary Context section, the author says this about related historical events:

“When Huxley wrote Brave New World in the early 1930s, the world had recently undergone a terrible world war, totalitarian states had sprung up in the Soviet Union and Fascist parties were gaining power in Europe, and another war seemed to be on the horizon. In addition, huge strides had been made in both science and the application of science through technology, and the world had industrialized. Huxley took all these developments and spun them into the World State of Brave New World, a totalitarian dystopia that uses technology to, basically, trick its citizens into loving their slavery.”

When you look at it that way, the book totally makes sense. By using technology to keep the citizenry happy all the time, they are conditioned to understand and not be affected by pain, death, or emotions. They shun solitude and individuality. Because everyone is grown from test tubes, they have no need for families. “Mother” and “Father” have become dirty taboo words. They do not see a need for religion or art, as those are considered “old things,” and therefore not useful anymore. The state promotes sex with multiple partners and there is plenty of birth control to prevent pregnancies. They also promote the use of soma, a drug which makes you happy and unaware. For whatever reason, Henry Ford has replaced God and time is counted from the first year that the Model T came out (1908), and the book is set 600+ years after that. So instead of saying “Oh God,” or other forms of using God’s name in vain, they say “Ford”.

The book is about Bernard Marx, a sleep-learning specialist who tends to prefer solitude and is love-lust with Lenina (even though that sort of thing isn’t supposed to exist in this world). Bernard takes Lenina to New Mexico to observe the Savages, Native Americans on a reservation that have not been “civilized” and live the way people did before: having monogamous relationships, marriage and families, mothers bearing children, and no scent dispensers or soma pills to take one’s mind off hardships. While at the reservation, they discover Linda, a former civilized person from London who naturally bore a son named John who lives among the natives. Bernard decides he must bring John the Savage back to civilization. John has been educated by Linda using songs she knew growing up, her work manual and The Complete Works of William Shakespeare, which he has memorized and frequently quotes. John, growing up so sheltered, is very naive and becomes romantically-in-love with Lenina, even though he knows she is immoral and promiscuous, and spurns her sexual advances. As the characters can get kind of confusing, here is a website that explains them.

In my opinion, the best part of the book is in the last 30 or so pages. This is when John the Savage comes face to face with Mustapha Mond, the Controller of Western Europe. Mond sends Bernard to an island for his unorthodox behavior. Apparently Mond has a library of forbidden books, books that are old and considered useless, i.e. The Complete Works of Shakespeare and The Holy Bible. According to the above Who’s Who website in the previous paragraph, “The Controller argues that art, literature and scientific freedom must be sacrificed in order to secure the ultimate utilitarian goal of maximizing societal happiness. He defends the genetic caste system, behavioral conditioning and the lack of personal freedom in the World State as a price worth paying for achieving social stability. Stability is the highest social virtue because it leads to lasting happiness.” After his failed arguments with Controller Mond, John ends up in an abandoned lighthouse in the English countryside, whipping himself in punishment for his sins. He is hounded by the press and finally commits suicide by hanging.

The ALA (American Library Association)’s Office for Intellectual Freedom lists the following as the reasons why the book is constantly being challenged: “Insensitivity, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit.”

I had heard about The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa before, but had never gotten a chance to read it. So when I saw it on the 2011 Most Challenged books list, I figured I would give it a try. I was amazed to learn, after finishing this graphic novel, that the author was male. It is surprising, given the nature of the material. The graphic novel is about a young Korean girl named Ehwa and her widowed mother, and how Ehwa and her mother mature and change as time goes on. The story starts when Ehwa (whose name means “pear blossom”) is nine and a couple of local boys decide to have a pissing contest, and want to see her gochoo (which is the word for chili pepper and also a euphemism for penis). She refused and goes home to tell her mother about it, thinking that she is somehow deformed because hers doesn’t look theirs. Her mother explains to her that she doesn’t have a gochoo, but instead has “a door where babies come from (pg 36).” In the next chapter, Ehwa is still nine and learns about how the Ginkgo tree reproduces. That night, Ehwa and her mother meet the traveling pictograph artist, who steals her mother’s heart. In this chapter, she learns that men and women don’t have babies the way a Ginkgo tree does but rather in a different way. The gourd flower chapter was one of the most interesting in the book because it is the first time that Ehwa meets the young monk, who she falls in love with and him with her, and they exchange their favorite flowers. The proceeding chapters see Ehwa growing up into a young woman, who can’t decide between two boys and discovers more about her self and her sexuality, which her mother describes as perfectly normal (like it should be). I liked how the rain and flowers played such an important part in the book, and as the critic Hwang Min-Ho says in the back of the book: “Flowers even become a metaphor for a lover, or a beloved. And the rain, the element of water, takes on the potency of a life force. With each rainy season, little Ehwa matures a bit more in mind and body (pg 315-16).” The black and white drawings are so beautiful and well-done and illustrate the story perfectly. Definitely looking forward to reading the other two volumes. Highly recommended for ages 14+, 5 stars.

The ALA’s Office of Intellectual Freedom lists the following as the reasons why the book is constantly being challenged: Reasons: nudity; sex education; sexually explicit; unsuited to age group

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