Jul 26, 2012

giveaway

win a free pair of bookmarks! with a watery theme
all you have to do is leave a comment
be sure there's an email where I can reach you
winner drawn at random a week from now
I guess these caught my eye because I've been spending lots of time with the kids at the pool, in the hot hot weather. The smaller one has a man diving into the blue on one side, a sailboat on the ocean al reverse. The larger bookmark has the line on the bottom of a pool lane, and ripples on the water on its opposite side. I think they're quite attractive! Laminated, handmade from magazine scraps, by yours truly.

click on either image to view larger

Jul 25, 2012

Let's Count

by Mike Dunning

For a counting book, this one is fairly simple. Each page just pictures the objects and numbers in order: one puppy, three cupcakes, four lizards, up to ten toy soldiers. But it's got some subtle things going on, as well. Most of the pictures have elements that match the numbers as well. For example, on the cupcake page, each cupcake has three decorative elements in the frosting. Each lizard on the 4 page has four feet. The starfish on the 5 page all have five arms (some can have up to forty or fifty, you know), the bugs on the 6 page all have six legs, and spiders demonstrate the number 8. It's a nice little touch. Another thing that makes this book a bit different is that the page margins have tabs that stick out with the numbers running down the side, so when you close the book you see all the numbers vertically on the right margin. It makes the page edges change shape, which I imagine might help keep interest when little minds wander... (currently my baby won't sit still through four or five pages, even if she brings you the book repeatedly!)

rating: 4/5 ....... 10 pages, 1995

Jul 22, 2012

more titles

added to my TBR list this past week or so, thanks to you wonderful bloggers!
The Bond by Wayne Pacelle- Bookfoolery and Babble
Girlchild by Tupelo Hassman - Fizzy Thoughts
Euphemania by Ralph Keyes- At Home with Books 
Wildlives by Monique Proulx - The Indextrious Reader
The Cove by Ron Rash- Bermudaonion's Weblog
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman- The Lost Entwife
The Woman Reader by Belinda Jack- Things Mean a Lot
Keep Holding On by Susane Colasante - Melody's Reading Corner
Me, Who Dove into the Heart of the World by Sabina Berman - At Home with Books

Jul 21, 2012

Lightfoot the Deer

by Thornton W. Burgess

Love and conflict seem to be the main themes of this book. Well, when it opens we really just get treated to a little lesson about how deer grow and shed their antlers, as Lightfoot explains it to the ever-curious Peter Rabbit. In the next part of the story, Lightfoot is pursued by a hunter and uses all his skills and cunning to stay out of the hunter's sight. Finally he is exhausted by the stress of constantly being followed in fear of his life, and escapes across the river where he finds a safe haven. He stays hidden until the hunting season is over. At home the other animals worry that Lightfoot has finally met his end, but then he returns. He is welcomed home, and quite relieved that the hunting season is over. Then Lightfoot discovers another deer has come into his forest; he follows a female about then meets a rival male, has a fight, and wins his wife. The story ends rather abruptly with Lightfoot showing off to his new companion, then suddenly makes mention of Blacky the Crow needing his story told. Not quite as smooth as the stories usually end. I also found it curious that all the animals seem to love Lightfoot the deer, it was often said the forest would never be the same if he were gone, and yet I've hardly met him at all before in the pages of Burgess' stories.

Read this one on my kindle.

rating: 3/5 ........ 72 pages, 1921 ........ find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

Jul 20, 2012

The Adventures of Old Granny Fox

by Thornton W. Burgess

More than any other Burgess book I've read, this one is about relationships. Old Granny Fox and the young Reddy are having a tough time finding food in the winter. Reddy Fox is quite the know-it-all and even mocks the older fox when he doesn't understand what she's doing but Granny is remarkably patient and shows him that he still has a lot to learn. Reddy despairs that they can't find any food in the snow. Granny shows him how to perform for ducks and take the farm dog's dinner, but when they've exhausted every other means of getting food they resort to stealing hens. She makes quite a point out of the fact that the foxes only take the hens because they're starving so that's okay even though it's stealing; the humans have plenty of food so they can spare a few chickens. The raid on the chicken coop is a big event in the book; even here Reddy is overeager and Granny Fox must teach him to be patient, to wait until it's perfectly safe, to stay away afterwards so they have a chance to get hens again at a later date. However most of the story seemed to be about lessons on respecting your elders and having a willingness to learn. It even seems that things have finally sunk in for Reddy Fox; at one point he finds a fish to eat and even though he's starving he thinks of Granny Fox waiting at home, unable to hunt for herself and he takes the food back to her. It was a wonderful change of heart for him, this feisty little fox who usually only thinks of himself.

rating: 3/5 ........ 202 pages, 1920 ......... find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

Jul 16, 2012

The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk

by Thornton W. Burgess

Jimmy Skunk is one of those animals in the forest who doesn't have many worries, as everyone is afraid of his terrible smell and goes out of their way to avoid bothering him. When Peter Rabbit finds the skunk sleeping in an old barrel, he thinks he's found a perfect opportunity to play a prank on Jimmy without anyone knowing who did it. Peter contrives to get the skunk in trouble with Reddy Fox, but finds the aftermath of his prank puts himself in a very uncomfortable situation. So he learns his lesson. And Jimmy makes a point of coming back to chastise Peter for instigating the trouble between him and the fox, when he finds out who was really responsible. The second half of the book tells of Jimmy Skunk and Unc' Billy Possum getting themselves into the farmer's henhouse where they are annoyed to discover the eggs have already been gathered. So they end up squabbling with each other, and are caught when the farmer's boy comes in the morning to feed the chickens. Jimmy Skunk has no fear of the farmer's boy and just marches out of the henhouse when he opens the door; the possum plays his trick of being dead but the boy isn't fooled. The boy has been particularly good-natured towards the animals in these last few stories; here he simply lets the possum go after showing it off to both his hound dog and his mother.

rating: 3/5 ........ 87 pages, 1918 ........ find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

Jul 15, 2012

The Adventures of Bobby Raccoon

by Thornton W. Burgess 

Another little Burgess book, which tells about some hard times for a raccoon. Bobby Coon is snoozing in his hole in a tree one day when disaster strikes and his home is destroyed. Not only that, but he gets injured and is terrified when the farmer's boy catches him and ties him down. The boy means no harm and is only treating his injuries but Bobby doesn't know that. He pines away while confined and is relieved to be released at last. Now homeless, he wanders around in search of a place to rest. He tries several times to appropriate other animals' homes, but of course is pushed out and must move on. Then he finds a hollow stump to sleep in, but his rest is rudely interrupted by some noisy crows and a visit from Buster Bear. Finally he finds a place that seems both dry, safe and unoccupied. He's dismayed at who his new neighbors are, though! What stood out in the book this time wasn't the little lessons on being fair and so forth, but the very nature of Bobby Coon. Whenever cornered or feeling threatened, he would growl and snarl and try his best to look fierce. I could just picture a real coon acting like that!

 rating: 3/5 ........76 pages, 1918 ........ find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

Jul 14, 2012

From the Ground Up

by Amy Stewart

I think this is the first time ever that I've read a book immediately upon receiving it. I got a copy of this through Paperback Swap, and when it arrived starting thumbing through it curiously to see what it was like. But then instead of putting it on my TBR shelf where most books sit for weeks, months, even years, I set aside my current read to immerse myself in this one.

It was delightful. Amy Stewart tells about living in a small beachside town and growing her first garden, with all the discoveries that entails. Parts are about the weather, the neighbors, the summer influx of tourists. But mostly it's about the garden: how she learned to feed her soil, how she moved from just growing pretty flowers into vegetables, how she picked up ideas from touring estates with beautiful manicured gardens. I appreciate that gardeners seem unashamed of writing and telling the world about their mistakes, and really you can learn a lot from that. I've made many of the same ones she has, like not testing my soil (still guilty of that). She discusses composting (both the traditional kind and also with worms), design, battles with bugs, the contoversy of cats in the garden. Growing tomatoes, oranges and basil. The thrills of saving your own seed, and collecting seed from others. Her disinterest in houseplants until she discovered orchids. The satisfaction of eating your homegrown produce, and finally the delightful problem of having surplus vegetables on your hands when the garden is finally in full swing.

It was a wonderful read that made me feel guilty for not being fully invested in my garden this year- mine's rather shabby as I'm kept busy with a toddler just learning to walk. I just can't quite focus as much but Stewart reminded me of so much I want to do better with next year.

rating: 4/5 ........ 261 pages, 2001 ........ find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

more opinions:
Stay At Home Bookworm
Who Needs Gauge
Life on Two Acres

Jul 13, 2012

Hyenas

by Gloria G. Schlaepfer

This juvenile non-fiction book about hyenas is a lot more detailed and fact-filled than the previous one. It doesn't create a narrative, but is just as easy to read. Geared towards older kids, I'd say. The book not only discusses hyenas' roles as scavengers, but also their social structure, how they raise their young, and threats to their survival (mostly due to people unreasonably fearing or hating them). In actuality, the book informs young readers, most hyenas hunt for themselves and only the smaller less abundant brown and striped hyenas are mainly scavengers. The aardwolf eats termites. I haven't seen many books that talk about the aardwolf; I don't think I was even aware they belong to the hyena family before. It was nice to see a very informative book that includes the less well-known species.

rating: 4/5 ........ 48 pages, 2011 ........ find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

Jul 12, 2012

The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat

by Thornton W. Burgess

It completely escaped my attention that I hadn't written about this book, which I read some weeks if not months ago, until I searched for my post to link to from Paddy the Beaver, and couldn't find it! So I'm amending that omission now.

This little book has two main storylines, both featuring Jerry Muskrat. In the first part, Jerry gets his tail pinched in a trap the farmer's boy left near the pond. His mother had warned him about traps, but he was careless. Soon the animals discover many traps and Grandfather Frog teaches them how to find the traps and avoid or spring them so they can stay safe (which greatly puzzles the farmer's boy). They are all duly warned not to take food they find lying around where it usually isn't, especially very delicious food, as it is often a trap. Some of them have to get hurt before they really learn to be cautious.

In the second half of the book, the animals discover that the pool of water that makes their home is shrinking. Alarmed, several of them set off on a journey upstream to find out what the trouble is. Among them is Spotty the Turtle, and here the tale echoes the old Aesop's fable of the tortise and the hare. The other animals get distracted along the journey and stop for one reason or another, but Spotty just keeps plodding along so even though he's the slowest, he is the first to reach the source of trouble and find out what it is.

Now the animals meet Paddy the Beaver and they are all intimidated his great size and the massive dam he's built. They want Jerry Muskrat to talk to Paddy about the problems he's causing; they figure the beaver might listen to Jerry since he's Paddy's little cousin. Jerry is nervous at first, but he gets his courage up to approach Paddy and finds that the beaver is a nice guy after all. A solution to the problem is found, but it's quite different to the one presented in another book about Paddy the Beaver!

rating: 3/5 ........ 90 pages, 1914 ......... find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

The Adventures of Paddy the Beaver

by Thornton W. Burgess

Paddy the Beaver, whom I've met in another Burgess storybook, The Adventures of Jerry Muskrat, is a newcomer to the forest who keeps to himself. But all the other creatures soon know he's there and come to see him, as his activities influence them all. The first thing he does upon deciding to live in their forest is, of course, build a dam. Which reduces the spring to a trickle and the pond to a puddle and the other animals are understandably upset. Paddy assures the others that once his dam is finished, the stream and pond will fill with water again. And they do: when the pond is at the depth he wants, the water flows over it and runs down the brook again. The other creatures are satisfied and come to visit Paddy. Some are quite critical of his apparent destruction in cutting down trees; others of his building methods, until they see the finished product and are properly impressed. Paddy is a nice fellow. He keeps his opinions to himself, is always pleasant to others and even flatters the annoying blue jay who then proves himself to be a staunch friend instead of a pest like he is to most critters.

What took me aback was how the story differs from the scenario presented in Jerry Muskrat. In that story the stream had also died to a trickle, several animals traveled to its source to find the problem, and discovered Paddy building a dam. They complained about how he was ruining their homes downstream and so the beaver reconsidered, tore out his dam and moved somewhere else. As Burgess frequently makes mention of previous storylines in his books, linking them all together, again I'm not quite sure why this one is different. Did he want to change the beaver story, give it an alternate possibility? did he simply forget that the scenario was a little different before? Hm.

Like with all his other nature books for children, Burgess has infused this one with some good lessons. Here he makes a case for the merits of hard work, good planning, not making quick judgements on first impressions, trusting one's friends, teamwork and the wisdom of often keeping your opinions to yourself.

rating: 3/5 ........ 180 pages, 1917 ........ find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

Jul 11, 2012

The Quest for the Tree Kangaroo

by Sy Montgomery

A kangaroo that lives in trees? That's what I thought when I saw this book on display. I like the author as well, so of course I had to pick it up. Sy Montgomery was part of a team that accompanied researcher Lisa Dabek into the remote cloud forests of Papa New Guinea to study these arboreal marsupials. There are ten species of tree kangaroo, which do hop but are excellent climbers with long curved claws and thick prehensile tails. They are pretty muich unknown to science. Lisa's team was the first to safely capture some tree kangaroos (the local people used to eat them), radio-collar them and study their movements. The book describes in detail how the team was organized and all the hard (and often dirty) work they did that led up to the wondrous moment of locating their first kangaroo. The gorgeous photographs and descriptive text wonderfully evoke a very distinct place on earth (Papa New Guinea has about 400 bird species, 60 mammals and 6,000 kinds of plants found nowhere else on Earth- and new ones are still being discovered!)

Not only is this book a good adventure story about a faraway, incredibly unique place, and the discovery of an amazing animal, but it's also a great introduction for kids about the work that field science actually entails.

Borrowed from the public library. Now I'm looking for Sy Montgomery's book about the pink river dolphins!

rating: 4/5 ........ 79 pages, 2006 ......... find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

more opinions:
 Jean Little Library
brooke dycus
Children's Literature Reviewed by Kathy Yale

Lolita

by Vladimir Nabokov

My computer was down for a few days so I have a backlog of book posts to catch up on, but I'll start with the most recent one, a book I gave up on: Lolita. I'd been wondering for a long time if I even wanted to try reading Lolita, because I knew well what it was about: a pedophile professing his twisted ardor for a preteen girl he forces to basically be his sex slave. The only thing that made me curious about this book was that all those bloggers (see a few below) profess that despite the distasteful subject matter, the story was so well-written and such a fascinating character study of this disgusting man Humbert that it made good reading.

For the most part, they were right. The writing is very rich. In spite of what you know is really going on between this older man in a fatherly role and the twelve-year-old he is abusing, the revolting bits are never stating explicitly, and in fact you might even miss them because they are so casually mentioned between pages and pages of rambling lists and descriptions. It's really rather frustrating to read, actually. I'd rather have known more about what was happening, or more about Lolita herself; the bare glimpses you get of her through Humbert's endless dronings on about how lovely she is or describing all the hotels they stopped at or all the cars they saw or all the landmarks they visited etc etc are so obscure you never really know what she's thinking or feeling about all this. One moment it seems she is actually flirting with the creep, the next she's sobbing and protesting. Overall she comes across as a spoiled brat (he's constantly buying her gifts to keep her compliant), mouthing off, talking back, acting like a regular teenager. He's constantly paranoid that she's going to run away, or ogling her friends, or worrying about how to keep his obsession a secret. The first part, about how he weaseled his way into her family and became her stepfather, was interesting but then it gradually just got so dull I couldn't stand it anymore. Not that I wanted more details of a particular sort, I just wanted more story. Of course I suppose this is just to give the reader a picture of what it's like inside a depraved mind, but it was boring. I really did try to finish, because I wanted to know what happened to Lolita. I quit actually reading the book around page 180, then did some skimming, enough to find out

SPOILER ALERT highlight if you want to read the next paragraph

that she ends up in the hospital and then later on is married and has her own kid, escaped from Humbert's clutches and still it appears, communicating with him begging for money, and so on while keeping her distance. Unfortunately I didn't care anymore, not even enough to try and read the pages in between to learn how she got to that final place, much less interested in the agonies Humbert was going through being apart from her or the mess his life was afterwards.

Bah. O well. I didn't finish it, and I don't care. If somebody ever writes a book about Lolita from the girl's point of view, I might be interested in that, but just barely.

This is the first Nabokov book I've attempted to read, and I'm afraid it might also be the last. In the back of the edition I borrowed was a list of all his other titles with brief descriptions, and not a single one caught my interest.

Borrowed from the library.

Abandoned ......... 317 pages, 1955 ........ find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

more opinions:
Joyous Reads
Shelf Love
The Lost Entwife
Rachel.nu

Jul 7, 2012

What Is Green?

a colors book
by Kate Endle

Lovely little colors book that has double-page spreads featuring familiar objects of each hue. Orange has a fox, pumpkin, carrot etc. Green a leaf, frog, lime slice, and so on. The pictures are made from little cut paper collages, with stripes on the page margins of more patterns in the same color. They're cute little figures. What really caught my eye though, was the matching book of animals I saw on the feature page on Amazon. Reviewers say the animal book has beautiful illustrations, so I'd like to see that one too but of course must just take my chances at the library.

rating: 3/5 ........ 10 pages, 2010 ........ find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

more opinions:
 What Adrienne Thinks About That

Jul 5, 2012

Dolphins on the Sand

by Jim Arnosky

Gently beautiful pictures and simple descriptions detail the plight of a group of dolphins stranded on a beach. Unable to swim back to the safety of deep water when the tide goes out, the dolphins lie helpless as dark falls. They are discovered by a kyaker who goes for help and then a team of people arrives. They keep the dolphins wet, move them to a safer location, ward off sharks who know the dolphins will be weak, and finally release them back into the ocean. The book makes it clear to young readers what work is involved in saving stranded dolphins, as well as pointing out that we don't know why dolphins strand themselves, with a few theories. The pictures are lovely, and alternate between bright pastel colors when all is well and more sombre hues when the dolphins are in trouble. The details are nice, too- lots of local flora and fauna are pictured, as well as small decorative panels with seashells, bird footprints in the sand, etc. A nice touch.

rating: 4/5 ....... 32 pages, 2008 ........ find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

more opinions:
The World of Books

Jul 4, 2012

Hyenas

Animal Scavengers
by Sandra Markle

I browsed the J Non-fiction section of the library last week, in the nature section while my daughter was looking at books on outer space. Picked up a few about animals. This one tells about hyenas, particularly the brown hyena. In easy prose, it describes the daily life of one hyena as it searches for food and socializes with clan members, interspersing facts into the narrative. When the hyena bears a cub the story switches to follow the cub's growth and development until it is old enough to have its own offspring. All of which is illustrated with clear photographs- which is why I borrowed up the book, really. To do some sketching. I think this book is from the same series as the zebra one I read a few years back- a good solid series introducing kids to wildlife.

rating: 3/5 ........ 40 pages, 2005 ....... find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

Jul 3, 2012

World's End

The Sandman
by Neil Gaiman

A pair of co-workers driving late at night and things start to go strange. Snow starts falling- in June? Then something strange runs across the road, the driver veers aside and the car crashes. Struggling through the snowstorm with his injured passenger, quickly disorientated and lost. The two find haven in a large inn that is full of strange customers also waiting out the storm. Folk who look like elves and centaurs, as well as normal humans, but all hail from different worlds. Apparently the storm raging has affected reality, so they were all misdirected to this inn. To pass the time they tells stories, varied and curious. Some even have other stories contained within them.

There are stories of voyages and adventures, of misdeeds and politicking, of people who deal closely with death, and others who have the most ordinary humdrum lives (with little to tell). One is of a woman masquerading as a man. My favorite was the story of the dreaming city, even though I'm not really fond of cityscapes myself. The Sandman, or sometimes his sister Death, make the briefest of appearances on these pages. And I'm still puzzling about what the procession was they all viewed at the end- was it for Orpheus' death? I guess I might find out in the next volume...

rating: 3/5 ........ 168 pages, 1994......... find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

more opinions:
Rabbit Ears Book Blog 
who else?

Jul 1, 2012

Brief Lives

The Sandman
by Neil Gaiman

I quite liked this seventh volume of Sandman. Unlike many of the other volumes I've read, it doesn't have stand-alone stories but one continual narrative. Another plus is that it focuses on the character of Dream and his siblings, rather than having Dream as a minor (but often very key) character who comes in near the end of a story. The broad sweep of it is that Dream's younger sister Delirium has decided to seek out their brother Destruction, who abandoned his realm and went missing hundreds of years ago. First Delirium asks for help from Despair and Desire, then she approaches Dream. Rather unlike him, he agrees to go on a journey through the waking world to aid her search. But it turns out he has his own motives, and doesn't really want to find his brother at all. He gets tired of the search and wants to call it off; she gets upset and sulks; Dream is convinced to make amends, and when they finally do find Destruction he comes to terms with facing his son Orpheus as well....

Maybe most of that doesn't make sense, I fear. Well, what I liked about it was Delirium. I think she's my favorite character. She talks in a random half-steam-of-consciousness way and acts like a child bouncing from one idea to the next and it's charming rather than irritating (to me). You'd think this would make their search end prematurely but surprisingly she sticks to her goal and doesn't forget why they're searching. Quite often the things she says make connections that illuminate problems or solutions. There's a subtle mystery as to why all the people Dream and Delirium seek (their brother's friends) in their journey disappear or die before they can reach them- a fact that makes Dream want to abandon the whole endeavor. A lot of the themes in this book have to do with change, resisting or accepting it or adjusting to it.... I'm afraid I'm not making this very coherent, probably due to being tired. I'll just say again that liked it, better than the last few volumes. I liked the characters more than ever. Read some of the other reviews listed below for better analysis.

rating: 3/5 ......... 168 pages, 1992 ........ find it at Powell's Books or on Amazon

more opinions:
Incurable Bluestocking
Rabbit Ears Book Blog
Mark Reads the Sandman 
University City Public Library Book Challenge

winner

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