Sep 24, 2017

second half overdue TBR

List of books I will have to be lucky to come across someday (not available at my library).
Mountain by Ursula Pflug- Indextrious Reader
Wind Rider by Susan Williams- Snips and Snails
Bohunk Road by Hope Moritt- Indextrous Reader
Dinosaur Tales by Ray Bradbury- Opinions of a Wolf
Wicked Weeds by Pedro Cabiya- Work in Progress
Specimen Stories by Irina Kovalyova- Indextrious Reader
Magnus by Sylvie Germain- Work in Progress
The Night Visitor by Lucy Atkins- Farm Lane Books Blog
Love Lessons by Joan Wyndham- Reading the End
Waterlily by Ella Cara Deloria- The Lost Entwife
Of Men and Monsters by William Tenn- James Reads Books
Gone to Pot by Jennifer Craig- Indextrious Reader
Kalyna by Pam Clark- Indextrious Reader
Someone at a Distance by Dorothy Whipple- Shelf Love
A Spare Life by Lidija Dimkovska- Work in Progress
In the Garden of Iden by Kage Baker- Reading the End
Shattered Shields edited by Jennifer Brozek -Snips and Snails
Earning My Spots by Mark Eastburn- Snips and Snails
Bear by Marian Engle- Indextrious Reader
The Farm in the Green Mountains by Herdan-Zuckmayer- Work in Progress
The Beasts of Tabat by Cat Rambo- Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales
The Weigher by Vanicoff and Martin- Snips and Snails and Puppy Dog Tales
Wild Urban Plants of the Northeast by Thomas Christopher
All the Real Indians Died Off by Roxane Dunbar-Ortiz and Dina Gilio-Whitaker- Reading the End

way overdue TBR

I have not compiled a TBR list in seven months. So as you can imagine the list is very long. I have broken it up into two posts, this time. This one has the books I can find at my public library.
The Guest Cat by Takashi Hiraide- James Reads Books
The Wanderers by Meg Howry- Farm Lane Books Blog
A High Wind in Jamaica by Richard Hughs- Shelf Love
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough- Melody's Reading Corner
The Book of Joan by Lidia Yuknavitch- So Many Books
The Zoo at the Edge of the World by Eric Kahn Gale- Snips and Snails
Babel-17 by Samuel Delaney- James Reads Books
In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden- Reading the End
The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben- So Many Books
Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith - Caroline Bookbinder
Shrill by Lindy West- Bookfoolery
A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse- James Reads Books
The Last Neanderthal by Claire Cameron- Indextrious Reader
I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong- Caroline Bookbinder
The Survivor's Club by Michael Bornstein- Bookfoolery
Uprooted by Naomi Novik- Musings of a Bookish Kitty
The Owl That Fell From the Sky by Brian Gill- library catalog
The Wild Robot by Peter Brown- James Reads Books
The Last One by Oliva Alexandra- Snips and Snails and Bookfool
Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis- Bookfoolery
Hammer Head by Nina MacLaughlin- Sophisticated Dork
Monstress by Marjorie M. Liu- Musings of a Bookish Kitty
Tell Me How it Ends by Valeria Luiselli- Shelf Love
Gulp by Mary Roach- Ardent Reader
The Chicken Chronicles by Alice Walker- So Many Books
Birds, Art, Life by Kyo Maclear- Indextrious Reader
If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo- Caroline Bookbinder
This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki- Caroline Bookbinder
No Man's Land by Simon Tolkien- Bookfoolery
The Cloud Roads by Martha Wells- Read Warbler
Do No Harm by Henry Marsh- Caroline Bookbinder
Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada- So Many Books
The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanigahara - Reading the End
Etched on Me by Jenn Crowell- Musings of a Bookish Kitty
War and Turpentine by Stephan Hertmans- Work in Progress
The Wolf's Boy by Susan Williams Behold- Snips and Snails
The Wild Places by Robert Macfarlane- Shelf Love
Tangles a Story About Alzheimer's by Sarah Leavitt- Indextrious Reader
Animal Madness by Laurel Braitman- site
Brief Histories of Everyday Objects by Andy Warner- Caroline Bookbinder
North Face by Mary Renault- Read Warbler
Tea Girl of Hummingbird Lane by Lisa See- Melody's Reading Corner
Evicted by Desmond Matthew- Shelf Love
My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul- Book Chase
Radium Girls by Kate Moore- Caroline Bookbinder
Cultivating an ecological conscience by Frederick Kirschenmann- So Many Books
We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Fowler- Shelf Love and Reading the End
Girl Who Circumnavigated the World in a Ship of Her Own Making by Valente- C Bkbndr

Sep 22, 2017

Journey on the James

Three Weeks through the Heart of Virginia
by Earl Swift

It was written because a journalist decided to paddle a canoe the entire length of the James River- from one of its beginning trickles of a stream- the Jackson- high in the mountains -down to the broad river mouth. Twenty-two days, some four hundred and thirty miles. The first part of it he hiked alongside the stream, then tried floating an inner tube (the water was usually too shallow at first). Canoed most of it and kayaked the last day when water infused with tide and buffeted by wind got too choppy. He talks about finding ways around dams, and muses on pollution probably caused by the paper mills, power plants, factories, etc on the water's edge. Talks about devastating floods from times past. I liked the parts about the personal river trip, the efforts to find camp sites (glimpses of wildlife were brief. I bet the creature that stole their cup was a raccoon), arrange portages, even just locate food in the small towns they passed through. He had a photographer accompanying him in a car- to meet up at prearranged points along the river, document the trip with photos, etc. There's brief descriptions of local folks they meet along the way, and a lot more about deserted towns- gradually abandoned when river travel gave way to rail and highways- and local history. Especially revolutionary war history. I wanted to read it mostly because I like canoeing myself (I know what he's talking about when he describes the estimated paddling difficulty by class levels), enjoy the descriptions of scenery, and thought it would be nice to learn a bit of Virginia history (since I didn't grow up here, I didn't get that in school). But for some reason the last forty pages were hard to get through- it just wasn't quite as engaging anymore.

It was originally a local newspaper series. What I gather from the notes in the back is that a lot of the history stuff was added in, to flesh it out in book form. For a book detailing a day-to-day river trip, especially with all the historical points of interest, it really could have used a map. And I was a bit surprised at how few photos were included- considering he had a photographer along.

Rating: 3/5                    239 pages, 2001

Sep 21, 2017

The Lion and the Puppy and Other Stories

by Leo Tolstoy

I don't remember where I once came across this collection of short stories by Tolstoy- must have been from a library when I attended college or in the years soon after. The stories were actually written in the 1850's when Tolstoy established a school for local peasant children at his estate and himself wrote a primer to teach them reading. His fables were not re-tellings of Russian folktales, but original material. The stories are in the style of Aesop's fables- each with an obvious moral. They don't all have happy endings- in some the lesson is brought home because one of the animals or characters dies... One was of a wolf visiting a dog- the wolf asks the dog how he is so well-fed and the dog invites him home to share in the duties of guarding the farmhouse, and also the meals provided by his master. The starving wolf is agreeable until he notices a worn spot around the dog's neck from being tied up at night. The wolf changes his mind, deciding he'd rather be hungry and free than well-fed in chains. I also recall the title story where an unwanted puppy was thrown into a lion's cage in a zoo- and instead of eating the puppy (as was intended) the lion befriended it. I wish I could remember more of them better, or find another copy of the book to read again.

Rating: 3/5              76 pages, 1989

Sep 18, 2017

Pacific Marine Fishes Book 2

fishes of southern japan and the western pacific
by Dr. Warren E. Burgess and Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod

This book is a continuation of Pacific Marine Fishes Book 1, in fact it uses the same index and the pagination starts at 283. Here there are anemone fishes and damsels, scats, mullets, herrings, sardines, razorfishes, needlefishes, the archerfish! a few seahorses, flying fishes, squirrelfishes, soldier fishes, perches, goatfish, sweetlips, moray eels, two types of batfish (completely unrelated), more kinds of angelfish, surgeonfishes and lots of butterfly fishes. Triggerfish and filefish. Puffers, boxfish and cowfish. Jacks, porgies, snappers and nibblers. Many wrasse, basslets, gobies and blennies.  Parrotfishes and scorpionfish. Hawkfish, catfish, sharks and wobbegongs. Sea robins and pearlfishes, lionfish, frogfish and porcupine fish. Rays, gunards, knifejaws and many more. They sure do have curious names, don't they- and even more curious shapes and patterns. I did not know there were so many kinds of cardinal fish- the two I am familiar with are the pajama cardinal fish and the banggai cardinalfish. Here eight others are pictured- and one of them- Bleeker's- has the only double-page spread in the entire book. The fish pictured left of center on the cover- a devil stinger- looks like someone took a bite out of its face. Some of the fish in this book are repeats of species featured in Book 1- but shown again because much better photos were provided. In particular, the images of the psychedelic fish and the mandarin fish in here, while not as vivid as what you can find online, are much improved over the first volume. There are many detailed illustrations for fish species of which no clear photos were available. I didn't find the text quite as interesting as before- but still read it through.

Rating: 3/5                 277 pages, 1973

Sep 16, 2017

The Lady and the Sharks

by Eugenie Clark

The author of this book was a famed marine biologist who began her career simply because she was so passionate about diving and interested in fishes. In the 1950's she was invited to set up and run a marine laboratory on the coast of Florida, now the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium. It started out as just a small dock and one building where she and a few colleagues would collect, identify and study specimens they collected of various marine life. She was known for spearing fish but obtained many specimens by offering to take the bycatch or "trash fish" off the hands of fishermen in nearby waters. One chapter delightfully explains how she learned to catch small territorial fishes in a glass jar. She would dive down to the area where the fish lived, and gently chase them to study their habitual routes through the territory, and what corners they would dart around to hide when pressed. Then situate a jar around a hidden corner of the usual escape path, and later return to follow the fish until it naturally swam around the corner into its hideyhole- which was now a glass prison.

There are many pages describing dissections and what they learned from the anatomy or stomach contents of fish, particularly sharks which were her speciality. But they also caught fish alive and studied their behavior in aquariums, made films underwater and most famously, build a pen on the shore where they kept sharks. At first just intending to solve some mysteries about basic shark biology- they had rarely been seen to mate, for example, and nobody knew what these structures called abdominal pores were for. Then Eugenie was curious to find out if a shark could learn. So she set up experiments to test their ability to press a target and ring a bell to get a food reward, and to distinguish between targets of different shapes, patterns and colors. Reading about the experiments was my favorite part. A female shark gave birth in the pen, and they promptly began behavioral studies on the pups. They found that a young nurse shark could learn as quickly as a typical mouse in a lab!

A lot of the book is about the work it took to set up the laboratory, difficulties in keeping tresspassers who wanted to show off to their friends from harming her live sharks, how her young children were involved at the lab (she thought all children should show a healthy curiosity in watching a parent clean fish or a whole chicken for dinner, and get a natural lesson in anatomy!), her work involving and educating the public, and many interesting discoveries in the field of ichthyology. I liked reading about the gobies, garden eels, manta rays, hermaphroditic serranus fish and others just as much as the sharks. There are many written descriptions of diving experiences- her favorite activity. One very curious chapter describes a dive into deep sinkholes in the Salt Springs and Warm Springs of Florida- where she and some other divers discovered human remains. Their most spectacular find was a skull that appeared to contain mineralized brain tissue estimated to be 10,000 years old. Eugenie reports that they attempted many times to convince archaeologists to come study the site, but their claim to have found a fossilized brain was scoffed at and their announcements of the find were ridiculed and ignored. Now the site is considered an important site and under study! I found a few articles about it online, including one here and here- the William Royal mentioned in the second article is the man Bill Royal whom Eugenie dove with. Of course she herself is not mentioned in these articles. Reading her vivid description of what it was like to dive in that sinkhole is particularly eerie- especially when she writes about experiencing nitrogen narcosis, which sounds incredibly frightening.

Needless to say, I want to get hold of her earlier memoir, Lady with a Spear- it's sad my public library only has books about Eugenie Clark, not a single one by her!

Rating: 4/5            269 pages, 1969

LIFE Wonders of Life

the Amazing World of Nature
Time, Inc. edited by Robert Sullivan

I read quite a few magazines, but I never thought of writing about one on my blog before. We have subscriptions to National Geographic and Tropical Fish Hobbyist and I sometimes collect back issues of Amazonas or Aquarium Fish International. So often when there's a long gap here between book reviews, it's because I'm reading a pile of magazines!

This particular one felt more like a book, though. I was leafing through it with interest when visiting my parents once, and my dad let me bring it home. I originally intended to sketch from the stunning photographs- a collection of quality images from major microstock sites. But I ended up actually reading the volume. It's basically a showcase of amazing and curious wildlife and plants from across the world. Neatly divided, the first half of the publication shows plants, and the second half animals. The biggest, the smallest, the ugliest, most beautiful, strange, bizzare and downright dangerous. Whatever makes something stand out. I was familiar with most of the living things presented in these pages- giant sequoias, lionfish, aspen groves, sundews and pitcher plants, even the surprisingly maternal poison dart frog, unbelievably durable tardigrade and shockingly odiferous corpse flower. But I had never heard of the yareta- a tiny plant from Peru that grows in huge masses, which remind me of a mineral specimen in my husband's collection called mottramite! I didn't know about the megamouth shark, the Barbados threadsnake, or the smallest lizard- a dwarf gecko from the Dominican Republic. So there were quite a few things I looked up online to learn more about. The writing is brief, and a bit corny- I guess the humorous asides comparing things to popular culture and sports was intended to appeal to a broad audience, but it made me wonder at the age of this publication- I was a bit surprised to look and find it was written just three years ago. My six-year-old looked at the pictures with me, but she found the image on the last page disturbing- of a preserved two-month human fetus within a membrane.

Oh, and Giant George is in here.

Rating: 3/5                     Vol 13 No. 24 Dec 2013

Sep 11, 2017

Vulpes the Red Fox

by Jean Craighead George
and John George

Life of a fox, in the woods of Maryland. He is a regular animal hero- the smartest one of his litter, the terror of small creatures, a clever trickster who enjoys fooling the hounds. At an early age he sees his siblings fall- one is caught by an owl as a young pup, another snared in a trap when they are a little older. Vulpes remembers keenly the lessons from these tragedies. He meets the challenges of the wild with skill and bravery. The story shows his interaction with other wildlife, how he he finds a mate and helps raise the cubs. But must always evade those who hunt him- man. Many scenes are from the viewpoint of men who live near the same woods- trappers and hunters keen to catch our furry protagonist. It's a nice touch that the author uses the scientific identity of all the wild animals in the story as their name- easy way to get kids to learn them.

This was another one the library system recommended to me. But- I tried three times to get through it- and it just wasn't holding my attention. I ended up skimming the majority of the book. It's one of those written for younger readers and the lack of detail, rapid advances in the story and very humanlike powers of reasoning attributed to animals just didn't work for me this time. If you must know: death is frequent, but not lingered upon or described in detail. (The fox meets his end abruptly, via a hunter's gun).

The wash illustrations done by the author herself are quite nice- here's two of my favorites. It was her first published work.

Abandoned         240 pages, 1948

Sep 5, 2017

Pax

by Sara Pennypacker

Twelve-year-old Peter loves his pet fox, Pax. He has a particularly strong emotional attachment to it- he found the baby fox barely alive in a den after its mother was struck by a car. This was just after his own mother had died in a car accident. The bond between them is strong, and the fox has never known any other life than beside his boy. Now war is coming. Peter's father enlists in the military; Peter is sent off to live with his grandfather. He feels sure his fox will not survive in the woods alone, and runs away to go back and get him. But meets with his own accident along the way, that threatens to hold him up indefinitely. Meanwhile, Pax has run into all the challenges of the wild: finding food, avoiding bad weather, meeting wild foxes who claim their own turf. Will the two ever be reunited?

I wanted to like this book, but about a third of the way through felt my interest slowly lagging. It just doesn't hold up to the style of recent reads. Something about the storyline made me think it was set during an earlier era- WWII? but the conversations between people feels perfectly modern. So I was never sure about the place and time. Maybe it's mean to be anytime, anyplace... The chapters alternate between the boy's perspective and the fox. I liked most of what I read about the fox- but a lot of its behavior was more reminiscent of a dog- the devoted loyalty to his owner. And the way the foxes communicate with thoughts conveyed by gesture and scent but expressed in short sentences- I understood how the author was trying to portray that, but it didn't quite work for me. Ah, well. It's written for middle-grade readers, after all. By the way: for that age group, it may be a bit stark. There's quite a bit of bloodshed, suffering and death, especially for the foxes.

My public library's website now has a feature that suggests titles to me based on what I've checked out before. Usually I ignore it, but since I read a J fiction book about a fox, it recommended a few more to me. This one caught my eye because I recognized the illustration on the cover- I have really liked the picture books by Jon Klassen. But this is a chapter book, not a picture book. Most of the illustrations inside are small, there are a total of four full-sized ones, and they're all black and white. I think what really appeals to me about Klassen's illustrations is his use of muted earth tones; that effect is totally lost in the monochrome reproductions.

Abandoned               276 pages, 2016

Sep 4, 2017

Pacific Marine Fishes Book 1

fishes of southern japan and the ryukyus
by Warren Burgess and Dr. Herbert R. Axelrod

This book is a catalog of fish species. It's the first of an impressive series of ten volumes that aimed to describe every known species in the Pacific- many which -at the time- had never been photographed before. I have to admit some of the photos are rather poor quality- the fish so deftly camouflaged against the background you can barely see it, or the photo just blurry and indistinct. But the majority are stunning, especially when you consider their age. I thought the descriptions might be strictly scientific or dull, but it's actually interesting reading- each section tells of the known distinguishing characteristics of the fish. Including physical features, curious feeding habits, mating behavior, methods of finding food, avoiding predators, raising the young (or not) and the like. Brief enough that you remained fixated on the reason you opened the book: to ogle the vast array of pictures (489 color plates). It's particularly nice that there are repeated images of the same species- some show the difference between males and females, or how juveniles change into adults, or just individual variations. I was really intrigued by the first set of pictures, showing how several kinds of marine angelfishes morph from juvenile colors into adult form. I knew that they change appearance completely- but not how. Here the intermediate stages are shown- with one color form and pattern overlaying the other on the fish's sides. Sometimes the photos were able to show a series of the exact same individual, as it was reared in captivity. Visually fascinating.

I found this series quite by chance: I was at the lfs for the first time and wasn't ready to buy fish yet but wanted to purchase something to support this locally-owned shop. I saw two books sitting on a shelf and started thumbing through them. They looked quite old but I was really taken with the detail and quality of the photographs: I wanted those books. However the owner said Oh No, those aren't for sale, they are from my own personal collection! So I came home and looked them up on amzn, bought the first few volumes to see if they were keepers. So far, definitely.

Rating: 4/5                  280 pages, 1972

Sep 1, 2017

Yotsuba&!

Volume 13
by Kiyohiko Azuma

Back home from camping, Yotsuba wants to give 'souvenirs' from her trip to Asagi- but they're odd things like a stick she found in the woods, and a giant pinecone. Asagi is surprised, but gracious about it. Yotsuba convinces Fuuka to take her to a park with a sandbox- where her make-believe games really bemuse the older girl. The younger friends she meets up with play right along. The main event, which takes up most of the book, is a visit from her Grandma. At first it seems her grandmother is rather tight-lipped and stern- "Grandma has an angry face, but she's not angry! It's just that way!" she explains to one of her friends. As the story progresses you see she really does have a kind heart and cares for Yotsuba. She teaches Yotsuba some cooking and cleaning skills, and the names of birds they see on walks. Yotsuba tries her best to be a good helper and meet with Grandma's approval, although it is hard for her and she throws a few tantrums when things don't go her way. In the end, Grandma has to leave much sooner than Yotsuba would like. She has difficulty dealing with that as well, but Koiwai and his mother calmly handle her outburst. Such dear people.

I'm sad this is the last Yotsuba book available. It's been a lot of fun. I like this series better than Bunny Drop- there's none of that drifting into uncomfortable territory as the kid grows up. Yotsuba is a lot more lighthearted, and more focused on simply what it's like to be a kid- meeting everything with enthusiasm, expecting life to be good, making up funny connections and explanations for things. Yotsuba's motto: enjoy everything!

Rating: 3/5              224 pages, 2015

Aug 30, 2017

Yotsuba&!

Vols 11 and 12
by Kiyohiko Azuma

Yotsuba loves noodles. She wanders down the street by herself to an udon shop- and naturally wants to watch the old man make noodles. The shopowners kindly oblige until her dad shows up! She tries pizza for the first time- it is amazing. Yanda comes over- and everyone hides. Haha. For the first time he gets into Yotsuba's good graces- sort of- by bringing a variety of bubble wands. Many, and huge. Yotsuba goes with Fuuka and her friend to gather chestnuts- but the older girls- especially Asagi- are grossed out because many are infested with larvae. (I can so relate. We collected hickory nuts one year- never again). Yotsuba throws a temper tantrum when her dad won't let her use his new digital camera. He gets her a kid one and she goes out through the neighborhood taking pictures. She confronts a dog that has always frightened her on walks- and her teddy bear gets the worst of that encounter. Asagi gives the bear 'surgery' - Yotsuba is seriously sad while her bear is missing. Yanda tries to cheer her up- and of course that backfires, he only makes her mad. But she gets the idea to go 'visit' her bear while it is recovering, and all is well again.

It's fall in this volume. Yotsuba watches geese fly overhead, and Fuuka dresses her up as a pumpkin to play at Halloween- which nobody else is doing around them, it's not a real holiday there. Yotsuba sees Jumbo painting a small table at his flower shop; later at home she finds a can of blue paint and decides to paint stuff in her own house. Of course she gets in trouble, but instead of punishing her, Daddy just lets her suffer the natural consequences- she's horrified that the blue paint won't come off her hands, and everyone she meets going to the store and stuff can find out what she did. By the time he buys a product to help her get cleaned up, she's probably not going to do that again! Yotsuba gets a bike helmet- and thinks it makes her invincible to other things. She goes camping with her dad and his friends- Ena and Miura come along too. Yotsuba is upset at first that Yanda is part of the outing, but she gets over it- he is not quite as annoying this time. The camping episodes were my favorite part. The kids are awed by the tent, and enthralled with a hammock, and love cooking outside, and get introduced to roasted marshmallows, and enjoy the wide open spaces, sunrises, walks in the woods- all great stuff.

Rating: 3/5          224 pages each, 2011 and 2013 respectively

Aug 29, 2017

The Midnight Fox

by Betsy Byars

Tom is not the outdoorsy type. He reluctantly goes along with all the sports and activities his parents arrange, but really enjoys exercising his imagination, especially with his best friend. They make up dramatic headlines and news articles, otherworldly incidents to circumvent anything they don't want to do, questionnaires that will explain your personality and the like. Pretty funny, and it felt very real to what goes on inside a boy's head.

Tom resents being left at his aunt's farm for the summer while his parents travel, far from the city and his friend. He mopes around until one day happens to see a fox on the edge of a field. It is a melanistic phase- a black fox. Tom is captivated at the sight of the fox and hopes to see it again. He starts wandering around the woods with that intention, eventually finding the fox's den. But when something starts killing his aunt's turkeys and chickens, his uncle makes a plan to hunt down the fox...

It was a pretty good story. This one came to my attention because I saw it was compared to One-Eyed Cat. There are some distinct similarities, especially in the overall mood and how well the personality of the boy is written.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5                134 pages, 1968

Aug 28, 2017

Yotsuba&!

Vols 9 and 10
by Kiyohiko Azuma

I'm still enjoying these. Yotsuba tries to write a schedule for her day, but really gets the wrong idea- noting down every second, for things that can't really be predicted- but sure are important when you're little (like remembering to go to the bathroom). She gets a new teddy bear. Her manner of talking to the bear, and the kinds of names she makes up- so much like my own little girl. Her dad gets a new coffee grinder and Yotsuba thinks this is a grown-up's toy. In a way I guess she's right. She wants to share her dad's new coffee (it's supposed to be extra-good) with Fuuka next door, but always spills on her way over, no matter how careful. So one day the girls follow Yotsuba back to her house- they'll try the coffee there- of course Yotsuba has no qualms inviting them in, but Koiwai wasn't expecting company. The girls are a bit taken aback at seeing how a bachelor lives. Yotsuba gets to go see a hot-air balloon competition. Very impressive! Of course like all little kids she gets distracted, looks for fun elsewhere when the waiting is too long, and when the balloons arrive back in sight for the big finish, she is having too much fun sliding down a grassy hill to notice. So cute.

There's also several scenes were Yanda shows up again, inviting himself along on outings. The other two- Koiwai and Jumbo- kind of ignore him, question his antics, talk over him- I get the distinct impression they don't really like him but are being polite. I think he used to be one of their co-workers? Can't recall now, I am reading these books rather spaced apart. I keep expecting more explanation about Yotsuba's background, but there was none of that here. It is all about her now, in the moment.

In volume 10, Yotsuba plays house under her dad's desk- he tries to be patient but you can tell it makes it hard to work! She engages him in games where she makes up the rules- seemingly on-the-spot and in her favor. She helps her dad make pancakes, and that jerk Yanda walks in and mocks her efforts. Yotsuba gets frustrated and- because flipping pancakes is difficult, she tries harder- which means slamming them down on the stovetop. I laughed so hard both my kids came into the room to see what was so funny, so I read them that episode. My twelve-year-old said "I want to slam pancakes next time!" Nooo.

Jumbo sees photos of the outing Yotsuba and the girls went on to see the hot-air-balloons, and it becomes apparent he is jealous of Tora for always being in Asagi's company. Yotsuba really likes playing with the giant exercise ball Fuuka has, so Asagi lets her borrow it. She takes it home and throws it around- causing trouble! Her dad catches her out in a lie and takes her on a walk so she will confess in front of a shrine (for fear of the god). It was handled very well. She goes with Ena to Miura's house where she sees the pieces of the cardboard robot- which she still believes is real- so the older girls scramble to explain why it's there and make it appear to come back to life. She also rides an elevator for the first time. Lots of fun stuff.

I did find it a bit odd that in this volume, some of the pictures that show Yotsuba's handwriting, it's in english. I preferred to see it with the original japanese characters (as in previous volumes), with the translation next to the illustration. I don't know why that was changed.

Borrowed from the public library

Rating: 3/5          224 pages each, 2009 and 2010 respectively

Aug 27, 2017

They All Saw a Cat

by Brendan Wenzel

A cat takes a walk. A child sees it, impressed by the big round eyes. The following pages show how each animal it comes across, sees it in a very different way. To a dog the cat is a sneaky thing, to the fish a wide blur, to the mouse it is a horrible monster. The views get a bit more sophisticated as you advance through the book. Some creatures see it in black-and-white, others in a kaliedascope of color. A bee sees the cat as various dots, a worm feels it as vibrations through the ground, the snake senses the heat of its body. On the final page- how does the cat see itself?
This book is deceptively simple. The illustrations are bold, the words are repetitive. But that's part of the beauty of it- a young child will just enjoy the pictures and rhythm. An older kid will appreciate the insight into perceptions- not just about viewpoints, but about the different means by which a thing can be known. Art, science and kitties!
Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 4/5              44 pages, 2016

Aug 26, 2017

Mama, I Can't Sleep

by Brigitte Raab
Illustrations by Manuela Olten

My six-year-old over the past few months has had difficulty getting to sleep. I flipped through this book at the library and thought she would find it amusing- yep. It reminds her that she's not the only one having issues falling asleep- and makes her laugh!

The kid in the story says to her mom over and over: I can't sleep. Mom tells her to snuggle with her stuffed leopard and close her eyes, adding: "all creatures sleep. Even the real leopards in Africa-" and shares some fact about how leopards sleep. Next page, the kid complains she can't sleep- she tried to sleep like a leopard but it didn't work- so mom tucks her in again and tells her how storks sleep on one leg- you get the picture. Each time the kid tries sleeping like an animal: eyes open like a fish, surrounded by buddies like a duck, turning in circles like a dog. She finds out of course that animal sleep habits are not for kids, snuggled in a bed is best of all.

This book isn't about finding some strategy for bedtime (and we're mostly over needing that). You see through the pictures that the mother is going through her own bedtime routine, and on the last page when the kid finally says "I'm sleeping now!" mom is already snoozing next to her. It never shows the child actually falling alseep- which I found a tad annoying. But it's good for giggles.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5                32 pages, 2012

Aug 21, 2017

One-Eyed Cat

by Paula Fox

An old paperback on my shelf that I know I read once when I was a kid, but remembered almost nothing about. Decided to re-read it yesterday.

It takes place in the years just after the Great Depression- times are still rather hard, pleasures are simple. The main character, an eleven-year-old boy named Ned, enjoys walking in the woods and spends a lot of time at home. His father is parson in their small town, his mother is practically bed-ridden with a debilitating illness, and their housekeeper has a sharp tongue and airs of self-importance. Ned tries to please his father, worries about his mother, and usually avoids the housekeeper. He walks to school with his friends, sometimes squabbling with the other boys. He does chores and errands for an elderly man next door, slowly building up a friendship.

Then his visiting uncle gives him an air rifle for his birthday. Ned is eager to try it out on tin cans but his father disapproves of the gift and makes him put it away in the attic until he is older. Ned has always been obedient, but now he sneaks upstairs in the middle of the night and takes the gun outside. He just wants to handle it once; then promises to himself he'll put it away again. But he sees a shadow move by the corner of a building and takes a shot. Coming home again, he thinks he glimpses a face in an upstairs window- did someone see him? hear the shot? who was it? He feels guilty, but it's so much worse when later at the old man's house he sees a dirty, thin cat in the yard- with a missing eye. Ned is convinced he's responsible for the cat's injury. It is too wild to bring indoors but with the old man he tries to care for it- leaving out food, providing shelter. He worries what will happen to the cat when winter comes. Over the next eight months, guilt slowly eats away at him. His thoughts of the cat and his fault color everything around him, and he learns how hard it is to hold up a lie, when you don't know who might really know the truth...

This is a solemn story full of calm detail about relationships, the beauty of life, and the finality of death. The descriptions of the landscape, how people think and feel, are full of clarity. The ending feels a bit -flat- there's no huge resolution- just a few quiet conversations that maybe straighten things out, a glimpse of the cat that suggests to Ned how it might be doing- but he never is really sure. Life is like that, sometimes.

Rating: 3/5               216 pages, 1984

Aug 19, 2017

Yotsuba&!

Vols 7 and 8
by Kiyohiko Azuma

More fun: Yotsuba plays 'telephone' using plastic cups and string, with the girls nextdoor (inspiring me to do this with my youngest, who'd never seen such a thing). She goes bike riding with Ena and her friend- is amazed to see Miura's unicycle. Thinks Miura must be a princess because the apartment building she lives in is so huge -like a castle! (doesn't realize that many families live there). She's shocked to find out that Fuuka is going to bake a cake (thinks they only come from bakeries) and then disappointed how it turns out. Goes on an errand to buy lunch for herself and dad at the convenience store- but comes home with candy instead of his noodles. It's actually funny how that happened. She goes to visit a ranch with her dad and the gang- Yanda invites himself along- the other guys seem just annoyed at his presence but Yotsuba is incensed. And of course he teases her the whole time. The guys squabble like little kids. Yotsuba gets to milk a cow, annd punches a sheep- because it butted her first!

Volume throws you off at first- because Yotsuba decides to 'play opposites' where she says "I'm full!" for being hungry and so on. Ends up yelling "yucky!" in the middle of a restaurant, to the embarassment of the adults accompanying her. It's funny to me that she insists on using a knife and fork because it's "a fancy meal" and her dad says um, why don't you use something easier like chopsticks? But for us it would be the opposite! She goes with her dad to a cultural day at Fuuka's school- once again disappointed by the cake. It's touching to see how the girls scramble to find a way to please her- they really care about her, or just don't want to see her cry! There's a typhoon. Yotsuba thinks the powerful rain and wind is awesome, and wants to play out in it, not realizing the danger. Jumbo stays with her when her dad has to be away for work, and Yotsuba is upset when Yanda drops by- but the trouble he causes ends in good fun. There's a religious festival in town where the children help pull a dashi to the shrine- Yotsuba takes part with enthusiasm, but it seems only because she's promised candy in the end. Miura has a part to play in the festival where she dresses up in traditional finery, cementing Yotsuba's assumption that her friend is really a princess.

Two things at the end really made me laugh, because I can relate. Yotsuba sees a man at the festival wearing a traditional japanese loincloth- and thinks it's hilarious that "you can totally see his butt!" Later she's out to do shopping with her dad and gets completely sidetracked when they go through a park with oak trees- obsessed with picking up all the acorns she can find. This. My six-year-old.

Rating: 3/5      208 and 224 pages respectively, 2007

blogiversary

Ten years!! Still reading. I don't know what to say about it, that I haven't already. I should celebrate by curling up with a book for the rest of the day. Let's just say this:

Aug 17, 2017

Life Everlasting

the Animal Way of Death
by Bernd Heinrich

Nature recycles the nutrients of dead animals and plants into new life; that's what this book is about. The author carries out his own studies, making observations on his own land in Maine and Vermont- he deliberately set out mouse carcasses to see what burying beetles do when they find them. He dragged deer or cow carcasses into the woods and then watched to see which animals arrived when, what parts of the body they disposed of, and so on. He always hoped for a large gathering of vultures, but never got one. Also in a few different places in Africa he observed various kinds of dung-collecting beetles. There are beetles that bury mice, and others that consume bones. Subject jumps around somewhat- one chapter speculates on how early man must have been a hunter and tyranosaurus rex a scavenger; another on what exactly happens to a whale carcass when it sinks in the ocean, another ruminates on how salmon are "committing suicide" when they swim upstream to spawn. There's an entire chapter about how bark beetles, fungi and other organisms break down a tree. Of course seeing the author's lifelong fascination with corvids, there's a lot about ravens and crows throughout many chapters. I expected a bit more about coyotes, but there's not much beyond the mention that they open a carcass, making it available to crows and other scavenging birds (even large vultures can't break the skin by themselves).

He kind of lost me on the last few chapters- the idea that insects undergoing a complete transformation from larval stage into adult are actually two separate species that merged their genetic code long ago? wow, a new one for me. The final chapter that waxes philosophic on ideas of the afterlife- dipping briefly into several ancient cultures and then considering what are the options if you don't want to be buried in a casket or cremated (which adds lots of toxins to the atmosphere)- kind of lost my interest. But at that point, the book was done. It wasn't nearly as engaging as some of his other books I've read. I kept loosing interest and then coming back, so it took me a while to get through.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 2/5            236 pages, 2012

Aug 14, 2017

Yotsuba&!

Vols 5 and 6
by Kiyohiko Azuma

Yotsuba is kinda crazy with the reactions. Her eagerness and innocent misunderstandings get her into some funny situations too. In volume 5 Yotsuba meets a life-size robot at Ena's house. Miura likes to trick Yotsuba, and Asagi is still a tease, but the one who really gets to Yotsuba is an acquaintance of Koiwai's who shows up- he really messes with her. Yotsuba and the girls nextdoor go stargazing with her dad and Jumbo. There's a very mundane but still amusing episode where Yotsuba and her dad walk in the rain to the DVD-rental place. Yotsuba mishears something her dad says and invites all the neighbors to go with them to the beach- when he hadn't planned to go at all. But they do. Fun in the waves, Yotsuba searches for shells with the girls, finds a hermit crab and pokes a jellyfish.

Volume 6 opens with Yotsuba experimenting with recycling. She collects unwanted objects from family and neighbors- and makes something! Her dad buys her a bicycle and she is super enthusiastic about it, but has trouble remembering to follow the rules. Like: don't go anywhere alone! She wants to do errands, and goes on a bike ride with Asagi and her friend. When she does take off by herself, it was for a good cause- she wanted to share something special with Fuuka, so followed her to the school. Grounded. (Except she calls it "dirted" in one scene which really made me laugh). In the last episode here, she helps Daddy and Jumbo make a bookshelf. Ha, I liked that part.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 3/5             208 pages each, 2006

Aug 13, 2017

Wild Sex

The Science Behind Mating in the Animal Kingdom
by Dr. Carin Bondar

Brief segments dense on information about the wide variety of ways in which animals find partners, mate, and care for their young. I knew there was a lot of different stuff going on among animals- but not quite how much. Especially with invertebrates, wow some crazy things sure glad not to be a female insect. All the things we humans think of as degraded or unnatural sexual behaviors are actually fairly common among animals, according to this author. A few really interesting facts stuck with me: did you know that female birds can control what type of nutrients and hormones their eggs receive? It depends on the species- for some, they put more nutrients into an egg if they mate with a preferred, healthy male. If the male is of lower quality, they lay smaller eggs- not putting as much into them. For other birds whose chicks must face varying competition (a later hatchling, or a brood parasite in the nest) the mother can control how much testosterone each egg receives, to prepare her chick if needed.  The section of the book that I found most interesting- that about how the animals vary in their parenting styles- was the shortest. Also I found it kind of odd that while the source notes and glossary are extensive, there is no index. The book is based on a web series and you can tell- it reads similar to a book sourced from a blog.

I gave this one a 2 because while it was interesting, some of the information was just too much (I did not want to know about frustrated male sea lions taking advantage of penguins for example) and there were a few parts I skimmed over. Had to read it in pieces over several weeks (interspersed with Yotsuba) This book was originally published with the title: The Nature of Sex: the Ins and Outs of Mating in the Animal Kingdom. Personally, I like the original title better.

Borrowed from the public library.

Rating: 2/5      366 pages, 2015

Aug 11, 2017

Yotsuba&!

Volume 4
by Kiyohiko Azuma

More fun seeing everyday events through the eyes of five-year-old Yotsuba. She is eager to play games with her Daddy- but gets upset because he always wins- even when she changes the rules. Jumbo takes the girls fishing. You'd be surprised which one was squeamish when it came to cleaning the fish. Yotsuba goes shopping with her dad for a special dinner- and when he finds he left his wallet at home, she steps right in to solve the problem- to his embarassment! Yotsuba discovers Fuka is very glum because she felt rejected by a boy she likes- and tries to console her. Then blabs Fuka's secret to the entire family when she decides to be a news reporter and has to think of some real event to announce. She does group exercises in the park with other kids. She wants to be a milkman and 'makes' milk out of water and paint- then gives it to her unsuspecting dad. And misunderstanding the onomatopoeic word for a cicada that also sounds like a word for a pointy hat- whom everyone says signals the end of summer- she dresses up in a triangular outfit and dances around like a fairy to magic the change of the seasons. That part was a bit hard to get sometimes, but the translator's notes help. It's hard to explain why the books is so charming and funny- you'd have to read it!

Rating: 3/5                 192 pages, 2005

Aug 8, 2017

Yotsuba&!

Volume 3
by Kiyohiko Azuma

More daily fun through the life of Yotsuba, this odd little five-year-old who tackles everything with enthusiasm. Part of the fun of Yotsubato is seeing how the ordinary things amaze this little girl, the summer is all one big eye-opening adventure for her. There's a hint at the very end that Yotsuba and her dad recently moved from somewhere more rural (they call this 'the big city' and one of the other kids protests: "it's not that big!").

Yotsuba experiences fireworks for the first time- initially doing some on the street with her neighbors, later attending a festival and seeing a fireworks show. She goes to the zoo with her dad- that was pretty funny- the things Yotsuba noticed about the animals as well as her dad's made-up facts. (Oh, and she punches a goat). Yotsuba tries to learn to play badminton. She hops on a city bus by herself- freaking out Fuka who had taken her along on errands. She meets a police officer, and finds out that Jumbo is a florist (who in a fit of pique fills her house with discarded flowers from the shop). The father of the three girls next door makes an appearance- he's not separated or deceased as they seemed to be joking/hinting at, but apparently just absent due to working all the time.

Looks like my library has the first twelve volumes; I am plowing through them with enjoyment.

Rating: 3/5                  176 pages, 2004

Yotsuba&!

Volume 2
by Kiyohiko Azuma

Cute, spunky kid. She doesn't get some ordinary things, puzzles at the meaning of big words. Eager for fun every day. There's an episode in here where she goes off with the older girls from next door to draw at the park. I liked that. There was an oh-so-familiar incident where Yotsuba insists the other girls tell her if her drawing is good- because of course her dad always says so. One of them is bluntly honest and says no, it's bad. The other girl of course doesn't want to hurt Yotsuba's feelings - so then Yotsuba is convinced one of them is lying! Because her art can't be both good and bad, can it? Yotsuba tries to draw a picture of Jumbo but it runs off the paper onto the table. So to make it properly big she draws out on the street.

She insists on having cake with the neighbors. She is left to her own devices when her dad is sleeping off an all-nighter. Ends up drawing on his face with marker, and then is terrified at the possible repercussions. There's almost just as much in here about the neighbor family as there is about Yotsuba- I'm starting to wonder what the story is behind the always-absent father, I suppose the backstory will be revealed eventually... They all go to the pool, and find out that neither Jumbo, Koiwai (Yotsuba's dad) or Fuka can swim. Yotsuba endeavors to teach them- hilarious. Turns out Jumbo really likes Asagi- the oldest girl next door- who is rather a tease (to her siblings).

Yotsuba tries to catch frogs and Miura (friend of the youngest neighbor) objects. We find out that Yotsuba is terrified of a bull's-eye thing that is in someone's yard (it looks like a target to me, but it's used to frighten away birds). Miura uses this against her in what turns into a uproarious fight- a teddy bear is the main casualty.

Slightly-disturbing episode in here where Yotsuba watches a gangster movie on tv with her dad and Jumbo. Then she immediately grabs her water pistol and goes off on a 'mission of revenge' in the neighborhood. The girls next door play along- to some extent. You could see this as a suggestion that violence on tv causes the same in kids' behavior, or just showing her having some good old pretend fun. This episode was in the beginning of the book, and on the last page Asagi comes home from a trip, finding Yotsuba's drawing of Jumbo on the pavement outside- which if you don't know the origins, looks rather like the outline of a murdered body. She stares. I couldn't help it, I laughed out loud.

I still don't quite know why Yotsuba's hair is green- but found out that her name includes the word 'four' and her hair is always tied into two short pigtails- reminiscent of a four-leaf clover. There's a brief part in here about something in the past between Asagi and her mom over four-leaf clovers. I'm delighted to find there are some twenty volumes of Yotsuba&! Must look up how many are actually in my library system.

Rating: 3/5                 192 pages, 2004

Aug 6, 2017

Yotsuba&!

Volume 1
by Kiyohiko Azuma

I can see right away why people compared this manga to Bunny Drop. Both are about a girl being raised by a young man who's not her father. This story is a lot more casual and fun. It really made me laugh in some parts. Starts out with Yotsuba moving with her adopted dad to a new house- we meet the little girl just as abruptly as her new neighbors do. She's energetic, crazily enthusiastic about nearly everything, and oddly surprised at everyday objects like - swings in the park, air conditioner unit in her neighbor's house, items on the shelf in the store. You get the idea there's some strange story to her past. At the end there's a small revelation- basically the dad found her while travelling abroad, admired her spunky optimism and brought her home.

He's quirky himself. Obviously a guy who never grew up- but in a completely different way from the father-figure in Bunny Drop. The banter between him, Jumbo (a friend who's really tall) and Yotsbua makes you realize these guys know each other well... In this volume Yotsuba meets lots of new people, wanders the neighborhood into a park (her dad doesn't seem alarmed when she just goes off on her own), learns about global warming (and thus for a brief period thinks a/c is evil), gets locked in the bathroom, goes shopping with her dad- usual kid stuff, right? But then they all go on a cicada hunt. Yotsuba wants to catch the biggest one. This was my favorite chapter. So fun.

Rating: 3/5       208 pages, 2003

more opinions:
Puss Reboots
Musings on YA Libraries and madness

Aug 4, 2017

A Starter Garden

by Cheryl Merser

This is the kind of gardening book I enjoy right now: more or less someone writing about their own garden, offering instruction using real-life examples. Outlining the pitfalls as well as the joys. Merser describes two gardens she started on new properties that didn't have much going for them at first. She talks a lot about plant selection- how to gauge what plant will do well in what spot, how to give the garden form and anchors using shrubbery, what works nicely (in her case) for groundcovers, accents, shady spots etc. She has a whole chapter about roses, another about water features. It's all a mixture of casual advice and very practical know-how. Her voice reminds me a bit of Thalassa Cruso. I had to laugh at some of her ingenuity, too. I grew scrawny seedlings for years in windowsills before building my first makeshift coldframe; she just puts hers in the trunk of a hatchback and lets the car heat them up! And for nighttime she moves them into a steamy bathroom. Clever. I share her hatred for japanese beetles, but not quite her enthusiasm for decorating with found objects. She discusses herbs but is mostly about flowers and shrubs and interesting plants to make the outdoor space beautiful and alive. Which is great inspiration, I need to work on that part of my yard too. I have a long list of plants to look up now- because the only thing the book really lacks is decent pictures. There's a nice glossary in the back that details every plant mentioned in the book, its scientific and common names, growing habits, light/moisture requirements, peculiarities and attractiveness, etc. One to read again.

Rating: 3/5                 254 pages, 1994

Jul 31, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 10
by Yumi Unita

This compilation of little shorts fills in some gaps from the main series. There are several cute stories from Rin's gradeschool and middle school years; I liked those the best. Showing how she and Kouki grew up together under Daikichi's struggles to figure out parenthood. Story behind the scar on Kouki's forehead. Some of the episodes explain things regarding other characters- there's one that goes into how Masako met her assistant who would become her husband. Nice to see a bit more about her conflicted, driven character. Another has details from the time when Kouki was considered a delinquent. And the last two chapters explore a bit of how both Rin and some of her friends have moved on in their relationships since the ending of book 9. True to pattern I enjoyed most the stories about Rin's childhood and Daikichi's awkward but heartfelt attempts to be a good dad. I found the few parts set in the teen years rather uninteresting, and the final chapter where Rin is settled into married life with Daikichi irritatingly distasteful, even though nothing bad happens. I just don't like it. Hm.

Rating: 3/5                     208 pages, 2012

Jul 30, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 9
by Yumi Unita

I don't think I can help it there will be SPOILERS below.

So- this final volume wraps up the storyline with Rin finding her own way of defining a family and staying where her heart is set. I didn't like it though. For several reasons. The conclusions and reasons for making this scenario work out felt too rushed. We find out that Rin really loves Daikichi -something I don't think would ever happen among two people who had been in a father/child situation for over a decade. Daikichi to his credit is appalled at the idea and protests. So are a few of Rin's friends, although others at this point don't know and it would be rich to see what the reaction of Daikichi's own family- parents and siblings- is. The only way I can figure it is that the author wanted to show how such a relationship could be possible and could be acceptable- the point is made that Rin always saw Daikichi's grandfather as her dad, so she never felt Daikichi was in that role but I don't buy that. He acted like her father, he raised her, end of story. (Supposedly research across several cultures shows that children raised closely together when they are under five years old will never develop romantic attachments to each other- they are naturally repulsed by the idea when older. After six, this isn't always the case. So maybe that's why this story has Rin go from her grandfather's to live with Daikichi when she's already six... I still don't think it could work out that way though)

Regardless of the possible rationales, it still doesn't sit well with me. Then there's the sudden revelation that she and Daikichi aren't related at all- the grandfather never was her dad to begin with- this is found out in a sudden outburst when Rin in distress visits her mother again and Daikichi follows her- and Masako reacts by practically yelling this information at Rin - there, go be happy now! in effect- and shoving her out into the hallway to figure it out with Daikichi. There's also a two-year timeskip so that Daikichi can wait and allow Rin to reach adulthood, giving her time to see if any guy her own age will catch her eye in college. Nope. The story doesn't even show a hint of this happening. She feels nothing for anyone else, and delightedly gives her guardian a big hug when she hits that legal age- happy at last to find her peace in being allowed to marry him.

Um, ewwww? I have to say the author fit this narrative together very cleverly to make these characters so endearing to the reader, and throw in all these little twists to make their living situation and romance (barely existent, only in Rin's professions of love, nothing shown) acceptable. But it's not. Not for me. It just all feels rushed and uncomfortable in the end, even though I'd prefer to like where they end up, I can't.

So overall: books one through five were great. Six was rather boring, just because I don't relate well to all the highschool drama. Book eight started to feel weird with the hints at what was coming, and nine was a dissatisfying shocker. However there is volume ten, which fills in some of the story from the ten-year skip when Rin was in middle school, so I'll see how I like that.

Rating: 2/5                       224 pages, 2011

Jul 29, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 8
by Yumi Unita

Warning: there are SPOILERS in the second paragraph.

Rin continues to navigate highschool- making curriculum choices, looking at future career options; she seems to want to stick close to home. Her friend Reina bounces between boyfriends, while Rin still doesn't have one- there's a guy who likes her but she doesn't return his interest, and Kouki of course is still pining for her- constantly rejected. Rin meets with her mother Masako again- who is now married and has a second child (there was an odd scene where it looked like the baby was nursing but then Masako said "it's time for her milk" and gave it a bottle- so I guess it was just snuggled against her near-naked bosom?) Rin seems to have accepted who her mother is, and is delighted to be a big sister.

Now the final direction of this whole storyline becomes clear, and it doesn't make any sense. Rin can never accept Kouki's attentions because having grown up alongside him, it just feels weird- she knows him too well, can't see him as boyfriend material. Yet she appears to be developing feelings for Daikichi. Ugh no no no no no. He's been her guardian, as a father to her all these years. This isn't possible. Surely someone in that circumstance would have the same complete lack of romantic attraction to their father-figure as she does to the childhood friend who was so close they 'felt like siblings' (a phrase Rin uses frequently when referring to Kouki). So while I continue reading, really liking these people as characters, I don't at all buy the premise anymore. It just would not occur. Not to mention being distasteful and shocking.

Rating: 3/5                 208 pages, 2010

Bunny Drop

Volume 7
by Yumi Unita

This one was better again. The focus is on Rin and Daikichi, more than the high school drama stuff. Rin notices the mothering tendencies of women around her and starts to wonder about her own mother. She becomes determined to seek her out although Daikichi, having met Masako himself (and disliking her), is afraid that she will just get hurt. Then Daikichi sustains a back injury and has to depend on family and friends to tend to his needs. His brief time as an invalid makes him really wonder about the future: what will it be like when he really gets old? Who will be there to care for him? Because of course he expects the best for Rin- a good college, marriage.... and Nitani has made it clear she's not interested in a relationship. He fears he will be a bachelor again into old age.

More serious stuff, and I started enjoying the series again. I particularly liked that despite Daikichi's negative impression of Masako, when she and Rin finally meet although it is awkward, Rin's natural politeness and friendly manner smoothed things over. Having no expectations of what her mother was like, Rin didn't perceive her as an unpleasant person at all. It's refreshing to see how good some of these characters are, what decent people.

Rating: 3/5                224 pages, 2010

Jul 26, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 6
by Yumi Unita

I don't get the highschool stuff. Drama, girls vying for attention of a certain guy. Rin seems levelheaded, but has to face off with a manipulative girl who pulls a dirty trick on her friend Kouki. This volume was mostly about the kids' relationships, very little about Daikichi and Nitani, nothing at all about other adults or relatives....

And I spoiled the rest of the series for myself. Looking at some other online reviews, found out how it all ends. Haven't even got there but totally understand why a lot of people hate the ending. Wondering if I want to continue and see how it reaches that point- will I be disgusted and angry too? Curious how it fits with the idea in my head of Rin's mother, and if it's just something more acceptable in Japanese society... if I keep reading there will probably be spoilers in future posts, but I will give warning.

Rating: 2/5         224 pages, 2009

Jul 25, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 5
by Yumi Unita

The story jumped. It skips ten years; Rin is now starting highschool. Which is fine, but it's the not the same slice-of-life story I was enjoying about Rin as a child being raised by Daikichi a guy who himself had never quite grown up. There are a few flashbacks showing incidents from middle school; I think I would have liked an entire volume about that! Rin is mostly dealing with her studies, Kouki's crush on her (which she can't take seriously) and her plans for the future. It's more about her social life and a lot less about Daikichi's efforts in becoming a father figure. Which isn't nearly as interesting. Daikichi finally makes his feelings known towards Nitani- Kouki's mother- but that's about the most interesting thing that happens among the adults. There wasn't anything about Rin's mom. I was on the verge of giving this one a 2...

Rating: 3/5               224 pages, 2009

Jul 24, 2017

Bunny Drop

Volume 4
by Yumi Unita

I'm really liking this series so far. It continues to be pretty interesting, full of realistic characters who struggle with everyday problems- and some not-so. Daikichi has a sudden problem arrive on his very doorstep when his cousin takes her kid and leaves her husband. Daikichi can't comprehend her reasons, and there's some very awkward moments between him and Kouki's mother when Kouki assumes the cousin is in a relationship with Daikichi. The kids all get along fine, the adults sometimes have issues. For the first time Dakichi has to deal with Rin getting sick. He continues to have moments of confusion seeing how other parents around him deal with things- coming to it so late in the game, as it were. Some really amusing episodes in this book were the jump-roping competition among the schoolchildren- and the parents all got involved, too, on pretext of helping their kids practice. Also the part where Rin looses her first tooth was pretty funny- another contrast between cultures. Daikichi tells Rin of an older tradition where baby teeth are thrown on the roof, but is taken aback when a fellow parent tells him nowadays kids get cute little boxes made especially for saving baby teeth in as keepsakes. He wants to go with the current trend so scrambles to find where those tooth cases are sold before Rin looses another. Then one of her school friends pipes up with the information that when she looses a tooth the "money fairy" leaves fifty yen under her pillow (about forty-five cents)! The other parents are all hoping this American custom will not become the new fad. Haha.

I have to say, Daikichi's character is really growing on me. Even though he's a typical guy through and through he's also really kind-hearted and compassionate, cares a lot about doing what's right for Rin. It comes across in spurts of anger at how other people treat or perceive her sometimes. He's not terribly attractive (judging by the drawings- another dad he meets used to be a model for clothing catalogs) and a bit awkward, but such a decent person, someone you'd really want as a friend.

Rating: 3/5       224 pages, 2008