"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=========

Thursday, February 29, 2024


The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

Book Beginning quote: 
He was an old man who fished alone on a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.
Friday56 quote:
"You're feeling it now, fish," he said, "And so, God knows, am I."
Summary: Hemingway's classic and Pulitzer Prize winning novella, The Old Man and the Sea, is about an old fisherman who goes out fishing alone on day 84 without catching any fish. He manages to hook a huge 18-foot marlin which is so strong it pulls the man and the skiff way out to sea. On day three he finally is able to pull the fish in using all the skills he had learned over his many years as a fisherman. After lashing the fish to the side of the boat, the old man has to figure out how to get back to the harbor. But there are sharks that have other ideas of what to do with the giant fish.

Review: I read this novella the first time in junior high school, I think in 7th grade. The basic story has stayed with me all these years and so has the feeling that it was a good story. It was worth reading. The plot is, you know, man vs. nature, and man wins. Or does he?

On my reread for the Classics Club Spin #36 I was a bit more cognizant of the writing, responding to Hemingway's spare style. The old man's abject poverty and his pride, the boy's love and devotion to the man, and life in the small seaside community all came into focus very quickly. 

In the note about the author at the back of the book, Old Man and the Sea was identified as Hemingway's most popular work. It was originally published in 1952 and won the Pulitzer in 1953. Hemingway won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1954 for "his powerful styleforming mastery of the art of narration." No other author had captured the imagination of the American public as Hemingway in the twentieth-century. Yet even though he won all these accolades, he commited suicide in 1961, as a byproduct of his alcoholism and untreated mental disorders. The adage, "Screwed up people make great art" is certainly at play here.

As I closed the book on its 128 pages, I wondered to myself if 7th graders are still required to read The Old Man and the Sea in the schools in my hometown and elsewhere. Have you read it? What are your memories of it? If you haven't read it, it is worth the small effort it takes to complete in a sitting or two. 

Sign up for The Friday56 on the Inlinkz below. 

As many of you know Freda over at Freda's Voice hosted #Friday56 for many years. On September 7th she told us she was going through some personal stuff and could no longer host. I've attempted to reach her but have had no reply. So I will host The Friday56 until she comes back. Help me communicate with past participants so they can figure out where and how to find me, please post this post's URL on your blog. Don't forget to drop a comment on my post also! Thanks.

Also visit Book Beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader and First Line Friday hosted by Reading is My Super Power to share the beginning quote from your book.


*Grab a book, any book
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your e-reader
(If you want to improvise, go ahead!)
*Find a snippet, but no spoilers!
*Post it to your blog and add your url to the Linky below. If you do not add the specific url for your post, we may miss it!

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter

Monday, February 26, 2024

TTT: Books I've Read with Butterflies on the Cover

Top Ten Tuesday: Books With Butterflies on the Cover

I've read them all, liked some of them (or don't understand what butterflies have to do with the plots) but I confess I've forgotten the details of some others. πŸ˜•

1. Flight Behavior by Kingsolver
2. Butterfly: A Photographic Portrait by Marent
3. The Butterfly Clues by Ellison
4. Still Alice by Genova
5. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Conan Doyle
6. Emma by Austen
7. Stolen by Christopher
8. Wings by Pike
9. The Fire Keeper's Daughter by Boulley
10. Arcadia by Groff
11. Private Peaceful by Morpurgo


Sunday, February 25, 2024

Sunday Salon -- Rainy days

The saga of Fred and George and the new quilt: Top left to right: George settling in on the new quilt; Fred taking a turn. Middle: George hiding in new quilt tent; Fred giving quilt rabbit punches. Bottom: A fight for the quilt erupts between brothers-- Fred up, George down; George seriously snoozing.

Rain. Rain. Rain. (Go away, come again some other day.) We've even heard the word S-N-O-W on the news but we aren't holding our breath. We are just glad that the mountains are getting some as the snowpack is very low this year.

Home owner: Our youngest daughter bought a townhouse and took ownership of it on Friday. We spent yesterday in IKEA, with the rest of all the people in the Seattle-area, tromping through the store, selecting new furniture. We came home with boxes of parts for a dresser, a bedside table, and a bookshelf. Today Carly and her dad are up at the townhouse putting together the dresser and maybe more depending on time and temperament. I opted out of the building process, letting them have all the "fun" by themselves. My goodness, a visit to IKEA is a unique kind of ordeal isn't it? I'm recovering from it today. Ha!πŸ˜‚

Cats' Quilt: My younger sister gave me a small quilt for my birthday and said that it was perfect to use as a pet quilt. Place it on a chair or couch and then launder it frequently to deal with pet fur, she said. Well, the quilt is a hit with my daughter's cats, Fred and George. They immediately started sleeping on it, playing tent under it, fighting over it. See collage above. 🀣🀣🀣🀣Thank you, Grace, for the perfect gift, says Fred and George.

All of reviews I wrote for the Cybils Nonfiction books have been published. None of them have generated much traffic, understandably, but I thought I'd leave the links for the books just in case you missed one of the reviews and wanted to check it out!
  • Impossible Escape (YA winner)... escape from Auschwitz 
  • The Mona Lisa Vanishes (MG winner) ... the Mona Lisa is stolen from the Louvre in 1911.
  • Jumper (Elementary winner); also reviewed on the same post: Glitter Everywhere, and The Ice Cream Man. A backyard spider; glitter; and the man who invented ice cream.
  • Stars of the Night (MG)...Kindertransport from Czech Republic before the start of WWII.
  • Three reviews of elementary books in one post: Meet the Bears; Piece by Piece; and Caterpillar Cocoons... eight types of bears; a gift for FDR; and all about caterpillars.
  • Plague-busters (MG)...all about the history of the world's worst plagues.
  • How It Happened: Sneakers! (MG) ...everything about the invention and evolution of sneakers.
  • Two YA reviews: Nearer My Freedom and Spare Parts... a found-verse account of a freed slave, in his own words; and an unlikely winner of a robotics competition.
  • Two more YA reviews: Braiding Sweetgrass -Young Adult version and Muzoon...Wisdom from Mother Earth and Indigenous people about how to save our world; and a memoir about a Syrian refugee.
  • The Girl Who Heard Music (Elementary)...The story of Mahani Teave who lives on Easter Island and still was able to excel at music and now share this love with others.
  • Seen and Unseen (MG) ... Three famous photographers use their craft to document the Japanese Internment experience.
Book Club extremes: This month my first book club (SOTH Ladies) read possibly the most popular choice we've ever selected: The Huntress by Kate Quinn. My second club is reading The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty and I fear it will be thought of as one of our least popular choices. I like it and think it should generate a good discussion but I've heard rumblings that others don't feel the same. We'll see after our club meeting on Wednesday. My review for the Rabbit Hutch is pending but I hope to have it up sometime early this coming week.

Currently reading:
  • When Women Were Dragons by Barnhill
  • The Old Man and the Sea by Hemingway
  • Above Ground: Poems by Smith
On TV:
  • One Day miniseries on Netflix. I've seen the movie. I've read the book. Now I've consumed, in great big gulps, the miniseries. 
  • The Stranger miniseries on Netflix. A murder mystery.
  • The Greatest Night in Pop a documentary about the filming of the "We are the World" song by 46 pop artists in 1985. Don't miss it if you have Netflix.
At the movie theater: We watched all the short documentaries nominated for Academy Awards this year in one two-hour session at the theater. I liked "The Last Repair Shop" best but all were good. Click to view trailer.
One funny:


Friday, February 23, 2024

Two Nonfiction YA Book Reviews --- Both should be in your library

As I finish up my Cybils judging for nonfiction books I wanted to make sure you all were aware of these two books which should certainly be added to any library collection which services teens.

Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants
by Robin Wall Kimmerer, adapted by Monique Gray Smith, with illustrations by Nicole Neidhardt

Zest Books, Minneapolis. 2022. Target audience: Grades 8-12.

Back in 2015 a botanist, Robin Wall Kimmerer, published Braiding Sweetgrass, the parent of this young adult version. As a botanist Kimmerer was trained to observe nature through science. As a member of the Potawatomi Nation she knew that plants and animals are some of our oldest and best teachers. In her book she brings together these two types of knowledge to share the ancient wisdom in a way that it even makes sense with science. 
Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, and as a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings―asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass―offer us gifts and lessons, even if we've forgotten how to hear their voices. In reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.  
Adapted for young adults by Monique Gray Smith, this new edition reinforces how wider ecological understanding stems from listening to the earth’s oldest the plants around us. With informative sidebars, reflection questions, and art from illustrator Nicole Neidhardt, Braiding Sweetgrass for Young Adults brings Indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge, and the lessons of plant life to a new generation.(Publisher).
Braiding Sweetgrass has been a highly praised book worthy of being read to enhance understanding of our world so we can make changes to help stop the destruction of Mother Earth but also to help see problems and solutions through different lenses. In this edition for teens, Monique Gray Smith streamlines the language and yet stays true to the core concepts of the original but adds sidebars, definitions of words/concepts, and asks probing questions to ignite younger readers' minds. It encourages them to make changes to their action, beliefs, and values.  Illustrations by Nicole Neidhardt also make the text more inviting, allowing readers to linger over concepts as they examine the drawings.

I am so glad I had the opportunity to read this book and contemplate its place in the oeuvre of all literature on solutions to climate change. I love the idea that the earth herself can guide to find the answers that have baffled us for centuries.

My book club will be reading the original, adult version of this book next month and I look forward to seeing for myself how the two editions differ from each other. I'm guessing that his YA edition will win for me in a side by side comparisons. Make sure your public and high school library have a copy available for teens and students. 

My rating: 5 stars.

Muzoon: A Syrian Refugee Speaks Out
by Muzoon Almellehan with Wendy Pearlman.  // Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 2023. Target Audience: Grades 6-10

When she was fourteen-years-old Muzoon and her family had to leave their Syrian home and escape to a refugee camp in Jordan. War had broken out in her homeland and it was no longer safe to live among the bombs, raids, and guns on both sides. Her father gave her just a few hours to pack her most important possessions before leaving. Muzoon packed all her textbooks. She didn't want to miss out on a moment of her education, realizing it was her ticket to a more positive future. 

Once she and her family settled into their new reality in the refugee camp, Muzoon started back to school. She discovered that many of the other girls in her classes would be there one day and not the next. When she asked around she discovered that many of these girls didn't understand the importance of education because all they saw in their future was marriage.  Muzoon made it a personal mission to seek out these girls and talk to them about staying in school, explaining how important it would be that everyone have a good education when they were finally able to go back to their country so that they'd never end up in this mess again. She did this so often, her efforts started to be noticed by relief organizations. Periodically Muzoon would be asked to speak on behalf of refugees for these organizations (Save the Children, UNICEF.) One day Malala came to her refugee camp and the two girls met each other. They had to speak through interpreters, but they recognized kindred spirits in each other. Sometimes Muzoon is even called The Syrian Malala. 

Because of her work as an goodwill ambassador for UNICEF, her family was able to secure proper papers to immigrate to Britain where she and her siblings were able to go on to college. She continues today as an advocate for refugees and for the importance of education.

 My rating: 4 stars.


Thursday, February 22, 2024


The Huntress by Kate Quinn

Beginning quote:

Autumn 1945
Altausse, Austria
She was not used to being hunted.


Tony shook his head. "I don't know what else your wife is lying about, but if she's from Poland, I'm a Red Sox fan. I know a Russian when I hear one."

Summary: The Huntress is a WWII-era story about three very strong women: Nina, a Russian woman who was a pilot with the Russian Air Force known as the Night Witches; Jordan, a strong-willed Bostonian who is more interested in photography than she is about getting married and living the usual life of an American woman in the 1940s; Anneliese, a soft spoken Austrian who is trying to make a new life for herself after the war. In addition two men, Ian and Tony, enter the story as Nazi Hunters. They follow leads on Nazi's who escaped during the final, frantic days of the war and they try to capture them so they will finally meet with justice. When they get a lead on a woman who is identified as The Huntress, they travel to Boston to see if they can find her. The Huntress is a person of special interest since her crimes against humanity were so egregious-- She shot and killed children after she fed them.

Title: The Huntress was this month's book club selection. There was a bit of anxiety among members because the the book is over 540 pages long. But once women started reading it, the page length anxiety evaporated. To a person everyone spoke about how much they liked the plot and the pages just flew by. Mid-month I talked to one club member who was upset because she didn't have any time that day to read. This has NEVER happened before and our club has been around for almost thirty years. (Yes, you read that right. 30 years.) Our discussion reflected the enthusiasm for the book. In fact, one person, my daughter, attended the meeting for the first time because she was so enthusiastic about it.

Fortunately the book is well organized otherwise it would be very confusing. Each chapter is clearly marked whose story is being told. For example: Nina, Russia, 1942, or Jordan, Boston, 1950. The biggest mystery: Who is the Huntress and where is she hiding?

Kate Quinn writes phenomenal historical fiction. She does a ton of research and it shows in her plots. I highly recommend this book and this author.

Sign up for The Friday56 on the Inlinkz below. 

As many of you know Freda over at Freda's Voice hosted #Friday56 for many years. On September 7th she told us she was going through some personal stuff and could no longer host. I've attempted to reach her but have had no reply. So I will host The Friday56 until she comes back. Help me communicate with past participants so they can figure out where and how to find me, please post this post's URL on your blog. Thanks.

Also visit Book Beginnings on Friday hosted by Rose City Reader and First Line Friday hosted by Reading is My Super Power to share the beginning quote from your book.


*Grab a book, any book
*Turn to page 56 or 56% in your e-reader
(If you want to improvise, go ahead!)
*Find a snippet, but no spoilers!
*Post it to your blog and add your url to the Linky below. If you do not add the specific url for your post, we may miss it!


You are invited to the Inlinkz link party!

Click here to enter


Wednesday, February 21, 2024


Nearer My Freedom: The Interesting Life of Olaudah Equiano By Himself
by Monica Ediger and Lesley Younge

Zest Books, Minneapolis. 2023.
Target Audience: Grades 9-12.

Olaudah Equiano was born in an Igbo village in what is now southern Nigeria in 1745, captured and enslaved as a child and shipped to the Caribbean where he was sold to a Royal Navy officer. He was sold twice more before he was able to buy his own freedom in 1766. In the 1789 he wrote an autobiography about his life and experiences, The Interesting Narrative of Olaudah Equiano. It was quite popular with the abolitionists in Britain and actually may have helped lead to the Slave Trade Act of 1807.
Using this narrative as a primary source text, authors Monica Edinger and Lesley Younge share Equiano's life story in "found verse," supplemented with annotations to give readers historical context. This poetic approach provides interesting analysis and synthesis, helping readers to better understand the original text. Follow Equiano from his life in Africa as a child to his enslavement at a young age, his travels across the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, his liberation, and his life as a free man. (Publisher)
I've read several biographies-in-verse but never one written in found verse or poems before. According to the authors, a found poem is created using the words, phrases, and quotes from a source text that are then rearranged into verse. Here is an example of how it worked, the highlighted text is what is pulled out for the poem.
One day when none of the grown people were nigh
two men and a woman got over our walls,
seized my dear sister and me.
No time to cry out or make resistance.
They stopped our mouths,
and ran off with us into the woods.
They tied our hands and carried us
as far as they could, till night came.

It's pretty amazing what Ediger and Younge were able to do from the original text. They have created a book that is one that can open up Olaudah Equiano's story to a new generation of readers. I include myself in that statement. I'd never read his autobiography but now I know his story. Bravo!

Spare Parts (Young Reader's Edition): The True Story of Four Undocumented Teenagers, One Ugly Robot, and an Impossible Dream by Joshua Davis and Reyna Grande

Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York. 2023.
Target audience: Grades 8-12.
A riveting true story about dreams, dedication, and an amazing robot named Stinky, based on Joshua Davis' New York Times bestseller and now adapted for young readers by bestselling Mexican American author Reyna Grande.

In 2004, four undocumented Mexican teenagers arrived at the national underwater robotics championship at the University of California, Santa Barbara. No one had ever told Oscar, Cristian, Luis, or Lorenzo that they would amount to much―until two inspiring high school science teachers convinced the boys to enter the competition. Up against some of the best collegiate engineers in the country, this team of underdogs from Phoenix, Arizona, scraped together spare parts and a few small donations to astound not only the competition's judges but themselves, too. 

Spare Parts is both timely and empowering. It is an accessible introduction to STEM, immigration, and the reality of the American Dream. Four boys end up in the US because their parents left Mexico, believing a better life awaited them in America. But life didn't seem better to these boys as they found it difficult to fit in or even make plans for the future. They all stumbled into the robotics program as a place to make connection with others. What they found was camaraderie, hard work, high expectations, ingenuity, and creativity. When they decided to enter the NASA competition their goal was to not get last place. How could four high school boys with next-to-no resources, go up against older, more sophisticated college teams? 

Well, apparently when one is given very little except determination and ingenuity it is amazing what can be produced.

My only quibble with this book is the time lag. The boys won the competition in 2004. The adult book by Joshua Davis was published in 2014. A movie about the boys and their accomplishments was made in 2015. Why did it take twenty years to write a young readers version of the book, to tell the story to its proper audience?


Tuesday, February 20, 2024


How It Happened!: Sneakers: The Cool Stories and Facts Behind Every Pair by Stephanie Warren Drimmer, illustrated by Dan Sipple

Union Square Kids, New York. 2023.
Target Audience: Grades 4-6
Find out how sneakers took over the world in this fact-filled nonfiction book, part of a series about the stories behind cool objects! From going to school to shopping at the mall, sneakers are one of the most comfortable ways to get around. But how did these rubbery soles become everyone’s favorite shoe to stomp in? Readers will love learning about the story behind sneakers, from the world’s oldest shoe to the latest designer sneaker drop . . . and everything in between! (Publisher)

I loved this colorful, easy-to-read book all about sneakers. The book is divided into three sections: 1. How it all started; 2. How sneakers got off the ground; 3. How they took over the world. From the history of easy footwear to the creation of different brands, this book tells the whole tale of sneaker from start to current day. I felt like I was reading a history close to my own, since I've been around during the time frame many sneaker brands have come into existence. 

Starting in 1916 when the US Rubber Company launched Keds and sneakers came into existence. The origin of the word "sneakers" is not known for sure but Keds claimed that their rubber-soled shoes were so quiet one could sneak up on someone without making any noise. 

In 1936 Jesse Owens, the fast man on earth at the time, wore a pair of shoes during the Hitler Olympics made for him by the Dassler Brothers. After the Olympics, the shoes became very popular and the brothers formed a company. In 1948 a fight between the brothers caused them each formed their own company -- Adidas and Puma. Soon the companies were specializing their shoes for different sports.

In 1971, 30 miles from where I lived in Oregon, Bill Bowerman, the track coach at the University of Oregon realized the pattern of the waffle he was eating would make a perfect grippy sole for a running shoe. He ruined a few waffle-makers along the way but in 1974 the first-ever waffle trainer hit the shelves. And a small-town company Bowerman had formed with Phil Knight, Nike, was born. In 1976, as a freshman at the University of Oregon, I took a running class and purchased my very first Nike trainers for the class. I remember them well. They were red nylon with a white swish. They are also were very simple by today's standards but I did pass the class, so that is what counts.

In 1982 when Aerobic classes were all the rage, all the other shoe companies passed on making a shoe specific for this very "female" activity. All the companies except, Reebok, which was a British company trying to compete with the US and German companies. Jane Fonda wore the Reebok Freestyle shoes on her exercise videos and a new superstar (shoe) was born. Another company, Vans, started marketing their shoes to skateboarders. Converse, which had been around since 1917, renamed their basketball shoes, Chuck Taylor All-Stars, and "Chucks" have never really gone out of style. The sneaker industry was booming.

In 1984 Nike used all of its advertising money on a young basketball player named Michael Jordan. He was to be the new face of the company and they designed a shoe just for him. Jordan ever got a percentage of the sales for every pair sold. These padded high-tops were called Air Jordans. The Air Jordan III sneakers were the first to use the Jumpman logo in bright read on the sneaker's tongue.

In 1986 Run-DMC was bringing a fresh sound to the music scene. The members always wore Adidas tracksuits and sneakers. They even sang a song called "My Adidas." This earned the group a sneakers endorsement, the first non-athletic group to get one.

Fast forward to today. There are people who call themselves sneakerheads who collect and trade sneakers. Often you will find them standing in line at stores to be the first to get the new designs. Sneakerheads can be found around the world. In some places like south Africa sneakers have even been used to make political statements.

"Shoes are boring. Wear Sneakers." -2021 Converse Ad Campaign

This is a fun book. I enjoyed it very much. I'm even smiling as I type this review. Check it out!


Monday, February 19, 2024

TTT: Freeze-framed quotes from books...

I'm skipping today's prompt in favor of listing some book quotes I've recently come across.

Ever feel like you want to freeze-frame a book so you can let a quote play through your brain long enough to digest it? Well, that's what has been happening to me lately. Here are a few that stopped me in my tracks...

This is the quote that started me down this path today:

"Her voice sounded like a communion wafer -- tasteless and light."
--Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch
Followed by this one:

"He wears his testosterone like a strong cologne."
--Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch
Then I decided to check out other books I've recently read for quotes:

“But for all their fuss about 'give me your huddled masses,' Yanks don’t really like refugees,”
― Kate Quinn, The Huntress

“Time is a wheel, vast and indifferent, and when time rolls on and men forget, we face the risk of circling back.”
― Kate Quinn, The Huntress

“OUR LIVES AND the lives of those we love merge to create a river whose current carries us forward from our beginning to our end. Because we are only one part of the whole, the river each of us remembers is different, and there are many versions of the stories we tell about the past. In all of them there is truth, and in all of them a good deal of innocent misremembering.”
― William Kent Krueger, The River We Remember

“In a time of deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”
― Abraham Verghese, The Covenant of Water

“Philipose quotes Gandhi: 'There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of food.'"
― Abraham Verghese, The Covenant of Water

“English did not just borrow words from other languages; it was stuffed to the brim with foreign influences, a Frankenstein vernacular. And Robin found it incredible, how this country, whose citizens prided themselves so much on being better than the rest of the world, could not make it through an afternoon tea without borrowed goods.”
― R.F. Kuang, Babel

“He made a list: feed, flour, ammunition, soap, beef, candles, faith, hope, charity.”
― Paulette Jiles, News of the World

And this brings me back to the book I'm currently reading...

“You couldn’t go anywhere in this town without bumping into God.”
― Tess Gunty, The Rabbit Hutch

None of these quotes are life-changing, but all gave me a moment's pause. What do you think of them?


MG/YA Nonfiction review: PLAGUE-BUSTERS

Plague-Busters: Medicine's Battles with History's Deadliest Diseases
by Lindsey Fitzharris and Adrian Teal
Bloomsbury Children's Books, New York. 2023. 
150 pages, illustrated.
Middle Grade Nonfiction Cybils Award finalist

Years ago I was a secondary health education specialist. These types of books about deadly plagues were right up my wheelhouse. Now that I've lived through another deadly plague, I appreciate this type of book even more. Honestly, I thought that  COVID would make the top five of deadly disease but these other gruesome disease had it beat: Black Death (Bubonic Plague); Smallpox; Rabies; Tuberculosis (TB); Cholera; and Scurvy. I would have thought that the flu, AIDS, and malaria would have made the list, at least. But I guess the authors had to stop somewhere. COVID was the most deadly communicable disease last year (and for the past several years) followed by TB, AIDS, and malaria. There I had something to add! The authors commented that they were writing this book as the COVID pandemic het, which was a surreal experience.
Smallpox! Rabies! Black Death! Throughout history humankind has been plagued by . . . well, by plagues. The symptoms of these diseases were gruesome-but the remedies were even worse.

Get to know the ickiest illnesses that have infected humans and affected civilizations through the ages. Each chapter explores the story of a disease, including the scary symptoms, kooky cures, and brilliant breakthroughs that it spawned. Medical historian and bestselling author Lindsey Fitzharris lays out the facts with her trademark wit, and Adrian Teal adds humor with cartoons and caricatures drawn in pitch black and blood red. Diseases covered in this book include bubonic plague, smallpox, rabies, tuberculosis, cholera, and scurvy.

Thanks to centuries of sickness and a host of history's most determined plague-busters, this riveting book features everything you've ever wanted to know about the world's deadliest diseases. (Publisher)

The aspect that I appreciate more today than I would have had it been published before the COVID pandemic, is how doctors and other people believed the kookiest treatments. We've all heard of blood-letting, and freezing TB patients nearly to death. But what about the urine treatment promoted for scurvy, or wearing red clothes to cure smallpox. Even when some doctor would discover the organism that caused the disease other doctors would mock him. "'Invisible creatures, killing our patients? Hogwash! Poppycock! BALDERDASH!' they cried (or something like -- we're guessing to be honest" (80). This reminded me of what happened during the COVID pandemic. Doctors and patients promoting unproven treatments like hydroxychloroquine or ivermectin while eschewing vaccinations which had a proven history. Just yesterday I saw in the news that 17,000 people died needlessly from COVID because they tried hydroxychloroquine and when it didn't work, it was too late for them to get the vaccine.

I was grateful for the humor and the funny illustrations in the book and would definitely recommend this for all secondary school libraries and all public libraries which service teenagers.


Sunday, February 18, 2024

Sunday Salon -- Birthday edition

Climbing Jamie

Overcast, threatening rain.

Tomorrow is my birthday: Today my grandson (age six) sang this song to me: "𝅘𝅥𝅮𝅘𝅥𝅮 Happy Birthday to you. You're a million and two π… π…Ÿ." Bet you are jealous no one sang such a song to you on your birthday!

Cybils judging is over and the winners were announced on Wednesday. Check out the full list of winners here. I'm posting my reviews one per day. Read my reviews by clicking the links:
Reading/listening (now that Cybils is over):
  • The Huntress by Kate Quinn -- Historical fiction about WWII Night Witches (female pilots from Russia) and Nazi Hunters are the end of the war. A book club selection. My rating 4.5, losing a half point due to the length, 540 pages. Audio and print.
  • The Rabbit Hutch by Tess Gunty -- A book set in Indiana in a down-and-out apartment complex. Very quirky and creative book but hard to follow plot. Another book club selection. 30% complete. Audio and print.
  • The River We Remember by William Kent Krueger -- A mystery set in Minnesota where a murdered person is found in the river. Another book club selection. 4.5 stars. Audio.
TV miniseries recently consumed:
Participating in the Great Backyard Bird Count this weekend: One bird we saw in our backyard, we've never seen before -- The Red-Breasted Sapsucker. I think the others live in our yard -- Anna's Hummingbird, Bushtits, House Sparrow, Dark-eyed Juncos, House Finch.

This week's funnies. See if you detect a theme.


Children's Nonfiction Book Reviews -- with help from a six-year-old

I asked my grandson, Ian, to help me review the following children's nonfiction books...

Meet the Bears: An Around the World Adventure by Kate Peridot and Becca Hall
Webeck Children's Publishing, London. 2023.

With the use of darling illustrations readers learn that there are eight different types of bears and they live all over the world. For each bear type we learn about their habitat and range, favorite foods, if they hibernate or not, and unique characteristics. Neither Ian nor I knew that grizzly bears are part of a broader group known as brown bears, and this group is the largest of all bear groups. Black bears are the most common bears near where we live, an also the naughtiest, often getting into trouble because they will get into human food, if the food isn't secured properly. Pandas, at least the black and white kind, are bears. I thought I'd learned that they aren't really bears, but they are. Red Pandas, however, are not bears, even though they have a similar name. Neither are koalas. Bears only hibernate if their range is cold in the winter, so many bears do not hibernate. Another new fact to both of us.

We both liked everything about this book, especially the map of the world with color-coded bears on it, showing up each of the bear's ranges.

Piece by Piece: Ernestine's Gift for President Roosevelt by Lupe Ruiz-Flores, illustrated by Anna Lopez Real
Millbrook Press, Minneapolis. 2023.

Back in 1929 the Great Depression destroyed the American economy. Ernestine Guerrero and her family were able to survive because of breadlines where families queued up to receive hot food or receive a box full of groceries. Ernestine was so grateful to the government for this live-sustaining food she wanted to give the President a gift. Without money to buy a gift, she decided to make something. From the grocery boxes she cut our shapes with the wood to create an elaborate clock case, called The Chimes of Normandy. It took Ernestine two years to make the clock case, since she had to teach herself the wood-working skills as she progressed. When it was finished in 1937 she mailed it off to the President with a handwritten note to let him know that the New Deal was working. The Chimes of Normandy clock case traveled one more time, to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library and Museum in Hyde Park. Every year millions of people can still admire Ernestine's handiwork and handwritten note of thanks.

Ian was less impressed by this book. The illustrations are good but there is a lot of text and he wasn't as interested in it compared to a book about bears.

What's Inside a Caterpillar Cocoon? And Other Questions About Mothers and Butterflies by Rachel Ignotofsky
Crown Books for Young Readers, New York. 2023.

Oh boy. Here is a book right up Ian's alley. Author and artist Rachel Ignotofsky, author of Women in Science hit the ball out of the park with this one. Ian and could have looked at the illustrations and talked about everything we were learning about butterflies and moths for hours. The art is so engaging.

Several times in my life I have visited butterfly farms and learned "all about" the stages the insect goes through to become the winged beauty we all love.

Other times I have witnessed the differences between butterflies and moths, most notably how they fold their wings when resting.

So with all this prior knowledge and experience one would think there wasn't much I could learn from a children's book on the topic. You'd be wrong if you guessed that. I learned so much from this book. So did Ian.

When I asked him which of the three books he liked the best he pointed to What's Inside Caterpillar Cocoon? When I asked him why, he told me he learned so much from it. He made a point of telling me that he likes bears better than butterflies and moths, but he learned more from this book.

Below is a page to give you an idea what I am talking about when it comes to the illustrations and information:

I highly recommend you look for this book at your public library. If they don't own a copy of it, ask them to buy one! Then get it into the hands of all those budding scientists you know like Ian.


Saturday, February 17, 2024

Middle Grade Nonfiction Review: STARS OF THE NIGHT

Stars of the Night: The Courageous Children of the Czech Kindertransport by Caren Stelson, illustrated by Selino Alko

Book Beginning:

Friday56 (near the end of the unpaged book):

Summary: On December 1, 1938 the first Operation Kindertransport took place, transporting 196 Jewish children from Berlin to Harwich, England. The next day Nicholas Winton gets involved, helping create a British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia. Over the next year he scrambles to make spaces for as many Jewish Czech children as he can aboard a transport to Britain. In total he helps save 669 children. When WWII started the transports ended and Winton does not stay in touch with any of the children, in fact, he serves in the Royal Air Force. Fifty years later, in 1988, his wife finds a scrapbook in their attic. Inside is a list of the children's names, photos, letters from parents, and other documents -- everything Winton had about the Czech Kindertransports. Later that year he is invited to meet with his "children." They've been wondering who saved them all those years before.

Review: The phrase "stars of the Night" were words spoken by their mothers before the children left home: "There will be times when you feel lonely and homesick. Let the stars of the night and the sun of the day be the messenger of our thoughts and love."

Nicholas Winton's Kindertransport story is not only a story of history but also one that inspire us to action today. May his courage and forethought inspire all of us to make a difference in children's lives. To save one life can help save the world.

I was really touched by this account of the kindertransport and the brave man who saved so many lives but I was flummoxed by the way the publishers chose to present the information in a children's-style book with lots of illustrations. The topic is one for middle or high school students, but the format is appealing to young children. There seems to be a mismatch here.

I did love the book, though, and it is worth the time to search for it at your library.


Friday, February 16, 2024

Three Nonfiction Children's Book Reviews, including the Cybils Award Winner

Jumper: A Day in the Life of a Backyard Jumping Spider by Jessica Lanan
Roaring Brook Press, New York. 2023

Imagine the life of a jumper spider in your own backyard. Imagine it from the spider's point of view, too. That is what Jumper is all about. Imagine sensing sounds and sight through vibrations. Picture what this small spider must have to do to avoid predators (birds and larger insects) and what she has to do to become a predator herself. The illustrations are so dynamic, one really feels the movements the spider makes to live in our gardens.
The framing story, told mainly in the ink, watercolor, and gouache illustrations, centers on a visit to a community garden by a child with braids and tan skin. What makes this particularly appealing is that the child’s pictured actions­—climbing, jumping, listening, looking, and finding food—mirror the spider’s. Most spectacular is the magnified close-up of the spider catching her prey, a fly (Kirkus Reviews)

Four pages of back matter provide more factual information about spider's anatomy and their life cycle. the book also provides a glossary, helpful hints for identifying spiders, author's notes, and further reading suggestions.

This book is perfect for the very young children in our lives who are interested in their world and how everything works.  And it was the 2023 winner of children's nonfiction for the Cybils Award.

Glitter Everywhere!: Where It Came From, Where It's Found, and Where Its' Going
by Chris Barton, illustrated by Chaaya Prabhat
Charlesbridge, Waterton, MA. 2023.

This gem of a nonfiction children's book starts with this fun opening: "Glitter is lots of things. Tiny. Clingy. Colorful. Loved. Not loved. And believe me, we're going to talk about all of that. But glitter is something else, too."

(I love it when books start with a hook. A hook that makes me want to turn the page. What else is glitter, I wonder.)

This cute children's book not only gives the history of glitter. (Who even thought about the history of glitter? Not me.) It also defines terms, like iridescence, which is what makes glitter so mesmerizing. In the early 1900 flecks of mica were used on Christmas cards, making them sparkle I suppose like holiday candles. At the time glitter was called flitter. The book even tells us where the terms glitter and flitter originated. During WWII, the war effort needed mica, so no more flitter for a while. Someone is German thought ground up glass was a good alternative, but, um, one had to way too careful around it. Egads! Then Henry F. Ruschmann decided scraps of plastic sparkled in the light. He renamed these as slivers. He used it for cards and for jewelry. Later another rival company named their product Glitterex. So I guess we've all just shortened its original name to glitter.

The last half of the books talks about the ubiquitous nature of glitter and how it has contributed to the microplastic problems we have in our oceans. Should there be no more glitter? Because of this thought, new inventions have played around and discovered biodegradable glitters made from plants and even bugs (though that sounds like the possibility of creating new problems.

The book ends with this quote: "Our human ingenuity is as remarkable -- and persistent! -- as any glitter we can imagine."

For the record, I am a glitter-hater. Please don't send me a Christmas card with glitter on it! πŸ˜‰

Ice Cream Man: How Augustus Jackson Made a Sweet Treat Better by Glenda Armand and Kim Freeman, illustrated by Keith Mallot
Crown Books for Young Readers, New York. 2023

Augustus Jackson was an African American businessman who is known as the father of ice cream. Jackson was born in 1808 to free Black parents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania  but they were poor. Even as a child Jackson was interested in cooking and food preparation. His mother told him if he worked hard maybe someday he could make food for the President of the United States. At age twelve he took that dream and became a kitchen helper at the White House. By the age of seventeen, he was elevated to cook, so he did make food for the president. While working in the White House he learned to make a cold custard-like dessert known as ice cream. It was a time-consuming process. All the rich and famous people who visited the White House loved this dessert. Jackson had a new dream -- he would ake ice cream for everyone. 

Back in Philadelphia Jackson opened an ice parlor. It was a very popular place. Other people tried opening their own ice cream parlors but no one could make the ice cream as frosty, smooth and sweet as he could, so Jackson got the idea to sell his ice cream to these other shops. But the process for making this cold dessert was so slow and tedious. How could he speed up the process? One day in 1832 he tried an experiment. He added rock salt to the ice. As he twisted the canister back and forth he noticed that the ice cream was made in about half the time. Now he was able to make ice cream and keep it cold longer. He was even able to send his concoction to New York City by train and it didn't melt.

Jackson accomplished his two goals and I would add, he also made a bunch of people smile along the way.

As a side note, not covered in this children's book, I looked up Augustus Jackson on the internet, curious to learn more about the father of ice cream. He died at age 43 in 1852. His daughter attempted to carry on in his footsteps but since Jackson did not patent his process, other ice cream makers took over his techniques and well, you know that it was a success for everyone.

Ice Cream Man shines a light on a little-known visionary and this inspiring picture-book biography includes an afterword, a list of sources, and an easy-to-follow recipe so readers can make their own delicious ice cream!