"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Friday, November 30, 2018

Nonfiction November comes to an end. How'd I do?

Drum roll, please. Today is the last day of November, time to report on my monthly progress reading nonfiction titles. How'd I do?

Looking at the list below you can see---

  •  I read 26 nonfiction titles, all but one were for YA or Middle Grade readers mostly as part of my Cybils judging. 
  • 15 of the books I read in entirety, the other nine I did not finish (dnf) but I read enough of each of the books to evaluate it for the award. If I dnf a book, I read at least 50 pages but usually more like 100 pages of it. If the book was a collected work, I read at least 1/3rd of the essays. 
  • One book, Hey, Kiddo, was a graphic memoir and I read it as part of my quest to identify the next Printz Award winner (it could be the one.) 
  • Three audiobooks were among the listed books, one was an adult title, The Soul of America, which I liked a lot.
  • You can see from my star rating system that there are a lot of great books and my stars will basically not help when I have to cull down my list from 89 Cybils nominations to 7 by mid-December.
  • I wrote reviews for 14 of the month's books. That is what I feel best about. I hope to write at least two more this weekend from the November books.
  • All month-long I only finished one fiction book. I was dedicated to the cause.
  • Altogether I've read all or part of 39 books for the Cybils consideration. That sounds good until you find out that there are 89 books on the list. How on earth am I going to even look through 50 more books, let alone read that many in two weeks? Obviously I will be doing a lot more skimming.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Friday quotes and review---The Disappearing Spoon

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

This is the book I'm reading right now---

Title: The Disappearing Spoon and Other True Tales of Rivalry, Adventure, and the History of the World from the Periodic Table of the Elements (Young Reader's Edition) by Sam Kean

Book Beginnings:
"When you think of the periodic table, you probably think of that colorful chart with many columns and rows hanging on the wall of your science classroom. You may have talked about it in class, and you may even have been able to use it during tests and exams. Unfortunately, even when you could use it, this gigantic cheat sheet may have seemed less than helpful! But the table and each box on it are full of secrets waiting to be decoded" (11).
Friday 56:
"Using chemicals as weapons started in ancient Greece, when the Spartans tried to gas Athenians into submission with the most advanced technology they had at the time: smoke. It didn't work" (54).
Review: In 2010 Sam Kean published The Disappearing Spoon for adults. This year he rewrote his original work and made it accessible for younger readers targeting middle grade students, grades 5-8. The original book came to my attention sometime after it was published and I tried to talk my book club into reading it. That suggestion was summarily voted down. The ladies in my group didn't want to read a "hard" book about science. As I read this young reader's edition, I was glad for that no vote. This version, though aimed at young teens, seemed to be just the right level for me. Ha!
"Why did Gandhi hate iodine (I, 53)? How did radium (Ra, 88) nearly ruin Marie Curie's reputation? And why did tellurium (Te, 52) lead to the most bizarre gold rush in history? The periodic table is a crowning scientific achievement, but it's also a treasure trove of adventure, greed, betrayal, and obsession. The fascinating tales in The Disappearing Spoon follow elements on the table as they play out their parts in human history, finance, mythology, conflict, the arts, medicine, and the lives of the (frequently) mad scientists who discovered them" (Book blurb).
The creation of the periodic table has never been something I've never thought about before. It has always existed, right? Wrong. Apparently what we know from the poster on our science room wall is just one of over 700 charts created since scientists started discovering the elements and trying to figure out how to communicate their relationships to one another. As the current rendition came into common usage, it is fun to read about many of the stories of how the elements were discovered over the course of time. What we know today without any doubts had to be figured out by someone or several people. These stories of discovery make the book so fun and charming.

My husband and I listened to the audio version together. His comment is one I agree with. It is interesting to learn about history when it presented on a theme, like the creation of the period table, rather than always learning about history as presented in a chronological/textbooky way. I am previewing this book as part of my role as a Cybils judge. It has been such a fun assignment for me to read a plethora of books I never would have picked up otherwise. I am glad I did read this one!

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Cybils: Nonfiction reviews

Last night the doorbell rang at 8:30. It was a delivery person dropping off another nominated book for the Cybils Award. The book of late night doorbelling fame was donated to me by the publisher. It and the other ten I've received from publishers await an honest and thoughtful review. I wish I had time for the thorough review these books deserve, but with the deadline looming, short and succinct will have to win the day.

Extreme Survivors: Animals That Time Forgot 
By Kimberley Ridley, published by Tilbury House, part of "How Nature Works" series, November 17, 2017.
Target audience: Grades 5-8.
48 pages, includes a glossary, a timeline of Earth's history, up-close and personal facts about the highlighted animals. Includes color photographs of every animal discussed.

During Earth's whole history most life-forms have either gone extinct or have been altered to adjust to different living conditions. Most but not all. This book showcases extreme survivors---life-forms which exist in pretty much the same as they have for millions of years--- goblin sharks, tuatara, tadpole shrimp, lungfish, horseshoe crabs, velvet worms, tardigrade, chambered nautilus, comb jelly, and sponges.

The tuatara is the closest living animal to dinosaurs of old, existing only in one location in New Zealand, it looks like a iguana but it hunts at night and has such a slow metabolism it can live for 150 years. Lungfish have primitive lungs and have to come up for air about once an hour but can exist outside water for two years by burrowing under the mud and going into estivation, which is the fish form of hibernation. Horseshoe crabs have been able to survive, while other life forms haven't, because they have the ability to form blood clots around invading bacteria, stopping the spread of infection in their bodies. Goblin sharks are horrifying to look at and they are huge (10ft.) but it is unlikely we will ever run into one since they lurk around the ocean at 800 ft. The weirdest of all the extreme survivors, at least in my estimation, is the tardigrade. It's other name is Zombie Bear. It is a microscopic creature which lives on moss. It can survive for decades, losing up to 99% of it's water, but once it rehydrates it can repair it's own DNA. I have so much moss in my backyard, could I also have tardigarades?

This is a perfect book for the kid who likes to read about weird things and enjoys looking at pictures as they read. I recommend that middle school/junior high librarians get a hold of this book and display n top of the shelf or in a prominent place. I bet it will be checked out almost immediately.

Three Stars in the Night Sky: a Refugee Family's Odyssey of Separation and Reunion
By Fern Schumer Chapman, published by Gussie Rose Press, June 6, 2018.
Target audience: Grades 5-8.
46 pages, includes photo credits of color and b/w photos.

At age 12 Gerta Katz was sent by her Jewish parents from Nazi Germany to the USA as an unaccompanied minor. She was sponsored by a Jewish woman in Seattle. She made friends with one girl who was also an unaccompanied minor but she her destination was not Seattle and they lost touch. Gerta lived in a boarding house, lonely and bereft, waiting for news from her family left behind in Germany.  After many months she finally heard from an older brother that the family had gotten out of the country safely and were now settled on a commune in the Dominican Republic. The dictator of that country, Trujillo, had just recently killed hundreds of black Haitians. In an effort to appear as a good guy to the international community, he granted visas to thousands of Jews hoping to flee Germany. These refugees were given some land, where they lived in a sort of commune. Trujillo hoped that the white Germans would marry DR people so that the children would be lighter skinned.

Gerta was relieved that her family was safe, but miles still separated them. First they couldn't reunited because of the war, next they were kept apart because of immigration policies on DR. Not until 1959 did the family finally reunite, twenty years after Gerta first left Germany.

So much has been written about WWII and the Holocaust it seems impossible that one could learn something new about it, but that is not the case. Everyone's story is unique and Three Stars in the Night Sky tells a new story...that of the unaccompanied minor to the USA and immigration from Nazi Germany to the Dominican Republic. Both were unknown aspects to me. The book is very short and does not give many details about either of the experiences, but it does give a human face to the disaster that happened to so many during the war. The book is full of family photographs, making it more personal. The book was chosen as a Junior Library Guild 2018 selection. It would be a nice resource for schools looking to increase their collection of personal WWII/Holocaust stories.

The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystems
By Rachel Ignotofsky, published by Ten Speed Press, September 18, 2018.
128 pages, includes quick steps for protecting the planet, source notes, bibliography, an index, and an illustrated glossary.
Target audience: Grades 7 and up.
"Beautifully combining art and science, The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth is an illustrated tour of the planet that reveals ecosystems large and small, from reefs, deserts, and rainforests to ponds, backyard gardens, and even a drop of water. Through exquisite drawings, maps, and infographics, New York Times best-selling author Rachel Ignotofsky makes earth science accessible and entertaining, explaining how our planet works, from its diverse ecosystems and their inhabitants, to the levels of ecology, the importance of biodiversity, the carbon cycle, weather cycles, and more. Perfect for nature-loving readers ages 10 and up, this is an utterly charming and educational guide to the world we live in" (Goodreads). 
A close-up detail on one of the illustrations.
I love the illustrations in this book. I was enraptured by them and spent long minutes examining each page. The text that accompanies each section is rather dense and often printed white on black pages, which I find hard to read.  The essence of the book is so good, however I cannot figure out the target audience. Teen readers seem unlikely to spend as much time as I did with each page to discover its treasures and adults may be put off by the marketing toward young adults. I especially appreciate the back few pages about climate change, global warming causes, how we can help protect our planet, and the illustrated glossary. In the note about the author we learn that Ms. Ignotofsky believes that illustration is a powerful tool that can make learning exciting. I agree. I want to explore this book more when time allows once Cybils judging is complete.

Back From the Brink: Saving Animals From Extinction
By Nancy F. Castaldo, published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, April 24, 2018.
168 pages, includes a call to action suggested activities, what to read and watch to learn more, source notes, a glossary, a bibliography, and an index. Includes lots of color photographs.
Target audience: Grades 5-8.

Back from the Brink examines seven different species which have been brought back from the brink of extinction by conservation efforts: whooping cranes, wolves, bald eagles, giant Galapagos tortoises, California condors, American alligators, and American bison. for each species Castaldo examines the causes that led to the near-extinction and the actions that have helped bring the species back from the brink. 

The book strikes such a hopeful tone by the time I finished reading it I was ready to shout hooray. Young readers will feel the same way, I am sure, and will want to involve themselves in many of the activities listed in the Call to Action chapter. We are reminded that though these animals are doing better, there is still much to be done to ensure that they are safe from extinction. I am a big fan of this book and I hope it finds its way onto all middle school/junior high library shelves and that it is widely read. The book reminded me of a video I saw several years ago about the benefits to Yellowstone National Park after the reintroduction of gray wolves in 1995. Take a look. It is very inspiring.

I am having a grand time reading so many nonfiction books. I hope my reviews encourage you to pick up a nonfiction book, even one you think you aren't interested in, just to learn something new today.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Classics Club Spin time is here again...and the spin number is...

It is Classics Club Spin time again.

What is the  Classics SPIN, you ask?

  • Pick twenty classics books that you’ve got left to read..
  • Post that list, numbered 1-20,  before Tuesday, November 27, 2018.
  • Classics club will announce a number from 1-20 on Tuesday. (See below for the spin number!)
  • Read that book by January 31, 2019. 
  • Here is my list (below.) Join me and read along or make your own list or just cheer me on.
Bastard Out of Carolina
Allison, Dorothy
Agnes Grey
Bronte, Anne
Dahl, Roald
If On a Winter's Night a Traveler
Calvino, Italo
Death Comes for the Archbishop
Cather, Willa
Moonstone, The
Collins, Wilkie
Tale of Two Cities, The
Dickens, Charles
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The
Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan
Big Sleep, The
Chandler, Raymond
Silas Marner
Eliot, George
Man's Search for Meaning
Frankel, Viktor
Bridge of San Luis Rey, The
Wilder, Thornton
Scarlet Letter, The
Hawthorne, Nathaniel
So Big
Ferber, Edna
Picture of Dorian Grey
Wilde, Oscar
Hershey, John
Talented Mr. Ripley, The
Highsmith, Patricia
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Blume, Judy
Wild Sargasso Sea
Rhys, Jean
Grapes of Wrath, The
Steinbeck, John

I am really busy with Cybils judging right now so I won't start reading until late December. Notice, I've added two classic children's books this year and would dearly love an excuse to read both of them.

Watch this space. I will announce the spin number after the club announces the number on Tuesday!

And the SPIN number is....


I will be reading Wild Sargasso Sea.  I've long wanted to read this book as a counterpoint to Jane Eyre. What will you be reading? Or will you join me? (Remember, I won't be starting the book until the end of December. Luck it is short.)

Monday, November 26, 2018

Nonfiction review: Very, Very, Very Dreadful

Before I get started on this review I'd like to encourage you to stop and think about the title for a minute. Have you ever seen any sentence with three verys in it? Before one even gets started reading the book they know one thing for sure... whatever the topic, it is the most dreadful thing you've ever heard about. Be prepared. The dreadful thing was the 1918 influenza. There has never been a more dreadful disease in all of human history and you barely know anything about it, right?

Well, Albert Marrin decided it was time that we learn something about the 1918 flu by writing Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918, and in the process he also teaches us about other pandemics in world history and what set up the circumstances for the most dreadful of them all in 1918. He also warned us that it could happen again. In fact, scientists are certain that another pandemic will strike some time in the future. Will we survive it or not?

Back in early 1918 World War I was raging when American troops at Camp Riley started coming down with flu symptoms. The disease spread quickly but fortunately the symptoms were mild and most of the soldiers survived. When the number of new cases started to diminish, doctors thought the worst of the flu season was over, but they were wrong. The disease had just jumped from stage one to stage two. The mutated form was much, much, much deadlier. As it turns out "no war, no natural disaster, no famine has ever claimed as many lives. In 18 months, over 500 million people contracted the flu---one third of the world population at the time---and between 50-100 million people died" (Book blurb). The disease infected people from every corner of the globe, including Pacific islanders and those living in the Arctic region.

No one was safe from the disease, though some people were more susceptible to dying from it and oddly it is not who you might suspect. The normal influenza usually kills people with weak immune systems like children and the elderly. The 1918 version, sometimes called the Spanish Flu, actually was more likely to kill healthy young adults with strong immune systems. In fact, it was probably the strong immune response that did them in. For this reason, more soldiers died from influenza than from WWI all together.

By the summer of 1919, the second wave was over and the third wave began with the disease receding into a more normal flu pattern. Coincidentally by this time, the war was over and soldiers were no longer living in cramped spaces and unhealthy conditions associated with the war effort. Even though the disease killed around 5% of the world's population it stopped making the news, downplaying it's lethal implications.  "Historian Alfred Crosby confirmed this. While glancing at the Readers' Guide to Periodical Literature for the period from 1919 to 1921, he made a startling discovery: thirteen inches of column space were dedicated to baseball stories, but only eight inches to stories about influenza" (138). Textbooks often don't mention the epidemic at all or give it very little attention. It is as if society was so sick of the disease they just wanted to forget it ever happened.

Marrin addresses this societal forgetfulness in the last few chapters of the book where he discusses what science has discovered about the H1N1 virus since that time and makes some predictions of possible or potential epidemics to come. The scariest is the bird flu, which if it makes the jump from bird to human transmission to human to human transmission, could wipe out over 60% of the population. It doesn't take a very active imagination to figure out what would happen to societies if that were to happen...total chaos.

My husband and I listened to the audio version on a trip we took over the holiday weekend. We were both fascinated and horrified by what we learned. We both remarked how effective it is to receive historical information when it is delivered on a theme. So often history is taught in a chronological manner...often highlighting wars and the circumstances leading up to them while skipping over other societal events that were impacting millions of people. From this book we not only learned about the Spanish Flu pandemic, but about other pandemics throughout history. We learned some of the details of WWI and the deplorable conditions soldiers were forced to live in throughout. The author even touched on Women's rights, since suffragists were busy at work attempting to secure the right for women to vote during the same time period. I highly recommend this book for all history buffs and every high school or public library should have it in their collection. At my old school, I'd be getting this book into the hands of the Medical Careers teacher urging her to recommend that her students read it. We can no longer ignore the lessons we should have learned from the most dreadful disease know to humankind---The 1918 influenza pandemic.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Nonfiction November Week five goals and last week's update

With Thanksgiving this past week I wasn't sure if I would be able to reach my goal of previewing at least five Cybils' nominated books, but I did it. With five days to go in the month, I still hope to preview at least five more books this month.

Books read or previewed this past week:
  • Back From the Brink: Saving Animals From Extinction by Nancy F. Castaldo---So well done and also so hopeful about the future of animals that were once clinging to existence. I read it all. (Source: print version supplied by the publisher.)
  • The Disappearing Spoon (Young Reader's Edition) by Sam Kean... We listened to 75% of this one on way home from Oregon yesterday. The book was rewritten from the adult version by the author so that it is accessible for young teens. Fascinating and interesting. (Source: audible purchased by me.)
  • Very, Very, Very Dreadful: The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 by Albert Marrin.--- I knew about the 1918 Influenza Pandemic but I had no idea how bad. It serves as a reminder to us of what could be in store for us again. This book is a must read. (Source: audible purchased by me.)
  • Our Stories, Our Voices: 21 YA authors Get Real About Injustice, Empowerment, and Growing Up Female in America edited by Amy Reed. This collection of essays is aimed at teen females who are trying to find their own way after experiencing some trauma (or just being female in a male dominated world. It is not the best I've read of all the collections I've previewed this season. I read about 25%. (Source: print version from library.)
  • The Wondrous Workings of Planet Earth: Understanding Our World and Its Ecosystem by Rachel Ignotofsky. I love this book and it's darling illustrations.  In fact the illustrations are so plentiful and vital, it could be considered a graphic information book. I read about 30%, but hope to finish it soon.(Source: print version supplied by publisher.)
  • Three Stars in the Night Sky: a Refugee Family's Odyssey of Separation and Reunion by Fern Schumer Chapman. Another Holocaust story about a Jewish family that was separated by necessity to get out of Germany. Most of the family settled in Dominican Republic because the awful despot Trujillo allowed many visas for Jews wanting out of Germany. He reason wasn't very honorable, but the families were saved. Earlier the daughter was sent to the USA on a foster care program and she lived in foster care in Seattle, not reuniting with her family until years later. A short book and I read it all. (Source: print version supplied by the author.)
On deck to read next:
  • Unpunished Murder: Massacre at Colfax and the Quest for Justice by Lawrence Goldstone---I am currently reading this book about a horrible historical event I knew NOTHING about. I didn't read any of it last week due to the serious nature of the subject. (Source: print version from the library.)
  • The School's on Fire!: A True Story of Bravery, Tragedy, and Determination by Rebecca Jones (Source: e-book supplied by the publisher.)
  • Becoming Kareem by Kareem Abdul-Jabar---an autobiography by the acclaimed basketball player. (Source: print version from the library.)
  • Apollo 8: The Mission That Changed Everything by Martin W. Sandler (Source: print version supplied by the publisher.)
  • The Grand Escape: The Greatest Prison Breakout of the 20th Century by Neal Bascomb. (Source: print version supplied by the publisher.)
  • Defying the Nazis: The Life of German Officer (Young Readers Edition) Wilm Hosenfeld by Herman Vinke. (Source: print version supplied by the publisher.)
  • Born Criminal: Matilda Joslyn Gage. Radical Suffragist by Angelica Shirley Carpenter. (Source: print version supplied by the publisher.)
  • Absolutely Everything: A History of Earth, Dinosaurs, Rulers, Robots, and Other Things too Numerous to Mention by Christopher Lloyd. (Source: print version supplied by the publisher.)
I am realizing that I need to step up my game and read faster or just spend more time previewing and less time deep reading if I want to get through all the books which publishers sent me, out of courtesy to them for sending me copies. Eek. I also want to write reviews of several books I read last week. I am running out of time.